22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister the following question: Is it a fact that the decision of the Government to construct the new ammunition filling factory at St. Mary’s was made contrary to the recommendations of the Chiefs of Staff, and also of the Department of Defence Production, the Director-General of Works, the Defence Production Planning Committee, and the Defence Committee?
-It is not a fact.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that, at the recent biennial congress of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the Communists doubled their representation on the interstate executive of that body? Does this suggest that the strength of communism within the Australian trade union movement is increasing, and does the Minister expect a fresh outbreak of industrial troubles as a consequence of this development?
– It is a fact that, at the recent biennial congress of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is in effect the parliament of the trade union movement, the strength of Communist representation on the interstate executive increased significantly. The former representation of two Communists on the executive of sixteen members was increased to four. It was, I believe, significant that this increase was the result of the congress accepting a change in the basis of representation. Formerly, each State sent two representatives to the executive, but each State is now to provide only one member, and one member is to be provided by each of a number of major groups of industries. This change was put into effect largely as a result of the activities and urging of the Australian Communist party. It was known - or at least, I imagine that it should have been known - to most of the delegates present that one direct consequence of this proposal would be an increase in Communist strength on the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. To the extent that this was known and accepted, the change bears out the honorable gentleman’s suggestion that there is evidence of Communist strength. I do not believe that Communist strength, in point of numbers, has increased in this country. In fact, there is evidence that membership of the Australian Communist party has been declining ever since the attack by Khrushchev on Stalin, and the events in Hungary last year.
The change in the composition of the interstate executive reveals, I believe, that the Australian Communist party is able to capitalize on the present divisions within the Australian Labour party, on the concentration of the Labour party on the elimination of industrial group elements, and on the absence of any resistance to Communist activity in the Labour party which, in the past, has claimed to resist the march of communism. Whether or not this change will mean an increase in industrial trouble remains to be seen, of course. Undoubtedly the Communists, who axe notoriously more militant in the sense that they promote strike action, will toe a bigger force in the discussions of the interstate executive. On the other hand, there is still a majority of moderate-minded men on that executive, and I have no doubt that they will retain the sense of responsibility that they have shown over recent years, and which has contributed notably to improved industrial relationships and a decline in the number of working days lost through industrial disputes. But I take this opportunity to alert all trade unionists in this country to the significance of the development, and to urge them to resist, where they find them, subversive Communist tactics and infiltration by communism of the Australian trade union movement.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service, supplementary to the question just asked by the honorable member for Phillip. Does the Minister know that the industrial groupers supported the Communist party’s move to change the make-up of the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and will he deny that the industrial groupers supported the Communist party’s candidates for the executive that was recently elected?
– I am aware that the proposal for a change of representation was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the persons present at the congress, and I have no doubt that those persons included members of all groups - the Australian Labour party, the Communist party and the industrial group. But if the honorable gentleman is seeking to imply that there is in any way an alliance of viewpoint between the Communist party and the industrial groupers, of course that is too laughable to be accepted for one moment. What the honorable gentleman might keep in mind is the experience of the Australian Railways Union with its elections in Victoria in February of this year, when joint meetings were held of the Australian Labour party and the Communist party to select candidates for 81 positions on a joint unity ticket, following which each of those candidates was presented in a straight-out contest with the industrial group candidates in that election.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. I have received several inquiries since the Minister made his speech yesterday outlining the proposed increases in certain pensions. Will these increases have an effect upon the total amount of money that may be received by recipients of pensions? In other words, will the pension, plus allowable income for a single age or invalid pensioner, now total £7 17s. 6d. a week?
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that this is a matter of policy.
– Order! That is for the Minister to determine.
– The legislation that I introduced in this House yesterday afternoon provides that age, invalid and widows’ pensions will rise by 7s. 6d. a week. The permissible income remains at £3 10s. a week, so that a qualified pensioner receiving the maximum pension rate may receive a total of £7 17s. 6d. a week before his position is prejudiced in any way.
– In view of the important debate soon to take place in this House on the construction of the filling factory at St.
Mary’s, will the Minister for the Interior make available before that debate commences full information regarding the names of tenants of premises in the old St. Mary’s factory area, the rents charged those tenants by the Commonwealth, and any increases of rents? Will the Minister also supply the names of tenants who were in arrears in their rental payments in June, 1954, and the amounts of those arrears?
– I shall see what information is available on the lines requested by the honorable member. However, I am sure that one thing that will show up is the great difficulty experienced in dealing with tenants in St. Mary’s, due to the fact that the Labour government of that time put industries into former munitions buildings with such haste that it did not even stop to conclude decent, workmanlike tenancy agreements.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has yet received the report of the universities committee, which was appointed by him. If not, is the report expected sufficiently early to be made available to Parliament, and for the Government to give consideration to the recommendations contained therein, during the current session?
– The report referred to by the right honorable gentleman is the report of the committee which I appointed earlier this year - a very powerful committee - to inquire into the position of universities. That report has been compiled and has been signed, but it is in the process at the present time of being typed in a suitable form for distribution to Cabinet. 1 have not yet seen the report. As soon as it is available I propose, together with my colleagues, to give immediate attention to what the Government should do about the recommendations contained in it. I should hope then to give publicity to the report and, at the same time, to indicate what the Government proposes to do about it. It will be treated by me as a matter requiring expedition and I should therefore hope to have it, together with the Government’s views, in the hands of the public and in the hands of Parliament well before the session ends.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. I ask the Minister whether, at a function convened by the Royal Empire Society on 23rd July last, at which he was a guest speaker, he stated during the course of his address that the Northern Territory would become a separate State in the not too distant future. If the Minister made this statement, will he tell this House when steps will be taken by the Government to bring this new State into being?
– 1 did not make the statement that I am reported to have made in the form quoted by the honorable member. The context in which some remarks on that subject were made was a contrast that I was making between the problems of administration in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and the problems of administration in the Northern Territory. I pointed out to the audience that in the Northern Territory one could foresee the course of development fairly clearly; that the course of development there would be analogous to the course of development that had taken place in all the States of Australia; and that when the Northern Territory had developed in population and production it undoubtedly could and would become another State. I made no prediction as to point of time.
In contrast to that, I pointed out that in the case of Papua and New Guinea, because of the mixed population, the large indigenous population, and many other complications, one could not foresee the future with the same clarity, and that one had to work steadily in the observance of certain principles in the belief that, even if one could not prophesy exactly what would happen one would hope that some day, in its own way, Papua and New Guinea would move towards a form of self-government suited to its circumstances. I did not make the statement in the form quoted by the honorable member.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. I refer to the proposed introduction of income tax in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the principle of “ No taxation without representation “. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is proposed that a representative of Papua and New Guinea should take his place in this Parliament?
– I am not aware of any such proposal.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that a very serious riot occurred at Greta migrant camp recently? Is it a fact that the cause of the riot was the Government’s failure to keep its promise to find work for the immigrants confined to the camp? Is it a fact that the immigrants demanded to be sent to Sydney so that they would have an opportunity to find work themselves? Did the Minister accede to their demand? Can the Minister inform the House of the number injured during the attempt to queil the riot? When does the Minister propose to make a full statement on the matter?
– The answer to that long series of questions is “ No “.
– My question, directed to the Prime Minister, relates to the Snowy Mountains agreement. I understand that the River Murray Waters Agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia provides that in a drought period the River Murray Commission can declare a period of restricted supply, in which case the water of the River Murray is shared between the three States in the approximate proportions of 5:5:3. Under the recent agreement, is the water brought in from the Snowy to be available for sharing by the three States in these proportions, or is it to be treated as belonging to New South Wales and Victoria only, and excluded from the common pool?
– My understanding of the application of the River Murray Waters Agreement is in line with what has been said by the honorable member in the earlier part of his question. As to the second part of it, the position is that the waters of the Snowy - which was normally a New South Wales and Victorian river - being brought into the Murray, the additional waters so brought in, will be shared by Victoria and New South Wales. But the important thing from the point of view of the State of South Australia is that additional water is being brought into the Murray under this scheme, and in the irrigation period, which is the important one, particularly in a bad season, the additional water will serve to reinforce the supplies of the river and the total so created will be divided, subject to provision for the filling of Lake Victoria, between the States in the proportions laid down in the River Murray Waters Agreement.
– I. ask the Minister for Immigration whether, for the enlightenment, of New Australians, he will publicize in the “ Good Neighbour “ journal the reasons why the Australian Government delegates failed to oppose the admission of the Sovietcontrolled Kadar Hungarian representatives to the recent International Labour Organization Conference.
– I will treat the question as being on the notice-paper, and let the honorable member have an adequate reply.
– In view of the Government’s failure to introduce and have passed bills of ratification in respect of the Agreement on Commerce between Australia and Japan, I ask the Minister for Trade whether that agreement is considered to be binding in international law. Is there foundation for reports that Australia will shortly conclude trade agreements with several other countries? If such reports are well founded, will the Minister arrange for a full debate on the terms of such agreements, prior to signing? Will the Minister also concede the sovereignty of Parliament by facilitating debate on ratification bills rather than by way of a motion for the printing of the relevant paper as was done in respect of the Japanese Trade Agreement?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question, it is quite legal that the agreement be signed under the constitutional authority which reposes in the Executive Government. It is a point of Government policy to conclude trade negotiations with other countries, where that can be done with advantage to the Australian economy and Australian interests. Exploratory discussions are being conducted at the present time with a view to discovering further opportunities to achieve that end.
– Can the Minister for Trade say whether, the suggestion for a freetrade area between Canada and the United Kingdom has been examined by the Australian Government? If so, can he say whether such an idea, if implemented, would be likely to affect the interests of this country?
– The proposals of which we have all read in the newspapers have not been examined by the Government. I think it can be said correctly that we had no knowledge of this proposal until it was announced at the conference in Canada, I think by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am unable to judge the implications for Australia of any such arrangement until the details are before us. I doubt whether there would be any substantial implications of advantage or disadvantage to this country.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received a letter from the Lord Mayor of Perth expressing the concern of the Perth City Council at the delay in the building of the new premises for the Australian Broadcasting Commission? In the light of those representations, will the Minister say whether the decision to delay the building of the premises for twelve months is being reconsidered? What chance is there of bringing the commencing date forward?
– Questions on the subject mentioned by the honorable member for Stirling have been directed to me in this chamber, first of all, I think, by the honorable member for Perth. Also, in another place, there is a question on the notice-paper on the subject, and other Western Australian members have made persona] representations to me about it. The honorable member for Stirling referred to a twelve months’ delay in proceeding with the construction of the new Australian Broadcasting Commission building in Perth. That estimate is not quite correct. The preparation of plans and other preparatory work is proceeding now. I am awaiting receipt of information for the purpose of replying to the question on notice before giving further and more detailed information to those who have been inquiring about the matter, and that information will be supplied not only to the honorable member for Stirling, but also to the other questioners from Western Australia who have interested themselves in this matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that, in denying the Opposition’s charge that living standards in this country have deteriorated, he admitted that food consumption per head of population had declined, but attributed this to a change in the community’s living habits, and stated that records disclosed that the Australian people were now consuming more beer and tobacco than formerly. If so, is it a fact that recent figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in the year ended 30th June, 1957, Austraiian citizens drank 5 per cent, less beer than in the preceding year? If this is a fact, will the Prime Minister state whether he still persists in his claim that lower food consumption per capita does not constitute evidence of reduced living standards?
– I congratulate the honorable member on having given some study to what 4 said, but his study has not gone far enough. He, for a start, completely misrepresents what I said. If he will look up what I said he will find that I was at some pains to state that the amount spent on drink and tobacco had increased by, I think it was, 12 per cent., but I pointed out that the actual consumption of tobacco had risen. The point that I was making, of course, was quite clear, I thought, to everybody in the House. It was that if the people of Australia, for whatever reason, were able to increase very substantially the amount they spent on liquor and tobacco, it could hardly be argued that they refrained from buying food because of their poverty.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service an organization within his department to protect the interests of immigrants who, because of language difficulties, are exposed to exploita tion by unscrupulous employers? What action does the Department of Labour and National Service take when new settlers become unemployed after only brief periods of employment?
– I do not know to which particular organization inside the department the honorable gentleman is referring. There is the general administration through the Commonwealth Employment Service, which is able to give assistance in such .cases. In instances of failure on the part of employers to observe award conditions, appropriate action can be taken through the arbitration inspectorate, over’ which we have general supervision. Where employment has been terminated without due notice being given, again the immigrant concerned can be assisted, so far as my department is concerned, in applying any remedy that he might have. His placement in employment subsequently also will be promoted, so far as that is practicable, by the department. I offer these general observations, but if the honorable gentleman is aware of particular instances which he feels call for examination or help I shaH be glad to take those up with him
– I address to the PostmasterGeneral a question regarding the installation of automatic switching equipment and a new trunk-line exchange at Gosford, New South Wales. When I last asked the Minister about these matters he informed me that it had been expected that the -wonk would be commenced last lune, hut that it had been unavoidably delayed. I now ask him: Can he inform , me whether the work will be carried out during .this financial year?
– I regret that it was necessary to delay the work on the installation of automatic switching equipment and the trunk-line exchange at Gosford, -but I am glad to be able to advise the honorable member that, as a result of the completion of the capital works programme for the department for this financial year, funds have been provided for the installation of that equipment. The work should commence shortly, and although I cannot say that it will be concluded by the end of this financial year, I can say that if it is not so completed it will not be long delayed after that time.
– In view of the recent announcement by the Postmaster-General that the Government proposed to proceed with the next phase of the introduction of television services, will he inform me of the considerations that are taken into account in determining the cities that are next in line for television services? Does density of population play any part, and are industrial production and contribution to the national revenues given any consideration? Will the Minister say why Hobart, with a population of 120,000, is to receive television before Newcastle, with a population of 314,000? Further, is the Minister aware that Newcastle has, at Mount Sugarloaf, a natural site for a television station which could provide a service for a viewing public much greater than that of any other Australian city, with the exception of Sydney and Melbourne? Will the Minister say when it is proposed to establish television at Newcastle and whether any other city in Australia is to receive priority over Newcastle in the further extension of television services?
– I remember that when I made a statement concerning the plans for further extension of television in Australia I pointed out that this represented the second phase of the Government’s overall plan for such extension and that later, at no stipulated period, a third phase, which would comprise the extension to country areas, would proceed. The honorable member has asked about the considerations which determine the choice of sites. Density of population, of course, is a very important one because it is desired to ensure that as large a section of the population of Australia as possible is given the benefit of this service as early as practicable. He refers particularly to Hobart and suggests that Hobart is an area in which the population to be served is not so great as the population of Newcastle. That statement is quite correct; but it has to be remembered that Hobart is the capital of Tasmania, a fact which gives it a prior claim in this case, particularly since we seek to extend television services to the remaining capital cities. The honorable member also referred to natural sites available for television stations in the Newcastle area. I assure the honorable member that the Australian Broadcasting Con trol Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department are investigating all those matters, so that they are in possession of the information as to suitable sites, and also that matters like this are kept under review in accordance with the development of technical and engineering knowledge which is steadily occurring as a result of our experience in the last twelve months.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say when an announcement will be made on the constitution and membership of the National Capital Development Commission to be created under an act passed by this House somewhat over a month ago? Is planning for the transfer to Canberra of the defence services departments proceeding without delay pending the appointment of the commission? Does the Minister recall that on 29th August he said that no hiatus would occur in the development of Canberra pending the appointment of the commission? Will he recognize that we are approaching the end of 1957 - the transfer is to take place in 1959 - and that much water has passed under where the bridges ought to be in the time that has elapsed?
– I should like, first of all, to set the honorable member’s mind at rest as far as the transfer of defence personnel to Canberra is concerned. If the honorable member will look around Canberra I think he will see the extent of the public works and construction going on, including road works, drainage, water and sewerage and so on. There is no delay in the provision for the transfer of the defence services. As to the appointment of the commission, certain matters have been reserved for its consideration in due course, which will not have a slowing effect on the building programme. In this case we are looking for the right man to do the job. We have not created the job for the man.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply been drawn to a rather extensively waged campaign designed to prevent the continuation of the Maralinga tests? I may add that the cry of the campaigners is, “ Stop the Maralinga tests “. I ask the honorable gentleman whether, in view of the nature of this campaign, he will again give an assurance to the House that the tests are being conducted with complete safety.
– I really do not think that such an assurance is necessary, because it has been given in this House several times. I am quite sure it is accepted by all members of this House that the Australian Government and the scientists and other gentlemen who advise it would not permit these tests to be embarked upon unless they were quite positive that they could be carried out in complete safety. However, if the assurance is again required, on behalf of the Government and on the advice of the best brains in this country, I give that assurance.
– In answering a question asked of him a few minutes ago the Minister for Labour and National Service said that the industrial group supporters of the Australian Council of Trades Unions Congress would be unlikely to support the election of Communist officers because, like the Government, they disagree with the Communists so much. I now ask the right honorable gentleman: Is he overlooking the fact that industrial groupers may have supported the election of Communists in order to make the same kind of political capital out of their election as the Minister tried to gain in the answer to the recent question?
– I should like to be able to think of an appropriate simile to answer the question of the honorable member, who seems to take some sort of satisfaction in a self-inflicted wound. I have watched, as other Australians have watched, with interest and some concern the struggles that have been taking place inside the political and industrial movement on the left wing of this country. It is clear that, for motives which I believe are based on patriotism, members of the industrial groups have, as best they could, been contesting the growth and inroads of communism in this country. At one time the Australian Labour party claimed that to be its responsibility, but, for its own purposes, in recent times that party has seen fit to ally itself with the Communists when it comes to the presentation of unity tickets for elections inside the trade union movement. Politics make strange bed-fellows, it is said, but surely nothing could be stranger than this alliance between those who claim to speak for patriotic, publicspirited Australian workmen and those who are directing their energies to subversion and infiltration into democratic Australian institutions. To the extent that the industrial groups are doing a job that ought to be done by the Australian Labour party, they are entitled to our gratitude, and indeed to some encouragement from us.
– Does the Prime Minister know that figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician reveal that meat consumption rose to 207.7 lb. a head of Australian population in 1956-57; that total consumption in that year was 39 per cent, more than the average for the three years from 1946 to 1949; and that this was due to a 25 per cent, population increase and an 1 1 per cent, increase in the average per capita consumption as compared with the three years before this Government came into office? Will the Prime Minister draw the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to this fact and ask him to revise his Budget statement on Australia’s consumption of staple foods?
– I am indebted to the honorable member for the information. I do not doubt that it is correct. Many explanations could be given for an overall movement in the consumption of food, not the least of which is the changing eating habits of people. Some people, for example, carefully avoid eating potatoes and, speaking for myself, with very good reason. Others appear to distract their attention occasionally by getting away from ordinary beef and beer to a diet of wormwood and gall.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Does the Minister recall that early this year, being anxious about his repeated statements on Communist domination of trade unions, I put on the notice-paper a question asking him to name the unions and the people who dominate them? Does the Minister recall, further, that after some hesitation and after some time had elapsed, he replied that he could not supply the information? Will he now state to the House and to the people, the extent to which the trade union movement has been dominated by Communists and will he give their names? This, last few weeks the Minister has found, it necessary to use every possible occasion to malign the Australian Labour movement, particularly the trade union wing of it.
– Of course, it is quite impracticable for any one to specify with precision how far this process of infiltration and subversion within the trade union movement has gone. If the honorable gentleman, who is a representative of the industrial movement, is unaware that these things are going on in the unions around him, either he is singularly ignorant, or he is not prepared to face up to the facts of existence. There are notable personalities in. key positions in the trade union movement who, unashamedly, acknowledge themselves to be Communists. Mr. Healy is one. Three of his colleagues who were elected to the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions are others.
– What about the other members of the interstate executive?
– That is four out of sixteen. Is it not a considerable proportion?’ It is actually four out of twelve, if one omits the four office bearers of the A.C.T.U. The significant thing is that this parliament of Australian trade union officialdom, knowing that the consequence of the change in the basis of representation was almost certain to be an increase in Communist strength on the executive, nevertheless, by the vote of an overwhelming majority, proceeded to make the change.
We have in our possession evidence that indicates that, as early as April and May of this year, the Australian Communist party got to work through its “ cells “ and “ fractions “ in the trade union movement to prepare for the biennial congress of the A.C.T.U. Head’s of agenda items were circulated1, and the Communists were asked’ to build policies around those items. If the honorable member for Wills wants a list of the- items, I will give it to him at a suitable time. If he wants to see how the list of items circulated in April and? May was reproduced faithfully by the Communist delegates at the congress, I will supply him, also, with the material needed to make a comparison. The fact of the matter is that, although the number of Communists in Australia may be small, their influence, by virtue of the energy that they devote to their task, and the failure of Opposition members and. those behind them in the trade union movement to resist these efforts, have given communism a strength that, it should, have never been allowed to attain.
– I desire to address to the Prime Minister a question about the Snowy Mountains agreement. I preface it by pointing out that clause 51 (2) of the River Murray Waters Agreement provides -
During a declared period of restriction the amounts of water which the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia shall be entitled to use each month from the River Murray (exclusive of its tributaries below Albury) shall be in the following proportions: -
I point out, also, that clause 61 defines “ river “ as including any affluent, effluent, creek,, anabranch, or extension of any lake or lagoon connected with the river. How does the Prime Minister reconcile his statement to the honorable member for Angas that South Australia is not entitled to share in the water that is to flow into the Murray River under the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme with these facts?
– I. am sure that the honorable member for Sturt will realize that he is now inviting me to engage in a legal argument. I do not propose to engage in such an argument. In fact, I understood that litigation on this, matter was proposed. I have no doubt that, if it occurs, all these matters will be argued out by lawyers, after suitable preparation of their’ cases.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Sturt. Will the right honorable gentleman tell the House what effective efforts the South Australian Premier has made to obtain for South Australia any portion of the waters to; be diverted into the Murray River under the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, other than the very recent efforts made either after the agreement was signed, or immediately before?
– I am not competent to answer the question. For a very obvious reason, the negotiations in relation to the Snowy Mountains agreement have been conducted by the Minister for National Development, not by me. My contact with the matter has occurred from time to time when points of Government policy have arisen, and in the last month or two, as the recipient of communications from the Premier of South Australia.
– Only in the last month or two?
– Yes, so far as I am concerned. But that does not mean that the Premier of South Australia has not, on other occasions, put his views forward in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time. I do not know; I assume that he has done so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Does the Minister agree that the repressive trade union legislation brought down by this Government is the real cause of the growth of the communism of which he complains in the trade unions? Can the right honorable gentleman tell the House why it is that Communist influence has grown stronger since the introduction of court-controlled ballots in trade unions?
– I think that I can answer the honorable gentleman most effectively by giving the House some facts about industrial disputes. The honorable member implies that Communist action and militancy have increased during the term of office of this Government, and presumably the fruits of such development would be reflected in the statistics. The fact of the matter is that since this Parliament was last asked to make an extensive reorganization and re-statement of industrial legislation, Australia has continued to enjoy the most tranquil period, industrially, that we have had for the last fifteen years. If present trends continue, fewer working days will be lost this year than in any year since 1942, despite the growth of the population. That is hardly compatible with a state of affairs in which the industrial movement is up in arms, and resentful of the Government was signed, or immediately before?
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 1st October (vide page 934).
Remainder of Proposed Vote of £986,000.
.- I desire to make a few observations on the consideration of the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament. I should like the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley), who is now at the table, to a.k his colleagues in the Ministry, and ».so the Joint House Department of the Parliament, to consider some of the amenities in this building. The dining-room is uncomfortably hot in summer time, and has been so almost since the building was constructed. Conditions have become worse since the Parliament was enlarged, and it seems to me that the time has arrived when it would be of advantage to all members of the Parliament, and to the parliamentary staffs, to have this 30-year-old building airconditioned. Steps should be taken to commence this work very soon, in my view, even though it may be thought possible at this stage to consider the erection of a new Parliament House. If we decided to have a new Parliament House and were to proceed with the plans now, the building would probably not be completed for another eight years. In the meantime, this building could be properly air-conditioned. The expenditure would not be wasted, because no matter what the purpose to which it was put later, the building would be made more valuable by the installation of this modern device by which temperatures are kept at an even level.
The second matter I wish to raise arises from the fact that Canberra is growing rapidly. We now have 36,000 people living in this National Capital, the population of which, at the outbreak of World War II., was about 7,000. Within the next ten years, after the transfer from Melbourne of officers of the Department of the Army and other departments, we might expect to have a resident population of about 60,000. Those people will wish to come to the Parliament occasionally and hear the debates, as they have a right to do. Canberra also is a tourist centre and is attracting more and more visitors. The tourists who come here claim the right, which we should see is recognized, to come to the Parliament and hear debates. This building seems to be too small for the purpose for which it was originally constructed, insofar as there is insufficient accommodation for members of the public who wish to view the proceedings of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The position is aggravated by the fact that one gallery in this chamber was handed over to the press many years ago. I think it was the late Mr. Lyons who weakened and allowed the press to invade the gallery situated to your left, Mr. Chairman. That gallery should be taken back for the use of the public, and the press should be required to make other arrangements for the reporting of the Parliament. We certainly do not need 40 or 50 pressmen in the galleries to report the Parliament. What they are all doing here I do not know. They seem to be falling over each other. Those who occupy the gallery to which I have referred seem to be here as spectators rather than as reporters.
– Or speculators!
– Well, spectators and speculators. I shall say a few words on the latter description later. Many years ago, I think in about 1937, the press authorities - in those days, before I mellowed, I would have called them the press barons, but now shall describe them as the executives of the press world - decided to erect a building in Canberra. I think that the Parliament, the Government, and the presiding officers of the House of Representatives and the Senate should tell the press proprietors of Australia that it is time they erected a building of their own and Stopped camping in this establishment. As the Associated Chambers of Manufactures has erected Industry House, and as other large organizations are building their own premises, so the Australian press world should have its head-quarters in Canberra. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures, the Associated Chambers of Commerce, the Australian Council of Trades Unions and other bodies have as much right to come into Parliament House and occupy premises free as have the pressmen who are engaged here. The fact that they would pay some rent if they were allowed to do so - and press representatives were once allowed to do so - does not vitiate my argument at all. I think that if the chairmen of directors of the various newspaper companies were told that in the opinion of the Parliament a press house should be constructed, and that most of the pressmen who function in Canberra should be located there, they would cooperate and we would be able to make this Parliament what it ought to be, a meetinghouse for the people’s elected representatives and those of the electors who wished to come and see their representatives here. In no State of Australia are pressmen allowed to crowd around the galleries and in the corridors and other places as they are in this Parliament. It is a state of affairs that is not always conducive to the proper working of the Parliament.
– That is because we have centralized too much, and the States have been stripped of their powers by a wrong system.
– Of course, it is quite a valid argument that in the State capitals there is more room for pressmen to function. However, after having occupied premises in this building for 30 years the press ought to start moving out of Parliament House. Until the depression years, they were allowed in only when the doors opened, and they went out when the doors closed. That is how it ought to be now.
The position is aggravated when we find some of these gentlemen - and they are in a minority - who regard themselves not as reporters but as commentators. The three or four whom 1 have in mind are in the Drew Pearson class of commentators, and honorable members will remember that the late President Roosevelt said that Drew Pearson was the greatest liar in the United States of America. These gentlemen take it into their heads, week after week, to slander, abuse and unfairly criticize Ministers and members. Even worse than that, in some instances they suggest that honorable members are indulging or about to indulge in nefarious practices in respect of privileges and the like. There is not the slightest justification for any such accusations. There are so many pressmen around this place, sharing only the one quantum of news, that when they have finished reporting the straight news there is not much else for them to do. So, in order to employ themselves, they indulge in what are known as think pieces. They tease and tear every piece of news to pieces in order to build it up again and present it in a new way. They slant the news, if I may use journalese, or give it a new twist. Well, that is all wrong.
I have no hostility to pressmen as pressmen. They have to do a job. But when I find quite a number of them complaining about the size of the Public Service, or attacking members for not being as active as they might be, I wonder why the press executives permit 60 or 70 of them to remain in this building. If it is important to save man-power, let those who seek to criticize clean up their own houses. If, as is suggested by the press, the Public Service could be cut down by half, I maintain that we could very well get along with half the number of pressmen now employed in this building. In any case, I do not believe that the Public Service can be cut down by half. I believe that the great majority of public servants are competent officers and are doing very useful work. I do not think that the proportion of public servants to the general population of Australia is greater than the proportion in other countries.
With those few words about the Parliament, its workings and some of its critics, and with the suggestions that I have given for making the Parliament House more bearable and useful to citizens of our democracy, I leave honorable members to continue the debate.
.- I do not intend to delay the committee for very long, but I wish to draw attention to one matter while we are debating the estimates of the Parliament. I refer to the paging system in operation in Parliament House. I have on a number of occasions been approached by constituents who have told me that they were unable to contact me by telephone even though I was in Parliament House at the relevant times. I have felt that this constituted some reflection on myself. After all, when an honorable member is in Parliament House he is available at all times to receive telephone calls from constituents. When I meet constituents who tell me that they have been unable to speak to me on the telephone even though I have been in Parliament House, I wonder how many I have not met who have done the same thing. No doubt for every one who has told me of this kind of experience there are many others who have had similar experiences. I remember that when I was away from Parliament House one week I tried to get in touch with some of the members of the Government members’ Rail Gauge Standardization Committee. I rang two members whom I knew were in the House at the time but I was unable to contact either of them and eventually I was put in touch with a third member. I feel that the paging system should be overhauled and that we should do our utmost to see that on every occasion when some one rings the Parliament and asks for a member, that member is contacted. I am not criticizing the telephonists at all. As a matter of fact, they work particularly hard. Through the courtesy of Mr. Speaker, 1 was able to observe them at work on one occasion and I was amazed at the number of calls they handle and the ability they have for locating some members. However, I think there are some things that could be done to make their job very much easier.
First of all, the paging system only extends to certain sections of the House. For example, honorable members are frequently in King’s Hall, but there is no paging system there. Paging cannot be heard in the lobbies or in the Library. I know that some honorable members like to feel that when they go to the Library they can settle down and do some work without being disturbed. But having heard some honorable members talking in the Library, I feel sure that a paging system would be no more disturbing than other noises. A paging system would also be convenient in such places as the hairdresser’s room and the wash-rooms. We have a competent engineer and it is time he overhauled the system and went thoroughly through the whole building to discover the areas where members cannot hear paging.
Secondly, I think the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should provide the Parliament with more telephonists. After all, this is the centre of government. The Government runs the country and it runs the Postmaster-General’s Department, and for most of the time there is only one telephonist for the whole of Parliament House.
She has to deal with all the calls put through by members. At odd times there is a greater volume of work and two telephonists are on duty, but there are three switches, and I think the Postmaster-General’s Department should provide three telephonists. Recently there has been an improvement, because when a member has been paged but has not been found, a message has been placed in his locker. I have had a couple of those messages. I do not know whether other members have had the same experience, but I feel that this system could be extended. On every occasion when a member is telephoned and cannot be contacted a message should be delivered to him so that he can immediately call the number that rang him. I know that the telephonists themselves would not be able to do this, but all that would be necessary would be for them to ring an attendant, and leave the calling number with him so that he could place a message in the member’s locker.
Lastly, if there is a local call, telephonists seem reluctant to call honorable members when they are in the chamber or elsewhere. Personally I do not mind whether it is a local call or a trunk call; if some one wants to get in touch with me I want to do my best to answer the telephone.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– I know that even the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith Would agree with me on that point. I do not want any reflection cast on members because people telephone them and cannot contact them. I hope that Mr. Speaker and officers of the Parliament will look into this matter. Honorable members are well served at the moment, but I think they could be served a little better.
.- Mr. Chairman, once again I want to refer to the workings of the Parliament. My observations have led me to believe that the experience and the talents of honorable members generally are not being utilized to the best possible advantage. I am not blaming honorable members for that, nor am I blaming the Cabinet, because we are working under a system which has been in operation, practically without major amendment, since federation. But that is no reason why the forms of the Parliament should not be altered somewhat if it is to the advantage of the Australian people to do so. It is perfectly understandable that because the size of the Parliament was recently increased, honorable members must be frustrated in some directions. There is only a limited amount of time allowed for bills, and whereas 75 members could possibly have made a positive contribution to a debate, 124 members obviously cannot make the same contribution in the same time. Many honorable members do not bother to prepare speeches because they know, to use parliamentary parlance, that they cannot get in. I think the Government should examine this matter to ensure that honorable members who desire to give conscientious service are able to do so. I say without equivocation that every honorable member who enters this chamber does so with a desire to give conscientious service to the Australian people. We may have different lines of thought, but we are all actuated by the same motives. With the present limitation of debates honorable members are thwarted in their desire to give of their best. They spend a lot of dead time sitting in the chamber or wandering around the Library.
In order to give members greater encouragement to take a more active part in the deliberations of the Parliament the Government should give serious and sympathetic consideration to an extension of the committee system. I know that this suggestion is not new and that the Government has realized that something should be done, because there has been a slight extension of the committee system in recent years. But I am advocating a major extension of the present system. I am not suggesting that any of the highly controversial and contentious political questions should be sent to a committee for consideration. On those questions we know that the parties in this Parliament have a deliberate and premeditated course to pursue. They were elected on those issues and sitting in committee would not alter their views. But whilst there is a clear and unambiguous line of divergence on some problems, there is not a clear and unambiguous line of divergence on others. In other words, there are numerous matters that come before Parliament on which there is no great gulf of disagreement between the major parties. However, under the present system an honorable member may make a contribution to a debate and he may even suggest an amendment to a bill, but only on very rare occasions is an Opposition amendment accepted. One is struck by the different attitude in the Victorian Parliament, where a perusal of the debates will show that governments of all political complexions frequently accept amendments from the Opposition. But in this Parliament the Government consistently refuses to accept Opposition amendments. That applies no matter which party is in power.
– That is not correct.
– The Government has accepted two Opposition amendments that I can recall. In my eight years’ experience in this Parliament I would say that the Government has not accepted more than five or six Opposition amendments. The average would be less than one a year, whereas in Victoria there would be half a dozen accepted every week. The attitude of this Government in that regard is to be deplored. I am not indicting this Government any more than the previous Government, but I am referring to the general attitude that Opposition amendments are not acceptable. I think the Australian public suffers as a consequence.
An extension of the committee system would provide an opportunity for members to make some constructive amendments. It would give them a chance to air their views before a committee, and possibly those views would receive far more consideration than if they were tossed into the hurly-burly of debate in this chamber, where we know that political feelings at times run very high.
I first became an advocate of the committee system as a result of my experience in a municipal council. I saw there the benefits that were derived by the ratepayers as a result of problems being thrashed out around the committee table. We were not embroiled in the hurly-burly of public debate, but in the privacy of a calm and serene atmosphere we were far more likely to arrive at a unanimous conclusion. The committee dealt with many matters of a semi-political nature, but some measure of agreement, if not unanimity was arrived at, and when the committee’s findings and suggestions came before the full council those recommendations or a compromise solution was generally accepted and put into effect. The experience I gained as a member of a municipal council - T am still a member of it - has been reinforced during the last seven years since 1 became a member of the Public Works Committee of this Parliament. The Public Works Committee is a good example of a committee that produces positive and tangible results for the parliamentary machine. There is a non-party approach by that committee to numerous projects that are the responsibility of this Parliament, and I would say that the conclusions that have been arrived at by that committee have been highly beneficial to the nation. Members of the Public Works Committee on the other side of the chamber will agree with me that no subject referred to the committee has ever been tackled on a party basis. Frequently when there has been a divergence of opinion on a particular matter members of the Opposition and members of the Government have agreed; there may have been two members of the Labour party and two members of the Government party on one side and three members of the Government and two members of the Labour party on the other side. However, never in my experience on that committee has there been a political approach to any matters placed before it.
The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee is another illustration of the efficacy of the committee system. Its deliberations and findings have been of distinct advantage to the Parliament and to the nation. I know that at times that committee in its findings has trod on somebody’s corns, but that has been all to the good. It certainly has been beneficial because the errors that were exposed were not repeated. If the Government were to agree to an extension of the committee system it would give members, who are unable to contribute to the debate within the limited time available and who must content themselves merely to sit and listen, a much greater interest in the proceedings of Parliament. What is even more important is that the improvement in the working of the parliamentary machine which would inevitably result would give added strength to our democratic system. That is of great importance in this era of totalitarian government in other parts of the world. We must improve our democratic system if we wish to survive the strains and stresses of this modern world.
The fact that the present system has been in operation for the last 56 yeaTs is no reason why we should not seek some improvement by way of major alterations to ensure its continuance in the future. Committees should be appointed to deal with many matters so that they can make a more reasoned approach to national problems without any emphasis on a party political outlook. Many questions come to my mind that would merit the consideration of such a committee, particularly because there is no great party political cleavage concerning them. When these matters are discussed in the Parliament, however, there is always an element of party bias, and as 1 have said already, no matter how good a suggestion made by the Opposition may be it is automatically rejected by the Government because it comes from this side. In contrast, when such matters are considered by the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee they are dealt with on their merits and party political considerations are forgotten.
As an example, I mention the private members’ committees which dealt with the standardization of railway gauges. The reports that were submitted and suggestions made by Government and Opposition committees, respectively, were very similar. Other matters which could be dealt with by committees consisting of members with expert or practical knowledge are television, primary production, social services, transport, national development, and housing. On the subject of immigration there is not much difference between the policies of the Government and of the Opposition, and a joint committee could give valuable advice to the Parliament on this subject. Only recently the Government appointed the Constitution Review Committee which is comprised of members of both Houses. The Government considered that that joint committee could arrive at conclusions which would be of lasting benefit to the Australian people. The Government has made a good start by appointing that committee, but it should not stop there. It should encourage more members to accept appointments to committees to deal with matters such as I have suggested and to make recommendations to the Government. It would then be a matter for the Government to consider and accept the recommendations made by those committees. If it did not like the recommendations it would be under no obligation to accept them. The
Government, of course, must have the final say, but 1 think it would find that the conclusions of the committees would be wellfounded after mature consideration in the conclave of the committee room, beyond the influence of heated debate such as takes place in the parliamentary chamber.
I have said that such a system would give a better approach to national problems. What 1 am suggesting is by no means new because other parliaments utilize the committee system far more extensively than this Parliament does. In the United States of America the committee system operates very extensively. I would be the first to concede that the American parliamentary machine is somewhat different from our own but examination shows that the members of Congress are influenced largely in their attitude to bills by the reports of allparty committees set up to consider bills before they are introduced into Congress. That is an illustration of the influence exercised by such committees on legislation in America. I am not advocating an adoption of the American political system because we have a different approach to our legislative procedure. Nevertheless, the system of committees in the American parliamentary machine has proved to be highly beneficial to the American people. We have something to learn also from the Mother of Parliaments - the British Parliament. The House of Commons has a number of committees, far more than operate here; and they perform most effective work. The committees consist of members of all parties and they examine proposed legislation and make recommendations to the Parliament.
– How would a committee on external affairs get on here?
– External affairs is a subject on which there is a vast divergence of opinion between the Government and the Opposition, but if the honorable member for Farrer had been listening to my remarks he would have understood that I was recommending the appointment of committees to deal with matters on which there is not a wide divergence of views. Like oil and water, the divergent views of the Government and the Opposition on external affairs will never mix. That is a highly controversial subject, but there are many other matters which I have mentioned over which there is little difference of opinion.
I point out to the honorable member, as I have already said more than once, that the attitude of the Government, when a matter is being debated in this chamber, is to give no consideration to any suggestion which emanates from the Opposition side. If the matter were considered by a committee it would receive much different treatment and in all probability proposals made by Opposition members of a committee would be adopted and embodied in the report and recommendations submitted to the Government. The appointment of further standing committees in this Parliament to discuss contemplated legislation before it is even drafted would be of great advantage to the parliamentary machine and of great benefit to the Australian people. In the present circumstances we find that the point of view of the
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I find myself in a considerable measure of agreement with some of the things the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has just said, I feel that there is scope in this Parliament for the extension of the committee system, not only in the case of standing committees on various subjects, but also in the application of something like the committee system which obtains in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom in regard to the passage of bills through the House. I think there is a great deal of substance in what the honorable member for Batman said and, in some respects, I would go further than he has suggested we should go. No arrangement should be adopted unless it is agreed to by both the major parties in this House. But surely, by agreement, we could get some kind of system whereby the main committee work on a bill could be done around a table outside this chamber.
I am not suggesting for a moment that a bill should not come before a committee of the whole. I think that every bill should be brought before a committee of the whole in this chamber, but if we could have some arrangement whereby we could get together around a table outside the House and thrash out the points of identity and the points of difference on a bill, then two things could happen. First, the collective wisdom of this House could be used to improve the structure of the bills themselves. No bill is perfect. Secondly, we could resolve our differences into points at issue so that the time of this House would not be wasted in interminable speeches. I believe that we would get, not only a greater opportunity for honorable members to perform a useful task, but also greater efficiency in government.
I think it desirable that we should consider some means by which speeches could be shortened. This should not be done without the consent of both sides of the House. Probably I am as much an offender as anybody else, but I think that honorable members will agree that most of us speak too long and repeat ourselves too much. I believe it would be of great advantage to the whole House if we could get some arrangement whereby speeches in this chamber could be shortened. There would have to be a certain degree of latitude so that, on a topic in which a member is specifically interested, he would not necessarily be bound by a time limit. But I do believe that a lot of us, unfortunately, very often speak for the sake of speaking. That does not make for good government, nor does it contribute to the efficiency of this House.
I want to go on to another related matter. I believe that there have been incursions by the Executive recently into the form and substance of parliamentary government. This is happening not only here, but in most parliaments and, perhaps, in most countries. But, even though it is general, this trend should command our vigilance so that we may preserve the substance of parliamentary government against the incursions of the Executive. I do not want to suggest that this practice is the fault only of the Executive here. It is a natural tendency of al! executives, and something on which we have to keep our eyes.
One of the reasons why it is happening here is the form of this building which, in many ways, is an unsuitable building. It was built, primarily, as a parliament house, but it was not meant to be a permanent parliament house. It has to be replaced but I, for one, would not like to see it replaced at present. I believe that, until we have cured the housing shortage, we should not embark on a monumental parliamentary building. But the housing short- age might be cured in a few years, and that will be the time for us to build a reasonable and decent parliament house.
I would not like to see immediate action taken, but I would like to see two things done. In the first place, I would like to see some kind of preliminary planning. In the second place, I would like to see some reasonable scheme for a stop-gap arrangement to meet the present circumstances. It was an accident, in a way, because there were not sufficient alternative buildings, that Ministers moved their staffs into this building. That may seem a matter of small consequence but, really, it is a matter of considerable consequence because the Executive, by invading this building, has also invaded the functions of the House. It has tended to take over the functions of the House, and to make this an executive building instead of a parliamentary building.
A couple of years ago, there might have been some justification for this because there was no alternative accommodation. To-day, some 200 yards from this building, alternative accommodation stands, empty and wasted,, completed and ready for occupation. There is £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 worth of building ready to be used. I believe that the time has now come when the executive staff - not the whole of the ministerial staffs but, by and large, the executive staff which comes to this place - should be moved over to the proper executive building a few hundred yards away, leaving this place for what it should be, a parliament house. There is not any reason why that should not be done this year. When it is done it will be possible to re-allocate the rooms so as to give greater efficiency and a greater parliamentary character to the building.
I think, it was the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who spoke of the way in which the press is accommodated m this building. I do not altogether agree with him. The press has a function but, as honorable members who have been upstairs will know, the pressmen suffer from great disabilities in this building. They are not getting a fair go. Their accommodation is not reasonable. However, the pressmen should not have access to members’ lobbies as they now have, but they should have appropriate quarters. They lack such accommodation now, and pressmen do operate under conditions of considerable difficulty. If we were to move the Executive out, perhaps we could do what has been done in the House of Commons. We could confine to a back wing the ministerial offices which have to be kept in- Parliament House, and we would then be able to expand, without expense, our use of the main part of the building near the chamber which could be kept, as it is kept in other parliaments, for the use of members and for the functions of Parliament. What I am- suggesting would not involve great expenditure. There is now an opportunity to do it- because the Administrative Building is standing vacant - sweptand garnished, if I- may coin a phrase.
There are other things that could be done. I believe it was a committee called the Paton Committee which, recently considered the functions of the National Library and the Parliamentary Library. As honorable members know, up to now, those two institutions, which are shortly to be separated’, have been inextricably mixed together. In this building some functions are performed which are not properly part of the functions of a parliamentary library at all. I do not believe that we can wait for the building of a new parliament house to remedy this position because I do not believe that we should sei our hands immediately to the building of a new parliament house. I believe that there should be some delay until the housing shortage has been overcome; but in the meantime cannot we do something to get out of this House that part of the library which is to be separated from the Parliamentary Library under the present proposal, and which does not form an integral part of the Parliamentary Library?
If we do that, we will allow ourselves a little extra space here and will therefore be able the more efficiently to re-organize this building without great additional expenditure, in the interests of the proper functioning of the Parliament. It is really important, I think, that the physical incursions of the Executive into this House should be curbed, so that we can curb the incursions of the Executive into the proper functions of the Parliament. I repeat that this is not meant to be a charge levelled against the present Government; it is something that is happening in every parliament of the world and which will continue to happen unless the members of those parliaments are vigilant to prevent it.
– I support the remarks, made by two previous speakers, that the time is opportune to consider the building of a new parliament house and, indeed, to start on the planning of that structure now. The report that was made by the two Presiding Officers would, if adopted,, lead to the commencement of a new Parliament House and its completion in approximately ten years from now. I believe that if the planning is embarked upon at this stage and if the architectural designs are selected after world competition, the construction of the building will be made at a time when no threat will be offered to the building of homes either here or in other parts of the Commonwealth. However, I disagree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) when he suggests that we should be able to get the Executive out of this place while we are still using the building as a parliament. I agree that the incursion of the Executive into the Parliament building should not have taken place, but I am afraid that, like the poor - and certainly this is the only respect in which it is like the poor - the Executive is always with us. I think we must accept the fact that it will be with us while we continue to occupy this building as a parliament.
The suggestion that Ministers and their staffs should be housed in the new administrative building, only a few hundred yards away, is one which no doubt has been considered; but of course, that building will be occupied largely by departments transferred from Melbourne to Canberra. In any case, I would be completely horrified by the thought of Ministers sprinting from the administrative building, along the tree-lined avenues, to this place on the ringing of the division, bells, and. even more horrified by the prospect of large fleets of Commonwealth cars ranged outside the doors of that building, ready to get Ministers here to take part in divisions. On this question of transport I shall have something else to say later. I hope that the Government will proceed with the planning of a new parliament house and that that planning will envisage the proper use of the: building as a parliament, with adjacent provision, per haps including covered ways and escalators, for accommodation for the Executive and the staffs of the various Ministers.
It is admitted that the press works under very difficult conditions in the rooms that are made available in the press gallery. It is also true, I think, that the proprietors of the newpapers should not expect the Parliament and the people of the Commonwealth to provide accommodation within this building for the staffs of newspapers. There have been suggestions from time to time that the proprietors would provide, adjacent to this building, accommodation in which proper conditions of work and living would be available for the members of the staffs of newspapers who do a valued service in reporting the doings of the Parliament. I believe that whatever we can do to improve the conditions under which members of the press gallery are working at present should be done, but I think we should not lose sight of the responsibility on the proprietors of the newspapers to provide proper accommodation for the staffs that they send to Canberra to report the proceedings of the Parliament.
The size of the Parliament was increased eight years ago, in 1949. I think that then there were 74 members in the House of Representatives and 36 members in the Senate. In that year, the size of the Parliament was increased to 123 members in this chamber and 60 in. the Senate. In the first full year of finance after the enlargement of the Parliament, which was the year 1950-51, we find that the total cost of running the Parliament was £451,000. The total cost shown in the document that is now before the committee is £986,000, which is a very substantial increase. Of those sums, I find, from consulting the Budget papers for the year 1950-51, that the total for the Joint House Department was £68,000, whereas the total to-day is estimated at £146,000.
Touching on the matter of transport, to which I referred a few moments ago, there was, in the 1950-51 Budget, an estimate of £95,000 for the conveyance of members of Parliament and others. The comparable entry in this document this year is £220,000. I have been gravely concerned for some time over the expense that is. involved in the use of Commonwealth cars, not only in the conveyance of Ministers and members of the Parliament, but also in other ways. I have at present on the notice-paper a series of questions seeking information on that expenditure. I do not propose, at this stage, to go into the details of the matter, other than to say that I think there is gross misuse of Commonwealth and ministerial cars here and elsewhere and that the amount that is shown is far too great for the needs that are to be met.
Having referred to the enlargement of the Parliament from 74 members here and 36 in the Senate to the present strength of 124 members in this chamber and 60 in the Senate, I want to draw some comparisons between the expenditure incurred, particularly in the Joint House Department, and 1 propose to refer to the items that are given in relation to salaries and allowances. In 1950-51, the first full year after the Parliament was enlarged, the estimate of salaries and allowances for the Joint House Department totalled £15,300. The estimate for the current year, in the document that is now before- the committee, is a total of £35,000. The total staff in 1950-51 was 46, and the total staff to-day is 50, so that while there has been an increase of only four in the number of staff, the increase in salaries and allowances has been £19,700 -from £15,300 to £35,000 - in that period.
The officers employed in 1950-51 included a secretary, who was paid a salary of £80 a year. Admittedly, he was also the clerk assistant in the Senate, but for the proportion of his duties concerned with the Joint House Department he received an annual payment of £80. There was also one chief clerk and accountant, on a salary of £877, and an accounts clerk and a clerk, receiving salaries of £767. We find that to-day the Joint House Department employe one secretary at a salary of £3,750, one chief administrative officer at a salary of £1,983, and a sub-accountant and three clerks at salaries aggregating £4,901; so that in that item alone, salaries and allowances have grown from £1,724 in 1950-51 to £10.634 in 1957-58. It seems to me that the administration of the Joint House Department is becoming quite top-heavy, and that there should be some review of the staffing of the department and the allocation of staff within the department; because, if one takes the comparison right through, one finds that top-heaviness appearing in every section of the Joint House staff. In 1950-51 there were employed one housekeeper and twelve other employees in that section of the housekeeping and cleaning staff, including a head doorkeeper, doorkeeper, senior cleaner, nightwatchman and cleaners. There has not been a great increase there, because we still have one housekeeper and a staff of fifteen, including a deputy housekeeper, doorkeepers, a senior cleaner, cleaners and a nightwatchman. In 1950-51, when there was the same number of members and senators as now, in the refreshment rooms we had one manager and a staff of thirteen, including bar attendants, stewards, waiters, cooks and a storeman. Under the same heading to-day we have a manager, a chef, and a staff of ten, including an assistant manager, bar attendants, waiters, cooks and a stores officer. Salaries in respect of the refreshment rooms amounted in 1950-51 to £7,687; but this year they are estimated to be £12,956.
There has been no significant change in employment in the parliamentary gardens section. I merely point out that the provision for the total Joint House Department expenditure on salaries and allowances in 1950-51 was £15,300, for a staff of 46; today the estimate is £35,000 for a total staff of 50. I repeat that in my view the staffing of the Joint House Department has become completely top-heavy to such an extent that it cannot be justified by the amount of work required to be done. I think it should be reviewed, very seriously reviewed, by the presiding officers at least, and possibly by the Joint House Committee itself, because I do not think there has been any improvement in the standard of service provided within the Parliament building between 1950-51 and now. I quite frankly do not think that we can justify the topheavy staff that is maintained now.
While I am speaking of the Joint House Department, I should like to say that in my view the conditions that prevail for the lower-paid of the workers of the Joint House staff are far from being what they should be. I believe it is true to say that there is considerable discontent among the staff of the Parliament to-day. The reasons for that discontent should be sought out and removed. There is no reason why this place could not operate with a staff much less top-heavy than the present staff, which could work in proper conditions and a happy environment.
.- In the brief time at my disposal, all of which I may not use, I wish to say a few things regarding the Parliament. First, I have greatly appreciated the unfailing courtesy of all the staff of Parliament House. I shall not mention any particular section of the staff, because I might cause offence by mentioning some and not others. However, in the eleven and a half years that I have been in Canberra I have not found one case in which I could take any exception to the treatment I have had from the staff of Parliament House. I have had extended to me the greatest continued courtesy from every member of the staff with whom I have come in contact. [Quorum formed.]
I do not want it to be thought that I consider that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) was criticizing the staff when he made his remarks. I know he has found the members of the staff to be just as good as I have found them to be, and that he would be one of the first to say so. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) spoke of the reluctance of telephone operators to call honorable members from the chamber for local calls. Well, I am quite happy about that, because it is easy to get a local call later. However, one thing to which I do take exception is that when members are called out of the chamber for trunk-line calls remarks are made by other honorable members as they leave to take their calls. An example was the remark made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) when I was called out of the chamber to take a telephone call last night. Honorable members should think over that point, because a member who gets a telephone call has to leave the chamber to take it. If the honorable member for Batman were present in the chamber for two-thirds of the time that I am present in it he would bc doing not too badly.
I object to representation by proxy. That is what is happening in this chamber nowadays. I believe that there are people outside who are getting representation in this chamber by proxy. I refer to the continued and increasing reading of speeches by backbenchers. There is not the slightest doubt that when a Minister makes a statement he has to have it prepared in advance for the benefit of the press and of other people. It had to be word perfect. So, it has been the custom, whatever the political party colour of the government, for a Minister making a second-reading speech or other important speech to have it rendered into typescript or printed well beforehand to enable him to distribute it readily after his speech. Sometimes a copy is handed to the Leader of the Opposition for his information before the speech. But it is a different thing in respect of members who are not Ministers. I am not going to mention any names, but all honorable members know that there has been a great increase in the reading of speeches. I have listened very carefully to speeches that have been read in this chamber by back-benchers, and I have noticed that the phrasing of a number of these speeches is very similar. I believe that in some cases the same man is writing speeches for different members of Parliament.
– Do you say that the same man is writing for both sides?
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) should not think I am referring to one side only just because I am looking at him. That is not so.
– I asked whether the same man was writing for both sides.
– I apologize for misunderstanding the honorable member. Of course, the answer is “ No “, as the honorable member should know if he has listened to the speeches to which I have referred. Honorable members themselves should realize that they represent an area of the total electorate, and that they should come into this chamber and give their own opinions about things instead of merely reading speeches containing somebody else’s opinions. An honorable member who reads in this chamber a speech that he has not prepared definitely gives the opinion of somebody else. I do not want anybody to get annoyed about this, because it may focus attention on them. We often hear talk of members working the old parish pump, but in this House of the Parliament there are 123 members from all over Australia. If each one of them comes in here and gives some information about his own electorate, then this Parliament of the Commonwealth gets a good idea of what is happening all over
Australia, lt he truly represents his constituents .and puts their opinions forward to the best of his ability he is performing the function for which this Parliament was created because, after all, this is the Parliament of the people.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member for Mallee to link his remarks much more closely with the proposed vote for the Parliament.
– The honorable member for Batman said that there was no opportunity for talent in this chamber. He made a speech on that point, so surely 1 am entitled to reply to it.
Mr. -Bird. - I did not say that at all.
– It will appear in “Hansard “.
– This is not the opportunity
– - Order! The -honorable .member for Batman will cease interjecting.
– The honorable member for Batman said ‘that there was no opportunity for talent, and that, if we had more committees, honorable members could be appointed to them, and the committees could make recommendations to the Government. But, those committees could consider only bills that were not of .great importance, because, after all, a government should have confidence in its Cabinet. What would be the use of a committee considering matters of great moment, such as banking legislation or defence? I agree with the suggestion, but I repeat that the bills that would be dealt with would not be of major importance. The honorable member for Batman said that, since the size of the Parliament has been increased, members get a chance to speak only now and again. He said that honorable members have to sit in the chamber or wander about in the Library to fill in time. Any member who represents his constituents properly, has to stay in the chamber. A Speaker of the House of Representatives, the late member for Barker, .put forward that view on many occasions. If an honorable member is not in the chamber on every possible occasion, he has no chance to find out what is going on or to speak when the opportunity offers. One does not need to wander about the Library when Parliament is sitting, and any honorable member who does that is not attending to his job effectively.
I fully agree with the statement of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) that speeches should be shorter. Once, when a man was asked to make a speech, he wanted to know how long he would be allowed. He was told that he could have as much time as he wished. He said, “ I am ready to speak now “. On another occasion, when he was told that he had only ten minutes, he asked for time to prepare his speech. If one’s time is limited, one has to make the most of that time. On the second day of meeting of the Parliament for this sessional period/the “ Thought for To-day “ in the “ Canberra Times “ was -
Talk that does not -end in any kind of action is better suppressed altogether. -If a practical application were given to that quotation in Parliament, political speeches would be considerably shortened. I am quite in accord with the suggestion that speeches be shortened. If they were, they would be better, and more members could speak. During .the Budget debate, which has just concluded, 70 members took the opportunity to speak.
Opposition members have said that although some Opposition amendments have been accepted by this Government to its legislation, they have been few and far between, I agree that that is so, but the number accepted was even less when Labour was in office. The honorable member for .Batman, with a great political thought, said that the Victorian Government accepts amendments. The Victorian Government has to accept them because it has not a majority in the Upper House. So, what a foolish argument that was!
Honorable members should have the best possible amenities in Parliament House, if they are not too expensive. I am not against the idea of preparing for a new parliament house, but I believe that this building is quite adequate at present. However, one must look to the future. If the construction of a new parliament house was an urgent need, I would support it, but at present I can think of other projects of higher priority on which the money could be better spent. I have been a member of the Parliament for a little more than eleven and a half years. Some people may say that that is too long; of course it is too long for some people, especially for the Australian Labour party. Looking through the voting list, 1 find that only two members of the Liberal party, five members of the Australian Country party and seventeen members of the Australian Labour party now members of this chamber were members when I first came here. Only 24 present members were members just eleven years and eight months ago! Surely that means that while we are here we must do what we can for our constituents because in some circumstances we are not here for very long. I cannot say what happened to those who have left. Some, unfortunately, passed away, some were defeated, and some retired.
I agree with, most of the suggestions that have been made, with the reservations that 1- have mentioned. I agree especially with the suggestion that speeches be shortened, and I will now illustrate its application by concluding.
.- The debate on the Estimates gives to honorable members the opportunity to review expenditure on the various branches of administration. At the moment we are considering the expenditure upon the Parliament. I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth.) and I substantially agree with his views on the construction of a new parliament house which would be adequate to our needs. Action could be taken now for the preparation of plans. That work would not interfere with the implementation of a housing programme to meet the needs of the people. I should like to ask the honorable member whether he said, as I understood, him to say,, that this- building was really not constructed to provide for a legislature.
– It was not constructed as a permanent parliament house.
– Yes, it was.
– Not a permanent parliament house.
– Pardon me. I have been in the Parliament from the time this building was first occupied and for a time I was a member of the Parliament when it met in Melbourne. This building was definitely constructed as a temporary provision for the Parliament until such time as a permanent parliament, house, which was to be at the rear of this building, was erected.
-.- - That is the permanent parliament house, yes.
– If that is the conception of the honorable gentleman, it is correct, but I understood that he believed that this building was not constructed in the first instance expressly to provide for the needs of the Parliament in Canberra. We have now occupied this building for a little more than 30 years and we have found that in many respects it is inadequate to meet the essential needs of honorable members. Many claims, which we never expected, have been made on the accommodation that is available. Those claims could not have been met had we remained in the Parliament House in Melbourne. Provision had to be made to accommodate executive staffs, the press, and so on. I feel that the time has arrived when we must seriously consider whether this Parliament House does justice to this growing capital city and to the significance that Parliament must have in the nation. [Quorum formed.]
On 10th September, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question about the celebration of the diamond jubilee of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1961. I suggest that the event might be suitably recognized by opening at that time at least part of a new parliament house. I know that a building adequate for our needs could not be wholly completed by that time, but it would be possible to complete a major part of it if we applied ourselves immediately to the task of preparing plans.
– I should not like to see such a project begun until the housing position was eased.
– I should not like the work to prejudice the housing of the people,, for I know how difficult and urgent the housing problem is. However, there is no reason why a competition should not be conducted, open to architects in Australia and throughout the world, for plans for a structure worthy of Australia and its future,, and a national committee appointed to adjudicate upon the competition. Any one who travels the world, and sees the magnificent edifices that symbolize the greatness of other nations- in housing their national legislatures, realizes how poor and insignificant is our present building for the National Parliament of a great nation that occupies an entire continent. I hope that the Government will recognize the desire of the Parliament that an immediate start should be made on the preparation of plans for a new parliament house, and that it will invite entries from throughout the world in a competition from which we may hope to get the very best results. I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the chamber largely agree on this matter. In the many States of the United States of America that I have visited, the buildings occupied by the State legislatures were fa more ornate and imposing, and much more convenient generally for those who used them in the course of their duties as members or officials, than are this building and many of the State parliamentary buildings in Australia. We do not do ourselves grandly by any means in the parliamentary structures that we have provided for our various legislatures.
I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the staff that assists us in the discharge of our duties as members of this Parliament. All members of the various staffs do their work most efficiently in providing services and discharging executive tasks. From all of them, right down to the humblest messenger and gardener, we receive a high measure of courtesy and consideration that I particularly should like to acknowledge, for it has been extended to me in many of the offices in this establishment. I consider that we do not do justice to many members of the parliamentary staffs, particularly those who are in the lower-paid groups. I earnestly appeal to the Government for more adequate payment of those who provide necessary services for the Parliament, many of whom do exacting work that requires constant diligence if we are to have the best possible service. We should recognize those services that we receive by paying emoluments that are at least equal to those paid outside the parliamentary service. I earnestly appeal to the Government to fulfil its obligations to the servants of the Parliament, because this establishment should set an example to those outside it in its relations with its servants. Unless we give our officers wages and hours of work that are at least as good as those applicable elsewhere, we shall not do them justice.
I hope that the suggestions that I have made will receive the careful consideration of the committee and the Government, and that honorable members will support them in the unanimous spirit that we desire to achieve in the consideration of these matters. I trust that my contribution will have been worth while.
.- During the consideration of the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament, I wish to make a brief appeal for more effective working of the Parliament. Of necessity, owing to the exigencies of administration, the Parliament is in recess for considerable periods. Ministers have responsibilities not only to the Parliament, but also to the people, and they find it necessary to leave Australia on occasions in the work of their portfolios and the administration of their particular departments. I do not intend to discuss or canvass the merits of Ministers’ trips overseas, or the purposes for which they go overseas. I merely record the fact that they do leave Australia and remain away for extended periods, and when they are away they are not available to members of the Parliament, and their services, in a way, are lost to the people of this country. In the operation of the Parliament itself, it is most difficult to follow the advice tendered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as to which Minister is representing another who happens to be absent. If one were asked now who is representing the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), one would find it difficult to say. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is absent from the Parliament at present, and complications arise concerning his representation in this chamber. I believe that at all times there should be opportunities for the closest consultation between honorable members and the Ministry. The Executive should not be supreme. It is supreme, and we are obliged to admit that fact. Very frequently the role of an honorable member is reduced to that of a messenger boy between the people of his electorate and the Executive. Such a state of affairs should be altered, and the Parliament itself should give a clear direction to the Minister as to its feelings in connexion with this matter.
I now wish to say a few words with regard to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, the activities of which have been most useful. I support most heartily the view that committees such as this should be appointed, because this is one way in which Parliament can be effective and can serve in a practical way in assessing the various problems facing the people of Australia. But when I consider the work of the Public Works Committee my mind goes back about five years to a time when that committee recommended to the Parliament that a new Postal Department building should be erected in the city of Bathurst. Although that was a unanimous recommendation of the committee at the time, and although the Parliament endorsed that recommendation, no action has been taken by the department concerned to implement the decision. This is a matter that should be corrected, because surely a decision of the Parliament should carry more weight than the wishes of the Executive or the head of some department.
– What control has the Minister over his department?
– I would suggest that that is a question that the honorable member for Macarthur should address to one of the Ministers. If a Minister has not control over the officers of his department, it is about time he rolled up his sleeves and put his house in order by trying to exercise some control over them. I am not going to follow that line of discussion at all. All I am saying in this committee is that the Parliament made a certain decision with regard to the Bathurst telephone building. That decision should have been binding on the Minister and on his departmental officers, and the people of the City of Bathurst should not have been fobbed off because some person in a department had other ideas on the subject. Surely we should all agree that a decision of Parliament should be accepted, if the Parliament is to work effectively.
I should like to see the Parliament meet more frequently, so that by asking questions of Ministers, and by speaking on grievance day and on the motion for the adjournment of the House, honorable members may express their opinions on important matters. Unless the Parliament is made more effective, I believe that the inroads of totalitarianism in this country must increase. It is idle for us to talk about the great advantages of our parliamentary democracy unless we take the fullest possible advantage of what the parliamentary system has to offer. In this connexion I shall make a suggestion, as a back-bencher who has not been in this place for a very great period of time. I believe that my suggestion may be accepted by many honorable members. I suggest that greater opportunities should be given to honorable members to obtain a fuller appreciation of the working of Parliament. It is true that among the officers of Parliament, such as the Clerks of the House and of the Senate, there are men who are well versed in the operation of our parliamentary system. Some arrangement could be made, perhaps in the form of a summer school, to give the ordinary member of Parliament a fuller appreciation of the opportunities that are available to him in the working of the Parliament. I believe that every honorable member, as a result, would become a more effective instrument in the government of Australia. There is a great need for all of us to adopt an attitude of complete responsibility. When we are sent here to participate in the government of the country we have a responsibility at all times, quite apart from any strong feelings we may have on a particular issue, to try to preserve, to the utmost of our ability, an attitude of dignity and decency when advancing our arguments in this chamber.
Another matter that has been overlooked for too long is the question of the operation of the bi-cameral system of government. I cannot hope to anticipate what the report of the Constitution Review Committee will be, but I do believe that in order to make our Parliament more effective we should consider throwing overboard some of the old trimmings and trappings with which our procedures are surrounded. How often do we see a Minister come into this chamber and move that he and another Minister, whom he names simply because he happens to see him sitting on the front bench at the time, should be empowered to prepare and bring in a bill to do a certain thing? Then a document, which has already been prepared, is placed on the table and circulated among honorable members. Surely there is need to reform our parliamentary institution, so that we may adopt a more direct approach to the problems confronting the people of this country. I am not trying to decry in any way the advantages inherent in the system. 1 believe they are important and that we cannot afford to water them down in any way. They must be preserved at .all costs, and I believe that the liberalism of another century was as advanced then as is our outlook to-day. But there is need for a direct approach to many urgent and pressing problems, so that the opinions of parliamentary representatives on both sides of the chamber may be given due weight in our deliberations, and our parliamentary institution strengthened and preserved.
I frankly believe that the Senate should be abolished. I cannot see that it is performing any useful service for the people of Australia. If it were abolished a very great saving would be made in the management of our Parliament and the running of our governmental institution. The Senate is either a rubber stamp or a house of obstruction. At the present time it works with the Government and is merely a rubber stamp, giving the party opinion about what is happening at a particular time. But if a rebellion occurred amongst Government members in the Senate, or the balance of power in that place were shifted as the result of an election, it would become a house of obstruction, obstructing the expressed will of the people. Even from the point of view of the financial saving involved, it is worth while considering the question, but from the more important stand-point of giving expression to the will of the people, the Senate ought to be abolished, and the question should be one of concern to honorable members in this chamber.
.- I did not intend to speak on this subject, but I cannot let the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) get away with what he has just said. I believe in his sincerity and his desire to make the parliamentary system work. That should be the wish of every honorable member in a democratic parliament, because at no time has the parliamentary institution in Australia been under greater strain than during the last few years. We have seen evidence of that in Queensland. The elected representatives of the people are the parliament of a country or of a State. They are the ones who pass legislation and govern. But there is in this Parliament one party which is directed by an outside body not representative of the people. That non-elective body guides and directs the Labour party in Australia. However, I do not want to continue that argument. I merely say that I believe the honorable member for Macquarie to be sincere in what he says, but he does not realize that for what he says his own party will destroy him.
.- I feel compelled to say a word or two in answer to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). I often wonder whether the honorable member really believes what he says. I doubt if he does, because I do not think any man could possibly be so blind or so dumb as the honorable member would have to be if he believes what he says. It is true that the Labour party in this House represents a functioning democratic party outside the House.
Mr. Wentworth interjecting,
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) receives most of his information about the Labour party from people who are expelled from it, and in that way he is certain to get a rather distorted view. If there is any lack of democracy in the structures behind the parties in this Parliament, that is certainly true of the Government parties, which have a very close connexion with big business interests, such as the banks. The banks have been pressing for fundamental changes in the banking structure for a year or two, and they have now succeeded in getting them. Moves such as this should be recognized by the honorable member for Hume if he is able to see clearly. Therefore, I say that his remarks in this debate indicate either that he is not able to see clearly and is not very bright or that he is not speaking honestly. I suggest that the honorable member should give serious consideration to my remarks, because if he is to serve adequately in Parliament he should be able to see these facts.
A good deal of agreement has been expressed on both sides of the committee on a number of points that have been raised this afternoon. There has been agreement between such honorable members as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Mackellar upon political methods and upon what the function of a democracy should be, both inside and outside Parliament. I think there is fairly general agreement about this. The disagreement that exists is upon the practical effects of that working on the decisions that are made. It is clear that the disagreement on these practical points is as striking as the agreement upon the method of arriving at those practical points.
The extension of the committee system is an excellent example of where agreement lies. I would like to re-emphasize the point made by the honorable member for -Batman. because interjections at the time showed that his point had not been understood clearly by members opposite. The honorable member for Batman suggested that more committees should be formed of the nature of the Public Accounts Committee, where there is general agreement on both sides of politics on the method of dealing with the problems and main points involved. I think the honorable member for Mackellar indicated his agreement on this matter. However, this would exclude a committee such as the Foreign Affairs Committee, because there is obviously so much disagreement upon the main issues for consideration by that committee that ;it is impossible for the committee to FOrK effectively. I suspected that the move for the formation of that committee was a move which was part of the difference of opinion that was present, and that in the circumstances of the creation of that committee, it was not possible for it to become workable. I think the events of the last year or two have shown that to be the case.
I support the statements that have been made in favour of the extension of the committee system, because since I have been in Parliament I ‘have found that the opportunities for an honorable member to contribute constructively to the consideration of bills and .the .making of laws are very seriously limited. One effect of this is to divert the work of an honorable member more and more to within his own party, where, in my experience, far greater opportunity is found .to put forward constructive proposals.
J -think the way in which Parliament functions is very antiquated. It is an outcome of a historical development, the causes of which have long since ceased to operate. The committee system is a very good example of that. It was introduced to allow discussion to take place between members of the House of Commons in the absence of the representative of the Crown, as he was suspected to be and usually correctly suspected to be. This need no longer exists and the idea of the detailed work of examining bills being carried on by a committee of the whole House is one that does not work in practice, just as I suggest that our method of examining the Estimates does not work in practice either. We are not referring to the detailed figures in this very large volume that has been placed before us. We have not done so to-day, and in an examination of this sort I suggest that we can hardly do so. If some of this work, as was suggested by the honorable member for Mackellar, could be done by a much smaller committee of the House, working around the table, so that the decisions could be made and eventually put before the House as a whole for its consideration, then I should think more progress would be made.
Another point which I think is in favour of this method is that the decisions of the Government from time to time are based on information which is said to be confidential or subject to security. There has been in recent times an increased tendency to regard many things as confidential or “ classified “ - things that are pretty widely known and very often widely published. This tendency reflects the ego of the people who so label the information rather than the nature of the information. It restricts the opportunities for members to consider factual information. There have been recent examples of this. If we had an extended committee system, committees could be given an opportunity and the right to examine some of this material which at present is only examined, presumably, by members of the Government or some of them. We would then be in a much better position to form, in our own minds, an idea of whether the expenditure of millions of pounds upon some particular project such as in the defence or -some other field was, in fact, justified.
I should like to make reference to one other point. The proposed votes with which we are now dealing contain an estimate for the Commonwealth Office of Education. Last year the vote for this office was £213,000.
– Order! That estimate comes under the Prime Minister’s Department.
– That is so, but I allude to it to illustrate the point I am making. An examination of the figures could be made in relation to that office or other departments or sections of a department, but it is not possible to do that in all cases. This is a case in which, no doubt, all the -expenditure involved can be ascertained at a glance, lt is a small unit and it is a simple affair, but in respect of other departments, such as the Defence Department, to which I will not refer in detail, it is not so easy to ascertain total expenditure. If there is as much to support the argument for an extension of the system of committees, as there would appear to be from the remarks made from both sides of the chamber this afternoon, it is time that the Government gave consideration to further development of this method.
Remainder of proposed vote agreed to.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 12, Public Service Board, for which the estimated expenditure for this year is £622,600. That is the sum which Parliament is expected to appropriate to meet the expenses and salaries of the board. Therefore, it is appropriate at this juncture to examine the Public Service and what may happen in respect of it in the next few years in the light of what has been happening. I remind the committee that the efficiency of the Public Service is of paramount importance to Australia and its development. In 1920 a royal commission inquired into the Public Service and the statistics which were then supplied were extant about the end of World War I. At that time the Public Service personnel numbered 23,424, including those engaged in the Defence Department. The Commonwealth began fully to use its defence powers through the medium of the Public Service during the 1914-1918 war. Up to that time the Defence Department was not a very substantial organization, but from that period it began to accumulate staff and its operations expanded rapidly. Now, the Public Service, instead of consisting of eight departments as there were then, has at least 26 departments, if not 30 departments, including a great number of branches. There are easily ten times more public servants now than there were then.
I am concerned about the present situation because I fear that federalism is being destroyed. The Public Service has acquired tremendous power through the development and importance of credit controls, uniform taxation, import controls, social services, hospital and medical benefits and all those things for which the Commonwealth has taken responsibility. The Public Service is now an organization of tremendous importance, and I raise this matter to-day because the present Government was elected at a time when there was a widespread fear of bureaucratic tyranny. I freely admit that the Public Service has thrown up men of great distinction, outstanding quality and of very high calibre and will continue to do so. Many of our leading public servants are quoted all over the world and we are proud of them, but at the same time under the present system bad practices can grow up, and they are growing up. That system is the fault not of the public servants but of this Parliament.
I direct attention to some of the provisions of the Public Service Act and to practices which are developing in this Commonwealth bureaucracy which should not be allowed to continue. A searching investigation should be made not in respect of public servants themselves, because most of them are above suspicion, but into the system which we have created by failing to amend this act and associated legislation. Many honorable members will recall that, prior to the 1949 elections we heard statements such as, “ A socialist state is a public service state “. Perhaps, Mr. Malenkov will remember those words.
The greatest weakness in a socialist state is the vast army of unproductive people required to administer necessary controls because of shortages. The economic structure becomes over-weighted with people who make no positive contribution to the country’s development.’ The larger this unproductive army becomes, the greater is the strain on the real workers and the economy of the country. The hallmark of a private enterprise economy is efficiency and trust, but an arrogant, too-powerful public service strangles efficiency with red tape and smothers enterprise under mountains of paper. We are all familiar with the sort of statement which was made when the Chifley Government was defeated because of the fear of bureaucratic tyranny. Nothing can stifle initiative quicker than the dead hand of the public service bureaucrat. Such a possibility may be remote when a Liberal government is in office, but it is open to dangerous exploitation by a socialist government which, in the dim future, might take control of this country.
Nothing is more deadening to enthusiasm than the dreary process of being referred from one department to the other, from one office potentate to another - and in this country, from one State to another. Nothing is more annoying, when one wants something from a Commonwealth department, to be told that one cannot have it because it is in Melbourne, or, if one should happen to be in Melbourne, one cannot have it because it is in Sydney. The Public Service is too remote from the activities it administers. It is too far from reality because of its impersonal handling of human problems; and it will destroy the basis of federalism. A most efficient officer of the Public Service told me the other day that he felt that the federal system was on the skids because of uniform taxation. How can a matter of intense interest to people in Perth receive sympathetic consideration from a group of public servants in Canberra? This is a different world, and here the snowballing of departments and salaries could eventually smother the Public Service as a whole.
I have taken the opportunity to examine the Public Service attitude because I have been struck by the difference between the attitude of State public servants and that of Commonwealth public servants to their work. One of the outstanding differences is that the Chairman of the Public Service Board in Canberra is appointed for a period of only five years, whereas the permanent heads of departments hold office until they reach the normal age of retirement. That immediately weakens the position of the Chairman of the Public Service Board, but gives the permanent head immense power. Further, there is nothing in the statute to say that the Minister himself shall be responsible for his department, but only that the permanent head shall be responsible for the working and business of his department. I believe that permanent heads are responsible to Cabinet alone, and not to the Ministers who are required to come into this chamber and defend the actions of their departments. The authority of the Minis ters and the departmental heads in the Commonwealth Public Service can be contrasted with that possessed by their counterparts in New South Wales and Victoria, but particularly in New South Wales, where the Public Service Board is strong. The existence in the Commonwealth Public Service of so many departmental heads as virtual dictators is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth, and may develop into a great danger to the Commonwealth.
I shall quote from an article in a public administration journal written by a senior Commonwealth public servant who has this to say of the Commonwealth Public Service -
The unit of administration is the Department and the head of the Department sets the tone and calls the tune whereby the Department carries out the administrative responsibility allocated to it. His is a position of considerable responsibility and power. The permanent head is very much the father of his tribe. The dominant role of the permanent head tends perhaps to be less recognized than the realities warrant. It is he who decides what advice will be presented to the Minister, and how it will be presented. It is he who within the framework of approved policy determines the objectives of the Department and its method of working. It is his personality which the Department takes on in its internal operations and its external relations. His colourfulness, his colourlessness, his dourness, his wit, his irascibility, his intellect, his shrewdness, his slyness, whatever the qualities of the permanent head may be, such is his power that they settle fairly and squarely on the face of his Department. The permanent head is, in effect, the life force of his Department.
Whether or not the writer of this article is correct is beside the point. As a senior public servant, he believes it to be true. The alarming part, however, is his patronizing dismissal of the authority of the Minister, in the following terms: -
That is the permanent head - will be importantly influenced by the personality, methods and quality of his Minister, and in turn he will reflect the results of this influence on to his Department. But apart from this particular influence the nature of his responsibilities is such as to insulate him (the permanent head) pretty effectively from other influences in any positive way. Within the framework of his budget vote and his approved establishment, he is supreme in managing his Department which then carries out, according to the will of the permanent head, the duties assigned to it.
I have yet to read a more damning indictment of the Commonwealth Public Service than that complacent description of an inverted democracy. I was interested to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) say that he had no objection to having more and more public servants. I want to see that the private sector of the community, which pays the taxes and does the work of production, is allowed to carry on unfettered by too many public servants. I should have liked, if I had sufficient time, to suggest certain ways of stopping this dangerous trend. It might take some time, but it should be done by the Parliament, because the Parliament is responsible for the legislation under which the Public Service works.
The Commonwealth Public Service first came into being as a separate entity on the formation of the Commonwealth in 1902. At the same time, a Public Service commissioner was appointed to exercise certain functions in relation to the Public Service. The Public Service Act was radically amended in 1922, and a board of commissioners was substituted for the single commissioner. The New South Wales Public Service Board was set up in 1895. Both organizations, therefore, have been in existence for about the same length of time, but there the resemblance ends. In New South Wales, after a royal commission into the Public Service in 1918, it was decided to increase the powers of the board and of the chairman of the board, in relation to departments.
A royal commission into the Commonwealth Public Service, shortly afterwards, adopted quite the opposite approach to the problem. The Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1922 placed severe limitations on the powers of the Commonwealth Public Service Board, and increased the authority of the permanent heads. In New South Wales, the Public Service Board is charged with the duty of maintaining the efficiency, economy and supervision of the general working of departments. The power of the board is clear and undisputed. If the board thinks that a department is not being properly run it has power to correct the situation immediately.
What happens- in the Commonwealth Public Service is the reverse of what happens in New South Wales. The Public Service Act has invested 30 permanent heads with almost dictatorial powers which make them largely independent of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and of the Ministers. In New South Wales, the board is required to maintain a single, high standard of efficiency, economy, and discipline. In the Commonwealth, by law, there are 30 different standards. There are 30 dictators with immense authority. In this peculiar set-up, the Commonwealth board is at a grave disadvantage. Its members are appointed for a limited term of five years only by comparison with the tenure, until 65 years of age, of permanent heads. They are at the mercy of successive governments, and the more cynical might reasonably say that the time will arrive when their continuance in office for successive terms will depend on their readiness to conform to the party policy of the government in power.
Under the present system, the Government is open to criticism whether it extends or does not extend the term of five years of the chairman of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. This is against the finding of the royal commission, which stated that the Commissioner ought to be appointed for life and have some real power. It could conceivably be said that the chairman’s appointment has only been extended because he was compliant to the wishes of the government or, in very plain words, was a “ yes-man “. If, on the other hand, even for the very best of reasons, the government had declined to extend his appointment, then it would have exposed itself to the criticism that the chairman was being dismissed for standing up to the government.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for’ Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) seemed to be a general criticism of the Commonwealth Public Service, although he did not give any substantial reason for that criticism. I do not think there is a finer public service as far as efficiency is concerned. But I do not want to say very much about that. I want to confine my remarks principally to the section of the Prime Minister’s Department which deals with education, and to relate to it the subject of education generally. The estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department mention certain amounts that were made available to the Australian National University. In another section, there is a reference to- financial’ assistance to the States. I do not think that sufficient funds have been provided for university education, nor do I think that the Commonwealth is meeting its responsibilities with respect to ordinary education. I believe that more funds should be made available to the States to assist other forms of education, such as primary and secondary education.
There has been a rapid change in CommonwealthState financial relationships over the years, and that change has considerably affected education. I do not think that education should now be considered purely a State concern. It has become a matter concerning which both the States and the Commonwealth should bear their respective responsibilities. I feel that the States appreciate the grave educational situation that faces us, but I am afraid that the federal Government does not realize the urgency of the matter. If it does, then it is not doing anything about it.
I want to deal with this matter principally from the viewpoint of Western Australia, not because I am unaware that this is a national problem which affects all States, but because I know more about the position in that State than I do about that of the other States. In Western Australia, more money is spent on education per capita than in any other State. This is necessary because of the scattered nature of the State’s population. In 1946-47, the amount spent on education was £1,223,000, and the estimate for 1956-57 was almost £6,500,000. This increase will continue to be necessary if standards are to be maintained.
In 1938, there were 56,600 children attending government schools in Western Australia; in 1946, the number had risen to 57,000, an increase of only 400 in eight years; but in 1956 the number was 100,734, or an increase of 44,000 in ten years. These figures should give honorable members an idea of the problem that education has posed for Western Australia. It is expected that enrolments will increase by 5,000 annually, even if the school leaving age remains at fourteen years, as it is at present. Fourteen years ago, an act was passed to extend the compulsory school leaving age to fifteen years, but it could not be proclaimed because accommodation was not available for the additional number of children that would have been involved, and it still has not been proclaimed. That fact indicates that Western Australia is suffering particularly, because in some of the other
States, such as New South Wales and Victoria, the school leaving age has been raised to fifteen years. In respect of the compulsory school leaving age, Australia is lagging behind other countries. In Britain, the compulsory period during which a child must remain at school has been increased to ten years. In Western Australia, it is only eight years, and in the whole of Australia the longest compulsory period is nine years.
It is a crying shame that children cannot be given a proper standard of education simply because adequate finance is not made available. At the moment, there are, in Western Australia, approximately 80 emergency classrooms in use, and there are 280 overcrowded classrooms. Three hundred classrooms will be needed each year for some years to come if we are to cope with the increase of enrolments and get rid of makeshift accommodation. Education is the largest charge on Western Australian social service expenditure. A marked increase of the school population has resulted from the higher birthrate of 1942-43. The children born in that year began their schooling in 1948-49, the year in which the Commonwealth immigration programme commenced, and which, of course, added to the burden. Increasing numbers of school children have had to be catered for ever since. Western Australia’s intake of immigrants has been greater, in proportion to population, than that of any other State. It is considered that as immigration is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, the responsibility of meeting the additional costs incurred in educating the larger numbers of children coming forward as a result of immigration should also be that of the Commonwealth. There is a strong feeling in Western Australia and, indeed, in all States, that the Commonwealth should give more financial aid for education. We all know that costs have got beyond the means of the States. The people think that the Commonwealth should do something urgently to assist education.
I emphasize that this problem does not concern only the State about which I am speaking, although it is accentuated there because of the difficulties I have mentioned. This is a national problem. According to the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization publication, “ World
Survey of Education”, published in 1955, Australia ranks low in the percentages of national income spent on education. The United States of America and South Africa spend as much as 3.4 per cent, of their national income on education, while Australia and Colombia are second lowest on the list with 1.5 per cent. Australia, with 35 pupils to each teacher, has a high ratio in this respect. In the United Kingdom the number of pupils to each teacher is 30.7, in Canada it is 27, and in the United States of America, 24. That indicates that Australian school children are not receiving the education they need, not because the teaching is of a low standard, but simply because the school rooms are overcrowded.
In answer to requests made by Western Australia and other States for financial assistance for education, the reply has always been that this is a State matter. However, it is noteworthy that on 26th July, 1945, when moving a resolution on education in the House of Representatives, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition, referred thus to the constitutional position -
There is, however, no legal reason why the Commonwealth should not come to the rescue of the States on the matters that I am discussing. Either by appropriations under section 81 of the Constitution or by additional grants to the States under section 96, as to which there is no constitutional doubt, the Commonwealth could make available substantial sums in aid of educational reform and development.
A section of the resolution moved by the Prime Minister on that occasion stated -
Effective reform may involve substantial Commonwealth financial aid, and if this should prove necessary such aid should be granted.
But when representations were made to him recently, he said -
My attitude is that the representations should be made to the Sttae governments who have the constitutional responsibility in education matters.
If there are constitutional difficulties, perhaps the Prime Minister might advise us why it is that financial assistance can be given to universities - not that I want to see such assistance curtailed, because it is praiseworthy. Indeed, we want more assistance for our universities; but if assistance can be given to universities, for higher education, surely it can also be given for primary and secondary education.
There is a great need for more opportunities for higher education in Australia.
According to Professor Freeman Butts, professor of Chemical Engineering in the University of Sydney, he could not make available a single graduate in chemical engineering for the development of atomic power, or any other industrial project in Australia, for at least two or three years from October, 1954, the time at which he spoke. At the same time, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering in the University of Melbourne announced that in America there was one engineering student to every 300 of the total population, in England there was one to ever 1 ,000, and in Australia one to every 3,000. That surely indicates that we are falling behind in our attempts to educate the Australian community. Various educational authorities, including the teachers unions, have suggested that the Commonwealth Government should establish a Commonwealth ministry of education which, after consultation with the State education departments and other appropriate advisers, including representatives of the Australian Teachers Federation, should advise the Commonwealth Government with a view to ensuring that adequate finance is provided to the State governments so that education at all stages - pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary - is available and free for all Australians. I think that the Prime Minister and the Government should consider that request favorably, because if it were adopted it would lead to a much higher standard of education in Australia. It is regrettable that the standard is declining and that we have not available the numbers of educated and qualified people that are required in the various spheres of activity. I hope that the Commonwealth will look into this matter closely with a view to providing further assistance in the future in the field of education.
.- I wish to say something this afternoon about the estimates for the National Library. My plea, quite briefly, is for the creation of a national library building. This could be done in either of two ways: First, we could erect a new building. This, of course, was a firm recommendation of the Public Works Committee as far back as 1952. The estimated cost then was about £1,300,000. If the project were carried out to-day the cost would be considerably more, and the longer we postpone the work, with the way the economic stream is flowing the more expensive it will doubtless become. Perhaps it was on account of the expense that the plan was not proceeded with. On the other hand it may have been, as I should like to think, because the design submitted resembled that of a factory rather than that of a public building of noble proportions.
The second alternative is to follow the suggestion of the President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker, and build a new parliament -house, utilizing this existing building for the National Library and for certain other purposes. My own predilection would be for this latter course. If followed, it would achieve two necessities simultaneously. Moreover, if the Government agreed to this idea it would be practicable to begin work shortly, utilizing the Senate courtyard for the construction of two large steel bookstacks. It has been estimated that the construction of those steel stacks would cost about £500,000. That work could be accomplished within the relatively short time of two years, and the committee may be interested to note that if this were done all the large number of books now in the possession of the National Library could be housed in those stacks.
I suggest to the committee that this is a matter which we cannot wisely postpone for much longer. We should remember, among other things, the obligation on all of us to construct the Roosevelt Memorial Library as part of the National Library scheme. The war has been over now for twelve years, and it would be ungracious to delay the construction of this memorial indefinitely. But the overriding consideration, of course, should be the part that the National Library should play, not merely in this rapidly expanding City of Canberra, but as one of the central features of Australia’s cultural life. It seems to me that most people are quite unaware of the wealth of books in the possession of the National Library. To-day the number is approaching 500,000. What honorable members and others see in the reading room of the Library resembles rather the traditional one-tenth of an iceberg which appears above the surface of the sea. A huge proportion of our books is stored away in vaults in the new administrative block, whilst others are accommodated in those ugly Nissen huts about a mile from this building. Such dispersion makes access difficult to readers and staff alike, and the result of it is that all of us, without exception, have no realization of what we possess, and the facilities available to us. I am sure that a moment’s thought will convince the committee of the advantages that would accrue not only to ourselves and the members of the Senate, but also to scholars and all students if this tremendous amount of material were centralized in one building.
I remind the committee of the report of the National Library Inquiry Committee which was published in the autumn of this year. The members of that committee, which was presided over by Professor Paton, strongly favoured the erection of a new building without delay. They point out on page 13 of their report, paragraph 75, as follows -
In the phase of development it has now entered, the Library’s net requirement of additional floor space for all purposes in the years immediately ahead is estimated by the Librarian at about 500,000 square feet per annum. It is highly desirable to provide a new building to overcome the handicaps now suffered because of overcrowded and scattered accommodation.
I suggest that we should provide for a National Gallery in the same building as the National Library. I remind the committee that the library, besides having nearly 500,000 books in its possession, owns a valuable collection of prints, drawings, oil paintings and water colours, to say nothing of innumerable photographs. The pictures, apart from the photographs, number, in round figures, about 20,000. Most of them, it is true, are of historical importance only; but quite : number of them could be classified as really competent and admirable works of art. Furthermore, we have hopes, amounting to high expectations, that the celebrated Nan Kivell collection will ultimately be left to the National Library and will find its way here to remain permanently in the library.
Lack of space prevents honorable members and visitors from gaining anything more than a notion of these great treasures in our possession. I also suggest that a strong case can be established for a National Portrait Gallery as an annexe to the National Gallery, to be built hand in hand with it. This would be invaluable in the future as a record of Australian men representative of all walks of life who haR helped to develop this country. To those who are cynical about such things I suggest that such a National Portrait Gallery would also have the advantage of being the repository of some of the singularly unattractive portraits we see in King’s Hall. It would also clear the way for works, in some instances by more capable portrait painters, to adorn the walls of what should be the central feature of the National Parliament. In that respect, if I may say so in parenthesis, and expressing merely my own opinion, one of the most offensive of the portraits in this building is the recent portrait of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, which is a travesty of a great and distinguished man.
A demonstration of Government vision and progress towards the realization of the concept of a National Library and a National Gallery housed in the same building would clearly act as a stimulus to all Australians interested in the researches of the mind. I believe it would attract gifts and bequests, maybe of princely value, especially if the proposals foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the Budget for the exemption from income tax of gifts and bequests to galleries, public libraries and the like are adopted by the Parliament, as I believe they will be. As it is, none of the problems of increasing congestion, of overcrowding, of difficulties of administration and of obstacles to efficient service are being tackled. On the contrary, every year they are growing more acute. I hope that, between now and the next Budget, the Government will determine, finally, on a course of action - either, as I said at the outset, an early commencement of a library building in an architectural style worthy of the past, and of the future, of this nation, or, even better, an adaptation of this building to a National Library as part of the bigger plan to erect a new parliament house.
– I listened with much attention to the speech of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer). Generally speaking, I am in agreement with what he said about the National Library. The only exception is the proposal to erect a steel bookcase, as he described it, in the Senate courtyard. That would be a tragic error, and would spoil the appearance of a building that is bad enough now, especially if the honorable member contemplates using this building for the National Library, which, in itself, is an excellent idea, and constructing a new building for the use of Parliament. I am sure that the honorable member, on reflec tion, would agree that the use of this building as a national library would be spoiled if the general appearance were ruined by cluttering the Senate courtyard with a steel building costing about £500,000. I would rather see that money set aside as part of the cost of building a new parliament house. The sooner a new parliament house is built, the better it will be for all concerned. Pride in the National Parliament would be very quickly generated once the people of Australia saw it housed in a building that was worthy of the significance of Parliament in their lives.
I want to say something about the staff of the Parliamentary Library. The staff renders very good service still, but there was a time when, in my view, it rendered: much better service. In my opinion, the same amount of attention is not given now as was given three or four years ago to the requests of members for research, despite the fact that a greater number appears tobe employed in the Library now than was employed when I first entered Parliament.
– I do not think that is so.
– I may be wrong. I do not express a firm view onit. I have the feeling that, though the service is still good, it is not as good as it. was when I first came here.
– It must have been good’ then, because it is remarkable now.
– The staff still; gives excellent service, but the service is not as good as it was when I first came here. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr.. Killen) is not in a position to express a view on that comparison, because he was not here then. If the service has deteriorated ever so slightly during the period 1 have mentioned, I hope that the staff will lend its support to the criticism that 1 offer,, because the service from the Parliamentary Library to a member of Parliament is something that we cannot afford to have slip back. We must have the very best of service. We are entitled to that. If the staff is insufficient, it is the duty of the Parliamentary Librarian to tell us, and it is then our duty to provide the staff that is necessary. If the salaries are not attractive enough to get good research officers - and that may be the reason for any deficiencies - then it is our duty to see that the salaries paid are commensurate with the responsibility entailed. It is not easy to find people capable of library research. Library research is highly skilled work, and we must be prepared to pay for the type of men and women who are capable of carrying out that work. I could mention the names of individuals who are giving excellent service and who, in my view, are giving a service far greater than they should be expected to give as individuals. They are called upon to do more than any single individual should be called upon to do because, in my view, others on the staff are not capable of doing the work. 1 should prefer to see more capable people employed even though that means paying a higher salary. I fear that the salaries offered may be the trouble in this city. Let us have the services that we are entitled to have as members of Parliament, because if we are to do our job properly, a good library service is essential.
So that I will not be misunderstood, I repeat that I am not complaining about the library service. I make clear that I think it is still good, but it is not as good as it was some years ago. I commend the staff for the speed with which it gathers together information whenever it is sought, but I repeat that there was a time when one received that information more quickly and was given a more comprehensive coverage than at present.
I turn now to the decision of the Librarian or, if not the Librarian personally, then the committee controlling him, to withdraw from circulation the book “ The Catcher in the Rye”. I have very strong views about books that are banned by the censor.
Order! The honorable member should leave that subject until we are discussing the Department of Customs and Excise.
– I am not criticizing the Department of Customs and Excise; I am criticizing the. action in withdrawing the book from the Parliamentary Library.
– Do you blame the Department of Customs and Excise?
– The customs authorities are not at fault, clearly. If they were at fault, I would have to say that they prevented the Library from receiving the book. The Library received the book, so it is not the fault of the customs officials. My complaint is that honorable members cannot obtain the book once it is received by the Library.
– Does the honorable member think that this should be parliamentary privilege?
– No, I think this is parliamentary responsibility. Some one in the community should be here to watch over the customs authorities to see that they do not censor books that ought not to be censored.
– Censor the censor!
– Yes, if you like, we should censor the censor. The people are entitled to some protection from the censoring of books that ought not to be censored. Who is better fitted to decide these matters than the elected representatives of the people? If I read “ The Catcher in the Rye “ and am prepared to stake my reputation on my assertion in the Parliament that it should not have been banned, then I should have the right to do so and others should have the right to condemn or support me. If the National Library is going to behave in the way that it did with this book, then there is absolutely no way in which the community can check the activities of the customs authorities. It is bad enough for the Department of Customs and Excise to prevent the public generally from reading books, but it is far worse when an officer of this Parliament says to members, “ I will not allow you to read this book”. What utter absurdity! Who is the Librarian that he should tell a member of the Parliament that he must not read this or that book? If the book in question were not in the possession of the National Library, that would be a different natter. But here we have an instance in which the Librarian had the book in his possession, and decided that he would censor the literature that the members of this Parliament could read.
Those who seem to be so interested in this part of my speech may like to note the names of some of the books that I have obtained from the Parliamentary Library and read. One of them is “ Peyton Place “, which I obtained on the recommendation of a Government supporter only last week. I found it quite interesting, for I am not a prude. Indeed, it was more than interesting.
I noticed, from the record card pasted at the back of it, that it had stayed in any one reader’s hands for no more than about four or five days before it was returned for some one else to read.
– It is so hot that one cannot hold it.
– That may be; I do not know. That book has been approved by the Department of Customs and Excise, and I should be very much surprised if “ The Catcher in the Rye “ and “ The Woman of Rome “ - another book that was approved by the department - were any worse.
– “ The Woman of Rome “ was banned on the advice of the Literature Censorship Board.
– That brings me to my next point. I am satisfied that many of these books are banned, not because the Government, or the Minister for Customs and Excise, wants them to be banned, but because the bureaucrat who makes the decision makes it hoping to anticipate the wishes of the Minister, although very often he anticipates the Minister’s wishes in a way that I was almost about to describe as too liberal.
– The members of the Literature Censorship Board are not bureaucrats. They are not public servants.
– Whoever may be the members of the board that is responsible for banning these books, the books have been banned, in my view, simply because it was felt that that would be the wish of the Minister for Customs and Excise.
– What sort of books would the honorable member ban?
– I would ban books that I thought were prejudicial to the national interest - books that I thought would contaminate the minds of any who read them - and I would not get any more books of a similar kind.
– It would be a matter merely of the honorable member’s opinion against that of some one else.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member for Hindmarsh confine his remarks to the vote before the committee.
– I am sorry, Mr. Chairman, that I was diverted from the matter before the committee. In this same Library where we are not allowed to have “ The Catcher in the Rye “, we have “The Naked and the Dead”, “Forty Thousand Thieves “, and “ For Whom the Bell Tolls “. I could point to some very spicy passages in “ For Whom the Bell Tolls”, particularly in chapter 13. If the honorable member for Moreton reads that chapter, he need not read any other part of the book, which is a long one. The Librarian will allow honorable members to read those books, but, for some reason known only to himself, will not make “ The Catcher in the Rye “ available to us.
I say no more about the Librarian. J think that 1 have roasted him enough for the moment. I turn now to the Film Division of the Commonwealth National Library, about which I can speak on a much happier note. In my view, it is one of the bright spots in the National Library, lt gives immediate, courteous, and most efficient service, and I have only the greatest praise for the service that is rendered to the Parliament generally, and to honorable members individually, in many ways, not least of which is the showing of educational programmes on Wednesday and Thursday evenings in this building. I think that we take those programmes too much for granted, without thought of paying tribute to those who arrange them. I should like to say, in addition, that, as a member of the Parliament, I pay tribute to the excellent service that I have always received from the Film Division whenever I have sought films to be sent to Adelaide for any purpose.
I shall say no more about these matters. I would be very pleased to hear some one on the Government side of the chamber explain properly why the book, “ The Catcher in the Rye “, has been withdrawn from the National Library, when it stands freely on the bookshelves of almost every country in the world. Ireland would be about the only country, apart from Australia, that does not allow its people to read this book. I should like to hear an explanation from the Government, if it cares to give it, of the reasons why we, in Australia, are denied the right to read a book that people in almost every other country are allowed to read.
.- I intend to comment only very briefly on Division 17 - Office of Education, under the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department. Before I do so, however, I should like to deal with an observation made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) when he was discussing the need for a new parliament house building. The honorable member said that he felt that, if the new building were constructed, the people of Australia would have the pride in the Parliament that they should have. I do not quarrel with the honorable member about the need for a new Parliament House, but I very much doubt whether the mere provision of a new building would win the pride in the Parliament that the people of Australia should cherish. That sort of pride does not come from magnificent structures. It comes from the proceedings that take place within the Parliament, and those who are responsible for the measure of pride that the people take in the Parliament are the members who occupy the benches in this chamber and in another place.
– The honorable member could not expect the people to take much pride in the Parliament now.
– The interjection well illustrates the point that I am making, Mr. Chairman. Spectators in the public galleries in this chamber would be convinced, after seeing some of the things that happen here, that a building cannot change the characters of men.
The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), in discussing Division 17, made a plea for increased Commonwealth aid for primary and secondary education in the States. This is one of the most popular themes throughout Australia at the present time, and petitions asking the Commonwealth to grant further aid to education at the primary and secondary levels are in process of preparation. They will be presented to the Parliament in the way that numerous petitions about pensions were presented before the budget was brought down.
The Commonwealth Government has done a magnificent job in granting financial assistance for education at the tertiary level. Honorable members who recall the days when they were at school will acknowledge that, in those days, except for the very limited number for whom scholarships were available, a university education was available only to those whose parents had extremely high incomes. As a result of Commonwealth assistance, scholarships are now granted, without any means test, with living allowances which are subject to a means test, and almost any one can train for the calling that he favours, or for which he has a bent, at the tertiary level. The mere fact that 3,000 Commonwealth scholarships are awarded annually throughout Australia indicates the great work that the Commonwealth is doing in this field. There are current at present about 10,000 scholarships, of which about seven-eighths are held in universities, and about oneeighth in other institutions.
These scholarships all help to raise the standard of education, which the honorable member for Stirling said was falling. I venture the opinion that the standard of education at each level is higher now than it was in 1947, or 1937. The standard of teaching in all kinds of schools, also, is higher than it was 20 years ago. I do not give to the Government credit for that. It is due to the teachers who have raised their own standards. The number of school teachers holding university degrees has increased out of all proportion to what it was in the pre-war years. Australia has a lot to be proud of in its teachers. I am fully aware of the difficulties under which they struggle in the primary and secondary schools throughout Australia, but we must face the facts.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the proposed vote for the Office of Education and replying to some of the points made by the honorable member for Stirling. The honorable member said that a Minister for Education in the Commonwealth sphere should be appointed, with an appropriate department, to watch over education throughout the States. I am afraid I have to disagree with him, because I do not believe that any one should advocate at this stage the development of further Commonwealth departments. I believe, also, that the States have no desire or wish to hand over to the Commonwealth any of their control over education within the States. During the course of Budget debates and debates on the Estimates we have heard member after member making suggestions as to what the Commonwealth should do, but a little simple arithmetic has shown that the adoption of all these suggestions would cost the Commonwealth millions and millions of pounds.
It is indubitably the opinion of the Government that education is the responsibility of the States, and that the State governments have shown no keen desire to give further constitutional powers to the Commonwealth to enable it to rule in the sphere of education. It might be a popular move, from the point of view of the general public, to ask the Commonwealth to hand over money solely for education purposes, but it is still not possible under the present financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States. We should take cognizance of what has happened during the last ten years or so in the field of Commonwealth-State financial relationships, and find out just what has been given to the States for this very purpose, although not expressly stated as being for education. An analysis of expenditure on education in Australia shows that about ten years ago a total of £27,000,000 was spent on education itself - that is on salaries and administration -and £3,000,000 spent on buildings. Those figures have increased, and now an amount of £94,000,000 is spent on education and £20,000,000 on buildings. It is a wellknown fact that the States allocate for the purpose of education what amounts they see fit from tax reimbursements or supplementary grants. The Commonwealth has no power to tell the States what amounts shall be spent in that sphere of their activities.
The Commonwealth makes substantial general grants to the States, and the amounts made available in this way have progressively increased since 1949-50. Furthermore, the amounts provided for State capital works, through the Australian Loan Council, including the construction of schools, have shown a similar steep rise. As an illustration of this, I may say that in 1949-50 a total amount of £70,000,000 was paid to the States by way of tax reimbursements. In 1957-58 that amount had increased to £190,000,000. In 1949-50 the amount advanced to the States through the Australian Loan Council was £92,000,000, and in 1957-58 this amount had increased to £200,000,000. The increase in population, both natural and from immigration, and the increase in the average level of wages, are taken into account in determining the tax reimbursement grants to the States. It is not, therefore, a valid argument to say that because of different price structures in 1949 and at the present time we cannot compare the two figures. lt is an inalienable right of the State parliaments to decide how much will be spent by the various State departments, including the Departments of Education. From general revenue grants by the Commonwealth the States now receive, as I have shown, almost three times the amount that was available to them in 1949 for allocation for various State purposes. The adoption by the Commonwealth of a system of voting money specifically for the use of particular State departments could well jeopardise the sovereignty of the States and endanger our federal system of government. Certainly the Commonwealth could not consider any plan of assistance for State education which did not have the unanimous support of all the State Governments. The States have shown little enthusiasm for Commonwealth intervention in primary and secondary education. Yet it is an amazing fact that at the annual conference of teachers in New South Wales the Minister for Education in that State made no reference to these facts at all, but said that the department was labouring under difficulties, and that that was entirely the fault of the Commonwealth. I am pleased to say that so far I have not heard any such statement by the Premier of Western Australia. He has said that that State could do with more money from the Commonwealth for use in the various spheres of State activity, but at least he has not come right out and said that in Mie field of education the Commonwealth is responsible.
– Does the honorable member think that Victoria and New South Wales could determine the education standards of Western Australia?
– The only inference can draw from that interjection is that, as for most other things that we have in Western Australia, such as our roads and our bridge over the Narrows, the Victorians are paying. All I can say to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and other honorable members who are seeking to interject is that they should be proud of the fact that they come to this Parliament not only to represent an electorate or State but also as Australians. This Parliament is at least doing its job as a national body to look after national interests and not State interests.
Before the suspension of the sitting I mentioned the work that had been done by the Commonwealth in the sphere of tertiary education. There are times when one wonders whether the money spent at the university level is reaping the reward that, it should. Occasionally, when one sees the university magazine that is turned out in Western Australia, one might, if he did not think deeply about it, have cause to worry. I have a copy of the magazine in front of me. Any resemblance to a cultural publication is purely coincidental. I suppose that one must accept the view that youth the world over is radical and that the world can start to worry when youth ceases to be radical. If I may return to the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who was strong in his criticism of the banning of a certain book, I may say that we must insist upon complete freedom in our universities, resting assured in the knowledge that the intelligence which is supposed to be there will, in the long run, show the students the error of their ways and enable them to become the kind of citizens that we expect them to be after they have received the benefits of the financial assistance that the various universities are getting from the Commonwealth.
I think it is wrong to say, as the honorable member for Stirling said, that our standards are slipping. I believe that the adequacy of our standards of education is borne out by the people who receive that education, and who can bear comparison with people from any other country in the. world, trained under any other educational system. The very fact that occasionally one hears of an Australian doctor, scientist, lawyer or economist earning world-wide fame shows that in the over-all picture the system has a lot to commend it. I agree with the honorable member for Stirling that money will be the solution to some of the problems that beset us.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I thought, when the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) started to speak that I was going to be in the happy position of being able to agree with what he said, as he dealt with the matter of education. But after listening to the honorable member for fifteen minutes I am not quite sure what he did say. Apparently he is quite satisfied with the education position.
I want to refer first of all to the section of the Estimates dealing with the Office of Education. I disagree with what the honor, able member for Perth said in this regard I am dissatisfied not with the highest standard which Australians may reach under our education system, but with the standards which our education system is able to offer to the average Australian citizen. I do not think our standards are worthy of this nation and I think there is a field of inquiry for the Office of Education to examine standards in an endeavour to see how they can be raised so that every Aus* tralian may receive an adequate education.
Unlike the honorable member for Perth, the people of Victoria do not have the advantage of a good State Labour government. Annual expenditure by the States on education per head of population is as follows: - Tasmania, where there is a Labour government is spending 178s. 5d. Western Australia comes next with 173s. 9d. The honorable member for Perth can rest assured that the Premier of Western Australia will look after his interests so far as education is concerned. The next State is New South Wales - another Labour State - with an expenditure of 157s. 8d. Then comes South Australia with 145s. 8d. Victoria, the wealthy State, the one which pays the most taxation and which is the field for overseas investment, spends 141s. 5d. and is only saved from coming last by Queensland, where the figure is 121s. 4d. But it must be borne in mind that Queensland covers a vast area and has heavy overhead expenses, including transport. I might add that Queensland will probably go downhill from now on under its new government.
Here is a field for endeavour on the part of the Commonwealth - to raise the standards of Australian education to a much higher level. I am not the only one who makes this suggestion. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) made a fine contribution to this debate, and everybody opposite in this Parliament should read his speech, because he was quoting international evidence. We only have to examine the statements of leading Australian scientists and others over the last few weeks to find cause for great alarm about our education system. I am astonished that the honorable member for Perth should resume his seat without pointing this out to honorable members present. Indeed, I am most disappointed because I understand he has some experience in this connexion.
I agree with the honorable member for Stirling that there is a need for a Commonwealth ministry of education. The Estimates show that, grouped under the auspices of the Prime Minister, are numerous organizations, such as the Public Service Board, the National Library, the Office of Education and the High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom. These just cannot be dealt with by the Prime Minister in addition to all his other duties. I will admit that the Prime Minister accepts a lot of duties that do not naturally fall under his auspices. For instance, if a defence matter is raised he becomes, to all intents and purposes, Minister for Defence. If there is a statement on foreign affairs, he becomes Minister for External Affairs. In this matter he is virtually Minister for Education, and I say that he cannot deal with education properly if he treats it as a sideline. We have an assistant Prime Minister now, but it is still difficult for us to determine responsibility and to get some result when we submit a matter to the Parliament. There are many ways in which the Commonwealth Office of Education should expand its interests.
The sum spent annually on publications is £9,700. This is a field into which the Commonwealth could step and do a job for Australian education generally. Many people in the teaching services of the various States will admit that one of the greatest difficulties confronting them is their inability to obtain adequate information or adequate publications to carry on their work. In the last few weeks we have seen in this Parliament elaborate publications by commercial organizations, such as Qantas. Our own Government organizations can produce elaborate and beautiful reports but you will not find this amount of money being made available for school publications. Surely under a system which can find millions of pounds for leaflets and newspapers day after day, there are resources that could be made available to the teaching services and the Education Departments of the States for the printing of necessary educational material. The Commonwealth Office of Education is not being used to the fullest possible extent and I suggest that that is something to which this Parliament should give its attention. Every Australian is entitled to the same standard of education and in my view the field of education is one which is crying out for assistance.
If the New South Wales teaching service is completely dissatisfied with its conditions and salaries, something should be done about the matter. If the standard of schools throughout the Commonwealth is causing alarm to the education authorities, is stultifying the education of the children, and is setting back the whole education system, something should be done about that. It is nonsense to say that this Government can do nothing about it. Section 96 of the Constitution empowers the Commonwealth to give money to the States and to define the purpose for which that money is to be used. It is time something was done about our education system. The honorable member for Perth is ten years behind his own Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and goodness knows how far that puts him behind the rest of Australia. In 1946 the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, said in his policy speech that the problem of education transcended any constitutional, legal, or formal matter and that his duty, once he became Prime Minister, would be to call together the Premiers of the States and the responsible education leaders and see what could be done about it. But that was more than ten years ago. The honorable member for Perth should turn back the pages of history and catch up a bit.
I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) about the National Library. I agree with his suggestion that this Parliament House would make an ideal building for the National Library. The time has come to build a new parliament house. I believe that architecturally and nationally Australia could probably produce a piece of work of noble proportions, worthy of the nation and of the purpose to which it would be put. After all, nearly every civilization at its highest point left behind it an architectural monument. The time has now arrived when Australia should do something along those lines. Thousands of people visit the National Parliament each year, and it is something to which Australian architects could direct their creative impulses.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member not to develop that aspect any further; it has already been dealt with under the vote for the Parliament.
– 1 should like to refer briefly to the matter of censorship and the National Library. The Librarian probably considered that he was carrying out his duty when he acted as he did. But the responsibility lies with this Parliament to lay down what his official duties should be. I do not agree with the general principles of censorship as they are at present, but the responsibility lies here, and public servants should be relieved of that responsibility.
I want to turn my attention to the Public Service Board because the Public Service has come under very serious criticism from honorable members on the Government side. Only to-day the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) referred to a “ vast army of unproductive people “. Whom did he mean? Was he referring to the thousands of employees engaged in the highly competitive service of TransAustralia Airlines and Qantas, or to those engaged in scientific research in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to combat the rabbit menace? Did he mean those in the teaching service who are attending to the education of the people? Was he referring to the attendants in this building to whom we all pay tribute? Yesterday, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said -
I have been greatly worried, recently, about the increasing number of public servants in Australia.
Did he mean the members of the C.S.I.R.O. staff who are at present in Victoria watching the clouds over the honorable member’s terrain where they have been making experiments to produce rain? Those are the kind of people to whom the honorable member runs when he is in trouble. I suppose he might say that he does not mean these people but someone else - some mystic characters far away. The honorable member for Mallee paid tribute to the attendants in
Parliament House - people whom he knows well and who he thinks work properly; but he criticizes the people he does not know and decries their efforts to run this country, the members of the Public Service. These are the very employees of the Government who deserve much greater consideration than they are receiving. It seems as if honorable members opposite have taken up the catch cries of the press which lately has been making hay while the sun shone by criticizing the Public Service when it has been short of other material. If members of the press were suddenly told to go into a corner and write in about 500 words how usefully they are employed, they would be hard pressed to do so.
Very serious criticism has been levelled at the Public Service throughout Australia in spite of its commendable service. It has a high proportion of temporary employees - 6S.340, compared with 85,260 permanent. At 30th June, 1956, there were 85,281 employed in communication services, 18.836 in services and supply, 13,485 in social services and rehabilitation. We have heard the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) complain that he cannot make social service payments retrospective because, apparently, he has not the requisite staff to do so. In development and conservation services, where 11,762 are employed, are the people to whom the honorable member for Mallee and his constituents run for help.
I raise my voice on behalf of the public servants of Australia, who have to carry on in the face of criticism from people who should be their best protectors. We rely on these employees to carry on many of our developmental works. In the whaling industry it was a public servant who made the Australian Whaling Commission a success. In aviation it was a public servant - a man employed by the Government - who took up the running and achieved progress. In our banking services, it is the public servants who are employed by the Commonwealth Bank - the public bank, every bit as efficient as the private banks - who are doing a real job for the people. I pay tribute to the members of the Public Service who are responsible for the good order and management of the complex services which are essential to our dally life. In the eighteen months I have been a member of Parliament I have received nothing but courtesy from all departments and I have been particularly impressed with the efficiency of the staff of the Department of Social Services and the speed with which they have been able to answer questions and produce information on cases I have discussed with them.
The honorable member for Macarthur seems to be sadly astray in his comments about the Public Service. The suggestion that they are remote from the people is nonsense. It is a Commonwealth public servant who delivers their letters, pays their child endowment and cares for their savings. The work of the Commonwealth Public Service goes into every home in Australia. I hope that the people of Australia will take more note of what honorable members on the Government side have said about the Public Service and will sit down and quietly think over those remarks for half an hour and examine the philosophy of Government supporters - those honorable members who have attacked public servants who are largely responsible for the smooth running of the civilization in which we live. If the people do that, they may come to the conclusion that such criticism of the Public Service is far from justified.
– I take advantage of the discussion on the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department to deal with a matter which other honorable members have mentioned. That is the question of universities, and I wish to deal particularly with the Australian National University. Although the estimate for this university may overlap to a certain extent the estimates of the Department of the Interior and the Department of the Treasury it is probably better to discuss it under the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department in relation to the Office of Education. It is not the first time and it will not be the last time that I want to say a word for the Canberra University College. I do not know how many honorable members have read the submission of the Australian ViceChancellors’ Committee to the Committee on Australian Universities. That submission has been distributed, I understand, to all honorable members. I congratulate the Government on the appointment of that committee, but I doubt whether any man from overseas understands the problems and troubles of the Australian universities better than do the vice-chancellors of those universities. I doubt whether anything more will be contained in the final report of that committee than is contained in the submission of the vice-chancellors.
If honorable members examine that submission, the first thing that will hit them right in the face is the estimate of Mr. W. D. Borrie, Reader in the Research School of Social Sciences in the Australian National University. He expressed the opinion that if we maintain our high immigration programme and the present rate of natural increase, and industry continues to make its present demand on professional skill, within the next ten years the number of students enrolled will rise by 60 per cent. He wrote -
This figure may well be exceeded. Expected increases are due to the following factors: -
The increase in the birth rate;
The effect of a high rate of immigration;
Increasing interest in university studies and increased demand for university graduates;
The existence of a generous scheme of assistance for students.
A table of figures is given which is very important. It shows that the proportion of full-time academic staff to full-time students in Great Britain is 1 to 7.1. In Sydney it is 1 to 15.8, in Melbourne 1 to 11.2, in Western Australia 1 to 13 and in Adelaide 1 to 14.4. In other words, by accepted standards overseas in countries with similar cultures, industries and ideas, we are providing only about half as many full-time academic staff for the number of students. The problem is a very serious one. When we add to that the fact that thousands of students are coming to Australia from our next door neighbours, for whom we carry a very large measure of responsibility because they have not yet been able to progress fast enough to establish their own universities we can appreciate something of the problem with which our universities are faced.
If I may be pardoned for touching on foreign affairs for just one moment, let me say that nothing else is so calculated to promote goodwill between ourselves and those countries as the fact that their university undergraduates are coming here in thousands. I think that 4,000 are in Australia from Malaya alone. Some of them may not be able to see the course through. Nevertheless, most of them are now obtaining their higher training at the Australian universities. Within a short time of returning to their own country they will be taking up positions of responsibility in their own administration. It does not need any words of mine to stress the importance of being able to maintain in our own universities sufficient places for those students who wish to come here, without imposing any disability upon members of our own younger generation who wish to go to the universities. Australia has to face up to this very difficult and growing problem.
Several members, to-night, have spoken about schools. That is a State problem, not a Commonwealth one. It should’ be discussed when State and Commonwealth finances are being considered, because it is purely a State matter. So are the universities, from the point of view of control and administration. I hope that there is no idea of the Commonwealth taking over the control of the universities. Here, again, State and Commonwealth financial relations are involved. I shall have much more to say on that subject when we are dealing with the Treasury estimates, because I believe that we are asking the States to do far too much, and to keep pace with far too big an immigration programme, unless we provide them with more money.
Here in Canberra, we have the Australian National University. As one who has had the advantage of a university education, far be it from me” to decry in any way the importance of research. The Australian National University started as a medical research school. The physical science research school was added to it. Since then, the various branches of the National University have multiplied much faster than those of any department in the Public Service. I do not think it is necessary for quite so many “ odd bods “, shall we say, to be attached to the original concept of the Australian National University. I would not mind if we could find the money for the development of that university at its present rate as well as for building an undergraduate university in Canberra. I have said before, and I say now, that it is not fair to compel public servants to come from Melbourne, Sydney, or anywhere else to Canberra to find that they have to pay about £400 a year to send their children to a university in Melbourne or Sydney. The Government will not attract the best of the younger generation to Can berra as long as that situation exists. Those who come here are lucky in the fact that school fees are ridiculously low in Canberra, but I am not proposing any rise in school fees.
There should be a site for an undergraduate university in Canberra, situated more or less as it is in the State of New South Wales which wants us to build it. Yet what is done? A conference is requested between the Council of the National University and the Canberra University College. The conference is held, no decisions are made and, again, nothing is done. A site was suggested for the university which, I think, needs an area of at least 60 acres, and an attempt was made to get ahead with the scheme; but all the time,, perhaps because the Australian National University comes under the Prime Minister’s Department and the undergraduate university college, small as it is, comes under the Department of the Interior, the National University gets all the funds it wants and the Canberra University College gets practically none.
How can we tell the States that they ought to- establish new universities of technology or establish a second university if, in the first place, we do not give them enough money and if, in the second place, we set them a very bad example in Canberra? The National University is lucky. It has at least two members of Parliament on its council. They can invite members of Parliament there, and it is like going to the Snowy River scheme. Even if one is a South Australian one is converted to this point of view, if one is not careful, against one’s better judgment. But the fact remains that this undergraduate university is just as important and, in some ways, almost more important than the National University.
I believe that in most of the departments of the National University it would be far better if some of the professors who are doing research spent half their time in giving undergraduate instruction. It would be better from the point of view of research, and it would be better from the point of view of the professors’ own intellectual improvement. Therefore, I hope it will not be long before the Government makes amends for the mistakes made in the past in our National Capital. I think that some things are done on much too luxurious a scale. I understand that a recent visitor who stayed at the National University for some weeks or months was somewhat frank when he was given a send-off. He said that he had enjoyed his stay very much, and expressed his thanks for the kindness and hospitality he had received, but he said that he was glad he was getting out of the country before the taxpayers discovered the scale on which certain things were done at the university. I believe that, to a certain extent, the implied criticism was justified.
Nobody wants a professor to spend his time sitting on a hardwood bench, clothed in sackcloth and ashes and existing on a rice diet; but surely there are some limits, particularly in view of the position of the Canberra University College. When the temporary accommodation of that college was burnt out at Civic Centre, it was fortunate that we had an old, unused, workmen’s hostel, which could be titivated up with a few dabs of paint. That is still in use. Some action is needed. It is of no use to go on with these conferences which do not seem to get anywhere. I am certain that if the ministry was determined, a start could be made to put the Canberra University College on its own site in suitable buildings.
With regard to the other universities, as the vice-chancellors have said, a Commonwealth committee is needed to plan ahead for some years. It is no good saying, “ We will do this in Victoria, or New South Wales, or Western Australia “. It needs careful, long-range planning and a guarantee that a certain amount of money will be provided, unless we are going to alter the present State and Commonwealth financial relations so that the States themselves can carry out what is really their own job in education. I make another appeal - I think it is the third in this session - to the Government not to say, “ Let members blow nff steam on the Estimates “, but to look at this problem, which is as important as any that it has to face. During my term of administration as Minister for the Interior, I saw proposals carried to a certain point. Then the mat was pulled out from beneath the feet of those who were working on behalf of the Canberra University College - as from under the feet of the Minister - and nothing could be done. I appeal to both sides of this chamber to keep the pressure on until we do get some action and until the Canberra under-graduate University Collegeis really given a proper start.
.- I should like to address a few words to the committee concerning the Commonwealth Literary Fund which, as honorable members know,, has been established for the development of Australian writers generally and to enable some encouragement and assistance to be given to them by the Government, by means of finance and pensions. I see from the Estimates that £12,000 has been spent on. administration and the discovery of Australian writers. As honorable members know, there is a system of fellowships. During the year, the Commonwealth Literary Committee, presided over by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and including the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) as the representative of those of us on this side of the chamber, looks at the applications for fellowships and deals with them accordingly. I know that £12,000 is the amount of money expended, but it is not necessarily limited to £12,000 and it should not be, in view of the peculiar circumstances of Australian literature and its fight against the flood of overseas literature that comes to this country. There has been a great battle to get a distinctive Australian literature - not because it is not being written, but because of the trade pressure from various countries of the world which have big publishing companies and sales organizations.
We have been more or less a poor relation in the field, but not because of the lack of merit of the Australian book, the Australian novel and the Australian play. That is extremely bad. There is nobody so vociferously Australian as the Australian himself; but in the matter of his own films, his own books and his own propaganda about this country, he lags behind dismally. Although I am not usually in favour of a government touching the delicate hand of the writer, the artist, or, for that matter of the scientist, I think that we have to do something to help our literary people.
Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Literary Fund fell into the doldrums when certain men in this Parliament by McCarthyism and censorship, tried to stifle at the source the desire of an Australian to write a book about the things he felt should be written about, irrespective of the repercussions. It became a political issue which almost wrecked this fund that was created by a former Prime Minister, James Scullin, and which has been a source of nourishment to the infant Australian industry of writing. I think that we have come to a point now where it is in a much more healthy condition, and that there is an acceptance that the writer is an individualist who will write what he feels when his sensitivity, his imagination and his desire to go on record are aroused; that he is not going to be judged as one would judge a politician or a businessman. He is to be judged on the material he is writing, the instinct for truth with which he searches, and the book he produces. If we leave it at that level, the fund can be of great use to Australian writers of the future.
As I said before, we are paying certain pensions to great writers, and I hope they will be continued and increased, but 1 think the fellowships are not all that they should be. The procedure is this: There is a Commonwealth Literary Board which recommends to the Literary Committee that certain persons who have applied for scholarships should be granted scholarships. The shyest bird in all creation is the writer. Sometimes he puts out a tentative finger to his publisher, but he would not dare come to a government instrumentality for assistance, and although we have been very successful with our fellowships, I think we could take in a wider field. In view of the impact of television, which is mostly American or British at the moment, and the impact of radio, which is a hotch-potch of Australian, British and American, and the difficulty, amongst the welter of works produced, to find in our bookshops or on our bookstalls a work giving the Australian point of view, or a measure of our thought on current problems - or even just a novel of incident or situation - we must, as a government or as a parliament, see that something is done.
I suggest to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition that we ought to have field fellowships. I think there are magnificent stories to be written in this country if we can give a man or a woman - a writer - the incentive to write them. We ought to do what the Americans did under the W.P.A. authority in the days of Roosevelt, when, as part of a scheme for employing people, they sent not only their unemployed artisans, technicians and others, but also their unemployed actors and writers out into the country. The result was that the American theatre got a tremendous lift from its association with the people, and so did their writers. That great and majestic novel, “ The Grapes of Wrath “, was a production of W.P.A. It was a dole job, because that “ immortal genius “, as H. G. Wells referred to Steinbeck, was out of work at the time he wrote this remarkable book about people living in the dust-bowl of Oklahoma and gave to literature a new and wonderful work. 1 think that we should move forward now with our fellowships and call them “ field fellowships “. There surely must be a magnificent story of pearling in the north, if an applicant for a literary fund fellowship would go there and work on a project which would involve twelve months of living in Darwin, for instance, or Broome, or one of the other pearling ports, to gel a story, the fund should be extended to let the man or woman concerned do that very job. What a massive and marvellous story he could get out of the development of the sugar industry, about the cane-fields of Queensland, about the tall timbers of Gippsland, and about other industries such as the gold-mining industry. All these stories are here in our National Library, but somebody is needed to breathe into them vitality and national spirit. There are many young people who are very eager to produce great Australian books.
A Government Member. - What about coal-mining?
– Yes, that would provide a magnificent story. I was merely passing from one basic industry to another. Then there is the story of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the story of the Murray and the story of the Mumimbidgee. There are illimitable opportunities for what should be field projects. 1 feel that it is wrong just to ask an author to present a draft of his novel which, after all, when he has had another look at it. may be changed entirely, and upon the efficiency of that draft to decide that he is a good writer and that he should be giver, a fellowship. In most cases, the writers have been successful and have produced best sellers, but how much better it would be if writers could get out and get the feel of the country, the pulse of the nation, the colour of this land of ours and write about it! They would then produce something that would glow, that would be bigger than these more or less stereotyped books thai we have been getting because we have rather channelled the writers into a groove by giving them a pension and asking them to go and do something over a period of time. I think it is necessary for us to make the fellowship broader.
First of all, we must continue what has been begun since the unfortunate incidents of a couple of years ago, and allow a writer to be free to write what he thinks. We do not want any more charges of biased writing, red writing, communist writing or undemocratic writing. The judgment of the people has to be left to a book. One of the first prerequisites of this fund is to leave the writer to make out his own destiny, to write his own book. The second need is to give him a fellowship sufficiently remunerative to allow him to live modestly while he does this work, and being well acquainted with writers, I suggest that we should have to put him on a time limit because a writer tends to go on and on with the dream of producing a great opus. He would have to be tied to time like the rest of us.
We have to meet this challenge to us as Australians that we have not a distinctive literature. We have plenty of splendid Australian writers, artists and, if I may say so, statesmen. We speak a lot about tourism. When visitors come to this country they want to know what makes us tick, but we are not able to give them a good general survey of our literature because it is too spasmodic and it is limited because of the limited opportunities of Australian writers. So many of them have to come up through journalism, and so many are spare-time writers, that the fir.-t fine careless rapture of thought and imagination is destroyed before they get down to doing the job.
I think it is reasonable to suggest that people who want to do this job ought to be sent out into the field and that a kind of practical fellowship should be established on the spot. Who knows - we might get a “ The Catcher in the Rye “ from Wimmera! We might do lots of wonderful things with a literary fund that was elastic enough and expansive enough to look at the Australian scene and set the writer down in the midst of it so that he could do this job he so desires to do. I think, too, in some instances we ought to sponsor another “ Penguin “ series. We could not call it the “ Penguin “ series because “ Penguin “ is a registered name; 1 mean a series such as we had during the war when, because of the great dearth of literature and reading matter for the troops we ran out Tom Thumb editions of the Australian classics which were highly successful. We can do that, if only by sponsoring the publisher and freeing him from the anxiety of loss. All these Australian classics should be reprinted with the imprimatur of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. It would be a very good idea, a splendid idea.
We ought to have more biographies in this country. We should not be timid about the biography as a literary form. We should be able to write a frank biography and, whether it is the biography even of a current Prime Minister, or a Speaker or anybody else, or of any other figure, it ought to be sponsored by the Commonwealth Literary Fund if it is to have any vitality as a fund. There ought to be encouragement to people to write autobiographies, because we are losing the history-in-the-making of this country because there is a timidity of approach. The thing is too recent. You do not do anything about a man until he has been dead about twenty years. For instance, we are still awaiting a dynamic and comprehensive biography of the late Ben Chifley and many other great figures. The production of biographies should be encouraged, even by special grants.
There is a great lack of autobiographies in this country, and we ought to be able to do something about these things.
– Mine ought to be a bestseller.
– It all depends on whether it is a biography or an autobiography. If the honorable member leaves the job to me I can guarantee it would be a best-seller.
Those are the points in regard to the Commonwealth Literary Fund which are quite important, because the basic reason for my rising now is to try to encourage us to have some respect for our writers. Overseas they are doing well, as are our artists on the stage and radio, and our painters. But there is some dreadful shocking inferiority amongst ourselves about our own people. Those things are important.
Another point is that to-day the sources of our national history, the old records, are being lost; and the Commonwealth Literary Fund could well extend its activities to keeping, through the National Library, all the old records. It would be a painful and a long task, but the archivist could do it. Some records of the early history of various parts of Australia are now completely lost. Those that are still with us are of great value to the writer who is looking for a source book. I am not asking the Australian writer of to-day still to live in history. We do not want too many histories. We do not want too many books that smell of research. We want something warm and vital with the living personality of Australia as we see it to-day; and if we take the large view, £12,000 is nothing. lt is a bagatelle. In justice to the Government I believe it would spend more on this fund. My No. 1 suggestion is to widen the fund by the provision of field scholarships. Let our writers tumble over this land of ours, and find out what is worth writing about it. Let us encourage them with fellowships and a decent living wage until they do their job to produce those stories. It would be well worth while. Otherwise, we can scrap this idea of genteel patronage of the writers of this country. If you are not going to help them, then do not hinder them.
I think that the pensions to those who have fainted under the heat of the day should be increased, and that fellowships for those who want to write documents of research should also be encouraged. But the great job that I see at the moment is to develop the writing of stories about Australia and Australians. Because there is no great sale for first Australian novels, as novels, we should encourage writers by fellowships to seek material for books that could become best-sellers. Establish them as a permanent writing force in the community. That is most important because a country which has no story is a country which has no history.
.- In the earlier part of the debate to-night reference was made to the organization of the National Library and the necessity for new and extended accommodation for it and the Parliamentary Library. It is not possible for me to say very much on that aspect of the questions which were raised, since I was a member of the committee with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), and as the report which we assisted in drawing up has not, I think, been made available yet to the public or to the Parliament. But I wish to deal with certain aspects of the questions raised to-night. By implication, there was certaincriticism of the staff of the National Library. I want to say, with due credit to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), that his approach on the whole was concentrated, as far as it was critical, more upon a special action; but there was a reference, a very distinct reference, to the quality of the research service which is provided for honorable members. I am entirely in accord with the spirit of the intention behind the remarks made. It has been aptly said that the Government of the country, the Ministry and senior public servants not only have at their ready disposal great masses of information of a very up-to-date nature, but also have access to information which, in the nature of things, cannot always be made available to the Parliament partly because at that particular stage it is perhaps confidential between the Government and other governments. There is a very strong case indeed to be made for the suggestion that so far as possible the Parliament should be at least as adequately equipped to gain, access to the information that a library car* provide, as the Government itself is. I amnot referring solely to the Opposition. I am speaking now as a member of this Parliament, and I agree that the members of the Parliament should have ready and complete references at their disposal if they are tobe able to deal with the many and complex questions with which a modern Parliament has to deal, and criticize intelligently and constructively proposals which may be put forward by the government of the day. It may be that that criticism will take place in the party rooms. It may, on the other hand, be held desirable in the public interest that it should proceed on the floor of the Parliament itself. But, unless there is an adequate and completely staffed research section, which can make information available speedily, members of the Parliament are at a great disadvantage. I am not suggesting that the staff of the National Library should! take over the work of the individual member; but if- the member has the information which he wants readily at his disposal he can form his own opinion and check against cross-sections of other opinion as to what might be the wise course to follow or what might be a new proposal or new thought to put forward, and be able to back up his opinion intelligently. The fact that that aspect, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh said, is not so effectively handled as it might be is not necessarily, as I think he admitted himself, the fault of the National Librarian or his staff. It is almost entirely due to the fact that the Library is something of an anomaly in that it is a Parliamentary Library and is rapidly becoming a repository for historical records, pictures, documents, general library information and archives affecting us in our relations with the rest of the world. To enable the Library to discharge its functions, it should have adequate and effective accommodation and sufficient staff. Having had experience in these matters for a considerable number of years and having been a member of Parliamentary Library committees for well over 30 years, I strongly hold the view that the Parliamentary Library, which is largely a specialized library, should be under the immediate control of people who are trained along specialized lines to meet special requirements. For anything beyond that, a wider library would be used. However, an adequate building is required.
At the outset I said that I would not enlarge on the suggestions that had been made to meet our particular requirements because my views are incorporated with the views of others who reported to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). But what I do say is that we are asking the Librarian and his staff to do what is almost impossible when we have our records, books and so on scattered through nine buildings in Canberra. A few years ago. we had fourteen buildings, but that number has been reduced by various devices. None of the buildings is completely suitable for the purposes under consideration. I do not want to pursue this matter other than to say that I trust that, whatever the Government, acting for the Parliament, may decide to do, it will act swiftly. I am not concerned with whether the decision is to use this building or to construct a building in a suitable place for the Library. What does concern me is this: About 30 years ago I was a member of a New South Wales government which drew up a plan for the complete rebuilding of the State Parliament House, fronting Macquarie-street, Sydney, together with certain other public buildings. Plans were received from all over the world, but nothing has been done except to put a little more paint on the old building. If the Parliament decides that it will use this building for a library, then we want to be assured that the construction of the permanent Parliament House will be started soon and completed in record time. I shall leave that matter now, but I stress the urgency of it. I am sure that my colleague on the committee, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, will substantially agree with my view.
The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has raised the question of the Australian National University and the Canberra University College. I cannot claim to be as well acquainted with that problem as he is, but it appears to me that the Canberra University College has fallen between two stools. We have two schools of thought. One says that the Canberra University College should be incorporated with the Australian National University; the other rejects that view. I sincerely hope that the proposal to incorporate the Canberra University College with the Australian National University will never be proceeded with. I believe that the conception of the Australian National University as a university of research to co-ordinate all the higher research activities of the Commonwealth is an objective that should be pursued to the end. There is ample European precedent to suggest that that would not in any way reduce the value of other universities, but that the Australian National University would take unto itself certain aspects of research that could not be handled effectively by any other university. I believe that the time has arrived when the Canberra University College could reasonably be expanded to the point where it could become an undergraduate university, developing along the lines of other universities. The very contact which could be maintained without encroaching upon the proper research activities of the Australian National University would be to the enrichment of both institutions.
The honorable member for Chisholm suggested that the lower schools of education as distinct from the universities might be considered the proper field of the States. I entirely agree with the general view, but I will not entirely agree with him on one implication. That implication arises from the view that the States might well look after the lower spheres of education. If that means with the assistance of much more finance, I will agree wholeheartedly with the honorable member. If it ignores the fact that you cannot put a coping stone, which is the university, upon a structure that has an insecure foundation or defective middle stories, then I would join issue with him. The greatest difficulty in maintaining the output of graduates from universities arises from the fact that sufficient students, trained in the right way to avail themselves of a university education, are not coming forward from the secondary schools. This country needs more and more people with university education; it neglects that requirement at its peril. 1 am not reflecting on the Government. It is already taking important action through the Universities Commission and through the grants that it has made. But that is not sufficient. It is not sufficient to say, “ My party did this and the other party did not do that “. The whole problem should be looked at and the Government and its advisers should say, “ Here is the problem in its entirety “. I hope that that will be done.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In speaking on the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, I should like to take the opportunity to support the remarks of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and to develop one or two topics that he raised. Before the proposal to establish an Australian National University was accepted, many aspects of criticism of the university which have been raised since were considered. It was asserted on the one hand that if the money that it was expected would have to be spent to establish the various research schools at the Australian National University were allocated to the various State universities for the expansion of their existing faculties, better results would be obtained more quickly. On the other hand, it was argued that it would be better to establish at the one centre research schools in fields such as the physical sciences and medicine, and thereby develop a research university which, of course, is the first of its type attempted in Australia.
I think that it is yet too early to judge whether this attempt has proved successful. The development of one or two of the research schools at the National University has resulted in some first-class work that otherwise would not have been done in Australia. However, it is the responsibility of those associated with the National University to prove that the assumptions underlying its establishment were correct. They alone can do this, and I think that every one associated with the National University should bear in mind that very heavy expenditure on that university might result in a reaction against the continuance of such expenditure. I think that that point has already been emphasized sufficiently to prove a warning to those concerned.
As the honorable member for Chisholm pointed out, at the present rate of population increase, and with the existing conditions in industry, commerce, and in the tertiary, or service, industries, and consequently increasing demand for university graduates, the number of university students must increase by about 60 per cent, by 1963. This will involve vastly greater expenditure every year than has taken place even since the war. The committee of inquiry on universities to which the honorable member referred was appointed to assess the expenditure that would be required. The chairman of this committee, and another senior member, came from overseas, but the committee has had to rely very largely upon evidence taken in Australia and based on Australian experience. The submission to the committee by the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Chisholm, is an excellent summary of the effect of the evidence taken by the committee.
I desire to point out to the committee that a number of fairly narrow assumptions is made in that document. It assumes that the proportion of the total population ableto attend universities will remain fairly low. 1 do not think that we should accept that assumption. Admittedly, in all the universities, there is a number of Australian and overseas students who, under more competitive conditions, perhaps would not get into the universities at all, and a significant proportion of students still fails to pass examinations. One of the reasons for these failures, of course, is the inadequate staffing, as is indicated by the low ratio of staff to students mentioned by the honorable member for Chisholm. But I think it is still true that a considerable proportion of Australians of university age who are qualified to undertake university courses, and able to complete them successfully, find it impossible to attend the universities. This must be taken into account when we think in terms of an increase in the student enrolment by 60 per cent, within the fairly marrow assumptions that have been made in the document to which I have referred. We may expect the report of the committee of inquiry to recommend a very large increase in the amount of money provided to run our universities, even upon these narrow assumptions. It will be the responsibility of the Government, having appointed the committee, to ensure that at least the -amount recommended by the committee is provided.
We shall still have to consider the development of new universities. In this connexion, the honorable member for Chisholm has mentioned the Canberra University “College, which, of course, is perhaps akin to a rather advanced high school. It does not examine its own students, and it does not give degrees. The students are examined by the University of Melbourne, and the degrees are conferred by that university. Ordinarily, an institution is not regarded as a university unless it has the power to examine its own students, and to award its own degrees. The arguments that have been advanced in relation to the university college have significance only so far as the college has these powers. The college provides the basis for the development of a university of some kind, but, on its present basis, it is not a university in the true sense of the word. However, it would be capable of much more rapid development than it is making as the Canberra University College. I emphasize the point made by the honorable member for Chisholm in this -regard.
It may be said that we should provide funds to establish or develop universities at centres where the population is sufficiently large to provide the ordinary requirements of a university. However, Canberra, with a population of about 35,000, would hardly come within this category, although a very large proportion of the population is constituted of public servants. The point made by the honorable member for Chisholm that public servants should not be moved compulsorily to Canberra unless a university is available for the education of their children is totally irrelevant. However, there are in Australia many other centres of 200,000 or 300,000 people, with a very small proportion of public servants, where such opportunities for education are not readily available, Therefore, the question has a much wider application than in the context of Canberra alone. But the significant fact is that, in Canberra, we have an institution which, with further development, could fulfil a much more important function in the Canberra community.
Over the last seven years, there has been endless argument as to whether the Canberra University College should be incorporated as a university within its own limits, to examine its own students, to confer its own degrees and diplomas, and to develop its own faculties, or whether it should be combined with the Australian National University. In this matter, I support the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond). I think that it would be undesirable to make the college part of the National University. I agree, also, with the honorable member for Chisholm, who stated by interjection that whatever is done should be done without delay. The question has been widely canvassed for at least seven years. If a decision on such a matter cannot be made in that time, how long will it take to make it? To my mind, the only question is: What can be done in Canberra to have a decision made? The continuing delay not only inhibits the logical development of the existing departments of the university college, but also hampers the best functioning of the existing facilities. The college has on its staff a number of men who are leaders in their particular fields. Indeed, many of them are ahead of their counterparts in the State universities.
It is upon this ground that I suggest this step should be taken. It is not necessary to create the nucleus of a staff in order to establish a university. The nucleus is here in Canberra. So, it is logical, economical and consistent with development to take it a step further. Therefore, I desire to support the remarks of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and to say that it is surely about time that the Department of the Interior and the Prime Minister’s Department got together and made a decision on this matter.
.- I wish to make a few remarks concerning the Commonwealth Public Service. At the outset, I should like to inform the committee of certain recommendations that I shall make. The first is that section 25 (2) of the Public Service Act should be repealed, and that in its place should be inserted a provision to the effect that nothing in the Public Service Act should be construed as restricting the ordinary and necessary departmental authority of a Minister or the permanent head of any department with respect to the direction and control of officers and work. This would have the effect of making the Minister responsible for a department, instead of the permanent head -being solely responsible. Secondly, section 17 of the act should be amended to give the board power to implement at once any alterations designed to effect economies and promote efficiency in the management and working of a department. Thirdly, the “board should have power to suspend a permanent head or any other officer, upon it being made to appear to the board that -such permanent head or officer has been guilty of an offence warranting suspension, and the board should have overriding power “in any case to hold an inquiry into allega- tion3 of indiscipline against any officer of the service. Fourthly, appointments to the position of permanent head should be made only upon the recommendation of the Public Service Board. Fifthly, the term of office of the chairman and members of the Public Service Board should be until the attainment of 65 years of age, as in other well-run Public Services in this country and in the British Commonwealth. These are very far-reaching proposals. The objectives can only be attained after a proper investigation of the system itself, which, I believe, could be effected only by the appointment of a royal commission. At the appropriate time, if I have the opportunity, I propose to try to secure the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
– Let it inquire into the St. Mary’s project.
– I shall have something to say about that in a moment. I think the royal commission should have as members a Minister of this Government, a member of the Public Service Board, a member of the Department of the Treasury, and four outsiders representing the people and the taxpayers of Australia.
When the honorable members speak about St. Mary’s and the responsibility of public officers, it will be remembered that the Auditor-General, who is appointed for life, had the courage, whether we agree with him or not - and I do not - to criticize the administration of the project. This is relevant to the present debate. The chairman of the Public Service Board is appointed for only five years. I notice, Mr. Chairman, that the Clerk of the House is speaking to you at the moment, and he is probably telling you that the estimates for the Auditor-General’s Department are under discussion in any case. I had forgotten that that was so. As I was saying, the chairman of the Public Service Board could never be expected to make a statement as courageous as that made by the Auditor-General with regard to the St. Mary’s establishment. How would the chairman of the Public Service Board fare if he made a statement of that description?
Returning to my earlier remarks, I apologize for having given my recommendations at the commencement of my speech. I did so because so little time is available to me. Section 25 (2) of the Public Service Act, which I suggest should be abolished, states -
The permanent head of a Commonwealth Department shall be responsible for the general working and for all the business thereof, and shall advise the Minister in all matters relating to the department.
He is completely in charge, a powerful man with immense authority. To make matters worse, section 17 of the act, which requires the Public Service Board to concern itself with devising means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of departments, makes any decisions of the board subject to the concurrence of the permanent head. In other words, even if the chairman of the board did have the courage or was equipped to do something about effecting economies or promoting efficiency, he would be prevented from doing so if he could not get the concurrence of the permanent head, the allpowerful dictator in a federal department. The permanent head can say to the Minister and the board, “By the law of the Parliament I am the one responsible for the general working of my department and for all the business thereof “. He is almost in a position to tell both the Minister and the board to mind their own business. Although the Public Service Board has the duty of investigating the efficiency and economy of departments, once it has decided upon economies and improved methods it has no power to implement them, but, under the law, must go cap in hand to the permanent head and ask him to accept its proposals. If he declines to do so, the board can then, if it so desires, have recourse to the Minister, whose only adviser, of course, is the permanent head himself.
The Public Service Act then proceeds to the supreme absurdity of inviting the Public Service Board, in the event of both the permanent head and the Minister ignoring its recommendations, as I suppose they usually do, to report the matter to the Parliament. In other words, in this enlightened age of ours the Public Service Board is invited to comment in a report to Parliament upon a decision of the Minister. If the members of the board have only just been appointed, they have only five years of office to look forward to. I think the present members have three years. How could the Public Service Board be in a position to defy the Minister and the permanent head, having regard to the positions of great power occupied by those gentlemen? The principle is quite wrong. Any wise board would think carefully before accepting the invitation to report to Parliament on such matters.
The only other sanction the board may exercise in its power to control the staffing of establishments within departments is one that must be exercised in a very odd fashion. If the board is satisfied that by the adoption of new procedures a department could dispense with the services of 25 men, and if the department chooses to ignore the board’s suggestion, all the board can say is - “ We will regard you as entitled to 25 men less than you now have. If, over the years, by resignation and deaths your existing officers are depleted in number, we will deny you replacements, so that ultimately your organization will be in such a mess that you will have no option but to implement the procedure that we recommended some years earlier “. That is hardly the way in which the board should be expected to introduce new procedures designed to secure efficiency. It is, however, the only method open to the board, and it is, of course, utterly absurd.
In New South Wales there is a different situation entirely. There is a public service there which says, “ We will try to do what you suggest “, instead of saying, “ No, we cannot do it “. In that State the board has power in relation to such matters as efficiency, economy, salaries, recruitment and discipline, which concern all Government authorities. The Public Service Act in New South Wales does not specifically invest the permanent head with the responsibility for the business of a department, as is the case with the Commonwealth Act. The result is that the ministerial head of the department is the true head. That is not the case in the Commonwealth sphere. The ministerial head in New South Wales, and, I think, in Victoria, alone decides policy, taking such advice as he deems necessary. He issues directions for the implementation of that policy. In that State, there are no entrenched bureaucrats, supported by legislation, who are in a position to say to the Minister, “ We are the persons responsible for running the department, not you “. There is no other place in the world with a state of affairs such as that existing in the Commonwealth Public Service. As a further indication of the independence of the permanent head, and for that matter, of other officers of the Service, I point out that the Public Service Board has no overriding control of discipline throughout the Service. The standards of discipline therefore vary from department to department. In other words, in the Commonwealth Service there are 30 different standards of discipline. The power to suspend officers is vested in the chief officer or the permanent head of a department. The power to suspend the permanent head is vested only in the Prime Minister, although the opinion may be held that it is vested in Cabinet. However, it is not vested in the Public Service Board. This further weakens the power of the board and makes it purely a rubber stamp. Permanent heads are selected by Ministers, which in effect means that they are selected by Cabinet. Under the law, the Public Service Board has no right to claim any voice in the selection. Permanent heads may well, and in fact often do, become identified with the particular Minister who recommended their appointment, and with the party he represents. On a change of government the permanent head may not have the confidence of the new Minister. What happens then? The selection of permanent heads should clearly be made upon the recommendation of the Public Service Board, which is the only authority sufficiently independent of the government of the day, and yet possessing the requisite knowledge of the personalities involved, to make an independent recommendation.
Promotions in the Commonwealth Public Service are, again, the sole responsibility of the permanent head. There is provision for a type of appeal, but if any member thinks for one moment that this constitutes any kind of a safeguard, then I suggest that he peruse the statistics of appeals upheld, as set out in the appendix to the board’s annual report.
The very essence of the existence of a public service board is to ensure that patronage is eliminated entirely from the Service. Yet we find that the very procedure of promotion within a department exposes the Service to the charge that a permanent’ head’s allegiance to a particular Minister or party has resulted in improper preferment of officers within his own department! More active participation by the Public Service Board would reduce the likelihood of such a state of affairs arising.
In the Commonwealth service the initial standard of entry to the clerical or administrative divisions is the leaving certificate examination. Once having entered the service with this qualification, nothing further is asked of the officer. He may. and does, in fact progress to the highest positions in the service. By contrast, in the New South Wales service, clerical officers, whether recruited at the inter mediate or leaving certificate level, are required to pass three examinations in order to progress. The third examination, called the higher grades examination, is one of very good standard, and calls for a wide knowledge of social history, economics, and the political and administrative working of government. This ensures that any public servant who progresses to the higher administrative positions in the service has undertaken a formal course designed to fit him for higher duties. Despite all the foregoing criticisms, it is really in the overall co-ordination, management and leadership of the service that the Commonwealth organization shows up so badly by comparison with other boards. The article I quoted at the outset shows clearly that permanent heads recognize no leadership other than their own individual inclinations. There is no central person or body that can set and maintain standards and give a lead which will be followed by the whole service. The position in New South Wales is very different. There, an active and competent board provides leadership for the whole State service and, by reason of its position, is able to exert a powerful influence for good on the operations of the entire service. The New South Wales board maintains a close liaison with the Treasury in the consideration of departmental estimates of expenditure. The board’s inspectors, with a wide knowledge of the ramifications and functions of departments, are able to provide Treasury officials with valuable information that enables the Treasurer to undertake an informed review of the spending proposals of the departments. This procedure alone results in great savings in New South Wales. Tn the Commonwealth service the detailed knowledge of the board and its inspectors is wasted. The Treasury, in its ivory tower, scorns the assistance of the only organization capable of helping it in its task of reviewing the estimates. There is no official, or even semi-official, channel for exchange of information between the Treasury and the Public Service Board.
Overlapping of functions not only between the Commonwealth and the State public services, but also between the various Commonwealth departments, is a subject that has been dealt with so often that I need not repeat what has already been said. In the State service, the board, by reason of its position, has been able to insist on the closest co-ordination of the activities of the various departments. It has established machinery for ensuring that the greatest possible use is made of existing common facilities by all departments. It has arranged for the co-ordination of departmental research programmes each with the other.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should not like the remarks of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) in interpreting the working of the Public Service Act to be regarded by this Parliament or the Government as the way the Public Service Act in fact works. I hope that at a later and probably more appropriate stage the Minister concerned will clear up some of the rather strange interpretations given by the honorable member for Macarthur to sections of the Public Service Act. It is not my province to interpret the working of the Public Service Act, but I should think, in the interests of the public attitude to this all-important question, that some of the rather distorted statements that have been made by the honorable member should be corrected by a responsible Minister.
– I want to refer to one matter concerning the Public Service Board’s administration. It relates to the employment of permanent officers. I have had brought to my notice several instances in which exservicemen have been refused permanent appointment by the Public Service Board on the ground that they are suffering from war disabilities. I brought this matter under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on one occasion and, I think, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) dealt with it. Nothing was done to alter the position other than to give an assurance that these men would not be dismissed on account of their war disabilities. But that is not good enough for men who went overseas and had their health impaired fighting for Australia.
I remember the case of a young soldier who was injured at Tobruk. He was involved in an accident in which a motor lorry ran into a gun carriage. He suffered brain damage, which left him with epilepsy. He has been serving with the Repatriation Department in Adelaide ever since his return to that city. He is doing exactly the same class of work as is being, carried out by permanent public servants, yet, whenever applications are called for the position, he is told that he is ineligible for the job he has been doing for nearly fourteen years because he is suffering from: a disability due to war service. Surely thissituation will not be tolerated any longer.. He is not allowed to become permanent unless he can pass the medical test. Due to his war service he cannot pass the medi:al test and he has to remain a casual or temporary employee. He is only one of many people who are in this position and who are now employed by the Common.wealth Public Service. I hope that thisfurther reference to this matter will not be treated in the same cavalier manner as thelast reference, but that the Government will seriously investigate the situation and” see that men who are capable of doing a job and of passing the necessary educationtests, but fail only on the ground of illhealth which can be proved to be caused by war service, will not be debarred from permanent appointment. As this man is receiving a war pension, clearly the Repatriation Department accepts his disability as being due to war service.
Proposed vote agreed to.
.- This is. a small vote - less than £2,250,000, which is a small proportion of a total Budget of something over £1,300,000,000. That is a point which is worth emphasizing because so many people - not in this Parliament, I am glad to say, but outside it- for some extraordinary reason think that the expenditure on external affairs and on our overseas missions is an extravagance. They regard it with undisguised suspicion and seem to think of the visits overseas of our representatives as nothing but extravaganzas, and of our representatives as emissaries of the devil - magicians who deal in things esoteric, inexplicable. I think it is worth-while pointing out that for an amount of rather over £2,000,000 the important work performed and its value to Australia in its relation to world affairs is something that we should be applauding. We should also be informing the public about this great function.
We, in Australia, are fortunate in the high quality of our diplomatic service. Historically, it is very new, but it compares favorably - sometimes extremely favorably - with those of older countries. The officers of the Department of External Affairs are continually winning for Australia fresh renown. There has been ample evidence of that within the last twelve months. I do not wish to name individuals, but the work performed by our Minister Plenipotentiary in Cairo during the Suez -crisis and the excellent report on Hungary promulgated the other day by one of our Australian diplomatists are splendid examples.
I hope that the Government will not be cheese-paring in the remuneration of these officers. Many honorable members are aware that the costs of maintaining an official position abroad are considerable, and they are increasing. We tend to forget, when we complain about inflation in Australia, that it is a world-wide problem, and wherever you go, you find the same disease manifesting itself. In the past, I am sorry to say, some of our officers have been able to carry out their duties in the manner that they should have been conducted, only at times by drawing upon their own private means. This, I think honorable members will agree, in an age of permanent high taxation, is wrong and indefensible. For those less fortunate, who were entirely dependent upon the salaries paid to them, it meant, inevitably, that they had to curtail their activities involving fewer social contacts and an impairment generally of their efficiency as the mouthpieces, the eyes and ears, of Australia. I am sure that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) with his wide diplomatic experience is aware of these things, but it is the duty of the Government and of this committee to see, first of all, that our representatives overseas are at all times adequately paid; and, secondly, that the -salaries that the Government offers are such as will continue to attract men of capacity and of real distinction of mind into our diplomatic service.
I feel that the absence of the Minister for External Affairs from this debate underlines the necessity for a new attitude towards external affairs representation in this Parliament. I hope that no one will think that what I am about to say is a criticism of my friend the Minister for his frequent excursions abroad. After all, if Australia is to count effectively in world councils, the Minister, whoever he happens to be, must travel frequently. I will say, at once, and I think honorable members on both sides will agree with me, that it would be difficult to find a more distinguished representative for Australia abroad than the right honorable member for La Trobe. But these demands on his time and his presence are not likely to diminish. I should imagine that they will continue and, if anything, will increase. They apply not merely to the present incumbent of the office but also to whoever his successor may be.
– I have never liked that word “ incumbent “.
– My right honorable friend objects to the word “ incumbent “ but honorable members are all aware that the sword of Damocles hangs over our heads. In the result, for most of the sittings of this Parliament, as things seem to be developing, the Minister for External Affairs is not here to initiate debates, answer questions, interview members of this committee or even, I might add - and this, I should imagine, is very important - to inform and to consult his Cabinet colleagues. Of course, as we know, through unavoidable circumstances of the kind that I have been dwelling upon, the right honorable gentleman is not here to-night to take charge of the debate on the estimates of his department. I suggest that this is amounting to a very serious deprivation of the rights of members and, indeed, of the whole process of Parliament. Foreign relations are becoming more and more a dominant consideration as the future unfolds. The swiftness of travel, the gradual interlocking of national economies, the problems of defence - all these things make it absolutely imperative that such matters should be discussed in this chamber, not occasionally, but frequently.
Sir, how can we, who are members of this committee, perform this duty if the Minister is away and the burden is cast on already fully occupied Cabinet Ministers. One recalls the great international crisis of last year over the Suez Canal. Most fortunately, as it turned out, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was broad and we are all gratefully aware of the very important part that he played in the Suez dispute. We know, also, that the Minister for External Affairs was summoned to London. That was proper, too. But not until he returned was he able to give a first-hand viewpoint on the situation to the House. He was not able at the time to conduct a debate concerning matters which could have been of great peril to this country, to our partners in the British Commonwealth, and, indeed, to the whole of the free world.
I suggest that the increasing corrosion of the rights of members of this committee should be checked before it worsens. The case that I put to the committee and the Government is that the Government should consider the appointment of an understudy who could deputize for the Minister for External Affairs. The understudy should be armed with adequate power to answer questions in this place, to conduct a debate on international affairs and, equally important of course, attend to the day-to-day administration of the department. He could be a fully fledged Minister of State as frequently happens in the United Kingdom and other countries; alternatively, the Government should consider the appointment and training of an under-secretary for external affairs, although I should imagine, from the not very happy experience of undersecretaries in this Parliament, that an amendment of the Constitution would be necessary for that purpose. Again, that would not be beyond the bounds of possibilities. I appeal to the Government to consider this question seriously, carefully and quickly; otherwise the time will come when Parliament will not acquiesce in being muffled for what amounts to a whole session, as in this case, on a range of subjects which are so very vital to our people.
.- I join the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) in his concern about the continued absence of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), the estimates for whose department is now under consideration by the committee. Already, this day, we have sanctioned the expenditure of £3,823,000. The proposed vote now before the committee amounts to £2,221.000. However, in regard to all the money that has already been voted, and in regard to the proposed vote with which we are now dealing, honorable members have not had a single reply to their queries and suggestions from any Minister. This is quite a new procedure as far as my knowledge of parliamentary procedure goes.
During the consideration of the Estimates in the past, governments, as far as I have known, arranged for each Minister to be present at the table to answer any question raised in respect of his department.
– That practice has been followed throughout this discussion.
– Not a single Minister has risen to answer a single query that has been raised by any member of the committee. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) cannot possibly avoid the responsibility that devolves upon him to see that the appropriate Minister is at the table to give to the committee the information that it requests.
In regard to the Department of External Affairs, I want to know something about the recruiting of suitable personnel to undertake the work of missions abroad.
– The Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs is here.
– There is nobody here at the moment who is capable of giving an explanation on this subject. 1 feel that much more information should be available to the committee than it has been given in regard to expenditure on missions abroad. As the honorable member for Angas has correctly stated, the Minister for External Affairs is unfortunately absent for the greater part of the proceedings of this Parliament. Possibly, he feels that his duties call him to places abroad. But that is poor relief to the members of this committee which is voting the money for him to go abroad although they know very little about what he is doing. I think that honorable members will realize the rather ridiculous position in which the committee finds itself in this respect.
Of course, there is an acting Minister, but can we get all the information that we require from the acting Minister? Can he afford us any explanation regarding the staffing of these missions which are listed in the Estimates? What is the nature of the work that they have been performing? Has it fostered a better relationship between Australia and the countries concerned? No report of a documentary character has been presented to the Parliament on any of these missions. All that we get, at rare intervals, is an opportunity to have a foreign affairs debate. That is as near as we get to an explanation of what is done by our missions abroad. I present to this committee a very real and earnest protest against this way of treating the Parliament with regard to the expenditure of these large amounts of money.
Having some knowledge of the serious and important nature of the work that is undertaken by our diplomatic services, I feel that the Parliament should be made more aware of the great problems that are presented to, the great work that is undertaken by, and the successes of the missions in conducting relationships between this country and the countries to which they are credentialled. With regard to many of the international committees and conferences that the Minister for External Affairs and other delegates have attended on behalf of Australia, we rarely get the opportunity to consider the nature of the proceedings that have taken place and the report that is submitted on them. Very often we do not even get a report. So the committee has a very genuine grievance because of the cavalier way in which it has been treated upon these matters.
Another matter that I want to bring to the attention of the committee concerns appointments to diplomatic posts overseas, and the method of announcing them. I think it is desirable that the appointment of an emissary of this country to the United States of America, or any other major power, should be announced in this House, and that honorable members should not be left to glean their information about it from a newspaper paragraph. This is the place from which the people should be told of appointments that are so important to this country.
I think that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) was quite right when he said that the general public had a very imperfect understanding of the work of many of the missions that come within the jurisdiction of the Department of External Affairs, of the expenditure that is involved in their upkeep, and of the delegations that are sent abroad to conferences from time to time. While I agree that that is true, I think that we have only ourselves to blame for that lack of information, because even this Parliament is not as fully informed as it should be. If we in this place are not informed, how can we expect the people outside to know about these matters?
I wish to pay my tribute to the great efforts of the men who represent Australia in the various important posts abroad, and I do so as one who has benefited a great deal from the experience of officers of the Department of External Affairs. I would like them to know of my good will and confidence in the work they are performing. Nevertheless, I think we all would like to know a lot more about what is being accomplished.
.- In rising to discuss the estimates for the Department of External Affairs, I think 1 can say that all Australians are proud of the prestige that the foreign affairs policy of this Government has brought to Australia, in contrast to the position that existed before we took office. Indeed, those Australians who travel overseas are now very proud to be known as Australians. But what part does Her Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament take in our external affairs? We have just heard the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), a man who has had experience of foreign affairs, say that he knows nothing of what takes place. Of course, the opportunity to know something about foreign affairs has been given to the Australian Labour party. Are we to understand that foreign affairs are matters that concern only the Liberal party and the Australian Country party?
Every time that honorable members opposite participate in a debate on foreign affairs it becomes obvious that they take no intelligent interest in that subject. They have the opportunity to seek knowledge of it and to be advised about it by joining the Foreign Affairs Committee, but they refuse to do so. The nations that we regard as hostile to Australia’s interests do not appeal to them as such. For all we know, the nations we regard as hostile may be regarded by them as friendly. I say this with great regret, because after all, surely we are Australians first and party members afterwards. When we go overseas as members of parliamentary delegations, we do not go as members of the Liberal party, of the Australian Country party or of the Labour party; we go as delegates from the Australian National Parliament. I have not been on these jaunts, but as far as I know, relations between the members of all parties are extremely cordial. I believe that there is mutual respect. Nevertheless, when honorable members opposite come to the National Parliament they take no intelligent interest in foreign affairs.
Foreign affairs policy is very closely linked with defence. You cannot have a foreign policy unless you have a defence policy. The two must go side by side. Therefore, it is most important that the Opposition should have some knowledge of foreign affairs. But has any honorable member on this side of the chamber ever heard from honorable members opposite an intelligent remark about foreign affairs? We have the most extraordinary statements from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), whose ideas on the subject are astounding. No doubt the right honorable gentleman will now try to get in touch with Outer Mongolia in an endeavour to get some advice on foreign affairs. Recently, when he returned from overseas, he lauded Nehru to the skies and said that he was the great man of the world to-day, but he did not tell us that at the time Nehru was talking about the Suez Canal affair he had a little affair of his own going on in Kashmir. He did not tell us that, at about the time that Nehru was discussing the Hungarian affair, he was fighting a war in his own country. This is the kind of adviser on foreign affairs to whom the Labour party turns.
This is a serious matter, and I think that responsible people like the honorable member for Bonython should raise the subject in caucus with a view to seeing whether her Majesty’s Opposition could not play a more responsible part in foreign affairs and, at the same time, try to inform itself on the subject by joining the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– I am very sorry that I have to begin my speech by disagreeing with a remark of my very good friend, the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). If I understood him correctly, he seemed to suggest that it was a great loss to this House not to have the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) here in order to answer questions concerning the Department of External Affairs. If I understood my very dear friend to imply that we would be likely to get information from the Minister, were he here, then I strongly disagree. I am one of those who feel that we are losing nothing by not having the Minister here. Indeed, it may be that we are gaining a lot by having him as far away from Australia as it is possible to get him, especially when we are dealing with the subject of external affairs, because when the right honorable gentleman is in this chamber - which is very rarely, I admit - his contributions to debates on external affairs are so naive, so wide of the mark and so unreal in their application to the facts, that those of us who would be foolish enough to listen would be all the worse off by hearing his ideas about what should be done on behalf of Australia.
I think that this calls for some immediate attention by the Government. Surely, when a member can get up and truthfully say these things about the Minister for External Affairs we have reached a stage at which the Government should get rid of the Minister and put in his place somebody who is capable of handling the external affairs of this country as they should be handled. I have been informed on fairly reliable authority that whenever the Minister finishes his work in Canberra on Thursday night he gets the first plane back to his farm in Melbourne and tells the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, Mr. Tange, not to ring him at all over the week-end or until his return to Canberra on the following Tuesday. I am told that he tells the secretary, in effect, “ If you are in doubt at all about any matter of policy which suddenly arises during my absence on my farm down in Melbourne will you please check up with what the United States policy is on the particular subject and apply that policy to the problem that is confronting you here, and it will be O.K. so far as I am. concerned “.
I can recall the occasion when the Prime Minister, knowing that this was the drift in the Department of External Affairs of this country decided to take over external affairs himself and handle the Middle East situation. What was the result? The result was that the Prime Minister marched in and carried out a policy which was neither the American policy nor in the- true interests of Australia. It was the one occasion when the Minister for External Affairs was right, and it was the only time he was ever right that I can recall; but on that occasion the Prime Minister prevented him from being right by stepping in and following an entirely different policy from that recommended by the Minister.
Now, let us look at the positions we are speaking of in this debate. We are talking about the various embassies. This brings me to a question that I should like the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is now at the table, to answer, if he would, I want to know whether the Minister intends to take up the position of Australian Ambassador to the United States of America; because if he can give us an assurance that he is prepared to take that position, and thus render vacant in the Cabinet a position that can be filled so much more adequately by men like the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) or the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), we shall be pleased to hear it. I have mentioned six names, taken at random, of honorable members who could fill the position now occupied by the Minister for Defence so much better than he fills it. He could not do the job at Washington much worse than it is now being done. Any of the honorable members whose names I have mentioned could do the Minister’s job much better than he is doing it. I suggest that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is shaking his head, could very easily be transferred to Egypt, and could explain to Nasser what he meant by the 900 fully equipped troops that he had ready for the invasion of Egypt.
The trouble with this Government seems to be that our overseas embassies are being cluttered up with a lot of no-hoper expoliticians who have failed lamentably in their jobs as Ministers here; and, because they failed here, instead of being sacked and allowed to stay here in disgrace, as they should be, they are elevated to positions where they can do even more damage to Australia’s good name than they would be doing by remaining here as Ministers. The only occasion on which a Minister was dismissed and allowed to remain here in disgrace was when the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) was dismissed as Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works - not because he did not do a good job; he was sacked because he did too good a job, and he was kept here in disgrace because that was his only crime.
What I should like to know is: Instead of the Government going on wasting great sums of money on these legations where we are not properly represented - I interrupt my remarks here because that thought reminds me of the former Minister for the Army, Sir Josiah Francis. Could any one find a more inept Minister abroad than Sir Josiah Francis? Can honorable members imagine Sir Eric Harrison parading round Mayfair representing Australia - representation on which we are spending some £600,000 a year - in an important place, the United Kingdom. I would rather see Senator Cooper as our High Commissioner to the United Kingdom than Sir Eric Harrison. Anybody who knows the way that Senator Cooper carries out his portfolio will know that in making that statement I am not paying Sir Eric Harrison much of a compliment. The fact is that Sir Eric Harrison is the last man who should ever have been appointed to a diplomatic post; and all honorable members opposite know that is true. I can tell that by the smiles that travel across their faces as I speak.
If the Government wants to spend some money on promoting the external affairs of this country and on overseas representation which will bring some good to the country why does it not make an effort to reestablish diplomatic relations with the Soviet? The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) is not listening. I ask: Why does not the Government seek to reestablish diplomatic relations with the Soviet, or red China, if you like to call it that? Why does it not re-establish diplomatic relations with those other countries recognized by the United Kingdom - Poland, Roumania, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria? What is wrong with establishing diplomatic relations with all those countries? The United Kingdom has diplomatic relations with them. Whenever we want to carry on business on behalf of Australian nationals in Poland what have we to do? We have to send a message to Sir Eric Harrison in London, and then Sir Eric Harrison contacts, not the Australian representative in Poland, because there is none, but the
United Kingdom representative, and requests him to act on behalf of some Australian citizen there who desires something to be done. I believe that the time is long overdue when we should establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet.
– Of course you do!
– I can give my reason briefly. Last year the honorable member for Hume sold some £5,500 worth of wool to the Russian wool-buyers, from his own clip. If it is good enough for the honorable member for Hume to sell his wool to Russia, is it not reasonable to assume that the best way to continue to protect the honorable member for Hume, and other people like him who sell their wool to Russia, is to have diplomatic relations with the Russian Government so that we can continue to exploit the Russian market to the very utmost rather than let it be taken up by some other country?
I am pleased to note that the honorable member for Hume has accepted, by his acquiescence, my statement that he is a seller of wool to the Soviet. If the Government is so hostile to the Soviet that it is not prepared to have diplomatic relations with it, why does it not refuse to allow wool to be sold to the Soviet? If the Soviet is regarded as a country with which we cannot have diplomatic relations, why supply it with wool, which is one of the most valuable materials in war-time? If it is the fear of war against us by the Soviet that is preventing the Government from establishing diplomatic relations with Russia, how can the Government justify continuing to supply the Soviet with wool? As everybody knows, and as I have said, wool is one of the most important things needed for the waging of modern warfare. I say the same of Poland, Rumania. Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. I leave the position at that. Here we have a government which seems to have absolutely no idea of its own on foreign affairs. As the Minister says, whenever it is in doubt the heads of the department are told to look up the latest book on American foreign policy, apply whatever America’s policy is to the problem and do nothing more.
I return to the point I raised when I commenced to speak, and that is Australia’s representation in the United States of America. One of the best things the
Government could do, if it would only take notice of my advice, is to request the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) to accept the appointment to Washington as Australia’s representative. If the honorable member for Chisholm were to represent this country, we would have, for the first time since the honorable member for Bonython left the position, a representative who would do honour to the country of which we are so proud. That would be one way in which the Government could make amends for the raw deal it has meted out to one of the finest and most capable Ministers it has had since it was formed in 1949. Is it any wonder that the honorable member for Chisholm found himself unable to support or to vote against the motion moved by the Opposition against the Government during the Budget debate? It is to his credit that he had the courage to do that, and, on various other occasions, to express his disapproval of the Government’s actions and its policy. I leave the thought with the Minister for the Army, who seems to be in charge of the Government’s affairs at the moment, that the Government should seriously conside appointing the honorable member for Chisholm to the position I have mentioned so that these appointments will no longer be the farce that they have been in the past.
.- Consideration of the estimates for the Department of External Affairs affords honorable members the opportunity to consider the strength of Australia’s representation abroad. I am especially concerned with Australia’s representation amongst our northern and Asian neighbours. I believe that the Department of External Affairs should be the instrument of peace and security for this country. If a larger vote for the department would enable Australia to be more fully represented and better understood in the Asian countries, then I would be prepared to have the estimates amended. It is important that Australia’s point of view should be known and appreciated, because it is the Australian point of view alone. Australia’s foreign policy should be an Australian foreign policy, determined by our geography, our wealth, our population and our relationship with the people who live in this part of the world. If we consider these estimates in the light of those facts, we will make a contribution to the peace, security and progress of our land and promote the well-being of our neighbours.
How can we advance this policy? I pay tribute to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) for recently giving honorable members the privilege of visiting certain Asian countries. But I should like those visits to be extended and developed. It is not sufficient for members of the Parliament to visit Asian countries only once in a number of years, and I am not content to see only parliamentarians visiting those countries to meet and confer with their leaders. We should send trade union delegations to meet these people who are our neighbours. Possibly nothing would stimulate good relations more than visits by sporting representatives from this country, especially our tennis players. That would do as much as anything else to help the people of the north to understand us and the kind of life we wish to live. If that were done, real progress would be made. I am of the opinion that when Jimmy Carruthers visited Bangkok and fought the local champion, he in his way represented Australia very well indeed.
These matters should be considered, but they cannot be considered fully on an occasion such as this when honorable members have only a limited time in which to speak. However, I appeal to the Government not to let our representation rest on sporadic visits. Further visits should be encouraged. Arrangements should be made for annual visits so that honorable members can meet the parliamentarians and leaders of the Asian people and discuss very important matters affecting them. From my experience, I believe that the Asian people appreciate the Australian point of view. They regard us as a colonial people who have grown away from the colony stage, and have won their battle for the right to nationhood. They regard us as having the benefits of the rule of law, and of democratic government, elected by a secret ballot, on the principle of one vote one value and franchise for women. Because of that, the Asians have a healthy respect for this country. We have increased that respect by our participation in the Colombo plan. But if this work is to be extended and if we are to train teachers to convey our point of view to the people of these areas, a school of Asian studies on a grand scale should be established. The Australian people would then have an opportunity to get a better understanding of our northern neighbours and they in turn would have a better opportunity to get to understand us.
To further that policy, Australians should learn the languages of our neighbours. Those languages ought to be taught in our schools. We should discard the old idea that we are Europeans and that only French, German, Latin or some other European language should be taught in the schools. We should set forth to teach our people Vietnamese, Chinese or Thai. By so doing, we would be able to convey our point of view to the Asian peoples in a much easier way than we have been able to do up to the present.
I put these views only briefly this evening. 1 ask the Government to give consideration to the need to establish a school of Asian studies so that we will be able to expand our knowledge of our Asian neighbours. I ask the Government to extend the opportunities for Australians, particularly our students, to visit countries to the north. In that way, we would get a better appreciation of those people and of their problems. We cannot hope to judge what is good or bad in the Asian area; it is not for us to determine those matters at this time nor is it possible for us to say what type of government the people of Asia should have. We have our standards and it is our responsibility to maintain them. If we maintain our standards of democracy, of the rule of law, of one vote one value, and of the secret ballot, and if we can show to the Asian people that we possess standards that they should adopt, then I feel that they are likely to follow us.
At a conference that I attended recently, the representatives of the Philippines praised Australia highly, spoke in glowing terms of our secret ballot, and reported that the Philippines had fashioned its electoral laws on those of Australia. That was an instance in which Australia had given leadership to an Asian country. We can give leadership to the people of Asia if we set our own house in order, and let it be known that we have no territorial aims or aspirations, that we are content with our island continent, that we accept the responsibility to develop it, and that we have the utmost charity and tolerance towards, and respect for, the people in countries near us, and that we shall continue to afford opportunities for study to students from countries to our north without regard to religion, colour, or any similar consideration. I believe that the healthy and strong foundations of friendship with Asian nations that we have laid may be extended and bulit upon further if the Australian Parliament acknowledges its responsibilities and recognizes that Australia is a country in an Asian part of the world, that we live among Asian people, and that, in understanding them, we shall march side by side with them.
I am deeply concerned about the great problems facing the people of Indonesia. Criticism of the Indonesian people for adopting a particular form of government, or for allegedly voting wrongly by our standards, will not solve any problems, or overcome any difficulties. We must treat the people to our north with the utmost respect, sympathy, tolerance, and understanding. I am certain that if we do that, and encourage those people and give them leadership, they will not suspect us, or regard us as another imperial power out to exploit them, but will look upon us as friends and partners in this part of the world.
– I should like to take the opportunity to make a few observations about the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs, which plays such an important part in the activities of government. As the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) pointed out, £2,221,000 out of a total Budget of approximately £1,300,000,000 - or a little more than one-sixth of 1 per cent. - is to be allocated to the department in the current financial year. Perhaps it is legitimate criticism to suggest that a greater proportion of the total expenditure for the financial year should be devoted to this important field of activity. I think that it is true, as honorable members on both sides of the chamber have stated, that, over the last fifteen years, Australia has developed a most efficient and effective diplomatic service. A book about the development of Australia’s foreign policy, and the role played in international affairs by the officers of the Department of External Affairs, which has recently been published by a number of Australian authors after a very careful and extensive study, fully confirms the statements that have been made here this evening about the quality and effectiveness of our diplomatic missions overseas.
When one examines the remuneration paid to some of our representatives overseas, one is struck by the fact that it is, indeed, low. Our Ambassador to the United States of America is paid a salary of £3,500 a year; our Ambassador in the Australian Mission to the United Nations, £3,676; our Ambassador to the Republic of France, £3,700; our Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, £3,500; and our Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia, £3,676. The Australian representatives in other countries are paid salaries of the same order, and officers lower in the scale are paid proportionately less. I think that any one who appreciates the nature of the work done by these officials, and its importance, is completely satisfied that they are not overpaid. I agree with the honorable member for Angas that it is most necessary that we should make this fact clear to the people of Australia, because there is still a feeling in this country that expenditure on some of our posts in other countries is wasted. I take the opposite view that there is hardly a country in which we are represented in which we could not, with benefit, expand our representation.
I take the view, also, that we are not represented in enough countries. The characteristic feature of the list of countries in which we are represented which appears at page 14 of the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, is the restricted nature of our overseas representation. The first point that strikes one, on examining this list, is that, this year, we are not represented in Egypt. This fact indicates a distinction, as a number of incidents has done, between the quality of our permanent officials and that of some of our political Ministers, in their activities in the international field. I think that it is now quite clear that the conduct of our external relations in the dispute over the Suez Canal was very inept and inefficient. Australia supported the assumption that Egypt could be forced into line, either by the direct use of force, or by threat, and we did not properly consider the efficacy of discussion and the diplomatic channels available to us. I think that it is very largely as a result of this that our contact with Egypt has been completely destroyed. This is most regrettable.
I support the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), who emphasized the need for the widest possible representation overseas. At the present time, Mr. Chairman, Australia is not represented in about fifteen countries that are members of the United Nations, and together contain more than 1,000,000,000 people, or almost half of the world’s population. Our knowledge of those countries comes to us indirectly, and very often from unreliable sources. The 600,000,000 people of China are undergoing a revolutionary process. Whether or not we like its nature, or approve of the terrific upheaval and the sacrifices required of the Chinese people, is beside the point. The significant fact is that we cannot afford to ignore the existence of the 600,000,000 people of China, whose influence upon the future of the Pacific will be of the greatest importance.
We cannot afford to rely upon secondhand and unreliable information. We should get it from trusted, trained officials of our own on the spot. It would have been very much better if, during the Hungarian revolt last year, trained Australian officials had been on the spot to report direct to us about what was happening, so that we need not have been forced to rely upon the somewhat unsatisfactory channels of communication that were in fact open to us. How can any honorable member seriously believe that, by excluding ourselves from contact with other countries, we are in some way contributing to our own defence? We can establish the means of defending ourselves by strategic and military measures as effectively as we like, and develop our own striking power as efficiently as we like, and still maintain relations with other countries without reducing by one iota our capacity to defend ourselves.
External representation of this kind has two main purposes. The first is, as pointed out by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), to put our point of view most effectively. We can gain by having our own trusted and trained representatives to put our point of view in those countries with the policies of which we might not agree, rather than by having what is supposed to be our point of view put by persons who are not capable of putting our views correctly. These countries are given a point of view - make no mistake about that - and if we have our own representatives on the spot to examine what is happening, to correct any misapprehension or any mistakes or misunderstandings that may occur, our relations with those countries will be far better. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie that while we should assure that our defences are complete and adequate, we should also do everything we can to improve relations and be more friendly with other countries. We shall be in a much better position to defend ourselves, if the need arises, if we have got to know thoroughly and adequately the people with whom we might become engaged in conflict. There is nothing to be gained by cutting ourselves off, or by the stupid, negative and aggressive approach that characterizes the attitude of quite a number of honorable members in this committee towards some of the countries with whose policies they disagree.
The other purpose of our external representation in this form is to gather for us the greatest possible knowledge of the countries in which our representatives are working. Is it not far better to have our own trained observers in these countries, making reports to us about what is happening, than to rely upon second hand and, very often, unreliable information, as we do at present? We cannot afford to ignore the changes that are occurring in countries that contain about half the world’s population, as we are ignoring them at present.
I suggest, therefore, that an examination of the list of our representatives abroad shows that we are far too inadequately represented. Secondly, I believe that when this representation is working adequately and upon a sufficiently wide basis, and when the knowledge and experience gained thereby is available, it should be put far more effectively before this Parliament than it is at present. I support the other speakers who have raised this point. We have spent only a very few hours of the life of this Parliament in discussing the most important of all matters to the Parliament, external affairs. If we added together all the hours that we have spent in discussing external affairs since this Parliament opened in 1956, they would not total more than two or three. It is not enough for the Minister for External Affairs to return from overseas every so often and place before the House statements, which are characterized more by their platitudes and generalities than by factual information, and then for the Leader of the Opposition to rise and discuss those statements, which then find their way on to the notice paper, as occurs at present. Those of us who might have something to contribute to the subject are forced to take opportunities such as occur in the debate on the Estimates to speak on the matter for ten or fifteen minutes.
There is one other matter I should like to mention in this connexion. It is not of much use for Government supporters to bring up the subject of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. The position of this committee has been examined by the Opposition over the years since the proposal to establish it was made. We are not satisfied with the conditions governing the functioning of the committee. We have made constructive suggestions as to how the committee may be changed, and the Minister has, so far, failed to take into account any of those suggestions. If the Minister fails or refuses to take into account even the most minor suggestion that we might make as to the constitution of the committee, over a period of two or three years, what better results could we expect to obtain if we put forward proposals to the committee itself. It is pretty clear that the committee has become more and more a restricted study circle which is, at best, merely informed by the Minister of some of the matters that he chooses to put before it. The committee has been used, in effect, to widen some of the political divisions that exist in this Parliament, and some of the divisions that have occurred in the past in the Opposition party. It has been used more for this purpose than for a study of international affairs.
If the Government desires to see a more substantial contribution made to the study of external affairs, it will have to take some of the heat out of the situation. It will have to consider, perhaps, the question of representation in some of the countries I have mentioned. It will have to be prepared to reduce to some extent the intensity of the cold war. The noises that were made bv the honorable member for Corio (Mr.
Opperman) a little while ago, and which 1 failed to understand, when the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) mentioned the recognition ot China, represented the kind of reaction to which I refer. The attitude that surrounds discussions of external affairs, and which makes many honorable members afraid to express opinions that are not conservative and traditional, is an attitude that this Government has helped to create, not because it assists in the defence of this country, but because it assists in the election of this Government. It is for internal Australian political reasons that many of these ideas prevail with regard to external affairs, not because they contribute to the best possible relations with other countries, and not because they contribute towards the adequate defence of Australia.
.- I support wholeheartedly the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) in regard to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs. I think our attitude is well known. We did not intend to be treated like a lot of school children and be told exactly what the Minister wanted to tell us, without being given an opportunity to delve into questions of the utmost importance to this country, and without being able to debate in this Parliament the issues discussed by the committee and the information furnished by the Minister.
But it was not for that reason that I rose to take part in this debate. My purpose in rising is to direct attention to an announcement that has recently been made overseas about the appointment of Sir Percy Spender as a justice of the International Court. In case it may be believed in this country and overseas that the Australian Labour party regards this appointment as a good one, I want to direct attention to one or two aspects of the career of this gentleman, and to show that he is completely unsuited to be a justice of the international Court or of any other court in this country or in the world. Let us examine for a moment the reason why this gentleman happened to be overseas at all, let alone be appointed a justice of the International Court at The Hague. Everybody in this country knows full well that Sir Percy Spender was sent overseas only because the Prime Minister returned from one of his trips abroad and discovered that
Sir Percy Spender was intriguing in his absence to bring about b>« downfall and to secure for himself the leadership of the Government. How could any one regard the appointment of this gentleman to such an important post as being a good one? In addition to that, any one who was in this Parliament at the relevant time must know that Sir Percy Spender was most bitter and vindictive in his attitude towards anything progressive in the political life of this country or any other country. In my opinion he was unsuited for the position to which he was appointed in Washington, and it was only because of the political manoeuvering of the anti-Labour parties that he was ever sent abroad at all. What special qualifications has he? Did he display them in this country or elsewhere? If honorable members care to examine the debates that took place when Sir Percy Spender represented Australia before the United Nations-
– I rise to order, lt has been a well established tradition of this Parliament, and I think it is covered by standing orders, that with respect to members of the judiciary-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Does the Opposition not regard Sir Percy Spender as a member of the judiciary? Standing orders require that no reflection shall be cast on a member of the judiciary of Australia. Sir Percy Spender has been appointed to the International Court and I should think that we would be very appreciative of the fact that one of the most distinguished Australians of our generation has been so overwhelmingly supported by the other nations of the world for appointment to this high judicial office. I question whether it is in order for honorable members to reflect upon a person who has been appointed in this manner to the judiciary of an international body.
– I sustain the point made by the Minister for Labour and National Service that any member of the judiciary, international or Australian, should not be held in light regard. 1 ask the honorable member for East Sydney to respect that ruling. Secondly, I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the vote before the Chair and not make a personal attack.
– I rise to order. You have already given a decision, Mr. Chairman, and
I do not canvass that decision, but surely, since you are a reasonable man, you will concede that our Standing Orders can have no relation at all to the International Court of Justice, because when the Standing Orders were framed there was no such authority in existence. Surely it is stretching the Standing Orders of this Parliament to a ridiculous extent to suggest that one cannot discuss what after all is a political appointment to an external body which is part of the United Nations. I am surprised that the Minister for Labour and National Service should have raised the question. It would be better to gag the debate if he wants to get the Opposition out of the chamber. It is an extreme and ridiculous interpretation of Standing Orders to say that they prevent the discussion of an appointment to the International Court.
– I rise to order.
– To what point of order does the honorable member wish to speak? If he wishes to speak to the point on which I have ruled, he will be out of order.
– I do not wish to speak to that point of order. I submit that you were not properly informed by the Minister for Labour and National Service when he led you to believe that Sir Percy Spender has been appointed to the International Court. That is not so. He has not yet been appointed to the position. He has been merely nominated.
– There has been an election by the countries of the world.
– He will not take office until January of next year. Therefore, he will not become a judge until then and until he is a judge he is not a member of the judiciary.
– I think all honorable members should respect the position to which Sir Percy Spender has been elected, and I rule accordingly.
– Then I will deal with the unfilled position in the United States - the position vacated by Sir Percy Spender. I hope that the Government will exercise a great deal more care in the selection of a successor to Sir Percy Spender, because I think it is a bad thing for this country and its reputation to have these high and important positions overseas used as political bribes for people who are not required in Australia because they have conspired against the Prime Minister during his absence overseas.
– Order! The honorable member will connect his remarks with the proposed vote under discussion. The political activities of party adherents have no relation to the estimates before the committee.
– I am discussing the vacant position in the U.S.A., and I am asking the Government to exercise a great deal more care in the selection of a successor to Sir Percy Spender. Surely, if I am entitled to discuss the question of how the post is to be filled, I can show where the previous holder of the office was lacking in the qualities required for that important position. As a result-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The other day, at question time, I asked the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) whether he had any comment to make regarding a statement made by a member of his own party at the conference of the Australian Country party concerning the imports restriction policy in this country. Mr. Thorby, a former member of this Parliament, was most outspoken in the criticism which he levelled against the Department of Trade and the system as it was operating. To use his own terms, he referred to it as “ the most corrupt in the world “.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation in the House.
– The Minister should not have attempted so cavalierly to brush aside this criticism by a member of his own party. He should have been prepared to do what the public of this country has been demanding for a long time, that is, to have a proper examination made of the imports restriction policy and how it is being administered by this particular department. To give an idea of what is happening, I want to quote, for the Minister’s benefit, a case in the hope that he might try to supply the House with the answer to it.
When import restrictions were imposed in this country we were given to understand that that action had been taken to protect our overseas financial reserves. Naturally, if one could imagine a transaction in which valuable equipment could be obtained for Australia without involving any exchange at all on the part of the Australian Government, that would be a proposition which the Government might be expected to grab with both hands. But it has not done so. In New Caledonia, a man who was born in Australia, had been operating for many years. He decided to wind up his business operations and return to Australia where his family had already been re-established and his children were going to school. When he attempted to transfer his capital from New Caledonia to Australia he discovered that the monetary control authorities here were not interested in obtaining francs. In order to have his capital transferred to Australia this man, on his own initiative, decided that he would change his francs into American dollars. I believe he had an opportunity of doing that. He decided he would purchase equipment abroad, which is urgently needed in this country, and then apply for an import licence to bring it here. This would not involve the Australian Government in any exchange transaction. He was told, when he applied for an import licence that these licences were restricted to people who were resident in Australia. He is an Australian - he was born here - and he wanted to come back to this country where his family were already living, but the department ruled that because he was not a resident in Australia he was not eligible for an import licence.
That was a most outrageous decision for the department to make. It involved quite a considerable sum of money. The equipment which he intended to purchase abroad and bring to Australia represented, in value, about 20,000 American dollars. Eighty per cent. of this equipment, which was American, was new and entirely unused. The remainder was second-hand. It had been used by the American forces in Korea and was now available for purchase. He was asked by the department on one occasion to obtain some evidence that the equipment was required here and he furnished the information that several firms had given him assurances that if he brought the equipment to Australia they would purchase it because they had an urgent use for it. In a letter written to him by B. and W. Steel Proprietary Limited, this was stated -
Please accept this confirmation of our negotiations with you for the purchase of approximately ten (10) Heavy Duty Rubber Tyred Mobile Cranes which we intend to add to our Plant Pool operating in the eastern Australian States.
Additions to our crane fleet are urgently required to satisfy a demand by Government departments and private industry which hires the plant directly or through our agents in New South Wales and Victoria. Recent and current hirers of these units comprise the following major accounts; -
Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works.
Victorian Electricity Commission.
Victorian Housing Commission.
New South Wales Electricity Commission.
New South Wales Department of Public Works.
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board.
Australian Iron and Steel Limited.
Broken Hill Company Pty. Ltd.
Broken Hill Associated Smelters Limited.
Your prompt and favorable response to our needs will be appreciated.
These people want the equipment which this gentleman proposed to bring to Australia. A letter from W. E. Bramble & Sons (Transport) Company Limited reads as follows: -
I refer to your conversation this morning with our General Manager, Mr. J. W. Richardson regarding the importation of truck mounted Lorain cranes of some 25-ton capacity. This company would be interested in the purchase of such equipment for use in heavy industry in Newcastle area, subject, of course, to condition and price being satisfactory. We will be glad to receive full particulars of available equipment.
It is with interest I learn of your proposal to introduce heavy duty mobile cranes to this country. Should you proceed with the importation of the models mentioned, my company would be keenly interested in their use on at least two of our present contracts, viz., “ Erection of Briquetting Plants - Morwell “ for the S.E.C.V. and “The Erection of a 100 T/day Sulphuric Acid Plant at Geelong “.
I look forward to hearing further details of availability and hire charges.
It can be seen that the equipment that this man wants to bring to Australia is urgently required by these great organizations in order to carry out public works in Australia. Has not the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) been running abroad in order to obtain foreign loans because, so it was stated, we needed foreign exchange in order to bring urgently needed equipment to Australia? Here is an Australian citizen who wants an import licence in order to bring such equipment to Australia. It would not involve a penny piece of our exchange reserves, but he is refused that licence. 1 would like to hear an explanation of this matter from the Minister.
Let me turn now to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). I have a word to say about this Minister. Honorable members will recollect that he has practically threatened members of the Oposition that if they bring cases to the floor of the House they will get nowhere with them. I brought a case to the floor of the House. I did not mention the name of the lady concerned. If the name was revealed, it was revealed by the Minister, not by me. I merely gave him the details. Honorable members will recollect the case that I made out on behalf of this lady who, after she had been advised by her doctor to attempt to earn a livelihood, had gone into an institution run by the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association. The Minister himself has accepted this institution as a rehabilitation centre. Suddenly this lady’s case was reviewed and she lost her pension.
I am pleased to say that her pension has been restored, but let us examine the date from which it has been restored. That is the important point. Ministers must save face. They can never admit that they have made a mistake. This lady’s pension was cancelled as from 15th August, 1957, but it has been restored as from 29th August, 1957. So a lady who had been receiving an invalid pension over a period of years has not had her pension restored from the date on which it was cancelled, but from a date a fortnight later, in order that the Minister’s face might be saved. This unfortunate invalid woman has now been declared to be permanently incapacitated within the meaning of the social services legislation, but she is to be fined a fortnight’s pension by the Minister because he cannot admit that an error was made and that her pension should never have been cancelled. I appeal to the Minister, now that the pension has been restored, to gi to the woman as from 15th August. Let her ge’ the fortnight’s pension of which she has been deprived.
I now want to turn to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). The Minister for Supply is one of those casual gentlemen-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I often wonder whether it would be proper for the Parliament and the people of Australia to look at the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in another light. The light in which I suggest he should be examined is the light of strict surrealism. What would we see? We would see a delightful character, with a refreshing charm of manner, with great persuasiveness and felicity of expression which would be strikingly reminiscent of a gay and very gallant age. The honorable member for East Sydney is possibly the most misjudged and misunderstood person in the Parliament. He suffers from intense frustration, among other things. He wants to be in this Parliament when what there is of him that is anthropomorphous has passed from view and listen to the Prime Minister of the day, in touching, trembling tones, say that he was loved by all.
Unlike the honorable member for East Sydney, I want to refer to a matter of some substance. It has already been adverted to in the Parliament to-day. It is the election of four members of the Australian Communist party to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That election has caused great jubilation in Communist circles, but in responsible circles throughout Australia - and, I would hope, among the great majority of the members in this Parliament - it is a cause for profound anxiety. The fact of the matter is that the strength of the Communist party on the A.C.T.U. has been doubled. There may be some people who take the view that four members of the Communist party in a strength of sixteen members of the A.C.T.U. constitute no threat. I do not subscribe to that view. In intrigue, in manoeuvring, in the wielding of the weapons of dishonesty and duplicity, those four members of the Communist party who are now on the A.C.T.U. are skilled practitioners.
It is an unhappy fact, but one that I have learnt in this House, that those who deal with the Communist issue are regarded by many people as following a discreditable and reactionary line. That, unhappily, is an idea that has emanated from some honorable gentlemen who sit opposite. The cultivation and the inculcation of that idea into the minds of many people in Australia has led to the paralysing of a great number of those who would normally be expected to resist the encroachments and the machinations of Communists throughout Australia. The Communists hope to gain power in this country by converting the trade union movement to a revolutionary force. The pattern is quite clear. It follows the lines laid down by Lenin.
The Communists have five major objectives: First, the control of key unions; secondly, the control of State Trades and Labour Councils and the A.C.T.U.; thirdly, the use of union facilities for party purposes; fourthly, the use of unions affiliated with the Australian Labour party to influence that party; and fifthly, the mobilization of the industrial machine against the Government under the guise of progress and militancy.
A government, no matter what its political colour may be, can give but limited help to those who are actively engaged in the struggle against communism. Governments can give aid by way of secret ballot legislation and by ensuring that the members of the trade union movement who are engaged in this struggle are protected to the hilt. But governments can go so far and no farther; the main battle must be fought by those in the trade union movement.
That brings me to my next point. It is a rather sad and melancholy fact that many thousands of Australian trade unionists are somewhat apathetic to union affairs and union control. I do not say that unkindly or uncharitably about them; it is an historical fact that is not lightly disturbed. I want to make this tentative suggestion to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) for his consideration. The suggestion is that the Government should consider embarking upon a campaign to stimulate in trade union circles a greater degree of interest in union affairs. I do not expect that what I have to say now will be heard without complaint, but I want to say it because I believe it to be intrinsically true. It is of the utmost importance that the House and the people realize that events within the Labour party have occurred more or less contemporaneously with the resurgence of Communists in trade union affairs throughout Australia.
In 1951, the Communist influence in the trade union movement was just about destroyed. The Communists had suffered several heavy and significant defeats; but Communists find lessons from their defeats and they determined upon fresh and significant strategy. They determined to use their influence, firstly, to destroy the industrial groups that were operating in trade union circles, secondly, to launch an all-out attack on the secret ballot legislation and, thirdly, to launch an all-out attack on the so-called penal clauses in the arbitration act.
In connexion with the brilliant recovery of the losses that the Communist party suffered, it is also an historical fact that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has helped. One might be generous about this and say that he did not do it consciously, but nevertheless it is a fact not easily to be put to one side, that the same things that the Communist party has concentrated on attacking have also invited attack from the honorable member for Barton. We have noticed in the last three or four years a gradual, persistent and definite purging of every right wing and moderate-thinking element within the Labour party. Earlier to-day I heard a gentleman in this House ask, “What are the Communist-controlled unions? “ Five unions in Queensland are Communistcontrolled and send representatives to the Queensland Central Executive. Thirteen unions have been exposed to unitycontrolled tickets.
– Name them.
– For the information of the honorable member I will mention the unions. There is the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union which sends three delegates to the Australian Council of Trade Unions; the Building Workers Industrial Union which sends three delegates; the Queensland Colliery Employees Union which sends one delegate; the Operative Painters Union which sends two delegates; and the Australian Railways Union which sends three delegates.
I conclude on the point that the gains made by the Communist party in the Australian Council of Trade Unions constitute a threat to this country. They constitute a danger to every person who subscribes to the continuation of democratic practices. I appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service to make the customarily thorough examination of this issue as he has done with other issues. I believe that this is an issue fraught with great danger and one that must be faced up to promptly and realistically.
– I am sorry to have to rise at this late hour to answer once again a statement by my friend the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). As usual he let off a tirade of abuse against the Australian Labour party, linking it with the Communists. Then he proceeded to describe some imaginary situation that he asserts has developed in the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He then drew further on his imagination to try to explain how this situation is supposed to have arisen.
What is the set-up in the Australian Council of Trade Unions? The executive of the A.C.T.U. has been reconstituted. Instead of each of the six trades and labour councils electing two members of the interstate executive, the interstate executive is now to consist of officers, as it previously did, plus one representative from each of the six State executives, and, in addition, one representative from each of six groups of unions. I should explain that unions have been grouped according to the similarity of the work they are doing. In one group are the metal trades unions, in another group are the unions engaged in food production, in a third group are the transport unions, and so on. Each group elects a delegate, and only the delegates from the unions associated with a particular group have the right to vote. Each group elects one member, making a total of twelve delegates on the A.C.T.U., plus the officers. Of the six delegates elected by the unions, three are Communists, namely, Dawson, Seelaf and Healy. But Dawson was on the interstate executive before this set-up, being one of the two representatives from the Queensland Trades and Labour Council. The other one was Macdonald. What has happened is that instead of two Communists, there are now four Communists out of a total of sixteen members of the executive.
What intrigues me is the true story of how this change in the set-up of the executive came about. Without obtaining an alteration in the composition of the executive the Communists could never have had Seelaf and Healy elected to the interstate executive. It was important first of all for the Communists to obtain a complete change in the composition of the executive. When the vote was taken it appeared before the conspiracy between the groupers and the Communists was known-
Government supporters. - Oh!
– This is no laughing matter. I know many delegates who have just returned from the A.C.T.U. congress who would be prepared to swear on oath that that is what happened. Even the groupers themselves cannot truthfully deny that when the Australian Labour party unions in the congress thought they were able to prevent this change from occurring, it was only the coalition between the Communists and the grouper delegates to the congress that carried the alteration of the executive. That is a statement I am prepared to make inside and outside of the Parliament, anywhere, in any place, at any time. It is a statement that cannot be denied. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) should get his sleuths to work to discover whether or not is is true. It is incontrovertible fact. That is point number one.
The second point is to consider how these Communists were elected. I can speak with certainty about two of them because there were two whom I had a particular interest in defeating. One was Healy, who was opposed by my life-long friend Barney Piatt. We who support the Australian Labour party knew that if the groupers were fair dinkum and would support Barney Piatt for the position, Healy would not have a hope in the world of winning that position. What did we find? Although we were able to rally the support that the Australian Labour party delegates at the conference had numbered, when the votes were counted, to our surprise we discovered that the groupers had supported Healy rather than the Australian Labour party nominee, Barney Piatt. That is a fact. It cannot be denied. It is no use honorable members opposite, who know absolutely nothing about the Australian trade union movement and who know nothing about the last trade union congress, putting up this silly nonsense about the Communists being elected. The Communists were elected all right, but they were elected as a result of the votes of the industrial groupers who attended there under the direction of Maynes, who is the permanent employee of Santamaria’s secret movement in Melbourne. That is a fact. Do not let anybody deny it. Maynes is a permanent full-time employee of the secret movement led by Santamaria in Melbourne, and it is his job to direct the groupers as to tactics and strategy at union and political conferences.
The next one was Mr. Seelaf, a nonentity, unknown in the trade union movement, relatively speaking, compared with his opponent, Mr. Fred Walsh, from South Australia. Here we had an Australian Labour party nominee, a former federal president of the Australian Labour party, a former vicepresident of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a former member of the A.C.T.U. executive right from the very year in which it was formed, nominated for the position of union representative from the food group, but once again, when the votes were counted, it was found that Maynes had directed his supporters to swing their votes behind Seelaf, the Communist, in order to defeat Walsh, the Australian Labour party nominee from South Australia.
Why did they do this? It may be asked why they should do something that was so completely at variance with their professed points of view. It was because the groupers, like the Communists, are great strategists and tacticians. Like the Liberal party, they know that so long as they can keep communism alive, and only so long as they can do that, can they succeed in remaining a political and industrial entity. If the Communists were to disappear from the face of Australia to-morrow, both the Liberals and the industrial groupers would pass into oblivion because they would then have nothing else to talk about. They know this, and it is for that reason that the groupers at the A.C.T.U. congress supported the Communists on that occasion.
The honorable member for Moreton spoke of a resurgence of communism in the trade union movement. What he described as a resurgence of communism is not so much that as a resurgence of genuine left-wing militancy, and it is a good thing for the Australian trade union movement, and for the workers in particular, that there is such a resurgence, because unless there is quickly a resurgence of genuine left-wing militancy in the trade union movement, practically every union in Australia will be captured by the Communist party before the next ten years have gone, if this Government remains in office during that time. I say that, because we have developing in this country a situation that is ripe for a Communist takeover; a situation in which unemployment is becoming rife, in which the standard of living is steadily declining, and in which there is poverty and misery among workers who have tried to buy motor cars, refrigerators, washing machines and the like on hire purchase because they have found that it is necessary for their wives to go out to work, and for themselves to undertake a tremendous amount of overtime, in order to meet hire-purchase commitments and high interest rates. We are now facing a situation in which, for the first time for a long period, people are having goods repossessed. In South Australia, a friend of mine, living in my street, only last week had a refrigerator, on which he had paid £37 10s., repossessed because he could no longer meet the commitments on it.
This state of affairs is the hot-bed of communism, and unless the trade union movement is taken over by genuine left-wing militant leadership, it will be taken over completely by the Communists.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. I shall not detain the House long, but I think there is one thing that should be said in regard to the speech we have just heard from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). The honorable member pretended to be surprised that the Communists had proved stronger in the Australian Council of Trade Unions elections than they had been expected to be. There were, apparently, secret ballots, and when the votes were counted, it was found that the Communists had more votes than otherwise would have been thought possible. The honorable member tried to draw from that the conclusion that the groupers had voted for the Communists. That may be so. I know nothing of these things at all, but one thing that is certain is that members of the Australian Labour party made common cause with the Communists against the groupers. They stood on unity tickets against the groupers, Communists and Labour party men together. This is out in the open. It is incontrovertible and is not the subject of speculation at all.
There is a double standard here as far as the Labour party is concerned. If anybody is anti-Communist, he will incur the wrath of the Labour party. It will be found in the Labour party that any kind of plotting and smearing is justified against that person who has dared to be anti-Communist, and if he has organized against the Communists in the Labour party, then excuses will be found by the left-wingers to organize against him, to corrupt ballots, to throw out branches, and expel people from the party, because the crime of anti-communism cannot be permitted inside the Australian Labour party.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain silent.
– What happened, for example, in the case of Mr. Gordon Anderson, who was once the member for Kingsford-Smith in this House? Why was he not kept as a member of the Labour party? Why was he sent out of the party? Surely he had been pursuing his affairs in this House to the satisfaction of the party. I see no reason to think that he committed any offence other than be an opponent of communism. Yet he lost his selection! Why was he not allowed to remain a member of the party? To be an antiCommunist, in a genuine sense, in the Labour party is to invite smearing, expulsion and defeat. That is the way in which the machine of the party is being openly organized against anybody in it who dares to be genuinely anti-Communist.
My friend, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), drew attention to the three things which the Communists have succeeded in doing in their present campaign of resurgence. They have done those things, I fear, but their greatest victory is to have got control of the organization and the heart and mind of the Australian Labour party, which is still the official Opposition in this Parliament - and that for the agent of a foreign power, because that is what communism is.
Opposition members interjecting,
– You see, Mr. Speaker, how the fish rise to the bait You see how, as soon as one says that communism is the agency of a foreign power, the defenders of communism are eager to come forward with their gabble and clamour to try to defend the Communist party and to try to white-wash it, because that is the Labour line.
I invite the attention of the House to both the manner and the number of times that members of the Opposition recently have taken the Communist line in this House. That goes for every one from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) downwards. Let me cite an instance of it which occurred in this House only recently. I invite the attention of honorable members to what the Leader of the Opposition said during the debate on Hungary, in regard to certain quotations from American papers - or alleged quotations whose content he falsified in such a way as to give an impression of American foreign policy which was totally wrong - an impression which the Communists wanted and which suited them. This is not a light matter. If it were a single matter, it would be a light one; but it is part of a consistent line.
Honorable members know that there is a considerable number of Opposition members who owe their pre-selection to the favour of Communists. There is one perhaps - he is walking down the corridor at this moment - whose victory over an anti-Communist in his pre-selection was organized for him by Communist elements. Although such people may not be Communists themselves, they have cause to be grateful to the Communists who put them where they are. From the national viewpoint, they are very dangerous people to have in this Parliament, because one can never tell quite where they will betray the interests of Australia in the interests of communism and of Russia, and I believe that the foreign policy of the Australian Labour party is thus directed. Unfortunately, that policy is not in the interests of Australia; rather is it a policy that is directed in the real interests of the Soviet cause.
.- I wish to express my very great regret that the debate which was commenced by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has followed the course that it has this evening, if there is anything that does harm to the Parliament, it is the commencement, during the debate on the motion for the adjournment, of a discussion which seeks to brand one section of the Parliament as being an enemy of the country. 1 suppose I can safely say that 1 know more about the trade union movement than do most people in this House. The reference of the honorable member for Moreton to four persons being members of the Communist party and of the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions was framed in such a manner as to indicate that a national tragedy had occurred in Australia. As one who for 45 years has been a trade unionist, actively associated with all phases of the trade union movement, I do not know of any time within that period when some extreme element connected with trade unionism has not sought to gain control of the movement to further its own ends. I can recall the days before World War I. when a body known as the Militants did its level best to gain control of the trade union movement. I can recall also the years following that war when the I.W.W. did its level best to gain control of the movement, and when some of the persons who were associated with that organization secured positions withinthe trade union movement and wielded influence. They wielded influence because they had natural ability and were able to state their case.
My experience has been that when a person has indicated to the movement or the trade union to which he belonged that he was sincere and earnest in his efforts to improve the conditions of union members, almost invariably he has been elected to a position where he has been able to carry on that work on behalf of the people whom he represented. So it was no very great surprise to the trade union movement when, during the depression of the ‘thirties, the Communist movement became strong. It became strong because of the conditions of the time, and because people were declassed. Almost overnight, people who had had fairly good and comfortable positions found themselves deprived of all the things that make for security, and many of them turned from conservatism to extreme radicalism. Some of the leaders of the unemployed workers’ movement and other organizations which were started by the Communist party at that time were persons who previously had been opponents of Labour in other directions.
From 1930 onwards, the conditions of the time gave to the Communist party the opportunity to establish itself very strongly in Australia. At this point, I stress the fact that, if we want to destroy the menace of communism, we must ensure that the conditions under which the Australian masses are living give them at least some sense of security and contentment. Because of the almost total destruction of the trade union movement between 1930 and 1933, the Communists were able to obtain control of a number of organizations. I became president of the A.C.T.U. in 1943 when, because such large numbers of persons were being employed in the industries that were then being maintained to win the war, the Communist party was growing very strong. I can assure the honorable member for Moreton that in 1945, when for some unknown reason I was re-elected unopposed as president of the A.C.T.U., the Communists outnumbered what might be termed the moderates of the trade union movement by two to one. We then had a state of affairs which was very much more serious than is the situation to-day. I can recall occasions during those years when, on the full executive of the A.C.T.U., we who did not believe in communism had the narrowest of majorities in the control of that organization.
I am opposed to communism, and I have fought it in the trade union movement. When I retired in 1949, the influence of the Communists in the trade union movement had declined to a remarkable degree, nol because of my efforts but because of the efforts of others who gave their allegiance to the cause that I was fighting. But let honorable members not get the idea in their heads that, because of that fact, there were not Communists on the A.C.T.U. executive. For years, two members of the Communist party have represented Queensland on the executive. As my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) pointed out, Mr. Dawson and Mr. Macdonald represented that State.
Because of a change in the method of electing the A.C.T.U. executive, it was impossible for Mr. Dawson to represent the Queensland Trades and Labour Council, as that council was entitled to only one delegate from then onwards. Apparently he was then elected by the building industry workers’ group. So the actual increase in the number of Communists on the executive of the A.C.T.U. is two, making a total of four members of the Communist party on an executive of sixteen.
To suggest that, because four members of the Communist party are on the executive, the trade union movement has become Communist-controlled or will be led by the nose or led to destruction is simply not to face up to the facts of the situation. The trade union movement is a sane movement, and I think the actions of the A.C.T.U. over a period of years have indicated that the trade union movement will fight with might and main to improve the conditions of its members and to secure for them the most that can be obtained from the increased production of the community, and that the government and control of the movement are in safe hands.
Let me point out further - and I thank the honorable member for Hindmarsh for reminding me of this - that when the full executive does make decisions on policy those decisions do not and cannot, under the existing rules, become the effective policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions until such time as they are ratified by a majority of the trades and labour councils in the capital cities. That means that four out of six trades and labour councils must ratify a decision before it becomes the effective policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and is able to be put into operation.
What I deplore about this debate - and I speak rather feelingly on the question because I believe that discussions in this Parliament should not be based on emotions, prejudices or bigotry - is that it is far from constructive. It is true that we can see many things we can condemn so far as political activities are concerned; but I believe that our criticism should be on the constructive side, and that we should not endeavour to create a feeling of either panic or hysteria just because something has not gone the way we wanted it to go. We have to look at these things from the standpoint of people who are organized for the express purpose of improving their conditions of life. [Extension of time granted.].
When we are dealing with great organizations which have such a tremendous impact on the economic life of the community, with people who are organized for the express purpose of bettering the conditions of the great mass of the community, no good purpose is served in this House if attacks are made from either side upon a movement which, as experience and history show, has used its power and influence for the purpose of improving the conditions of the workers. To condemn a great movement because of the results of elections that have taken place here or there, by picturing it as a Communist movement which is out to destroy the State, the parliamentary institution and the freedoms and liberties which we hold dear, is not to build up an understanding of what is a most important and vital organization in the Australian community. If the trade union movement needs to be condemned, let condemnation be made of it. On the other hand, let those who wish to condemn it first make sure that their condemnations are based on facts. Secondly, let them consider, in making their criticisms, that this movement has done a great deal for the people of Australia, that it has been sane and sound in its leadership, and has a record which indicates that its power is being used for good and not for evil. These things should be constantly borne in mind.
I deprecate the tendency, which so often shows itself during the debate on the adjournment, to use a political party from which the Labour party is dissociated, and which we have over the years condemned, as a means of making some political capital in order to besmirch either the Labour party or its leader. In my opinion such tactics do not reflect any credit or glory upon the parliamentary institution, and I hope that in future that sort of debate will be dropped.
. Nobody in this House can speak with greater authority and knowledge of the trade union movement than the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). I think he has made an important speech, a sincere speech, a speech which obviously proceeds from a depth of feeling inside himself. But I think “he does less than service to the Parliament when he deplores the raising of this question and seeks to attack the motives of those who have prompted discussion on it.
This is a very important matter which is being discussed here to-night. I, myself, would not have come into the discussion at this late hour, after a trying day for most honorable members, unless I felt that it warranted further discussion by the Parliament. Although the honorable member for Bendigo does well to emphasize the significance of the trade union movement and its importance as a factor in our community life, I think he pays less than adequate attention to a development which he, himself, must recognize calls for the attention and, indeed, the concern of all sections of the Parliament. There need be no question in the minds of honorable members as to where this Government stands in relation to the trade union movement. We believe in trade unionism. We believe it to be essential to the efficient conduct of our social -and economic life in Australia that there should be a virile, well-conducted, responsible trade union movement. As a government, we have co-operated in a friendly and “helpful way with those who have been entrusted to speak for the trade unionists of Australia. We are proud of the degree of co-operation with the trade union movement that we have developed; but we must feel concerned when developments occur inside that movement which appear to us to threaten the stability of the economic and social foundations of the nation.
It may well be true, as the honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out, that there will always be an extremist element inside the industrial movement. That is understandable. It is true in politics, and it may even be true, to a more forceful -degree, inside the industrial movement. But when we find responsible trade unionists, not members of some political party opposed to honorable gentlemen opposite but supporters of the Labour party and, though perhaps admittedly to the right of the industrial movement, part of it and part of the Labour party, declaring that the portents are that the Communists, unless something is done to check them, could assume control of the trade union movement, we, in company with the rest of thoughtful Australians, must give vigilance and attention to those circumstances. That has been said of this last congress of the A.C.T.U. The honorable member for Bendigo is as well aware as any of us in this chamber that the moves which occurred in the last congress, and which doubled the effective strength of the acknowledged Communists on the interstate executive, were not the product of chance. It may be true that the men elected were able men and were given support because of their ability; but the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), only a few minutes before the honorable member for Bendigo began to speak, told us that one of the Communists elected was a nonentity of the name of Seelaf, not heard of inside the trade union movement.
– Elected with the support of the groupers.
– I am not going to argue that question. That is something honorable members opposite can resolve within their own ranks; but I say, with some idea of the facts - and I said it earlier in the House to-day - that for months now the Communist party has been planning to capture a greater share of the control of the highest body inside the trade union movement - the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. I have evidence that back in April and May of this year instructions went out to the various factions and cells of the Communist party inside industry that they were to work for this congress; that they were to work to certain agenda items which were commended to them, and that they were to work to secure the election of men who could be placed on the interstate executive. It went according to plan. To me the remarkable thing is that here, as I said earlier to-day, in what is in effect the parliament of the trade union movement of Australia, where men are, or should be, alert to the significance of this development, there was yet to be found an overwhelming majority prepared to accept this change in the method of representation, although an almost certain consequence of that change was a substantial increase in the strength and views of the Communist party.
We cannot just dismiss this as an election of able men inside the trade union movement who gained support because of their personal qualities. That might be true of Healy. Admittedly, he is an astute and able tactician and trade unionist. But it is not true of others, and it is certainly not true of Seelaf. The Communists certainly consider they have scored a major success in this congress in terms of tactics and organization, and those who were returned to force the point of view of the Communists inside the highest councils of the A.C.T.U. I believe that this matter is worth emphasizing in the National Parliament because this debate will have done a real service, not merely for the viewpoint of honorable members on this side of the House but also for those who, like the honorable member for Bendigo and, if we can take his words at their face value, like the honorable member for Hindmarsh who claims to be fighting communism in Australia, if their words go out to the Australian trade unionists and provoke some alertness and awareness of what is going on around them.
I am not suggesting that honorable gentlemen opposite want to see a Communist Australia and would ally themselves with communism for that purpose, but I repeat what I have said more than once before - that communism is capitalizing on the divisions inside the Labour party. Communism is able to take advantage of the fact that honorable gentlemen opposite, instead of seeing the real enemy of Australia, are concentrating on those whom they believe to be the real enemies of themselves inside the Labour party. In other words, if they concentrate more on their responsibilities to fellow-Australians who have the true interests of Australia at heart, even if they disagreed politically with honorable gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, then they will attack the enemies of Australia who owe no patriotism to Australia but have an alien philosophy and are determined to subvert the democratic institutions of Australia.
I think the lesson is clear. I hope there will be enough awareness proceeding from what we on both sides of this chamber say in this matter to ensure that they have patriotic Australians inside the trade union movement and thus will be able to resist the infiltration of communism and see that the Australian trade union movement is what it ought to be - an expression of healthy, robust Australian patriotism and an expression of the true interests of the working men and women of this country.
– 1 thought when the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) made his eloquent speech and appeal that he might have been followed by a speech in the same vein, but of course the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) is never content. He wants to extract some political capital even out of such a speech. We have seen his attitude to-day. This morning, at question time, he did two things. First, he claimed that communism was becoming a serious menace in Australia and then he finished the morning’s question period by claiming that he had kept the forces of communism so weak that they did not amount to anything. He said that in answer to my friend. That is his trouble. If you want to talk about communism and the solution to it, that is one thing, but the truth is that this Government, and especially this Minister for Labour and National Service, have done nothing throughout the years except make political capital out of communism in order to injure the Australian Labour party. That is the condemnation that we have for this Government.
We had a similar experience the other day. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) spoke about Hungary and misrepresented what I had said on the subject. I quoted from a document that had been given to me by one of my colleagues. I quoted it accurately. Everything in it is true and justified. Let us consider the views of the Minister for Labour and National Service on Hungary. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) correctly brought forward the question of the United Nations resolution on Hungary. The Minister, who wanted to make some political capital for himself, referred to the International Labour Organization. It was not revealed, until it was dragged out of him, that on the question of the admission of the Hungarian Government to the I.L.O.. the Government representatives abstained from voting. No wonder he was condemned by all sides. We were disgusted.
– What is this diversion for?
– The right honorable gentleman should heed the words of the honorable member for Bendigo instead of trying to cash in and utilize dissension in the Labour party. What is the truth regarding the Australian Labour party? Its plight is a condemnation of the people for whom the Minister speaks - that is to say the antiLabour parties - and a section of the Labour party which has broken away. We all know that. It is past history. This Government is living politically on that development. Everybody knows the answer to communism. Democracy is the answer to communism, and it is the Labour movement that has fought communism. Because the Labour movement exists politically and industrially, communism has been kept under control.
I have never experienced in this House from any other Minister than the Minister for Labour and National Service the kind of hypocrisy - because that is what it is - that proceeds from him. He cannot even take an objective view of one of the most important speeches I have heard which would have appealed to anybody. He wants to do two things. First, he wants to say, “ I have restricted communism and it does not amount to anything. That is the result of my administration “. Then, as soon as honorable members say that communism is becoming more dangerous he thinks, “ That must help us politically “, so he gets on that side, too. It is true that a candidate mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) - I refer to Healy - won in the A.C.T.U. election because votes from the industrial groups were given in his support. That is notorious in the trade union movement. As soon as that was done, some of the industrial groups said that communism was increasing. They are the people responsible.
– What about the unity tickets?
– Unity tickets! The Government of which the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) is a member cannot live politically unless it divides the Labour party.
– You divided the Labour party.
– The Minister says I divided it!
– Order! Honorable members on my right will remain silent.
– It comes back to whether I divided the Labour party or not. I stuck to the members of the Labour party. I do not believe in outside forces, supported by people like the right honorable gentleman, subverting the Labour movement.
– That is your excuse.
– Of course, the Minister for the Army, who has interjected, should know all about it.
– I do.
– The Minister thinks he does. If he did, it would make an interesting story. I agree with the appeal that has been made by the honorable member for Bendigo. I say that the anti-communism cry of some honorable members opposite - only a few at this time - is really at heart not a democratic cry but a totalitarian, fascist cry. There is no doubt about it. Honorable members opposite laugh, but it is completely identifiable with fascism. Honorable members such as the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and Mackellar have consistently adopted these tactics. The Australian Labour party stands clear of communism, because Labour is democratic and not totalitarian as fascism and communism are. Believing in that principle, Labour recognizes the right of trade unions to elect their own officers by democratic means. That is the principle of the legislation we introduced in 1949. When communism was a menace to this country, Labour fought it. But to this Government it has been merely a means of continuing in political power.
Several honorable members rising to address the House,
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.18 a.m. (Thursday).
-ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
The sittings of a board of review are held in such places, and at such time or times, as are fixed by the chairman. Board of Review No. 1 has its head-quarters in Sydney, but may sit at any centre in the State of New South Wales, and in the Australian Capital Territory. The majority of cases are heard by the board in Sydney, but the board has, as occasion required, sat at Albury and other towns in New South Wales. It has also held sittings in Canberra. Board of Review No. 2 has its head-quarters in Melbourne, but as this board decides cases for the States of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, it holds sittings in the capital city of each of these Slates. It has also sat in certain towns in Victoria. Sittings of Board of Review No. 3 are held in Brisbane, and (as occasion arises) a! towns in Queensland and in the Northern Rivers district, and at Sydney and Melbourne. The Northern Rivers District includes such towns as Grafton, Casino, Lismore and Glen Innes. A decision that a board of review shall sit at a place other than a capital city is made by the chairman of the board to suit the convenience of the taxpayer concerned. The functions of the boards of review are as follows: -
Board No. 1-
Chairman - James Louis Burke.
Member - Robert Colin Smith.
Member - Richard Esmond O’Neill.
Board No. 2-
Chairman - William Mackay Owen.
Member - Leonard Burgess Daymond.
Member - Arthur Clifton Pelham Webb.
Board No. 3-
Chairman - Andrew Fletcher.
Member - John Francis McCaffrey.
Member - Harry Herbert Antcliff.
The salaries paid are as follows: - Members are paid at the rate of £4,000 per annum, and chairmen at the rate of £4,500 per annum.
For some months of the year 1956-57, sittings of the board could not be held pending the appointment of a successor to Mr. Leslie, who died during the year.
For some months of the years 1953-54 and 1956-57 sittings of the board could not be held pendingthe appointment of a successor to Mr. Trebilco and Mr. Coates, respectively. Mr. Trebilco died during 1953-54 and Mr. Coates during 1956-57.
The following duties are performed by board members during the periods between sittings: -
I now advise, very briefly, that the import licensing replacement system in operation means that licences are granted in accordance with a firm’s ability either to sell or use imported goods. The actual day-to-day working of the system is as follows: - An importer who is already a quota holder may take out licences in the current licensing period (August-November) up to a level which leaves him with valid import licences equal to twice what was his normal quota for this period. If he holds valid licences (import licences against which imports have not already been effected) of a value greater than this ceiling, then he may not obtain any more licences until the valid licences he holds fall below this level. To put it another way, as fast as imports arrive, the importer can obtain new licences.
As an example, an importer may have a quota for this period of £10,000 so that his ceiling becomes £20,000. If his outstanding licence value is £12,000, he can immediately take out a licence for £8,000 to take him up to £20,000. As soon as he imports - that is, his outstanding licence value falls - he may obtain licences to take him back to £20,000. For the licensing period which begins on 1st December, and in all subsequent periods, the ceiling becomes twice the value of the firm’s imports in the immediately preceding four months.
It is also proposed to allow new importers into the field for the items which fit into the plan which I have outlined above. As was announced on 1st August in a public circular issued by the Department of Customs and Excise, applications by new importers for the items concerned had to be submitted to the Import Licensing Branch at Sydney by 31st August. These applications have now been examined and, except where additional information is required, advice has gone out to each firm of the value of the initial licence authorized. After this licence has been taken out and until the end of November, the firm can secure a replacement licence equal to the value that it imports. As from 1st December, the firm’s ceiling becomes twice the value of imports in the immediately preceding four months, or twice the value of its initial licence, whichever the greater. In subsequent periods, the ceiling in all cases will equal twice the value of imports in the immediately preceding four months - in other words, the system adopted for old importers will by then apply to new importers.
The successful operation of the scheme could be jeopardized by firms building up excessive stocks in anticipation of restrictions on imports being re-imposed in the future. The Department of Trade will guard against this happening by making periodical checks of a firm’s stocks in relation to its sales. Whenever such an investigation reveals that a firm is, in fact, holding excessive stocks in relation to its actual needs, there will be no hesitation ir> withholding licences until such time as the stock figures fall to a normal level.
Education in Papua and New Guinea.
What is the annual amount spent per head of population on education in Papua-New Guinea for (a) the native population, (b) Europeans, Chinese and those of mixed race and (c) the total population?
The amount spent on education by the Administration in 1956-57, excluding capital works expenditure, was estimated at lis. lid. per head of the total population (1,742,000). The form in which the question was asked was inapplicable to circumstances in Papua and New Guinea for the reasons given below. Much of the educational work of the Administration is not restricted to one particular racial group, and separation into native and non-native expenditure is therefore not always practicable. Much of the educational work among the native people is carried out by the Christian missions using their own funds as well as Administration grants-in-aid. Many of the native groups are at an early stage of contact where education is only in its beginnings and about half of the native children of school age are still out of reach of schools. Few native children have reached the stage of secondary education, in which costs per head are much greater than they are for primary education. In the early stages of education among the native people simple methods with simple equipment may make cost per head an unreliable index of the amount of schooling that is given.
Health Services in Papua and New Guinea.
What is the annual amount spent per head of population on health in Papua and New Guinea for (a) the native population, (b) Europeans, Chinese and those of mixed race and (c) the total population?
The average amount spent in 1956-57 by the Administration per head of population, excluding capital works expenditure, was £1 4s. 10d., while in addition a large amount is provided by missionary organizations. It is not possible to provide any estimate of the comparable costs per head for the various racial groups, because almost all items of expenditure are related to all racial groups and because medical services are provided on a basis of need and not on a basis of race. The capital works expenditure on health in 1956-57 was £530,538.
Native Wages in Papua and New Guinea.
The Public Service (Auxiliary Division) Regulations 1956, made under the Public Service Ordinance 1949-1956 provide for a minimum wage of £200 per annum (£400 per annum for adult males) for native persons appointed to the Auxiliary Division.
Wages for skilled workers vary. Examples are -
In all cases, accommodation, rations and other issues and services are supplied in addition to the cash wage.
In respect of the operations of each of the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals in each State and as a whole - (a) what was the number of cases handled in the last twelve months, (b) how many cases were - (i) accepted, (ii) rejected and (iii) deferred, and (c) how many cases are pending?
There are three War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. The tribunals do not operate in one State only. During the twelve months ending 30th April, 1957, the tribunals have held sessions as follows: -
At 30tb April, 1956, there were 2,970 appeals pending, of which 471 had been deferred, and at 30th April, 1957, there were 2,302 appeals pend ing, of which 459 were deferred. During the twelve months ending 30th April, 1957, the number of appeals decided was -
The figures contained in column 4 of the above paragraph were cases where further evidence was submitted to the Tribunals by appellants and were referred by the Tribunal, under sub-section (4.) of section 64 of the Repatriation Act, to the Repatriation Commission for reconsideration under sub-section (5.) of section 64.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19571002_reps_22_hor16/>.