22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - Mr. Deputy Speaker, before you proceed to take questions, may I take the opportunity with thi” leave cf the House to refer to the fact that in this week there is celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of self-government in the State of New South Wales. This, therefore, is a very remarkable event in Australian democratic and political history. It would, f am sure, be the will of you, sir, and of all honorable members that we should send through you to the Government and Parliament of New South Wales our congratulations on this happy event, our good wishes and our appreciation of the fact that so many millions of people in Australia have, in the event, benefited by the establishment of selfgovernment and of democratic institutions throughout this country. If you would do that, sir, I am sure it would he in accordance with the wishes of the members of the House and of the whole spirit of this Parliament.
– by leave - I join with the Prime Minister in his remarks on this matter. It is a great event in the history of Australia and especially of New South Wales - the mother colony - as it was called for so long. To-day New South Wains celebrates what is called the 100th anniversary of responsible government. The immediate struggle was the decision that the officials and the Governor of the State should act upon the advice of Ministers responsible to Parliament and so to the people. Of course, that has become a common-place in the history of the British Commonwealth. New South Wales was not the first colony that grew from colonial status and extended its powers, even after the occasion we are celebrating to-day. Indeed, in some respects it has not the legislative powers of this Parliament, the legislation of which, under the Statute of Westminster, cannot be overridden even by the Parliament at Westminster itself.
So, New South Wales, the first colony, moved from colonial status to greater self-government and greater responsible government. It is not only in the British Commonwealth that this tremendous development has taken place. The growth of democratic freedom, free institutions and human rights has spread throughout the globe, lt is from the origins of British administration of the colonies in those days - of Lord Durham in Canada and other great men - that nations outside the British Commonwealth and so many in it to-day enjoy full nationhood and full self-government.
– I shall be. happy to convey the congratulations and appreciation expressed by the Prime Minister and supported by the Leader of the Opposition - and I am sure supported also by all honorable members - to the Government of New South Wales. and through it to the people.
– On the 15th May, I directed the attention of the Treasurer, and to-day I direct the attention of the Prime Minister, to notice of motion No. 1, standing in the name of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. It relates to the financing of war service homes and the enormous increase in interest rates that are being charged to ex-servicemen. Attention has been directed to that matter in a notable way during the last few days by the leaders of returned servicemen’s organizations. I ask the Prime Minister to arrange, if possible before his departure for overseas, that the House should hp ve some opportunity of debating that proposed motion and coming to a vote upon it. Previously I have asked about the matter, which is one of principle. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is acting for the Opposition in this important matter, and I ask for the Prime Minister’s special consideration of it.
– I should think that there would have been abundant opportunity of debating this problem on other motions before the House in the last few weeks, and therefore I can make no promise that special time will be found to accommodate it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the funds held by the Government, arising out of Joint Organization wool profits which were involved in litigation known as the Poulton case. Have the claimant dealers proceeded any further with their reported intention to appeal to the Privy Council? Does not the Minister consider that there has been such procrastination with the legal proceedings that the wool-growers, who in many cases must receive the money eventually, regardless of the outcome of that litigation, are being quite unfairly penalized? Can the Minister say when the Government intends to pay out these moneys ?
– On several occasions the honorable member for Forrest has raised the question of the payment of approximately £2,500,000 of woolgrowers’ funds which have been held by the Commonwealth pending the decision in what is known as the Poulton case. I am very glad to be able to inform him, because he has displayed a great interest in this matter, that recently the Government made a decision that the growers were to receive the money, and that as soon as it was practicable the Australian Wool Realization Commission should proceed to a disbursement. The honorable gentleman will know that the matter has been held up since the Full Court of the High Court gave a decision in the growers’ favour. It was held up because- it was thought that an appeal to the Privy Council might be asked for, but it is now thought to be preferable not to delay any further the disbursement of the moneys, and consequently the Government has issued instructions that the moneys are to be paid forthwith.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it a fact that he, on a number of occasions, has criticized my action of some years ago in refusing to undermine the longestablished right of a member to speak freely and without fear in the Parliament, when I declined, acting on counsel’s advice, to recognize the authority of a royal commissioner to question me regarding a speech which I had made in the Commonwealth Parliament ? Is it- also a fact that a senator, who is a member of his own political party, recently, through his counsel, refused to be questioned by a royal commissioner appointed by the Queensland Government to inquire into allegations of graft and corruption contained in a speech which the senator had delivered in the Parliament? If these are facts, will the Prime Minister state whether he has any comment to make regarding the action of his colleague, the senator concerned, and if so will he make his views known to the House?
– I think I am able to assist the member for East Sydney on this matter, because when I saw that there had been an objection taken to the giving of evidence on the ground that a senator should not be questioned in respect of what he had said in the Parliament, I at once thought to myself, for some reason that I cannot explain, “ This will be the first ray of light to enter the gloom of the life of the member for East. Sydney for the last fifteen years “.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs make a statement to the House regarding the situation in Singapore as a result of the talks held recently in London by Mr. Marshall, the Chief Minister of Singapore, with representatives of the British Government?
– 1 believe that Mr. Marshall, together with the whole of his all-party delegation, is now on his way back to Singapore after the unfortunatefailure of the talks in London. The only recent relevant news is that the Acting Chief Minister of Singapore, who, as well as Mr. Marshall, is a member of the Labour front, reported as having stated publicly that- the party would await the return of Mr. Marshall and hear his report on the talks before deciding whether to advise him to resign. That.
I understand, is the present situation. I am glad to say that, meanwhile, the situation in that city is quite calm. The future of Singapore, constitutionally and politically, is undetermined, and it is not possible to say more at this moment.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform the House whether a settlement has been reached in the claim for compensation by the Vestey interests against the Commonwealth for war damage to their meatworks in Darwin? Cf the claim, which has been outstanding for many years and which has been the subject of an appeal to the Privy Council, has been settled, will he state the amount of the original claim and the sum for which it has been settled?
– Negotiations have been proceeding. 1 have not been informed that the matter has been settled. [ shall ascertain the present stage of the negotiations, and inform the honorable gentleman accordingly.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any information in relation to the industrial disturbance at Commonwealth Industrial Gases Proprietary Limited, which is having a far-reaching effect upon many thousands of workers throughout Australia? What is the present situation?
– I have kept in touch with developments in relation to this dispute, which is a rather interesting demonstration of the fact that the exercise by a relatively small group of men of their right to strike, as they describe it, can result in the loss of the right to work to many tens of thousands of persons who have no connexion with the trouble. The dispute arose at the Port Kembla plant of the company, where I understand that only about 42 employees were pressing certain wage demands. It has now extended to the Sydney plant, where some 290 employees are involved, but, because of the nature of the product that is manufactured by the company, the dispute, if prolonged, mav have the effect of depriving tons of thousands of people in other industrial establishments of their employment. At various stages, the matter has been before the conciliation commissioner, Mr. Donovan, and I understand that it has been set down to be mentioned before him again at 10.30 a.m. to-morrow. I can only hope that the trouble will be speedily settled.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, but before stating it, I express the hope that the right honorable gentleman is not unduly distressed about the result of the elections held in Queensland last Saturday. My question relates to a letter that I understand he received from the Townsville Harbour Board concerning the demolition and removal of a dual-purpose pier which was erected during the war years and which, by arrangement with the Department of the Interior later, it was decided to remove. The continued existence of the pier constitutes an impediment to the developmental programme decided by the Townsville Harbour Board. Can the Prime Minister give me any indication when the Government will take steps to remove the pier?
– I shall answer the question. This matter has been causing the Department of Works some concern for some time. The difficulty is that if the wrong sort of gear is used to extract the piers left under this jetty, we may break them off and may never be able to get them out. At the moment we are negotiating with private contractors to obtain the right sort of extraction gear. If we cannot find a contractor with the necessary equipment, we shall have to attack the job with day labour. But I assure the honorable gentleman that it will be done as quickly as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the discovery, as the result of a raid made by gaming police in Melbourne last Saturday, of 46 telephones installed in a starting-price betting hide-out - shall I call it? As the member representing in this House an electorate in which several thousand people are urgently calling for telephone and postal services, I ask the Postmaster-General : How did it come about that a great number of telephones came to be allocated to these nefarious purposes?
– During the weekend, my attention was drawn to the report to which the honorable member has referred. Naturally, as it appeared to be a very important matter, I had some inquiries made. I have now received an interim report on the results of the preliminary inquiries and I am able to give the honorable member some reliable information - I think it is more reliable than that which has appeared so far - regarding this matter. The raid was carried out on a suite consisting of eleven rooms and a cubicle. I understand that the report was to the effect that there were over 40 telephones in one room. I assure the House that, immediately the report came over the air on Sunday afternoon, the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Melbourne commenced his investigations, because it was realized that this was a very important matter. As the honorable member has said, a great many people are waiting for telephones. The department certainly does not, as a matter of policy, allow persons to remain in possession of telephones if it is aware that the telephones are being used for illegal purposes. The investigations showed that, in the eleven rooms and the cubicle, the number of phones installed in each place varied from none to eight. All the telephones were registered in the names of people engaged in legitimate businesses. Without giving names, I mention a private inquiry agent, an insurance loss adjuster, a hall, an indentor, a public accountant, a company, an architect, design and textile fashions and builders. The owner of the block of flats is the lessee of most of these telephones. This afternoon, Mr. Strange, the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Victoria, is interviewing the owner of the flats in order to try to obtain more information about the general position. He will report to me the result of that investigation. I point out that there is a certain departmental procedure in relation to applications for telephone services. The application must contain information about the type of business which the applicant proposes to carry on. The department does not use Gestapo methods to investigate the applicant’s business. As long as the department is reasonably satisfied that the business which is to be carried on is of a legitimate nature, a priority is allotted to the application and eventually the installation is carried out. However, the regulation under which the Postal Department acts in these matters empowers the cancellation of a service only when a conviction has been obtained by State police on certain defined grounds. Conviction on a charge of keeping a common gaming house comes within that category. Whenever such an application is made by a police department the Postal Department cancels the installation. This has happened in a number of cases in all States. In a case like this that occurred some time ago my predecessor took such action when he found telephone installations in Sydney being used for improper purposes. He cancelled them, and I can assure the House that if the result of inquiries which are still proceeding indicates the need f or any such action on my part, that action will be taken.
– I should like to ask the Minister a question supplementary to that which he has just answered. How long previously were the names of the other persons referred to furnished to the department? Were they, as far as the department knows, names of real persons, or were the applications false or forged applications? Finally, does the department take any steps, when receiving 40 separate applications, or a similar large number of applications for telephones in respect of one establishment’, to make any check on whether there is a bona fide business being carried on there? Should this not be done beforehand instead of waiting until a period of months or years has passed?
– I pointed out m my reply to the honorable member for Higinbotham that all the offices which are involved in this matter are occupied by people representing themselves to be legitimate business operators. I have the names which appear on the doors of these places, but I do not propose at this stage of the inquiry to give this House the names. I think the right honorable gentleman would agree that I am right in adopting that attitude. I point out to the right honorable gentleman at this stage that we have the names, and I add that in some cases the names on the doors of the offices do not coincide with the names supplied as those of the subscribers st the time the telephones were installed. That is one matter which is at present under investigation and, as I have said, if it be discovered that false information has been supplied, suitable action will be taken. In reply to the other part of the right honorable gentleman’s question, I inform him that the majority of these installations were made some years ago - in many instances, prior to 1953. Only about eight of the installations concerned have been made since 1953. I know that the department requires an applicant for a telephone service to state the nature of his business, and that it does make some normal investigation into the question of whether or not that business is being actually carried on. J. point out that it is quite possible that these businesses are, indeed, being carried ja in these places. At this stage, I can give no further information on the matter, pending receipt of the final report arising from the inquiry.
– My question to the Minister for Customs and Excise is prefaced by a reference to the United States Senate sub-committee’s report on delinquency which some honorable members have been following with growing concern. Only last week-end that subcommittee released a statement that traffic in pornography had grown into a (220,000,000 a year racket. It said-
Wo declare on irrefutable evidence that the enormous volume of this reprehensible traffic has reached such staggering proportions that we are aghast when we contemplate the consequences of it.
As it appears that the traffic covers erotic books and pamphlets, films, still photographs, playing cards, wood carvings and other items, I ask the Minister what controls are being exercised at the present time. Is be prepared to insti tute special precautions against the introduction of poisonous material of this kind into Australia?
– I have read, with very much interest, the press reports about the committee of inquiry in the United States of America, and I am taking steps to obtain a transcript of the proceedings of the committee. I think we in this country are fortunate in that there is not very much indigenous production of the sort of material to which the honorable member has referred. It is possible to prevent the entry of large quantities of such material by customs regulations and procedures. The committee report, and the traffic in the United States to which the honorable member referred, relate, I think, to pornographic and indecent material which is produced in the United States itself. As I have said, we in this country are fortunate in not having very much of that stuff produced here. However, I should emphasize the fact that so far as this Parliament is concerned, and particularly so far as my obligations arc concerned, censorship applies only to imported goods. The responsibility for objectionable articles produced in Australia itself rests entirely with the State governments. The Customs Act requires the Department of Customs and Excise to prevent the import into Australia of obscene, indecent and sacrilegious goods and articles - I think the word “ works “ is used in the act - or articles which are considered to be contrary to the public interest. In the discharge of this obligation, customs officers seize works which may contravene the act. They are continually given advice and instructions as to what sort of things are from time to time considered to infringe the act. With regard to books, there is a literature censorship board to advise ,us in the exercise of this power. With regard to films, there is a Commonwealth censorship board, which provides the only example of our exercising any surveillance over things produced in Australia, because, by arrangement with most of the State governments, films produced in Australia are submitted to the board for advice whether or not they are satisfactory. I would conclude by saying this: The honorable member asked me would I institute special precautions to deal with the sort of thing which he mentioned has occurred in the United States. If I were satisfied that special precautions were required, I would certainly do so, hut, at the present time, so far as I can see, the ordinary customs procedures are dealing with this matter quite satisfactorily. “We all admit the need to-day for censorship in some form, but it is an infringement of, or a restriction on, the liberty of the individual, and I always remember that there is an obligation to ensure that it is exercised with care and with seriousness so that the rights of individuals are interfered with no more than the needs of the community demand from time to time.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that a serious shortage of tetanus toxoid in 1 cc. ampoules exists in Brisbane, and has existed for the last ten weeks, and that chemists are unable to meet the constant and numerous requests by doctors for the toxoid in ampoules of this size, which are required for tetanus immunization? Is it a fact, as has been reported, that all the available supplies of the toxoid in 1 cc. ampoules are being distributed in South Australia? If so, what is the reason, and would not the necessity for adequate supplies be as great in Queensland as in any other State? If there are insufficient supplies of the toxoid in ampoules of this size being produced for distribution in Australia, will the Minister ensure that .i fair distribution is made to all States, and will he personally interest himself in having production increased to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements?
– I had great difficulty in hearing the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question, but 1 understand that its import was that supplies of a certain size of ampoule of tetanus toxoid are not available in Queensland.
– That is correct.
– I do not personally know of any reason for this, but I shall inquire into it and shall let the honorable gentleman know the result of my inquiries.
– Has the Minister for Health seen the statement of a leading pharmaceutical chemist in Victoria that the Minister’s department has disallowed claims by chemists for payments to be made to them for dispensing medicines without giving them a chance to defend their claims? Is the Minister able to defend his department against the allegation of tyranny?
– I have not seen the actual statement to which the honorable member refers, but if particulars are supplied to me I shall have them investigated. The claims of chemists under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act are, of course, all examined by the Department of Health before they are paid. They are paid monthly and, as they involve many millions of pounds over the course of the year, it is obvious that they must be carefully examined by the department before payment is made. If chemists have particular complaints to make, they can be made to the department and investigated.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior : What stage has been reached in negotiations between the Government and the Goodwin Centre Development Association for the establishment of homes for the aged in Canberra? Has the Minister had an opportunity to see the conditions under which some aged people are living in shacks and humpies on the outskirts of this city? If he has not had time as yet to make that visit, will he consider carrying out an examination? Will he do his utmost to speed the construction of homes for the aged which have been talked about in Canberra for many years?
– I am glad to be able to tell the honorable gentleman that this matter has been under consideration by Cabinet, which has appointed a ministerial sub-committee to look at the proposals, and the committee is at present engaged in that undertaking. I do not think that it is a big proposition and I can assure the honorable gentleman that as soon as it has been examined we shall push the project a little closer to finality as quickly as possible. I have not seen cbe situation which exists for many unfortunate people in Canberra, but 1 have taken the word of the committee which has made its preliminary report on this matter, and I can assure the honorable member that the Government is completely sympathetic. An area of land has been reserved and, in general principle, I think that we might be able to take the proposition a little further quite soon.
– Now that the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited has approved a retrospective payment of 5d. per lb. on butter fat by factories for milk supplied for cheese making, can the Minister for Primary Industry indicate whether it is intended also to raise the payment for milk used for butter making?
– The honorable gentleman will appreciate that decisions of the kind that he has mentioned are not within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government but are made by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited. As I understand the facts relating to butter and cheese, the cheese market has been relatively stable overseas in recent months, but the price of butter has fluctuated quite substantially. As the overseas price is one of the factors which has to be taken into consideration by the Equalization Committee, it was thought that an interim value payment of 2d. per lb., which might be the equivalent of 5d. per lb. commercial butter fat, could be made available to those who supply butter fat for cheese purposes; but as the price is a little uncertain with regard to butter, it has been thought wise not to increase the interim price in respect of butter at the present moment. I should like to impress on the honorable member that this is a decision, not of the Commonwealth Government, but of the Equalization Committee itself.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been directed to reports or rumours of sub stantial increases in the number of public servants employed in the department administered by him? Are these reports correct? If so, are these increases, particularly those which have occurred over the last five years, justified, and do they represent the minimum additional staff required to handle the increased business transacted by the Department of Social Services during this period?
– I am indebted to the honorable member for his question. I have seen the reports to which he has referred. They are entirely untrue. Indeed, and in fact, a contrary conclusion could be reached by any fair-minded person who cared to examine the position. It must be remembered that during the last five years the operations of the Department of Social Services have increased to a very great extent. Operations in connexion with age pensions, for instance, have increased by 28.9 per cent. Those in connexion with invalid pensions have increased by 18.4 per cent., in connexion with funeral benefits by 24 per cent., maternity allowances 9.2 per cent., child endowment 19.6 per cent., other allowances to wives and children 6.6 per cent., and the number of cases requiring social investigation work has increased by 2.7 per cent. In spite of these increases, the number of people employed in the department has been progressively reduced. Despite the fact that expenditure on social services benefits has increased by 63.9 per cent, in the last five years, the number of people employed in the department has been progressivelyreduced. It is now 3.96 per cent, less than it was five years ago.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply, regarding recent experimental explosions of hydrogen bombs. Has the Minister anything to communicate to the House concerning these explosions? Can he tell the House the extent of territory that has been affected by radio-active fall-out, and what protection from its effects is needed by the people of Australia?
– No detailed scientific information has been received concerning the recent hydrogen bomb explosions in the Pacific. When information is received that may safely be disseminated, it will be communicated to the honorable gentleman. With regard to protection for the inhabitants of Australia, “we have a number of watching stations around the continent and in the adjacent islands. They will number 100 when they all have been completed. At those stations checks of atmospheric radio-activity are constantly being made, so that we know what is happening in our hemisphere.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Immigration, refers to the urgent appeal cabled by this Government to the two Russian leaders who recently visited the United Kingdom, for their aid in re-uniting in the name of common humanity, families, some of whose members are in Australia, and some in iron-curtain countries, t ask the Minister whether any reply has been received from those two friends of the Leader of the Opposition and, if not, whether he will continue to press, if necessary, through appropriate diplomatic channels, for some improvement of the very unsatisfactory position that exists behind the iron curtain.
– After discussions between the Minister for External Affairs and myself, a message was sent from this Government to the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom during the period when Comrades Khrushchev and Bulganin were in London on their official visit. I was subsequently advised by my colleague that the Foreign Secretary had found an opportunity to mention the matter to them generally, and had indicated that he was not without hope that some results would be obtained. However, he said it would be necessary to follow the matter up through the British Embassy in Moscow. This has been done. At the time we were also told that it would be necessary to make representations concerning persons in satellite countries to the governments of those countries. Consequently, we have made representations through the British embassies in the countries concerned. I am not able to say whether anything definite will result from our efforts, but I can assure the honorable gentleman and the many people in Australia who are interested in this matter that we shall do our very best to produce a satisf actory outcome.
– I wish to direct to the Minister for the Interior a question concerning the collapse of a bridge across tha Georges River at East Hills. The bridge connects the East Hills immigrant centre, a military camp, and the homes of several naval officers with the main East Hills centre. As a result, these people no longer have easy access to shops, doctors, chemists, schools and the general essentials of life. Will the Minister arrange to have this bridge, which is Commonwealth controlled, repaired quickly? Also, will he, pending the completion of repairs, arrange for the provision of some tempo rary conveyance across the river? ThiMinister is no doubt aware that more than 3,000 people are cut off from their norma! railhead at East Hills and that, as a result the business people of that centra are suffering heavy financial loss.
– I am glad to have the opportunity of correcting some of the overstatements on this matter that have appeared in the week-end press. I may say, in passing, that the actual cost of the bridge was about £12,000. It wa> built four or five years ago by contract to the Department of Works, and to the requirements of the Department of Immigration, which in fact controls it. As the honorable gentleman points out, the bridge gives access across the Georges River to East Hills. As a result of scouring caused by recent floods, apparently the foundations of one set of piers have been severely damaged, and two spans of the bridge have been let down. Extensive auger boring discloses that the timbers are sound. This, of course, confirms the fact that the damage has resulted from flooding. A diver is on the job, perhaps at this moment, with a view to making a preliminary report. The matter of correction will, of course, be initiated by the Minister for Immigration. On the question of transport, the Department of Immigration was quickly on the job and a rranged a bus service to Liverpool, but it received such poor support that it has been discontinued. However, I understand that a launch service is now operating across the river and is satisfactory for the needs of the residents on a temporary basis.
report of Public Accounts Committee.
.- On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Twenty-fifth Report - Supplementary Estimates and variations under Section 37 of the Audit Act1901-1955 (Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund, for the year 1954-55).
Although the chairman, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), through illness, has not been able to be present during the preparation of this report, he was present during the taking of evidence and concurs with what is in the report. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when he introduced the Supplementary Estimates last week, stated that the report would be placed before honorable members before the Estimates were considered. In those circumstances, the committee was unable to have the report printed, but roneoed copies are immediately available to all members of the House. I move -
That the report be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the16th May (vide. page 2097), on motionby Sir ARTHURFADDEN -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill, which deals with what are called Additional Estimates, provides for expenditure during the financial year ending the 30th June, 1956, of a sum of £21,000,000 over and above that which was provided in the budget when we considered it. As the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has said, they are certain expenditures for which provision was not made inthe Estimates for1955-56. They might be said to besecond thoughts on the part of the Government, although some of the amounts are inescapable. Nearly £5,000,000 of the total is to provide for variations in wages and salaries paid to people employed directly and indirectly by the Commonwealth Government as a result of an award made by the Public Service Arbitrator on the 23rd December, 1954.
However, the most significant single item in the amount is £7,671,000 for defence services. Defence services are, of course, quite considerable, so far as this Government is concerned. When the budget was introduced, provision was initially made for a total expenditure of £190,000,000. Figures supplied by the Treasury indicate that of that £190,000,000 only £148,000,000 had in fact been expended for the ten months to the end of April, 1956. Yet the Estimates now before us provide for an amount of £7,671,000 over and above the amount provided for earlier, though it does not appear that that amount will be spent by the end of June. In all fairness, it should be said that these Additional Estimates are based on the assumption that Parliament should be informed of new commitments that were not contracted for when the budget was introduced.
It must be realized that in a country like ours where annual expenditure is of the order of £1,000,000,000, there must be, during the year, variations in expenditure which were not thought of when the budget was introduced. There will be changes. For instance, in this measure, several amounts are provided for flood relief. No government anticipates that floods will occur, but when they do occur, it realizes that, as they are a. national disaster, the government has a moral obligation to some degree to provide assistance.
However, defence is not in quite the same category. It seems from the way in which the defence figures are put to this House every year that there is a certain amount of “guesstimate”, as it were, instead of accuracy. A good round sum for some years was £200,000,000, and in none of the last three financial years was the expenditure equal to the amount that had been provided in the budget. The expenditure was in the region of £170,000,000 in each of the last three years. This year, the Government, realizing that its programme was overambitious, dropped the figure from £200,000,000 to £190,000,000, and it now appears that even that amount will not be expended by the end of this financial year. Yet provision is made in this bill for a further £7,671,000.
The House is entitled to ask for a little more information from the Government than it gets in respect of this huge expenditure. It is true that in this age methods of warfare are changing. Nobody wants a war if it can be avoided, but nevertheless defence should be real in terms of the likely threat to be faced in the year 1956. When an analysis is made, as has been done from time to time by honorable members on this side of the House, it seems that Australia basically is relying on primitive forms of warfare for its defence, and that those primitive methods are not consonant with the kind of activity that a country would have to face if it went to war to-day.
Recently, in the debate on the Defence Estimates, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), spoke of Australia’s air arm and the aircraft carriers that combine the Navy and the Air Force, and he doubted whether Australia was getting value for the kind of expenditure that was being incurred or whether even the techniques that the military heads in this country were basing their expenditure on were real in terms of the circumstances of to-day. This House is entitled to have more adequate information about this kind of expenditure than it has been getting. It is all right on patriotic grounds to produce a round sum of £200,000,000 or £190,000,000 and to say to the Australian public, “ That represents approximately £20 per head of population ; we arc well defended “. That is airy talk. Vast expenditure is incurred to-day on even one aircraft, and aircraft types change rapidly and go out of date. Sometimes we can be lulled into a false sense of security by these large expenditures.
The Australian press recently reported the expenditure by the Royal Australian Air Force of about £900,000 on aero planes which were not to be used for defence purposes at all, but were to carry what the newspapers described as “ very important persons “. It seemed to those persons who knew anything about aircraft that these aeroplanes were antiquated, and in addition they came from dollar sources. This Government claims that it is doing its best to reduce expenditure in dollar areas. It is believed thai better and more up-to-date aircraft could have been purchased from sterling sources. Had they been purchased from sterling sources there would not have been the same drain on Australia’s overseas funds, yet the Government has given no adequate explanation of why dollar expenditure was incurred or why planes of this kind were required for what are vaguely called “ very important persons ‘” to travel round Australia. That is an example of the kind of expenditure thai is sometimes hidden in these astronomical sums which come before the Parliament each year in the form of defence estimates. An amount of £190,000,000, from a total government expenditure of £1,123,000,000, or over one-sixth of the entire budget, is for defence, and it is very doubtful whether we can be said to be getting very good value for our money for defence in 1956. As I say, the biggest single item provided for in these additional estimates is an amount of £7,671,000 for defence, which supplements the huge amount that has already been provided for, and which it does not appear will be spent by the end of this financial year.
Some other items also are significant and of interest. I should like to cite one or two examples and I ask that the Government give us a little more information about them. Under Division No. 2 appears the item, which is small, in term? of a budget of £1.000,000,000, “ Oust;od:. of R. E. Fitzpatrick and F. O. Browne - Legal expenses, £9,740 “. That relates to the Browne-Fitzpatrick case, as it is called in our history, one of the causes celebres of this Parliament. This amount of £9,740 is not very great in itself, but it will be remembered that at the time that this famous case was before the Parliament all sorts of suggestions were made about altering our constitutional precedents in case such an event should occur again. So far nothing has been done, and I suggest that when the constitutional committee gets under way it may remember this case and make some attempt to ensure that a similar event does not happen again in quite the same way. This bill also provides for an amount of £39,000 for the Stevedoring Industry Committee of Inquiry. The original estimates that were brought before the Parliament about last October made provision for this committee for
Hn expected expenditure of £28,500 to the end of June, 1956. Now an additional amount of £39,000 is being sought. It would seem that the persons who made the original estimate did not have very much idea of how expensive this inquiry was to be or precisely where it was to roam. My colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), recently asked a question wherein he mentioned that the committee had so far sat on 211 separate days, during which time it had interviewed no more than 22 witnesses. Last financial year the expenditure on this inquiry was £27,000. An amount of £28,000 was provided for in the last budget, and now a further amount of £39,000 is being sought. In other words, the aggregate expenditure will be about £100,000. The inquiry is still proceeding and within a week or two, or within a few days, legislation, apparently to be based upon the deliberations of the committee, will be introduced. Although the committee has not finished its inquiry, legislation is to be introduced. I submit that if the Government considered the committee was to have any value, at least it ought to wait until the committee has finished its inquiries before introducing legislation on this very important matter. The stevedoring industry has wide ramifications in Australia’s import and export trade. About 16,000 or 17,000 people are directly employed in the industry, and many thousands more are indirectly affected in the transport industry as a whole. I suggest that somebody erred considerably either in the estimate of the scope of the inquiry or of the expenditure likely to arise from the committee’s deliberations. I suggest that it is very bad estimating to say that only £28.500 is required and then, before the end of the year, to say that £67,500 is really necessary. There is a substantial margin of error in that estimate, by any standards.
There are one or two matters in respect of which estimates have been varied considerably, and that variation causes confusion about the whole budget position. I direct the attention of the House to Division No. 221, under the heading “ Other Administrations - Recoverable Expenditure “, in which we are asked to provide a further amount of £1,600,000 for munitions, stores, &c, supplied by the Australian Government to the Government of the United Kingdom and other administrations. In this respect, where the Government expected to expend £2,300,000, the actual expenditure is to be £3,500,000, and whereas the Government expected to recover £5,600,000, only £5,200,000 is to be recovered. The net adverse effect on Australia’s budgetary position is £1,600,000. Admittedly, estimates may he difficult to make in matters of this kind when we are dealing with a number of governments. It is difficult enough sometimes to get expedition in one government department. There may be a margin of error when dealing with a series of government departments in a number of different countries, but it seems to me that this error, which is of considerable magnitude, indicates that some of the people who were advising the Treasurer were not very clear about the likely result. As a consequence, the Parliament is now being asked to provide a further £1,600,000 on this account.
Another item, which is of significance to the people of Tasmania and which appears at page 28 of the Additional Estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport, is the subsidy for the Tasmanian shipping service, for which we are being asked to provide an additional £117,400. The original estimate was £360,000. Those figures disclose a fair margin of error. One might well ask on what basis the estimate was computed and why the margin of error was so great. Was it because of a change in the freight rates charged by the various shipping companies that assist to provide this service? No one will deny the fact that, as the air service can carry only a limited number of people and a limited quantity of freight, the shipping service is important to Tasmania, and that it is desirable that a subsidy should be paid. However, the estimate ought to have been a little more accurate. I think the House is entitled to a more detailed explanation about the method of computing the Estimates because, although a service is provided for the people as a whole, the subsidy is paid to very few shipping concerns.
– The ship in question broke down.
– 1 understand that the ship was in dock in Melbourne for a considerable time, but £117,400 is a fairly substantial sum. I refer now to the Additional Estimates for the Department nf Works - “ Fees of private architects and consultants - £58,000 “. In the original Estimates, provision was made under this head for a sum of £179,500. This error of £5S,000 occurs at a time when the Department of Works is supposed to be setting an example to the nation by reducing expenditure on capital works and services. It seems strange that, at such a time, there should be an increase of the amount paid to private architects and consultants. It is doubtful whether private architects ought to be consulted and whether the Government should not properly utilize its own staff. Sometimes it is necessary for a department to go outside its own resources, but in this case it seems that greater care could have been taken.
A similar point arises in relation to the Department of Immigration. Australia’s capacity to absorb a greater or lesser number of immigrants is debatable. Two items in the Additional Estimates for that department stand out - the request for an additional £106,000 for Dutch migration and an additional £73,000 for Italian migration. Apparently people in Great Britain are not migrating to Australia as extensively as was hoped, and it seems that more people are being sought from other countries. Australia welcomes people from all parts of the world, but a proper balance ought to he kept between the number of immigrants that come from Great Britain and the number that come from Europe. I know that, after a scheme has got under way. it cannot be stopped suddenly, and that unexpected expenditure is incurred ; but
I think the Government could have clarified its request for these additional sums for Dutch and Italian migration, because large sums were voted when the Estimate? were passed by the Parliament six os seven months ago.
An additional sum of £200,000 is being sought for the subsidy on tea. The Opposition, suggests that a greater, rather than a lower, subsidy should be paid on tea. because it is an important item in household budgets, particularly of that section of the community, including pensioners, which is in receipt of fixed incomes. Recently, a considerable increase of th, price of tea was passed on to the consumers and not absorbed by the payment of a. subsidy. There seeems to have been an error in the basis upon which thsubsidy was originally computed.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, did not seem to be very clear - even though we are now nearly at. t,h»end of May - about where Australia’? finances, as a whole, were going. He said that it was impossible at the mome.ni to predict what the budget surplus would be. The Parliament has recently sanctioned measures that will yield another £30,000,000 of revenue this year. Now we have before us measures to provide for additional expenditure of £21,000,000, but close attention to the monthly statements issued by the Treasurer seems to reveal that the level of expenditure is not as great as was expected when the House debated the Estimates some time ago. It could well be that the budget surplus will be greater than the £48.000,000 that the Treasurer forecast when the budget was introduced. When introducing this bill, the right honorable gentleman said -
Honorable members will recall that the H)55-56 budget provided for the appropriation of £48,500.000 to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve which was established by the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955. It is not possible at this stage to say exactly what additional revenue will be obtained in this financial year from the taxation measures introduced to the Parliament in March last. Between now and the end of June, moreover, there may be some other minor variations in the budget Estimates. Consequently, the financial results for the year cannot be forecast precisely at this stage.
The fact that the position cannot be forecast exactly at this stage makes rather ironical the definite assumptions of the Treasurer a month or two ago when what were called supplementary measures were introduced. He does not know whether the surplus at the end of June will be fc’20,000,000 or £30,000,000 greater than he originally expected. If the surplus is greater to that degree, it would seem that the additional taxes which he said were necessary were, in fact, unnecessary. Again, we point out that those taxes fall most harshly on the people who are least able to afford to pay them. For the most part, they are taxes of an indirect kind, which fall upon people according to their consumption of certain articles, not according to their ability to pay taxes.
It would seem that the Treasurer, having given the matter a second thought, is not quite as sure as he was about what the financial position of this country is going to be. So, in order to camouflage at least £3,500,000 of the surplus, he has provided for a sum of £3,500,000 to be appropriated for the redemption of war savings certificates. He has said that a similar thing was done last year. Nevertheless, this is a repayment of loans out of ordinary revenue. We do not object to that as a principle, but we say that when this kind of thing is done, there should be a little more clarification of the position and, sometimes, a little more honesty so far as intentions are concerned.
The average Australian is likely to be bamboozled nowadays by the way in which his national accounts are presented to him. When it suits the Treasurer to do so, he delivers little homilies about the evil effects of treasury-bill finance, but apparently the right honorable gentleman considers that a certain amount of treasury-bill finance is necessary at certain times of the year, provided that the. money i.s drawn off at other times of the year. But, of course, the effect cannot be seen, quite so simply as that. It appears that during the last month there has been some reduction of the holdings of treasury-bills. According to the last monthly statement issued by the Treasury, the figure now stands at £220,000,000, whereas in the previous month it was, I think, £280,000,000. So there has been a reduction of £60,000,000 in the holdings of treasury-bills. But, again, it is hard to see clearly whether the bills that have been withdrawn have been withdrawn from the hands of the private banks or from the hands of the Commonwealth Bank. It is a strange thing that, apparently, in order to meet the liquidity demands of the banks there has been a reduction of the amount of money belonging to the private banks which is held by the central bank in the special accounts. If the Government is redeeming treasury-bills, ostensibly as an antiinflationary measure, and at the same time it is placing in the hands of the private banks some of the money held in the special accounts, it would seem that one action, to some extent, i.° neutralizing the effect of the other.
Sometimes the Treasurer, when it suits him to do so, makes most categorical statements about the likely effect of certain measures, but at other times he is very vague in his statements. He has been delightfully vague about the probable position at the end of this financial year. Apparently, he just does not know whether he will have a surplus greater than he had expected, but he has indicated quite clearly that, if he is lucky enough to get a greater surplus, the additional money will go into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Revenue Account. It will not go back to the States, as surplus revenues are supposed to go. That is one of the provisions that is much more honoured in the breach than in the observance in Australian constitutional practice.
We take advantage of this opportunity to indicate that, from our point of view, there is much in the financial policy of the Government that calls for criticism. There was much ground for criticism of its recent measures, particularly of tindirection in which they were applied. There is much to be criticized in the Government’s defence policy. There is certainly reason for us to be critical about, the inadequate information given to tin’s Parliament - the deliberative body that is supposed to sanction every penny of governmental expenditure. That is the reason why these Additional Estimates are before us to-day. A government is not permitted to spend money on new things, without seeking sanction from the Parliament, as its master in financial matters. Here we have such a request, but it is not clothed with sufficient information to enable us to understand properly the matters contained in it.
.- As usual, we have listened to a very moderate and well-reasoned address by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). The Government is seeking an extra £21,000,000. That figure, taken alone, may appear to be rather alarming, but when we bear in mind that the total estimated expenditure amounts to £1,100,000,000, we realize that it is only approximately 2 per cent, of the total. Therefore, bearing in mind that the budget Estimates were made about nine months ago, we can say that there has been reasonably accurate budgeting.
When we dissect the £21,000,000 proposed additional expenditure, we find, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out, that £”>,000,000 of it is a result of awards of arbitration courts, which are quite outside the control of this Parliament. We find that another £3,500,000 is to be used to redeem Commonwealth war savings certificates. That is quite in accord with the anti-inflationary policy of this Government, which is designed to bring some stability to our economy.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports criticized the Additional Estimates of £7,000,000 for the defence services. I think every reasonable person understands that, when defence expenditure is being estimated, it cannot be said with certainty that certain defence equipment will be available that vear or the next year. A ship for the Navy, which may cost millions of pounds, has to be ordered a considerate time in advance of the date on which it will be required. So it is impossible to make an accurate estimate of the expenditure that will be incurred on defence in any one year. Therefore, this Government has been takins a round figure of £200.000,000, or £190,000,000. I think events have shown that its estimates have been reasonably accurate. I, for one, do not quarrel with supplementary expenditure which will ensure the adequate defence of this country. I would rather have Additional Estimates brought forward for our approval at a stage such as this than have irresponsible estimating before the facts were really known.
If the Additional Estimates cause us any concern, 1 think that the matter for concern is that inflation is still going on. I do not regard inflation - unless it is uncontrolled inflation - as the calamity that some people assume it to be. Inflation itself is a corollary of an expanding economy - a high measure of prosperity, a high level of employment. While there is competition for labour and materials, in other words, while there is full employment and a busy commerce and industry, there will be inflationary pressures. At the same time, we have to be extremely guarded against inflation getting out of control, for, as a former Labour Prime Minister said on one occasion, “Inflation robs the worker of his wages “. There is not the slightest doubt that the effect of inflation to-day is similar to the effect of the depredations of a dishonest milkman who, on finding that he has not enough milk to serve all his customers, adds water to the milk in order to make it go round, with the result that every customer gets adulterated milk. The trouble with inflation is that it robs everybody of portion of his income or capital - the pensioner of part of his pension, the thrifty people of part of their savings, the employee of part of his wages. In other words, it is a disguised indirect tax which takes a little from everybody, very often without the victim knowing, at the time, that he is being deprived of anything. If, therefore, inflation gets out of control and begins to race, it oan quickly cause calamity throughout the nation.
I do not think we ought to regard inflation as something which has just happened this year or last year, or the year before. The facts are that inflation has been going on at least since the beginning of World War II., in 1939. The 1939 £1 was, by the time the Labour Government left office in 1949, worth only 13s. Since then, the value of the 1939 £1 has continued to decline, with one or two intervals of stability, and, unfortunately, is still declining. Inflation is not confined to Australia. Every country of the world surfers from some inflationary pressures, and although the situation in Australia may be a little worse than that in some countries in this respect, it is the same in other respects, in that all are suffering from the evils of inflation. The time has come when we have to get right down to this problem and find ways and means, if not of checking inflation altogether, at least of putting a brake on increases of prices and a brake on inflationary pressures. In that regard I think w? have to look to the causes of inflation.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has defined inflation as too much money chasing too few goods. The remedies for inflation that the Government proposes are to increase production and to reduce the volume of money in the hands of the community. I believe that those remedies will assist in checking inflation. I believe also, however, that we have to go much deeper into the nature of the existing excess purchasing power. In that respect I call the attention of the Government to the speech made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), because I believe that the earnings of the people are completely out of balance. The married man with a young family has insufficient money to enable him to meet present-day costs in Australia ; but people without family responsibilities have far more than is necessary for their purposes, and, consequently, they constitute a high purchasing power, mainly in respect of luxury goods. Let us take, for example, the case of an average man in Australia earning a wage of, say, £16 a week. On the one hand we have such a man with a wife and three young children - five people to keep warm, to feed, to clothe, to house, to pay fares for, and so on, out of £16 a week. In other words, lie has about £3 a week to spend on each member of his family. I can assure you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that a person like that has no surplus spending power to use on luxury commodities. Beside that example we have the young man or the young girl earning £15 to £16 a week, which is virtually the same salary as the married man receives, but without family responsibilities. In many instances young people earning such salaries are living with their parents and are paying, perhaps, from £2 to £4 a week for board. They pretend to themselves that by doing so they are doing their fair share in the upkeep of home, but, of course, they are not. Such a single young man or girl, after having paid for board, is left with £12 or £13 a week to spend on luxury goods. It is in that section of the community that inflationary pressures are produced. To such young people money means absolutely nothing. Girls earning such wages, and having no family responsibilities, are able to spend freely on expensive dresses. Some of them can afford to wear a different dress for every day of the week. Young men similarly placed spend their money on motor cars, beer and other unnecessary commodities.
– What would the honorable member do with them? Shut them up?
– I certainly would not shut them up, but I would endeavour to remove the injustices that bear on family life in this country. It is family life which has made Australia a great nation. The proposal that I put forward for consideration by the Government is that we do everything within the power of the Parliament to remove burdens from married people with young children, even if that action involves greater burdens being placed on people without family responsibilities. I think we can do it by variation of our tax scales, by providing substantially increased family allowances for a dependent spouse and dependent children. I believe, also, that we could give encouragement to people who must save, by providing some tax exemption in respect of savings.
Another factor which has been causing inflationary pressures is the high demand for capital equipment which is inevitable in a developing country. To enable us to meet such a demand we must have a large volume of savings, as a nation, and it is quite obvious that the people of Australia are not saving sufficient to provide the capital requirements of a young and growing community. We cannot have it both ways. We have either to stop, or slow down, our development or, alternatively, to save more and consume less so as to provide additional savings for the purchase of capital equipment. That is another means by which 1 believe we can nut a brake on the inflationary pressure. At the present time, it is rightly recognized throughout Australia that development must continue. Therefore, there is competition for capital on all sides, apparently without any control. Recently, the Australian Loan Council floated a loan, at 5 per cent, interest, the highest rate it has offered for many years, subject to certain income tax rebates. The following day, the Southern Electric Authority of Queensland advertised in the press seeking money at 2 per cent, higher than the rate for the Commonwealth loan. This makes it clear that, whatever rate of interest is offered by the Australian Loan Council for capital for essential developmental works, some of these undertakings such as the Southern Electric Authority of Queensland will get the money they want, no matter what rate of interest they have to pay.
So we arc forced into a position in which we have competition for the scarce savings of the people - for the scarce capital available in Australia. This will not solve our problems. If we are to continue our development - and I believe we must do so - we must save more, and we can save more only by consuming less. That means that we must, by all possible means, give considerable encouragement to people to save. At the same time, we may have to increase taxation upon the consumption of nonessential commodities. I believe we have reached a point at which we must change the whole emphasis of our taxation. Today, we need more saving and less consumption. Therefore, we must modify our taxation machinery so as to increase taxation upon consumption, particularly upon the consumption of luxury commodities, and we must encourage saving. We must alter the whole emphasis of our taxation, and levy a substantial portion of it on the- consumption of luxury goods.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports criticized the recent supplementary budget, and. stated that it bore harshly on the people who could least afford to bear the additional burden. I completely deny his accusation. A large part of the increased taxation will be raised by in creased excise on beer. I do not believe that a tax- on beer bears harshly upon any one, because beer is undoubtedly a luxury, although a very pleasant one. People who are able to afford luxuries such as beer are far better able to afford some contribution to the upkeep of the country than are those people who are able to provide themselves only with the necessaries of life. The increased sales tax on motor cars, also, is mainly a tax on luxuries. I do not overlook the influence of transport costs on the cost of good” generally, but I say deliberately that these taxation increases fall mainly upon luxury spending. I believe that, if we are to halt, or even to check, inflation in Australia, we must shift the emphasis of our taxation system from taxation on production, as is the case at the present time, to taxation on spending, particularly on luxury goods. Therefore, I do not consider that there is anything that really warrants criticism in the Additional Estimates to which this bill relates. They reveal that budgeting has been reasonably accurate and that any additional expenditure incurred has resulted mainly from factors that are entirely beyond the Government’s control, from the requirements of the defence services, or from anti-inflationary measures such as the redemption of war savings certificates.
.- The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) began by saying that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) was moderate in his criticism of this hill. I think a similar remark could very well be applied to the honorable member for Sturt, because he said that this measure related to the Additional Estimates. I should prefer to refer to it as part of the supplementary budget, in respect of which I consider the Government continues to merit very harsh criticism. I shall say more about that later. The honorable member for Sturt said also that he did not consider inflation to be a very serious matter. I disagree with him. I think it is the most serious problem that confronts the nation to-day, for many and various reasons. The honorable member mentioned his great sympathy for pensioners and similar people. I agree with him that they are deserving of sympathy. But I remind the honorable member that, although he claims to believe that pensioners and those who support families need assistance, he has consistently supported a government that never does the things he believes in. It is very important that the Government should take into account the effects of inflation upon the people to whom the honorable member referred, notably pensioners. He referred particularly to the wife of an invalid pensioner who receives only 35s. a week. He has been aware of these things all the time he has been a supporter of this Government, and yet he continues to support it although it keeps pensions so low.
– The Labour government kept them even lower.
– The Labour government introduced allowances for the wives of pensioners, which had not been paid previously. Had Labour remained in office during the prosperous years in which the present Government has been in office, it would have maintained at a proper level the purchasing power of all pensions. The present Government has had plenty of opportunity to do that, but it has refused to do it. The honorable member for Sturt knows full well that the purchasing power of social services and repatriation pensions is now lower than ever before, owing to the inflation that he does not consider to be a very serious problem. Inflation is the root of our present financial evils. It is the cause of our present low overseas credit balance. The honorable member knows that anything the Government is doing about it is ineffectual. He knows very well that, when Labour went out of office, Australia’s overseas credit balance and the economy generally were healthier than they had ever previously been. He knows also that the proper approach of the Labour government to these very important, matters ensured that inflation was not as serious as it is now.
– Prices rose by 10 per cent, in 194.9.
– The honorable member knows very well that when the Labour government had power to control profits and prices under the National Security Regulations, inflation was less serious in
Australia than anywhere else in the world. He knows very well, also, that, until the Labour Government lost the power to control prices and profits, the Australian £1 was more respected than was any other currency in the world, and that the total increase of prices had been no more than 10 per cent, or 20 per cent. Unfortunately, this Parliament lost that power. As soon as we held the referendum on the matter, the members of the present Government, whom the honorable member for Sturt supports, told the people not to vote in favour of our proposal at the referendum. They 3aid, “ Do not give these people that power because, if you do, you will ruin the nation “. The reverse has occurred. Unless this Parliament has the power to control prices and profits, it cannot prevent inflation. The honorable member for Mallee seems to think that thingwere easy to manage during the war. They were not. During the war period, black-markets did flourish because all the opportunities for black-marketing existed, but notwithstanding that fact, when the Labour party went out of office, due to the fact that it had taken proper remedial action against profiteers and people who overcharged, the finances of the nation were very stable.
– What about the blackmarketeer? The Labour government did not touch him..
– I know that the honor able member for Mallee likes to look after his friends. I believe that this budge’ should not be brought down at all. I believe that, had the Government been honest, it would have implemented these measures, which it intended to implement eventually, when it brought down its budget in August of last year. But the Government did not bring this budget down in 1954 because, if it had done so, it would not have been in power to-day. We have all the evidence necessary to prove that fact. Since the Government introduced this supplementary budget, two State elections have been held and the Labour party has won them handsomely. Last year, a by-election was held in Western Australia, due to the death of the member of the State parliament who represented Bunbury. At that by-election, Labour lost a pretty safe Labour seat. Since that time, the Menzies Government has introduced its supplementary budget, and an election has been held in Western Australia. The Labour party has been returned at that election with the best majority that it has enjoyed in its history. In Queensland, it was expected that the Labour party might not do so well at the State election last Saturday. Of course, the Labour government has done a great job and it would have won in any case, but there was the chance that Labour would have suffered casualties. However, due ro the fact that the Menzies Government recently introduced this budget and imposed consequential taxation amounting 10 £115,000,000, the people said, “This present Liberal - Australian Country party Government in Canberra is a deceitful government and we will not vote for any more candidates representing those parties “. I feel that the people nf Australia will also vote in that way when they get the opportunity at the next general election. The people do not like this double-crossing. The fact that the Government, since it brought down its budget in 1954, has recently increased taxation by £115,000,000, or by more than one- tenth of the total revenue, will result in its meeting the fate that it deserves.
In these Additional Estimates, provision is made for quite a number of items nf expenditure covering departments. I should like to bring to the notice of the Government some matters in respect of the Postmaster-General’s Department. 1. work in close touch with the postal unions, which have brought certain matters to my attention. They consider that the present state of affairs is pretty serious. They are very alarmed at the effect that the Government’s economic policy is having upon the communications system in Australia. They have expressed concern that there is a chance that a serious breakdown will occur in these services, due to the “ cut-cost “ policy that is being applied to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and which reflects itself in many fields.
The Postmaster-General’s Department is carrying out a pruning policy. There have been restrictions on overtime. In some cases in which it is necessary for an officer to work two hours’ overtime, approval has been given for him to work only for a half hour or one hour on overtime. If the officer finishes the job, taking two hours to do it, he is told, “ You can claim an hour’s overtime “. There are many conscientious officers in the Postal Department who, rather than slum a job or neglect to complete it, are prepared to do that kind of thing. I have mentioned thimatter before.
Some officers have been intimidated because of this state of affairs. They have been told that if they complain about this treatment, it might jeopardize their opportunities for promotion. Postal officers receive their promotion on probation. They are not promoted permanently until they have served for six months in the position to which they are promoted. It is during that six months that they are told that if they claim overtime, or do not do this or that, an adverse report might go in against them. Then there are cases in which officers have been instructed to do two hours’ overtime and they have performed that work. When they have claimed payment for the overtime worked, they have been told, “We are unable to make any payment for that period. We have not approval to do it. We will give you time off in lieu “. Overtime is paid at the rate of time and a half, so that if a man works overtime for two hours and gets time off in lieu he should get three hours off, because if he were paid for two hours’ overtime he would receive the equivalent of three hours’ pay. In this way, these men are being deprived of their just rights, because the award provides that if an officer performs overtime he must be paid for it. The granting of “ time off in lieu “ is contrary to the regulations, but it is going on.
There are other instances in which shifts have been deliberately altered in order to deprive men of penalty rates and of payment they would get for working unpopular shifts. In some instances, rosters have been altered in order to deprive officers of the extra pay which, in these times of very high living costs, they have been used to getting and they feel the pinch when they are deprived of it. Under the award, postmen who are rostered on duty at or before 6.30 a.m. have to be paid a penalty rate. It is easy to alter the roster by five minutes so as to put them on at 6.35 instead of at 6.30. This is the kind of action that is being taken and it is the cause of great irritation to the officers. Deliberately to alter shifts in order to deprive men of penalty rates and other advantages that they have gained from the courts is unfair. Penalty rates act as incentive payments, and assist the family budget.
A memorandum has been issued to the engineering section of the department, which is responsible for the installation of telephones, instructing engineers that they are not to permit any overtime at all. In the big cities, some firms which are extending and making improvements to their premises find it convenient to have this kind of work done at weekends when there is no interruption to normal business and no interference to customers. Whilst these firms are prepared to pay and are paying week-end rates, this money is not going into Postal Department revenue. Instead of being used by the Postal Department for the provision of additional telephones, the money is being paid into Consolidated Revenue. The engineers in the Postal Department have been instructed not to replace employees lost by retirement, resignation or death. The result of the department’s general policy is that people who have been waiting for telephones for up to ten years will continue to wait.
I shall now mention another matter which further illustrates the attitude of the department. Increased margins were recently granted to employees who are called line party leaders. The increases did not give them margins two-and-a-half times as great as those that operated in 1.937, which was the basis adopted for marginal increases granted to employees under other awards, but they did receive certain increases. The allowance to the leader of a party of five men was increased from 3s. to fis. a day. In the case of a party of men numbering between six and fifteen, the allowance for the leader was increased from 5s. 4d. to 9s. 6d. a day. The leader of a gang of men numbering more than fifteen now receives 12s. a day instead of 9s. 6d., which he was formerly allowed. In order to reduce these payments to a minimum, the departmental engineers have adopted the practice of reducing the number of men in the gangs. In some cases, the numbers have been reduced to as low as two, and in many instances the numbers have been reduced below five. There is a very good reason for having five men or more in these gangs. In many cases the telegraph lines run parallel to electricity power lines, and it sometimes happens that a lineman contacts a live power line and is electrocuted. In such cases it is necessary to have on hand a sufficient number of men, trained in resuscitation work, to relieve the injured employee and give him the necessary treatment. The practice of reducing the size of the gangs is dangerous to the employees concerned. Two examples of this fact have occurred recently. An employee at Liverpool contacted a live wire and was electrocuted. Because there were not sufficient employees on hand, he did not receive the treatment that he should have received. His widow is now claiming damages from the Postal Department to the amount of £10,000. Her claim will very likely be successful. I hope that it is, because she has family responsibilities. A similar accident occurred at Moruya. A lineman was working on telegraph lines which ran very close to the overhead wires of the Electricity Commission of New South Wales. He made contact with a live wire and he, too, was electrocuted. His widow has now made claims totalling £20,000 on the Postmaster-General’s Department and on the Electricity Commission of New South Wales. No doubt substantial damages will be awarded. These accidents would not have occurred had the department not initiated the cut-purse policy that it is following at present.
Another result of the present departmental policy is a serious decline in the morale of employees. When the Public Service Arbitrator, some time ago, increased margins of Commonwealth public servants in accordance with the policy adopted in other awards, so that the margins were made two-and-a-half times those that operated in 1937, Commonwealth employees were very disturbed at the action of the Public Service Board in appealing to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration uga hist that decision, resulting in lesser margins being granted. Employees in i lie Postmaster-General’s Department are very discontented, and any of them, who are able to take jobs outside the service Jo so. The result is that telephone connexions are not being made at the rate ;it which they should be made, and new buildings required by the department are not being erected. There is a considerable number of outstanding applications for Telephone connexions in my own elecorate. At Hurstville, which is a very important suburban centre, there are 663 outstanding applications. At Peakhurst, here are 208 ; at Bankstown, 997; and at Revesby, 53S; making a total of 2,406 outstanding applications in one electorate.
– How much of that lag in connexions is due to shortage of cable?
– I know that the cablemaking firm in Tasmania is quite capable of producing sufficient of this material if the Government will place orders with it. That certainly would relieve the position. The Government’s frugal financial policy has had serious effects upon the Postmaster-General’s Department, because that department spends more money than any other government undertaking. It is the biggest enterprise in the southern hemisphere. When somebody decides that governmental expenditure must be reduced by 10 per cent. - the reason for that particular figure not being at all clear - it means that expenditure in the Postmaster-General’s Department is reduced by £8,000,000 a year. There is a very great number of people awaiting the connexion of telephones to their premises, yet a question was asked in this House to-day about a starting-price bookmaker in Melbourne who managed to have 47 telephones connected to his premises. While that sort of thing occurs, many business people and invalids, who are in great need of telephones, are unable to secure them.
While the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) is in the chamber, I shall take the opportunity to refer again to a matter about which I asked him a question this afternoon. I refer to the COllapse of a. footbridge across George’s River at, East Hills. The Minister said that a satisfactory launch service was in operation for the relief of residents who were seriously inconvenienced by the collapse of the bridge. The Minister also said that a bus service had been instituted to take these people to Liverpool. People using that bus service will now be forced to travel ‘i miles in the opposite direction from that in which they usually travel. That is not a very satisfactory arrangement, either for the people who previously used the footbridge, or for the business people in the suburb of East Hills. In any case, the ferry service that is being provided is far from satisfactory. The man who is carrying it on has a few small boats that he usually hires to fishing parties. When the bridge collapsed he decided to do a neighbourly good deed by providing this service for the people who would otherwise have been stranded across the river. I was at East Hills last Sunday, and I saw his ferry service in operation. One of his boats is a. small rowing boat. This is an unsatisfactory arrangement. There is no supervision of it, and a tragedy could easily occur if one of these small boats happened to capsize. The people who live on the southern side of the river are either employees of the Department of the Navy, which T. understand is building about 600 homes in this locality for naval men and their families, or they are British immigrants. That being so, I suggest that one of the service departments could provide a suitable vessel, a launch or even an army duck, to carry on a satisfactory ferry service. The Departments of the Army and the Navy have total votes this year of more than £100,000,000, and from that amount they should be able to spare sufficient money to provide a satisfactory service for the people concerned, until normal conditions are restored. I hope that the Minister will continue to examine the matter and will realize that the present transport service across the river is very unsatisfactory and could even result in tragedy. These Additional Estimates permit criticism of the Government in regard to a fairly wide range of. topics, and .1 have taken that opportunity. My belief that this Government deserves criticism has been confirmed by the vote of both the Western Australian and Queensland people at the elections that have been held since the Government brought down this supplementary budget increasing taxation by £115,000,000.
Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [4.36 J I wish to address myself to the item “ Department of National Development - £36,000 “, and especially to the absence of any national plan for integrating the State electricity undertakings so as to ensure the best use of our thermal power, our water power, and, ultimately, our nuclear- power. If, 60 years ago, when constitution conventions were being held, it had been thought possible to carry electricity for hundreds of miles, and link the supply of one State with that of another, the power to control electricity would have surely been given to the Commonwealth. At that time 1 was attending the university and I cannot remember seeing, except in the City of Tamworth, an electric power station anywhere. I remember old fellows going around the streets of Sydney putting on the gas lights each night. The development of the electricity networks which has made possible the linking of the supply systems of the various States has also made electricity a national matter. An extraordinary instance of the value of interconnexion and co-ordination between States is to be found right at our door in the huge Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. Recently the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) obtained a report from Ebasco Services Incorporated, an eminent firm of engineers, on the value of the co-ordination between Victoria and New South Wales that has been made possible as a result of the Snowy Mountains project. The report, which has just come to hand, reveals that without question the availability of this source of electricity for the handling of the peak loads of the States will, by 1980, have saved New South Wales and Victoria hundreds of millions of pounds in investment. Strangely enough, at about the same time the New South Wales Government asked Ebasco Services Incorporated to furnish a report on the potentialities of the northern part of New South Wales. Unfortunately, the firm was not asked to extend its survey into the southern part of Queensland, although for years the Queensland Government had been begging the New South Wales Government to permit inter-connexion of the electricity systems and the use of the water poweravailable on the Clarence River and the coal at Ashford, on the border, which is almost the cheapest in this State. This, it had pointed out, would help meet the rapidly expanding demand for electricity in southern Queensland. The report produced by Ebasco Services Incorporated has not one word to say about interconnexion with Queensland or the development that could be achieved and the savings that could he effected thereby. Despite the information that is available in the various departments in New South Wales showing how development in southern Queensland could result in development in northern New South Wales, nothing is done or said about it. Apparently the view is that plans for the development of the far north of NewSouth Wales should be scrapped and that use should be made of coal deposits near Muswellbrook or on the Hunter River for the whole of the development in thai area. The only coal in New South Wales that is cheaper than Ashford coal is that found in the open-cut at Ravensworth.
It is quite obvious that something should be done to organize and co-ordinate electrical development in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. In 1937 the New South Wales Government asked for a report from some eminent engineers from Sweden who were in this country. But it did not let them go further north than Kempsey, and apparently disregarded the rest of the State as being of no importance. Fully one-third of New South Wales was not even looked at or mentioned in the report.
Electricity is the most widely used raw material of industry and it should be available at strategic points in ample quantities and as cheaply as possible. I should like to discuss what should be done in this regard because it leads us to the further questions of providing good roads, dealing with flood prevention and ensuring rail construction of permanent value. Indeed, it leads us to a consideration of almost every developmental activity.
– And the Clarence River gorge scheme?
– Yes. The report supplied by Ebasco Services Incorporated says that the development of northern New South Wales alone will compel the development of the gorge scheme by 1980. If it is inevitable in 1980, why should it not be undertaken now? In the intervening 25 years it would save millions of pounds that would otherwise be lost as a result of flood damage. It is quite obvious that we must do much more ro co-ordinate development in this country. Only in the ‘twenties was national development really co-ordinated. The development commission of that period maintained liaison with the State governments, and agreement was readily reached. Half of the interest on the money invested was paid by the British Government, one-third by the Commonwealth Government and the remainder by the States. As a result, magnificent projects were put into effect with complete amity and concord. A return to that happy state of affairs is needed.
While 1 was absent from this country recently I had the opportunity of meeting the Prime Minister of India and the Prime Minister of Pakistan. I discussed with them their federal constitutions, which have been drawn up in the last eight or ten years. Mr. Nehru told me that he and his advisers first looked at all the federal constitutions of the world and sought to ascertain their weaknesses. However, he said that despite their care in drafting their own constitution, they had since discovered some weaknesses just as we have since 1901. Nevertheless, what has been done in India and Pakistan should help us to correlate all our activities, end the eternal wrangling between the States and the Commonwealth over the disposal of revenue, and fix priorities for the undertakings necessary in Australia.
I have taken the liberty of bringing along a statement that was given to me in India with regard to the set-up developed there to deal with the difficulty of financial arrangements between the Indian central government and its States. There are nineteen States in India, and the central government. The financial arrangement that they reached is set out in the constitution itself and it is to the effect that the federal government is given power to collect the whole of the income tax, customs duties and excise, but, in order to enable the States to function, a special organization named the National Finance Commission has been appointed in accordance with article 280 of the constitution.
The duties of this commission were to work out the manner in which the States should be assisted from federal revenues. When constituted, it was composed of five people. First, the chairman, who was to be a distinguished public man in federal politics; secondly, an economist; thirdly, a High Court judge, either serving on the nigh Court or retired; fourthly, the permanent head of the federal treasury in his position as an expert administrator; and fifthly, a politician, either State or Federal. If the chairman were in federal politics, the fifth member would be chosen from State politics, so that everybody would get a hearing.
This commission had the function of determining the proportions of income that would go to the States. In 1950, they determined that for a five-year period, 55 per cent, of the personal income tax should go to the States to enable them to carry out objects that I shall detail later. To ensure the balanced and rapid development of all parts of the country, a National Development Council was set up, whose function was to co-ordinate schemes recommended by a Planning Commission. This National Development Council, which makes its recommendations to the central and State governments, is composed of the Prime Minister of India, the Chief Ministers of all States and the members of the Planning Commission, who sit together. The functions of the National Development Council are to review the working of the national plan from time to time, to consider important questions of social and economic policy affecting national development, and to recommend measures for the achievement of the aims and targets set out in the national plan, including measures to secure the active participation and co-operation of the people, improve the efficiency of the administrative services, ensure the fullest development of the less-advanced regions and sections of the community and, through sacrifice borne equally by all citizens, build up resources for national development.
The National Development Council must meet at least twice a year. The secretary of the Planning Commission acts as secretary of the National Development Council, and the Planning Commission furnishes such administrative or other assistance for the work of the council as may be needed. This National Development Council is the liaison between the central and State governments. It is just like our Premiers conference except that what is really done in India, it seems to me, is to combine in one body the functions of the Australian Loan Council, the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Premiers conference. That is a tremendous advantage.
-. - Does the federal Government in India, accept the rulings of the council?
– It does. All plans put forward by the States are discussed by the representatives of the Statu governments and the National Planning Council, together with the Prime Minister, the State Ministers and other Ministers involved. The Planning Commission is an advisory body to the. central government and to the States. It has no executive authority as such. Discussions take place at the official level as well as at the ministerial level, and there are sometimes discussions between the Ministers of States and .the federal Ministers. The federal cabinet secretary is secretary to the Planning Commission, so the federal cabinet is always completely informed. The absolute execution of the plans in the States, which are carried out by the States, is supervised by advisory panels, which consist of very senior officers of the Planning Commission. The advisory panel advises the Federal and State governments. These panels are the eyes and ears of the commission. They have no executive authority, but see the officials of the States and the State Ministers on the various projects and on the community projects. ‘ The Planning Commission handles a number of advisory panels - scientific educational and so on - and other advisory committees of members of Parliament. Altogether 32 members of all parties are involved in these advisory panels and thus the panels are drawn from all parties and liaison is criss-crossed in this way.
For instance, a water scheme put up by a State will be examined by the Planning Committee through its panels. It will be finally approved by the Planning Committee in principle and detail. Up to this stage no money passes at all, but the Planning Commission, recommends then a federal grant to the States for the project. The federal Finance Minister approves of the recommendation after the federal cabinet has approved the whole scheme. Priorities are ultimately determined on the recommendation of the Planning Commission. The whole five years’ plan as passed by the Planning Commission is then placed before cabinet, and then the National Development Council, and goes to Parliament as an approved plan. The resolution approving the plan is approved by the Parliament.
Most of the work is done by the Planning Commission, but the work itself is passed finally by the National Development Council, which takes into consideration the grants of taxation to the States which have been determined by the National Finance Commission. The broad pattern of priorities at the beginning of the first five years’ plan was food, irrigation and power. The States must pass the plans, but the members of the Planning Commission have the status of Ministers of State and have discussed the whole project with the States before it comes to the central parliament for determination.
With my experience of the difficulties in getting constitutional amendments in this country owing to some defects in our own Constitution, I do not suggest that we should attempt immediately to secure such constitutional changes, but I believe that what is being done in India gives us a basis on which we can work. Tn the 1920’s there was a most cordial cooperation with all the States, through the fact that the departmental officials of the various States were kept in close contact with federal departmental officials who were concerned with development. The result was that big jobs were done. It is quite obvious that if we are to get anywhere in this country, if we are to increase production and maintain our standard of living, we must first increase the output of electricity produced in Australia. To-day the consumption of electricity is something of the order of 1,100 or 1,200 electrical units per person per annum. In America, it is about 4,000, in Canada, 5,000, and in Scandinavia, 6,000 or 7,000 per person per annum. In Tasmania, the smallest State of the Commonwealth, consumption of electricity is about 3,000 units per head, because of the way in which Tasmania has used its water power. It surely cannot be impossible to increase the generation of electricity, and it must be done if production is to be increased and costs reduced.
We must deal with this matter along l ines similar to those adopted in the 1920’s and similar to what has been done in India during the last ten years, since the people of that country have had control of their own affairs. Therefore, I urge that this matter be examined by the various governments in Australia and by the Constitution committee. The problem should be examined by the governments in Australia to see whether we can get on with this job of work. It is absurd that we in this Parliament should be raising enormous sums of money, and making ourselves most unpopular throughout Australia, simply to hand the money to the States without any tag on it at all; without any suggestion that there should be co-ordination ; without any suggestion that southern Queensland and northern New South Wales be joined, or South Australia and Victoria, in respect of their development; and without any recognition of the fact that at the present time, as I said earlier when speaking on another matter, millions and millions of gallons of water that we badly need - more so than does any other country in the world - are going down to the sea unused. That is because there is really no way of controlling floods because, by some unfortunate addition to the federal Constitution - I think it is section 100 - we have practically no power at the present time in relation to such a matter.
– Does the right honorable gentleman know the comparative costs of water-generated electricity and nuclear reactor generated electricity?
– I have not examined the position yet, because I do not think anybody in the world is really sure of what the cost of nuclear reactor electricity will be. At the present time, taking it by and large, water power costs just slightly less than thermal power from coal, and is very much cheaper than thermal power from diesel engines. But whether water power is dearer or cheaper, the fact is that it is .something that is wasted. If water is allowed to go to the sea unused, it is lost for all time. If uranium, coal, or oil, is used, that is the end of it, but consider what can be done with water. It seems to me that there must be a national plan for the obtaining of water in the eastern States. In the west, water is sometimes obtained from, underground sources. I am thoroughly in favour of having a firstclass water system in the western areas. It is very important that we should deal with this matter on a national plan. Strange to say, on this particular matter, the president of Ebasco Services Incorporated saw me about a. fortnight ago in Sydney and said that he had dealt in hie report with northern New South Wales without taking into account the full use of water power. He said, “ I have dealt with that matter in the south, because that was one of my specific terms of reference, but 1 was asked to deal only with the possible load in the north and the possible load in southern Queensland was not taken into account He went on to say that all over the world the authorities which are establishing water power have taken into account the possibility of improving river basins, and it is recognized that subsidiary benefits should be considered when determining the actual sale price of hydro-electricity. Those benefits should be deducted from the estimated cost. As I pointed out previously, in the Miami river district in America, which did not receive any power but simply enjoyed protection from flooding, in 30 years the whole of the cost involved was recouped from savings made, and in effect the installation was carried out without any cost.
In America, five big organizations concern themselves with the use of water: the Corps of Engineers of the United States Army, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, and the Federal Power Commission. They have studied this matter and produced a report entitled, “ Proposed Practices for Economic Analysis of River Basin Projects “. The gentleman to whom I have referred was so interested in this matter that the same afternoon on which he spoke to me he supplied me with a copy of the report, which ho thought was the only one in Australia. He had marked a number of places where the report pointed out the extraordinary advantages which caine, from using resources, both up river and down river, in a dozen different ways. A formula has been carefully evolved which can he applied in relation to the allocation of benefits and of costs. The application of the formula varies in different places according to the relevant advantages, so the cost of electricity may be adjusted. In further reply to the honorable member for Fremantle, I would say that when we take into account the fact that, in the generation of electricity from water power, we are not using any energy which cannot be replaced, and that only the sun is working for us all the time, taking water back into the clouds from which it is released to flow down the rivers again, it may be conceded that hydroelectric power would be as good as nuclear power would ever be, and, in addition, it has an enormous number of ancillary advantages. From the storages constructed, water is available during the year for extra crops. In India, I visited the Damodar venture, which covers an area almost as big as the Clarence River district, where the project started by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), when he was Governor of Bengal, has just been finished. It was pointed out that the project not only provided 400,000 or 500,000 kilowatts of power, but also enabled the people of the area to have two seasons of growth of crops every year. That part of India has a monsoonal season such as we have in northern New South Wales, northwestern Australia, and the Northern Territory, during which, for part of the year, there is good rain, and then a dry season of from six to seven months. This project enabled farmers to reap double crops and so the value of the works was enormously increased.
Therefore I say that we must consider these matters from the point of view not only of providing power, but also of making water available for industry, because almost, every industry uses an immense amount of water. We cannot have thermal or steam establishments without water for cooling operations.
This matter should be considered on the highest possible plane. My plea is that we should deal with it at the earliest possible moment. I am sure that it will be found that the proper handling of these resources will have a definite effect on the nation’s general economic position, especially in the provision of sufficient food foi- ourselves and for export, li will be possible to increase the supply of food by more intensive development of existing land, the use of irrigation and more accessible power and transport. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) . who is at the table, will realize that many persons leave the land because they cannot have electrical facilities in farm houses. If these facilities were available, mam more persons would be willing to stay on the land, especially young people who would follow in the footsteps of their parents. This would enable much more land to be developed. We would be able to save a great deal of money on imports’ from abroad. These effects would have a great impact on our national position. We have to meet huge financial commitments in order to rectify the nation’.balance of payments. Surely the basic conditions to enable us to increase the acreage of land under production should be under our control. We should have some say in regard to that matter. 1 therefore urge that the constitutional committee should examine the Indian constitution. India had the benefit of observing the working of the Australian Constitution for many years before its own constitution was drawn. We should examine the whole matter, quite apart from the constitutional aspect, to try to achieve practical working, in the interests of not only every government in Australia, but also every individual and every section of the Australian people.
.- I do not desire to be particularly personal or critical of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), but it does seem strange to me, after thirteen years in the Parliament, that the right honorable gentleman, who has been a member of the Parliament for some 37 years, who was a Minister from about 1923 to 1929 and also for a period after that - certainly from 1949 until last year - should make a speech such as he has just made. One could not believe that be was speaking other than as an Opposition member. I do not want him to take my remarks as a personal insult.
– If the honorable member looked at the record he would see that I moved for the appointment of a constitutional convention for this purpose, but the motion was defeated as the result of Labour activity.
– I merely say that it is strange to hear a member who has had such a long history in this Parliament, both as a private member and as a Minister, saying that something has not been done which should have been done.
– A very great deal has been done.
– It is strange that the right honorable gentleman was not more active and a greater fighter for these things in the years when he had the opportunity to do something.
– What about my activities in the field of health? What about the Australian Loan Council?
– Very little has been done. It is not only on this particular subject that we have heard the right honorable member saying for some time what we should do now, in the closing years of his political life.
Sir Earle Page interjecting,
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman has spoken.
– I leave it at that, but it does sound strange to hear about all these things which should have been done, from a person who has been in the Parliament for 37 years, of which a long period was spent as a Minister of the Crown. I refer now to the Additional Estimates for the Department of Health, and in particular to a matter that is causing me some concern. I regret that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is not in the House just now. A few weeks ago. certain persons alleged that the Department of Health had been defrauded of approximately £2,500,000 by members of the medical and pharmaceutical professions.
– The allegations were unsubstantiated, and were denied.
– The DeputyDirector of Health in South Australia, Dr. McCann, has stated that he does not believe that the fraud has occurred, bur I have heard of no authentic denial by the Department of Health since the allegations were made.
– The Minister for Health denied them in the House.
– He said that an inquiry would be made.
– He denied the allegations.
– But the Minister could not deny them immediately; he would have to make some inquiry. If such allegations were made to-day, he could not rise in his place and say, “ I deny them “. The department owes more to the medical and pharmaceutical professions of Australia than a bold denial. It is not sufficient for the Minister to rise in his place and deny the allegations. If they are untrue, an attempt should be made to force those persons who made them to withdraw them. I am not satisfied with just a simple denial that the Commonwealth is being defrauded. I hope it is not and that, if the allegations are false, the Minister and the Government will take action against those persons who are responsible for putting into the minds of the Australian people the thought that a section of the medical and pharmaceutical professions are robbers and are defrauding the taxpayers. I do not think it is unreasonable to request that that action be taken.
– Is the honorable member repeating the baseless charge?
– No, I am not repeating it. I am saying that we owe something to the medical profession.
– The honorable member said that he was not satisfied.
– I am not satisfied with the answer of the Minister, because if the allegations are untrue, 1 want some action to be taken.
– The Minister denied the allegations.
– I want to know what action the Government has taken or is about to take against those persons who are maligning or are prepared to malign the medical and pharmaceutical professions of Australia. I do not think any one would adopt other than a reasonable attitude towards my suggestion that, if the allegations are found to be false, those professions should be protected by the Government. I hope that some indication will be given to the Australian public that there is no truth in them, and that the Government will bring to book those persons who are responsible for making malicious statements against professions that enjoy a very high status in this country.
– The Minister has already taken action.
– The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) says that the Minister has already taken action. He only says that the Minister has denied the allegations; but I want some protection to be given to those professions. I want the Government to give some indication that it is challenging the allegations and that it will force those people who are responsible for making them to withdraw them.
– The Minister has stated that an investigation will be made.
– But what protection is being afforded to the professions that have been maligned? As far as I know, no protection whatever has been given to them. I think the Government owes something to those professions.
– The honorable member is warming up the lie.
– No, I am not. That is a very narrow-minded attitude for the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) to adopt. 1 want these professions to be protected. 1 do not want the press, or any other organization in Australia that is interested in sensationalism, to be given the right to malign these very honorable professions which are doing so much for the Australian community.
I direct attention now to the Additional Estimates for the Defence Services. The twenty-fifth report of the Public Accounts Committee contains a very severe criticism of the method of budgeting for Defence Services. It is common knowledge that, when the budget is introduced annually, a sum is allocated for defence purposes. Over the last four or five years, that sum has been in the vicinity of £200,000,000. Towards the end of each financial year we find that the sum allocated has not been expended, and that suddenly there is a rush to get rid of the amounts that have been allocated to the various services. The report of the Public Accounts Committee to which I have referred shows that the vote for Division 135, Department of the Army, was over-estimated in 1954-55 bv £7,306,534, and in 1953-54 by £935,576, and under-estimated in 1952-53 by £331,400. The committee, in its report, said -
Your Committee were informed that the original Array estimate of expenditure under this Vote was £8,781,000. When funds were being allocated to the Defence Services it was decided that the Army should receive an additional amount of approximately £!>,500,000. If the original estimate of £8,781,000 had stood, expenditure would have been £8,257,000, an over-estimate of £524,000. However, with the extra funds available, the Army ordered Centurion Tanks, and these account for the further expenditure of £2,838,000. The overestimate then became £7,307,000.
The committee further stated -
The addition of sums of money of this order to any accurate estimate of the supplies likely to be available … is virtually certain to result in over-estimates. If it is a matter of Government policy that such sums should be added so that the Estimates may provide for a predetermined money total, then the amounts must and will be added. However, if the Estimates that are presented to the Parliament are to be in fact Estimates of Expenditure, such a procedure cannot be too strongly condemned.
The committee then went on to say that at a later date it hoped to be able to examine other votes. Dealing with overestimating, the committee stated -
YOUr committee examines over-estimates because . . . estimates that “ err on the safe side “ derogate from the effectiveness of parliamentary control over expenditure and may, in aggregate, be misleading to Parliament and the public as to the volume of taxation required to cover the budget.
That very important point deserves the most careful consideration. “What happens now in relation to the budget? A budget is presented to us showing that the estimated expenditure for the relevant financial year is £1,000,000,000, of which £200,000,000 relates to the Defence Services. Then, later, we find that at the end of the financial year the Defence Services have under-expended their vote by, perhaps, £30,000,000. The importance of that under-expenditure is obvious when we realize that the Government’s taxation measures were based on an expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence. The Prime Minister told us not very long ago that it was necessary for the Government to raise another £100,000,000 a year to keep things going. If there had been good and accurate estimating at the beginning of the financial year, I do not believe that it would have been necessary to ask the taxpayers to contribute another £100,000,000 a year by increased sales tax on certain commodities and by other increased taxes.
The committee stated further that estimates that erred on the safe side might deprive other departments of necessary funds. If £200,000,000 is appropriated for defence when a much smaller sum is required, other departments will suffer. We know only too well that the War Service Homes Division, for instance, could use more money than is allocated to it. The committee made a further comment. It stated -
Your committee draw a sharp distinction between genuine savings and underexpenditures that are the result of bad estimating. . . Over-estimating, both in total and as a percentage of the total budget expenditure, increased in 1954-55.
In that year, under-expenditure amounted to £54,000,000, or 5.1 per cent, of budget expenditure. One feature of the present position is that there is a rush to spend money towards the end of a financial year. When the defence departments discover that, at their present rate of expenditure, they are not likely to spend all of the money that has been allocated to them, there is a rush to spend the balance. I do not think that, in such circumstances, we get good value for our money.
Never before in the history of this country has it been so necessary to prune governmental expenditure, wherever possible. Our annual expenditure if reaching a. colossal figure. The last budget envisaged an expenditure of £1,000,000,000 ‘in this financial year, and we have been told by the Prime Minister that an additional £115,000,000, I think, must be raised. But, although expenditure has reached that colossal figure, it would appear that departmental estimates are not sufficiently vetted by the Treasury before presentation to the Parliament. There are many projects in Australia that are, so to speak, crying out for money. If there is one section of governmental expenditure that should be examined closely, it is expenditure on defence. I notice that money is to be appropriated for Australian forces overseas. I think it is time that a statement was made t” the Parliament about our military commitments overseas. Have we any servicemen in Japan now ? Have all our servicemen left Korea ? If so, are they all back in Australia ? If there are any Australian servicemen in Japan, why are they required there? Those are the sorts of questions to which the Parliament would like answers. If we are still spending money to maintain Australian servicemen in Japan, whether they be members of the Navy, the Army or the Air Force, I think the Parliament should be told why those men are in Japan.
I hope that when the defence Estimates are being prepared in future greater consideration will be given to the requirements of the Defence Services. I hope that we shall not witness in future years this haste to spend millions of pounds as a financial year draws to its close, so that the defence departments will be in a position to say that their Estimates were reasonably correct. I should like the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip
McBride) to make a statement as early as possible about our commitments overseas. I should like him to tell us bow many Australian servicemen, apart from those in Malaya, are serving overseas. I should like to know, especially, whether all of our servicemen who were in Korea are now back in Australia. They should be back in Australia now. I should like to know what our commitments are in Japan. The Government should make every possible endeavour to save every penny that can be saved, because, as I have said, there are many projects in Australia that require finance. I ask the Government to pay particular attention to the defence vote and, wherever possible, to make savings in that direction. I still believe that a great deal of the money that is being spent on defence is not being spent to the best advantage.
– I wish to make reference to the regional news service broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission through stations 3WV and 3WL. This news service is broadcast from Horsham, where station 3W V is situated, and is relayed to station 3WL, which is located at Warrnambool. The regional news is broadcast each day at 6.53 p.m. and at 7 a.m. and 8.4 a.m. from Monday night to Saturday morning. It is an excellent survey of regional news, compiled by the regional journalist, Mr. Eon Woolley. But from 8.4 a.m. on Saturdays to 6.53 p.m. on Mondays there is a strange silence from those stations with respect to general regional news. In place of the general regional news, an exclusive sports news service is broadcast on Saturdays just before 7 p.m.
The sports coverage given then is appreciated. But on Mondays at 8.4 a.m. we have a sports coverage again. It really does not consist of sports news, because those interested in sport have long since known the results of most sporting events. I suggest that in the broadcasts at 8.4 a.m. on Mondays the general weekend news should be given, as well as, perhaps, a few of the highlights of sport - in the manner in which regional news is broadcast from Adelaide just before that hour. Those broadcasts cover regional news and give the highlights of sport in the south-east of South Australia. The broadcasts from station 3WV and station 3WL cover an immense area. Surely listeners there are entitled to a full coverage of regional news. As .many events which must be regarded as news occur at the week-end, I ask that consideration be given to my suggestion. It. is generally considered that an interval between 8.4 a.m. Saturday and 6.53 p.m. Monday is altogether too long for general regional news to be off the air. I have no fault to find with the sporting information that is given. The journalist who compiles it does a very good job; but the fact is that Monday morning is too late in time for the broadcasting of sports results. In many instances this Monday morning sports broadcast is a mere re-hash of information that was given over the air on the preceding Saturday. I have tuned in to this broadcast thinking that I would learn something from it of general events that had happened in the district over the weekend, but all I have heard has been a short sports coverage. Yet between Saturday morning and Monday evening important events that are of great interest to listeners may take place in the district, such as the death of a prominent citizen, or flood or fire news. So I ask that the matter I have raised be given full consideration by the PostmasterGeneral in the best interests of the radio listeners of western Victoria.
.- I take the opportunity of participating in this very general discussion in order to support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). I think it must be conceded by all honorable members that no two members of this House have had more to do with developing Australia financially, as a continent as distinct from a coalition of six States, than the right honorable member for Cowper and the late right honorable member for Macquarie, Mr. Chifley. The former instituted the Loan Council, which was working in practice before provision for it was actually embodied in the Constitution, and thereby made possible some rational development of our capital works, as far as those are carried out by the Commonwealth and the States. The late Mr. Chifley introduced, as Treasurer, and continued as Prime Minister, the system of uniform income taxation, which meant that all income tax revenue in Australia could be raised where it was most just to raise it, and could be spent where it was most necessary to spend it.
Although much criticism has from time to time been levelled at the system of raising loans through the Loan Council, and at the system of raising revenue by uniform income taxation, the fault in those systems lies not in the way they were introduced or implemented by their two founders, but in the way that matters have been allowed to rest at that stage - that is, the Commonwealth, after taking, under the right honorable member for Cowper, the step of co-ordinating our loan-raisings, and, under Mr. Chifley, the step of co-ordinating our revenueraisings has not proceeded to coordinate expenditure and development on a continental basis. That might well involve the dissolution of the States by gradual steps and the transfer to the Commonwealth of those powers in regard to public works and expenditure which it could exercise better than the States can, and the devolution to regional bodies, not necessarily small municipal or shire bodies, of those powers which are better dealt with on such a basis.
I believe that the right honorable member for Cowper is at one with the Labour party in that regard. He believes, as the Labour party believes, that the States are too big to deal with small regional matters, and too small to deal with large national matters. To take as specific instances the matters which the right honorable member for Cowper, who has spent more than one-third of a century as a distinguished member of this House, has never ceased to advocate, I have no doubt that the position in the Clarence River Valley and the Hunter River Valley would have been much improved had they been under the control of some regional body instead of under the divided and overlapping control of the Commonwealth and State governments. In making that statement I do not intend to make any attack on the New South Wales Government or on any individual State government. They cut their suits according to the cloth available to them, and they have to balance political pressures in all parts of a large area. But none of the States is primarily interested in developing the geographical entities of this country such as the Clarence River Valley or the Hunter River Valley.
This is a problem which has become more acute as the years have passed, and particularly since World War II. All our coastal streams have become shallower and, accordingly, more prone to flooding. Along the whole of the eastern coast of Australia, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, but also, to a certain extent, in Victoria, we have had severe coastal flooding on at least half a dozen occasions since World War II., and there have also been severe floods in a great number of our inland streams, such as the Macquarie and the Namoi, though not with such disastrous consequences., because the countryside is more level and the water does not develop the terrific impetus which it develops at Maitland and Grafton. I mention those two places as the principal examples of how our forebears, with great confidence but little foresight, built townships in river valleys.
– They were the handiest places.
– They were the handiest places, for, in those days, before we had aircraft or motor transport, the people had to depend on ships and railways, and naturally built by the water, either on the coast or on river banks. However, as a result of the cutting down of trees on the hills the run-off of water has since become more rapid, and erosion has taken place. The beds of the rivers have filled up, and floods have become more frequent and more devastating.
I know it will be said that what I have suggested to be the Labour party’s approach to this problem, and the approach also I believe of the right honorable member for Cowper - which is the need for more regional government - will be construed and held up as an attack on the federal system. Maybe it is. But that should not prevent our making, on a Commonwealth basis, such moves as are necessary to deal with this vital and increasingly urgent matter.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the creation of newStates?
– I am in favour of more regional parliaments. If the Treasurer is referring to more sovereign States to add to the six that we already have at the moment, I would say that to increase the number of States would be to compound the present chaos. Perhaps the people who support the Treasurer would be very pleased to see that happen because then, instead of section 92 of the Constitution providing some four barriers on this continent, we would have as many barriers as we had sovereign States. I support what the Treasurer’s predecessor in his lofty office, the right honorable member for Cowper, has advanced, which is a system of regional councils - call them parliaments if they would be more effective with a more august title - because then we could develop Australia more in accord with its geographical basis than in accord with an historical basis which was laid down a century ago at Westminster. The centenary of self-government in New South Wales is being celebrated to-day. The people who devised our State boundaries looked to the political aspects rather than to the geophysical aspects.
When the Treasurer interjected - and I thank him for the interjection - I was about to refer to the position in the United States, an older federation than the Australian federation - which is blessed with more States than we have - States which by their number tend to cancel one another out. The Treasurer would find, if meetings of the Australian Loan Council or Premiers conferences were held in a federation as big as the United States, that it would be more difficult for 48 States to gang up on the Commonwealth than it is now for six States to do so. The commerce clause of the United States Constitution enables the Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes. Except for the words about the Indian tribes, that is in practically the same terms as the first placitum of section 51 of our Constitution, which enables this Parliament to make laws for the peace, order and good government nf the Commonwealth with respect to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. Other sections of our Constitution - sections 9S and the following ones - also make reference to the trade and commerce power. In the United States of America, as the result of decisions of the United States Supreme Court, the Union Government at Washington has been able to carry out many projects such as those which the right honorable member for Cowper has advocated should be undertaken in Australia - projects such as the Tennessee Valley Authority works, the Grand Coulee dam on the Columbia River and the Hoover dam on the Colorado River, and so on. Those works have been carried out by the Federal Government in the United States in the same way that the Snowy Mountains scheme in Australia has been carried out - in effect, by the Commonwealth, but under the pretext of collaboration with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments.
– Really under the defence power.
– Fortunately, the matter was never put to the test. I think it would have been contested only if some of the land-owners whose property was to be inundated or whose buildings were to be demolished had decided to resist our acquisition of their properties. But a far-sighted government, under Mr. Chifley, in which Mr. Nelson Lemmon was in charge of the relevant department, offered to the land-holders who were to be affected such attractive prices that they were persuaded not to contest the Commonwealth’s power to implement the scheme. One does not know, and it would be dangerous to speculate, what the position would have been if such a test had been made. It is enough to say that, in the United States, the Federal Government has tried to do a lot of these things which the right honorable member for Cowper has advocated, and it has got away with it. I believe we could get away with it, too. I pay tribute to the right honorable gentleman’s consistent advocacy, which he has pursued ever since he entered this Parliament, in 1919, and, with him, I deplore the fact that his advocacy in this national matter has met with so little success with the various regimes in which, in other matters, he has been so influential.
The Australian Labour party has been well aware that this is a national matter. Let me refer to the policy speech, made in 1934, by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who said -
The Commonwealth Government must take a more active part not only in relief aud assistance after Hoods, but especially in planned measures of prevention. Tragic losses are sustained year after year in many parts of Australia. The Hunter River valley is only one illustration of this. The Commonwealth has a special duty to organise relief and rescue in emergencies but the major problem is prevention and not cure. That will be Labor’s approach.
Again, in the policy speech which he delivered last November, the Leader of the Opposition said -
There must be a combined effort to overtake the lag in the provision of . . . irrigation and power, including the prevention of flood damage. . . .
In September of last year, the congress of the Australian Council of Trades Onions declared -
Congress calls on the Federal and States Governments to immediately implement works projects to control floods by taking all measures necessary to organise and finance a Commonwealth State Flood Control Authority, to be charged with the responsibility of flood prevention, by water and soil conservation, the installation of hydro-electric stations, building of dams, weirs and irrigation works, dredging and straightening of rivers and re-afforestation.
One might almost say that the congress of the Australian Council of Trades Onions was propounding, although in a shorter sentence, the very motion of which the right honorable member for Cowper gave notice on the 22nd February and which the Government has refused to allow to be debated.
– He is in the wrong party.
– For a member of the Australian Country party, he is ahead of his time. I deplore the fact that the Government has refused to allow discussion of the matter which the right honorable member for Cowper has had on the notice-paper for three months. It is surely as important a matter as any we have had before us. One finds that this
Government, which has been in office for the last six and a half years, instead of dealing with the matter, says it is a matter for the States. The Treasurer said, only a couple of weeks ago, that it is a matter for the States.
– In 1949, Mr. Chifley said so in those precise terms.
– If he did, the Minister for the Interior should know, since he represents an electorate which has been more drastically affected than anyother, that there have been more severe and more frequent floods since Labour went out of office than there were while it held office. I do not suggest that the powers which have favoured the present Government with such lush seasons in the countryside have not compensated, to some degree, by inflicting very bad flood? on the coast. I suppose there is a silver lining to the clouds which caused the coastal devastation. It is of little relevance for Government supporters to refer to 1949 and say that Mr. Chifley had not done something. Before 1949, there were not as drastic or as frequent floods as there have been since.
– That does not alter the constitutional position.
– I suggest that we should at least try to exercise a constitutional power which we got away with in respect of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, and which is similarly expressed to the power in the United States Constitution, which the federal Government of the United States has got away with in respect of the Grand Coulee and Hoover dams and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
– But the problem in the United States is vastly different. They have power and navigation problems there, but there is so little power potential in the Australian rivers that the same thing could not be done here.
– I am indebted to the Minister for that interjection. In the United States Constitution, there is no reference to navigation. All the vast powers which the United States Government has exercised, and which it has been allowed by the United States Supreme Court to exercise, have been exercised under the commerce power, which T have quoted. As a matter of fact, ail the references to navigation in the United States court decisions and messages to Congress are a gloss on the constitution. The Supreme Court has said that, so long as what the Congress does has something to do with making commerce on the rivers easier - that is, so long as it has something to do with making the rivers navigable, whether or not they were previously navigable - the Congress is legitimately exercising its constitutional power. I regret that the new Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) should support the defeatist policy-
– I am not a defeatist. I am merely looking for a way out of the constitutional problem.
– Why take a restricted and negative view? We never know, until we have tried, whether we can do a thing. They have tried, and have got away with it, in the United States. Where we have tried in respect of the Snowy Mountains scheme, we also have got away with it. What is there to say that we should be unable to get away with it in respect of the Hunter River valley, the Clarence Gorge, and the like ? Why can we not do it? It is folly to rely on the State governments to undertake these works. In New South Wales, one department - I think it is the Soil Conservation Service and Forestry Commission - deals with the catchment area of streams.
– It is a good department, too.
– It is a good department, so far as its authority goes, hut its control ceases at the bank of the river. There is another department - the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission - which deals with the non-tidal parts of streams, for instance, above Maitland, and a third - the Public Works Department - which deals with the tidal parts such a3 that below Maitland. Three departments deal with the one river. As I said earlier, the States have to cut their suit according to their cloth. The means available to them are undoubtedly limited. Each State will receive from the Australian Loan Council in the current financial year less than it received four years ago, as the Minister for the Interior knows. What are we to do about this problem? Are we to wait until the States get together and ask us to do something, or should we take the initiative? Should we call the States together and tell them that we have a co-ordinated plan to relieve distress already existing? Should we invite them to co-operate in a plan for the prevention of future floods and, in the process, do some of the things that the United States has done in relation to hydroelectric supplies and improved navigational and port facilities?
For six and a half years the flood position has been getting worse. Many honorable members have drawn attention to it, yet the Government has done nothing about it. I must pay tribute to the right honorable member for Cowper for having raised the matter once again. His plea does not lose any of its force because it was the same plea that hemade in this place 37 years ago. It was valid then and it is additionally valid now, because the problem has become worse in the meantime. I hope that his colleagues and confederates will pay some heed to him. Before he entered the chamber, I paid tribute to him. together with Mr. Chifley, as having done more than any other men in this country’s history to ensure that Australia’s finances were dealt with on a national, continental basis. The right honorable member for Cowper was concerned with the establishment and operation of thcAustralian Loan Council and Mr. Chifley was concerned with the introduction of uniform taxation.
Where do we go from there? We have to see that the Commonwealth takes over some of these powers from the States, either by the people giving them to us at referendums, or by the States conferring them on us by their own statutes. At the very least, we can, forthwith, call the States together and do something together to deal with the problem. Wc have done nothing and we should not be defeatist and despairing in connexion with a problem which has become more and more urgent. Every large downpour which we have in this country sees more of our treasures go out to sea. At one time, of course, we had droughts. We have not had a drought for ten years or more, but we have had copious rains. The result has been just as disastrous as the droughts, because, whereas good topsoil used to be blown away, it is now washed away, and that process makes every succeeding flood quicker and worse. I do not know on what item in the Estimates the right honorable member for Cowper was speaking, and I have not tried to relate my remarks to any particular item. I thought, however, that this, was an appropriate occasion to support the right honorable member’s advocacy of a national problem and the necessity to look at it in a national or continental way. The Australian Government and Parliament are in the best position to deal with this problem, which affects all Australians.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.50 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 10th May (vide page 1998), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill bo now read a second time.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) from making his speech without limitation of time.
– The speech made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) was of great importance indeed. It is pretty obvious from the Minister’s statements that Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration may be said to be at the cross-roads. He pointed out that it was not the decision of the High Court of Australia alone that induced the Government to bring down this important bill. Of course, the High Court’s decision is important, because it terminated the power of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to inflict penalties, especiallypenal tics for contempt of court in thecase of some breach of an award. Theuse of that power constituted a new method, which has been in use only in> recent times, of enforcing an awardThat effect of the High Court’s decision; was extraordinarily important, because it meant that this jurisdiction, if it was tobe retained at all, had to be given to a court of judicature. There are manycourts of judicature in Australia to which it might have been given, but the Government has chosen to appoint to the court which will be vested with this power some of the judges who have previously been exercising this jurisdiction. The Minister has stated that it is a jurisdiction in which much emotion is involved, and that for that reason the Government has decided not to give it to the High Court. Emotional and political issues areinvolved in matters connected with this jurisdiction, said the Minister, and now he intends to give it to three of the same judges who have previously been exercising it. It is proposed that the penalties shall he the same as those provided for in existing legislation, and the present procedure need not be altered. If theMinister regards that as any substantial amendment of the law, he is grievously mistaken.
There is no doubt that the exercise of summary jurisdiction for contempt of court has been the cause of great unrest, discontent and anger in all the trade unions of Australia. I make my remarks to-night, not only as spokesman for the Australian Labour party, and giving the unanimous opinion of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party, but also after consultation with representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Australian Workers Union. Those two organizations cover practically all the trade unions in Australia, and the views that 1 express to-night are their views.
The Minister’s reasoning that resulted in a decision to make a complete review of the act should be carefully examined. It is not merely the forms of machinery of the arbitration system that concern the people of Australia. The practical working and practical results of that system are matters of great interest to the workers of Australia, and from the beginning to the end of my speech to-night I want this theme to be understood: “We regard it as pre-eminently important that, iis a result of the operation of the present laws and the administration of the present arbitration system, the federal basic wage of the people of Australia has been frozen for three years. That has caused the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds to the workers of Australia. At the same time, margins for skill, which are an essential part of the worker’s remuneration, whether he receives a salary or a wage, were practically frozen from 1947 until December, 1954. Even then they were adjusted for the benefit of only 40 per cent, of the workers; being those receiving margins of 2Ss. a week or more. What kind of a system is it in which such a result is possible, while at the same time, as the national income figures show, an enormous surge of profiteering has proceeded in Australia ? I suggest that those profits have largely resulted from the labour of persons to whom greater payments should have been made, either in the form of federal basic wage increases or additional margins. The Minister did not deal with this matter at all. Is there industrial justice when such a state of affairs exists in Australia?
The Minister spoke about the status of trade unionism in this country. I do not dispute the accuracy of his assessment of the membership of trade unions. He said that 60 per cent, of workers belong to trade unions. The figure should, of course, be 100 per cent. I realize, of course, that there is no legal obligation on a worker to join a trade union, but is it not a fact that but for the efforts of trade unions the workers of Australia would not enjoy their present living standards ? It is only because of the fight that the trade unions have been waging for the last five years that the workers have retained their standards.
The Minister admits, in substance, that the present legislation is unsatisfactory, but when, we consider that legislation and the Minister’s proposals, as contained in this bill, we ask ourselves what changes are to be made. Is it not the same old system dressed up in slightly different verbiage sp as to suggest some change? It is suggested that the arbitration system will be streamlined. Where will it be streamlined? There is no point in presenting legislation of this nature to the Parliament. The present legislation provides for an appeal system, which, as I shall show, caused extensive delays, and which was deliberately introduced by this Government in order to curtail the power of conciliation commissioners to fix margins. At first the commissioners had the sole right to fix margins. Some of the judges of the Arbitration Court warned the commissioners that they should hold their hands and fix no margins until the basic wage case, then in process of being heard, had been concluded. As soon as the Labour party lost control of the government and was in Opposition, the judges of the Arbitration Court commenced to complain about the then existing legislation, but as soon as the 1949 act was passed everything was all right, and the judges praised the commissioners for the work that they had done, although a move had been made, as can be shown beyond doubt, to prevent the commissioners from exercising the power that they then had. Although the Government and the judges had no power over the commissioners, they were warned not to touch the margins because the judges were then deciding the basic wage case, and they were taking a long time to do so. In. the meantime the fixation of margins was held up.
That was the first step. Then came the famous award of early 1952, in which Mr. Galvin, a conciliation commissioner, stated that in the national interest, of which he was, as a conciliation commissioner, obliged to take care, he should not deal with margins in the metal trades industry at all.. Then, in the following month, the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court made his pronouncement in Adelaide on the economic needs of Australia. He referred to some things which were satisfactory from a political point of view, but he also referred to the freezing of the basic wage and of margins and penalty rates, as I shall show. Then another commissioner in Canberra, Mr. Findlay, said that it was just as much his duty, under the statute, to fix margins, over which, he had exclusive jurisdiction, as it was the duty of the Full Court of the Arbitration Court to fix a basic wage. He therefore proceeded to exercise his jurisdiction in cases involving the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth did not appeal against his decision. What the Government did, however, was to come to this House a few months later and say, “We must have provision for appeals from decisions of the conciliation commissioners “. When provision had been made for those appeals, of course, the result was certain. The result was that the commissioners knew, as was said, in effect, by Mr. Mooney, the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, in one of his reports, that whatever the conciliation commissioner might do if left free, the fact that there was an appeal made him give attention to the probable opinion of the judges on appeal. From that time onwards it was practically impossible to obtain increases in margins. When the conciliation commissioners did grant marginal increases, appeals were made from those decisions, and nearly every appeal brought by the employers was successful.
Those are all-important facts, because they led, not only to the fixing of margins for a short time, but also to this tragic and scandalous position. The margin for the skilled man - the reward given to the artisan for his training and the encouragement given to apprentices coming forward - was frozen, fixed, pegged, from 1947 to 1954, an enormous period. That was the situation so far as margins were concerned. So far as the basic wage was concerned, the anti-Labour press and politicians of this country kept repeating, “ Of course, there is inflation in this country, but it has nothing to do with profits. It has been caused by those workers and their quarterly wage adjustments.” Gradually that view, which is now condemned by every intelligent person ; was accepted, and the judges, in 1953, froze the federal basic wage. It has been frozen ever since. An enormous sum of money has been involved. The States of the Commonwealth have, one by one, seen this all too obvious fallacy and decided that they could not be parties to such treatment of the basic wage earner. This is the account that the workers of Australia must present to the Government because ultimately the administration of this law is in the Government’s hands. Of course, it cannot directly make orders and awards, but it can intervene if there is injustice, and its views never go unheeded; they are always of cogent worth before the court. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been lost by the 60 per cent, of workers, who, being under federal awards, have not received a marginal increase for nearly nine years, and by the basic wage earners, who have suffered for the last three years. We seek a system under which that will not be possible.
– And control of interest rates also.
– Certainly. I want to refer now to one passage in the Minister’s speech. He said -
At this point one may conveniently ask whether any legislative change is desirable at this moment. I believe that there will be general agreement that there is need for a change. For some time, there has been a widespread and growing feeling throughout Australia that a review of our Arbitration system is necessary. I shall mention briefly some of the reasons:
Then the Minister, referring to the 1947 act, said quite correctly that in some respects it had not produced all the results which the Chifley Labour Government had expected. But it was not given much of a chance to operate. It operated for a short time - until this Government came into office. Just as, when in opposition, the anti-Labour parties had spoken against the measure, so in government they set out to destroy the important features of the act. Provision was made for an appeal to the court from the decisions of conciliation commissioners. The Government seemed to feel that the commissioners could not properly handle the jurisdiction. To the contrary, the reports of the judges indicated that the commissioners had administered the act efficiently. Between October, 1947, and September, 1948, the sixteen conciliation commissioners settled 1,118 industrial disputes. Between September, 1948, and the end of 1949 they settled 1,213 disputes. In all, the commissioners settled 2,300 disputes. That is a great number in a short period fraught with post-war difficulties. Hearings were arranged, onthejob inspections took place, and private conferences between the parties were so successful as to bring forth praise from the judges and the Chief Conciliation Commissioner. That was the situation under the administration of Judge Drake-Brockman. However, towards the end of 1948 the then Acting Chief Judge, then Mr. Justice Kelly, pointed out that every one should be made to understand that the commissioners, in carrying out their duties, could not exercise any part of the jurisdiction reposed in the court under the act. I shall quote his remarks, because this was a public statement. He said -
They have been made a distinct and independent part of the Arbitral machinery. They are not what the Act refers to as “ The Arbitration Court”. They should not be confused with the Court. On the other hand, the Arbitration Court is in no way responsible for their work or decisions.
It was a nice way to achieve co-operation between the judges and the commissioners! They have to meet in regular conference. His Honour said further -
No appeal lies to the court from them, chough they may submit certain questions of law or of jurisdiction to the Court for the purpose of ruling thereon . . . Whatever the conference or meeting or hearing before a Commissioner may be, it is not a proceeding of the Court.
That is all correct. There is nothing technically wrong about it because, as His Honour pointed out, the whole purpose of the act has been, by the provisions imposing duties, functions and powers on the commissioners, to provide a method of conciliation and arbitration dissociated from the court. But what an odd way of putting the position ! Here are the judges who determine portions of disputes relating to standard hours, the basic wage, and long service leave, practically saying to the world, “ These commissioners really don’t amount to much “. ‘The Acting Chief Judge said further -
It is wrong to refer to their decision as a judgment of the Court.
Again, that is technically correct. He continued -
We hope that these remarks may be brought to the notice of the conciliation commissioners and it is our intention to invite the cooperation of the press and the public in maintaining the distinction to which we have referred.
That was presumably a rebuke to the commissioners because they had official positions. In a sense, they were associated with the court when they carried out their function of dealing with their part of the whole award which was to be made both by the commissioner and by the Arbitration Court. In this fashion and in other ways, after the death of Judge Drake-Brockman the commissioners were warned though not in precise terms. In the basic wage decision of 1950 they were told that they should not deal with the margins while the basic wage case was before the Full Court. That was a completely wrong point of view because the commissioners had within their own area exactly the same jurisdiction as did the Full Court within its area. One might just as well say that as the commissioners had jurisdiction over margins the judges ought not to deal with the basic wage until the margins had been fixed. One necessarily depended upon the other, because under the statute each had to do his job and had exclusive jurisdiction over his own subject-matter. However, as a result of the activities of the court, for a time most of the commissioners did not deal with margins and therefore did not carry out their statutory duties. Mr. J. B. Dwyer, one of the conciliation commissioners, took a strong view of this He said -
I think it is quite wrong for the conciliation commissioners to do anything to interfere with the jurisdiction of the judges because the jurisdiction of the judges over standard hours and basic wage is exclusive. I think it is equally wrong for the court to interfere with the jurisdiction of the commissioners.
And he went on and made his award. Some other commissioners did that, but some did not. It was very difficult to obtain the co-ordination and co-operation which we had thought could be obtained, and compelled, by the regular meetings between the Chief Judge and the commissioners.
That was the position, broadly speaking, up to early 1952 when the Galvin award was made. Mr. Galvin’s opinion was that as commissioner he should do nothing about margins because of the economic position. In the following month, Chief Judge Kelly made his public announcement on what should be the economic and political policy of Australia. I shall read only a few passages from his judgment. It was a fourteenpoint pronouncement delivered on the 1st February, 1952. In the course of it he said -
Can we agree upon a reduction by, say, 10 per cent, per annum of any adjusted basic wage during a period of, say, three years?
Nobody agreed upon it, but that is how it turned out. There was something like a reduction of the basic wage for three years by a failure to make adjustments according to increases in the cost of living, but it was not necessarily the same percentage. Chief Judge Kelly continued -
Can we agree that award margins should stand fixed at present rates for a period of, say, three years V
They stayed fixed for much longer than that, but that was his view and he stated it publicly. He then said -
Can we agree that “ overtime “ for the first half bour of “ overtime “ on any day or the first four hours of overtime in any week be paid for at ordinary rates?
He denied the overtime to the detriment of those working under federal awards. He then dealt with holidays. It is true that the Chief Judge referred to other propositions. He mentioned, for instance., that the income of company shareholders should be reduced by 10 per cent. That was completely beyond his jurisdiction, but the other matters were matters that, as judge, he had to deal with to some extent. That statement, of course, was a very embarrassing one, I am sure, for the court and certainly it worked out very much in the way he suggested. It is a statement, again, that followed immediately upon the Galvin decision of a few days earlier.
A month or so later, this Government passed an Act of Parliament which said, in effect, that from all decisions of the commissioners there may be an appeal brought by leave of the Chief Judge - that is, Chief Judge Kelly. Leave could be granted before the proceedings commenced, during the course of them or at the end of them, or there could be a reference. Of course, the Opposition objected to the change. We said it would cause delays and injustices, and I have a few illustrations of the type of thing that occurred in the last couple of years.
On the 28th June, 1955, Mr. Commissioner Portus gave a decision on the Storemen and Packers (General Stores) award. Leave to appeal was granted and the appeal was heard. Five months elapsed between the time of the decision by the commissioner and the disposal of the appeal. Commissioner Portus gave a decision in another case covering casual storeman on the waterfront. Leave to appeal was granted by Mr. Justice Kirby, but four and a half months elapsed before the appeal was disposed of. In May, 1955, Mr. Justice Kelly gave leave in a case concerning the working conditions, at the Brisbane meat markets, but six months passed before the commissioner’s decision was dealt with on appeal. Mr. Commissioner Tonkin made an award covering wages and working conditions of tramway employees in South Australia. An appeal was lodged against the award, but the court has not finalized the matter to this date, although twelve months have elapsed after the appeal was lodged. The tramways union estimates that the legal costs to the union to date in connexion with the appeal amount to £6,000. Another case was the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator on the 20th June, 1955, dealing with Commonwealth public servants. An appeal was lodged by this Government and was finalized by the court on the 15th December, six months later. In the repatriation medical officers’ case there was an eigh teen-months’ delay before the appeal was disposed of.
They are a few illustrations. They are not selected because they are the worst. I think there are other cases _ where the delay is longer, but when an award is made by a commissioner on a matter affecting an industry, delay of that kind is very undesirable. The object of the 1947 act was to have no delay in these matters peculiar to a particular industry. Justice delayed in these matters is justice denied. However, that is the position that has arisen. In the end, a government that wants really to face this question and have an act modernized in conformity with the conditions of the rimes cannot have appeals from decisionsof that kind, which are made after ti close study of the industry committed to the charge of a commissioner. The last case I have refers to the Municipal Tramways Trust of Adelaide. A decision was given by the Chief Commissioner in May, 1950. In December last, seven months later the appeal was heard, but all that happened was that the matter was referred back to Mr. Tonkin.
One case showing the approach of the court is a case dealing with apprentices in the Ship Joiners’ Society of Australia, lt came before the Full Court on appeal, leave having been granted quite recently in Sydney. An award was made by the commissioner for higher wages based, not upon the basic wage, but upon the journeyman’s wage - something that had been sought for years. The case came before the Full Court and then on the appeal, the point was taken that the demand was outside the ambit of the original dispute in the log that was served in 1948, eight or nine years earlier. The judgment of the court simply upheld the appeal and quashed the order.
That is completely opposed to the spirit and, I submit, to the letter of the 1947 legislation. That legislation said that the commissioner was to deal not only with actual disputes but with probable or impending disputes. All that was needed to crystallize a dispute in this case was to file a new log, which could have been served in a day, asking for the additional claim. The employers knew that perfectly well. Had it been done, the case could have been contested on the merits. The award could have been made and upheld in settlement of that threatened or impending dispute. The function of the commissioner covers the making of awards to prevent a dispute. The point is so technical! These young apprentices had been fighting for better conditions and, having received an award from the commissioner, are put back by such a technical point. Yet the court is told to deal with all types of disputes, whether they are crystallized already in the logs that have been served, or whether they require some new log to be served. The case should have been adjourned; in a few hours it could have been settled in the way I have suggested. There was not a thought of that in the proceedings, though three judges of the court were present at the hearing. They have not observed, in my submission, the spirit of the 1947 act, which was a spirit of conciliation as well as arbitration.
The commissioners were told to go to the point of dispute, get the essence of the dispute, analyse it and, as their first duty, try to conciliate between the parties. Failing that, they were to make an award. In this House, when the appeal system was instituted, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said an appeal would be permitted only in matters that involved something .of national importance. The chief judge was first to hear a case as to whether there would be a right of appeal, and he would only grant that right in cases of such importance. In the beginning that seemed to be the practice, but later on the practice seems to have been completely departed from.
What has been the result of these appeals? Since the act was amended by this Government, in 1952, over complete opposition from the trade unions and the Labour party, 29 appeals have been lodged against decisions of conciliation commissioners and determinations by the Public Service Arbitrator. Employers have lodged sixteen and trade unions have lodged thirteen of those appeals. Out of the sixteen appeals by employers, leave to appeal has been granted on fifteen occasions. On one occasion, leave was refused on purely technical grounds. That was the first decision made by Mr. Castieau, on the 10th October, 1952, and I need not refer to the technical grounds. Leave was granted in each of the other fifteen cases. Of those, nine appeals were upheld on the representations of the employers, two were refused and one was withdrawn after a waiting period of fifteen months for the court to deal with the matter. In that time the parties finally made a new consent award. Three are not yet finalized, and of this number one has been before the court for over twelve months, namely, the South Australian Tramways case. Another has been before the court for four months. The employers, therefore, have lost only two appeals out of the fifteen made since the act was amended, which is rather a satisfactory position from the point of view of the employers. Now let us look nt the employees’ appeals. Of the thirteen lodged, leave to appeal was refused m seven cases and granted in six. On the six occasions when leave to appeal was granted and the matters found their way to the court, on two occasions the appeals were dismissed. The Merchant Service Guild withdrew its appeal, because it was not prepared to bear the cost of a protracted hearing, as it simply could not afford it. The Ships Painters and Dockers Union withdrew its appeal and made an application to the High Court. The Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association’s appeal has not been finalized, although it has been before the court for two years, and a matter concerning the Plumbers Union also has not been finalized, although twelve months have elapsed since the appeal was lodged. Of the thirteen appeals lodged by employee organizations, not one has been upheld by the court. One can quite easily see why the trades union movement is completely dissatisfied with the existing system.
In the proposed amendment of the arbitration legislation, is the Minister getting rid of the cause for dissatisfaction? Of course, he is not! All he is doing in the main part of the bill is selecting three judges to be a court of pains and penalties, with power to inflict punishment for contempt, a strict court of judicature. Three gentlemen have to be picked out of seven, and they are persons who were appointed to the Arbitration Court primarily because of their practical knowledge of the arbitration system, not because they were specially conversant with the strict interpretation of ordinary law. When those three are selected, the position and status of the rest of the judges under another name will remain the same as they are at present. They will be called presidential commissioners. The conciliation commissioners will be called commissioners, and a third group will be called conciliators. Perhaps that is the one hope in the bill, and the most important aspect of it, not because of the way in which the proposal is drafted at present, but because it is capable of improvement. Is there to be an end of these appeals? Not at all. From the commissioner there will be reference and appeal to an appellate tribunal. So we will still have a continuance of the delays to which I have referred. Can it be said that the Government is streamlining the jurisdiction, when the appellate system, the cause of so much delay and injustice, is simply reproduced in a different form? This is a big measure in point of the number of clauses written, retained, and reproduced, but the Minister cannot honestly claim - and I do not think he does - that the bill will really meet the situation in respect of delays.
What is the position? The system of 1947 worked excellently right up until the end of 1949. Judge Drake-Brockman got the system working well at that time, but honorable members can see from the material that I have quoted that the judges resented the intrusion of the conciliation commissioners, and that feeling became pronounced early in 1950 and 1951. I do not know why they should have objected. They found the High Court had, in a very unusual phrase, described the system as a dichotomy of jurisdiction - that blessed word “ Mesopotamia “ ! - which was divided between the commissioners and the judges. The judges were to determine the basic wage and standard, hours, and other matters in dispute were to be determined by the commissioners. The High Court called it a dichotomy of jurisdication, and as nobody knew the meaning of the term, every one thought it must be something very undesirable and improper, and probably something that should not be mentioned too often in public. As it was called a dichotomy, people thought it was bad. This co-called dichotomy existed for 20 or 30 years of the federal system. When the judge was in the position of a commissioner, there was an appeal to three judges. At least, there was a reference to the judges on standard hours and the basic wage. So in that respect, all that the 1947 act did was to reproduce principles under which previous judges had worked. Dichotomy meant only that we had for the determination of wages and conditions in a particular industry a man conversant with it, who knew the conditions and who could determine the correct margins and conditions. Was that not the right principle to apply? I admit that at times it may not have been applied as it should have been. One cannot get 100 per cent, perfection in. nhat kind of thing, but the principle was a correct and proper one. The disputes that were settled without award probably numbered 50 to 1 which was dealt with by award. They were dealt with expeditiously without one major industrial dispute in the federal jurisdiction.
At the end of 1949 the position changed. I shall not repeat what I have said about the basic wage and standard hours, but it is extremely important. Then we entered the period which the Chief Judge called a period of stabilization. The fact is that there was a period of what one might call stabilization. It occurred because the commissioners refrained from making awards for a very considerable period because of the views of the judges, expressed in no uncertain terms, in the basic wage decision. Then they had to attend to the views of the judges because the appeal system, was introduced early in 1952, after the Galvin decision of January, and the Chief Judge’s pronouncement about economic and wage policy in February. I think that the appellate system was introduced in June. Now I want to quote from a report made in 1955 bv Mr. Justice Foster. I wish to give the House particulars of significant developments that took place during the year 1954-55 to which the report referred. He sets out the proceedings taken under section 29 (1.) (b) and (c) of the act. Some awards included a clause forbidding the imposition of a ban on overtime, or some other action regarded as detrimental to an. industry. Normally, in cases of breach of such a provision in an award, the person or union concerned would be taken before an industrial magistrate and might be fined a few pounds. But that was not the way in which the matter was handled. The practice followed was for the employer to mention the matter in the court, and for the court, of its own motion, to ask the union to show cause why proceedings should not be taken, first, for an injunction restraining the union from continuing the ban, and if the terms of the injunction were not observed, to cite the union at once for contempt. There are a large number of cases listed on pages 10, 11 and 12 of Mr. Justice Foster’s report, and the large number of orders granted are set out.
The Metal Trades Employers Association, which was very active in this respect, summonsed for contempt the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which was fined £250. Another contempt case mentioned is the Metal Trades Employers Association v. The Federated Ironworkers Association, re Mort’s Dock. In that case the union was ordered to pay taxed costs and 150 guineas. The Metal Trades Employers Association also proceeded against the Boilermakers Society for contempt, re Mort’s Dock, and the union was fined £500. I think that was the case that went to the High Court. The members of the Metal Trades Employers Association, those gentlemen who are right in the forefront of those who are making gigantic profits from various corporations, are the most active in proceeding against the unions for contempt. The last case referred to among those in which a fine was imposed is in re Mort’s Dock, again against the Federated Ironworkers Association. Convictions were recorded, but there was no fine, and costs had to be paid. All the other cases are set out.
There is a very important analysis of the whole position written by a prominent official in the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. W. P. Evans. In the course of his study of it, he says -
This is the new substitute of the employers’ organizations for the old cancellation proceedings to the award.
They do not want to cancel the award; they want to keep the unions out of the court’s jurisdiction. Mr. Evans, who, I think, is now vice-president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, then said -
The pattern had emerged. What had applied to overtime only could be extended to any work under the award. And in selected cases it was.
Mr. Evans then dealt with certain examples and suggested that in a union there might be a few employees at a certain shop who were recalcitrant and not willing under any conditions to observe certain provisions. In short, they were people whom the union could not control, and who, even if told to observe the provisions, would not do so. In such cases the unions were fined, and were told to expel the men because they did not observe directions of this kind, t regret to say that in some cases the unions expelled the men. In one case, there was a strike at Mort’s Dock in Sydney, not of ironworkers, but of boilermakers. In order to help the families of their mates, the men took around the hat every week for a collection. The Ironworkers Association was cited because certain of its members - I think twenty men were involved - made contributions. Just imagine the system of espionage that must have been in operation in order to ascertain that that was going on! The association was fined and was directed to expel those men. At any rate, proceedings towards suspension were taken.
This jurisdiction should not belong to a court which is supposed to conciliate and to arbitrate with a view to obtaining industrial peace. I know of no country in the Western world where such a state of affairs exists. This kind of thing might exist under totalitarian governments whether they veer to the left or to the right - those that veer to the right being the governments that honorable members opposite prefer us not to mention - but why should it exist in Australia ? It does not exist in Great Britain or in the United States of. America. It is a disgraceful state of affairs, and the unions resent it. All that this provision will do will be to set up a separate tribunal with a special duty to deal with legal matters, including the matter to which I have just referred. Why does the Minister not review the whole question of fines and penalties? Surely he does not approve of this provision. I am willing to say that the right honorable gentleman endeavours to have many cases settled, but why is he hurrying this bill through ? Since the commencement of the drafting of the legislation the Privy Council has granted to the Government leave to appeal against the decision of the High Court. Why does he not call a conference to hear all sections of public opinion about the matter?
I am sure that the great bulk of Australian employers would not be party to this penalizing and victimizing of trade unions, because they know that, if this type of activity is persisted in, there will be deep and bitter resentment. All that the Australian workers and the trade unions want is justice and fairness; but the provision to which I have directed attention is so contemptible, in one sense, and so disgraceful that it is unworthy of Australia. I repeat that I do not believe that it would be tolerated in other than some backward country, where the only way to drive people to work is to hold over them the fear of imprisonment or heavy fines. This article by Mr. Evans, whose opinion would be amongst the most respected and influential opinions, is absolutely convincing. If it is not too late to do so, I appeal to the Minister to review completely this part of the bill. The total amount of costs and fines paid by unions is considerable. In 1954 and 1955, the Federated Enginedrivers and Firemen’s Association was mulct of £3,737 in costs and fines, and the position of the Amalgamated Engineering Union is similar. There are many other such cases. Costs should not be awarded in this jurisdiction, because the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is not a court of law. That matter will be dealt with in one of the proposals that the Opposition will present to the House.
What does the Minister propose to do about the matter? The 1947 act worked smoothly and reasonably at a difficult period. I do not regard it a3 having been a perfect measure, but the appeal system with which it was replaced is utterly unworkable ami has proven to be unworkable. The Labour Government kept penalties down to a minimum. The contempt procedure was again developed by the present Government in its 1953 legislation, following it3 introduction of the appeal procedure in 1952. The Government is trying to get around the decision of the High Court and to keep the same law in operation and, broadly speaking, to retain the same judges. I do not regard the Government’s proposal in this regard as being an amendment at all. If anything, it makes matters worse, because it confines the judges to judicial jurisdiction whereas they were originally appointed to an arbitral jurisdiction. The. provision for penalties is to be retained, as is also the provision for regulating the internal affairs of unions.
Let us see what is to happen in relation to conciliation. The bill contains one provision concerning conciliation. The Opposition clings to that provision because its importance might be developed, although the bill itself does not do so. No obligation to conciliate is imposed. There should be an obligation on parties to conciliate when a dispute occurs. Does this Government believe in conciliation ? How much has it voted during this last year for compulsory conferences, which are of the essence of conciliation? It has voted £100 ! So, it does not regard or has not regarded conciliation seriously. The conciliator does not operate or have any jurisdiction unless the parties seek him out or the commissioner expresses an opinion. He can, of course, simply be by-passed. The Opposition will seek to have drastic amendments made to the bill in order to place conciliation in the forefront, and to ensure that, when an industrial agreement is entered into between disputants, it will not be set aside by the court. What is the use of having an agreement worked out after much labour if a conciliation commissioner, or the court, later says, “ We do not like this provision. Ton will have to go back and. try again.”? The appeals provision remains and the penalties provision remains; but, of course, a new departure is the inclusion of a clause to cover, in particular, a ban or restriction upon work. It is proposed that, in such cases, the court shall make an order upon application or on its own motion directing compliance with the clause, and joining the organization concerned. If the order is not obeyed, even by a handful of persons in a great union, the union must suffer the penalty. However, I have already referred to the question of penalties. Unless drastic amendments are made to the measure, the employers will not conciliate. They know perfectly well that the bill suits them, that they can always get away from the commissioner and, even if they lose, can take the matter on appeal.
Now, in connexion with conciliation, I wish to refer to a. particular aspect of the bill which furnishes an excellent illustration of the method of conciliation in Australia at the present time. The Minister says that he favours conciliation, yet in relation to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, it is proposed that the federal judge shall be given jurisdiction to deal with disputes in the area, which affect the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority not only in relation to its own employees, but also in relation to independent contractors some of whom are great engineering firms from abroad. Disputes affecting the Australian Workers Union and a large number of other unions in the area have been dealt with by the New South Wales Industrial Commission. All the disputes have been settled by agreement. Mr. Justice Taylor of the New South Wales Industrial Commission has suggested improvements of working conditions in the area, and the employers have agreed immediately. Similarly, wages have been fixed by conciliation. The result has been something of a miracle so far as production is concerned, because the world record for tunnelling has been broken three or four times by men working in the area.
The employers, with their experience in the United States, do not haggle about providing amenities which will improve working conditions. They guarantee to pay award rates. They see that they are paid in full. According to Mr. Oliver, the secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Workers Union, upon every occasion when operations were under question from an industrial point of view, agreement was reached immediately. Conditions, both in relation to wages and bonuses, are regarded by the Australian Workers Union as satisfactory. At Guthega since 1952, and at Eucumbene since February, 1955, the contractors have been great American engineering firms. There was a dispute about rates for tunnelling. Again there was conciliation, which resulted in agreement and an award. According to the secretary of the union, the workers are provided with food in a top-class mess. No restriction is placed on the amount of food consumed. Each worker has a separate room with a bed, a mattress, a pillow, a wardrobe and a table. The rooms are heated. That service is given in lieu of camp allowance.
I could give many more details to show that conciliation has solved the problems there. Because there have been good relations between employers and employees, production has been of a record character. Perhaps that is the secret which the Minister could learn by a study of American methods. It is perfectly true that there is no compulsory arbitration in America, but I suppose employers in that country realize that, if conciliation succeeds and agreement is reached, they do not have to submit the terms of settlement to a body which might say, “ That will put prices up a little “. It is perfectly true that, on some occasions, an agreement that is reached may increase the price of services, but that should not be used as an argument to avoid fixing a fair wage for people in this country. If prices must be fixed, they must be fixed on a national basis which takes all factors into account. We say that it would be wrong to bring only the cost of labour into the picture, with a veto authority vested in the industrial arbitration system.
The object of the industrial arbitration system is, in the words of the Constitution, to make laws to obtain industrial peace and to settle or prevent industrial disputes. If so, conciliation is of the essence of the system. Therefore, one of our proposals is designed to make the results of thework of the conciliator effective. All the work of conciliation could go for naught if there were no approval of it at the level of the commission, or at the level of the people in the upper range of the commission - those sitting in presidential session. We regard that as extremely important. Our amendment explains our point of view. It would be impossible to deal in it with every point that will have to be discussed. Honorable members on the industrial committee of our party and other honorable members will deal with many other points, but I think the amendment expresses satisfactorily the point of view of the Australian Labour movement and that of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Australian Workers Union. I therefore move, as an amendment to the motion for the second reading -
That all words after “That” he omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ a. In the opinion of this House the hill should be withdrawn for reconsideration because -
The bill confirms rank injustice by continuing some of the worst features of the existing legislation, e.g., penalties enforceable by pro cess of contempt of court. These should be eliminated. In practice they have been enforced only against trades unions, their officers and members and haveca used grave industrial unrest;
The bill maintains and extends the present systems of appeal from decisions and reference of matters, These systems have caused frustra tion, delay and grave injustice to salary and wage earners within federal jurisdiction;
In relation not only to matters of penalty and contempt of court, but also to the legal interpretation of awards, the bill vests exclusive judicial power in a small group of the present Commonwealth arbitration judges who were originally appointed primarily because their main duty was to decide in a common sense and speedy manner practical problems affecting certain aspects of industrial disputes. The judicial power of the Common wealth, so far as it is required to be exercised in industrial matters, should bo vested in the existing courts of Commonwealth and State and not in a newly created court of judicature: and
The present bill contributes nothing to the solution of the problem of industrial unrest and chaos aris ing from decisions under the present system and the manner in which it has been operated.
Therefore, in the opinion of this House, the bill should be reconsidered and, in order to avoid injustice and delays in the processes of conciliation and arbitration for the effective prevention and just settlement of industrial disputes, legislation should be passed so as to provide for -
The grant of final and exclusive jurisdiction in relation to industrial disputes to officers (however styled) charged with the duties of conciliation and arbitration and specially conversant with the industry concerned, reserving for the determination of the judges or ‘presidential commissioners ‘ final and exclusive jurisdiction limited to standard hours, basic wage and long service leave;
The making of special provisions strengthening the processes of con ciliation including the appointment of additional conciliators charged exclusively with the functions of mediation ;
In all cases where agreement is reached between parties in dispute whether under the act or otherwise, the making of provisions whereby the agreement between the disputants shall be certified by the appropriate authority and shall be conclusive and binding on all parties to such agreement quite irrespective of the subject matters of the agreement or any part of it;
The correction of irregularities in union ballots by judicial procedures in accordance with the act of 1949; and
The elimination of all unnecessary forms and technical legal formalities, orders for costs and professional legal advocacy.
And, in the further opinion of this House, an essential feature of an adequate and effective Australian industrial arbitration system should be to vest in the Parliament of the Commonwealth full powers both in relation to industrial matters generally and also to just fixation of prices and profits on an Australia-wide basis.”
In amplification of the statement in the second paragraph of part a of the amendment, I refer to the appeals system, to the fact that the basic wage was frozen under that system, and to the extraordinary position that arose when margins were pegged for many years. The next paragraph of the amendment shows that we want a drastic amendment of the penalty provisions of the legislation and the elimination of the contempt provisions. So far as the contempt power rests on legal interpretation or on some form of sanction, we say that contempt proceedings should be taken before the -ordinary courts of the Commonwealth or of the State concerned, with a right of appeal, if necessary, to the High Court. That was the position under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for many years before 1947.
With regard to paragraph . (3) of part b of the amendment, let me point out that under present arrangements cases occur in which it is argued that a conciliation commissioner has made an award that has infringed the jurisdiction of the judges of the court, because it touches standard hours in some way. We say that, irrespective of the subjectmatter, an award by a commissioner should be entitled to be certified and accepted. Further, we want the appointment of conciliation commissioners to be a statutory obligation. We do not think they should be appointed at the discretion of the Minister. We want provision to ensure that there will be representative conciliators throughout Australia - not just one or two nominal appointees who will be unable to cover the area.
Paragraph (4) of partB of the amendment refers to the correction of irregularities in union ballots by judicial procedures in accordance with the act of 1949. We say that experience has shown that that is the act which the Australian Council of Trades Unions has accepted and which should be the future basis for the correction of irregularities in or the prevention of the improper conduct of union ballots.
Paragraph (6) of partB of the amendment reads -
The elimination of all unnecessary forms and technical legal formalities, orders for costs and professional legal advocacy.
Why? The arbitration part of it is not a concrete whole at all. I have referred to bills of costs, which are a heavy sanction. In our view there should have been complete informality in those proceedings. Part c of the amendment reads -
And, in the further opinion of this House, an essential feature of an adequate and effective Australian industrial arbitration system should be to vest in the Parliament of the Commonwealth full powers both in relation to industrial matters generally and also to just fixation of prices and profits on an Australia-wide basis.
Over and over again we come up against this same difficulty - the conciliator succeeds in getting an agreement and the matter is then taken to court, and the court says that the agreement may affect prices. We say that that may be true; but to have justice in connexion with wages it is necessary to deal with the problem also of profits and prices. Therefore, it is no answer to say that prices may be affected in that way. There should not, in other words, be a concentration on the idea of keeping down the price of labour as an element in the costs of production - which is a necessary result of vetoing agreements made by conciliation. Would any one wish to tear up the agreement I have referred to in connexion with the Snowy Mountains project? That project has a purpose which is magnificent and appeals to every Australian, irrespective of his politics or of any preconceived view he may have about methods of conciliation and arbitration. Therefore, we must go forward along those lines. But the step that must be taken is to get back broadly to the principles of the 1947 legislation, not to treat this hill as a remodelling of the arbitration system. I will prove that it is nothing of the kind. It retains the appellate system ; but it does nothing to deal with the fact that during the past six or seven years Australian workers on wages and salaries have suffered grave injustice. Everything must be done to correct that position. It is necessary to look at the substance as well as the form of the matter.
Those are the views that I present on behalf of the Opposition.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, and reserve my right to speak later.
. - I derive some comfort from the implicit ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which you gave when stating the question, that the amendment is relevant to the bill, because that is the first remark we have heard to-night that was relevant to the bill. I have been listening to speeches of this kind for many years, starting at the Galloway Monument in Ballarat and, later, on the Yarra bank, in Melbourne; and the only thing I can say is that in those days they used to be rather better done, and the audience remained more violently awake. The speech that has fallen from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), to-night, has had nothing to do with an amending bill. It has had everything to do with a catalogue of grievances, most of them carefully calculated to reach the ears of the people under attack, namely the judges.
– You are always harping on that. They are your particular pals.
– I am happy to say that I enjoy the friendship of some judges. I would recommend that to my friend.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor will obey the Chair.
– Do not, Mr. Deputy Speaker, make my friend from Lalor obey the Chair. I would not like to see him taken with a seizure. We are, after all, debating a bill. . We are not concerned with debating attacks on, or criticisms of, judges or conciliation commissioners. We are concerned with discussing a bill of as much importance as any bill that this Parliament has had to consider this year. I think it is a very poor start for the consideration of a bill of this kind to have it described by the Leader of the Opposition as if, when it refers to the creation of a judicial body, it is creating - and I quote his exact phrase - “ a court of pains and penalties “. To refer to judicial power in the industrial field in those contemptuous terms is rather unworthy of the right honorable gentleman - and, indeed, such a sentiment would never have found rest in the minds of his predecessors in this House. Never for a moment! He has forgotten, although some people have not forgotten, that there was a time in this Parliament when the Labour party believed in judges in the arbitration field, and believed in them having judicial powers, and did not sneer at them as a “ court of pains and penalties “.
Opposition members interjecting,
– If honorable gentlemen opposite who have now, I am happy to say, all wakened up - a gratifying experience! - want to know, I may tell them that in 1926, when Mr. Charlton was leader of the Labour party, when Mr. Scullin, later Prime Minister of this country was a highly-respected member of the Labour party, when the late Mr. Blakeley-
– He is still alive.
– I am sorry that I made a mistake in that regard, and I apologize for it. Well, there was a time in this House when I was referred to as “ the late Prime Minister “. That description turned out to be premature, and I am glad to know that my description of Mr. Blakeley as the late Mr. Blakeley is also premature. Mr. Blakeley spoke with as clear a voice as anybody could for the trade-union movement. All of those gentlemen to whom I have referred said in 1926, after another decision of the High Court, that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court judges ought to have judicial power, that they ought to have life tenure, that they ought to be able to give judicial interpretation of awards, and that they ought to be able to enforce awards. That is what those Labour leaders said then, and if honorable members want to know all -about it, they can find it all in volume 113 of Hansard. If they start at page 3208 - particularly my friends opposite - *hey will learn a great deal.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Even the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) may learn a great deal about what his predecessors in this Parliament thought about arbitration. Those were the days before the leader of the Labour party lined himself up with those who want to destroy arbitration, root and branch. In those days responsible Labour leaders believed in arbitration, and in those days, before we were enriched by the recent decision of the High Court, they believed, and said so, and voted so, that the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court ought to have judicial powers.
– What are you sneering at the. High Court for?
– Sneering at the High Court! I said that we are now enriched by its decision. I happen to believe that decision is wrong, and T happen to believe - and so does the Government - that we ought to explore that, matter to the ultimate court of appeal. And we are doing so.
– Why do you not wait until you are Chief Judge, when you will be able to fix it yourself?
– The honorable member does not enliven the debate by silly remarks of that kind. The fact is that, this evening, judges and judicial power have been attacked, and reference has been made to a proposed court of pains and penalties, the whole idea being to inflame trade union opinion against thi? bill. Therefore, I take leave to remind honorable gentlemen opposite, even the youngest, wisest, and most omniscient of them, that there was a time when those who spoke for the trade union movement in this Parliament clearly took the view that the judges ought to be judges and should have great power. One of the reasons, but as my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) pointed out, not the only one that is responsible for some of thi* amendments proposed in this bill, is that, after many years of assumption to the contrary, there has been a new decision in the High Court of Australia about judicial power. That is a very important decision, and it is one of the reasons responsible for some of the proposals in this bill. But the other proposals in it arc due to a genuine attempt to improve the arbitration machinery.
It is not very much to the point for the Leader of the Opposition to tear a passion to tatters on the matter of judicial power and pains and penalities. May I remind him that he was the author of the 194? act, by means of which he put the judges into a position where injunctions could be issued by them as a superior court of record. Therefore, if the injunction power was used against a trade union, it was used because the right honorable gentleman himself created the power. It is quite true that contrary to his desire he could not both create the power and exercise it. At any rate he created it, and it seems a little odd, at this time of day, for him to say, in effect, “ That is a terrible power. No court should be able to exercise it. It is monstrous to think that a court is able to issue an injunction”. Again I invite, honorable gentlemen opposite to consider what was said on this matter by the most responsible leaders. We must have some judicial authority somewhere if we are to have any effective and enforceable obedience to the industrial law. That goes not only for the industrial law, but also for law of every species. Therefore, to jeer at a proposal to constitute some of the existing judges a judicial body and not an arbitral body, and to attack the proposal by saying, in effect, “ This will be a mere punitive body “, is to ignore the whole history spirit and quality of industrial arbitration in Australia.
There are real questions to be considered here. They are not to be considered in a haphazard fashion. I shall try to put three of them, because I do not intend to delay the House very long. However, iL am speaking of a matter that has engaged me as a member of Parliament for -as long as it has engaged any one else here. First. should there be judges of industrial experience to be the court to exercise industrial judicial power ? If we begin by saying there ought to be no such thing as judicial power, that no one should ever be subject to a penalty for breach of an- 1 award, that there should be no means for enforcing rules, and that no employer need.be liable for prosecution for flouting an award-
– James Harrison. - That was never said.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. He cannot have it both Ways. He has just given himself away. When I came to employers, he said, “ That was never said “. What he means is that an employer should be subject to pains and penalties.
– Yes, and also to prices control.
– The honorable member for .Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) need not run away to other things. I am talking of industrial law. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) says that an employer should be subject to pains and penalties. But what else does he say? He says no court should be assigned to impose those pains and penalties. Does he then go further and say that no one other than an employer should be subject to pains and penalties, and that no great trade union which is a party to some arbitration proceeding should be liable to an injunction to restrain it from frustrating the decision of the arbitrator? Is that what he says? If that is the one-eyed view of arbitration that he takes, it is small wonder that people have found it difficult to understand his view. Therefore, my friend opposite agrees that there must be some cases in which there should be a capacity for judicial enforcement. The Leader of the Opposition himself thought so in 1947; otherwise there was no point in creating the superior court of record, because it is a superior court of record which has the power to punish for contempt. That is the hallmark of a superior court of record. The right honorable gentleman created such a court in 1947, and he must have believed that there ought to be such powers. Therefore, all that we and the people have to consider is whether we want this judicial power to be exercised by the High Court and so to bring that body into the maelstrom of industrial problems, by the supreme courts, which, in the normal course, have no experience of this kind of problem, by police or stipendiary magistrates, who, in the normal course have no understanding of the vast and complex background of industrial matters - I do not criticize them because they do not have it - or by special judges, skilled and experienced in arbitral matters, who know what industrial disputes are like and how awards are made, and who will be well competent to interpret awards that are given against a background of practical working experience of industrial conflict. That i.= the first question. If the’ answer is that there ought to be a judicial body of that kind, my right honorable colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, is entitled to his judgment on this bill.
The next question is: Should there be arbitrators ? We have already agreed that there should be judges to perform judicial functions, and I hope it is well understood by every one that the effect of the High Court’s decision is that some one exercising the judicial power of the Commonwealth cannot exercise the nonjudicial power. Therefore, a judge cannot be an arbitrator, and the arbitrator cannot be the judge. This is in conflict with what has been happening for a long time, but it is, at this moment, the law. The question is : Should there be arbitrators? The answer to that must be “ Yes “, because, unless we have arbitrators, the whole Dower of the Commonwealth founders. The power of the Commonwealth Parliament is to make laws for conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. Arbitration is included in that power. Therefore, if there are no arbitrators, there is no arbitration; and, if there is no arbitration, let us forget about that head of power and leave the whole thing to the jungle! These arbitrators are not to be judges. They are not to exercise the judicial power. Therefore, my colleague says, “All right, this is my second category. I am going to the heart of this matter. This is the ‘second category”. Judges to be judicial! Arbitrators not to be judges! And then the third category gives rise to the third question: Should there be conciliators? Of course there should be ! Not a soul on the other side of the House has ever suggested a word against conciliation, Indeed it is their constant slogan. Therefore, of course, there ought to be conciliators. But, as I understand it, they are heard to say occasionally that there ought to be a conciliator who is at the same time an arbitrator.
That brings us to a point of great practical moment on which experience matters. I had had a great deal of experience in these matters before I ever arrived in this place of debate. I had years and years of experience in these industrial problems in the industrial courts, and I am glad to be reminded that I won most of the cases for the trade unions at that time. L” must say that in those days most people concerned with these matters would have agreed without hesitation that the limit of conciliation is reached when one of the parties says, “I will not concede that point because I might do better in the court. I will clear the decks for action, if you like, but I will not give away anything that I think might hold or improve upon when this fellow ceases to be a conciliator and becomes an arbitrator”.
I do not think that anybody with any experience in this matter would deny that the best hope of effective conciliation is for people to go into the presence of the conciliator and know that he is not going to use anything against them - that nothing they say will affect his judgment because he does not have to deliver a judgment. What he has to do is to persuade, to explain, to get them together, to employ all the arts and intelligence of human nature to bring them together to bridge their differences and to come to an agreement. That is the great art of the conciliator, and my right honorable colleague was dead right when he said that experience has shown that one should not hastily confuse the functions of the conciliator with the function of the arbitrator.
Of course, it is perfectly true, I say at once, that many a man before whom a case has come for arbitration has performed a great feat of conciliation. Having heard them, and having applied his mind to the arbitration, he has said, “I should like to see representatives of the parties in my chambers because I think there are differences here that could be bridged. I think that there are differences here that could be reconciled.” The function of conciliation can never be excluded from the Arbitrator’s function. But to make a man a conciliator and then to say that he is also to be the arbitrator is to handicap his conciliation which is his prime function from the very beginning.
I have not time, nor have I desire, to discuss the details of this important measure, but I venture to say that these are the three questions to be answered. Not one of them has been dealt with in the speech that we heard this evening. Not one ! And yet I repeat them. Should there be, in the light of this recent decision, a court of judges to exercise industrial judicial power? Obviously, there must be, unless that power is to be given to courts which are strangers to this kind of thing. I want to say that I do not believe that there is any federal trade union which would tolerate the idea of handing over matters of that kind to courts without experience of arbitration proceedings. Should there be arbitration and should there be conciliation? These are simple questions. They have not been answered on the other side.
The Opposition has moved a long amendment which I have not yet had the opportunity of reading. It is a long, argumentative amendment. But, whatever it contains, and however many words it takes to express itself, it will still leave it true that the three questions that I have put are the ones to be answered. For the life of me I cannot imagine any supporter either of employer or employee, any person who believes historically and presently in the great principles of industrial arbitration denying that every question ought to be answered in the affirmative.
.- The sneers of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) are not, in my opinion, an effective reply to the excellent speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). They may fit the Prime Minister for his new sphere of activity in the House of Lords for which I understand he is shortly departing, but in Australia they will not cut very much ice with the Australian people, particularly with the workers of this country.
Let us examine, for the moment, what r hu Prime Minister has had to say. He paid that Labour leaders of the past believed in arbitration. The Prime Minister has not made a profound discovery in this respect, because the Labour leaders of to-day believe in arbitration. Ve believe in arbitration, but not as submitted by the members -of the Governmnent. We believe that arbitration should not be used for the purpose of sandbagging the workers of this country. What we want is a just system of arbitration. Therefore, when the Prime Minister said that it was our purpose to inflame the minds of the workers against this legislation, he should have realized that there is no need for us to make speeches to inflame the minds of the Australian workers because they are intelligent Australians. They can examine the proposals of the Government and they know that this Government, whilst it speaks honeyed words about conciliation and arbitration, really believes in coercing the Australian workers, and used the great powers which it possessed in the past to prevent workers from getting -just terms in this country.
The Prime Minister said that wo must, have some judicial power, some judicial authority, to decide matters of law - the enforcement of law. Of course we must ! But I think it is well that we should direct attention to the significant fact that these particular provisions to which the Labour party and the trade union movement object have been exercised only against the trade union movement. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that these provisions must operate against the employee as well as against the employer. Let him point to any instance in which any substantial fine has been imposed upon a member of amy employers’ federation or on any captain of industry.
Let us examine the situation. Arbitration legislation is evidently very difficult for all political parties in this country. It is well known that the Commonwealth exercises very limited power and, as a result, when Labour is in office and we want to introduce amending arbitration legislation we have to do so according to the limits of the. Constitution, noi according to what Labour would like to do. It is regrettable that on those occasions on which the Australian people have been asked to extend the powers of the Commonwealth over industrial matters, they have failed to give the necessary approval. I hope that the day is not far distant when the Australian people will clothe this Parliament with sufficient constitutional powers in regard to industrial matters to enable it to introduce a decent system of arbitration. It is interesting to note, from the Minister’s own figures, that this is the thirty-third amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act since the act was introduced in 1904. This proposed legislation will give us the same old cumbersome machine. All that the Government has done is to re-shuffle the pack. It seems that now we are to have an industrial court, when this legislation is enacted, comprised of three judges. We are to have a commission, which will include three presidential members, one of whom will be the president of- the commission, and the other two deputypresidents. Those three members will be selected from the present judges of the arbitration court, or from barristers and solicitors who have practised for five years in the Supreme Court jurisdictions of the States. The commission will also include laymen, who will be the present conciliation commissioners. Of course, as the Minister has said, there will be an informal atmosphere about this commission. “No longer will the judges wear wigs and gowns. It will be very difficult, I should imagine, to discover from their appearance the difference between the laymen and the judges. Provision is also made for the appointment of conciliators, but no number has been stated. To show that the Government really does not believe in conciliation, there are at present eight conciliators dealing with 75 industries. The Government allows the number of conciliators to become fewer and fewer as the conciliation commissioners reach retiring age. A peculiar circumstance about the proposed commission is that the judges who will become presidential members may retain their positions for life, the barristers or solicitors appointed to presidential positions will retire at 70 years of age, and the layman members of the commission will retire at G5. It seems to me to he a peculiar situation, when we have a body of men doing the same kind of work, and sitting on the same commission, but retiring at different stages of their lives.
The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that one of our main objections to this legislation is that it continues the provision for a right of appeal. Despite what the Prime Minister has said about the use of judicial authority and judgment, all the appeals brought to the Arbitration Court by the trade unions have been dismissed, while a substantial proportion of those brought on behalf of employers have been upheld. Plow often have we heard the Prime Minister talking about the trade unions of Australia not being reasonable and not being prepared to accept the judgment of the referee? “When Mr. Castieau, the former Public Service Arbitrator, gave an award granting substantial marginal increases to members of the Commonwealth Public Service, the Government immediately appealed against his decision, being unwilling to accept the judgment of the referee. We say that if the arbitration system is to work reasonably well, when a case has been argued and finally decided, whether by a conciliator, an arbitrator or a commission, that judgment should he accepted without any appeal.
The cumbersome arbitration machinery that this Government has established is too costly for the trade unions of Australia. It is sending the trade union movement bankrupt. During this debate the example has been cited of the Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association, which organization has already spent over £6,000 in trying to obtain an award for about 1,400 members, and it has not got the award yet. It has been waiting for over twelve months for the hearing of an appeal. A system that creates such difficulties for trade unions is far from satisfactory. We believe that the emphasis should be upon concilation. We do not believe that in submitting appeals against the decisions of conciliators, or arbitrators, or whatever you care to term them, employers’ representatives should be permitted to use the argument that it is in the public interest that the particular judgment should be set aside. If that argument i3 valid in that connexion, why does not the Government say that it is in the public interest that prices should be fixed, that profits should be regulated, or that freights should be regulated? It appears to me that the only people who are affected by this kind of argument, so far as this Government is concerned, are the workers of Australia, who have had their basic wage pegged for just on three years, and many of whom have had their margins pegged for over nine years, without yet having obtained justice. Those who have obtained a measure of justice represent only a minority of the total work-force of this country.
Let us now consider the matter of penal provisions. I believe in the right of trade unions and workers of this country to strike, if they find that the conditions offered them in an award are unreasonable or unfair or unsatisfactory, in the same way as other sections of the community are entitled to withhold their services in similar circumstances. Will this Government frankly say that it believes that award rates of pay should be not only the minimum but also the maximum ? We on this side regard award rates of pay as being merely the minimum, and if the workers believe that that minimum is not satisfactory, then in my opinion they should have the right to withhold their labour, in the same way as other sections of the community withhold their services. Do we hear any criticism of the graziers of Australia when, being dissatisfied with the prices offered for their wool, they withhold it from auction? We do not hear any criticism of those gentlemen, nor of the members of the British Medical Association, who held the gun at the head of this Government and blandly told it that they would not observe the law in regard to the free medicine scheme for pensioners, forcing the Government to amend its legislation to meet their wishes. That association told the Government that its members would no longer co-operate with :it unless it did the bidding of the association. “Wo do not hear Government supporters classifying that kind of activity as a strike. “t challenge honorable members opposite to show where the penal provisions i>i’ the present legislation have been used -against employers or employers’ organisations. The honorable member for Hunter /Mr. James) will remember the lockout in the coal-mining industry in 1928. On that occasion, the anti-Labour government of the day, which was of the same political colour as the Minister for Labour and National Service who now sits at the table, decided, for propaganda purposes, to institute a prosecution against Mr. John Brown, the “coal baron “. What happened to that prosecution? As soon as the lock-out had ended and the men had returned to work, the Government conveniently dropped the proceedings against this “coal baron”. Under the existing penal provisions, trades unions have been fined, and I suggest that the penalties that have been imposed have keen, savage ones. No member of the Australian Labour party argues that there -should not be some penalty imposed for breaches of an award. We do say, howfiver, and the trades unions of this country also say, that we will not stand for the type of savage penalty that has been imposed under the penal provisions of the existing legislation upon Australian trades unions and their leaders. I do not know whether my figures are up to date, but I believe that the fines that have been imposed on trades unions, under the sections of the act with which we disagree, have amounted to £5,300 since 1950. That amount does not include costs incurred. If costs were added, the figure would be doubled. The tradeunion movement must now ask itself how much longer it can allow a situation to continue in which savage penalties are imposed upon the unions.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the Boilermakers case, which is a glaring illustration of the injustices that can occur under an anti-Labour government. The right honorable gentleman was not quite correct in what he said.
The employees who were on strike were members of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, not of the Boilermakers Society of Australia. The ironworkers were on strike because they refused to do work that they considered should be undertaken by riggers. A number of them were dismissed, and the boilermakers took up a voluntary collection. There was no payment of strike pay by the union itself, and no levy struck by the union. What the men did was to pass the hat around on the job. and the boilermakers threw in a few shillings. What was that collection for? It was to feed the wives and children of the men who were fighting for a principle. The right to make such contributions has been exercised by trade unionists for as long as we have had a trade union in this country. I say here and now to the Government that it can fine, and use the bludgeon, as often as it likes, but it will never prevent workers from contributing towards the feeding and maintenance of women and children of another section that is on strike fighting for a principle. We have heard quoted the remarks of various judges, so it may be in order to quote what Mr. Justice Kirby had to say. His Honour said -
The defendant society-
That is the Boilermakers Society of Australia - lias permitted such contributions by its members in such circumstances that it must be held to be actively - through its contributing members - subsidizing the strike and leading to its prolongation. We are not impressed by the description of the contributions as being to dependants of the strikers, although even if they were intended for dependants rather than the strikers themselves that would still amount to a subsidy of the strike. Such support of the strike by the defendant society must constitute a serious, if not the main, reason for the strike’s continuance. The evidence shows that the strike has caused serious losses to the etablishment concerned, to the community and to the membership of both the defendant society and the Ironworkers Association.
The court ordered the society to pay £500 and costs, but it had not in fact struck the levy. Some of its members had merely taken up a voluntary collection. Yet, the court had the audacity to argue that the officials of the organization ought to have expelled those members,. or taken disciplinary action against them. To the credit of the officials of the Boilermakers Society, they refused to do this. That is why they were subjected to this
His mye penalty.
We hear a great deal about the liberty of the subject and are told that it must not be infringed. But what happens to the liberty of the subject when a man wants to use his own money in a cause like this? Surely if anything belongs to any one in this country, the wages of the worker belong to him. He has earned them by hard toil in industry. He is not a ticket clipper, who is living on his investments. He has earned his money by his own labour. If anything is to be preserved in the liberty of the subject it should be the right of the worker to do as he pleases with his own money. That is just what these boilermakers were doing. I believe that they were justified and that the savage penalty inflicted upon them by the court should be resented by every fair-minded Australian.
I would like to refer now to another matter on which I disagree with the Government and the employers’ organizations. Why, if there is a strike in an industry, should the representatives of the men be denied access to the conciliation and arbitration machinery of this country? If a strike or lockout is in progress the parties should be conferring continuously with a view to reaching a basis of agreement. The idea of saying that because you are on strike you cannot conciliate, and enjoy the facilities of the. Arbitration Court, is just too stupid.
The Minister has said that the purpose of this legislation is to streamline arbitration. I have been here for many years, and every time an amendment of the arbitration act is produced, it is said to streamline arbitration; but the Minister would, I am sure be frank enough to admit that this amending legislation would not have been brought down if the High Court had not, by a majority of four to three, declared that the Arbitration Court had no authority, or judicial power, to impose this savage penalty on the boilermakers’ society. If that had not happened, the Government would have forgotten all about the need to streamline the arbitration system of this country.
How can it be streamlined in the way thai the Government suggests? The bill say? that conciliators “may”- be appointed, but those conciliators will have very limited powers. There is to be a commission, but if a commissioner who ha.been given the task of dealing with a certain industry makes an award with which the employers disagree, there can be an appeal against his decision. How will that streamline arbitration? As J have pointed out, for more than twelvemonths the tramway union has beer waiting to have an appeal against it’ South Australian award heard.
The trade union movement and the Labour movement believe that the penal provisions should be removed from both this legislation and the Crimes Act. I cannot see why men who are engaged in an industrial struggle should, by virtue of the Crimes Act, be regarded as having committed an offence. It is about time that the workers of this country recognized that it is no crime for a trade unionist to fight to maintain his industrial and living conditions. There should be no place in the Crimes Act for any section which regards such an action as an offence - if one can use that expression as do the employers and the Government. The Minister does not say, frankly, to the Australian people, “We want these great powers so that we can use them against the workers and the trade unionists”. Instead, he says, “Arbitration is a strong shield for the worker, particularly when there is unemployment “. I ask the Minister what protection the Arbitration Court gave the workers of this country during the great depression of the ‘thirties. It moved with great alacrity in making an arbitrary wage reduction of 10 per cent. It did not want a protracted hearing, and certainly offered no protection to the worker. The Minister made a peculiar point, if it could be called making a point. He said -
Until the last few years enforcement powerswere rarely exercised, and their greater use has been largely attributable to communistictactics, or the abuse by some union officials of the bargaining strength which full employment has given to them.
At the very next page of the record of his speech we read -
The incidence of working days lost through industrial disputes is comparatively small in a country of robust and forthright people.
First, he speaks about the need to exercise these powers because of the activities in recent years of Communists and selfish trade union officials, and then, almost straight away, he admits that, in recent times, there has not been a great wave of industrial disturbances.
The bill provides that a ballot of a union, or any section of a union, may bc ordered on the question of the holding of a strike. I have no objection to ballots as long as they are fairly and properly conducted ; neither has the trade union movement any objection.
– Oh !
– I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) what attitude his Government will adopt if a secret ballot is held and a vote in favour of a strike is recorded. Will such a vote make a strike legal? I suggest not. The Government wishes to play with a double-headed penny. It wishes to order a ballot, but will accept the result only if it is in favour of a return to work. If the vote is in favour of a strike it will not be accepted. In my opinion, the trade union movement will not be satisfied with such an arrangement.
One other matter always puzzles me: We hear a great deal about the public interest, but who are the great majority of the public if not the workers? We hear a great deal also about employers and workers being partners in industry. If they both worked hard, industry would prosper and then everything would _ be quite all right. It is rather interesting to note that the people who talk that way want to have arbitration machinery to determine the share of the product that the. worker, one of the partners in industry, will get by a system of examination, production of witnesses, evidence, and cross-examination of witnesses, before he is awarded a certain rate of pay. If it is right for the wages of one partner in industry to be determined on a basis of arbitration, what is wrong with some similar organization or authority to determine applications for increased dividends and profits? Where does the public interest come when it is a matter of paying out dividends of over 520 per cent, or profits on General MotorsHolden’s Limited earnings in one year’s operations? Does the Government then worry about the public interest? Of course not !
The time has arrived when the workers of this country ought to demand that if their wages are to be fixed by an arbitration authority on the basis of what industry can > afford to pay, then profits and dividends ought to be fixed on the basis of what industry can afford to pay. That is the type of arbitration that the workers are looking for, not the type that they have had from anti-Labour governments.
Let me say one further word in the short time that remains to me on the section dealing with union ballots. I do not agree with what the Government has done in respect of the conduct of trade union ballots. The Labour party introduced amendments to the act which provided that where malpractices could be proved - and no member of the Labour party stands for malpractices in any ballot - either by an individual or a group of unionists or anybody at all associated with the organization, he could report the matter to the Registrar. If the Registrar was satisfied that there was some basis for the complaint the matter went to the court for decision. If the court was satisfied that there had been malpractice, a fresh ballot could be ordered. There is nothing wrong with that. But what does the Government do ? It amended that provision and stupidly enough, anybody can make a complaint, not because there has been malpractice, but because, he can say, he anticipates there will be malpractice, and a new ballot can be ordered. How is it conducted? It is not conducted in a manner that would be desired by fairthinking people in this community. The ballot is handed over to electoral authorities to conduct.
– Why not ?
– I am not suggesting for one moment that they may not be scrupulously fair people in conducting a ballot, but they have to satisfy the people concerned that they are dealing with it fairly. I ask the Minister for Social Services this question: Are not they the same people who conduct our elections? Yet we are permitted to put scrutineers into the polling places to see that polling is conducted fairly, because we have to be satisfied that it is conducted fairly. What happens in regard to these ballots? There are certain people in this community so vicious in their attitude towards trade unionism that, even if they were employed in certain high governmental sections of activity, I would not put it beyond some of them to try to influence the ballot against the people to whom they are so bitterly opposed. What is the situation? The trade unions are not permitted to have scrutineers at the ballot. They are not permitted to he present at the count. They are not allowed to check the receipt of ballotpapers, or the number issued, and they arc not permitted to be present when the ballot-papers are collected.
Everybody recalls what happened in a ballot in the Boilermakers Society. After the ballot was concluded, a bag of ballotpapers was discovered at the Haymarket Post Office. It had never been accounted for and had not been included in the ballot. To-day, because of the criticism that was levelled against the postal authorities, I understand that they have advised the Government that they are not a storing body; that they receive and deliver; and that when ballot-papers arc delivered to a post office, they must be collected. But when they are collected, trade union scrutineers are not allowed to be present to examine the seals on the bags to see that they have not been tampered with and that the ballot-papers are in order. We want the Arbitration Act to be ‘ amended in a way that will be satisfactory to the people whom it directly affects, and they are the workers. Therefore, I recommend to all fair-thinking members of this House that they examine the amendments proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, the suggestions that he made and the suggestions that I have made in my speech, because it is only by their adoption that industrial peace can lie obtained in this country.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), having prefaced his remarks by saying that trade unionists were fairminded men who required no inflam matory speeches to stir them up, then proceeded to make one of the most inflammatory speeches that this House has beard iti a long time. It is just the type of speech that one would expect of some one anxious to stir up ill feeling, anxious to stir up hatred, and anxious to inflame the trade unions against these amendments of the arbitration act. The honorable member said further that he believed in conciliation. Heaven forbid that he will ever be a conciliation commissioner if the speech we have listened to is indicative of his attitude towards industrial affairs !
His leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), prefaced his remarks’ by saying that the Government had practically admitted that arbitration was at the cross roads. I put it to the House, that it is not the arbitration act that is at the cross roads; it is arbitration that is at the cross roads as far as the Labour party is concerned. It is up to members of the Opposition to make up their minds and be definite in thi? House. Do they believe in arbitration, and do they intend to continue with arbitration, or are they prepared to throw it overboard ? I believe they are prepared to throw it overboard, because nothing that has been said to-night indicates that they aim to improve arbitration, our arbitration system or the arbitration act, but rather that they would like to destroy it and make it impracticable and unworkable.
The Leader of the Opposition said that his complaint about the legislation arises from the penal clauses which, in his view, cause anger and dissension amongst members of unions. He then addressed the House for another 55 minutes, but made very little reference to that part of the bill at all. He dealt with a lot of extraneous subjects. He cited a lot of cases and referred to a lot of judgments that have been made. I do not wish to refer to his speech in any detail. A very adequate reply has been given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). However, I point out that since the very early days of Commonwealth arbitration, going back to 1904, there have been some 32 amendments to the act, or an average of one about every eighteen months. In other words, this is an act that is frequently in the crossfire of political opinion. Consequently, it comes up frequently for amendment, and each government aims to make amendments to give the fairest possible interpretation of the views of the Parliament. This bill is not introduced because of any particular action of the High Court or of any particular judgment. It may be considered to have come up automatically, in the normal course of events, following a consideration of how the act can be amended.
By comparison with the old act, very great improvements have been made in this bill. It was said when arbitration was introduced into the Commonwealth, that the lethal weapon of strife and bloodshed had been replaced by the legal weapon of argument. It might well be said now that, although conciliation was mentioned in the original act, a further weapon of conciliation has replaced or, I hope, will replace the weapon of argument, which could well be replaced. One might still have to fall back upon it as a final way of giving a decision. Conciliation has been emphasized in earlier acts but never to the same extent as it is emphasized in the bill before the House. The preamble to the original act stated that the aim was -
To prevent lockouts and strikes, to constitute a court, to conciliate, and to establish equitable awards, to enable States to refer industrial disputes to the courts, to encourage organizations of employers and employees, and to provide for the making and enforcement of industrial agreements. [ do not think that any of those principles has been by-passed in this bill. Clause 5 of the bill states -
Section two of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead:- “ 2. The chief objects of this Act are -
Who will cavil at that provision?
It is an instruction to us from the Constitution that we should appoint a court of conciliation and arbitration, as the Prime Minister pointed out, for the prevention of industrial disputes. Concilia tion is one of the methods by which disputes may be curtailed before they reach the stage of really becoming a serious matter.
The clause continues -
We aim to get away from the courtroom atmosphere down to the true spirit of arbitration, where two men who have a difference can get together and, with the assistance of a third man, be persuaded to air their grievances and reconcile their difference. It is not uncommon for a judge or magistrate to suggest to parties to a disagreement - I have noticed it particularly in divorce cases - that they should get together and see if they can iron out the trouble before it gets any worse. So the idea of appointing a conciliation commissioner who may be able to persuade reasonable people to iron out their differences and agree is a very laudable idea indeed. Failing that agreement, or in the absence of complete agreement, provision is made for the finer details to be decided by some person acting as an umpire or referee. What complaint could there be against that provision? No speaker for the Opposition has suggested that that is not a reasonable course to pursue. Clause 5 continues -
If there is to be any form of compulsory arbitration, strikes and lock-outs cannot be associated with it. To suggest otherwise is just too absurd. If it is agreed that people will be brought together by conciliation, and if in the absence of agreement a decision is made after hearing evidence, can one of the parties to the award say, “I will not have any part or parcel of it “ ? What then is the use of ever trying to bring a matter to arbitration? It is too fantastic to suggest that, having gone through all this machinery one of the parties should te free to say, “No, I will not play. That is all there is to be said about it”. The unions have always claimed the right to strike, and I do not quarrel with the right of a man to say whether or not he will work. If he does not desire to work, that is fair enough. But I shall certainly complain if he claims the right to say to his neighbour, “ You cannot work because I will not work”. That is the objection which I make. At the present time we have in the shearing industry a situation where, not the men but some of the leaders of the Australian “Workers Union are saying, “ You cannot shear under the new award. We will prevent you from doing so “. They are going round inflaming the minds of men, as the honorable member for East Sydney did to-night, inflaming their passions and stirring them up to protest against an interim award of a conciliation commissioner. It is rubbish to talk about the right to strike and about the wool-grower who did not sell his wool because he could not get enough money for it. We were told about the doctors who would not join in a medical scheme because they would not receive enough money. Are these people to be subjected to compulsory arbitration? Are the wool-growers selling their wool according to their own voluntary desires, or are the doctors operating and working in the public good by voluntary action?
– With fees for services.
– A considerable portion of the work done by doctors is done voluntarily, and let not the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) ever forget it. You can talk as much as you like. I know a little more about the position than you do. I wa3 reared in a doctor’s home and two of my nephews are doctors. I will not have you passing scathing remarks about the medical profession.
Mr. Griffiths interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Shortland will maintain silence, and the honorable member for Lawson will direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I know the service that the medical profession has rendered to this country. I know the day and night hours which its members work without receiving any consideration. I know the amount of work which they do without reward. It ill becomes any honorable member to cast a reflection on the medical profession.
The Leader of the Opposition is the great apostle of appeals. We have heard his ask why courts should make decisions and not allow a person the right of appeal. He was very VOCal against the anti-Communist legislation, as we recollect so well. He complained that there was no right of appeal. Yet, to-night he criticizes the fact that in this bill the Government is providing for appeals. What a volte face! What a peculiar attitude for him to adopt! When it suits him, he believes that appeals should be granted. Now he is arguing against the granting of appeals. This is only in keeping with the character of the right honorable member as we have seen it displayed in this House. It is said that the penal clauses have been applied only to the trade unions and that therefore they are undesirable. It was even suggested earlier, I believe, that they should apply to the other parties to this compulsory arbitration. Is it to be considered a reasonable analogy that only robbers are in gaol, that only thieves and pick-pockets are punished by the court? Is it not reasonable to suggest that penal clauses should apply to people who break awards of the court and the laws of the land? It is said that only trade unions have had to suffer penal clauses. I believe that I have every justification for saying that only trade unions have defied the court and its awards. How ridiculous it is to suggest that we should have compulsory arbitration with one party free vulgarly to thumb its nose at the court and say, “ We will not take any notice of what you have said or decided. We will just go our own way “. We might arrive at that position if we allow such persons as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to stampede the unions by the making of inflammatory speeches, as he did to-night.
Not very long ago, the Australian Labour party, when it was in office, introduced certain banking legislation. When
Opposition members complain about the severe penalties that have been imposed by certain courts, they overlook the fact that the banking legislation that they introduced provided for penalties of up to £1,000 to be imposed, not on an organization or a union, but on a bank manager or bank official who failed to observe the conditions prescribed by that legislation.
– It provided for a fine, a year’s gaol, or both.
– It also provided for a year’s gaol, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has reminded me. Statements such as those of the honorable member for East Sydney are made, not in ignorance, but in an effort to mislead, because penalties have been imposed in legislation that has been introduced by the Labour party. I said that I would refer to the shearers’ strike, because it was a matter that might very suitably be referred to during this debate. The history of that strike is relatively simple. It started in Queensland.
– Under a Labour government.
– Yes, under a Labour government, lt commenced as the result of a refusal by Queensland shearers to work under the provisions of an award made by the Queensland Industrial Court. It has been stated in. this House that only Liberal supporters are appointed to the Arbitration Courts, but it is worthy of note that on this occasion the shearers decided that they would not continue to work at a new rate fixed by a court that had been appointed hy a Labour government. After a certain period of time, the Queensland Industrial Court decided that something must be done, and it called the parties together. The upshot was that Mr. Bukowski, the president, and Mr. Boland, the secretary, of the Queensland branch of the Australian Workers Union, were each fined £100 for disobeying an order of the court.
– Was that court appointed by a Labour government?
– Yes, by a Labour government. Did those gentlemen pay the fine? As far as I know, it had not been paid a week ago. The action of those men is indicative of the contempt with which leaders of some unions treat the awards, not of the Commonwealth’ Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, but of the Industrial Court of Queensland, a Labour-controlled State.
– They may have been given time to pay the fine.
– I have not any recollection of time to pay having been> granted in this case. The story about the dispute in the other States is very sorry indeed. In December, 1954, theemployers served a log of claims on theAustralian Workers Union. I should explain, first, that in 1948 there had been a discussion about whether the shearing rate should be increased because of the increase of the price of wool. In that year, the shearing rate was £3 0s. 6d. a hundred, and the average price of wool was 39. 5d. per lb. Because of a basic wage adjustment, the ordinary award rate was increased at the end of that year. I shall not deal with all the interim increases and basic wage adjustments that were made, but shall pass over to the 9th April, 1951, when a variation of the award brought the ordinary shearing rateup to £4 8s. a hundred. In the same year, by agreement with the employers, a wool value allowance of £3 lis. wasalso awarded. In that year, the price of wool readied its highest average, namely, 134.5d. per lb. It has often been stated in this House that the worker should’ enjoy the prosperity of the industry in which he serves. This is a concreteexample of! ‘an. industry meeting the workers in that way. I believe it was understood that the wool value allowance would vary according to the price of wool, with 39. 5d. being taken as the basic price.
I now pass to the situation that existed on the 19th April, 1952, just twelvemonths later, when the price of wool had fallen to 87.5d. per lb. and the wool value allowance had been reduced to £1 !l4s. 6d. In the meantime, however, the ordinary award rate had risen to £4 13s. Apparently that state of affairs continued, by agreement between theleaders of the Australian Workers Union and leaders of the industry, and’ with the concurrence of Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Donovan, until 1954, when’ the employers said that, because of rising costs in the industry, a revision should take place. In January, 1955, the union applied for an increase on the basis of the judgment in the metal trades margins case, lt has been established at various hearings that those margins and the basic wage adjustments had been taken into consideration in assessing the wool value allowance. In February, the union also filed an application for the rates to be increased to the same level as the Queensland rates. The matter was brought on for hearing in March of that year, but the union said that it was preparing and would serve a counter-claim to the employers’ application, and asked for an adjournment. The employers said that they would agree to the adjournment provided the union hurried in preparing its claim. At that time, the price of wool was only 72d. per lb., but the allowance remained on the basis of S5.57d., which was the figure fixed in 1952. It will be observed that the -allowance had not been varied during nhat period. It has been stated in the House to-night that the delays that occur in the hearing of claims are caused by the courts, but here is a case in which the union, although the employers were paying an allowance that was based on the value of wool two years previously, took six months to submit its claim. The hearing was completed in November. On the 26th January of this year, the commissioner made an interim award on matters other than shearing rates, and said that he wished the parties to confer on the rates. The union said straight out that it would not accept the interim -award. Therefore, the commissioner made an award in February in which he reduced the rates by 5 per cent. He did so for one reason. He said that in 1948, and again in 1950, he had made interim awards increasing the rates of pay of members of the Australian “WorkersUnion, so he thought it fair that they should accept an interim award at that time, even though it might decrease their rates of pay.
The next action by the union was an instruction from Mr. Dougherty to shearers throughout Australia not to shear at the new rates declared by the commissioner in his interim award. I say definitely that that instruction is not approved by a considerable number of shearers, at any rate in New South Wales. It may be that 90 per cent, of the shearers do not approve of it. This is a case in which a strike - this is virtually a strike - has been called on after all the processes of conciliation have been gone through. The strike has been called on by the leader of the union. In effect, he has said to a lot of people, “ You cannot work because I say you cannot work”. He. has sent organizers round the country. Press reports show where they are going. There was a meeting in my home town only the other day at which the organizers told all sorts of stories about the bad shearing that was being done by learners and amateurs. One of the organizers said, “ Some of these men are getting their sheep shorn “, and then he added quietly, “ this year “. If that was not intimidation, I leave it to the House to judge what he meant by those words.
This has not happened because Mr. Donovan is not considered to be a good conciliation commissioner. It appears that he has been hearing cases affecting the two bodies concerned for quite a long time. There is strong evidence, particularly in statements made in the 1950 basic wage proceedings before the Full Court, that the Australian Workers Union appreciated that the wool value allowance would be adjusted in accordance with rises and falls of the price of wool. Referring to Mr. Donovan’s capacity as a commissioner, Mr. Dougherty is reported to have said -
I want tn say also, because of certain suggestions which have been made, that over the last live years, in most difficult circumstances, this great industry has been carried on without any major industrial trouble whatever under the arbitration amendments which established conciliation commissioners as the people tn deal with major factors in awards, and for the Australian Workers’ Union’s part we would be quite happy to see that position continue.
That was said by Mr. Dougherty, referring to Mr. Donovan’s capacity as a commissioner, on the 17th April, 1952.
Yet, only a few years later, Mr. Dougherty instructed the members of h 13 union not to accept Mr. Donovan’s interim award, but to go on strike and throw the wool industry of Australia into n chaotic condition. The whole of the economy of this country will suffer as a result of the action of this union. We shall achieve a better relationship between employers and employees in industry only when we become free of speeches of the type delivered by the honorable member for East Sydney to-night. It was an inflammatory speech, the object of which was to attempt to break down the good that the Government is trying to do by means of this bill. Only when we ave free of speeches of that type shall we get those better relations between the two sides of industry from which the economy of the country will benefit.
We cannot estimate the cost to the country of this shearers’ strike, but it has been stated to be in the vicinity of £18,000,000 or £20,000,000 already. The strike has been going on now for five months, and it does not show any signs of being settled. I tell the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, who is interjecting, that it is not only the squatters who will suffer. They will suffer, but the whole of the country will suffer, too. We all know that our economy to-day depends on the sale of our goods overseas. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is ignorant of conditions in the wool industry ; he is ignorant of how the wool grows on the sheep; he is ignorant of the fact that if shearing is delayed for more than twelve months after the previous shearing, we get wool which cannot be processed readily in wool plants overseas, because it is longer in staple than the length for which the machines are adjusted; and he is ignorant of the fact that when wool is left on a sheep for longer than the normal growing period, the sheep becomes more subject to attack by flies and other things. Only people who know the conditions of the wool industry realize how dangerous a strike of this type is to the economy of the country. The strike is not doing any good to anybody. It is doing a lot of harm to a lot of people, especially to the man who does not do shearing throughout the vear but picks up a few pounds in the period between the time he puts in a crop of wheat and takes it off. He is suffering badly. He has been put on the spot by his mates saying to him-
– Order! The honorable member’s timehas expired.
– I rise to support the amendment that was moved so ably by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and to oppose thebill as presented by the Minister forLabour and National Service (Mr-. Harold Holt). The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), in his concluding remarks, said that the achievement of better relations between employers and employees would not be helped by our opposition to the proposed amendments of the arbitration legislation. If the Government wants better relationsbetween employers and employees, it should introduce into the Parliament a conciliation and arbitration measure acceptable to both sides of industry, and not to only one side. The amendments proposed will not, in practice, mean what the Minister for Labour and National Service has tried to lead the public to believe. The bill is like the person who has had a face-lift. Like a face-lift, there is something- unpleasant hidden behind it. As time goes on, we shall see wrinkles and blemishes appear on the legislation.
In view of the discontent and dissatisfaction with the present arbitration! legislation that exists in the community,, one would have thought that on thi? occasion the Government would propose some worth-while amendments. The House has been informed by two speakers this evening that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been subjected tomore amendments than has any other act on the statute-book. I think it was said’ that there have been about 33 amendments. It is an act that was responsible for wrecking a government on one occasion. The Bruce-Page ‘Government went out of office in 1929 because it tried to interfere drastically with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to the detriment, of the trade unionists of this country. The trade unionists did not hesitate tolet that Government know where they- stood at the first opportunity they had to do so, through the ballot-box. I venture to say that if this bill becomes law, another government will be wrecked as a result of it. If that be so, the bill will have served at least one useful purpose. But, unfortunately, there is a danger that, if it becomes a part of the law of the land, it will sound the death knell of arbitration in this country.
Let us look in a broad way at what the bill proposes. It has already been said r li at it proposes that there shall be set up an all-powerful industrial court, consisting in the first place of a chief judge and two other judges. Their duty will be to deal with matters of law and to impose penalties. The bill then proceeds to provide for the appointment of a commission consisting of a president, at least two deputies, a senior commissioner, and at least five commissioners, lt further provides that His Excellency the Governor-General may appoint conciliation commissioners. But it does not provide that he “ shall “ appoint conciliation commissioners. He “may” appoint them. So we do not know whether or not the conciliation commissioners will he appointed if this legislation becomes law. The very point of the bill in which there might be most advantage is uncertain at this stage, and will remain uncertain even when the legislation becomes law.
Let us analyse what the appointment of conciliators under this bill will mean. The present conciliation commissioners who operate under the existing law were supposed to conciliate. Under the 1947 legislation introduced by the Chifley Labour Government they did a certain amount of conciliation, but that conciliation, as such, ceased to operate to the extent that it should have operated, after the amending legislation of 1952, introduced by this Government, became law. After all, the duty of conciliators is to try to bring the parties together and reach an agreement. Such agreement, if it is to be of value, should be certified by the higher authority to whom it is referred. That is where this bill breaks down. It does not provide for an agreement to be certified. It says, in effect, that when the conciliator has got the parties together, and obtained agreement between them, the matter has to be referred to the higher authority, and if he, or it, does not like the agreement, because of some whim, or in the public interest, or for some other excuse, then the agreement will not be certified. So it is easy to see that a conciliator could spend days in trying to get the parties to agree and, after he has succeeded in doing so, the commission may veto the agreement. Under the present act, the commissioner or the court may refuse to certify an agreement if in his or its opinion the agreement is contrary to public policy or the public interest or contains clauses that the commissioner has no power to insert in orders or awards. That provision is intended to be continued in respect of conciliators under this bill. The Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen had a case in 1950 in which Conciliation Commissioner Hall refused to certify an agreement. That case is dealt with in volume 68 of Commonwealth Arbitration Reports, at page 687. The commissioner refused to certify the agreement on the ground that it was against the public interest. The details of the matter are in the volume I have mentioned, and I shall not quote them here. It appears to us that if an agreement is arrived at between the parties, it should be certified. It also appears to us that it would be in the public interest that disputes be settled as quickly as possible once the parties have arrived at an agreement. Conciliators should be free and untrammelled in this work, but they will not be so under this legislation. Nobody has ever attempted to define what “ public interest “ in this connexion really means. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has never laid down a definition. The definition of “ public interest “ is left to the whim or fancy of the higher authority. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) it should be in the public interest to see that prices are kept within balance, and that profits are restrained where they are excessive.
There is another point about this hill in respect of which I and other honor able members on this side of the chamber are concerned, because we do not think the bill goes far enough in regard to conciliators. I refer to the desirability of appointing a conciliator to deal with disputes in an industry, by agreement of the parties concerned. For instance the railway industry, of which I have had experience, is a very difficult industry for the layman to understand; but there is often someone who is acceptable to both sides as a conciliator, but who may not bs on the panel of conciliators. It appears to me that it would be in the best interests of conciliation if such a person were given the job of getting the parties together in order to reach agreement. Such a provision is missing from this bill. Actually, if our ideas, as outlined in the amendment, were put into effect, we would have collective bargaining within the framework of arbitration; and, after all, that is what the trade union movement is looking for - some form of collective bargaining, not outside the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but within its ambit. But that act needs to give more scope in regard to conciliation.
I wish to point now to the tremendous progress that has been made in collective bargaining in the United States. I have here a research report of the American Federation of Labour, whose reports 1 receive monthly. The copy I have in ray hand is of the April 1955 report, which is entitled “ Collective Bargaining Developments “. Under the heading “ Paid leave for personal reasons “ it read -
Provisions for paid time off to meet various personal needs of the worker are being written into union agreements with increasing frequency. Probably more than a third of agreements now include at least one such provision.
Thu paid time off is being authorized in several types of situations:
Family emergencies. A death in the family or serious’ illness in the family are typical instances.
Civic or government responsibilities. Pay while on jury duty is common, with service as a court witness also sometimes recognized. Time for voting or service as an election official is frequently provided. Short periods of training in the military reserve or National Guard ave also often covered.
Special occasions for celebration. Marriage, a birth of a child, a birthday or some special anniversary is sometimes made the occasion for paid time off.
Miscellaneous personal needs. These may include medical or dental appointments, moving to a new home, Christmas shopping time, special class attendance, &c.
That may appear to some honorable members opposite as being rather humorous, but the important thing is that this is something that American workers have achieved by collective bargaining. Is it any wonder that the workers of Australia, when they read those reports and see the progress being made outside a system of arbitration, are discontented with the present machinery of conciliation and arbitration in this country? As a matter of fact, a well known American, Benjamin H. Higgins, who visited Australia a couple of years ago, wrote a book called Wage Fixing by Compulsory. Arbitration, in which he questions whether the system of arbitration in Australia has been responsible for getting the workers any benefits that they would not have got by their own strength and by collective bargaining. He says this-
There is no evidence that the arbitration system has raised labour’s share of national income over the past twenty year’s or that it has succeeded in obtaining for Australian labour a higher share of national income than is earned by workers in other countries with a similar degree of economic development.
He also says -
Many Australian economists and legal scholars feel that the system now operates more to the favour of employers than of employees. The awards of the Court tend to lag behind increases in the demand for labor or in the bargaining power of trade unions.
That is true. There is no question about that. The book was written before we lost the quarterly adjustment of the basic wage, a retrograde step which made the position of the workers much worse, and as a result of which, as the Leader of the Opposition has already pointed out, workers under federal awards and under some State awards have lost considerable sums. The procedure of the court at present is laborious. It is too long drawn out. For instance, the basic wage case covered 6,950 pages of evidence and involved the presentation of 440 exhibits. Two years elapsed from the time of the application until the new wage became effective. Consequently, the decision was jut of dat° when it was handed down.
That is the unfortunate position in which unions are placed. It takes so long to get a final decision that by the time the decision is given, the unions should be preparing a new ease as a result of developments that occurred while the old case was in progress. Indeed, we must have a complete new look in arbitration and conciliation in this country, particularly as we are on the eve of automation in industry. “We shall have to get rid of obsolete ideas and look at industrial claims in the light of the new age. Recently one arbitrator said in justification of his rejection of a claim for increased marginal rates - in some instances, it seems clear to me that instrumentation and new techniques may have lightened the responsibility of the operatives. . . .
Fancy any one making a statement like that when we are on the threshold of the electronic age ! There was nothing at all said about how instrumentation and new techniques have improved productivity. That was the view of Conciliation Commissioner Webb in the Fertilisers and Chemical Workers decision.
– Is he related to the honorable member?
– No. That decision is recorded in volume 32 of Sheehan’s Bulletin of Proceedings in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, at page 177, if any honorable member is interested.
– Will the honorable member tell us how the Conciliation Commissioner decided that case?
– He granted part of the claim, but did not give all that was asked for. There is the problem. How can we expect conciliation and arbitration to be a success in this country when that attitude is taken?
With regard to the assigning of particular commissioners to particular industries by the president of the Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration commission, the commissioners, or whatever they will be called, will have practically the same work as the existing conciliators have, with the exception that a dispute may be taken over by the commission without a commissioner having a go at it. That is an important difference, be cause it means that, if the presidential members of the commission wanted to break clown a certain condition in industry, for instance if they wanted to reduce the week-end penalty rates which were mentioned by both the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), they would not allow that matter to be dealt with by an individual commissioner as such. They would merely take over the matter and make a decision, which would have to be followed by the individual commissioners. That is a grave fault in this measure. The 1952 act and the proposals in this bill are in sharp contrast to the provisions of the 1947 act, which was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. The provisions of the 1947 act were designed, as has already been pointed out, to make arbitration simple and speedy, whereas the 1952 act provided for appeals.
Provision for appeals was strongly opposed by the unions, which prophesied that it would result in delay piling on delay, with great detriment to the unions. Unfortunately, that system is being perpetuated in this’ measure, which will allow appeals against awards of the commissioners to the commission which, for this purpose, shall be constituted by not fewer than three members, of whom at least two shall be presidential members. Here again there will be the same avenues for delay and for wilful and wanton obstruction such as has occurred under the existing legislation. We need think only of the delays that occurred in the margins case, which has already been mentioned. There was considerable delay after Conciliation Commissioner Galvin heard the case. It was then referred on appeal to the full Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which adjourned it for twelve months. Finally, the court handed down a. decision in which it granted some increases of margins, but did not bring skilled workers up to the standard that they had enjoyed in 1949 under the administration of the Chifley Labour Government. We say frankly, as we have indicated in our amendment, that the decisions of the commissioners should be final and should not be subject either to reference to the commission, which may take cases out of their hands, or to any challenge or appeal. The Leader of the
Opposition has already mentioned the number of appeal cases heard and the degree to which the decisions favoured the employers. Nine of the fifteen cases in which the employers were granted leave to appeal were decided in favour of the employers, and none of the seven cases in which the employees were given leave to appeal was decided in favour of the employees.
The commission in presidential session shall be constituted by at least three presidential members. We do not know whether they will be de-wigged or bewigged judges of the present Arbitration Court. Their job will be to deal with the basic wage, long service leave, female rates, and hours. We say that should be their sole function, and that they should not hear appeals. I do not know whether the removal of wigs and gowns will make any difference, or whether it will remove the legalisms. I do not consider that because you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, do not wear a wig and gown, you are any more fair than is Mr. Speaker, who does wear (hem. It all depends upon the person. The individual is the important factor. Let us not forget that the Labour government appointed judges of the Arbitration Court originally to deal with disputes in a common-sense way. The measures introduced by the present Government have got away from this ideal, nf the presidential members of the commission are to be of any use in the work of conciliation and arbitration, they must, like the conciliators and arbitrators themselves, be men of sympathy and understanding. They must understand the economic and psychological problems of the workers, or they will fail in their job.
Unfortunately, the present court and conciliation commissioners have too closely followed the standards set for them by the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. There is no doubt that the fourteen points communicated to the Australian Council of Trades Unions in February, 1952, were intended by the Chief Judge to lay down a policy for the arbitration system ‘to follow. It has followed that policy fairly slavishly. Two of those points have already been implemented by the basic wage and the margins decisions. It will not be long before the other points mentioned will be put into effect, and I think this bill will assist that process. As I have stated, if this conciliation and arbitration work is to be successful, the people who are handling it must change their attitude towards the economic and psychological problems of the workers. I am satisfied that the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, at the conferences with conciliation commissioners, which, as honorable members know, he held regularly, told the commissioners the line he expected them to take. That is largely why the system broke down.
The Minister for Labour and National Service has told the House that, as a result of the decision of the High Court of Australia in the Boilermakers case, it is necessary to constitute a Commonwealth industrial court with judicial power, and the bill provides for such a court, to consist of a chief judge and not more than two other judges. This court will have all the powers which the High Court has said may not be exercised by the present Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and, as we have been told in this debate, its main function, unfortunately, will be to inflict penalties upon unions and union members. In my opinion, this is the worst feature of the bill, ti provides for dual penalties. The honorable member for Lawson, who has just left the chamber, earlier referred to an interjection that had been made by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), and said that penalties should not apply only to the employers. The honorable member for Blaxland had not said that penalties should be inflicted only upon the employers. What he endeavoured to point out was that there had been in the principal act for many years another provision, which had not been disturbed by the Labour Government, and which the Opposition does not wish to disturb now, namely, section 59, which provides for the enforcement of awards and for penalties for breaches of awards and orders, and which, in our opinion, provides sufficient penalties. Those should be the only penalties that may be imposed. Under the provisions of this bill, additional penalties may be imposed, with the result that a person or a union that may have been disciplined under one provision of the conciliation and arbitrationlaw may be dealt with a second time under another provision. A bad feature of this measure is that an organization can be made answerable for a factory or workshop stoppage that it neither authorizes nor sanctions. This matter is mentioned in volume 74 of the Commonwealth Arbitration Reports, in the report of a hearing of a dispute between the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia and the Commonwealth Steel Company Limited. Chief Judge Kelly is reported as follows: -
An organization is responsible for the actions not only of its branches but also of any section or group of its members. Knowledge of any such action, if in breach of the legislation under which the organization is registered or of some award or order made in accordance with powers thereby granted, is sufficient to involve the organization itself.
What a ridiculous situation ! An organization may not even know that a section of its workers has stopped work or committed some breach, yet the organization itself can be charged.
– It is contrary to every legal principle.
– Of course it is! The offending provisions in the present act are sections 29 and 29a, which were put it by this Government in 1952 for the specific purpose of sending unions bankrupt or turning them into the tame cat unions thatMr. Chifley warned about. Under a provision of that act, which has been repeated in this bill, a union may be fined £500, and indeed, may be fined that amount repeatedly. The employer needs only to keep on applying to the court, and the fine of £500 can be repeated. In addition, members of a union may be fined £10 a day, and officials may be gaoled. That is the worst form of industrial legislation.It is psychologically bad. and while it exists the achievement of the harmonious industrial relations to which the honorable member for Lawson has referred is impossible. In our opinion, there is no need for these penalties. There is no need for the industrial court.
– Who was responsible for that provision?
– The Minister for Customs andExcise should askhis questions afterwards, in his own time. We contend that power to deal with points of law and interpretations of awards should be vested in the existing court. This legislation will not achieve the purposes that should be expected of it. The Opposition is satisfied that before we can get an adequate conciliation and arbitration court, it will be essential for the Commonwealth Parliament to have more adequate powers. That is why the Leader of the Opposition has included in his proposed amendment the following passage : -
An essential feature of an adequate and effective Australian industrial arbitration system should be to vest in the Parliament of the Commonwealth full powers both in relation to industrial matters generally and also to just fixation of prices and profits on an Australia-wide basis.
Until we achieve that, we will not have entirely satisfactory conciliation and arbitration machinery. Similar suggestions have already been made by Sir John Latham in the Sydney MorningHerald of the 25th November. 1952.’ In an article headed, “ Our Arbitration System is inNeed ofReform “, Sir John Latham said -
A new provision could be placed in the Constitution, giving the Commonwealth Parlia ment power to make laws with respect to termsand conditions of industrial employment.
He went on to say -
Under such a power, the Parliament could, of course, do unwise things. This is a possibility under any system of Government but our Parliament is responsible to the people, anderrors could be corrected in accordance with ordinary democratic procedure.
He proceeded -
Itcould, if desired, still have a court for some cases though, in truth, the function of prescribing wages, &c, is essentially legislative and not judicial.It could establish wages boards for particular industries, or local tribunals for local matters without, as at present, making it necessary to elevate a purely local matter to an inter-State level.
We should work in that direction, and it should be one of the first jobs of the Constitution committee that has been formed from members from both sides of the House to see whether some agreement canbereachedinordertogivegreater industrial powers to this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joske) adjourned’.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Attorney-General has furnished the following reply to the honorable member’s questions: - 1 and 2. Apart from certain provisions of the Crimes Act, the Defence Act, the Naval Defence Act and the Air Force Act, all of which relate to offences which, T take it, the honorable member includes in the term “ war crimes “. there is no provision in Commonwealth law for the imposition of capital punishment. In this context I use the term “Commonwealth law “ as meaning the statutes of the Commonwealth Parliament. There is, of course, a large body of law in existence in the various Commonwealth territories. For instance, in the Northern Territory the present law has its origin in British law imported into the original colony by the first settlers. South Australia law specifically applied tn the Territory when it was administered by that State. Commonwealth statutes specifically applied to the Territory and “ local “ ordinances of the Legislative Council. Similarly, Papuan law springs from British, Queensland, Commonwealth and “local “ law. while in New Guinea there is probably quite an appreciable body of German law still in existence. Similar conditions apply to each of the other Commonwealth territories including the Australian Capital Territory. T mention these matters merely tn indicate the source* from vhi”h the (aws of the territories can be derived and to emphasize the magnitude of the task involved in searching through these in-o to “‘vp the honorable mem,her a more complete reply.
s. - On 10th May, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) asked the following question : -
In the absence of the Prime Minister, 1 address a question to the Treasurer concerning the action that has been taken by the Government to restrict imports to this country. I do not question the necessity for import restrictions, but I find that in the implementation of the Government’s policy, undue hardship is being inflicted on one section of the community. I refer to the small manufacturer, who in the past has bought his supplies from .Australian firms which have had import quotas. Those firms are now refusing to import the goods necessary to enable these small manufacturer* to continue and there is every possibility that their factories will go out of production. I have taken up with the department the matter of import licences for the people concerned, but I should like the Treasurer to ensure that, in giving effect to the Government’s policy, every precaution shall be taken to prevent these small industries from being penalized because the firms from which they buy suppliesarc using the whole of their quotas for the import of other goods. Conditions should be imposed which will enable these small mannfacturers to continue in production.
I am advised by my colleague, the right honorable the Minister for Trade, that since the inception of import licensing, importers in general have been found to be co-operative in ensuring that the reduced quantities of goods which they have been enabled to import, have been distributed on an equitable basis amongst their regular customers. Where it is brought to the notice of the Department of Trade that an importer has ceased to supply those merchants whose orders formed the basis for establishing the importer’s quota, the matter is thoroughly investigated and, where necessary, corrective action taken.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. The Minister for the Interior has referred this matter to me since it is the concern of my department. The right honorable member for Cowper is provided by tuc Government with a private secretary, whose salary range is £1,48!) to £1,07!) per annum, and ti typist, who receives n fixed salary of £084 per annum. It has been standard practice over the years for successive government* to accord ex-Prime Ministers some concessions over and above their entitlements as private members. In keeping with this long established practice, plus the fact that the right honorable member is compiling a record of the federal story since World War I., the Government decided that a private secretary and .- typist were warranted. When the right honorable member was last a member of the opposition the government of the day provided bini with a private secretary.
– On the 15th May, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) directed a question to me concerning the investments of private savings banks. He asked whether any condition had been imposed on private savings banks to lend up to 30 per cent, of their depositors’ funds to guaranteed building societies and for housing or other purposes on the security of land and, if so, whether the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank Limited was observing the condition. In relation to the investment of depositors’ funds, the conditions under which private savings banks have been granted authorities to operate include a provision that they must hold at least 70 per cent, of depositors’ funds in cash, money on deposit with the Commonwealth Bank, Commonwealth and State government securities, and securities issued by Commonwealth and State statutory authorities. The remainder, if any, of depositors’ funds may be placed on deposit with other banks or invested in loans of the type described by the honorable member. Within these limits, i he amount invested by a private savings bank in housing loans is a matter for the bank’s determination. I am not in a position to say what proportion of depositors’ funds is in fact being applied to housing loans by the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank Limited. I can assure the honorable member, however, that the Bank of New South Wales
Savings Bank Limited is observing the conditions attached to its authority to carry on banking business.
D asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Sales Tax Rulings in pamphlet form - 90 separate rulings have been issued. The number of each issue varied from 2,000 in 1940 to 2,850 in 1955.
Estate Duty and Gift Duty.
In addition to the foregoing publications, official rulings and instructions and manuals of procedure are circulated, from time to time, throughout the branch for the information and use of taxation officers in carrying out their duties.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560522_reps_22_hor10/>.