22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.35 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct to the Minister for External Affairs a question regarding proceedings before the Security Council of the United Nations Organization in relation to the Suez Canal dispute. Can he give to the House to-day, and from time to time, an account of the progress of proceedings before that body?
– Two items have been agreed upon for inscription on the agenda of the Security Council, which will meet again for substantive discussion on Friday next. One item is in the name of Great Britain and France, and the other is in the name of Egypt. The item standing in the name of Great Britain and France was accepted unanimously by the Security Council, whilst the Egyptian item was accepted by an affirmative vote of seven countries, with four countries abstaining, those four countries being Great Britain, France, Australia and Belgium. So, substantive discussion of the two items will begin next Friday. It has been agreed - again, I believe, unanimously - that Egypt should be represented at the Security Council and should be allowed to be heard. A similar application lodged by Israel has been deferred for reconsideration on Friday next. The chairmanship of the Council rotates month by month amongst the eleven members, and France is to supply a chairman for the month of October. It is not known, or at least I do not know, whether France will do so, because there is provision in the charter for a country to be allowed to ask to be excused from providing a chairman if a matter particularly concerning that country is before the council. I repeat that I have no current information about whether France will provide a chairman or whether the responsibility for doing so will devolve upon the next country which I believe, from memory, is Iran. That is the position in relation to the Suez problem as it is now before the Security Council.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, by stating that the matter of skilled technicians has been brought very forcibly to my notice by the Ballarat School of Mines. In view of the grave shortage of technically trained personnel in Australia and the apparent inability of the States to cope with the growing demand for technologists, can the right honorable gentleman say whether the Government is in a position to give some further encouragement to the States in order to alleviate the position?
– I can well understand that the Ballarat School of Mines, which is an old and famous school, should have brought this matter forcibly to the notice of the honorable member, and I appreciate his interest in it. It is an extremely important matter, so important that I would ask him to allow me to defer a detailed reply, which I shall have prepared and circulated.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Recently a statement appeared that, if the flooding of the Murray River became continuous as a result of the November thawing of snow - and we know that there are grave dangers of floods even as severe as the recent catastrophe - the Army would not be able to play the part that it did in the recent flood, when it rendered grand service to the victims, because of commitments at the Olympic Games. I do not know whether the Minister was responsible for the statement, or whether the statement was,correct but I, and I am sure many other honorable members, believe that if the situation becomes as serious as it has recently been, the Army’s commitments to the people in the flooded areas and to the needs of the nation should’ take precedence over its commitments to the Olympic Games. I do not know what these latter commitments are. Will the Minister indicate whether or not the statement is correct, and will he state what are the commitments of the Army for the Olympic Games?
– I am afraid that I cannot say precisely what the Army’s commitments are in connexion with the Olympic Games. Certain help, of course, is being given in various ways. In regard to the possibility of further happenings in relation to the Murray River, the honorable member may rely on the fact that in these circumstances the Army is at all times - I think he knows this very well - prepared to do a magnificent job. lt has in fact done a magnificent job recently and it will be prepared to do so again to the limit of its capacity it” the occasion arises. 1 shall ascertain the number of personnel who may be engaged in the Olympic Games, but I should noi imagine that the number would be such as to influence the capacity of the Army to give assistance in the event of such an occurrence as the honorable member fears.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. The report of the Stevedoring Authority for the past two months has disclosed a serious loss of man-hours on the Australian waterfront. Does the Minister expect a continuation of these conditions, or does he agree that the establishment of the new authority has been justified?
– lt is a fact that (here has been a serious loss of man-hours on the waterfront over the last two months, as the honorable gentleman indicated. L think he will realize that that situation has developed out of the application of a recent award by the judge of the Arbitration Tribunal which determined conditions on the waterfront and imposed upon members of the Waterside Workers Federation a number of new conditions which had previously been resisted by them. At the same time, the award conferred substantial benefits upon members of the federation, and I think most persons who have examined the facts would have come to the conclusion that a reasonable range of decisions improving the situation of the waterside worker, and at the same time enabling a much greater increase in efficiency on the waterfront, could have been expected to be the outcome of the judge’s award, lt would appear that the conditions imposed by the judge as they affected members of the federation, are now being more readily accepted by them, and to that extent there should be an improvement on the waterfront. I think it is much too early to form any judgment about the effectiveness of the new authority, which has been in existence for only a month or so and has had to deal with these abnormal circumstances in the first weeks of its establishment. I have my own confidence that the authority, as the work proceeds, will justify its appointment and lead to a muchdesired improvement of efficiency in operations on the waterfront.
– During his term of office as Minister for Social Services, the Minister for Primary Industry was quoted, at the inter-State conference of the Australian Optometrical Association, as saying -
Optometrists should try to advertise the fact that glasses help to “ build up “ a man in the eyes of other people … Glasses can create the impression of great mental reserves and strength.
When 1 look at some members of the Parliament on the opposite side of the House who are not wearing glasses. I do not think that they have very great intellectual capacity. 1 desire to ask the Minister, quite kindly, as a semi-bald headed man to a bald headed man, whether he has considered wearing glasses so as to note whether glasses were kind to him.
– L am very glad that the honorable member for Grey has drawn my attention to a speech which was made some time ago and which was intended to be humorous. I still feel the same as I felt on that occasion, but when I look at some members of the Opposition, I have a distinct inclination to laugh. If the honorable gentleman feels that, by wearing coloured glasses, I may be able to suppress my normal instinct, not so much to laugh as to giggle, and if he will give me the money for the glasses, I will purchase them promptly.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that the disastrous flooding of the Murray River destroyed some hundreds of glasshouses, used chiefly for the production of early tomatoes? ls he aware thai there will be an abnormal demand for glass suitable for replacements? Will he make investigations with a view to ascertaining whether supplies’ of such glass are available in Australia? If supplies are not available, will he give consideration to ensuring that there is an adequate quota of imports in this category so that the people who grow early tomatoes can go on with this work?
– 1 am aware, of course, of the floods in the area to which the honorable member has referred, and 1 thank him for having drawn my attention to this problem. We all know how constantly the honorable member for Mallee keeps himself apprised of the needs of his electorate. 1 shall be very glad to look into the matter along the lines that he has suggested.
– 1 desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether any technicians, who ordinarily would be employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department upon the installation of telephones, have been diverted to employment on the installation of television services. If any technicians have been so diverted, can the honorable gentleman tell me the approximate number?
– Not a great number of technicians who are normally employed in the Postal Department on the provision of telephones have transferred to television services. The national television service is operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Although it is possible that, in individual cases, some technicians may have transferred, there has been no general turning over from one division of the department to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the purpose of establishing television. This is a question to which 1 paid some attention recently, and 1 can assure the honorable member that, with the possible exception of odd cases, the suggestion that he makes that there has been a general hand-over is not correct. Therefore, the suggestion in the second part of his question does not apply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In view of the importance of the maximum efficiency’ of production in Australia’s farming and pastoral industries, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to arranging that further intensive study and research into the eradication of noxious weeds be undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization?
– 1 am very conscious thai the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not taking on research into a great many of the plant pests mat exist in Australia, lt is conducting research into as many of them as its finance^ and scientific staff permit, but, broadly speaking, it confines itself to plant pests that extend beyond the limits of any one State, In general, pests that afflict one State alone are expected to be coped with b the appropriate department of the State concerned. As I say, I am very conscious that there are still a great many pests in Australia that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in p»-?ect circumstances, would like to take on anu do its best to eradicate, but this work is subject to the limitations of two bottle-necks - the lack of money and the shortage of scientific officers. I consider that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has received fair treatment in the last twelve months in particular in respect of the amount of money provided in the budget for its research work. Its impact on the budget, in common with that of every other government department and instrumentality, must be limited by the prevailing economic circumstances. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not immune from the need for economy, but even if we had more money we should have the problem of enlisting and training enough additional scientific workers. Those are the two limiting factors. But I believe that within those limitations, and with the resources available, the Commonwealth Scientific arid Industrial Research Organization is tackling with the utmost vigour all the problems ir can possibly take on. I am quite conscious of the fact that, in a perfect world, it could do twice as much work as at present with economic advantage to Australia, bin unfortunately it must work within the limitations imposed by the Australian economy.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that the overseas shipping lines propose to increase overseas freight charges by a further 15 per cent, in addition to the increases imposed some months ago? Does the Minister consider that the proposed increase is justified? If not, what action does the Government intend to take?
– I am aware that alterations of some freight rates have been under consideration by the overseas shipping companies, but I have no official advice of any decision. I can assure the honorable member and the House that I am very conscious of the importance of any move to increase freight charges.
– Why does the. Minister not ascertain what is .proposed?
– After all, I have arrived back in Canberra only this morning after a week-end away.
– The Minister should be informed at once.
– I shall be. The House will remember that something was done pretty promptly last year about a proposal to increase freight rates. I take it that the reference is to the United Kingdom and European trade shipping. It is more than a year since there were freight increases’ there.
– I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry a question which relates to the special amount set aside from the proceeds of the sale of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission to assist in fishery research. Has any application been made by the Western Australian Government for funds to assist in (a) fishery research in Western Australia or (b) the establishment of any phase of the fishing industry in that State? Has Western Australia requested any help from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in relation to the fund and have any allocations been made to Western Australia?
– So far as I can recollect, the Commonwealth authorities wrote to the superintendents of fisheries or chief fisheries officers in the various States asking for recommendations. The Western Australian Government replied that the problem would be dealt with on a head-of-State basis, and therefore I take it that the Western Australian Premier will write to the Prime Minister submitting recommendations from the Western Australian Government. So I would think that the specific answers to the honorable gentleman’s ques tions are these: First of all, no recommendation has been received from the Western Australian Government with regard to either research or development, but it is hoped such recommendations will be received soon. As to the second part of the question, applications have been received from various private sources and they are now being considered. As soon as the recommendation from the Western Australian Government is received a decision will be made by the department.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question concerning the operation of the National Health (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Regulations under which doctors can prescribe certain life-saving drugs without the patient having to pay for them. As the Minister knows, some of these drugs can be prescribed for certain diseases only if the diseases do not respond to penicillin. Can the Minister say whether some patients show allergic manifestations to penicillin? If so, are such patients legally unable to receive these other drugs without payment? Can the Minister give an assurance that doctors will not be penalized if they prescribe them for patients whom they know to be allergic, without first prescribing penicillin?
– I am not sure whether allergy to penicillin is, in itself, accepted as a reason for allowing other drugs to be used; but, if it is not, I am sure that arrangements can be made for that to be done. 1 have not the precise details of these arrangements in my mind, but I shall find out and let the honorable member know what they are.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. With reference to the current discussions between the “ Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia regarding special financial assistance to alleviate the temporary unemployment problem in Western Australia, is the right honorable gentleman able to indicate whether there is any truth in a rumour that a specific request has been made to the Premier of Western
Australia to reduce costs in the Western Australian Education Department? Are recent teaching staff retrenchments in Western Australia related to any request from the Commonwealth Government? Believing, as I do, that a most constructive way to eliminate present unemployment in the bunding and allied industries is by expediting the letting of contracts for public works already approved but not yet commenced, will the Treasurer consider giving immediate approval for such projects as telephone exchanges, post offices, and other Commonwealth departmental buildings in Western Australia to be commenced forthwith?
– I assure the honorable member, unequivocally, that no request, in any shape or form, has been made to the Government of Western Australia or to the government of any other State to regulate or reduce its expenditure - much less its expenditure on education. If there has been any retrenchment in the teaching staff in Western Australia, it is due entirely to the policy that is being applied by the Government of Western Australia. That government, in common with all State governments, has to make its own decisions with regard to the priority of works that can be financed out of the money available to it from the Australian Loan Council and by way of supplementary grants from the Commonwealth Government. As to other projects coming under the works votes, I shall confer with my colleague, the Minister for Works, and ascertain what can be done.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the statement made on Tuesday night last by the right honorable gentleman on the Suez crisis, in the course of which he said that it might be necessary to apply-
– Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Was a book en tided “10 North Frederick” ordered by the Minister to be withheld from sale in Victoria? Were copies of this book freely available, during the currency of this edict, in the capital cities of four States and in Canberra? Has the order prohibiting the sale of the book now been reversed? If so, was it reversed because the book was found to be not morally dangerous, or because the order could not be enforced? In any event, can the House expect a rationalization of censorship activities in order to eliminate such inconsistencies?
– The book to which the honorable member refers was recently considered by the Literature Censorship Board and, on the recommendation of the board, was freed from any restriction on import. It is available for purchase in Australia.
– Where can we buy it?
– I have no intention of advertising the book for the benefit of the honorable member for East Sydney or anybody else. The book was considered by the Literature Censorship Board, which advised that it should be released for. general circulation. That was done. During the time that the board was considering the book the Department of Customs and Excise found that two small parcels of copies of the book had been released, one to Sydney, I think, and one to Canberra. The department does all it can to ensure that imported books are properly considered but, as I think the honorable member for Bruce will realize, the task of inspecting every consignment of books, periodicals and papers that comes into Australia is an enormous one, and the astonishing thing is not that a couple of parcels of books should get into Australia unnoticed, but rather that so few do. No order was made prohibiting the sale of this book during the period that it was being examined. The usual procedure was followed. Officers of the department asked booksellers who had copies of the book in their possession to refrain from selling them until a decision regarding the book had been made, and the booksellers of this country co-operated on this occasion, as they have usually cooperated in the past, with the result that the book was withheld from sale at the department’s request until a decision on it had been made.
– 1 direct a ‘question to the Prime Minister regarding Australia’s defence position. In view of the threatened crisis in the Middle East, and also in view of the declaration of Sir Frederick Shedden, the former permanent head of the Department of Defence, that Australia’s defences were in a hopeless position, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House: First, as to the overall strength of our defence forces; secondly, as to what extent Sydney and the other capital cities of Australia have adequate radar detection equipment; and, thirdly, as to what extent they have an air umbrella defence? Also, will the Prime Minister immediately recall Australian troops from Malaya and other theatres of war, and recall the Australian air squadron from Malta?
– I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member is a little off the beam in the last part of his question. So far as our troops in Malaya are concerned, they will remain there while their function remains to be performed. Going back to the beginning of the honorable member’s question, Sir Frederick Shedden has never said that the defences of this country are in a hopeless position. On the contrary, he gave a lot of evidence before the Public Accounts Committee which showed a vast development in defence expenditure and preparations. If the honorable member failed to pay any attention to the statement made by my colleague, the Minister for Defence, about the defence position, then I regret it; but that statement made abundantly clear - and every word of Sir Frederick Shedden’s evidence supports the statement - that the defences of this country were never in a better shape in time of peace in the history of Australia A great deal has been made of a grossly distorted newspaper report and there has been a campaign to the effect that Sir Frederick Shedden is supposed to have said that Australia’s defences, or the Australian defence forces, were not in a state of mobilization.
– He is not supposed to have said it - he said it.
– Well, I am answering the question, if the honorable gentleman does not mind. I hope he will mind ultimately. The defence forces were not in an immediate state of mobilization. That answer, given before the Public Accounts Committee, torn out of its context, has been, I think, mischievously misused. I went to a trouble that I recommend to honorable members. Over the week-end i read every word of the 118 pages of evidence given by Sir Frederick Shedden, and I want to say that it is a pretty stimulating account of the dynamic approach that has been made towards Australian defences under my colleague the Minister for Defence, with a revamping and rebalancing of our defence programme. The critics always have their little bit of criticism given headlines. I noticed the other day that a former Chief of the Air Staff, in commenting upon his desire that there should be a forward programme for building some new type of aircraft, also went on to say that the air defences in Australia were better than they had ever been before. That part of his comment did not get the headlines; it is the point of criticism that gets them. Sir Frederick Shedden, quite accurately and honestly, when asked the question, “ Could you mobilize to-day at once? “ - I am noi quoting the precise words - said, “ No “. And the same answer would have to be given by any other Minister or official in any other country except a totalitarian one. If this country is to be, on the instant, ready to mobilize a great army, navy and air force ready for action - that is the point - then it cannot be ready unless it has not only a full-bodied system of long-range and long-period conscription with men callable at will and fully trained, but also devotes from its revenues such an enormous increase in money that it is able to have, if it can get it locally or abroad, all the modern equipment that goes to make a modern army, navy or air force. Under those circumstances, it is just simply theoretical nonsense to criticize a statement that immediate mobilization is not possible. The fact is that a country like this has to aim at being, as far as possible, along the road to effective mobilization in time. That has meant in the case of this Government that we have vastly increased the number of persons trained for the Army, the number of persons under service in the Navy and the number of persons under training and under service in the Air Force. We have modernized the Air Force, not as much as we would like, but to a very considerable extent: wo have modernized the Navy to a considerable extent; and the Army’s equipment problem, though not satisfactory, is better than it was. In the course of doing all these things we have, in fact, been prepared to face the responsibility of devoting to defence an expenditure of the order of £200.000,000, whereas our critics on the other side never succeeded in doing better than £50,000,000 or £60,000,000.
– My question to the Minister for Trade has reference to the application of import licences and quotas in that particular section of the textile industry known in the trade as makers-up. Is it true, as has been reported, that as from 1st October an alteration is to be made in the application of the licensing and quota system as it applies to this section? ls it true that more sympathetic consideration is to be given to it? If these reports are true, will the Minister make a full statement to the House so that all honorable members may be aware of what is to happen to this section of industry as from 1st October?
– There has been no important difference in the treatment of makers-up - I think that is the term - in the textile and clothing industry as from 1st October. As I have said in the House previously, I am conscious of the problems of this section of the important textile and clothing industry. There is a continuous review of the policy and administration of import licensing in regard to all sections of industry, but especially in regard to this section. The modification of the import licensing processes which was introduced on 1st July - that is, the sub-division of B category goods into seven sub-categories - was made, quite substantially, for the purpose of helping this section of industry. Prior to the modification, the holder of a B category licence was free to import whatever B category goods he desired. He could, if he chose, import exotic foodstuffs in substitution for his historic importations of materials for making-up. As from 1st July, those material were segregated and, so to speak, made non-transferable. Holders of import licences for such materials who have historically imported on behalf of manufacturers who do not have import quotas are now required by the Department of Trade to supply to the former users of their imports the same proportion of the imports as was supplied previously.
– Will that operate from 1st October?
– That is operating at present. The system was introduced a little time ago. 1 do not claim that it is operating with perfection yet, because this is a tremendously big and complex administrative problem. I am stating the policies that are being applied. If those policies are being departed from, those concerned will be brought into line as quickly as possible. Materials for the use of makers-up in this industry have been treated a good deal more generously than have other B class goods. That is a recognition of the special problems to which the honorable member for Lilley and other honorable members, as well as the trade itself, have directed to my attention. I assure the honorable member that this is a matter that is constantly under review by me and the departmental officials. There is a full consciousness of the problems of the making-up section of the clothing trade.
– I address a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. As scientists in most of the countries of the world are becoming more deeply concerned every day at the everincreasing incidence of lung cancer and deaths due to smog, particularly in industrial areas, will the Minister give serious consideration to setting up a special bureau within the research division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to investigate methods of controlling this deadly menace, which is becoming so prevalent in the community, especially in heavily industrialized areas?
– As I understand the purport of the honorable gentleman’s question, the matter he has mentioned comes within the field of medical research. That is not one of the primary or even the secondary objectives of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. However, ] shall certainly remit the question to my friend and colleague, the Minister for Health, and discuss it with him to see whether he has any constructive suggestions to make.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service any recent information to give to the House concerning the Queensland wool strike, as it affects the Commonwealth sphere of activity?
– I am not able to give the honorable gentleman any official advice of the latest development. I heard just after lunch that a decision of the Storemen and Packers Union had been taken to the effect that wool described as “black” would not be handled by that union, but I have no official confirmation of that matter. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government has been made clear in an exchange of telegrams between the Acting Prime Minister at that time (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the chairman of the New South Wales and Queensland Woolbuyers Association. Honorable gentlemen will recall that because of the disclosed attitudes of certain sections of the trade union movement in Queensland, the Woolbuyers Association decided to cancel the holding of wool sales in Brisbane. Following that action, I understand that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, got in touch with the woolbuyers and requested them to resume the sales, and indicated that if they were prepared to do so he would give such assistance as he could within the jurisdiction of the State Government to ensure that wool purchased at the sales was subsequently despatched. He pointed out that, from the wharf onwards, that matter was within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government. We were then approached by the New South Wales and Queensland Woolbuyers Association and advised of the assurances received from Mr. Gair, and asked whether we would be prepared to give certain assurances as to the loading of the wool from the time at which it reached the wharf. Following that, my colleague, the Acting Prime Minister at the time, sent a telegram in which he said that the Commonwealth would, if necessary, use its best efforts to ensure that wool shorn, stored and transported in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the appropriate industrial tribunal was promptly loaded after delivery at the wharf. That remains the position, so far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned. Of course, the general attitude of the Govern ment, where the awards of industrial tribunals are involved, is to give such support as we can to the upholding of the awards of those tribunals. That applies to the awards of State tribunals as well as to those of the Commonwealth, if the State Premiers seek our assistance.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1956. Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1956.
Messages from the Administrator reported transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1956, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1956, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty a further sum not exceeding £6,811,266 for the services of the year 1955-56, viz.: -
That there be granted to Her Majesty’ a further sum not exceeding £456,353 for the services of the year 1955-56 for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Fairhall do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Supplementary Estimates of expenditure totalling £6,811,266 are for the financial year 1955-56. The amounts set out were expended from an appropriation of £16,000,000 made available to the Treasurer to meet expenditure which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared. It is now necessary to obtain specific parliamentary appropriation for the several items of excess expenditure.
Full details of the expenditure for 1955-56, which includes these items, are set out in the Treasurer’s Finance Statement for 1955-56 which has been tabled for the information of honorable members. The Estimates papers 1956-57 also show the total amounts for 1956-57 together with comparative figures for the previous year.
The Supplementary Estimates detail the items under which the additional amounts were expended by the various departments. The principal items, in round figures, are: -
Any further details of the various items of expenditure will be provided at a later stage. Honorable members will observe, in this earlier presentation of the Supplementary Estimates 1955-56, a departure from past practice. I believed that such legislation should be introduced shortly after the close of the financial year to which the Estimates relate. The Public Accounts Committee was informed of this intention and so arranged its programme that its report upon the Supplementary Estimates will be available for the information of honorable members prior to the commencement, of the debate.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPhersonTreasurer) [3.27J. - I move -
That the- bill be now read a second time.
The appropriation for capital works and services for the financial year 1955-56 amounted to £104,978,000. The actual expenditure was £99,669,000, that is £5,309,000 less than the appropriation.
However, because of requirements which could not be foreseen when the Estimates were prepared, the expenditure on certain items exceeded the individual amounts appropriated and it is now necessary to obtain parliamentary approval for these increases.
The excess expenditure on the particular items totals £456,353, which is spread over the various items of the departments, as set out in the schedule to the bill. Any details which may be required will be furnished at a later stage.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 27 th September (vide page 993).
Department of the Interior.
Proposed Vote, £1,516,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.-I wish to direct my remarks to the Estimates for the Department of the Interior and to correlate them to the injustice that is meted out to municipalities by the refusal of Commonwealth instrumentalities to pay their just and fair share of rates on properties situated in council areas. I realize that the State governments also are open to criticism in this matter, but as this is the Commonwealth Parliament, and as we are dealing with federal matters only, I must confine my remarks to the Commonwealth Government’s sins of omission and commission towards municipalities.
I realize that over the last ten years or so there has been a minor change in the Government’s policy and that in some cases municipal rates are paid in return for certain municipal services. For example, payment is made to a rating authority which provides water and sewerage, electricity, and sanitary or garbage services. Rates are paid in respect of war service homes. Where Commonwealth instrumentalities are engaged in commercial enterprise in competition with private firms or organizations, an amount equivalent to the rates assessed on the property is paid to the local governing body. An equivalent amount is also paid in respect of houses erected on Commonwealth property solely for domesticpurposes.
These concessions - if I might use the word - are certainly made, but in reality they are not concessions because the Commonwealth is merely paying what every property-owner in the municipality is compelled to pay. However, there are, throughout the length and breadth of Australia, numerous Commonwealth buildings and undertakings, of a varied nature, in respect of which the municipal bodies receive little or nothing in return for the provision of services which directly affect those instrumentalities. This always operates to the benefit of the Commonwealth Government, and never to its detriment, yet that Government resolutely refuses to give even-handed justice to municipalities.
The Commonwealth Bank has long recognized the necessity to give some measure of justice to the councils and it also pays rates, but for every pound that is paid to the municipalities on behalf of the Commonwealth, many more are not. I hope that in the very near future the Government, if it is not prepared, in return for services rendered, to pay all rates, will at least pay a percentage of them. Local government is in such a state that unless just and fair compensation is given for services rendered to governmental bodies, Commonwealth and State, it cannot continue to operate much longer.
I shall cite just one case that has come to my notice in Melbourne. Such cases can be amplified in respect of other cities. The Commonwealth has acquired two city blocks, the boundaries of which are La Trobe-street, Lonsdale-street, Exhibitionstreet, and Spring-street, for the purpose of carrying out a long-range plan of demolishing the existing buildings - which is long overdue - and replacing them with new offices. Exceptionally fine buildings are now being erected on the area. Every honorable member will agree wholeheartedly with that programme because, for many years, the Commonwealth office accommodation in Melbourne has been particularly bad. My point is that if the area had developed commercially, as the Melbourne City Council hoped it would, an additional £28,000 would have come to the council in rates every year. The Commonwealth has acquired property in this area, and the first building on the first block was recently commenced. After the buildings are completed, the Melbourne City Council will have to supply many services to those Commonwealth offices but will receive nothing at all in return for the services that it supplies. According to the local government legislation, the council receives some remuneration for the services that it supplies from almost every property owner in the city of Melbourne except the Commonwealth.
That is only one example. I suppose that many hundreds of thousands of pounds, if noi millions of pounds, are lost in this unfair manner each year to local governing bodies throughout the country because the Commonwealth does not pay rates on most of its properties, f suggest to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) that his department should give serious consideration to alleviating the financial distress of local governing bodies by meting out to them even-handed justice. These bodies do not receive as much limelight as parliaments, but they do perform very important functions in the community because they are in touch with the daily lives of the people to a greater extent than parliaments. If they are to continue to function successfully, they must be given adequate financial assistance. I believe that if the Commonwealth paid every penny that it should pay to local government authorities, that money would not completely solve the financial problems of municipalities and shires, but it would at least give adequate compensation to local government bodies for the services that they supply. I suggest that the Government has a moral obligation to pay to the local governing bodies the rates on Commonwealth properties to which those bodies are justly entitled.
The scope of local government has changed tremendously in the last 30 years, and, that being so, there is a definite obligation on the Commonwealth, to ensure that it pays for the services that it receives. Local government to-day is not concerned merely with the construction of roads, footpaths, drainage systems and so on, because in recent years there has been a demand by the public for numerous other services. Consequently, local governing bodies are to-day carrying out functions that were not dreamt of when the local government system was first introduced. However, because the services that these bodies supply are of a local character, local government authorities have been expected to provide them and finance them out of their own funds. I put it to the Minister that the numerous services carried out by such bodies should be the responsibility of the whole community, and not merely the property owners in the community. If local authorities are carrying out services of community interest and not merely adding to the value of property in their areas, then the whole community should pay something towards those services.
At present the Australian Constitution does not allow the Commonwealth to give direct grants to municipalities for work that they carry out to develop the cultural or sporting life of the community, and for baby-health centres, libraries, swimming pools and so on; but when local governing bodies provide services which will ultimately assist Commonwealth departments in their areas, the Commonwealth should recognize the justice of their claims, and make adequate payment to them in the form of rates on Commonwealth property. In an area near my constituency there are numerous large government buildings which need to be serviced by roads. For example, there are munitions works and ordnance factories. The municipal bodies are expected to provide the roads needed by the factories to carry heavy traffic to and from them. Despite the fact that these roads have to be specially constructed for extraheavy work, nothing is contributed towards their cost by the Commonwealth authorities controlling the factories. The same thing applies to military camps, naval dockyards and other Commonwealth establishments.
I suggest that that is another reason why the Commonwealth should recognize its obligations to this small sector of the national governmental system which does a tremendous amount of work for the community. It is heart-rending for local governing bodies to discover that the Commonwealth, which has budgeted for a large surplus this year, will not spare £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 to help them in their important activities. Municipal councillors have to devise all sorts of methods to keep their municipalities solvent, but the Commonwealth has a large surplus of many millions of pounds each year and will not recognize the valuable work being performed by municipalities, in an unselfish manner, and often in an honorary capacity. The Commonwealth turns a deaf ear to their protestations. I am not appealing to the Government on behalf of the Opposition on this matter, because the Municipal Association of Victoria comprises about 200 local government bodies and not more than eight or nine of them are controlled by Labour. Therefore, this is a matter that is beyond party politics.
I do put it to the Government again that local authorities in Victoria, and no doubt all over the Commonwealth, are having a difficult time. I appeal to the Government to expand the policy that it laid down some years ago in respect of paying rates on certain property, and pay rates on all Commonwealth properties to the municipalities in which they are situated. If the Government does so, it will recognize in a concrete way the valuable services given to the Australian people at large by local authorities, and help those authorities out of their financial troubles.
.- I desire to place on record the fact that I wholeheartedly support the arguments in respect of assistance to local government bodies just advanced by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). I believe that the Commonwealth does have a responsibility in this matter, and I should like to see it accept that responsibility. If the Commonwealth does so, it will set a precedent to be followed by other authorities, such as State governments, in contributing to the finances of local government organizations, thereby enabling them to meet their commitments. The honorable member for Batman dealt with this subject in a very comprehensive manner, and I do not wish to enlarge on what he said. It is sufficient for me to say that I wish to go on record as wholeheartedly endorsing the remarks that he made.
My speech in this debate will be confined to the electoral branch of the Department of the Interior. This afternoon I feel a loss through the absence of the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) who is in hospital. He always rises in a debate such as this and makes very pointed remarks about the improvements which should be made in the administration of our electoral system. I miss the comments that we usually hear from the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), and I sincerely hope that he will return to the House before long and give us the benefit of his wise opinions on this matter.
The first point that I wish to mention in regard to our electoral system is one to which I have directed my attention in many debates in this Parliament. I refer to the matter of polling hours. In State and municipal elections in Queensland polling is conducted between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and this practice has resulted in maximum efficiency. We have found that no voter has been deprived of the opportunity of recording his vote. The biggest polling booth in Queensland is in the Brisbane City Hall. About 22,000 votes are cast in a day at that booth, and the total number is about the same at State government, municipal or Commonwealth government elections. Persons are not deprived of an opportunity to vote, and they are placed under no disadvantage by having to record their vote between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
I believe that the Commonwealth Government should consider reducing the polling hours at federal elections, making them the same as the hours for State and municipal elections in Queensland. This would result in inestimable benefit to the officers employed by the Department of the Interior in the various polling booths on election day. It would also be of great assistance to the large numbers of good people who work at the polling centres, for all parties and all candidates, because it would reduce the time in which they are required to distribute how-to-vote cards, act as scrutineers and assist in the counts.
I have not yet heard one plausible objection to my suggestion. I know that a great number of Opposition members would support the suggested change of polling hours. Indeed, I have sat in this chamber and heard honorable members who occupy the
Labour party benches advocate a change in the polling hours. For some years this matter has frequently been raised in the Parliament, but our repeated requests appear to have received no consideration. 1, therefore, suggest that on the next occasion when a municipal or State election is held in Queensland, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) should go to that State and observe the election procedure. He should also arrange for senior officers of the Commonwealth Electoral Office to be present at that election, so that they may be educated in the subject of conducting an election with the greatest efficiency. I sincerely trust that the Minister will adopt my suggestion, and that the reduced polling hours will be introduced on the next occasion when this Parliament goes to the polls.
I now wish to direct attention to booth workers and how-to-vote cards. The sight of great numbers of people outside polling booths, canvassing for votes by distributing how-to-vote cards, is, to say the least, undignified. It would be far better to have the ballot-paper itself show, clearly and legibly, after the name of the candidate, the name of the political party that he represents. I further suggest that cards should be displayed in each polling booth indicating how a person should vote for each candidate. In this way, every candidate would receive completely fair and just treatment, and the dignity of our electoral procedures would be enhanced.
It has recently come to my notice, really by way of rumour, that officers from the Commonwealth Electoral Office in Canberra have recently visited Queensland with the object of altering the method of control of polling booths, so as to ensure that ballots are conducted more economically and efficiently. If what I have heard is true, then, although the officers from Canberra may have been imbued with good intentions, they evidently have not much practical knowledge of polling in metropolitan electorates in a district such as Brisbane, which covers a vast area. It has been suggested that economies could be effected by reducing the number of assistant returning officers at the various polling booths; in other words, by reducing the number of counting centres in the various electorates. I have obtained some figures, and although I do not vouch for their complete accuracy, I believe that they are somewhere near the mark. They indicate that the officer concerned has recommended that in the electorate of Lilley, where there were 35 counting centres at the last election, there should be only eleven counting centres at the next election. If this policy is implemented in the electorate of Lilley, it will also be followed in other electorates.
I have some criticism to offer of this suggestion. In the first place, it will not effect any economy, because the officers at the various isolated polling booths that have been recognized as counting centres in the past will have to transport their ballotboxes to another place that has been recognized as a counting centre. A presiding officer at an outlying booth will have to close the booth at 8 p.m., and then sit and wait until transport arrives to take him and his ballot-box to the designated counting centre. The department will have to pay for that transport. All honorable members in this chamber have had some experience of polling procedures, and they know full well what a counting centre is like immediately after the close of the poll. Every one is so busy that there is no time to give attention to a new arrival who walks in with a ballot-box. He will just sit and wait until the returning officer at the counting centre has finished the count of votes in the ballot-boxes that are immediately under his control. Then, one by one, the presiding officers from the outlying polling booths will be dealt with. Such a method must result in increased cost, because the waiting time of these officers must be paid for, as must the transport. The result of the poll will be known much later at” night, and, in the final result, the outcome bf an election may not be known until a day or two later than it is known under the present system.
This does not give service to the people. It is a most unsatisfactory arrangement, and I urge the Minister to call for a report upon it. I ask him to investigate it thoroughly and above all to recognize that the divisional returning officers in all electorates are men of efficiency who have a great knowledge of the electorates which they are required to administer. Because of that knowledge, they are best able to determine what is the most economical and most efficient method of conducting the affairs relating to their electorates. They apply not only theory but also practical knowledge to the administration of their areas.
I understand that before any polling booth can be recognized as a counting centre it is necessary that a minimum of 1.250 votes be polled at it. This was not necessary in the past. In those days, it was left to the divisional returning officer io recommend to the Chief Electoral Officer for the State that such and such a booth be declared a counting centre, and he gave reasons for his recommendation. Invariably, the recommendation of the divisional returning officer was accepted, and that is as it should be. It is often of great advantage, and certainly it is much more economical, for certain polling booths at which only 500 or 600 votes may be recorded to be declared counting centres. Often because of isolation and bad roads that have to be traversed, it is not only difficult to transport the ballot-box to the counting centre but also a great deal of time elapses before it arrives at that centre. In those circumstances it is much cheaper for the officers on the spot to count the votes and ring the totals through to the divisional returning officer. When that is done, the job is completed, with the exception of returning the box to the divisional returning officer and checking the returns. I Strongly urge the Minister to give favorable consideration to my suggestion, and I repeat that at the next State election in Queensland he should endeavour to arrange for officers from his department in Canberra to visit Queensland and note the advantage that can accrue from confining voting hours to the period between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
There is one other matter to which 1 wish to refer. The returning officers for the divisions of Lilley and Petrie are both quartered in the same building. This building is in a most suitable and well-situated position, but it is dingy and shabby. Urgent consideration should be given to providing a building worthy of the Commonwealth Government’s electoral officers. Further toilet facilities should be provided, especially when it is realized that at times it is necessary to employ females as well as males. At such times, the staffs of two electoral officers are required to use one small toilet.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1, too-, desire to refer briefly to the electoral system of this country. As a nation we are anxious that our people shall accept their full share of responsibility in the election of governments. We compel them to enrol and we compel them to vote. After having done that, the present system of voting destroys, on mere technical grounds, the effect of the vote cast. At the last general federal election, the informal votes for the Senate numbered over 8,000 in some electorates in the capital cities. There were 8.000 informal votes for the Senate out of a total of 40,000 votes recorded in the electorate of Scullin. One vote in five was informal! In country electorates in Victoria, such as the electorate of Corangamite, there were over 4,000 informal votes. Of course, in the country areas the number would not be so great because the voting there is not done at such high pressure as it is in industrial areas. In the country, fewer people attend the polling booths. There is a great deal of talking outside the booths and there are more booths scattered throughout country districts than there are in the thickly congested metropolitan areas. Yet, one out of every ten votes is informal.
There are many reasons why votes are declared informal. For instance, an elector desiring to vote for the Australian Labour party might mark his ballot paper “1,2, 3 “ for the Labour candidates and “ 4, 5, 6 “ for some other candidates and then neglect to put numbers opposite the names of remaining candidates. Under the present system, such a vote is informal. A Liberal party voter perhaps would simply put the figures “ 1 , 2, 3 “ opposite the names of the Liberal candidates, neglecting to put anything opposite the names of the other candidates: and that vote also would be informal. Probably, a Country party voter would put “ 1. 2. 3 opposite the names of the Country party candidates and then “ 3. 4. 5 “ opposite the names of Liberal party candidates. Having used the figure 3 twice, his vote becomes informal. The important thing in all those instances is that the elector has clearly demonstrated his desires. He has clearly indicated the persons who he thinks should he elected. In each case, the informality did not take place until after the elector had proclaimed to the world exactly which party he wanted to be in government; yet all such votes are informal. If we are to have a democratic system of government, if we are” to avoid the farce of disfranchising one in five, or perhaps one in ten. of our electors on what are really only technical grounds, those votes should be accepted up to the point of informality. 1 remind honorable members of the fact that it is possible that the proportion of such informal votes is likely to grow as new Australians come to this country and as the number of parties increases. Certainly, present indications are that the number of parties is going to be increased in the near future; and that will complicate matters still further. For those reasons, 1 suggest that the Government should give serious consideration to this matter and do everything possible to see that the intentions of the Australian people are reflected in the government that is elected. All that is necessary to bring about this desirable objective, especially in the case of Senate elections, is to accept each vote up to the point of informality. For instance, if an elector puts figures opposite the names of only three candidates, his vote should be accepted as formal up to that point. If he marks the ballot-paper “ 1 . 2, 3. 4, 5, 6 “. his vote should be accepted as formal in respect of six candidates. If he duplicates any number, his vote should be accepted as formal up to the point of duplication. That is what would be done in an ordinary intelligent community that was desirous of seeing that the result of the election was a true reflection of the desire of the electors. As yet. nothing has been done along these lines, and I cannot understand why that should be so. Perhaps, the present Government hesitates to take any action because it believes that those whose votes were declared informal intended to vote against it.
– What was the total number of informal votes for the Senate?
– I do not know the total, but I know that: it ran into hundreds of thousands. They numbered so many that if a person had stood as an informal candidate he would have had a better chance than any other candidate of being elected. In my view, that was the most important thing about the last election, lt is so important that the Government should introduce a measure to enable the optional preferential system to be adopted for the next election in the Senate. I should say, also, that no objection could be taken to the adoption of the same system of voting for the House of Representatives. People who have grown old. New Australians who do not understand our system of voting exactly, and people whose eyesight is failing and who, because of that failure, omit to place a number on the ballot-paper in one position or another, should not be deprived of the right to vote and of their influence upon the election of the government of thi* country. It is contrary to every principle of democracy. We do not want only the opinions of those persons who are skilled in the art of voting or who are capable ot concentrating on 17 or 24 numbers, as the case may be; we want the average person*s vote to be reflected in the election of the government of this country.
The number of informal votes is not a relatively small one that could not influence the fate of governments; it is one in five in metropolitan electorates and one in ten in country electorates. That number could determine whether one political party or another would be in power. In reality, a party could be in power as a result of informal votes that occurred merely because of poor lighting in the polling booths, or because of minds that strayed for a moment from a complicated ballot-paper. That is not what we want. In a democracy, we want the reflection of the intentions of voters. In order to secure that, this Government should introduce, at the earliest possible moment, an optional system of preferential voting.
– It is interesting that, at this stage of the consideration of the group of Estimates before the chair, three out of four speakers have had something to say about the Department of the Interior and the Electoral Act. I understand that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who I am pleased to see here, has under consideration some suggested amendments. He has invited representative groups in the community to offer suggestions to him for consideration over, perhaps, the next few months in relation to an amendment of the Act. I appreciate that concept which is in the mind of the Minister. From the discussion that has taken place this afternoon, a feeling apparently exists that some amendments are justified.
Before I make my own comments, I should like to mention two matters raised by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). He suggested that the polling hours should be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. While I appreciate that voters in Queensland are accustomed to those hours in State and municipal elections, the big hurdle appears to be that in other States the polling hours for State and municipal elections are usually from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., which are the hours for federal elections. Therefore, if the hours for federal elections were altered to bring them into line with the hours for State elections in Queensland, the hours in relation to State elections in other States would be immediately thrown out of gear.
However, I feel that an overall Australian consideration of this matter is justified. My recommendation would not be for an immediate amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, but rather that the Minister should invite the Ministers in charge of electoral acts in the States to discuss this matter in conference, or deal with it by correspondence with a view to obtaining uniformity on the basis of voting between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The honorable member for Lilley has pointed out many advantages of polling between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. One additional advantage is that it would enable election results to be known earlier. On a federal basis, when South Australian time is half an hour and Western Australian time two hours behind the eastern standard time, results from those States are not available at a reasonable hour on the night of polling. I feel that if polling finished at 6 p.m., results would be available at a reasonable hour.
I shall make one other comment. It has been suggested that certain religious groups would not be able to vote if polling closed at 6 p.m. but that they are able to vote between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Honorable members know the reason. I suggest that the facilities of a postal vote are available to those people. The number of voters involved is not so large that it would cause an abnormal increase in the number of postal votes. I endorse the suggestion that polling be between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. but I suggest that an approach be made on the basis that I mentioned earlier.
The honorable member for Lilley mentioned also a rumour, which has not been confirmed, to the effect that the number of counting centres will be reduced. Even in an outer metropolitan electorate, that could cause a considerable delay in counting and, consequently, in the result of the poll being known. In my own electorate of Petrie, which, like the electorate of Lilley, has a large number of counting centres, a reduction in the number would be a very serious disadvantage. I ask the Minister to investigate the situation and, if it is as the honorable member for Lilley has said, to cause an investigation to be made with a view to retaining the present position.
I shall make a few comments on amendments to the Electoral Act, relating particularly to redistribution. I feel that there is room for improvement in the present act in regard to the machinery for redistribution purposes. It is not very long since we had a redistribution which gave us the opportunity to know just what is happening. The general basis of approach is, of course, set out particularly in sections 19, 20 and 21 of the act. Before anybody, other than the commissioners, can do anything, a map of a proposed redistribution is published at post offices by the commissioners. I feel that that approach to this problem is wrong. I know that subsequent to the display of the map, any person or group of persons has a period of 30 days in which to raise objection. I feel that a good deal of discussion could take place between the commissioners, and not, say, any individual, but perhaps members of Parliament or those who represent groups of responsible citizens. They should have the opportunity to discuss with the commissioners the matters set out in section 19, which the commissioners are directed to take into consideration in making a redistribution. The first matter is community or diversity of interest. Many people other than the commissioners understand that aspect. The next is means of communication. A member of Parliament who has been working in and around an area has a pretty good idea of means of communication. The same applies to physical features. The next point is existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions and State electoral boundaries. In a State such as Queensland, where the State government never attempts to put its boundaries on the same line as the boundaries for federal purposes, it is very doubtful whether the commissioners have a realistic view of what are State boundaries in relation to the federal boundaries. Therefore, I believe that there could be discussion with the commissioners before the first map is actually displayed.
– With the sitting members?
– With the sitting member or with groups of persons in the community or, for that matter, with individuals, but I believe that personal appearances before the commissioners should be restricted to members representing parties or representative groups within the community, so that the inquiry will not be continued over an indefinite period. After the map has been published, the people should still have the right to object within 30 days as at present. It is quite evident that, in some States, there is the opportunity for this discussion before the commissioners proceed, whereas in other States there is no question of discussion. It should be made quite clear in the act that the same conditions shall apply in the six States.
I have read to the committee the five items in section 19 of the act as directives to the commissioners. I believe that section 19, in itself, is not sufficient, and that there should be added to it a special paragraph (f) -
Any other matters which, in the opinion of the commissioners, shall be considered.
Other matters arise in relation to redistribution, which the commissioners might like to take into account, but which they cannot very well consider under the terms of section 19.
I wish to refer now to the constitution of the commission. The act provides for two statutory members out of a total of three commissioners. After 56 years of federation, we have gone beyond the stage where it is necessary to have statutory members. The Government should endeavour to appoint three persons without any statutory obligation as to who they should be. One of them at present is the State Valuer-General. I can understand that, when this act was first passed, it was desirable to have the State Valuer-General as a commissioner because there was no Department of the Interior, with surveyors and property officers, as there is to-day.
The services of the Sta,te Valuer-General are not necessary for a Commonwealth redistribution. We should use the services of property officers within the Department of the Interior for drawing of lines, and; for preparing descriptions of areas that are included in the electorates.
The second statutory officer for whom, provision is made, is the Chief Electoral Officer. In my humble opinion, it would be better if the Chief Electoral Officer, and all electoral officers within a State, acted as advisers to the commission rather than aspersons who took a particular interest in the redistribution itself. For example, if we were to have a redistribution in Queensland in the next few months, we would call upon the new Chief Electoral Officer, who has just been appointed in that State. He would not have any real knowledge of Queensland. It would be better, in such circumstances, that the government of the day should appoint three persons who have the necessary qualifications, and that the electoral officers should be regarded as advisers to the commission.
I believe, also, that the commissioners have been too rigid in the use of the 20 per cent, margin. Mention was made in a debate in this chamber that, in South Australia, there was a weighting of the metropolitan electorates to give them greater numbers in comparison with the country electorates. I suppose in every State country electorates have smaller quotas than city electorates, and that applies particularly to such large electorates as Kennedy, Darling and Kalgoorlie. They are given a quota only a little above the actual minimum. The nearer country areas are brought too close to the actual quota.
I believe that we could reduce the numbers in such cases, and increase the numbers in the metropolitan areas to their considerable advantage, because the metropolitan areas, when all is said and done, have only small areas where the people are grouped together in large numbers.
– What percentage has the honorable member in mind for an increase?
– Offhand, I think it is impossible to put the matter completely on a percentage basis. I believe that weighting between 5 and 8 per cent, in favour ot’ metropolitan electorates would be quite justified. To summarize what I have said, I put forward these five recommendations: First, the commissioners should invite suggestions before a map is published. Secondly, personal appearances before the commissioners by members of Parliament or persons nominated by representative groups in the community should be allowed. Thirdly, the commission should be given wider powers than those covered under section 19 of the act at present. Fourthly, there should not be any statutory appointments to the commission. As 1 have suggested, three persons should be appointed by the Government as each redistribution is necessary. Surveyors and property officers of the Department of the Interior and all electoral officers within State should be available as advisers to th’ Commissioners. Fifthly, there should he endorsed, in the act, the principle of metropolitan electorates being weighted within the 20 per cent, margin that is allowed under the act at present.
.- The remarks that have been made by previous speakers in relation to the Department of the Interior, concentrating as they did on matters relating to the Commonwealth electoral system, seem to emphasize - and rightly so - the feeling that is fairly general in the community that the electoral system requires considerable review. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) will honour the promises that were implicit in his statements on this matter, and ensure that at least some of the proposed reforms are given legislative effect before the end of this Parliament.
The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) emphasized the need to simplify the Senate voting system to reduce the number of informal votes that are cast. That matter has been discussed, and the same view has been held strongly, for at least ten or fifteen years. I believe that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) suggested that the names of the political parties should appear on the ballot-papers. [ remember that that suggestion was pui forward seriously, and was widely discussed. 20 to 25 years ago. As these points have been stressed so frequently and for so long, we can well understand the impatience of the community when the Parliament is so slow in making changes. We have reached a point when we must give up the nineteenthcentury fiction that individuals are elected to Parliament. Parties are elected to Parliament. The voter, when he receives his ballot-paper, has a right to know for which party he is voting. 1 think that the remarks about these detailed matters which have been stressed in the committee
– The honorable member does not believe in any internal freedom in the party!
– Of course 1 do, and nothing to the contrary is suggested in my remarks. The interjection is based on an illogical interpretation of what I said. The comments that have been made stress the need for change.
I should like to make a reference to the location of electoral boundaries, which. I think, probably calls for reform during the life of this Parliament more than does any other electoral matter. The redistribution of electoral boundaries, which took place during the life of the last Parliament, produced a situation in which the Australian Labour party would require to win 54 per cent, of the votes in the Commonwealth in order to win 5 1 per cent, of the seats. I think it is true that the Labour party failed, at the 1955 election, to win five or six seals for no other reason than this. Serious defects like this in our electoral system - there are defects in Queensland under ;i Labour government and defects in South Australia under an anti-Labour government - should ‘ not be allowed in a democratic country. I think, therefore, that the stress that rightly has been given to these matters in the course of this discussion should be sufficient to encourage the Minister to go ahead and carry out these reforms of the Electoral Act.
I wish, now. to make reference to a matter which, as I discovered only a few moments ago, is under the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior. Some time ago, we became aware of the great damage done to the countryside by water run-off - not only that which occurs in serious floods such as those we have experienced recently. but also ordinary run-off in normal rainfall years. The problems of floods such as those which have occurred in recent months in the Murray River valley, undoubtedly have their source in, first, an extremely high rainfall year, and, secondly, the damage done to the surface over the years by what has been called “ mining “ the land either for pastoral purposes or by the removal of timber. In the English-speaking world, this problem has been recognized more extensively in the United States of America than anywhere else. In that country, a great deal of statistical information, which has taken years to obtain, is available in respect of land which is similar to much of our land. Some weeks ago 1 asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Mr. Casey) whether this information was available in Australia and, if it were not, whether steps would be taken to make sure that it was obtained as soon as possible. The Minister answered by saying first that the matter was the responsibility of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and that, as he felt that the organization was in touch with everything connected with the problem and did a first-class job, it would have been looked after. Then, some little time later, I was informed that it was not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization at all and that the Minister was not quite sure whose responsibility it was. But I was very pleased to receive, under to-day’s date, a supplementary answer which states that this matter is the responsibility of the Bureau of Meteorology, which is in the Department of the Interior.
The answer tells me that -
The collection and interpretation of such data over short periods has been undertaken in isolated instances to facilitate the design of engineering works on rivers. In general, however,-
And it is the general problem to which I am directing my remarks, because it is the general problem that is of national importance - there has been no systematic collection of such data partly because of the physical difficulties and the vast cost of such a project and the limited demand for such information which has here 0fore existed.
All of that is only too apparent. If the answer has reference, to money, there must of necessity be a limited money demand for this kind of thing. As one might expect it is the kind of demand that would come only from people sufficiently long-sighted to see the problem that is developing in our own country before our eyes, for it is not only the sudden downpour of a high rainfall year that produces it.
The answer to my question states that the Minister for the Interior has indicated that the early establishment of a hydrometeorological section within the Bureau of Meteorology has been under consideration and planning for some little time past, and that a further announcement on the subject may be anticipated at a reasonably early date. I hope that, if the section is established, it will not concentrate solely upon gathering in Australia, by means of research and observation, statistics which are necessary to be able to form a proper plan of prevention and development, but also will take advantage of the accumulated information that is available in respect of the Tennessee Valley and the Mississippi Valley schemes in the United States of America. That, obviously, would require sending to the United States some members of the staff of the new section, and this, no doubt, could be considered.
The final reference I want to make in the course of my contribution to this section of the Estimates concerns the Department of Works and relates to a similar principle to the one I have just discussed concerning the establishment of a hydrometeorological section in relation to the damage done by water run-off. I refer now to the planning and investigation of road construction. . I understand that the Department of Works employs certain staff and has certain facilities which are already devoted to this matter. However, in Australia this is not only an engineering matter but also one of economics. It is. too, a matter of attempting to design the type of departmental and administrative structure which is necessary to overcome the peculiar constitutional and financial difficulties that are present in’ Australia. In no other country, I should think, do these constitutional and financial difficulties represent the kind of problem that they represent in Australia. They originate, of course, with the location of uniform taxation Under the control of the
Commonwealth, and also the location under the control of the Commonwealth, through the Australian Loan Council, of something like absolute control over the raising and disposal of loan funds. This means that for all practical purposes the initiation of plans, if they are to be carried out, must be located where the provision of finance originates. It is not of much use to pass the buck as did the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to-day when, in reply to a question, he said that the retrenchment of expenditure by the Education Department of Western Australia was solely the responsibility of the Western Australian Government. That was not a fair or accurate answer. The control exercised by the Commonwealth over the raising of revenue and its disbursement to the States, and over economic policy, means that the Commonwealth Government has a very considerable share of the responsibility and the Western Australian Government does not possess the determining balance of power in relation to expenditure upon capital construction.
It seems to me that the Department of Works, as it operates at present, is on a far too narrow basis. If one looks at the Estimates, one finds that this department is one of the less important Commonwealth departments. Most of its activities are concerned with repairs and maintenance and construction work for other Commonwealth departments. Whether that is the result of deliberate decision over the years or of a series of accidents is at least an open question; it seems to me that most likely the series of accidents explanation is the correct one. I feel that the Department of Works has a particular responsibility in relation to roads, and that it must discharge that responsibility either in the exercise of an overall planning function in co-operation with the States and municipal authorities or through some form of statutory authority or directorate.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I, too, should like to address my remarks to the electoral system. This is one matter that should not be discussed along party lines. I agree with much of what was said by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). We desire to have candidates who represent the people’s choice elected to
Parliament completely free from any bias or any incidents that might favour one side or the other. What we want is a fair election; anything that is not completely fair is objectionable to democratic people. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) suggested that to include the name of the party beside the name of the contestant is in line with modern thinking. At first sight, that seems to be a reasonable suggestion. While it would seem quite reasonable, at a Senate election, to state clearly the name of the party concerned, it would be fraught with grave danger, because there is no copyright on party names. For example, it would be possible to have independent candidates representing themselves to be endorsed Australian Country party candidates. I am not speaking from a party viewpoint when I say that a big problem has arisen in relation to the Australian Labour party from which, unfortunately, splinter groups have been formed. That could lead to great confusion. I think it would be definitely in the interests of the Labour party not to print the names of the parties. If they were stated, there could be the names of the official Labour party, the official Democratic Labour party, and the official anti-Communist Labour party. The same thing could happen to the Australian Country party.
– Those names distinguish them.
– But there is no copyright. I was merely stating it from the Labour angle. The same thing could happen in relation to the Government parties. For example, in the Victorian Government, there is the LiberalCountry party and the Country party, and in the federal sphere there is the Liberal party. Great confusion is caused in Victoria because there are LiberalCountry party candidates as well as Country party candidates. Of course, Country party supporters generally are intelligent people; the only point is that there are not quite enough of them. They may not make the mistake to which I am directing attention, but other people might do so. I suggest that, although the idea seems to be quite reasonable, it is fraught with considerable danger.
This afternoon I wrote to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) suggesting that the space where the figures are written on the ballot-papers should be hatched. By hatching, I mean that the space should be enclosed with very light lines or light spotting. I think every effort should be made to ensure that the candidates and the parties concerned have complete confidence in the elections. Anything that destroys confidence is unhealthy. I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) that electoral officials should be completely trained. I suggest that the rules with which they must comply should be printed in duplicate, that they should initial each rule, that the initialled copy should be sent to the divisional returning officer, and that they should not be paid if that copy is not in his hands before the election. I have known a number of cases where the persons in charge of the booths were not competent or were not fully aware of the tasks that they were supposed to perform.
Elections must be completely above suspicion. I mention that because, recently, a large number of persons in the New South Wales division of Young, in which I reside, have received cards asking them why they had not voted when, in fact, they had cast absentee votes. The whole thing might be completely above board, but that was grossly unfair to supporters whose votes might not have been counted and also to the present sitting member, who is a Labour man. It is possible for mistakes to occur, and this is a mistake indeed. Apparently an inquiry has been conducted and everything has been said to be properly in order, but some of the constituents are by no means satisfied. The only thing that will satisfy them will be the production of the signed envelopes that contained the absentee votes of those persons who made statutory declarations, together with their signatures. I repeat that the constituents of the division of Young are not satisfied that the election was conducted correctly. Everything might be in order, tout unless the envelopes, are produced, these people will not be satisfied that the inquiry that has been conducted by the New South Wales Government has been satisfactory. This is one of the unfortunate things that must be eliminated from elections. We do not want mistakes to occur in parliamentary elections.
The honorable member for Lilley and two or three other honorable members from Queensland have recommended the adoption of the Queensland State election voting hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. One of the reasons advanced in support of the recommendation was that to do so would speed up collation of the results. As one who never knows the results of an election for fourteen days, and whose nerves, fortunately, are fairly calm, the present hours do not cause any great worry to me. I do not think the earlier closing hour would suit persons in the country, because they watch the sun and not the clock. Before he accepts any advice, I ask the Minister to give detailed consideration to the questions of an earlier closing hour other than, of course, in relation to the sale of liquor.
I agree entirely with the remarks of the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). I feel that better consideration and a better opportunity to object to electoral boundaries should be given. I was away when the last redistribution occurred, and I found later that attached to the electorate that I represent was a subdivision which included persons whose interests lay well away from my electorate. They have no contact whatsoever with other parts of my electorate. All of their interests lie in Bathurst. They are close to Bathurst. Their telephone calls, mail and goods go to Bathurst. They have no interest in the seat of Hume. I do not say that they are surly about being included in the Hume division but they are decidedly not particularly happy about it. How they became attached to Hume, I do not know. Incidentally, their votes are adverse to me. They are very nice people, but they do not feel that in Hume they are getting the best representation. As their interests lie to the north, they would rather deal with the north. There must be confidence in the system of parliamentary government and in elections, and one must feel that he is correctly allotted to a particular division. A great deal can be done to improve our parliamentary system by improving the Electoral Act and particularly by tightening electoral laws, because we are in an unhappy position if any suspicion exists. It would be disastrous if the candidate who won a seat were not sure that his opponents were confident that the election had been completely on the square.
.- I join with other honorable members in their comments on the Electoral Branch. I compliment the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who administers the electoral law, for remaining in the chamber while this important debate is proceeding. I agree with much but not all that has been suggested by the honorable members who preceded me. I should like to comment on various aspects that they have raised. 1 . agree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) that the system of counting r, / polling centres should not be altered. ] disagree with the view of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) that the officers who do the counting at polling places are not competent. My experience over many years has been that the men who control the polling places are very fair and competent. The polling place is the right place at which the votes should be counted. The present system is expeditious, ind it is important that it should be. I also heard a rumour about a reclassification of the offices of divisional returning officers. I hope that there will be no degrading of any of these important offices. In each federal division there is a divisional returning officer, with an assistant or a clerk. They perform a very important function in the community and their status should be uplifted rather than degraded. If there i» consideration of their positions, I hope that there will be no interference with their status.
I disagree with the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) regarding redistribution. Redistribution of electorates should be based on democratic principles, with observance of the one man one vote rule. If that principle had been observed, it is quite possible that the members of the Government may not be sifting where they are at the present time. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has said. Labour, in order to form an Australian government, requires 54 per cent, of the votes. Any distribution that brings about that condition is unfair, at least, and undemocratic. I disagree with the system of distribution that prevails in South Australia. A candidate should be elected to represent people and not areas. The principle of one man one vote does not apply in area representation. It seems to me to be ironical that in South Australia an electorate quota of 10.000 persons is necessary to elect a member to one electorate, while in another a quota of fewer than 4,000 persons is required. That, in my opinion, is rather lopsided democracy. >
– That is in respect of State elections.
– it operates also in the federal sphere.
– Not like that, not so badly.
– At present, Labour requires 54 per cent, of the votes to win a federal election. In my opinion, that is a negation of democracy. The act should be so perfected that it would not matter whether the members of an electoral redistribution commission had a bias one way or another. Redistribution should be in terms of a tightened act, which would not allow members of a commission to show their favour in any electorate, as it is obvious they do under the present distribution.
Mention was made of the number of informal votes cast at the last election and also at previous elections, when the percentage was even higher. I have examined the figures, which show a disgraceful state of affairs. The right to vote on a democratic franchise is supposed to be one of our great freedoms and I deplore any abuse of it. In New South Wales, in the election for the Senate, there were over 166,000 informal votes, and for the House of Representatives 49,000 informal votes. Nearly ten out of 100 persons who went to the polling booths made an informal vote for the election ot senators. The position was even worse in Victoria, there being 184,000, or 15 per cent., informal votes for the Senate, and 36,000 informal votes for the House of Representatives. Queensland recorded the most intelligent vote, there being only 4 per cent, informal votes.
– There were two informal votes cast in the recent election of the Deputy Leader of the Liberal party in this Parliament.
– Then I suppose we must excuse some electors, if the intelligentsia cannot do better than that. Informal votes cast in South Australia represented 9 per cent., and in Western Australia 10 per cent, of the poll. Tasmania presents an interesting picture from a comparative point of view. In that State 21,000 persons, or 12 per cent, of the electorate, voted informally. In Victoria, 184,000 persons voted informally and so received no representation, but in Tasmania a total of 167.000 persons voted and they are represented by five members and ten senators, lt is a. rather shoddy democracy thai produces results of that sort. In my opinion, those results make our democracy look, to some degree, farcical.
The method of voting should be examined. I agree with the honorable memfor Petrie, who said all the persons responsible for our voting systems, both Federal and State, should be called together to examine the position and try to evolve a uniform system that will give a better result for democracy. In some Stales we have preferential voting, in others, proportional voting. Queensland has the “ first past the post “ system, and Tasmania the Hare-Clark system. We have a variety of systems operating in one State, proportional voting for the State election, . preferential voting for Commonwealth elections, and in local government elections votes are recorded by crosses placed alongside the names of the candidates, and not even by figures. It is quite easy to understand why informal votes are cast at elections when there are so many systems, even within the State boundaries. All these authorities should be called together. Let us see whether we can produce a better method of voting. I believe that the federal system is satisfactory in many ways.
One aspect of the matter to which I wish to refer concerns postal voting. Even in the case of postal voting, variations occur. In New South Wales, in order to lodge a postal vote in the State election, one has to make application several days before polling closes. One has to be visited by what is called an “ electoral visitor “, who registers one’s vote. I believe that the federal system of postal voting is satisfactory. It is simple. Under this system, any elector can witness the ballot-paper. A husband can witness a wife’s paper, or vice versa. I believe that every one should be able to vote, but postal voting closes at 6 p.m. on the day preceding the ballot. I think that provision could easily be made for the lodging of postal votes on the day of the ballot. If one has to work after 6 p.m. on the Friday before the date of the ballot, and if one is too sick to be taken to the polling booth in a motor car or other vehicle’ on that day, one is disfranchised. I think that provision should be made for the genuine person who wishes to lodge a postal vote on the day of an election to fill in an application and receive a ballot-paper on that day as he could on any other occasion.
I agree, too, with the suggestion that was made concerning the indication of political parties on the ballot-paper. We live under a system of party politics, with which I agree, and people usually wish to vote for a party and not for an individual. 1 believe that this state of affairs should be recognized by indicating each candidate’s party on the ballot-paper. The rigid rules that obtain within the polling booths should be relaxed so that a person who wishes to vote for a certain party may obtain information as to which candidate supports that party. Every assistance should be given to the voter in this respect.
I agree with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr, Wight), that the hours of voting should be between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. All the people who have to do work on polling day in connexion with the elections should be considered - both the party workers outside the polling booths and people inside them. On election day, some of the inside workers are occupied for as long as sixteen hours, and I think that their remuneration is not as adequate as it should be. The hours of voting, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., date from the time of federation, and I think that conditions, in many other respects, have improved very much since then. We have a shorter working week, and better travelling facilities. It is now easy for any person to vote before 6 p.m. Very few people work more than eight hours a day. I think that the number of hours during which polling booths remain open should be reduced. All the authorities in the Commonwealth that are concerned in this matter should meet with the object of reducing the number of hours during which votes may be cast to a uniform level. The States should be requested to come into line with the Commonwealth. With easy travelling facilities and postal voting, there is no reason why any person would miss a vote if the polling booths were to close at 6 p.m.
I believe that facilities inside the polling booths should be made better than they are. I do not blame the divisional returning officers for the lack of facilities. 1 believe that it should be made a condition of use of premises as a polling booth that they should contain fluorescent lighting. Sometimes, a polling booth is very dark. People who are old and whose eyesight is not as good as it used to be cannot see the ballotpaper inside some of the darkened rooms that are used at polling places. Also, I think that the cubicles that are being used to-day are the ones that were built at the commencement of federation. Black paint must have been cheap at that time because these cubicles still have their dark colour. It would assist people to read the ballot-papers if the cubicles were painted white instead of black.
The table on which one writes on one’s ballot-paper and the pencil which is provided for that purpose should be kept in good condition. The last time that I went to vote for myself - an occasion on which 1 did not want to cast an informal vote - I pressed on the pencil and it bogged down in a hole in the table. This made the number that I wrote illegible, and I got another ballot-paper. I would not risk using the first paper that I had been given. That is a simple thing that could happen to any one. The table on which one fills in one’s ballot-paper should be absolutely smooth. That is one of the things that should be attended to. The cubicles should be wider and every assistance should be given to voters in order to avoid the casting of the colossal number of informal votes that is usually cast. Over 500,000 people voted informally at the last federal election, and I feel that is a disgrace.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, my object in rising this afternoon is to make one or two observations on the Estimates of the Department of the Interior. At the outset. 1 should like to express my appreciation of the work of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who has been in office for only nine months. I should like to congratulate him on the manner [hat he has displayed so far in dealing with a compendious and difficult department - one which, according to what I have read in the press, has been so often regarded as a graveyard of men wishing to make a career in this place. From what we have seen of the Minister and his activities and his approach to the administration of his department. I would think that he shows far more of the spirit of the resurrection than that of death. I hope that, during the remainder of his term of office, which I trust will be a very long one, he will be able to bring about many reforms which honorable members on both sides of the chamber desire.
I wish to appeal to the Minister this afternoon, to use his constructive powersand imagination to help members of this Parliament solve a practical problem in trying to do a duty which - let us be honest - is neglected by nearly all of us, concerning Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory. It seems to me that one of the curious paradoxes of our parliamentary life is that most Ministers and private members remain in Canberra for the least possible time. We are glad to go. We are reluctant to return. I think you will agree, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that this is bad for the Territory, and, in the long run, it is bad for members themselves. Canberra, surely, is the only capital city in the world which is inhabited very often during the weekend, and certainly through the various recesses, by two Ministers, and sometimes only one Minister, and scarcely any members of Parliament at all. Elsewhere, as the committee must realize, most Ministers have either houses of their own, or official residences that are provided for them. That is frequently the case in European countries.
I imagine that it should come to be regarded as a concomitant of office that Ministers certainly should live for the greater part of the year in the federal capital. Diplomatists, university staffs and civil servants all have to remain, but the people who make the laws and who are responsible for the ultimate decisions, disappear.
The effects of this unwise living have long been apparent. There is, as we all are aware, an increasing and undue personal strain on Ministers and private members alike. Evidence of this can be seen in the ageing countenances of Ministers on the treasury bench, and of those who belong to the shadow cabinet of the Opposition, and in the fast-ebbing youth of those of us who try to adorn the back benches. Another effect is the ignorance shown by many members - in this connexion I say nothing of Ministers - of the Australian Capital
Territory and its numerous problems. Those of us who try to spend a little additional rime in Canberra have been shocked by the horrible mistakes that have been made over the years in its development, and by the lack of pride in which could be one of the most beautiful cities of the world if only imagination and vision were allied to its natural surroundings. I think many honorable members would agree also that insufficient money is voted by this Parliament, irrespective of which administration is in office, for public buildings on a scale, and of a quality and artistry, demanded by the capital of a continent.
These mistakes could be remedied, in part at any rate, by inducing members to stay in Canberra for prolonged periods while the two Houses of the Parliament are in session. This afternoon, I want to suggest to the Minister for the Interior that the Government could help readily and practically by taking two steps. First, it could provide official residences for, say, ten of the senior or most important Ministers, together with the Leader of the Opposition. The fact that the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has a house of his own here, of course, is quite beside the point. His successor may well be without that convenience. The Ministers I have in mind include the Treasurer, the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for Trade, the Minister for Territories, the Attorney-General and, of course, the Minister for the Interior. One could think of others.
The second suggestion I have to make is that, in addition to providing houses for senior Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition, the Government should build flats for senators and members in this chamber. I suggest that they should be furnished and of various sizes. Some should be small to accommodate those who have no children or those in the older age group whose children have grown up. Others should be much larger for those of us who are younger and have young and growing families, and who still take pride in some of the best joys of life. I suggest that these flats should be let at reasonable, but nonetheless economic rentals, to members who desire them. The number of flats I have in mind as a commencement is 50. If the demand should prove to be in excess of that number when they have been com pleted, it would be comparatively simple to construct additional ones. I observe that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, have spent a number of week-ends in Canberra, and thereby set an example to many honorable members. As you may know, many flats are now being built in various parts of Canberra. We are aware of the large blocks now being constructed at Civic Centre. There are also others of a smaller and less attractive kind in the vicinity of the Australian Forestry School, and no doubt there will be others built in the future. I suggest to the Minister that, as a start, he consider attempting to persuade his ministerial colleagues to sanction his buying some of the flats which are now being constructed at Civic Centre. As those of us who have examined them know, they are small and not very suitable, but nonetheless they would be large enough for temporary residences for a number of members for a few weeks at a time. However, a better approach would be for the Government to build groups of flats specially designed for members and their needs.
– Would they be serviced flats?
– The honorable member is asking for a lot.
– I am not asking that they should be. I am asking whether they would be.
– I am very much in favour of that convenience, but let us have the ordinary flats built first.
I ask the Minister to apply his mind directly to this problem. As I have said before, he is new to his office, but he has shown that he has constructive powers. It is no answer to say that funds are not available at the present time. My proposal could probably be put into effect for £250,000, if £10,000 were taken as the cost of a ministerial residence, and £150,000 as the cost of a block of flats for senators and members. The rentals to be charged for both houses and flats could be such as to give an adequate and reasonable return on capital and to make proper provision for maintenance. Therefore there would be very little charge to the taxpayers. But even if there were a slight burden on them, surely the benefits of better administration, keener thinking on the part of all of us,
And more intelligent development of the
Australian Capital Territory, would be so immeasurable as to make this one of the wisest and most far-sighted investments that this Government could ordain.
. -I am not anxious to intrude on this debate for any great length of time, but I consider that one or two comments that have been made should be dealt with at this juncture. I am sensitive to the fact that most of the debate this afternoon has centred on the functioning of the electoral law. As honorable members are doubtless aware, there is in progress at the present time a review of the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act so that it may be amended in due time. Already I have had extended to the general public an invitation to submit their ideas, views, and criticisms in relation to the act. To those views - which 1 may say are quite voluminous - I shall be very glad to add the suggestions that have been made here this afternoon. To them all will be applied the very great and lengthy experience of the officers of the Department of the Interior engaged in the administration of the electoral law. From their study, enlightened by their experience, I hope that we shall produce an amended act that will accord with, at least in major part, the views which have been expressed here this afternoon. [ am sorry that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) has found it necessary, while saying some kind words, to put before me what is in present circumstances - I repeat “ in present circumstances “ - a suggestion that it is almost impossible to act upon. I agree with much of what he <aid about the provision in Canberra of accommodation for Ministers and other members of the Parliament. I think such accommodation might do much to encourage them to remain and perhaps spend more time here in the mental exercise of wrestling with those problems which are brought to the attention of members of the Parliament. The honorable member for Angas will not be unaware, from practical experience, that many members feel obliged to return to their electorates at the week-end, because this is the only time when they can get on side, personally and intimately, with the problems of their electorates.
But there is another important aspect of this question which calls for attention. Unhappily, in times gone by, when we set out to build a national capital, we made thefatally easy mistake of deciding to have something, but of not accepting the implications of that decision. We decided to build here a garden city, and it was laid out toan excellent plan. It is my view, however, that that plan has become somewhat frozen, and at this stage is in need of review - not a basic review, but of some review in thelight of changing circumstances. But the implication of the decision, which has never been accepted by any government, is that if a garden city is to be built a lot of money must be laid out in the provision of services, and a considerable sum added to the cost of homes because of the extended nature of the engineering services that must be provided. Inevitably, the result is to produce a city that sprawls on the outskirts, and this adds, to the cost - a vastly increased individual cost - of providing engineering services. The fact must be kept in mind that Canberra is a working-class city - I hate to use the term - in which the major industry is public administration. Although the average salary may be higher than that existing in most other places, nothing alters the fact t,’i£i adequate thought must still be given io ihe cost of housing, so that meeting it comes, within the capabilities of the average income in Canberra.
Unfortunately, the need for centralizing administration here marches ahead of the provision of housing, and to-day in Canberra 3,500 people needing houses are on the waiting list, of whom perhaps 2,000 or 2,500 have an immediate need of accommodation. I suggest that serious thought may be given to the very worth-while proposal raised by the honorable member for Angas. I assure him that it will not be forgotten, but at the. present time I feel that priorities do not favour that particular scheme.
Two points were raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). In the first, he pursued the proposal that the Government should establish in Australia a bureau of hydro-meteorology. I am sure that the honorable member will be pleased to know that for some time past the underlying basis of such a service has been considered by the Director of Meteorology, who is particularly keen. hope that in time the Government will be able to make an announcement on the development of that sort of service. After all, it is only an extension of the work of the Meteorological Branch of the Department of the Interior, The honorable member who, obviously, has perused the Estimates with care, will have seen that a good deal of money is being provided for modern instrumentation in the Meteorological Branch, and this will improve to a large extent the radar equipment used to issue storm warnings and for weather forecasting generally. All of these things will fit into the picture of providing improved meteorological data throughout Australia. ‘
In recent years, a demand has arisen for much more detailed information about rainfall, run-off and absorption of various soil types. Most of this, in the past, has been required for the design of engineering works on various Australian rivers. I instance as perhaps the best example of the need for hydro-meteorological data, the work of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. A great deal of data of this kind had to be collected before it was known where dams ought to be built, what sort of dams should be constructed and what was the probable behaviour of streams. 1 hope that honorable members will realize the magnitude of the task that must be undertaken. It is true that certain lessons can be learned from the large amount of work done by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and from other undertakings where a great deal of technical information has been gathered together, but it must be remembered that each river, in any country, and particularly in Australia, presents its own hydro-meteorological problems. Each river is an entity of itself and whatever is done at one part of the river immediately reflects on the behaviour in the rest of it.
Honorable members will appreciate how wide would have to be the service if an attempt were made to attack the vast question of the behaviour of each one of our Australian rivers, all of which, in recent years, in their cycles have flooded and caused great damage. I believe that by a suitable analysis of the data available, and a concentration on those streams which have the greatest influence on the economy of this country, or that have been prone to cause the greatest damage over a period. it might be possible, through a worthwhile hydro-meteorological service, to obtain information that will be valuable for flood mitigation.
Arising out of the 1955 floods, I have made a particular study of this problem because the Hunter River, in my electorate in New South Wales, has been flooding consistently during the last five or six years. I had a hand in the establishment of a private research foundation that has devoted its attention to the behaviour of this river, and already it has gone some distance in investigating the problem. From that practical experience, I am well aware of the vast amount of labour involved, as well as the amount of experimentation and cost ‘ involved in research work of this kind if a good job is to be (‘one. 1 suggest that it ought to be done, and I assure honorable members that it will be done if it is possible - and I see no insuperable difficulties - but no miracles or early achievements should be expected from what will be, after all, only a collation of data valuable to the engineers.
The second point raised by the honorable member for Yarra was that of roads. He suggested that the Department of Works might make itself responsible in some way for national road programmes. The fact is. however, that under the Constitution, these matters lie in the field of State responsibility, and until the States abandon that responsibility by passing it over to the Commonwealth in terms which are acceptable to the Commonwealth, undeniably the major responsibility for the implementation of national road programmes must lie with the States. It is all too easy in this country to say that because matters of this kind are of a national character, the Commonwealth Government must take responsibility for them, but I urge the committee, in considering this and other matters of a similar character, to keep in mind the limitations of the Constitution.
However, that is not, by any means, the major issue with which I want to deal. The honorable member drew attention, quite rightly, to the difficulties that “have arisen from the uniform taxation system. In the better days gone by - and I use that expression advisedly - when the States were responsible for the collection of their own revenues, responsibility rested on them, and they had to do a job or be exposed to the chill winds of adverse public opinion. Unfortunately, the continuation of the uniform taxation system has merely given the States an umbrella under which they can hide almost every deficiency of their own administration. They have the ready-made excuse that the Commonwealth does not provide enough funds. Previously, I have pointed out that if the view is taken that the Commonwealth must provide additional funds, that view ought to be paraphrased in realistic terms and, since the Commonwealth gets its money from the taxpayers, it means that the taxpayers of Australia should provide more funds for this particular work. If people of this country are to have a national roads system, then they must be made aware of the implication that vast sums of money must be provided for this particular work. Now, in times gone by - and I speak of the period of this Government’s term of office - we have not only been faced with the need to underwrite the loan programmes of the States from Commonwealth revenue, we have not only given away the Commonwealth’s entitlement to 20 per cent, of loan raisings, but also from year to year we have supplemented the entitlements of the States under the income tax reimbursement formula by amounts which have progressively increased every year. This year those amounts will run into something like £19,000,000.
– This is the first rise for four years.
– lt has been maintained at £16,000,000 and is now being raised to £19,000,000, and it cannot be denied that for the last four years vast amounts of money that the Commonwealth is under no obligation to provide have been provided by it in order to finance the works programmes of the States.
– That is something the Chifley Labour Government never did.
– It is quite true that that practice began in this Government’s term of office. Anybody who considers this method used by the Commonwealth to help the States - the supplementary grants, the Commonwealth’s vacating of the loan market for the benefit of the works programmes of the States - would agree that the Commonwealth is entitled to have some reservations in respect of the responsibilities of the States in the expenditure of that money.
In the electorate which I have the honour to represent in this chamber there is a conservation dam under construction at the moment. The building of it began in 1946, when the estimate of cost was £1,500,000. The construction work will finish in another year and a half, by which time the cost will be £14,000,000.
– What dam is that?
– It is the Glenbawn dam. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) will know something about it, because he has been in the area. I do not overlook the fact - indeed, I take full cognizance of it - that the capacity of the dam has been doubled over that time, and that there has been a heavy increase in the costs which go into the construction of such projects, as we well know in the field of Commonwealth public works. My main concern is that, when it began, it began as a conservation dam to irrigate this area of highly productive land. Although the dam is within a year and a half of completion, pen has not been put to paper to design a reticulation scheme for the water that it will impound. So, we shall have a dam which will have cost £14,000,000, with an oversize tap which will let water run down the river as it has always run down the river. It is quite true that it will keep the river flowing for a little longer in particularly dry seasons but, speaking from my memory of the area, only on very rare occasions in recent years has the river stopped flowing. So here is £14,000,000 of public works moneys which will have been devoted to what is, in fact, a non-productive job. Therefore, every £1,000,000 of that £14,000,000 will prove to have been inflationary through the making of demands of man-power and materials at a time of great difficulty.
Now, I want to relate that subject back to the road programme about which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) spoke, because it seems to me that it is completely overlooked that the construction of State highways as integral parts of the national highway system is truly a public work of the very finest type. The construction of highways has this difference from the construction of some other public works - that every surfaced mile of public road in this country makes an immediate contribution to the fight against inflation, because it immediately becomes productive. Lt produces easier access, lower operating costs, lower transport costs and so on. I want ,to leave with the committee, for its consideration, the suggestion that some pressure might be exerted on the States to recast their works programmes as the Commonwealth, indeed, has been begging them to do for years past, and give greater priority to the more immediately productive services.
– I am surprised that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) should have engaged in, or been permitted to engage in, a debate on the works programme during consideration of the general Estimates. I am very strongly opposed to the views that the Minister put to us in relation to the expenditure of £14,000,000 on the Glenbawn dam which, the Minister said, will not prove to be a productive work. After having made that statement, the Minister went on to say that every mile of surfaced road laid down in Australia will play its part in lessening the impact of inflation. I want to tell the Minister that if that is the broad approach of the Government of which he is a member to the future of Australia, both in relation to transport and water conservation, then God help Australia. In respect of roads, I say to the Minister, quite frankly - and I shall prove it in another section of the debate on the Estimates - that if the Government looks at roads only from the transport point of view, it will run into exactly the same set of circumstances as the Minister claims apply to the dam he has mentioned - that is, the construction of roads will prove to be inflationary.
– I did not make that claim.
– Just a moment. The building of roads could increase inflationary pressure in this country. We had an illustration of that during the debate last week. Road hauliers between Sydney and Perth can have their vehicles loaded on to the railways, transported to Kalgoorlie with their drivers, and then unloaded, and drivers continue the journey by road. Will anybody in this chamber or in Australia suggest that millions of pounds should be poured into the building of highways of that character for that type of transport? I suggest, to the Minister that the Government should review its approach to our transport problems before the Minister gets up here and talks in the way he has talked this afternoon.
It is not often that I find myself in such vehement disagreement with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) as I do to-night. He spoke of the desirability of honorable members and Ministers remaining for long periods in this capital city. I believe that to have Ministers and members spending most of their time in Canberra would be a further -backward step in the progress of Australia. I think that one of the problems of government in Australia is thai Cabinet Ministers spend too much time in Canberra and lose touch with the ordinary people. I have said this on a number of occasions, and I believe my view on the matter to be absolutely correct.
– -I agree with the honorable member.
– I believe that if we ever reach the stage of building homes and flats in Canberra for members and Ministers we shall develop a framework of government that will put us out of touch with the people. If I had my way this Parliament would sit, and go into recess, for alternative fortnightly periods. Let us sit here for a fortnight, then go back to our electorates for the next fortnight and so keep in touch with our electors, instead of seeing them merely on every Saturday and Sunday of each week. In that way we would have a continuous process under which members would do the business of the country in this Parliament for a fortnight, and for the next fortnight would be back in their electorates and there be able to learn what the people were thinking of what we were doing in the Parliament. 1 put it to the honorable member for Angas that a week-end spent by a member in Canberra is a lost week-end, however it may be looked at. I am talking about national development of this country and the need to do something for the benefit of the people. I hope the day never arrives when this Government, or any other government, sets about a programme of homebuilding in Canberra designed to let federal* members come to live in the capital city and join in the garden-making set-up and so lose contact with the people - because that is undoubtedly what would happen if members of Parliament spent most of their time here.
I was astonished to hear the Minister for the Interior criticize the manner in which the States expend their money. I said something in this chamber not so long ago about expenditure on salaries of public -servants of the top level. I give the Minister for the Interior credit for paying some attention to the administration of his department and for remaining in the chamber during the debate, but I say to every Minister in the Cabinet that before they start to criticize the States for the way in which they spend their money they should have -a look at what has happened in regard to the salaries paid to departmental heads and other high public servants under the Commonwealth’s control. Let us look at what has happened in the Minister’s own department, the Department of the Interior. The eighteen top men in the administrative -section of the department, commencing with the secretary of the department, are the subject of proposed expenditure on salaries in this current year of an estimated amount of £39,602. The expenditure under the same head when this Government took office was £18,000. It seems to me that some ^people might have been favoured in the past. A good deal has been said to-day about the Electoral Branch. I agree with the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) that, if there is to be a reclassification of offices, let it be upwards, because the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth has not done so well over the period from 1949-50 to 1956-57 as have assistant secretaries in the administrative section of the Department of the Interior. In 1949-50j three assistant secretaries received an average salary of £1,286 per annum, whilst a chief electoral officer received £1.522, or £236 more than an assistant secretary. Evidently, there are plums for some. The -assistant secretaries to-day receive £2,813 and the electoral officer £2,958. The latter’s margin of £236. when this Government assumed office, has dropped to £145, according to the figures the Minister has presented to us in this document. Before the Minister talks about what happened in respect of works in New South Wales, the Glenbawn dam, and wastage of money, he should have a look at the Department of Works to see what happened in respect of administrative expenditure on the top level. In 1949-50, the year in which this Government assumed office, the total top level administration expenditure on works and housing was £142,211. If from that figure we deduct the expenditure of eight officers in the housing section the total for that year is £135,000. The expenditure in this year’s Estimates for the same group of officers under the administrative division has risen from £135,000 to £326,000 for the central administration. Yet, this Minister dares to condemn the States for the expenditure they incur.
The expenditure in New South Wales by the departments controlled by the Minister has grown from £173,000 in 1949-50 to a proposed vote of £517,000 in the current financial year. In Victoria and Tasmania it has grown from £160,000 for administrative purposes in 1949-50 to £470,000 in the current financial year. Those figures relate to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, the amount for housing having been subtracted. Somebody had said that honorable members should spend more of their time in Canberra, but it is time that honorable members and Ministers associated more with the general public and sought to understand the difficulties of the States instead of utterly condemning them for their activities. Instead of questioning the great contribution made to this nation by the States in the development of their rail transport systems, honorable members should contemplate just how little is being done from this capital city by this Government to develop rail transport in Australia. The features I have just mentioned will no doubt be further debated as the scope of this debate broadens. Anybody who spends his week-end here, whether it be a week-end lost, or enjoyed fishing in the trout streams, loses contact with events that happen day by day in the various States.
The States are confronted with gre:’i difficulties in their national development problems but this Government is shutting its eyes to those difficulties, as any government would that insists that Ministers remain in Canberra. What better can a Minister do than pay attention to the fact that road transport units are being hauled by rail. Notwithstanding the capital cost of the motor vehicle, the wages of the driver and other such costs, motor vehicles, in order that they might continue on their routes, are being hauled hundreds of miles by rail. What is the reason for this? For a sum of £40. or £50, rail haulage could be provided all the way and costs could be halved. What is happening to-day could then be avoided. The Minister tells us that every extra mile of bitumen road will help to combat inflation. That sort of information comes from a Minister who stays in this capital city. That sort of information should be disregarded if we want to go places in the building of this nation. The Minister also said that the ‘ taxpayers must pay for our road systems. I read an article to-day, written, 1 think, by the Premier of Victoria, who is not of the same political kidney as are honorable members on this side of the chamber, in which he advocates that petrol tax revenue be devoted exclusively to roads.
– The States ought to get it for that purpose.
– We agree that that should be the first step, and it would not mean an increase in taxation. It would mean a revision of what is being done by this Government to control loan finance as well as a consideration of the problems confronting the States. The financing of the transport system of Australia is beyond the capacity of the States and anybody who talks about the responsibility resting on the States is unAustralian in his approach to the problem.
A suggestion has been made that private enterprise should construct a toll road from Melbourne to Sydney, and the Minister has said that this could help to cure inflation. He suggests that we allow man-power and materials to be poured into that project, no doubt for the purpose of carrying chocolates and the like between these two capital cities, as was done during the recent floods at Wagga. He makes this suggestion in spite of the fact that the spending of a mere £25.000,000 or so would provide a swift train service between Melbourne and Sydney and also assist in checking inflation. If that is his approach, it is completely different from the one I think is necessary if we are going to develop Australia. A place exists in this country for every form of transport, whether it be air. rail, sea or land.
Before we contemplate any further heavy expenditure, let us undertake a planned approach to our transport problem and consider how best to spend the available money. We want to consider where money and materials can be best used so as to give an immediate return and thus reduce costs, i repeat that once we reach a stage in long haulage where we are prepared to load vehicles full of goods on trains, we tie up capital and man-power. We also take out of use vehicles that might well be used in other places where they could give greater service to the community and to the country.
If the Public Service Board is responsible for the increased expenditure disclosed in these papers, that has taken place since this Government assumed office, then the board should be overhauled. I know I have made that statement in this Parliament twice in a fortnight, but when one examines the increased cost of administration by this Government compared with that which obtained when Labour left office, one stands staggered at the cheek of such a government in criticizing the States for the manner in which they spend their money. After all. what does uniform taxation mean? The mere fact that the Commonwealth Government is the one tax collecting authority in Australia does not mean that the money it collects becomes the property of the Commonwealth Government. The money is still the property of the Australian people whether they live in New South Wales. Victoria, or in the Australian Capital Territory. The money should be expended on the level of what is best for all and not merely on the basis that roads and railways are the responsibilities of the States. Although boundaries exist between the States, unless we can look beyond those boundaries wc will never develop this nation in the way it should be developed and must redeveloped if we are to survive.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time has. expired.
.- In reply to the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), whoquoted figures to show that the expenditure for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works has increased during the last six years, I direct his attention to the proposed vote for this year. He argued that the States ought to be given more money, but I point out that in the present budget the Estimates for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works have hardly increased at all. There has been only a slight increase of Commonwealth expenditure, properly so-called, but payments by the Commonwealth to or for the States have gone up by £23,000,000, or by more than 10 per cent., and the amount -set aside in the loan and investment reserve for the States has gone up by about £46,000,000, or by 70 per cent. The Commonwealth has made the economies that have been possible. It will be remembered that in 1951, 10,000 Commonwealth public -servants were dismissed. I suppose that the majority of those people were employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department. That position has been held, as far as has been compatible with the growth of Australia.
I should have thought that the criticism would be to the effect that the Commonwealth is not spending enough. I refer the honorable member for Blaxland to statements made by his leader, who wants us to spend more money but to raise less. This year, the Commonwealth has shown prudence, but the States have enforced their demand for 10 per cent, more money than was granted last year. In addition, there has been an increase by 70 per cent, of the money set aside to supplement loan moneys, if loans fail to produce enough money for the States’ public works requirements. The spending authorities in this country are the States, as the budget shows conclusively. Their expenditure has increased greatly, but the Commonwealth has not increased its expenditure by very much. Probably, it ought to have increased it more than it has done. That, I think, is the answer to the honorable member for Blaxland.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) talked about this capital city. One thing to which we all ought to draw attention is that the only places in Canberra where we can see Australian colonial architecture properly portrayed are the Library and the lobbies of this building. I shall be going home at the week-end, because I like to get back to my electorate as often as possible, but if any honorable member who is staying here over the week-end spares the time to drive round the city he will see some outstanding examples of European, modernistic and other styles of architecture, but he will see no examples of Australian colonial architecture. We should deplore the fact that, although the Americans have built in this city some buildings that are fine examples of the American style of architecture known as Williamsburg colonial architecture, we have failed to dot the city with examples of Australian colonial architecture. There are some beautiful examples of that style in various parts of the country. One house on the road from Mugga Way to the suburb of Manuka is a very pleasing example of Australian architecture, but 1 do not think there are any others here. That is a great pity.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) has been congratulated on his handling of what is known as the graveyard department. I join in those congratulations. One of the problems that has been handed down to him, not so much by his predecessor as by the preceding government, relates to housing. It is a legacy from the theory known as Dedmanism, the exponents of which maintain that we do not want Australians to become a race of little capitalists. I suppose that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will deny that Mr. Dedman said that, and that we shall have to refer to the relevant passage in “ Hansard “. When this Government took office, a number of prefabricated houses, purchased by the Commonwealth, were on heavy transports careering round the country. Eventually, they were unloaded at a place on the south coast of New South Wales, where they were put to very good use indeed. But, unfortunately, the Commonwealth is not geared to be a house-owner. It cannot provide the services necessary for housing settlements. Opposition members, by their interjections, indicate that they do not agree with that statement. Look at what happened to the Commonwealth railways during the war. Everything stopped almost dead. It took at least six months to send one division of troops from the east to Western Australia, because the Commonwealth railways fell down on the job. The Commonwealth ought not to try to do such things. That supports my argument that it ought not to go in for housing. In the case to which I am referring, the Minister has inherited from the previous government an unhappy state of affairs. It is quite correct to say that the Department of the Interior is not geared to provide maintenance for its houses, because the houses that I am referring to are in a state of disrepair.
In the main, the provision or control of the services needed for a normal housing settlement is the responsibility of the local authority. Let us take roads as an example. In most Commonwealth-owned settlements, all the land belongs to the Commonwealth, and the local council has no power to go in and interfere with roads, kerbs, guttering or anything like that. That presents a problem. If the Commonwealth wanted to sell the houses, the local council could impose all sorts of conditions, which it would be very costly to comply with. It could insist that the roads, kerbs and guttering be brought up to a standard higher than that normally required when a subdivision is taken over by people who intend to use it for housing purposes.
In the case of the Dapto settlement - the one that I have in mind - there is a very serious drainage problem. Drainage problems will occur in any housing settlements built in low-lying areas. The houses in the Dapto settlement have been fitted for sewerage, but there is no sewerage service in the area yet. So the ordinary sullage runs from the houses, through a pipe down to the Prince’s Highway. I do not know whether the prince after whom that highway was named would like it, but a drain runs along the highway, through a populous part of the district. It is in a very bad condition. It should be fixed up, but when we try to do something about it we find that we are prevented from doing so by all sorts of factors over which the Government has no control. The State housing commission has proposals for a housing settlement, the State hospitals commission has a proposal for a hospital, baby-health centres are planned and new hotels are to be erected. The plans for the area are based on a population of 40,000, so we cannot proceed to put in a single drain for the Commonwealth housing settlement. We must cater for a larger population.
In the meantime, there is an open drain, in bad condition. It is a menace to the health of the people of the locality and a reproach to the Commonwealth. It is a legacy left to us by the previous govern- ment. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is smiling. He should not smile. He should regret that, as a Cabinet Minister, he agreed to the Commonwealth going in for housing when it was not geared to do so. This is a very serious problem. If we tried to put in a new drain, we should find that we were held up by other plans and proposals. Week by week and month by month, this festering, filthy drain menaces the health of the people of the area. It is the responsibility of the previous government, which established the housing settlement without making proper preparations for it. I have been informed by doctors who live in the area that one child nearly died as the result of an infection contracted from the drain, and there are periodic epidemics.
– For how long has the Commonwealth owned this drain?
– But the Commonwealth does not own the drain. As I have pointed out, it does not own the various services: Having established these houses on an area of land, the Commonwealth is faced with all sorts of difficulties. Perhaps the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who is a devoted socialist, can tell me how the Commonwealth can solve the problem. After putting the houses on a piece of land-
Mr. Whitlam. - I rise to a point of order. Is it in order for the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to challenge me to contravene the Standing Orders by interjecting? I could answer, conclusively, the question that he has asked, but you, sir, know that it would not be in order for me to reply by interjection.
– There is no point of order involved. However, I remind the honorable member for Macarthur that, during a consideration of the proposed votes before the committee he may not discuss the general position in relation to housing.
– Is it in order for me to discuss housing under the control of the Department of the Interior?
– Yes .
– Then I shall do so. I challenge the honorable member for Werriwa, and any other honorable member , opposite who subscribes to his ideology, and who would like to accept the challenge, to deny that Labour left it to this Government to handle the situation that I have described. One of Labour’s spokesmen has said that the Commonwealth Government, not the people, should own the houses. I believe that these houses ought to be sold. 1 appeal to the Government to sell them, and after doing so, never again to become the owner of houses in similar circumstances, because of the difficulties involved. The Commonwealth having built these houses, the Department of the Interior claims that it has not the equipment to maintain them. That is true. It cannot maintain them. Certainly, it cannot maintain the various services associated with the houses, such as roads, kerbing and guttering and, particularly in the low-lying areas, drainage. In any housing settlement, there must be drainage and sewerage services. As the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who is the Minister for the Army, and who has a wide knowledge of real estate business, knows very well, any one contemplating embarking on a housing proposition pays particular attention at the outset to drainage, sewerage, access and other important matters. A private person first gets the necessary approval from the council. But not the Commonwealth Government! The Labour government built these houses without worrying about drainage. Consequently, the present Government is now confronted with the situation that 1 have described.
– Is the honorable member now referring to the sewerage problem?
– Honorable members on the other side are becoming upset. They should learn a lesson from my remarks, and that is, that if ever Labour again becomes the government of this country, it should not go into housing. I hope the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) will visit Dapto in order to see for himself the conditions that I have mentioned. This is the point of collision of our ideologies. 1 am quite aware that it is very odious to the Labour party to be reminded of these things. The honorable member for Bennelong has often referred to the importance of the private ownership of houses, but pride of ownership cannot exist in the circumstances I have described. I should like the honorable member for Bennelong to remember that the City Council has already lost more money on its housing than it has earned.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- I would like to refer to the Estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation. Honorable members will see that, this year, expenditure on the department is to be £8,747,000 and that against this there are to be air navigation charges of £484,000. The department provides an interesting case study of the sort of anomaly that exists in our Federal-State financial pattern. It is an example of the Commonwealth doing one thing openly while chiding the States for attempting to do the same kind of thing in regard to their public utilities. Aviation ought to be regarded as a public utility, just as are the railways or the electricity undertakings of the States; but it is being subsidized by more than £8,000,000 annually. This is not clearly defined as government policy.
The matter was considered by the Public Accounts Committee, and reported upon in its twenty-fourth report. The witnesses who represented the department were careful to point out to the committee that in their view aviation had a defence potential. It has been suggested on this side of the chamber that, equally, railways might be said to have a defence potential but that, unfortunately, the States cannot subsidize them in the same way.
When it was pointed out that air navigation charges met only about 6 per cent, of the department’s total expenditure the committee was told that it must take into account the fact that the Commonwealth Government derives about £800,000 annually from taxation on aviation fuel. The clear implication was that all revenue collected from aviation ought to be put back into aviation. I realize, of course, that this has never been stated as government policy and that the department’s representatives cannot commit the Government on policy, but the implication is clear. Certainly, that argument is not allowed to the States in relation to the spending of petrol tax revenue on roads. This Government will never concede that all the petrol tax collected from the users of the roads ought to be spent on the roads. We are told that the taxation derived from petrol used for road transport purposes is, partly, at any rate, to be regarded as ordinary federal revenue, but it is clear that taxation derived from petrol used for aviation is regarded as something to be used for recouping government expenditure on civil aviation. Different arguments are used according to whether the finances of the States or of the Commonwealth are being discussed.
This anomaly is similar to that created by the fact that kerosene which is used in a number of the newer types of aircraft bears very little tax. To the extent to which aviation companies are using planes that are run on kerosene they are evading their contribution - perhaps theoretical - to federal revenue, because they are paying less petrol tax. When this was put to the department’s representatives, they said that the matter was under review by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden).
It is about time that we got an answer on some of these matters that have, been referred to the Treasurer. My colleague, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has consistently pointed out the anomaly that is created by the absence of a tax on diesel fuel, which is increasingly used by motor vehicles. The Government accepts the existence of this anomaly, but has done nothing about it and in the meantime the revenue has suffered. A similar position is occurring in civil aviation. The more that the newer type of fuel is used in aeroplanes, the less petrol tax is paid and the greater is the Government’s contribution to meet the difference between expenditure and revenue.
Australia is ideally suited for air travel, and there is no doubt that this means of transport is increasingly used. Australia is great in extent, and our population is largely spread around the perimeter of the continent. Consequently, air travel is a great boon. Notwithstanding all this, it is not the only form of travel. In fact, one would probably find that more people still use the State railways than use the airways or any other form of transport, but every air traveller is subsidized to a considerable degree because of the £8,000,000 difference between departmental expenditure and revenue. A loss of that kind, occurring in the accounts of the State railways, would be called a deficit. Because it is shown in this particular way in the Commonwealth’s accounts, it is regarded quite differently. Surely the people of the States should be allowed to decide through their Parliament that they shall run their railways at a loss if this is necessary for developmental purposes, or because they have a defence potential; but that choice is denied them. The amount of revenue that they must contribute including the sum required to make good transport losses is determined largely by what this Government allows to the States after it has provided for its own undertakings, of which civil aviation is one.
In addition to the subsidy of £8,747,000, something like £5,000,000 is being provided from Commonwealth revenue for capital works relating to civil aviation. Again there is a choice open to this Government, but there is not a choice open, for example, to the Victorian railways. If the Victorian Railways Department needs to increase its capital or increase its works programme, it has to get whatever allocation it can from the Australian Loan Council and pay interest on that money at the rate of 5£ per cent., 5£ per cent, or whatever the rate may be. Then that interest becomes a charge passed on to the users of the railway service.
The time has now come when these loose ends in our governmental framework must be carefully examined. If our civil aviation service can be run at a loss, as it is in fact run at a loss, what is to be done about railways? If the railways were run at the same loss as is suffered by civil aviation, it would be said that the railways were running at a deficit of £8,000,000, which is a substantial sum even to-day. The Victorian railways is an undertaking which, I believe, is far bigger than our civil aviation service, and when it runs at a deficit of £5,000,000 a year that is regarded as a sin. If civil aviation runs at a great deficit, apparently it is regarded as a virtue - or maybe a necessity. But that sort of thing is not making for good relationships between the States and the Commonwealth.
Civil aviation is a modern form of transport which appears to be required by our citizens. The railway is an older form of transport, but is still needed even in this age in which we live. Both aviation and railways are essential, and both should be treated in the same way. However, because of the gravitation of financial power from the States to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth is able to plot a clear path for itself without worrying at all about financial considerations; but the path that is pursued by the States is circumscribed to a great degree by what the Commonwealth will allow them to do. That is not a healthy sign for the continuance of the federal system in Australia. If we are realistic about things, we must agree that the federal system will last for a considerable time yet; but if it is to last and if it is to function for the general welfare of the people, whether they be members of local government organizations or States, or citizens of the great Commonwealth, it cannot function unless this kind of financial anomaly is removed.
Aviation is subsidized by all the taxpayers of Australia to the tune of at least £8,000,000 a year. Those people who use the air services receive that benefit from all the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. But the Commonwealth taxpayers do not subsidize the users of other forms of transport in the States, because State transport services are matters for the States themselves and that is a distinct anomaly. There is also an anomaly in the fact that the Commonwealth says to the States in effect, “ You cannot have, for expenditure on the roads, all the revenue from the petrol tax collected from the owners of road vehicles, but receipts from the tax on aviation spirit should be regarded as an offset to the cost of aviation “. In other words, the Commonwealth is applying a policy to its own actions which is different from that which it applies to the States’ actions. We have a clear-cut example of the Commonwealth being able to do things which it does not allow the States to do. That is not a healthy thing, and it must be cleaned up in order that government may function properly.
– Among the Estimates being discussed by the committee to-night are those of the Department of Customs and Excise. In submitting them to honorable members, I shall try to present the work of the department in the context of the overall economic situation as it appears to us to-day, and which was outlined in the budget debate. There are two matters to look at - the work of the department and how that work fits into the Commonwealth economy and the overall financial policy of the Government, and the way in which the department is carrying out that work. We must consider how the department has spent the money voted to it by the Parliament, and what it will do with the money which will be provided under this year’s Estimates.
I do not intend to go into any details concerning the administration of the customs tariff and the excise tariff, and import licences. Since the re-organization of the departments in January of this year, tariff policy, import licensing policy and the control of the import licensing branch which determines variations in quotas and authorizes the grant of special licences, have become the responsibility of the Department of Trade. The actual issue of import licences and investigations into breaches of the import licensing regulations remain the responsibility of the Department of Customs and Excise. Of course, the administration of the tariff law remains wholly a function of that department.
There are two aspects of the administration of the customs tariff which are particularly important in the present economic situation. We all are aware of the major problems which confront the Australian economy. We must reduce costs df production in order to prevent inflationary price increases, and we must expand our exports so that the difficulties of our adverse balance of payments can be overcome. The Department of Customs and Excise gives important assistance to industry in two respects in relation to these problems. It gives an important, indeed, a most important, type of concession which we administer for Australian industry - the admission of goods under customs by-law. When a person wants to import goods that are not made in Australia, he may apply to the Department of Customs and Excise for a concession of duty under a customs by-law. However, before concessions under by-laws are granted, the application has to be carefully examined to make sure that the goods which the person wishes to import are not manufactured in Australia, and that no Australian manufacturing business will be adversely affected by the concession sought. In fact, it is the Australian manufacturer who benefits most from by-law admission of goods, because the great bulk of goods admitted into the country at concessional rates of duty - or duty-free - under by-law are raw materials, fuels and plant and equipment for Australian industries. Some idea of the measure of importance of this concession can be obtained from the estimate made last year that the duty which would be remitted in this way would amount to £75,000,000. Without by-law concession, that amount of £75,000,000 would have had to be borne by Australian industry.
The other duty concession administered by the Department of Customs and Excise in a similar way, is draw-back duty on imported goods. These are goods which are to be imported by manufacturers in Australia, manufactured into other goods and exported. Draw-back is a refund of duty when goods are re-exported, and is granted on a wide range of goods. Because of the need to foster exports - a need which this country feels so acutely - we have made it easier for exporters to claim draw-back of duty. Previously, draw-back was not allowed if the goods in question were manufactured in Australia, but now we take a different view of the matter. If the Australian exporter can compete in overseas markets only by the use of certain imported materials which are cheaper or more suitable in other ways than Australian-made materials, or if an Australian manufacturer is unco-operative in providing his manufactured goods for making up of further goods for export at a reasonable and competitive price, draw-back of duty will be allowed although the goods may actually be manufactured in Australia: This policy causes no detriment to the Australian manufacturer, because the export business would not have been obtained if the Australian exporter had had to use local materials in his made-up goods for export.
By means of these two concessions of customs by-laws and drawback of duties, the Department of Customs and Excise is implementing the Government’s policy of helping Australian industry, whenever possible, to keep costs down and increase the volume of exports. But concessions of customs duty can be given only after very careful consideration and, in many cases, after detailed examination, in order to ensure that in giving a concession to one industry we are not causing an upset in another. We must, therefore, keep in constant touch with all sections of industry, and I can assure the committee that the flexible administration of the tariff which this system allows has been an important contributing factor in the rapid development of Australian industry in recent years.
The view appears to be widely held that the work of the Department of Customs and Excise bears some simple relationship to the quantity of goods imported into the country or the amount of excise collected. I hope that the two illustrations that I have given will dispel any such notion, because the amount of work entailed in administering these concessions has increased in recent years, and this increase has not been reflected in the figures showing the volume of imports, or in the revenue. At this time, when departmental estimates are being considered, we should be looking at the administrative side of the Government policy. We should consider how the money voted has been spent, and how departments propose to spend money which has been requested in the Estimates.
– Well, do not get hysterical about it. Try to deal with it calmly.
– I can assure the honorable member that I shall do my best. The Estimates for this year, for the department that I administer, amount to £3,922,000. The expenditure for last year for the Department of Trade and Customs was £3,993,000. If the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who is seeking to interject, cares to deduct one of those amounts from the other he will observe the interesting fact that the Estimates for the department this year are £71,000 less than the expenditure for last year.
– But the Department of Customs and Excise was not in existence last year.
– I am afraid that we cannot claim any particular credit for good housekeeping because of this reduction of £71,000. The decrease has been due principally to the transfer of the Central Import Licensing Branch, the Tariff Board and other branches concerned with tariff and import licensing policy to the Department of Trade. The actual cost of the functions the administration of which has been transferred to the Department of Trade exceeds the amount by which the Estimates for this year for the Department of Customs and Excise are less than the expenditure last year for the Department of Trade and Customs. In other words, as I confess quite freely, the functions that we do not have to carry out now cost more than the amount saved because of the transfer, and the difference is principally offset by necessary increases in staff in the Department of Customs and Excise to meet the growing amount of customs work, mainly at the branches of the department situated in the principal ports of the Commonwealth. This increased work arises almost wholly from the growth of industry and commerce in Australia. I have already mentioned the importance of by-law concessions and drawback provisions in the customs tariff. As industry grows the department receives more and more applications for special customs protection under those two provisions, and the investigation of the applications calls for more and more work. Consequently, more positions have to be created in order that that work can be done.
Import licensing is also adding to the pressure of work in the customs houses, and at the same time Australia’s commerce and industry are increasing day by day. New wharf facilities have to be established in the main ports, and customs officers have to be provided to supervise them, because if we do not provide adequate customs facilities for the new wharfs, the turn-round of shipping will be delayed, and that is a contingency that the economy of Australia cannot stand. The increase in manufacturing activities in Australia, which is proceeding apace, has resulted in an increase in the number of warehouses at which excise officers must be located to deal with goods that are handled under bond. For the protection of the revenue either part-time or full-time customs or excise officers have to be placed in these warehouses. The establishment of large oil refineries in Australia has meant a considerable increase in the duties and responsibilities of the Department of Customs and Excise.
I turn now to a quite different field. The advent of television has meant additional work for the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board, because the television com panies have been importing films in considerable numbers, all of which have to bc examined by the board.
These new responsibilities, and the additional staff required to carry them out, has created a growing need for new and enlarged buildings in the department, and for other capital expenditure, ranging from large projects, such as the erection of a new building at the rear of the customs house in Melbourne, to small programmes of renovation and refurnishing. I may say, in connexion with the Melbourne customs house, that the Victorian branch of the department has, for some years past, worked under serious difficulties because of cramped accommodation for the office staff. The Melbourne customs house celebrated its 100th birthday the other day. It is a fine old building, of which many citizens of Melbourne are justly proud, but unfortunately it is inadequate for our present requirements, and several important branches of the department have had to be housed in other buildings around Melbourne. This necessary practice has constituted a nuisance to the department itself and to the public. Some solution must be found to this difficult problem, and for some time departmental officers have been preparing a case for submission to the Public Works Committee.
In Sydney we urgently need to re-arrange and improve the office accommodation at the customs house at Circular Quay, both for the convenience of the public and the efficiency and welfare of the staff. Unfortunately, this has had to be deferred during the current year because of the need for national economy. In Fremantle another important work, involving the supply of a sea-going customs launch, has had to be deferred. Because of the peculiar situation of the Gage Roads at that port, such a launch is badly needed, but its provision has had to be deferred in the interests of economy. Fortunately, the branch at Hobart is to have a new laboratory, which has been needed for some time. The cost of this laboratory is only about £18,000, but that and one other project are the only two works that can be carried out in the department this year. The other project is the provision of a new customs office and warehouse at Bunbury in Western Australia. 1 hope the committee will appreciate that we have severely restricted our spending on new buildings and equipment in the current year in the interests of economy, but the works that have had to be deferred are required to meet the inevitably growing demands of industry and commerce upon the department, and they cannot be deferred indefinitely. I well appreciate the necessity for the Treasurer’s demands for economy this year. I have recently had the illuminating experience of sitting through my first series of pre-budget discussions as a Minister, and one of the strongest impressions that I received was of the extreme difficulty of reducing public expenditure in an expanding economy, especially at a time of increasing costs. I have shown that we have temporarily deferred works that are urgently needed, but, with the best will in the world, we cannot defer meeting the costs of increasing administrative work in the department. As the commerce and industry of the country expands, so must the work of the Department of Customs and Excise. We are trying to find new ways of doing the work. We are seeking ways of simplifying it and we are looking for short cuts to eliminate needless red tape so that the department can improve and increase the work load without a proportional increase in its staff.
Early this year, the department embarked upon a major review. Every aspect of our work is being reconsidered by a team of organization and methods investigators of the department, and the procedures of our work are all being revised and simplified to reduce the departmental work and to cut out any needless inconvenience to the businessman. At the same time, we are concentrating on staff training within the department itself, and we are making a major effort to draw on the experience and ideas of all customs officers throughout Australia as well as those of members of the public. To do this, the department, early this year, embarked upon what we call “ Operation Work Simplification “, which is a drive to obtain suggestions from the staff of the department and from the public who do business with us in our attempt to increase our efficiency. I think 1 can say with assurance that this campaign is proving successful, but it is too early yet to talk about concrete achievements because many of the suggestions received are still being examined. However, I am confident that important savings of time and expense for both the department and the business and commercial community will result from this drive.
– The Government should offer prizes for good suggestions.
– We will give prizes for good suggestions. They have been given before. Not very long ago, the Public Service Board approved of a reward of £250 to a customs officer for making an important suggestion for the saving of a good deal of work. I think he showed how the work of seven men could be carried out by one man simply by making a slight alteration in procedure.
– Was he happy with the reward?
– It has not been reported to me that he was discontented. If the honorable member for Kingsford Smith (Mr. Curtin) is suggesting that he was not satisfied with the reward, I shall bear that in mind when the occasion arises again.
– What about the six men who have been displaced?
– There is plenty of work for them. The work of the department has increased tremendously. There must be staff increases unless we can find ways of doing the work more efficiently and at less cost.
I do not wish to take up the time of the committee unduly on these matters, but one often hears criticism of the detailed requirements of the Customs and Excise Department. This criticism usually comes from the occasional traveller and the occasional importer. I have found that those who do business with the department regularly and continuously understand the difficult and detailed nature of the work which the customs officer has to perform, and they give him credit for doing it with common sense and goodwill. At the same time, however, I am firmly opposed to any attitude of mind that what was good enough in the past is good enough to-day. This efficiency drive about which I have spoken is an indication that the department is seeking to keep up to date. If the Public Service is to remain efficient it must always maintain a constructive critical attitude towards its work and its procedures, and that is just the attitude which prompts the activities to which I have been referring.
– At the outset, I should like to support my colleagues from Queensland who advocate that at general elections the hours for voting at polling booths should be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., instead of from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
– Now the honorable member is being parochial.
– Judging by the interjections, it would seem that I will not get much support from those sitting round me.
– Not for that.
– I am putting the Queensland point of view, as, I think, it is my duty to do so. If any one could be excused for having terrific headaches or suffering from near heart failure, it is the candidate who stands for the Maranoa seat. It is the last electorate in the whole of Australia in which the result of the election is declared. At the last election, it was not until 21 days after the closing of the polling booths that the poll was actually declared. The closing of the polling booths at 6 p.m. is a reform well worth considering. It would be of great help to the people in the far western areas in that it would give another two hours for the counting of votes. As polling usually takes place on a Saturday, there is little or no counting done on the Sunday and in the far western districts the extra two hours for counting on the Saturday could often mean avoiding delay in the completion of the count until the following Monday. I know that some religious organizations might object to the closing of polling booths at 6 p.m., because they do not believe in voting until after the sun sets and before it rises again, but 1 point out that, in Queensland, the hours of voting for State elections are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and that system works quite satisfactorily. So satisfactory has it been that I have no hesitation in supporting the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) that officers be sent from the department in Canberra to Queensland to examine the way in which elections are conducted there.
I come now to the Department of Works, and I propose to offer strong criticism of its attitude in carrying out works in some country centres. We all know that the
Department of Works carries out works on behalf of various departments, such as the Postal Department or some other department, and I propose to cite two instances to show how it rides rough-shod over the by-laws and regulations of various local authorities in the country areas in which it may be undertaking works. The first instance has relation to the building of a post office in a country town in the Maranoa electorate. The department erected a building similar to the one that may be seen opposite the Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra. The building was erected in a street in respect of which the local authority’s building regulations provided that all buildings be constructed of brick. A private person would never be able to obtain a permit to erect a building unless that building conformed strictly to the regulations laid down by the local authority, yet the Commonwealth Government - the State government is equally guilty of this practice - simply ignores the by-laws and regulations of town and shire councils. Instead of adopting that attitude, the Department of Works should seek the cooperation of those bodies. What amazed the people most about the building to which I refer is the fact that although it is erected in the main street of the town, the septic unit has been placed at the front of it. In those circumstances one can understand the annoyance of the residents of the area. The department should appreciate that country people are just as proud of their towns as city dwellers are of their cities. They are deserving of more consideration than has been accorded to them in this instance.
The other example relates to the regional radio broadcasting station in my electorate. Had the recent floods risen another inch and a half, the waters would have flowed into the station and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage. I realize that something had to be done to guard against such a happening, but the Department of Works took a bulldozer along as soon as the water receded and, without consulting the shire council, erected a four foot wall of earth which -had the effect of turning the water on to adjoining farms and the roadway. It washed out the roadway in the area. Had the department sought the co-operation of the shire council, it would have been shown ways of saving the station without diverting the water on to neighbouring farms and without causing damage to a roadway for which the shire council was responsible. I repeat that the Commonwealth Government is not the sole offender in this direction. State governments are equally guilty of ignoring the by-laws and regulations of local authorities. I ask the Minister to instruct his officers to invite the co-operation of the local authorities on any work to be done. If that is not done, I can see trouble ahead. I am reminded by my colleague that we could probably do without a post office or any building. That is the threat held over us. The Government would not be game to do that sort of thing in a city electorate; public opinion would be so hostile that a building would have to be erected there.
I want to deal now with the Department of Civil Aviation. “ Last year an amount of £5,894,000 was allowed in the Estimates for capital works and services and the amount expended for the year was £5,081,048. The department had about £800,000 unexpended. I want to know, in view of all the works scheduled to be carried out last year, why that amount of money was not spent. I ask that question for this reason: Last year approval was given for the construction at Goondiwindi, in my electorate, of an aerodrome at an estimated cost of £120,000. It was vitally needed in the area and was included in the Estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation. It is not included in the Estimates for this year. Yet the department’s vote for last year was not exhausted; an amount of £800,000 remained unspent.
The aerodrome was suggested in 1953 and the estimated cost to put down the same air strip at that time was £80,000. I was told then that it could not be built because money was short. The people in the area told me that they would raise the money by means of a local loan and build the air strip to plans and specifications approved by the Department of Civil Aviation. They would have done the work for £80,000; the estimated cost to-day is £120,000; but the proposal to build the air strip has been wiped. If the people had been allowed to raise the local loan, they would have had their air strip. There have been floods in the Goondiwindi area, and the air strip would have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds - the cost of air lifts, &c. The air strip would have been constructed in a central spot. It has been promised for years, but now it has been wiped.
I emphasize that £800,000 of the amount voted to the Department of Civil Aviation last year was not spent, and that this year the Estimates are lower than they were for last year. I suggest that, if the Department of Civil Aviation cannot find some way of spending the money, it should allow the money to be given to somebody who will spend it, and spend it, probably, to better advantage. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to have another look at the proposal for an aerodrome at Goondiwindi. The people in that area are entitled to have an aerodrome. During the last flood, rail and road services to some areas in that district were cut and residents had to rely on an air lift. The nearest air strips were in New South Wales, or at St. George, 200 or 300 miles further north in Queensland. Lack of an aerodrome cost those people hundreds of thousands of pounds and also proved costly to the State government. Some of its employees were isolated in the district and it had to get tucker to them. Thank God it had some of its employees out there or the people in the district would not have received supplies!
I raise those matters for consideration by the various departments. I do not think I am unreasonable. My first suggestion concerns the attitude of the Department of Works towards local authorities when it is carrying out various works. The other one concerns the aerodrome at Goondiwindi. If the Department of Civil Aviation cannot do that job, I feel sure that, even to-day, the money could be raised by a local loan for the purpose of building that aerodrome. However, I understand that the proposal cuts across some loan arrangement the Government has with the States. The story is that if that money is put into a loan for a specific local purpose, it will not go into a government loan. I tell the Government that if that is its attitude when people are prepared to help themselves, a lot of that money will never go into a government loan. There is no chance that any of that money will go into government loans now. The sooner we make up our minds to help those people who help themselves by using their own money for works of this nature, the sooner we will get some of the things that I have mentioned. I ask the various departments to give serious consideration to my proposals.
.- The committee is called upon to consider the votes for the Department of the Interior, the Department of Works, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Customs and Excise, and the Department of Health. The members of this committee have until 1 1 p.m. this evening to consider the proposed votes for these departments. I bring to the attention of the committee the fact that an amount of approximately £22,000,000 is to be voted for the departments 1 have named. That does not take into consideration the activities of the departments and the various sums that will be spent by their administration. I make that point clear at the outset so that honorable members will know the utter impossibility for this committee-
– Order! The allotment of time is not under discussion. That has been determined by the House.
– 1 am not canvassing that decision. 1 am merely stating that 1 should like to deal in detail with the various matters that this committee is called upon to discuss. I especially want to discuss this evening the Estimates for the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works. 1 wish to discuss also the Department of Health. It is important that the budgetary policy of the Administration should be considered, and considered in a detailed fashion. It is most necessary that a sound policy should be considered for all these departments.
The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) dealt at length with the department that he administers. He read a carefully prepared statement, but J should like to say to the Minister that that is beside the point. At this stage, the Parliament should give some consideration to the duplication of the department, to just where the Department of Customs is going, to just where the Minister is going and to who is responsible for these things. Honorable members should know clearly when a problem arises that they will be able to take the question to the Minister who is rightly responsible. If a matter comes up to-day with regard to customs in a general sense, one is bewildered. One wonders whether he should go to the Minister for Customs and Excise, the Minister for Primary Industry, the Minister for Trade or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade. We are called upon to discuss all these things now, but I shall pass from that.
I agree with the reference of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) to the activities of the Department of Works in the type of building very often erected in country towns and cities. The department and its officers seem to feel that they possess much greater power and authority than the local council, the local mayor and those people democratically elected in their respective areas. When departmental officers feel they can foist upon a community any type of substandard building and that that building will be good enough for that community, they miss the mark by a wide margin. There should be a responsibility upon the Minister to see that the right thing happens in regard to those matters.
Whilst we are discussing the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, 1 want to say quite frankly that I believe that these departments are the most notoriously bad of all the departments this Parliament is called upon to consider from time to time. Rarely does a report of the Auditor-General fail to contain some scathing indictment of the maladministration and the conduct of the Department of the Interior or the Department of Works. The latest report of the Auditor-General dealing with those departments contains many criticisms of them. Reference is made in various sections of the report to failure to control the funds, stocks and stores of those departments, and all those matters are worthy of consideration.
Reverting to the point I made at the beginning of my speech, I believe the time is long overdue for this Parliament to say quite clearly to the responsible Minister and the Government that the distribution of duties of those departments should be altered. The activities of the Department of Works and the Department of the Interior, as they affect the various territories, should be taken away from them and put into other hands. The Department of the Interior and the Department of Works have proved quite incapable of controlling their staffs in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and in the Northern Territory. If the officers in those areas, and their duties and functions, were handed over to the Minister for the Territories and the local administration, a much better job would be done. From time to time, honorable members on the Government side have paid lip service to decentralization, and the need for those on the job to work out what is best in a local situation. The best way to deal with those honorable members would be to permit the Minister for Territories to accept the responsibility of the Territories, and to allow the local administration - the Administrator and the Legislative Council - to determine those matters on the spot. Then a much better job would be done, and we would not see the same criticisms appearing each year in the Auditor-General’s report. In this connexion, the report of the Auditor-General for the year ended 30th June, 1956, stated -
Unsatisfactory control of labour and materials has been the subject of report in the last three years.
The department has directed all regions to comply with instructions issued in 1953 dealing with control of materials on day labour projects. Not all regions have applied the procedures satisfactorily but some improvement has been noted.
It is pleasing to note that there has been some improvement. In a report on the Northern Territory, the Auditor-General made this statement -
Excessive delays still exist in finalizing stocktakings relating to certain Project Stores. A check of holdings at the Darwin Power House Store was conducted during March, 1956, but the value of discrepancies has not been determined. A check of the stockholding at the Katherine Power House Store is long overdue.
Procedural instructions designed to strengthen the control over tools in use were introduced as from 1st July, 1955. However, there has been an unwarranted delay in completing action on stocktakings and in effecting necessary reconciliations with the register of assets.
In the limited time at my disposal, I cannot deal at length with these matters, but it is important that we should consider them, and make sure that these departments straighten up their methods. It is not surprising that such matters arise from time to time because Ministers come and go, but the heads of departments reign and continue to make determinations in their own way. Ministers are human, and they cannot be everywhere. They are obliged to accept the views of the officers concerned. Obviously, the Parliament cannot control the human element where Ministers are subservient to the heads of departments. That appears to be the position in connexion with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works.
More than just a scanning of the reports of the departmental heads is required. Personally, I believe that where a conflict of opinion exists between any section of the public and a departmental head, or if an honorable member has a point of view which conflicts with that of a departmental head, the responsibility rests upon the Minister to make an inspection on the spot, and satisfy himself who is right and who is wrong. However, apparently that action is not taken.
I want to voice the strongest and most vigorous protest against the action of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), and the department under his administration, in recently increasing the rents of Commonwealth properties at Lithgow by almost 90 per cent. This Government has been telling the people of Australia that action should be taken to halt rising prices. This is the Government that has protested that wages and margins should be pegged, and that prices should not rise, but only quite recently it increased by almost 90 per cent, the rentals of Commonwealth houses that were built in the Lithgow district in 1942. When the Minister was approached on the matter, he said that it was not right that the Commonwealth should subsidize rentals. The houses to which he referred had already been paid for by the tenants. If the money had been paid into a fund, the tenants would not have owed a penny on them. That brings me to my principal theme: If the Commonwealth War Workers Housing Trust had remained in operation its books would have revealed quite clearly that the houses had been paid for. The people who occupy those houses have paid their way in the form of rent. They have enclosed back verandas, laid concrete strips, made gardens, and built garages. Then, because they improved the value of the properties, the higher values were made the basis for an increase of rentals. Is that a reasonable approach to the matter when we should be holding back prices?
I protest vigorously against the action of the Department of the Interior. It has neglected the people who occupy those cottages. Repairs, in many cases, have been required for years. If the Minister had taken the trouble to inspect those houses he would have found that everything the tenants told him about their problems was true, and the words of his departmental officers were untrue. That is a serious statement to make. I regret that I have been obliged to spend some of my time in speaking of this matter when I might have been discussing wider issues, but it is of such importance that I felt impelled to discuss it at some length. My purpose has been served in letting the community know that this Government is prepared to increase the rental of these cottages by 90 per cent, without doing anything that an ordinary landlord would do to maintain his properties in worthwhile condition. The action of the Administration in this matter will stand to its everlasting discredit.
I direct my attention now to medical matters, and to the Department of Health. This is another department where business methods should be applied. The National Welfare Fund should be re-established and put into operation for the purpose not only of protecting the health of the people, but also of covering the social services payments that are made to the people. Not until we have a proper fund established and functioning, into which money is being paid and from which money is being expended, will we be able to deal effectively with them. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has reminded me that this Government is responsible for freezing the fund that was established by my predecessor, the former honorable member for Macquarie, Mr. Chifley. That is perfectly true.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I hate to intervene at this stage, but the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has seen fit to make a rather devastating attack upon the Department of the Interior which, in fact, is an attack upon me, concerning certain increases of rents which have been made in respect of cottages at Lithgow during the last couple of weeks. Since the Department of the Interior and I are responsible for the administration of public moneys, I think that the public of this country ought to understand the background of this problem, lest the rough excursion over the figures which the honorable gentleman presented to the committee be taken at face value. I think, therefore, that I ought to put the facts on the line. As the honorable member has pointed out, the rents of these cottages at Lithgow, which were built by the War Workers Housing Trust, were assessed originally in 1942. The original rents carried on until 1946 when, on grounds for which I can find no support - there is no evidence anywhere in the files or in the information given to me - they were reduced. For some reason, the department - and there was a Labour government in power, as honorable members well know - reduced the rents by 20 per cent. In 1953, the Taxation Branch, as is customary in these cases, revalued the properties and put forward a scale of rents which, it was suggested was based on the new valuations. The proposals were allowed to stand, however, until this year, so that rents recommended on valuations made as far back as 1953 are only now being imposed. When the honorable gentleman complains that the rents have been raised by something like 90 per cent., he is speaking of a 90 per cent, increase over the rents first of all struck in 1942 and actually reduced by 20 per cent, in 1946, when the rents of every other kind of property in this country were going up.
The fact is that the people who live in these homes are, quite reasonably, unhappy at the prospect; but they are unhappy at the loss of a concession, not, surely, at the striking of what is a fair and economic rent on their properties. I have looked at this matter very carefully. Before the new series of rents was struck, on representations from the honorable member for Macquarie I sent the matter back to my departmental officers and said, “Now, look. Check on the values and the re-assessment of the rents.” We applied to the rents of these homes the rental formula which would have been applied by the Fair Rents Court. Based on 1953 valuations, the farr rent formula gives a rent which is shillings in advance of that which the Government now proposes. If we apply to these homes the rental formula which is being used by the Housing Commission in New South Wales, there is a margin of something like £1 or more a week.
Those are the facts. The honorable gentleman has complained that the houses are not being maintained. It is quite true that, in keeping with most government properties, the amount of money available does not cover maintenance to a standard we should all like to see. Nevertheless, the charges which the honorable gentleman has made are completely baseless. He brought to my office a fortnight ago a deputation of three of the tenants of these homes. One gentleman had some general complaints, and we satisfied those. The other two gentlement made specific complaints in terms similar to those presented by the honorable member for Macquarie, pointing out that there were leaks in the roof, that the bath heater was burnt out, and so on. I had my works supervisor in the area who, incidentally, is himself a tenant in this series of cottages, go to these two people specifically and ask about their complaints, whereupon they admitted that they had never raised a complaint with the works supervisor; and apparently the supervisor’s crystal ball is now out of operation.
– They repeated their representations here.
– I am going through specific cases which the honorable gentleman brought to my office. Those are the facts and I am prepared to let the committee and the people judge the case on the facts.
– I rise to direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to a situation in South Australia which, 1 feel, ought to be corrected as soon as possible. Before I explain the position, I want to congratulate the Minister upon the way in which, during his first Estimates debate as a Minister, he has sat in the chamber right through the debate and has given courteous replies whenever replies have been called for. I note that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osobrne) also are present in the chamber. 1 suggest that it would be a good thing for other Ministers to try to emulate the example set by the Minister for the Interior and at least have the courtesy to listen to what honorable members from both sides of the chamber have to say in respect of the various departments.
Having said that, 1 want to direct the attention of the Minister to a matter that cannot be rectified very easily, because it would involve the expenditure of a lot of money, lt concerns the housing of Commonwealth departments in South Australia. I have said that it would cost a lot of money, but if the job were started now, eventually the Government would be saved a lot of money, because the Commonwealth must be paying out an enormous sum every year in rents for offices scattered all over the city. So that the committee will have an appreciation of the special difficulties under which South Australian citizens suffer in respect of Commonwealth departments in that State, I shall enumerate the departments and their addresses. I put it to the committee that it is unfair to the people of South Australia that, when they wish to go to a Commonwealth department, they have to travel all over the city looking for the office. I believe that there ought to be a central building large enough to accommodate all Commonwealth offices, so that every one in South Australia would know that somewhere in that building could be found the office in which he was interested.
The Department of Social Services is situated at Churchill Buildings, in Gawlerplace; the Department of the Interior is situated at the other end of the city, in Richards Buildings, Currie-street; the Treasury is in the Commonwealth Bank Buildings, in King William-street; half of the Commonwealth Parliament Offices are situated in the Bank of New South Wales bulding, and the other half in the C.M.L. Building; the Public Service Inspector has his office in the A.M.P. Building in King William-street; the Auditor-General has his office at 27 Grenfell-street. I am quoting now from the official “ Federal Guide “, a handbook which, usually, only members of Parliament have at their disposal. The unfortunate citizen - the man in the street - normally has no way of finding out where these departments are situated.
The Commonwealth Office of Education and the Universities Commission, which is listed as a semi-Commonwealth department, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are located at the University of Adelaide; the income tax section of the Taxation Branch is in the Railway Buildings, and the Northern Territory income tax section - for which, incidentally, Adelaide seems to be the head quarters is situated in Rundle-street. The sales tax and pay-roll tax sections are in the Savings Bank Buildings in King Williamstreet, a long way from the rest of the taxation offices. If a person wants the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, he has to go down to Epworth Building, in Pirie-street; if he wants to see the officials of the Bankruptcy Branch he has to go to 47 Waymouthstreet; if he wants the Commonwealth Investigation Service, he must go to 97 King William-street. If he wishes to see anybody in connexion with the Department of Supply, or the Department of Defence Production, he goes to the Bank of New South Wales. If he wants to see anybody in connexion with commerce or agriculture, he has to go away down to the Masonic Chambers, in North-terrace.
The Australian Wine Board, which is only a semi-governmental department, is in Shell House; the Department of Labour and National Service is situated in Richards Building almost down at Light Square; the Department of Works is in the Savings Bank Building in King William-street; the Department of Civil Aviation is away down at 96 Henley Beach-road, Torrensville; the Repatriation Department is situated at 186 Pulteney-street, which is a most inconvenient address for persons who are interested in repatriation matters; the Department of Health has an office in the C.M.L. building; the Department of Immigration is situated away down North-terrace in a building called Cresco House; the Division of Industrial Development is situated in the Masonic Chambers; the District Registrar of the Commonwealth Industrial Court is situated in the A.N.A. building in Flindersstreet; and the Commonwealth Electoral Office is situated away down in Richards building in Currie-street.
I think I have covered almost all the departments. In doing so, I hope I have not only made it clear that the present situation is extremely costly to the Government because it has to pay rent for necessary office space in privately owned build ings, but also that I have convinced the Minister that the time has come when the Government ought to erect a sufficiently large building to accommodate all Commonwealth departments in South Australia. For years the Commonwealth has owned, and still owns, a very good site in Curriestreet. The Government ought to examine immediately the possibility of making preparatory plans for overcoming the inconvenience to which I have referred and also the enormous cost to it that is involved in paying rent.
In the remainder of the time at my disposal I wish to refer to a matter which concerns the administration of the Department of Trade. I regret having to use strong language, but the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is one of the Ministers who unfortunately have not had the common courtesy to come into the chamber to listen to remarks that honorable members might make about their departments so that they might be in a position to reply, as is the Minister for the Interior.
– The Estimates of the Department of Trade are not under discussion at the present time.
– Then I shall deal with a matter affecting the administration of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne). The Minister was in the chamber a while ago, but unfortunately he has left. He is the person who is responsible, from the customs viewpoint, for the administration of imports. I am interested in particular in the importation of goods associated with the electronics industry or, to be precise, the television industry. For this Government, which claims it is concerned and which undoubtedly is very much concerned about Australia’s overseas trade balance, to allow the importation of television components at this time seems to me to be a bad piece of administration.
– That is a matter for the Minister for Trade.
– I am not talking about import licences; I am talking about import duty. If these goods arc imported from England, they may be imported duty free, and if they come from countries other than the United Kingdom they attract a duty of 12i per cent. This is a case in which the Minister should have taken very stern action to protect the Australian electronics industry. At least two firms in Australia - Electronic Industries Limited and Philips Electrical Industries Proprietary Limited - are now capable of making all the components necessary for television reproduction. I believe that the English Electric Company Limited also proposes to engage in the manufacture of these components. The position in which these people are placed is such that, before they can obtain a proper review of the situation and ascertain the customs duty that ought to be paid on imported television components, they must wait for the time it takes the Tariff Board to inquire into the particular industry. Experience shows that approximately two years elapse from the filing of an application for a review of a certain industry until the Tariff Board is in a position to make a recommendation. What chance have local manufacturers of television components of establishing a local industry if they have to wait for two years for the application for protection to be properly considered? After taking into account the Australian standard of wages and working conditions as compared with those in Japan - Japan is making television components and proposes to export them to Australia soon - and also the advanced techniques which America is able to apply, we find that cathode ray tubes that can be imported into Australia for £8 10s. each cost local manufacturers about £12 10s. to produce.
We must decide whether the local manufacture of such components must be delayed until the board has made a decision or whether we should do something immediately so that local manufacturers might have whatever protection is necessary to enable them to become properly established. I am not one of those who believe that protection ought to be afforded indefinitely. A famous little book entitled, “ Jimmy’s Infant Industry “, was once written about the question of protection, and the Minister for the Interior, who is at the table, probably knows something about it. There is every reason why the local manufacturers who want to establish a new industry should be given an opportunity to do so. I believe that, once a local industry is established, Australian workers are capable of competing with workers anywhere else in the world.
I think the Minister for Customs and Excise was remiss in his duty in not taking action to deal with the importation of screens in excess of the 17-in. size. When the ordinary person who does not know much about television sees a large screen set beside a small screen set, he might think that the larger screen would give a better picture. It is true that it would give a bigger picture, but in order to see that picture properly one would have to move further away from the screen so that it would not be distorted. When a picture is being telecast, it is only of the 16-mm. size, or the size of a postage stamp. That picture has to be enlarged to the size of a 17-in. screen, and the enlargement necessarily creates minor distortions. If it is to be enlarged from the 16-mm. size to 17, 21, 24 or even 27 inches, the distortion becomes much greater. I observe, Mr. Bowden, that you are about to prevent me from speaking further on this subject, so I shall get in first and admit freely that I have no right to be dealing with it. Having said all that I want to say, I thank you for your indulgence. However, I hope that the Minister for the Interior will consider the erection of a Commonwealth building in Adelaide to house all the Commonwealth departments so that the local people may have some idea about where they should be able to interview Commonwealth officials.
.- One of the more pleasing features of this debate so far has been the objective way in which most honorable members have approached this subject. The debate on the Estimates is one of the most important debates that takes place in this chamber in the course of twelve months and it is very pleasing, 1 think, that members on all sides of the chamber have tried to deal as objectively and reasonably as possible with most of these matters that they have raised. I was glad indeed that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) paid a tribute to the Minister for Works and Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who has shown great assiduity in attending this debate all through the day and this evening and, as the honorable member said, has replied graciously, courteously, and fully, to points that have been raised in relation to the departments that he administers. There was one point that he did not reply to; perhaps he was too modest to do so, and perhaps I may be permitted to reply for him. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), earlier in the evening, said that the Minister was virtually a rubber stamp. I do not know whether those were the exact words that he used, but he implied very clearly that the Minister was under the thumb of the heads of the departments. Any one who knows the Minister would immediately refute that statement, because he is a man of great clarity of mind and force of character, who knows where he is going. I throw back that charge to the other side of the chamber. I think that it was made in rather poor taste and that on reflection the honorable member for Macquarie would take it back.
The honorable member for Macquarie, in criticizing certain aspects of the Department of Works, made particular reference to page 35 of the Auditor-General’s report for 1956. I think that perhaps he overlooked certain aspects of great difficulty involved in that department. I am very interested in the working of this department, and have discussed with the Minister the problems concerned at some length, and he has pointed out to me that, amongst other things, one of the great difficulties is caused by the vast accumulation of war-time stocks which are still under the control of the department and are a legacy from the war years. Nobody, in fairness, could accuse either the present Minister or the department of responsibility for that legacy, or for the fact that they are still having problems in relation to it. The legacy derived from the Allied Works Council. One must also bear in mind the great variety of services rendered both by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works. Enormous assets are under their control. A vast number of persons has to be engaged in looking after them, and it is a matter for great regret, as the AuditorGeneral has stated in his report, that a number of thefts and robberies has taken place. The Auditor-General, at page 102 of his report for 1956, lists under the various departments the thefts and robberies that took place in the twelve months ended 30th June. I mention particularly the five departments that we are debating in this present bracket of the Estimates. Thefts of stores from the Department of the Interior amounted to £212; from the Department of Works, £5,931; from the Department of Civil Aviation, £1,126; from the Department of Customs and Excise. £7; and from the
Department of Health, £20. Those last two figures are very small, and that is pleasing to see. Although, from one aspect, the fact that all those thefts took place is very regrettable, when one considers the vast amount of stores that are under the control of the Department of Works the wonder is that the number of thefts, and the percentage value of goods taken from the Government in this way, are not much greater, and I think that it reflects credit on the Minister, the department, and the administration generally, that the thefts are as small as they are.
I believe it is quite right that these matters should be ventilated, and I was glad that the honorable member for Macquarie in, as I said before, an objective fashion, brought some of these matters and criticisms to light. On page 97 of the Auditor-General’s report, for example, there are some other criticisms of the various departments relating to control over plant operation and administration in certain fields. Special departments and special areas of control are referred to by the Auditor-General, and I shall not weary honorable members by quoting them. Again, I think it is salutary that these things should be brought to light, because, after all, the moneys involved all come out of the pockets of the taxpayers of this country, and it is right that the taxpayers should know what is happening to the funds that are provided.
While I am on that subject, there is one other section to which I should like to make just passing reference, namely, the transport section. On page 30 of the AuditorGeneral’s report it is disclosed that appropriations of £70,000 were made to cover the estimated loss on the operation of buses in the Australian Capital Territory for the twelve months to 30th June. This does seem to me to be a rather staggering loss - £70,000 for twelve months - and I am rather perplexed to know how this came about. There are one or two observations that I should like to make, and I know the Minister will not mind my making them, because he does appreciate any constructive thoughts on these problems. I think that there could be rather more economy and supervision in the Australian Capital Territory with regard to the use of government transport. I have a particular instance only recently which illustrates that. I was over at Kingston one morning and, while waiting near a bus stop, I counted nearly twenty Commonwealth cars that went past. Some of them were empty, some of them had womenfolk in them, and some of them had children with their mothers in them. That suggests that there is need for rather better control over the use of government transport. I know that the Minister agrees with that. I do not blame him, and I do not blame the head of the department, but somewhere down the line the responsibility is not being shouldered just as it should be. It is popular and fashionable in some quarters, particularly in some sections of the press, to accuse members of Parliament of being too free with government transport, and while I am on the subject perhaps I may be permitted to make one or two remarks on this matter. For the benefit of those persons outside who are interested, the fact of the matter is that members of Parliament, that is, private members of Parliament, are entitled only to the use of government transport to and from airports. From the airport at Fairbairn, we are transported here to Parliament House, and at the end of the week we are transported out to the airport to board a plane. Private members, unlike Ministers, are not entitled, unless they are sick or disabled in some way, to other use of government transport. The criticisms that we read in the press from time to time are rather unfair in the light of the facts. We do not mind fair, constructive criticism, but unfair and inaccurate criticism should be refuted.
While I am dealing with the Department of the Interior, I should like to congratulate the Minister on his forward step in arranging, in conjunction with the United Kingdom Government, for the establishment of a new weather station in the remote inland of Australia. I feel that in our meteorological section there has been a- big gap in this respect, and it is very pleasing indeed to read in a statement made by the Minister for the Interior on 29th July that Australian weather forecasting will benefit by the erection of a modern meteorological observatory near the remote, little-known Rawlinson ranges in Western Australia. That station, the Minister explained, would be equipped with all types of meteorological instruments and with the latest electronic aids and would be ready to begin operating from 1st August. This observatory will help to fill one of the big gaps in Australia’s network of meteorological stations, and will provide weather and other information vital in relation to the future development of the vast interior of this continent. The Minister, in his statement, went on to mention that the United Kingdom would contribute £75,000 towards the cost of this station and supply special radar equipment and that Australia would have to maintain, supply and operate this station for a period of not less than ten years. That is a positive step and one that I am sure will be appreciated on both sides of the chamber.
A good deal has been said to-day, in this debate, about electoral reform. This, also, is a matter in which I am very greatly interested. Time will not permit me to make many observations on it, but I should like to add my voice to those of other honorable members, particularly those of my Queensland colleagues the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) who spoke this afternoon on this problem. I am strongly of the opinion that it would be in the interests of all concerned if polling hours were altered to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of being from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There are various reasons for this, and I am glad to hear some “ hear, hears “ from the other side of the chamber. This change would result in greater economy. It would certainly result in a saving of effort and a saving of energy on the part of a great many officials and voluntary workers who give their time at every poll. Not only that, but results would be available two hours earlier, at least, and I think that is important. By the time eight o’clock comes, everybody is pretty tired, and when the count begins at eight o’clock we are aware that we are in for several hours of waiting and anxiety before we know, reasonably clearly, what the outcome will be.
I know that there are various contrary arguments to this. For instance, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) this afternoon made some reference to the inconvenience to seasonal workers. I know, too, that another argument is that various religious sections of the community would object to voting before sun-down on Saturday. I suggest that these difficulties can be overcome. I believe that most difficulties in the world can be overcome if we have the will to overcome them. I think that one way in which to overcome these problems would be to extend the use of postal votes.
A select committee of the Senate conducted an investigation into these matters some years ago, and made a number of recommendations. I have not a copy of the committee’s report at the moment. I had hoped to put my hand on one, but could not find it. My recollection is that the committee made a great many recommendations of considerable worth. Unfortunately, nothing has come of them. I hope, from the recent announcement by the Minister for the Interior, that consideration is being given to a review of electoral matters generally and I hope that, in the course of that review, the recommendations made by the select committee will be given careful thought.
There are one or two special points that I should like to mention. I think they have already been mentioned, but it is a good idea to re-emphasize them. One is the suggestion that party names should appear on ballot-papers. Another suggestion about which I feel very keenly is that the distribution of how-to-vote cards for candidates outside polling booths should be disallowed and that, in future, a sign should be placed inside each polling booth, possibly authorized by the head of each party or by each candidate, saying how to vote for each candidate. That is done in the United Kingdom. As far as I know, it has been done successfully there for many years, and what the United Kingdom can do surely we can do. A vast amount of money, a vast amount of time, and a vast amount of labour are expended at every election in this country on individual how-to-vote cards for candidates. I should like to see them abolished and replaced by a large sign inside each polling both.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I desire to direct my remarks to the Department of the Interior. In doing so, I wish to place on record my support for the case submitted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) to the effect that government departments should pay rates to municipalities. But, before proceeding along those lines, I should like to refer to some of the criticisms that have been offered by speakers in relation to what they termed the reckless spending by the States of loan moneys. I think, perhaps, the best answer that I can give to them was supplied by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) when he said that the greatest impression that he had gained since he had been Minister in charge of this department was the difficulty of decreasing government expenditure in a growing and expanding country. I should like to express my view that, most probably, those people who are responsible for State government and local government are experiencing the same difficulty. They are the ones who, to a great extent, take the responsibilities that are the outcome of Federal Government policy.
I refer to the matter which is, perhaps, the greatest concern, and that is immigration. I feel that when honorable members express concern at laxity in spending on the part of State and local government authorities, they are only using hackneyed phrases to conceal the fact that insufficient loan money has been given by the Commonwealth to the States which, in turn, have to supply moneys to local government bodies.
The payment by the Commonwealth of rates to municipalities is a subject the consideration of which is long overdue. In my electorate there are the City of Footscray, the City of Sunshine and the City of Williamstown. In all these cities are big Commonwealth establishments. There are also big State government establishments and some very large semi-governmental concerns. In Footscray, there is what is known as the Munitions Stores and Transport. Depot of the Department of Supply, and the ordnance stores in Gordon-street, covering a terrific area of land on which there are many thousands of pounds worth of machinery. This, incidentally, requires the provision of roads, drainage, channel- ling, footpaths and all those things which give the workers and the places surrounding these establishments decent amenities and civic life. Of the three cities, Sunshine bears, perhaps, the biggest burden. Number 1 Stores Depot of the Royal Australian Air Force at Tottenham, munitions, stores and transport establishments, defence research laboratories, Department of Supply establishments, ordnance depots, Navy establishments, and also large immigrant hostels are situated in Sunshine. In Williamstown there are Navy depots and dockyards, stores establishments, and a large rifle range which covers many acres of land that could be used for the construction of a considerable number of homes, and which is used by rifle clubs only on Saturdays in the season.
Order! What department is the honorable member referring to?
– I am discussing areas which are controlled by the Department of the Interior.
The Estimates now under consideration really have nothing to do with the defence departments.
– I am discussing areas on which Commonwealth departments should be paying rates. I understand that those areas are controlled by the Department of the Interior. They are situated in cities in which property is assessed on an annual value rating, under which machinery it ratable. In the establishments which I have mentioned, there are many thousands of pounds worth of machinery, and the loss of rates to councils must be staggering.
We must bear in mind that councils undertake social services such as child welfare, the provision of pre-school centres, immunization against diphtheria, whooping cough, poliomyelitis and other diseases, the conduct of libraries and the provision of centres for subnormal and spastic children. lt is understandable therefore that the councils feel very keenly about the loss of rates on Commonwealth properties. We must bear in mind also that services are provided for these Commonwealth properties by the construction of roads, footpaths, channels, and drainage. The vehicles that travel to and from these establishments are generally of a heavy type and it must be realized that maintenance of the facilities that I have mentioned is very costly. Therefore some consideration should be given to offsetting the expenses that are incurred for these purposes and recouping councils for the services they provide for Commonwealth departments. Many of the amenities pro vided by local governing bodies are financed from general revenue, and this source of funds is rapidly drying up because the councils have pushed their rates as high as they can. They have reached the limit to which they can go in the discharge of their responsibilities, and they demand relief.
Large Commonwealth establishments are situated in Sunshine in particular, and in Footscray and Williamstown, and the city councils are continually demanding a return in rates from Commonwealth properties. To give the committee an indication of the problems confronting local-governing authorities at the present time I should like to refer to the schedule of works for the 1955-56 loan programme for the city of Footscray, with particular reference to the amount the council sought to borrow, the amount it was given permission to borrow, and the amount it has been able to obtain. Its programme included the provision of traffic control lights, permanent roads, drainage, the purchase of quarry plant, the improvement of reserves, the provision of an infant welfare centre and pre-school centres, and considerable expenditure on an electricity undertaking. All these matters are of great concern to local authorities. The council wanted £466,000, but has been able to obtain only £140,000.
Order! The honorable member’s remarks are very wide of the group of Estimates now before the committee.
– I am discussing the problems confronting municipal councils and ways in which Commonwealth departments could help them by paying rates on Commonwealth properties, which are now the cause of considerable loss of revenue to councils.
Order! I think most of the matters the honorable member has raised could properly have been related to the Treasury Estimates which cover the Taxation Branch.
– Then I am prepared to leave it at that for the moment. I thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, for your indulgence.
.- I have listened to the discussion on this group of estimates very closely. The honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) said that the Estimates debate is one of the most important of the year. I do not agree with him. Its only importance is in having certain items in the Estimates clarified by the appropriate Minister. There is no chance at this stage of having the Estimates changed. Throughout the history of the Commonwealth Parliament there has been no chance of having the Estimates changed at this stage. Perhaps some error in the title of an item or some similar detail has been rectified on occasion, but, as honorable members know, ever since federation the Estimates have gone through without alteration once the budget has been presented and the Government’s financial commitments have been announced. Therefore, it is of no use for us to try to have estimates reduced at this stage, because, as we know, the programme announced in the budget is by now more or less an accomplished fact. However, we do have the opportunity to have items clarified.
Under Division No. 71 actual expenditure in 1955-56 on rent for buildings for the Treasury amounted to £173,226, and the estimate for the current financial year is £342,000 - almost twice as much. It is quite proper to ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) the reason for the increase. Have rents increased, or are more buildings being rented by the Treasury now? How is the amount made up? I think it is necessary for honorable members to know the reason for the increase. Among the miscellaneous items under Division No. 65 - administrative - is an item for Commonwealth properties, Perth - payment to the State of Western Australia for the eradication of argentine ants. Expenditure last financial year was £1,000, and £1,000 is provided for the current financial year. We may at this stage ask the Minister what progress is being made in the eradication of argentine ants in these buildings. Is the £1,000 being spent justifiably? Did the expenditure of £1,000 last financial year result in the eradication of argentine ants from these government buildings?
– That was applicable not only to government buildings but to the entire State. It was a grant in aid.
– In the Estimates it is shown as being for Commonwealth properties.
– That is correct
– It is shown plainly in the Estimates as being for Commonwealth properties, Perth. So it cannot be applicable throughout the State. If it is, the item is wrongly stated in the Estimates. Was the £1,000 spent to advantage last financial year? Have the argentine ants been eradicated? What will happen this financial year? Is the infestation of ants still as bad as it was last year, and is that why another £1,000 is to be spent? Or is it being spent to prevent the ants from reinfesting the buildings? It is only questions of this kind that we may ask at this stage. It is of no use for us to direct attention to the cost of a proposal and to debate it now. The time to debate these matters is during the consideration of supply bills in March or April, some months before the budget is prepared, and before it has become an established fact. Honorable members have suggested how they would change things if they had a chance. When the present Government parties were in opposition we knew that we had no chance of changing the Estimates. At week-ends, when I have been visiting parts of my electorate, people who had been listening to the broadcast of a parliamentary debate which had not yet concluded have asked me what I thought would be the result of the vote when it was taken. I have known what the result would be because numbers alone are the deciding factor. When the Labour party was in power I always knew, what the result of the vote on any matter would be.
Honorable members have made suggestions for changing well-established practices, and I wish to make some comment on them. The first suggestion relates to hours of polling. Some honorable members have suggested that the hours, instead of being 8’ a.m. to 8 p.m. as at present, should be 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., a reduction of two hours. In country electorates those last two hours of the polling day are a most important period. My colleague, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), said that it took twenty days in his electorate to decide the result of the poll, so what difference would two hours make in such an area? The honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) said, that a reduction of two hours would save a great deal of the energy of voluntary workers and officials at polling booths. Every honorable member knows that Federal Parliament polling day is the most important day of the year. I am not worried about the energy of polling booth officials and voluntary workers, and if the officials are not being paid enough, let their allowance be increased. Surely there are sufficient voluntary workers to take turns to relieve one another if their duties at the polling booths are too arduous. In my electorate, the voluntary workers are only too happy to work until 8 o’clock in the evening, or later if required.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) suggested that polling should cease at 6 p.m. because since federation, he said, conditions had changed. As far as the primary producers are concerned, conditions have not changed very much. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) made some comments about dried fruits, and his remarks prompt me to give an illustration. If polling day happened to fall in March or April, that would be at the height of the harvesting season in the dried fruits areas. At that time of the year, heavy rains are likely to come almost any day and would spoil the crop. If the polling day ended at 6 o’clock the primary producer would have to knock off before that hour to go to vote, but if voting hours concluded at 8 p.m. he would still have an hour and a half of valuable time in which to continue the picking of his fruit. Honorable members agree that primary producers are responsible for a major proportion of Australia’s national wealth, and they are entitled to some consideration. If a man with an oat crop is in the process of harvesing on polling day the oats may fall if they are not harvested. The hour and a half that he could work after 6 p.m. is a most important period. As night approaches, the ears of oats become tough; consequently, he must use every moment of daylight to the best advantage. It is far better for him to finish his day’s work and then go to vote. On the last two occasions that the federal elections were held in December - on 10th December, 1949, and 10th December, 1955 - a large percentage of my constituents voted after 7 o’clock in the evening. Some of them arrived just as the doors of the building in which the polling booth was situated were closing, but because they were within the building they were allowed to vote.
– Honorable members opposite need not exclaim. As long as these electors were within the building before closing time, they, were entitled to vote. I cannot understand why some honorable members want a change in voting hours. Since federation, the twelvehour period from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. has worked admirably, and it is important that the closing time should not be altered.
Another suggestion was that the names of the parties should be shown on the ballot-papers for the House of Representatives. The electoral office does not recognize parties in an election for the House of Representatives, and this is perfectly proper. My colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), gave an example of what is happening with regard to the names of parties. Suppose, at the next election, the Opposition was represented at the polls by three parties - the AntiCommunist Labour party, the Democratic Labour party and the Australian Labour party. The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) complained about the poor lighting in polling booths. In such a condition, a voter might be able to distinguish only the words “ Labour party “ on the ballot-paper and would be unaware of whether he was voting for a representative of the Anti-Communist Labour party, or of the Democratic Labour party, or of the Australian Labour party. Similar confusion could arise over Country party candidates. In Victoria, there is the Liberal and Country party and the Country party. In a dimly lit polling booth, an elector might cast his vote without distinguishing between the Liberal and Country party and the Country party. Why change the present system?
The parties are all capable, by means of propaganda, of acquainting the electors of the claims of their candidates. If the electors do not know which party a certain candidate represents, it is obvious that that party’s propaganda has been very poor. Any member of this committee could readily inform an inquirer to which party he or his opponents at an election belong.
As far as the Australian Country party is concerned, people know who are the candidates, and they vote accordingly.
As to the re-drawing of electoral boundaries, the full limit of the percentage of electors allowed in an electorate should be clearly indicated, and rural electorates given the best possible deal. Mention was made to-day of the Labour party’s old catch-cry, “ One vote, one value “. At one time the Labour party’s slogan was, “ One nian, one job “, but that has been dropped since some leaders of the Labour party have been engaged in three or four jobs. What is the result of appealing for one vote, one value? The drift of population to the cities and towns leaves fewer electors in the country. In the last redistribution, it was found necessary to add two sub-divisions to the Mallee electorate in order to have the required number of electors within its boundaries. That electorate was already the largest in Victoria. It is only logical that if large electorates are made larger, small electorates will be made smaller. It is not only the voting strength of an electorate that is involved.
If representatives of metropolitan Labour electorates such as Wills, Shortland, Yarra or Scullin were to organize a meeting in the middle of any of those electorates, many of the electors would not have to travel more than half a mile, and the farthest resident within the electoral boundaries would not come more than 4 or 5 miles to attend that meeting. But in the far-flung rural districts the boundaries are hundreds of miles apart, and the parliamentary representative has to visit most of his constituents individually. Some consideration should be given to the convenience of country electors who are prepared to leave the bright lights of the city and go to remote parts of the country for the purpose of growing primary products that are so necessary for the welfare of Australia.
The Department of Health has not been mentioned during this discussion, but some of my constituents have been somewhat concerned about a recent happening. I should like the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), if he can, to give me an explanation of it. As from 1st July, 1956, higher rates of hospital fees have operated in Victoria. In order to help contributors to meet the new charges, the Hospital Bene fits Association proposed to introduce a new table that would provide fund benefit of £12 12s. a week. The point is that contributors over 50 years of age, who would be paying the same contribution as other people under that age, would receive a benefit of only £8 8s. a week as against the £12 12s. receivable by the younger contributors. That meant the imposition of an age limit in respect of the payment of benefits. I should like to know how a line can be drawn so as to divide people into different health categories according to age. lt is quite possible that many people over the age of 50 among the contributors to this benefits scheme are more healthy than other contributors who are under the age of 50. Similarly, a contributor of more than 60 years of age may be more healthy than a contributor perhaps 50 years of age or just under. I admit that it is more likely that an elderly person would not be in such good health as a young person, but T should like the Minister for Health to give me some indication of whether the Commonwealth is agreeable to the operation of the principle I have mentioned, or advocates it. I can assure the Minister that this system of providing benefits according to an age limit is not pleasing to many of my electors, and if the Commonwealth is responsible for the adoption of the system, or agrees to it, I should like to know, so that I shall be able to make some sort of explanation, satisfactory or otherwise, to my electors.
We are discussing four departments - the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Civil Aviation-
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– In reply to the question which the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has just raised, I can say that the new arrangement to which he has referred was not one which was welcomed by the Commonwealth, and certainly not one which was initiated by this Government. It is a provision in Victorian legislation which limits the amount of benefit payable to people over 50 years of age, who contribute to a medical benefits scheme at a special table rate, to a lower amount than is payable to people under the age of 50 years who contribute at the same rate. However, despite that apparent disparity in benefits receivable, there are still some advantages for contributors who receive the lower rate of benefit in that their dependants are entitled to the higher rate of benefit. The facts of the matter are that when the society decided to introduce the higher table it made representations to the Commonwealth requesting the approval of the Government. The Government was quite ready to approve of the new arrangement. The Government’s opinion was that this was consistent with the principle of health insurance, and would not represent any financial danger to the organization. However, the Victorian Government Statist took a different view. He considered that if the new table were approved, and if people over the age of 50 years were allowed to draw benefits at the same rate as those that could be drawn by people under the age of 50 years, there would be some financial risk to the medical benefits organization concerned. Therefore, he did what he had the power to do under State law - he refused to approve it. I want to make it perfectly plain that, in the first place, disapproval of the application of the higher rate of benefit to contributors generally came from the Victorian Government, and that the movement to have the benefits paid to people over 50 under the higher table was a proposal by the insurance organization of Victoria which was certainly not objected to by the Commonwealth. However, the position now is that, as the Victorian Government does not approve, the organization must submit to the State law under which it has to operate.
.- During his speech the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) used about 2,000 words. I find that I agree with twelve of them. A federal election is about the most important event of the year. Some of the honorable gentleman’s exposition of electoral procedure, electoral results and electoral reform raised important points, but I do not think that he supplied any answers. He mentioned the drift of population to the cities. I think that ‘takes place probably because the people get better representation from members representing city electorates. 1 address my remarks to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) who is at the table and who administers the Electoral
Branch which is probably the most important part of the machinery of Parliament to guarantee democracy. I hope that some of the £577,000 which is allotted to the Electoral Branch this year will be expended on, amongst other things, a redistribution of seats. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) said earlier, in referring to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, that there are some indications that such a redistribution may occur when electorates are out of balance, when there is an alteration in the number of seats and at such other times as the Governor-General thinks fit. I presume that the Minister is the Governor-General’s principal advisor in this matter. He is a very important man and is a powerfully persuasive person. I take it that if he thinks fit the Governor-General and the Government also think fit. The section of the act which confers on him this great honour is, I think, section 25, and sections 18 and 19 lay down certain principles on which electoral distribution shall be carried out, and the voting force of the community. I would not like to allow this occasion to pass without attempting to refute the arguments of the honorable member for Mallee about representation according to square miles. In the end, of course, adoption of the honorable member’s suggestion might assist the Labour party more than the Australian Country party because, after all, we do hold some seats that are big in area, such as Leichhardt, Kennedy, Eyre, and Kalgoorlie. If seats were distributed according to square miles it would mean that the Labour party would have more seats and therefore much more representation in this chamber. We of the Labour party of course, do not endorse any such principle. We believe in the principle of one man, one vote, one value. That is the principle that should apply to all elections.
This afternoon the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) suggested that the Commonwealth take the initiative to investigate and to attempt to achieve democratic and fair redistribution “in respect of all government instrumentalities, Federal, State and municipal. The points that I want to make, first of all, are connected with the redistribution that was carried out only a year or so ago. Let us consider what happened in respect of two Victorian divisions which are held by the present Government, and let us assess whether the charge laid upon the distribution commissioners under the act that there shall be a community of interest in electorates has been carried out. I think it will be agreed that that principle has not been followed in relation to those electorates.
– Surely the honorable member is not referring to his own electorate?
– My electorate is a very good electorate, I must admit. It has community of interest and good representation. One of the electorates to which I refer is the electorate of Deakin which I know fairly well. I shall examine that electorate from the standpoint of the community of interest that is supposed to be a consideration when electoral boundaries are redrawn. Ohe of the important parts of Heidelberg, which was originally included in Deakin, has been transferred to another electorate. The Labour party had had a majority of perhaps 3,000 or 4,000 votes in that area, which ought to be included with the main part of Heidelberg and the other parts of that area running out to the Diamond valley, in the same federal electorate. That is logical and reasonable. These areas are a geographical and social entity. If we look at the other side of the electorate we find that Box Hill, Blackburn and Mitcham are again an entity. The people living in those parts regard themselves as living in the same district. But for some reason or other the boundary line has been drawn so as to put Blackburn and Mitcham in the La Trobe electorate, but Box Hill has been put in the Deakin electorate. I do not know why that should be so, except that perhaps the people of Box Hill have had a bad habit of voting for the Liberal party, and the Mitcham people quite often voted for the Labour party. So in my opinion the Deakin boundaries have not been drawn on the principles that should apply under the act. Now, if we look at the electorate of Flinders, we shall find rather a good example of the sort of maldistribution to which I am referring. After all it is an odd thing when the boundary goes to within a half a mile of the beach and scoops in a number of electors. 1 am not quite sure why that is done, whether it is to remove a group of Labour voters from a neighbouring electorate or to include a group of Liberal voters in order to make the blue ribbon seat of Flinders bluer. That principle applied all over Australia. If one takes each of the other electorates one by one one will come to the conclusion that the principle that the majority shall govern cannot possibly apply at the next few general elections.
A statistical analysis of the results of elections will show that the Labour party needs approximately 53 per cent, of the votes to obtain a majority. This matter is under the control of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) and we expect some alteration before the next election. After all, in Victoria, Labour at the moment holds ten seats.
– Too many.
– The honorable member’s party can correct that if it wants to. To obtain a Labour majority in Victoria we would require to hold seventeen seats. To be returned to office, Labour, which has the support of the majority of the people, would have to obtain at least 70,000 more votes than the combined total polled by its opponents. That is in defiance of the democratic principle of majority rule, and it is a definite charge upon this Government and upon the Minister to use the facilities provided for under the act and show his capacity to make the same sort of a decision in regard to democracy when it comes to electoral distribution as he did when it came to the application of rents to houses in Lithgow. He should show leadership and give to the people of Australia a chance that the party which polls a majority of votes shall rule. I believe, as has been said several times-
Order! The honorable member for Corangamite will please keep quiet.
– I think Corangamite is pretty safe. We will convince them in the end. It has been said from this side of the committee and I think from the other side too that the names of the parties which candidates represent should be printed on the ballot-papers. These are minor matters of administration which would require an alteration of the Electoral Act. It has been well said, by honorable members on this side at any rate, that people are voting for a party and not so much for a person. They vote for a party, a policy and a government. In the confusion resulting from the propaganda resources in the hands of honorable gentlemen opposite it is often difficult for a participant, a customer or a voter to know exactly which party is which. In order to make sure that every person who goes to the polling booth has the opportunity to record his vote for the party of his choice, it seems to me to be logical enough to print the names of the parties on the ballotpapers. This would not be a great difficulty. Surely, it is possible to arrive at some system of registering the names of parties as the Australian people have recognized the existence of a number of parties. They know of the Liberal party, the Liberal Country party and the Australian Country party, and they know of several sorts of Labour parties, including the Democratic Labour party. All Labour parties are democratic, and all Labour members are democratic. The ballot-paper should show the name of the electorate, the name of the candidate and the name of the party.
One of the disturbing features about recent elections has been associated with the Senate ballot. This is acknowledgedon all sides. Some criticism has been levelled at the compulsory nature of the vote. Compulsory voting was introduced after the 1922 elections when, in the election for the Senate, only 57 per cent, of the people entitled to vote voted. One of the interesting features of that election, however, was that 10 per cent, of the votes were informal. So, the introduction of compulsory voting has increased the effective vote by 30 per cent, or 40 per cent. The Department of the Interior, through its News and Information Bureau and Electoral office, ought to start now to simplify the Senate ballot by educating the people to cast an intelligent vote. This may be done in many ways. First, the actual voting procedure in the booths should be improved. An electorate such as mine is rather congested and frequently thousands of people vote at the same booth. Difficulties also arise as the result of ricketty desks, blunt pencils, bad lighting and the fact that many people turn up to vote at a late hour, just before 8 o’clock. Even such minor machinery matters as improvement of the type of paper used for the ballot-paper would assist in the recording of a valid vote.
I believe that all members of the Government and all people interested in our democratic procedure ought to take whatever steps lie within their power towards training people to record their votes intelligently. It may be necessary to consider the preferential nature of the Senate ballot. After all, if I want to vote for Smith, Brown and Jones, and I put down the numbers “1,2 and 3 “, it is ridiculous that the vote should be invalidated because number 17 has been misplaced on the paper. The Minister mentioned earlier that he was having an investigation made into these matters, and I am fully confident that he will bring to this subject an intelligent attitude in an attempt to achieve a more effective voting result.
Another matter I wish to raise relates to the News and Information Bureau. Many of the matters raised in this committee in the last few hours can be solved only by an intelligent alteration of the Constitution and that can be done only by educating the people towards an understanding of it so that they can record an intelligent vote. When I made my maiden speech some months ago I suggested that a large number of copies of the Constitution should be printed with some sort of annotation and distributed to the people. I am a little disappointed that I have had no influence whatever because since I made those remarks it has been even more difficult to obtain copies from the parliamentary records officer. The document is on sale at 2s. 3d. a copy but at that price it is much too expensive. As my small son pointed out: that sum would buy three Davy Crockett comics which have pictures whereas the Constitution has none. Copies of the Constitution should be produced in huge quantities and distributed with simple explanations so that when the time comes the people can record intelligent votes.
In the few moments at my disposal I want to refer to some matters which relate to the proposed vote for the Department of Works and which I hope the Minister will explain. One item needs a little explanation. It is the amount of £135,000 for fees to private architects. If honorable members refer to the Estimates they will find that a good deal of money is to be spent on the employment of architects, engineers, surveyors, draftsmen and such like, the total sum being £1,416,876 for 953 of them or an annual average salary of about £1,500 each, lt appears to me that if the Government is paying £1,500 per annum to skilled architects, engineers, draftsmen and surveyors, it should be unnecessary to go outside the department and employ people to design buildings. If £135,000 is to be paid out in architects’ fees when the department itself has highly skilled employees, the morale of those employees will probably be rather affronted by the engagement of outside architects. I think the item needs a little explanation. Another item about which I should like to know something is the expenditure of some thousands of pounds in respect of armoured car pay-roll protection.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Whatever criticism one might like to level at the electoral system, it certainly has produced some peculiar honorable members. We can be thankful that there are certain ways of being elected. I want to mention two matters, the first of which, immigrant centres, comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). These large centres are no longer being used by the Commonwealth and are about to be disposed of. Some of these camps were built for the Army and others for the Air Force. The cost of erecting the buildings and providing services such as roads, electricity and water supplies in each camp was many hundreds of thousands of pounds. In effect, each of these camps is a small town. After the war, the camps were taken over by the Department of Immigration. They were extended and additional money was spent on them.
Now the Commonwealth proposes to dispose of these assets because it can find no further use for them. Are these camps to be broken up? Are these buildings to be sold at bargain prices or given away? Are these roads and other services to be just torn up? In short, are we going to turn into heaps of rubble, worth only a few pounds, assets in which the taxpayers have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds? That is the problem that we are facing today. Surely there must be some national use for these camps. It would be a great national loss if they were not used to advantage. Has the Commonwealth thoroughly investigated every possible way of using them. What are the State governments doing to try to interest people to use the camps for either secondary industry or other purposes?
I mention as an illustration two camps in my electorate. The camp at Cowra, which was built originally for the Army, is capable of accommodating about 4,000 immigrants. We can imagine the amount of money that was spent on a camp of that size. The Parkes immigrant centre is coming under the hammer for disposal. It is admitted that that camp is situated near the Parkes aerodrome and, therefore, that it presents a special problem, but I hope the Government will seriously consider whether some use can be found for it. It was used during the war to accommodate airmen undergoing training. In this time of crisis, surely we should not lightly throw away and destroy a great asset such as this.
These two camps offer a unique opportunity to the Commonwealth, because there is a very prosperous town beside each of them. During the war, the people of those towns befriended the men of the Army and the Air Force who were accommodated in the camps. They showed that they could look after them most effectively. I am very pleased that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) has agreed to meet representatives of the Cowra Municipal Council and discuss, on the spot, means of using the camp there. The Minister is using his best endeavours, but I think we must go a lot further. I feel that the Government itself must come forward with a practical solution of the problem of how to retain these assets for the nation. Before these valuable assets are broken up and thrown away, the Government should give serious consideration to means of using them in the national interest.
The next matter to which I wish to refer relates to the Department of Civil Aviation. Because the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) is able to take the controls of an aircraft, he can talk to the civil airline pilots in their own language and appreciate their problems and difficulties. That puts him in a unique position. Australia is faced with the problem of establishing and maintaining at least seven overseas air terminals which are capable of handling D.C.6 and Viscount airliners and all types of jet aircraft. It is obvious that that programme will involve huge expenditure on runways, radio communications and other necessary installations. When large numbers of aircraft are using airports, the facilities must be adequate. The provision of those facilities makes a heavy demand on the very limited funds available for civil aviation.
Holland is a much smaller country than Australia, but its population is about the same size as ours. Holland is required to maintain only one, or perhaps two international airports, compared with seven in Australia. So I believe that we must face the fact that we cannot afford international aerodromes with all the frills that are to be found in aerodromes in, say, New York and London. It is idle for us to imagine that we can provide all the facilities for passengers that we should like to provide at our international airports. We simply have not got the funds to do so. We must not lower our standards of safety, but we must be prepared to accept aerodromes without elaborate frills.
– What about country aerodromes?
– I was not going to mention country aerodromes but, in view of the interjection, I shall do so. I believe that country aerodromes are not built merely to make travelling easier for country people. Country aerodromes, particularly those in the more distant parts of the continent, are essential to the opening up of large tracts of country. If we want to encourage people to go out into the country, we must try to ensure that, if they do so, they will not be at a disadvantage compared with the people who live in great luxury, and sometimes not in great luxury, in the cities. We should try to give them the same amenities as city dwellers. When we are spending money on national projects, we tend to spend too much on city areas and not enough on country areas.
Country aerodromes help to open up markets. A case in point is the suggested aerodrome at Orange, which is the centre of the greatest cherry-growing district in Australia. The best cherries are produced in that district. If an aerodrome were established at Orange, cherries could readily be flown to Queensland and so give the poor Queenslanders the benefit of early cherries. When people are thinking of settling in the country, how often do we find that their first inquiry relates to communications? They ask, “ Is there speedy transport to the city if we want to go there for business or personal reasons? If a tractor breaks down, can we get a spare part flown in by the next day? “ A good air service to a country district can be of immeasurable benefit to primary production and the development of the nation. In the budget allocation, I see that the proposed vote for Division No. 75 - maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities - is £4,705,000. I should like to hear from the Minister how this amount will be divided up. Is there a carry-over from last year’s vote? How much of this money will be spent on city aerodromes, and how much on country aerodromes? I think that honorable members would be very interested to hear details of the break-up.
I feel that Australia is entitled to boast of a very proud record in civil aviation. We are the third country in the world from the point of view of domestic aircraft activity. This record has been attained at no risk, and while maintaining a high standard of safety. From what one can hear and learn, our civil aviation standards are probably tougher than anywhere else in the world. We should make no apology for that because, in Australia, the maintenance ot a high standard of safety has paid off handsomely. In fact, I think since 1951, Australian airlines have carried without accident something like 10.000.000 passengers. In conclusion, I ask the Minister to give the greatest possible help in connexion with the laying down, maintenance and development of country aerodromes. If this is done, civil aviation will continue to play a great part in the development of Australia. We must hasten that process. Civil aviation is very important to this country.
.- I have some sympathy with the troubles of the Department of Civil Aviation in maintaining country aerodromes. The department is quite ready, I understand, to take over country aerodromes which have been established by municipal authorities in our various country towns. To give you, Mr. Chairman, an instance of the disappointments that the department suffers, I need only refer to Wollongong. Last year, 1 think, the department took over a new strip at Wollongong, and two interstate airlines commenced to use it. Very shortly afterwards, they discontinued their services. Both used it at the one time, and both discontinued their services at the one time. The Department of Civil Aviation still has to maintain that aerodrome, which nobody now regularly uses. This illustrates the difficulties that we have in Australia because the Commonwealth Government’s powers over aviation, like its powers over trade and commerce in general, extend only to participating in interstate trade. Many country aerodromes are used solely by intra-state airlines, over which the Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction whatever. Rivalry between country towns, such as Bathurst and Orange, Dubbo and Narromine, and others in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area constantly recurs - which is to get an international airport or a modern airport, and which country aerodrome the Department of Civil Aviation is to be asked to take over. But there is still no guarantee that the Commonwealth’s expenditure in maintaining such an aerodrome will ever be put to effective use. The Commonwealth; can run an interstate airline, whose aircraft can stop off at any aerodrome on the way, but wc have found, again and again, that these under-capitalized, relatively shoe-string, intra-state airlines cannot be depended on to maintain a full, regular service to any of the country aerodromes to which the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) has referred.
– I think an assurance is received, first of all, that there is a reasonable volume of traffic before any Commonwealth contribution is made.
– I accept that. Probably such an assurance was given, and was being carried out at the time that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines both used Wollongong, but now neither of them uses it. The assurance is worth nothing, but the maintenance of the Wollongong aerodrome will still probably cost thousands of pounds a year.
– It is too close to Sydney.
– I rose rather to direct myself to some questions concerning the Department of Health. I was not convinced by the answer that the Minister for
Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) gave to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) concerning the Commonwealth’s attitude to the hospital benefits scheme in Victoria which had increased its benefits to persons under 50 years of age. This hospital benefits scheme cannot exist - certainly it cannot prosper - without Commonwealth approval, and the people only join hospital benefits schemes because in that way, and in that way only, will they receive any subvention by the Commonwealth towards their hospital expenses. It is idle for the Minister, I would suggest with respect, to say that there was an overriding or an inconsistent State law. For ten years, the Commonwealth has had complete power over sickness and hospital benefits. When the Chifley Government obtained the consent of the people in all six States, at the referendum in 1946, that power was written into the Constitution without any of the restriction on civil conscription which applied to medical and dental services in placitum xxiii (a) of section 51. Then, I remind the Minister, by section 109 of the Constitution, when a law of a State is inconsistent with the law of the Commonwealth, the latter shall prevail and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be invalid. I find it quite unconvincing for the Minister to say that it is impossible for the Commonwealth to do anything about the procedure of a hospital benefits organization in Victoria, because there is an act in Victoria, or a regulation in Victoria, which prevents the Commonwealth doing it. If the Commonwealth wants to do anything about the hospital benefits organization, or if it wants to do anything about the hospital benefits in a direct and complete form, the Commonwealth has full power to do it. There are so many points of difference and misunderstanding between the Commonwealth and the States that it is mischievous to extend and exaggerate such differences, where they do not apply at all. The honorable member for Mallee’s complaint is still unanswered.
I mentioned the other matter to which I wish to refer in connexion with the proposed vote for the Department of Health in a question that I directed to the Minister this afternoon, without notice. The honorable gentleman was not fully informed on the subject of that question. I told him that, if an opportunity presented itself, I would mention it again during the discussion of the Estimates for his department. I hope that I shall now receive a fuller and more satisfying reply. My question concerned the prescribing of lifesaving drugs under the National Health Act. You will remember, Mr. Adermann, that, under sections 86 and 87 of that act, a person need not pay for pharmaceutical benefits which are prescribed under the act. Regulations were made in 1954 under that act, specifying what drugs and medicinal preparations could be supplied free in that way. There have been several versions of those regulations. The gap in them to which I propose to refer was not closed by any of the five amendments which were made in 1954, by the amendment which was made in 1955, or by the amendment which was made on 28th June last. I refer, in particular, to the fact that many of the livesaving drugs, the antibiotics which are referred to in the second schedule to the regulations - to be precise, aureomycin, chloramphenicol, oxytetracycline and tetracycline - can only be prescribed for staphylococcal infections if the infections do not respond to penicillin.
Again aureomycin, oxytetracycline and tetracycline can be prescribed for pneumonia only if it has not responded to penicillin or the sulphonamides. The gap in the regulations arises in those cases where patients are allergic to penicillin or the sulphonamides and, as a consequence, suffer toxic effects. The consequence of the gap is that patients cannot be given the drugs which alone they can take because they have not previously been given the drugs which they cannot take. It means that if the law is to be observed patients who are allergic to penicillin or the sulphonamides cannot, without payment, receive the only drugs which they can take for their complaint.
The other consequence is that if a doctor presumes to prescribe these second-schedule antibiotics he is breaking the law. His authority to prescribe these and any other drugs can be cancelled by the Minister. If this happened he would have to go through the tedious and expensive process of approaching the Supreme Court of one of the States or territories to have the authority restored and the Minister’s cancellation rescinded.
It might be thought that the number of persons who are allergic to penicillin and the sulphonamides are few. I should like to quote from a report by the Medical Services Committee of Inquiry for the State of New South Wales on 18th July last. The committee consisted of five highly qualified medical practitioners, including the Deputy Director of the Department of Health in Sydney. The committee stated -
The experience of members of the committee is that not more than about 5 per cent, of cases receiving injections of penicillin develop unfavorable symptoms. Sensitivity to penicillin is, of course, not a reason acceptable under the regulations for prescribing the other antibiotics as free benefits.
I refer also to a special report by the National Health and Medical Research Council called “ Chemotherapy with Antibiotics and Allied Drugs “, which was published last year under the authority of the Minister’s predecessor. On page 17 of the report the following appears: -
The most important toxic effect of penicillin is the production of allergic manifestations . . .
Sensitivity reactions occur most frequently in patients who have had previous penicillin therapy and so are more commonly seen now than previously, but they may occur in subjects who have had no known previous contact with the drug
Sensitization of nursing and other members of hospital staffs to antibiotics has recently become a serious problem. Sensitivity may be acquired at what appears to be a first contact with the drug or the latter may be handled for months or years before sensitivity appears.
Earlier in the same report, at page 12, the toxic effects of the sulphonamides are described. We learn that some of the complications are not dangerous and that when they occur therapy need not be discontinued. In the case of others it is wise to stop treatment. Certain other complications are rare, but may be extremely serious. When they are present therapy should be stopped at once. The conclusion is that sensitization may occur with any sulphonamide.
There is, then, a certain and increasing percentage of the community which suffers toxic effects from penicillin or the sulpha drugs, but, as the regulations stand, after seven successive amendments, it is not possible within the law to prescribe other antibiotics for those people. If a medical practitioner does so he is breaking the law.
I hope that the Minister will now be able to tell me, though he was unable to do so at question time to-day, that allowance will be made for the prescribing of these secondschedule antibiotics for persons who are known to be allergic to penicillin and the sulphonamides, and that in the meantime medical practitioners will not be penalized if they prescribe the only drugs which the patient can take, but at present cannot obtain without payment.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) is soon answered. If he had listened a little more carefully to what I said in reply to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) he would have realized that I did not say that a hospital benefits scheme had limited its benefits. I said the precise opposite. I said that the hospital benefits scheme wished to extend its benefits, but that its ability to do so was resisted by the Victorian Statist, who refused to continue its registration on such terms. That is rather a different matter.
The other matter, in respect of which he asked me a question this afternoon and which he has raised again to-night concerns the use of what is known as restricted drugs. Perhaps the easiest way for me to make this matter plain to the committee is to say that virtually three categories of drugs are made available as pharmaceutical benefits. The first is the general list of pharmaceutical benefits, which are freely available on a doctor’s prescription to all members of the community.
– And without restriction?
– Except minor restrictions such as dosage. The second class is the restricted drugs, and the third is cortisone. For the purposes of the honorable gentleman’s question cortisone does not matter, but I propose to say a word or two about it. The second class, restricted drugs, consists of antibiotics which can be used for certain diseases only, or for diseases for which penicillin has been found ineffective. The honorable member mentioned staphylococcal infections and certain types of pneumonia. Restrictions are placed on the drugs because they have various properties which, if not carefully watched, are liable to be immensely harmful. If given in inadequate or inappropriate doses they cause resistance among the organisms which are subjected to their use. They also have the very dangerous property of masking symptoms and obscuring diagnosis. As the committee knows, all treatment must proceed from the essential preliminary step of diagnosis.
It is most important that these drugs should be used with great circumspection. Therefore, they can be used only if the doctor who prescribed them certifies in writing on the prescription that they are being used in accordance with the restrictions laid down, that is, for certain diseases. I hope that no one in the committee will get the idea that a doctor sees a case and says immediately, “ This is a case which can only be cured by aureomycin “, or, “ This is a case which requires chloramphenicol “. That type of diagnosis hardly reaches the level of the comic strip.
– I did not put that.
– That is so, but I wish to make the position plain. In the first place, there is seldom a sudden necessity to use these drugs. Therefore, the restrictions do not impose hardships on patients from the viewpoint of worsening the disease from which they may be suffering. These drugs are restricted for use in certain diseases. It is true that there is nothing in the act or regulations to permit them to be used where a patient has been found to be allergic to penicillin. The honorable member said that the committee to which he referred gave it as its opinion that sensitivity to penicillin occurred in no more than 5 per cent, of people generally. I should have thought that that was a very cautious statement by the committee, and that probably the percentage is very much lower. In any case such sensitivity to penicillin occurs very seldom.
The fact that the regulations lay down no procedure in this respect, in fact, imposes no real hardship on doctors who wish to use penicillin in such circumstances, or some other drug where penicillin is not suitable because it is only a matter of common sense for them to do what they normally do in dealing with the third section of pharmaceutical benefits, that is cortisone. In that case it is required that not only must the doctor use that drug for certain diseases, but he must also have the approval of the Commonwealth Director of Health for the State as well. Every doctor knows, although this will not be found in the regulations that he only has to ring up the Commonwealth Director of Health for the State and say, “ I have a case of so and so, and I think cortisone should be used to treat it. Will you give me permission to use cortisone. 1 am in a hurry, and I will send in the requisite form to-morrow “. Such a request is never refused, and every doctor knows that he can obtain permission to use cortisone in that way. The exercise of a little common sense will enable him, when he knows that he is dealing with a patient who requires antibiotics because he does not respond to penicillin, to telephone the Commonwealth Director of Health for his State and the matter can be arranged. While that procedure may not be found in the regulations, any doctor would realize that he could take that action. Commonwealth Directors of Health in the States are not remote from the general body of the profession, but are well known to the profession, and doctors merely have to get their permission to use cortisone.
– That procedure is laid down for cortisone?
– No, but it is such a common practice that everybody knows of it, and all that is required is a little common sense.
– Mr. Chairman–
– I rise to order. The general procedure in debate is that honorable members shall be called alternately from the Government side and the Opposition side of the chamber. Whilst I realize the importance of Ministers speaking in this debate, it is quite apparent that, if they are to be called one after the other, they can monopolize the whole time allocated for the discussion of the Estimates. In my experience of Labour administrations I must say that the call was given to honorable members on both sides of the chamber with fairness and impartiality. I have been waiting for some time for an opportunity to speak.
– Order! The honorable member has not raised a point of order. I have called the Minister for the Interior.
– Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Daly) put -
That the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) be nowheard.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
House adjourned at11.2p.m..
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Recently I addressed a question to the Acting Prime Minister about the availability of data on rainfall, runoff, soil absorption, evaporation, river flows, and matters of a like nature. In a written answer to my question, I have been informed that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not responsible for the collection of statistical information about these matters and that it is unfortunately true that there is inadequate data available in Australia. I have been informed also that at a recent conference of the Australian Academy of Science these deficiencies were pointed to and that the conference deplored the non-existence in Australia of a competent hydro-meteorological service and recommended that such a service be established as a matter of urgency. I now ask the Acting Prime Minister: Will he take steps to see that a service of this kind will be established in Australia and that members of it will be given opportunitiesto go to the United States, where advanced work has been done in the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys? This work is of great importance to Australia.
I have looked into the matter of the collection of data on rainfall, runoff, soil absorption, evaporation, river flow and similar matters and find that they arc logically a function of the Bureau of Meteorology. The collection and interpretation of such data over short periods has been undertaken in isolated instances to facilitate the design of engineering works on rivers. In general, however, there has been no systematic collection of such data partly because of the physical difficulties and the vast cost of such a project and the limited demand for such information which has heretofore existed. However, my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, indicates that the early establishment of a Hydrometeorological Section within the Bureau of Meteorology has been under consideration and planning for some little time past and some further announcement on the subject may be anticipated at a reasonably early date.
Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
What amounts of pay-roll tax have been collected from (a) State, and (b) municipal instrumentalities in thelast two financial years?
What was the value and the dollar content of (a) Australia’s imports and (b) Australia’s imports of petrol, oil and cognate fuels in each of the last ten financial years?
Due to the complexities of the financial structure of the oil industry, it is not possible to assess the dollar content of Australia’s imports of petrol, oil and cognate fuels. It is not, therefore, possible to evaluate the dollar content of the total trade of this country. However; the following information may be of value to the honorable member: - (a) The value of all imports and of imports from the dollar area during each of the ten years, 1946-47 to 1955-56 was as follows: -
The value of imports of petroleum products from all sources during the same year was -
Who was responsible for allowing the British Australasian Tobacco Company a onethird expansion of imports of dollar leaf in 1955 to the detriment of the Australian growers?
When does he propose, in accordance with the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956, to direct the Australian Broadcasting Commission to establish its head office in Canberra?
In addition to underclothing and oiher necessaries, national servicemen on full-time training are issued wish - one new suit of battle dress, three new khaki shirts, and two new pairs of khaki drill trousers. For use during training, national servicemen are also issued with a pair of laundered pan-worn khaki drill trousers or reconditioned service dress trousers (serge) depending on the season of the year. This scale of issues applies in all commands throughout Australia. The issue of the reconditioned clothing is to enable national service personnel to preserve their new clothing in good condition for walking out and parade purposes. In the interests of economy it is not proposed to vary this practice.
From War Office, London - Profits from canteens sales on troopships.
From royalties on sale of song “ Any Bonds To-day “.
From donations of moneys held for “ Cull Force “.
From donations by Overseas Food Corporation.
From transfer under War Service Estates Act.
From Department of External Affairs -
Prisoners of War Fund, Mukden, 1945.
Pursuant to section 17 of the act -
From Army Central Canteens Control Board.
From Royal Australian Air Force Canteens Services Board.
Pursuant to section 18 of the act -
From Royal Australian Navy Central Canteens Fund.
From Aus.ralian Military Forces Special Amenities Fund.
From Australian Military Forces Special Benefits Fund.
Pursuant to section 18a of the act -
From British Commowealth Overseas Forces Canteen Pro-fits.
Pursuant, to section 19 of the Act -
From mess funds of disbanded war-time units.
Pursuant tosection 20 of the act -
From regimen all funds of disbanded wartime units.
Pursuantto section 21 of the act -
From Royal Australian Navy Relief Fund.
From Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Fund.
£17,863; six months to 31st December, 1950. £8,046; 1951, £17,127; 1952, £19,382; 1953, £20,882; 1954, £22,972; 1955, £24,744. 8. (a) any man or woman who between 3rd September, 1939, and 30:h June, 1947, was- (i) a member of the naval, military or air forces of the Commonwealth; or (ii) a member of any nursing service or women’s service aitached or auxiliary to any branch of the defence force of the Commonwealth; and includes members of the canteens staff of any ship of the Royal Australian Navy and any person duly accredit ed to any part of the defence force who has served in an official capacity on full-time paid duty.
for the children of eligible servicemen other than those mentioned in paragraph (a) of this sub-section, which children are, in the opinion of the trustees, particularly deserving of assistance by reason of exceptional circumstances, and in providing, wherever considered desirable by the trustees, for the maintenance or welfare of any children of eligible servicemen for whom educational assistance, including professional or trade training, is provided in pursuance of this sub-section,
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19561002_reps_22_hor12/>.