22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about two documents to which he referred during last night’s debate. The first document is headed “ Brief for Minister “. The document is undated, but the Prime Minister said that it was written before 22nd November, 1954, and was signed by Major-General Legge. The Prime Minister said he would make that document available, and I asked him to do so.
The second document is more important. It was written on 7th October, 1957, to the Prime Minister by the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, after a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Chiefs of Staff. The document refers to certain documents that came into existence at the time of the original consideration of the St. Mary’s filling factory decisions. In that document the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee says -
I have also studied all relevant documents . . .
I ask the Prime Minister: Seeing that this document itself gives a conclusion based upon the reading of the relevant documents, will he make those relevant documents available to the House, together with the other document he has undertaken to make available?
– The first document inquired about by the right honorable gentleman I will make available, as I promised. I would have quoted its full terms last night if time had permitted. The question in relation to the second document referred to by the right honorable gentleman proceeds partly, I think, from misapprehension. The chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee was not relying solely upon a perusal of documents, but partly upon his own direct knowledge, as he makes clear in his letters to me. What the right honorable gentleman is asking is that all the papers containing all the discussions and submissions on this matter, running over a period of years, should be made available. For the reason I indicated yesterday I do not propose to make them available.
Nothing could be more damaging than to encourage the idea that because somebody chooses to make a criticism, the whole of the communications passing on defence matters are to be made available for political purposes.
– By way of supplementary observations, I direct the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that I am not asking for the production of all documents bearing on the history of this matter. I am asking for the relevant documents referred to by the chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in the sentence, “ I have also studied all relevant documents, andI confirm the complete accuracy of your reply to Dr. Evatt’s question “. I am reading from yesterday’s “ Hansard “, at page 1357. The reply referred to in that sentence is the Prime Minister’s reply. My inquiry deals simply with the accuracy of that reply. I am asking for those documents and no others.
– It is quite clear that this matter will have no end if, when I am charged with having done something in opposition to the views of the Chiefs of Staff, and the Chiefs of Staff say, “ On the contrary, we entirely approve of it “, they are then to be submitted to a process of examination on the documents themselves. I do not propose to put any Chief of Staff in that position.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is there any truth in the suggestion that the Australian Wheat Board will, in the near future, ration or reduce supplies of feed wheat to primary producers, and if so, on what basis and over what period?
– The Australian Wheat Board has, during the course of the last few weeks, carefully examined the position of stocks of wheat and the probable demands for wheat in Australia during the rest of this season, and it has come to a decision that retailers, or the people who supply wheat to the poultry-farmers, and others, will receive allotments consistent with what they have been purchasing over the last few months. In other words, they are not to be cut down on their normal requirements. However, because there might be speculation as conditions become drier, and in anticipation of a possible rise in prices about December, the board has, in. its wisdom, decided to limit buyers to their normal quantities.
– I ask the Minister for Defence Production: Why did- he not take the public into his confidence when, last December, the architects for the St. Mary’s project first notified his department that the revised estimate of the cost of the project was £3,146,000 higher than- the originally estimated cost? Secondly, on 15th: June last, when he first made a public statement on the subject, why did he fail to mention that a second’ revised estimate, also more than £3,000,000 in excess of the original estimate, was for a project with a reduced overall capacity, and that various items amounting in all to £1,800,000 had been pruned away from the original project?
– As to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, I did tell the public of the matter to which he has referred. As to the rest of his question, the information which came to my knowledge, from the department - I think right at the end of December or early in January; I will not bind myself to the precise time - was that additional money would be required. The matter had to be examined by the Government and re-examined by the architects at the Government’s request, and when the decision was made I informed the- public.
– I preface my question to the Minister for the Army by pointing out that during the week-end I spoke with the relatives of the young national service trainee who was seriously injured at Wacol last week, and the relatives understandably were very concerned. I ask the Minister: Has an inquiry into the incident been completed, and can he indicate whether a review of the precautions now existing will be undertaken to prevent a. similar incident occurring in the future?
– Yes, an inquiry is proceeding at present. This was a most unfortunate accident and the young national service trainee was’ very seriously injured, and
I understand is still seriously ill in hospital. I express my sympathy with him and his relatives, who must have” suffered great anxiety in connexion with the matter, lt was quite an unusual occurrence and one that is difficult to understand. So, at this stage I do not propose to surmise anything until I have a full report. I will then advise the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he proposes to table: in the House a new ordinance for the Australian. Capital Territory relating to objectionable literature. If he does intend to proceed with the promulgation of this ordinance, would he agree to receive representations from sections of the community in the Australian Capital Territory desiring to protest against what they consider to be undesirable portions of that ordinance, particularly those relating to the power given to the police to confiscate literature, and those placing the onus on the book-seller or citizen to prove that literature so seized is neither objectionable nor obscene?
– The present draft ordinance arose at the. request of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. A draft was made which, in fact, drew rather heavily on the provisions of similar legislation in the States. The draft was submitted to the Advisory Council again, and, I understand that the council made little comment on it. The matter is still under consideration by the department, and when a final draft is prepared I will consider the honorable gentleman’s request.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, in view of the very great interest in weather conditions prevailing: all over Australia, he will consider reviving the practice, which obtained for several years after the Parliament came to Canberra, of exhibiting at the parliamentary post office a rainfall map of Australia divided into the various State sections-, showing daily rainfalls. By way of explanation, I state that the practice of placing maps on exhibition is followed in many post offices throughout Australia. I am sure that it would be of very great interest- as well as value to parliamentarians who are precluded by their parliamentary duties from seeing immediately their local newspapers or the local rainfall maps.
– I have no knowledge of the maps which were previously made available in this building. I should think that it must have been a considerable time ago. A rainfall map of the kind mentioned by the honorable member, if it were to be really valuable, would involve the collation of a good deal of telegraphic material on rainfalls and weather conditions. I shall have my department look at the matter and give me an idea of the mechanical difficulties involved. Then, I shall see whether we can give the idea a .trial, if only for a short period.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform me whether it is true that there is no provision for assisted passages for British migrants from South Africa, and from British colonies such as Kenya and Tanganyika? If this is so, will the Minister give the reasons for this policy? If the answer to my first question is in the affirmative, will the Minister consider giving these British citizens the rights and privileges that are extended to intending migrants in other parts of the British Commonwealth?
– There is no arrangement for assisted passages to be provided for immigrants from South Africa, Tanganyika and the other places referred to by the honorable member. Within the British Commonwealth, we do have assisted passages from the United Kingdom and Ireland, and also from Malta. There is no provision for assisted passages from the other parts of the Commonwealth. If we did provide assisted passages for British people from South Africa it would be necessary for South Africa to reciprocate. I shall have to look at the question that the honorable member has raised.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral give the House any information concerning the new creosote treatment for wooden poles? What are the advantages of this treatment? How many poletreatment plants are now operating in Australia?
– The treatment of poles with creosote for preservation purposes is not entirely a new idea. It is a process which has been developed and used for some years in other countries. In the light of experience gained in other countries, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has made certain investigations into and experiments in the adoption of the treatment in Australia. That organization has been able to show that, as a result of this treatment, the life of a pole for use by the Postal Department, or the electricity departments of the States, can be at least doubled. As a result of this investigation several firms have developed plants for treating poles. I know, from the department’s dealings with these firms, that there are treatment plants now at Grafton and Wauchope in New South Wales, and that there is one at least in Victoria. As a result of the treatment, the life of poles is being considerably extended. The treatment consists of pumping hot creosote into the poles under pressure, with the result that the sap-wood is impregnated against attack by white ants and other pests. As a result of this investigation by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the adoption of its recommendations by various departments, considerable savings can be effected in the provision of pole lines.
AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM. i Mr. STEWART. - Has the Prime Minis- ‘ter seen a report that the Government of Ghana has decided to give precedence to the national anthem of that country over j “ God Save the Queen “? As Ghana has only recently been granted its independence 1 and has already seen fit to adopt a national anthem of its own, will the right honorable gentleman give immediate and favorable consideration to the adoption of an Australian national anthem to be played in conjunction with “ God Save the Queen ‘” at all official functions? Until the official adoption of such a national anthem, will the right honorable gentleman give permission for “ Advance Australia Fair “ to be regarded as our national anthem?
– I noticed in the cables a reference to Ghana having, as I read it, given up the playing of “ God Save the Queen “ and substituted therefor some local anthem. That is a matter for Ghana to determine. I and my colleagues remain under the impression that the Australian national anthem is “ God Save the Queen “.
The question of whether some national song should be adopted has cropped up more than once. Some people think that we can get such a song by a competition or by other artificial means. In my experience, songs become national songs because the people of a country come to adopt them by a sort of tacit consent - because the songs have struck some responsive note in the minds of the people.
– I heard a beauty about Pig Iron Bob!
– Well, a national song about Pig Iron Bob may be very successful. If it is, it will be sung at all meetings of the Communist party. I have stated our position on this matter previously, and I do not think that anything has happened that would induce me to alter my views.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry say whether any steps have been taken to make use of the money standing to the credit of the Dairy Industry Stabilization Fund in accordance with the intention suggested by the provisions of the 1957 act, particularly for purposes of sales promotion?
– Authority was given to the Dairy Industry Council and the Australian Dairy Produce Board to use the trust moneys for the purpose of advertising butter in Australia. I do not know whether the board has taken any action along these lines, but I will find out and convey the information to the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister, dealing with Public Service arrangements. As the Premier of Queensland announced that an agreement is being negotiated between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government to provide for the taking over by the Commonwealth of the Queensland Statistician’s branch, which employs 99 persons, some of whom are temporary employees and not qualified as public servants under the Public Service Act of either the Commonwealth or Queensland, will the Prime Minister tell the House whether these temporary employees will be taken over by the Commonwealth Public Service when the transfer of the department is effected?
– This, of course, is not the only taking over, because a general scheme has been worked out with the States in order to simplify and make more comprehensive the statistical services. As to the detailed arrangements that are made about staff, I am not informed, but I will find out, because I know that some pattern has been worked out, and I will advise the honorable member.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question, and I refer lo the discussions I have had with him concerning the need to increase the export of eggs from Australia. Has this need become more urgent as trade with the United Kingdom in eggs and egg products has declined? Has there been any recent opening of new markets in South America, particularly by means of a trial shipment to Venezuela, and can the Minister inform me whether these markets are developing?
– I well know of the abiding interest of the honorable member in the sale of eggs in Australia and overseas. In fact, I think that in order to find out just what is happening about the sale of eggs he visits my office as much as any other honorable member does. There was a very substantial fall in the sale of Australian eggs to the United Kingdom. As a result, the Australian Egg Board decided on a policy of active marketing in other parts of the world. T think that about 107,000 cases of eggs have been sold abroad in recent months, of which only about 1,200 cases have been sold in the United Kingdom. So there has been a successful drive on the part of the board itself. A trial shipment sent to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, was very successful. The quality of the eggs was so high, and they were so well thought of, that, T think, in the last two or three days a further order for 8,800 cases has been received. This indicates that the active selling campaign undertaken by the Australian Egg Board is proving successful, and I am glad that these new markets are being opened.
– T address a question to the Minister for Territories. Ls the T.and
Research and Regional Survey Division of ihe Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization still operating in the Northern Territory? What are the areas that this section has so far surveyed in New Guinea, Papua and the Northern Territory? Have these surveys resulted in some direct improvement in the use of land and resources?
– There have been longstanding arrangements between the Department of Territories and the Land Research and Regional Survey Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for work in the various Australian Territories. In the Northern Territory, there have been regional surveys of the Barkly region, the Darwin-Katherine region, and the Victoria River-Ord River region, and the final survey is now proceeding in the Alice Springs region. In addition to those regional surveys, this division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is also co-operating with the Administration of the Territory in certain basic scientific research in agriculture. It conducts the research farm at Katherine, which is specializing in the problems of dry agriculture in the tropics, and is also cooperating with the Administration in some research into the use of desert areas for pastoral purposes.
In Papua and New Guinea, the work of the division is more recent and, though I cannot give an exhaustive list of the places where the regional surveys have either been carried out or will be carried out, I can mention three or four areas that come to my mind. There was one regional survey in the Upper Ramu River area, another in the northern division of Papua between Buna and Kokoda, another in the neighbourhood of Wanigela and, more recently, a survey has been commenced in the highlands from Mount Hagen eastward. Of course, the work done by this division has proved of almost incalculable value in deciding the pattern of land settlement and the best use of the land, and also in gathering basic information about the resources of the Territories. Fortunately, the information that is being assembled will be of continuing value over the years, and I am sure that it will make a very substantial contribution towards the development of resources in the Territories.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the displacement of waterside workers, coal-miners, employees in the sugar industry and other industries affected by the application of technological developments and increased mechanization, which has resulted and is resulting in serious unemployment, has the Government yet developed any plans which will provide alternative suitable avenues of employment for all workers so displaced? In what manner does the Government propose to use its legislative power to avoid dislocation of the labour force and the hardships consequent upon unemployment arising from the increased usage of labour-saving machinery and automation? Does the Minister agree that the introduction of such methods within industry must lead to improvement in living standards and a reduced working week of 35 hours as an urgent necessity?
– The honorable member, in the omnibus question he has put to me, invites a statement on industrial policy covering a very wide field. To the extent to which I can analyse its elements, I should like to say that it is not without some irony that he stresses the unfortunate position of unemployed waterfront workers, because, on advices that have come to me, two of our ports are held up to-day and unemployment has arisen from industrial disputes in which waterside workers are engaged. There is no question of technological development there; it is a mere failure to employ industrial machinery of which this Parliament has approved. The two industries which he has singled out - the waterfront and the coal-mining industries - are, perhaps, the most conspicuous examples in Australia of how misguided militant leadership can destroy employment opportunities in industries which, with regular service and with efficient conduct, could have retained clients and a demand for labour. However, putting on one side the special circumstances which have arisen there, the whole question of automation has been examined in a responsible way by senior representatives of management and of the trade unions, meeting on the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. They have discounted alarmist statements about the inroads which automation is likely to make, and the displacement of Australian labour that is likely to result from it. lt is clear that, in our circumstances, progress along these lines will be comparatively slow, and that, with an expanding economy and prosperous conditions, such as we have enjoyed during the life of this Government, there should be little difficulty in absorbing any person who may temporarily be displaced as a result of these technical developments.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. In view of the quickening interest and, indeed, the trepidation felt in the Australian community over the possible consequences for this country of the proposed European common market and free-trade area, can the Minister indicate the stage that negotiations have reached, and the steps that are being taken to ensure that Australia’s interests are protected?
– I think I am correct in saying that the negotiations in this regard are not very far advanced. The Australian interests have been quite clearly advanced. Broadly, the position is that we recognize that there are advantages for the United Kingdom in such arrangements, because they will ensure increased and freer trade within Europe. The limiting factor, from the point of view of our own selfinterest, is the degree of competition that such arrangements could produce for the products of this country, if free trade were to include the principal food export items of Australia. From the outset, the United Kingdom has taken the stand that, while she is prepared to engage in negotiations with the common market countries of Europe with a view to exploring the possibility of a free-trade area overall, any such arrangement would be confined to industrial products and would exclude the kind of basic foodstuffs that we export. These matters, insofar as they touch our interests, were the subject of further discussion at the recent meeting in Canada of Commonwealth Finance Ministers and their advisers. All that I can say about the matter is that the Australian interests are clearly understood in the United Kingdom, and also. I believe, on the Continent of Europe.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: What arrangements have been made for the disposal of the interests of the Melbourne “ Argus “ newspaper in its television and broadcasting licences? Who are the present holders, and has any person who is interested beneficially in these licences an interest in any other licence?
– I take it that the honorable member is referring to the situation that arose when the “ Argus “ interests were sold to the “ Herald and Weekly Times “ people. At that time, the “ Argus “ people owned three broadcasting stations in country districts of Victoria. The problem then arose that, if the “ Herald and Weekly Times “ took over those stations, its holdings in broadcasting stations would exceed the limit laid down in the Broadcasting and Television Act. Therefore, as a part of this financial deal, it was required that the “ Herald and Weekly Times “ should not acquire those three stations itself, but should dispose of them to other interests. Arrangements were made during discussions that T had with the “ Herald and Weekly Times “ interests and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the formation of a new company. The three stations were sold to the new company, the shareholders of which are almost all residents of the three country areas concerned, provision being made only for the retention of certain shares, to be acquired by the directors of the new company and by the employees of that company.
The whole matter has been arranged very satisfactorily, indeed. There has been no infringement in any way of the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act. I take this opportunity, since this question has been asked, to pay tribute to the cooperation of the “ Herald and Weekly Times “ people in ensuring that all the requirements of the Government, and of the act. have been complied with. The final result is very satisfactory indeed, and is in accordance with Government policy that country broadcasting stations should be owned and controlled, as largely as possible, by interests in the country.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he has seen a publication entailed “ T.V. ‘Charter of Television Rights for the Australian People “, -issued by the Australian Television Rights Council. If the Minister has not read this publication, will he study it immediately in order that he may state the Government’s policy in regard to statements made by this association to the effect that the minimum .percentage of Australian-made programmes telecast in Australia should be not less than 55 per cent, .of the total time of transmission in each television service? In addition, will he state whether the Government intends to allow imported television programmes to ‘take precedence over Australianmade productions, at the expense .of Australian artists and others associated with them?
– From the honorable member’s reference to this publication, I do not think that l have actually seen it. However, I have seen numerous statements from interested ‘bodies regarding the matter “the honorable member has raised and it is probable, therefore, that I have had some consideration given to the matters ‘he mentions. The ‘honora’ble member has asked whether T will make certain statements now and give certain assurances. I understand, from my reading of this morning’s press and from what I heard on the midday news broadcast, that this is a subject which I will be discussing at greater length to-morrow. Therefore, I shall reserve anything further I have to say on the matter until then.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Works-
– Did you say the Minister for “ lurks “?
-Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain silent.
– I ask the Minister for Works: In view of the recent dismissal of employees from the Department of Works at Bathurst and Lithgow, will he take action to speed up the department’s works programme and especially accelerate the work of maintenance .and repair on Commonwealth properties throughout the Macquarie electorate? I ask this question because I believe that funds have been provided to carry out necessary renovations and repairs.
– I have no detailed information in mind, at the moment, about the moneys available .for maintenance which axe ito :be spent in the honorable member’s electorate. However, I give the honorable member an undertaking -to look at .the matter carefully and, if possible, to do as he asks.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a warning from Mr. Khrushchev regarding the imminence of war in the Middle East. In view of the serious nature of that warning given by Mr. Khrushchev, will the Prime Minister consider preparing a statement outlining recent developments in the Middle East, and reviewing the position?
– This matter is still under discussion between -ourselves ;and the Minister .for External Affairs, who is abroad. I will take tup ‘with my colleague, , the Minister .acting for the Minister for (External Affair.s, the -suggestion made by the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is aware that many boilermakers and ironworkers were dismissed from Mort’s Dock to-day. I suppose the Minister is aware that this will result in the dismissal of many ‘more men in allied trades. Will he discuss this question with . the Minister for Shipping and Transport and see that an immediate start is made on ‘the conversion , Or ‘S.s. “ Delungra “ and so provide employment for all these men who are now unemployed?
– I shall examine the circumstances referred to by the honorable gentleman, and see whether they permit of action along the lines that he recommends.
– I direct a question to the honorable member for Warringah in his capacity as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. I should like to know whether the Public Accounts Committee has yet been requested by the Government to inquire into the serious allegations contained in the Auditor-General’s report on the St. Mary’s filling factory. If not, will the honorable gentleman say whether the Public Accounts Committee has any power to act on its own initiative in the matter, and if so, will it act? If it does initiate an inquiry, will the committee give to members of this Parliament and other persons, who have evidence concerning malpractices and corruption in this particular undertaking, an opportunity to go before the committee and give evidence?
– I do not propose to answer the question in detail. The honorable member knows that the Public Accounts Committee is autonomous, and itself decides what it will investigate. When the matter comes before us,- the committee will make up its mind what to do.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General concerning the establishment of a television station in Tasmania. According to a recent announcement made by the Postmaster-General, a station is to be established in Hobart within the next two years. Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the greater part of the population resides in the north of the island? If he is aware of that, will he ascertain for me whether arrangements are to be made to ensure that the proposed station will be able to provide programmes for the more densely populated part of the island?
– As announced, a national television station will be established in Hobart as a result of the Government’s decision to proceed to the next stage of the development of television in Australia. Also, there will be an announcement very shortly of the date for the receipt and hearing of applications for commercial stations in Hobart, as well as Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. The coverage to be provided by the station at Hobart will be determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Postmaster-General’s engineers and the Australian Broadcasting Commission officials, acting in co-operation. I cannot yet inform the honorable member exactly where it has been decided to establish the transmitter, but I can assure him that the best site for effecting the greatest coverage will be chosen.
I also point out to the honorable member that at present, as a result of the provision in Melbourne of a high-powered transmitter, which has been in operation for some weeks now, many of the residents on the north coast of Tasmania are getting reception practically as good as that enjoyed by residents in the vicinity of Melbourne.
– I should like to supplement an answer I gave a moment ago to the honorable member for Werriwa. The honorable member asked a question about the increased cost of St. Mary’s. I am quite clear in my mind that until the end of last year I had no knowledge of the proposed increase in the cost of St. Mary’s. I remember that when I went to St. Mary’s on 17th December with the Prime Minister the cost was still expected to be £23,200,000.
– The Auditor-General said it was December last that the department was informed.
– That is right. Early in the new year, or at the very end of the previous year, I was informed by my department that there was a new estimate, but I forget what the increase was. Between then and June, when I made an announcement on the matter, a number of events took place. I remember that I referred the matter back to the architects, because I wanted a great deal more information about it. There were some Cabinet discussions. All I say is that I should like to reserve the answer I give to the honorable gentleman on the whole of that matter until I look at the papers.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, I bring up the report relating to the following work: -
Erection of additions to Customs House, Flinders-street, Melbourne, Victoria. and move -
That the paper be printed.
In presenting this report, I direct the attention of the House to several of its important features. The subject of the report - namely, the proposed erection of additions to the Customs House, Melbourne - when viewed from two main aspects, led to great controversy, not only among the witnesses, but also among the people of Melbourne. The first point of controversy was whether the present Customs House building should be retained, and the other was whether the administration of customs should be retained on its present site or transferred to the Commonwealth centre at Springstreet, Melbourne.
Dealing with the second part first, the evidence given during the inquiry was overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the activities at the present site. Other evidence was produced to indicate that it had never been intended to have the Customs Department established in the new Commonwealth centre.
Dealing with the proposal to retain the existing building, strong evidence was given for its retention, particularly by Professor Brian Lewis. Statements used by him advocating retention of the building as a historical monument and a work of art included expressions such as -
The Customs House is the most distinguished of the many fine groups of public buildings erected by the State of Victoria.
A superlative work of art.
And again -
The long room is the finest room in Melbourne, not excepting the ballroom of Government House.
On the other hand, we heard evidence of equal, if not greater, strength that the building did not possess the values claimed for it. Typical of this was the evidence of the vice-president of the Town and Country Planning Association of Victoria, who used these words -
I do not consider that it is of special significance architecturally in relation to the building or the site where it stands. It is a good building, but only one of many such in many parts of the world. We should only preserve the cream of the cream - this does not measure up to that standard.
He went on to say -
Economically the only thing is to tear it down and rebuild it.
The difference of opinion on this aspect of the problem gave the committee great concern, and the final decision to recommend demolition was influenced by the evidence that any development of this site, particularly the compromise proposal submitted, sounded the death-knell of the present building.
I do not propose to speak at length on the report, which can be summarized in eight paragraphs. Here they are -
I recommend to honorable members a serious perusal of this report.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) on the ground of ill health.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) on the ground of ill health, and to the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) on the ground of public business overseas.
– I desire to inform the House that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) has appointed Senator Poke a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in place of Senator Nicholls.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its. investigations, namely:^ The erection of proposed accommodation for local administrative staff at Darwin, Northern Territory.
In September, 1955, the committee recommended that four standard unit office buildings be constructed as soon as possible. The office units submitted to the committee for consideration provided for a first and second floor of office accommodation with the ground floor left open for shelter of vehicles. The estimated cost was £155,000 per unit. The committee recommended that the ground floor also be enclosed and utilized as office space, vehicle parking to be provided elsewhere. The additional cost in enclosing the ground floor area and extending the air conditioning to it was estimated in May, 1955, to be £21,700 per unit.
Because the natural fall of the ground at the site of two of the units allowed provision of a small lower ground floor area at the level of and entered from the esplana.de,, these areas have been incorporated in current drawings. The additional provisions described above, plus rises in costs since the proposal was submitted to the committee, result in a present estimated cost of £225,000 per unit. The committee has already recommended that the four-unit buildings as proposed should be constructed as soon as possible. I concur in the committee’s recommendations, and instructions will be issued accordingly.
– I am pleased that the Minister has finally got round to endorsing the recommendations of the committee that were made on the occasion of investigations into the accommodation problems of employees of the services in Darwin, We all know, of course, that it is one pf the pressing and urgent needs of the single and the married men in Darwin. The welfare of the single men will be well catered for by the provision of these extra units in the construction of the hostels proposed in the recommendations; but, necessary as these are, I feel that the Government should not overlook the fact that accommodation for married employees in the administrative services is also pressing and urgent. We know that the most shocking housing conditions in the Commonwealth are to be found in and around Darwin. We have cases of people employed in the Administration there living in abandoned military hutments, which, although relics of the last war which ended some twelve years ago, are still being occupied. They are of rough timber- and black iron; their roofs leak and electrical appliances have fallen into disrepair. Because of lack of alternative accommodation, these people are still forced to occupy these hutments.
During the last visit to Darwin of the Public Accounts Committee some of the members were horrified at the conditions that prevail in that part of the town. Perhaps, some of those honorable members who are at present in this House may refer to those matters. I say to the Minister that, although the provision of these units will certainly help to take care of the needs, of the single employees in the service, they will not in any shape or form cater for the requirements pf married employees. In addition, no provision has, been made for the housing of the civil population in the Territory, lt might be as well to set up some authority, such as a housing commission, to handle this problem. In every State there is such a commission which builds houses and lets them. There is a housing scheme in operation that provides only for the person who resides, or intends to reside, permanently in the town and who has the initial finance to provide the deposit necessary to construct his own home. T think that the provision of houses for rental in. the Territory would do much to overcome the serious shortage in those parts.
Without adequate housing we cannot have a stable population. We have a continuous turnover of people in the Territory higher than that in any part of Australia. They come to the Territory, but, as housing facilities are not available and they have no prospects of getting a house, they proceed to the next port. That is a loss to the Territory that should not occur. Special problems arise W the Territory due to the fact that virtually its entire housing was destroyed during the last war. Therefore, special efforts and special provisions must be made. Yet, a choice residential site has been selected for the erection of a high school, and some twenty families established on that site have been given notice to quit their hutments. No alternative accommodation has been offered them and no alternative accommodation could be procured by them. So, these people are faced with eventual eviction, and possibly will have to maintain some sort of camp or a humpy on the beach. That sort of thing should not happen.
This proposal will relieve the housing position in the Territory, but another problem arises in connexion with administrative housing. Recently, a Darwin council has been set up. Employees who are now employed by the local council of Darwin were originally the employees of the Administration. The problem that is now posed is that of providing housing for these people as well. The council has not the financial resources to build housing for its own employees. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) whether it is the intention to allow employees of the council to use the single accommodation envisaged here.
– I rise to order. I merely draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that this proposal covers the provision of office accommodation. I have been listening with great interest to what he has said but, whilst his remarks are valuable at this stage, they might be more helpful when the Estimates for the Territories are under discussion.
– I accept the Minister’s point of order. Owing to the hasty presentation of this proposal, we have not been able to study the report and we are a little hazy as to what it refers to. Office accommodation, too, is badly required in Darwin. The offices of the Administration are scattered all over the town, some in wartime accommodation which is totally unsuited to the needs of the officers and their functions. Therefore, I have pleasure in supporting the recommendations before the House and I hope that the work will proceed with the utmost expediency.
.- As a member of the Public Works Committee which investigated this matter, I commend the proposition to the House. In Darwin, the position of office accommodation and staff accommodation is no different from that in other capital cities. However, due to the tropical conditions in Darwin, the discomfort of employees there is somewhat intensified. During the hearing in Darwin, members of the Public Works Committee were taken through many of the so-called offices in which people have to work and in which many valuable documents have to be stored. The judge who gave evidence before us took us through the accommodation provided for him and showed us that valuable documents are being destroyed through lack of adequate protection.
One of the problems that has to be solved and which always arouses attention is that of air-conditioning. I fully support the proposal of the Public Works Committee that air-conditioning should be supplied. There are two schools of thought on this question but we have always found that those who favour air-conditioning are in the great majority. Strange as it may seem, however, at Darwin some witnesses questioned the need for air-conditioning. I think that because some people are immune to the rigours of a tropical climate they think that other people should have the same reaction as theirs. I think that that conditions their opinion on this matter. But every time we have taken evidence on the subject of air-conditioning we have found witnesses to be overwhelmingly in favour of its installation. It is perfectly true that air-conditioning is costly but I do think that, for the benefits that accrue from its installation, the expenditure is well justified. In view of the conditions under which Commonwealth public servants are working at Darwin, with the terrific handicap of heat and tropical atmosphere, I hope that this building will provide some amelioration of conditions in that area.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The extension of new wharf facilities at Darwin, Northern Territory.
The proposed work is required to provide additional shipping facilities as necessitated by the growth of cargoes being handled in the port of Darwin. The committee stated in its summary of conclusions that the wharf, then under construction, should be increased to 800 feet in length, with a width of 140 feet and that financial provision should be made for the construction of access roads by the time the wharf is extended. I concur in the committee’s recommendations and instructions will be issued accordingly. The estimated cost of the extensions is £350,000, plus £40,000 for the provision of a second cargo shed.
– I am pleased that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) proposes to proceed with this work. This, again, is a work of vital importance to Darwin. Some time ago, the Government undertook to build a new wharf at Darwin but only proceeded with its construction to a certain stage. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works proceeded to Darwin to inquire into the advisability of extending the wharf to cater for the increased shipping requirements of the port. I think that the committee was unanimous in its recommendation that an increase of approximately 200 feet be made to the existing wharf so as to allow for the berthing of two 10,000 ton vessels simultaneously. At the present time, the wharf can cater for only two very small coastal freighters of 2,000 or 3,000 tons. We have the spectacle of one of those small boats being alongside the wharf and a boat of a larger capacity having to lie out in the stream for days, and sometimes for weeks, while the smaller vessel discharges. That has been the unsatisfactory state of affairs in the northern port for some time.
It was thought that the new wharf, as it is at present, might ease the position, but it has done very little to ease it. With the construction of the additional length of the wharf, that difficulty should be overcome. At least it will be possible for a large vessel and a smaller vessel to be alongside the wharf simultaneously. This will do away with the extensive and very expensive tying-up or anchoring of boats in the stream at Darwin. These delays have caused additional expense to be loaded on to the freights that arrive in the port. 1 think that the freight rates for cargoes consigned to Darwin are among the highest in Australia. The cost of living and the cost of materials at Darwin are high enough at any time without having additional charges levied. We hope that, with the additions to the wharf, the freight costs will come down.
There are other aspects of the provision of this wharfage. One concerns the provision of a storage site on the approaches to the wharf. At the present time, when vessels are unloading at the wharf the scene is chaotic. General cargo can be stowed inside only at some great inconvenience, because of the restricted cargo space provided on the wharf. But when bulky material such as beams and rails are discharged, they have to lie on the wharf itself. One can imagine the congestion that is caused to traffic which has to use the wharf. Motor traffic has to come onto the approaches of the wharf, load at the ships, turn around and move out again along the way that it came in. With the packing and storing of materials along the approaches, the position becomes extremely difficult, to say the least. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works recommended that certain work be done to the foreshore and the approaches, so that bulk cargo, which would not be damaged by exposure to weather, could be stored at the approaches to the wharf. This, of course, would eliminate the constant handling that is necessary now, when timber and steel are shifted from place to place in order to allow trucks to go in and out, and must result in a saving in handling charges.
If my memory serves me correctly, I believe also that the committee reported on the urgent need to provide facilities for loading livestock on vessels that trade between the north of Australia and the Philippines and other eastern countries. We know that quite an extensive trade could be built up with the Philippines and Japan. We have the cattle, and because of our remoteness from southern markets we have difficulty at times in disposing of them. The markets are available in the East if we could get the stock to them. If unloading yards were provided at the approaches to the wharf, and a loading race on the wharf itself, cattle could be unloaded from trains at the wharf approaches and walked straignt into the ships’ holds. The present methods are very costly. I have seen cattle being loaded in slings, one at a time, and if there are hundreds of beasts to be handled in that way much unnecessary time is spent in loading operations. A loading job that might take days with the present primitive methods could be accomplished in a matter of hours under modern conditions. 1 understand that the report of the Public Works Committee includes a recommendation for the provision of the facilities I have mentioned. If these facilities were provided our trade in cattle with eastern countries would be greatly expanded, to the benefit of our pastoral industry in the north. Our mining industry is also increasing in scope and importance, and it must be catered for. This can be done by the improvement of wharf facilities in the Darwin harbour.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The erection of Commonwealth offices at Phillip-street, Sydney, New South Wales.
The proposed work is required urgently to provide permanent centralized office accommodation for Commonwealth departments in the city of Sydney. The estimated cost of the complete project, which will be erected in three stages, is £5,290,000. I concur in the committee’s recommendations.
.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) might care to tell me the present position with regard to this matter. Evidence given to the committee in Sydney disclosed that an agreement existed between the Common.wealth and the Sydney City Council, under the terms of which the council would carry out certain undertakings following on the demolition of certain buildings. 1 understand that, before the necessary demolitions take place, some tenants will have to vacate their offices or flats, and alternative accommodation will have to be found for them. In those circumstances, the Sydney City Council has been, quite rightly, somewhat reluctant to move in the matter. Alternative accommodation is not easy to find, and I think we can all appreciate the problem that faces the council. I would ask the Minister to tell us what stage has been reached with regard to the proposed demolitions.
– I suppose there will be general agreement amongst honorable members as to the Public Works Committee’s recommendation and the necessity for these proposed offices. Therefore, honorable members must approve of the concept of this great structure. My only query concerns its design. Through the courtesy of the Minister I have been able to see the plan, an illustrated drawing, and a model of the proposed building. I must confess that it seemed to me to be undistinguished, lacking in originality, and so like so many other contemporary buildings, in both Sydney and Melbourne, that have been erected since the war, that I suggest the Government architects have not done an imaginative job. In these days, when a great building involves the expenditure of such colossal amounts of money, one longs for something different, for something really artistic, for some new contribution to the architecture of the midtwentieth century, instead of a repetition of a dreary, monotonous, mediocre, utilitarian theme. I gather, from the reply to a question I asked regarding this building some weeks ago, that the Minister disagrees with my views. Nonetheless, I hope that he will reflect upon my suggestion, and before the building is commenced ask himself whether some alternative design, perhaps by more enlightened architects, could not better serve the great city of Sydney, with its fine history and its undoubted future.
.- I have not been as fortunate as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) in being given an opportunity to see the plans of the proposed building. Undoubtedly it is a very desirable improvement to have the Commonwealth offices in Australia’s greatest capital situated in a central position. It will be vastly different from the present arrangements, which necessitate long treks to various parts of the city to contact different Commonwealth authorities and transact business with them. A great deal of inconvenience is caused in this way. 1 presume that in the proposed building there will be offices for members of this House and of the Senate, and 1 am wondering whether the plans for the building include, as they should in this modern atomic age, facilities for the parking of the cars of those who use the offices. Parking is a great problem in all our cities, lt is necessary for members of Parliament to go into the city and to have their vehicles there. At present there are very few places where members of the public or members of Parliament can park their cars. I understand that the proposed building will cost about £5,000,000, and I think that some provision should be made, either above or below ground, for the parking of cars of people who use the offices, whether they be members of Parliament or departmental employees. Parking facilities need not be provided free. There is no reason why a charge should not be made for them. But in these days, when the automobile is accepted as essential for practically everyone, the problem of parking should not be overlooked in the planning of these buildings. Later in our consideration of the Estimates the general question of the parking of members’ vehicles in the City of Sydney might well receive the consideration of the Minister.
I commend the Public Works Committee for its foresight in recommending a building of this nature. If the plan is not as it should be, as the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) has submitted, the Minister might take note of his remarks and ensure that the proposed building will be as modern as possible. It will not be as extravagant a project, no doubt, as the St. Mary’s filling factory, but it will provide many necessary facilities, and the City of Sydney will be improved by the erection of a modern structure. The Qantas building appears to be a very modern one, and its design catches the eye. I do not know whether the proposed building will be similar in design. However, I hope that, if any improvements are needed in order to enhance the appearance of the part of the City of Sydney in which it will be situated, they will be made. I suggest, also, that adequate facilities be provided for the parking of cars by people who will use the building, whether they be parliamentarians, members of the public, or public servants.
– in reply - I would not normally interpose at this stage. However, several important questions have been asked, and perhaps they ought to be answered immediately. The honorable member for Dalley <Mr. O’Connor) asked about the clearing of the site for the proposed building. As he doubtless knows, difficulties have already arisen in clearing the frontage of the Qantas building, and the extension of Elizabeth-street has not yet been accomplished. As a matter of fact, there is an agreement with the Sydney City Council for the clearing of premises that it owns, but the council, for reasons best known to itself, has not yet been able to clear them. We naturally have put pressure on the council to undertake this demolition work before the time comes to put the building up for tender. I should think that would be towards the end of 1958. The plans will then be available.
– Who is going to design the building and construct it?
– It has already been designed by the architects of the Department of Works.
– Who is going to construct it?
– If the honorable gentleman would care to step into my office, as I think he will do shortly, I shall be able to show him, not only a plan, but also a model, of the building. J think that, when he has seen them, he will be reasonably well satisfied with its proportions.
– Will the Department of Works undertake the construction?
– We will get round to that. It will be built under contract, no doubt under the supervision of the Department of Works.
– Not on a cost-plus and fixed-fee basis?
– That is getting into another field, and I think that we may put that matter to one side for the time being.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has raised the question of adequate parking facilities. I am pleased to be able to tell him that the basement of the building will be set aside for parking. That, of course, is the maximum amount of space that can be provided for this purpose.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) has raised the question of the design of the building. I certainly quarrel with him, but only about what is in fact a modern building. There are among us some who would prefer the ornamental rock-pile of days gone by. I remind the honorable gentleman, and anybody else who thinks similarly, that we had ornamental rock-piles in days gone by because large cross-sections of the materials then available were needed to support the weight of the structure. The end product was the sort of structure to which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) referred this afternoon when he spoke to the motion in relation to the Melbourne Customs House building. This was a magnificentlooking building, which was beautiful in the old tradition, but which was abysmally inefficient in providing accommodation.
Certainly, the present concept of building is that a floor is something to stand on, and that walls are something to keep out the rain. It is certainly true that buildings constructed of modern materials such as metals, high tensile steels, and pre-stressed concrete, and clad with metal, glass, and other materials, under modern building techniques, tend to fall into the same sort of pattern. I venture to suggest that, if the honorable member for Angas will bear with buildings of this kind, which are going up all over the place at present, he will see beauty in the simplicity and lines of modern architecture. The lines of the proposed building in Sydney will be relieved, because it is being designed in three blocks to achieve balance, and, incidentally, because we shall not be able to complete the entire structure as one unit, and for a variety of other reasons. It has been designed; also, to complement the Qantas building, which stands on the opposite corner. The two buildings will, in fact, surround the junction of Hunter-street and the proposed extension of Elizabeth-street.
One honorable member has directed attention to the beauty of the Qantas building. The structure now proposed will be in much the same style, and I think that it will be equally satisfactory when it is completed.
I am afraid that any suggestion that it might now be re-designed comes too late. Ten or fifteen different conceptions of a suitable office building received intensive consideration, and the deliberations of the Public Works Committee have been completely thorough. The resulting design has been approved by competent authorities in architecture, construction methods, and town planning. The designers have been complimented by all who are really competent to express an opinion on the value of this sort of approach to architectural problems in the area of Sydney in question, and to the Government’s requirements of adequate accommodation, good light, and good working conditions, at reasonable cost. I commend the recommendation of the Public Works Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The erection of an automatic telephone exchange at Haymarket, Sydney, New South Wales.
The proposed work is required to provide for expansion of telephone services in the city south area of Sydney. The Public Works Committee has agreed that there is an urgent demand for the building, and that provision should be made to ensure that expansion will be possible to meet the demands in this locality. The committee has recommended in its summary that provision be made for future additional floors by strengthening foundations. I concur in the committee’s recommendations, and instructions will be issued accordingly.
The estimated cost of the work is £754,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The erection of Food Research Laboratories at North Ryde, New South Wales, for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
The proposed work is required urgently to provide research facilities to enable technical problems associated with the processing and preservation of meat, fish, eggs, fruit, and vegetables to be investigated on a comprehensive basis, and also to meet the increasing demand for sound scientific information to guide existing procedures and to aid in establishing new techniques in this field.
The Public Works Committee has stated that the results of the work of the Division of Food Preservation and Transport of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are of tremendous potential value to the internal economy of the country, as well as to our export trade, and the proposals making possible extensions to the work should be given the highest priority. I concur in the committee’s recommendations, and instructions will be issued accordingly. The estimated cost of the work is £650,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - The erection of studios for the Australian Broadcasting Commission at Perth, Western Australia.
The proposed work is required urgently to provide an administrative wing and a production block of studios, control wings with associated technical facilities, and so on, to meet the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s needs in Perth. The Public Works Committee endorsed the design as presented at an estimated cost of £750,000, with the exception that provision of airconditioning should be extended to the administrative offices section of the building. The estimated cost of this extension is £45,000, making a total of £795,000 for the project. The committee’s report stressed the urgent nature of the proposal, and recommended that a special priority should be given to allow plans to be completed and work to be commenced at the earliest possible moment. I concur in the committee’s recommendations, and instructions will be issued accordingly.
.- I notice that the report of the Public Works Committee on the proposal for the construction at Perth of new studios for the Australian Broadcasting Commission emphasized the urgency of the project, and recommended that it should be given special priority so that plans could be completed, and the construction begun, as early as possible. The committee’s report was presented in March last, but, until now, we have not seen any indication that any notice has been taken of it. I sincerely hope that no further delay will occur, because it would appear that the anticipated delay will be about twelve months. The report of the Public Works Committee has emphasized the necessity to get on with the building, and has drawn attention to the conditions under which the staff is working in the present building. In its report, the committee said -
Of the many reasons advanced to justify the urgent necessity for a new A.B.C. building in Perth, probably the most impressive is the desire to alleviate the congestion and difficulties under which the staff is at present operating.
The committee continued -
The committee also said - .
It is almost unbelievable to see the way several officials have to work in confined spaces under torrid conditions, often in converted store rooms or passages, while the toilet and staff facilities are completely inadequate and most unhealthy.
The committee said further -
One independent expert said that he did not know how the A.B.C. managed to produce their shows, as he would not attempt to do it in those studios. . . . He is of opinion that it is a very poor commentary on government when men and women have to continue under such conditions for many years, knowing full well that they would not be tolerated in private industry.
That is true; such conditions would not be tolerated in private industry. We deprecate the fact that people must work under such conditions. I hope that, when the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall) says that this building will have a special priority, we will see something done very urgently indeed. Apart from that, under the Town Hall Act, an agreement has been reached between the Commonwealth and the Perth City Council that the site at present occupied by the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be vacated by 31st December, 1960, so that the building of the new town hall on that site can be commenced. It is expected that the construction of new broadcasting studios will take approximately three years to complete. If the site is to be vacated by 1960 to allow the Town Hall Act to be complied with, the construction of the broadcasting studios must commence almost immediately.
I hope that the Minister has taken notice of correspondence forwarded to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) - I have no doubt it was passed on to him - urging that the site be vacated in time. The Lord Mayor of Perth wrote to me about the urgency of this matter and attached a copy of a letter he had sent to the PostmasterGeneral. That letter reads -
At the last Ordinary Meeting of the Perth City Council great concern and dissatisfaction was expressed by members of the Council at the announcement that the new premises in Perth for the Australian Broadcasting Commission would be further delayed for a period of twelve months.
The Council feels that the reason for the urgency of this work was well explained to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works during its investigations made here in Perth in 1957, and the conclusions of that Committee, contained in its final recommendations, make it quite evident that the Standing Committee agreed that:-
There is an urgent necessity for the building -
To relieve the present intolerable conditions.
To comply with the agreement under the Town Hall Act.
To take advantage of the present favourable conditions for building.
Owing to the urgent nature of the pro posal, special priority should be given to allow plans to be completed and work commenced at the earliest possible moment.
In the face of such unequivocal opinion it is beyond the understanding of the Council as to the reasons now adduced for the delay and this concern is aggravated by the information contained in a further announcement that some £2,800,000 is to be expended on a new project in another State.
The Council desires me to record an emphatic protest at the decision to delay the work and to point out that this delay will have further repercussions, inasmuch as it will delay the Council’s programme for the new Town Hall premises.
In view of the thorough investigation made and recorded here in Perth by the Standing Committee, it is quite unnecessary for me to repeat the many factors which were made evident during the hearing for the construction of the new premises of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and that these premises were so vital a matter to the Perth City Council.
It is felt that it should also be remembered that Perth has already experienced a most frustrating delay, inasmuch as the construction of the new Australian Broadcasting Commission premises was abandoned in 1945.
I should greatly appreciate your sympathetic consideration and re-examination of the decision contained in the announcement, and should be pleased to hear that an alteration in the programme of expenditure will be made to allow the Perth work to proceed.
The Premier of Western Australia has added his request to the Government that the work should be proceeded with, not only so that the construction of the new town hall can be commenced, but also to assist the economy of the State. The Public Works Committee pointed out in its report -
That the building trade in Western Australia is suffering a minor recession, that labour, both skilled and unskilled is readily available, and that prices are more competitive than at any time since the war, while building contractors are keen to tender for all classes of work at the present time.
Referring to the State manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a Western Australian newspaper recently reported as follows: -
His four and a half years in the building had been an ordeal.
The bad working condition^ had led to his being seriously ill recently . . .
The average space for the staff was 65 square feet each person. The minimum amount laid down by health authorities was about 90 square feet . . in winter the old patched-up roof leaked badly.
Holes have been drilled in a floor to allow the water to escape and in one big room typists have to move their tables every time it rains because water drips through the ceiling.
If the Australian Broadcasting Commission has to wait three years for a new building, those conditions will worsen. I sincerely hope that, without any further delay, the Minister will give urgent attention to the report of the Public Works Committee.
.- Mr Acting Deputy Speaker-
– Everybody is in favour of it; why do you want to delay it?
– That is an amazing statement, coming, as it does, from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He delays this Parliament more than any ten members of it, but now he is objecting when I have a few words to say.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain quiet.
– I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) say that the time is ripe for this building to be constructed by private contract.
– I did not say that at all; I quoted the report. [Quorum formed.]
– I appreciate the action of the honorable member for East Sydney in calling a quorum so that other honorable members may hear what I have to say. I regret that they did not hear what I said about him. The proposed building for the Australian Broadcasting Commission is, of course, most important to Western Australia. Any one who reads the report of the Public Works Committee will see that there was general agreement that the building should be constructed with the greatest expedition. I have been given to understand by both the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall) that the work is proceeding as quickly as time will allow. However, I think that the Minister might give attention to the desirability of preparing the site at Rosehill. The original proposal was abandoned in 1945, but I do not think that, in the long run, Western Australia will suffer as a result, because a totally different set of plans has now been prepared. The proposed building will be a much better one, and will meet all the requirements of broadcasting in Western Australia in the foreseeable future. Therefore, although we have had to suffer a little hardship, I think that in the long run we shall gain from it.
I commend to the Minister the suggestion that work be commenced on preparing the site, so that when the plans are complete and tenders have been called there will be no further delay in having the building constructed. We have had an assurance from the Postmaster-General that television will come to Perth in 1960. That being so, time is fast running out, and we have only about two and a quarter years in which to have this building ready for the commencement of television services. Although I think that the structure that is envisaged could be completed by a private contractor in about twelve months, there is still need for speed.
.- As one of the members of the committee which investigated the proposal to erect studios for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Perth, I wish to make a brief comment. The committee understood, in recommending that the undertaking be regarded as urgent, that a certain time would be required by the department to prepare plans and specifications, and to arrange for the necessary tenders to be called. Included in the committee’s recommendation was a request that certain work be done on the preparation of the site, as mentioned by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), and also in connexion with the preparation of foundations. The committee stated its reasons for suggesting that that be done immediately. I should, therefore, be grateful if the Minister would be good enough to find out why that recommendation was ignored.
.- 1 support the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). I believe that this building can be completed by 1960, because, owing to the modern design, it will be possible for portion of it to be occupied before the whole of it is completed. 1 was astounded at the comments of the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) in referring to the need for haste which had been advocated, not only by the Perth City Council, but. also by the Western Australian Government, which has taken up the cudgels in this matter. Those of us who have been associated with this Parliament for some years will remember that in 1945, the honorable member for Stirling, in another capacity, was one of the great antagonists to the proposal to erect such a building in that year.
– I was not here then. What is the honorable member talking about?
– I said “in another capacity “. For the benefit of honorable members, I point out that, at that time, the honorable member for Stirling was a very prominent member of the Trades Hall in Perth, I mention these matters only to put the record straight. I acknowledge the need for haste in the construction of this building, but I want the people to appreciate that the fact that it has not been completed is not entirely the fault of the Commonwealth. Indeed, as the honorable member for Perth has said, the people of Western Australia are somewhat fortunate that the building was not constructed sooner, because they will now have a most modern building.
The honorable member for Stirling referred to the conditions under which employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Perth are obliged to work. The same position has applied, and still applies to a degree, in relation to employees of the Repatriation Department in Perth. In 1945 and 1947, when the Commonwealth wanted to get on with the construction of accommodation for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Repatriation Department, certain gentlemen associated with the honorable member for Stirling refused to allow both the previous Commonwealth Government and the present Government to make a start on that work.
– The files will show that that is so. They also will show thai the previous member for Perth, between 1946 and 1949, strongly urged the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, to get a move on with the construction oi both buildings. The files will show, too, that conferences were held in Perth in an endeavour to have the work started, and that the reason given by both sides of politics in that State, and also by the Perth City Council, for not commencing the work was that it would affect adversely the housing situation. Those are the facts. 1 . would not have mentioned them had not the honorable member for Stirling intruded in the debate, in an obvious attempt to place the blame for the delay entirely on the shoulders of the Commonwealth.
I was pleased by the comment of the honorable member for Stirling that thisbuilding could be constructed by private enterprise. I hope that that opinion has the support of all those who sit alongside him and behind him, because, during the last few months, we have had no end of complaints from the Opposition concerning the activities of private enterprise in connexion with governmental works. Now, we can see clearly that when it suits honorable members opposite to do so, they are ready to suggest that we should engage the services of private enterprise.
I hope that the Department of Works will be able to draw up the plans for the building with expedition, so that a start can be made. If the rate of progress is anything like that achieved by the department in respect of the building for the Repatriation Department I feel certain that the studios for the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be ready, for sound broadcasting at least, by 1960, and I hope that it will then be possible to commence the construction of a town hal! for the City of Perth.
– I wish to make personal explanation. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) said that I had advocated that the construction of the building for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Perth should be undertaken by private enterprise. I did not make any comment on that point, except to read extracts from the report of the parliamentary committee.
– in reply - From the comments which have been made in the House this afternoon, there seems to be some general misconception concerning the extent of the influence of the Department of Works in matters of this kind. It is true that the Public Works Committee, of which you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, are the distinguished chairman, will have a look at these plans with a view to determining whether they are adequate to meet the needs, and whether the building is to be erected on the right site, and that it will look into the whole question of the need for this building. But the question of when a particular building is to be commenced must depend entirely on the funds available to the government department requiring a construction programme to be undertaken. In connexion with this matter, it is true that the Department of Works already has gone some distance.
– What is meant by “ special urgency “?
– I shall come to that in a moment. The point is that, to prepare a case for consideration by the Public Works Committee, it is necessary to take the planning a considerable distance along the road. That work has already been done, and some additional work is being done, I assure honorable members, on the preparation of plans in anticipation of parliamentary approval being given. I hope that nobody will be heard to complain about that. But the fact is that the question of when this job is to be done is a matter for my colleague, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson).
An opportunity to discuss this particular programme will arise when we are dealing with the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The fact is that there is a long list of almost equally important and urgent works to be done throughout this country. It is patently impossible to do them all at once; they must be given a degree of priority. The only person authorized and competent to say when these works will find their way into the programme is the one whose department is responsible for them, that is, my colleague, the Postmaster-General. He is more than capable of answering for himself, and for his department, on these matters.
So far as the preparation of plans is concerned, there is approximately eight months or nine months’ drawing time - perhaps, at this stage, eight months’ drawing time. Under forced draught, as it were, that time might be cut down considerably, but from consultation with the Postmaster-General’s Department, it seems that there is not a great possibility of funds being provided. As a matter of fact, funds have not been provided for this work in the current Estimates. If money is to be provided in the 1958-59 financial year, then the working drawings and the tender documents will be available in ample time. The question of when the job can go ahead is not one for my department, although we will be glad to see it commence; it is one for my colleague the Postmaster-General. With those few comments, I commend the motion to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 10th October (vide page 1308).
Department of Civil Aviation
Proposed Vote, £9,862,000
.- 1 wish to refer to two matters that arise out of questions which I placed on the noticepaper and which were answered by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). The first question, which I put on the notice-paper on 2nd April last, concerned the collapse of a hangar at Mascot aerodrome. The Minister for Immigration gave me a reply to that question on 20th May last. Honorable members will recall that in January last, a very large hangar - the largest in the Southern Hemisphere 1 believe - was nearing completion at Mascot for Qantas Empire Airways Limited when it collapsed. Since that day, no full explanation has been given to the public why it collapsed, how much Qantas and the public have lost directly and indirectly as a result of that collapse, or what steps should be taken by Qantas, or by government departments which supervise its activities, to ensure that such an eventuality does not occur again. It was not an isolated instance, because a similar hangar, of similar material was being erected by the same company - a newcomer to Australia - at that time at the Richmond Royal Australian Air Force station. Although that hangar, apparently, showed no sign of collapsing, steps were taken at the time to preserve it. I asked questions of the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall) at the same time, to which he gave replies, and I believe that that hangar is, in fact, in good shape. Nevertheless, a problem arose in respect of that hangar also, and several government departments were bewildered as to what caused the collapse at Mascot. They thought that a similar collapse might occur at Richmond. Accordingly, I think it is important that on this, the first opportunity we have to discuss the matter - except by placing a question upon the notice-paper or by raising it on the adjournment - it should be ventilated again.
To put it into perspective, I will quote from the Qantas 1956 annual report, which states-
Our plan for the essential extension and improvement of aircraft maintenance and over-all facilities at Mascot received a severe set-back in January, 1957, when part of an almost-completed hangar collapsed. Rebuilding of the structure has commenced and is now due for completion towards the end of 1957.
You will see, Mr. Chairman, that that was a serious thing. A severe setback occurred to aircraft maintenance and overall facilities at Mascot just at a time when Qantas, a company whose reputation, internationally, stands at a very high peak, was engaged in extending its facilities, and at a time when this Parliament was passing a bill to enable it to borrow a very large number of dollars to purchase what we believe are the most modern aircraft in the world - aircraft which could be housed only in this new hangar.
I will not go through the detailed questions I asked, or the answers, less detailed, which I received. However, I think it is fair to say that the following comments can be made upon those answers: - First of all, the tenders for the supply of mild, structural steel, which it was first contemplated using, were called from selected, major suppliers, in accordance with normal practice. One of those tenderers submitted a tender, at a lower figure, for high-tensile steel. Then the department, without calling tenders from the other tenderers, or from selected tenderers for that sort of steel, the use of which had not previously been contemplated, went ahead and placed a contract with this one company, which had alone tendered for this sort of steel, which had not previously been specified. During the course of construction, apparently, a truss was dropped and damaged, but after inspection by insurance representatives, it was re-erected.
That is the sum total of the information which was vouchsafed to me in answer to my question. But the other questions 1 asked were left unanswered. 1 had asked whether that truss was responsible for the collapse, and, after all, who was going to pay for the demolition and the reconstruction of the hangar. At least it must be relevant for us to know whether Qantas has had to pay any of that cost, and, if so, why it has had to pay it. But the Minister said, on 20th May, that at that stage the reason for the collapse had not been finally determined, but a group settlement had been reached. I should hope that in the five months which have elapsed since, the reason for the collapse would have been finally determined and it would now be possible to reveal the terms of the group settlement as they affect Commonwealth departments or instrumentalities.
I am not asking to what extent the private architects, private contractors, private surveyors or private suppliers might have been at fault, but I think we are entitled to know to what extent Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities were at fault or lacked knowledge or foresight in this matter. After all, we have to guard against occurrences of this kind in the future. Mascot is not the only aerodrome at which we will be erecting hangars of this size and, maybe, of this material, and it is very likely that the same tenderer, the same suppliers and the same sort of materials will once again be used, or it may be contemplated that they will be used. I should think that it is now possible to get this answer. After all, this hangar was to be completed by 30th June, 1956. lt was nearing completion last January; it is expected it will be completed at the end of this year, if the public interest has been damaged in no other respect than that of delay, then it is a matter of public concern. Therefore, in regard to that first matter, I should hope that the Minister could now give me a reply.
The other matter arises out of a question concerning Australian National Airways
Proprietary Limited, which I asked the Minister on 28th August, and to which I received an answer on 9th October. I do not want to canvass the projected legislation which the Minister, in another place, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have said will be brought down, but it is obvious that at this time - five years after the original civil aviation agreement - we should, be able to ensure that provisions are put into the legislation that we, as the people’s representatives, are given annual reports as to the security of what is, after all, only a proprietary company - one which, apparently, can. sell its shares to another company. This company can in that indirect way dispose of all its assets, assets which are the security for loans guaranteed by the Commonwealth of nearly £3,000,000, upon which £450,000 of repayments are overdue. It is well to remember that the Minister for Civil Aviation said on> the 8th of this month that the assets of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited were secured to various debtors in the sum of £3,600,000, and that the valuation- of them was somewhere between £3,000,000- and £3,500,000. That is, the debts which those assets secure exceed the value of the assets, and the assets have been sold to Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited for £3,300,000. I do not know who are the debtors, apart from the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Mutual Provident Society, which made loans under Commonwealth guarantee. I would suggest, however, that since this agreement has not been formally assigned in breach of the agreement, and since the assets upon which the Commonwealth has that security have not been formally disposed of, again in breach of the agreement, it is all the more necessary that any future act should cover the position or cover the sale of the assets which are involved in a company buying shares in another company. That is one of the advantages which small groups of people or companies derive from forming themselves into proprietary companies, but the lesson we must learn from this very hazardous agreement which the Prime Minister signed in October, 1952, with A.N.A. is that the Commonwealth’s standing and financial stake is not adequately safeguarded by any agreement with a proprietary company. It is necessary that at all stages there should be an annual report to Parliament, or at least that the Auditor-General should make sure that the Commonwealth’s stake is secure, that the Commonwealth’s assets are still uncluttered by obligations to other debtors, and that the Commonwealth, incase of need, can see that those assets are retained here, that they are in good condition, and that they will in fact realize the amount upon which the public credit has been pledged by the Government.
Without saying any more about the projected legislation, I thought this was a suitable time to mention some of the problems which have now arisen. The qualifications and doubts expressed five years ago in this House have been amply sustained. The questions which were asked by members of this Opposition,, purely on a financial basis - how secure was this money, how secure was the company, and what were its prospects - have in fact been shown to be very well based. There is now; in these well-publicized arrangements between Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited and Australian National Airways, and presumably with Butler Ah Transport Limited and1 Airlines of Australia and other subsidiaries of A.N.A., more cause for us to see- that in the projected legislation the public interest is safeguarded. It may bc that with the best will in the world, with the most scrupulous attention to public duty, the Prime Minister could not have been expected to foresee that A.N.A. would let him down so badly, but we now know. Let us be forewarned this time, and see that not only those matters which were mentioned on this side of the House and ignored five years ago are covered in the new agreement, but also that these- matters, which have emerged in the last year, when A.N.A. has been running up a loss, falling behind in its undertakings under Commonwealth guarantee to the bank and to the insurance companies, cannot arise again and that the Commonwealth could not, in five years or less or longer, be betrayed a second time and the public assets again be placed in jeopardy.
.- Of all the items in the Estimates, it gives me the greatest pleasure to be able to speak on the Department of Civil Aviation. Coming from Western Australia, the State which was the cradle of civil aviation in this country, I understand why the people of that State appreciate air transport. It is mainly due to the vast spaces of Western Australia and to its previous isolation. The first airline operated from Perth to Geraldton or Carnarvon. That was West Australian Airways, and it operated in the face of great criticism and under great difficulty. It finally proved itself, and from that time we saw airlines operating in the eastern part of Australia. Although air transport started in Western Australia, its progress has not been comparable with the progress of civil air transport in the eastern States, because in Western Australia we have a vast area sparsely populated. We have not the concentrated traffic that there is on the eastern seaboard, and I pay a tribute to those companies, and the persons connected with them, who have operated airlines to the great advantage of the people who are scattered throughout our vast area.
On 3rd September, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) made speeches in relation to civil aviation. The Minister for Civil Aviation said -
In the case of feeder services, the Government 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 obtain suitable replacement aircraft for the DC3. The grant of this assistance will be conditional upon the operator agreeing to provide services to specified areas at frequencies approved by the Minister, having regard to public needs and convenience in the rural areas to be served.
I hope that assistance of this kind will be granted to the airline about which I am speaking - Macrobertson Miller Airlines Limited - not for the company’s benefit in particular, but for the benefit of the people who live in the north-west, because, although flying conditions there are fairly good, except for the occasional stormy period - the weather is continually fine but extremely bumpy - the people travelling in that part of the country are subject to some pretty rough rides in the DC3. In these days of pressurized aeroplanes and flying above the weather, the people who suffer the hardships of life in the north-west are entitled to every consideration. I hope that one of the first airline companies to equip itself with Fokker Friendship planes and Handley-Page Herald planes will be the company which operates on our western seaboard.
I must congratulate the Minister for Civil Aviation for his recent sustained efforts in having Perth made an international airport and in seeing that services are now being routed through that city. No longer will people have to travel to Sydney or Darwin in order to journey overseas, but they will be served, both by Qantas - our own airline - and also by South African Airways, which company is shortly to commence a service from South Africa to Australia. In congratulating the Minister, I take the opportunity of also congratulating the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation who have, I believe, with successive ministers and with the airline operators of Australia, built up a reputation in civil air transport that is second to none in the world to-day. So often in this House we hear criticism of the public servant, but in this case I believe that Australia owes a lot to those men who have given us the reputation we enjoy to-day.
– Criticism does that.
– That is a matter of opinion. I want to comment on one item in the Estimates under the heading of “ Development of Civil Aviation “. It is proposed to assist aero and gliding clubs this year by a grant of £175,000. At the present time, payments are under the following scales: - £100 per person is paid to a club or flying school for every pilot’s licence issued to trainees under the age of 30 years; £150 is paid for each commercial pilot’s licence issued, and £50 is paid for each instructor’s rating. In addition to this, the sum of £1 lis. per hour is paid to the club for all hours flown by student fliers from the club; and where it is operating from another ground that sum is raised to £2 per hour.
It is interesting to note that under the system set down by the Department of Civil Aviation, for a trainee pilot to gain a private pilot’s licence he must fly 40 hours, half dual and half solo, and to gain a commercial pilot’s licence he must fly 165 hours in the ratio of 65 hours dual and 100 hours solo. Although the Government has been fairly generous in its subsidies to aero clubs, I want to place before the Minister the point that although a subsidy is being paid at a fairly high level it still does not enable the ordinary person on an ordinary income to undertake a pilot’s training course. From my observations of the aero clubs the type of person learning to fly has not changed much over the years. First, there was the type of person who had fairly independent means to whom the payment, in the pre-war days, of about 30 s. per hour for flying was of no consequence. Then, the young apprentice, the person interested in aviation, found it a great hardship and a sacrifice to give up one hour every week-end when other people were at the beach or playing tennis, and praticularly when he had to spend his own money to gain a pilot’s certificate. In the pre-war years anybody who made the sacrifice and learnt to fly found himself either caught up in the war or absorbed into civil aviation, and those people have probably been repaid for the time and money they put into it.
The cost of learning to fly has now increased considerably. I do not know the figures for the eastern States, but I should imagine that the average price would be about £4 per hour for flying, whether it be dual or solo. It might vary in some clubs because of the club’s earning capacity in a social sphere, but in the Royal Aero Club of Western Australia the last figures I obtained were £4 for dual and £4 for solo. That is a fair sum for a man to expend to gain a private pilot’s licence. It means a total outlay of £160. If he wants to go to the commercial level, as he would no doubt hope to do, his outlay will be £660. For the real enthusiast of seventeen or eighteen years of age, an opportunity was given under the national service training scheme when a certain number were taken in and trained by the aero club under contract to the Royal Australian Air Force. So, the opportunity existed for some lads to learn to fly free of cost. That opportunity has now disappeared.
The Government should institute a flying school or some such scheme. Even though the subsidy may be increased over the £175,000 it would still allow some young fellows of limited means to pursue their ambitions and learn to fly an aeroplane and perhaps seek a career in civil aviation. There are two reasons why that should be done. First, it would give everybody a chance that they want to take; and secondly, the time is not far distant in Australia when we will be extremely short of civil pilots. In the post-war period we have been able to draw upon the great reserve that came from the Royal Australian Air Force when thousands trained under the Empire Air Scheme under Royal Australian Air Force conditions, but that reserve has naturally dried up due to the age factor. Since many of our senior pilots to-day have been attracted overseas into other air companies and many others are reaching the stage in life when they must consider retirement from flying, we will have to do something to ensure that the high standard we have set in Australia in the field of civil aviation is maintained, especially at the pilot level.
I ask the Minister to give some consideration to those points in an effort to encourage the types of persons who want to make flying their career. We should make it a little easier for them to obtain their objective. I do not believe it should be made extremely easy. Some test should be applied. If a person is prepared to make some sacrifice and if he is keen enough to follow the course right through, he is worthy of encouragement by those who are expert in this matter. The Department of Civil Aviation should consider possibilities of that kind.
One other point I commend to the Minister for his consideration. I am not too certain that the facilities for search and rescue on the north-west coast of Western Australia are all that can be desired. I do not mean in respect of overseas air flights or in respect of civil aviation itself, because the Western Australian coast, like the rest of Australia, has been equipped, from Perth to Darwin, with that excellent safety flying medium, the distance measuring equipment. However, occasionally a case arises where a fisherman or a local resident gets into difficulties off the coast and is stranded in a launch which might break down and there is no way of dropping anything to him whereby he can be assisted. The department might consider the staging, at various aerodromes along the coast, of sufficient material that could be dropped from a civil aircraft or from a rescue aircraft when the fisherman is found. Recently a couple of tragedies occurred in that area which might have been avoided had such facilities been available.
I conclude by repeating that Australia has a lot to be thankful for. Although certain arguments might arise here about the merits of A.N.A. or T.A.A., in the overall picture civil aviation is like a shining star in Australian history and something of which we can indeed be proud.
– Unlike the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I have some criticism to offer and some constructive suggestions to make. As we all know, Kingsford-Smith airport is the greatest airport in Australia - in fact, one of the greatest in the world - and a lot of money has been spent to improve and extend facilities available to the passengers who use it. Bearing in mind that this Government has gone in for rackets, 1 protest against a further racket that is worked at Kingsford-Smith airport. This is a long-standing racket which I brought to the notice of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) when he was Minister for Civil Aviation. I am concerned about the transport to and from the airport, and the comfort of the people who use it. I use it regularly myself, and I find it most difficult to get to that airport, which has been built with public money. I also find it very difficult indeed to get transport home from that airport, unless of course I want to use the facilities made available by some sort of company called the Kingsford-Smith Hire Car Service. It is a private enterprise. This Government is very favourably disposed to private enterprise, and it is most favorably disposed towards these racketeers at Kingsford-Smith airport. After many years of agitating, I finally had four taxi ranks established at Kingsford-Smith airport. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) was very much opposed to the establishment of a public transport facility there.
– I established it.
– lt was established after years of agitating. The Minister for Immigration passed the buck to the State authorities. Backwards and forwards it was passed until finally, the taxi service was established. Finally, it was established, but in what way was provision made for it? The Kingsford Smith Hire Car Service, which operates from outside the Trans-Australia Airways terminal, has enough space available, and a rank marked out, for five cars. Private enterprise is well looked after. But across the pedestrian crossing which is marked by two yellow lines we find a notice, “ Taxi-cab rank “. Between the yellow lines and the notice one taxi-cab has to manoeuvre to get into that space. Why has this been done? When a passenger gets into a taxi-cab the meter goes on, by regulation, and proceeds to register the amount that will have to be paid at the end of the journey. When a passenger gets into a hire-car however, he does not know how much he will have to pay. When he gets to his destination he receives a terrible shock.
– The honorable member uses them.
– That may be so, but I am talking from a constructive point of view. Working people use Kingsford-Smith airport, and I am not going to sit idly by and see the working people of my electorate fleeced by private hire-car operators. What is more, these operators tout for custom right inside the terminal. The taxi-cab operator has to sit in his cab and wait till the customer comes to him.
– The honorable member touts for votes.
– There is no need for me to tout for votes. I get them on my own merit. I have never crawled to any one. I am not like the honorable member who has interjected. I want further transport facilities to be made available to the public at Kingsford-Smith airport, on which the Government has spent £10,000,000 or £12,000,000.
Last Friday morning I had to wait for a cab for twenty minutes, simply because there is no space for a feeder taxi-cab rank although there is space for feeder cars on the private hire-car rank. Of course, I complained to the official who is called a security officer - all kinds of employees are “ security officers “ under this Government - and he said that he had strict orders from the management that only one cab was to be allowed on the rank. There are four ranks altogether - one outside the terminals each of Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, the overseas services, TransAustralia Airlines, and Butler Air Transport Limited and Australian National Airways Limited. In other words there were four cabs altogether on the four ranks. But there are seventeen private hire-cars, for two of which parking space has been made available.
As a result of investigations that I have made, I believe that these hire-cars operate throughout the eastern suburbs of Sydney and use the portion of the airport that has been allocated to them as a dock.. They do not operate in the airport at all. This beneficent Government has made telephone facilities available to the private hire-car operators but not to the taxi operators. The two hire cars which use the parking space made available to them operate outside the airport altogether. I want to have something done about this. I want further space to be made available for the taxi-cabs. I believe that as many as 2,000 people use the T.A.A. terminal daily.
I do not know the name of the manager of the airport. I have never met him. But I think that he must be a man of very poor discernment or organizational ability if he thinks that one taxi-cab can suffice for the number of people that use the airport. If he went around a little bit and had a . look at the airport he would know what was needed and he would not have to be told the requirements of the airport by the people who use it. I appeal io the Minister for Immigration to have another look at this matter. I know that he examined it when the taxi rank was established two or three years ago. That is not sufficient for me. I want more taxi-cabs, and more space for the taxi ranks and feeder taxi ranks. There is not enough space at present for feeder ranks of four or five taxi-cabs. I do not think that any extraordinary ability is needed to see this, and that -leads me to the conclusion that this is an out-and-out racket. The scales are weighted in favour of the private hire-car operators.
I would also bring to the notice of the Minister that, under the New South Wales laws which control traffic in the KingsfordSmith airport, no touting is allowed by private car operators for customers. I bring that breach of the law to the notice of the Minister. A number of complaints have been made to me in regard to public transport to and from the aerodrome. I make the allegation without any reservation that a private hire-car racket is operating at Kingsford-Smith airport. It is causing great concern to the people who use the terminal. Certainly it is causing great concern to people who use the service of T.A.A., which, understandably, is the favorite airline of the people.
All sorts of air services are offered to them, including those of Australian National
Airways Limited and Ansett Airways Pro.proetary Limited., but only Australia’s one public airline, T.A.A., has won the confidence of the people. I wonder whether it is intended to discourage people from using the T.A.A. service by preventing public transport from being made available to its passengers. When the Minister has finished talking at the table I hope that he will pay attention to this matter. I am addressing the Minister for Immigration, who seems to be holding a meeting at the table.
– Order! The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) will please sit down.
– I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister, in case he did not hear me before, the fact that there is a private hire-car racket at Kingsford-Smith aerodrome. I want more taxi-cabs to be provided for the people who use T.A.A. as well as for the other people who use Kingsford-Smith airport. They are sick and tired of being stood over by private hire-car operators who charge up to 30s. for a journey which a taxi would do for 7s. or 8s. The solution to the problem is easy. If the Minister would like to spend an hour or so in examining the position, I could take him around the airport and let him see what is happening. I am prepared to make some of my time available to show the Minister what is going on at this government-controlled airport. Inside the terminal building, arrangements work smoothly and efficiently. Outside we find chaos. People who use the airways are jostled by all kinds of persons who tout for custom for these private hire-cars. I wish to suggest, as a proper and easy solution of the problem, that hire-cars and taxicabs occupy alternate positions on the rank at the airport. This is a fair and reasonable proposition, and we in this Parliament hear quite a lot about the fair and just terms. If my suggestion were adopted, it would be found that the people would at all times prefer to use taxi-cabs, because they would know what they would have to pay, and they would not be held up by racketeers who operate openly at this government-owned airport.
The Kingsford-Smith airport is the largest in Australia, but it is the only airport at which passengers cannot get taxi-cabs when they want them. I should like the Minister to take note of that fact. In Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, or Perth, if a passenger at the airport wants a taxi-cab, he can get one, but this is not so at the KingsfordSmith airport. I believe that the gentleman who operates the private hire-car service at Kingsford-Smith airport has some favoured friends in the Government. I say that deliberately. I believe that if the manager of the airport had a look at the situation, he might see what is going on. He should come down from his lofty tower and have a look around. A manager who cannot see when rackets are being operated under his own nose is not fit to be manager of an airport like the Kingsford-Smith airport.
– I do not want to waste the time of the committee by referring to such idle nonsense as has been talked by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin).
– Why don’t you answer him, instead of talking rubbish?
– Why don’t you keep quiet? The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has made these charges about departmental officers at the Sydney airport far too often. Although he is not really worthy of a reply, I am not going to sit there and see good public servants vilified. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has said, two or three times - in the last fifteen minutes, that the manager of the Sydney airport is aware of rackets going on, that he ought to be ashamed of himself, and that he ought to come down out of his ivory tower.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has made his speech, and he will now keep quiet!
– I should like to say that the manager of the Sydney airport is a gentleman of the highest integrity. He is an exceptionally competent man. No one in this chamber, or anywhere else, could ever point the finger of accusation at the departmental officer who is the manager of the Sydney airport.
As far as taxis are concerned, if the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith had spoken just a little more loudly, he would probably have been heard by the people in Sydney to whom his remarks should have been addressed, because it is the Government of New South Wales that issues registration plates for taxi-cabs in that State.
– The Minister told me that before, and I proved him wrong.
– I told the honorable member that before-
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will be silent.
– And it was completely correct.
– Why don’t you tell the truth?
– If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith can convince me that it is not the New South Wales Governmen that issues taxi-cab plates for use in the City of Sydney, I will believe anything he says, whereas, at present, I will not believe anything he says. The hire-car service that he has mentioned is let on a contract basis. Any person may tender for that contract, and if his tender is accepted he may then come in and run the hire-car service.
– Is the contract let with exclusive rights over taxi-cabs?
– Of course, not. Taxis can come in as often as they like, if the necessary plates have been issued.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order! If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith offends again, I will name him. He will keep quiet, and he will obey the Chair. He has already spoken, and was given a fair go.
– I rose to defend a good officer of the Department of Civil Aviation. I do not want to be sidetracked by a lot of vilification, and to go into details that have already been covered. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has had many answers in this chamber to questions about this matter, but apparently in the tortuous windings of his mind this word “ racket “ keeps cropping up. What he said to-day, he has said before, and it was just as untrue on those occasions as it is now.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Chairman. I claim that I have been misrepresented. The Minister has stated that I said that the manager of the airport should be ashamed of himself, and that he was seeing rackets being carried on before his own eyes. The Minister also made other extraneous remarks, of course, as he usually does. He said that I claimed that more taxi-cabs should be at the airport.
– Where is the misrepresentation?
– This is how I was misrepresented by the untruthful statements of the Minister: What 1 said was that space should be made available at the airport so that more taxis could use the rank there. I said that if the manager of the airport did not have the organizational ability to see that these facilities were provided he should not hold his position as manager. I repeat that statement. The Minister also said that the manager is a high public servant and that he must defend him. I said that if the manager of the airport cannot be criticized for his lack of organizational ability he should not be there.
.- I join with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) in deploring the fact that this debate should be used as a means whereby a good departmental officer may be vilified by an honorable member. If the organizational ability of this man is in question, then let us have a close look at the KingsfordSmith airport, which is not only, perhaps, the best in Australia, but also one of the best in the world, and one of the safest. As the honorable member travels to and from Sydney he has ample opportunity to see the great organizing ability of the airport manager and those under his control, which is evident from the efficient and safe manner in which the activities of the airport are conducted - as, indeed, are those of other airports throughout Australia. We have good reason to be grateful for the devotion to duty and organizational ability of these men of the Department of Civil Aviation who make it possible for us to fly in Australia in as complete safety as passengers enjoy in any other part of the world. The manager of the Kingsford-Smith airport is responsible for the safe transport, in and out, of thousands of persons, and if his organizational ability is to be criticized over some wretched business in connexion with taxi-cabs, because one honorable member of this Parliament cannot get a taxi when he desires it, then this Parliament is indeed being used for an improper purpose.
The organization of the Kingsford-Smith airport is typical of that of the Department of Civil Aviation throughout the whole of Australia. We are a nation of a little more than 9,000,000 people, and we have thrown the responsibility on the Department of Civil Aviation to maintain five international airports. No other country with such a small population has to maintain five international airports at the high standard that we see in Australia. Holland, for instance, has about 14,000,000 people, but it has only one international airport terminal. We have five of them, and we have a network of air routes extending over 100,000 miles. In my own State of Queensland, in addition to the duplicated routes, on which two or more services are operated, there are 20,000 miles of air routes on which single services operate. The aircraft on those routes go to country centres where they pick up perhaps one or two passengers, offload a little freight and pick up a small amount of produce. They perform a great service for the people of the outback.
Although we may be inclined to say at times that our air terminal buildings are not up to international standards, let us remember that, as a nation of 9,000,000 people, we have been able to provide air services that are unequalled anywhere else in the world, and certainly have no peer in safety.
– Trans-Australia Airlines, of course, is without peer.
– I remind the honorable member that we are now discussing the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation. We in this place must pay due tribute to the airline operators, and especially to the skill of the pilots and crews. We must pay tribute to all the Australian airlines, because, in the last six years, they have carried no fewer than 12,000,000 passengers without a single passenger fatality. That, I think, merits the highest tribute to the airline operators themselves. It merits, perhaps even more, a tribute to the safety aids maintained, and the air traffic rules and regulations imposed, throughout Australia, by the Department of Civil Aviation. We may, without the slightest trepidation, board an aircraft to travel to any destination, and know that we shall fly in complete safety, and that, all the time, our aircraft not only will be under the control of competent men in the cockpit, but also will be guided to its journey’s end with complete safety by the network of navigation aids and safety measures maintained by the department. This is a vast country, comparable in size with the United States of America, but not in any way comparable with that country in population. But the people of Australia are extremely air-minded, and very great demands for air services are made. I pay high tribute to the men of the Department of Civil Aviation who have maintained the very high standards of travel that we enjoy, to say nothing of our extremely high standards of safety.
I wish to pay tribute also to the present Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who has continued the work of his predecessor in excellent fashion, and also to Mr. Anderson, the DirectorGeneral of Civil Aviation. The year 1957 has been a very momentous one in the history of civil aviation in Australia. It has seen the inauguration of the Qantas round-the-world service, which, in itself, is a tribute to the work of Mr. Anderson, and to his ability, not only in organizing, but also in selling, this service throughout the world, and obtaining international rights for an Australian airline. At the same time as these negotiations were proceeding, the department had the worry of consolidating the position of the private airlines within Australia. This objective has been achieved by the merger of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Ansett Airways Limited, and competition in airline services is now assured.
In addition to the matters that I have mentioned, the department has had to plan for the replacement of DC3 aircraft for internal use, and the Minister has had to determine a policy for this purpose. As honorable members doubtless realize, the time has come when the DC3 - the faithful servant of the Australian airlines - must be replaced. This replacement is now well under way, and many airline operators have already placed orders for modern pressurized replacement aircraft. Aircraft such as the Fokker Friendship and the Handley Page Herald will shortly be in service, and will provide speedier, pressurized, and perhaps more comfortable, travel than the DC3 aircraft afforded. Country people, particularly, will enjoy speedier, more efficient, and perhaps even safer, service than was available to them in DC3 aircraft. The determination of policy for the years ahead, and planning to ensure that aerodromes are capable of handling these aircraft in complete safety, has imposed a heavy responsibility on the Department of Civil Aviation at a time when it was pressed to deal with many other important matters. It is to the credit of the department and its officers that, by the time the new modern, fast, pressurized aircraft are in service in this country, every organizational facility needed to enable them to operate in complete safety will be available, so that all passengers who care to use them may enjoy the best and most comfortable service in complete safety.
For these achievements, I pay tribute to the Minister,, who has worked hard upon the various tasks that have been heaped upon him this year. T pay tribute, also, to the Director-General of Civil Aviation and his staff for their devotion to their work, and for the achievements that they have made possible. Some honorable members often take it upon themselves to voice criticisms. I know that Opposition members, who adopt a pinch-penny attitude about small matters concerning taxi-cabs, and the like, are proud to thump their chests outside the Parliament and say what wonderful airline services we have in Australia. That is a noteworthy fact. We Australians can go to any other part of the world and justifiably boast about the standard of our air services, and the safety with which they are conducted. We in the Parliament can take very little credit for that, and we should not hesitate, in our places in the Parliament, to pay due tribute to the devoted men of the Department of Civil Aviation who have made these things possible, and have placed Australia in the forefront of the aviation industry, especially in standards of service, safety, and passenger traffic, compared with any other country. I do not hesitate to pay tribute to the officers of the department for these things, and I hope that other honorable members also will take the opportunity, during the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation, to do likewise, and that they will refrain from making snide attacks on the department over minor things.
– I consider that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley), who is now at the table, has handled the matter raised by the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) in a way that is certainly not becoming to a responsible Minister in this Parliament. The Minister began his remarks on the matter by describing the observations of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith as mere idle nonsense, when the fact is that the kind of thing about which the honorable member complained is not allowed at any Australian airport except the Kingsford-Smith airport, at Mascot, in Sydney. There is not a shadow of a doubt that, somewhere, there is a racket. Whether the Minister is in the racket, or whether some other person in the Government is in the racket-
– I rise lo order. I ask that the honorable member be required to withdraw the statement that he has just made.
– Order! Is the Minister taking a point of order?
– Yes. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that I was associated with a racket, and I ask that he be made to withdraw that remark.
– Order! I think that honorable members ought to temper their language a little. If they are to persist in making charges about rackets, it is time that we adopted Standing Orders under which the Chair could deal with honorable members who make charges at random without any foundation in fact. An honorable member should not direct a charge at any other honorable member or a Minister unless he is prepared to submit to the House a substantive motion, and prove his charges.
In relation to the proposed vote now under consideration, let me say now that I shall rule out of order any further reference to taxis at airports, which are a matter for the State governments. I have allowed discussion on private hire cars, because my understanding is that they are under the control of Trans-Australia Airlines, and that, therefore, they come within the scope of the discussion on this proposed vote.
– I rise to order. You. Mr. Chairman, have just stated that you will rule out of order any reference to taxis at aerodromes. I think that such references would be relevant to the consideration of the proposed vote now before the committee. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith raised the matter of the provision of adequate ranks for taxis at aerodromes so that they may provide proper services for airline passengers. I consider that that matter is related to the services provided by the Department of Civil Aviation, and that it is therefore relevant to the proposed vote that we are now discussing.
– Order! I ask the honorable member, if he is taking a point of order, to relate it to a particular item in the proposed vote. If he cannot do so, 1 must rule against him. In my view, the matter is not covered by any item.
– The matter of taxis at aerodromes is related to the administration of the Department of Civil Aviation, and honorable members are entitled, during the consideration of the proposed vote for that department, to discuss all matters relevant to the administration of the department.
– On the point of order, may I point out, Mr. Chairman, that the Minister for Immigration, in denying what the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith had said, made reference to the matter now in dispute. Therefore, you must have considered it in order for him to do so. Reference to the same matter cannot be in order at one stage and out of order ten minutes later when a reply to what was said earlier is being given. I submit that the matter in question is relevant to the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation.
– Order! I ask honorable members to remain quiet. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith said that the taxi rank is situated outside the terminal. That places it beyond the control of T.A.A. In any event, the issue of licences is a matter for the State government, and I rule accordingly.
– I rise to order.
– Order! I have already dealt with the point of order. I will not allow any further debate on that point of order. I have ruled on it.
– I rise to order.
– Is this a different point of order?
– I submit-
– I said that I would not allow any further debate on the point of order. Have you a new point of order?
– It is a new point of order, because I claim it comes within the Estimates.
– Under which vote?
– The Department of Civil Aviation, Division No. 75 - “ Maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities “.
– I have already ruled that that division does not cover taxis outside the terminal.
– In speaking about rackets, I had reached the point where I said, whether or not the Minister is privately involved in this racket-
– That is imputing a motive.
– Whether or not, I am not prepared to say, because I have no evidence of it.
– It is a smear.
– My word it is a smear! Fancy honorable members opposite being sensitive about smearing anybody! If anybody is a pastmaster at smearing, then the Minister for Immigration is certainly a prize winner. I do not know why the Minister is so terribly sensitive about the accusations of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith regarding hire-car services. Why is the Minister so terribly touchy and sensitive? It seems as though he does not want any reference made to it.
– There have been a dozen replies given already.
– Usually, if a person is not involved in these matters, there is no need for him to become sensitive and touchy about them. He allows them to pass, knowing he is completely innocent and does not need to prevent discussion. I should like a full discussion on this subject because it seems to me to be rather odd that special facilities are made available to a private hire-car service at KingsfordSmith airport, although similar facilities are not made available in other States. Surely the honorable member for KingsfordSmith is entitled to ask why!
– And he has been told why, a dozen times.
– He has not been told at all. The Minister attempted to answer the honorable member by cheap abuse, by misquoting him, by ridiculing him about the ivory tower and saying that what the honorable member had said was from his lofty perch - and that is probably not far out either. Then the Minister sought to get around the situation by saying that the question of taxi-cabs had nothing to do with civil aviation because the State Government issued licences for taxi-cabs. Of course it does, but we are not talking about the issue of taxi-cab licences; we are talking about suitable space being made available for taxi-cabs to park in the vicinity of the airport. In Adelaide, as in other States, the airport facilities provide sufficient parking space in front of the passenger terminal for any licensed taxi-cab to take fares and to attend to passengers’ requirements. I am rather suspicious about the circumstances that led to the granting of these special arrangements at KingsfordSmith airport and I am not satisfied with the answer that the Minister has given. It seems more than odd to me that a private company can obtain special facilities and privileges at one airport that are not given at other airports.
– And an office and telephone.
– That makes it worse. I am now told that these people have an office and telephone; but those facilities are not available to others interested in these activities.
– Yes they are. They pay rent and are charged for it.
– Now we are told that they pay rent and are charged for it.
– Order! Too many honorable members are talking at the same time.
– So that we can be assured that everything is clean and above board and that there is nothing shady in these arrangements, the Minister should table the papers relating to the granting of this contract. Let us have the names of those who tendered. Let us see the tenders put in by the various companies, including the successful company. Let us have a full inquiry into the whole of the arrangements that led up to this company being given this special privilege. I am not satisfied, and 1 do not think that any one would be satisfied, with the Minister’s rather devious reply to the straight-out question asked by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith. It ill-becomes the Minister to try to smear the honorable member, casting aspersions at him, misquoting him and accusing him of saying things about the manager which he did not in fact say,
– Of course he did!
– I am informed that this company also has a twoway radio with which it can contact aircraft in the air. Am I correct?
– Yes. The girls get the bookings.
– That is untrue.
– The Minister says it is untrue.
– Have you not heard what the hostess says to you?
– That is all right, but I ask the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith to make some further inquiries to ascertain whether it is true or not. This opens up a very interesting aspect, because it is impossible to obtain radio contact from an aircraft anywhere else in Australia to a taxi company in order to have taxi-cabs waiting at an airport. If that is true, it ought not to be true. It should be possible for the air hostess, when she asks passengers whether they want taxicabs, to be able to arrange for the captain of the aircraft to radio a message to the air terminal advising that the passengers require a certain number of taxis. This would give much help to passengers on board aircraft. At Adelaide, if a passenger asks for a taxi-cab whilst on board the aircraft, the taxi-cab cannot be ordered until the passengers are in the terminal, because the hostess orders the taxi-cabs herself. By the time the taxi-cabs arrive at the airport, having been advised of the number required only after the arrival of the aircraft, most of the passengers have become tired of waiting and have gone by some other means
Whilst I am dealing with Adelaide, I want to ask the Minister whether he can say how much longer we must wait for proper roads to be constructed into and out of Adelaide airport. For many months we have been waiting for a two-way road running through the aerodrome to be thrown open to traffic and for many months we have seen what appears to be a completed two-way road still blocked off and the public prevented from using it. I have another complaint about the approaches to Adelaide airport. It is that those entering or leaving Adelaide airport must cross at the intersection of a road that joins Marion-road with what is known as Tapley’s Hill-road. Already, fatal accidents have occurred at this intersection. Stop signs have been put there, but, with an air terminal such as the Adelaide airport, the civil aviation authorities should be responsible for constructing a turn-about, an over-way bridge or some other means which would make it unnecessary for traffic entering the airport or bypassing it to cross at that intersection.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) had something to say about giving subsidies to private companies operating in Western Australia. I hope that the Goverment will never heed his plea. Instead of using the taxpayers’ money to subsidize private companies in order that they might provide reasonable facilities for the travelling public, we ought to pay the money to Trans-Australia Airlines and allow it to do the job. If we did that, the aircraft or equipment which had been purchased with the money would remain the property of the people who provided the subsidy. Honorable members opposite call for subsidies for private undertakings and private airline operators, but if a Government undertaking should show a slight loss because it is not subsidized at all, they condemn it and criticize it as another example of socialism not operating in the best interest of the people.
Another complaint that I wish to make concerns the meals that are provided by Trans-Australia Airlines.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is extraordinary that so much time should have been occupied this afternoon, first by the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin), and then by his friend and adviser, the honorable member for
Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in discussing the provision of taxi-cabs at the Kingsford-Smith airport. The proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation is £9,862,000. Yet the Opposition has chosen to devote its entire attack to such an insignificant matter! From time to time, criticism is made of the facilities provided at airports, including landing facilities and amenities for the travelling public. It has been suggested, on occasions, that those facilities are inadequate and not in accordance with the requirements of progress, but I feel that such criticism is unfounded. Australia’s reputation in the field of civil aviation is very high. Despite our relatively small population, we have five airports of international standing, each of which is capable of accommodating and servicing any type of passenger aircraft operating in the world to-day. There is no doubt that the facilities at our airports will have to be augmented as aircraft become bigger and the demands for service grow, and it will be necessary, too, for increased financial provision to be made by the Government for additional works and services.
In Australia to-day there are 600 aerodromes. No fewer than 6,000 passengers fly on civil airlines every day. At 11.15 a.m., on a recent Monday, there were 93 airliners airborne at the same time. Despite these remarkable facts, honorable members opposite choose to devote their attention to the provision of taxi-cabs at Kingsford-Smith airport.
I regard it as unfortunate that it is not yet possible for concessions to be granted, at our air terminals, to private interests so that they might conduct businesses for the benefit of the travelling public. I hope that that position will be corrected in the near future, and I have reason to believe that it is the policy of the department, as new air terminals are built, to lease such concessions to businessmen so that they may provide services that are not in any way contrary to the best interests of air travellers. I refer to such business undertakings as florist shops, hairdressing salons, and even garages, although I understand that, in the latter respect, the position is being improved.
The achievements of the Department of Civil Aviation are remarkable. Of course, the department has been extremely fortunate in its ministerial head. He has devoted his energies steadfastly to the job, and he and the departmental officers have won international recognition of their efforts. Recently, through the activities of the Director-General of Civil Aviation, an agreement was completed whereby Qantas Empire Airways Limited achieved the unique right to conduct a round-the-world air service. No other airline in the world can carry passengers all round the world on its own aircraft.
Criticism of the facilities at airports should be tempered by four major considerations. The first is the cost of ensuring the degree of safety in air travel which has been achieved in Australia. In that respect, this country has won world-wide recognition. We have had very few passenger fatalities; indeed, there has been no such fatality for a decade. The cost of achieving this degree of safety is, of course, very high. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, in a speech delivered in this chamber on 3rd September last, that more than £7,000,000 is spent annually on the maintenance and operation of ground safety systems, aerial navigation aids, meteorological services, and the employment of a large number of persons in connexion with operational control. The second feature that should be borne in mind in regard to the cost factor is the contribution that is made to the Department of the Interior, by the Department of Civil Aviation, for meteorological services. This accounts for £657,000 a year. It is true, of course, that the Department of Civil Aviation is the major user of the meteorological service, but at the same time, the service also is available to newspapers, broadcasting stations, farmers and, indeed, anybody who requires information about the weather.
Another important aspect of the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation is the provision of £150,000 for search and rescue facilities. As I mentioned earlier, there has not been a passenger fatality on the major air services for many years, but there are in this country numerous small airlines and private aircraft owners, and it is the responsibility of the department to locate any aircraft which crashes. The vote for this purpose is £150,000 a year, and this, of course, diminishes the funds available to the department for other purposes.
When an aircraft is reported missing, a search is instituted by the department, in co-operation with the Royal Australian Air Force. If aircraft of the R.A.A.F. are not immediately available, private aircraft are chartered. The R.A.A.F. is recouped by the Department of Civil Aviation for the cost of maintaining its aircraft on “ stand-by “ duty, and in the last Budget year, the amount paid to the R.A.A.F. in this connexion was almost £140,000. As honorable members may remember, last year an aircraft was missing in the northwest of Western Australia. A most intensive search was carried out, and it was only after all the aircraft which had been chartered, and also the R.A.A.F. aircraft, had given up the search, that the wreckage was located by an aircraft of the Department of Civil Aviation. Yet another feature of departmental expenditure is the cost of maintaining a most efficient fire-fighting service, which accounts for £250,000 a year. Fortunately, it is rarely called upon to act, but nevertheless it must be constantly at the ready. It can be seen, therefore, that when we deduct from the estimates of the department all the sums of money which have to be provided to ensure public safety in air travel, not a great amount is left for capital expenditure. I believe, however, that the amount which is currently estimated for the Department of Civil Aviation is sufficient to ensure the development of air terminals in accordance with the standard of the demand which will be made on them. I emphasize the fact that Australia has five international airports, all of which are capable of taking any passenger aircraft operating in the world to-day. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his speech on 3rd September last, referred to the possibility of the introduction of legislation which will provide for a compulsory cover by interstate operators of aircraft, up to an amount of £7,500, in the event of injury to or the death of a passenger while travelling in a plane. Although it is not strictly associated with this estimate, I feel that in the interests of the travelling public of Australia, and in order to bring our conditions into line with international standards, that would be a most desirable step.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I suggest that the next proposed vote to be considered should be that of the Department of Health, and after that estimate is disposed of, the proposed votes for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry be taken together. I think this will meet the convenience of the committee.
Department of Health
Proposed Vote, £1,639,000
.- At the outset, I congratulate the Government for providing a subsidy for home nursing services on a £l-for-£l basis. This will greatly alleviate the bed shortage in hospitals throughout Australia. I congratulate the Government also for its intention to increase hospital benefit payments. For many years, now, particularly since this Government has taken office, the Commonwealth has accepted the role of making payments to age and invalid pensioners of pensions, medical and hospital benefits and so on, and has endeavoured to alleviate the financial position of those in need, particularly the aged, sick and infirm. When one qualifies for an age pension, subject to a means test, he becomes entitled to free medicine and free medical attention under the pensioner benefits scheme. This scheme has proved extremely beneficial in respect of the treatment of various illnesses and in supplying essential medicines and drugs to the aged who are in unfortunate circumstances.
The Government has accepted responsibility, under the Aged Persons Homes Bill to care for the accommodation of the aged, and it is pleasing to note that this year it has increased the subsidy to £2 for every £1 raised by various organizations. I have given only a brief synopsis of what this Government is doing to help the sick, the infirm, the chronically ill and the aged. However, there are many who require hospital attention and need transportation from their homes to hospitals or institutions either for treatment or admittance. There is another bracket of people who require transportation to convalescent homes to receive proper care and prescribed treatment, such as pathological tests, medical examination or medical treatment. It is necessary for them to have transportation on several occasions before the treatment is completed, and but for this service they would have to endure grave hardship and discomfort, and there would be a heavy drain on the financial assistance they receive from the Government by way of invalid pension or hospital or medical benefit. In spite of this assistance they are still subject to considerable financial stress and strain.
In providing this service, the ambulance services play an important part. Without such services this transportation would not be practicable. Speedy treatment could not be given, nor could as many people be treated in the manner they and the Government desire because they could not, by themselves, get to centres of treatment. I emphasize that many people regard ambulance services as entirely a State government responsibility, but this can be related most definitely to the estimate now before the committee. The Commonwealth has accepted the responsibility for providing medical treatment and care and hospital benefit for aged and invalid persons and the subsidizing of nursing services. Therefore, it should endeavour to see that, when treatment is necessary, transportation is made available for persons within the categories I have mentioned.
It is not suggested for a moment that ambulance services, which have played such an important part in our community life, would refuse to transport pensioners unless payment was made for the service rendered. If such service were refused, the whole structure and system on which hospital benefits to pensioners is based, would be materially affected and it would not be possible to operate that system in the manner the Government desires. As a result of ambulance services now being provided, many patients spend considerably less time in hospitals than they would otherwise. This applies particularly to pensioners and to chronically ill and infirm persons. The result is not only a saving in bed space, but also a considerable saving in cost to the Government.
It is interesting to note that, during the past year in New South Wales, ambulance services transported approximately 35, 0U0 age and invalid pensioners, involving a distance of approximately 420,000 miles. In the main, these cases were transported without charge. It can easily be seen that the time factor, wages of employees, cost of transport, provision of necessary vehicles, the maintenance of those vehicles and the provision of buildings to house both the staff and the ambulances involve considerable cost. However, the service which ambulances render to the pensioners virtually amounts to free transport. Ambulance services generally are having great difficulty in meeting their financial obligations. They have to resort to various means to raise money. They are called upon to beg or borrow money from various sources. They have to promote housie-housie games and operate chocolate wheels on Saturday mornings and use similar devices to raise the means to continue their service. Senior ambulance officers are called upon to do these menial tasks. Men in their positions should not have to turn to such duties.
According to the latest figures available from all ambulance services operating throughout the Commonwealth, just on 83,000 pensioners throughout Australia were transported during the year ended 30th June, 1955. 1 am informed that the percentage of non-payment in these cases was particularly high. It has always been the endeavour of the ambulance services to transport deserving cases free of cost, but, owing to the incessant strain upon their limited finances, many district committees are considering making a charge for all pensioner cases they are called upon to transport if the pensioner is not a subscriber to the voluntary contribution scheme. The services feel that contributions to this voluntary scheme would not entirely meet the position, as the costs involved would place extra hardship on the individuals concerned, owing to their present limited income, and the scheme could well prove abortive. I am not requesting the Government to pay a subsidy to the ambulance services by means of a grant, but only to pay for the actual transportation of persons, as is done with repatriation cases. I do not want any extension of social services or health services as a whole, but what is suggested is that assistance should be given to those who now perform a service for such a large number of people free of cost to the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth should meet the cost of transporting those people, for whom it already accepts so much responsibility. I suggest that the Commonwealth should pay a nominal fee to the ambulance service to meet the cost of transporting these people throughout the year.
Approaches have been made to the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government, and the New South Wales Government, but without avail. Since 1953, an approach has been made, particularly by the New South Wales Ambulance Board, to responsible Ministers in order to present a case for recognition. This is a necessary service, one with a proud record. It is a service which helps the aged and the infirm people of Australia, and we cannot afford to allow it to lapse or decline.
I repeat that we should endeavour to find ways and means, by consultation, to assist the service, as the States are apparently refusing to honour their obligations in this regard. I suggest that the Commonwealth should pay for the transportation of each individual which the Government recognizes as an age pensioner, an invalid pensioner, or a person who is chronically ill and has no means of support. This Government should pay for their transportation to receive necessary medical or hospital treatment, just as it does in repatriation cases. I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should accept the responsibility merely because of State governments’ reluctance to assist, but the position seems to have reached a stalemate. If we are to alleviate the financial position of the ambulance societies, which render to all sections of the community a humane service, I suggest that the Minister should consider seriously what I have said, and that he should endeavour to make time available for an interview with responsible elected representatives of the New South Wales Ambulance Board, in order that those representatives may put their case to him, possibly in more detail than I have been able to this afternoon in the limited time at my disposal.
This is a service which this Government could extend to people who are in receipt of invalid or age pensions, who are in receipt of free medical benefits, and who are entitled to benefits under the hospital scheme. This scheme should be further extended so that they may receive speedy treatment, X-rays, advice, and medical examinations with the least amount of discomfort. As this costs money which, in many cases, the people apparently do not have, and seeing that 83,000 people were transported virtually free of charge last year by the ambulance services of the Com monwealth, I believe that the Commonwealth Government should look into the matter and endeavour to provide a service for needy people, thus helping a great organization to carry on its work on behalf of the community.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
.- It is not my intention to delay consideration of the estimates for the Department of Health, but I want to mention an organization for which I think each and every honorable member has the greatest admiration. The organization to which I refer is the St. John Ambulance Brigade. This body renders a great public service throughout Australia; a service which is entirely honorary and through which are supplied all the medicines, implements, splints, and everything that goes to aid the injured and the sick. The brigade supplies its own uniforms, and in time of war has been one of the greatest public service units ever created in Australia. I ask the Government to give consideration to a grant to this organization. I ask that a medallion be struck in order that the ladies and gentlemen who are members of this service may receive the recognition they deserve. Not only do they give a great public service; they also give a great industrial service, lt does not matter where one goes; in a well-organized industry one will find an officer of the St. John Ambulance Brigade officiating and treating injuries that may be the outcome of the work that is being performed.
I feel that we could show our gratitude to those men and women who are prepared to give so much time to the service I have mentioned, not only in peace but also in war. The Government would be doing a great public service if it were to make a grant through the official head-quarters of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and take up the suggestion that I have made, that it have struck a medallion that can be issued to the members of the brigade in order that they will not have to beg or borrow rides on public utilities to and from the scenes of their operations. I could go on at length, but I feel I have said sufficient to induce the Government to give some thought to the matters T have mentioned.
.- Mr Chairman, looking down the list of estimates for the Health Department, and, in particular, the list of national health services, one appreciates the fact that the Government is providing an overall health service of great dimensions, greater than any of its kind yet to be provided in the history of this country. It is a service that enters, I think, in one way or another into every home in the Commonwealth, and it is on one aspect of it that I propose to speak in the limited time at my disposal. Among the services that are provided for under the National Health Service Act 1953-56 is medical benefits, medical benefits for pensioners, hospital benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners, nutrition of children, miscellaneous health services such as the Flying Doctor Service, tuberculosis benefits, and a number of other services. The cost of all these exceeds the staggering sum of £37,000,000.
It is in regard to medical and hospital benefits that I should like to say something because honorable members will appreciate the fact that approximately 6,000,000 people subscribe in some way or other to hospital and medical benefit funds in this country. The Commonwealth Health Department authorizes a friendly society or a hospital or medical benefit association to pay hospital and medical benefits on its behalf. Before such approval is given, the rates charged and the benefits disbursed are subjected to very close scrutiny by the Government Actuary and its own committee. That is important; and it is how it should be. Before a benefit society or a hospital or medical association grants benefits to its members, it is approved by the Government Actuary, after close investigation by the departmental committee.
This Parliament has resolved to create a national health service, and Commonwealth hospital and medical benefits are an integral part of the scheme. However, the Victorian Government Statist has decided, in effect, that people over 70 years of age will not be allowed to participate in these benefits. Irrespective of how long they have been members of a friendly society or a hospital benefit association, they cannot transfer to a higher schedule of benefits. This raises the important issue that people in Victoria over 70 years of age will not be able to obtain the higher benefits outlined in the Budget speech in the following words: -
Legislation will be introduced providing for the payment of additional benefit of 12s. a day, in lieu of 4s. a day, where a hospital patient is entitled to receive hospital insurance benefit of 16s. a day or more. The amounts of certain benefits payable under the Medical Benefits Scheme will also be revised.
People over 70 years of age in every other State can join a benefit society of their own choice, draw hospital and medical benefits, and be eligible for these increased benefits which I have just mentioned. The Victorian Government does not find the money to support the scheme; it is not a principal party in the administration of the scheme. Yet, the Victorian Government Statist finds’ it necessary to debar people of 70 years of age and over from receiving improved social service benefits.
– How can he override the federal act?
– 1 propose to explain that later. The situation arises because the Victorian Government, many years ago, set up some very praiseworthy checks on friendly societies which, in years gone by. were not always soundly based. The friendly societies now have to be registered with a registrar of friendly societies, a government official who operates under the control of the Victorian Government statist. That is common practice in all States of the Commonwealth. But the scales of contributions and benefits of the friendly societies in Victoria had to be approved by one officer.
The operations of the Hospital Benefits Association, an organization concerned solely with the functioning of the Commonwealth national health service, are considered in a similar way in Victoria to those of a friendly society. A special Victorian act has been passed to bring the Hospital Benefits Association under the control of the Government Statist and his registrar. The Victorian Government Statist, and he alone of all the government actuaries, will not approve of the principle that over-70’s should be allowed to obtain hospital and medical benefits. Government actuaries in every other State allow it. The Commonwealth actuary approves it. But the Victorian Statist says, “ No “. It is true that he is prepared to agree to the admitting of over-70’s to the Commonwealth national health service, under certain conditions. These are that there should be special rates of contributions for over-70’s. But, those rates are so high that the only people who could afford to pay them would probably stand in no need of help from the national service, anyway.
– Does that apply only to new entrants?
– They cannot be accepted by friendly societies and, in respect of hospital benefits associations, even if they had been in an association for 30 years, they could not become eligible for the higher benefit.
The Hospital Benefits Association and some friendly societies are ready and even anxious to provide a higher scale of benefits, in line with all other States of the Commonwealth, but they are not prepared to accept the special conditions that the State government actuary in Victoria seeks to impose on them. I am informed that representatives of these various bodies have interviewed the Victorian Chief Secretary and there has been some exchange of letters on this matter over a long period. So far, all that has developed is a likelihood that the Government Statist and his colleagues will impose upon the unfortunate societies in Victoria yet more stringent terms of control. There does not appear to be any thought for the position of the aged people. Most exclusions are dictated by considerations of an actuarial nature and, quite frankly, I believe that there are enough exclusions without the Victorian Government allowing a situation in which Victorian people have to suffer an important additional disqualification.
I cannot believe, and the Hospital Benefits Association and the Victorian friendly societies cannot believe that Victorians over 70 are any worse a risk than the over-70’s of any other State. I cannot believe, and the societies cannot either, that there is any reason why Victorians should not be in the same position as any others. I think that this is important. It is the gravamen of my complaint in regard to the Government Statist in Victoria.
In order to make the position perfectly clear, I cite, the following example: - Let us say that Mrs. Smith is the name of an aged lady, just over 70, living in the New South Wales town of Albury. She is a member of a friendly society hospital and medical benefits organization which she joined recently. Membership of that organization admits her to all the entitlements in the way of a national health service which we, as a Parliament, have approved. We will say that she has a friend, Mrs. Brown, also just over 70, and in exactly the same financial circumstances. Mrs. Brown cannot join any friendly society in order to become entitled to a share of the national health service because she lives in Wodonga, which is across the river and in Victoria. This seems to be the height of absurdity. The Victorian Government Statist who is stopping the over-70’s from getting their share of the national health scheme is clearly only doing his duty as he sees it. Clearly also, it is for the Victorian Government to intervene in this situation and for the people of Victoria to see that that is done. 1 believe it will not be done until there is some reaction in this regard.
Finally, there is another aspect of the matter which must be looked into. At the moment, it seems that it is always open to any State to bring about some differences in the way in which this important Commonwealth service is performed. In Victoria, the Government Statist may yet find good grounds for ruling that people other than over-70’s may be excluded from friendly society benefits and so from Commonwealth benefits also. His brother actuaries in adjoining States are quite likely, as on the occasion to which I have referred, to see the case differently. Surely it is unthinkable that there should be even a possibility that the administration of this great Commonwealthwide service can vary from State to State in any respect whatsoever. I can understand that the Commonwealth Government may feel some delicacy in appearing to intervene in what might be regarded as an area of State sovereignty.
Tt would seem that here, as in so many other fields, the State officers should meet the responsible Commonwealth officers and hammer out a nation-wide policy. The area of opinion, after all, must be very small. It is chiefly a question of fact. Are the hospital benefits associations which are providing these benefits actuarily right in every way, or are they not? Is the position in any one State different from that in other States? I think that these matters could be quite easily hammered out and cleared up by a conference between the State actuarial officers and the Commonwealth Department of Health.
If there is no possibility of handling the matter in this sensible way, I think the Commonwealth must investigate the adoption of sole control of the approved societies, so far as their operations under the Commonwealth legislation is concerned. In the meantime, just so long as the Victorian Government is determined to be different from the rest of the Australian Slates, Victorians over 70 are to be denied one of the rights for which they pay taxes. I believe it is a completely stupid arrangement which exists in one State and not in others. I believe that,’ in order to rectify the matter, it is only necessary to bring all the Government actuaries together so that they may hammer out a policy which will be, not merely State-wide, but nation-wide.
.- I have listened with considerable interest to Government supporters, particularly on” the subject of health benefits and social services. They all mouthed pious platitudes about what is required and made all sorts of suggestions. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) who has just spoken was no exception. Yet, in the party room, when effective action could be taken to bring about the reforms that they espouse, they are silent. The spell-binding Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) forces them to remain submissively quiet despite the fact that they are in a position to force the Government to take action on behalf of the pensioners whom they are constantly speaking about. 1 can quite agree with a great deal of the submissions of the honorable member for Isaacs. But why does he not take them to the Liberal-Country party Government in Victoria instead of making pious statements in this Parliament, knowing full well that the Government he supports will not take any more notice of him on this occasion than on any other? These are matters about which the Parliament and the people ought to know. Earlier to-day, the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) had a lot to say about the benefits that have come to the people from the Government’s proposals. He spoke of the benefits that are enjoyed by pensioners under the Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme. He said that it was a great nation-wide scheme that was brought into being by this Government, and one of which the country might be proud. I wonder why he did not mention the scheme that was introduced by the previous Labour government after an all-party social security committee had investigated the matter. I was a member of that committee, together with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), Senator Cooper and others. The committee made a recommendation that the people of Australia should be given free hospitalization, completely unfettered by a means test. Even anti-socialists like Senator Cooper and others signed that report. Those recommendations were given effect to by the Chifley Labour Government. The result was that every person in the community in every State received free hospitalization.
This Government has destroyed that scheme. It has taxed the people again to pay for hospitalization. In addition to making contributions to medical benefits funds, the people are paying taxes which should be put aside for a free hospital benefits scheme such as that instituted by the Labour Government. In addition to those payments, the people of Australia are paying exorbitant rates for treatment in hospitals.
Those are matters that honorable members should realize. The only State that has a free hospital scheme to-day is Queensland. It is the scheme that was instituted by the Chifley Labour Government and continued by the Labour Government of Queensland. The Liberal-Country party Government that has come to power in that State has found it so worth while that it proposes to continue with the scheme. The scheme would be in operation to-day in all other States, except for the action of this Commonwealth Government, which has denied the people the free treatment that is their right.
We should analyse very carefully the pious statements that are now being made by honorable members opposite about what they have done with regard to hospital benefits schemes and like matters. The only claim that they can make in this regard is that they have implemented a scheme that is costing the people more than they ever had to pay before. Because of the Government’s policy, the hospitals have never been worse off, financially or otherwise. In severe contrast to this state of affairs is the position that prevailed when the Labour Government introduced its hospital benefits scheme. That Government gave much-needed financial assistance to the States for hospital purposes. The allparty committee that I mentioned previously made inquiries concerning the amounts of money that hospitals in the various States were collecting from friendly societies and similar bodies. The most progressive State of all was New South Wales. The Metropolitan Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales even at that time was making it possible for people in public wards to pay more in New South Wales than in any other State. It was found that the average amount collected by hospitals from patients in all States was about 4s. lOd. a day. The Government granted an amount of 6s. 6d. a day, which was about half the cost of a bed at that time. Subsequently that amount was increased. The hospitals were fairly well off under that nation-wide scheme which made no provision for a means test, yet this Government has seen fit to destroy that scheme, and to-day when a person goes to a hospital he must submit to the nauseating experience of being questioned about what he is earning and how much money he has. The social services of this country have been put back generations by the present Commonwealth Government, the supporters of which boast of what they have done with regard to medical benefits schemes.
Another matter that I wish to mention concerns the pensioner medical scheme. Recently I asked the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley), who was acting for the Minister for Health, a question regarding the means test provisions of this scheme, and he glossed it over by saying that the Government is giving free medicine to pensioners and that the Labour government had not done so. The fact is, of course, that the Chifley Government introduced a free medical scheme.
– Order! The honorable member may discuss that matter when the estimates for the Department of Social Services are being debated.
– It comes under the Department of Health.
– What is the item?
– I am simply replying to the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), who was given a fair go on this subject this afternoon. He mentioned what the Government had been doing for pensioners with respect to free medicines. The item that I refer to appears in the Estimates at page 45. I am dealing with the medical benefits scheme for pensioners, for which an allocation of £3,000,000 has been made. Surely I can mention this matter during the debate on this section of the Estimates. In any case I shall make only passing reference to the matter, as I know it is a very technical point that we are discussing, and I do not want you to make a ruling that might be wrong and which you might regret later.
I merely wanted to mention briefly that a means test has been imposed on pensioners who wish to avail themselves of the free pensioner medical service. I refer to a speech made in this Parliament on 26th October, 1955, by the then Minister for Health, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). At that time a means test was imposed with regard to medical benefits for pensioners who commenced to obtain the pension after 31st October, 1955. Under that means test, free medical benefits are allowed for a married couple whose income, including pension, does not exceed £12 a week. For a single person the amount is £6 a week. Any person who was receiving the pension before 31st October, 1955, is entitled to the full medical benefits of the pensioner medical service, but a person who commenced to receive the pension after that date must undergo the means test. In other words, we have two sections of pensioners. You may have pensioners in each section who receive the same income and have the same commitments, but one receives free medical benefits that are denied to the other, simply because one happened to be born a couple of years earlier than the other. The hardship that is caused by this provision should not be tolerated by any government. How can the Government justify spending £30,000,000 on the St. Mary’s project, while refusing to make available a fraction of that amount to provide medical benefits for a deserving section of the community?
It was said that the means test provision was introduced because the basic wage at the time was about £12 a week, and a pensioner couple should not have been better off than another married couple. 1 point out, however, that a pensioner couple would both be over 65 years of age, and much more susceptible to illness than younger persons. Therefore, this kind of comparison is not valid. After all, the people who need medical attention most are those who are receiving pensions. It is unjust and entirely wrong for the Government to give free treatment to one section of pensioners while denying it to another section, when the incomes and commitments of both sections are the same.
In my own electorate there is a family affected by this provision. They have an income of less than £12 a week between them. The husband became an invalid twelve or eighteen months ago, and he has to receive injections from his doctor three times a week. Out of their meagre income of £12 or less he has to pay £3 15s. for these injections. This Government, which spends millions of pounds on all kinds of projects, denies to such a deserving pensioner the free medical treatment that he would have been entitled to had he commenced receiving the pension at an earlier date. After all, this Government boasts that it believes in freedom and that it wants to abolish the means test. It was going tlo introduce a national superannuation scheme, free of means test, but immediately after it came to power it gave effect to a policy which denied-
– Order! The honorable member cannot refer to the national superannuation scheme.
– I was making only passing reference to it.
– The honorable member will have to pass it very quickly.
– The Government’s policy with regard to medical benefits should include the abolition of the means test, and the fact that the Government imposed the means test on this section of the community makes it well worthy of criticism.
I note that the Minister for Health is not here this evening, and I regret his absence, which, I understand, is due to illness. However, I hope that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is at the table, will convey to him the suggestions that I am making. I hope that they will be duly considered, because thousands of pensioners throughout Australia are suffering from the vicious means test that is imposed on pensioner medical benefits, and it is the Government’s responsibility to see that something is done to give them the relief that they need so badly.
Other matters associated with the pensioner medical scheme also should be taken into consideration. Many of the new drugs that are being developed and are coming into Australia from time to time, and are regarded as necessary for the treatment of many illnesses, are not being added to the free list of drugs available to pensioners and others. This is a matter to which the Government should give urgent consideration. 1 have been advised that, just prior to the last general elections, 32 drugs were taken off the free list for pensioners and others, and were not restored to it after the Government won the elections. For all I know, the number may have been 52. However, I like to be accurate in these things, and I must confess that I have been able to account for only 32. The fact remains that 32 fewer drugs are available to pensioners than were available to them before the last general elections.
In the light of this fact, it is wrong for Government supporters to criticize the free medical scheme for pensioners implemented by the Labour Government. Under that scheme, every drug necessary for any kind of treatment was available. However, certain people, who were opposed to the law of the land, denied to pensioners the benefit of the scheme. They fought the Labour Government over the scheme, but, immediately that Government was defeated, they supported the introduction of many of the benefits that they had said previously could not be introduced because they were socialistic. Despite this, immediately Labour was defeated, those very things became the essence of perfection in the eyes of the present Government parties, and of certain sections of the medical profession. There is nothing for the Government parties to be proud of in the knowledge that, under the Chifley Labour Government, they denied to the people many necessary benefits, the value of which has since been proved, and themselves introduced those benefits after the Labour administration had been defeated.
Although my time is very limited, I feel that these things must be said, even in passing, and I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your tolerance. I am sick and tired of listening to the claims made by Government supporters.
– They do not understand the needs of the pensioners.
– They do not understand the problems of the pensioners and others, and I am sick and tired of hearing them tell the Opposition what this Government is going to do. Instead, they should, in their own party rooms, tell Ministers what they should do, and make them give to the people the benefits that they need. Members of the Australian Country party perhaps would not know a pensioner if they saw one. They are content to represent the wealth of the squattocracy, and to maintain their own position of wealth and power.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that all honorable members regret that, owing to his ambiguous position in the party to which he belongs, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) was unable to present at the right time what would have been an excellent speech on social services at the secondreading stage.
I wish to discuss several items in the proposed vote for the Department of Health. I believe that the people of Australia have a sincere and genuine regard for what has been done during the last fifteen months to extend the use of the Salk vaccine for the prevention of poliomyelitis. This campaign is probably one of the most spectacular advances in public health measures since the inception of the Commonwealth. Poliomyelitis is perhaps one of the worst scourges that attacks the human race. Doubtless there is not one honorable member who does not know some one, either young or old, who has been afflicted by this disastrous disease. My mind goes back to the occasions on which people whom I have known personally have been stricken down in the prime of life by this disease, which is one of the worst scourges of mankind.
Through the foresight of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who was previously Minister for Health, and his successor, the present Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who, unfortunately, is ill and is not able to be with us this evening, the Salk vaccine campaign was successfully undertaken. I am sure that honorable members all hope that the Minister will soon be fully restored to health. We pay tribute to the efforts that have succeeded in making the Salk vaccine so widely available, and to the spirit of co-operation between Commonwealth and State health authorities that has made the vaccination campaign so successful. The story of this campaign will bear repeating often. It reflects great credit on the spirit in which the Government has tried to do something for the benefit of the people generally.
The introduction of the Salk vaccine into general use has not been without difficulties. As we have heard on many occasions in this chamber, there was trouble in the United States of America with certain vaccine produced by the well-known Cutter Laboratories, in California. We know, also, that, subsequently, there was difficulty in the United Kingdom, where a different kind of vaccine was used for the same purpose, and where the restriction of supplies of the vaccine caused a suspension of vaccinations. We in Australia, also, have met with difficulties. It is odd to reflect that these are perhaps related to the old Darwinian theory that monkeys and human beings are subject to the same diseases. When I look round the Opposition benches. I cannot doubt the truth of that theory. As honorable members will recall, during the early part of this year, the Rhesus monkeys that were imported, mainly from India, for the production of the Salk vaccine, contracted influenza, and, as a result, the production of the vaccine had to be halted. When we consider the facts, we must realize the extraordinary importance to the health of the people of Australia, not only at present, but also during the last fifteen months, and in the future, of the campaign of vaccination against poliomyelitis.
Tn passing, I should like to refer to certain observations that were made by Opposition members when the Salk vaccine was under consideration before the vaccination campaign -was begun. I well remember that one Opposition member - I think it was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) - castigated the Government for not implementing a vaccination campaign without delay. It is due to the wisdom of the two Ministers concerned, and their advisers, that the vaccination campaign has proceeded smoothly, with only the one interruption that I mentioned, which was due to the halting of production of the vaccine at the time that the imported monkeys used for the purpose became ill with influenza. The campaign has proceeded smoothly and steadily with the full co-operation of the various State departments which have the responsibility for giving the injections. After fifteen months of the vaccination campaign, we no longer read in the daily press, at fairly regular intervals, that there has been an outbreak of poliomyelitis somewhere. I vividly recall the days when poliomyelitis epidemics occurred fairly regularly, but, during the last fifteen months, they have been unknown.
The statistics in relation to this matter are of considerable interest. The figures supplied by the responsible authorities show that, in this campaign, which was restricted mainly to the vaccination of persons up to fourteen years of age, 2,104,000 persons had received the first injection, 1,925,000 had received two injections, and 125,000 had received the full number of three injections, up to the end of August of this year. The most interesting figures are these: In 1951, 4,722 cases of poliomyelitis were notified to the authorities. In 1952, 1,743 cases were notified; in 1953, 1,737; in 1954, 1,984; and in 1955, 924. In the fifteen months after vaccination commenced, only 358 cases were notified. Persons of all ages are included in that figure and practically none of them would have been vaccinated with the Salk vaccine. The story is vivid. I repeat my earlier remark that those of us who have seen the effects of this foul disease on the youth and vigour of the country will realize what those figures really mean. This result is due to the imagination of this Government, which decided to use this slightly dubious method. In the earlier stages the method was under doubt and was not fully accredited, but the Government went on with it and the result I have indicated has now been achieved.
This has been one of the most forward steps achieved through expenditure involved in a government estimate. The Commonwealth has provided about £900,000. Can we count that cost in human capability and lives? The Government took some risk when it introduced the vaccine, but by cautious delay it ensured that the methods introduced were the best known at the time. Vaccination proceeded with the co-operation of the States, which were responsible for certain expenditure. I am reliably informed that their costs to enable the vaccinations to be made would have been about £250,000 or £300,000. The total cost, therefore, is more than £1,000,000. I believe, and I think every one would agree with me, that this is one of the greatest contributions that has been made to the health and future of Australia.
– The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) mentioned that, in Victoria, with the control exercised by the public actuary, persons over 70 years of age were not able to obtain medical benefits. I cannot understand that. In South Australia, members of medical benefit funds have been compelled to pay at a higher rate for benefits under the health scheme, and those over 70 years of age are treated in the same way as other persons. However, I should like to question whether the supervision of costs that are being incurred in medical schemes is sufficient. I have before me details of what has happened ‘ in South Australia recently. Until June last a man with a wife and children paid to a fund 30s. a quarter for medical benefits. I am not speaking of hospital benefits. Since 1st June last, contributions have been increased by 6s. a quarter. These figures relate to the National Health Services Association of South Australia, which covers almost all the big friendly societies and whose membership embraces more than 50 per cent, of those who are paying to medical benefit funds.
We have been told that the health of the people is improving because of the free use of life-saving drugs, because of the medical benefits scheme and because of all that the Government has done, but I do not know that that is so. If the health of the people has improved so much, they would not go to a doctor so often. That is a reasonable deduction. The National Health Services Association of South Australia would know how many visits were made to a doctor by its members, because it has to pay 6s. for each visit and the Government has to pay 6s. for each visit, making a total of 12s. paid to the member. These are the figures that have been supplied by the National
Health Services Association as the average number of visits to or consultations with a doctor. For the year ended 30th June, 1954, the average was 3.6 visits for each member. For the year ended 30th June, 1955, the average had jumped from 3.6 to 6.6. For the year ended 30th June, 1956, the average had risen to 7. For the six months from June, 1956, to 31st December, 1956, the average had increased to 7.3. From June, 1954, to December, 1956, the average number of visits had risen from 3.6 to 7.3. That means that the Government and the societies now have to pay more than twice as much as they were paying in 1954. I do not know whether a check has been kept on the money that is paid by the Government in this way. I know that in some cases action has been taken against medical men who have charged for visits that were not made or have incurred expenses that should not have been incurred. But I cannot reconcile the statement that the health of the community has improved with the fact that people are visiting a doctor twice as often now as they did three years ago. The Minister may have some information which would clear up that matter.
I turn now to hospital benefits and shall refer to contributions for a hospital benefit of £6 6s. a week from a society. Of course, a benefit would also be payable, both by a society and by the Government, for various operations. The contribution for a married man, which was formerly 16s. a quarter for a benefit of £6 6s. a week, has had to be increased to 19s. 6d. a quarter under a higher table. Honorable members will see that societies in South Australia, instead of preventing people from increasing the amount of their benefits, as the honorable member for Isaacs has said is being done in Victoria, have increased the rate of contribution, and that applies also to men and women over 70 years of age. I hope that the honorable member for Isaacs will not ask the Government to penalize other States for something that the Victorian Government is doing. He should encourage members of his party in Victoria to urge that Government, which is of the same political colour as this Government, to come into line with the other States. I do not see why it is necessary to bring all the other States into line with Victoria.
I wish to refer now to the pensioner medical service, and to a matter that I raised some time ago with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who told me that it was the concern of the Department of Health. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has pointed out, prior to October, 1955, all pensioners were eligible to benefit under the pensioner medical service. It did not matter whether they received the full pension or a pension of only 5s. a week. Since then, however, those pensioners with additional income of more than £2 a week have not been eligible.
I am given to understand that this limitation was imposed by the Government because the British Medical Association objected to its members treating, under the scheme, persons in receipt of additional income of as much as £7 a week, so that, in the case of a married couple, with the combined pension of £8 a week, they had a total income of £15 a week. I have been told, and I think that there is some merit in it, that medical practitioners were of the opinion that a married couple who had income of £15 a week and also received free medical treatment, was in a better position than a man on the basic wage. That argument sounds all right, but when we come to consider the position of a single person in receipt of say, superannuation of £2 2s. a week, and with no other income apart from his pension, the position is entirely different. Because he draws superannuation of £2 2s. a week he is debarred from benefiting under the pensioner medical scheme. On the other hand, a person with a fair amount of property, the income from which would not count as additional income for this purpose, would be able to benefit.
I do not know whether the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), or the Department of Health, can do anything in this matter, but I think that something should be done in the interests of old people with small incomes, invalid women and elderly women who have income of a few shillings a week more than the £2 limit. Let us assume that such a person had additional income of £2 2s. a week and the full pension of £4 7s. 6d., as it will be shortly, making a total of £6 9s. 6d. a week. Do honorable members think that a single woman would be able to meet medical expenses out of that sum? Should she not be entitled to benefit under the pensioner medical scheme? People generally would say that she is the very person who should benefit.
I cannot say that the present position is the fault either of the Minister for Health or of the Government, because 1 have the impression that the income limitation was fixed as one of the conditions laid down by the British Medical Association in connexion with the agreement that was reached, but I think it is a matter that should be further considered. I do not know the exact amount that medical practitioners receive for treating pensioners, but it would not be a great deal less than they receive for treating other members of the community. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the members of the British Medical Association suffer little hardship because of the operation of this scheme. On the other hand, a great deal of hardship is being suffered by pensioners who have additional income of only a little more than £2 a week.
.- I believe that the proposed vote for the Department of Health should not be made a party issue, and for that reason, anything that I have to say in this respect will be said free of party political implications. It is very pleasing to note that the Government proposes to increase expenditure on nearly all of the benefits administered by the Department of Health. If honorable members consult the Estimates, they will see that, last year, actual payments in respect of hospital benefits amounted to £9,813,283, and that it is proposed to increase this amount by £1,116,717. But, of course, that is only a small part of the overall health benefits provided by this Government. Last year, expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits was almost £10,000,000, and it is proposed to increase that expenditure by approximately £666.000 this year. Medical benefits, which accounted for £6.000,000 last year, are to be increased by £329,000. Medical benefits for pensioners, which cost £3,000,000 last year, will be increased by £106,000, and pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners, which cost £1,793.101 last year, will be increased by £126,899.
Of the whole range of benefits, the only one in respect of which expenditure is to be reduced - and some people may wonder why - is that relating to tuberculosis. Last year, expenditure in that connexion amounted to £6.215,416, and this year it is to be reduced by £441,416. All the governments of this country are to be congratulated on the great fight that they have waged against the scourge of tuberculosis. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) speak about poliomyelitis, and of what had been done to rid Australia and the world of that disease. The fight of the governments of Australia against tuberculosis has been most successful. A comparison of the Australian death rate from tuberculosis with the rates of various other countries, made on the latest figures available, shows that Australia, with a rate of eight deaths per 100,000 of mean population, occupies an enviable position. The rate for Denmark also is eight deaths per 100,000 of population, but the rates for other countries range as high as 67 in the case of Japan. The rates for various other countries are: The Netherlands, nine deaths per 100,000 of population; Canada, ten; New Zealand, twelve; United States of America, twelve; the United Kingdom, eighteen; the Union of South Africa, twenty; Italy, 24; France, 32; Finland, 45; and Portugal, 62.
I think that all honorable members, and also the Australian community, should be proud of the great efforts that have been made in this field. The only suggestion I have to make concerns the making of x-ray examinations. I believe that these have done a great deal to achieve the satisfactory results obtained. As we all know, there are in the community carriers of tuberculosis who have the disease in its early stages, but who do not know anything about it until they are x-rayed. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government and the State governments should combine to make X-ray examinations compulsory. If every one were X-rayed I believe that we could wipe out in Australia the scourge of tuberculosis. Let me urge that the X-raying of the public be made compulsory. The result would be even better than what has been achieved in the past. Our figures compare more than favorably with those of the rest of the world. As far as the incidence of tuberculosis is concerned, Australia is becoming healthier each succeeding year, but only by a compulsory X-ray examination service can we speed the eradication of the disease.
.- The matter I wish to raise is not contentious, but it is of the utmost importance. It will be admitted that in the more thickly populated parts of Australia medical attention and hospital accommodation are more or less adequate. Certainly they are in comparison with similar services in fardistant country centres. I wish to say a word about the Flying Doctor Service in the far north. This service is one of which Australia can well be proud. Australia was one of the first countries to initiate a service of this kind, and to-day other countries are following our example. The achievements of the Flying Doctor Service have been told in stories and in general news. The doctors do wonderful work. In addition to their regular runs they frequently respond to urgent messages received by telephone or pedal wireless, but they often find that their patient is located in an area which is anything but suitable as a landing place for their plane. Yet, they are prepared to risk their lives to assist their fellow men in the outback parts of the country. Quite a number of the doctors in this service have sacrificed their lives.
Although the local people have subscribed very liberally to the upkeep of this service the funds available are inadequate to maintain it at a proper standard. Not infrequently aeroplanes are lost or damaged beyond repair through landing on unsuitable ground at an outback station or in places where there is no aerodrome or landing strip. The doctors have been prepared to take great risks in landing in such places in order to save lives and to render service in response to urgent calls for help. But as a result, several planes have been destroyed. Any one who has had any knowledge of this service can have only the greatest admiration for it. It is the bounden duty of the Government to provide assistance for this service as it has given assistance to many other services.
The aeroplanes used by the doctors are so constructed that they can be converted into ambulances, and more of these are needed. Recently a deputation met me in Cairns and asked me to make representations to the Government to provide a sum of £40,000 to purchase an ambulance plane to serve the far northern districts of
Queensland. On these vast, distant stations, stockmen and station owners and their wives as well as children may have an accident or fall sick and their only hope of medical attention is through the Flying Doctor Service. I am perfectly certain that if the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) gave some consideration to this work, he would readily recommend more financial assistance for it from the Government.
The Government has assisted medical services in many ways, but in providing for the needs of the more thickly populated areas, the claims of the sparsely populated outback should not be overlooked. People in these distant places suffer great hardship because of the scarcity of medical attention. They have nothing like the services that are available in the larger centres of population. I say again that Australia can rightly be proud of the Flying Doctor Service which has become known throughout the world. Any government which has assisted it is deserving of every credit.
I wish to mention a matter of administration. At various centres the Flying Doctor Service has medical chests installed. These contain a large stock of equipment for first-aid work. As the equipment is used, it is replaced from time to time. The quantity of replacements may not be very great; nevertheless, the equipment is necessary for first aid and ambulance work. As a matter of fact, the ambulance officers at the various centres are in charge of these chests. Replacements have been bought from local chemists or business people, but recently an instruction has been issued by the Department of Health that future supplies must be bought in bulk from the department as this will be a cheaper method of obtaining them. In these remote centres the quantity of material used from a chest is not great and if large quantities were bought in bulk much of it would go to waste. Consequently, although the individual cost of items bought under the present system may be a little higher than if they were bought in bulk, the prevention of waste, in the long run makes the system cheaper than buying large quantities in bulk.
In conclusion, I stress the urgency for maintaining the Flying Doctor Service at a high standard of efficiency and I urge the
Government to give favorable consideration to the request that it make a grant of £40,000 to the Flying Doctor Service to purchase a new ambulance plane for its operations in northern Queensland.
.- The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) drew attention to the fact that over the last few years the average number of visits paid to the doctor by Australians has practically doubled, and he found it hard to reconcile that fact with the statement that the health of Australians is improving. The explanation is that since the Government has extended hospital services and various benefit funds have been enlarged, such as those available through friendly societies and hospital benefits organizations, the cost of visiting a doctor is now only a few shillings. Consequently, the average Australian is more prone to visit a doctor than when he had to pay the full fee. This may be a good thing because a patient receives medical attention at an earlier age and his health is sustained and improved as a result of the greater frequency of visits.
I wish to associate myself with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) who, on more than one occasion, has paid tribute to the Australian National Fitness Council. This voluntary organization is associated with dozens of voluntary bodies throughout the country which are catering for youth welfare and national fitness, and it plays a very big part in the all-round education of Australian youth. I should like to mention a few of the facilities which the National Fitness Council places at the disposal of our youth. It conducts, among other things, courses in leadership, on psychology, psychiatry and recreation arts and crafts, and it maintains an extensive reference library. It also conducts camps and holiday centres for child welfare. I should like to quote to the House from the annual report of the National Fitness Council of Victoria with regard to the work it does in connexion with holiday play centres. The report states -
The purpose of National Fitness Play Centres is primarily to demonstrate the value of guided play and to stimulate and assist municipalities to establish play leaders on a permanent basis.
The report also states -
In recent years, the service has been extended to Migrant Hostels and Commonwealth Immigration Centres. Reports from staff at all centres indicate that Australian games and play activities are readily absorbed by migrant children, who in turn contribute games, folk dances, arts and hobbies from their own country. In this sense, the Holiday Play Centre becomes an integral part of the “ Good Neighbour “ assimilation programme.
Figures given in the report show that during the past year attendances at holiday play centres in various municipalities in Victoria totalled 10,985, and that the average daily attendance at these centres was 73.7 persons. Total attendances at play centres at immigration centres were 4,093 and the average daily attendance was 90.9 persons.
In addition to those play centres the National Fitness Council assists in the establishment of playgrounds and provides a physical training instructor at certain gaols in Victoria for selected prisoners as part of the Victorian Penal Department’s education plan.
I should like now to quote further from the annual report of the National Fitness Council of Victoria. It states -
The Council’s officers have sought to assist wherever called upon by Commonwealth and State Government Departments, semi-government bodies and municipal authorities.
The report continues to say that the council is very grateful for the assistance given to it by the State and Federal governments. In spite of that assistance, however, the organization in Victoria operated at a loss of nearly £2,000 in respect of all its activities in the financial year that ended last June. As the work of this movement is associated, not only with the development of physical health and fitness, but also with the attainment of those qualities which lead youths on to good citizenship, I urge the Government seriously to consider a substantial increase in the allocation to the organization.
I should like now to deal with the subject with which the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) dealt - the St. John Ambulance Brigade. As the honorable member for Gellibrand said, this is a purely voluntary body. As he pointed out, the members of it pay their own fares. In addition, they buy their own uniforms and are also largely responsible for their own medical kits. Yet they provide a service to the community for 24 hours a day. In stressing to honorable members the worth of this organization I can do no better than repeat the remarks I made in the House last March during the Address-in-Reply debate, because I think that what I had to say then gives a fair picture of the work that the St. John Ambulance Brigade is doing, at least in Victoria, where I have seen its work. This very fine voluntary group of helpers covers every venue where crowds are gathered. They are available for every hour of the day. They estimate that 1.5 persons in every 1,000 require attention. For every Anzac Day march, in Melbourne the brigade provides 400 voluntary helpers. Every Saturday, for football matches throughout the Melbourne metropolitan area, there are 500 St. John Ambulance men. For the grand final, which attracted 116,000 spectators, there were between 80 and 100 St. John Ambulance men. During the Moomba Carnival in Melbourne last year, 500 to 600 men were provided, and they attended to between 400 and 500 cases. During the Olympic Games 2,500 cases passed through the casualty station at the Melbourne cricket ground. They were suffering mainly from collapse and fainting. The St. John Ambulance Brigade provided 17,000 manhours, and that is a magnificent record for any organization. This organization receives no financial assistance whatsoever from either the State or the Federal Government, and in Victoria it does not even own the buildings it occupies. I feel that any assistance that the Government can give to the organization will certainly not only be greatly appreciated but will be put to very good use.
.- I think that of all the departments that are controlled by the Commonwealth the most important is the Department of Health, the Estimates for which we are now discussing. A large amount of time should be given to the discussion of this department’s estimates so that any thoughts in the minds of honorable members on the subject of health may be ventilated in the chamber, because I say that if we have not got a healthy community we have not got a happy community.
I was listening to the figures given by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) when he could not make up his mind as to whether people were healthier to-day than they were in earlier times. I often try to resolve that question. It is strange and almost Gilbertian that in times of war those who wish to enlist in the forces and leave this country to kill or be killed must be medically fit. That medical ‘fitness, which is regarded as essential, does not cost the individual concerned, one penny. It is a free service given tothe men and women of the fighting forces. - an essential service. That is why I have always supported the policy expressed in> the Chifley Government’s health scheme, which provided health services free to theentire community. That is necessary, that is important. One matter that I particularly want to talk about this evening has been brought up by me a number of times. There are two great afflictions that have to be borne by some people. One is the affliction of blindness; the other is the affliction of deafness. I have appealed to the Government on numerous occasions to make the provision of hearing aids free under the national health scheme. I had hoped that this year that benefit would be added to the list of medical benefits provided by the Government. However, we find that hearing aids are not to be included in the Government’s medical services. Despite that, I appeal to the Government, even at this late stage, to move in that direction. Deafness is a sad affliction. There are many people in Australia who are afflicted with deafness, and it is not possible to buy a suitable hearing aid for under about £50. Every member of this Parliament knows that there are many deaf -Mildren. In fact, there are many families with one child or even two children suffering from deafness. It is not possible, in many cases, for such families to find £100 or even £50 for the purchase of hearing aids. The result is that the deaf child gets no relief for his affliction during his childhood, and has to go through life suffering from an affliction that might have been relieved in childhood if this service had been provided by the Government under its medical scheme. I ask the Government to reconsider this matter. Provision of this service would, of course, cost something. But do not let us forget that every sick person in the community is a loss to the country. Therefore, there should be no means test associated with sickness. I remind the House that, as I said a few minutes ago, when a man leaves this country to kill or be killed in war he must be medically fit and physically fit. He must have good eyesight, good teeth and good hearing. He receives a free medical service. Surely if it is necessary to be 100 per cent, physically fit in time of war it is necessary for the community to be 100 per cent, medically fit in time of peace. It is the responsibility of governments to see that every protection and every aid is given to the citizens so that the community will be healthy. With healthiness, we will have happiness and prosperity. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is acting now for the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), to reconsider the Government’s decision and, even at this late stage of the proceedings, include in our health services the provision of hearing aids for that unfortunate section of the community which suffers with deafness.
.- I desire to address myself to a few points relevant to the group of estimates under review. The proposed vote for the Department of Health for 1957-58 is £1,639,000, compared with an expenditure in 1956-57 of £1,455,976- an increase of £183,000. The proposed expenditure for health services is totally inadequate for this rich, young nation. The Government will take into its coffers a very substantial sum of money under the Budget for this year, and of that sum it proposes to spend what in my opinion is a very meagre proportion to protect our greatest asset, namely, the health of our people. When the proposed expenditure on health is compared with other items in the Estimates, the significance of my point will be well appreciated. It has been truly stated by Opposition members that Government supporters speak on this matter with their tongues in their cheeks. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) made that point with great emphasis. It is clear that speakers on the Government side, whilst making in this chamber, laudably and with personal sincerity, various recommendations to improve the health services, have not urged those recommendations strongly in the only place where they could be made effective from the party point of view, namely, their own party caucus. As a consequence, we must write down the sentiments that they have expressed.
Australia is seeking to increase her population. We have been increasing it for some time. Large numbers of immigrants have been brought to the country to supplement the natural increase of population. 1 support that policy, because Australia needs more people. But having brought the immigrants to this country, what are we doing to protect their health? After all. people as people are of no value. The important thing is that they shall be healthy people. If the people are not healthy, the nation must crumble. Therefore, sufficient expenditure in this field is essential. I suggest that the Government might well consider the establishment, within the framework of the Department of Health, of a special department to study the impact of the housing shortage upon the health of the people of this country. There is probably no greater factor contributing towards ill health in this country to-day than lack of proper housing. Many people are rearing families in inadequate and unsuitable accommodation.
– Order! The honorable member will get off his Budget speech and get on to the departmental vote. Housing does not come under this vote.
– I have suggested that an increase in expenditure might well be directed to that specific purpose.
– The honorable . member may discuss that under another departmental vote. He cannot discuss it now.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. As the development of good dentistry, child welfare, and other such activities are features of our health services administered by the Department of Health, I thought it would be in order for me to discuss good housing as another means of preventing ill-health. But as 1 am prevented by your ruling, Mr. Chairman, from developing that argument, I must reluctantly pass from it.
The Government is providing inadequate funds for health services in these Estimates, but it has salted away vast sums of money in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Fund. In that fund, something like £400,000,000, taken from the taxpayers, has been salted away. That is money which could be directed towards improving many of the health services now under consideration by this committee.
I pass now to a matter which concerns me greatly. This matter was developed by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), who referred to the need for extra money to be granted for ambulance services. I think that he has struck a proper note. He referred to the fact that ambulance officers are raising money for ambulance purposes by means of housie-housie games and chocolate wheels. That is not limited to ambulance associations. We have been turned into a nation of beggars and cadgers by the failure of the Government to provide money for laudable objects. The homes for the aged scheme is another case in point. People must beg and otherwise strive to raise a few pounds before the Government, with its vast wealth, will provide any money for that purpose.
This attitude is adopted, also, to the efforts to combat cancer. Cancer is probably the most deadly disease afflicting people in this country to-day. Probably 17 per cent, of deaths are attributable to it, but the Australian people have been forced to take the hat around and cadge money to buy cobalt beam units to help to combat this dread disease. In August last, I asked the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) a question with respect to this matter. I drew the Minister’s attention to the fact that an appeal on a magnificent scale for money for this purpose had been made in New South Wales. I asked the Minister whether the Government would consider making grants to selected hospitals throughout Australia to permit them to buy cobalt beam units to assist in the fight against cancer. The Minister had the audacity to tell this Parliament, in response to my question, that he was not aware of any request from a State government for such assistance and, in effect, that he knew nothing about the development of these things. Of course, that was all poppycock. The important thing is that although the cobalt beam unit does not provide the complete answer to cancer, it puts another weapon in the hands of the doctors. I think it is improper that the installation of these machines in selected hospitals throughout Australia should be delayed because of the inadequacy or unavailability of finance.
In New South Wales an appeal for this purpose is closing. About £39,000 has been raised, of which something like £19,000 has been contributed by the people of
Wollongong. That has been subscribed basically by the average man in the street; in other words, the worker in the industrial districts of that electorate. These appeals were a further tax upon the income of the people. As this Government is the allabsorbing sponge for the collection of finance in this nation, instead of salting away £400,000,000 it should be directing that money into all sorts of avenues where it can do some positive good, including the health services. It is constantly argued that the Commonwealth, because of State rights, cannot do this or that in regard to finance, but when the Commonwealth is returning to the States a mere fraction of the total revenue collected from them it is wrong for it to shield behind a constitutional technicality in respect of this money, for after all is said and done there is no barrier to the Commonwealth reaching common agreement on any of these issues with all the States. The Commonwealth can make the requisite grants. The fact that a particular State has not made a request in respect of a particular matter is only begging the question. The Government is treating the fundamental issue in this matter in a cavalier fashion because it is conscious of its powerful position in controlling money. It is conscious of its ability to remain in that position and of its ability to channel these revenues into certain activities.
– Order! The committee is not discussing the Budget revenue.
– I would not have risen to speak but for certain remarks which have been made by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), particularly in regard to the question of hearing aids. The health policy of this Government, administered formerly by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and continued under the present Minister, has been one of the most progressive, one of the most sane, and one of the most forward-looking policies adopted in any country in the world. However, there is always something that can be improved upon, and I find myself partly in agreement with the honorable member for Adelaide. It has been well said that only the person who has had toothache can really appreciate what that scourge can mean in pain and discomfort, and probably only those, like myself, who have suffered from deafness can fully appreciate what is really meant by a serious loss of hearing.
I should like to correct the honorable member for Adelaide. I believe I am right when I refer to the Commonwealth acoustic service for soldiers, ex-soldiers and children. That is a splendid service, and its director and his associates are deserving of the highest possible praise. I would also say that while it may not be known to the honorable member for Adelaide, the fact remains that the Commonwealth acoustic service is provided free to children and exservice personnel who suffer from lack of hearing. It is quite true that, in this country, we have not adopted the scheme which was adopted in New Zealand, where they handed out hearing-aids to people and thus lost all control of the scheme. There are people who do not persist with a hearingaid; there are people whose particular form of deafness renders a hearing-aid, I believe, extremely uncomfortable and nerveracking. Consequently, a great many valuable instruments were simply lost and tossed to one side, or possibly were traded away in certain circumstances.
The policy adoped by this Government - I do not think all the credit lies with the present Government, because the policy was probably worked out by a previous government - is to lease hearing-aids to persons on a permanent basis or for as long as they may be required. That means that the Commonwealth remains the legal owner. It can be used by the person to whom it is leased for nothing at all - it does not cost them anything - but it cannot be sold or traded, because it still remains the property of the Commonwealth, and when the person who owns it dies, it reverts to the Commonwealth.
In quite recent times, we have had a remarkable advance in the type of hearingaid which is used, and the system known as the transistor has come into effect. I am informed that the department which administers this service is recalling all the old-fashioned valve aids and anticipates that in two years it will save in battery expenses the total cost of calling in the old ones. Just to give some proof of what is possible, I quote one case without mentioning any names. It costs this person 10s. a week for batteries with a very fine type of hearing- aid that cost some £55. The same person to-day, not 100 miles from here, is getting the same, or better’ service for less than ls. a week with a transistor. So, this perfectly sound policy, approved by the Minister and carried out expertly by the department, is making available to the sufferer a small and compact instrument at practically no cost to the Commonwealth for batteries. But there is another side to the story, and it is on this point I agree with the honorable member for Adelaide. I believe, not that there should be a free hand-out of hearing-aids to every person, but that if a person wishes to obtain a Commonwealth aid, he should pay for a permanent lease of it, although it still remains the property of the Commonwealth. I say that, because there are honest traders and dishonest traders - I have seen both of them, and some of the most dreadful rackets I know - and I use that word seldom, but 1 mean it now - are in connexion with the distribution of these aids. There are people who are asking incredible sums of money for transistors. They change the models, we will say, every six months, and then they tell unfortunate people who know no better that that particular instrument has gone out of stock and that they cannot replace the parts. That is a most dreadful untruth, because these parts are manufactured and assembled by specialists and can be replaced at any time.
I can recall an instance concerning a person who went to a certain hearing-aid depot. I can vouch for the truth of what I am saying. There was some trouble with a hearing-aid and this person said to the agent, “ Would you mind testing this because it does not appear to be functioning? “ The attendant came back and said, “ The technician says it is worn out, and that you will have to replace it with another “. The customer said, “ How much? “ The answer was, “ Eleven guineas “. I happen to know how much they cost wholesale, and that price represents a tremendous profit. It was a brand new receiver and the only reason why it would not operate was that the battery was not seating properly. A couple of years afterwards, the receiver was still functioning.
Let me quote another case concerning an old Salvation Army couple who bought an instrument costing £50. A short time afterwards, it gave trouble. It cost them 30s. to have a check of it made and it still was no good. They had to pay another 30s. and another on top of that. Then they were given a second-hand hearing-aid by a person who did not want it and, as far as I know, that is still functioning successfully. When this can be done to unfortunate people who do not have technical knowledge and who do not have much money, I think there is a strong case for the setting up of clinics in some of the bigger provincial centres, at least, to which people can go and get disinterested advice. I am not concerned about people who have plenty of money to spare and who want a fancy device. I am concerned about the great mass of decent people, some of them with very little of this world’s goods, who suffer the same scourge as I suffer but have not the money to deal with it in the way in which I have been able to deal with it.
I think that this matter requires far more sympathetic consideration from the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) than it has had in the past. It is not simply a matter of sympathy for the people who are suffering. If honorable members want a more mundane consideration, there is also the efficiency of the citizen to be considered. There is a difference in efficiency between the person whose hearing-aid is working and one whose aid is not working or who has not a hearing-aid at all. This is the difference between a person who is only 30 or 40 per cent, efficient and one who is 100 per cent, efficient or perhaps more than 100 per cent, efficient for the simple reason that one can cut off a hearing instrument and be totally untroubled by oratory with which one may entirely disagree.
– That was the method of the late W. M. Hughes.
– Apparently the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) is in full accord with me. I put it seriously that a hearing-aid does make for efficiency, just as glasses make for efficiency. I cannot see why, on the grounds of humanity, economy and common sense, this matter should not receive more consideration than it has so far received from the Government.
.- I appreciate this opportunity to speak on a matter which concerns my electorate and which has already been the subject of considerable discussion in the course of the debate on the estimates for the Department of Health. It is true, as members of both sides of the chamber have pointed out, that tremendous progress has been made in the treatment of tuberculosis. It is very gratifying for all of us to see that it has been possible to reduce the amount of money that is made available for this purpose. I sincerely hope that the progress made in the past will continue in the future, until this scourge is completely eradicated from the Australian scene.
Some honorable members may not realize that the initiative in the move that has contributed so much to the eradication of tuberculosis in Australia was taken by the Chifley Government in its legislation of 1948, which was adopted by the various States. That legislation established a system of grants to States, financial provision for the administration of which is provided in the estimates for the Department of Health. The sum to be voted this year is £73,700. Last year, as a consequence of the Labour legislation that I have mentioned, the Government was able to expend the amount of £6,215,416 on tuberculosis benefits. I understand that £4,738,000 was expended on payments to or on behalf of the States as net maintenance expenditure on the diagnosis, treatment and control of the disease.
Since this disease has been well and truly controlled, there is a great likelihood that, in the not far distant future, adequate funds will be available for use in other very necessary fields. Obviously, no one can be contented with the total amount of £1,639,000 which has been made available for health purposes in these Estimates. Of course, it is an inadequate amount. Members on both sides of the chamber have proposed various ways in which additional money could be expended. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has just referred to the need to provide better opportunities for people who need hearing-aids and other members have made a great variety of suggestions. I want to stress the great need in New South Wales and other States for more facilities for the chronically ill. I suggest that the funds which were previously made available under the Tuberculosis Act, 1948 - the great Chifley measure designed for disease control - should gradually be directed to some other worth-while purpose, such as the hospitalization of chronically ill people.
Some members may not be aware that a hospital has become available in New South Wales at Waterfall, in my electorate. It is a very large hospital with about 560 beds and is valued at £3,000,000. It is on an ideal site consisting of 804 acres of land. The State Government had contemplated using this hospital for child welfare purposes and its attention was directed to the need to provide facilities for chronically ill people. Now the problem is whether sufficient funds will be available. I suggest than an agreement be arranged, similar to that introduced by the Chifley Government in respect of tuberculosis, providing a subsidy for States participating in this work, so that the chronically ill people may benefit.
I was most dissatisfied with the attitude of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). As honorable members appreciate, the tuberculosis agreement which was initiated by the Chifley Government manhandled a great problem. One of the important provisions in the Tuberculosis Act is that the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health may take steps, for example, for the establishment or taking over and conducting of hospitals, sanatoria, laboratories, diagnostic centres, after-care, radiological and other units, and clinics for the diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis. This was a very progressive step. If it is possible to set aside the Constitution in order to assist tuberculosis patients in this way it is apparent that the same practice could be followed with respect to chronically ill persons. The Minister for Social Services, when replying to questions by myself and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney), indicated that he could do nothing about the matter because of constitutional difficulties. He said -
The Commonwealth Government has no constitutional competence to violate the sovereign rights and powers of the States. So if the New South Wales Government decides to engage in the project which he has described, the responsibility will rest entirely with the State. There is no provision in the social services legislation for the Department of Social Services to render any assistance to the State in that connexion.
Of course, those remarks do not reflect an attitude anything like that which the Chifley government adopted with respect to the problem of tuberculosis. Unless a similar attitude is adopted with regard to chronically ill persons, we will have a problem that will extend over a great number of years. I suggest that the Government should follow a similar practice with regard to chronically ill persons to that provided for in Section 6 of the Tuberculosis Act, because the position in many States at present is that chronically ill persons, because of lack of other facilities, are admitted to mental institutions. Many of them have been certified so that they could be taken in by mental institutions, when they really should have been admitted to other hospitals in which adequate care and attention could be given them.
This is a tremendously important matter, and I appeal to the Government to consider using funds, which are now becoming available as a result of the successful handling of the tuberculosis problem, for the provision of homes for chronically ill persons. I would ask the Government to consider particularly subsidizing the institution at Waterfall in my electorate, so that some 500 or 600 chronically ill persons may benefit as a consequence.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Question (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Customs and Excise
Proposed Vote, £4,060,000.
Department of Trade
Proposed Vote, £1,733,000.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed Vote, £1,584,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- In the debate on this section of the Estimates I wish to discuss the matter of censorship, which comes under the control of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). When discussing one aspect of this matter, the banning of books, it is not possible to be serious. The political aspect of the question, the banning of films and such matters, can be deadly serious, but surely we must laugh amongst ourselves when we consider how ridiculous the world must consider the way in which books are banned in this country. Books that have been in publication for many years are suddenly made the victims of censorship. Books that have been published for periods as long as 50 years suddenly appear on the list of those that are banned. It might not surprise honorable members to learn of the occasional particularly hot book, the kind that office boys pass around to one another, eventually reaching the Minister through his literary advisers and being banned.
There are more than 1,100 books on the list of banned works. That is an extraordinary thing in a free and democratic country. As one walks around the streets of any city, one can see enough of salacity, according to one’s taste or distaste, on every bookstall. It appears that, as soon as anything is advertised on billboards, given a wrapper, and charged for, especially if it is an account of the thoughts of an overseas writer, it becomes the subject of a ban by Ministers who freely admit that they know nothing about it. We in Australia have had a most appalling history in censorship. As God has willed it, the Minister in charge of censorship has neverread anything but his own ordinances.
– I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that there is too much audible conversation.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– It is on the other side of the chamber. Why are you not impartial?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! For reflecting on the Chair, I order the honorable member for Hindmarsh to be removed from the chamber under Standing Order 303.
Serjeant-at-Arms, will you proceed immediately to escort the honorable member from the chamber.
– On a point of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! There is no point of order involved. Will the honorable member resume his seat.
– There is a point of justice involved, and you have exceeded your authority.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order!I order the honorable member for Parkes, also, under the provisions of Standing Order 303, to take himself from the chamber.
Serjeant-at-Arms, will you see that the two honorable members are taken out.
– On a point of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! No point of order is involved.
– Just a moment. There is a point of order.
Order! Will the right honorable gentleman resume his seat.
– Yes. I want to take a point of order.
Order! Nothing will be done in this chamber until the two honorable members who have been ordered to leave the chamber do so.
– You are so silly that you do not know what you are doing. Why do you not take hold of yourself?
Order! Will the Serjeant-at-Arms please get assistance and see that the two honorable members -are removed from the chamber.
– You are trying yourself out - the amateur executioner!
The honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Parkes thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
– I rise now to take a point of order.
Order! Is the right honorable gentleman taking a point of order?
– Of course. The question is whether you can act with final authority in this matter. That is the subject of my point of order. The Chairman has ruled, and Mr. Speaker Cameron ruled, that that matter raises a point of order. I refer you to the Clerks for advice if you are in doubt about it. If I am right in the point of order that I shall put to you now, it should follow that the honorable members who have been removed from this chamber by threat of force were not out of order. Standing Order 303-
– Double-barrelled 303.
Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– Standing Order 303 states-
The Speaker or the Chairman shall order a Member whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the House during the remainder of that day’s sitting; . . .
The question is whether the conduct of the honorable member concerned was grossly disorderly. With due respect to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I say that you are not the final judge of that, because that is a question of fact depending on whether the conduct was grossly disorderly. Everybody knows that that standing order was intended to be limited in its application to cases where the physical condition of the member made it unsatisfactory, and even dangerous, for him to remain in the chamber. - It was an ultimate weapon to deal with disorder affecting the House as a house, and not some minor interruptions, or even persistent interruptions.
The point of order that I take, and on which I ask you to rule, is, first of all, that in respect of what the honorable member for Hindmarsh said or did, though disorderly and warranting a withdrawal and an apology at the very most, you have treated him in a way quite outside your jurisdiction. I do not know of any occupant of the Chair who has done that in this chamber for many, many months. Finally, I submit that it was the general will of the House, as expressed in debates, that this standing order should not be applied in this way. It was never intended to be applied to such a case.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I will not allow the right honorable gentleman to proceed on this line.
– Order! Will the right honorable gentleman resume his seat. The position is this: There is no point of order involved. This is a matter at the discretion of the Chair, and I rule that there is no point of order involved. If the right honorable member does not agree with that ruling and wishes to have what I have done disagreed with, the forms of the committee are available to him. There is no point of order involved.
– Will you not allow me to finish, sir? I shall not be much longer on the point.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman will resume his seat. I will not allow him to proceed on those lines.
– Then, again, I submit that’ you are out of order in doing that, and in not allowing the point to be raised. I wish to move in the appropriate way.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I will not hear any honorable member until this matter has been dealt with.
– I move -
That the decision of Mr. Acting Chairman Lawrence that his ruling that the question whether he was in error in ruling-
– This is very clear!
– Oh, shut up!
– What about the interjection made by the honorable member for Robertson?
– Order! All interjections are out of order.
– Why do you not deal with him also?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order!
– I move-
That the decision of Mr. Acting Chairman Lawrence that his ruling that the question whether he was in error in ruling that the exclusion by him from the chamber of the honorable members for Hindmarsh and Parkes under Standing Order 303 did not involve a point of order be disagreed with.
Dr. Evatt having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing,
– I second the motion.
– May I explain?
– No, you may not explain.
– Do you understand it?
-I understand it perfectly. Before I go on, if there is any further imputation that the Chair is not impartial, I will name the honorable member immediately. I am dealing with the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition and seconded by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I am informed that no seconder is required to this motion. The question now before the Chair is that my ruling that no point of order was involved because this was at the discretion of the occupant of the Chair, be disagreed with.
– Are you going to allow the matter to be put to the committee in that way and only in that way?
– To make certain that there is no doubt, I shall read what has been said.
– I wanted to have a short argument on it.
– Standing Order 279 reads -
If any objection is taken to a ruling of the Chairman of Committees, such objection shall be stated at once in writing, and shall be forthwith decided by the Committee; and the proceedings shall then be resumed where they were interrupted.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . … 22
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is not entitled to vote on this question.
Question so resolved in the negative.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Will honorable members resume their seats. The votes now before the committee are those for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry. I call the honorable member for Darling Downs.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, if I may speak first to the point of order-
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like to make a suggestion to you. Would you permit the two honorable members who have been expelled from the chamber, or at least the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who was speaking, to come here, explain the position and apologize, if you insist upon it. I am sure that that would restore good feeling in the committee and allow the debate to proceed. This is purely a suggestion and I ask the Leader of the House whether he could consider it in the circumstances.
– Order! According to the Chair, this is a question for the Chair itself.
– I appreciate that.
– For myself, I say “ No, I am not prepared to do it “, but if the committee likes to take other action regarding the matter,I will be prepared to hear it. I call the honorable member for Darling Downs.
– I only made a suggestion. You might not agree-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Will honorable members please resume their seats. We are going on with this debate. I again call the honorable member for Darling Downs.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! If there is any more interruption, other honorable members will find themselves outside, under the same standing order.
- Mr. Temporary Chairman
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . ….. 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member for Darling Downs to continue his speech.
Motion (by Mr. Edmonds) put -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Order! Honorable members will remain silent.
– I have a suggestion to make. The honorable member who was speaking before the division was taken was going to refer to it. It is that permission be given for the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to return, on any condition which the Chair thinks reasonable, in order to enable him to continue the speech which he had commenced. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) was about to make a similar suggestion.
– Mr. Chairman, if I may speak to this matter, I wish to point out that the committee has a duty to uphold the authority of the Chair whenever that authority is exercised in good faith. The committee also has a duty at present to discuss the estimates of three important departments of State. According to the programme that we have in mind, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) would have an opportunity, if his colleagues enabled this to be done, to make his speech on these estimates to-morrow. But I suggest to members of the Opposition that if the committee is to be obstructed in its procedures because they are not disposed to debate these estimates in ‘an orderly manner, the Government has no option but to put the question that is currently before the committee.
– I have an answer to that, Mr. Chairman. I do not want to go into the merits of the action of the Chair, which we regard as being a serious injustice to the honorable members concerned, but 1 am suggesting a way in which the difficulties might be overcome. If what we propose to do is not acceptable to the Government, then we are prepared to take advantage ot the suggestion made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) that the honorable member for Parkes may continue his remarks to-morrow; because I think we have exhausted the procedure of protest so far as we can take it. Would you consider that matter, Mr. Chairman ?
– It is rather difficult for me to make a decision in the circumstances. I have every confidence in the Temporary Chairman (Mr. Lawrence) who occupied the chair while I was having a cup of tea after having presided over the committee for two hours. I am sure that no honorable member would begrudge me that relief.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! Honorable members on my left are not helping the Chair in any way to come to a friendly decision. I remind honorable members of that. The Chair must uphold the dignity of the Parliament and keep order. It is not always receiving the co-operation of honorable members that it should. However, I will make this concession: After the completion of the speech of the honorable member for Darling Downs, if the honorable members concerned are prepared to apologize to the Chair, they may return. The honorable member for Darling Downs may now resume his speech.
– I was referring to the present situation in Europe as far as the European Economic Community and the free trade area are concerned. My last comment was that the most successful example in the economic field of the alternative inter-government approach involving close and systematic co-operation between sovereign governments is the Organization for European Economic Cooperation. This was founded in 1948, and it has been the instrument for reducing restrictions on intra-European trade, through its programme of liberalization, and for developing a co-operative approach to common economic problems.
The series of events leading up to the present turning point in the economic affairs of Europe may be briefly summarized as follows: - In 1948 Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg set up a customs union known as Benelux. In 1948 also, the Organization for European Economic Co-operation, which is generally known by its initials, O.E.E.C., was founded with the United Kingdom as a member. In 1951 Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Luxembourg - the Six as they have become known - adopted the Schuman plan, and in 1953 opened a common market in coal and steel, known as the European Coal and Steel Community - the E.C.S.C. In 1954, the United Kingdom signed a treaty of association with the E.C.S.C. In 1955 the foreign ministers of the six met at Messina and decided to work towards a common market for all products traded between them. This project became known as the Messina plan.
In 1956, the United Kingdom announced that, though the United Kingdom could not join the proposed common market, it might be associated with it in a free trade area for industrial goods, together with other O.E.E.C. countries. On 25th March, 1957, the six signed two treaties in Rome, one instituting the European Economic Community, that is their customs and economic union; the other instituting the European Atomic Energy Community - EURATOM. Both treaties will come into force when all six have ratified. France and Germany have taken the lead in securing parliamentary approval, and the process is well on the way in Italy and the Netherlands. Ratifications of the treaty can be expected early next year.
The treaty represents quite a monumental effort at economic and social cooperation. Not only does it seek to form a customs union between the six countries, but it also encourages a common policy in the fields of transport, social benefits, equal pay for men and women, overtime entitlement, free movement of labour over frontiers including resettlement assistance, free movement of capital and services and a joint fund to assist economic development.
Australia regards the treaty as a notable milestone in the strengthening of the Western world, and it is welcomed as such. There are, however, some aspects of the treaty which must cause us concern.
In the treaty, agriculture is subject to a number of special provisions. Free competition in agricultural trade is put in the background, and a co-ordinated agricultural policy is proposed, to assure the standard of living of European agriculturalists and to guarantee the security of supplies.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period of fifteen minutes.
Although subsidization of secondary industry is prohibited in the treaty, that of agriculture is encouraged. Governments may arrange policies of stocking and may take measures to stabilize imports and exports. Joint or co-ordinated marketing organizations will be developed to control production, marketing and trade in important commodities.
Of course, the integration of these important economies cannot be accomplished overnight, and the O.E.E.C. treaty provides for a transitional period of twelve to fifteen years over which its provisions can be implemented. But the provisions for control of agricultural trade are not transitional, but permanent. The treaty contains some provisions relating particularly to the transitional period, one of which provides for the conclusion of long-term contracts between countries in the economic com,munity producing commodities in surplus, and those in need to import at prices related, not to world prices, but to domestically guaranteed prices. This could be a potential threat to development of our trade in grains with Europe. Another provision which allows an importing country to fix minimum prices for imports to protect its own producers may be particularly serious in relation to trade in other commodities, such as dairy products.
The general conclusion, therefore, on the agricultural provisions of the treaty is that there could be a danger that a high level of industrial activity could be used to protect an inefficient agriculture, and that European consumers could have to pay high levels of prices for foodstuffs instead of being able to take advantage of the efficient production of predominantly primary-producing countries such as Australia and New Zealand. From an Australian point of view, it is a source of relief that the agricultural provisions are not scheduled to apply to wool, which is, of course, not much produced in Europe.
Another problem arises from the provision made for the association of dependent overseas territories of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and for the association, if they so desire, of several former French colonies such as Morocco, Tunisia and of Libya, lt will be recalled that, in 1954, Australia unsuccessfully attempted to secure in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade some minor relaxation of the nonewpreference rule. In this treaty, the association of overseas territories resembles far more the creation of a new preferential area than that of a customs union or free trade area.
It is true that the six Powers state that they contemplate that ultimately the territories concerned will be able to remove all duties and restrictions against trade from the European powers. But no date has been set for such an achievement, and we know from previous international trading experience that it could be a very long time away. A further point which is being closely watched by the Department of Trade is the construction of the common external tariff of the six countries. This is, generally speaking, to be an arithmetical average of existing tariffs, and in the case of some products this average may be unsatisfactory to us where our trade is now with countries having duties below the average.
The European Economic Community has also serious implications for the sterling area, inasmuch as the United Kingdom has a very large export trade to Europe. If free entry into the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy is to be granted to German manufactures and denied to those of the
United Kingdom, a great deal of this trade may be lost. It is for the foregoing reason that the United Kingdom has proposed the creation of an industrial free trade area to include all western European countries that wish to join. Trade in foodstuffs, feeding stuffs, drink and tobacco are to be excluded for several reasons. In the first place it is obvious that trade in these products in Europe is not to be wholly free, as examination of the treaty has already revealed. Secondly the United Kingdom wishes to preserve Commonwealth preferences, and thirdly to continue to protect its own agriculture against European competition.
Australia has a full understanding of the United Kingdom’s desire for association with Europe, realizing its importance for the sterling area as a whole. Nevertheless an essential element in Australia’s attitude has been the exclusion of agricultural products. However, a number of European countries, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, are not interested in joining a free trade area excluding agriculture.
This is only one of the outstanding problems to be resolved in the creation of a free trade area - another is the facilitation of the use of imported raw materials from the British Commonwealth, and elsewhere in the manufacture of goods to pass within the free trade area. Agriculture, however, is the most serious issue at present.
I want to refer briefly to the population and trade of western Europe. Western Europe has a bigger population than either of the other two great centres of industrial power in the world - the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics The population of O.E.E.C. countries is approximately 284,000,000 compared with the United States’ 165,000,000 and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ 200,000,000.
The total production of power, basic materials, and manufactured goods in the O.E.E.C. countries compares favorably with the productive output of the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics whilst Western Europe’s trade in exports and imports is greater than that of either of these countries. In fact taking its trade with countries outside Western Europe alone, its imports and exports together are 60 per cent, bigger than the
United States total. This clearly emphasizes to Australia, the significant trading potential of the area.
Before concluding I must make a brief reference to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Gatt is an international trade agreement. It has been accepted by 35 countries and has been in operation since January, 1948. The key provision of Gatt is the guarantee of most-favoured-nation treatment in international trade.
Both the European Economic Community and the European free trade area can hardly fail, prima facie, to be at variance with Gatt because the countries concerned will be giving more favorable treatment to each other than to outside countries as to customs duties, import restrictions and many other matters, and thus departing from the most-favoured-nation principle. Gatt does however, contemplate special recognition for new customs unions or free trade areas, which can, subject to certain conditions, be permitted to depart from its rules, on the grounds that such arrangements contribute towards the development of freer trade which is the basic objective of Gatt. Nevertheless the six must seek the approval of Gatt for their treaty. So will the members of the free trade area for their agreement and some preliminary discussions have been held.
The Australian Government is closely in touch with developments in these areas, which can have such an important bearing on our economy in the future. Meanwhile the Commonwealth has proposed a trade and economic conference for next year, designed to bring our countries closer together, even if not in the same way as Europe, nevertheless in other useful ways.
The honorable members for Parkes and Hindmarsh having returned to the chamber,
– Is the honorable member for Parkes prepared to apologize to the Chair?
– Yes, I extend my apologies to you. May I resume my seat?
– I heard the honorable gentleman extend his apology to you, Mr. Chairman. Tt would be much more acceptable to honorable members if his apology were extended to the then occupant of the chair. In the case of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I suggest that he should apologize also for the highly offensive statement made by him as he was leaving the chamber.
– Is the honorable member for Parkes prepared to apologize to the Chair, which, of course, obviously includes the previous occupant?
– I intended that my apology should be also to the previous occupant of the chair.
– Is the honorable member for Hindmarsh prepared to apologize to the Chair, which includes the previous occupant?
– I call the honorable member for Parkes.
.- I was referring to book censorship in this country. I said, in an attempt to make a friendly and perhaps light-hearted speech on the matter, that a censorship performance, in the face of world opinion, was so bad that it would be better for us to laugh it off than be serious about it. But there is a serious side to it. More than 1,100 books have, in the process of censorship by .bureaucracy since Federation, been “ placed on the index “ at one time or another. How ridiculous have been the decisions and in many cases how humorous and whimsical! “The Catcher in the Rye “ is a tender, well-written story about the experiences of a sixteen year old boy on the run - a truant for some weeks or days in New York. The book has been read for six years in this country by those who are interested in child delinquency before some one in the department read it, was duly shocked by it, took it to the “Minister, who read it, and then referred it to the Literature Censorship Board, which banned it after six years.
As a writer myself, I think you have probably exhausted the top of your sales after six years. This makes us, as Australians and as a community, appear foolish, not only for banning what is a work of art, and not only for banning something which is noted for its delicacies of expression on a difficult subject - the adolescent thoughts of a boy. The point is that after years of corruption, after people have been debauched and demeaned by this book, the office boy, looking through the cracks of his fingers, says, “ Here is a dirty book; we had better take it to the Minister”. The Minister said, “ Yes, I agree with you “, and they ban it. Does it not make nonsense of censorship in this country? The Government has done worse than that. Sir Eric Harrison was responsible for the banning of a book called “ Ulysses “. At first he thought it was the bold adventure of the forerunners of the British sailor, the story of the Grecian heroes. Later, he found that it was a dirty book from Dublin, and he banned it forthwith. I asked him whether he had read it, and he said he had read enough to satisfy himself that it was a dirty book. I said, “ Who gave it to you to read? “ He said, “ A fellow in my electorate drew my attention to it and I acted with despatch “. Of course, “ Ulysses “ was sweeping through the world as a work of art, as a new stream of writing called the stream of consciousness, in which a man’s thoughts were prescribed with great conscience by James Joyce, who is described as a world authority on a new technique of writing. How did we assist the rest of the world to get a new consciousness and a new message to the people? By a Minister for Trade and Customs banning the book? What in the name of sweet reason has literary craft to do with Trade and Customs? It is an unhappy marriage. If you go through the list, you will find there is a famous book called “ The Golden Ass “. I note that my friend the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has just interjected, “ Appropriately enough “. This book had been selling for twenty years in this country before the same office boy got busy again and said, “ Mr. Minister, you should read this; it is a boomer “. What happened? The banning of the book made us foolish in the eyes of the world. This book is a classic and has been read by all. Even the most retired and reticent clergyman in the suburbs of Sydney, even in the northern suburbs of Sydney or in the more salubrious electorate of Wentworth, has read it without blanching, but the Minister for Customs and Excise was duly horrified and censored it.
We come down the line. There is a new book called “ Desert Love “. Again the mythical office boy thinks it is hot stuff under the moon, and he refers it to the
Minister. The Minister says that it has to go. We cannot read it in this country. It is a good, ordinary knockabout story of desert romance and it should be available to all. But apparently somebody is worried about our morals and our sense of resistance and “ Desert Love “ is not to be ours, by virtue of the decision of the honorable senator who, when he had been chided by an Anglican leader in the cathedral in Melbourne, said, “ I wish I had been there to hear your sermon, sir. I agree with every word you said “. The humble servant of’ the Lord!
There was another book called “ Moment of Warmth “. That caused the censorship circle to swoon. Was there ever such a sitter for censorship? “ Moment of Warmth “! We do not even know who wrote it. We do not know what it is about. It is “ on the index “. “ Moment of Warmth “ is not to be published in this country. Over the week-end I will go through my electorate and beyond to see whether some daring bookseller has “Moment of Warmth “ to trade to me, because I shall bring it to this chamber and advise honorable members. Here is a more serious thing. A great artist of this country, Norman Lindsay, one of the greatest, had a school of drawing accepted all over the world as a new technique. He was also accepted as a marvellous draftsman. He wrote a book about the small country town in which he lived, a town called Creswick, and he has been banned since 1930 by the Customs Department for having had the temerity to put on record the Babbitts who lived in that little village. According to the injunction of Shakespeare, it is the author’s job to hold the mirror up to nature. Lindsay’s mirror reflected these little people. Some one told the local member, and the local member told the Minister.
– When was this?
– In 1930, and I advise you to get “ Redheap “ because it shows what can happen in a little country town. You will be surprised that it is not quite as calm and rural as you think. What the infinite genius of Lindsay did with brush and canvas, he did also with pen and paper. He brought to light that teeming little village of Redheap. The only conclusion I can draw as to why that book was banned was because the word “ Red “ was included in its title.
– When was this?
– That book has been banned since 1930, and it is still banned. You were not long the Minister for Customs, but when you were you could have done a service to the community by releasing this great Australian novel of great merit instead of allowing it to rot. The Minister for Trade and Customs banned that beautiful piece of literature called the “ Snow Goose “, written by Paul Gallico, which is one of the most delicate pieces of prose written this century. God knows why! It was not a red goose, but a snow goose; but the girl who fed it used to come out in her negligee because she did not have many clothes, and when she threw the crumbs to this migratory bird from Canada apparently there was some sensitivity in the Censorship Board which said, “ This cannot go on - birds in the garden and a girl in a negligee. This will corrupt Australian morality “. We got the greatest laugh of the century. It had been one of the most delicately written and sensitive books in this country.
And here is the masterpiece. For six weeks “ St. Trinian’s “, Searle’s magnificent satire was banned. Was it banned because this House looked too much like St. Trinian’s? Why in the name of sweet reasonableness was “ St. Trinian’s “, banned? Surely every honorable member has seen the beautiful book of “St. Trinian’s”, a burlesque on a high school - very high tone and very social with people with definite ideas of madness, but a glorious satire. Somebody did not like “ St. Trinian’s “. It might have been that they thought it was a satire on the lodge. I do not know, but for six weeks “ St. Trinian’s “ was held up. The laugh amongst writers reverberated round the world when that happened. There is a play called “ Merry go Round “, written by a famous Austrian called Schnitzler 50 years ago. The people saw a movie version of it called “ La Ronde “. It had been banned for many years in this place. There was a book called “ Woman of Rome “, and again the mythical office boy, looking through the slats of his fingers, found out she was a street walker. The Minister for Customs swooned and the woman from Rome has gone from us and we cannot get her back.
When the revered Ben Chifley was Prime Minister of this country he loved a good book. There was a controversy about censorship raging in this country and we had discussions in the House. Being a busy Prime Minister he was not always in the House. He said to me one day, “ That is a damn good book, Les, you ought to read it “. To my horror it was “ The Wayward Bus “, by John Steinbeck, which had been banned before he came into office by a Liberal Minister for Customs, and he did not know about it. When he could rise above our own insane attitude to censorship, it is something our present Prime Minister might do.
– Were any books ever banned under a Labour administration?
– I dare say some might have been banned, but I cannot give the total. But do not come down to the level of saying “ Who did it, and who did not do it “. You were formerly the Minister for Customs and Excise, and I will look around to-morrow and see what you banned and kept banned.
Here is the trouble: One has to be careful that general censorship does not become burlesque. What happens when the States get censorship? In Queensland they have banned magazines, one called “ Gags and Glamour “ and another called “ Chicks and Chuckles “. Why cannot the Australian community have “ Gags and Glamour “ and “ Chicks and Chuckles “ in a sad and naughty world? Surely, we are not going to be destroyed by “ Gags and Glamour “ and “ Chicks and Chuckles “. I refuse to consider that “ Chicks and Chuckles “ will destroy the morality of my children or yours. And we go down the list. My honorable colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) who left this chamber with me a while ago as my escort informs me there are two in the list which particularly touched him. They are, “ When Dalliance Was in Flower “ and “When the Maiden Lost Her Head”. I think those also are on the index.
– Did you say “ Snow Goose “ had at one time been banned?
– I did say “Snow Goose “ had been banned. The authority for that was the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in a brilliant article. I knew your interest in poultry would at once bring you to my defence on “ Snow Goose “.
– Order! When the committee comes to order the honorable member may resume speaking. If honorable members behind you are not prepared to co-operate and let you speak, I will wait till the committee comes to order.
– That is a fair record of what has happened in the censorship of this country. We are noted, as Australians, for having a sense of humour, and I think we ought to apply some of it to the absurdities that have taken place in censorship. First of all, the people in charge of censorship are not experts and they feel their position. Dr. Allen and his colleagues do their very best-
– Do you say they are not experts on literature?
– By their actions I say they are not experts on literature.
– Are you? Are you going to tell us you are the one writer in the place who is an expert on literature?
– Since I have conceded that you are an expert on duck eggs, I will accept your assurance that I am an expert on literature.
– Are you criticizing any book banned by Dr. Allen?
– I am prepared to criticize the stupidity of Ministers for Customs of to-day and yesterday. I am prepared to say we have made mistakes. I was trying to sound a graceful note for the people who have a difficult job-
– Each time you are asked a question you become vulgar and rude. You cannot help it.
– There is another case of censorship.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We have just listened to a very amusing speech by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) on a subject about which it is always easy to raise a laugh - the censorship of books. We are accustomed to enjoying the wit of the honorable member, particularly on lighter subjects and late at night; but on this occasion he has touched on a matter which not only is capable of providing a subject for satire and amusement but also is of very great concern to the community, particularly those elements that value the free exercise of judgment and taste and the preservation of decent standards of morality and life. He has touched upon one of the most difficult administrative problems that faces any Minister, namely, the proper exercise of the censorship power. Two of the great exponents of the liberal arts in the House, the honorable member for - should I say Kingsford-Smith or galah–
– I am a boilermaker, not a writer.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Air has called the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith a galah. I do not think that ought to be allowed.
– Order! If the Minister called the honorable member a galah, he must withdraw the word.
– I withdraw any imputation against the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I ask honorable members to maintain order.
– I was directing attention to the fact that the two latest interveners in this debate are people who, in the past, have not demonstrated any particular interest in the preservation of the arts and graces in the community.
– When I look at you, I do not want to.
– Order! If the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith wants to interject, he must return to his own place in the chamber or I shall have to deal with him.
– I had not noted particularly, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith was occupying a seat on the Opposition front bench. Now that you have directed my attention to that fact, I want to be one of the earliest to congratulate him upon his elevation to the executive of the Labour party and particularly to congratulate the party on the added strength that his elevation will bring to it.
The problem of censorship has exercised not only the mind of the present Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), but also my mind when 1 occupied that portfolio and the minds of my predecessors from both sides of the chamber. As we all know, the honorable member for Parkes would not concede that. In any liberalminded community which values the right of authors to express their feelings as they will, the idea of censorship is objectionable. In the past, when it was possible, because of the structure of home life and because the tempo of life was quieter, for parents to exercise some judgment over the influences which affected their children, public censorship was not a matter of necessity. In the past, too, authorship and the commerce of publication were of a very different order. In our own age - the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) knows this, I am sure, and will concede it - we have seen, particularly in the horror film age, the growth of commercialism in public vice, against which the community quite vociferously demands some protection.
One of the serious aspects of this problem is that, when somebody exercises a view which conflicts with that of the customs officer, such as happened in the case of “ The Catcher in the Rye “, there are criticisms, tirades and complaints about censorship. But when a gramophone record that attracts the young is particularly salacious and is considered by many people to be harmful, or a book which is manifestly of no literary value and has some obvious potentiality for doing harm to young and susceptible people, is allowed in, there is an equally vociferous cry in the community against the government of the day. As I said, it is one of the most difficult administrative problems that any Minister can face, because he can never be right. If he bans a book, he is wrong in the eyes of one class of people; if he allows it to enter the country, he is wrong in the eyes of another section of the community.
In these circumstances, the responsible Minister has to set up machinery to see that the problem is dealt with as well as possible. It is an odd circumstance that the governmental machinery which operates to-day was established by a former member of the Government about whom we were thinking yesterday. Sir Thomas White, as Minister for Trade and Customs, established the Literature Censorship
Board and the system of appeal against censorship. Under the present system, imports into Australia are reviewed by customs officers. The honorable member for Parkes repeated the criticism that we hear so often, and asked, “ What right has a customs officer to ban these books? “ The fact is that the kind of literature against which the community demands protection comes into the country in such quantity that it is physically impossible to have it examined by other than a number of administrative officials. So the first check has to be made by customs officers.
In the vast majority of cases, the imported material which they reject is not the subject of argument. Mostly, it is easily determined as coming within the category of banned publications - horror magazines or comics and publications intended to be salacious and so obviously salacious that they are likely to be harmful to the young and at the same time are of no literary value. An effort is made to stop the harmful rubbish, and I emphasize the word “ harmful “. That effort is conscientiously made by customs officials who are chosen and appointed for the purpose.
It occasionally happens that among the books or other works of art censored by them is a book which some people in the community regard as being of literary value. What triggers off an examination at a different level is a protest by a publisher, an author, or an importer. The fact that people make protests such as was made in the case of “ The Catcher in the Rye “ is evidence, not of incompetence or anything of that kind, but of the operation of the established machinery. In the past, when a protest was made, I and my predecessors in the portfolio of Customs and Excise or Trade and Customs did as my colleague the present Minister for Customs and Excise did in the case of “ The Catcher in the Rye “. A protest which obviously had some substance in it was made in relation to that book. The Minister referred the matter to the Literature Censorship Board, and that board recommended that the book should be admitted. It was admitted. That was evidence, not of bungling, but of the correct operation of an established, very sensible and necessary administrative procedure, which I am perfectly certain a Labour administration would continue to apply if it had the opportunity.
– Did the matter of the protest and the recommendation of the board in relation to “ The Catcher in the Rye “ go to the Minister?
– My colleague has asked me what was the next step after the Literature Censorship Board had recommended that the book should be admitted. What happened was that the Minister accepted the advice of the board and directed that the book should be admitted. As I indicated earlier, that was not evidence of bungling or of heavy-footed censorship but was an indication of the correct operation of a sensible administrative practice. The ultimate determination lies with the Minister which, 1 am sure all will concede, is necessary in the proper course of parliamentary and governmental administration in Australia. The Minister has the right to accept or reject the advice of the board. I do not recall an instance, in my time in the Parliament, of the advice of the board being rejected. If the Minister so wishes he can refer the advice of the board to the appeals censor.
– Can the Minister state the names of the members of the board and the appeals censor?
– I do not recall them all. One name mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes was that of Professor Bryan. I want to take the honorable member for Parkes up on this matter. He said that Professor Bryan and the other members of the board were not expert. Indeed, they are experts in literary criticism and are chosen for that reason. They are people of academic background and known critical capacity. That is one of the aspects of this matter which used to puzzle me - that people such as the honorable member for Parkes could be so ill-informed or careless as to talk about these books being condemned on the advice of a customs authority without realizing that when books have been referred to the Censorship Board, they have been referred to a panel of people whose capacity for literary criticism is unquestioned.
– Literary criticism and censorship are not quite the same thing and the Minister has the final say.
– 1 agree with the honorable member for Parkes, and this is not the only thing we agree on. We agree on quite a number of things from time to time. But I agree with him that censorship is not an act of literary criticism. It is an act of administrative authority. But in the working of the present system of censorship, the administrative authority is backed by the advice of a board of proven literary capacity. Its members are selected for that reason. In know all these gentlemen. During my time as Minister for Customs I met them all and discussed one or two problems with them. The present appeals censor is Dr. Allen, a former chairman of the board. The late Sir Robert Garran was, for many years, appeals censor. Notwithstanding his great age, he continued to the end of his days to do his work with a rare liberal viewpoint.
– I agree with that.
– I am using the word “ liberal “ in the sense of literary criticism - with a small “ 1 “ and not in a political context. In reading the reports of the Literature Censorship Board I often enjoyed the very high standard of literary criticism which the reports exhibited. When it is suggested that the banning of a book, which is a matter of public controversy, has been done carelessly by some official who is ignorant of these things, I suggest that no weight has been given to the fact that the administrative decision has been taken after consideration of expert literary advice. Let there be no doubt about this.
There are two aspects of this problem. One aspect is the sieving of the vast mass of valueless material that comes into this country. I have no doubt whatever as to the necessity for doing that. Most people, when they think of censorship, think of censorship on political grounds or on grounds relating to sex. I found that the class of literature which compelled attention most was the horror comic, addressed to children. Anybody who saw, as I saw, the selection of horror comics that would be, if they were admitted to this country, available to unscrupulous commercial dealers for sale to small children, would not hesitate for a moment in saying that there is a need for censorship in these times in order to protect children against the sort of horror comic which can be imported.
Anybody who has read “The Seduction of the Innocent “, the book by an American whose name I forget at the moment, could not hesitate for a moment in deciding that we are lucky to live in circumstances in which it is possible to protect our children from these comics. This book tells of the seduction of young and innocent minds by the gross commercial appeal to them of the worst type of horror.
– Could the Minister explain why “ Redheap “ was banned?
– I have not the slightest idea. The honorable member has informed me that that occurred 27 years ago.
– But the ban has not been lifted.
– If the honorable member wants to test the matter, it would be quite easy for him to do so. Let him buy a copy of “ Redheap “ in England and have it posted to him in this country. Let htm also inform the customs authorities that he is doing this. Then he can have the whole procedure gone through and the matter reviewed.
I do not want to take up the time of the committee any longer on this matter but point out that this is a serious and difficult matter. Under the system inaugurated by the late Sir Thomas White who, as Minister for Trade and Customs, established the Literature Censorship Board and the Appeal Censor, there is available to ‘ the Minister expert advice on those matters. There is a need, I believe, for the censorship of worthless and damaging material. But when censorship is applied to works which are claimed to be of literary value it is exercised with great care and discretion.
, in a most brilliant speech, put one point of view. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) frankly stated the administrative processes of the Department of Customs and Excise as though they were beyond any real question. It is quite true that many things are published which are obscene or indecent. But most people who know something about letters, about the effect of literature, about the importance of it, and about the importance of freedom, would say that the general rule ought to be the rule of freedom. Horror is a thing that, apparently, has to be stopped. Yet, one of the most interesting novels of one’s youth was the famous book called “ Dracula “ - the horror story of Hungary. It was a blood-curdling story, but it did not do any harm to any young person who read it. The stage of horror is passed through easily.
Then we go to Shakespeare. Is Shakespeare allowed to come in from overseas? Can we not find in Shakespeare, Byron, or any of the classical works of the greatest literature in the world, which is English literature, illustrations of what somebody who took them literally might denounce as improper of even indecent writings? But, in their context, it is not so. Only a lunatic would ban Shakespeare, and yet literature containing similar writings has been banned. The works of Dumas and Anatole France were banned. Zola was convicted, yet his books pour into Australia now. Nearly every one of his books was the subject of a prosecution for obscenity or indecency. His publishers were nearly put out of business by prosecutions in England.
The Minister for Air suggested that, in order to test a matter, the honorable member for Parkes might purchase a book in England. Suppose he were prosecuted in England in respect of the book. The matter would be laughed out of court. It is not the rule of freedom to decide, in advance of a situation, what shall be the fate of a book. We know from Milton, the greatest of the English writers of poetry and prose, that a book cannot be talked about in general terms. One has to look at it. One has to decide, in a particular case, after publication, whether an offence has been committed. Censorship is not exercised in respect of political opinions, and it should not be exercised in respect of literature, except in the most obvious cases. There may be some cases so obvious that it would be a disgrace to let the books come into the country.
The Commonwealth is inconsistent in this matter, because books that are stopped by the Department of Customs and Excise can be freely printed and published in
Australia. The customs authorities have no power to deal with publications produced in Australia. They come under State laws, so we get this extraordinary conflict over and over again between the Commonwealth and the States. The States have tried to deal with the matter by special laws, which, as far as I know, are never enforced. The State laws contain similar dangerous provisions relating to seizure without proof of guilt. The onus is put on the man who suffers the wrong to take the case to a court. A policeman decides whether a book contravenes the law. My point is that if a breach of the law has occurred, the law should be enforced. The decisions should not be left to officials, whether they be professors or not. As my colleague asks, why trust the judgment of a professor in these matters? This is not a question of literary criticism. The Minister has said that he likes reading the literary criticisms on these questioned books. 1 have no doubt that they are interesting, but it is the books which are in question. He should read the books.
Similar considerations apply to political books. Honorable members know that political books are being banned by the customs authorities. I am not able to give the titles of the books, but it is a fact that books have been banned, just as films have been banned, because they were politically controversial. I shall give one illustration. A film was recently produced-
– You said books.
– I said books, but let me refer first to a film which dealt with the fascist movement in Germany under the Kaiser, under Hitler and in more recent times. That film was cut considerably by the Australian censor on the ground that it would be unpleasant to the German Government, because it criticized that government. It might have been a film that people would not have liked, but to prevent it from being shown seems to me to be an offence against all notions of freedom. The case is similar with books.
I am sorry that Sir Thomas White’s name has been mentioned. I am quite certain that he was not responsible for the introduction of the system that I am denouncing. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) would despise the system if it were not for the fact that he has been Minister for Customs and Excise. The great question we are examining can be determined only by applying a principle. The general principle is that of admission. If a book offends the laws relating to indecency and obscenity, in the correct sense of those terms, the person in possession of the book should be prosecuted and the case against him proved in a court. But at present officers are deciding questions which, in fact, should be decided by a court. That is the terrible evil of censorship, whether it applies to works of art, books, films or other organs of information. The book “ Ulysses “ has been mentioned. I understand it was banned here, but the Supreme Court of the United States of America held that it was not an indecent or obscene book, but a work of art. That was a decision of, I think, Mr. Justice Learned Hand, probably the most able jurist in the United States. That is a recognized case in the United States, confirming that no offence is committed by a person who publishes that book or is in possession of it. These things should make the Government pause. The whole system should be reviewed. It is absurd that a banned book can not be seen by members of the Parliament, so that they can judge its nature and contents.
– Would the Leader of the Opposition approve of the abolition of customs censorship?
– I do not say that. I have already said that in cases where it was overwhelmingly manifest that a court would find that a publication was indecent or obscene, the department could anticipate the determination of the tribunal. But only in cases of that character would I retain customs censorship. I say that it is wrong to ban a book in advance of a decision of the court, when it is not known what the decision of the court will be.
– The right honorable gentleman is saying that it should be left to the court except in very obvious cases?
– Except in cases where it is overwhelmingly clear that some offence has been committed. In those cases, it could be said that the probability of the court declaring against the book is so great that the book should be detained. But even in those cases I would require the department to place the books, not before some civil servant or professor, but before a court.
Let us have a special procedure, so that the court would be able to say, after looking at a book, “ This book should not be allowed in because, within the meaning of the law of England or of a particular State, it is obscene and indecent “.
When we enter the political field and say that a book has a seditious tendency, we are using a term that is so vague that I do not think any judge - certainly no judge of England or Australia - would arrive at a determination, on his own sayso, without having the matter fully considered and argued.
I am sorry to have delayed the committee at this late hour, but I think these principles should be stated. The Minister has referred to convenience. The department says, “ This book will cause harm. Therefore, we will act “. I say that instead of acting - destroying or keeping - if the department feels confident enough, it should refer the matter to a court. The Commonwealth Government has the power to set up special tribunals, and has done so in the past under the Post and Telegraph Act to prevent the dissemination of indecent and obscene publications through the post. That applies to any form of publication, and the matter is decided by a justice of the Supreme Court of a State. In that way, the matter is taken out of the hands of individuals and the Government cannot be accused of allowing a local customs officer to decide it. Except in the type of case where the responsible officer would be quite clear in his mind that a publication would be banned, let the judgment of mankind be given - let the courts decide. Do not substitute summary methods which, after all, are a relic of the past.
Zola’s books were banned, but the bookstalls of Australia are crowded with Zola’s works to-day. Zola’s books were banned in England some 50 or 60 years ago, but since that time the taste and judgment of the people have changed.
– Zola was banned on political grounds as well.
– That is perfectly true. Zola’s works were often attacked on political grounds. I should like the Minister for Customs to look at the books banned by the department which do not in any way offend against the laws of obscenity and indecency but which might offend against some political notions in this country. If that is the ground on which they have been banned, that is the greatest tyranny of all. In the realm of politics, no matter how much one may detest an opinion that is expressed, one must admit that people have the right to express that opinion. If ever a situation develops in this country, as was threatened not so long ago, in which there is interference with the fundamental freedom and human right to voice criticism of political matters, and of matters concerning art, letters and films, then we will have almost a reign of terror from the point of view of the writer, the artist and the publisher, and the status of Australia amongst the civilized nations of the world will be reduced.
Assent to the following bills reported -
Repatriation Bill 1957.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1957.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at11.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Ministerial Visits Overseas.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Overseas Investments in Australia.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The request made by the Premier of Tasmania was most carefully considered before a reply was sent to the Premier on 20th September, 1957. I know of no developments since that date which might call for reconsideration of the views expressed to the Premier.
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows: -
Northern Territory Rural Leases.
k. - On 10th September, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) asked a question, without notice, regarding the numbers of agricultural, pastoral and other rural lessees in the Northern
Territory. In my reply to the honorable member I said that I would obtain the information.
The available information I have set out hereunder relates to the number of leases granted and not to the number of persons who have been granted leases -
The rural leases which have been granted during the last three years are as follows: - In 1954- 55, 41 new agricultural leases were granted over land not previously held under lease, one agricultural lease was granted following a consolidation, four pastoral leases were granted following conversions, and six other rural leases (for market gardens, poultry farms and like purposes) were granted; in 1955-56, seven new agricultural leases were granted over land not previously held under lease, three agricultural leases were granted on conversions, one new pastoral lease was granted over land not previously held under lease, and four other rural leases were granted; in 1956-57, nine new agricultural leases were granted over land not previously held under lease, three agricultural leases were granted on conversions, two agricultural leases were granted following a subdivision, one new pastoral homestead lease was granted following a consolidation of two pastoral leases, six pastoral leases were granted following subdivisions, one agricultural development lease was granted (to Territory Rice Limited), and four other rural leases were granted. The foregoing totals include leases renewed in those years, the figures for renewals only being - 1954-55, one agricultural, two pastoral and five other rural leases; 1955-56, three agricultural, and four other rural leases; 1956-57, three agricultural, four pastoral and four other rural leases.
There are in force at present 268 agricultural, one agricultural development, 370 pastoral, one pastoral homestead, and 84 other rural leases.
With regard to the question of the number of lessees occupying leased areas, residence is required only in respect of agricultural and pastoral homestead leases and information as to the number of pastoral and other rural leases which are occupied by the lessee is not available.
t asked the Minister for Territories the following questions, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What is the number of homes (a) completed and (b) commenced in each of the financial years since the 30th June, 1949.
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: -
Statistics of houses and flats completed and commenced in the years concerned are shown in the table below: -
Despite some fluctuations in the annual totals, the number of houses and flats built each year in the period from 1st July, 1949, to 30th June, 1957, was consistently higher than in preceding years. The rale of commencements was again rising in the latter part of 1956-57.
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19571016_reps_22_hor16/>.