22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask. the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that retail trade statistics reveal a fall in purchases per head of population for the second successive year, or, putting it another way, that there are more people buying fewer goods, which are costing more. If so, does the Prime Minister still persist with his denial of the claim that living standards in this country have declined?
– lt is perfectly clear that living standards in ‘ this country have improved. As for the figures requested by the honorable member, I will obtain them.
– 1 ask the Minister for Defence a question without notice. Can the Minister give me any information concerning the United States technical committee which is at present visiting Australia to assess the defence production potential of this country?
– I am very happy to be able to inform the honorable member that the mission has already started its investigations. It has spent this week in the Melbourine area and it is expected that it will go interstate next week. I also want to assure the honorable member that, from my own observations, I know that the committee is making a very intensive study of the defence production potential of this country.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Interior: Will he ascertain whether there has been any increase in the concession rate of fare available to pensioners on the Canberra city omnibus service? If there has been such an increase, will the Minister have it reviewed? By way of explanation I say that over the years the department has given very considerate treatment to pensioners in this regard, but this morning I received a letter from an age pensioner pointing out that the fare from Ainslie to Civic is now 5d., where it used to be Id. That is a considerable item in a pensioner’s budget, particularly when the return fare is taken into account.
– I have no knowledge of any recent amendment to fares in the respect mentioned by the honorable member, but I will look into the matter and advise him.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. It concerns the Snowy Mountains Agreement. In view of the understandable fears of the Premier of South Australia as to the possible effect of this agreement on South Australia in times of drought, will the right honorable gentleman consider conferring with the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria with the object of amending this agreement on terms which would safeguard South Australia’s water requirements beyond all reasonable doubt?
– As I said yesterday, on Friday last I had a conference with the Premier of South Australia and some of his officials. I was accompanied by my two colleagues in the Cabinet who are concerned with this matter. To-day I will be despatching a lengthy letter to the Premier of South Australia, containing the result of our consideration of the views put forward by him. I am keeping the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of Victoria closely informed of the nature of the discussions. That, I think, is as much as I can do.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question, which refers again to the development of the north-west of Western Australia. I draw the right honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that on the 5th September he replied to some of the proposals that had been put up, but not to all of them. He mentioned that he would reply to certain of the other proposals after he had discussed them with the Premier of Western Australia. The Prime Minister said that he would give further consideration to these proposals on his return from abroad and that he would then furnish a reply. That was five weeks ago. A reply to the parliamentary all-party committee has been awaited for two years, and I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he is now in a position to reply.
– I will find out the present position on this matter and will put myself in a position to reply as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the reports of unrest among wage-earners in all Soviet satellite countries, can the Minister advise the House whether he has any information as to how trade unions in those countries work in the interests of, and for the benefit of, their members? Further, can the Minister advise the House whether it is a fact that, in a socialist State, trade unions become the instruments of the government?
– I do not think it is possible to generalize about conditions in all the Communist countries. From what I was able to gather at Geneva, at the International Labour Conference, they vary to some extent. Those in Poland, for example, indicated a rather greater degree of freedom and opportunity for the exercise of normal trade union functions as we understand them than in other Communist countries. It is a fact that in some of these Communist countries, at least from the evidence one was able to gather, their standards are remarkably low by comparison with those that obtain in most of the western democracies. However, I have not the kind of information which would enable me to deal adequately and authoritatively with the points raised by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether his attention has been directed to statements made by responsible people as to the likelihood of many men who are usually employed in seasonal activities not being able to obtain employment in the coming months because of the drought conditions prevailing. Will the Minister confer with the Commonwealth departments responsible for public works that will be undertaken, particularly in connexion with the building of post offices and other works in the various States affected, to ascertain whether loan money could be made available, if it has not already been provided, so that these works may be commenced to provide employment, and so prevent these men from being forced to draw unemployment benefit?
– As I indicated at the beginning of the session, the Government has been watching the employment position very closely and has already felt that fears of drought had affected the demand both for labour and, to some extent, for goods in this country, because money which might otherwise have beer* spent out of farm incomes was not being expended on the scale that might have been, expected had normal seasons obtained. Since that time we have been keeping a close watch on the climatic development, and, I understand, the Treasury is examining thoroughly the consequences that might follow throughout the economy generally, if there were to be, in fact, a prolonged drought in this country. At the present time the movement in employment is following the pattern which I foreshadowed earlier. I shall be releasing, within the next few days, a statement relating to employment in the month just concluded, and it will show a trend of increased demand, an increase in the number of vacancies being recorded, a fall in the number of persons registered for employment and a further decline in the number receiving unemployment benefit. The normal seasonal factors appear to be operating just as we imagined they would, but it may well be that abnormal circumstances arising from a drought will require some special action by the Government. The honorable member can be assured that that aspect is being very closely watched.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Since it has been announced that 4.000 new import licences will be issued, can steps be taken to see that a proportionate share of these is allotted to Western Australia, where merchants, I believe, have suffered more than have their counterparts in the eastern States?
– I think that the honorable gentleman is in error in suggesting thai an announcement has been made that 4,000 additional licences will be issued. The Government, with an easier balance of payments situation, is able to relax import restrictions to some extent, and no doubt there have been estimates of what may result from the policies of relaxation that have been adopted. I assure the honorable member that, in the general relaxing of import licensing, Western Australia will certainly be no less favourably considered or treated than any other State.
– Has the Minister for Territories seen a statement attributed to the Director of Education for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea alleging that many New Guinea natives were receiving a secondary education in Australia which had no relation to their life in the Territory; that natives were asked to study French and Greek, although English was a foreign language to them; and that they should be brought home immediately and either given vocational training in the Territory or put into jobs? Would the Minister care to comment on this and tell the House when it is proposed to build secondary schools in New Guinea?
– I have no knowledge of what the Director of Education for the Territory may have said on this subject, although I have seen a newspaper report of what he is supposed to have said. Apart from the customary doubt which all honorable members have about the accuracy of newspaper reports, in this case I would very seriously question whether he had been accurately reported because, first of all, the director himself has the responsibility for choosing the students to come to Australia, and also of approving the schools they attend here, and the courses which they undertake. I doubt whether self-criticism would go to the lengths of the statement ascribed to him.
Perhaps I should inform the House of the nature of this scheme of bringing boys and girls from Papua and New Guinea to Australia for secondary education. At the present time, there is in the Territory no secondary school comparable to the typical Australian high school. Yet, through a variety of historical circumstances, there is a small number of boys and girls who have reached the stage where they need secondary education, and it is contrary to our thinking about the opportunities for these people that we should deny them the chance to have secondary education, if they are ready for it. The only way in which that opportunity can be provided is to assist them to come to Australian schools. Moreover, we believe that that will serve a very useful purpose, inasmuch as it will feed back into the Territory, and into the Territory services and education system, a number of indigenous people who have a higher standard of education and who will be able to play a very active role in bringing their own people forward more rapidly.
Regarding future policy, the limit is set by the present state of primary education. Primary education in the Territory is still not universal, and is still a long way from the target which the Government has set itself. Of course, without a soundly based system of primary education, there is no foundation on which to build a system of secondary education. Nevertheless, we are moving gradually into the post-primary field, particularly on the side of technical education. The technical schools are making quite good progress. A beginning has been made in Rabaul with the first of the post-primary schools, and also with a secondary school.
I think the line of development will be that, as more and more children reach the stage at which they require post-primary education, more and more schools will be developed for that purpose. The sort of development that I foresee is that, for a commencement, we will probably have schools in the Territory which will carry children as far as the intermediate examination, and any children who want to go beyond the intermediate will go to Australia. Eventually, we shall reach the stage at which the Territory schools will carry children to the leaving standard, and any who want to go beyond the leaving will come to Australia for their university education. We look forward to the rather distant future when education from the elementary level to the university level will be provided in the Territory itself. At the present time, the major need for education in the Territory is for universal primary education, and we are still so far from achieving that goal that we cannot forecast a largescale development of secondary education.
In conclusion, I should like to say that the practice of bringing children to Australia for secondary education has encountered the same sort of criticism that was encountered in the early days of slum clearance when people thought it a sufficient argument against slum clearance to say that the tenants of the new houses would keep coal in their bath tubs. The same sort of thing is said about giving higher education to the natives. It is said that it will do them all sorts of damage. I think that we have to resist that sort of reactionary and unimaginative attitude.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government intends to proceed with its proposal to train Indonesian officers in the Australian Army. Is the Minister aware of the widespread public resentment at the Government’s proposal, which will make available to Indonesia valuable military information on Australia’s methods of defence? I ask this question in view of the threats which Indonesia has uttered in relation to New Guinea.
– This matter has been considered by the Government, and I propose to make a statement on it shortly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I understand that, acting on the advice of the Minister for Primary Industry, the Minister for Customs and Excise recently gave permission for the sale of substandard dried fruits to wineries for the distillation of spirit. Can the Minister say what quantity of sub-standard dried fruits is at present available for that purpose and the approximate value per ton of this fruit?
– The statement in the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is correct. It was recommended to the Minister for Customs and Excise that a certain percentage or quantity of subStandard dried vine fruits be released for the purpose of making brandy. I think the Minister for Customs and Excise has already issued approval for that to be done. I am not quite certain as to the exact quantity involved, but I think it is about 1,350 tons to 1,400 tons. I shall check the exact figure and let the honorable gentleman know what it is just as soon as I can. Also,
I have not had a look at the exact value involved. I was interested more in whether the arrangement was needed, and the quantities that were available. I shall also ascertain the value, and convey the facts to the honorable gentleman at the same time as I let him have those respecting the quantities involved.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that some of our leading scientists, including Professor Oliphant and Professor Messel, have made public statements recently to the effect that it is a matter of urgency that Australia train many more scientists immediately? If so, will the right honorable gentleman make special grants to universities to finance the training of scientists?
– I am naturally aware of what has been said recently in this field, and that lends point to the fact that some months ago I appointed a committee to investigate the universities of Australia, particularly with reference to their financial needs, and having in mind this very kind of consideration, which is not the only consideration, but is an important one. I have had a report from that committee which I am at present studying. I am hoping to make not only the report, but also the relevant decision of the Government, available to the House, and the public, within, I hope, four weeks from now.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Trade I refer to the reported popularity of the free samples of Australian foods at the International Fine Foods Fair at Cologne. Can the Minister indicate whether any tangible orders have resulted and, if so, for what quantities?
– The advice received is that a fairly widespread provision of free samples at this trade fair at Cologne has attracted enormous attention not only from consumers but also from merchants who attended that fair. Whilst no precise reply can be given, I am advised that it is expected to lead to quite substantial and useful additional trade.
– Is the Minister for
Defence Production aware that many tradesmen formerly employed on aircraft production in South Australia, and engaged mainly at the Chrysler motor works there, are out of work and unable to find employment? Their position is worsened by the fact that motor production in South Australia has also fallen off, with the result that these men are in a serious plight. Can the Minister see any future possibility of allocating some aircraft work, or some defence production work, to firms in South Australia like the Chrysler motor interests, which have plant that is both efficient and able to cope with most aircraft production work and similar projects, and thus allow up-to-date factories to be worked to their maximum capacity and, above all, to give employment to many tradesmen who are unable to find employment in South Australia?
– On the notice-paper today there appears the answer to a question on a similar subject, which will supply some of the answers required by the honorable gentleman. I think I should say that there is a difficulty about the extension of aircraft work at present to South Australia. The matter is being examined in the Department of Defence Production, and I shall let the honorable gentleman have a further and more detailed reply as soon as I can.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. With regard to the conversations forecast between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in relation to the control of objects in outer space and the declared intention of the United States to consult its allies in regard to these conversations, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Australian Government has yet been approached for its views? Secondly, what are the views of the Australian Government on the principles to be applied in this vital field?
– I read about this matter in the paper this morning. We have not yet had any official communication, which is not surprising in that amount of time. If we have proposals put to us, we will consider them. It would be manifestly a mistake to try to offer a quick kerbstone view on proposals which we have not before us. But it is worth remembering that the Western four-power proposals through the disarmament sub-committee, which has been meeting for some time, include a reference to this problem. It is a problem that has been considered not in some extravagant way but as part of the total problem we are looking at around the world. One of the proposals made by the Western four powers, and, so far as I know, it still stands, is this -
All parties to the convention-
That is for the first-stage partial measures of disarmament - agree that within three months after the entry into effect of the convention, they will co-operate in the establishment of a technical committee to study the design of an inspection system which would make it possible to ensure that the sending of objects through outer space will be exclusively for peaceful and scientific purposes.
Those proposals were formulated some little time ago. I remind the House of that because there has been a slight tendency, perhaps, in some quarters to assume that the sending of these objects through space is something that has come suddenly out of the blue. It has come rather earlier than was expected, but it has undoubtedly been expected for some time.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that several questions about the St. Mary’s filling factory are on the notice paper? In view of the examination by Parliament, which will take place next week, will he take steps to see that those questions are answered as soon as possible?
– I had not noticed that there were such questions, but I will have a look at them right away.
– Will the Minister for
Labour and National Service inform the House whether protection can be given to members of trade unions, many of them good Liberal supporters, who object to the payment of forced levies to provide funds for Labour or unity election campaigns?
– I should like to give a considered reply, if I may, to the honorable gentleman. I will, therefore, consider the question which he has just put to me. Attempts have been made, if my recollection is correct, by legislation in some of the States to regulate matters of this kind, and I will examine just what provisions there are and whether anything of a similar character might be considered by this Parliament.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has he yet received a report from the British town planning expert, Sir William Holford, who visited Canberra some months ago to advise the Government on the future development of the national capital?
– I have not yet received a report, but in the last few days I have sent a cable asking that it be expedited. I know that Sir William Holford has been heavily engaged on some important determinations dealing with the replanning of certain sections of London. He advised us when he was here that that might conceivably hold up the preparation of the report, but that we would have it as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. In view of the reluctance of members of the Sydney University Squadron to go to Bankstown for parades and the lack of flying instruction given to this squadron, will the Minister say what effect a depletion of the number of cadets in training with this squadron and other university squadrons would have on the Royal Australian Air Force in the event of war, particularly as it may result in a loss of partially trained men entering the Air Force?
– I think that a reduction in the number of the men serving with university air squadrons, if it were to occur, would have an unfortunate effect on the Royal Australian Air Force. However, I do not share any alarm that may be felt about the future of the university squadrons. I saw in the press yesterday a report, couched in somewhat extravagant terms, about discussions as to the future location of the University of Sydney Air Squadron, and I assume that the honorable member for Phillip has seen the same report. I am happy to say that it is, at the very least, gravely exaggerated.
The facts are these: The University of Sydney Air Squadron of the R.A.A.F. has been, for a long time, accommodated in two rooms in a building in the City of Sydney at a considerable distance from the university, and that accommodation is quite inadequate and unsuitable. An officer of Training Command was sent to discuss the matter with officers of the university squadron, and to suggest alternative accommodation. In an exploratory way, he suggested to the squadron the possibility of moving to either Bankstown or Regent’s Park, where active units of the Air Force are at work. In making that suggestion, the officer concerned was suggesting the same practice that has recently been adopted in Melbourne and Brisbane, where the university air squadrons have moved to Laverton and Archerfield, respectively, and where it has been found that association with active units of the Air Force has added greatly to the efficiency of the university squadrons, and to their interest in their work. The same proposal has been made with respect to the Sydney squadron, but it is still being considered, and no decision has been made.
The honorable member for Phillip mentioned the lack of flying training for the University of Sydney Air Squadron. The university squadrons have not been flying units for a number of years now. They are a means of providing in the Air Force a reservoir of technical knowledge and experience by inducing medical men, engineers, scientists, and others to serve. I believe that these squadrons are of very great value to the Air Force, and I am at present examining their work and their structure in order to see whether any improvements can be made.
– I address a question to the Postmaster -General. Will the Minister refrain from making a firm decision on the re-siting and staffing of the post office at Charlestown until all aspects of the existing and future postal requirements at that centre have been examined? Further, will he see that the matter is discussed by officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department with representatives of the local authorities and district organizations in order to have the best possible provision made for future postal services?
– I am quite sure that, before any decision was taken about the siting of a post office at Charlestown, the questions involved would have been carefully reviewed by officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I am not in a position to give the honorable member any information about this post office, but I shall certainly ask officers of the department to supply me with the information that he seeks, and I shall then give it to him.
– I have written to the Minister about the matter.
– I have not received the honorable member’s letter yet.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air, who will doubtless recall discussions that I have had with him concerning the future of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Rathmines, in New South Wales. Has a decision about the role that that base is to play in the training of Air Force personnel been made?
– I regret that I cannot yet give the honorable member a final answer about future plans for the Rathmines base. He has asked me about this matter on more than one occasion in recent months, and I am able to tell him now only that the matter is still under consideration. The school for the training of administrative officers for the Air Force is still conducted at Rathmines, and there are about 170 or 180 Air Force personnel there altogether, including some 60 now under training. That training will continue for the time being, at any rate. A decision about the future of the Rathmines base is involved with decisions about several other Air Force establishments, the work of which has to be reconsidered because of future planning developments in the services. 1 hope to be able to give the honorable member, before very long, a definite answer about the future of the base at Rathmines.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the apparent need to intensify research into the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, will the Minister assure the House that completion of the Lucas Heights atomic reactor project will not be delayed for financial reasons?
– I shall convey the honorable member’s question to the Minister for National Development, who is in another place. I think, however, that the honorable member can be assured that the Government would not delay the completion of the reactor unless that course was absolutely necessary.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. By way of explanation, may I say that there is some concern in Queensland at the delay involved in processing some applications for import licences. Will the Minister consider stationing in Brisbane an officer of the Department of Trade, equipped with responsibility and authority to make on-the-spot decisions? I have in mind particularly applications that involve nominal amounts of money.
– 1 am conscious of, and have been worried about, delays (hat occur on occasions in connexion with import licensing. I am satisfied that in many cases they are unavoidable because incomplete information is supplied. A good deal has been done in widening the area within which the Collector of Customs himself may give a final decision - and there is, of course, a Collector of Customs in each of the capital cities. In addition to this, I arranged last year for an appropriate officer to visit the capital cities of the more remote States. He was authorized, to a certain extent, to give decisions on the spot in respect of licences and, beyond that, to ensure that the kind of information was transmitted to the central import licensing head-quarters in Sydney that would enable reasonable expedition in reaching decisions in that office. 1 shall have a look at the situation in Brisbane, and if it appears that I can, with advantage, make some provision that will expedite decisions there, I will attend to it.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether it is the practice to grant import licences for mechanical or other equipment required in Australia in cases in which no call is made on Australia’s overseas financial reserves. If approval is not given in all such cases, will the Minister state the departmental reason for rejection of such applications?
– The issue which the honorable member raises is technically known as an issue of no exchange in respect of an import licence. There is a policy in operation which permits, in some circumstances, the issue of a licence on a noexchange basis, and in other circumstances does not permit it. It is a rather involved matter. It is quite important, I understand, and of great interest. I think it would serve the occasion better if I provided the honorable member, through “ Hansard “, with a considered reply to what I accept as a quite important question.
– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Arrangements were made recently by the C.S.I.R.O. to station an aeroplane with rain-making equipment in southern Queensland. 1 understand that this plane has been in operation. If this is so, have any cloud formations been located that have been suitable for seeding, and what results have been obtained? How long will this aircraft be stationed in Queensland?
– A Royal Australian Air Force aeroplane, suitably fitted up for rain-making purposes, was sent to Queensland and has been based on Amberley since 27th September. Cloud conditions, generally speaking, have not been favorable for operations, but I understand that on last Tuesday, 8th October, some seeding operations did take place, and light, scattered rain followed. The aeroplane will be kept in that area for as long as it appears necessary, and for as long as it seems that it can be usefully employed there. While 1 am speaking on this subject, honorable members from Victoria will perhaps be interested to know that a similarly equipped aircraft has been stationed in the Nhill area, and has been operating there for some time.
– With nil results!
– Well, the results have been somewhat better than nil. Although the rain has not been heavy, it is felt that it has been sufficient at least to avoid crop failure in the area. Activities in this area will also be continued as long as it is thought that useful results can be obtained.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 2nd October (vide page 1006).
Department of the Treasury.
– I wish to direct the attention of members of the committee to the administrative structure of the Treasury, as set out on page 186 of the Estimates. On that page are set out the various divisions of the Treasury, and the functions that the Treasury is called upon to perform are indicated broadly. What seems to me to be a fairly recent addition is a division known as the Advertising Division of the Treasury. I am not quite clear what this division is or what it is expected to do, but I notice that although last year the staff establishment provided for only one person, this year provision is made for a director, a deputy director and three typists and assistants. I hope that the Treasurer will at a later stage indicate to the committee what the function of the Advertising Division of the Treasury is to be. It might be appropriate at this stage to suggest that the community and this committee should be given more information as to how the Treasury functions, because what it does is of significance to the whole economic life of the Australian people.
I draw the attention of honorable members to the Budget papers relating to transactions outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Commonwealth of Australia. It seems that this Government has added to its defence armoury a new weapon that might be called economic camouflage. There has been an attempt over the years to bamboozle the Australian community to some extent about how much is actually being expended on defence, although the Treasury is not fooled, and if the figures are read honestly the true story is told. I understand that that very important com*mittee, the Public Accounts Committee, at the moment is deliberating on this important question of the trust funds. In its 29th report, the committee drew attention to two trust funds which were then in existence, but which, as a result of the transactions outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund, were extinguished during the year ended June, 1957. One of those accounts was the Strategic Stores and Equipment Trust Account, which the 29th report of the Public Accounts Committee states was created in 1950 in pursuance of a govern ment decision to build up in Australia reserve stocks of certain key materials and equipment needed for the defence services and war industries. In other words, when that money was set aside - and over the period it rose as high as £80,000,000 - the public of Australia was given to understand that funds were to be devoted to certain aspects of Australia’s defence.
In 1953-54 another such fund was created, called the Defence Equipment and Supplies Trust Acount, into which £12,000.000 was paid in the financial year 1953-54. Subsequently, another £8,000,000 was paid into that account, totalling £20,000,000. I think the appropriations out of that account, before it was closed last year, amounted to only a few hundred thousand pounds. The account was practically untouched. The purpose of the account is stated in paragraph 146 of the 29th report of the Public Accounts Committee. That paragraph reads -
The purpose of the Account is to provide funds - “For expenditure in connexion with the following Defence requirements: -
Construction and procurement of Naval vessels and associated equipment and stores.
Construction and procurement of aircraft and associated equipment and stores.
Procurement of arms, armament, munitions, mechanical transport, machinery, equipment, plant, coal, petrol, oils, clothing and other stores and supplies.”
That was the purpose of an account which was created deliberately by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the financial year 1953-54, and to which over a period of two years £20,000,000 was appropriated. Last year, that fund was closed, not by appropriating those moneys for the purpose stated in the original intention, but by using them to finance the overall works programmes of the Commonwealth and the States.
I suggest that there should be a little more clarity in these matters. There should be a greater dissemination by the Government of the reasons why these trust accounts are created in the first place. If they are created for one purpose it seems strange that they are appropriated for an entirely different purpose without the knowledge of Parliament other than a brief reference tucked at the back of the Budget papers. I would suggest that when those moneys were appropriated to the trust accounts, as far back as 1950 and as recently as 1954, it was done deliberately by the Government to camouflage the total that was being devoted to defence in this country. In other words, the Government was attempting to give itself credit by saying “ We have a defence expenditure of £200,000,000 “ - subsequently reduced to £190,000,000- when it was physically impossible to expend those sums in most of the years. I think that in only one year in the whole history of this Government was the amount actually expended. But in order to lull the community into a false sense of security, these trust funds were created and the Government said “ When we can get stores, aircraft, and other equipment, these moneys will be used “. But those accounts were quietly closed last year. From the War Pension Trust Account £13,400,000 went to the ordinary expenditures outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I do not know what the purpose of the War Pension Trust Account was originally, but I am sure that the £13,400,000 held in that account was never intended to provide Commonwealth post offices or State schools. A total of £66,000,000 has come from the closing of the two accounts that I have referred to, the Strategic Stores and Equipment Reserve Account and the Defence Equipment and Supplies Trust Account - roughly £46,000,000 from one and £20,000,000 from the other. A further £3,800,000 has come from other trust accounts, making a total of £83,000,000 this year.
If honorable members look at the Budget papers they will find details of the various trust accounts, as they are called, which were in existence at the 30th June, 1957. They total the very large sum of £904,000,000. It is true that the majority of it is made up of two or three rather large accounts. The National Welfare Fund has something like £190,000,000 in it, and I think the National Debt Sinking Fund at this date has £243,000,000 in it. But these moneys, because they are supposed to be in trust accounts, are invested and, of course, as they are Government funds the only investment for the most part is Government securities. I suggest that there should be a little more illumination on the public debt and the role that it plays in the financial management of the Australian community. If one looks at those excellent publications that come from the Treasury, the Treasury Information Bulletins, one finds that the bulletin containing the latest figures on the subject about which I want to talk, namely the public debt of Australia, shows that at 30th June, 1956, the total public debt, excluding Treasury bills, was £2,982,000,000. That information is contained in Treasury Information Bulletin No. 4, published in October, 1956. That is a very large sum if it is regarded in the same light as private debts. But when we consider how that public debt is, in fact, held among the community, we find that the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, which are, really, the left-hand of the Government, hold £764,700,000. All other banks, that is private banks, including savings banks hold £371,000,000, and I understand that of that sum the savings banks hold the major portion, approximately £250,000,000. Life assurance offices hold £216,300,000. There are other categories holding much smaller amounts, but the sum held by Commonwealth and State governments, local and semi-governmental bodies is £585,700,000.
If a close analysis is made of these figures it is seen that Government agencies of one kind or another, whether they be directly the Commonwealth, by means of the Trust Fund, or indirectly by such agencies as the Commonwealth Bank, or State governments or State savings banks, hold a total of £1,651,200,000, a sum representing 55 per cent, of the public debt of this country. In other words it is virtually only public debt in a very abstract way because the debt is not held by people, apart from the Government; it is the property of the Government itself. That brings me to quite an important part about which not very much explanation has been given by this Government, that is the change that was made in interest rates in this community about twelve or eighteen months ago. The reason given for that change in interest rates, ostensibly, was that there had been abnormal transactions with regard to public debt in Australia.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I direct attention to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, and I propose to make some suggestions for reform in relation to it. At the outset I make it clear that I do not criticize the system of Commonwealth superannuation nor do I criticize those people who are administering the fund at the present time. On the contrary, I say that Commonwealth superannuation is one of the finest of all possible schemes of age security. It is on a contributory basis, which means that all Commonwealth public servants contribute to it. Secondly, it is compulsory; and therefore, all permanent Commonwealth public servants have to make provision for their old age. Thirdly, it is subsidized in that the contributions that are paid in by Commonwealth public servants are subsidized by grants from general revenue. Fourthly, it provides age security as of right and not because of destitution. Fifthly, it is free of means test and therefore does not discourage saving.
On 30th June, 1957, according to the report of the Auditor-General, the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund contained £49,901,000, approximately £50,000,000. During the year the fund received a total of £11,000,000 and the payments out of it totalled £5,500,000. It will be seen therefore, that the income to the fund was approximately double the payments out of it. As I have mentioned on previous occasions, the same sort of thing has been happening every year that this fund has existed, and consequently this reserve of £50,000,000 has accumulated in the fund since its inception. I suggest that this fund, at the present time, has adequate reserves and that the time has arrived when it could be administered a little more liberally for the benefit of the Commonwealth officers who are substantially its owners.
It is some time now since the unit of superannuation - the retirement pension or benefit, or whatever one likes to call it - has been increased, and I feel that with a reserve of approximately £50,000,000, it should be possible for the fund to make bigger annual payments to retired Commonwealth officers than it is paying to-day.
That increase is made possible by increasing the value of the unit. Over a number of years the value of the unit has been raised from 12s. 6d. to 17s. 6d. I suggest that Commonwealth officers who have retired are facing the stringency of the higher cost of living and that some consideration should be given to them by increasing the value of the unit on retirement. In the year in question, the officers themselves contributed £5,700,000_to this fund, and those officers who have retired drew out from the fund only £5,500,000. Virtually what is happening is that not only are Commonwealth officers not drawing any of the government’s contributions, but they are not drawing the full amount of their own contributions. Instead of this fund being of monetary benefit to Commonwealth public servants, what is actually happening is that the public servants are benefiting the Commonwealth. I do not wish it to be thought that in making that statement I am criticizing the scheme. I have said before that it is a wonderful scheme because it gives to Commonwealth public servants age security, free of means test and as of right; but I feel that a fund which has an income’ of £11,000,000, of which more than £5,500,000 is contributed by Commonwealth officers themselves, can do something better than pay out less than £5.500,000 in retirement allowances to Commonwealth public servants.
The other point that I want to raise is the question of the investment of this £50,000,000 which, over a period of years, has been accumulated in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. One would have thought that superannuation money, which is long-term money and therefore is peculiarly suited to loans for housing, is an obvious source from which such loans could be made. But when we look at the investment of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund we find that not one penny has been invested in housing loans.
In South Australia, the South Australian Superannuation Fund is one of the main sources of loans for housing. Obviously, superannuation funds are just the funds that should be available for housing loans, because superannuation money is essentially long-term money. Civil servants, in the younger years of their lives, pay into a fund from which payments will not be made for perhaps 30, 40 or more years.
Therefore, one would think that the bulk of this money would be lent by the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund in housing loans. But when we look at the trust fund which is referred to in Table No. 19 of the Treasurer’s statement, we find that not one penny of this huge fund has been invested in housing.
The probability is, although I am not sure of this, that the trustees have not the power to do that. I want to make it clear that I am not criticizing the trustees. I am merely stating the facts, which are that the whole of this £50,000,000 is invested in Commonwealth stock, local government stock, and semi-government institutions. I suggest that if the trustees have the requisite power, they should consider investing a substantial amount of their money in housing loans. If they have not such power, steps should be taken to request the Government to introduce the necessary legislation to alter the powers of the trustees to enable them to lend this money in such a way that it wil! provide the greatest benefit for the people of Australia.
One would have thought that civil servants would have very great need of housing loans, and that their own superannuation fund would be the obvious source on which to draw. In private enterprise, most, if not all, progressive manufacturing and commercial concerns to-day have their own private superannuation funds, and so far as I know, all of these funds make available housing loans to their members. In other words, one of the advantages of being in a superannuation fund is that there is a pool of money, contributed by the members of the fund, which is available from time to time for their housing needs. But for some reason or other - and I shall be glad to hear the explanation of this - contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund are denied the very great privileges that are available to contributors to private funds in the way of loans to build their homes.
So, while expressing my great appreciation of the system of Commonwealth superannuation, I hope that consideration will be given to these two suggestions: First, that in view of the very solid reserve that this fund has, there should be an increase of the retirement allowance to superannuated officers; and secondly, that steps be taken to enable Commonwealth officers to borrow money from the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund for housing purposes.
.- I welcome the examination of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund we have just heard from the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), but there are one or two things that I would like to say about that fund, and about his examination of it, because I think that, underlying the views of the honorable member on this question of superannuation is experience in relation to private insurance, rather than the views of economists. I suggest that a number of useful points on this matter are to be found in such an orthodox economic textbook as “ The Economics of Social Security “, by Professor Seymour Harris, a publication of the 1930’s. One finds that, even at that time, there were certain considerations, now accepted by orthodox economists as a whole, which, if examined in relation to the propositions raised by the honorable member for Sturt, throw out additional light.
The honorable member pointed out that the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund at the present time has an annual income of approximately £11,000,000 and expenditure of some £5,500,000; that this state of affairs has continued for a long time and that, as a result, a reserve of approximately £50,000,000 has accumulated to the credit of the fund. The honorable member concluded from this that the fund should be more liberal in its payment of retirement allowances. He said, “ There is a fund that the public servants own, and therefore they are entitled to increased payments “. 1 should say that the public servants are entitled to increased retirement allowances for the reason that in a progressive community, with rising standards of living, all members of the community are entitled to increased retirement allowances. The fact that public servants have contributed in a particular respect more money over the years than they have taken out is not the compelling argument that the honorable member for Sturt appears to think, because the community at large has been paying in to government revenue and taking out of government revenue. The distinction between the public servants and the rest of the community in this respect is that we are not able to see quite so clearly, in the case of ordinary members of the com munity, the relation between their payments and receipts as we can in the case of the public servants.
The position, I think, is that it must be appreciated that any payment made in the form of superannuation or pension is not a transfer from those people who contributed ten years, twenty years, or 50 years ago to those who receive pensions. A pension or superannuation payment is essentially a transfer - a simultaneous transfer - between sections of the community to-day. The transfer of a payment to a public servant is a transfer from people who are earning money to-day to the public servants of to-day, and not a transfer from the public servants who worked 10, 20 or 30 years ago to the public servants who are now receiving pensions. That is a proposition which is fully accepted, as I have said, by Professor Seymour Harris, and is generally accepted by economists. The payments are a simultaneous transfer. If the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) desires to say that some of this £50,000,000 should be used for housing - and I would support the proposition - I think he should realize that it would be essentially a transfer between public servants of to-day and those members of the community would benefit to-day by expenditure on housing. The fact that there is a fund of £50,000,000 to turn to is nothing more than something which gives confidence that money is available. It is really part of an accounting procedure.
This is the second point that I desire to make. The fact that something is written in a public account, the fact that there is a credit entry of £50,000,000, does not mean that the spending of that £50,000,000 will have any different effect upon the price level, and therefore upon inflation, than if the expenditure had been covered by the issue of a treasury-bill. The effect of the spending of that £50,000,000 will be exactly the same on inflation as if the money were drawn from any other source. The test that should be applied here is not whether there is anything in reserve, as it were, from the private insurance point of view. An individual needs something in reserve to be able to spend, but that is not the correct way to look at the matter from the point of view of public finance. The question that we have to take into account is. “ What is the best way to use money that we are currently collecting from the community? “ I suggest that these points are fundamental. A proper understanding of them will prevent us from making mistakes which we might otherwise make.
I desire to refer to three points, particularly in relation to the estimates of the Treasury. The first point is the very uneconomic method of collecting taxation from a great many small income receivers, both personal income and company income receivers. The second point is the stage that we have reached in relation to depreciation allowances. The third point, perhaps a minor one, is the method that the Treasury uses in dealing with unexpended balances in other government departments. In relation to the first point, the Treasury applies, through the Taxation Branch, a system of taxation by which tax is collected from individuals whose taxable income is £105 a year and more. The point that I should like the committee and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to consider is that it is uneconomic to go to the trouble of collecting only £258,000 from 166,000 taxpayers. About 4.7 per cent, of all taxpayers - 166,000 of them - have to go to the trouble of submitting returns, and the Taxation Branch has to go to the trouble of examining and checking returns, merely for a return of £258,000. That was the amount concerned in the assessment year 1954-55 and the income year 1953-54. The Treasury got from 4.7 per cent, of taxpayers only .8 per cent, of revenue raised. I do not think that that is an economic proposition, apart altogether from the question of justice and the equitable nature of the taxation.
In the year that I have mentioned, there were 220,000 income receivers with a taxable income between £200 and £300. They represented 6.2 per cent, of taxpayers, and they paid only £1,100,000 in tax, or 3.7 per cent, of the revenue collected. The Taxation Branch is required to go through the work of examining nearly 11 per cent, of tax returns in order to get only 4.5 per cent, of tax receipts. That seems to show that this method is uneconomic, and should be reviewed. Such a review might result in a more equitable distribution of the burden of taxation. I might say, here, that when the report of the Commissioner of Taxation comes out, it is always three years late. I do not know whether this delay could be overcome. I realize the amount of clerical work and statistical work that is involved in preparing the reports, but it would be a great advantage if more uptodate information could be provided.
There is also what seems to me to be a very uneconomic practice in relation to company taxation. There are 7,247 companies with taxable incomes between £1 and £1,000. They pay only £538,000 in tax as against £152,000,000 of total company tax. The Taxation Branch goes to the trouble of requiring over 7,000 companies to submit tax returns which it has to examine in order to get back only £500,000 in revenue. In the next group of companies, those with incomes between £1,000 and £5,000, there are 8,461 companies, and they return just over £4,000,000 in tax. Economic development results in a greater concentration of income, and an increasing proportion of company income is flowing through only a few hundred companies. I think that the economics of tax collection mean that we should give up worrying about a great many small taxpayers.
I now come to the position that we have reached in regard to depreciation allowances. I think that the principle underlying our method of reckoning depreciation allowances in the past is outdated in that it flows from the proportional method of accounting. Companies are allowed tax deductions in respect of amounts that they can write off for depreciation. This is merely an accounting procedure. The percentages written off have become traditional. The report of the Commonwealth committee on rates of depreciation, known as the Hulme Committee, which was submitted to the Treasurer in 1 955, gives a complete explanation of this method of treating depreciation allowances from the accounting point of view. I suggest that we have to consider another point of view, namely, what is necessary for the maximum rate of economic progress. If we are going to be concerned about the maximum rate of economic progress we are going to be concerned with investment - with the actual use by the company of its funds for the purpose of buying and putting into operation new equipment and additional labour. Our method to-day allows the company a tax reduction for the amount set aside, for the book entry, which may not be spent on investment, and so may not go into increasing the rate of economic progress. I suggest that the committee must, before very long, consider the principle of changing the basis of allowing a company tax deduction for this book entry called depreciation of the actual investment. I am aware that that may give some companies greater concessions than they enjoy now, and honorable members on this side are not in the habit of doing that; but I think this would be for the benefit of the community and would increase the rate of economic progress. It would make it less possible for companies to hide profits - and the depreciation allowance is more a method of hiding profits than of expanding business.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The consideration of this item gives us an opportunity to deal once more with, overall financial policy. I think we are not perhaps altogether happy when we look at it. We realize that there are practical difficulties. Nobody expects perfection; but there is a time when one can, perhaps fruitfully, review general principles and main trends.
The things that are disquieting about the Australian economy are the sharpness of the price rise and the chronic nature of the credit restriction which has been found necessary as a means of controlling this price rise. The fact is that credit restriction itself has been found to be inadequate, and has had to be supplemented by import controls and other things which are abhorrent to the party on this side of the chamber, though perhaps they would be welcome on the socialist side. Over all, although there has been a rise in our living standards it has perhaps not been as quick as some of us would have hoped or expected. For this we cannot blame the seasons, because until last June, at any rate, the seasons were favorable. We cannot blame overseas prices, because our terms of trade over the last seven or eight years have been more consistently favorable than for any similar period for quite a long time before that. We can, to some small extent, I think, blame the increase in our population which has followed on the immigration policy, which is desirable in its own right but which is perhaps inclined to be exag gerated as a factor in the overall situation. It has to be admitted that it is a factor. But how big? 1 have not time to examine the changes in the general age composition of the population, although that would strengthen my argument; but over the last few years, from 1950 to 1956, the latest period for which comparative figures are available - and I am referring to the United Nations handbook throughout - the Australian population has increased overall by 15 per cent. So have the populations of New Zealand and Canada, for example. It is not, by world standards, over that period, a very high rate of increase. Other countries, of course, which have been peculiarly situated, or where there has been a very strong population explosion, as it is called, have increased their populations at a far greater rate. So, although one can look at the immigration programme as contributing to our difficulties, it would be altogether exaggerating the position to consider it to be the main cause. Our defence expenditure has also drawn off resources which would otherwise be available to us; but I remind the committee again that, by world standards - at least by the standards of our allies - our expenditure on defence has not been very heavy. Last year it was, I think, 4 per cent, of our national income. The comparable figures for other countries, which were compiled for me by the library only this morning, are: United States, 9 per cent., Canada, 8 per cent., and the United Kingdom a little over 9 per cent. 1 do not think we can find an excuse in that, though, once again, here is a contributory factor.
The real trouble lies, of course, in the chronic deficiencies in savings, of the capital funds that we need for investment, whether in public works or private works, which are necessary to sustain and improve our living standards. The position has been reached where, at a high level of economic activity, there is a chronic deficiency in savings. In order to try to repress the effects of this chronic deficiency on the price level there has been evoked an endemic credit restriction which itself has been so prolonged that it has dried up this capital, and to some extent reduced the rate of progress in the whole economy. I am not suggesting for one moment that a degree of credit restriction is not desirable in certain circumstances. Over the short term it is the best and, perhaps, the only weapon that we can use; but behind it one has to look at the the fundamental causes in the economy which have rendered this credit restriction necessary because they have produced this deficiency in savings. I believe that a financial policy which is a sensible policy must look more to those fundamental causes.
One wants to be constructive and not destructive in criticism, to think of the new horizons and the new opportunities which stretch out before us; perhaps to list some of the things undone which would have helped us, had we done them earlier, to approach more nearly and quicker to these new goals - because the goal of all of us, surely, is to raise the living standards of the Australian people, and so far as the economic system allows, to have here a happy and free people whose prosperity is contributing to its way of life and is also the justification of its way of life. Here are some things to which I think we could turn our hands. First, I think we could be approaching, more sensibly, the bond market. This does not necessarily mean, and should not mean, a rise in the rate of interest on bonds. Perhaps, we should be helping the bond owner by exempting income from bonds from the property means test, and making the face value ot bonds useable for probate and tax purposes, and also in other minor ways. I think something more fundamental may also be needed. In this time, when people have become accustomed to the price rise so much that they forecast it almost as something that they must take into account for the future, there is some disinclination to invest in bonds. European countries have turned either to a gold bond or a bond based on the price level, and, in some cases, I understand, to a bond based on the kilowatt hour of electricity. That kind of thing is available to us as perhaps some measure of justice to bondholders who have seen the value of their securities wiped out by rising interest rates.
I feel that we should be looking more at our Budget to make it a family Budget, to give to the married man who has family responsibilities the greatest concessions and, by so. doing, make it possible to channel off the teenage spending that is one of the root causes of inflation which is hitting every family and every person who has family responsibilities. It is possible also to refashion our Budget so as to give some concessions in respect of exempting income from savings from consideration as taxable income, and thus increase the capital funds available to the whole community. 1 do not think that we have yet exploited to the full the possibility of getting money from overseas. I contrast debenture money with equity funds. If one will look at the tables which have been prepared showing our overseas transactions, and extract from them debenture items so far as they are identifiable, one would get this somewhat striking result: The net inflow of debenture funds in 1954-55 was £1,000,000 and in 1955-56 it was £17,000,000. For the first six months of 1956-57 - the last available figures - there was a net outflow of £23,000,000. Therefore, over two and a half years, there has been a net outflow of about £5,000,000 on recorded debenture funds. When we are receiving immigrants and when we are a developing country, we have a right to get more in the form of debenture capital from sources overseas, and I believe that this could, perhaps, be more forcibly exploited. Returning to the local scene, it is surely time that we cleaned up the revenue troubles of the Commonwealth as compared with the States. The CommonwealthState financial relationship should not be allowed to linger longer in this uncomfortable twilight. We should do something about it in one way or another. T feel that this is not such an intractable problem as is sometimes suggested, and a more sympathetic handling at loan and Premiers conferences would have a beneficial effect. For this, one looks to both sides, not to one side.- Both sides have an opportunity for a more constructive approach. Obviously, in the time available to me, I cannot suggest details.
The Commonwealth might also be a little more careful in deciding priorities of works as between itself and the States. Let me give an example - it is only an example; T do not pretend that it is of major importance in itself, but it is a good example. About 200 or 300 yards away from us is a building worth between £4,500,000 and £5,000,000, which is almost completed. Two-thirds of it will be unoccupied for a couple of years. 1 do not know whether honorable members have been through the marble halls. They are very good rooms. Is it right for the Commonwealth to use money two or three years before it need do so and leave an empty building there instead of allowing the States to put the money into a school or a hospital? lt is obviously wrong. This is -a minor matter of administration. If it were an isolated instance, 1 would not worry about it, but I put it forward as an example of what is happening over a wide field. There is surely a case for a better allocation of priorities so that we will have a better allocation of resources, not only between the Commonwealth and the States but also between the various items in State budgets. It is up to the Commonwealth to give a lead. Indeed, in one instance in this Budget it has. 1 refer to the transport system. We should take the lead and give a new efficiency to the economy which is making possible an improvement in living standards.
One feels that sufficient attention has not been paid to the growth of the Commonwealth Public Service. I instance the changing ratio between civilian and operative members of the defence services. It is quite obvious that they are overadministered. It is difficult, of course, to lay one’s fingers on details, but surely there is a need for a clean-up there. Do not let us think that all the difficulty lies in the public sphere. The Commonwealth can give a lead, but we must try to help private industry to realize the efficiencies which lie open to it and which must be the basis of a higher living standard. We should set our face against restrictive practices of all kinds, which throughout industry, whether on the employer or employee side, lower efficiency, reduce the net output and reduce the goods and services which, in the final analysis, are the basis of the living standards that we hope will be raised.
– I intend to take this opportunity to protest against what T consider is a destructive credit policy adopted by this Government. It is interesting to note that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who is a Government supporter, took up a similar critical attitude towards the Government’s present credit policy. It is unfortunate that he started that criticism with an apology for proposing to do so. The proper place for him to use his voice and his influence is in the party room where the decisions are made and the policy is laid down. It is not sufficient to come into the Parliament after the Budget has been adopted by the Government parties and criticize the policy that is then being carried out. It should be done in the proper place, and honorable members on the Government side should try to change the policy before if gets this far.
The Government’s credit policy has very detrimental effects on the community. It creates an unjust and unreasonably high rate of taxation. I propose to deal with that a little later. It also has the effect of a very high interest rate being charged, and that is detrimental to private and public development. A country such as this, which needs so much progressive development, should operate under a low interest rate and not a high interest rate as it is at present. The Government’s credit policy is also adding considerably to the costs of production, and in that way is not improving the standard of living. By adding to the costs of production it is more or less impeding industrial progress and development. Those are three of the major ill effects arising from the Government’s present credit policy. We should not have any restriction of industrial and commercial development. Such a restriction flows from the present credit policy, and for that the Treasury must take the blame. There should be no restriction, as we are experiencing to-day, of the national development policy. Public works and activities should be carried out, but there has been a damping down of many national instrumentalities, both Commonwealth and State, largely because of the credit policy which is being adopted at the present time.
As I said earlier, taxation is too high. Taxation should and could be substantially reduced. The practice adopted by the Government of paying for public works out of revenue has considerably increased taxation. Another matter which has added considerably to taxation is the widespread evasion of taxes. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated some time ago that the Government proposed to bring down certain proposals to the Parliament to tighten up on the legal methods of evasion of taxation that are being practised at present, but we have heard no more of it. Unless something is done in this direction, the person who has to pay his taxes because they are deducted from his income and who cannot practise any methods of evasion, must continue to bear more than his share of the burden. People who, through various practices, avoid taxation increase the burden carried by those who legitimately pay their taxes. This matter should be carefully considered.
In the Budget debate, I mentioned a newspaper report that a company was offering for sale its accrued losses and its import licences. The company was insolvent, and was offering its import licences, which had been granted by this Government, and its accrued losses, for sale as assets. It is wrong that companies should sell their accrued losses in that way to enable other companies to make hundreds of thousands of pounds of profit by avoiding taxation. Companies buy the accrued losses of other companies for very small amounts, and the Commonwealth Treasury suffers because tax is evaded. There should be a strict check upon this method of evading taxes. I agree, of course, that a company that has sustained legitimate trading losses should be entitled to recoup those losses before paying taxation. No one would object to that. But it is a very wrong practice for a company that is absolutely insolvent, and is going out of existence, to sell to some other company as assets its accrued losses in order to enable the purchasing company to avoid taxes. Evasion of taxes should not be tolerated by any government, and I hope that the Treasurer will take action immediately to check this practice.
The present high taxation could be reduced if the Government took action in another matter. In passing, I may mention that it is very difficult to ascertain information from the Budget and Estimates papers, because they do not state the financial position clearly. For example, they do not indicate the surplus for the previous financial year, or the estimated surplus for the current financial year. Funds are planted in various accounts, such as reserve accounts, by transfers and cross entries. In the last financial year, more than £100,000,000 of the proceeds of taxation was invested in loans to the States and in war service land settlement. It is wrong to use this money for war service land settlement, because the settlers repay the capital, and pay interest on it. The scheme should not be financed out of current taxation proceeds, because it is purely a capital investment. Therefore, it should be paid for out of loan funds or, if such funds are not available, out of credit obtained from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
I am not one who thinks that we should be all the time saying that the money is not available, and that we cannot get it for war service land settlement unless wetax the people to obtain it. If the Govern^ ment’s credit is low, and it cannot raise loans from the public, it should 1 .’Se the national credit, which is available, to finance capital investments such as war service land settlement. The inflationary pressure in the community is not increased by obtaining from a bank an overdraft to undertake construction or other capital works, any more than by raising loans and spending the money so obtained. Either way, the same amount of money goes into circulation. Overdraft financing is adopted by private persons. For example, a man in a position to provide a guarantee will guarantee an overdraft for some one else with a bank. All that is necessary then is for certain documents to be signed, and for the person who is getting the overdraft to be given a cheque-book. He may then draw cheques up to a total of £1,00, £10,000, or whatever the limit fixed for the overdraft may be. What can be done by individuals can be done equally well by the Government.
The Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve was established in the financial year 1955-56 to enable the Government to hide a proportion of the tax funds obtained from the people. At 30th June, 1956, the balance stood at £161,000,000. At 30th June, 1957, it was £317,300,000. It is proposed, in the current financial year, to place a further £119,363,000 of the taxes levied upon the people to the credit of this fund, bringing to some £436,600,000 the total amount hidden in it. That is entirely wrong. If such large amounts were not being hidden in this fund, the Government could certainly reduce taxes by as much as is being paid to the credit of the fund. Taxation reductions of £100,000,000, or £200,000,000, a year would be of substantial benefit to the community. I object to financing on this principle. It is highly detrimental to the interests of the people, and the Treasurer should immediately revise this procedure.
I should like to deal also with the credit restrictions that now exist, certainly with the knowledge, consent, and support, and possibly at the straight-out direction, of the Government. There is on record a clear statement by Mr. H. M. Macken, of Mark Foy’s Limited, made before the Budget was brought down, that the credit squeeze is crippling the economy, which is “ limping along like a lame dog “. Mr. Macken said, also, that the restrictions on bank lending, in addition to putting the brakes on industrial and commercial development, had seriously impeded home-building. Mr. Macken is well known in the Australian commercial world. We also have heard of a well-publicized incident in which a Dubbo farmer who approached a bank for financial accommodation to enable him to improve his property, and obtain essential equipment, was directed to the hirepurchase section of the bank.
It is very wrong that the common banking principle of making credit available to primary producers in the legitimate fashion, at low interest rates, should b<; abandoned, and that lending for this purpose should be transferred to hire-purchase instrumentalities, which may be termed finance corporations. Six of the private banking companies are associated with such hire-purchase credit corporations. Within the last month or two, one of the banks has branched out into this field. The net profit of one of these hire-purchase finance companies, General Credits Limited, for the year ended 30th April last was 30 per cent, higher than in the previous twelve months. Companies of this kind are making substantial profits, which are ever increasing. The financial writers for the Sydney newspapers have been making much adverse comment about the banking policy by which these companies are favoured. In a recent issue of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the financial editor commented that there is something bad, or mad, in a system that requires a farmer to pay 15 per cent, interest for a loan which, in ordinary times, he could get at 5i per cent, to 6 per cent, on a daily-balancing basis. He added -
Hire purchase has . . . risen more than bank loans.
The financial editor referred there to the credit made available by the banks. He continued -
Its proportionate rate of growth has been ten times greater.
It is very wrong that a government should be pursuing a policy that has these consequences. Credit restrictions increase interest rates, and make it more difficult, and more expensive, for industry to operate. The cost of living rises, and as a consequence, unemployment increases, and production is restricted. The increase of unemployment reduces the purchasing power of the people. This has a further restricting effect upon the development of industry, because, when the people spend less, production in the industries producing the goods that they would ordinarily have bought is reduced, and more employees are dismissed.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– After 30 years experience in politics I realize that Thursday morning is usually known as grievance day. It is a time when we discuss matters of great importance to the individual, but not necessarily of great importance to the whole community. I make no apology for introducing what I consider to be one of the most important matters in our economic affairs, namely State and Federal financial relationships, when speaking on the estimates for the Department of the Treasury. Perhaps my remarks will merely be like a preview of a film which will be shown later in its full-length version. However, I ask all honorable members to give this matter more serious consideration in the future than they have in the past.
Not many of us have been fortunate enough to have had experience in the State political sphere before coming to this Parliament. Even those of us who have are inclined to forget our earlier experience and to look at financial matters only through federal eyes. We have now drifted into a very bad position, if not a perilous one, from the point of view of both State and Federal parliaments. The history of State and Federal financial relationships is not a very long one. I think that in the first year in which I came into politics, 1927, the financial agreement was drawn up, agreed to and signed, and approved by the Federal and State parliaments of the day. That agreement, I believe, brought very great benefit to the whole community by clearing up confusion that existed when each State went on the loan market in its own way and offered its own rate of interest. 1 believe that the financial agreement, in that respect, has worked out very well over the years.
Then we reached the second important stage in our relationships during the war, when the uniform taxation system was agreed to. If I appear to emphasize unduly the Victorian position honorable members will forgive me, because I am more familiar with the figures and facts of my own State than with those of other States. I think, however, that honorable members from other States will be able to give similar facts and figures with respect to their States. At the time when the uniform taxation system was introduced Victoria was a low-tax State. As a result of the agreement which was made Victoria received a very poor deal from the formula adopted. My State has always been at a disadvantage in this respect, for the simple reason that when the formula was adopted the rates of taxation being applied in Victoria were lower than those of any other State. At the time the formula was adopted we were at war, and for a short time during the war and after it the formula worked moderately well. I suggest to honorable members that the formula is now outmoded, outdated and outstandingly unintelligible from the point of view of reasonable finance, when considered in the light of existing conditions.
At the time when the uniform taxation system was introduced, we had no largescale immigration programme. Whether or not we agree with the quantitative aspect of the immigration policy, the fact remains that the policy provides for a high immigrant intake. The result of it has beenthat all States require much more finance in order to build schools, hospitals and houses and to provide water, sewerage and other services, than they would have required if they had continued steadily with the natural population increase. An immigrant who arrives in Australia requires much more in the way of housing and community services than does a new-born Australian baby. The natural increase of population can be absorbed much more easily and with less financial outlay than a large immigrant intake. In this respect I suppose Western Australia is the worst off of the States, because I understand - and I speak subject to correction - that that State has the highest intake of immigrants per head of population. Victoria is equally hard hit. Again I speak subject to correction, but I believe that nearly 40 per cent, of all immigrants coming to Australia go to Victoria. That State has absorbed a greater number of immigrants than any other State. But all States, some in one degree and some in another, have found it difficult to provide the finance necessary to maintain the standards of living, education, hospital services and other services that I think every honorable member of this Parliament would like to see maintained.
Let us consider another aspect of the matter that had not arisen when the financial formula was approved. I refer to the practice that has grown up of recent years of financing Federal capital works from revenue. Perhaps this practice was sound enough as an emergency measure, but it has now been adopted as an easy way of overcoming some of our financial difficulties. Every year such practices are continued they become more and more firmly embedded in the permanent concrete of the Commonwealth Budget. In fact this policy of financing capital works from revenue should be correctly described as an attempt to raise forced loans from the taxpayers, some of whom pay greater amounts than others.
– It is a “ pay as you go “ system.
– Tn fact I rather wonder why the shades of Pym, Hampden, Haselrig, Holies and Strode did not appear in the political firmament before the Russian satellite appeared in the celestial firmament, because this aspect of Government policy is merely a method of raisin? forced loans. The Government says, “ We cannot raise money on the loan market in sufficient quantity to provide for our expansion programme, so we tell the taxpayers that they have to pay forced loans. We will then finance our capital works from revenue “. Tt is surplus revenue, and if we carried out the spirit of the Constitution that surplus revenue would be divided up amongst the States. Perhaps such a suggestion amounts to nothing more than fiction, because surplus revenue has never been divided up in this way. Whenever there has been a surplus we have always found a federal trust fund in which to hide it, and so technically overcome the intention of the original Constitution. But can any one tell me why the Commonwealth Government should take the surplus revenue to finance its capital works, and provide none of that revenue for the capital works of the States? lt says to the States, “ You will pay interest and sinking fund payments for this surplus revenue “. If we are to carry out. this policy of financing capital works from revenue, let us be fair and say, “ We will divide it up in proportion to our Federal and State capital works programmes, and we will all make interest and sinking fund payments in those proportions “. In the Victorian Budget this year, for instance, the Premier has provided an amount of £4,500,000 for interest payments and sinking fund charges on surplus federal revenue provided in the manner that I have outlined. The Premier said -
While the State has to meet debt charges on all its capital expenditure, the Commonwealth, through its monopoly of major taxation fields, has been able to meet the whole of its capital expenditure from revenue on which no debt charges are paid. In addition, it lends to the State some of its surplus taxation moneys and charges interest and sinking fund contribution on them. In the Estimates for 1957-58, we have had to provide a total of £4,500,000 to meet debt charges on surplus Commonwealth taxation revenues which have been made available through the Loan Council in recent years.
The Commonwealth is not giving the States a fair deal. In fact, sometimes we are inclined to adopt the attitude that the States are six satellites shot off into outer space. We only see them when they annually shine in our reflected light at the Loan Council or around the Premiers conference table. The first time, their beep-beep-beep-beep is quite interesting, but after that it seems to become very boring.
No honorable member wishes to see that attitude continued, but nothing will happen unless a very determined effort is made to obtain some revision. I would like to have a complete review of Commonwealth-State financial relationships in order to obtain a fairer basis for the distribution of the revenues available. It will be noticed that while the Commonwealth debt has increased by about £41,000,000. the State debts have increased in the last year by about £44,000,000. Under the Constitution the Commonwealth is not entitled to tax State property, but it taxes State wages by means of the pay-roll tax. That is a heavy burden on some instrumentalities, such as the railways.
– The State debts increased much more than the figure you quoted.
– I am sorry if I misquoted the figure - probably it should be £144,000,000 - but the principle is more important than the amount. Payroll tax is imposed on the State railways, but not on the Commonwealth railways. There are no interest or sinking fund charges on Commonwealth railways capital works. These practices have been carried out over the last few years so that the States are now paying on the much higher rate of interest while the Commonwealth loans are at the old rate of 3i per cent, or 3i per cent. In other words, everything is weighted against the States and I do not think any honorable member wishes to see that state of affairs continue. I am certain that Government supporters do not. Members of the Opposition might be in a different position as they are in favour of unification, but we on this side of the chamber are supposed to be in favour of the federal system. I know it is easy to coast along. Perhaps Ministers do not have the time to go into the matter. Perhaps the Commonwealth Treasury does not want to go into it. This is an easy way for the Treasury to find finance. Honorable members may find themselves tied up with a lot of other major problems, but the Senate is supposed to be the States’ House and as such could do a really good job of work for the community if it would appoint a select committee to investigate the whole basis of State and Federal financial relationships and make recommendations as to how they might be put on a more stable and fairer basis in the future.
I was interested to note in this morning’s paper - after I had decided to speak on this matter - that there was a debate on a similar matter in the Victorian Parliament last night. I am sure that all the States are in a similar position to Victoria. I do not think any member of this chamber considers that the present position is fair. While there is no emergency and while we are coasting along, surely this is the time to sit down and consider these problems instead of leaving them until other things completely submerge them. I would appeal first to all Ministers, and secondly to all honorable members to treat this problem as urgent and important if we really want proper development in the State sphere and the maintenance of a high standard of living, sound education and other services. Look at the universities. The Commonwealth hands out bits and pieces here and there to the States. Universities are really a State responsibility, but the States do not have the money to deal with the problem and the Commonwealth continues to hand money out in bits and pieces instead of treating the matter as a whole.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 716), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this measure, the purpose of which is to increase the subsidy on gold. I will not state the views of my party in these few remarks because the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), who has been closely connected with the gold-mining industry and has helped it over the years in his capacity as a Minister and a private member, desires to make a speech on this subject. With those commendatory remarks, I vacate the field to him.
– Like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) I support this measure, although, to some extent I am not quite happy about the form in which it is presented to the House. It provides for an increase in subsidy, in the first instance from £2 to £2 15s. and in the second instance from £1 10s. to £2. I am the first to admit that the assistance given through the subsidy to the gold-mining industry has been very beneficial, but from a long-range point of view, I think that something better could have been done in its interests. 1 point out to the Government that in respect of marginal mines and developmental mines we have to remember that gold-mining, like any other mining industry, is handling a wasting asset. The gold that is taken out of the ground cannot be ploughed back into it. Consequently, as developmental work goes on, if the expense involved is so great that waste is incurred in getting value out of the mine, smaller deposits are overlooked and the value of that gold is lost to the country for ever. 1 have pointed out on numerous occasions in this Parliament the great value of the gold-mining industry, particularly to the State of Western Australia. Its large contribution to State instrumentalities and to the economy of that State in general has been of great assistance. To-day, more than 4,000 workers are employed in the goldmining industry in Western Australia, but their only asset is its welfare. Therefore, to the State of Western Australia the importance of this industry is very great. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, said that between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000 worth of gold was won each year from gold mines. Of that amount, 80 per cent, is produced in Western Australia alone, and it is because of the subsidy paid to assist the industry that Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Meekatharra. Mount Magnet and other gold-mining centres are in existence. But they are not. as the Treasurer said, only partly responsible for the population and development in those areas; they are wholly responsible, although it is true that pastoral and farming activities are carried on in the areas adjacent to them.
The Treasurer omitted to point out the importance of the gold-mining industry as a dollar earner. Its dollar-earning capacity is of major importance to the Australian economy. I have no desire to offer any criticism, because I feel that the provision of this subsidy by the Government is a genuine attempt to help the industry, but I consider that, from a long-range point of view, the subsidy should have been higher. I suggest to the Government in all earnestness that a panel of experts be sent to Kalgoorlie for the purpose of conferring with mine executives and the workers’ representatives in this industry. They should make a thorough investigation of the industry’s condition and the possibilities of its development, particularly in regard to new mines and marginal mines. If that were done over a period and a long-range plan could be developed and submitted to this Parliament, the preservation of the industry and its future development could be assured.
I have never lost sight of the everincreasing costs in the industry. Over the years I have done my best to present the case for it to the Government and I have kept in close contact with the workers’ organizations and mine executives in order that their needs might be brought before Parliament in a proper manner. I have conferred with the Treasurer and officials of the Treasury to try to stimulate their interest in the further development of the industry. Time does not allow me to speak at length. In conclusion, I again urge the Government to send a panel of experts to Western Australia to confer with representatives of all sections in the industry, including the prospectors, who have gone into the back country and have been responsible for establishing these mines. If they were given a fairer deal and better equipment they could play a most important part in increasing the wealth of the country. The days of easily-found gold have gone. Alluvial gold no longer exists in those areas that have been prospected and developed. But if the prospectors were given the necessary assistance and encouragement to go into the wilderness T have no doubt that gold mines containing lodes equal to those at Kalgoorlie and other centres would be discovered, and the result would be of great benefit to the country.
I may not have another opportunity of stating the case for the gold-mining industry in this Parliament. That will not be as a result of any decision by another body, but because of a firm decision I marie two years ago. following the last elections, that I would not again be a candidate for the Kalgoorlie seat in this House. Because of that decision, when the next Budget is brought down, Victor Johnson might be missing from this Parliament. However. I am grateful for this opportunity of statin” to the Parliament once more a case in support of the gold-mining industry.
– I rise to support the bill, without any desire to detain the House for more than a few minutes. I support it for the simple reason, already explained, that without this bill the continuance of gold-mining by a good many mines would cease to be possible. It is an unfortunate fact that the world price of gold which, in practice, is determined by the United States, is in fact so low in relation to the continually rising costs throughout the world that increasing gold-mining areas are becoming unprofitable. Yet, a continued supply of gold is absolutely essential as a means of settlement of international payments.
I remind the House that this Government, through the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), has made continuous efforts in the international sphere to bring to bear whatever pressure it could in favour of an increase of the world price of gold. This Government and its representatives, in close association with those of the Government of South Africa, who support our representation on the International Monetary Fund, have over a number of years pressed continually for an increase of the world price of gold. This will continue to be the most important solution of the problems of the gold-mining industry, in Western Australia as elsewhere. In fact, if it were not for the very great efforts made by our own goldmining industry, and the technical improvements that it has been able to introduce in the last ten years, our position would be very much worse. This is an essential industry which adds some 35,000,000 dollars per annum to our actual or potential overseas receipts, and until we can secure an increase of the price of gold, which this Government has done its best to bring about, measures of this kind remain the only possible alternative.
.- I am pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words in regard to this important matter. 1 do not agree entirely that we should accept without some criticism the increase of the subsidy, which the bill seeks to provide. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, reminded the House of the importance of this industry to the country. He pointed out that the annual value of gold produced is between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000, and that practically the whole of the value of our gold output is added to Australia’s international reserves. He emphasized that certain populated areas of Australia were largely dependent for their existence on the continuance of gold-mining operations. But having said that, what did he do about it? He proposed to increase the gold subsidy by £104.504, or approximately .009 per cent, of the total estimated revenue of £1,321,000,000. The total subsidy payable to the gold-mining industry for this financial year will be £600,000- to an industry that the right honorable gentleman considers to be so vital to this country!
I want to direct the attention of honorable members to what the “ West Australian “, a newspaper which normally supports this Government, had to say about this subsidy in its editorial of 6th September last. It stated -
The Federal Government’s attitude to the gold industry has not changed: it is still content to maintain the industry slightly above a caretaker level since the additional assistance to be given will not encourage big expansion in production. Nor is the subsidy likely to attract new capital on the scale now required to open big mines.
As a matter of fact, that is also the opinion of many people in Western Australia who are interested in this subject.
The proposed increase means that the subsidy payable to the small producer will rise from £1 10s. an ounce to £2 an ounce, and to the big producer, from £2 to £2 15s. an ounce. The Western Australian Government and various mining interests have asked that the subsidy be increased to £4 10s. an ounce. It was estimated that unless a subsidy approximating that amount were given, the industry would continue to slip back. Certainly, the miserly increase that is to be granted will not be sufficient to save it. Although this industry has grappled manfully with its problems, it is slipping further back each year, and continued increases of costs will place it in a very difficult position this year. I am not saying that the increased subsidy will not help the industry, but it will not do so to the degree that is necessary if it is really to get on its feet.
The gold-mining industry has been penalized over the years because of the fixed price for gold. It has faced increasing costs, and although Australia has been pressing for an increase of the price of gold at meetings of the International Monetary Fund, the United States, which holds more than 27 per cent, of the total gold quotas, has resisted any increase of the price. No vote has ever been taken at the meetings of the International Monetary Fund on the question of an increase of the price of gold, and it is clear from this that those meetings are dominated by the United States. In reply to a question that I addressed to the Treasurer in March last, the right honorable gentleman said, inter alia -
The United States, which holds some 20 per cent, of the total quotas, is opposed to an increase in the price of gold, and the question has never been put to a formal vote in the Fund. However, Australia has argued the case for a review of the price of gold at past Annual Meetings of the Monetary Fund and there has been no change in Government policy on this issue.
The Treasurer is attending a meeting of the International Monetary Fund at the present time, and I certainly hope that, on this occasion, he will press for an increase of the price of gold, and that if there is no move in relation to this matter he will ask for such a vote. 1 hope that he will be more forceful in advocating Australia’s interests than he has been in the past.
Under the stimulus of the rise in the price of gold in the 1930’s, Australian production rose from 427,000 ounces in 1929 to 1,646,000 ounces in 1939. If the Treasurer cannot succeed in forcing up the price of gold, the present rate of subsidy should be reviewed with a view to making up for the lag. That is necessary if the industry is !.o maintain the present rate of production, let alone increase it. I emphasise that this is a vital industry to Western Australia, because that State produces 75 per cent, of Australia’s total output of gold. Kalgoorlie, as has already been mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), is one of the populated areas, which to use the words of the Treasurer, are kept alive by gold-mining operations. Some mines in Western Australia have had to close, with a resulting fall in production of more than 100,000 ounces.
Australian gold production is worth 30,000,000 American dollars a year. Honorable members will, therefore, be able to appreciate that the industry is a major source of dollars for the economy as a whole. But apart from that, exports of gold help our overseas funds in both the dollar and sterling areas. The sale of gold is always assured, even though there is a fall in the sale of other exports. Wool will not continue for much longer to command the present high prices. As a matter of fact, recent indications are that the price of wool, to some degree, is already falling. We shall then have to fall back on some of our other exports to maintain stability in our overseas balances. That is why it is so important that we should be doing all we can to encourage gold production.
Before the war, gold was Australia’s third largest export. At that time, exports of gold represented 8i per cent, of our total exports. To-day, the percentage has shrunk to 24- per cent. The Australian price of gold has risen only in relation to the exchange rate. Changes in the exchange rate have increased the price of gold in this country from £9 14s. 4d. an ounce to £15 12s. 6d. an ounce, but the world price of gold has remained pegged since the 1930’s. Compared with the average ruling prices from 1936 to 1939, the price of gold has increased only by 76 per cent., whilst increases for other metals have been as follows: Copper 571 per cent.; lead 531 per cent.; tin 275 per cent.; zinc 472 per cent.; and silver 289 per cent. Those figures show how very important it is that we should battle for an increase in the price of gold, and if we fail to get that increase we should do something more in regard to the subsidy.
Surely these arguments justify all the assistance that can be given to this industry and warrant more sympathetic consideration by the Commonwealth Government. The industry ought to do more than just keep going; it ought to expand. If this industry were stimulated, it would be a big help to the economy of Western Australia. Not only would there be more employment in the gold-fields but, by repercussion, other secondary industries would benefit. I ask the Government to give further consideration to this matter. In view of the fact that the price of gold has remained fixed, T must enter an objection to the small subsidy that has been provided.
.- I think we ought to be clear-sighted about the matter that we have in front of us because, basically, the measure is a device for converting Australian currency into dollars. The justification for these subsidies is that, as long as the U.S.A. will give real goods in exchange for gold, we are justified in subsidizing the gold industry in order to get gold and in order to get the real goods from the U.S.A. It earns us dollars, which means that it earns us a claim in the American market.
It is not possible for this country or any other country to force the United States to pay more. When the United States buys metals other than gold it may do so for military or industrial purposes. But there is no compelling necessity for the United States to buy gold. Therefore, no great force can be exerted by Australia in connexion with the international monetary fund to try to get an increase in the price of gold commensurate with the increase in the prices of other metals, those increases having taken place for other reasons, such as international tension. Gold will not increase in price because of international tension.
I think the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) was entirely correct in criticizing the niggardly approach of the Government to this question of subsidy. J think it would be worth the Government’s while to explain clearly how much more gold it expects to get out of each increase in the subsidy. I think it should state whether it has clearly envisaged what new mines would be made economical by an increase in the subsidy. The ability to get 30,000,000 additional dollars - the estimate of the honorable member for Stirling - is very important. If the amount were increased to 35,000,000 dollars or 40,000,000 dollars by increasing the subsidy, that would be justifiable so long as the United States persists in treating gold as valuable.
I think that the whole proposal is, in reality, a device for getting dollar currency, and we ought always to consider these gold subsidy measures in that light. I do not think we ought to consider that this is a subject in connexion with which we exert very much force on the buyers of gold because, at Fort Knox, the United States has enormous quantities of gold, and we cannot exert much pressure to force that country to buy more.
– In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that the exchange value of gold produced in Australia and the Territories was between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000 per annum. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) both stressed the fact that this is a device for obtaining American dollars. I have no doubt that it is, in an indirect way. However, I understand that last year we exported £14,200,000 worth of gold, of which £14,000,000 worth was exported to Hong Kong by the Commonwealth Bank. Therefore, I take it that it was sold on the free market, and not at the fixed American rate. I do not know whether the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who is now in charge of the bill, can tell me whether £14,000,000 worth of gold, which was almost the total amount of gold exported last year, was sold on the free market or on the American market. My understanding of the position is that the gold goes to Hong Kong from whence it goes, either directly or indirectly, to Macao, and from there it goes to red China.
If we are just subsidizing the gold mines in order to provide more and more gold for sale at a higher price to the one country in the world with which we are technically - and actually, as far as I am concerned - not at peace, this seems to me a rather weird policy. I would rather that we carried the cost of the subsidy ourselves, and sold the gold direct to the United States ot America at the fixed price, than that the Government should pay a subsidy, and then try to get it back by selling the gold on the free market in Macao, from where it then finds its way to red China.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) give me the information that I sought during the secondreading debate, or will he supply it later?
.- I think that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table and who has failed to respond to the request of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), is treating him with discourtesy. The honorable member for Chisholm has asked a question and, as a member of the Parliament, he is entitled to an answer. For the Minister simply to nod at the Chairman to put the bill through-
– It is possible that the Minister did not hear me.
– It is not discourtesy. It is ignorance.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is not going to run this committee. He will be quiet.
– Owing to the interruptions, I have lost the thread of my thought.
– The honorable member never had any.
– Yes I did, and it was worth something, which is the difference between my thoughts and the Minister’s. The honorable member for Chisholm has asked a question, and the Minister ought to reply to him. He ought to tell the committee where the Government is selling this gold. Is the gold being sold on the free market to China, and at what rate? If so, why is the Government doing it? Will the Government change its ways if it has been erring in the matter?
– It is sold by the private producers.
– It is not. It is necessary to get a certificate for its export from the Commonwealth Bank, which determines the position, in the final analysis. It is the Commonwealth Bank which says whether the gold can be exported and, if so, where it can be sent. If that is not so, it ought to be so. All other exports are controlled, more or less, and imports are rigidly controlled. I cannot see why the destination of gold produced in this country should not also be controlled.
The Minister has now had time to collect his scattered thoughts, and he might give the committee the benefit of his advice. If he does not know anything about the matter, will he tell the Minister who will be in charge of the bill when it comes before the Senate to give this Parliament and the people of Australia the fullest possible information about the destination of this gold?
– I think the honorable gentleman will know, and that my colleague also will know, that the price of gold internationally is fixed, and that normally a transaction in connexion with the sale of gold internationally is conducted through the Commonwealth Bank at the internationally fixed price. That is done by the Commonwealth Bank Board, on which the Secretary to the Treasury is a representative. Subject to certain conditions, any sale of gold that takes place is usually conducted through the agencies of the Commonwealth Bank, and is done in the best interests of Australia and of the sterling area as a whole; so, from day to day it may well be that the method of sale, or the destination of gold sold, changes. I can give my personal assurance, and I can give an assurance on behalf of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), that we are continually watching in order to see that that is done almost exclusively, if not exclusively, to the benefit of the sterling area.
.- The position with gold sales is that insofar as any sales to Hong Kong are concerned the gold cannot be sold at a premium by governments, government agencies or the Commonwealth Bank, because that would infringe our agreement under the International Monetary Fund articles. The Commonwealth Bank must sell it to the producers’ association for sale by them. Subject to certain conditions imposed by the Government, sales are made on the sound principle of selling to the highest bidder. They sell at premium prices which the government agency is not in a position to do.
– Obviously, the honorable member knows something about the matter and the Minister does not.
– Order! The honorable member may not reflect on the Minister. The whole of his speech was against the Minister, and not on the subject. I will not have it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I submit that I am entitled, when the bill is at the committee stage, to criticize the Minister for refusing to provide the committee with information that honorable members seek. If I cannot do that, what is the use of having a debate? I am certainly not setting out to praise the Minister, because I have not discovered anything in him yet to praise.
– The honorable member continued to interject after he sat down. That is what I was objecting to.
– I thank the Minister for the answer that he gave, but I do not think he quite understood the question I asked, and I am not sure that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) who, I know, is an expert on this subject, is right up to date. I should like to be assured, in case of doubt. I have a clear recollection of permission having been obtained, I think about two years ago, for the sale of a certain quantity of gold on the free market.
– We passed a bill on it.
– Yes. 1 recollect there was provision for a certain amount to be sold on the free market. But when £14,000,000 worth out of £14,200,000 worth exported goes to Hong Kong, which is a free port, and having regard to places near it, particularly Macao, one naturally feels that if the gold is sent through the Commonwealth Bank and sold at a fixed price it is certainly not sold the next day or the next month at the fixed price. The whole lot of it is, I understand, exported by the Commonwealth Bank on behalf of the producers. If the producers have an agent in Hong Kong to jack up the price they do not need a subsidy. I do not want to vote against the bill, but the whole position seems to me to be somewhat confused. All I am asking for is further information, because when I was on another research project I came across the fact that £14,000,000 worth out of £14,200,000 worth exported last year was exported to Hong Kong. Why does almost all our gold go to Hong Kong? With the best will in the world towards Hong Kong I am certainly suspicious, and I want to know whether Australia has any idea what happens to that gold, at what price it is sold, and what is its ultimate destination, because the traffic between Hong Kong and Macao is very well known to any one who has been in that area.
.- May I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that we postpone the consideration of this measure until we have the information required. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) is in direct conflict with the Minister on the question. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) has put his point of view. He had a long and distinguished association with the Internationa! Monetary Fund before he came here, and he has his views. We on this side recollect that two years ago we passed legislation which had an entirely different purpose from that which the Minister indicates it had. The committee is confused, and therefore this measure should not be passed until the Government clearly tells us what the position is in regard to this matter.
– I shall obtain for the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) an answer to the specific question he has asked. I should say to him that some portion of the gold re-sold by the Commonwealth Bank can be sold on the free premium market, but it must be sold for dollars, and dollars must be obtained for it. When this is done we lose control of it. As to the specific question of the destination, I shall subsequently get the answer to that question also.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed (vide page 1245).
.- I decided to take part in this debate merely to correct a number of inaccurate statements made by speakers on the Government side. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) repeated what has been said by a number of Government speakers - that living standards in this country have improved. As a matter of fact, all the available evidence from official sources discloses that such is not the case. In quoting living costs the practice has usually been to refer to what is known as the C series index; but in later years the Statistician has issued an additional calculation in regard to living costs which takes in a wider variety of items that are among the ordinary living needs of the Australian family. The “ Financial Review “ of 8th August this year - and the “ Financial Review “, as honorable members are aware, is published by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ - said -
The cost of living, calculated on the post-war pattern of consumption rose, in 1956-57 by twice the margin indicated by the official “ C “ series index.
Basic wage adjustments would have been almost twice as great had they been based on the more accurate interim index rather than on the older “ C “ series index.
Therefore, according to the “ Financial Review “ and the interim index released by the Commonwealth Statistician, the cost of living in New South Wales has actually increased by twice the amount indicated in the officially recognized C series index. That applies also, to a varying degree, throughout Australia. Mr. S. R. Carver, the Commonwealth Statistician, in his latest figures, reveals that the consumption per head of population has fallen. The consumption per head is the only accurate way of assessing living standards; it is no use taking the actual quantity purchased or consumed because the population is rapidly increasing. The per capita figures show that less meat, eggs, oils, fats, potatoes, fruit, green vegetables and grain products were consumed in the year that has just concluded. As a matter of fact, the figures have dropped to well below the pre-war level. In the face of the official figures and statements, how can Government supporters argue that living standards have improved? The consumption of butter also has decreased. Members of the Australian Country party protest against the increased consumption of margarine as opposed to butter. Butter consumption is falling and margarine consumption is rising. What does that indicate? Not that the people have lost their liking for butter, but that they have found, with the increasing price of butter and pegged wages, that they are unable to obtain all the supplies of this commodity that they desire. Recently, we have heard discussions as to what this Government has done for those dependent upon social service payments. Anybody would imagine that an air of prosperity was abroad in this country.
– Order! I must call the honorable member to order. He is making, in effect, a speech on the Budget, not on the departmental estimates. If J have missed, through being absent this morning, any discussion which he is answering, I would let him answer it, but to my knowledge those statements were not made during the debate on the Treasury estimates this morning. I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the vote for the Department of the Treasury, because this is a debate on the Estimates.
– That is perfectly true. Government supporters have argued that the financial policy being followed by this Government has led to an increased living standard and I am contradicting that argument.
– Order! That argument was not advanced during the debate on the Treasury estimates to my knowledge. I do not want the honorable member to get on to a Budget debate, or we will never control it.
– I am not getting on to a Budget debate; I am merely answering the arguments used in this committee on the Treasury estimates. Recently, the sales director of the British Australasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited said that, in Victoria alone, 100,000 old people were without sufficient funds to obtain adequate food, fuel and clothing, and that 130,000 in New South Wales were similarly situated. That does not seem to indicate that that section of the community has a very high standard of living. I do not argue for one moment that there are not some people in the community who have done very well under the financial policy pursued by this Government. What was referred to by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) as profit inflation still exists and is growing apace. I want to refer to certain of the matters affecting the financial policy pursued by the Government. Instead of having a stable economy, as the Government has tried to convince the people we have, by its mismanagement the Government has brought the financial affairs of the community to a precarious state, almost verging on collapse. Let -us examine the position.
– Order! I will not allow the honorable member to debate the whole financial policy of the Government. He must confine himself to the vote for the Department of the Treasury or he must resume his seat.
– I am referring to the Treasury. Surely, when money is being voted to continue the operations of the Treasury, I can direct attention to the policy it is pursuing and the damage that policy is doing to the community.
– No, you cannot. You must confine your remarks to the specific matters contained in the estimates.
– With all your obstruction
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that reflection upon the Chair.
– Well, you are obstructing.
– Order! The honorable member will obey the Chair and withdraw that remark.
– Very well, then, I withdraw.
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Chairman, asked the honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw. As I understand the Standing Orders, it is also obligatory that he apologize.
– Order! If I want the honorable member to apologize, I will ask him to do so.
– Now I want to make a reference to the expenditure of the Department of the Treasury on what are known as the taxation boards of review. Recently, I asked the Treasurer a series of questions regarding these boards of review. I asked what functions they were performing, whether the expenditure at the present rate is warranted and what duties members of the boards perform, other than sitting on these tribunals from time to time. I discovered that there are three boards of review. The answers to my queries make very interesting reading, particularly as the Government in recent times has been talking about reviewing the activities and growth of the Public Service. Members of the three boards are very well remunerated. They have bad four increases of salary since 1st July, 1952, and their salaries have been increased by about 70 per cent. That is quite a substantial increase over that period. I am not arguing against the principle of having boards of review to which people who feel that they are aggrieved can apply for some relief. However, there seems to be some doubt as to whether three boards are necessary and whether the third board was not deliberately created by the Government in order to provide a well-paid position for the exsecretary to the Treasurer, who is now a member of that board. That board is said to be functioning from Brisbane. To show that the members of these boards are not overworked, I shall give the days on which they sat. From 1952-53 to 1956-57, board No. 1 sat for 36 days in one year, and 53 days, 57 days, 49 days and 42 days in subsequent years. Board No. 2 sat for about the same time, except that in the last year it sat for only 33 days. Board No. 3, which is centred on Brisbane, sat on more days, not because it had work to do in Brisbane, but because it was supposed to assist the other boards to deal with applications in the southern States. An examination of the number of days on which the individual members of the boards attended, as distinct from the number of days on which the boards were in session, shows that some of them were not very regular in their attendance. 1 asked what duties were performed by board members during the periods between sittings. I was amazed at the list of duties performed by members of the boards when they were not actually in session. The Acting Treasurer advised me that they prepare written reasons for decisions given, confer on questions of fact and law arising on references, undertake research into questions of law, study case and statute law, particularly in the revenue field, and carry out the administration of the boards. Although a valiant effort has been made to prove that the members of the boards are fully occupied, and are earning the substantial salaries that they receive, I do not think that the Acting Treasurer met with any great success. From 1st July, 1952, to 30th June, 1953, the salary payable to members of the boards was £2,350 a year, while that payable to the chairmen of the boards was £2,600 a year. Only a relatively short time has elapsed since, but, from 1st July of this year, the members of the boards are to receive £4,000 a year, and the chairmen £4,500 a year, although they sit for only the relatively small number of days that I have indicated.
The Taxation Boards of Review do not deal with a great number of cases, and it is of some importance to consider just how many they do deal with. The figures indicate that they certainly are not over-worked. The cases listed in each year from 1952-53 to 1956-57, inclusive, were: No. 1 board, 35, 65, 70, 55, 39; No. 2 board, 69, 67, 70, 68, 51; and No. 3 board, 68, 51, 87, 76,
It seems to me that this is another illustration of the Government’s policy of empirebuilding. If it has some party hack that it regards as having given good service to one of the Government parties, it creates a position for him in order to reward him. In my opinion, that was the sole purpose of the constitution of the No. 3 board. The expenditure made upon this board is not warranted. If the Government seriously proposes to do anything about reviewing the constitution and the growth of the Public Service, I hope that the review will be made by an independent authority, and not by any one with party bias, and that it will be made, not at the expense of the real workers who are doing the work, but by raking through the top ranks, where the Public Service is over-loaded and over-manned.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who made a scathing and completely unsubstantiated attack on the Government, based it on an item of £8,800 in a total vote of £9,807,000 for the Department of the Treasury. Curiously enough, the vote for this item has been reduced, because, last financial year, it was £9,400. In deference to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I shall not deal with other aspects of the honorable member’s remarks.
Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) suggested that the Superannuation Trust Fund moneys should be used to make housing loans. The honorable member for Yarra made some very peculiar observations when he supported the suggestion that the honorable member for Sturt had made. He said that, so long as trust funds are provided for in the financial statements, there is money available tor use. I think that I am right in saying, also, that he said it was immaterial to inflation whether the money in the Superannuation Trust Fund, which amounts to about £50,000,000, was used for housing, or ‘ whether housing was financed by the issue of treasury-bills, because neither method would cause any increase of inflationary pressure. It is very easy to say things like that, but it is extremely dangerous, financially. I warn the honorable member for Yarra that, even though he is supposed to be an economist of great renown, he depends on the party to which he belongs for the position that he now occupies as a member of the Parliament. The use of treasury-bills is highly inflationary. At the present time, the moneys held in the Superannuation Trust Fund are invested in Commonwealth bonds and inscribed stock, and in semi-government bonds. This means that the money is being made available for development.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. In view of your ruling that honorable members could not discuss the Government’s financial policy during the consideration of the estimates of a particular department, I ask you now how you rule in relation to the remarks of the honorable member for Hume, who is deliberately discussing the very matters to which I wanted to direct attention.
– Order! The same ruling applies to the honorable member for Hume. I shall listen to his remarks, as he continues, before making any further ruling.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that, in directing my observations to Division No. 51 - Superannuation Board - I am entitled to discuss the use of the moneys held in the trust fund. The honorable member for East Sydney should know that. The point that I wish to make about the use of those moneys for housing requires reference to the inflationary effects of the housing situation. Inflationary pressure in relation to housing has been caused by the excessive demand for homes, and the amount of money available. Therefore, I want to correct the impression that it is possible to use the money in the Superannuation Trust Fund readily for housing loans irrespective of inflation.
I wholeheartedly agree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that the family man has not been so kindly dealt with, because remissions of taxation for his benefit have been too small. The Government could do much more to improve the position of the family man. The honorable member for Mackellar also mentioned financial relations with the States. Like him, I should like to see the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States completely reviewed.
– Order! That matter appears to be beyond the scope of discussion on the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury.
– Is it not permissible to discuss it, because the vote provides for the salaries of officers who administer the grants made to the States?
– The vote relates to officers who administer payments to the States.
– The honorable member for Hume may proceed.
– The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) discussed this matter before the suspension of the sitting for lunch.
– Every one seems to be putting every one else in.
– Order! The matter is covered under the administration of the Department of the Treasury, and the honorable member for Hume is quite in order in proceeding.
– I support entirely the view taken by the honorable member for Mackellar that we should review the financial relations with the States, which, as they now stand, are destroying the federal system, because the States are continually able to make the excuse that they have been deprived of money by the hardheartedness of the Commonwealth Treasurer.
I do not agree with the honorable member for Chisholm, who attacked the Government, for using a great proportion of the proceeds of taxation for capital works. I think everybody recognizes that it is not a good practice to finance capital works out of revenue, but no critic has ever been able to offer an alternative suggestion. A vast public works programme, both State and Commonwealth, has to be undertaken, but the annual yield of the loan market is under £100,000,000, although the total loan works programme is more than £300,000,000, and none of it has ever been pointed to by the critics as being unnecessary. The criticisms have no substance, when considered in the light of the important Commonwealth projects such as the Snowy Mountains scheme and the war service homes schemes, and State works such as the construction of schools and hospitals. These capital works are necessary in this period of rapid expansion and development. Yet the critics continually charge the Government with spending too much on government works, despite the fact that none of the critics has ever been able to point to any particular works and say that we could do without them. The critics of the financial methods adopted by the Government to enable us to undertake this essential programme of works are not prepared to offer alternative suggestions for financing the programme.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) this morning gave us a most extraordinary talk on financial matters. He spoke of high taxes, and surpluses put aside out of the proceeds of taxation. All Opposition members want the Government to spend more money on this, that and the other thing, as does the honorable member for Darling. He talked also of high interest rates, but never once did he suggest a means of obtaining loan money at low interest rates.
On the question of the financing of public works and the allocation of loan funds, I do feel that many critics of the Government make use of the fact that there are important works that have to be done.
– Order! I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed with a speech on taxation and general policy. If the honorable member is answering the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) he may be in order. However, I was not here when the honorable member for Darling spoke, and apparently his remarks were wide of the mark and were not related to the matter before the committee. I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the vote for the Treasury Department.
– I shall refer to the question of financial arrangements with the States, and support the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth).
– I have since looked up that vote, and it does not come under the vote for the Department of the Treasury. 1 might explain to the committee that I gave a ruling twelve months ago to the effect that subsidiary votes attached to the various departments may be discussed in conjunction with the vote for the department itself. I adhere to that ruling this year. I have checked my earlier ruling and I have now found that the votes in connexion with the States are not specifically under the Treasury Department.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, under what department would the vote be found?
– It is under the heading of “ Special Appropriations “, and not specifically attached to the subsidiary vote for the Treasury Department, which I have ruled may be discussed in conjunction with the vote for the department.
– Mr. Chairman-
– Is the honorable member taking a point of order?
– I merely want to suggest that you might be a little more prompt in your rulings, Mr. Chairman. If you give a ruling after an honorable member has been allowed to proceed for about ten minutes, as has the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), speaking on extraneous matters not connected with the Estimates under discussion, no Opposition member then has an opportunity to reply. I ask you, therefore, to be more prompt.
.- I want to direct the attention of the committee to Division No. 53, which is tucked away at the tail end of the votes for the Treasury Department. It covers the Estimates for the Government Printing Office. Compared with total government expenditure the amount of the estimate, £362,000, is comparatively small. I wish to direct attention to the facilities and resources that are available to us through the printing industry, and of which we have not availed ourselves. Australian governments of all political complexions have taken up the challenge of broadcasting. We support and nourish the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is engaged in broadcasting the spoken word to every household in the country. There is practically nobody in the community who would not agree that this is the right and proper thing to do and that such activities should be expanded. When television came to Australia it was recognized that the Government had a responsibility to see that some authority responsible to the people had control over the new means of communication, and so we established national television stations.
I believe that we are neglecting our duty in not accepting the challenge of the printed word and failing to use the Government printing organizations to the fullest possible extent. If there is any one industry that is gradually coming under the control of fewer and fewer people it is the printing industry, or, more correctly, the publishing industry. I believe, therefore, and I put it to the committee and to the people generally, that we should use the Government Printing Office to a much greater extent to educate the community and inform them of all the ramifications of government organization, and to give them the facts of national issues in a fuller and more accurate form than would otherwise be the case.
If we were to enter this field in a big way it would not be a novel undertaking. I refer honorable members to an article entitled “ Governments as Publishers “ by Mr. Gavin Long, general editor, Official War History, appearing in the June, 1957, issue of “ Public Administration “, in which he says -
In the U.K. ail such government writings are published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. This office also organizes the supply of office equipment, books and periodicals to government departments, and maintains retail shops for the sale of government publications in London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff and Belfast. It is organized in nine divisions: Accounts, Establishment and Organization, Contracts, Printing Works, Printing and Binding, Duplicating and Distributing Publications, Supplies, Inspection and Transport. It has a Typographical Design and Layout Section. About one-third of its printing is done in its own works, and the remainder by commercial factories. Tn 1955 it had some 300,000 titles in stock; its annual sales totalled about 18,000,000 copies, and its staff numbered 6,835, including 2,311 in its printeries. In that year it received £1,192,000 from the sale of its publications, and £90,000 from the sale of waste paper recovered from departments.
When we look at the estimates under discussion we find that our Government Printer employs 140 persons, and we see that there is scope for us to expand the printing and publishing side of our organization. In a book entitled “ Five Hundred Years of Printing”, Mr. S. H. Steinberg, wrote -
Her Majesty’s Stationery Office has gone a long, way towards competing with private publishers. Especially since the beginning of the second world war the Stationery Office has been producing books on topics which stretch the conception of official or government business to its utmost limit. Books and pamphlets on art and archaeology, cooking and husbandry, anthropology and geography, social and martial affairs, historical manuscripts, and the English language are represented in Her Majesty’s Stationery Office’s list of publications.
Publications of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office have become best sellers. The one on the Battle of Britain is a case in point. The Stationery Office has a professional typographical adviser, and it has entered the field in a manner that has set standards for other printeries. In the United States of America the government printery has entered the field in a big way. In a book entitled “ Mass Communication “ Mr. Erik Barnouw says -
In 1861 the Government Printing Office had begun operation. It has become the largest and best-equipped printing plant in the world. Some 20,000 titles pour annually from its presses. Government agencies also use outside printers.
We in this Parliament are conscious, of course, of the terrific job that is done on our behalf by the Government Printer. We only have to visit his printery to realize this, or to consider the conditions under which “ Hansard “ is produced and the extraordinary difficulties that have to be overcome in the achievement of this highly complicated task.
I believe that the vote to which I have directed attention shows how we have neglected our duty to expand the work of the Government Printer and so take up the challenge of the printed word. Let us examine the general position in the Australian printing field, particularly with regard to the control of the great press organizations. In all the capital cities the control of the great newspapers is passing into fewer and fewer hands. We have only to read the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and to peruse lists of shareholders of the companies holding television licences to be alarmed at the possibility, and the increasing probability, of the whole field of mass communication in this country falling into the hands of persons who are not directly responsible in any way to the people of Australia. Within the last year we saw the collapse of a newspaper in Melbourne, the “ Argus “, which had been published for 100 years. This was a significant event in the field of mass communication. This Parliament should take up the challenge and should arrange for the Government Printing Office to produce for the people simple accounts of government work and details of events affecting our national life. We should be engaged in publishing to the same extent as the governments of the United Kingdom and, to a lesser extent in comparison to the size of the nation, of the United States of America.
There are an astonishing number of directions in which we can embark on printing projects. I have just been down to the office of the Clerk of Records and Papers to take a copy of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. That is probably one of the most important documents that the Government Printer publishes. It costs only 2s. 3d., but 1 should imagine that one would have to search very diligently to find it on any bookstall. The Government Printer should have a publishing section to supply such publications to the general public. This document should be in every house in the Commonwealth, lt is fundamental to our whole system. I hope that the Government will fulfil the promise made by the Governor-General in his Speech at the beginning of last year that the people of Australia would have an opportunity to amend the Constitution by referendum in the near future. It is fundamental to the whole concept of government that a copy of this book should be in every household and in such a form that every one would read and understand it. If this were done everybody would be able to go to the poll with a clear appreciation of the issues involved. The failure of past referendums must be laid at the door, not of governments, but of the Parliament. We have failed to place the full facts before the people so that they could correctly make up their minds.
It is unlikely that copies of the Constitution, even if placed o.i the bookstalls in their present form, would sell for 2s. 3d. So we should examine the competition which we must meet. We will have to put out our documents in such a form that they will be attractive and people will want to read them. One has only to examine the report of Qantas to see what 1 mean. That is a very attractive publication. When one sees it one wants to pick it up and read it. The whole system of democratic government depends on an informed public. It depends on a public which is keen, eager, and enthusiastic to find out what is going on.
If we look at the annual catalogue of Australian publications we find that government publications are listed from pages 78 to 142. Each of those documents is important to a fairly large section of the community, but most people have no way of obtaining them. Any publication that is of concern to a large number of people should be on the bookstalls. If there is anything lacking in this community generally it is reasonably produced and reasonably priced factual and objective publications about social conditions and even about politics. The Government should enter that field. Just as the Government has established the daily broadcasting services of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, bringing the news to the people every day;’ just as we have established the television network, which aims to bring some sort of objectivity into that field; so we should be prepared to enter the field of publishing daily newspapers. After all, the Commonwealth has its own territories so that there would be no necessity to consider the constitutional aspect. It is becoming vitally important that we take up the challenge of the printed word. Control of the means of communicating information is in the hands of big monopoly interests. Those interests control completely our daily newspapers and extend into the theatre and broadcasting fields. In this regard, Parliament is the responsible body and the decisions will have to be made here.
Even in narrower fields there are many ways in which we could expand the work of the Government Printing Office. The historical records of Australia have been out of publication for about 30 years.
Every secondary school in the Commonwealth should have a copy of them, if necessary supplied by the Commonwealth Government. Many of the publications of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should go, as of right, to the secondary schools at least. Most of the educational institutions of the Commonwealth are starved for factual, objective printed material and this is a field into which the Commonwealth could enter without a great deal of difficulty. We have the skilled men, we have the machinery. We have the opportunity to do something in a big way. I believe that the challenge of the whole field of mass communications should be taken up by this Parliament and that the Government Printing Office should be in the vanguard of the advance into that field.
.- This morning, some discussion took place about the £50,000,000 that is in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) objected to some points raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) suggested that the £50,000,000 in the superannuation fund should be invested in housing. He said that housing was a good field of investment for such an accumulated fund. I think the honorable member for Hume misunderstood the point made by the honorable member for Yarra. I think the point that the honorable member for Yarra was driving at was. a valid one. It was that we have a great belief sometimes that to accumulate funds, such as we would have if we had a scheme of national insurance, it is somehow sounder than making payments out of current income. The reality is that no matter how much old people may have contributed in the past towards a superannuation fund, when they actually become drawers on the fund the value of their pensions will depend not only on past accumulations but on the current position of the nation. After all, even if I have saved for ten years, when I start living on my savings I am drawing on the nation’s current production of food and other necessities. Monetary policy is a device for mobilizing that production as of now and directing it towards the people who need it now. The honorable member for Yarra did admit the psychological and moral value of the confidence that is gained when there are accumulations of funds. The real contribution that this kind of compulsory saving makes towards the time when you actually come to depend upon it is that you abstain from consuming now and so it leads to an accumulation of goods or an accumulation of capital which will effectually supply the goods upon which you depend. I think that was the point that the honorable member was driving at.
The honorable member for Sturt in his plea for governmental housing from such funds as this should recognize the fact that if you do have a large public investment on housing - and I believe in a large public investment on housing - you are going to reduce the returns from private investment on housing. After all, private investment on housing does have an interest in getting a high return from it, and the greater the shortage of houses the higher will be the return.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), speaking this morning about the administration of the Treasury, dealt with bonds and he spoke about devices that the Treasury might consider for making bonds more attractive. I think we should face the fact that in 10 years of an inflationary situation, without anybody intending it, we do have dishonesty in public finance. I do not mean conscious dishonesty but unconscious dishonesty. If you subscribed to a loan of £100 in 1945 when the basic wage was £4 5s., you put 23i weeks of work into that loan. If that face value of £100 is given back to you to-day, it represents eight weeks of the basic wage. That is the fundamental situation which exists, and it is basically the reason why bonds are regarded as a bad investment. While there is the problem that the money will not be forthcoming if the interest rates are not raised, every time they are raised the value of formerly issued bonds is further destroyed. Consequently I do not know of any government in the contemporary world - because it is a world of inflation - which has solved this problem. This morning the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) expressed a view which is held by other honorable members on the Government side, that it is undesirable for a large part of public works to be financed out of revenue instead of out of loans. I cannot fathom their reasoning. In an inflationary situation it is the wisest way to finance public works. When the Government undertakes the construction of a huge public works, such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, it is constantly paying out wages. The money spent is not recovered immediately through production. When the electricity supply is available all sorts of goods will be produced, but a heavy public works programme is an inflationary programme and the wisest way is to finance part of it out of loan moneys. If savings are mobilized - which otherwise would not be mobilized - and are injected into the community as a means of financing public works, the inflationary effect is aggravated, whereas if it is made compulsory to finance them out of taxation revenue - money taken from the people’s existing incomes - such a method does not have an inflationary effect. In a period of boom it is a wise policy to finance public works, as far as possible, out of revenue, but in a period of slump, it is wise to finance them out of treasury-bills or out of loans. It was one of the late Mr. Chifley’s leading convictions that we should not pass all the costs of public works on to posterity. He considered that it was sound policy to finance a large part of them out of revenue, and that policy has been followed by every government which has governed Australia since 1941.
There are some points about this estimate which seem difficult to understand. Every subdivision has a considerable allowance for temporary and casual employees. In the administrative section, the salaries of temporary and casual employees represent about one-tenth of those of the permanent employees. In the Taxation Branch, apparently the policy is followed each year of taking on a large number of temporary and casual employees. Their’ salaries represent one-fifth of the salaries of the permanent employees. In the case of the Government Printing Office, however, the appropriation for temporary and casual employees is shown in item 53 as greater than that for the permanent staff last year, and the Government expects that it will be much the same this year. I know that there is frequent criticism of the Government for enlarging the numbers of employees in the Public Service, but in spite of all this vague talk about bureaucracy,
Australia is extremely well served by its Public Service, which is extremely honest and efficient. Administrative costs, in relation to the general management of the Budget and governmental expenditure, are quite low.
Every year we have this kind of discussion about the enormous administrative costs, and the point has now been reached when even a technically advised body like the Taxpayers Association imagines that there are vast possibilities for reduction in taxes by reducing the number of public servants. I think the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had to reiterate what his predecessor had to say, that if the entire Public Service were sacked and went completely out of existence - which would be an impossible situation - taxes would be reduced by only 5 per cent. So, it is not the salaries of the Public Service that are responsible for this enormous expenditure of the Commonwealth. This kind of talk, which has now gone on for years, has made the Government completely defensive regarding the number of people it employs. The public demand more and more service from the Government, but apparently they expect it from fewer and fewer employees.
I am rather inclined to suspect that in such a strange situation as that which exists in the Government Printing Office, where the appropriation for temporary and casual employees’ salaries exceeds that of the salaries of permanent employees, the Government is trying to show that it is not taking on more public servants but that they are employed in only a temporary and casual capacity. This Parliament demands of the Government Printer more and more printing services, but it is reluctant to give him the permanent staff which our own policy and the policy of many government departments indicates that he needs.
It is time that we honestly faced this question of the Public Service and, quite frankly, told the Australian community that we have an efficient public service and that we should not be so defensive on the subject of government employment. The Public Service is comprised of skilled, professional and clerical people. They are often under attack but, in most cases, they have no opportunity to reply.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) spoke about the need to encourage saving. Unfortunately, all our lectures on this subject will mean nothing if we cannot solve the problem of the constant inflation which is going on in the Australian community. There was a time when it was good advice to tell a young man not to buy goods on time payment but to put his money in the bank. But now, as a young married man, if he invested in a refrigerator which, in 1951, cost £200 but in 1957 cost £350, he would be much wiser to start his time payment in 1951, in an inflationary situation and have the benefit of the low price - if the price was bound to go higher - than if he left his £100 in the bank in 1951. If we are unable to cope with inflation any more successfully than we have coped with it in the last six years, he would be unwise, in his own interests, to wait until 1957 before he drew his £100 out of the bank.
It is in the advice which the Treasury gives, most of which may be unpopular, that we will find the basic answer to inflation, but it is largely a question of whether the government of the day and the Parliament are prepared to stand by policies which are basically honest. It is dishonest policy to borrow from people and pay them back later with inflated money. The community has an interest not in deflation but in pegging the present level to prevent further inflation. If this Parliament could* really stick to the kind of advice which, over the years, the Treasury has given, it would find that it would serve the Australian community better.
Many things have been said about the Department of the Treasury, but it is important to remember that the period during which its influence was highest was between 1939 and 1945. At that time the war was in progress, but no country in the world has a record equal to that of Australia for arresting inflation. That is shown by the fact that the basic wage during that time increased from £3 17s. to only £4 5s. Bonds bought in 1939 were cashed, immediately after the war, at much the same value at which they were taken out. That was an extraordinarily fine performance.
– While we are dealing with the estimates for the Department of the
Treasury, I take the opportunity to express, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee and therefore as one who comes in close touch with officers of the Treasury, the opinion that the officers of this department are a very efficient body of men indeed. When, from time to time, we inquire into the reasons for certain expenditure and advances above the amounts approved in the Estimates, we find that the officers of the Treasury are always very well acquainted with the actions of the various departments. It is very rarely that they cannot almost immediately explain action that has been taken by the departments in connexion with matters that concern the Treasury and its control over departmental activities.
I think that it would do us good if, at times, we considered the responsibilities of the Treasury and the way in which they are discharged. For instance, it takes a tremendous amount of work, over a long period of time, to prepare estimates such as those that we are now considering, and to present them to the Parliament in this form. Only yesterday, during the debate on another subject, I heard honorable members, including some from this side of the chamber, refer to the desirability of earlier production of the Budget, so that increases of pension rates, for instance, could date from 1st July. I do not intend to go into the merits of that matter now; I shall content myself with reminding honorable members that before the Budget and the Estimates can be placed before the Parliament, the Treasury officials must have a reasonably accurate idea of the money that will be available for expenditure. They get to work months beforehand, on the basis of estimates submitted by the various departments. Unless the Treasury officials have a fair idea of the amount of money that will be available, they can not determine accurately the allocations to the various departments.
The officers of the Treasury have a very difficult job in compiling these documents that come before us, and generally speaking, I find that the estimates are considered thoroughly. If honorable members have taken note of the reports submitted to the Parliament by the Public Accounts Committee, particularly that in relation to the Supplementary Estimates, in respect of which we inquired into expenditure in excess of allocations on the basis of the previous year’s Estimates, they will have appreciated that quite a lot of difficulties are involved in estimating, and that quite a lot of mistakes occur.
I was rather intrigued by the remarks of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) in connexion with the publications issued by the Government Printer, and his suggestion that books, papers, and other publications should be available on bookstalls so that people could purchase them. His remarks reminded me of how we have loaded the Government Printer with work, and that we do not give him a reasonable opportunity to do his work in the way that he desires to do it. The time is long overdue for consideration of the need to provide the Government Printer with an up-to-date printing office. Because the Government Printer occupies buildings which were constructed many years ago, when the calls upon him were not nearly so great as they are to-day, the machines that are needed now cannot be installed, and, in addition, he is not able to make the best use of the machines that are there. Honorable members know as well as I do that even the bound copies of “ Hansard “, which are prepared from year to year, have been years behind for a considerable time. Admittedly, the Government Printer is catching up a little now.
When I first came to this Parliament, I could not understand why it was that we could not, by about the end of the first quarter of the calendar year, obtain bound copies of “ Hansard “ for the previous year. In South Australia, where the Parliament usually finished its sittings at about the end of November, we always had the bound copies within a few months of the end of the year. I could not understand why the preparation of the bound copies should be so long delayed here, but as time went on I found that it was not the fault of the Government Printer, but, rather, that of governments and of the Parliament in not making available to the Government Printer sufficient funds to push on with the work that needed to be done. I know that this matter has received attention from time to time, but I feel a little sorry for the Government Printer when we find in the Estimates errors that are due, not to him, but to the Parliament itself.
As I have said on previous occasions, honorable members get up in this chamber and castigate the Commissioner of Taxation because they are obliged to make out their taxation returns in a certain way. They complain of the difficulties that are involved. But many of these difficulties are due to the fact that when we want taxation allowances or concessions, we come to the Parliament and try to get the Government to amend the law. If we succeed, the Taxation Branch has to see to it that the amendment is made in such a way that the possibility of abuse will be remote. Ultimately, we get something that the ordinary .layman finds it very difficult to follow. The position is not so bad for the wage and salary earner, but for those engaged in primary production or in business the preparation of income tax returns is a difficult job. Many people say straight out, “ I do not understand it. The only thing I can do is to go to a taxation agent and get him to do the job for me “. They depend on the knowledge and ability of taxation agents to prepare their returns.
Some time ago, we approved the publication of a daily “ Hansard “. When we did so, we immediately piled on the Government Printer a tremendous amount of extra work. As honorable members know, the sitting concluded last night at about 11.15, and before 1 1 o’clock this morning we had received from the Government Printer copies of “ Hansard “, recording yesterday’s proceedings. It takes money to do that, and it also takes a considerable quantity of material. I do not wish to deal with this matter in any other way than to point out the difficulties that are involved in it, but when we refer to the estimates of expenditure on parliamentary printing, we find that, last year, the Government Printer was of the opinion, after he had conferred with officers of the Treasury on the matter, that he would require £88,000 for that purpose. Yet, we see in the Estimates that he spent not £88,000 but £138,000. So, there was over expenditure in connexion with that item, and the Public Accounts Committee has stated in its report that it thinks that a better approximation of the actual expenditure should have been made in that case. Whilst, in our report, we may have reflected on the Government Printer to a certain extent, at the same time we appreciate the difficulties that have been heaped upon him in his attempts to meet our needs from day to day. I quite appreciate how that man could be let down.
One of the explanations given for the failure to estimate correctly expenditure by the Government Printing Office was that his estimate was based on the cost of paper of a certain quality for the printing of “ Hansard “. But a committee of this Parliament decided that they wanted “ Hansard “ to be printed on a better kind of paper. The newsprint that was being used was not good enough. We had to have nicer paper, as the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has stated, in order to make “ Hansard “ more attractive. Consequently, the Parliament asked that a far more expensive paper be used, and the purchase of that paper accounted for a lot of the increased expenditure. So I say to honorable members that in comparing the previous estimates of departments with their expenditure for the last financial year they should not be too ready to blame the departmental officers for expenditure additional to their estimates. Honorable members will find - and newspaper reporters should note this - that the additional expenditure is often incurred at the direction of the Parliament itself, or of Ministers or of senior departments.
I now want to refer to one or two matters that were mentioned by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). He spoke on the use of revenue for capital works, a subject on which other honorable members have also spoken. I was always in agreement with the late Mr. Chifley when he took the view that in prosperous times, when money is coming in, debts should not be incurred which might have to be paid in bad times. I believe that while times are good we should pay for all that we possibly can with our available money, and that we should not adopt the policy, which some people want to adopt, of letting posterity pay. Posterity can properly be expected to pay for benefits that it will receive, but do not let us conduct our financial affairs in the way that the finances of the State railways have been conducted. Practically every railway system in Australia, apart from the Commonwealth Railways, has debts which were heaped up years ago. Those debts were incurred for capital expenditure on railway engines, trucks and other equipment which are now worn out, yet the railways have to pay interest and liquidation charges on them. The people who incurred those debts in the first place thought, “ Let posterity pay “. So when, in times of prosperity, we take more from taxation than we actually need for current expenses, and use some of it for capital purposes, I think that we are doing right.
.- Some of the statements which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) made earlier attracted my attention. The honorable member queried the amount in the Treasury estimates for advertising. My understanding is that that amount is used for selling government bonds. That is a difficult task. There is some increase in the expenditure which requires justifying. It may be justified by the fact that it is an increasingly difficult job to sell government bonds. In fact, at current rates of interest, it is a wonder that people who are able to invest otherwise do, in fact, continue to buy government bonds in the volume that they buy them
The honorable member went on to note a curious fact. That was that a large volume of the public debt is held by Commonwealth agencies. Surely, in this field, there is a vast difference between the amount of securities held by trust funds, which themselves are government accounts, and the securities held by institutions such as the Commonwealth Savings Bank, life insurance companies and various other agencies, which represent the aggregate of very small amounts of individual savings. Any idea which might be spread abroad that these block holdings of Commonwealth Government securities by these institutions were, in reality, a kind of government property could have a very serious effect on the confidence of those who have bank accounts and life insurance policies.
I was encouraged by one remark that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) made about the importance of directing our tax policy towards actual investment by companies and individuals in capital equipment. It is equipment that makes for higher investment. If, in fact, we could implement that policy it would carry this country a long way further forward. At last we are waking up to what the Soviet leaders realized twenty years ago - that the basis of civilization and progress depends very largely on the proportion of income invested in further productive enterprise, which then snowballs, and on the education of the population in the ways of science and its practical application. We now find ourselves a generation behind the Soviet in that respect.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) referred to the Commonwealth Superannuation Board. One unsatisfactory feature of the board’s operations relates to the decisions that it makes from time to time. Under previous governments, members of the Public Service who resigned, and the estates of those who died before they retired were repaid only the actual contributions they had paid into the fund. They received no interest on their money in respect of the years during which it had been held by the fund. Furthermore, they did not receive any of the corresponding amount paid in by the Government, to which they were entitled in lieu of various other award advantages which they might have had but for the fact of those payments being made. If employment is to be flexible so that the Commonwealth Public Service may attract people from outside, and also give a lead in undertaking other forms of activity, a much more flexible superannuation arrangement is highly desirable.
One of my constituents, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), referred, perhaps out of order, to the credit restriction policy of the Government.
– Does the honorable member think that the honorable member for Darling votes for him?
– He would if he were a man of sound judgment. I am afraid that my constituent is not as honest as he might have been, if one considers his speech as a whole. He deplored the credit restrictions, as so many do, but it would be a much more honest procedure if those who criticize the present credit restrictions also advocated what would go with a relaxation of those restrictions - that is, further inflation and an increase in the price level. With restrictions operating in the last twelve months prices have increased by 6 per cent.; and it is true that you could relax the restrictions, reduce interest rates to a very low level and do all the other things that my con stituent desires to do, provided you were prepared to let prices rise considerably faster than the 6 per cent, per annum. 1 should like to utter a plea for a better view of the Department of the Treasury because, as distinct from its taxation wing, that department is perhaps the taxpayer’s only friend in the whole of the government services. The function of the Treasury is basically the allocation of the resources of the country. First of all it plays a part in deciding what proportion of the country’s resources should be absorbed by government as a whole; secondly, it has to decide within the field of government how the allocation is to be applied to different uses. This is such a basic and important function that in the United Kingdom there are in the Treasury half a dozen officials, apart from the head of the Treasury, who are the equal in rank and status of the head of any other department. The United Kingdom has a flexible system whereby people go out of the Treasury and come into the Treasury from other departments. This function of allocating the nation’s resources is one which requires the highest talent that the Government can command. It is not only necessary for the Treasury to stop many things being done, but it is also necessary for it to let desirable projects go through. The Treasury is one of the few departments where the number of first-class salaries does not exceed the supply of first-class talent. The Treasury’s task has, in fact, been made difficult by the reorganization schemes of other departments and the constant tendency to siphon off personnel from one department to another. I utter the plea to the Government to have a close look at the need to increase the relative power of the Treasury in this regard. I believe that as a consequence we would have a much better economic application of the resources absorbed by government.
.- We are considering the estimates for the Treasury, which amount to £9,807,000. One might almost regard the Treasury as the heart in the organism of public administration. T should like to join with other honorable members in paying a tribute to the efficiency of the staff of this great section of public administration. I have had opportunities to judge the great work of these people, and I have been amazed at times by the highly technical character of certain of the decisions they are required to make, and by how well-informed are the men who are called to make those decisions. It is gratifying and reassuring to a committee of the Parliament that the men engaged in this responsible Public Service have such a splendid record. But it must not be thought that in heaping encomiums on the staff of the Treasury we are doing any injustice towards the staffs of other government departments who might feel that they deserve similar praise.
I rose principally to bring to the attention of the committee the serious circumstances of retired public servants who were engaged in the work of the departments whose activities we review in the debate on the Estimates. These retired public servants are required to subsist on superannuation pensions which, as a result of increased costs and prices, are now insufficient for their needs. I wonder whether there is some means that the Superannuation Board could find whereby some adjustment could be made to those superannuation pensions, thus making available extra and more generous provision for these retired public servants. Honorable members will realize that the people concerned have rendered very great service to the Commonwealth and are justified in expecting some consideration at our hands in order to help them in serious circumstances which are not attributable to any fault of theirs. I hope honorable members will be considerate to those people.
I should like to join with honorable members who have expressed concern over the lack of buoyancy in investment in Commonwealth loans. There is some unwillingness on the part of the investing public to respond to appeals to invest in public loans. Of course, unfortunately, the Government itself is largely responsible for that condition of affairs because it depreciated the value of earlier Commonwealth loan securities by increasing the interest rate on current loans. Those who contributed to loans during the war period are receiving a low rate of interest and their investment has substantially depreciated. Therefore, there is a natural reluctance to place money in loans. I suggest that the interest rates of earlier loans should be re-adjusted. The interest rates should be averaged in some way so that those who invested in the earlier loans will receive some real value for their money. The Treasury officials should be able to find a formula to help those who have invested in these securities. If that were done, Commonwealth loans would be regarded more favourably by the investing community. A grave injustice has been done and will continue to be done to those who loyally invested in Commonwealth loans during a serious national emergency. They are at a great disadvantage when compared with those who invested in other securities. Every effort should be made to restore public confidence in Commonwealth loans and to make them what they were at one time - a gilt-edged security. A review by Treasury officials along the lines I have suggested would materially assist in the administration of the national economy.
.- I wish to deal primarily with the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). He said that democratic processes were inefficient when compared with those of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and that we were a generation behind the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in our ability to gear our economy to our national needs. I agree with that view. Of course, it is only another way of saying that the ability of totalitarian powers to maintain efficiency is something to be desired but that we believe we can outmatch our opponents at the right time.
The honorable member mentioned the two-fold functions of the Treasury - first, to watch the finances of the nation as a whole and to take into account the international picture so far as our overseas balances are concerned, and, secondly, to police, regulate and control the efficient use of appropriations to the various departments during the year. He referred to the practice in Great Britain, which is for senior officials from other departments to serve in the Treasury and for Treasury officials to serve in the various departments. The second phase received its greatest impetus during the war, and I have referred to it from time to time in this chamber. With Treasury officials serving in other departments, administrative power can be effectively delegated. The man on the spot has the right to make decisions and to commit expenditure for various projects. Such a procedure would, mean that we would have to plan our programmes, at least two and a half, years ahead and place orders with industry accordingly, but it would mean also that much of the inefficiency, of which the honorable member” for Wentworth complained and of which we are all aware, would be. largely off-set. I believe that the charge, of inefficiency is well founded.
We are told that the people wield sovereign power, but we see orders and regulations pass through the Parliament from time to time unnoticed, or without sufficient attention being given to them. The sovereign power of the people, because of abuses of parliamentary processes - and both- sides transgress in this way - passes from the Parliament to the Executive, which is Cabinet, and quite often through Cabinet to the permanent heads- of the departments. Worse still, the power can pass through Parliament, through the Executive, and into the hands of a party boss or some one who has subscribed liberally to party funds. In all fairness, I do not think we have seen that happen in this country to the same extent as it has been apparent in other countries, such as the United States of America. The danger is that, through our indifference, legislative processes pass from Parliament into the hands of the Executive and the Executive is able to govern by regulation. Instead’ of being vested in the Parliament, the power to govern by regulation remains outside the Parliament. Sometimes we do not look closely enough at legislation which confers a power to make regulations and do not ensure that those regualtions shall be capable of receiving constructive criticism from the Parliament. We have only ourselves to blame for this position; we cannot blame the people for indifference.
It. is said that numbers count. Nothing could be further from the truth. That expression was coined at the turn of the century, and it means simply that quantity and not quality counts. That is why most of the real authority of the Parliament has slipped away from it unnoticed into the hands of the Executive. Regardless of the reasons- why Ministers do not attend to what are apparently details, if they have too much to do, or are not inclined to attend to what they have to do, the real power slips from the Executive
Therefore, I support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Wentworth that senior officers be sent to the Department of the Treasury from other departments. I suggest that the British procedure, which worked very well during World War II., could be adopted, and extended, and that senior officers of the Treasury could go out into the other departments. This would facilitate the making of decisions on the spot, and it would not be necessary to control the vast machinery of government from a centralized source of power in Canberra. Under such- a system, the- administration of Victoria would not be centralized in Melbourne, that of the United Kingdom in Whitehall, or that of the United States in Washington. If power can be effectively decentralized in the departments by cooperation between the Treasury and the other departments, a lot of the justifiable criticism of the democracies as being inefficient compared with the autocracies would be avoided.
– I wish to take up a point mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) in relation to the problem of the national debt. As I indicated this morning, and as the honorable member mentioned, something like 55 per cent, of the national debt is held by the Commonwealth and its agencies, and by the States and their agencies. Despite what the honorable member said, the fact that so much of the debt is held by official agencies, rather than by private individuals, or private financial institutions, makes a great deal of difference to the management of the country’s national debt. Next to the government holdings, the most significant holdings of the national debt are those of what could be called institutional investors, namely, insurance companies, trustee companies, superannuation funds and the like. Although these investors want as high an interest rate as they can get, their main concern is with security of investment. Perhaps the most insignificant national debt holdings are those of what may be called the small individual investors, whom the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) mentioned earlier.
It seems to me that, unless this problem is approached in a fundamentally different way, small investors will not be encouraged to invest in government securities. If they are to be encouraged to do so, the Government and the Treasury must provide for them an investment that will relieve them of the pressure of the market, which, in Australia, is the setting for a battle between government buyers, on the one side, and financial institutions, on the other, Earlier to-day, the thirty-fourth annual report of the National Debt Commission was tabled in this chamber. At page 10, the report gives details of securities re-purchased by the commission during the financial year 1956-57. I direct the attention of the committee particularly to the re-purchases of Commonwealth 3i per cent, securities maturing on 15th August, 1964. Those securities still have some seven years to run. Securities in this class, of a total face value of £5,763,340, were re-purchased by the commission for £5,035,197 3s. 3d. In other words, the holders of those investments lost approximately £730,000. The average re-purchase price was £87 7s. 4d.
I know that it is difficult to obtain accurate information about these things, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but I suspect that the Treasury and the banking agencies could provide, if they wanted to, far more accurate information about these matters than they disclose at present. My feeling is that most of the bonds re-purchased by the National Debt Commission in this way had been purchased originally by patriotic people who invested in Commonwealth securities during World War II., thinking that they were gilt-edged investments. Those people, not being financial geniuses, and not knowing that, in fifteen or twenty years, inflation would be so severe and interest rates would have risen, had no idea that, if they wished to realize on their investment, for reasons that appeared to themselves good and sufficient, they would suffer a capital loss of £12 12s. 8d. in every £100, in addition to the loss caused by the inroads of inflation.
Opposition members have suggested several times that the Government should devise a security of a special type, similar to the war savings certificates issued during the war, which could not lose their capital value. If such securities were issued, there would be at least some inducement for the genuine small investor to subscribe to government loans, and there would be no danger of his being the victim of fluctuations in the interest rate, which are primarily the concern of governments, on the one hand, and financial institutions, on the other. It seems to me to be unreal to think that small investors should suffer. It may be that the battle between the government agencies and the financial institutions would continue, but the small investor could at least be isolated from it.
I should like the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to throw some light on another matter. I refer to Item No. 5 under Division No. 48 - Taxation Branch - B. General Expenses, which reads, “ Law costs, £89,000”, and I cite a case that was referred to recently in the’ “Australian Accountant “ of September last. The case, which was heard in the High Court of Australia, is the case of “ Federal Commissioner of Taxation v. Anderson “, and is reported in 6 Australian Income Tax Reports, at page 324. The case went first to one of the taxation boards of review, which were mentioned by my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The board of review decided in favour of the taxpayer, but the Commissioner of Taxation appealed. It seems to me that he did so on very good grounds. The decision appears to have been a very strange one for the board to make in the first place. In the High Court, the case was decided in favour of the Commissioner of Taxation. In the “Australian Accountant”, it is stated that Mr. Justice McTiernan, in his judgment, said -
In view of this, it is difficult to understand the reasoning of the board of review. Later in the report in the “ Australian Accountant “ the following note appears: -
It is of interest to note that following upon an agreement between the Commissioner and the taxpayer, the solicitor’s costs incurred by the taxpayer in connexion with the appeal to the High Court were paid by the Commissioner.
I should like to be informed, if not now, then at a later stage, in what circumstances the Commissioner exercises a discretion such as this, which seems to me to be a very important one, enabling him to say to a litigant against the Crown, “ Even if you lose this case we will pay your costs “. On what grounds are decisions such as that made? I understand that in some instances it would be a very fair provision, and at least in this instance the Commissioner of Taxation obtained an intelligent reading of the law, which should, in my view, have been beyond dispute in the first place. However, I should like to know from the Government on what grounds this concession is extended to a litigant against the Commissioner of Taxation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed Vote, £1,845,000.
.- I wish to address myself to that part of the vote for the Attorney-General’s Department which concerns the Crown Solicitor’s office. Honorable members will be aware that it is not unusual for the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor to be invited to give opinions on various aspects of the law and to represent the Government in litigation. This afternoon I want to request that the Crown Solicitor’s office be prevailed upon to give an opinion upon the meaning of an act passed by this Parliament fifteen years ago. The act to which I refer is the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act. You will be well aware, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the forms of the House which are applicable at question time and to questions on notice do not provide for an honorable member to solicit an opinion from a member of the Cabinet, and so I have perforce to follow this procedure in an endeavour to asceratin the meaning of one particular section of the Statute of Westminster, which, on the surface, seems to offer great possibilities. I refer to section 4 of the statute itself, which reads -
No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment hereof. lt may be thought that this is a settled business and that nothing is to be gained by looking at it in retrospectivity. That is one point of view; I do not dismiss it although I do not subscribe to it. What is exercising my mind is this question: ls it possible to use the requesting power contained in the Statute of Westminster virtually to destroy the federal system of government in Australia? Honorable gentlemen sitting opposite may have their own points of view on the subject. My friend, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) spoke earlier this evening of the almost raging ignorance of the Australian Constitution among the people of this country, and he stated that it would be highly desirable if the people could gain greater knowledge of Australian constitutional matters. With that suggestion I wholeheartedly agree, but the honorable member is committed, by virtue of his political alliance and association, to the destruction of the federal system of government in Australia. That is his point of view; he is entitled to hold it and to prosecute it, even though I am diametrically opposed to it.
Let me take the committee back to some kind of starting point in this matter. When the draft of the Statute of Westminster was considered in 1931, the former right honorable and learned member for Kooyong, now Sir John Latham, had this to say about it -
I am afraid that if the Statute of Westminster, which purports to define and settle intergovernmental practice, is passed in its present form, the practice of the British Government will be to accept without examination, any request from the government of a dominion, and to legislate accordingly. That will mean a marked change from the existing procedure. At present there is a general understanding that the supreme legislative powers of the British Parliament will not be used unless that is substantially desired by the people of the Dominion concerned. That is a loose power to be applied according to circumstances. I say with hesitation, but with a sense of responsibility, that in the unsettled economic and financial condition of the world at the present time, and in view of what may happen in the next few years, recourse to the supreme legislature of the British Empire may be a valuable privilege, especially having regard to the legal complications of the Australian Federal system. If, however, the Statute is passed as drafted, a request by the government of a Dominion will be final.
I now come to a point of view which was expressed by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) when he was a justice of the High Court of this country. In his book, “ The King and His Dominion Government “, which is of great value not only because of its proven constitutional importance but because of the considerable research that it involved, the right honorable member said, when dealing with the section to which I have referred -
The mere form of Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster may ‘Suggest that an Act of Parliament of the United -Kingdam can legally extend to a Dominion so long as it contains a declaration
I hat the Dominion has requested and consented to the legislation. But the substance of the section is that such a request and consent must be obtained before ‘any Act of the -United Kingdom Parliament can be deemed to extend to a Dominion. And this is in accordance with the established constitutional position referred to in the preamble to the Statute … It is one of the paradoxes of the constitutional position evidenced by the Statute of Westminster that, without the slightest reference of the issue to the people of a Dominion, the status of any of the Dominions may be formally surrendered by its Parliament (for the time being) requesting the necessary constitutional legislation from the Parliament of the United Kingdom. That this is not a mere hypothesis is shown by the diminution of constitutional status accepted by the Parliament of Newfoundland without any express consultation of the people of that Dominion.
Later in that work the right honorable gentleman added something of a caveat when he said -
But, even in such cases, the Parliament is the Parliament for the time being only, and it does not necessarily reflect the will of the electorate for all purposes and at all times. It will therefore have to be considered by the Dominion peoples whether special safeguards are not required to prevent a complacent Parliament from surrendering constitutional .powers by the method permitted by Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster, and without the specific consent or authority of the Dominion .people concerned.
Sir John Latham in 1931 pointed to what appeared to him to be a very real weakness in the draft of the Statute of Westminster, and a few years later, the right honorable member for Barton, again referring to the weakness, issued a warning suggesting that suitable barriers and safeguards should be erected. But then came October, 1943, when this Parliament passed the bill adopting the Statute of Westminster. In this Parliament on that occasion the right honorable member for Barton said -
Section 4 provides that no future legislation of the Imperial Parliament shall extend to a Dominion unless the legislation contains a clause stating that the application has been requested and consented to by the Dominion - “which, in respect of the Commonwealth, means the Parliament and Government of the Commonwealth. That is one of the amendments in the Statute of Westminster in 1931 that Sir John Latham suggested. But for its insertion it would have : been possible for the Government of this country to ask the Imperial Parliament to pass a law in relation to Australia. The safeguard provided was-
This is important -
The safeguard .provided was that such a request should be made, not by the Government alone, but by both Houses of Parliament. . . The practical effect of the adoption of section 4 will be twofold: First, a ready indication to the courts of whether or not the legislation applies to the Commonwealth; that is, does it contain the requesting and consenting clause, or not? The request and consent must go from both the Parliament and the Government df the Commonwealth, not merely from the Government itself.
Well, from the ‘viewpoint of constitutional accuracy the distinction is very real, but from the viewpoint of practical politics it amounts to nothing. A government that would use the requesting power of the Statute of Westminster could presumably be supposed to be in control of the Parliament. In other words it would be able, if legislation was introduced into this Parliament requesting United Kingdom legislation to apply to Australia, to ensure that that legislation would be passed. Also, when the adoption legislation was being considered by this Parliament, the honorable member for Barton said -
Yesterday I received from the Premier of Victoria a letter in which he again suggested that there should be inserted, not in the section-
That is section 4 - but in the preamble, a provision to the effect that it would not be in accordance with practice that the Commonwealth should make such a request, unless the matter were within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Of course, I do not think that the House should adopt such a formula. Our right to request should not be limited to matters within our exclusive jurisdiction, but to matters within our jurisdiction.
As I said at the outset, I am simply asking the Attorney-General’s Department for a considered opinion on the legislative possibilities of section 4 of the Statute of Westminster. Would it be possible for an. extremist-minded government in this country to connive with an extremistminded government in the United Kingdom to request that legislation passed in the United Kingdom should apply to Australia? I am not dogmatic on the point. Indeed, the only thing that is certain about the Statute of Westminster seems to be its uncertainty. It has ;been described by Lord
Jowitt as a statute of stupendous significance. This is a matter which I believe is entitled to some consideration. I have been unable to find any settled opinion on the precise meaning of section 4 of the Statute of Westminster. That is why I ask the Attorney-General’s Department to prepare an opinion referring to the legislative possibilities of section 4 of the statute.
.- I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) as to the possibilities that might emerge if his fears are correct. I do not agree with the honorable member’s remarks, but I do agree with his request that an opinion be obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department. I agree with that because if there are any doubts surrounding this matter it is desirable that they be resolved as authoritatively as possible. Unfortunately, there is no provision within the High Court for a declaratory judgment, although such a situation as this is an obvious argument for power in the High Court to deliver such a judgment. Provision should be made for argument to be put to the High Court, so that it could consider all aspects and hand down a solid decision, which would put the matter beyond doubt for all time. Such a power is held by the Canadian Supreme Court but unfortunately not by the High Court of Australia.
I feel that the honorable member for Moreton is wrong in the extreme fears that he holds. I feel that he is wrong because before the Imperial Parliament can purportto give legislation coverage in Australia, it must first declare that legislation to have extra territorial coverage. It is also necessary that the Commonwealth Parliament request that the legislation should cover Australia.But, of course, the Commonwealth Parliament can only legislate within the field of its jurisdiction. The Constitution sets three types of jurisdictions. They are -
Where the States legislate, their legislation is effective unless and until the Commonwealth legislates in the same field, in which case, should there be any inconsistency, the Commonwealth legislation will prevail. So if the Commonwealth Parliament purported to pass legislation relating to a power upon which, under the Constitution, it had no authority to legislate, that legislation could be tested in the High Court and declared invalid. Hence there would be no possibility of imperial legislation covering Australia. However, I am in complete agreement with the suggestion by the honorable member for Moreton that an opinion as authoritative as possible should be obtained. For that purpose, without in any way casting aspersions upon the professional capacity and ability of the Crown Solictor’s Department, I would suggest that an opinion be obtained not merely within the Crown Solicitor’s office. On the contrary, the Crown Solicitor’s office should deliver a brief to eminent constitutional counsel at the bar in Melbourne or Sydney. There are various obvious counsel who could be asked for that opinion. At the Melbourne bar there is, for example, Mr. D. I. Menzies, a very eminent barrister, who practices in the constitutional field. His opinion would be preferable to an opinion by the Crown Solicitor’s office.
In the estimates for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department there is an amount which quite staggers me in its magnitude. I refer to Division No. 62, Patents, Trade Marks and Designs. The total estimate of expenditure in that division is £421,000, which is the biggest single item in the whole of the Attorney-General’s Department. 1 know very little of the activities of that section. Certainly it seems merely to be a regulatory or a declaratory service, and an amount of £421,000 seems to me to require some explanation. . I do not know what work the section does, but I feel that some explanation of that large sum is desirable.
I wish to refer also to what are known as the conference rooms, used -by conciliation commissioners under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. As a general rule those rooms are totally inadequate for their purpose. On many occasions there are up to 150 people in a conference room.In Melbourne the conference room is inChart House, in Little Bourke-street. Just last week there was a matter before one of the commissioners in which there were well over 100 people interested and they were all gathered in the one room. They were trying to find chairs wherever they could and many were actually sitting behind the commissioner. It was not the sort of atmosphere for good arbitration, or, more particularly, good conciliation. The new arbitration court building in Melbourne is now in the course of construction, and when it is completed the commissioners will be enabled to carry out their duties in the atmosphere essential for conciliation and arbitration proceedings.
I make a plea, if such it can be called, for the raising of the status of the commissioners who are non-presidential members of the commission and also for the conciliators. The conciliators are paid a salary much lower than that of the nonpresidential members of the commission. I adverted to this matter last year when the relevant measure was before the Parliament. The conciliators should be paid a much higher salary than they are now receiving. If a better salary were offered, it would attract to the position men of outstanding quality. The present conciliators are admirable men, but, unfortunately, because of the salary offered, the number which could have been available for appointment was not as great as was desirable. If a better salary had been offered, the choice of appointees would have been widened considerably.
Finally, I commend the work being carried out by the Crown Solicitor’s Office. I worked in that office for some time and, while I was there, although in a junior capacity, I observed the devotion to duty on the part of the professional members of the staff. They applied themselves most diligently to their duties and at every opportunity tried to make themselves as learned in the law as possible. As a consequence, the Crown Solicitor’s Office provides a very good service for the Commonwealth and plays an important part in carrying out the functions of the Attorney-General’s Department.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) rather emphasize some of the points I raised earlier this afternoon in reference to the work of one of the branches of the Attorney-General’s Department - the
Patents, Trade Marks and Designs branch. Honorable members are rather impressed by the erudition of the honorable member but he, like the rest of us, was not very au fait with the work of this particular section. In these estimates a sum of £158,858 is being sought to provide salaries for 106 supervising examiners, examiners of patents and assistant examiners of patents. This branch deals with one of the fields of public enterprise to which we all ought to have access.
In Division No. 63, Legal Service Bureau, salaries and allowances amounting to £45,062 are being provided for one director, eighteen senior legal officers, officers in charge and legal officers, three clerks and typists and other officers who are employed in other duties. The function of the bureau is to give advice and legal assistance to people who cannot afford to obtain such advice from a private legal practitioner. This is one of the fields of public service which could very well be expanded. The community has to live and sometimes suffer under the laws passed in this and other parliaments, and every citizen from time to time is in need of some sort of legal advice. Free legal advice should be part of the public service which should be available to the community just as other public services are made available free.
The salaries paid to the officers in the Legal Service Bureau are not such as would attract highly qualified men. The amount set aside for the eighteen legal officers is £33,481, which is an average of about £1,700 each. That is not a great salary for a highly qualified professional person. Honorable members could well turn their attention to the expansion of the Legal Service Bureau so that people who run into legal problems, as frequently happens, might be able to obtain an answer without delay and free of cost. Simple questions are asked from time to time but only a legally qualified person can give the proper answer. For example, a person might say, “ I am having an argument with the War Service Homes Division. How do I get on? Where can I obtain advice about it? For the whole of Australia only 22 persons have been appointed to give some advice on questions of that kind or on other matters of a public nature. My own dealings with the Legal Service Bureau have been very limited but my impression has been that, owing to its limited staff, it has not been really in a position to give the kind of advice to the citizenry that is desirable. If a person wants advice on a legal point he should be able to obtain it without having to go to great expense. Therefore, the services of the bureau should be expanded. A much greater amount than the meagre £45,062 allocated for this financial year should be set aside and many more than 22 persons made available to give free legal advice to members of the public who seek it.
– In each State the Attorney-General’s Department provides people with free legal advice.
– That is so. But there is no reason why this department should not do so. After all, the Commonwealth has all the resources and it should be in a far better position than the States to provide free legal advice. The honorable member knows perfectly well that the State departments are not in any position to provide this sort of service.
This afternoon either the honorable member for Bruce or the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) raised the matter of the destruction of the federal system and even implied that I would like to see it destroyed. I would rather see it decently interred than have it stagger along in its present disorganized fashion with its offices scattered far and wide and passing its responsibilities to the States. It seems to bc a practice of both State and Federal authorities to try to avoid their responsibilities. The Commonwealth officers will say that a certain responsibility belongs to a State and the State will say, because it has not the necessary resources, that the responsibility belongs to the Commonwealth.
I have been rather intrigued to study the details of the Commonwealth Investigation Service set out in Division No. 61. I understand that consideration is being given at the moment to the amalgamation of the various investigation services under the Commonwealth control. Even in the Attorney-General’s Department two groups of people carry out similar duties on occasions. The Peace Officer Guard is capable of carrying out investigation duties, and there is probably a good deal to be said for an amalgamation of the groups discharg ing such duties. I notice that the total estimate for the Commonwealth Investigation Service is £134,000. Other forms ot investigation services appear throughout the Estimates. Each department in the Public Service seems to have its own unit of investigators and there is probably a good deal of over-lapping and inefficiency as a result. Tt is very doubtful in these circumstances whether the Commonwealth needs a special investigation service. The various State authorities have highly efficient police forces, each with its special investigation branches. I think that honorable members should turn their attention to the growth of these organizations which, though not minor in importance, are certainly inclined to be anonymous. They have the duty of investigating the activities of individuals and, because of their very anonymity, are inclined to produce in the community a feeling that they are more or less irresponsible in their activities, or are able to avoid having their activities come under public scrutiny. I believe that the activities of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, the Peace Officer Guard, and other organizations which, on occasion, are employed in work of this kind, ought to be open to closer examination than is the case. Some of us in this place will have to admit that we know very little of the activities of these organizations.
The ordinary police forces in the States are public bodies in the public eye. They are under constant public scrutiny. With their traditions, high standard of discipline, and the kind of leadership that they have in each of the States, they have, in the very nature of things, developed systems which protect, to a great degree, the rights of the average citizen. But such organizations as the Commonwealth Investigation Service, and the other more controversial one which I suppose we will be discussing also, have become anonymous bodies investigating the activities of the ordinary citizen, and I believe that that is something to which the Parliament, and the people generally, should turn their attention. We should keep our eye very closely on anybody who carries out this type of function. I should like to have a good deal more knowledge placed before the committee concerning details of the activities of the Commonwealth Investigation Service and, to a less degree, such bodies as the Peace Officer Guard and the various investigation services.
.- I want’ to refer- to- a- matter concerning court-controlled’ ballots and to- direct the attention of - the Government, if1 the department is unaware of it; to continual- breaches of the existing- law by certain- groups- of employers. While I am critical of- the legislation in certain- of its aspects, I believe that the loop-holes that do exist should be closed if they allow abuse- by the employers. I have always been’ of’ the– opinion, and I think that it is> shared- by my colleagues, that this Government has1 provided an opportunity for minority control of trade unions; which1 is completely at variance with the principles of democracy for which the Australian- Labour party stands.
Under the existing- regulations, it is easy enough for a dissident minority in a union to create tremendous difficulty in the administration of its affairs, and also to involve it” in considerable expense. 1 have now had my attention directed to the activities, of the master painters in New South Wales. The master painters are at the. moment, strangely enough, engaged in the activity of obtaining a petition, which they hope in due. course to present - not on their own behalf, because they are using certain people inside the organization itself - seeking a court-controlled ballot. I think that we are getting to a rather peculiar state, of affairs in this . country, . a state, of affairs which the trade, unions will have to view very seriously,, when employers begin, by. intimidatory methods, as I shall’ indicate in a moment, to organize petitions of. this type with, the idea of forcing a union to have a court-controlled ballot; and involving it in considerable expense in the process.
I am certain that the Operative Painters and Decorators Union in New South Wales, if given, the opportunity, could prove to any fair-minded person that what it believes to be taking place is in fact happening; that is, that the master painters, through their various foremen and representatives on the particular jobs, are. circulating, these petitions and attempting by various means to secure the signatures of a sufficient number of. members of the Operative Painters and Decorators Union, to. enforce or. bring, about a. court-controlled ballot. The men are told various, things, when, they are given the. petition, to sign.. For instance, some, of those, seeking, signatures . have. said. that, the petition- is for the purpose of getting- an independent returning officer. Other, men have been- told’ that it is* fop the purpose- of forming* a’ new trade union- that will not be under the control of the Communist element, while- others who- have presented the- petition have been quite frank about it and have said that- the petition is designed for. the purpose of securing a courtcontrolled ballot.
Anybody who has worked on these jobs knows full well’ that when men are handed petitions they do not always exercise care in reading them. They are rather inclined to listen to what the person who presents the’ petition- has1 to- say. So, when this matter was brought to the notice of the Operative Painters and Decorators Union it set about checking to see what the situation was on the various jobs, and it has secured a number of statutory declarations from members of the union who were induced to sign the petition either by a form of intimidation,, or without knowing the real purpose of it, but who now, having had the facts explained to them, realize that they have signed something the purpose of which was not made clear to them.
It is perfectly true that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that to engage in this type, of activitiy is an offence. I know that probably the Minister- or the Government will ask immediately, “ Well, why does not the union take some action in the matter? “ It is not as easy as that. I think that there is an obligation on the Government, which has defended this type of legislation on every, occasion that it has been challenged, and also an obligation on the Attorney-General’s Department, to see that these activities in respect of court controlled ballots are conducted in accordance with the provisions of the legislation adopted by this Parliament. That is what the union requests the Government to do.
Section 171 (3.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that -
A person shall not threaten, offer, suggest, use, cause, inflict or procure any violence, injury punishment, damage, loss or disadvantage for or on account of, or for the purpose of preventing, anything -lawfully done or proposed to be lawfully done, by a person for the purpose of causing or enabling, a request to be made by an organization or branch of an organization under the last preceding section, including the signing of an instrument of request or the seeking or obtaining of signatures to such’ an instrument. lt must -be obvious to members -of this Parliament that the representatives - of em- plovers are not -interested in having an Effective trade -union’ in an industry. Their purpose .is to undermine the authority of “the union, ‘to destroy its influence on its members, -and to cause some division. 1 believe that that was the real purpose of the Government when it passed this legislation.
Although the ‘Minister for Labour and National Service (‘Mr.:Harold Holt) says that he believes in trade unions, that the Government accepts the principles of trade unionism and wants an active and virile trade union movement in Australia all the history of this Government indicates that the reverse is true and that what it wants to do is to weaken and undermine the influence, the strength and the solidarity of the trade unions.
Strangely enough, we had recently in this place a discussion, to which I shall make only brief reference because I would not be permitted to do otherwise during this debate, in the course of which honorable members on the Opposition side pointed out that there had been .a link-up between certain employer .groups in this country. and representatives .of the industrial .groups which has for its purpose the .destruction .of the effectiveness of trade unionism. In the
Operative .Painters and Decorators Union we find that ‘the “ grouper “.elements have already been defeated in .a fairly and i properly conducted ballot. These ‘dissident elements include the ex-secretary of the Operative Painters and Decorators Union in New -South Wales, -a man by the name of Mr. Peter Carter, who is now an executive officer of -what is termed the Democratic tabour party. Mr. Carter is now linked :with the master painters in this petition in order to create difficulty, as he hopes, in the union of which he was formerly secretary. I think that the Attorney-General’s Department should be busy investigating this situation.
I am given to understand, although I “have not precise details at present, that this kind of activity is not exclusive to ‘the Operative -Painters and Decorators ‘Union of Australia, but extends into other industrial fields. Anybody who cares to read the rules of this organization will see that there is every protection for the member without the intrusion of any external authority. The rules provide that an independent returning officer can be appointed. :He need snot be a member of the union. I shall read a few extracts from the rules i of. the organization in order to show that every .protection, is given to the membership by the rules of the union itself. I quote as follows: - -Positions on all ballot-papers shall be drawn by lot. Candidates may appoint scrutineers should they desire, and scrutineers shall -be entitled to be present at all stages of the ballot, without cost to the Branch.
All ballot-papers shall be initialled by the Returning 1 Officer, and by assistant returning officers .before being issued, cad -ail ballet-papers found to be not so initialled when the count is being made shall be disqualified.
The ‘ business ‘reply envelope shall be numbered in ‘rotation. The -number shall be checked against list of financial -members before envelopes are opened. All ballot-papers count ;d and uncounted shall be. placed in the strong room at the Trades Hall, at the close df each day’s counting, :until the declaration- of the ‘poll, and/or -until any challenge or ; recount ‘has been disposed of. lt will also be found that there is protection for the membership in other sections of the rules. I think it is about time that the whole situation was reviewed. If the Government’ is not prepared to review it voluntarily the trade unions will have to take some notice of a situation, which is involving them in considerably higher costs in the conduct of -their ballots than formerly. If a dissident minority continually acts in the way that I have described it can undermine the financial-status- of a union.
I now want to refer to the penal provisions of the ‘Commonwealth industrial legislation. Everybody knows that the Government originally imposed penalties, through the courts, in an endeavour to prevent trade unions engaging in strike action or in a campaign of defiance of a direction of the court. These vicious penalties were imposed at the behest of the Government as a form of intimidation of the trade unions in an effort to prevent them from fighting for the things in which they believe. When a successful challenge was made before the Privy ‘Council on a number of savage penalties which had been imposed on trade : unions, everybody expected “that, in fairness, the Minister for . Labour, and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) would have fallen over himself to rectify the situation by refunding the penalties to the organizations upon which they had been illegally imposed. They were illegal penalties, according to the decision of the Privy Council. There are many occasions on which the Labour party and the trade unions have had adverse decisions from the Privy Council. Surely, when the trade unions got a decision which favoured them the Government should have accepted the decision and refunded these savage fines.
What has the Government done to rectify the situation which developed as a result of the decision of the Privy Council? It has passed amending legislation, because it still wants to wield the big stick over the trade unions. That is the opinion of the trade union movement itself. If honorable members examine the decisions of State labour councils or of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which the Minister for Labour and National Service frequently quotes, they will find that those bodies have all declared against this approach to the determination of industrial disputes. The workers are beginning to wonder whether any good at all is to be obtained from the existing machinery for the regulation of their industrial conditions. In my opinion, the workers should not be coerced into acceptance of decisions which they regard as contrary to the welfare of their organization, and of themselves as members.
I remember when grazing interests withheld their stock from the market because they disagreed with the price they were obtaining for it. Members of the British Medical Association refused to carry out a provision of the law of this country because they objected to it, and said that it would infringe their rights. If those organizations and groups can withhold their product from the market because they are dissatisfied with the price offered for it, why should not any trade unionist or any group of workers who are not being paid what they regard as a just wage have the right to withhold the sale of their only product, their labour power? The present position illustrates the way in which this Government administers justice. The trade unions will not put up with this intolerable situation much longer.
In order to illustrate to the Minister for Labour what happens in regard to the penal application of the provisions of the legislation I shall cite the well-known case of the boilermakers. There was a strike among the ironworkers at Morts Dock, in Sydney. The boilermakers, who were working on the same job, decided that, as the pay of the men who were engaged in the industrial stoppage had been cut off, they would help maintain their women and children. They did what trade unionists invariably do, and what I hope that they always will do. They passed the hat around at the end of each week in order to help maintain the women and children of the men on strike. Although that action was taken spontaneously by members of the organization-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Of course, we know that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has always been against the court control of trade union ballots, and I need not go to great pains to explain why he objects to the union that he mentioned having a court-controlled ballot. He said that the rules that he read were quite official. That may be so. Nevertheless, I cannot see how it could be against the welfare of those in the union if a courtcontrolled ballot were held. But I did not rise to speak on that subject.
I rose in order to answer the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney concerning a matter the details of which might not be known to those members who were not in the Parliament prior to 1949. He said, in effect, “Why should not these men be able to withhold their labour “ ? He asked, “ Did not the primary producers withhold their stock when they were not satisfied with the price they were offered “ ? On the surface, that seems to be a reasonable argument. But what actually happened? Why did the primary producers refuse to send their stock to market on the occasion to which the honorable member has referred? That was done for the simple reason that the Labour government of the day brought in what has become known as the “one bid auction “. I know that this is not the subject before the Chair, but I consider that I am entitled to answer the honorable member for East Sydney.
The auction system . of wool and livestock has been of great assistance to primary producers, and the people of Australia, generally, have benefited from it. But under the “ one-bid-auction “ system, an appointed person went around the pens and said, “ These sheep are worth 25s., these are worth £1, and these worth 15s.”, thus fixing the price. When the auctioneer stepped into the pen, he started the bidding, and the stock had to be knocked down at that price that had been fixed, irrespective of the fact that, with competitive buying, the owner might have received 32s. for them instead of, say, 25s. That was the result of action taken by the Labour government; yet, that is the example that the honorable member for East Sydney used in an endeavour to bolster the fictitious argument he put forward. Now, many honorable members would not realize what did happen. Of course, when there was not fair competition, no open competition, when people were not allowed to bid at auction the prices they were prepared to pay, the primary producers refused to send their stock to market.
– They went on strike!
– That was quite a different proposition from going on strike as the honorable member for East Sydney claims they did. The moment it is disclosed that the arguments of the honorable member are not in accordance with fair play for which Australians are famous, the honorable member starts to interject because he realizes that the whole of his argument has failed.
.- I shall be briefer than my colleague. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), after quoting the book of rules of a trade union, said he saw nothing wrong with those rules. But he also said that the ballot-paper envelopes which bear pre-paid postage would be marked with the number of the financial member of the union to whom the ballot-paper was sent and by whom it would have to be returned. If that envelope and that ballot-paper fell into the hands of a Communist returning officer, that fact alone would, in effect, destroy the secrecy of the ballot; and because of that alone the whole of the honorable member’s argument is thrown to the ground. As far as governmental relations with trade unions are concerned, I point out that this Government has never frozen the funds of a trade union.
– I should like to make a few remarks regarding court-controlled ballots. It was rather amusing to hear the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) speak about what would happen if a ballot-paper contained in a numbered envelope came into the hands of a Communist secretary or Communist returning officer. I can tell the honorable member that there was grave suspicion in regard to the clerks’ union ballot last year, or the year before last, about ballot-papers going into the hands of a returning officer appointed by the court.
– I doubt that.
– You doubt anything that is in favour of the trade unions. We proved it. My previous secretary received her ballot paper and with it she received a how-to-vote ticket in the same mail printed on the same material, and typed on the same typewriter. We made a full investigation into the matter and we had grave suspicions about the treatment received by people who were opposed to the ruling regime in the union. The suspicion was there, and we still believe that a courtcontrolled ballot is like the St. Mary’s munitions factory project - it smells. The master painters were interested in the ballot and in supporting an ex-secretary of the Operative Painters Union who had been removed from his position by the court. Now, we find that the Operative Painters Union wants to support the restoration by the same court of the same individual to his old position. They have caused petitions to be taken on the job. They go around and give petitions to the foreman on the job for distribution to the workers. I suppose the honorable member for Hume would agree that that is right. The foreman intimidates weak members on the job who are afraid to oppose what the boss or the foreman wants. Of course, we have weak members in trade unions just as there are weak members in the Australian Country party and the Liberal party. The intimidation of members of unions is one of the scandals of this action by the master painters, and I think that the AttorneyGeneral of the day - of course, we cannot expect the ex-Attorney-General to do anything in the matter, considering the snide methods that were adopted to put him in the court where he is to-day-
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman!
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith- will withdraw that reflection on the judge.
– It is not a reflection on the judge, lt is a reflection on the snide methods used by the Government.
THe CHAIRMAN.- Order! The honorable member will withdraw that statement.
– Which statement?
– I will not repeat the statement. The honorable, member well knows the: statement’ to which- 1 refer and if he does not’ withdraw it I’ shall deal with him.
– I’ withdraw the statement about the snide methods, in which I mentioned a name. I will speak about the snide method adopted by this Government in bringing legislation to this House.
– Order! The honorable member repeated his offence, and if he is.- going to: offend- the Chair in that way I shall deal with him.
– I withdraw my accusation about the judge, but I want to deal with the methods adopted by this Government in bringing- down legislation-
– I: rise to order, Mr: Chairman.. The honorable member, with, drew what he had said. against the. judge, and. then he. said that. he wanted. to continue and. let his statement, against, the. judge stand.
– Against the- Government.
– 1. think, that is quite.wrong,
The- CHAIRMAN. - The honorablemember for Kingsford-Smith is entitled to criticize- the Government.
– Apparently, according to. the honorable, member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), I- should not. be permitted to. criticize the Government. I: was mentioning, the snide, methods adopted, by this Government. I reiterate, that the legislation: presented, to us- by the leader of the House. (Mr. Harold Holt) was framed by a certain gentleman in another place, and’ put through the hoops in another place by the same- gentleman. After it was all tied up and made secure, the same’ gentle man in- another place appointed’ himself judge; jury and prosecutor: I am -not saying who it’ was. I am just saying that- he- was a- gentleman- in another place.
Now, the people of Australia, and the trade unionists in particular, are suspicious of any one outside trade unions handling, the domestic affairs of trade unions. I give full support to the trade unions in their protests in this matter. The boilermakers will in no circumstances allow any one outside their organization to run their affairs. Now, we find that a minority faction of the Operative Painters Union, with the assistance of the master, painters, are causing petitions to be circulated, are gathering names and intimidating, weak members of the union, and’ are being assisted in doing so by the groupers in their union, as well as by a man who has. been removed by the court from his office in that union. The master painters are attempting to bring that same gentleman back into office. He is now a member of the. so-called Democratic Labour party. He was- removed from the Australian Labour party for his suspiciousactivities in regard to other matters. But the master painters- want him back. Why?
– They want a tame-cat union.
– That is so. And the Leader of the House agrees with the attempt to. destroy organized trade unions. Let me read: some of the rules of the. painters union - and I think this will satisfy even i the most fastidious- red-baiters on the. Government’ side,- the honorable members . for- Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and Moreton (Mr. Killen). One- rule says -
All officers,- &c, shall be elected by postal ballot of. the financial, members, and the election shall be conducted between the date of .’ the General Meeting in October and the General Meeting in December: of; each- next year..
A- Returning Officer—
Not- one appointed: by the Government,, be- cause- that, would he- a suspicious circumstance - and: two- (2) assistant: returning officers shall, be: elected by the members-, assembled . at the October meeting.
THe members can roll up and put the returning, officer in or out. If they are not interested’ enough to come to the meetings they should not have a vote. The rules continue -
The- Returning Officer, shall’ order to bo primed the . requisite ballot, paper by- a-, reputable firm and on, watermarked and opaque paper, and supervise destruction’ of block on completion.
Ballot papers shall be posted by them to the home addresses of all financial members on the business reply system. The Returning Officer shall secure a postal box in his name at the G.P.O., Sydney . . .
That is on all fours with the usual methods adopted by genuine organizations - the trade unions. Some people meddle in crook ballots so much that they think everybody is crook except themselves. The rules go on -
The key of such a. box shall remain in the hands of the postmaster until the close of the ballot. Such a box shall be opened after the closing date of the ballot by the Returning Officer.
On the close- of the issue of ballot papers- the number issued by the Returning Officer shall be checked with the ballot papers and business reply envelopes obtained from the printers, and the surplus shall be deposited in a sealed box- in the’ strong room . . .
I do not suppose that the Australian Country party takes such precautions, knowing as I do what has happened over the years in ballots for the election of officers conducted by that party. The same may be said of the Liberal party in Ash-street. But the ballots of the trade union movement are. above suspicion.
– Look at the ballots for the last few years!
– If we only knew how the ballot was conducted when the Minister for Air beat Stan Card for the selection at’ Evans in 1948! They said he won by one vote. That was really a snide ballot. Stan Card came out to see if he could beat me, but in a fair ballot he was soundly trounced.
– Where was Maxie?
– Maxie was there, and. he was trounced; too. Stan Card, was home and, hosed-, when somebody from over the other side of the harbour thought otherwise, and the big night arrived. Stan Card wastold, “ This is it; this is your- reward for’ doing: the job you did during the bank, nationalization campaign “. Stan was quite a good type of individual. He, was naturally delighted. He was going to get a bluer ribbon Liberal seat for the job he did, but the outsider came in.
– The Bolter came in!
– Yes, the Bolter came home. That is- the sort of’ crook’ ballot’ these people hold; and. they talk- about crook- ballots! Despite character assassinations and the campaign of intimidation initiated by the Minister for Labour and National Service,, the trade union movement stands beyond reproach in the conduct of its activities. I want honorable members to bear in mind that the rules I mentioned are registered by the court. Those rules are on all fours with the requirements of the court, and any character assassination, any attack or any criticism by the Minister for Air will be taken with a grain of salt. I ask the Minister to think back to 1948 because it was a very important phase in hislife. He. can look back and say, “ By- alittle bit of snide work and a little bit ofmanipulation^
– Order! The. honorable member.- will withdraw any personal’ reflection on the. Minister.
– I withdraw any reflection on the Minister, but I am talking about the ballot.
– You had better get back to court-controlled ballots.
– I am just making acomparison of the activities of the trade union movement with the activities of various parliamentarians, both in the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. No mud can be slung at the Labour candidates.
– The pre-selection of party candidates is- not in question. We are dealing with court-controlled ballots.
– T was trying to develop my case. The- court-controlled ballots were introduced for a specific purpose by people who are well, versed in crook ballots. That is the reason they want to implement the will’ of so-called judicial people whom they represent as being beyond reproach; but when we go back in history we find they are not so far beyond reproach.
– Give us an example:
– T will give you plenty. After this legislation was brought down to ruin the trade union, movement-
Motion (by Mr. Osborne), put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the proposed vote be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed Vote, £4,553,000.
.- I sincerely hope that the Government will not try to gag the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior, because that department embraces a multitude of activities about which many honorable members would wish to voice criticisms and offer suggestions. I think that there should be very free discussion upon the proposed vote for this department, and I intend to discuss one aspect of the responsibilities of the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). I refer to the accommodation provided in the capital cities for members of the Parliament. This subject has been considered by departmental officers and successive governments for a very long time, but not much has been achieved. In my view, Mr. Chairman, not enough is being done now to provide suitable central offices in the capital cities. Certainly, there is not sufficient accommodation for those honorable members who have their offices in the State capitals, or for those who have their offices in other parts of the States, and do not go to the State capitals often.
I appreciate the efforts being made by the present Minister. He is certainly getting things done. His predecessor, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), also did a great deal towards the provision of new offices in Sydney and Melbourne, and, some years, ago, under another previous Minister, the Brisbane offices were improved. We have not yet commenced buildings in Adelaide, in Perth or in Hobart, although the plans were made in the immediate post-war period.
I trust that the Minister will be able to persuade the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that the building of Commonwealth offices in the capital cities will be a good investment. In the first place, we will relieve private enterprise by vacating many premises that are at present being occupied at very high rentals. If we completed the programmes that have already been decided upon we would save a lot of money that is being paid away in rent. We would not have so many citizens complaining that we are taking up valuable accommodation in city areas, which is not always suitable for government purposes, but which is very suitable for the purposes for which it was originally designed. I know that one section of the new Commonwealth building is being constructed in Melbourne, and the work is proceeding rapidly and very satisfactorily. But there are five sections to be built in Melbourne, and there is no provision in the Estimates for this financial year for the second and third sections. I hope that the Government will make provision for them in the next financial year.
I hope, also, that the big Qantas building which is nearing completion in Sydney will soon have as its counterpart on the other side of the extension of Elizabethstreet. By that, I mean the Commonwealth building that has been planned for the site. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and I were members, together with Senator Ashley and the late Senator Collings, who was Minister for the Interior, of a Cabinet sub-committee which selected that site, and we were able to persuade our Cabinet colleagues that it would be a good thing to build these premises on the extension of Elizabeth-street, and that it would be in the best interests of the Commonwealth in the long run. I believe that there is land in Currie-street, Adelaide, which was bought in 1945 or 1946 and which has not yet been built on. The Commonwealth also acquired some land, on which are old, dilapidated buildings, in Hobart, and we are still waiting for new buildings to be erected thereon. The Public Works Committee has investigated all these works and recommended favorably on them. I wish the Minister luck in the work that he is trying to do, and I hope he obtains support from the Treasury.
I now wish to say something about the accommodation available for federal members in the various capital cities. The building in Melbourne in which these offices are situated is dilapidated and is a disgrace to the Commonwealth. While the accommodation in Sydney is, comparatively speaking, much better, it is still not satisfactory. We will not have satisfactory accommodation for members of this Parliament, in which they can interview their electors and do their work properly, unless such accommodation is located in a building that houses the big departments in each State. When honorable members can be accommodated in close proximity to the various departments, and electors can come and see them in those premises, it will be to the benefit of all concerned. It will be of great advantage also from a psychological point of view. I have said on previous occasions that when we gather all Commonwealth activities into one big building in each capital city we will impress the people of those cities with the importance of federal authorities. At the present time we can see beautiful State buildings in various parts of the State capitals, but the Commonwealth offices are spread around in many different places. The result is that the people have no conception of the important part that Commonwealth activities play in the life of the average citizen. I hope that other honorable members who have opinions on this matter will give the Minister the benefit of their views. I believe that the Parliament and the country will ultimately benefit thereby.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– May I suggest that the estimates for the Department of the Interior and the :Department of Works be taken together?
Department of the Interior.
Proposed Vote, £4,553,000.
Department of Works.
Proposed Vote, £3,393,000. (Ordered to ‘be considered together.)
.- I direct my remarks to Government rented properties and local government services, and once again I propose to refer to the refusal of the Commonwealth Government to pay rates for services rendered by municipalities throughout Australia. This is not the first lime I have brought up this subject in this chamber and it will not be the last. A grave injustice is being perpetrated on municipalities throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth by this -Government’s reluctance to pay for services received. That is what it amounts to. I know that the State Governments are guilty o’f the -same attitude towards municipalities, <but -1 suggest that sooner or later somebody has to give even-handed justice to the municipalities and I .can see no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not give a lead in the desired direct-ion. I appreciate ‘that Government spokesmen will say that the Constitution specifically provides that the Commonwealth shall not be liable to pay rates to municipal bodies, but :n the far-off days of the turn of the century the requirements of municipal bodies were far less than they are to-day. In addition, government-owned property in the capital cities and municipalities in 1900 was of much smaller dimensions than it is to-day. In other words, what was not a problem in 1900 is certainly a problem of great magnitude in 1957 as far as the municipalities are concerned.
I know that the Commonwealth Government does make ex gratia payments for some services rendered by local bodies. It has made a start, but I ask the Government to keep on the path that it commenced to tread some years ago. The Government made a good start, but for some reason or other it has stopped and has fallen back into the ways of the bad old days, and the municipalities are not getting fair and equitable treatment. For some years the Commonwealth has made ex gratia pay ments to local government bodies for some services rendered. Payment is made for a service rendered by a rating body, examples being water, sewerage, electricity, sanitary, and garbage services. There is nothing in that to which I object. Payments are made in respect of properties acquired by the Commonwealth, for war service homes and properties on which the Commonwealth erects residential or business premises for occupation by tenants other than Commonwealth departments. The Commonwealth may acquire a property for the purpose of later building Commonwealth offices or some Commonwealth structure on it. The local authority will receive payment for its services while there are business premises on the land, but as soon as those .premises are demolished and government premises are erected in their stead, no rates are paid in respect of the same area which before was the source of considerable revenue to the municipality. It can be seen, therefore, that the position is going from bad to worse.
In almost every capital city now the Commonwealth has embarked upon extensive Commonwealth public buildings. In Melbourne the Commonwealth has acquired a large area of land and divided it into two blocks. On one of these blocks it intends to build five large buildings. The first is in the course of erection and it means that rates which were formerly collected from the Commonwealth in that area will no longer be collected by the City of Melbourne.
In Sydney the Commonwealth proposes to embark upon an extensive building scheme in Phillip-street. This scheme must come to fruition in the very near future. In Brisbane, a taxation office is proposed to be erected on a site now occupied by a number of commercial interests, which are paying rates to the Brisbane City Council. In Perth, there is in the process of erection a Commonwealth office for repatriation and other services, which is on a site formerly occupied by commercial interests. The Perth City Council will no longer get rates from that particular area.
So it can be seen that wherever the Commonwealth is pursuing its building programme, it is lessening the sphere in which the municipalities can collect rates. This is becoming a problem of large dimensions. The Commonwealth is building in every capital city, and that will have serious repercussions from the local rating point of view. In Melbourne the City Council is deprived of £43,000 in rates as a result of this Government’s policy. I am not indicting this Government in particular. This is a practice which has been in operation since the dawn of federation, and which every government has supported, but I suggest that the time is drawing near when, because of the changing complexion of municipalities, and the ever-increasing erection of government buildings in valuable areas in the cities, something must be done to compensate the municipalities. In Adelaide, the City Council is deprived of £17,000 in ‘rates. For the other capital cities the figures are - Brisbane, £77,000; Perth, £20,000; Hobart, £7,000; and Sydney, £71,000. That is a total of £235,000. That is the capital cities only. It is estimated that municipalities in the outer suburban areas throughout the Commonwealth are ‘being denied about £450,000 in rates. Therefore, the total for the Commonwealth is something like £700,000 a year. In some cases the municipalities receive ex gratia payments in lieu of rates, but the amount they receive is in no way comparable to the amount they would otherwise collect. The Commonwealth Bank, a Government instrumentality in an indirect sort of way, realizes its responsibilities in this regard, because it pays the full amount in ex gratia payments in lieu of rates. What the Commonwealth Bank is doing throughout the land I suggest should be done by other Commonwealth departments. I suggest that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth Government, which is a powerful government and has complete power in these matters, should seriously .consider extending the financial aid that it .gives in a limited degree to municipalities for certain services. The suggestion is, more or less, that the Commonwealth should pay for services rendered.
We are only asking the Government to pay in the same way as private citizens are obliged to pay. Private citizens living in a municipality are rated because they receive certain services. Commercial firms are rated. So why should government instrumentalities have the right to expect a lowly body such as a municipality, with a very meagre income compared to the Com monwealth’s revenue. to .carry them while they pay nothing or very little? At the present time those engaged in municipal matters must face the inescapable fact that because of the additional requirements that have been forced upon local government in the last 20 or 30 years, it is in grave danger of collapse. I am not an alarmist because I make that statement. I know what 1 am talking about because I have had a lot to do with a municipal council in Victoria. I have taken some part in trying to adjust its financial problems. I have made an intensive study of local government and I have discussed its problems with others who have been engaged in municipal affairs throughout Victoria - men with no party affiliations whatsoever. They have all pointed out what I have known already, that, unless something is done, municipal government as we know it to-day will very soon collapse. Because of this fact which must be recognized, it ill becomes a wealthy public body like the Commonwealth Gov- eminent to - shelter -behind the provisions Of the Constitution and refuse to pay its fair share in the form of rates to municipal ^councils.
All over Australia to-day we find that local government has been forced to increase its rates beyond the capacity of the ratepayers .to pay. Municipal councils are performing numerous public duties that are local in character but, nevertheless, the cost of performing . them is an . obligation of the whole. of the community. Sooner or later there has to be recognition by the community of this obligation and it will have to be met by the community as a whole. I am not suggesting, at this stage that the Commonwealth should make a direct grant to municipalities for certain services which they carry out and which in the opinion of the municipalities are the obligation of the whole community. I refer to cultural pursuits, libraries, sports grounds and so on which should not be the responsibility solely of property owners. But that is the present set-up. Only the property owners in the community are required to pay for these things whereas the upkeep of them should bs paid for out of the community tax chest as a whole. Nevertheless, we have to pay taxes . because of the ever-increasing liabilities that are being foisted upon municipalities. Their lot is becoming harder each day.
All I am suggesting to the Government is that in return for the normal municipal services rendered in respect of Commonwealth property, the Government should pay for such services on the same basis as all the property owners in the area pay for them. Unquestionably, although under the present set-up there may not be a legal obligation on the Commonwealth to pay this money, it has a moral obligation to do so. The Government should do the fair thing and give this matter very serious consideration. The impact of federal policy is having a most deleterious effect upon the finances of local government. For example, the immigration policy imposes demands for more roads, extensive health services, public amenities and so on. But when the municipalities approach the Government for some assistance to carry the additional burdens as a direct result of the implementation of federal policy, the Commonwealth shrugs nonchalantly and says that under the Constitution it has no obligation.
I point out to the committee also that under the general credit policy of the Government at the moment, municipal loan allocations have been considerably decreased, and once again the municipalities find themselves in a cleft stick in regard to finance in that respect. Wherever one looks to-day one sees many Commonwealth properties such as munitions factories, military camps, naval dockyards, rifle ranges, immigrant hostels, government offices, post offices and other government properties too numerous to mention, on which no municipal rates are being paid, with the exception of a few cases in which a small amount is paid to compensate for garbage collection. If the Government were to meet its moral obligation to pay these rates the cost would be only £700,000 a year. This would be an enormous help to councils on whom a burden is unjustly placed at the moment. If municipal councils had this money they could provide better road services for the community as a whole. If the Commonwealth would give a lead in this direction I am certain that it would spur the State governments to take similar action. Someone has to give a lead and I suggest that the Commonwealth is in a far better position, financially, to give it than are the State governments. Local government authorities are performing services which are really national services, and surely the Commonwealth should recognize this and lend a helping hand. We find that these hard-pressed public-spirited councillors are at their wit’s end to find ways and means to carry on municipal work.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to seek information on a matter which I regard as of some importance, and which affects the administration of the Department of the Interior. I refer to the use of government cars and particularly to the practice, which was disclosed recently, of using dual number plates. Can the Minister say how many cars are using dual number plates and what is the purpose of this practice? What are the advantages to the department or to those who have the use of these cars made available to them? I should like to know, also, who are the particular people authorized to use them. What would be the position if an accident took place? Without going into specific details, I mention by way of illustration a recent accident which occurred in the Australian Capital Territory in which a car was being driven by a person who was not a government driver. What would happen if the responsibility for an accident were regarded as being that of the occupant of the government car? Who would be liable for third party insurance in respect to injury to property or to persons?
This is a most important matter because if people who are not directly connected with the Government or with any department have the use of these cars they should surely bear the responsibility in respect of any damage that may occur in respect of any accidents that might happen. The matter is of sufficient public interest for the Minister to inform the committee exactly what the position is.
.- As a member of the Australian Labour party, which, apparently, is the only debating party in the chamber this evening, I should like to make some observations in support of the remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). That honorable member, like myself, has had considerable experience in local government, particularly as far as the failure to obtain funds to carry on essential local government services is concerned. I support the appeal of the honorable member to the Government to make greater assistance available to local authorities. We know that in the new financial era which has developed since World War II.. the Commonwealth is the be all and end all in financial administration in the three forms of government which operate in Australia to-day.
The States are in a rather fortunate position because the Commonwealth lets them know at the beginning of each year how much they will receive in tax reimbursements and loan funds. The Commonwealth, because of its high taxation policy and its method of imposing indirect taxation, which is a painless method of taxing the individual who spends most on the ordinary necessaries of life, has control of all taxation revenue and it permits the Treasury to create various trust funds. Legal authorities have expressed the opinion that in a court of law this practice of creating a trust fund would have no validity, but it still survives. The longforgotten babe in the trinity is local government. It is endeavouring to carry on in this motor age, to provide services to people which they justly demand but which it is unable to provide because of stringency in the financial field. The Commonwealth Government, or perhaps I should say the Department of the Interior, is the owner of huge tracts of land in the various cities and towns of the Commonwealth. I speak now as a “ parish pumper “, and as a citizen of Brisbane. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said, if the Government paid rates on the property it owns in the City of Brisbane, it would pay, in respect of general rates, £77,000 a year to the municipality.
As an illustration of how the Brisbane City Council will lose in general rates by the action of the Commonwealth Government in acquiring property and directing building, some little time ago the Public Works Committee inquired into the erection of a building for the Taxation Branch at the corner of Adelaide and Wharf streets, Brisbane. On this site there is a two-story building which, prior to the property being acquired by the Commonwealth, had a rateable value to the Brisbane City Council of about £500 a year. The roads in the vicinity are excellent, the footpaths are perfect, and trams run in both streets. Because the Commonwealth Government has taken over that block, approximately £500 a year will be lost to the municipality. It is true that the Commonwealth proposes to build a building of seven stories on the site, but no trading activity will be conducted there.
For some years now - and this is something that the present Government has introduced - the Commonwealth has paid general rates, in an ex-gratia form, in respect of buildings occupied by its trading undertakings. I suppose that the Taxation Branch could not be called a trading department, although it is a very profitable one for the Commonwealth. Here we have a block of land which, until a few years ago, was an asset to the citizens of Brisbane. That asset has now gone. In its place, there will be a magnificent building which will be an architectural adornment to the city, but a financial millstone round the necks of the citizens - and in this respect I am not referring to the ability of the Taxation Branch to extract blood from stones. The Commonwealth will occupy the land, and the city council will be deprived of revenue. I know that the Commonwealth shelters behind the Constitution, and says, “ We are not bound to pay rates “. It is true that the Commonwealth Government exempts municipal authorities from the payment of sales tax on plant that they purchase to carry out their various undertakings, and I suppose that that is generous, but, on the other hand, the Commonwealth imposes a very harsh tax by way of pay-roll tax on municipal authorities.
I appeal to the Commonwealth Government, because of its most fortunate financial position, to consider the economic position of the poverty-stricken members of the trinity of governments, the municipal governments, which, in all parts of the Commonwealth, are trying to do the job that devolves on them. It is a huge task to provide for all the roads, services and amenities that the citizens demand - and rightly so - in these modern days. I know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) can do nothing about this matter at the present time. It is the function of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to play the part of Father Christmas and display a degree of generosity that has not been evident in the nine record years that he has held his portfolio. But let us not abandon hope at this stage. There is still a possibility that, in the next Budget, the right honorable gentleman may be prepared to make some provision. I speak feelingly on this matter, and I hope for a worth-while result. I am not unduly optimistic, nor do I abandon hope readily. The Minister for the Interior may appreciate the justice of the case that the honorable member for Batman and I have presented. I shall leave the matter in his hands. In the short time that he has held this portfolio, he has shown that he understands the needs, at least of the citizens of Canberra, and if he could extend that understanding to the citizens of other cities of Australia, he would be performing, a very useful service.
.- I propose to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Electoral Branch, in DivisionNo. 66. Last year, the vote, was £577,000 and the amount actually expended £506,689. This year, it is proposed to spend £623,000, an- increase of almost £46,000 on last year’s vote, and approximately £117,000 more than was actually spent. In view of the rather substantial increase in the proposed vote, I think that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) should explain to the committee why this is necessary.
The method of- compilation and supervision of the electoral rolls should receive the attention of this Parliament. I can speak only of the position as it applies to the metropolitan area of Sydney, but I should say that what is happening there is indicative of the trend throughout Australia. In. the industrial suburbs, there is a constant outward movement of population. I think that the number on the roll for the electorate of Dalley has decreased by approximately 2,000 since the general election last year: Although the number on the roll has fallen, the number of people living in the electorate has not decreased; but, of course, that is readily explained by the fact that immigrants to this country are purchasing property in the inner metropolitan area while the Australian citizens are moving outwards. The numbers on the rolls in the inner electorates of Sydney are decreasing, while the numbers for the electorates on the outer- ring are rising very sharply.
I feel that the department could pay more, attention to the supervision, of the rolls than is the case, at the present moment. In yearsgone by, the. policing, of the rolls, and. the: responsibility for keeping them up to date was the work of: the postmen. This was the result, I understand, of a mutual arrangement between the postal authorities, the postal employees, and the Department of the. Interior; but owing to various factors, that, practice, has been discontinued and, in my opinion, the change has not been for. the better. In this branch, periodically, the. various electoral, officers throughout the Commonwealth engage, people, on part-time employment to go through the various electorates and. cheek, the rolls. They try to get some idea ot the- size of the electoral rolls, and of the names that should be on the. rolls and. those that, should, not. However, because they- go from house, to house while so many of the. residents are at work, it is quite impossible, for. them, to arrive at accurate and reliable, conclusions. Therefore, the rolls do not. reflect the true position in the electorate. I hope that this matter will: receive the attention of. the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), and that he will try to do something about it.
I support the remarks of’ those, who have urged, the Commonwealth Government to recognize, its responsibility to make an effective: contribution to municipal authorities in respect of Commonwealth property. Local bodies are struggling desperately for existence throughout Australia, and if both Commonwealth- and; State Governments continue to evade their- responsibilities, the plight of municipal, authorities will become even worse.
One other matter to which I should like to refer- before I’ sit down is the Government’s continued occupancy of- land which it first took over with the specific undertaking that it would be returned to the parties from whom it was taken’.. The land was,, in many instances-, taken over duringthe war. Therefore, I shall not lay the: responsibility at the. door of this Government. However, this Government has. shown- no. change of front on the matter; and has been adamant: in its: refusal tovacate the. areas; many, of them park landstaken over, by the Commonwealth duringthe war- years- on the specific understanding that, at the end of the war, they would be returned, to the. municipal councils that had previously controlled; them. In Sydney, there- are. several areas- of park land which the Commonwealth resumed; and: it has informed the authorities concerned that it has no intention of vacating the lands.
This is- a distinct breach- of’ faith on- the part of the Commonwealth, and it is a very severe handicap,- particularly in- industrial suburbs where parks are; of necessity, restricted- in number. The* Government should show its- good faith by honouring the promises that were originally made. However, it has become- quite a problem to get the Commonwealth to do the right- thing in this matter. It seems to be concerned only with- the economics of the situation. 1 have- been interested1 in a number of deputations to Ministers’ on this subject.Whenever it has been raised with departmental Heads they have not hesitated to say that, as far as they- are concerned, it’ is a question of economics, and that if some one can show them a satisfactory alternative site, they will move to it; but in the meantime they want to retain the existingone.
That is a distinct breach of faith. In the beginning, the Commonwealth took over these lands after giving an undertaking, that they would be restored to their owners, the municipal authorities. J regret’ that, down the years, the Commonwealth has determined to remain in occupation of them, despite the. protests that have been made from time to time. Many councils have been adversely affected by the continued’ occupancy of the lands- by the Commonwealth’. In view of the distinct undertaking which was originally given by the Commonwealth; I ask the. Minister, for the Interior: to honour that- undertaking; even, at this late hour.
.- I should like- to express my appreciation to the Minister for the Interior- (Mr: Fairhall) for the determination that he: is showing in thebuilding of- offices in the various capital cities to house1 Commonwealth departments. The Estimates- show that, in- all, seventeendifferent’ departments are housed in different places in the* various capital cities. The Commonwealth is paying- for them rents amounting to £892,000 a year, which is nearly £T;000,000. The Minister has realized that- this is entirely uneconomic. The departments cannot be efficient whenthey are scattered’ al! over a capital city. In the meantime, private firms’ are Being kept out of. their own- buildings. For years; some of us have been pointing out the urgent need for the Commonwealth to build its own block in all capital cities to house its own departments.
The Minister has made several announcements lately of the Government’s determination to proced with this urgent work. We know that for some time after the war the demand on labour and materials, particularly for housing, was so great that it was not possible for’ the Government to proceed with its building programme. However, now that the position has eased, and building materials and labour are available, the Commonwealth should proceed, at the earliest possible moment, with the erection of these buildings. In Adelaide, the position is chaotic, government departments being scattered over every part of the city. I understand that the’ position is the same in Melbourne. If we are to get efficiency and economy, in the Public Service, this matter must be remedied, at the earliest, possible moment.
If- the Government; in order to finance the construction- of’ Commonwealth offices, borrowed £20,000,000 at the current interest rate of 5 per cent., the interest would not exceed the rent that it is now paying for the various offices that are scattered all over capital cities. Moreover, the erection of the new buildings would help to solve a difficult* problem for city councils which are being deprived of’ rates’ on so many properties that are now held by the Commonwealth. It would mean; also, that the Commonwealth would be able to dispose of- a very substantial ‘ number of ‘ properties that various departments are- holding for possible expansion. In Adelaide, there is an alarming number of- Commonwealth-owned properties which, apparently, have been taken up by various- departments in anticipation of ; the. need for expansion at a later- date; The obvious solution, of course, is to- house all, or nearly all, Commonwealth departments in the one block. That would- make for- economy and efficiency. It- would’ also mean- that there would be only- one Commonwealth property free- of’of’ rates, rather than 40 or 50 as there are in most capital’ cities at1 present. So, I commend the Minister for the drive he has put’ into this- particular matter, and I- hope he- will’ be- successful in getting these blocks of- Government” buildings erected at the earliest possible- moment;
– It is customary for me, when opportunities present themselves to speak on matters concerning the Australian Capital Territory, to be quite critical not only of the Government but, from time to time, of the Administration within this area. To-night, for a change, I should like to express some words of praise for some sections of the Administration, and that is something like the man biting the dog.
In the estimates with which we are now dealing are items relating to the Forestry Section of the Department of the Interior, a section about which the general public hears very little indeed, but which does a most valuable work in this Territory. Those who take the opportunity to travel through this Territory, particularly to the south of the city, can see the very excellent work that is being undertaken by the Forestry Section, work whose value will be proved in the years that lie ahead of us. Indeed, we have already had the benefit of the forethought of those who were in charge of the Administration many years ago in that we have had the benefit of timber from some of the forests established in those years.
I should like the Minister for the Interior to seek more opportunity to publicize the work of the Forestry Section of the Department of the Interior, because I think it is work which should be brought more to the public notice and is work worthy indeed of the greatest praise. The men who are willing to go out in the hinterland, into the back country of the Territory, and spend their working lives among trees, are men who are rendering a very great service to the community and to this Capital Territory in particular. There are very grave responsibilities on those who undertake the work out in the back country of this Territory and in the watershed of the Cotter River, working on the water supply for this growing city. It is, of course, true that the work on the Upper Cotter Dam has at last commenced. There are many people who say that this work should have been put in hand many years ago. Only the future, of course, can tell whether the growth of the population will outstrip the availability of water supply to the city, and it is to be hoped that the work will be pushed ahead to enable the increased supply from thai new dam to become available to this community.
From time to time in this chamber 1 have expressed, and will continue to express from time to time, criticism of the tendency towards drabness and repetition in the outward appearance of homes that are being built here; but I should like to pay a tribute in respect of the planning and design of the interior of the homes that are being provided in Canberra to-day. Admittedly, as you drive along some of the newer streets you still see row after row of houses all looking much the same and facing much the same way, and with only minor variations in exterior design and appearance. Within those homes, however, very considerable thought has been used by the architects and designers, and the families occupying them to-day are being provided with very good homes indeed. The floor plan of most of them is excellent, the size of rooms is adequate, and the fittings are such as would have delighted and, in fact, still delight, the hearts of housewives. The Department of Works as well as the Department of the Interior is to be congratulated on the thought that has gone into the planning and design of the interior of those homes. The provision of cupboard space in the bedrooms, and of cupboard space and other facilities in the kitchens, and indeed in every part of the homes, is something worthy of the greatest commendation. It is still a pity, in my mind, that these homes have to look largely alike on the outside.
I should like to refer briefly to the work of the electoral branch. Recently we had local elections in this city to elect the Advisory Council and the Canberra Community Hospital Board, and a surprising number of informal votes was cast. The elections were well conducted. The electoral branch year after year, or, at least, biennially, gives proof of its efficiency here. One suggestion I should like to make to the Minister while we are discussing these matters is that he should give very deep consideration to the need to make the ballot-paper as easy to follow as possible. I think the responsibility is to see that each elector is enabled as far as possible to cast a valid vote. For the . counting of votes for those elections we have adopted the Senate system, but we have not followed that through by adopting the system that we use in Senate elections of grouping the candidates on the ballot-paper according to their political affiliations. Here the custom is to draw for positions on the ballot-paper. You may have three Labour candidates, three Liberal candidates and three independent candidates and one or two other candidates standing, and their names are placed on the ballot-paper according to the result of the draw. On the ballot-paper for the last Advisory Council elections there were thirteen candidates, and they were not grouped according to their party political affiliations. 1 suggest that the Minister should consider following the Senate system right through by having candidates grouped on the ballotpaper according to their political affiliations so as to make it much easier for the elector to cast a valid vote. I am not suggesting that there should be more grouper candidates - let me be clear on that. But the candidates should be grouped on the paper. That has particular point at present, because we have in this community a very high percentage of newcomers to Australia who have become naturalized. It is difficult enough as it is for these people to follow the electoral procedure of the country, and I think if we grouped the names of the various candidates on the ballot-paper for the local elections it would make the task of filling in the ballot-paper easier for the newcomers and would enable them to cast a valid vote which, of course, is their aim, and which it should also be the desire of the administration to secure.
There are items in these estimates relating to the provision of cleaning services for departments in Canberra. Within recent years the Government has departed from the practice of using day labour in providing cleaning services for the various departments in Canberra, and has embraced the contract system which, to my mind, has proved singularly unsuccessful. I am not saying that it has proved unsuccessful in saving money for the Government, because 1 believe that in some respects savings have been effected; but I think it has been unsuccessful in that it has destroyed the sound relationship that existed between employer and employee. I have had brought to my notice from time to time many complaints arising from the relationship that now exists between employee and employer in respect of these very cleaning services. I suggest that the Minister consider reverting to the system of the department employing its own staff of cleaners, with its own supervisors and managers. I know that expense is an important consideration, but I believe that an investigation would show that the conditions which apply in the cleaning services are not conducive to good industrial relations. The Minister might seriously consider reverting to the former system which, I believe, worked well and harmoniously. I know that the women who undertake these jobs need the money that they are paid for their work, but the conditions are being made exceptionally hard for them by the contracting company. Industrial trouble, which would interfere with the maintenance and cleaning services, could arise. There should be either some clearer understanding of the rights of both employer and employee, or a return to the day-labour system for the cleaning of offices in Canberra.
I hope, when other estimates are being discussed, to express some criticisms, but I am pleased to have had the opportunity to pay the tribute I have paid to those who are responsible for those sections of the work in the two departments under the Minister’s control. I am particularly pleased to have had the opportunity to refer, once again, to the very excellent planning and design of the interiors of new homes being provided for people in Canberra, even though the outsides are drab.
– I had not intended to speak at this stage, but the remarks of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) have prompted me to say a word or two on the subjects that he has mentioned. I want to refer to the new designs of homes being constructed in Canberra. I have had the opportunity, and the great privilege, of seeing those new designs developed. As a member of the National Capital Planning and Development Committee, I have been associated with members of the committee who are architects, town planners and engineers. In the few months that I have been an ex officio member of that committee, I have seen the new designs developed, and the great care that is taken to see that the homes are suitably sited on the blocks.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory :has mentioned that in some streets the line of the roof ridges of houses is showing without any variation, and he suggested that no imagination had been used. I assure him that very great care has been taken to see that that practice is not continued. He mentioned, also, the layout of the houses. I have noticed a tendency in the committee to ensure that, where the main entrance is into a livingroom, it is so placed that people pass on the edge of the room and not through the -middle of it. Very great care has been taken to see that the living-room of one house does not face into the bathroom of the next house. That was happening quite a lot. The pipes to the laundry and elsewhere were showing in a very bad aspect to the living-room of the next house. Another feature of the new designs is that the -split-level homes, which were being used extensively ,in Canberra, are no longer being constructed where they can be avoided. I am certain that anybody who has lived in a split-level home realizes the difficulties they create. People with young families, who had to wheel ‘prams up four or five steps, must have experienced great inconvenience. The committee has recommended that no split-level homes be used unless it is absolutely essential.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory mentioned contractors. I want to .pay a tribute to the contractors who are carrying out the work in the new suburbs of Dickson and Lyneham. The development there is such and is being carried out so rapidly that they deserve commendation. I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) on the way that he is ensuring that the development of Canberra is speeded up. Those who move around this city will have noticed during the last few months that the development has taken on a new lease of life. I am sure that the building which has astonished us more than any other building is the new school at Forrest. The way in which that school has developed reflects the greatest credit on all concerned.
There has been talk in this chamber about the new administration building being ready before those who are to occupy it are transferred to Canberra. The development of suburbs such as Dickson, 1 Lyneham and
Campbell will; mean that those people will be -moved here much quicker than was expected and, consequently, the administration building will be used very much earlier than was at first thought. Building sites in Canberra are regularly sold by auction, and -many of them were sold recently in the suburb of Campbell. Almost immediately one. could see the development proceeding there. I am astonished at the number of buildings being erected in that new suburb.
The National Capital Planning and Development Committee held its last meeting about a fortnight ago. It was the last meeting because a new commission is being set up. -.1 should like to mention four members of the. committee. They are Mr. Waterhouse, Mr. Rolland, Mr. Walters and Mr. ‘Frank Heath. They have served on the committee for many years. They came here at very great expense and inconvenience to act in an honorary capacity and they have shown a deep interest in the development of the city. Mr. Waterhouse has been a member of the committee since 1938 and, for about five years, prior to that, he was associated with the development of Canberra. Now he has been sacked because the new commission is being constituted. It would be a very nice gesture if the Parliament, once a year, paid the expenses of the men I have mentioned so that they could come to Canberra. to see the infant city grow to childhood and, eventually, to adulthood.
I pay a special tribute to the officers of the Department of Works. As chairman of the Public Works Committee, I recently asked them to supply, at very short notice, plans for the development of the Customs House site in Melbourne. I hope next week to present the report of the Public Works Committee on that project. The departmental officers have earned our congratulations for the way in which they helped us. 1 am certain that the criticism that has been levelled at them on many occasions has not been warranted and I should like at this stage to pay them a very special tribute.
I congratulate the Minister for the Interior for the way in which he has taken on this portfolio and for the excellent job that he has done. I am sure that the Parliament :and the people of Australia are grateful to him.
.- I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Sturt- (Mr. Wilson) about the situation- with respect to Commonwealth buildings throughout Australia. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) was in Adelaide recently, and was good enough to make available some of- his time so that ihe very adverse conditions under which people are required’ to do business with Commonwealth departments in South Australia could be pointed out to him. In order to do business with the various departments, it is necessary to travel about the city and even the suburbs of Adelaide. If a Commonwealth building to house all the departments under1 the one roof is needed anywhere, it is needed in Adelaide. Under Division No. 71, there is provision for rent of buildings’ for various departments, including the Department of the Interior, the Department of Works, the Department’ of Customs and Excise, the Department of1 Health, the Department of Trade, the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department’ of National Development. Every one of those departments is situated in a different. part of the city. An amount of £892,000 is provided under this division for the rent of buildings. The honorable member for Sturt said that the amount was about £800,000, but it is nearer £900,000.
– He said that it was nearly £1,000,000.
– It is nearly £1,000,000. It is bad business to pay so much in rent. Many of’ the buildings now occupied by the departments were taken over during World War II., when it was essential that the departments should1 be housed wherever’ accommodation could be obtained in the emergency. It was thought that would ‘be only a war-time measure, and that after the end 1 of the war the buildings would ‘revert to their original occupiers’ for civilian- use. However, the scale of Commonwealth activities has increased greatly. I do not deny that, and I do not deny that the. present Minister1 has made great efforts to group- the departments’ in one place wherever’ possible: However; P still believe that it would be better business- to proceed with the construction of new- Commonwealth buildings to house all the Commonwealth departments in each State under the one- roof: After the end of the war, until perhaps- twelve months ago, shortages of labour and materials presented an obstacle. Unfortunately, one of the trades in which much unemployment now exists is the building trade, and building workers are. hard hit, because work is not being done, and the available materials are not being, used. I do not think that the Government would be criticized to any degree if it embarked now on. the construction of new Commonwealth: buildings in every capital city.
It causes great inconvenience for a person to have to go to the extreme end of a city in one direction to do business with a particular department, and then to the extreme- limits in the opposite direction to do business with a second department, and perhaps 10 or 12 miles further in another direction to do business with a third department. I appreciate that the Minister may. not be able to offer much hope of immediate relief, but there should be an immediate survey, of the position in the light of the. fact that labour and materials are readily available to-day. The amount of almost £1,000,000 that is now being spent annually on the rent of buildings for Commonwealth departments throughout Australia could be much better spent on the construction of new buildings.
As the honorable, member for Sturt pointed out, there is considerable irritation in all the. States at the continued occupation by. the Commonwealth of premises in respect of which it does not pay rates to local councils. Almost daily, honorable members receive from various councils complaints about the Commonwealth occupying premises and not- paying council rates1.
It would be good business for any Commonwealth government, whatever’ its political colour, to proceed immediately with’ the construction of new Common1wealth buildings in every State. New buildings have been begun in some capital cities. When the Minister was in Adelaide, we told him- that’ about1 twenty different buildings - I ‘have forgotten the exact figure - were occupied by- Commonwealth i bodies in that city. I ‘Hope that; in’ the very near future, we shall have plans for’ a new
Commonwealth building in Adelaide to house most of the departments. The construction of such a building would play a very great part in relieving the unemployment that unfortunately exists in the building trade at the present time, and in stimulating the demand for materials, and thereby further reducing unemployment, because the production of materials could be increased. I should like to see private enterprise build more homes, because many more homes are required, but it is not doing so. As a result, building workers are unemployed, and there is an over-supply of materials. In these circumstances, the Commonwealth has a great opportunity to make use of the available labour and materials by constructing new buildings for Commonwealth purposes. If it did so, it would relieve itself of a very heavy annual expenditure on rent that should not have to be made year in and year out.
I ask the Minister to give the situation his particular attention, and to give members from South Australia an assurance that the problems will be reconsidered, and that, within twelve months, we shall be well on the way to having in Adelaide a building to house most of the Commonwealth departments under the one roof.
– The matter discussed by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) has been the subject of most of the observations made in the debate this evening, and I thought that the committee would not mind my taking a few minutes of its time now to deal with a matter that has been raised by a number of honorable members.
It is quite true, Mr. Chairman, that the rent bill for space occupied by the Commonwealth Government throughout Australia has now reached £892,000. I am sorry to say that the trend is always upward. Every renewal of a lease brings an increase in rent. Most premises are now being removed from the control of the fair rents courts in all the States, and, as a consequence, rents show a steady tendency to increase.
This has brought about a situation in which, as the honorable member for Adelaide pointed out, the heavy expenditure on rents will make it good business to undertake increasing capital expenditure.
However, that is not an argument that appeals very much to the State governments, which are looking more and more to the Commonwealth to provide funds for their works programmes. The honorable member for Adelaide has no doubt seen, the total amount of works expenditure set out in the Estimates. We estimate that, in the current financial year, we shall spend, on new construction and maintenance approximately £50,000,000. That is a very sizable works budget in anybody’s language. Nevertheless, I assure the honorable gentleman that the problem that he has raised is well recognized, and that we are moving as rapidly as we can towards solving it. He will know that, in Melbourne, the first section of a series of units of a Commonwealth centre is under construction. This project was begun, if the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was correct, by the selection of the site by a previous government. My predecessor in office, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), began the building, and I have had the pleasure of continuing it. In addition, Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, which will cost about £2,500,000, have been begun. The drawings for a building in Sydney are already being prepared.
– That is too far away from us in South Australia.
– It is true that Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney, are a long way from Adelaide. I recognize that it is right and proper for members whose headquarters are in any one of the capital cities to regard the problem in absolute terms. In their eyes, the facilities in the city to which they belong are not good enough. Therefore, in absolute terms, they have a right to ask for something better. The Government, on the other hand, must look at these things on a comparative basis, and have regard to the spread of the requirements, because the problem of split locations is not, as I am sure the honorable member will admit, exclusive to Adelaide. However, he will be pleased to know that negotiations are proceeding in Adelaide, and that it is hoped that, as a result, we shall obtain an adequate site in Currie-street. I hope that a new building will be provided there in due course as part of the programme either in prospect or already in the plan stage.
We have reached a stage at which a certain allocation of funds is becoming available every financial year in time for it to be ear-marked for the construction of public buildings, and I hope that the new buildings to be constructed will, in due course, largely offset the high cost of the rents that the Commonwealth now pays for office accommodation. In addition, the provision of better accommodation for the Government’s instrumentalities will solve some of the problems mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne. Not only will the staffs of the departments be more comfortable, and certainly much more efficient, in the better accommodation that we shall be able to provide, but also the public will receive better service, and members of the Parliament will have better facilities.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) have made some remarks regarding the development of Canberra. An important trend is being seen in Commonwealth administration these days. The dream which prompted the Seat of Government Act is beginning to be realized. That act embodied the proposal for the Federal Capital to be established here in Canberra, and for the Parliament to have grouped around it the machinery of Commonwealth administration. It is not easy to achieve this aim. It is not a problem that can be solved quickly, and certainly not one that can be solved at low cost.
Both of the honorable members to whom I have referred spoke of the housing programme in Canberra. We are doing our best to provide adequate housing for the increasing numbers of people who are coming to Canberra, both to take part in government administration and to provide the ancillary services for an increased population. I know that it is very popular to criticize the kind of bousing being provided in Canberra, but there are very great problems to be solved in the field of mass housing. These problems are common to every place in Australia where mass housing is being carried out. The complaints of repetition or near-repetition which characterize the criticism of the work in Canberra are also made regarding the work of housing commissions and trusts in the various States, and almost invariably for the same kind of reasons. The houses that we build have to be built at reasonable cost. It is all very well to say that if we are building a national capital each house should be in its own estate, and should have extensive grounds, but when we add up the costs of land and of building and the high cost of providing engineering services of all kinds, and when we realize that all these costs must be reflected in the rents charged, we see how the Government is limited in deciding on the kinds of houses that it will build. Nevertheless, the National Capital Planning and Development Committee, to which the honorable member for Wimmera has referred - and I am glad to add my tribute to his - has spared no effort to see that, within the limits of available finance, and having in mind the other limitations to which I have referred, we will provide houses of a good, solid, overall standard. I am happy to know that those who are taking up residence in these homes are loud in their praise, as has been suggested by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory.
Earlier in this debate, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) raised a question which arose, I think, some twelve months ago, of government cars in the Australian Capital Territory, and in some of the States, having dual number plates. In Canberra, I believe, on my latest information, 21 cars have dual number plates. That is to say, they carry both A.C.T. registration and Commonwealth registration. Eight of these vehicles are in police service, twelve of them belong to the Australian National University, and one vehicle belonging to the Transport Section of the Department of the Interior is on allocation to the Prime Minister’s Department. That car, I think, is the one to which the honorable gentleman referred as having possibly been involved in some sort of an accident last week. The fact is, of course, that these cars belong to the Commonwealth or Commonwealth agencies, and hence they are entitled to be registered with Commonwealth number plates. The Australian National University is in rather a peculiar position. It has been regarded as being entitled to register its vehicles with the Commonwealth, but a decision given by the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor’s office indicates that in a legal kind of way the university is not an authority under the Commonwealth ,and, therefore, it has been obliged to register its cars in accordance with’ the traffic ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory, and it has been obliged to pay its own registration fees. and to .carry its own third party insurance. The other vehicles to which I have referred are, of course, :Commonwealthowned and .registered with the t Commonwealth, and as .the Commonwealth carries its own insurance the Commonwealth would be responsible for any .damage and : third party liabilities .arising from an accident, of the .kind to which :the honorable member for East Sydney has referred.
– Would the Minister say why it is necessary to have the A.C.T. plate on the car that is attached to the Prime Minister’s Department? Does that not amount to a kind of subterfuge?
– Not necessarily. I do not think there is any point in hiding the fact that it belongs to the Commonwealth. The use to which it is, put is. Commonwealth use, or perhaps one step removed from it, and as it is owned by the Commonwealth and likely to be taken back at anytime into the normal transport pool there is no good reason Why it should not have a Commonwealth plate. On the other hand, there are very good grounds for seeing that it is so equipped.
The honorable gentleman referred to cleaning contracts. It is quite true .that in recent months we have, in Canberra, and also in some of the States, departed from the original procedure of having most of our cleaning done by day labour. We have made an- effort to save money by making this. change because we have found that in many cases the cost of contract cleaning is considerably less than that involved in employing day labour. However, experience is beginning to show results of the kind to which the honorable member referred, and while the contract system may be cheaper it is not in every case more satisfactory. Here in Canberra, of course, that tends to arise. from the fact that many of the people who are now doing the cleaning under .contract were previously daylabour cleaners, and in some .cases, of course, they lack the broad experience necessary to manage their . affairs on a big scale, and they lack some of the equipment necessary for private contracting, which previously was .available to them from departmental sources. I can assure the honorable, member that we are looking very :carefully at the .general picture. We .are concerned, of :course, to ensure efficient cleaning services at the lowest possible cost. We would .not sacrifice efficiency for low cost.
.- I should like to refer to several matters which -have emerged during the course of this debate. It .was not my intention to participate in the debate, .but the comparatively lethargic attitude of Government supporters has prompted me to do so. I think it is important that the .committee should give some consideration to the. estimates for the -Department of . the ^Interior, which, after all, .total £4,553,000, and for the Department of Works, which are also not inconsiderable, amounting to £3,393,000. Since almost £8,000,000 is involved, these estimates are quite important.
I should like to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), who spoke of the attitude of the Government regarding the payment of rates on Commonwealth-owned land. As we -know, local .government authorities are .experiencing a great deal of difficulty, and I am surprised to know that the Government has adopted a policy which results in the payment of only 10 per cent, of the rates due on Commonwealth-owned land. I realize that this figure varies considerably, but 1 was most surprised to learn that in a district in my own electorate where the Commonwealth had leased land to a number of persons and was being paid a considerable amount of money by way of rent for that land, only 10 per cent, of the rates due was paid to the local council, even though the council is responsible for meeting very heavy commitments in a fast-growing area.
There are several other matters to which I would like to refer very briefly. One of them concerns the ionospheric prediction service. Frankly, I had no idea what the ionospheric prediction service meant, or what functions it. performed in Canberra. The matter was completely foreign to me, and probably it was completely foreign to quite a. number of other honorable members. Events have proved, of course, that this is not at all unusual. As a number of honorable members have pointed out, the Estimates are quite vague, and there are a number of government services of which they have little knowledge. This is to be expected, because government services cover a very wide and comprehensive range. I am convinced that there is a need to provide more details of estimates. I was sufficiently interested to look at the dictionary meaning of the word “ ionosphere “, which, as we know, is associated with the recent development of the Soviet satellite at present parading around the globe. The dictionary refers to “ ionosphere “ in the following terms: -
The ionosphere is an electrical conducting sphere completely surrounding the earth. The name is derived from the presence of ions and electrons produced by the sun’s ultra-violet radiation. The ionosphere exists in the earth’s outer atmosphere beyond the stratosphere and extends from heights of approximately 40 to 400 miles.
The dictionary goes on at considerable length, but the fact is that the Department of the Interior’s Ionospheric Prediction Service is associated with work which ultimately could result in Australia developing a satellite of the type we have been reading so much about recently. I should like to draw the attention of the committee to the fact that whereas last year £57,500 was allocated for salaries for the Ionospheric Prediction Service, this amount has been reduced to £31,100 in the current financial year, while the total amount allocated to this service has fallen from £79,000 to £46,000. I have also observed that there is a notation at the bottom of the page in the Estimates to the effect that this includes provision for the observatory now transferred to the Australian National University. I do not know whether the staff of this service has been dissipated or merged with the National University staff, but I think it is obviously a matter which concerns this committee and which deserves some attention. Last year, there were 52 employees, but this year the staff has fallen to 24. Salaries have fallen from £41,500 to £20,000. Last year, according to the Estimates, £1,837 was provided for the Commonwealth Astronomer - not a very large salary in times when the country should be intent on attracting the best scientific brains possible. This year, no such provision is made at all, and I think this matter needs clarification for the benefit of the community, because it is very important. I have no doubt that the Government will place great stress on these matters as a result of the Russian satellite being developed. Probably, in the not far distant election campaign, the Government will make particular mention of scientific developments such as the launching of the satellite. I was interested to see a reference to the matter in the daily press which read -
Why is a satellite like a politician?
Because it is launched from a platform which is then discarded.
I have no doubt that the Government would like to give the impression to the people of Australia that it is concerned with scientific developments, especially those associated with defence; but while it is prepared to give that impression at election time, like the satellite’s launching platform, the Government’s election platform is promptly discarded. I think that is a matter of some concern. I believe that, like the satellite, the Government will eventually destroy itself through its own efforts. Obviously, the study of the ionosphere is worthy of more attention than the present Government is inclined to give to it. In the Soviet Union, and doubtless in other parts of the world, it is receiving top priority. But here in Australia it is relegated to very obscure -mention, and indeed it is a subject of very vague notation at the bottom of the Estimates document, so that the committee is unable to determine the amount of money actually being expended.
I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that Australia is lagging very badly in the development of applied science generally. In the United States to-day 137 people in every 1,000,000 are trained in applied science . In the Soviet Union . 280 people inevery 1,000,000 are trained in applied science. In GreatBritain the figure is 57 and in Australia it is 110. Obviously, there is great scope to apply ourselves in a far more direct manner to this matter in future than we have done in the past.
Another matter that I want to refer to, and on which I invite the Minister to comment, is St. Mary’s. I know that this matter is sub judice to some extent in that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has intimated - and I hope I have understood him correctly-
– Order! That does not come under these departments.
– I know that the matter of St. Mary’s generally is not under discussion now, but I want to inquire of the Minister, if I may-
– You can inquire of the Minister for Defence Production when the committee is dealing with those matters.
– I want to inquire whether the Minister for the Interior is responsible for the renting of Commonwealth property or not?
– Is it the bells of St. Mary’s or the smells of St. Mary’s?
– Since there have been some suggestions of smells, I think the facts should be made known to the fullest possible extent. I am sure the committee would like to know the full facts and I am sure the Minister would like to convey the impression that he has nothing to hide about the matter of rents for these properties. The committee appreciates that a very large number of buildings have been let to private enterprise. It is the responsibility of the Opposition to ascertain exactly how much the Government is spending on the maintenance of properties which are leased to private enterprise. After all, the Government obviously went to some trouble to disregard the advice of its prime advisers, its Chiefs of Staff, and set about letting premises instead of developing them as a munitions factory.
The subjects I have dealt with deserve the attention of the committee, and I invite the Minister to give some information with respect to the last matter I have raised. I also invite him to indicate to the committee whether the Government is concerned with ionospheric studies, and particularly whether this important activity is to be neglected in the future as it has been in the past.
.- The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) in some extraordinary way has likened the Government to the Russian satellite. If there is any analogy between the Government and the satellite, surely it is the rapidity with which the Government achieves its object. Just as the Government moves unswervingly towards its goals, so the satellite is able to circle the globe and achieve all things it sets out to do.
There are in this world some very extraordinary associations. One of the most extraordinary of them is the association which has been set up to protect the interests of those people who are left-handed. They are constantly maintaining a campaign for the elimination of the word “ gauche “ for those who are awkward and for the elimination of the word “ adroit “ for those who are clever. There is another group of people who need to be banded together in an association for their own protection. I refer to those people whose names start with the letter in the alphabet following letter 13. I can see honorable members opposite listening carefully and with great interest as the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is at the table, is also doing.
The present situation is that when a ballot-paper is presented to an elector and he finds that the candidates are arranged on that paper in the order of the first initial of their name, a person who might be fortunate enough to have the name of “ A brahams “ would be certain to have his name at the top of the list. But if, on the other hand, like the honorable member for East Sydney his name began with “ W “ he would most likely find his name at the bottom of it. It is a well-known fact that on numerous occasions in elections there have been close contests, and quite frequently the number of votes which has enabled a candidate to be declared elected has been as low as nine or ten or, indeed, even one.
There can be little doubt that when the population of an electorate is as high as 40,000 or 50,000 there will be, among that number, some unintelligent voters who go along to the polling booth and write numbers in order on the paper from top to bottom - one to five, or whatever the number of candidates may be.
Mr. J. R. Fraser interjecting,
– It is impossible even for the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) to mitigate unintelligence everywhere.
– God bless you for that!
– I suggest to the Minister, in the hope that he will adopt it, a system by which the number of unintelligent votes will be mitigated. If every candidate appears on the ballot-paper in the order of the initial letter of his name the one that is at the top will be fortunate to collect the unintelligent vote, but if his name places him at the bottom he will be unfortunate because he misses it. If he drew other positions on the ballot-paper he would be in no better position because then, instead of the chance of his name starting with an early letter in the alphabet, he has to take the chance of the draw.
What I suggest is that the name of every candidate should appear on a ballot-paper in every position an equal number of times. I confess that that may sound an extraordinary process, but really it is quite simple. Suppose that there are 30,000 electors - for the convenience of mathematics and so that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) may understand also - and there are three candidates which, for the purpose of illustration we will call A, B and C. When the 30,000 ballot-papers were printed, 10,000 would have the names in the order A, B, C; 10,000 in the order B, C, A; and 10,000 in the order C, A, B. Then the three candidates would appear on an equal number of ballotpapers in every position available - one, two and 3. By this method, unintelligent votes would be mitigated, and it would not give an unnecessary advantage to a person who is fortunate enough to have his name commencing with an early letter of the alphabet.
The next problem that is posed is how the ballot-papers would be distributed. There is enshrined in the electoral law of this country, relating to the election of the Senate, two magical words, “ at random “. The “ at random “ provision in the Senate election procedure has been demonstrated, quite soundly and properly, and I have no complaint to make about it - indeed, I have compliments to offer. By using the words “ at random “ in the distribution of the 30,000 ballot-papers, we could say that the 30,000 ballot-papers would be distributed among the polling booths at random.
– In whose electorate would that take place?
– The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has not 30,000 electors in his electorate yet, but that is another point which will be brought up later with the growing importance of the Australian Capital Territory. By distributing the ballot-papers at random, if a person goes in to vote who has the misfortune to be an unintelligent voter and writes his numbers in order straight down the card, he will give his first preference to A, B, or C. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) is aware, the mere fact that the first letter of his name is “ C “ was a very fortunate coincidence for him on one occasion, but most unfortunate for the person who opposed him. 1 understand, from memory, that the honorable member for Bendigo won that election by 29 votes simply because his name starts with “ C “. It could be, with the growing influence of the Democratic Labour party in New South Wales, that an unfortunate gentleman such as the honorable member for East Sydney would find himself losing his seat by a similar number, because the first letter of his name is “ W “.
I feel that there is an interest in this proposition for every member of the committee. It is impossible to eliminate the unintelligent vote, but it is possible to mitigate it. The proposition that I have put before the committee, and to which I hope I have forcibly drawn the attention of the Minister, is one to mitigate the unintelligent vote. If this system is adopted, obviously people will say, “ How will you get on with the ‘ how-to-vote ‘ card? Would it be possible to have a ‘ how-to-vote ‘ card? “ Whether or not it would be possible I leave to the machinations of other people. For myself I should like to see the “ howtovote “ card eliminated. Under a system such as this you could never entirely eliminate the unintelligent vote, but it would mitigate it and it would bring rationality into elections.
Another matter to which 1 direct the attention of the Minister is the fact that the population of Australia is growing rapidly throughout the continent. lt is an even more important fact that the population in certain parts of Australia is increasing tremendously rapidly. The area which I have the honour to represent I believe to be the biggest electorate in Australia to-day. Of course, I do not speak in terms of size but in terms of the number of electors. At December, 1955, there were some 48,300 people registered as eligible to vote. I do not know the figure at the present time, because it would seem that electoral officers are unable to reveal it; but from inquiries I have carried out I have ascertained that the number of electors in the electorate now is approaching 57,000. For the number to have increased to 57,000 since December, 1955, indicates quite clearly that if that rate of increase continues it will soon be beyond the capacity of any single person to attend properly to the requirements of the electorate. I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact, which I am sure applies with equal significance to other electorates - such’ as those of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and many others - that the population is growing so rapidly that it is becoming impossible for one member to devote to his electorate the time that he would like to give it. It is obvious, therefore, that not far in the future it will be necessary to have a redistribution of electoral boundaries. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind knowing that the machinery for redistribution is complicated and takes a long while to move. I suggest to him, however, that in the not distant future it will have to be set in motion.
.- 1 will not be second to any man in propounding statistics concerning my electorate. I have the most populous electorate in New South Wales. Before the last redistribution it had more electors than any other in Australia and twice as many as some in Australia, but its size was then reduced to the quota of electors. But still it was ahead of all others in population because it has such a vast number of people under 21 years of age within its borders. Some of the long-settled electorates around Sydney have almost 70 per cent, of the population on the rolls. Mine is the only electorate in New South Wales which has less than 50 per cent, of the population on the rolls. That well indicates, I suggest, one of the problems of the Electoral Office, and the inadequacy of the present electoral machinery to ensure that there is an equitable representation of all souls, of whatever age, in this Parliament. It is not just to divide up the country into areas of an equal number of citizens over 21, irrespective, of the number under 21 years of age.
I want to applaud the statesmanlike suggestion of the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) that the position of candidates on ballot-papers should be decided by lot. If that is good enough for- the Senate,
I would suggest with all humility that it is good enough for members of this House; The honorable member cited the example of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who would naturally, in the matter of ballot-papers, be very low down. I say again in all humility, and I do not wish to be taken amiss, that, in this regard at any rate, I would be lower than the honorable member for East Sydney.
– I made that qualification to cut the ground from under the inevitable rejoinder.
– Order! I cannot approve the disloyalty to the Chairman when the honorable gentleman makes these suggestions.
– Mr. Adermann, you are ahead of us all. No effort should be spared to make elections completely equitable. I do not want to complain about the position in my own electorate, because there is an increasing number of people whose names begin with letters of the alphabet lower than mine.
The point that I wish to raise on the estimates for this department could, in fact, have been raised in connexion with the estimates for any department, since all Commonwealth departments own a prodigious number of motor vehicles, but I choose to raise the matter during the debate on the estimates for this department because my latest representations on the subject have been made to the Minister at the table; the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall). For many years now there has been third-party insurance legislation in all the States of Australia, in the Australian Capital Territory and, I think, in the Northern Territory. Since this legislation was introduced there has been a presumption that anybody who is driving a motor vehicle is doing so with the. authority of the owner of that vehicle. This provision does not apply to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is the only owner of motor vehicles in Australia which can escape liability to persons who are. injured by the vehicles it owns on the grounds that, the driver of the vehicle concerned was not driving it with the consent of the Commonwealth.
I; know that, until abour twenty years ago, every owner of a vehicle could put up that defence. He could say, however grievous the injuries done to a person by his vehicle, that the driver of the vehicle was engaged on a jaunt of his own and, in fact, unless the person injured could show that the person driving the vehicle was doing so with the consent of the owner, the owner went scot-free, although it might have been that a man of straw was driving the vehicle and then it would have been completely futile to sue him. That is still the position if the damages that a vehicle does are purely material damages. But since the third party insurance provisions have come in in all the States and in the Territories, it is no longer possible for an owner to escape liability if the damages his vehicle does are personal injuries to some one; that is, if the vehicle causes death or bodily injuries, then the owner of the vehicle - in effect, of course, the insurance company with whom he takes out the third party policy - has to pay the damages. 1 was a bit shocked when a claim for damages for injuries inflicted by a Commonwealth vehicle upon a woman sitting in a parked car in my electorate was refused by the Minister’s department on the ground that the driver of the vehicle was not driving it with the Commonwealth’s authority. That is a defence which could not be put up by any other owner of a motor vehicle in any State of Australia. It is a defence which could not be put up by the Commonwealth itself in the Australian Capital Territory or, I believe, in the Northern Territory. But the Commonwealth takes this unmeritorious, obsolete defence, which is legally open to it, in this case of which I know and in respect of which I am at present making representations to the Minister, and I believe that it is the regular habit of the Commonwealth to put on that defence in every case in which its vehicles are involved outside the Australian Capital Territory.
I say that the Commonwealth should never put itself in a favoured position in this regard. There should be no presumption that the Commonwealth should disown its employees, any more than private employers can disown their employees. If the Commonwealth sees fit to employ a man, it should stand up to the damage he does, just as every other employer must. T should think that, in this day and age, the Commonwealth should not put on such a defence, that it should not make such a plea.
I made representations to the Minister on this matter only two days ago, and I 6a not think 1 am unduly optimistic in saying that he will see the justice of my submissions. It is a matter of public importance. There are other Ministers and other departments, and there should be a common policy for every Commonwealth vehicle in Australia, as regards injuries done by every Commonwealth driver in Australia because, of course, every driver is an employee. The Commonwealth cannot drive a vehicle by itself. It has to do so through employees. That means that if this defence is put on, people who see a Commonwealth car coming would be well advised to get off the road; it would not be safe just to park to get out of its way. 1 suggest that it is high time that the Commonwealth passed an act abdicating its rights in this connexion. It is not a matter which we can leave to the States. Some of the States, including New South Wales, expressly exclude Commonwealth vehicles from their third party insurance acts. Whether they expressly exclude them or not would make very little difference because, I should think, it would be impossible for a State parliament to impose on a Commonwealth vehicle an obligation to insure. There would be the immunity of instrumentalities, at least, to that extent; but the Commonwealth could itself accept the liability, just as it accepts liability, say, for Commonwealth employees’ compensation and suits against the Crown.
This is a matter which it is high time we corrected, and until legislation can be prepared - there is no doubt that it would be passed very rapidly - it is still open to every department, by administrative action, to accept this liability which is accepted by every other employer throughout Australia, and which the Commonwealth itself accepts in the Territories. I hope that, in this regard, a reforming and energetic Minister will lead the way.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said that he agreed with the statesmanlike suggestion of the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) that the candidates should take their positions on the ballot-paper by ballot. I did not suggest that the candidates should take their position on the ballot-paper by ballot.
I suggested the very reverse. I said that candidates should appear on an equal number of ballot-papers in every position an equal number of times.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I want to make it plain that I regard the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) as not only a statesman but also a logician in this matter.
.- 1 have just had the opportunity of looking at some figures. I do not know whether the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), who have been firing personal explanations at one another, wish to develop an argument on the size of their electorates; but at the last census there were 79,000 people in the electorate of Bruce, and 86,952 in the electorate of Werriwa. If, as stated by the honorable member for Werriwa, there are more people under the age of 21, it seems there is some extra good work going on in the division of Werriwa.
I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Bruce that the Parliament should give consideration to the abolition of “ how-to-vote “ cards on polling days. I think .that all members will agree, if they give some thought to the matter, that the implementation of this proposal would not only do them a service but would also make the job easier on polling day for those officers who are engaged by the electoral authorities; and it would keep the polling booths in a much cleaner state.
– Does the honorable member think that ballot-papers should have party affiliations printed on them?
– I shall not engage in that argument which involves all sorts of questions which I do not want to deal with at the moment.
– It is done abroad.
– I appreciate that. As I am a West Australian member, I rose in order to draw the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to the subject of Commonwealth buildings in Western Australia. When the Minister was replying to comments on Commonwealth buildings in capital cities a few moments ago he travelled, in effect, from Brisbane, through Sydney and Melbourne, to Adelaide and then, unwittingly I take it, he stopped. I want to assure him and all other members that whether they travel by aircraft, train, ship, or motor vehicle further than Adelaide, across the Nullarbor Plain or the Great Australian Bight, they will arrive in Western Australia. I hope that, when the Minister is considering the matter of Commonwealth buildings in capital cities, the City of Perth will not be forgotten. 4-
I have raised this matter before in the Parliament because Western Australia has been somewhat unfortunate in relation to the construction of Commonwealth buildings. Honorable members may recall that as far back as 1946 and early 1947 the Public Works Committee visited Western Australia to inquire into the construction of the repatriation building. However, because of an expression of opinion from all sides of politics in respect of the housing problem in Western Australia at that time, the commencement of that building was deferred. It was not started until a very short time ago. I think that all West Australians will agree with me that the building of major Commonwealth buildings in Western Australia - I do not mean temporary buildings - was delayed for four or five years. It will not be very long before Perth, in keeping with all the other capital cities, will be facing a problem with respect to the occupancy by the Commonwealth of private accommodation. In fact, only every recently the Repatriation Department, or a section of it, had to vacate a building. The Commonwealth had to vacate it in somewhat of a hurry.
As far back as 1911 the then Minister for the Interior acquired some land in Perth which is now known as Forrestplace. ‘ On one side of it is the Commonwealth Bank and next to that is the post office. On the other side of the street is a building called “ Padbury Building “ which is under lease until about 1971. The foundations of the building are of such a nature that it will be possible to add three more stories to it, which would give the east side of Forrest-place a structure of five stories. I hope that that work will be commenced in the near future. I am not saying that it will be started to-morrow or even next year but consideration should be given to making an attempt on it. That would cater for the needs of the western capital for some considerable time as well as providing a fine building directly opposite the Perth railway station where people who come to Western Australia by train get their first sight of the western capital. I hope that when consideration is being given to these matters Perth will not be overlooked.
I support the comments of honorable members on both sides of the chamber who have supported the idea of the Commonwealth building its own accommodation in capital cities. I think you will recall, Mr. Chairman, the storm of protest that arose when a previous administration purchased some land in Melbourne with the idea of constructing Commonwealth offices. To-day, I think you will find that the people of Melbourne are somewhat appreciative of the building that the Commonwealth is erecting. When those offices have been occupied and more private property has been released to private enterprise the gratitude of the people will be increased. When the Commonwealth built a property in Hobart there was some very severe criticism of that building in the press. But since it has been completed and has been used for the purposes of banking the general tempo of building in the city of Hobart has increased considerably. That typifies what happens in all capital cities.
I support very earnestly the comments of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who said that the Commonwealth should set an example in these matters. I do not mean that it should ride rough shod over the States. Ail things being equal, when the time is opportune, the Commonwealth should build its properties and then there would be no charge against it for occupying private property to the exclusion of private enterprise. We have seen in the past, and I am certain we shall see in the future, that the Commonwealth has built, and will build, a type of building of which we can be proud and of which the States can be proud. However, their construction is a very difficult problem. Since the Government has been in office it has completely vacated the field of loan funds to the exclusive use of the States. It has not even taken advantage of its privilege under the Financial Agreement whereby the Commonwealth could take unto itself the first 20 per cent, of all loan raisings. As we go through the various papers relating to this matter, we see that advances to the States have increased each year. We must realize that these buildings have to be built out of the only resources available to us and they are derived from taxation.
If private enterprise and individual owners of property will continue to kick at the Commonwealth to vacate property then these same people must be prepared in the final analysis to contribute a little more to Commonwealth revenue in order to enable the Commonwealth to meet the commitments already facing it. and, at the same time, erect buildings to replace those that are vacated and returned to private individuals and companies. The job, therefore, becomes one of co-operation between individuals outside as well as between governments, Federal and State. The job is a tremendous one, but I hope that as things are easing somewhat now in quite a few respects and, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), there is room for further employment in the building trade, we will do everything we can to complete those buildings in the capital cities so that we can get out of the acommodation we are occupying at present.
My mind has been directed to the next matter I wish to mention by the comments of the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) regarding the ionospheric prediction service. I do not know anything about that particular scientific area. I, like others, last night watched what is said to be the rocket which was used to launch the Russian satellite into its orbit, tearing across the sky. I, like the honorable member for Hughes, also read the skit in this morning’s “ Town Talk “ column in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, and I have suggested to my friend, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. I. R. Fraser), that as he is a journalist and something of a poet he could paraphrase that and refer it to journalists to see if we can make any contrast between them and the satellite.
– I am not a paraphraser.
– So I understand. That brought my mind to the meteorological service. I am very pleased to see that approximately £140,000 extra is to be made available this year for that particular- branch.
I understand that that is for the purpose of buying various types of equipment so that our service in that particular sphere can be of greater value to the people of Australia. The money may be used for instance, for the purchase of radar equipment. Honorable members will recall that some years ago, during the regime of the predecessor of the present Minister for the Interior, Queensland asked for some system that would enable Queensland people to be notified of impending cyclones. Radar and its associates are used for that purpose. I hope that members of this committee will be appreciative of the services that are given to the community by those employed in meteorological work.
I turn now to a matter that concerns the vote for the News and Information Bureau. I understand that when the Minister visited Western Australia recently he was impressed by something that was happening in that State, and it was his intention to give serious thought to the establishment of a branch of the bureau in Western Australia. I understand also that that particular move is going along well. I suggest to the Minister that the publication in the Eastern States of news stories emanating from Western Australia, through the medium of the bureau, would be beneficial, because the people in the east, about whom I hear and read clamouring for money all the time, would then have some knowledge of what is being done in the West. We have a university in Western Australia which is the only free university in the Southern Hemisphere. It is possible for the son or daughter of a prince or a peasant to attend that university so long as he or she has the ability to pass the necessary examination. But for years that same university had no means of catering for students who wished to train in medicine and dentistry. They had to be sent to the Eastern States - to Adelaide, Melbourne and occasionally Sydney. The same applies to veterinary science. At long last somebody decided to get moving about the provision of a medical school at the University of Western Australia, and the people of that State banded together and raised the handsome sum of £500,000 in under twelve months. In the drawing room of practically every house, and on practically every lawn, there was some function going on to raise money for the medical school - square dances, barbecues and so on. Even children at school were raising money for the fund. To-day, that medical school is being built. I commend the story of that achievement to the Minister to be disseminated throughout Australia when the News and Information Bureau is ultimately established in Perth, because it would be an object lesson to the people in the Eastern States who are always crying out for more money.
– I shall use only two or three minutes of my time in discussing these Estimates. The very development of the National Capital of Canberra, rapid as it is becoming, means that much of the early history of the city, the history relating to the very earliest development of the site of the National Capital, will become lost because those in whose minds and memories all that history is existent will pass from among us. Some time ago, I think possibly two years ago, a decision was made that there should be at least a documentary history of the Australian Capital Territory prepared from the files of the Department of the Interior as well as from the minds and memories of the older servants of the department, the men who came here with the early survey and development parties. I think I am correct in saying that the suggestion was made that the task of compiling this file history, or documentary history, should be given to Mr. C. S. Daley, who was, as every one here knows, closely associated with the development of Canberra in many capacities and, most recently, before his retirement, as Civic Administrator.
What has happened to that proposal I do not know, but I should like the Minister to give consideration to it, because the old hands are leaving us year by year, and there is within their minds the memories and the stored knowledge of the history of this place in its very early days - the history of the development of the site and the initial development of the city. It would be a great shame if that were lost to posterity, and I hope that the Minister will, as soon as possible, make the appointment that I suggest. I believe such an appointment would be an admirable way to ensure that this history is not lost to us, but preserved for the future, while we still have among us the men capable of putting it on paper.
.- We know that much concern has been felt in Australia about the great accumulation of population in metropolitan areas. There has been talk for a very long time in this country about decentralization, but while the talk has been going on nothing has been done that would bring about the desired effect. I believe that the only way that something effective can be done is through the Commonwealth Electoral Act, or by keeping close to the Commonwealth Electoral Act when re-distributions of electoral boundaries are being made. In 1949, when this Parliament was enlarged, there was a redistribution which gave an additional thirteen seats to Victoria. There were twenty Commonwealth divisions in Victoria before, and now there are 33. Of the thirteen additional seats eight are in the metropolitan area and five are in the country. That only aggravated the position which was becoming very apparent before the increase of the number of seats. The Commonwealth Electoral Act states clearly that when a distribution of boundaries is made, it shall be based on the quota of electors. Section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act reads -
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to - and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
Now, the quotas vary in different States. If the quota were 40,000, it could go down to 32,000 or up to 48,000. As far as I know, and I have watched fairly closely, that has not happened. Honorable members from New South Wales and Victoria have said that they have the largest number of electors on the rolls for those areas. I am in quite the reverse position. I have the largest area in Victoria. There was a redistribution in 1955. What happened then was that the large electorate of Mallee was made larger by the inclusion of the subdivisions of Jeparit and Rainbow. Other large electorates also were made larger. If large electorates are made larger, then small electorates are made smaller, because of the greater population in the metropolitan electorates, which are small in area. If the full margin of allowance was adhered to when redistribution was effected, country areas would have greater representation and city areas would have smaller representation than they have now.
It is a well-known fact, and I have stated it before, that in Victoria, if an area has an increased number of members of Parliament, naturally there are more votes in this chamber for the things that members are striving to obtain for their constituents. If their constituents are city dwellers, the members strive for amenities for those areas. If they get more amenities because they have greater representation in this chamber, then the country areas get less. Then, with more amenities in the city, there is the drift to the amenities - not to the city as such but to the amenities in the city. Those amenities are obtained by greater representation in the Parliament and by the votes being exercised to obtain the amenities for the city areas. Then the position gets worse than ever. Through the drift to the cities for the amenities, the population is increased and then the area is represented by more members of Parliament. That goes on like a snowball. I could make the situation appear ridiculous by pointing out that finally all the representation, all the amenities and all the people would be in the cities. To some extent, that has happened. It has been pointed out that fewer people are now engaged in primary production. That is true, but they are producing more because of modern machinery.
– Made in the city!
– As the honorable member for Wills has pointed out, the modern machinery is made in the city. Though the primary producer is producing more and probably, quite contrary to the arguments of the Opposition, is a greater employer of labour to-day than he ever was, the country is being depleted of population. The only way in which people can be encouraged to go to the country is to provide more amenities in the country. Housing, electricity and those things that make for congenial living must be provided. A refrigerator cannot be put on a barbed wire fence; a house is needed. Yesterday, the honorable member for
Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) mentioned the satellite village near Frankston, in Victoria, and asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) whether communication lines and other facilities would be provided. But, when people in the outback need those facilities, it is not in the best interests of the country to provide them in the city areas.
Some honorable members have complained of the number of electors in metropolitan electorates. However, honorable members representing city areas can go round their electorates by tram in one day or call one meeting and meet all who wish to see them. With a large electorate, a vast amount of travelling is necessary, and that is not in the best interests of representation. Therefore, the only way to bring about true decentralization is to use the margin allowed in the Commonwealth Electoral Act when redistribution is being made. I suggest that when commissioners are appointed to make future redistributions, they should be asked to consider the full margin allowed in the act.
.- I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) will not take any notice of the submissions of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). The electoral distributions in 1949 and 1955 were in line with the practice that has been adopted since the Commonwealth Electoral Act was passed by the Parliament.
– That does not make it right.
– No, but at least the principle was right. The act says that the commissioners can go one-fifth either way in the redistribution but the commissioners from the very beginning have exercised their discretion and made the allowance not onefifth but one-tenth either way. Broadly, that has worked out very satisfactorily. The principle of democracy is majority rule. What the honorable member is arguing for is representation in the Parliament of broad acres, not of blood and bone. Other people in other days wanted bricks and mortar represented in the Parliament. We believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people. Of course, we must resent any suggestion of a return to a reactionary past.
The honorable member for Mallee said that he has a big electorate. In Victorian terms, it might be a big electorate, but Victoria has an area of 88,000 square milesout of the total area of 3,000,000 square miles of this country. Victoria has 33 members, New South Wales, with 308,000 square miles has 46 members. South Australia, with 320,000 square miles, has eleven members. Queensland, with 680,000 square miles, has eighteen members. Western Australia, which is one-third of the Commonwealth and has an area of 1,000,000 square miles, has nine members. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson) represents 800,000 square miles. How many electors is he to be satisfied with? The honorable member for Mallee certainly has a big electorate in Victoria, but, compared with the electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), it is a pocket-handkerchief electorate. What representation should be given to the honorable member for Maranoa if a smaller electorate is to be given to the honorable member for Mallee? The honorable member for Mallee said that he cannot travel the big distances.
– I did not say that at all. For goodness sake, put things right.
– What did you say? I had difficulty in trying to discover what the honorable member really was saying, but 1 tried to follow the trend of his argument. He certainly was not travelling on a certain course, as the satellite is to-day. I thought that he was arguing for a smaller electorate for the honorable member for Mallee. If I am wrong, 1 apologize, but I think I am right. He argued about amenities in the country areas. If the honorable member for Mallee has not enough amenities in his electorate after being in the Parliament for eleven years, it is time the electors got another member for Mallee. When I studied geometry that is what was called “ Q.E.D.”. I believe that the trend of civilization is towards bigger cities and fewer people in the country areas. Automation, mechanization and such developments are taking people off the farms and putting them in the big rural centres and, unfortunately, in the capital cities.
This country has an unbalanced population. Sixty-four per cent, of the people of Victoria are in Melbourne, and much the same figure applies in New South Wales. Queensland is more decentralized, but has a bigger area. Adelaide is worse than Melbourne. The evil of centralization is world-wide, but I do not know how it can be conquered or overcome. England, with 8,000,000 of its total population of 45,000,000 in London alone, has a much better system of decentralization than we have in Australia. I believe in decentralization, but I do not think that we can discourage centralization by depriving the people of fair representation in the Parliament. I believe in majority rule, and I believe in the principle of “ one vote, one value “. I think that, since that principle has been adopted in Victoria, that State has a better Parliament than it used to have when the electoral system was loaded the other way.
I am amazed that the honorable member for Mallee, who is often so logical, should have worked the parish pump handle so hard to-night. I know that his contribution to the debate will read very well in the country newspapers to which he will send copies of it, but it is not good to have in the National Parliament a member who wants to vitiate every principle upon which majority rule operates, and has operated in this Parliament from its very beginning.
I shall conclude on this note: No government should interfere, or try to interfere, with Distribution Commissioners. I know of no government that has told the commissioners, at any time during the history of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, what percentage they ought to allow either above or below the quota. I think that it is true - and the Minister for the Interior can check it - that Distribution Commissioners appointed in any State to arrange a redistribution of electoral boundaries have always worked on the principle of onetenth above or one-tenth below the quota. Honorable members may say that a boundary should have been moved here or there, and perhaps some argument could be found in favour of the suggestion. But I think that, by and large, electoral commissioners do a very good job, that they should be left free of influence or interference by the Minister or anybody else, and that we should not write into the act the provision that the honorable member for Mallee wants so that the proportion of 20 per cent, shall obtain in all circumstances.
.- We can readily understand the wrath of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) at the proposal that I put forward. His criticism of it had a highly political flavour. This matter should not be discussed from a party political stand-point. I was speaking only of Victoria, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tried to bring other States into it. The fact of the matter is, as he well knows, that, in Victoria, the Australian Labour party dependsfor its majority in every seat on a city voteIn every rural seat that it holds, it gains itsmajority from the vote recorded in some city embraced by the electorate. Therefore, it was to be expected that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as deputy leader of the Australian Labour party, would put up the argument that he has advanced.
– What did the honorable member suggest?
– I suggested that, in the best interests of the country, we should adopt a practical method of promoting decentralization. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he was in favour qf decentralization, but he did not advance an alternative suggestion for promoting it. His reply was intended merely to do political damage to his opponents. He made no practical suggestion. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has interjected, from a seat other than his own, “What did the honorable member suggest? “ My proposal was made very plain, and, so far as I am concerned, it will stand, unless any other honorable member can suggest something better.
The honorable member for Melbourne - to refer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition by the name of his electorate - said that he believed in decentralization, but he made no suggestion alternative to my proposal. The sort of talk that we have heard from him must be condemned by all rightthinking people, because it is worth absolutely nothing. The honorable member tried to misconstrue what I had said. 1 referred to the Mallee electorate, which I have the honour to represent, as the largest in Victoria. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition then compared it with the electorates represented by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson) and by my colleague, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe). I made no claim that my constituency was as large as those electorates are, because I was speaking only about Victoria. What I said -was perfectly true. If Opposition members believe in decentralization, let them make a better suggestion than mine if they can.
– Order! They may do so only if the Chair permits them to discuss the subject of decentralization. I suggest that the honorable member confine his remarks to the redistribution of electoral boundaries.
– Let me put it this way: If they can make a better suggestion than mine during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House this evening, or any other evening, I shall be the first to support it. The remarks made by The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had a political object, because Labour knows that it cannot win country seats. My proposal stands, and Ire-submit it to the committee.
. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) and the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) proposed that howtovote cards should be abolished on polling days. I do not know whether the Government intends to incorporate such a proposal in its plans for electoral reform. I hope that it does not intend to abolish the people’s-
– We are not going to abolish the people.
– The proposal was that how-to-vote cards should be abolished on polling days. I think that is clear. To me, it is clear that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, which already control the means of mass communication, such as television, radio, and the press, now propose to shackle the people still further by preventing the poorer political organizations from advising them how to vote. The Australian Labour party, for instance, has no wealthy supporters such as the wealthy companies that support the Government parties. I remind honorable members that it was suggested during the last election campaign, that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party spent £800,000 in an effort to have their candidates returned.
We now hear the snide proposal that howtovote cards should be abolished on election days. However, Government supporters do not suggest that how-to-vote cards and other election material should be abolished altogether. They suggest merely that howtovote cards should be abolished on polling days, knowing very well that, with the untold wealth at their command, they can post how-to-vote cards to their supporters on the Tuesday or the Wednesday before polling day in order to make sure that their supporters get the cards. This is beyond the means of the other political parties.
I should like to utter a warning. This matter has been mentioned surreptitiously over a period. Of course, I am suspicious in these matters, because my long experience in the political sphere has taught me to be suspicious when I see the rackets that are synonymous with the activities of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. I should like to issue a warning for the benefit of the other political parties, which have not sufficient funds to put their election material into circulation in the way that the Government parties can do. I make my protest against this proposal, and I warn the people of Australia that if it is put into effect it will constitute another fascist attempt to shackle the electors of Australia.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) put -
The the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority.. . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed Vote, £9,862,000
– The next group of estimates with which the committee has to deal concerns the Department of Civil Aviation. The Opposition desires to direct attention, as it has done on previous occasions, to the rather fortunate position of airline operators in Australia, when we regard the airways as a transport system, by comparison with, say, the railways in the various States. The Estimates provide for an expenditure of £9,862,000, which must be balanced against returns in revenue amounting to £1,372,000, £377,000 of which comes from a dividend from the government-owned airline, Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and £218,000 from a payment, which is also in the nature of a dividend, from the Australian National Airlines Commission, which controls Trans-Australia Airlines, which is also a government concern. The very small amount of £511 , 000 is received by the department in the form of air navigation charges, and miscellaneous revenue accounts for £265,000.
It has been pointed out on previous occasions that if we compare the airways as a transport system with, say, the State railways - comparing a Commonwealth form of transport with a State form of transport - we must bear in mind that the Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation provides aerodromes and other facilities. It also provides the technical apparatus which controls the flight of the plane from its take off at, say, Melbourne to its destination at Sydney, or wherever it may happen to be. On the other hand the State railways are obliged to provide all these facilities as part of their running costs. The difference between the expenditure of the Department of Civil Aviation and the very small return in revenue - more than £8,500,000 in effect - is a form of government subsidy paid by the Commonwealth Government to airline operators in Australia. When the fortunate position of the airline operators compared with the railways is pointed out to the Government, the argument is used that civil aviation also has a defence potential and therefore it is part of a concealed form of defence. But the same type of argument or the same luxury of choice of argument is not permitted to the various States when they come annually to the Premiers’ conference, seeking additions to revenue. A large part of the deficits, which some States find themselves facing these days, is due to their railway undertakings. The suggestion made by the Commonwealth is that the States should increase railway fares and freights.
The same rigorous economic tests are not applied by the Commonwealth itself to airline operations. No one can deny the great part that civil aviation can play in the development of this great continent. Civil aviation has put an entirely different complexion on the life of the person living in the central parts of the country or in the remote parts of Queensland and Western Australia. But nobody can deny the very great social, economic and other advantages that the State railway systems have bestowed on the citizens of the Commonwealth.
In the course of the debate on the Treasury, reference was made to the need for a more sympathetic approach to the problem of Commonwealth and State financial relations. It was said that the Commonwealth Government was able to provide for its works out of an abundance of revenue whereas the States had to borrow money and pay interest on it. The Commonwealth is in an undoubtedly superior economic position in that respect.
Equally, it is in a superior economic position in relation to air transport in Australia. Very little revenue is in fact returned to the Government from the use of the civil aviation services that it provides. By comparison it would mean that the States would provide the railway stations and the railway lines but allow some private operator to run the trains. That is similar to what is being done in the Commonwealth at the moment with regard to airways. The Commonwealth provides the aerodromes and the navigation facilities but it allows individual operators to run the planes using those services Some are private operators and there is also the Government concern - Trans-Australia Airlines. There has recently been a merger of two private operators and it is significant that the principal of one of them, Mr. Ansett, has already suggested that in his view air transport in Australia is too cheap. He does not suggest that it is too cheap on the side of the subsidy that is being provided by the Government. It is apparently too cheap because even on the very favorable terms on which the companies have been operating, they have not derived sufficient profits to make their concerns economic.
The Opposition has always taken the attitude with regard to transport in this country that because of the vast area of Australia we must use the abundance of revenues that we can get from the populated areas to subsidize the development of the outback areas. A similar principle was adopted by the States in connexion with their railways in the past when they had a choice in disposing of their own revenue. The efficiency of transport in Australia is seriously dislocated when, instead of the test of public service being applied, an attempt is made to use the test of private profit. If profit is to be the sole aim of public transport in this country, whether it be railways or airways, then the service to some very deserving sections of the community will suffer in consequence.
.- I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Government on the new policy it has initiated for civil aviation in Australia. It is a policy which is already reflected in the Estimates now before us. In particular the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) must be congratulated for the unobtrusive tact and skill with which he conducted the negotiations following on the announced intention of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to discontinue operations. That tact and skill- has been effective in ensuring that we will continue to enjoy the inestimable benefits of competition along the main trunk lines of Australia - competition which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) seems to want to eliminate altogether. To say that we will maintain competition is, of course, just another way of saying that airline development will continue in the future as it has in the past. But it is not the trunk route services about which I wish to speak to-night. I wish to speak about the more prosaic, less glamorous feeder services. These services, which feed freight and passengers from the country into the capital, cities and along main trunk routes are probably more important at this, stage of development than the main trunk route services themselves. In a country as vast as Australia, efficient communications are most important, whether they be by road, rail or sea. They are important because of the amenities they provide in isolated parts of the country, and they are even more important because of the effect that efficient communications have on costs and quality of service. Because it is the rural industries which these communications affect - the industries on whose efficiency the whole of our development depends - it is fair to say that they should receive the very highest priority. I am glad to see that the Government has recognized this in the policy which it has enunciated. It has announced that it has decided to extend assistance by way of subsidy to the operators of essential air services in rural areas, and also to help selected operators to obtain replacement aircraft for the DC3’s. This is a great step forward. It will enable services to be extended to country centres which have not enjoyed them in the past and it will enable operators to provide more frequent and more efficient services.
However, although the subsidies are valuable for certain purposes, they will never provide the solution to any problem, whether it be in respect of aviation services or anything else. The provision of subsidies for feeder services is a valuable initial step, but if we are to have continuous and uninterrupted expansion, the provision of a subsidy will have to be associated with positive planning eventually to enable feeder services to stand on their own feet. Otherwise, we will have a situation such as has so often arisen in the past as a consequence of subsidies. The subsidies will go on getting larger, while no steps are taken to remove the defects which brought the subsidies into being.
What are the causes which have made the operation of feeder services in this country unprofitable in recent years? I should like to suggest two, although I am well aware that there are quite a number of others. However, I think those which I will mention are the principal ones. In the first place, the aircraft used on these feeder services are not always suitable. To some extent the problem will be overcome, I admit, when the intended changes from DC3 aircraft to the Fokker Friendship and the Handley-Page types of aircraft are made. But this will not entirely overcome the problem, because even these aircraft are too large for many of the rural services. It is probable that the future extension- of air services, which, I hope will criss-cross the map of Australia with their communications, will be to centres where the operation of aircraft of the DC3 size would be uneconomical. They would be uneconomical because the principal determining factor in estimating profitability in aircraft, is the pay load, that is the proportion of total seats and space that aTe occupied on a particular flight. Indeed, the principal reason why many of the existing feeder services are not profitable is that the average- pay load is too low.
I mention this to make the point that if air services are to be expanded in Australia on a sound basis, aircraft much smaller than the DC3 or its replacement will be required for this purpose. Aircraft, for example, such as the “ Dove “ or the “ Heron “, which, because of their smaller seating capacity, have a greater chance of achieving a profitable pay load than has the DC3 type, are operating in Australia with considerable success. An excellent service has recently been established to the town of Naracoorte, in my electorate. Although services such as this exist, they are not yet nearly widespread enough.
Most of the feeder services in Australia are operated by the major airlines or their subsidiaries. Because they require the DC3 type of aicraft for other purposes to obtain their maximum utilization, they use them on services where the average pay load is not sufficient really to warrant their use on economic grounds. Not only is this wasteful from the overall point of view; it also prevents an extension of air services to other small centres. However, by extending to the feeder services the frills of air services which are provided on the main trunk routes, such as hostesses and meals and all the rest of the things which are desirable on inter-city routes, the smaller companies have great difficulty in operating more suitable planes to compete with them.
The Government can do several things to correct the situation. The first, which I admit is obvious, is to give every encouragement to companies which are formed solely for the purpose of operating feeder services, lust as rationalization on the larger trunk routes has been found to be necessary, I believe that rationalization is even more necessary in relation to the rural feeder services. In particular, I believe that it should be the objective of the Government eventually to confine the major operators to the main trunk routes and to grant smaller operators exclusive rights - under conditions, of course - to operate feeder services in particular areas. They could be permitted to operate to the larger country centres as well as to the smaller ones. This would lead to greater flexibility and to a greater number of centres being served. It is more probable that because the services would be suited to- the needs and to the size of the centres they would serve, they would cease to require a subsidy, except for the replacement of aircraft. Moreover, because the service would be provided by smaller aircraft, the capital expenditure on aerodromes and landing strips would be very much smaller than would be necessary for the DC3 or an equivalent type of aircraft. The important thing is that sealed strips are not necessary with the smaller type of aircraft of which I am speaking. This cuts down the cost of providing aerodromes, and therefore, the drain on the money of the taxpayers, to approximately one-twentieth of what the cost would be if we used DC3 type aircraft. At a time when shortage of capital is one of the principal problems facing this fast-developing country, that is no mean saving.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments):
Clause 6 (Inmates of benevolent homes).
Senate’s amendment No. 1 -
After clause 6, insert the following new clauses: - “ 6a. Section ninety-two of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (a) of subsection (2.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -
unless that woman or her husband -
is a resident of Australia as defined by the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936- 1957; and
is not a resident of a place outside Australia specified in section seven of that Act; or ‘. “ 6b. Section one hundred and four of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following subsection: - (2.) An endowment shall not be granted or paid by virtue of the last preceding sub-section unless the person to whom the endowment is granted or paid or, if that person is a woman, that woman or her husband -
is a resident of Australia as defined by the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936- 1957; and
is not a resident of a place outside Australia specified in section seven of that Act.’.”.
Clause 9 -
The amendments effected by this Act apply in relation to -
an instalment of a pension falling due on the first pension pay day after the date of commencement of this Act and to all subsequent instalments; and
a payment of a benefit made in respect of a period that commenced on or after that date.
Senate’s amendment No. 2 -
Clause 9, leave out paragraph (b), insert the following paragraphs: - “(b) endowment or benefit in respect of a period commencing on or after that date; and “ (c) maternity allowance in respect of a birth occurring on or after that date.”.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The amendments, which are the inevitable consequences of the expansion of our political geography, can be explained in a very few words. The effect of the amendment of sections 92 (2) and 104 (2) will be to place Australia’s temporary residents in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, or in any other places that may be specified in section 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, in the same position in relation to child endowment and maternity allowance as are Australians temporarily resident in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and in Norfolk Island. Persons resident in the places specified in section 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act are not liable for Australian income tax on income derived in those places.
The Chifley Government, it will be remembered, in 1948 wrote into the Social Services Act the principle that persons who were temporarily resident in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea or Norfolk Island and whose income derived from sources in those places was not subject to Commonwealth taxation, should not be entitled to receive child endowment or the maternity allowance. This amendment extends that principle to other places where the same taxation exemption applies, or may apply in the future. This is necessary in the interests of consistent practice and follows the’ decision of the Government to extend the taxation exemption to residents of the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. It is merely an extension of the principle laid down by the Chifley Government.
There are about fifteen persons in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands who will be affected by the amendment. However, no hardship will be involved, as they already receive a special children’s allowance of £50 a year for each child up to four in number. This allowance is paid by the husband’s employer, under arrangements made between the four main employing authorities - Qantas Empire Airways Limited, the Shell Oil Company of Australia Limited, the Department of Civil Aviation, and the Meteorological Branch of the Department of the Interior.
The amendments to clause 9 are consequential on the amendments of clause 6.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The House will remember that earlier to-day the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked me a question about Government policy in relation to the training of Indonesian officers in Australia. 1 said that I would make a statement on this subject, and 1 now inform the House that, in line with its policy of assisting the defence of South-East Asian countries whose security would assist the defence of Australia, the Government has decided to give favorable consideration to an Indonesian request that a small number of Indonesian service officers should be allowed to attend specialized courses in military training in Australia. Such courses are already being attended by officers from other countries in South-East Asia.
The Government’s decision is evidence of Australia’s desire to give Indonesia practical assistance as a good neighbour and to strengthen our friendly relations with that country. The Indonesian armed services have the task of maintaining internal security in Indonesia and of protecting that country’s independence.It is clearly in Australia’s interest - and indeed, in the interests of the free world generally - that Indonesia should remain stable and independent, and that she should be encouraged to look to the free world for assistance in these directions.
Training of the kind asked for by the Indonesians is being made available to a number of Asian countries by Australia’s major allies. For example, the United States has received well over a hundred Indonesian officers at United States military training establishments. Australia is merely doing the same thing on a much smaller scale. The training to be made available to the Indonesians will be without detriment to Australia’s capacity to train its own forces and will not prejudice Australian military security.
In accordance with what I have just said, we have offered Indonesia four vacancies at the School of Artillery at Seymour and four vacancies at the Armoured School at Puckapunyal for the training of officers. The Indonesian Government has agreed to pay all fares, maintenance and tuition costs for any officers atending Australian service schools.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
There is no proposal that the United Kingdom should join the Messina Plan now known as the European Economic Community. There is, however, the alternative plan for a free-trade area which would exclude agricultural products.
The Government has informed the United Kingdom Government that on the knowledge of the proposal at present in its possession it could give general support to the United Kingdom Government’s suggestion having regard to the fact that trade in agricultural products would not be affected.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Germany. It does not come into force until it has been ratified by the parliaments of the six countries.
d asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for
Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minis ter for Works, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The number of persons employed under the Public Service Act by the Department of Works, on 31st December for the years 1949 to 1955, together with the expenditure during the financial years over the same period, are -
b asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 (a). Electrical appliances may be used in rooms providing prior approval is obtained from the depot head-quarters. This enables the officer commanding the depot to assess the fire risk in relation to the capacity of the electrical reticulation. Recently, a fire was caused through an electrical overload as a result of which this instruction is now being more stringently enforced.
Due to a shortage of man-power there is no postal orderly on the depot establishment and there are, therefore, no proper facilities to safeguard personal mail. There have been instances of loss including a recent one where a taxation refund cheque went astray. Members have, therefore, been advised to have personal mail addressed to the unit at which they are employed.
son asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19571010_reps_22_hor16/>.