22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In the absence of the Minister for Trade, I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is correct that it is proposed to import wheat to Australia.
– I think it will be understood that every worthwhile proposal submitted with a view to overcoming the possible serious effects of drought conditions has been considered by the Government and the committee approved by the Prime Minister. Of course, the particular problem mentioned by the right honorable gentleman has received consideration, but up to the present it has not been thought necessary that a decision should be made on it. We have sufficient wheat in Australia for our own purposes. We require about 60,000,000 bushels for local consumption; we have about 40,000,000 bushels in stock, and production is expected to be somewhat less than 70,000,000 bushels. I mention that fact in order to put the matter into perspective. All possibilities have been or are being explored but, as I mentioned earlier, no decision has yet been thought necessary on the point raised by the right honorable gentleman.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Social Services, concerns the operation of section 141 of the Social Services Act, which gives the department authority to seek information necessary for applying the various means tests imposed by law. In view of the very considerable time and effort involved in looking up old records which this duty frequently entails for members of the legal profession, will the Minister consider obtaining this information from some source other than private solicitors or, alternatively, introduce a scheme whereby solicitors may be recompensed on a conservative basis for their time and trouble?
– I am indebted to the honorable member for drawing my attention to the fact that there is a section of the community which believes it is prejudiced by supplying information without adequate compensation to the Department of Social Services from time to time. It is true that section 141 of the Social Services Act gives my department authority to seek information from a variety of people and organizations for the purpose of applying the means test. When the honorable member mentioned to me that some solicitors believed they were disadvantaged and felt some payment should be made to them for supplying the information, I examined the position. However, the sources of information are so wide, and the people who give us the assistance that we need from time to time are so numerous, that it would be impracticable to consider any scheme of compensation.
– Will the Minister for the Interior indicate how far action has proceeded to supply Adelaide with a building to house all Commonwealth departments to avoid the confusion and inconvenience occasioned at present by the spread-eagled character of departments? Will the Minister have investigated the acquisition of the land, and such buildings as are thereon, abutting the General Post Office on the King Williamstreet frontage to Waymouth-street, and with a depth to Post Office-place, thus making available the most central site for such a project? This would disturb but a minimum of business and office establishments, the principal ones being an hotel, a newspaper, and a broadcasting station. Could not a suitable place be found for such displaced people by their transfer to the site in Grenfell-street known as Wilkerson’s site? Would not this permit the Commonwealth offices to be constructed in the best of all locations, and provide for all future extensions of postal and telephonic needs, whilst enabling the newspaper and broadcasting station concerned to be located with other commercial establishments in Grenfell-street?
– The honorable gentleman, in an effort to be helpful, has given me a number of suggestions which would not be nearly so easy to implement as his statement of the case would appear to make out. As he knows, we have tried to solve some of” the problems of office accommodation in Adelaide by taking an extensive tenancy in the recently completed Da Costa building. That will solve some of our problems for some time. Meanwhile, an effort is being made to consolidate some of the properties that we hold in an effort to provide an adequate site for the erection later on of a Commonwealth-owned and Commonwealth-built building. The site that the honorable gentleman suggested would present tremendous difficulties. It would involve the Commonwealth in finding alternative accommodation for organizations such as a newspaper and a broadcasting station, which have very special requirements. I certainly would not like to buy into that sort of problem.
– By way of explanation of a question which I address to the Minister for Primary Industry, I state that the wine industry has expressed fears as to the future of Australian wine sales in the United Kingdom if that country should join the European common market plan. Has the Government urged strongly in London the necessity for continuing the existing preferences which, although slight in terms of real value, are of some assistance to our wine trade in its biggest export market?
– I think that the honorable gentleman will be glad to know that, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the proposal is for an industrial free trade area. If that can be achieved, agricultural products will be excluded. I think it can be taken that, at a government level, the Minister for Trade particularly is doing everything that is within his capacity to have agricultural products excluded from the free trade plan. Wine products would naturally come within that category. That is all that I can say at the present moment. The matter is under very cautious consideration. If there is any other information that I can gather from the Minister for Trade, and which can be supplied to the honorable gentleman, I shall be only too happy to convey it to him.
– In view of the statement that the Minister for Primary Industry gave recently in reply to a question from the Leader of the Opposition, that the Government is giving consideration to the importation of wheat to Australia, will the Minister recommend to Cabinet that the whole of the provisions of the Japanese Trade Agreement be revised and, if need be, eliminated? On the Minister’s own statement, the chief justification for that agreement was the belief that it would provide an export market for Australian wheat.
– I hope it is not thought that I made the comment, “ Rubbish “, but if I had been quick enough in thinking that is what I would have said. To me it is deplorable that Ministers come into the House and answer questions or make statements after most careful and deliberate thought and then find they are completely misunderstood and misrepresented by members of the Opposition. Only a few days ago, the Prime Minister thought it necessary to rebuke a member of the Opposition for his interpretation of something that was said by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services. The honorable member’s interpretation of my statement is totally wrong, and I fail to understand how any sensible person could reach his conclusion.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Interior, is supplementary to one asked by the honorable member for Bonython. When considering propositions such as that contained in the honorable member’s question, will the Minister keep in mind the need to decentralize Government offices, in the way that this is now being done by some departments, particularly the Department of Social Services under the guidance of its esteemed Minister?
– In answer to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion, rather than his question, let me say that the problem in Adelaide is one of providing accommodation to enable the whole of the administration of each department to operate under one roof. Decentralization, which has been tackled so thoroughly and well by my colleague, the
Minister for Social Services, is an entirely different problem. In the capital cities we face the problem of amalgamating State branch administrations.
– I ask the Minister for Defence: Is it a fact that £1,386,000 was spent on refitting and modernizing H.M.A.S. “ Hobart “ before it was placed in reserve in 1953? Is it also a fact that at least another £1,000,000 would have to be expended on this warship before it could be used for any purpose? As it appears that the Government has no intention of proceeding with work on “ Hobart “ unless war eventuates, will the Minister say what approximate time would elapse after the outbreak of war before the vessel would be available for service? Will he tell us whether the statement made at the time “ Hobart “ was placed in reserve, to the effect that this warship would be available for future service, was only an excuse to cover up another piece of colossal Government bungling?
– It is a fact that an amount of the order of £1,300,000 - I cannot give the precise figure - was spent on certain renovations to “ Hobart “, but, as a result of a review of our programme and of the role that we were committed to undertake, it was found that the necessity to make the vessel ready for service did not arise. Consequently the work was discontinued at that stage. However, if an occasion arose when “ Hobart “ could be usefully employed in any operations, I have no doubt that with the expenditure of a certain amount of money - I do not know how much would be required - the work of making the vessel ready for service could be expeditiously undertaken.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General, and I refer to the excellent telephone weather forecast service recently instituted in Melbourne by the Postmaster-General’s Department. I ask the Minister whether its immediate success, as indicated by the 3,500 calls received in the first two hours, was due to the voice of Valerie, the telephonist who made the recording. Will the people of Sydney and other capital cities hear the voices of their own Valeries in similar services in due course?
– I am glad to hear from the honorable member of the success that has attended the installation of a new automatic weather forecast service at the City West exchange, in Melbourne. I think that it will interest honorable members to know that this service is similar to the automatic time service that has been provided for some time in Sydney and Melbourne. Consequent upon the installation of new recorder-announcer equipment, the Postmaster-General’s Department has arranged with the Melbourne Weather Bureau to supply three-hourly forecasts of the weather in the metropolitan area. The forecasts are recorded, and, in the recording process, care is taken to use the services of some one with a pleasant voice and a pleasant personality. No doubt that is what the honorable member refers to. The recordings are then played at intervals of between 20 and 30 seconds, so that any one who dials M064 may hear the recording and obtain the latest weather forecast. I have mentioned that the forecast covers a period of three hours. Provision has been made for the period to be reduced should there be any sudden, exceptional change in the weather.
It will interest honorable members to know, also, that the cost of the equipment is a little more than £3,000, and that, at a very conservative estimate - obviously so, from what the honorable member has said - the service will bring in at least £1,000 per annum in revenue from the calls made Immediately the service has proved itself completely in Melbourne, similar services will be provided elsewhere.
– I ask the Minister for Works whether it is a fact that a hospital is to be constructed at Port Moresby at an estimated cost of £420,000. If so, was the proposal referred to the Public Works Committee? If not, why not?
– I have not before me details of the matter raised by the honorable gentleman. I will look into, it, and will obtain the details for him.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that, at the recent wool sales in Sydney, Japanese buyers supported the market strongly, at a time when firm support was very badly needed? In view of Japan’s overseas exchange position, is it a fact that this desirable support for the wool market would hardly have been possible had it not been for the negotiation of the Japanese Trade Agreement?
– I missed the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question. In answer to the first part of it, I am glad to say that, at a time when it was thought that demand for wool from other quarters had been reduced, the Japanese came in and supported the wool market. The best opinion that I can get is that the Japanese buying sustained the market, and enabled us to keep a platform from which we hope to move to higher price levels in the future. I am glad that the honorable gentleman has asked this question, because it affords an opportunity to say, at this juncture, that the Japanese buying had a very decisive influence in sustaining the price of wool.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that some members of the staff at the Bonegilla Migrant Centre have recently been dismissed. If so, is this a result of a decision to turn over the lower-paid members of the staff at least each six months in order to provide employment for immigrants who cannot otherwise obtain work? Further, are the persons put off the staff required to pay board of £3 12s. lOd. a week, whereas, when they were on the staff, they were required to pay only £2 12s. lOd. a week?
– The centre referred to by the honorable member does not come under my administration but under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration. I am not aware of any action having been taken along the lines indicated by the honorable gentleman, and I would very much question whether action would be taken for the reasons he gave. The movement of immigrants from the camp for employment has been quite steady. I think that less than; half the number given by me some time ago is now awaiting placement. However, I shall have the question conveyed to my colleague and ask him to supply an answer.
– My question, which isaddressed to the Postmaster-General, is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. Does the Postmaster-General consider that Western Australia would not need an automatic weather forecaster to the same extent as other States, since Western Australia has the kind of climate that California boasts about?
– I assure the honorable member for Perth that when the question of the extension of the automaticweather forecasting service to the area mentioned arises, as it will arise in the next year or two, I will take into account the claim he has made for the climate in Perth. As a result of two recent visits there, I can say I fully support his claim.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, and arises from an answer given by the Minister for Primary Industry in which he said, inter alia, that the Australian Wheat Board was considering the import of wheat from overseas. The Minister said that the board was considering other matters, but that it was considering the import of wheat. According to reports, the reason for this is that the freight on wheat from Argentina and Canada would be less than the freight on wheat from Western Australia. Will the Prime Minister use his authority to prevent such a proposal being adopted and will he consider urgently subsidizing the transport of wheat from Western Australia, where there is a surplus, to drought areas?
– My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, as far as I understood him, did not refer to the Australian Wheat Board, but said that all of these problems were under investigation. He went to some pains to point out that in the present circumstances it was not thought that any of these uncommon steps would be necessary, but that all of these matters were kept under close observation.
– I preface my question to the Postmaster-General by directing his attention to his recent statement that any person in possession of a television set must hold a licence in respect of the address at which the receiver is installed. As many owners of television receivers use portable antennae, and as some of these persons own or rent beach or holiday homes in addition to their normal places of residence and sometimes take the television receivers with them, will the Postmaster-General define what constitutes the installation of a television receiver and say whether persons in the category I have mentioned must possess two licences?
– My initial reaction to the honorable member’s question is that in circumstances such as he has mentioned it would not be necessary to have two licences. However, I suggest that a simple way out of the difficulty would be to state both addresses in the application for the licence. This is a point that I have not had put to me before, and I do not think it is covered in the regulations, concerning which I issued a statement a week or two ago. I will consider the matter, but I think the reply is, as I have indicated, that one licence is required for a television set at any specified address. As with broadcasting, one licence only is required if two receivers are used at the one address. However, the problem mentioned by the honorable member can easily be overcome by specifying the two addresses in the application for a licence.
– I again bring to the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service the continuing problem of unemployment in certain areas of my electorate. I ask the Minister to take immediate action to meet the crisis, which has been aggravated by further recent dismissals from Commonwealth departments and private industrial undertakings within the electorate of Macquarie. Will the right honorable gentleman confer with his colleague, the Treasurer, with a view to providing funds for urgent local government works? I remind the Minister that the municipal councils throughout the area have very ambitious works programmes and urgently need funds to carry out those works and thus provide employment.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that any information of this character which he puts before me, or which reaches the Government from the councils concerned, will be carefully considered.
– [ ask the
Prime Minister whether he is aware that the law concerning social service benefits for aboriginies - a law which has been in operation unaltered in this respect for twenty years or more - applies different standards for determining whether aborigines are entitled to child endowment, maternity allowances, invalid and age pensions, and unemployment and sickness benefits. Does the right honorable gentleman know that all aborigines, other than those who are nomads, are entitled to child endowment, but are not entitled to maternity allowance at all unless they are exempt from the laws of the State relating to aborigines; that the same rule applies in regard to age and invalid pensions; and that, in regard to unemployment and sickness benefits, yet another rule applies?
– Mr. Speaker, this is fantastic. The question nominally is addressed to me, although it does not concern my department, but is intended for somebody else.
-I ask the honorable member to state his question.
– Seeing that the Minister for Social Services is not a member of the policy-making body-
– Order! The honorable member will ask his question.
– I ask the
Prime Minister whether the Government is prepared to review the rules governing these various benefits for aborigines, in order that they may be put on the same standard as white people.
– I ask the honorable member to be good enough to place his question on the notice-paper.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been attracted by a statement, issued yesterday by six leading Australian scientists, that Australia is facing a decline in comparative living stanfacing a decline in comparative living stanmanpower? In view of the contention of the scientists that Australia is not ready for the nuclear era, and that grave consequences would result if the Government failed to face this problem, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is intended to afford special consideration to the matter. In particular, will he indicate his attitude to a statement by Professor Messel, that Australia should spend £20,000,000, or more, of the defence vote on science and technology?
– I thought that there was a rule that questions were not to be based on newspaper publications. This question obviously refers to one. 1 have not seen it, but I shall look at it.
– My question also is addressed to the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, a moment ago, that we were not to place any reliance on newspaper publications. I have heard from other sources that last week-end he made an important statement on international affairs to an outside organization. Will he take steps to recognize this organization, the Parliament, by initiating a debate on international affairs, and will he make policy statements here, so that we shall not have to rely on newspaper reports?
– The honorable member’s indignation is synthetic. Is he putting forward the proposition that no member of Parliament is to be allowed to address a meeting outside the Parliament on a grave matter - because that is implicit in what he has to say? I had the great honour to address the Federal Council of the Liberal party of Australia, and I took the trouble to make a very considered speech on that matter. I have noted with interest that it seems to have pricked the bubble on the Opposition side of the House, but if the honorable gentleman is really a seeker after the truth, I will see that he has a verbatim copy of the whole address.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether he can give the House any information as to how the administration of the Cocos Islands is proceeding since their transfer from the Government of Singapore to Australia. Is there any likelihood of a hotel or some accommodation for visitors being erected there so that Australians may visit this latest acquisition to our own private colonial empire?
– Undoubtedly, the Cocos Islands are a very pleasant group of tropical islands and have many attractions, but there are some limitations to the possibility of developing them as a tourist resort. The Commonwealth Government’s occupation of land is limited to an air strip and certain other lands leased from the property owners, the Clunies-Ross estate, for the purposes of civil aviation, overseas telecommunications and general administration. Of course, we have to respect the property rights of the Clunies-Ross estate, which actually owns the rest of the island, in the same way as we respect the rights of any land-owner in Australia. If the CluniesRoss estate should choose to develop tourist traffic, I am sure that would put a different complexion on the matter. The purposes of our administration are, of course, mainly connected with the conduct of civil aviation and the maintenance of the overseas telecommunications station there. In a more remote way, there is a defence interest in the place. Qantas Empire Airways Limited operates an overnight stopping place there for its own passengers in case there should be airline delay, but the normal pattern for the casual visitor is that, unless he has some friend on the island with whom he can stay, there is no accommodation except at the Qantas terminal.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether he realizes the great importance of early rainfall in New South Wales to rural stability and national finances. If so, will he take immediate steps to have an aircraft made available to be utilized by the C.S.I.R.O. for the purposes of rainmaking?
– I have already given the House some information on this subject, but if it would be helpful, I will repeat it. Some time ago I discussed with my colleague, the Minister for Air, the possibility of making aircraft available which could be suitably fitted for the purpose of rain-making experiments. He released two aircraft which, as he indicated at the time, were all that could be made available. That limitation did not arise only from the Royal Australian Air Force side. Not only is there a limited quantity of suitable equipment currently available, but there is also a shortage of trained personnel required for its operation. More recently, I have been examining a request, which reached the Government through my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, from Mr. Nott, a Minister in the New South Wales Government, for further aircraft to be made available for use in New South Wales. I am at present exploring that matter with the Minister for Air. If he is not able to make the aircraft available, I am thinking of taking up with the Government of New South Wales the question of whether it could charter an aircraft which could be fitted with suitable equipment and, if the skilled operators could be provided, whether it could operate in that fashion. These matters are currently receiving consideration and I hope, in the course of this day, to communicate with the Minister concerned.
– I preface a question to you, Mr. Speaker, by saying that for some time listeners to the broadcast proceedings of this House have been subjected to a harsh, rugged, beeping noise, which has been identified as emanating from the honorable member for East Sydney. I ask you, sir, in order that listeners to the proceedings of this House may listen in comfort, whether you could inquire as to whether or not the microphones at the centre table could be switched off when not in use.
– The question does not call for comment.
– Does the Minister for Territories recall that in answer to a question which I asked on 28th August, the Prime Minister told me that all Ministers had been asked to provide specific reports, such as those on the Commonwealth Territories, to honorable members before the relevant debates on the Estimates commenced? If so, can the honorable gentleman explain why the last reports which he had tabled in the House for the Northern Territory, for Papua and for New Guinea before the debates on the estimates for these Territories last night, were for the period ended 30th June, 1955? The Prime Minister said that all Ministers had been urged to table these reports before the debates on the relevant estimates. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether he can give an assurance that the report on New Guinea, which we have to make to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, and the report on Papua, which we agree to make to the Trusteeship Council, will be presented to that body more promptly than they have been tabled in this House or circulated to honorable members.
– The position is not as the honorable member has attempted to represent it in his question. We present annual reports, on both the trust territory and the Australian possession of Papua, to the United Nations. The latest reports in printed form readily available to all members from the Department of Territories are for the year 1955-56, which were prepared in February of this year for the session of the Trusteeship Council. Any member of this House, as every member who is alive to his responsibilities will know, could have obtained any one of those printed reports at any time on application to me or to the department. The procedure for tabling in this House is that the report is first passed by the Trusteeship Council and then tabled. In addition to that, as the honorable member well knows, in order to assist members in the debate on the Budget, I circulated to every member of both chambers of the Parliament two rather extensive mimeographed papers setting out in factual form, without comment, the whole of the particulars that would be relevant to the Budget.
– Can the Leader of the House, who is acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, say whether there- has- been any success, or are any prospects of success, in the rain-making experiments that the C.S.I.R.O. is carrying out in Australia?
– An experimental programme of long duration has been conducted by the C.S.I.R.O., but the particular activities to which the honorable member is, I think, making reference, are those in which two aircraft recently made available for additional experimental purposes are engaged. As I have previously emphasized in this place, this general operation is still of a highly experimental character, and I think he would be a bold man who would state at this stage that substantial results of a positive kind had been produced. However, we have these two additional aircraft, one stationed at Nhill, in Victoria, and the other at Amberley, in Queensland. A requirement for the success of any such experiment is that suitable cloud formation shall be present, and in these localities suitable cloud formations have not been found frequently. It so happens that, both at Nhill and Amberley, on occasions attempts to seed clouds have not been followed by positive results. On several other occasions, however, some rain has fallen, but whether or not it was due to the seeding operations is, I believe, a matter of conjecture still. I would emphasize again that the public, at this stage of these experiments, should not assume that the necessary cloud formations have only to be found and the seeding to be done for positive results to ensue. This work is still very much at the experimental level.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fact that the Public Works Committee, in 1949, recommended the construction of a new post office at Launceston for the purpose of providing an automatic exchange and other essential postal services? Temporary provision has been made for the automatic exchange, but the existing post office is obviously inadequate. Will the PostmasterGeneral have the matter investigated in order to see whether it is now possible to proceed with the new building recommended eight years ago?
– I know that the provision of new facilities at Launceston has been under consideration for some time, but I am not in possession of the latest information regarding departmental plans. Some little time ago, I think I gave the honorable member some information concerning this matter. I shall have further inquiries -made, and the honorable member will be informed of their result.
– My question to the Prime Minister is supplementary to a question asked by the honorable member for Wills. When the next fundamental change is made in the Government’s foreign policy, will the right honorable gentleman consider making the statement in connexion therewith to this House rather than to an outside organization?
– The question, of course, is based on an assumption that I have pronounced a fundamental change in the Government’s foreign policy. I rather gathered that the honorable member thought that, because he was at pains to try to establish it yesterday by suggesting that what I had said adopted in its principal elements the policy of the Australian Labour party. I point out to honorable members, including the honorable member for Yarra, that my speech contained an analysis of the Khrushchev letter and of what the aims of the Soviet Union are, an analysis with not one word of which the honorable member for Yarra would agree. I then sought to establish some means of breaking the vicious circle that now exists in relation to this source of danger in the Middle East. All I can say to the honorable member for Yarra is that if he wants to perform a good service he should secure the full text of my speech-
– I did so yesterday.
– I know that the honorable member is a very clever fellow, much too clever for members on this side of the House, but as he seems to want to keep the copy of my speech for himself, I suggest that he get another copy and send it with a covering letter, not to Mr. Molotov, because it is too late for that, but perhaps to Mr. Molotov’s successor.
– I ask the Minister for Trade a question without notice. In view of the tremendous improvement in our London funds, contributed to mainly by the Government’s export drive policy, is the Minister in a position to say when licensing will be further liberalized or abolished?
– I cannot peer as far into the future as the honorable member would like me to, but it was stated some time ago that during November there would be a fairly comprehensive review of the level of licensing, and the basic policies on licensing, with a view to deciding the programme as from 1st December.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, and it is supplementary to a question asked by the honorable member for Hughes regarding the lack of scientists in Australia. Can the Prime Minister say whether this shortage has been substantially reduced since he obtained his doctorate of science?
– Obviously, the answer to that question is, “ Yes, it has “. There is now one more science graduate than there was the day before yesterday.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the Reserve Bank of Australia, and tor other purposes.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to establish a Commonwealth Banking Corporation and to make provision for the conduct of the business of the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to regulate Banking, to make provision for the
Protection of the Currency and of the Public Credit of the Commonwealth, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for “an act to enact certain Transitional Provisions consequential upon the enactment of the Reserve Bank Act 19S7, the Commonwealth Banks Act 19S7 and the Banking Act 1957.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Audit Act 1901-1955, as amended by the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Act 1957.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act 1943-1953.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Crimes Act 1914-1955.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1956, as amended by the GoldMining Industry Assistance Aci 1957.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1956, as amended by the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Act 1957, and by the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1957, and for purposes connected therewith.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-1950.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Act 1954.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act 1928-1953.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-1956.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1956, as amended by the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1957.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £52,539,000 for or towards the services of the year 1957-58.
Supply (Works and Services).
That there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £14,164,000 for or towards the services for the year 1957-58 for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to obtain supply for a further month to carry on the necessary, normal services of the Government, other than capital services. The Supply Act 1957-58 provided for the first four months of the financial year. I understand that the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), on behalf of the Government, has made arrangements with the Opposition for the early passage of this bill, so I do not want to delay the House. The bill provides, as a contingent matter, for funds aggregating £52,539,000 for a period of one month.
– The Opposition agrees to the speedy passage of this bill. In view of the new arrangement which the Leader of the House (Mr Harold Holt) has made, whereby the House adjourns every four weeks for a week, and in view of the fact that we shall have had two such adjournments before the end of October, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when introducing a supply bill next year, might consider asking for a supply for five months instead of four. This would give honorable members a better opportunity to discuss the Budget without being subject to the pressure of time which obliges us to hasten debates in order that the measures which the Treasurer proposes to make effective shall be so made by a certain time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill presented (by Sir Arthur Fadden), and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (Macpherson-
Treasurer) [11.30]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill providesfor a further appropriation of £14.164,000 to enable Commonwealth works to be continued during November. I understand that the same arrangement will apply to this bill as has been made with the Opposition in regard to the Supply Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 23rd October (vide page 1697).
Proposed Vote, £7,376,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I again want to emphasize the importance of completing the proposed standard gauge rail links connecting all the capital cities, and thereby providing a standard gauge line across Australia from Brisbane to Fremantle. We know that a certain agreement has been arrived at in regard to the WodongaMelbourne link. The fear has been expressed in very responsible circles that that is as far as this Government will go and that, with the completion of that link, there will be considerable delay before moves are made to standardize other lines. A look at the railway map will show that the WodongaMelbourne link is not as important, from a national viewpoint, as is the Broken HillPort Pirie link. The Victorian Government, like the South Australian Government, has looked at rail standardization from a narrow, parochial, State point of view, instead of having a national outlook. I feel certain that the Victorian Government thought that, if it did not get in first, and if the gauge was standardizedfrom Broken
Hill to Port Pirie, interstate traffic from Queensland and New South Wales to South Australia and Western Australia would by-pass Victoria. Although the Victorian Government was motivated by a selfish, State viewpoint it certainly got the job going. I do not think it was the national outlook that played a part in regard to that job.
The attitude of Sir Thomas Playfordhas been entirely different, but just as selfish. His failure to put forward a case for the Broken Hill-Port Pirie link means that considerable delay will occur in a national project the purpose of which is to link all capital cities and provide a standard gauge railway across the continent from Brisbane to Fremantle. I think the reason why he did not press for the completion of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie section is apparent. He did not want interstate traffic to by-pass Adelaide. This point was emphasized in a statement that he made recently, following on the agreement arrived at between the Victorian Government and this Government with regard to the Wodonga-Melbourne section, when he suggested that the work should be continued from Melbourne to Adelaide. While this may be a worth-while objective in the long run, a glance at the map shows that it would be a much bigger job than the link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie. The distance involved in this latter section is 253 miles, compared with 483 miles between Melbourne and Adelaide. I do not for one moment suggest that the Melbourne-Adelaide section should not be converted to standard gauge at some time or other, but certainly the short-cut towards linking the capital cities and providing a standard gauge railway across the continent is the Port Pirie-Broken Hill section, followed by the section from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle. In fact, these two sections could be standardized at the same time.
The fact that the Marree line has just been completed means that experienced men and first-class equipment for this kind of work could have been quickly transferred to the Broken Hill-Port Pirie project. South Australia was the one State which signed the 1949 standardization of railways agreement with the Commonwealth. Consequently if the South Australian Government had pushed a claim for priority of the Broken Hill-Port Pirie link over the AlburyMelbourne link it would have been difficult for the Commonwealth Government to resist such a claim. Now we find that instead of the break of gauge occurring at Albury for traffic going from Queensland and New South Wales to South Australia and Western Australia, it will occur at Melbourne, and, for Western Australian traffic, at Port Pirie as well. The Broken Hill-Port Pirie link would have given an unbroken line from Queensland and New South Wales across the continent as far as Kalgoorlie.
I want to emphasize again the importance of getting on with the job of providing standard gauge lines between Broken Hill and Port Pirie and between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. There is no reason why the two sections should not be done at the same time as the section that is to be commenced shortly. As has been pointed out in the reports of both Government and Opposition committees, no argument should be raised as to costs, because both Western Australia and South Australia are claimant States, and three-quarters of the whole project is within the borders of those States. We should not, therefore, have any arguments with regard to costs, and we know that in the past arguments with regard to costs have meant delays to projects such as this.
When the new proposals were put forward by committees from both sides of the House, the Premier of Western Australia claimed that the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle link should be given a high priority. His plea was more or less ignored. An estimate of costs was asked for, and, although it was supplied, the Minister for Railways in Western Australia has complained that no reply was received from the Commonwealth with regard to that Western Australia link. It appears, therefore, that Western Australia will once again be left out on a limb, not only separated from the rest of the Commonwealth by a desert, but also, to make the break more definite, left with a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway line, and having not even the indirect benefit of a standard gauge line between Broken Hill and Port Pirie.
The completion of the Western Australian link and the Broken Hill-Port Pirie section would provide a through line between Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne. Sydney and Brisbane. This would make railway transport much more competitive with road transport, and also much more competitive with interstate sea transport. The journey from Perth to Sydney by train could be made in no more than three days, if these two sections that I have been mentioned were completed. If the various innovations mentioned in the reports, such as the piggy-back and container services, were introduced as well, our railway systems could be made much more efficient and less costly. The sea trip from Europe to Australia could be shortened, and only a certain number of liners would need to travel to ports in the eastern States. Important cargo could be sent on from Fremantle by rail, thus reducing transport costs. Vessels operating between Australia and Europe would be able to do six round trips per annum instead of four trips, as is the case at the present time. This would mean that much-needed shipping could be released in times of emergency. For Western Australia it would also mean the abolition of transfer costs, as the completion of the section between Albury and Melbourne will mean for New South Wales and Victoria. According to the Western Australian Railway Commissioner’s report, transfer costs at Kalgoorlie amount to £75,000 a year.
As has been mentioned many times in this Parliament, the linking of the capital cities would also mean a reduction of the time needed to travel between the various States. The journey from Perth to Sydney, which now takes 89 hours and involves five changes, could be done in 48 hours, with no changes. The trip from Perth to Adelaide could be reduced from 48 hours to 36 hours, and no changes would be necessary. It takes 117 hours at present to travel from Perth to Brisbane, and six changes are necessary. The time necessary for this journey could be reduced to 63 hours, and all changes eliminated.
As I have said previously in this place, the Western Australian section of the project would absorb much of the unemployment that exists in that State. There are still about 5,000 registered unemployed in Western Australia, but we know that the actual number of unemployed is much greater than this, because many do not register and many work part-time. Apart from those actually engaged on the project, of course, employment would also be provided in other industries.
The men and materials are available for the various sections of the project, and the only requirements that are lacking at the moment are finance, which can be provided, and the initiative to get on with the job. A news report this morning informed us that the Victorian Government has decided to expedite the commencement of the MelbourneAlbury section, in order to reduce unemployment in that State. We should also be concerned to reduce unemployment in other States, and the Western Australian section of the project is most important for this reason.
Another important aspect of the matter is that of costs. We know that Australia’s transport costs represent about 30 per cent, of our gross domestic expenditure. When we consider other comparable countries we find the next highest percentage of gross domestic expenditure in Canada, where the figure is about 10 per cent. It is interesting to note that a news item this morning suggested that the Australian Wheat Board was considering importing wheat from Canada and the Argentine for use in the eastern States, rather than bringing it from Western Australia, because the cost of bringing wheat from overseas is less than the cost of transporting it across Australia. Such a shocking state of affairs, more than anything else, should make this Government get on with the job of reducing transport costs.
The one way of reducing those costs would be to standardize rail gauges. In conjunction with more efficient methods of operation, the standardization of rail gauges would reduce transport costs considerably. One needs only to compare the report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for the financial year 1955-56 with that for the financial year 1948-49 to see how transport costs have been reduced on the Commonwealth railways by the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives. In 1955-56, eleven dieselelectric locomotives were doing work that had required 43 steam locomotives in 1948-49. In 1948-49, earnings per trainmile were 20s. 3id., and working expenses per train-mile totalled 23s. 3d. In 1955-56, despite the doubling of the basic wage in the interval, and substantial increases in margins for skill, earnings per train-mile had soared to 44s. Hd., and working expenses per train-mile had risen to only 27s. 10id. It is interesting to examine, also, other reports, such as those of the Tariff Board, which deal with the influence of transport costs on the Australian economy. The relevant statistics emphasize the great national saving that could be made under a proper scheme of rail co-ordination based on the use of diesel-electric locomotives and the standardization of gauges.
The important matter of defence, also, is involved in this problem. At the present time, of course, it looks as if the threat of war is receding considerably. However, we must realize that it may return. We all remember what happened during World War H., when the movement of troops and supplies was delayed at break-of-gauge points because rolling-stock could not be transferred from the New South Wales system of 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge to railways of other gauges.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I had not intended to discuss these estimates, but I feel impelled to do so, because the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), in his discussion of the problem of standardizing rail gauges, neglected some of the salient points, and advanced arguments calculated to lead people to believe that the problem is really simple, whereas, in fact, it presents great difficulties. The honorable member criticized the plan to undertake the standardization of the railway between Wodonga and Melbourne first, and asserted that it was obvious that the lines between Broken Hill and Port Pirie, and between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle, should have priority. It is obvious to anybody who has considered the proposals made for the standardization of rail gauges that the enthusiasm shown in South Australia and Western Australia for the standardization of lines between the capital cities could not match that shown in New South Wales and Victoria, both privately and by governments. From the time when the two independent committees composed of members of this Parliament submitted their reports, the Victorian and New South Wales governments threw themselves wholeheartedly into the job of standardizing the line between Wodonga and Melbourne. I think that their enthusiasm was probably largely induced by the terrific havoc being wrought by road transport on the Hume Highway, and by the magnitude of the problem of the break of gauge at Albury. Nevertheless, one must give the Victorian and New South Wales governments full credit for their enthusiasm. It was in sharp contrast to the lack of enthusiasm shown in South Australia and Western Australia.
Admittedly, the Western Australian railways have pressing problems of their own. I would sympathize with any government that had to face the troubles that the present Western Australian Government is meeting with respect to the Western Australian railways. As honorable members know, there has recently been a royal commission into the Western Australian railways. One of the three railways commissioners resigned, and the services of another were terminated. I think that there is now before the Western Australian Parliament a bill designed to re-established a system of control by one commissioner. The three commissioners could not agree among themselves about the desirability of standardizing the railway between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. I think that the Western Australian Premier informed the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that, if such a project was contemplated, the Western Australian Government would agree to it.
– The Western Australian Premier asked that the project be given higher priority.
– I ask the honorable member to be patient for a moment. I am citing facts. There was no great enthusiasm for such a scheme, because the official attitude in Western Australia was that the millions of pounds that would be spent on the standardization of the line between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle should be granted by the Commonwealth to the Western Australian Government to enable it to rehabilitate the State railway system generally.
– That is not correct.
– I say that it is correct, and if the honorable member makes inquiries, he will learn that it is correct. In yesterday evening’s copy of the “ Daily News” there is an article by Gavin Casey, a columnist who has been writing about this matter for the last twelve months. He does not mention any member of the
Parliamentary Labour party in Western Australia as being in favour of the standardization scheme.
– Nor did he mention any member of the Liberal party in that State as being in favour of it.
– The honorable member should get the facts straight. I listened very carefully to his remarks, and I found that very little of what he said was based on fact. He talked a lot of airy fairy nonsense in an attempt to establish that the Commonwealth could solve the unemployment problem in Western Australia by telling the Western Australian Government to go ahead with rail standardization. I do not think that that would follow. In the first place, the project could not be undertaken immediately, because the Western Australian Government has not yet made up its mind whether the wharfs at Fremantle should remain where they are, be moved further up the river, or be moved down towards Kwinana. It has not made up its mind whether the existing railway bridge will remain, or whether the railway should cross the river farther upstream. Nodecision has yet been made about the plan for the harbour at Fremantle.
No decision has been made about those parts of the Stephenson plan for the Perth metropolitan area that concern the railways. As honorable members may know, the Stephenson plan envisaged the movement of the present city railway terminal to a position a mile or two farther east, somewhere near the present East Perth railway station. That point would be made the terminal for all kinds of rail and bus services. The present city railway terminal would disappear, but a single or double line would run through the city in a concrete trough sunk below street level. The plan presents great problems, because that part of the city is really built on what was once a swamp. The General Post Office, which is directly opposite the present railway terminal, is built on big piles, I understand, as is the Commonwealth Bank building, in order to overcome the problems of water beneath.
All of these problems have to be tackled, and a decision on them must be made before the standardization of the railway between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle can be undertaken. In addition, the railway authorities are not decided on the route that should be taken by a 4 feet 8i inches gauge line. It could not follow the existing route from Northam to Perth. I think that there are technical difficulties because the grades are too steep. However, there are alternative routes. The first is through the Avon Valley from Northam. I think that this route has already been surveyed under a plan prepared in 1949. The railway would then approach Midland Junction from the north. The alternative is that the line should go south of that direction through Roleystone and perhaps over the river in the vicinity of Canning Bridge. The 4-ft. 8±-in. line would then proceed to Fremantle in the vicinity of Kwinana in the new industrial area there. It is obvious that the first thing to be done is to make an adequate survey of the whole route. As a member of the Government committee which investigated this problem, I can say that we found a reaction in every one from Kalgoorlie to Perth that this had been tried before and nothing would happen now. A totally different reaction is evident between Victoria and New South Wales. There the view is, “ It is possible; let us get ahead and do it “.
The honorable member for Stirling said that it would be possible to put people in a train at Fremantle and send them to Brisbane without a change of trains. Can any one explain to me why Western Australians are now subjected to so many changes of trains? It is not necessary. Any one who has travelled by rail from Perth to Brisbane or from Perth to Sydney knows that the first section from Perth to Kalgoorlie is a fairly comfortable ride, considering the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. Then the passenger travels on one of the best trains in the world, run by the Commonwealth, on the trans-Australia route. At Port Pirie the passenger boards a second or third rate train under the South Australian system and is taken to Adelaide where he is placed on a first-class train to Melbourne. The traveller from Perth could be placed on a train at Port Pirie on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, left on that train and taken all the way to Albury, instead of being pushed about in different trains.
– That is what the Commonwealth agreement with South Australia provides for.
– All I am saying is that the one point in the speech of the honorable member for Stirling with which I agree is his statement of the parochial attitude of the South Australian Government. I do not think that it has ever considered the problem.
We hear airy-fairy talk about the turnround at Fremantle of ships proceeding from the United Kingdom to Sydney and Melbourne. The ships on that journey are interested in Fremantle for only one reason. Though I am a Western Australian, I must admit that the reason is that Fremantle is a port for bunkers. If there was no need to call there for that purpose, I doubt whether they would call at all. About 95 per cent, of the passenger and freight traffic on the overseas lines is with the eastern States and less than 10 per cent, with Western Australia. Those ships would not consider turning round at Fremantle to discharge the 95 per cent, so that it could travel overland by rail at an increased cost. We all know what our freights are. The freight from Fremantle to Sydney on a coastal ship is not much less than the freight from London to Sydney. Anyone ordering anything in bulk from England or Europe would certainly not have it discharged at Fremantle so that it would arrive in the east two days earlier at twice the cost. We have to look at this problem in the light of all those facts.
Competition with the roads was mentioned. That problem does not exist with the Commonwealth railways. Rail is now defeating the roads due to the business acumen and drive of the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways. Semi-trailer3 are being placed on flat-tops and carried from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie, from which point they again use the good roads. There is no reason why that system should not be improved. When standardization is completed between Sydney and Melbourne, we will find many of these flat-tops being used. In addition, special containers can be used. A separate power unit could load four or five semi-trailers on to a flat-top and another unit could take them off at the other end, and so enable door-to-door delivery to be made. The possibilities are enormous. The Commonwealth Railways are beating road transport on the haul across Australia. Their biggest customers are General MotorsHolden’s Limited, Chrysler Australia Limited and other motor vehicle _ manufacturers who assemble bodies in the east and send them to Western Australia. Very few vehicles go by any means other than the Commonwealth Railways.
However much we may want standardization, the first requirement is a desire for it by the State Governments concerned and an awareness in the general public that it is of great advantage. First, we want the Western Australian Government to make some decision about the various plans that have been prepared by experts for the future of the State. I refer to the Fremantle harbour plan and the Stephenson plan for the metropolitan area. It is no good proceeding with standardization in Western Australia unless we are sure that what we do will be there for all time and will be to the great advantage of the State.
– The State Government does not know whether it is coming or going.
– That is very true. I spoke on this question because the criticism of the Commonwealth on this matter is quite out of place. The criticism should start with our own State.
.- I refer to the vote for the Postmaster-General’s Department, with particular reference to broadcasting and television for which the sum of £7,376,000 is provided. As would naturally be expected, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and other ancillaries absorb a good deal of this money, but a sum of money is set aside for television and for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
– I cannot hear you.
– I am sorry. I would not deny the honorable member the pleasure of listening to me. I have only a few minutes in which to speak, but I shall try to make him hear, listen and agree.
We should try to persuade the Government that its advice on television is not completely sincere. We have incurred considerable expense in providing television in this country and we want to be sure, no matter what Government is on the treasury bench, that we have an Australian content in our radio and television. If we have not, the service becomes a complete futility. It is not a question of one side against the other or propaganda vis-a-vis other propaganda; it is a question of using a great mass medium to give the country some content of Australian thought and philosophy. How do we do that? The pattern in the British democracies has been to use in plays and presentations through this medium, not blatant propaganda but good writing and good performance to give the people the feeling that they are living in a British country and that the entertainment reflects some of their beliefs, thoughts and aspirations. Though figures may support some other view, this country is in danger of being flooded with cheap commercial junk. People become viewers of television willy-nilly, but I am sure from the correspondence I have received - it has the least content of politics in it - that they want to see in broadcasting and television the Australian way of life. I use that term for want of a better one, though it is rather hackneyed. The Australian way of life has been included in broadcasting, and we say that that has been done by the combined efforts of both sides of the Parliament. The present Government has played its part and, when we were in government, we played our part. We even introduced an impartial news service. I recall the impassioned speeches about our daring to have a government news service, but it has turned out to be the most impartial, the finest and most complete news service in the Commonwealth.
I remind the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) that our complaints about television do not touch upon the work of the national stations. We know that, because of the closer grip that can be kept upon them, they are doing their utmost and are making a reasonable effort to increase the Australian content in television. In the other cases, we are deluded by statistics. It reminds me of the people who always want to quote percentages rather than quantities. We hear the commercial stations saying, “ Oh, 37 per cent, of our programmes are Australian “. There was an Australian content of 37 per cent, because the programmes included quizzes, panel television broadcasts, trotting, sporting, racing and all the little flibberty bits of the daily programme. The stations include such matter for one good reason - most of it is free, and the rest of it is cheap. But when they are lined up to do something about the Australian drama, it is a different matter. There could well be an Australian script written as a survey that would interest
Australia, such as a scientific build-up of the presence in the sky of “ Sputnik “, and our scientific answer to it. That could be done in a series of talks, or in the form of a short one-act play. That would be useful and educational, and it would represent Australian content.
But when we get to what is called “ sheer “ entertainment - and I have never known why it is “ sheer “, except that it shears off the Australian side of entertainment - we get this lie, this misrepresentation that we are doing very well, and that 37 per cent, of this stuff is Australian. Well, it always will be that way, but what we demand - and we are going to win this fight because public opinion is behind us - is a quota, even if it is only a spiritual quota or a decision of the authorities to include an Australian content in all categories. We should not be ashamed of that! We hear people say, “ I am not going to have bad Australian plays foisted on me “. But apparently they do not mind having bad overseas plays foisted on them, because those plays carry the imprimatur of an overseas producer of distinction, although they are rubbish and are old. Recently, 1 saw an actor on television who has been dead for twenty years making love to a girl who is very much alive. That was an extraordinary experience, and I wondered whether we could not do much better than that in regard to Australian television and keep both of the constituents in the drama alive.
The Postmaster-General, who is a personal friend of mine, is doing an excellent job, but he has a bad organization, called the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, behind him. The control it exercises in this matter is to control itself against being Australian. It is taking a broad, generous look at everything, but its purview is so wide that it forgets the little Australian playwrights, dramatists, screen writers and actors on the ground floor. The board takes a broad national sweep, but does not take in the national problem. That is what we want to drive home whenever we get the opportunity. I want the Minister to examine the figures, such as this 37 per cent., or 25 per cent., which are given to him. The statistics that have been supplied to us in regard to the Australian Broadcasting Commission stations are not in question. Our fight is against the commercial stations which, because of the very fact that they are commercial, that they have television licences and are not making money from television - television sets are too dear - are running around looking for cheap material. They must not be allowed to get away with it, merely because they have been given these licences. If the matter is supervised it will be found that they are producing television programmes which do not reflect the intention of the act. This Parliament is the place, by no means to censor, or to bear down on anything, but to ask that this quota be observed. The Minister said, and I agree with him to a certain extent - “ Well, of course you cannot impose quotas unless you are going to be tough and insist on their being observed “.
Recently, it was decided by the Government that five per cent, of Australian music should be included in broadcasting programmes - not in television programmes - but what was the result? In a reply given to the Minister by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, it was stated that 68 stations had not included a percentage even as high as that. In the miserable letter from the board - always debunking the Australian, always looking for a way out, always taking a myopic view in regard to Australia - it is said that many of the stations conformed with the order by broadcasting extensive hill-billy music. The “ Shearer’s Song “ and the folk songs of Australian music are not hill-billy music. They are a part of our literature and our poetry set to music, such as the songs of Lawson, Paterson and others. It is true that some of the songs derive from the hillbilly music of America, but there are plenty of good Australian songs. That is a side issue and indicates the type of mind with which the Minister is dealing. I say to him, “ You can be tough, and you should be lough and see that this thing is straightened out. Do not accept the percentages. They are basically untrue “. The position is like somebody saying, “ This year we had 100 per cent, more production than last year “. The danger lies in the percentages. The fact is that probably they made two matchboxes this year, instead of one, as they made last year, and they think they are up 100 per cent.
This 37 per cent, .so-called Australian content is cheap stuff. The stations have to use it, because they have to give a news coverage and a photographic survey of the incidents of the day. That is all to the good, but the 55 per cent, quota must come from :&J1 categories. At night, when people sit in front of the television set to get an hour’s ^entertainment, they see a propaganda play -for the American way of life, or some other way of life. We are fighting for the Australian drama. We need not be afraid of it. It is resurgent at the moment. Two magnificent Australian plays are smash hits in other parts of the world. I refer to “ Summer of the Seventeenth Doll “ and the play about immigration, “The Shifting Heart “. We need not have an inferiority complex about those plays. What a lovely thing it would be if our television screens to-night reflected an hour or half an hour of those plays!
Consistently, we have a cataract of overseas performances. Some of the films are old, and some of them outmoded, but they continue to go on because the commercial television stations think that people have paid £250 for a set of home movies. Television is more vital and dramatic than that. It has to be developed on the concept that Australia has something to contribute to television. The Government has spent a lot of money on it, and the Australian people, in the final analysis, demand that the programmes have a sufficient Australian content.
I ask the Minister to be very careful that he does not make this a political issue by denouncing Actors Equity because it is fighting the cause of Australian drama. It is a very good escape hatch for the commercial stations to be able to say, “ They won’t co-operate. They won’t do these things”. If the people concerned are treated properly, they will co-operate. The Minister has enough co-operative spirit himself to invite them along and get them into panels, because all that they are looking for is fair treatment. The scriptwriters, television artists and those who perform in any way at all are getting a slow, agonizing squeeze in this country. That has happened, in every other country. If we say: “ We are not going to have quotas. We are not that type of people. We are not prepared to protect ourselves “, let us look at the quota that controls immigration into this country, and at the tariff wall. The British, who are the greatest dramatists and writers of the world - they have a record from Shakespeare downwards - have imposed a quota of 80 per cent. They thought that art has had an unhappy marriage with commerce and that the tycoon, of course, thinks more of his dollars and ducats than about giving a decent performance over television. I suppose that the best writers, actors and scripters in the world are in Britain. I do not think that has been challenged. The British did not feel that they were not being good friends with anybody in this matter. They were prepared, and they have had enough intestinal fortitude, to fight for their artists and writers; and so they gave them a quota of 80 per cent. So it is with Scandinavia. All countries must make this protection, just as there is a quota in relation to immigration. We are not asking for censorship.
People say, “ What a horrible thing it would be if it was an all-Australian programme “. That will never be so! A Minister said that in this House recently, thereby displaying his ignorance and letting us see that he knew much more about wheat than about television. The struggle is for some of our own programmes. We know definitely that we shall not get more than our quota. We know, and we concede, that there are certain things to be done in connexion with television. News and items of interest have to be covered, but they should not be referred to as a part of the Australian content. If there were no Australian plays, those things would still be used. What we are trying to drive home to the Minister is the need to keep up the Australian content. If he replies to the debate, I would like him to say that he is going to keep to the future of Australian drama, because if he does so it will be a very good thing for this Parliament. The material that comes to us will sell for about thirty “ bob “ a “ tin “. It is old and outmoded. It is flickery. It is not modern, technically; yet we gobble it up as if we were being given the greatest treat in entertainment from overseas.
The Minister talks about co-operation regarding studios and production techniques. That is part of the job of television which we require the Government to do. If we have not got studios and technical knowhow, let the Government close up and give the opportunity to these people because it is their chosen profession and they, in turn, can do a great job for Australia and give television programmes that are balanced. We- hear honorable members saying that they do not like interference in these matters; but there has been interference. If there had not been interference and it was easy for Australian players to get on television, I would not be talking here this morning about prohibition moves against Australian players and the opportunities now being given to flood our television programmes with imported material.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to confine my remarks on the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department to the poor reception of broadcast programmes in the far western and north-western areas. I have raised this matter in the Parliament time and again, ha support of what I have said, I quote this statement from the last report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board -
Notwithstanding’ the improvements made and yet to. be made in the coverage of the National Broadcasting Service in accordance- with approved plans, there are still some areas which will not receive a completely satisfactory service from any existing or proposed station. In this connection, of particular concern are outlying areas of the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia where the minimum frequency service is very poor, and where the reception of high frequency (short-wave) services, for various reasons leaves much to be desired.
That is absolutely correct. I contend that if the department provides a service and makes a charge for a listener’s licence, it should- guarantee that the service it gives shall be equal to that in any other part of the Commonwealth. But people with receiving sets iti these remote areas are not obtaining that service. I know that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has made experiments with highly sensitive instruments on which good reception is obtained, but it is not possible to get good reception on the ordinary commercial radio sets available to persons like myself whose knowledge of radio amounts to the fact that a receiving set has knobs on it which one turns on and off. The department has a duty to provide a proper service, and if it cannot do so it should not make a charge for a listener’s licence.
I know that the department has tried to overcome the problem to a certain extent by establishing two zones, known as Zone 1 and Zone 2. Listeners within Zone 1 have to pay £2 15s. for a listener’s licence. This zone covers an area within 250’ miles radius of the ordinary broadcasting station specified by the board. But many people within that zone are not getting satisfactory reception. In those circumstances they should be included in the area covered by Zone 2. where it is recognized that the same service cannot be provided as is provided in Zone 1 and because of this the listener’s licence fee in Zone 2 is only £1 8s. Although Zone 1 covers a radius of 250 miles from the broadcasting station it is well known that there are some “ blind “ spots where radio reception is unsatisfactory. The listener’s licence fee should therefore be made elastic and if the results in- certain parts of Zone 1 are not satisfactory the lower fee, or no fee at all, should be charged.
People living in south-western Queensland, north-western New South Wales and north-eastern South Australia can receivebroadcasts satisfactorily from the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s national station in Adelaide. But they cannot get satisfactory reception from national stations in Queensland or New South Wales from which they want to hear news and information concerning the States in which they live and carry on their business. I appeal to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) te see if there is not some way in which these listeners cannot be given a better service. Could some technical device be attached to their receiving sets or could another broadcasting station be established to give them a proper service? Ever since broadcasting has been in vogue these people have been complaining. They have paid their listener’s licence fee and they are entitled to decent reception..
I turn to the work of the Postal Department. Every one agrees that, generally speaking, this department is doing a mighty job in very adverse circumstances, but I think its policy could be altered to allow some of its work to be done by contract. Although the work so done may not be any better in quality than that now being, done by the department, it would be done much more, expeditiously. I have raised this matter before, and I urge that it be investigated. I understand that materials for construction jobs, such as new post offices and other buildings, are available, but that labour is the problem. If the work were let on contract the buildings would be erected much more quickly than is the case when they are left on the department’s building programme.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the depreciation allowance on privately erected telephone lines. You, Mr. Chairman, and most honorable members know that in remote country areas many people have spent thousands of pounds on the erection of the telephone lines which serve them. As an ordinary telephone trunk line call costs these outback residents from 7s. 6d. to £1, they do not have these lines provided and a telephone service installed merely to make social calls or to gossip. This service is essential to them for business purposes, and they pay for the erection of the line out of their own pockets. It is only fair that in respect of such outlays they should be entitled to a depreciation allowance as a deduction from income tax. I hope that the Postmaster-General will examine this suggestion and bring influence to bear in the right quarter so that these people may be given this justifiable relief. I commend the matters I have raised to his attention.
.- I wish to say a few words about the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or, as I have described it on several occasions, the anti-Australian broadcasting commission. I think it could also be described as the anti-Labour broadcasting commission.
– This ought to be good!
– Of course, it will be good. I thank the honorable member for his encouragement. I was a member of the original Gibson committee which inquired into broadcasting in Australia, and I remember with much pleasure the association I had with that very distinguished senator who was once Postmaster-General when he was a member of the House of Representatives, and who in later years chaired the Broadcasting Committee. I also remember the association I had then with Sir Charles Marr and Dr. Grenfell Price on that committee. We thought that the commission system could be made to work. But the fact is that the commission system has never worked. It did not work even when we had several Labour people on the commission. I think that at one time we had a majority on the commission. There were other times when the Liberal party or the Liberal party and the Australian Country party together had a majority of members. But the commission system has never worked in Australia over all the years it has been tried. It did not work in New Zealand. The New Zealand Labour Government led by Mr. Peter Fraser abolished the commission in that country, and established a separate department to control broadcasting. A Minister was specially appointed to deal with broadcasting and he was advised by a permanent head. No alteration of that system followed the change of government in New Zealand. The present non-Labour government of New Zealand has maintained the system that the Labour party established.
In the few minutes that I have left I want particularly to make some protest at the things which are happening in connexion with the conduct of the commission’s affairs, largely at the instigation of Mr. Charles Moses, the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have a great respect for the many abilities and qualities which Mr. Moses has, and has displayed. He has a distinguished war record, and I know a number of other things which can be said in his favor. But I want to deal with his position as general manager of the A.B.C. I want to protest as vigorously as I can against his policy of refusing to appoint Australians to important positions in the commission, and his preference for Englishmen in high positions in the A.B.C. service. For instance, there is a David Porter who has been appointed director of light entertainment. I know a dozen Australians who could do the job better than Porter can do it. I object to the appointment of David Lloyd James to the drama service and of George Kerr to the drama service, and to the appointment of Royston Morley as chief television producer. I object to the appointment of Neil Hutchison, late of the British Broadcasting Corporation, as director of drama. All these things are happening without Australians on the staff having the slightest opportunity of lodging a successful appeal.
I think that there is a scandal attached to the administration of the A.B.C. I know that Mr. Moses does not like the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) or me. I know that he dislikes our protest against the attitude of the A.B.C., and the decision of the A.B.C. in abandoning “ Advance Australia Fair “ as the theme song used to introduce the national news.
– He does not like our politics, either.
– He certainly does not like our politics, and he has his way with the chairman of the commission, Sir Richard Boyer, who has little or no say. There is one Labour person only on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Edgar Dawes, of Adelaide. One out of about eight! So it is not a balanced commission. We might just as well not have Dawes there at all. Government members might as well say straight out, if they want to put it that way, “ This is our show. We are going to run it. It belongs to us “. If they want it that way, all right; but it can be played the other way at another time.
Mrs. Kent, of Western Australia, was removed from the commission without just cause. Charles Anderson, of New South Wales, was removed without just cause. They were both members of the Labour party, and their places were filled by people who are supporters of the present Government. But the worst feature of all the skulduggery which is operating in the Australian Broadcasting Commission was the appointment of a man named Homfrey - I think that is the way it is spelt - to take charge of Radio Australia over the heads of many members of the staff of the A.B.C. who had had years and years of experience, and who are sickened and disheartened by the treatment they have received. Now, this man Homfrey was a Liberal party candidate in Tasmania. He came on to the staff of the A.B.C. about twelve months ago. He was made supervisor of talks in Melbourne over a man with much greater experience. He claimed to be an expert on Asian affairs, but I know that the Department of External Affairs laughs at him and his pretensions. I know that protests were made against the appointment, and I know that the commission waited until this Parliament closed its sittings, a few months ago, before it confirmed his appointment. The commission knew that if he were finally appointed before the Parliament went into recess objections would be raised here to the appointment. But Moses, with that sickening, slimy way he has - and to the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), who is interjecting, I say that I stand by every word and every syllable of that expression - waited until the Parliament closed down before he confirmed the appointment of Homfrey. The honorable member for Phillip can talk as much as he likes, but he knows nothing about the matter.
– That is a slur on the man.
– Of course it is, and it is intended to be a slur on him. I know Moses has great qualities, but I protest against the way he has treated this Parliament, and I am entitled to sneer at him for what he has done.
– You could not have chosen more improper terms.
– The Minister says that the terms I have used are improper. I suggest that if strong language is used it must be justified by the course of events, and I think that any public servant who waits until the Parliament closes to secure an appointment which he knows will be objected to in Parliament is doing a wrong thing. When I know that this man Homfrey was a Liberal party candidate in Tasmania within the last two years, and was appointed over the heads of men who had served with the commission for years and years, 1 think there is a real cause for protest by the Parliament. I do not often make protests as strong as this, but I am making them now because I think that Moses, who is an Englishman, and whose place is really with the British Broadcasting Corporation, is attempting to prevent Australians from securing high positions in the A.B.C. service. I make the charge, and I have given the evidence. I have given the names of people who are not Australianborn who have been appointed over the heads of Australians. I know that when Dr. Bean was chairman of the appeal committee in Sydney there was an opportunity for those who felt aggrieved to make their protest. But to-day there is another chairman and nobody secures a favorable decision in an appeal against any appointment that Moses makes.
– He is regarded by the Government as a very able executive. We have no reason to believe that your charges are correct.
– I know that he opens his meetings with sneers at the Leader of the Opposition and me. That may be so, but I know that he makes jokes at our expense. I know, too, that he sneers at “ Advance Australia Fair “. If I had my way I would facilitate his departure to the B.B.C., where he properly belongs. I want an Australian in charge of this show, as I want Australians in every position of importance in this country - in the GovernorGeneralship, in the State Governorships and everywhere else. I do not mind a man occupying a high position, provided he plays fair by the Australians under his control. Moses is certainly not doing that. Boyer is a weakling and is just the front of the house man. I know what Boyer and Moses did to the broadcasting services as soon as we ceased to be the Government. They abolished “ Advance Australia Fair “ as the theme song for the national news because they just did not like it. They were not Australian enough to like it. In addition to that, Radio Australia was made part of the A.B.C. set-up. Radio Australia had been doing a magnificent job for Australia with propaganda to Eastern countries. Instead of the Australian message going out against communism, going out in support of all that could be properly advertised in connexion with Australia, relays of Jack Davey and Bob Dyer were broadcast. Frank Sinatra and others of his kind were also broadcast to the natives of Indonesia and China. Nostalgic Englishmen in Vancouver and Malaya were asking for such old-time songs as “ Two Little Girls in Blue “, which were relayed and are still being relayed at the expense of the Australian taxpayer when Radio Australia could have been and should be better used to propagate our views.
Until I took some action about two years ago to secure the establishment of a broadcast in Chinese, the B.B.C. and the Voice of America were the only two broadcasting services telling the people of Asia the things the Western democracies should tell them. Australia is much nearer to all these places, and our messages can go out on a better wave length and with greater clarity and force than those of America or Britain.
But what do Moses or Boyer care about that? The fact that the A.B.C. is running with record deficits is disgraceful.
The sooner the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting is restored, with the Government, of course, having a majority of members, the better. Then my suggestions and any put forward by other honorable members can be investigated and the position put right. I know of many honorable members in this chamber who could give very good service on such a committee, and I hope that after a lapse of eight years the Government will re-appoint the committee, after which there probably will be less reason for criticism. The sad position is that to-day no Australians need apply for promotion in the A.B.C. under the leadership of Moses.
– It is known that I have very limited time in which to reply to the various points made this morning, so I will confine my remarks to two of the main matters raised, and if I am unable to reply now to all those who have spoken in this debate, I shall do so later by letter. The concluding remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) surprised me very much, indeed. The honorable member directed an unwarranted attack on the manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I was surprised and disappointed to hear him refer to that gentleman in terms such as “ sickening “ and “ slimy “. They are improper terms. The honorable member may believe that he has some justification for criticizing some of Mr. Moses’s actions, but a man such as Charles Moses cannot be, in the wildest flight of imagination, referred to in such terms as were used by the honorable member. Charles Moses is an honorable and decent man, a man who not only has the respect of the A.B.C. staff itself, but who also enjoys the confidence of this Government.
The charge has been made that the A.B.C, through Mr. Moses, is acting in an unAustralian way and is appointing men who are not Australians. That is a remarkable charge to make against a commission. The A.B.C. decides these things, not Mr. Moses. He may make recommendations, but the commission decides the appointments, and all members of the commission are Australians, and jolly good Australians too. So how on earth can any charge stand that this man is doing things which are unAustralian and undesirable?
The honorable gentleman mentioned some appointments. I will deal with just a few of them. He mentioned Mr. David Porter, who was appointed Director of the Light Entertainment Division. Mr. David Porter is not on the staff of the A.B.C. He has certainly been given a temporary contract for a couple of years under a system that has been in operation by the A.B.C. over a number of years. The practice is to draw from time to time from overseas sources, particularly highly cultured overseas sources, people who have some contribution to make to the development of our own culture, people who can be brought to Australia, particularly in fields such as light entertainment and light music, to enter into a contract for a year or two. These people are able to convey to Australians the wider information which they have, and so benefit not only the programmes of the A.B.C, but also our own musicians and the people who are looking to the A.B.C. for the provision of good programmes of wide coverage.
– The Opposition wants a censorship of individuals.
– Yes, it does. There was one charge made by the honorable gentleman in which the person named is not on the staff. I refer to Mr. George Kerr. He is a free lance writer. Mr. Royston Morley is under a two-year contract for the purpose of training television staff in order to further the development of television. The appointment of Mr. Homfrey was referred to. That appointment was made after the position of Director of Radio Australia had been advertised among all members of the staff. Members of the staff had a right of appeal. Some exercised that right, and they were heard by an independent appeal tribunal, and their appeals were rejected. The independent appeal tribunal dealt with those appeals; not Mr. Moses. As a consequence of that procedure Mr. Homfrey was appointed.
The Director of Drama was appointed nine years ago. Again, David Lloyd James is not on the staff of the A.B.C., but he is given contracts as script writer.
Those are the facts about some of the people mentioned by the honorable gentleman.
I regret that the very short time at my disposal does not enable me to reply in detail to the comments made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) regarding this vexed question of the Australian content of television programmes. I appreciate his method of putting up the proposal this morning, and in reply I satisfy myself by repeating the viewpoint which I expressed a few days ago. That is, that the worst aspect of the present situation is not so much the quality of the programmes or the percentage of Australian content or anything like that; it is the complete lack of proper co-operation between the various bodies that are interested in this matter. I say to the honorable member for Parkes that if he can get these people, whom he professes to represent, to cooperate more effectively with the licensees, then we shall get places. In addition to the information that I gave a few days ago, I should like to quote some further advice that I have received from the executive chairman of Amalgamated Television Services Proprietary Limited. That gentleman’s telegram to me reads -
Further reference my telegram yesterday regarding the use of local talent in television programmes, we are willing to present a half hour dramatic or musical programme supplied by Actors Equity and pay them a fee of £300 a performance for two hours, which we believe is the maximum price obtainable from any advertiser. If at the end of a month this programme is able to command an audience of not less than 50 per cent, of viewers, as measured by any independent rating survey, we will undertake to give a contract to the participant in this programme for twelve months at this figure and will repeat the arrangement with every programme Actors Equity can produce to the extent of three hours weekly.
That shows the desire of the licensees to co-operate. The honorable member for Parkes should bring the people whom he represents to a discussion like this, and if he has any difficulty with the television licensees I undertake to see that that difficulty is overcome.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the question now be put.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I suggest for the consideration of the committee that the proposed votes for Miscellaneous Services, Refunds of Revenue, Advance to the Treasurer, Bounties and Subsidies and War and Repatriation Services be considered together.
– If it is the wish of the committee, the votes to which the Minister has referred will be considered together.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed Vote, £76,937,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- Tucked away in these miscellaneous items one finds reference, first of all, to flood relief and, secondly, drought relief. As Australia is now suffering its periodic cycle of droughts which always follow floods, it is worth while seeing whether we cannot do something to improve the position which seems to be almost as bad as it was when Captain Phillip settled in Sydney some 170 years ago. I have looked up the records and have found that in that period of 170 years there have been 60 years of substantial droughts. In fact, since 1860, the “ Year-Book “ shows something like 36 years of drought and, I think, more years of devastating floods. The losses that occurred from both these causes, each of which makes the other more damaging and ravaging, are very substantial indeed. If one looks at the various decades in the “ Year-Book “ one will find that in the decade 1890 to 1900, in which there were four years of flood and six years of drought, the sheep population of Australia diminished by something like 27,000,000 and, at the same time, there’ was a diminution of well over 2.000,000 cattle. There were extraordinary difficulties everywhere. I was a boy in those years. I used to attend school and university in Sydney; from the age of eleven I had to earn money to pay for my schooling. I remember at that time the tenant farmers, then the owner farmers, and then the shop-keepers, becoming bankrupt; and finally the country was in a mess for nearly twenty years.
In the decade between 1900 and 1910 the sheep population picked up almost to what it was in 1890, but between 1910 and 1920 it diminished again by 17,000,000. Those of us who were alive at that time will remember that because of drought Australia had to import wheat, butter and sugar for its own use, and in fact for years after World War I. we were paying an excessive price for sugar because of the terrific cost of the imported article. If one looks at the position to-day one can scarcely estimate the loss that will take place, because this drought seems to me to have very many of the aspects of the 1902-1903 drought which was so devastating throughout Australia. The point I wish to make is that if the losses that have occurred over those 170 years - and in fact over almost 60 years of federation - by the diminution of production, loss of employment and in every way could have been saved, they would have provided a complete remedy for the problems that face us now.
The other significant thing is this: Reference to the records indicates that it has only been when the Federal Government has gone to the assistance of the States, or initiated some project, that any real remedial measure has been adopted. During the last war, in 1941, I was able to bring in by regulation the National Fodder Conservation Scheme, because in wartime the Commonwealth has power that it does not have in ordinary times. When I went to Britain to the War Cabinet the scheme languished, and it was almost impossible to revive it when I returned. I am sure that if that scheme were in existence to-day there would now be no question of having to import our grain from overseas. I hope that will not be necessary in the long run. Thousands, and perhaps millions of stock would have been saved.
Referring again to the records, we find that the River Murray conservation and irrigation scheme was really begun during their joint Government by Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Hughes. They said to the States concerned that they were prepared to find £1,000,000 - the scheme was estimated to cost £4,000,000 - if the States found the remainder. The work was commenced and it was found it was going to cost a great deal more, because the more irrigation that was provided the more people required it. The result was that the Commonwealth came to the arrangement whereby it finds one quarter of the total cost, and that scheme continues to expand. We have raised the spillway of the dam from 150 feet to 210 feet and have been able to impound so much more water.
Water conservation is another answer. In the 1920’s the Bruce-Page Government came into office and formed the Migration and Development Commission and was able to build the Wyangala Dam, carry out work in the Dawson Valley and undertake other projects throughout Australia. A great deal of research was made. In 1945 the Chifley Government sponsored a committee consisting of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Queensland to deal with the development of the Clarence River, and later initiated the Snowy Mountains scheme which the present Government has carried on with such outstanding success. The point is that without the initiation’ and stimulation of the Commonwealth none of these great things would have been done. I say, therefore, that we in this committee should look at the position of our constitutional power over water. We should make certain of the scope of our powers under the Constitution with respect to navigation. The relevant sections should be tested to ensure that they are not conflicting but are really co-ordinating. Section 98 of the Constitution states -
The power of the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State.
Section 100 states -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
The experience of Australia and of every other country is that the combination of navigation and water conservation and irrigation is of assistance. That combination is helping the people on the Murray and it will help people everywhere. Therefore, it seems to me we should be able to do something about it. The present Government realized this, and in 1954 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech, said that if his party were returned it would be -
Prepared to ask the States to co-operate in the creation of a small advisory body of highly expert persons to serve as a National Development Commission, acting in association with the Department of National Development, to report to both Commonwealth and States upon the economics and relative importance of particular proposals. This will not only influence public opinion and Government action, but will produce authoritative reports upon particular projects, irrigation, power, land settlement, which may well attract private enterprise both locally and overseas. A great country with vast riches and an enormous population could perhaps afford to be prodigal in labour, or money, or time. We cannot afford to do so. That is why we will aim at a concentration upon those things which will best serve in the future. We have no enthusiasm for orders and compulsions. We prefer team work.
In the early 1950’s tremendous floods occurred in New South Wales and Queensland. Almost half of the members of the Commonwealth Government went and discussed this matter with the New South Wales Government and promised that if New South Wales could find a plan, the Commonwealth would help to ensure that floods on the whole eastern coast of Australia would become a thing of the past. The objective of any action in this regard is to secure continuity of production from the land. That is absolutely essential to continuity of employment in the cities and towns and to the maintenance of the purchasing power of the people. In addition, it is absolutely essential to the maintenance of our balance of payments overseas. It is also essential to the proper advertising of our products to ensure that they are always in supply on the British market. I think it was in 1936 that I, as Minister for Commerce, made an arrangement with the New Zealand Government that between us we would put 240,000 tons of butter on to the British market every month in the year. The agreement was that Australia would supply 90,000 tons and that New Zealand would supply 150,000 tons. New Zealand supplied its quota of 150,000 tons, but because Australia had been doing nothing adequate to provide water supplies in this country the Commonwealth Government was only able to supply about 50,000 tons. I was in trouble for many years in New Zealand because, for two months, there was no Australian or New Zealand butter on the British market and all the advertising was being wasted.
Look at the extraordinary losses that take place on the north coast of New South Wales! That is probably the most fertile region in Australia. It has a very heavy rainfall, as has the eastern part of Queensland. Yet Mr. Sheehy informs me that in the last 30 years the loss of production in butter and milk, taking the optimum against the average production, has amounted in value to no less than £300,000,000. From the Macleay river to the Tweed river at. the border, the loss has been valued at between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 in a period of eighteen years. That sum of money would practically enable all the. work to be done that we wish to have done. If we had spent the money on the necessary work it would have been regained in production.
Therefore, we must make certain that we get continuous production. We do not get it now because much of out water is in the wrong places. In flood times it rushes out to sea and is not available for use in time of drought. If we were to establish the water conservation that we need on both sides of the Great Dividing Range, where there are unlimited opportunities for doing this, we would not merely have water conservation and irrigation, but also we would be able to carry on an efficient fodder conservation scheme.. We would have water available for stock and so save the tremendous losses which now occur in time of drought. In the district or Armidale, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has shown that if sheep are given, enough water and nutritive feed the size of the sheep and the size of the wool clip can be doubled. Under those circumstances, surely the time has come for us to see whether we can do something worth while about this matter in the Commonwealth Parliament.
If one examines the Constitution one finds that there are two sections, section 98 and section 100, which deal with this matter. Section 98 states -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State.
Section 100 qualifies this by stating -
The Commonwealth shall not, by- any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable; use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
Those two sections, do not seem to me to conflict. They are really supplementary to one another.. Sir John Peden, when he presided over the Royal Commission on the Constitution, wished to put the matter beyond doubt by having the placitum relate to navigation only, without any qualification at all. That would have made the position clear. I think that the matter should oe tested to make certain where the Commonwealth stands, because, either jointly or singly, the Commonwealth and the States have to deal with this subject. We cannot stay where we were when Captain Philip came to Australia 170 years ago and suffer enormous losses from flood or drought every ten years.
In the United States of America four great federal departments have acted together in examining this problem. They are the Department of Agriculture, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau or Reclamation and the Federal Power Commission. Those organizations have got together and produced a plan whereby they work out, not merely the irrigation or power that can be obtained, but also all the ancillary benefits to be gained. We should examine our problems in order to ascertain whether we can adopt the American approach. The Americans have dealt with the problem under the following five mainheads: -
As a result of these examinations, which are continuous, these authorities have framed formulae which are available to test any of these schemes, I urge that,, in Australia, the Commonwealth should proceed, either with the. States, or by ourselves to deal with this problem.
– Order! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. GRIFFITHS (Shortland) [2.3 lj I desire to deal with the estimates for war and repatriation services, which amount to £129,067,000, or about £16,000,000 more than the expenditure for last year. The general expenses of the Department of Repatriation alone account for £829.000. I believe it is wrong to have grouped under the heading of general expenses so many items which involve huge sums of money. They include travelling and sustenance allowances, £54,000; office requisites and equipment, £76,000, and postage, telegrams and telephones, £68,000. To my mind, this is a rather loose way of accounting for such large sums of money. Salaries and wages account for £8,130,000 of the total vote. Pensions will take £68,056,000. Interest and sinking fund payments have reached the colossal’ amount of £52,052,000.. No doubt the cost of war is high. But I do not think there is any Australian who would, for one minute, think the cost too high if measured against the sacrifices made by our soldiers in the defence of our freedom’. What does disturb me is that while the cost of war and repatriation services continues to mount, year by year, more and more complaints are being received of the. cruel, harsh and unjust treatment that is being meted out to some ex-servicemen by the repatriation boards, the commission, and the appeal tribunals. The number of cases being re*jected by the repatriation boards and the commission in the first instance and later by the entitlement tribunals should be a matter of extreme concern to every member of this Parliament. But, apparently, many members on the Government side do not worry too much about what is happening to ex-servicemen. It appears to me that although many Government supporters take pride in announcing from time to time that they are ex-servicemen and that they belong to the Government’s committee on repatriation, which is supposed to review carefully from time to time the anomalies existing in the Repatriation Act, with special attention to section 47, perhaps the most controversial of all the sections of the act, the committee has squibbed its responsibility to help, ex-servicemen- by having- the provisions of the act more clearly defined.
Year after year many members on this side of the chamber have brought numerous cases to the Parliament of ex-servicemen or widows who have been denied pensions. Yet not once has the Government’s repatriation committee offered to look at some of our cases with a view to seeing whether or not we are au fait with the position or whether the cases are really as bad assome of us believe them to be.
Ever since I have been in- this Parliament I have contended that section 47 of the Repatriation Act is not being properly interpreted by the commission, the boards and the tribunals. I am pleased to say that speeches made recently in this Parliament show that other honorable members share my view. It is most interesting to note that even the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) now contends that the section is bad. A few weeks ago we heard the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) telling the House that in his opinion the entitlement tribunals were, not only wrongly interpreting the act but that they were actually turning their backs on the opinion of the Attorney-General in respect of the onus of proof and the benefit of the doubt. As the honorable member for Balaclava is an eminent barrister, I ask who amongst, other honorable- members,, either on this or the other side of. the Parliament, is. competent to suggest that the honorable member for Balaclava does not know what he is talking about. Confusion exists, with regard to section 47 of the act, in the minds of learned legal men as well as doctors and other persons.
We have heard the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who, I am pleased to note, is in his place at the moment, telling us that he had been the chairman of the Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee, and that that committee had given special attention to section 47. He told us that the committee gave the matter long and careful consideration and was satisfied that the only authorities who could apply the onus-of-proof provisions were the boards, the commission and the tribunals. It appears to me that this statement of the Minister indicates, that the ex-servicemen’s committee, is not very interested in whether section 47 is properly applied or not. I believe that sufficient evidence exists to show that this section of the Repatriation Act is being wrongly interpreted’, and is being interpreted contrary to the interests of returned servicemen.
The Parliament should be grateful to the honorable member for Balaclava for having directed its attention to the contents of the report of the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. This report is a remarkable document, which gives illustrations of inconsistencies in the interpretation of section 47 by the boards, the commission and the tribunals. Although I shall deal critically with this report, I believe that we should congratulate the chairman of the No. 2 tribunal for having had the courage and the honesty to deal with the subject in the way that he has done, and for having fearlessly expressed his opinion with regard to the section. His report shows that the boards, the commission and the tribunals follow the provisions of section 47 as they see fit, and not as the act provides. They set themselves up as judges and interpret the law and the intention of the Parliament with regard to that law, without seeking from a Minister of the Crown a statement of the Parliament’s intention. The tribunals and boards pit their knowledge against that of medical men, and they accept the view of the particular medical man whom they think may be right, whether he is right or wrong. There is an abundance of evidence to this effect in the report to which the honorable member for Balaclava referred. The chairman of the tribunal criticized the critics of the tribunals and boards, and says this -
The only way in which the Commission could disprove his claim would be to investigate every moment of his life, at least from the time he entered the service, and in spite of his noncooperation, build up a case to destroy the case he has not put up . . .
It has been repeatedly argued that there can be no absolute certainty about all the causes and conditions and circumstances that have contributed to any incapacity . . .
The same argument has been applied to the component parts of the man - his respiratory and digestive systems, his heart, his joints, his mind - and it is maintained that any weakness, or mishap, or disease affecting these in after life must to some degree, however infinitesimal, be contributed to by the stresses of the war years.
While we are speaking of these matters, let me tell the committee of an experience that I had last Friday which illustrates my point. I was travelling by Convair aircraft to Newcastle. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) was in the same aircraft. I was sitting towards the rear of the aircraft, about level with the exhaust vents. When the aircraft arrived over Newcastle the pilot apparently was told not to go straight into Williamtown airport because of the presence of jet aircraft. He immediately throttled back his motors, which backfired twice very loudly. My heart was still fluttering when the aircraft landed at Williamtown - and the Minister was not too happy, either! When the motors backfired the aircraft immediately peeled off and circled the city. My point is that if this occurrence could affect my heart and cause it to palpitate, what must have been the effect on some servicemen who, on the Kokoda trail or in Milne Bay, had to worry about the possible presence of a Jap behind every bush, and who did not know from one minute to another whether they were going to be disembowelled or have their tongues cut out - and I assure honorable members that such things did occur in New Guinea.
I direct the attention of the committee to the case of an ex-serviceman who, ever since he came back from the war, has been unsuccessful in his attempts to have his nervous ailment accepted as a war disability. He cannot work, and his mother has to look after him all the time. Dr. D. R. Moore, who is one of the most prominent psychiatrists practising at the Newcastle Hospital, has issued a certificate which indicates that the man in question was treated for psychiatric illness at Toowoomba and at Milne Bay. A doctor at Morisset also indicated that he believed that war-caused stresses were probably responsible for what happened to the ex-serviceman. Doctor Moore said -
Undoubtedly the beginning of Mr….. ‘s illness was during his wartime service and was precipitated by this wartime service and I feel that wartime service could be considered a big factor in the aetiology of his condition.
There are thousands of cases similar to this one. The chairman of the tribunal that dealt with the matter stacked his knowledge against that of the doctor, and said, “ We administer the onus-of-proof provisions of the act, and we say that these things did not happen in this way “.
– Was that man refused a pension?
– He has been refused and is still refused a pension. In the report of the chairman of the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, we find mention of a particular case in which the applicant was suffering from a degenerative disease, an hereditary complaint, but there waa no clear evidence of the particular time in the man’s life when the disease hao commenced to be noticed and to take effect. However, I see that the tribunal rejected the opinion of a Dr. Haneman who said -
I think his war service may have aggravated his disorder…..
The chairman then went on to say -
I would first like to say, sincerely, that I respect Dr. Noad and his opinion, and know him to be an experienced neurologist.
The tribunal brushed aside the opinion of Dr. Haneman, but accepted that of Dr. Noad. The chairman said further -
Nobody can assert that he is sure beyond doubt that his war service did not hasten the onset of his disease. This i9 the crux of the question. T. think there must always remain the genuine doubt, “ Could this man’s war service not have hastened the onset of his disease? “ I think no one can answer a categoric “No”.
The tribunal dismissed that appeal, but if no one can say categorically that the man’s war service did not have some effect on his complaint, then the chairman of the tribunal was wrong in throwing out the appeal. That is only one case. Time will not allow me to continue with these matters, but I shall draw the attention of the committee to other cases that I have mentioned here. I refer to the case of two brothers-in-law who died from coronary occlusions, one in 1941 and the other in 1951. The coronary occlusion of the man who died in 1941 was accepted as having been caused by war service; the other was not accepted as caused by war service. Then I had the case of Neil Sutherland, who died of a complaint which was certified by Dr. Rundle as having been caused by war service. Dr. Rundle said -
I further understand that he has been investigated by the Repatriation Commission during 1951, when it was considered that he was suffering from chronic nephritis and renal lethiasis
He stated that while he was on active service in 1914-18 war he received treatment in hospital for Trench Fever, and I now consider that this illness is an aetiological factor in the causation of chronic nephritis.
I would therefore suggest that his condition now is due to chronic nephritis resulting from the Trench Fever suffered during the first World War in April, 1917.
The doctor actually fixes the date when this man contracted his complaint. What hap pened? When he died, his widow was left without a penny from the Repatriation Commission.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am sorry to hear of the hardships suffered by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) when travelling home to Newcastle during the week-end. I can assure him that worse things can happen to one in the air than to have the engines backfire.
Before the honorable member for Shortland spoke, the committee listened to a most interesting speech from one of the most constructive members in this chamber, the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), on the question of flood and drought relief. Undoubtedly, we are not nearly as conscious as we should be of the necessity to conserve fodder and water. I know that some honorable members have seen the demonstration at Badgery’s Creek on the farm which is run by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in conjunction with the Sydney University. The possibilities of water conservation in a big way are shown on that farm. The farm is a small one of about 200 acres; yet, by catching all the water that falls and by pumping water out of a creek which floods in winter, 60,000,000 or 70,000,000 gallons of water are conserved and used for irrigation. As a result, the return is tremendous when the water is used to irrigate the land. In addition, we can see the results of water conservation on the remarkable 10-acre property at, I think, Wellington in New South Wales. There, a man has 10 acres adjoining a river, which he uses for irrigation. He has a little area 100 yards long and 130 yards wide on which he puts 1 ,000 sheep, which he feeds from the lucerne that is grown on the 10 acres. As a result he is able to carry 1,000 sheep a year on 10 acres or the equivalent of 100 sheep a year per acre.
Those instances show that we have not really awakened to the possibilities of water conservation. Some people think they are doing well if they carry three or four sheep to the acre, but we are merely fiddling with the problem. It is not only a problem for governments with big works of building enormous dams and running water for hundreds of miles to irrigate certain areas; it is a problem also for the farmer. We are not nearly as fodder-conscious as we should be. Every farm should be able to conserve fodder and have it well stacked so that it will not be damaged and will be ready for feeding purposes in drought times. Colonel Rose has put down a bore in the Northern Territory, near Alice Springs. He pumps from the bore to a dam and irrigates lucerne from the dam. In the drier parts of the Northern Territory and such places, there is no reason why adequate fodder conservation should not be undertaken.
I want to draw the attention of the committee not only to the need for private individuals to conserve more fodder. We as a Government are trying to encourage them to do so by giving depreciation allowances and the like. I want to draw the attention of the committee also to the necessity for the Australian Wheat Board to play a greater part in the conservation of fodder. I feel that the Australian Wheat Board has some obligation to see that stocks in Australia are always adequate, but we find that only five months ago the chairman of the board advocated that farmers should not grow wheat. Possibly he was considering the matter only from his own viewpoint. He may have thought that he would have some difficulty in selling wheat and adopted the attitude that the more wheat grown, the harder it would be for him to sell it. Thank goodness we had the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who immediately rebutted that advocacy, and the Australian Agricultural Council which, at its meting in Adelaide, strongly opposed the view of the chairman of the board. Dr. Strong, the director of the Division of Agricultural Economics, also opposed that view.
I do not say that the shortage of wheat in New South Wales is entirely due to the advocacy of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board not to grow wheat. Every one knows, of course, that the shortage is mainly due to the fact that most of the State has had a very bad drought, but some blame must rest on the chairman of the board. In some areas good harvests will be obtained from what was sown, but some farmers were sowing barley and oats because they were advised not to grow wheat. New South Wales will be lucky if it has a carry-over of 8,000,000 bushels; it will also be lucky if it has a harvest of 5,000,000 bushels. That will make a total for all purposes of 13,000,000 bushels. Obviously, we must import from other States anything up to 17,000,000 bushels. It we import from Western Australia, the estimated cost will be between £3,500,000 and £5,000,000. But that is only the first loss. The export of flour from New South Wales has been completely prohibited and the railways will lose because they will not be handling the wheat. The railways had an annual revenue of about £3,000,000 from handling wheat. Then again, very little flour will be milled. The only milling will be for local sales and, as a result, not nearly enough by-products of flour will be available for stock feed and for fowls. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) told me that he has been barraged already with telegrams complaining about the inability of poultry farmers to obtain sufficient feed for their birds. That again will react against the total exports we would otherwise make.
T do not say that this problem has been brought about only by the policy of the Australian Wheat Board in trying to reduce the sale of wheat; it has been brought about largely by the bad season. However, it is amazing that the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board should have consistently advocated a reduction of the wheat crop. After all, Australia earns an average of £70,000,000 from the sale of wheat, flour and other products, but now, because we have not sufficient wheat on hand, we must import it. People are even talking of importing wheat from North America or South America at great expense.
As a drought relief measure, we require an absolute basic minimum of about 40,000,000 bushels to be held for stock feed and for other purposes. We should never get below that amount in our fodder conservation programme. In addition, we must provide for local needs and we should be able to produce an adequate amount to supply all the markets that we are winning.
– Who will pay the bills?
– I do not mind who pays them; I am concerned about who meets the losses during a drought. We have adequate storage facilities. Most of the silos in New South Wales are empty to-day. It is very easy to work out the small storage cost, but it is the big overall loss which is important.
While I am dealing with this question of the Australian Wheat Board, I invite the attention of the committee to the lack of progressive outlook on the part of that board in the matter of wheat quality improvement. I am sure that the bulk of the Australian people appreciate the necessity to improve the standard of our export wheat. Most of us know that we cannot sell a lot of our wheat unless it is of high quality. Japan has insisted on a quality of at least 11 per cent, protein, although I think that it has agreed, for some purposes, to take wheat of a lower quality. I believe that we could sell more wheat to the United Kingdom if it were of better quality. As it is, the people of the United Kingdom have to use dollars to purchase wheat from Canada or the United States.
The Australian Agricultural Council stated recently that the improvement of the quality of Australian wheat was a desirable objective. What has the Australian Wheat Board done in the matter? It seems to have been perfectly happy to carry on under the old f.a.q. system. Just recently, a means was presented to this country by which some form of segregation could be encouraged. I refer to the Zeleny test, which is a sedimentation test first discovered in the United States by Dr. Zeleny. By means of the test, in ten minutes one can get a pretty accurate estimate of the protein quality of wheat. It is not completely accurate, because it combines the protein quality and the milling quality, but from Australia’s point of view, the advantages of the test are considerable. Wheat arriving at the silos could be tested as it came in and then graded as high protein, or just ordinary soft white f.a.q. A sample could be taken and tested at the laboratory. When the result of the test came back it would be possible to pay the farmer according to the quality of the wheat he had supplied.
If this test were applied, it would be possible to improve the quality of our wheat, but I find that the Australian Wheat Board has done nothing to encourage the use of the test. Even the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which I thought would have been considering it, has not done so. I think that Dr. Bond, who is with the Bread Improvement Research Institute in Sydney, is carrying out some tests in the matter. Yesterday, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) asked a question about what was being done in connexion with wheat quality, and the answer indicated that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) had been very active in trying to achieve improvement. He has appointed two committees, one of which has met, deliberated and presented its report; but the other, of which the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board was convenor has not even met yet, let alone considered the form in which it could assist. So, I feel that the time has come for the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, who is well over retiring age, to retire. If he were employed under the Public Service Board, he would be ten years over retiring age. I feel that he is not young enough and progressive enough in his outlook, and I think that the Government should try to get hold of a younger person who would be sufficiently progressive, first to go ahead and try to improve the quality of our wheat and, secondly, to see that at any rate enough wheat was produced and stored in this country to meet all our requirements.
– I wish to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for war service homes under War and Repatriation Services. In doing so, I protest against the small amount by which the Government has increased the allocation for war service homes this year. During the last three or four years, the Government has provided, in round figures, £30,000,000, without worrying about how far that money would go, or whether or not it was sufficient.
– That is, £30,000,000 each year.
– That is so. I am glad that the honorable member has corrected me. This year, the allocation has been increased by £3,000,000.
– By £5,000,000.
– That makes it a little better, but even so, the increase is infinitesimal compared with the amount required by the applicants in every State who are waiting for war service homes. “
Every organization of ex-servicemen, in Queensland at least, has complained bitterly, over a long period of years, about the long lists of ex-servicemen who are waiting for advances. Even though the Government proposes to increase the allocation this year by £5,000,000, that will have little effect in overtaking the lag in advances both for the purchase of existing homes and the building of homes. Personally, I am very disappointed with the position. One would think that the Government received no return from the money that it advances, but when one reads the report of the Director of War Service Homes, one sees that the Government is being well paid indeed, in the form of interest, for the money that it has advanced over the years. The Government is giving nothing away; on the contrary, it will be well paid in the long run.
I suppose that every honorable member, from time to time, has had complaints from ex-servicemen to the effect that applications for advances had not been finalized. In this connexion, I wish to pay a tribute to the officers of the War Service Homes Division in Queensland. I have had a lot to do with them. During the last six months or eight months, I suppose that a score of people have called on me to complain that their applications for advances had not been dealt with, although some of them had been waiting for as long as twelve months. Naturally, a number of those people believe that the blame lay with the officers of the War Service Homes Division, but of course anybody who knows the procedure will appreciate that the officers are not to blame at all. They can only provide homes with the money that is allocated by the Government to each State. I have found that all the officers of the War Service Homes Division, from the Deputy Director down, have been most courteous and sympathetic to those who have gone to them for advice or financial assistance.
I have been supplied, by the Deputy Director of War Service Homes in Queensland, with a list of the number of applications for war service homes in that State. It is very illuminating and, no doubt, most astounding to find that hundreds of people are waiting for war service homes. The total number of applications at 30th June, 1957, was 1.407. This figure comprised building applications, 565, applications for the purchase of homes, 531, discharge of mortgage applications, 130, applications for transfer of war service homes from one applicant to another, 178, one application for dual assistance for the discharge ot mortgage and completion of home, and two applications for enlargement of dwellings not at present subject to the War Service Homes Act. Those applications were practically all for the purchase of new homes or of existing homes. I say again that if the extra £5,000,000 which has been allocated in the Budget for war service homes for the whole of Australia were all spent in Queensland, let alone any other State, it would not provide the means to make up the lag of applicants waiting to build or purchase new homes.
– What amount do you suggest should be allocated?
– The honorable member asks what amount I would suggest should be allocated. I am not suggesting any amount at all, but the Government could easily find out the amount that would be required. Surely, it does not expect this lag to continue year after year. There is plenty of material and labour; there is no shortage of anything at all. Why does not the Government allocate another £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 and bring the requirements for new homes up to date. Then it could carry on as it has been doing and allocate £30,000,000 a year or whatever sum would normally be required for war service homes.
The present situation is entirely unsatisfactory. One would think that the Government was handing out this money and getting no return for it, but it is getting interest all the time on the money that has been loaned. In the report of the Director of War Service Homes, the balance-sheet for the year 1956-57 shows, in the general profit and loss account a credit in respect of interest of £6,259,079 12s. That interest has been received, not, of course, during the last few years, but over a long period. It shows that the Government is receiving interest on the money that it has loaned to ex-servicemen who have applied over the years for war service homes. I am sure that the returned soldiers will not be satisfied with the paltry additional amount to be provided this year, because it will not make very much difference in overcoming the lag in the long list of applications by exservicemen for homes.
The officers in the Brisbane office are doing a very good job. They do not keep any of the applicants waiting unnecessarily. Immediately an application is lodged, they attend to it by doing all the preliminary work of land valuation, debt allocation and so on, so that when the money is appropriated and the Budget is approved they are able to place applicants in their order on the priority list and enable them to obtain homes quicker than they probably otherwise would.
– I rather hope that the importance of the subject with which I wish to deal for a few minutes will justify my intervention in the debate. Earlier this afternoon the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) referred to the questions of water conservation and flood mitigation as they affect the questions of relief from flood and drought, which are periodically discussed in this Parliament. The right honorable member has been referred to as one the most constructive members of the Parliament, and this is right. He is a man of vast experience; he knows Australian primary production problems in country areas and has given serious thought to those questions which we in a developing country have to study. For a long time the right honorable member has advocated that something more should be done than has been done to date towards developing knowledge of our water resources and towards a greater use of those resources. Therefore, I thought that this might be a timely opportunity to present to the committee a recent decision of the Government as a result of which the job to which the right honorable member referred will be done.
For a long time a great need has been developing in Australia for more precise knowledge of rainfall, run-off, evaporation of water, penetration of soils by water and the behaviour of our rivers so that, first of all, we can forecast floods and, secondly, design structures for flood mitigation. Over and above that, of course, with such projects as water conservation and power generation being developed on our rivers. there is a great need for an increase and improvement in scientific knowledge of river behaviour so that we may know precisely what volumes of water we can expect, for what magnitude of water conservation and irrigation projects and what output of power use we might expect.
It is quite true that no country, so dependent on its water resources, knows so little about its water resources as does Australia. To remedy this situation the Government has recently decided that the Bureau of Meteorology should be entrusted with an additional function - or, rather, with a new activity which will be an extension of its already established functions. It will now establish the hydrometeorological authority. Although that title is a little long or difficult to pronounce, nevertheless it describes a body which will conduct research into a multitude of the most valuable undertakings which we in this country can contemplate. Perhaps a statement of the functions of this proposed division of hydro-meteorology will give honorable members a better picture of what is intended. It will incorporate a national authority for obtaining, collecting, treating and safeguarding data necessary for the proper development of water resources and the mitigation of flooding. The research and investigations necessary for dealing with meteorological and hydrological problems will be another of its functions. Thirdly, it will advise governmental and municipal authorities on matters related to the probable yield of rainfall, for the safe and economical design of dams, drains and other structures for the conservation or utilisation of water. Fourthly, it will provide advice to hydrologists, water engineers and others interested in the study of rainfall, evaporation and associated phenomena in the Commonwealth. Finally, it will undertake systematic flood forecasting.
There has been a tremendous demand for this type of service and two bodies, in particular, have been very active in making approaches to the Government. One has been the Australian Academy of Sciences and the second the Institute of Engineers of Australia. Both of these bodies have given a most scientific and thorough study to Australia’s great need and great dependence on all-too-scarce water resources. I am happy to know that the Government has found it possible to accede to the representations of these bodies and to establish this bureau. I think the outline of the functions of the bureau which I have given will indicate the range and usefulness of the information which it will produce. In general terms police, flood committees, the press and broadcasting authorities have need of flood forecasts. River commissions, water conservation and irrigation commissions and electricity and hydro-electricity authorities all have a great need of scientific knowledge regarding water flow; and so on down a long list of authorities including Departments of Public Works, Departments of Local Government, roads boards, soil conservation services and so on.
I think it will be understood that a service as broad as this one is not going to be developed to its full stature in a short time. We are only putting our foot on the first rung of the ladder of hydrometeorological knowledge of this kind, and if honorable members would care to cast their eyes over the provisions of Division 67 of the estimates for the Meteorological Branch they will see there provision for some increases in expenditure to take care of two things. First of all, there is provision for some increase in the highly skilled technical staff which will be required to do this job and, secondly, there is provision to meet the very considerable cost involved in increased instrumentation in this particular undertaking.. Fortunately, we are moving into the use of more scientific equipment, equipment which will operate automatically on streams to gauge rainfall and the intensity of rainfall, stream flow and so on. These instruments are now to be installed and left to operate on their own and will return, by radio or other signal means, data for processing. At the same time we have had recently in the United States one of our young meteorological engineers who was freed to make a special study of instrumentation in connexion with these hydrometeorological studies. He has been in the United States for some time. He was a guest of the United States Bureau of Meteorology and the United States Government. He saw the work of conservation to which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) referred, and he has had a wonderful opportunity to see the best methods evolved in the United States, where this science has been highly developed over a long period. He comes back to us with a lot of valuable advice on the question of instrumentation and on the question of the mechanical processing of the data which will be produced by the instruments. If an illustration is needed, it can be said that, in some of the conservation schemes, American scientists, by means of taking snowfall and rainfall readings, are able to predict what the yield of water will be, and therefore are able to access accurately from day to day how much water will be available for irrigation and how much for power generation.
The whole of this information is collected once every 24 hours. The information is processed by electronic computer, and the answer is of tremendous commercial value to the organizations concerned. I do not think that much illustration of the value of this data will be needed by honorable members, but I think it should be pointed out that one of the most important storage dams in Australia, the Burrinjuck dam on the Murrumbidgee River, was designed with a spillway to cope with a flow of 80,000 cubic feet a second. In the absence of actual data as to the water yield from that catchment a spillway to cope with 80,000 cubic feet was thought to be ample. Since it was constructed several floods have been experienced yielding greatly in excess of this figure, and as part of the remedial measures carried out recently the spillway capacity has been increased to 350,000 cubic feet a second. This is the sort of effect that this hydrometeorological study will have on the design of dams, spillways and so on in Australia.
I am sure that it is the hope of every honorable member that we shall, firstly, continue to make increasing use of our water flow by way of storage for irrigation and conservation and, secondly, that we shall combine conservation with flood mitigation, though not in the one dam. This is a technical problem to the solution of which a very great contribution will be made by the data which the Bureau of Meteorology will prepare from the studies it is about to undertake. Unhappily, this work has been long delayed. It is quite true that a good deal of the work should, perhaps, have been done by State instrumentalities, but almost universally they are suffering from lack of both funds and personnel. A second consideration is that many of our rivers flow through more than one State, so we run into the constitutional problems to which the right honorable member for Cowper referred.
The New South Wales Government has projected a series of dams in the Hunter Valley designed to conserve water and to mitigate the effects of flooding of the Hunter River. Those dams were designed before adequate data was available on the behaviour of the complicated river system of the Hunter Valley, but there has been recently developed in that valley, as a consequence of the 1955 floods, a research foundation privately supported by industries, financial institutions, and other people who want to see the economy and life of the valley conserved. Naturally, a privately endowed foundation of this kind can do only a limited amount of work. It is in cases of this kind that the work of the Bureau of Meteorology will be called in to supplement that which can be done locally. I venture to suggest that when these river studies have been done in that particular valley it will be found that some of the dams projected - not, I am glad to say, designed - will be found to be in the wrong places, because already, with a minimum amount of study of stream flow and so on, it is found that the disastrous floods which from time to time ravage the Hunter Valley do not occur in those streams which were originally believed to contribute so largely to the floods. Of course, anybody who devotes a little time and attention to this problem will well understand that the times at which the big rainfalls occur in the tributaries of a main stream may very well have a very great effect on the ultimate flooding of the stream over those areas where the high flood damage occurs. These are things which could be accurately measured, and if they are accurately measured the results can be forecast. I believe that in those forecasts we will have a new tool not only to save life but to save property damage in the lower reaches of our river streams.
The Department of the Interior is slowly pushing ahead with a programme of instrumented river flow and rainfall measurements, and the right honorable member for Cowper will be pleased to know that very shortly the department will install in the northern rivers -of New South Wales a rain intensity radar system which will give us a quickly read pattern of rainfall over the valley areas, and a very great deal of information on which flash flood forecasts can be made.
I have given that information in answer to the right honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) who, in common with other honorable members, have a great interest in this problem. I hope that the committee and the people will appreciate that this is a forward movement for, first, water conservation, and second for flood mitigation.
.- I was very interested to hear the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). I have heard him over a number of years put his case in this chamber. He puts a very strong case. I was also interested in what the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) had to say and in the later statement by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall). I am not a representative of a primary industry. I represent a city electorate. But I think that the conservation of water and fodder is something that must interest representatives of all electorates. This is the National Parliament, and we represent the people of Australia. Whilst I am happy to know that the Minister has established, or is about to establish a bureau that will get certain information which in the years to come undoubtedly will be of great benefit to Australia in the conservation of water and fodder, I still feel that there are practical steps that should have been taken, and which could be taken even at this particular time. When flying from Melbourne to Adelaide I have always thought what a tragedy it is that although the Murray River flows through a vast area of arid country, its waters are not fully used, but are allowed to spill out into the lakes, and eventually into the sea. I have always felt that if the water could be held at the mouth and spread over that country, it would be a great asset to Australia. Yet, year in and year out, that water is running away, and Australia is to-day facing a drought. I say that not because I have any particular knowledge of the matter, but because it appears to be evident from my own observations of the countryside.
There has been, and still is, a great responsibility on those people who lease and own properties throughout Australia. If one boards a train at Goulburn and travels to Canberra one sees along the way areas of land where there has been ample opportunity to build suitable dams, but generally what is seen is just a muddy water hole. It should be the responsibility of the people who occupy the land to build the dams. There is a responsibility upon land-owners to make provision in the good years for the bad years that eventually come.
In Australia, we enjoy periods of up to ten years of bountiful seasons, with ample rain, and then droughts follow. Over the last 150 years or so, this country has faced tragic droughts every ten or eleven years. Millions of sheep and cattle have perished, which is a tragic loss to Australia. Up to a point, some of the blame for such losses rests on the land-holders who overstock their properties. A husband has a responsibility to his family; and if the owner of a property puts on it more stock than it can carry then on him rests some of the responsibility for losses that must occur in time of drought. Only two years ago, Sir John Teasdale advised the wheat farmers of Australia to grow less wheat. Such a man as Sir John Teasdale might be expected to know that droughts occur in Australia every few years.
I was pleased to hear the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) say that steps are about to be taken to obtain information which might, in the years to come, obviate such a situation as is confronting Australia to-day. Although this country is not blessed with the number of waterways that other countries have, I feel that there has been neglect over the years to conserve what water passes through the rivers we have. Also, not enough has been done to conserve fodder in bounteous years.
I hope this is the last time that Australia will be faced with serious drought losses due to neglect and lack of information. Less than eighteen months ago, Australia was ravaged by floods. Many areas of my own State were flooded and devastated. The flood water ruined much of the country; yet not more than eighteen months later people on that same country are facing heavy loss from drought. I congratulate the Minister on his activity, and on his efforts to mitigate the seriousness of the situation. I hope this is the last time for many years that Australia will be faced with what 1 believe will be a tragicdrought.
.- It is very pleasing to hear speakers talking this afternoon about water conservation. Water conservation has dual advantages. It makes for greater production, and also ameliorates the effects of flooding. I do not think honorable members generally are aware of the great increase in the productive value of the land when it is irrigated. Investigation of irrigation methods now being used in Victoria and New South Wales has proved that production from irrigated land averages £43 an acre more than does production from dry land. We all know that certain land in this country cannot be irrigated to advantage, but the suitable land along the Murrumbidgee and the Murray rivers will produce, on the figures that have been proved by investigation, £43 more for each acre than will land in its dry state.
The committee is dealing with miscellaneous matters, and investigations and research come under this heading. It is estimated that water which will shortly be made available through the Snowy scheme will irrigate at least 600,000 acres. If one assumes that each of those acres will produce a crop worth an additional £43, then the aggregate increase in production will be worth approximately £25,000,000. It is also estimated that 150,000 more people will be maintained on this land. Therefore, it is time more research was undertaken to decide what should be grown on the land that will be irrigated by this additional water. We have to consider what are the most suitable crops to market both in this country and overseas. It is not of much use to grow abundant crops that we cannot sell. Furthermore, it is not much good undertaking to grow on this newly irrigated land crops that are already being produced in as large a quantity as satisfactory sales will permit in Australia on other irrigated land, and even on dry land.
I want to answer the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), who expressed his disappointment that only £5,000,000 extra was allocated for War Service homes, making a total of £35,000,000. There are two ways to look at that additional allocation. The honorable member suggested cleaning up all the applications, and building all the houses that ex-servicemen have applied for. It must be remembered that returned soldiers are in greater numbers in Australia than the applications for war service homes would indicate.
It also must be remembered that countless thousands of ex-servicemen are engaged in the building and allied trades, and if this money were spent in one year - the vast amount necessary to deal with all the applications and build all the houses - it would bring about complications in the building trade that would affect more exservicemen than it would benefit. Furthermore, it would have the effect of pushing up building costs in Australia if it were in addition to the £35,000,000 proposed to be spent and also the money allocated by the Government for homes for the aged, which is also in these miscellaneous items, together with all the large buildings that are being erected in Australia. So, I do not think we can take very seriously as being practical the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Brisbane. The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) spoke about fodder conservation. Of course the honorable member for Adelaide said men should more or less be told they have to preserve fodder. You cannot do that in Australia. I believe you can encourage people to do it by incentive. What encouragement is this Government giving people to preserve fodder? If my memory serves me aright, there is a tax deduction of the value of the cost of production of this fodder; and so the man on the property is encouraged along those lines.
As far as the other points are concerned, why is less wheat being produced now? Naturally the current drought conditions first come to mind. The honorable member for Farrer pin-pointed that. He spoke about Sir John Teasdale. I regret the remarks he made about that great wheat expert who would be very hard to replace because he is not only an Australian but also a world authority, and while he retains his faculties, as he does now, he will remain of great value so far as the Australian Wheat Board and its marketing function are concerned, lt must be remembered that the board is producer-controlled. Sir John
Teasdale is the chairman; he does not control the board. Producer control is in accordance with the advocacy of the Australian Country party for decades and, of course, is now operative. The suggestion made by Sir John Teasdale regarding growing less wheat - and I did not support it - was made not on the basis of droughts coming and going but on the basis of the world market and Australia’s ability to make sales with advantage to the grower and the community. Furthermore, when drought conditions are left out of consideration the main reason why less wheat is being grown is the particularly buoyant market for wool and fat lambs, and consequently, for store sheep. Not only have people turned from growing wheat to the running of sheep; they have also pulled up their vines and fruit trees with that object in mind. One thousand sheep fed for a year from 10 acres, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for Farrer, could only be possible, I believe, under unique conditions and in my experience with sheep I have not encountered such carrying capacity although it may be possible.
Looking at the list of subsidies I am reminded that a subsidy on superphosphate was, in the past, paid to primary producers who required it. 1 believe that should be re-introduced because we have seen the great results that superphosphate has produced. First, we had closer settlement and irrigation and then, like a great romance of production, we had the introduction of superphosphate. I believe that to obtain a return of £43 per acre in irrigated country previously mentioned, every scientific method, all the superphosphates and every means of plant life food would have to be used. Therefore, I urge the Government to re-introduce a subsidy on superphosphate to assist in increasing production. The Government decided it would not continue to pay the subsidy at a time when prices for primary industries were at such a high level of production and price as to make provision of a subsidy unnecessary. But now the scene is changing. With drought conditions and prices not so satisfactory to primary producers, and with Australia requiring greater production than ever before, I believe the time is opportune for the Government to consider the reintroduction of the subsidy on superphosphate. Even under drought conditions any man who knows the land, if he travels from Albury to Melbourne - as I do every week when the Parliament is sitting - would see the difference in the growth of clover and grasses in areas that have been top-dressed, whereas the carrying capacity of adjacent paddocks has diminished to such an extent as to render them of very little consequence. I make that one suggestion. 1 have endeavoured to correct one or two mistakes that I believe have been made during the course of this debate.
.-I shall confine my remarks to the estimates for Miscellaneous Services, particularly with regard to international development and relief. Under this particular heading are a number of matters which call for consideration. The first is a very small itemof approximately £5,000,000 for the development of underdeveloped countries. The recent pronouncement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) of the new foreign policy of the Liberal party in respect of the Middle East is a complete vindication of the stand that was taken by the Opposition. So, I compliment the Government on being prepared to move under pressure from the Opposition. Similar instances have happened on a number of occasions, but after all - I speak sincerely on this; I am not being party political - they exemplify the operation of our democratic system of government. If the Opposition were in Office, I should like to think Labour would be prepared to act likewise if the necessity ever arose for it to do so.
When I asked the Prime Minister a question as to whether he had consulted the United States of America and Mr. MacMillan in regard to the new policy, I had a very real motive because, in an excellent Unesco review of the American system of economic aid tied to military pacts and the provision of military requirements, arms and armaments and such, under the heading of “ Economic Aid for Underdeveloped Countries “, July, 1957, we read, in regard to the advocacy by the U.S.A. of aid with strings -
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Mr. Horace A. Hildreth described economic aid received in 1955-56 by 21 countries from Egypt to Japan. He said that of these countries the 10 aligned with the US through mutual defense assistance agreements received, on a per capita basis, 12 times more economic aid than was given to the 11 countries that had not signed defense agreements.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said that in two years Asian members of Seato (SouthEast Asian Treaty Organization) received 300 million dollars in economic aid. This was four times as much as those countries - Thailand, Philippines and Pakistan - had received in the preceding two years.
Of course, as far as India is concerned, the emphasis on military aid, with the economic aid that Pakistan is receiving, throws the India-Pakistani situation completely offbalance. So the announcement that we need economic aid without strings is one of paramount importance.
I have also read, with regard to the development of backward countries economically, that the Western world is not even trying to match or outmatch Russia in the cold war or the economic war. I refer to the report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Economic and Social Council of 21st June, 1957. This states that the outflow of new investment funds from the United States of America in 1956 was more than double that of 1955. But 85 per cent. of that amount went, not to under-developed countries, but to LatinAmerica and Canada. The report states -
Although Canada and Latin America continued to absorb most of the flow . .. . the outflow to other areas, including Asia and the Far East, the Middle East and. Africa did not increase significantly.
A report on India’s second five-year plan which appeared in “ The Christian Science Monitor “ of 30th April reads as follows: -
INDIA FACES NEED FOR CAPITAL.
India must now either open wide its doors to foreign capital - if it can obtain it - or risk a sizeable failure of the second five-year plan to which its economy wholly is geared. This is the prospect at the beginning of the plan’s second year after the planning commission has estimated that despite many successes the short-fall between the budgeted and actual outlay in 1956-57 amounts to 262,500,000 dollars.
The question of aid for India therefore becomes a very vital one and one which is relevant to the continued success of India’s bold experiment in socialism. In a very excellent article called “ A New Approach to Foreign Aid “ Chester Bowles states that the real essence of the ideological conflict that is going on between the East and the West is exemplified nowhere better than between mainland China and India. He states that mainland China with a compulsory system is able to devote 22 per cent. of its national income to re-investment in industry and industrialization programmes.
India, on the other hand, with a democratic, voluntary system is able to devote only 8 per cent, of its national income to investment in industrial expansion. The point is a very real one, because we have a tendency to overlook the real problem as far as these backward countries are concerned. We expect them to achieve in five, ten or twenty years what has taken us 200 years to achieve, and what we have been able to achieve only with economic enforcement under the system by which Britain carried out the industrial revolution from the seventeenth century onwards. We expect these people to make the necessary sacrifices and to pull their belts tighter, to save the necessary capital to invest in their own country and so produce more consumer goods and provide more services with the aim of increasing their material lot.
Russia, on the other hand, comes along and says, “ All you need to do is to get rid of the colonial power, set up the right type of people’s government, and you will then have the material benefits which have been denied you in the past”. So the Asian mind, in the backward countries, associates this so-called democracy with a bountiful supply of consumer goods and a more just set of economic circumstances. Unless we give them more aid than we have given them so far under the Colombo plan, and unless we give them the necessary means to achieve this economic and industrial revolution in a very short time, what is happening at Kerala and elsewhere will happen to the whole of India. In other words, the Colombo aid that we are able to give is purely and simply a drop in the bucket. It is not nearly enough.
The Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development, or Sunfed, has bogged down because of the disarmament impasse. Britain and the United States of America have said, “ If we can reach a disarmament agreement we will subscribe to Sunfed “. Russia also has indicated its desire to do the same. The logical conclusion of our failure to appreciate the economic dilemma of backward countries, and the logical conclusion of our refusal to assist them by giving them funds to invest in their industrial programme, will lead to the type of situation that now exists in the Middle East. That is why I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether his new policy for the Middle East would extend also to Asia. He did not answer me for reasons best known to himself. But, unless we take the attitude that I have recommended, if India takes more drastic and more direct steps towards its goal by adopting the Communist technique and Communist ideology, that will be our responsibility entirely. We shall have nobody to blame but ourselves. We shall find the situation arising in the cold war which has arisen in Syria. There, it is obvious that the upset has been caused by the build-up of arms that we have supplied to Jordan and Turkey, the establishment of an atomic base in Turkey for western purposes, and our interference in Syria and the Middle East generally.
It is the desire of the West to offset the Russian cold war success in Syria by achieving a coup d’etat which will undermine the Russian control of the Syrian economy. I believe that that is the basis of the trouble in the Middle East at the moment. As far as the cold war is concerned, this could occur in any country at any time unless our motive in foreign aid is clear, relatively pure, and clean. If our motive is to assist these people the results will be sound and good. If our motive is military defence or even the improvement of our own trade relations, I believe that our efforts will be attended by disaster.
The final observation that I want to make is that if the neutralist countries desire to have in Asia and in the Middle East what might be called an area of disengagement in the cold war, the only thing that we, as a nation desiring to help constructively can do is to concur in such a policy. Let us hang around Russia’s neck as well, the responsibility that is now around our own and everybody else’s necks, of making their sore spots areas of disengagement to ensure the advancement of the welfare of the people who live in those areas rather than that of the nations that are interested in those areas.
Any approach to foreign aid should, of course, be based on, first, the removal of military commitments. Such aid should be given for the good of the people concerned. Secondly, it must be given as a long-range project, and it need not be made in the form of a grant. The Indian Prime Minister has already indicated that he wants, loans on long terms at competitive rates. and that he does not want charity. Thirdly, the volume of the aid should be equal to the task that we hope will be achieved by the granting of the aid. Fourthly, the recipients of such aid should receive it not as a national hand-out from any one particular nation. It should be directed through an impartial United Nations authority, such as Sunfed or some other United Nations agency. If foreign aid were granted in this way, the increased purchasing power in the hands of recipient countries would benefit us. But benefit to ourselves must not be our sole motive. If our motive is to help the people concerned, then we could very well increase the amount proposed to be granted, to the advantage of the recipients primarily, and to our own advantage as a secondary consideration.
.- I shall direct my remarks to the estimates for the Department of Repatriation. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) earlier this afternoon referred to a decision made by that department. I have previously referred to that decision, and I do not propose to traverse the same ground to-day. I point out, however, that that decision was not in accordance with the policy of the department as announced by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), and that it was quite contrary to the opinion given by the previous AttorneyGeneral, who was then Senator Spicer and who is now Chief Judge Spicer. In speaking this afternoon of the Repatriation Act and the way in which the onus-of-proof provisions are applied by tribunals, I wish to refer to a statement made by an honorable member, to this effect: -
If, after sifting all the evidence, there is no doubt in the mind of the determining tribunal, then it is entitled to dismiss the case without being charged with having failed to apply the onusofproof provision.
That apparently means that the onusofproof provision can be entirely disregarded, if that is what the honorable gentleman meant, then, of course, he suggests that the tribunal can give the Repatriation Act a complete go-by. I refer to this matter because, if that misunderstanding can exist in the mind of an honorable member, the same kind of misunderstanding can exist in the minds of those who constitute repatriation tribunals. It is time that this matter was cleared up.
Let us consider the phrase with which the honorable member commenced his remark, “ If after sifting all the evidence “. It is after the evidence has been sifted that one should really apply the onusofproof provision. The tribunal then has the evidence before it and is in a position to say, “ Has the applicant made out his case? “ or “ Has the department satisfied us beyond reasonable doubt that the injury to the claimant was not due to war service? “. I put those two propositions because those are the two matters to which tribunals generally advert. The first question they should not ask themselves at all, because it is not for the applicant to prove his case. They should discard any such consideration and should address their minds to the question of whether the department has shown beyond reasonable doubt that the applicant’s claim should be rejected. Once the evidence is clearly before it, the tribunal should apply the second test.
Let us consider the other phrase that was used by the honorable member, “ If there is no doubt in the mind of the determining tribunal “. The words, “ no doubt in the mind “ are words of great ambiguity. They may mean no doubt having regard to the probabilities, or they may mean no reasonable doubt at all. Any one who is accustomed to sifting evidence will know that one may say, “ On the probabilities I have no doubt, and I am satisfied “, but if a very much higher standard of proof is required - the standard that is applied every day in the criminal courts - one may very well hesitate to say, “ I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt “. There is no indication whatsoever of what was in the mind of the honorable member who said, “ If there is no doubt in the mind of the determining tribunal “. It is easy enough to say, when the evidence has all been sifted, “ On the balance of probabilities I have no doubt that the applicant has not made out his case “, but that is not the point, as I have tried to emphasize. The question to be asked at that stage is, “ Has the department shown beyond reasonable doubt that the injury or death was not due to war service? “. To say that the tribunal can, as this statement puts it, dismiss the case without being charged with having failed to apply the onus-of-proof provision, is to imply that it may disregard its statutory obligation.
I now wish to deal with section 48 of the Repatriation Act, which follows the onus-of-proof section. Section 48 provides that medical officers or medical men who give opinions to tribunals or like bodies shall set out their opinions as to whether the injury or death was due to war service. The section then goes on to say that the medical officer must also state whether he entertains any doubt, and the nature and extent of his doubt. If the medical officer is not a lawyer and does not know the difference between the two standards of proof that I have mentioned - one on the probabilities and one beyond reasonable doubt - and no doubt very few of them do - he will probably say, “ Well, that is my opinion. I have no doubt about it, on the probabilities “. I suggest, therefore, that in place of sub-section 2, which simply refers to the question of whether there is any doubt, there should be a definite provision that if a medical officer is of opinion that the injury or death was not due to war service he should state categorically that he is of that opinion beyond reasonable doubt, because that is the test that the former Attorney-General has laid down. It is quite idle for a medical officer to say, “ On the probabilities I have no doubt “, because that is not the appropriate test. The test is whether there is any reasonable doubt at all. I make this suggestion to the Minister for Repatriation, therefore, and I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who is now at the table, to take note of this suggestion, because on a previous occasion when I asked him to take note of a suggestion of mine he did not do so at all. I ask him on this occasion to put my suggestion before the Minister for Repatriation.
– All these matters go before the Minister.
.- The committee is indebted to the honorable and learned member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) for the very lucid exposition he has given of the contentious section 47 of the Repatriation Act. The section should not be contentious. It has been part of the law of the land since, I think, 1945. A description of its effect was circulated by the former Attorney-General, now Chief Judge Spicer, to the Repatriation Department and the tribunals, and was endorsed by his predecessor in the office of AttorneyGeneral, who is now the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). That was about 1952 or 1953.
Thanks to the honorable member for Balaclava in a recent debate, reference was made to the report of a repatriation appeal tribunal - a very lengthy report indeed - in which the tribunal set out its view of the section. The honorable member for Balaclava was thoroughly justified in pointing out that the report of the tribunal recited a ten-page letter which the chairman of the tribunal had sent to the Minister for Repatriation when the Minister had sought the tribunal’s views on a case brought to his notice by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham). The tribunal, nowhere in that long report, referred to the circular of the former AttorneyGeneral, which had been sent to all the tribunals about six months or more before. I am speaking from recollection, and I may be a month or so out. It was very plain from that report that this tribunal was either unaware of the authoritative interpretation given to the section or chose to ignore it. This was, in my opinion, put in a very clear and incisive way by the honorable member for Balaclava at that time.
I am glad that the honorable member has mentioned it again this afternoon, because my recollection is that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), who is now at the table, was also the Minister at the table when the bill was being debated. The honorable member for Balaclava was too restrained in not pointing out that the phrase he referred to as coming from an honorable member in fact came from the Minister. The Minister, we suggest with very great respect, also misapprehends section 47 of the act. On this subject, we should be able to get away from some of the political passion, because there are no real politics when it comes to ex-servicemen or the injuries that they have suffered in war or since. We all know of many cases where medical certificates have been given by people whose credentials and probity are beyond challenge in any way and where it is quite plain from the history and nature of a man’s illness that it is quite possibly connected with his war service. Again and again, the tribunal acts, on the basis: What are the probabilities? Of course, the section does not say “ on the probabilities “; it is the possibilities. I can recall very many cases where a very reasonable possibility has been stated by doctors of great skill in special fields and where the tribunals have ignored them.
It is impossible to correct the tribunals. When one refers to the tribunals, there are often cries that seem to suggest that, because members of the tribunals are themselves ex-servicemen, they can be guilty of no wrong, or there seems to be some idea that one is attacking the honesty of the members of the tribunals. One does not have to go as far as that at all. All one is saying is that the tribunals misunderstand the section. As the law stands, there is no way of correcting them. One is not reflecting on the honesty of the tribunal when one says it misunderstands the law, any more than one would be reflecting on the honesty of a judge of first instance when one goes to an appeals court and says that the judge of first instance misunderstood the law. There is no way of correcting the tribunals; they have the last say. They give their decisions in camera, because the act requires them to do so. They give their decisions without written reasons, without crossexamination and without the right of appeal. We on this side have suggested, and many honorable members on the Government side have suggested, that it should be possible to have appeals to a court of law on questions such as this. The appeal could be heard in camera if the appellant, the exserviceman, so desired.
– Would that be the final appeal?
– If the court ruled against it, that would be the finish?
– You do not want that, surely!
– I am suggesting that on every other matter of interpretation of our acts, a decision can be obtained from the courts; if necessary, from the High Court itself. That applies to every statute we pass, but on section 47 and on its predecessor, the High Court has ruled in Bott’s case, to which I referred during the previous debate, that no appeal lies on questions such as we have all referred to. The tribunals themselves decide. The Parliament can dispose of the matter by giving it to an administrative tribunal.
I have said on many occasions, and other honorable members have said, that administrative tribunals of this specific or restricted character have a very limited usefulness. It should be possible to co-ordinate administrative law by giving appeals, not on matters of policy, but on interpretations of the acts which we pass, to some court. Of course, the argument is always advanced that courts of law are necessarily expensive, dilatory or technical. I think it is incontrovertible that administrative tribunals can be just as expensive, dilatory and technical. That certainly applies to this body and to other administrative bodies which administer various acts, such as comptrollers of customs, taxation boards of review and so on. All these objections can be met by having the hearing in private, if the appellant so desired, and by providing that no costs will be awarded against him or, indeed, that his costs will be awarded to him if the court think it a reasonable case to be determined. The fact that these tribunals have been functioning for nearly 30 years, and in the present fashion since about 1940 when it was first made possible for advocates to appear before them, is no reason for them to act as they do. I hope that the lucid exposition once again given by the honorable member for Balaclava in the presence of the Minister will bear some fruit now.
I wish to mention a matter in Division 216, Office of Education, under Miscellaneous Services. This flows from an answer given to me by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a week ago. It will be recalled that increases in the living allowances to Commonwealth scholars were announced in the Budget. It seemed to be an attractive proposition, but, as I said at the time of the Budget and as appears still more clearly from the answer given by the Prime Minister, living allowances are becoming less and less useful to Commonwealth scholars because fewer and fewer Commonwealth scholars are receiving full living allowances and more and more are receiving none at all. Only full-time scholars, or 80 per cent, of the people who are Commonwealth scholars, are in fact eligible, subject to a means test, to receive a living allowance at all. Of that 80 per cent., the number of people receiving no living allowance has been continually increasing. I asked the Prime Minister for information about a five-year period. In 1952, the number of full-time students who were receiving no living allowance was 3,590. In 1956, the number had increased to 5,221. If one looks at the numbers receiving part living allowances, or full living allowances, one finds that they are practically static in number. The people receiving part living allowances, for instance, decreased in number between 1955 and 1956, and between 1954 and 1955. Still more did the proportion decrease. The number receiving full living allowance decreased from 1955 to 1956, and the proportion decreased still more.
– The means test has not altered over that period. “Mr. WHITLAM. - That is the point I want to make. If these living allowances are really to assist people to get the secondary and tertiary education upon which this country depends for its commercial, industrial and strategic strength, then we must alter the means test for the living allowances for Commonwealth scholarships and not just alter the living allowances themselves. The means test has remained unaltered for years, in a time of considerable inflation, when the C series index and every other criterion of the cost of living has varied very greatly indeed.
More people must be encouraged to complete a technical, secondary, or tertiary education. We want it to be possible for such an education, during their late ‘teens or early twenties, to be attractive to them and economically feasible for their parents. Until we amend, or still better abolish, the means test for Commonwealth scholarship allowances, we shall continue to defeat the object of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme itself. The number of Commonwealth scholarships has not increased as the demands of this country have increased for tertiary education, full-time or part-time. Still less, of course, have the amount and availability of allowances increased. I hope that some action will be taken to ensure that, step by step, the means test at least will be abolished, and that as the number of scholarships is increased, so also will the number of people receiving living allowances - full living allowances - increase. In fact, I should think that the time has come when we ought, by a combination of child endowment or student benefits - whatever we like to call it - in terms of the 1946 referendum, make a very large increase in the allowances to students, free of means test to themselves and their parents, because capacity and industry do not depend on the financial means of one’s parents or of oneself, I should think, in educational matters.
At the very least, if children are still receiving a full-time education and are meeting the educational standard for the year at the time that they reach sixteen, they or the parents, but preferably the scholars themselves, should get an amount of say, £2 a week, and on every successive birthday they should receive an extra £1. Their education might take eight years or so, but the investment would be well worthwhile to this country. One of the greatest shortcomings in our society is that it is becoming increasingly difficult and unattractive to receive a full education according to one’s capacity. The contrary lures are too great, and we all are suffering because of that. If we educate a person and his income later is all the better because of the education he has received at the public expense, we reef it off him by way of income tax and indirect taxes. We get it all back, and everybody in the community is better off for the education and skill that he has acquired. But we are not playing our part here. It is all very well to indicate various signs of prosperity or contentment in the community, but we are failing, and our democratic parliamentary way of life is betrayed, while we do not make it possible for people to get accommodation according to their needs, and within a reasonable price range, and for people to get education according to their capacity, their industry and their talents, within the income of any Australian family.
.- I wish to address my remarks to Division No. 222. - Department of Health, Miscellaneous Services, item 3, “ Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, £72,500 “. Once again my voice is raised in protest against the vote being only £72,500, a figure which has been constant since 1944. The first thing I want to stress is that, in my opinion - and to judge by the questions and -comments of other honorable members, in their opinion also - there is a diminishing interest on the part of the Government in this national movement. Not only do I want to express my concern at this diminishing interest, but also, I want to support that claim by directing attention to at least three specific points.
The last council meeting of the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness was held here in Canberra as far back as 3rd September, 1954. When I invited the attention of the Minister to this fact last year, I received from him subsequently correspondence dated 13th July, 1956, which indicated that the next meeting of the council would be held early this year. To my knowledge, nothing has yet been done in connexion with that proposed council meeting, and, of course, the current year is approaching its close.
The second point that I wish to discuss deals with the annual report of the Commonwealth council and the activities under the National Fitness Act 1941. I find that it takes quite a considerable period for this annual report to be compiled, printed and tabled in the Parliament. The last available report deals with the year 1955, up to 30th June. I have made inquiries and have found that the report for the year which ended on 30th June, 1956 is at present in the hands of the printer, and none of us can be sure when it will be available for analysis. This means, of course, that for the year which ended on 30th June last, those of us who might wish to consider the activities of this youth organization during the twelve months, will have little chance to do so until the report is printed towards the end of 1958. In other words, we have been behind for a long time with our review of youth activity. Unless these reports are placed with greater speed in the hands of those interested, particularly honorable members of this Parliament, we shall never be up-to-date in our analysis and our review of this important work.
My third point is that there appears to be no recognition of the need for additional finance to extend this work of national fitness amongst the youth of Australia. I should like to outline the intention of resolution No. 5 of the 1954 council meet ing, to which I have referred. The resolution dealt with a proposed increase of the Commonwealth grant and stated that, as was originally intended, the Commonwealth national fitness grants had proved to be a great stimulus in the States in the promotion of the national fitness movement, both in the actual carrying out of programmes of activity for young men and women, and in obtaining co-operation from the respective State governments. The resolution indicated that, in some States, the financial and other assistance given by the State governments was in excess of the Commonwealth grant. At the same time, it was stated, the Commonwealth grants were the very basis of the movement because they financed the essential services which had been established in each State.
For thirteen years, there has been no increase in the Commonwealth grant, commensurate with constantly rising costs, to maintain even existing services. In its fifth resolution, the council considered that there was then, and there still is, an urgent need to increase the present government grants to State national fitness councils. The resolution claimed that it would be reasonable that these grants be restored to the level of their original purchasing power. The representatives of the States at the council in 1954 drew attention to the fact that if the vote was adjusted by the C series index figure to its 1945 value, the amount for the vote should be approximately £155,000 - virtually more than a doubling of the present vote. But, being reasonable people, they enunciated in their resolution that,, with rigid planning and economy, existing services and the continuing demand for higher salaries and wages, and maintenance costs of buildings and equipment could be financed with an increase of only £27,500, bringing the total grant for national fitness in respect of the whole of the nation to- £100,000. They pointed out that that would allow an increase of from £4,000 to £5,000 to each State council, excluding the State education departments and universities.
That was the recommendation contained in the council’s fifth resolution, but nothing has been done by the Government in connexion with it. Because of the value of the national fitness movement to the youth of Australia I have asked previously in the
Parliament and in correspondence with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for an increase in the vote to £150,000. Earlier this year, I received a kindly acknowledgment from the Prime Minister of certain proposals to alter the administration by the department concerned as well as to increase the financial grant. The letter went on to state that these proposals were interesting and were being considered. Later, unfortunately, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) as Acting Prime Minister, advised me that, in 1955, the Government had decided that there should be no further participation by the Commonwealth Government in the financing of national fitness beyond the figure to which I have referred.
I find that is confirmed in the last report on national fitness. The first paragraph of the report stated that it was becoming more apparent that any finance for the extension of national fitness activities should be the responsibility of State governments. In the same paragraph the following reference was made to the value of this movement, on behalf of which I am now speaking -
The promotion of worth-while leisure-time activities for youth so far has been carried on by many voluntary organizations, assisted by the National Fitness Movement. This field of activity is becoming one of the important factors in modern living, highlighted more than ever by the prospects of greatly increased leisure-time in the fast approaching age of automation.
The report goes on to point out that there is a distinct need for facilities for our youth in the various communities throughout the country. It says that the national fitness organization has but touched the fringe of this problem and that many more facilities will have to be provided, either by private enterprise or with the assistance of the Government.
I make the claim that there is a lack of special encouragement for our youth. I refer in passing to the reduction this year in the intake of young men for national service training. I remind honorable members that many young men after their experience in national service training were quick to state that it had widened their general ideas of good citizenship, quite apart from the valuable training that they received in one . arm or another of our defence services.
However, I find there is no appreciation, at the national level, of youth trends in Australia, and no activity similar to that reflected in the action of President Eisenhower of the United States of America, in setting up a conference on the fitness of American youth. That conference was held in June last year and dealt with the problem, the “programmes, leadership, facilities and overall recommendations relative to the fitness of American youth. Some of the proposals which can be found in the report of that conference should be of interest to us to-day. That conference recognized that in America scientific and technological advances of the present day, while bringing an ease to living, deprived youth of needed physical activity. It pointed out that the youth of the nation were affected particularly by the existence of press-button gadgets and other devices tending towards habits of inactivity. A further finding was that the effect of automation was found in rural as well as in urban life, and the view was expressed that the strength of the American nation to-morrow lay in the fitness of its youth to-day. If time permitted I could deal further with the findings of that conference. I was particularly interested when I read that it contended that the American Federal Government had resources and facilities and was responsible for their development and use by the children and youth of the nation to help achieve and maintain proper fitness. The conference enunciated a proposal, which was accepted by the President of the U.S.A., that he should set up advisory committees and thus give a lead at the top level in helping the youth of the nation. In Australia there is no adequate recognition by the Commonwealth Government of the need to stimulate and maintain, on the highest level, citizenship training of our youth. In the divisions of the Estimates to which I am referring several grants are provided for well-recognized movements, such as the boy scouts and girl guides associations, and I acknowledge these with thanks. Although I criticize the inadequacy of the grant for national fitness, I believe that my criticism should be constructive. Therefore, I should offer several alternatives and perhaps some new practical proposals. The national fitness movement, operating under legislation which confers adequate powers, should be completely overhauled, and plans should be laid for a second stage of its operations to meet present-day problems and needs. Secondly, the council should be administered by the Commonwealth Office of Education, because of its close association with youth. The diminishing interest of the Department of Health seems to indicate that it is not fully cognizant of youth activity and problems. Thirdly, in line with what I have already said, a new approach by the Commonwealth to the subject of financing this work is overdue. Everyone would claim that it is a very poor conception of the value of the Australian youth if we are to cripple an invaluable agency of this kind for the want of a mere £30,000 to £50,000. The Government should give encouragement to organizations which contribute directly to leadership and citizenship training. I suggest that all organizations affiliated with the associated youth committees of national fitness councils in each State could be covered by a subsidy scheme in respect of capital expenditure on training centres and camps, head-quarters and youth centres. Just as we have promoted homes for the aged, so, I believe, we must give attention to the youth of Australia. What a splendid incentive it would be if a “Youth Centres Assistance Bill “ could be introduced and approved to provide for a £1 for £1 subsidy in respect of the essential capital extension programmes of these recognized organizations already linked with the national fitness movement.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motions (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the following resolutions be reported to the House: -
That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £534,462,000 for the services of the year 1957-58, viz.:-
That there be granted to Her Majesty for the services of the year 1957-58, for the purposes of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve established by the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955, a sum to the extent of £119,363,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Motions (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1957-58, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £297,711,000.
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1957-58, for the purposes of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve established by the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £119,363,000.
Resolutions reported and adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Fairhall do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In the course of the debate on the Estimates many Ministers, for good and sufficient reasons, have been absent from the chamber when questions have been asked by honorable members relating to their departments. I suggest that the practice of the Victorian Parliament should be followed in this Parliament, and that each Minister should arrange for some person to go through the debate and note all queries that are raised, so that the member raising the query can be given, by letter if necessary, an answer to his question. When honorable members seek information in that manner I think that it should be given.
– in reply - From my own experience, I know that it is the practice of the department concerned to go carefully through the official record of what is said in the course of these discussions. The action subsequently taken by the department or the Minister may vary according to the circumstances. I shall take the opportunity to bring to the notice of my colleagues in the Ministry the request which the honorable gentleman has made. Having regard to the prominent part taken by the honorable gentleman during these discussions, I assume that he is speaking for the Opposition generally.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I think the evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee by the Clerk of the House of Representatives on the procedures adopted in Great Britain and other countries might be investigated by the Government before next year, so that we may have a more streamlined procedure when considering the Estimates. This is a large Parliament now. All honorable members cannot say all that they want to say on the Estimates. Quite a number of honorable members want to say more than they can under the present system. Therefore, I suggest that the Government consider some better way of dealing with the various votes before the Appropriation Bill is dealt with. Perhaps we might meet separately with representatives of the various departments and discuss the problems vitally concerning those departments. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggested that we discuss each department separately rather than groups of departments, and that suggestion has a lot to commend it. All governments have been remiss in this regard, but nobody has really been to blame. It is the system that is wrong. Perhaps the Government might give some consideration to making the committee more workable when it comes to appropriating such large sums of money.
– I welcome the suggestion made by the honorable honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I have already indicated earlier this week that I have been concerned to see. whether we, as a Parliament, and as a committee of the Parliament, could find a better way to deal with the estimates of the various departments. We have experimented over the years with different methods of dealing with the Estimates. I think that what has been happening in recent years constitutes a big improvement over earlier years, when the Estimates were frequently pushed through the committee in a few nights of all-night discussion by a sort of process of attrition of members and Ministers and officials. Over recent years, we have had a more orderly examination of the Estimates, and that has been some improvement. I believe that what we have done this year is an improvement on the performance of even the last two or three years.
– Little by little, we are improving on “ Eric “.
– I do not claim that, but I say that little by little we are improving, which has been the aspiration of mankind through the ages.
I undertake to study carefully what is the practice in comparable parliaments in other parts of the world. I will welcome any suggestions which come from honorable members opposite and, of course, I will confer whenever desirable with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
.- There is an item on the notice paper at the moment which might provide an opportunity for doing what the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) have suggested should be done. It might also provide an opportunity to consider some of the recommendations that the Public Accounts Committe has already made. The Public Accounts Committee has suggested that if the House is willing, the committee might formulate methods, but the committee believes that the matter should go to the Standing Orders committee for consideration. The eighth, thirteenth, and thirtyfirst reports of the Public Accounts Committee all deal with matters of procedure, which are designed to improve the conduct of the financial business of the Parliament, and this might be an opportunity to consider those reports.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1957-58 - be considered as a whole.
Proposed vote, £121,368,000.
.- I should like to make some observations on the proposed vote of £5,500,000 for the Department of Shipping and Transport. I was pleased to see this amount was made available, but I regret very much that it is not considerably more, because the electorate I represent embraces the centre of the shipbuilding industry in Queensland. While this industry has progressed considerably since it was established in about 1941, its future, because of the Government’s policy and the attitude of the shipping interests in Australia, is not by any means assured. It is true that many excellent ships now running on the Australian coast were built at the Kangaroo Point shipping yards of Evans Deakin and Company Limited, and several ships are still on the stocks at those yards being constructed for the Australian Shipping Board; but there is no guarantee of continuity. I feel that an announcement should be made in this respect to reassure the employers and employees associated with this magnificent Australian industry.
The lack of action on the part of shipping interests - I refer to private industry - deserves strong condemnation by the Parliament and people because during the war years we experienced great difficulty in obtaining ships to transport our goods along the coast. Now, in peace-time, the shipping interests are looking to overseas as a source of ships. It has been proved time and time again that Australia is capable of building ships equal to the standard of any manufactured in other countries. Perhaps I am a little more conservative than my colleague, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), who is quite competent to express an opinion on shipbuilding as he has played a noble part in the construction of many vessels now plying on the Australian coast. As the standard of ships built in Australia is very high I can see no reason why private shipping interests persist in turning to European shipyards. It is true there is a very strong school of thought which favours that policy, and I regret to say that at least one member of the Senate, the Leader of the Democratic Labour Party, has actually advocated that we purchase our ships from Japanese shipyards. That view will be of interest to boilermakers, ironworkers and others employed in the building of ships.
It is most unfortunate that some shipbuilders have seen fit to dismiss skilled tradesmen due to the falling-off of orders. I am sure those who have invested in the ship-building industry get no delight in discharging skilled tradesmen who have been associated with them over so many years; but when business does not come to hand, when they do not obtain contracts to build ships, I suppose they have no alternative. They must carry on and keep their heads financially above water. That is why this amount of £5,500,000 could, with advantage to the nation generally, be greatly increased. I look to the day when all the ships that ply on the Australian coast will be built in Australia. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is doing a fine job in building its own ships at its shipyards at Whyalla, but those ships are being constructed primarily for the transport of ore from Western Australia. What about the ships that enjoy such favoured conditions as govern the movement of the highly protected sugar crop from north Queensland? The contract for the movement of that sugar to the southern States is held, I think, by the Adelaide Steamship Company, all of whose ships have been built in overseas yards. That is true also of almost every other private shipping company. It is a shocking state of affairs when we are now enjoying an era of peace that shipping companies should look to other countries to supply the ships for the transport of our goods.
I turn now to expenditure in respect of the standardization of railway gauges. I suppose all honorable members enthusiastically support the Railway Standardization (South Australian) Agreement Act under which the excellent railway was constructed to Marree. My only regret is that we are not asked to vote a much larger sum of money in respect of rail standardization. Later this year we will probably be asked to vote an increased grant for this purpose because, from a statement made this morning by the Premier of Victoria, I understand that owing to growing unemployment he proposes to commence construction of the standard gauge line to Melbourne at a much earlier date than was anticipated under the agreement. Only yesterday 300 men were dismissed from the Victorian Railways Department. It is proposed to commence this work within the next five weeks so that these men may be absorbed in employment. Thus, rail standardization projects, apart from their inherent value in our national life, can play a substantial part in relieving unemployment. All the signs indicate that unemployment will increase, particularly as a result of the drought we are now unfortunately experiencing, and the standardization of railway gauges offers a grand opportunity for the Commonwealth to assist those States which are prepared to accept assistance to absorb the unemployed in productive and constructive work.
The report of the commissioner on the operations of the Commonwealth Railways, the proposed vote for which we are now considering, is a glowing document and suggests that even in the railway system we are approaching automation because of the excellent equipment that is being used to advantage. Costs are actually being slashed by the use of diesel-electric locomotives, and we are tending to get away from the 33i per cent, transportation charge which falls on the national income. We must use, as far as possible, all the advantages of science in this important transport industry. I am very happy to be able to say a few words in support of this proposed vote. I wish it were more. I wish that the other States were enjoying the benefits of the rail standardization agreement because I feel that there will always be trouble with internal transportation, and that our costs will be exceedingly high, until we reach the happy day when the main trunk lines of the Commonwealth of Australia, through all the States, has been standardized.
.- I join with the honorable member for Griffiths (Mr. Coutts) in commending the rail standardization vote and in hoping, as he hoped, that later in the year we shall be called upon to vote a little more for this very desirable work. Again I concur with the honorable member in expressing confidence that that will, in fact, take place because the Victorian and New South Wales Governments are now arranging to proceed, with every expedition, with the construction of the first link in the standardization scheme - the section from Wodonga to Melbourne. I trust that this will not be long left in isolation, but that reasonably soon work will commence on the second stage which will complete the standard gauge line from the east coast to Fremantle.
I do not believe that we should spend money on that line in great quantity until the first work, the section from Wodonga to Melbourne, is complete. But I do think that a good case can be made out for the allocation of some capital funds for the preliminary surveys both of the Broken Hill to Port Pirie section and the Kalgoorlie to Fremantle section which I think the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) mentioned. Some surveys have been made, but further surveys are necessary. On the Broken Hill line, the survey is necessary at the north-eastern end and at the crossing of several ranges in the vicinity of Peterborough. On the Kalgoorlie to Fremantle line, a trial survey is necessary from Northam in order to see whether the southern route is better than the selected northern route. A survey is also necessary of the entry to Fremantle itself where the changing conditions brought about by the Kwinana development have made obsolete certain former surveys. [Quorum formed.] I hope, also, that it will be found possible to provide a circulating fund for the expansion of diesel-electric traction in the State railways. This would cut down transport costs, and here again, I think that the honorable member for Griffith was on the correct line.
The estimates that we are asked to consider total about £122,000,000, but most of that sum is comprised in three proposed votes - an amount of £35,000,000 for war service homes, an amount of £34,000,000 for the Postmaster-General’s Department, and an amount of £18,000,000 for the Snowy River development. I believe that we should be thinking a little, not in terms of detail, but in terms of the general principle of charging these capital works to revenue. Is it, in fact, the correct thing to do? I know that owing to the condition of the loan market the Commonwealth has not claimed its share of the pool. Under the financial agreement, of course, it is entitled to a share of the total loan moneys raised, but it has left its share to the States and has charged its own capital works to revenue. No doubt this action has been forced on the Government, but it means higher taxation and therefore, in a vicious circle, less investable funds for the loan market.
If only we could find some way of increasing savings and therefore of increasing investable funds, it would be possible to lower taxation. Instead of charging capital expenditure to revenue it could be chargeable to a capital loan account, which is where it surely should be charged. For example, let us take the three items that I have mentioned. The sum of £18,000,000 for the Snowy project will be invested in capital works which, although not revenueproducing at this moment, will be revenueproducing before very long. The sum of £35,000,000 for war service homes is revenue-producing. Interest is charged on that amount and repayments are received. The sum of £34,000,00 for the Postal Department, a business undertaking is differently treated in the accounts because no interest is charged back on it. Perhaps that is a defect in our accounting procedure which the Public Accounts Committee might well consider. I know that it has given some consideration to it already. But I do think that it is time that we looked much more seriously at this whole question of the amount of capital works that we pay for out of revenue. The sum of £122,000,000 is only about half of the expenditure included in the Budget. In addition, about £119,000,000 has been allocated for a loan consolidation reserve.
State capital works are being constructed out of Commonwealth revenue raised by taxation. I know that, in times of financial stringency, there may be no alternative to this procedure. But surely it is a reproach to the Treasury that this has gone on from year to year. The vicious spiral is inclined to get worse and nothing constructive is being done about it. If honorable members will turn to the Estimates they will see that already, at the beginning of this financial year, there was about £317,000,000 in the Loan Consolidation Reserve Account. That money has been raised from the taxpayer and lent to the States for the construction of their works. We are proposing to add to it another £119,000,000 this year. Perhaps we shall add to that any Commonwealth surplus which may exist. So, by the end of this year, that account will be up around £440,000,000 or £450,000,000. It will be money which we have got from the taxpayer without any interest obligation and lent to the States at interest. Surely this is unnecessary and unreasonable. In view of the fact that the States have become unhealthily dependent on the Commonwealth, why should we be doing something which cuts down the investible funds and therefore the amount available to the loan market? Why should we take money out of the taxpayers’ pockets, lend it to the States, and charge interest on it? To me this does not appear a reasonable procedure at all, and I suggest that we should follow one of two courses. The first is to let the States have this money free of interest. That would be in the spirit of the Constitution, because the Constitution laid down that surplus revenue should be divided, in a certain proportion, among the States. It is really our moral obligation to let the States have the money free of interest, although we have evaded that obligation by a legal trick. This has been going on for some 40 years, and what I say is not to be regarded as a reproach of the present Government. If we do not adopt that policy, and if we continue to1 charge the States interest, then we should also pay interest, as a counter-balancing item, to the taxpayers who are providing the money. In other words, in respect of the portion of the taxes that they pay to cover these works we should issue, not just a receipt from the Taxation Branch, but also an interest-bearing bond. Then the money that we received from the States as interest on the amounts granted to them for capital works would be paid out to the taxpayers, and the amounts of interest received and paid out would balance one another.
I make these suggestions knowing very well the difficulties that confront the Treasurer. I know full well that he has found it impossible to raise sufficient money on the loan market under the present conditions for Commonwealth loans, which the central bank has, very largely, prescribed. I know that it has been impossible to raise the amounts needed annually for the “States’ works, and that the Treasurer has, therefore, resorted to the expedient of taxing in order to raise the money, and using the proceeds for capital purposes. That is pardonable, even commendable, for a year or two. It is something that must be done in order to avoid unemployment and to avoid a cessation of the works programme. But what is not commendable and is very hard to condone is that this practice continues from year to year, with the situation becoming worse. It is a vicious spiral.
– How would the honorable member stop it?
– I am satisfied that we must undertake a multi-point programme for the encouragement of saving in the community, or else do one of two things - either let the States have the money that we have raised free of interest, in the spirit of the Australian Constitution, or, alternatively, issue, with respect to some part of the taxes paid by every taxpayer, not just a receipt, but also an interest-bearing bond or certificate of deposit with the Treasury. It seems only equitable to me that’ we should adopt one of those alternatives. If we did so we would help in the long run - and I do not pretend that my suggestion would help very much over a short period - to reinstate the habit of saving in the community, and so extricate ourselves from our difficulties. It is of no use for us merely to chase this vicious spiral downwards helplessly.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has, in my opinion, made a very good point. All honorable members who have considered and studied reports of the Premiers’ conferences will agree that the matter raised by the honorable member has been considered by the various Ministers at those conferences. I agree entirely with the honorable member’s suggestion that it is illogical and unfair for this Government to hand to the States money that has been collected from the taxpayers, and to charge a high rate of interest on it. I do not suggest that the money should be granted entirely free of interest, but I say in all sincerity that the interest rate should be examined.
The matter that I wish to discuss concerns Division No. 44, in the estimates for the Department of National Development. It is the expenditure under the War Service Homes Act for the current financial year. The amount to be expended in this way has been increased in this financial year to £35,000,000. This represents an increase of £5,000,000 on the amount provided in the previous year. At the outset I wish to associate myself with a comment made in an earlier debate on this subject by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) concerning the administration generally of the War Service Homes Division. I refer particularly to the officers of that division. The honorable member for Brisbane referred to the consideration that all honorable members have received from those officers, not only the directors but also those who serve under them. I personally have received a great deal of consideration from officers of the War Service Homes Division. I know that all honorable members on this side of the House, and, I am sure, on the other side too, will join with me in extending to the War Service Homes Division our congratulations and good wishes for the friendly way in which they have given advice on all occasions. I know that the assistance they render to honorable members is also extended to applicants for war service homes. However, I believe it should be said at this point that most of the applicants to-day wish to know why the waiting period has been lengthened from six months, as it was in 1948-49, to about eighteen months at the present time. I venture to say that in some States the waiting period at present is even greater than eighteen months. This must be due, obviously, entirely to the fact that the Government has made insufficient funds available to the division since 1949.
I referred a few minutes ago to the fact that the amount available this year had been increased from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000. I point out, however, that the annual amount made available remained at £30,000,000 from 1954. I think the increase in that year was from £27,000,000 to £30,000,000. The amount available to the War Service Homes Division has been £30,000,000 a year during the last two financial years.
– How much was it in 1948?
– It may be successfully argued that the amount was insufficient in those days. I am prepared to concede that it was. It may also be successfully argued that the number of homes constructed under this Government has been much greater than the number constructed under a Labour government. But I believe that it should be said, in fairness to previous governments, that they were in power during the difficult post-war period. 1 venture to say, also, that the remarkable increase in the number of war service homes constructed during 1949-50, the first year of office of this Government, was due entirely to the programme that had been laid down by the Chifley Government. I concede to the honorable member that comparisons of Labour and non-Labour governments may indicate that a substantial number of war service homes have been built since the present Government was elected to the Treasury bench in 1949. However, as I pointed out only a few moments ago, the waiting period has increased from six months to eighteen months, and in many instances exceeds that lengthy period. Obviously, the amount of finance that has been made available has been insufficient to meet the applications, which have been increasing each year. The only matter that concerns the ex-serviceman at the moment is not whether a Labour government built more war service homes than a Liberal government but how long he must wait before a home is made available to him. The fact that the Government has increased by £5,000,000 the amount to be made available to the War Service Homes Division will not mean a reduction in the waiting period, and I shall establish that point by figures which I shall cite in a few moments.
During the period in which the amount made available to the War Service Homes Division has been increased from £27,000,000 in 1954 to £30,000,000 for the next two financial years, there has been an enormous increase in the average cost of a home. That is illustrated in the report made available to the Parliament by the Director of the War Service Homes Division only a few days ago. The average cost of a dwelling house in New South Wales has increased from £2,525 in 1951-52 to £3,782 in 1956-57. I shall take another State at random. In Queensland the average cost of a home was £2,393 in 19M-52 and £3,324 in 1956-57. In Tasmania, the average cost of a home was £2,326 in 1951-52 but in the financial year 1956-57 the the average cost had risen to £3,396. Therefore, the additional £5,000,000 that will be made available to the War Service Homes Division in this financial year obviously will be absorbed in the increased cost of the homes. Ministers, particularly the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, have said that possibly 50 per cent, of applicants do not take over their homes when they are available. The reason so many applicants are not able to take possession of their homes is the tremendous increase in the average cost of homes in all States.
If I remember correctly - and I am open to correction on this point - the maximum advance for a war service home was increased in 1954 from £2,500 to £2,750- an increase of £250. But many ex-servicemen who are applicants for a group home or who wish to build a home through the War Service Homes Division are not in a position either to build or to take possession of the home when it becomes available because they cannot find sufficient money for the deposit. To substantiate my argument, I shall refer again to the average cost of homes in the various States. With a maximum advance of £2,750, an ex-serviceman who is an applicant for a War Service home in the Northern Territory would require a deposit of £2,899. I emphasize that point. The maximum advance is £2,750 and the average cost of the home is £5,649. The deposit required is, therefore, in excess of the maximum advance allowed by the War Service Homes Division. Honorable members will be able to assess for themselves the ability of the average exserviceman in the Northern Territory to take possession of a home when it becomes available.
I have selected the Northern Territory, but I admit at once that possibly construction costs there exceed the average construction costs in other States. However, in New South Wales, the average cost of a home to-day has risen to £3,782. With the maximum advance at £2,750, an applicant for a home through the War Service Homes Division would be required to provide a deposit of £1,032. Once again I suggest that it would not be possible for the average ex-serviceman in that State to take possession of his home if he were required to find a deposit of £1,032. Let us consider the position in Tasmania. The average cost of a home in that State is £3,396. With a maximum advance of £2,750, an applicant would be required to find a deposit of £646. I am able to speak with more feeling of that State because I know from my own personal experience that many applicants receive a notice from the War Service Homes Division that their home will be made available within a week or so and are requested to provide a deposit, which, I admit quite frankly, varies from £250 to £600 or more and which illustrates the reason why many ex-servicemen are not able to take possession of their homes.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Divisions 53, 54, and 55 of the estimates for capital works and services outline the amounts available to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for capital works. As honorable members are constantly pressing for the provision of increased telephone and postal facilities, I think it is appropriate that I should spend a few minutes in giving a brief indication of the plans which the department has made for the expenditure of sums provided for capital works during this financial year. The department is making every endeavour to catch up on the arrears which have existed for some time.
The amounts provided for capital works for the Postmaster-General’s Department during, this financial year totalled £34,380,000. That is about £3,660,000 more than the amount provided last year, which was £30,720,000. Engineering capital works will take up £30,000,000, new buildings £4,000,000, and sites and properties £380,000. I submit to the committee that the increased provision in this financial year shows very clearly that the Government is fully conscious of the increasing public demand for postal and telecommunication facilities in the country, and also that it is solidly behind the efforts of the department to catch up with the arrears of applications for telephones and trunk-lines and is prepared to make available additional amounts to enable the department to do so.
The expenditure of this extra amount entails careful planning to ensure that it is expended with the best results. With this end in view, I called a conference in Melbourne of all the heads of branches after the Budget was determined, and we got down to the task of ensuring that every effort would be made to get the best value for the money available to the department, and to do everything possible to catch up with the arrears that had been worrying us for some considerable time. As a result of this conference in Melbourne, the officers went back to their States having agreed upon a plan to be applied throughout Australia. They had further conferences in the States, and I have since had a report, to which I shall refer again shortly, which shows that the plan already is producing results.
So far as the engineering works vote is concerned– the £30,000,000 to which I have referred - I set a certain number of targets for the main services to be provided under this heading. For instance, the target for the installation of telephone subscribers’ lines I put at 150,000 lines. That figure compares with 126,000 lines last year and indicates that, in this respect alone, a considerable inroad will be made into outstanding and deferred applications. Let me sound a note of warning here. Already I have heard from several honorable members that they fear that there is a possibility that the department, in order to achieve good figures this year, will concentrate on areas in which the connexion of telephones is simpler and less costly than it is in other areas which at present are not supplied with a cable service. I assure honorable members that that policy will not be adopted-. As a matter of fact, there are certain areas, particularly in some of the capital cities, which, because of the rapid growth during the last few years, are very badly serviced. We are fully aware of those areas, and they will receive particular attention, irrespective of whether that means the expenditure of a larger sum per telephone installed than would be the case in other areas more favorably placed.
In addition, the trunk-line position will be improved. The target for trunk-lines is 1,100, compared, with 950 last year. As honorable members know, in the last two or three years a considerable improvement has been made in the trunk-line services throughout Australia. The expenditure of these additional sums will continue to effect improvement.
Rural automatic exchanges are an important feature of the development of our telephone communications in country areas. Last year, 75 were installed, and this year the target is at least 130. I want it to be understood that these figures that I am giving do not represent the maximum figures which it is expected that the department will be able to attain; they are the minimum figures to which we are looking. At the same time, a commencement will be made on the modernization of telegraph services by the introduction of the system known as “ Tress “. Eventually an amount of £700,000 will be expended on this service - not all in this financial year - as a result of which it is expected that there will be savings of £450,000 per annum, and that approximately 730 offices will be included in the network.
In addition, this will mean that there will be employed on capital works this year more than 10,000 persons, compared with approximately 9,500 last year. I make this point because, from time to time, one hears comment to the effect that the Public Service is being increased and that the Postmaster-General’s Department is contributing to that increase. I point out that we are planning for the expenditure of this additional amount this year and that inevitably, in order to improve the facilities generally provided by the department, there must be some increase of employment. That is what this proposal involves. Materials to the value of more than £19,000,000 will be used in the programme, compared with expenditure of approximately £17,400,000 last year, while the revenue of the department will improve by about £6,300,000. I do not think that I have made it plain that, in this programme, at least 80 per cent, of the materials used will be of Australian manufacture. Consequently, it will provide indirectly for more employment and greater use of Australian materials.
I turn now to the question of buildings. The sum of £4,000,000 has been made available for new buildings, and of course it is essential that the building programme should keep ahead of the engineering works programme in order to provide the necessary housing for the equipment. Very careful attention has been given to the priority to be established in determining what new buildings are to be erected, because, of course, there are many hundreds of demands from all over Australia. As a result of this allocation of £4,000,000, it will be possible to proceed in this financial year so that 158 new buildings will be commenced, although not all of them will be completed in the year.
I want to say here that, particularly so far as the building programme is concerned, I have to pay a tribute to my colleague, the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall). We have been able to devise, as a result of our experience last year, a better system for the handling of the whole of the works programme by instituting, in each State, a special committee of representatives of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department of Works. These committees apply themselves to the particular programmes of works in the States, thereby short-circuiting a lot of the business that went on previously, and provide for decentralization to a greater degree than was previously the case. That system is operating to the advantage of both departments. I thank my colleague for his co-operation in establishing it.
I want to make only a few brief comments so that honorable members will have them as a background for any further discussion that they desire to have during this debate. Therefore, I shall content myself with saying that three months of this programme have elapsed, and that a report which I have received within the last day or two shows that already the number of deferred telephone applications, which were extant at the beginning of this financial year, has been reduced by 5,783. It is expected that there will be a considerable reduction of the total number of deferred applications, and that, although it is not to be expected that in this financial year all the deferred applications will be satisfied, the policy that we are pursuing will be continued. Continuation of advances to the department on the basis of this year’s advance will enable us, within two or three years, to overcome the situation completely.
Further, in this period of three months. we have already installed 23 rural automatic telephone exchanges, . which, though not quite the rate of installation necessary to attain our final objective, since it takes a little time for a programme like this to gain momentum, gives cause for satisfaction and indicates that at least the target set - 130 - will be achieved, and probably exceeded. Already the reports coming in from all States show that the progress under our new plan is encouraging and that, given reasonable weather and other conditions, the year 1957-58 will be one of progress in the department. I think that honorable members will find that the services in the individual areas in which they are interested will be improved considerably as a result of the allocation by the Government of this total amount of £34,380,000.
.- The Labour Government acquired, in the City of Melbourne, a whole block of land, on which to build government offices, and at that time I spoke against the proposal in this House. Now, this Government is in the process, I believe, of acquiring certain land in other capital cities for the same purpose, and I am not any more favorably disposed to this proposition. The point I made at the time the Labour Government was- in office I want to repeat now, because I cannot see any reason whatever why, in cities such as Melbourne or Adelaide or any other city, a large block of land should be taken up, as has been done in Melbourne, and a large block of offices erected on it by the Commonwealth Government. Commonwealth offices are necessary in cities to enable the public to contact departmental officers; but the great majority of Commonwealth public servants who, it is proposed, will be housed in the new offices now being built in Melbourne and other capital cities, could be accommodated in premises on the outskirts of the city or in the suburbs. They do not need to come into direct contact with the public.
To-day, the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) asked the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to give consideration to the acquisition of certain buildings or land in King William-street, Adelaide. I asked the Minister, in a supplementary question, whether in considering this proposition he would keep in mind the need to decentralize government offices in the way that is now being done by some departments. I referred in my question particularly to the Department of Social Services “ under the guidance of its esteemed Minister “. That department recently opened an office at Bendigo, in Victoria.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Bendigo interjects “ Hear, hear! “ with gusto. That department has decentralized its activities. It has established branches in other centres also - at Geelong and at various centres in New South Wales. It has decided to push out to areas other than the capital cities. This policy is in the best interests of both the country and the department because it provides accessibility to residents in important centres.
I cannot understand, however, why land should be acquired, almost in the centre of a capital city such as Melbourne, and a large, towering block of offices built on it, when it is necessary to house only the comparatively few officials whom the public require to contact in the course of their business. In the seven or eight years that have elapsed since I criticized the Labour government for not decentralizing these offices, the need for decentralization has increased. We are in the atomic age, and almost daily honorable members are stressing the need for civil defence. They point out that if one atomic bomb were dropped on Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide, almost the whole- of the work of the Commonwealth would be disrupted. That is true, and if these offices were decentralized by being dispersed to outer suburbs or in other towns or smaller cities, much of that risk would be obviated. The work of the department would not be adversely affected. I ask the Minister, the Government and honorable members to give consideration to this proposition. It is not necessary to have Commonwealth officials all housed under one roof in any capital city. As I have said already, only those who have contact with the public need to be within easy reach. The great majority of public servants could be accommodated in offices 10 miles from a city such as Melbourne in an outer suburb. Their principal requirement would be to be within easy reach of postal facilities.
– How would the officers reach their offices?
– In just the same way as they travel to or from the metropolitan area.
– They would have to travel into town.
– Some of the people who will work or are already working, in Government departments in Melbourne now come from places as far away as Geelong in the electorate of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman). The honorable member will confirm that fact. Others come from Dandenong and others from as far distant as Ballan and Ballarat. I ask the Government to give consideration to this proposition which is a practical one, full of logic and understanding.
.- 1 thank the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) for the information he has given about the increased telephone facilities which will be provided from the increased appropriation for the Postmaster-General’s Department during the current financial year. However, I wish to issue a note of warning. The Minister gave, as an indication of the improvement which has occurred in the last twelve months, the fact that at the end of June last, the number of outstanding applications for telephone services was fewer than at the end of June in the previous year. It had, in fact, dropped by 13,000, from 86,009 to 73,712.
– I think the figure I mentioned showed the decrease in the last three months since 30th June last.
– I thank the Minister. The significance of the figures is greatly reduced by the fact that during the last financial year the number of applications received for telephone installations dropped very greatly. The number of applications received decreased by over 32,000 from 147,888 to 115,373. The number of telephones added during the last twelve months was 1 10,808, whereas in thepreceding twelve months the figure was 116,540. To take another test, since so many of the telephones were on the duplex system, the number of exchange lines added last year was 72,409. In the preceding twelve months the figure was 79,239. Little comfort can be derived from the fact that the single set of figures which the Minister quoted showed an improvement at the end of last June or September over the figures at the end of the preceding June, because the number of applications dropped by one-quarter and the number of installations dropped also.
I make a plea for the outer suburbs - in particular, the outer suburbs of Sydney included in the two Labour electorates of Hughes and Werriwa and the two Liberal electorates of Mackellar and Mitchell. The majority of waiting applications in Australia are from people in the outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. To questions which I asked on notice, the Minister has given answers which are recorded in “ Hansard “, and to which I shall not refer in detail. Whereas there always used to be complaints about country districts receiving an inadequate share of telephone services, the complaint now justifiably comes from the outer suburbs of metropolitan cities.
– Many of those people need go only a few yards to a public telephone.
– I am not saying that country people should not have more telephones. Everybody should be able to have a telephone; but in the outer suburbs of metropolitan cities there is the most urgent need of them. An expectant mother about to have her first child may panic because she cannot get in touch with a doctor or a hospital. People setting up in business, particularly those in service industries and the building industry are at a grave disadvantage through not having a telephone service. A housewife or a builder will not write or telegraph a technician or tradesman but will get in touch with one who is on the telephone. I conclude by quoting the number of outstanding applications for telephone services in the metropolitan areas of Australia, principally Sydney and Melbourne; they were 57,277 out of the 73,712 which were outstanding in Australia at the end of June last.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a “sum not exceeding £121,368,000 for the services - - of the year 1957-58, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That, towards making good the supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1957-58, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £72,248,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Davidson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, read a first and second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
I take this opportunity to thank all members of the House, and in particular the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) for the manner in which they cooperated and enabled us to proceed according to schedule.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Right Honorable the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Right Honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) each speaking without limitation of time on the second reading of each of the following bills: - Reserve Bank, Commonwealth Banks, Banking and Banking (Transitional Provisions).
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The chief purpose of this bill is to establish the central bank for the Australian monetary and banking system as an institution which will not be directly associated with the conduct of banking business in competition with the private banks. The present central bank - the Commonwealth Bank of Australia - is to be re-named the Reserve Bank of Australia. The Reserve Bank will conduct the central banking functions now carried on by the Commonwealth Bank, and its powers for doing so are provided for in this bill and in the bill for a revised Banking Act which I shall presently introduce.
This bill, however, is not to be considered as an isolated measure. It is one of four bills which, taken together, aim to reorganize and re-constitute the Commonwealth group of banking institutions, and so, to explain this bill, I find it necessary to outline the scheme of measures as a whole and show the connexions between them. I propose also to state why the Government considers measures of this kind to be necessary. In addition, I shall later introduce a number of amendments to other legislation made necessary by these main banking measures.
At present, the Commonwealth group of banking institutions includes the Commonwealth Bank of Australia which acts as a central bank and which has, as special departments, the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department. The group, also includes the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank. These several institutions are all constituted by the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1953. They all come under the control of the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. They have a common staff and they operate, for the most part, in the same premises in various centres.
Briefly, the proposal is, as I have indicated, to separate from this group the central banking element (including the Rural Credits Department) and set it up as the Reserve Bank of Australia; and then to reconstitute the other elements, each with its own functions and responsibilities, under a new organization to be known as the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. At the same time, the Banking Act, which is the law that governs generally banking matters coming under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth,” is being re-enacted in an amended form. The principal amendment to that Act will substitute a system of reserve deposits for the present system of special account deposits.
There is one main reason why the Government has decided to separate the central bank from the rest of the Commonwealth Bank group - and it is entirely a practical reason. Experience has shown that there cannot be full harmony within the Australian banking system, nor that close cooperation which ought to subsist between the central bank and the trading banks, unless and until this separation is effected.
The question whether a central bank ought to engage, directly or indirectly, in trading bank activities has been a matter of active controversy, here and elsewhere, for very many years; and there has never been anything like a consensus of opinion on it. Various authorities who have studied the matter closely have reached widely differing views. We should perhaps remember that many past judgments and beliefs on the subject were formed in contexts very different from that of to-day and often on the basis of abstract principle rather than of experience. The Government, on the other hand, has had to judge the matter as a strictly practical, presentday issue, and it has done so in the light of the very considerable experience we have now had.
We believe - as indeed most people believe nowadays - that there must be a strong central bank to regulate trends in monetary and banking conditions. But we also believe that the private trading banks have a vital part to play in the Australian banking system and the Australian economy; and there can be no doubt either that the great majority of Australian people believe this too. They have believed it all the more strongly since, for a period in 1947 and 1948, they faced the prospect of a totally nationalized banking system.
If, however, a system which includes both a government-owned central bank and a number of private trading banks is to work smoothly and effectively in the national interest, certain fundamental conditions must be fulfilled. One condition is that the central bank should have a foundation of adequate legal powers; but that by itself is not enough. There must be mutual understanding between the central bank and the private banks, mutual confidence and a will to co-operate. These elements are just as vital as legal powers for the central bank and it is quite certain that, if they are lacking, no legal powers or contrivances can fill their place.
This points to a major difficulty inherent in our banking system as we have known it hitherto. The private banks have consistently maintained that they cannot enter into fully confidential relationships with the central bank so long as it has, under its control and operating as an adjunct to itself, a major trading bank which is a competitor of theirs.
Since there will no doubt be a great deal said about the attitude of the private banks, I think I should state explicitly the point of view they have put to the Government. It is this -
The private banks have made it plain that they do not criticize the way in which the central bank has used the powers and functions it has under present legislation. On the contrary, they have been at pains to commend the competence, integrity and impartiality of the central bank. They say that their complaint is simply and solely against the banking legislation as it stands, and that their fears relate wholly to the wrong uses that might be made of that legislation. Their objections centre on two main points. One is the link between the central bank and the Trading Bank. The other is the special account system which they also believe could be used to damage them in vital ways. On this latter point I shall say more presently. Mr. Speaker. honorable members opposite are conversing at the table. Is there not a little bit of decency left among them?
– You cannot read your brief.
-Order! The honorable member for Griffith will resume his right place. His audible conversation at the table is out of order.
– With all respect to you, it was an important conversation.
-The honorable member was entirely out of order. I ask him to resume his seat.
– He was conferring with his leader.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes is out of order.
– The trading banks have nothing to do with it.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes will withdraw that remark.
– I said the trading banks had nothing to do with it.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw what he said.
– I believe that, but I shall withdraw it.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw it unreservedly.
– I withdraw it unreservedly, in deference to you, Sir.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes will withdraw unreservedly or I shall be compelled to name him.
– I withdraw unreservedly.
– I rise to order. I do not know what remark was made by the honorable member for Parkes subsequent to his withdrawal, but some remark was made by him which went over the air. I believe that one is entitled, as a member of this House, to take strong exception to remarks made by members of the Opposition who are sitting at the table.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain quiet.
– Remarks which are heard over the air are often taken exception to by many listeners.
– Order! I ask honorable members to control themselves. I point out that the microphones at the table are very sensitive and that any discussion which goes over the air and is not made known to the House is unethical.
– I take a further point of order. It has been ruled that nobody is entitled to speak of the private banks as gangsters.
– I have not finished my point of order yet. I want to know what special privileges the private banks have in this Parliament that are not accorded to other people.
– There is no point of order. The honorable member will resume his seat.
– There can be no doubt that, in a more general form, these apprehensions on the part of the private banks are shared by many of their customers who, of course, represent the great majority of people engaged in trade and industry throughout Australia. This is a highly important aspect of the matter. Although these people may not enter deeply into the technical merits of the issue, they nevertheless feel that they have a great deal at stake in the banking system as, indeed, they have; and they also feel that there is still something unsatisfactory about the system. They have lively memories of the nationalization proposal which they saw as an attempt not only to take over the banks themselves but also to take over their own banking business.
Mr. Haylen interjecting,
-Order! The honorable member for Parkes will remain silent. I shall not warn him again.
– Sorry, Sir.
– That peril was averted, but the customers of the private banks are much alive to the thought that it could come upon them again, perhaps in a form ‘less direct and obvious than the proposals of ten years ago but still leading to essentially the same results. This lack of confidence in the present structure on the part of the private banks and their customers is undoubtedly the crucial fact in the whole issue. Even though some would argue that there is no essential reason why, under the present system, there need be such lack of confidence, we cannot deny that it exists; nor can we deny that, while it exists, it must constitute a barrier to the achievement of a truly satisfactory banking system.
The Government has to consider the matter from the stand-point of the national interest as a whole. As our economy grows and becomes more complex we have greater need than ever for an efficient banking system and if, in the system as it stands, there is some element of weakness, some structural flaw, which bars the way to full efficiency and harmony, there is a clear obligation on the Government to remove it.
– That is pure hypocrisy.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes will apologize to the Chair.
– I said it was pure- hypocrisy and I apologize.
– As I have said, the need for a strong central bank is not in question. But we have to ask ourselves whether the central bank is, in fact, stronger or weaker for its association with the Commonwealth Trading Bank. It can be argued that the central bank gains something in capacity from that association. It can be said to gain from the first-hand contact with the business world which the trading bank has, from the opportunities for staff recruitment and training which the trading bank provides, and from the magnitude and variety of operations which the Commonwealth banking group carries out. These may be substantial advantages of the association and yet, even from the standpoint of the central bank, they may be greatly outweighed if the association debars it from attaining close, effective and cordial relationships with the private banks and the full confidence of their many customers.
Considerations such as these have become clearer and more insistent as time has gone on. In our 1953 legislation we went part of the way towards separating the trading bank from the central bank, but it became evident that this had not removed all the difficulties created by the association. By degrees we have come round to the belief that only by completely separating the central bank from the rest of the Commonwealth Bank group will the source of friction be eliminated and the way opened for a lasting settlement of the issue.
– You did not come around to it.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is not conducting himself with decorum. I warn him that if he continues to do that I shall be compelled to name him.
– I rise to order. This is the first time that I have known the Chair to adopt this attitude on the motion for the second reading of a bill. I submit that the Chair might be lenient when a highly contentious bill is under discussion.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. It has become quite apparent to honorable gentlemen on the Government side of the House that there is an organized attempt to prevent the Treasurer from speaking.
– The Government has sold out Australia.
– I name the honorable member for Parkes.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the honorable member for Parkes be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Parkes thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
That the right honorable member be not further heard.
I take this action because the bill that the Treasurer is presenting is obviously a bankers’ bill, and we could have got a copy of it from the banks concerned.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 27
Question so resolved in the negative.
In the first place the Government has been resolved to ensure that separation will not lead to any weakening of the basic powers of the central bank and, in particular, of the powers to regulate the total volume of bank credit. The private banks, as I mentioned earlier, have expressed fears about the use that could be made of the present system of special accounts under which the central bank can call upon them to deposit with it amounts up to 75 per cent, of any increase in their deposits over a given period and they have put forward proposals for alternative methods of control. We have recognized that there should be safeguards against arbitrary action of a destructive kind in this field, but we have also been concerned to ensure that the central bank will always have adequate capacity to deal with the wide and sudden fluctuations in basic monetary conditions that are apt to occur in our economy. The whole subject has been thoroughly studied in the light of our past experience and in the knowledge of methods employed in other countries. Eventually the private banks submitted revised proposals which, while not wholly satisfactory from our stand-point, did offer a basis on which we could create a new system in place of special accounts, a system which would provide safeguards of the kind the banks desire and, at the same time, give ample scope and flexibility for credit control action by the central bank. I shall explain the proposed new system in detail when I introduce the Banking Bill, but I may say briefly here’ that, under this system, the reserve bank will be able, on one day’s notice, to require the trading banks to pay into statutory reserve deposit accounts with it amounts up to 25 per cent, of their Australian deposits. On giving 45 days’ notice, it will be able to increase this ratio above 25 per cent. There is a proviso to the effect that any ratio exceeding 25 per cent, shall not remain in force for longer than six months unless notice of an extension is given at least 45 days before the end of the period. There is also provision for uniform treatment of all the major trading banks, including the Commonwealth Trading Bank. The banks regard requirements as to notice as a vital protection against sudden and arbitrary action which might gravely disrupt their business and that of their customers. On the other hand, the new system will undoubtedly give the reserve bank wide scope for effective credit control action.
With these new provisions and, of course, the other great powers and resources it commands, the reserve bank should be amply equipped to perform its key role in the Australian monetary and banking system. And if, with the separation of the central bank from the trading bank and the rest of the Commonwealth Bank group, the path is cleared for full co-operation with the private banks, the central bank should have a chance to reach even greater influence, authority and prestige than it has had hitherto.
If we have been concerned to uphold -the standing and capacity of the central -bank we have been equally concerned not to impair the other institutions which belong to the present Commonwealth Bank group. We believe that the Commonwealth Trading Bank should continue to be, as it is now, a strong, active, competitive bank, capable of expanding its business and the services it renders to our growing economy. We also believe, certainly no less strongly, that the Commonwealth Savings Bank should be given an assured position and capacity for growth. The savings bank is, in its own right, a very great institution and some millions of Australian people have a direct interest in its progress and welfare. The Government has been resolved from the start that, whatever changes might be made in the banking structure, the future of the Commonwealth Savings Bank would be completely safeguarded. Then there are the special departments of the present Commonwealth Bank, namely, the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department. Each of these institutions has proved itself to have a useful role in the monetary system and the practical question was essentially that of ensuring that they were appropriately fitted into the new structure.
These objectives of a separate central bank and an assured status and function for each of the other component institutions in the Commonwealth Bank group have had to be reconciled with the fact that, up until now, the Commonwealth Bank group has, in point of staff, premises, and certain other administrative matters, operated as a closely integrated organization. Clearly there could be no thought of setting all these institutions up separately, each with its own staff and premises, even if, for other reasons, it were thought desirable to do so. The dislocation would be tremendous and so would the cost of accommodation. There would also be a great sacrifice of economy in administrative expenditure. The most that is practicable - and that is by no means easy - is to separate the central bank itself physically and in point of staff, from the remainder of the Commonwealth Bank group. This is possible only because the central bank, as such, operates in no more than a few centres, mainly the capital cities, and requires a relatively small staff.
The Government considers that the scheme, which is embodied in the four bills I shall submit to the House, will provide an adequate and workable solution for this problem. As I have said, the central bank, taking with it the Rural Credits Department, but separated from the other institutions, is to be established as the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the present Commonwealth Bank Board is to become the Board of the Reserve Bank. The other institutions will be brought under the general control of a new corporation, to be called the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which will have a board of directors and which will provide a common staff for the several institutions. These institutions will comprise the Common- wealth Trading Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and a new institution to be named the Commonwealth Development Bank. In the Development Bank the present Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank will be amalgamated, given greater flexibility of operation and provided with more capital and wider borrowing powers.
Although these three institutions are to be under the Banking Corporation and will have a common staff, great care has been taken in the legislation to preserve their separate identities. We have considered this to be of the greatest importance if each institution is to retain vitality and to give the best service of which it is capable in its own particular field. It is accordingly provided that each institution shall have a charter of its own and a general manager who will be the subject of statutory appointment. The conduct of each institution will be supervised, under the control of the board of the Banking Corporation, by a separate executive committee of the board. These arrangements are designed to achieve a balancing of interests and to ensure that, while working together, each institution will be able to pursue its own well marked purposes without the risk of becoming merged with or being dominated by another. I shall, of course, elaborate on these provisions when I present the bill dealing with the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the three banks coming under it.
This, then, is the broad structural pattern which the measures I am introducing are designed to create. It is to be considered as a total scheme of which each part is necessary to the rest. A tremendous amount of careful thought has been given to it and we have had at every stage the single purpose of creating, on a basis that will endure, a system that will serve the best interests of Australia and its people. I shall now deal in rather more detail with the main provisions of the Reserve Bank Bill.
Under this bill the body corporate hitherto known as the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is continued in existence as the Reserve Bank of Australia and is formally constituted as the central bank of Australia. It is given wide banking powers of a general character, such as the Commonwealth Bank now has, but there is a provision that it shall not carry on business otherwise than as a central bank. Like the Commonwealth Bank it will control the note issue and it will also have important responsibilities under the Banking Act. These will include administration of the statutory reserve deposit provisions, exchange control, acquisition and sale of gold, protection of depositors in other banks, determination of advance policy to be followed by trading banks and savings banks and, subject to the approval of the Treasurer, the regulation of bank interest rates. Except for the substitution of statutory reserve deposits for the present special accounts, these are all functions now discharged by the Commonwealth Bank and, with some changes of detail which I shall discuss in the Banking Bill, the duties and powers of the Reserve Bank in relation to them will be the same as those of the Commonwealth Bank.
The Reserve Bank will take with it the Rural Credits Department, the function of which is the making of advances to statutory bodies and co-operatives to assist the marketing of primary produce or the processing or manufacture of primary produce. The department requires very large amounts of seasonal finance for the performance of its important function, and must rely for the most part on advances from the central bank for its financial requirements. We have for this reason decided that the Rural Credits Department must continue to be attached to the central bank. So as to strengthen its capital structure, the department’s capital is to be increased by £2,000,000 from central bank reserves, bringing its capital to £4,714,000.
The present Commonwealth Bank Board will continue in existence as the Reserve Bank Board, and the legislative provisions relating to the constitution of the board will be the same as in the present Commonwealth Bank Act. That is to say, it will comprise the Governor of the Reserve Bank, who will be chairman of the board, the Deputy Governor who will be deputy chairman, the Secretary to the Treasury, and seven other members of whom at least five shall be persons who are not officers of the bank or of the Commonwealth Public Service.
The board will determine the policy of the Reserve Bank and will ensure that this policy is carried into effect. The duty is laid upon the board, as it is now laid upon the Commonwealth Bank, to ensure within the limits of its powers that the monetary and banking policy of the bank is directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, and that the powers of the bank are used to promote the stability of the currency, the maintenance of full employment and the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia. There are also provisions, similar to those in the present act, which require the board to keep the Government informed regarding the monetary and banking policy of the bank and, in the event of a difference of opinion between the board and the Government on that policy, give the Government an ultimate power to determine the policy of the bank. Under the board, the Governor will manage the bank. He will, as I have said, continue to be chairman of the board.
The bill constitutes a staff service for the Reserve Bank. Provisions for the allocation of members of the present Commonwealth Bank Service between the Reserve Bank Service and the Banking Corporation Service and for the preservation of existing rights of such officers are contained in the Banking (Transitional Provisions) Bill which I shall introduce later. I may say that the very greatest care has been given to the drawing up of these provisions because the Government has recognized that there is a deeply human element in this problem. The present staff of the Commonwealth group of banks comprises a large body of people, who have given competent and devoted service to these institutions, and the Government has been most anxious that their welfare should not be jeopardized by the structural changes’ it has been found necessary to make. Along with these aspects of the problem, the Government has had to consider the special staffing requirements of the Reserve Bank. As a highly specialized institution it will need, particularly in some of its sections, staff of exceptionally high calibre and standards of training. At the same time, it will not be able to draw freely, as it can now, on a large staff service such as the Commonwealth Bank now has at its command. Therefore it seems necessary to give the management of the Reserve Bank fairly wide and flexible powers of staff recruitment and management, and the bill provides accordingly.
By comparison with the existing legislation, the bill provides for certain changes of detail which experience has shown to be desirable. But these do not involve major questions of policy and they can better be explained when we reach the committee stage on the bill. I should perhaps mention here the provision that the head office of the Reserve Bank shall be in Sydney and that, after a reasonable period of time, it shall not be in the same building as the head office of any other bank or of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
Finally, I draw attention to a provision whereby the Reserve Bank Bill, and the three other associated bills, will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. This provision is necessary because, after the passage of the legislation, a. great deal will have to be done - including such things as the appointment of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board and arrangements for separation of staff - before it will be possible for the new structure to be brought into operation.
I have now given a broad account of the structure that will emerge from this bill and its related measures. I have described the proposed Reserve Bank, its constitution, powers and responsibilities, and I have shown how it will stand in relation to the other banks in the Commonwealth group and the banking system generally. There remains one- thing, to say. With reconstruction on these lines and freed from earlier sources of conflict, the system ought to work more smoothly and effectively, and we expect it so to work. This will be assured if those directly responsible for the various parts of the system set out to make it work and I have every reason to believe that they will. They are conscious of the responsibilities they have to the community and they will also, I am sure, perceive the great opportunity that lies before them. High though its standards of competence and traditions of service have been, the Australian banking system has long suffered from certain internal frictions and divisions of counsel and spirit. The present opportunity is to achieve a new approach, putting co-operation foremost and leaving old discords behind with the past.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I move* -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the re-constitution of the banking elements of the present Commonwealth Bank group, other than the central bank and the Rural Credits Department, under a new corporation to be called the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
I have already explained, in my speech on the Reserve Bank Bill, the reasons’ why the Government has decided to establish a Commonwealth Banking Corporation. It would not be a practical matter, even were it so desired, to separate the trading bank and the savings bank in point of staff and premises, and so these institutions must continue to work with a common staff and accommodation. At the same time the Government has been most anxious to preserve the separate identities of those banks and the development bank which it is proposed to form and to give to each body a role and status of its own and adequate scope for expansion. The Commonwealth Banking Corporation will therefore be the controlling body for the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Development Bank, the last of which is to take over the present Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank. The board of the corporation is to have power to determine the policy of the three banks and to control their affairs, and the corporation is to provide a common staff for conducting the business of the three banks.
The board is to be under a statutory duty, within the limits of its powers, to ensure that the policy of the corporation and the banking policy of the three affiliated banks are directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia and have due regard to the stability and balanced development of the economy of Australia. In line with the provisions under the present Commonwealth Bank Act and the Reserve Bank Bill, the board of the corporation will be required to keep the Government informed of the policy of the institutions it controls, and there is provision whereby, in the event of a difference of opinion between the Government and the board as to whether any such policy is directed to the objectives laid down, the Government will have an ultimate power of direction over the board after following certain procedures.
The board is to comprise eleven members. The managing director and deputy managing director of the corporation and-, the Secretary to the Treasury will be ex officio members, and the other eight members, of whom one will be the chairman andanother the deputy chairman of the board, will be persons who are not officers of theCommonwealth Public Service or directors, officers or employees of a bank (including the reserve bank and the corporation and its three constituent banks).
I expect it to be said by the Opposition that the inclusion of non-official members on. the board is an attempt to hand the corporation and its constituent banks over to private interests. As a sufficient reply u> that, I need only recall that exactly the same thing was said of the present Commonwealth Bank Board when it was established, and that it has since proved to be completely untrue. The activities of the corporation and its constituent banks will be as wide as the Australian economy itself. Obviously, therefore, its directing body should be drawn from the widest possible field, bringing to its task the best available ability and a diversity of knowledge and experience. As to whether the governing authority will put the interests of the corporation foremost we need have no fear whatever. All past experience has shown that authorities of this kind quickly identify themselves with the institution they serve and develop strong enthusiasm for it.
There will be an executive committee of the board for each of the three constituent banks. The executive committees will have the duty of taking such action as is necessary to ensure that effect is given by their respective banks to the policy laid down for those banks and to any directions given by the board in relation to the affairs of those banks.
Each executive committee will consist of five members of the board appointed by the Treasurer after consultation with the board. The chairman of the board will not be a member of any executive committee, but will have the right to attend any meeting of an executive committee. To ensure a proper degree of integration of the operations of the executive committees, the managing director will be a member of each committee and the deputy managing director will also be eligible for membership. The
Secretary to the Treasury will not be eligible for membership of the executive committee for the Trading Bank or the Development Bank, but he will be eligible for membership of the committee of the Savings Bank.
We are providing for the establishment of these committees for two reasons. One is that, since a considerable amount of detailed business can be expected to arise in connexion with each bank, and since the nature of this business will vary a good deal as between the several banks, there ought to be a separate executive group for each capable of giving its affairs the necessary time and attention. The second is that we think the provision of a separate committee for each bank will assist towards the objective of preserving its identity within the group and, indeed, of upholding its particular objectives and interests. It will be seen that these purposes are in line with the general conceptions we have followed in devising the framework of the corporation.
Each of the three banks will have its own general manager who will be appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Corporation Board. The three general managers will, under the managing director of the corporation, manage their respective banks in accordance with the policy laid down for those banks and with any directions of the board or of the executive committees.
I shall now explain the provisions in the bill as they affect the three constituent banks themselves. The Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia will be continued in its present form. It will carry on general banking business and will continue to have the duty of developing and expanding that business. As in the present act, it is laid down that the Trading Bank shall not refuse to conduct banking business for any person by reason only of the fact that to conduct that business would have the effect of taking away business from another bank. This is wholly consistent with our intention of maintaining the Trading Bank as an active competitor in the trading bank field.
To provide for certain transitional costs, particularly those arising from the fact that the head office of the present Commonwealth Bank group is owned by the central bank, the Trading Bank is to be supplied from central bank reserves with additional capital of £2,000,000. This will bring its capital to £7,429,000. In addition, the Trading Bank has a reserve fund which at present stands at £2,735,000, so that the Trading Bank will start out under the Commonwealth Banking Corporation with combined capital and reserves of over £10,000,000. In addition, of course, there are the amounts that have been set aside over the years as provisions for contingencies.
Later I shall introduce an amendment to the Income Tax Assessment Act for the purpose of making the Trading Bank liable to income tax from the beginning of the financial year in which the proposed Commonwealth Banks Act comes into operation. Since one of the central aims of the legislation is to ensure that the Commonwealth Trading Bank is placed on an equal footing with its private trading bank competitors, it is manifestly proper that the Trading Bank be required to pay tax like its competitors. The Trading Bank’s net profits after tax will continue to be distributed on the basis of one-half to the bank’s reserve fund and one-half to the Commonwealth.
The Trading Bank will, of course, continue to be subject to the same central banking controls as those applicable to the private trading banks. I shall say more on this matter when introducing the Banking Bill.
With regard to the Commonwealth Savings Bank we have, as I said in my speech on the Reserve Bank Bill, been most anxious to maintain the integrity of that institution, safeguard the interests of its very many depositors and ensure for it the opportunity of further expansion.
– How can you say that, when you know it is untrue?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney must remain silent.
– It will be expressly provided as the duty of the Savings Bank that it should encourage saving and promote the interests of its depositors. As at present, the profits of the Savings Bank will be exempt from income tax and will be divided each year equally between the reserve fund of the Savings Bank and the Commonwealth. There will be a- genera] manager for the Savings Bank appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the board and he will, under the managing director, manage the Savings Bank.
I think I should mention here an important provision we are making in the Banking Bill to ensure that not more than a specified proportion of the deposits of the Commonwealth Savings Bank or of any other savings bank coming within the scope of Commonwealth legislation shall be made available to other banks. We have deemed this necessary to ensure that, in the main, the funds of savings banks shall be applied only to those traditional forms of investment which on the one hand afford undoubted security and, on the other hand, meet social purposes of high importance, such as the financing of housing. All savings banks within the ambit of the provision will be put on equal terms and it will not be possible for any large proportion of the funds of either the Commonwealth Savings Bank or the private savings banks to be diverted to purposes of ordinary commercial banking.
A further particular aspect I should like to mention here concerns housing loans. Part VI. of the bill contains special provisions for the making of housing loans - to individuals on credit foncier terms and to building societies - by both the Trading Bank and the Savings Bank. There are similar provisions in the present Commonwealth Bank Act, but they apply only to the Trading Bank. They are now being extended to apply also to the Savings Bank.
The Development Bank is to be formed, basically, by amalgamating the present Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank and it will take over the present business of those two institutions. It will, however, be given some additional resources and a certain enlargement of powers both for borrowing and for lending. As departments of the Commonwealth Bank these two institutions have undoubtedly proved their worth, and there is good reason to think that they are capable of meeting a somewhat wider range of needs. It has seemed to the Government that they will have the best opportunity of doing this if they are combined into a single institution and placed under the control of the Banking Corporation and its board. There the Development
Bank will be served by the common staff of the corporation but, like the Trading Bank and the Savings Bank, it will have a separate identity, a charter and a general manager of its own.
The Development Bank will operate over the fields of both primary and secondary industry. Its function will be to provide finance to assist primary production or the establishment or development of industrial undertakings, especially small undertakings, in cases where in its opinion the provision of finance is desirable and the finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. The range of facilities it can offer will be fairly wide. For example, it will provide term loans just as both the Industrial Finance Department and the Mortgage Bank Department do now and, like the present Industrial Finance Department, it will also provide hire-purchase facilities. The Government has decided, however, that finance shall be provided only for the purchase of producers’ equipment or, as it is expressed in the bill, to acquire goods for use in the course of business.
To give somewhat greater flexibility as to the kind of arrangements which the bank may make with clients, it has been decided to remove the limits which now apply on the maximum amount and the period of loans which the Mortgage Bank Department may make, and we have also included a special provision which ought to be of considerable value, especially to people starting out on the land or establishing new industrial enterprises. This provision, which formerly applied only to the Industrial Finance Department, is to the effect that, in determining whether or not finance shall be provided in any case, the Development Bank shall have regard primarily to the prospects of the enterprise becoming, or continuing to be, successful, and shall not necessarily have regard to the value of the security available. We have had very much in mind here the position of people who would have good chances of making a success of farming or some other form of production but who cannot get sufficient initial finance because they cannot offer the requisite amount of security.
The Development Bank will take over the present capital and reserve funds of the Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance
Departments. These amount in total to more than £14,300,000. It is proposed to supply a further £5,000,000 by way of capital from the reserves of the central bank. The Development Bank will not be subject to income tax and the profits it makes will go to its reserve fund.
The borrowing powers of the Development Bank will be fairly wide but it will not be able to borrow overseas without the consent of the Treasurer, and there will be a limit of £2,000,000 on the amount which it can borrow from the Reserve Bank without the consent of the Treasurer. The bank will have power to accept deposits from the public but it is not envisaged that the bank will rely on deposits as a major source of funds. The Treasurer will have power to make advances to the Development Bank.
It is intended that the Development Bank will provide advisory services, along the lines of those now supplied by the Industrial Finance Department, with a view to promoting technical and administrative efficiency in farming or industrial undertakings. This kind of service has proved to be a very valuable feature of the work of the Industrial Finance Department.
All in all, the Government considers that, established on these lines, the Development Bank will find ample scope for useful activity. Its role will be essentially that of assisting new people to start in industry and farming, of helping to promote new forms and methods of production and of adding to the productivity of existing enterprises. We do not intend that, in this field, it will cut across existing financial institutions to any significant degree but rather that it will co-operate with them and supplement the types of finance they provide.
The provisions of the bill relating to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Service are, for all practical purposes, identical with those which now apply to the Commonwealth Bank Service and I do not need therefore to explain them here.
I have then great pleasure in commending this bill to the House. In it we have provided for the continuance, unimpaired, of great institutions which have already given splendid service to the Australian community. But we have done much more than that. . Within a general framework of overall control we have been able to pro vide each one of those institutions with a realm of opportunity for still greater and more vital service and achievement. Wellfounded in experience and designed in a constructive spirit, this measure will, I confidently believe, prove to be a landmark in the development of the Australian banking system.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [9.20]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill replaces the Banking Act 1945- 1953, which is the act regulating generally the conduct of banking business in Australia and embodying the general powers of the central bank in relation to the banking system.
As compared with the present Banking Act, the bill has two chief purposes. The first is to replace the special account provisions with a system of statutory reserve deposits. The second is to recast the act so as make adequate provision for the regulation of savings bank business having regard to the emergence of private savings banks. A further subsidiary purpose of the bill is to make provision for the position of the new Commonwealth Development Bank in the banking structure. The opportunity has also been taken of making a few minor amendments of a technical nature.
In its approach to the question of introducing a system of statutory reserve deposits, the Government has been particularly concerned to see that the Reserve Bank has adequate power to exercise its fundamental function of regulating in the national interest the overall volume of bank credit. The proper exercise of this function is of the utmost importance to the health of the Australian economy, being as it is subject to wide fluctuations in the balance of payments and hence in the volume of money. Nowadays it is universally accepted that effective central bank control of the level of banking activity is essential, and that the central bank must have adequate powers effectively to discharge its highly important responsibilities in this respect.
The special account provisions in the present act are highly complex. The essential feature of the system, however, is that the central bank has power to require trading banks, virtually without notice, to lodge in special accounts with it the amounts held in special accounts as at October, 1952, plus up to three-quarters of the increase since then in their Australian deposits. The purpose of the system is, of course, to enable a proportion of the bank’s funds to be withheld as a means of regulating the level of their operations in the light of economic conditions prevailing from time to time.
The private banks have contended that under the present system the central bank has the power to take sudden and arbitraryaction against them to an extent that goes beyond proper credit control requirements, and that this could have the effect of gravely disrupting their operations. Although they emphasize that they have no criticism of the manner in which the central bank has exercised its powers in the past, they are most concerned about the scope which they see in the provisions for unfair attack on them. They point, also, to the fact that the law does not provide for uniform treatment of the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private trading banks - or in other words that the provisions as they stand could be used as an instrument of unfair discrimination against them in favour of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. In addition, they argue that the special account provisions are unnecessarily complicated and hard to understand and that they should be replaced by more simple provisions of a kind that are in operation in a number of other countries.
In view of the general considerations to which I referred when introducing the Reserve Bank Bill, the Government has decided that a system of reserve deposits should be introduced.
The provisions for a system of statutory reserve deposits are contained in clauses 17 to 31 of the bill. Briefly summarized, they provide as follows: -
As I have said, these provisions will give the Reserve Bank ample powers of control over bank credit and at the same time will remove the objections that the private banks see in the present special accounts provisions.
The main restriction of substance on the Reserve Bank’s power is the requirement to give 45 days’ notice of a determination of a statutory reserve deposit ratio in excess of 25 per cent. The Government believes that this affords the trading banks reasonable protection against sudden and arbitrary action of a kind that could disrupt their affairs and constitute an unfair attack on them. As to the adequacy of the 25 per cent, figure, I would mention that at no time since the special accounts system was revised in 1953 has the amount in special accounts exceeded 25 per cent, of the banks’ deposits. I would also mention that the central bank has over recent years administered special accounts in such a manner that each major trading bank has had the same percentage of its deposits on deposit in special account, and the inclusion of a uniformity provision in the statutory reserve deposits system will present no difficulty in the effective administration by the Reserve Bank of its credit control powers.
It needs to be remembered that the trading banks must necessarily maintain a measure of liquidity in their own hands. The amount of liquid assets which they themselves hold is the base for credit control action by the central bank irrespective of whether that action is taken under a system of special accounts or of reserve deposits, or for that matter, under any other type of credit control system. The trading banks some time ago agreed, within the context of the special accounts system, to maintain a certain minimum level of liquidity in their own hands, and they have re-affirmed that under the reserve deposits system they will continue to observe the liquidity convention now in operation or such other liquidity convention as may in the future be agreed between them and the Reserve Bank.
The other principal difference between the provisions in the bill and those in the present Banking Act relates to savings banks. The present act did not contemplate the operation of private savings banks and it is necessary to amend the act so as to provide for the emergence of competitive banking in the savings bank field.
The conditions under which the private savings banks operate are laid down in the authorities which have been granted to them to carry on banking business. These conditions provide that the private savings banks may not accept deposits from a profit-making company or body and may not permit cheques to be drawn on an account except by certain societies, bodies or clubs. The private savings banks may invest their depositors’ funds only in deposits with banks, public securities, loans to guaranteed building societies and loans for housing or other purposes on the security of land. They must maintain at least 70 per cent, of depositors’ funds in the form of cash, deposits with the central bank and public securities. Superimposed on this is a requirement, which was laid down to ensure the maintenance of adequate liquid funds, that the savings banks must keep treasury-bills and deposits with the central bank amounting in total to not less than 10 per cent, of depositors’ balances.
The Commonwealth Savings Bank is not at present subject to the same detailed investment conditions as the private savings banks - although the Commonwealth Savings Bank has in practice observed the same conditions. Particularly in view of the fact that the Commonwealth Savings Bank will no longer be directly associated with the central bank, it is obviously desirable for the law to contain standard provisions for the conduct of savings bank business.
Accordingly, clauses 37 and 38 of the bill contain special provisions with respect to savings banks. So as to avoid the inflexibility that would be caused if the detailed provisions relating to the conduct of savings bank business were incorporated in the Banking Act itself, there is a provision requiring conditions on matters of a kind now covered by the authorities of the private savings banks to be prescribed by regulation. The regulations to be promulgated under this provision will supersede the “ conditions “ in the authorities of the private ‘ savings banks - although it is envisaged that the regulations will follow the same pattern as in the present authorities. There is a further provision that the regulations must apply uniformly to the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks.
Another provision of particular interest is a requirement that, within the framework of the regulations, a savings bank may not maintain deposits with trading banks to an amount exceeding £2,000,000 plus H per cent, of the savings bank’s depositors’ balances. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that an undue proportion of savings bank business is not channelled into ordinary commercial banking uses. The provision will, of course, apply uniformly to the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks.
I might say at this point that throughout its consideration of the banking measures the Government has given very close attention to the issue that arises by virtue of the immense importance to the Australian economy of the manner of investment of the huge resources of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. We have come down in favour of giving the Savings Bank a charter of its own, the nature of which I explained when introducing the Commonwealth Banks Bill, and of placing the Commonwealth Savings Bank in the same position as the private savings banks in regard to the investment of its funds. However, so as to ensure that the Reserve Bank is kept fully aware of the investment policy of both the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks and is in a position to advise on savings bank investments, a provision has been included in the bill requiring the various savings banks to keep the Reserve Bank informed of their policies in relation to loans and investments, with particular reference to their policies in relation to loans for housing purposes.
In other respects the bill includes amended provisions concerning the operations of the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the private savings banks. There is, for instance, a requirement for savings banks to furnish statistical information about their affairs on a comparable basis to the trading banks. There are also provisions to bring the Commonwealth Savings Bank, along with the private savings banks, within the scope of Reserve Bank jurisdiction in respect of matters such as protection of depositors, mobilization of foreign currency, advance policy and interest rate policy.
Finally, I shall refer briefly to the provisions of the bill as they affect the Commonwealth Development Bank. We have seen that the Development Bank will perform special functions of a kind not performed by the trading banks, and it is not proposed to make the Development Bank subject to the reserve deposit provisions or to treat the Development Bank as a trading bank for the purposes of the £2,000,000 plus 2* per cent, formula which I mentioned earlier. The Development Bank will, however, be made subject to the provisions relating to protection of depositors, mobilization of foreign currency, advance policy, interest rate policy, supply of statistics, and furnishing of information to the Reserve Bank.
I am confident that the measures in the bill, combined with those in the Reserve Bank Bill and the Commonwealth Banks Bill, will ensure that the banking system is based on thoroughly sound principles. I am sure also that the reconstructed system will work efficiently in promoting the development of the national economy and that it will endure in the best interests of the people of Australia. It is in that spirit that I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As its name implies, this bill contains provisions relating to the change-over from the present banking structure to the new. As such, it necessarily deals with matters having a relation to each of the three main bills I have just introduced. Except for the provisions reconstituting the present Commonwealth Bank Service into two new staff services, the bill contains provisions of a machinery and technical nature, not involving issues of principle. I shall briefly explain these machinery provisions before dealing with the staff provisions. There is first provision to enable the Reserve Bank to carry on without interruption as successor to the Commonwealth Bank. Its statutory responsibilities as the central bank of Australia are, of course, set out in the Reserve Bank Bill and in the Banking Bill. The bill now before the House, however, ensures that these responsibilities will be taken over from the Commonwealth Bank without any change of step.
This applies particularly to the establishment of the statutory reserve deposits system to replace the special accounts system. Under the bill, the Commonwealth Bank may, on giving the appropriate notice, determine a statutory reserve deposit ratio which will come into force on the commencing date of the new system. Thus, although the Commonwealth Bank will, on that day, necessarily refund to the banks concerned all the amounts held by them in special accounts, an appropriate amount will simultaneously fall due for lodgment in statutory reserve deposit accounts. The provisions in the Banking Bill relating to statutory reserve deposits will then apply from that point onwards. It is also provided that the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations, which were promulgated under the Banking Act 1945-1953, may be continued in force without interruption, and that certain directions given by the Commonwealth Bank in relation to the sale and purchase of gold will remain in operation.
The Note Issue Department and the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank are expressly continued as departments of the Reserve Bank. On the other hand, the assets and liabilities of the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department, which are to be amalgamated in the Commonwealth Development Bank, are transfered to that bank. The effect of these last provisions is merely to ensure that the Development Bank is the full legal successor of the two departments concerned, and there is nothing in them which calls for special comment.
I come now to the staff provisions of the bill.’ In formulating these provisions, the Government has constantly had in mind the vital necessity both of meeting the requirements of efficiency and of safeguarding the legitimate interests of officers of the present Commonwealth Bank service.
The officers of the present service will all be allocated either to the Reserve Bank service or to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation service, and the necessary allocation will be made jointly by the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the managing director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
There is no avoiding a provision of this nature; the responsibilities of both services will be of national importance and the Government has a plain duty to ensure that they will be fulfilled. This is far from saying, however, that the desires of individual officers will not be taken into account. On the contrary, in the allocation of staff every effort will be made by the authorities concerned to meet the wishes of individual officers as far as it is possible to do so having regard to the essential requirements of both services.
Careful thought has been given to the avoidance of too precipitate an allocation of officers to their respective new services, perhaps before some officers have had sufficient time to appreciate where their true interests lie. The bill therefore provides for a three months’ period after the initial allocation of officers, during which transfers may be effected, with the agreement of the Governor and the managing director, from one service to the other, with full preservation of rights.
Under the bill, all present officers of the Commonwealth Bank service are assured that there will be no reduction in their remuneration on allocation to their new service. They will lose no seniority for any purpose and their rights to superannuation, accrued recreation leave, long service leave and sick leave are all expressly preserved.
As has already been explained to the House in connexion with the Commonwealth Banks Bill, officers appointed to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation service will be employed under statutory provisions which are, to all intents and purposes, the same as those in the present Commonwealth Bank Act. The Reserve Bank service will operate under more flexible provisions, but special steps have been taken in this bill to ensure that Commonwealth Bank officers who are allocated to the Reserve Bank service will retain the protection of tenure of office. It is specifically provided that such officers may not, except for incapacity or misconduct, be retired or dismissed before age 60, or 55 for females.
It would, of course, be idle to think that Commonwealth Bank officers will feel no pang of regret that the Commonwealth Bank service, which has given outstanding service in the past, is now being divided into two separate services. This is a natural feeling and one from which the Government itself is not immune. On the other hand, everything possible has been done in the legislation both to safeguard the welfare of the officers concerned and to ensure that the tradition of efficient and loyal service will be perpetuated.
This completes the general explanation of the four banking bills. When the House reassembles, however, I shall explain the series of further small bills introduced for the purpose of amending other acts which require special amendment as a result of the introduction of the new banking structure.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize again that the Government has given very great thought over a long period to the many complex issues that are involved in the reconstruction of the banking system. The measures embodied in the legislation I have introduced have been adopted after mature consideration and in the firm belief that they will establish a sound and lasting banking structure which will operate with harmonious efficiency and which in the course of time will result in removal of banking from the area of political controversy. If that purpose is achieved, a great service will have been performed for the nation.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. During the course of the debate this afternoon the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), who has, unfortunately, fired his shot and removed himself from the House, reflected on my competence, under Standing Order 193, to cast a vote in this House. As you quite rightly ruled, Mr. Speaker, his point of order was completely frivolous because, of the two votes that were taken at the time, neither concerned banking. One was on the ejection - justifiable I believe - from this House of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The second was on a very frivolous attempt to interrupt the Treasurer (Sir Athur Fadden).
I want to say without any qualification that I have neither a direct nor an indirect interest in banking except as a normal customer. I believe that if that circumstance were to debar me from voting it would debar practically everybody in the House. I say too that whatever modest investment I had in the banking business, was sacrificed on the altar of politics and, of course with a name such as Mackinnon, as one would expect, that sacrifice was not entirely without reward. I also want to say that those good people of Corangamite who have shown their confidence in me on three occasions and returned me to this House–
– This is not a personal explanation.
– Order! The honorable member for Corangamite cannot debate the matter.
– The confidenceof the electors of Corangamite-
– That has nothing to do with a personal explanation.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Corangamite to resume his seat.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. In deference to the honorable member for Corangamite, I wish to say that since making the statement to which he has referred, I have ascertained that, although he was a director of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited in 1952 when he was the member for Wannon, he resigned his directorship of the bank in 1953 when a similar banking amendment was before the House. But he still retained his beneficial interest in the banking structure as a member of Strachan and Company Limited of Geelong.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1957-58.
Without amendment -
Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1957-58.
– As Chairman, I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Dean) - by leave - proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- I never have had any doubt about the work of the Printing Committee at any time in the number of Parliaments of which I have been a member. But it is interesting to know which of the documents that are presented to this Parliament the committee considers should be printed; and it would be of interest to know what documents the committee has decided not to have printed. If we could know what documents, in the opinion of the Printing Committee, are not worthy of printing, some members of the House other than members of the committee might feel inclined to move a motion on the matter. I do not know whether the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) is the chairman or deputy chairman of the committee, but I hope that when he closes the debate on this issue he will tell us what documents are being held over.
It is my view that we should follow the practice that has been adopted in the United States of America and by the Parliament of Great Britain, and print for circulation among the general public any document that is considered worthy of presentation to the House. The more the people know of the activities of this Parliament and its agents, the more they know of the work of the departments and of the international bodies in particular whose reports are presented to this Parliament, the better it will be for all of us. Certainly, the better it will be for the peace of the world if we know as much as possible about what is happening in the United Nations. Perhaps the honorable member for Robertson can tell us something more about this matter. If he cannot, I hope that he will, at a subsequent time, ask leave of the House to supply honorable members with the information I am now seeking, and which I believe all honorable members would like to have.
– Before the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) closes the debate on this motion, I should like to say a few words about the matter, having been at one time a member of the Printing Committee. The committee has always been recognized as an all-party committee. In deciding whether a particular journal or book should be published, it considers, among other things, whether there is any demand for it and what supplies are available through the records office. There may be more than sufficient available from that source, in which case any further printing is unwarranted. If it is decided not to print a particular document, and a demand for it develops later, the committee can then arrange for the printing of it. The
Printing Committee has never made any attempt to prevent honorable members from having any document printed that the Parliament thinks necessary. It would be utter waste of money to print everything on the list, and surely we have confidence in this all-party committee. If a particular party wishes to have something printed, it puts a case for the printing of it before the committee.
– Can the honorable member tell us what documents the committee will not print?
– I am not on the committee now, but I know what has happened in the past. I personally would have the utmost confidence in the Printing Committee. If the records office advises the committee that it has, say, 50 or 1 00 copies of a document available, the committee may decide that there is no need to have any more copies printed, and that it would be a waste of money to do so. The committee must decide whether money would be wasted in printing a particular document or whether the demand is sufficient to justify its being printed. From my experience of the committee, it has always done the fair thing by all parties.
.- I believe the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) slightly misunderstands the point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The Printing Committee in effect decides - because we always adopt its recommendations - what matters will go on record as coming from this Parliament. The honorable member for Fisher suggests that if a document presented to the House is already in adequate supply there is no need for the committee to have it printed. Surely the public is also entitled to have access to documents that are presented to the Parliament. The public can have access to a great number of those documents only if they are printed by order of the Printing Committee, or by order of this House when it adopts the recommendations of the Printing Committee.
– The House determines, independently of the committee, that quite a number of documents should be printed.
– I know that in respect of the remainder we need not adopt the reports of the Printing Committee, but we always do. About 50 or 60 reports are presented to this House every year pursuant to acts passed by this Parliament. The public knows what those acts are. They can be obtained very readily. Members of the public can see that a report is required to be presented to the Parliament, and the best check that the public can have on the administration of an act is very often to be found in the reports presented to the Parliament pursuant to that act. I submit that the proper objective is that a person should be able to find in the parliamentary papers all these statutory documents.
I think it is correct to say that it is very difficult to obtain some of these documents. This is particularly so in respect of those issued some years back. Some documents which are presented to the Parliament are not printed, for example the reports of our business enterprises and of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Let me give a further example. To-day we had three reports presented, pursuant to the provisions of the Repatriation Act, from three appeal tribunals. No copies of those are available to members or to the public. Unless and until they are printed pursuant to a recommendation of the Printing Committee, no one can get copies of those statutory documents.
I suggest that the test of whether a document should be printed is this: If legislation requires that a document should be presented to the Parliament, then it should be available to the public, just as the statutes of the Parliament are available.
. -In answer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), let me say that I presented this report in my capacity as chairman of the Printing Committee. What the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) has said is quite correct. May I add that the all-party Printing Com.mittee takes a great interest in the nature of the documents that are presented to it. Much research is done by several of the members before the committee meets. The committee has regard to the cost of printing a document, the demand that exists for it anl the degree to which it will be circulated. The committee considers those matters, and it has before it information as to whether it has been customary to print similar documents in the past. When all those matters have been studied the committee makes its recommendations.
I quite agree with some of the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition regarding the importance of the work of the committee. Should he desire it, 1 shall be delighted to discuss the matter with him and see whether there are any further suggestions that can be brought before the committee. If he would like to have a list of the papers that have been discussed by the committee over a particular period I shall be delighted to let him have it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Finance - Supplementary Report of the Acting Auditor-General upon other accounts for the year 1956-57.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 11th September (vide page 503), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition not only does not oppose this measure, but indeed commends it. It commends it for the very good reason that it initiated this scheme. That is obvious from the fact that the bill before the House is a bill to amend the Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Act 1948-55. As was pointed out by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his second-reading speech, in 1948 the Chifley Government made an agreement with the Western Australian government of the day for a £l-for-£l contribution by the Commonwealth towards the cost of a water supply to the agricultural areas, the great southern towns and the gold-fields in Western Australia. We are all conscious of the fact that Western Australia is a vast State. It comprises one-third of the Commonwealth. If divided in two, the top half has only 6,000 people of our blood, and the population of the whole State is less than 600.000 people. Western Australia is the most vulnerable, the most exposed and the least populated part of our island continental home.
After the war, the Chifley Government was very conscious of the necessity, in the light of what we had experienced during the war, to develop Western Australia as quickly as possible. It so happened that shortage of materials and, perhaps, of manpower, delayed the commencement of the work covered by this legislation and nothing was done about the implementation of the scheme until two years ago, when this Government brought down amending legislation. The effect of that legislation was to increase the contribution of the Commonwealth, to extend the period during which the scheme would be completed and to ease the burden on Western Australia through Commonwealth contributions. It was agreed to increase the Commonwealth payments from half the £4,300,000 stated in the original legislation -that is, £2,150,000 - to £4,000,000. That was an increase of £1,850,000. It was provided that the additional sum should be spent over the four financial years from 1956-57 to 1959-60. Unfortunately, after the expenditure of £40,000,000 on a £60,000.000 project for the establishment of an oil refinery at Kwinana, there was a certain amount of unemployment. The unemployment lag has not yet been taken up in Western Australia, but the assistance of the Commonwealth in this very great and worth-while scheme for reticulating water into the areas of population, and further out into the gold-fields district, will certainly help to alleviate unemployment. Instead of men and youths digging grass out of gutters, they will be able to participate in the completion of a worth-while job of national importance.
This bill provides that the amount of £4.000,000 allowed in previous legislation will be increased to £5,000,000. Under the 1948 act, the Commonwealth contribution was intended to be £2,150,000. Under the 1955 act, it was to be £4,000,000, and now under this bill it is to be £5,000,000.
– It is fully justified.
– I was about to say that nobody living in the lap of luxury in the settled eastern and south-eastern parts of Australia should begrudge the expenditure of this money, or even a greater amount, on the development of the most vulnerable parts of Australia.
– You are talking like a true Australian now!
– No one can accuse me of not being an Australian. I get into trouble in my own State for defending the formula for the expenditure of money collected from the petro! tax. 1 want to see roads and railways built throughout the northern part of Australia. If I have to qualify my Australianism, it is that, in addition to being a good Australian, as I hope I am, I am a good northern Australian, because that is the part of Australia that has to be developed rapidly if our children are to survive in peace and if they are to have the independence and the social conditions that we enjoy to-day.
– lt would be very good if the money were used to advantage.
– I believe it is used to good advantage. I know one can always criticize the expenditure of money in this way, but it is true that we must have water if we are to have civilization. Without water, there can be no vegetable, animal or human life. One-third of Australia is in an area in the centre of the continent where less than 10 inches of rain falls each year. Some parts of Western Australia which are to be served by this water supply scheme are within that small rainfall belt and, therefore, we must do all that we can do to help. I sometimes marvel at the courage, and I honour the memory of the people who displayed it, in building the Mundaring Weir and establishing the pipeline from Perth for about 370 miles to Kalgoorlie. If the gold-mines in Western Australia were not in operation to-day, we would have very little population in that area.
This bill will enable many things to be done, and it is to be highly commended. I hope that at some time the Western Australian Government - perhaps it is hoping for too much - will cede the northern portion of that State to the Commonwealth as a territory so that ultimately it can become a State. While we are spending money on the gold-fields area and on the southern parts of Western Australia, a great job remains to be done in damming the mighty river called the Ord, the west Baines and the east Baines. I think I am the only member of this Parliament, who has held ministerial office, who has flown over the whole of that area, and knows its potentialities. I hope that we will see “ the vision splendid “ in regard to the development of all these parts of Australia, and the sooner it comes to pass the better it will be. I know that plans are ready for the damming of the Ord River; they have been ready for a long time, but unfortunately human nature is slow to move and everybody grows more conservative with age. Therefore, the things that should be started quickly are often not started for a long time, if at all.
Sir, I hope that you will pardon me while I digress slightly. Now that the Government has started on the standardization of the railway between Albury and Melbourne, I trust it will get on with the job of standardizing the railway between Kalgoorlie and Perth and that work about which the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) has spoken so eloquently will soon be commenced. I also hope that the work of standardizing the railways in South Australia from Port Pirie to Broken Hill will commence at a very early date.
The Government has acted sensibly in removing any limit on the amount that the Commonwealth can pay in any one year under this bill. There are times when a State is ready to go ahead but cannot get money from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is now telling the State of Western Australia to get cracking with this scheme and whenever it is ready to start the Commonwealth will not hold it up for lack of funds. That is very sensible and very wise. I commend the legislation to the House.
.- I am very grateful for the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), particularly as he comes from Victoria, a State which, at times, is likely to be critical of the expenditure of Commonwealth funds in Western Australia. As one who has lived in a Great Southern town of Western Australia, and suffered because of lack of water, I commend this bill to the House. It is many years since this comprehensive water scheme was started. It was commenced with the aid and encouragement of the then Labour government of the Commonwealth, and I believe that that was one of the very few good things that that government did while it was in office. Unfortunately, the work proceeded very slowly, for many reasons, one of them being a great shortage of steel plates.
During the years in which the pipeline has been creeping from the Wellington dam through to Narrogin, the areas which it is designed to serve have suffered several very dry periods. It is all very well to say that the scheme is designed not to serve the farmers directly, but to serve the townships in the farming areas. The people who live in those towns become greatly discouraged because they lose all the normal amenities which people who live in closely settled communities enjoy in regard to water supplies, such as the opportunity to have gardens and to lay the dust in the area where the houses are. It is some time since I. studied the figures in relation to supplies of water per head of population, but I carry in my head some figures, such as that the people of the City of Perth have available to them a quantity of water equivalent to approximately 60 gallons per head per day, while the people in Canberra have available to them the equivalent of 200 gallons per head per day. In a dry season, in towns in the Great Southern area, such as Katanning, Narrogin, Wagin and the like, the people have been restricted to seven gallons of water per head per day. Any one who considers the normal life of a person living in a town, and the normal consumption of water required for a household in such circumstances, will appreciate that that is indeed a great hardship.
I think that the Commonwealth Government has treated the representations of the Government of Western Australia with a great deal of sympathy and generosity. T think that the construction of this important work could have been proceeded with at a greater pace, and probably could have been completed at a slightly lower cost, if the various State governments had not delayed so long over it, and that consequently, the Commonwealth would not necessarily have been called upon to make so great a contribution. But be that as it may. That is water under the bridge. As things have turned out, this work is a matter of high priority in the public works programme of Western Australia, and I am delighted to find that the Commonwealth appreciates that that is so. This Government has made a gesture which will place the work even higher in the list of public works that are to be completed in Western Australia.
I only hope that the Western Australian Government is fully alive to the very urgent need of the towns along the Great Southern for a speedy completion of this scheme which, I think, was initiated in 1948. lt is projected that the scheme will be completed fairly early next year. The people along the Great Southern line, particularly in the town of Katanning, await with great eagerness the completion of the scheme. It will mean a tremendous lot, not only to the townspeople, but also to the farmers who are dependent on the services which the townspeople can supply.
– Finish on that note.
– I am very grateful to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who probably has never suffered a water shortage, or any other shortage, in his life, for his contribution to this debate. But of course his interjections are not designed to be helpful. In conclusion, I ask that this measure be given a speedy passage. [Quorum formed.]
.- I do not want to delay the House for more than a couple of minutes on this measure, but I rise because the matter is of great concern to the people of Western Australia. I was pleased to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) express his satisfaction with the measure, because in many ways it is tied up with something that is very dear to his heart. I think I am right in saying that, as the first Commonwealth Minister for Immigration, he is most interested in immigration. Western Australia, in its undeveloped state, can absorb many immigrants and must do so if ir hopes to develop to the fullest extent. But the limitation on the intake of immigrants in Western Australia is not of a monetary nature, nor is it based on the availability of employment. I believe that it is based on the availability of water supplies throughout the State.
If honorable members consider the rate of usage of water per head of population, they will see that Western Australia can support only those people who can adequately be supplied with water. Therefore, saturation point, as it were, is reached at a certain stage. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) gave, from memory, some figures on the availability of water per head of population in Perth and in Canberra. I remember that some years ago, when I lived in the particular area which is served by this scheme, we were forced to exist on a total of 2,000 gallons of water for the whole of the summer period, which extended through approximately eight months of the year. Those of us who live in cities where there is an unlimited supply of water should appreciate that this measure will enable the Government to bring water for the use of people on farms and in townships in that area. Every penny that is spent on the scheme, and every penny that is supplied by the Commonwealth, will help to increase the productivity of the area covered by the scheme, and, in the long run, that will increase the value of our exports and the wealth of the nation.
It is refreshing to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in true Australian fashion, say that, as a Victorian, he appreciates what is being done for this isolated part of Australia. There are Victorians who complain about the formula system of road tax distribution, and indeed, about the payment to Western Australia of any money at all. They should think, instead, of the millions of pounds that are poured into the Snowy Mountains scheme about which, incidentally, the Western Australians do not complain, but which will benefit only the eastern side of the continent.
The State of Western Australia has probably a much more stable economy than have the other States, and we appreciate a move like this by the Commonwealth, which will enable people in the less developed areas to increase the value of their holdings and their productivity. It will make life a little more worth while for the people who go out and live in the country towns. I have great pleasure in supporting the measure. I feel quite certain that all Western Australian people will appreciate the gesture of this Government in making this amount available for the completion of the southwestern water scheme.
.- I, too, am pleased to have the opportunity of supporting this measure. It is something to be noted that, at long last, members representing Western Australia on both sides of the House agree on something. I sincerely hope that honorable members on the other side of the House will be just as adamant, in the future, in supporting measures that might assist that State.
As the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) mentioned in his second-reading speech, this bill deals with a Commonwealth payment towards a comprehensive water supply scheme involving the reticulation of water to towns in the inland wheat belt along the great southern railway from Beverley to Katanning, and to increase the supply of water to the eastern gold-fields area in Western Australia. The bill, as he mentioned, does two things. It increases the total amount of the Commonwealth limit payment to this scheme from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000, and it removes the limit from the amount payable annually by the Commonwealth. At the present time, the Commonwealth meets its share of the cost of this scheme on a £l-for-£l basis, but the annual payment is limited to £462,500. It now means that, up to the limit of £5,000,000, the Commonwealth will reimburse the State half its expenditure on the scheme without any annual limitation at all. According to the white paper which was distributed with the Budget, the additional annual expenditure to be made by the Commonwealth will be £109,500.
I am pleased that, at long last, the Treasurer has taken notice of the continual appeal that has been made from honorable members on this side of the House for additional funds to be made available. When I say, “on this side of the House” I include the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) who, at present, unfortunately, is absent through sickness. He has been very forceful in his advocacy of this additional assistance. On 28th March last I made a personal appeal to the Treasurer when I submitted a series of questions to him. I asked -
Is it a fact that, as labour and material are now available, the Western Australian Government is anxious to hasten the work on the Comprehensive Water Scheme and, for that purpose, is spending £570,000 this year?
The Treasurer replied -
The rate at which work on the scheme progresses is a matter for determination by the Government of Western Australia.
At that time the Commonwealth’s share of the expense was limited to £462,500. The Treasurer now realizes that there is every justification for the claim that the Commonwealth should not limit its contribution in any year to £462,500. The second part of my question to the Treasurer was -
Is it a fact that, due to severe inflationary conditions, the estimated cost of the scheme is. now £10,000,000?
The Treasurer replied -
I am not aware of any firm estimate of the total cost of the scheme having recently been made by the State.
The Treasurer now admits that the cost has increased to £10,000,000 and consequently, the Commonwealth has increased its share to £5,000,000.
I asked the Treasurer, further -
Will he agree to increase the Commonwealth’s share from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000 and thus increase the annual limit of £462,500 which is now paid to the State on a £l-for-£l basis?
The Treasurer replied -
This is a matter of policy. It is, however pointed out that, apart from the matching contributions by the State and the Commonwealth, tha State is free to make additional allocations to the scheme from the funds available to it for workspurposes.
I am pleased to say that as a result of the representations that have been made, the Government has now seen the light and has met the wishes of the Opposition in regard to this matter. I should point out, also, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has already emphasized, that it was as a result of the request of the Western Australian Government that the Commonwealth Labour Government in 1948, agreed to subsidize expenditure on this important scheme on a £l-for-£l basis. The then estimated overall cost was £4,000,000. That is the answer to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), who said that this job could have been done at a greater pace and for less cost. It was started before inflation ran riot in this land, but there was then a shortage of man-power and materials and, consequently, the project was delayed. By 1955, as a result of the severe inflationary conditions that prevailed, the cost of the scheme was doubled and, consequently, the
Commonwealth raised its commitment to £4,000,000, which was half the estimated cost which was then set at £8,000,000. At that time also the annual expenditure by the Commonwealth was limited to £462,500 on a £l-for-£l basis. That slowed down the scheme because, by then, both manpower and materials were available but not finance with which to do the job. Last year the Government paid out only £462,500 whereas the State spent £570,000 on the scheme. I am pleased that the Commonwealth has at last seen the light in regard to this very important project. 1 hope that it will see the light in regard to many more matters that are concerning the State of Western Australia. If it does, that State will be in a much happier position than it is at present.
.- When the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) rose, with honeyed words he endeavoured to indicate his pleasure that members representing Western Australia seemed to be in agreement for once. The honorable member then completely spoiled his presentation because he launched into quite a party political emphasis and tried to take credit to himself for so much that the Government has accomplished in this very good measure. I remind the House that other honorable members from Western Australia, particularly Government members, have been vocal and active in this House in the interests of the State which they represent. Only a few days ago some of us were talking about the need for expansion and development in the north-west. Our voices are by no means drowned by that of the honorable member for Stirling. I am glad that the honorable member paid tribute to the enthusiasm of two colleagues, who, unfortunately, are not with us in the’ House to-day. I refer to the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). However, those of us who are here on the Government side are glad indeed to be associated with this measure.
In the few moments that remain I want to say that it has been my privilege to have had some experience of living, or holidaying at least, in the great southern district of Western Australia, which is part of the area that will be served by this comprehensive water scheme. As a matter of fact, one town mentioned by my colleague, the honor able member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), proved to be . a place of considerable attraction to me in the earlier years of my young life. If I remember accurately - and I am grateful for the memory - that particular town made a very helpful contribution to the life that 1 now live. But while I was there, I well remember visiting the town water supply. It was during a difficult year when the season was unusually unfavorable and virtually no water was available for the people living in the adjacent town.
Therefore, it is a pleasure indeed to know that the towns down the Great Southern line, covered by this scheme, will be assured in time that water restrictions and those difficulties of other years will not recur. I am pleased to note that the aggregate limit on the Commonwealth payments towards the cost of the Great Southern Towns and Goldfields Water Supply Scheme is to be increased from £4,000,000 to the attractive figure of £5,000,000, and furthermore that in the two years that are ahead there will be no actual restriction, as previously applied, of the moneys to be advanced by the Commonwealth Bank. So, in concert with my colleagues on this side of the House who have expressed their pleasure I, as the other remaining member from Western Australia, am glad to associate myself with a measure which is designed not only to encourage Western Australia as a deserving State, but also to inspire greatly the people who live in the areas to be served by this comprehensive water scheme.
– I rise to express appreciation of the words of the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) regarding members of the Australian Country party who are absent to-night. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) is in hospital, and I am pleased to say that he is doing well. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) is unavoidably absent. They are two great fighters for Western Australia, and I can assure you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that if they were here to-night they would be supporting this measure. By their advocacy in the past they have done much to make it possible.
I was rather surprised that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) tried to complicate the thinking of people by referring to the formula under which the proceeds of the petrol tax are distributed. That is a subject quite different from that with which the bill deals. On behalf of the Australian Country party, and personally, I support this bill right up to the hilt, and I am very glad that Western Australia is to get this money so as to improve the water supply of certain towns. I am also pleased that the limit on the amount provided by the Commonwealth is to be raised. That, of course, does not mean that I am a “ little Australian “, as I am sometimes called, trying to get to be a big one.
– You are a big Victorian.
– That is your theme all the time. I have always maintained that it is only the formula that is unjust and not how the money is raised. That is all I claim. If these so-called “big Australians “, who advocate all the time the provision of more money for their various States under the formula, looked closely into the matter they would discover that the formula is unjust. Although I give such bills as the one before us my full support I will still try to get justice done as far as the petrol tax is concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 5th November, at 3.30 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Recently, in this chamber, I made reference to the fact that the Government was endeavouring to prevent the Public Accounts Committee from investigating the comments made in the Auditor-General’s report regarding the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory project. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is the chair man of that committee, in an endeavour to extricate himself and the Government from a difficulty, gave an explanation which I hope to be able to show to any reasonable member of this House, was ill-founded and untrue. What I said was that the Government was preventing the Public Accounts Committee-
– I take exception, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to the word “ untrue “. It is quite unparliamentary. If the honorable gentleman likes to do so, let him make comparison between facts, but not describe the statements of others as being untrue. I ask for the word “ untrue “ to be withdrawn.
– In this particular case I shall let the word be used.
– What I said was that the Government was preventing, or endeavouring to prevent, the Public Accounts Committee from investigating the comments of the Auditor-General in respect of the St. Mary’s project, and the honorable member for Warringah, in answer to that criticism, used the following words -
Neither the Government nor the Minister, nor anyone else, is in a position to prevent the Public Accounts Committee from doing its duty.
That is not what I accused the Public Accounts Committee of doing. I want it to do its duty. It is not a question of anybody trying to prevent it from doing its duty. I want to know when it intends to carry out its duties as laid down in the act, and in case the honorable member for Warringah has not read the act recently, I refer him to section 8, which reads -
The duties of the committee are to examine the accounts of the receipts and expenditure of the Commonwealth and each statement and report transmitted to the Houses of the Parliament by the Auditor-General in pursuance of sub-section (1.) of section 53 of the Audit Act 1901-1950.
So, it is not a question of whether the committee wants to do its duty, but of whether the Government is trying to prevent the committee from doing that duty. The fact is that the committee has a duty, as laid down in the act, to investigate this matter. The honorable member for Warringah said, speaking of the committee -
Its duty is quite clear.
The Opposition asks the committee to get on with the job as laid down in the act, and to investigate this matter. Surely there can be nothing more important than having some form of investigation into the serious allegations that have been made in respect of the St. Mary’s project. The honorable member for Warringah went on to say, again referring to the committee -
It is entirely free to do what it wants and it will accept no pressure from anybody.
As a matter of fact, the committee is not entirely free to do what it wants, because this Parliament has already laid it down in the act that the committee is obliged to take note of what the Auditor-General says in his annual report. Therefore, the committee is not entirely free. The honorable member for Warringah went on to say -
A few weeks ago I pointed out that the Public Accounts Committee had so much on its plate that it did not propose to do anything fresh this year.
Why sidetrack this issue? There could be no more important matter for the Public Accounts Committee to deal with at the moment than the charges of rackets, crookedness and corruption in respect of the St. Mary’s project. Why does not this committee, which is appointed for this specific purpose, get on with its job? What is on the plate of the Public Accounts Committee? I am able to tell this House that the committee actually considered adjourning until after Christmas - to do no more work, no more deliberating, until after Christmas. The reason that they were endeavouring to get the committee to adjourn until after Christmas is that they knew that while the committee was in session there was always the possibility that it might be pressed on the committee that it had a duty to do something about investigating the St. Mary’s project. The honorable member for Warringah went on to say -
That was the decision of the committee. lt may have been, before St. Mary’s was ever mentioned, before any criticism had been levelled in respect of the project. The committee may have decided then to do as the honorable member now states, but ever since the St. Mary’s project scandal was ventilated in this Parliament and outside it. there has been no suggestion before the committee that it should adjourn till after Christmas. The honorable member went on and said -
The committee has discussed the St. Mary’s matter . . .
He was trying to imply that the committee had given some consideration to that matter. The only matter it had considered was whether the committee would make an investigation of the St. Mary’s project, and when that investigation would be held. The honorable member said further - lt will decide at a later stage, when the time is ripe, what it will Jo.
In my opinion there will be a lot of people wanting to know why the Public Accounts Committee, which was specifically appointed by this Parliament to investigate such matters, does not carry out its duty as laid down in the act. The honorable member also said -
It is a parliamentary committee and it can be directed only by this House on the one hand, the Senate on the other, or both Houses together.
The Parliament has already directed the committee. Surely the honorable member for Warringah does not want anything more specific than the passage I have read from the act itself. Is that not a direction by the Parliament? Can the committee completely ignore it, because, according to the honorable member, the committee is entirely free to make its own decisions and decide what it will do?
Members of the Labour party on that committee have entirely different ideas of its functions. If those members request, as they have done, that this investigation of St. Mary’s be carried out, then, in my opinion, the committee should act. Such action would be in keeping with its duties as specifically laid down in the act. I am surprised that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), who is a member of the legal profession, has tried to defend the committee, which is evading its obligations under the law. The honorable member for Balaclava should have more regard for the ethics of his profession, about which we hear so much in this chamber, instead of using his endeavours to prevent a parliamentary committee from investigating this project. If the St. Mary’s project is properly examined and if all the people who wish to give evidence are permitted to do so on oath, if the committee requires it, or if this Parliament requires it - we will be able to prove that the whole project is crooked and corrupt. The Opposition will not cease its endeavours to secure a complete, thorough and impartial investigation of the whole of the allegations that have been made with respect to St. Mary’s.
.- I feel that it is hardly necessary to reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), because I believe that when it comes to ethical standards, about which the honorable member has been speaking, very few people have any high regard for him. He has made an accusation against the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, because that honorable member said that the committee was free to do what it wanted. I refer the House to the statement which was made by the honorable member for Warringah, to which he added a proviso and indicated quite clearly that this House, or both Houses combined, could give a direction and refer a matter to the Public Accounts Committee. That has been done in the past.
I shall refer the House to what has happened in recent days in relation to the St. Mary’s project. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) proposed a motion to the House requesting that the AuditorGeneral’s report and findings in relation to the St. Mary’s project be referred to a select committee of the House. I believe one is entitled to assume that the leader of the honorable member for East Sydney did not believe that the Public Accounts Committee was the proper body to investigate the affairs of St. Mary’s.
– That is correct, but an investigation by that committee would be better than no inquiry at all, which is what the Government wants.
– The honorable member has had his say and should listen to what other honorable members have to say. 1 suggest that the Public Accounts Committee is entitled to consider that a reflection on it by the Opposition and to disregard a suggestion or a comment by the honorable member for East Sydney that it should now accept his view. The honorable member insists that there is a direction to the committee under the act. The honorable member read only one section of the act, but if he reads the whole of section 8 he will get the real proposition as it is put to the Public Accounts Committee by the Parliament. This committee is directed to make investi gations of all aspects of government expenditure. As was pointed out by the honorable member for Warringah, that is exactly what the committee has been doing over the last few months. The committee recently made an investigation of the Northern Territory, first in Canberra and then in the Northern Territory itself, and a report has still to be prepared in relation to that matter. There are other matters on which the committee has undertaken investigations, reports on which have to be prepared, lt is hardly fair to expect that the committee, at the request of the honorable member for East Sydney, will lay aside those inquiries on which it is engaged, in order to undertake something which the honorable member regards as being of some importance. In his view, no matter raised by the Auditor-General requires investigation except St. Mary’s, because that happens to be his particular baby at this time.
What the honorable member for East Sydney suggested to the House to-night and yesterday was suggested in an endeavour to cause disharmony among members of the committee. For six years this committee has operated in a most harmonious manner. There has been no evidence of any party political feeling in the activities of the Public Accounts Committee. If anything would produce disharmony, it is utterances of the type which the honorable member for East Sydney has made. I believe that the Public Accounts Committee has the respect of the public and the respect of every member of this Parliament, with the possible exception of the honorable member for East Sydney. I do not think the public will be influenced to any great extent by the outbursts of the honorable member for East Sydney in his endeavour to discredit, first, the committee and, secondly, its chairman. The chairman of the committee is a person who is esteemed by every member of the committee now, and by every member who has been on the committee over the past six years. I hope that the Opposition, particularly the members of the Labour party who are on the Public Accounts Committee, will resist the suggestions which have been made by the honorable member for East Sydney, which can only have the effect of introducing party political feeling into the deliberations of this committee.
– It is a sorry spectacle that honorable members are witnessing to-night, when the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee remains in his seat, completely silent on what is probably one of the greatest challenges ever issued to the desirability of continuing the committee in existence. There was a time when I thought that this committee could be relied upon to investigate all suggestions of malpractice, all suggestions of bad accounting and the like, brought under the notice of the Parliament by the Auditor-General. I was sorry to note to-night the failure of the chairman of the committee to rise in his place to support the strange attitude of the committee in refusing point-blank to deal with one of the most-
– He made a statement which is absolutely true.
– What the chairman of the committee said was this -
Neither the Government, nor the Minister, nor any one else, is in a position to prevent the Public Accounts Committee from doing its duty. Its duty is quite clear.
Of course its duty is quite clear. The act makes it quite clear that the duty of the Public Accounts Committee is to investigate all reports from the Auditor-General which suggest that something is phony, that there is something shady in connexion with any government department, and if ever there was a report from the Auditor-General which suggested some shady practice, then his report in connexion with St. Mary’s does just that. Here we have the statute obliging the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee to deal with such reports and we have this statement from him to the effect that he has no intention whatever of being moved into action by the Government or anybody else except the Parliament itself. What hope have we of getting Parliament to move in the matter when the majority of honorable members is backing the Government’s refusal to have a select committee appointed to inquire into it? That raises the point as to why the Government is preventing an inquiry into the St. Mary’s project. Why is the Government so fearful of having a full-dress debate and an open inquiry into the carryings-on at St. Mary’s? I say that the chairman of the committee is remiss in his duty in not calling the committee to gether immediately in order that this matter may be investigated. I have discussed it with members of the Opposition who are members of the Public Accounts Committee-
– Who are they?
– I do not propose to give their names; but I have discussed this matter with at least one member of the committee who has assured me that it is his desire to have the question investigated immediately. Here we have the chairman of the committee telling us that the committee does not propose to do anything further this year. This is October and the committee does not propose to do anything at all to investigate a matter that has been concerning the people of this Commonwealth for several weeks past. I think that the chairman of the committee owes some explanation to the Parliament as to why he sits there grabbing at his chin instead of getting up and telling us that he does not intend to call the committee together immediately.
I should like to know whether it is a fact that the chairman is entirely free in this matter. Are we not entitled to assume that some representations have been made to him or that some pressures have been brought to bear because, when an AuditorGeneral’s report deals with a deficit running into millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, and when the Opposition has been able to bring forward case after case and instance after instance of malpractice and corruption in the case of the St. Mary’s project, the Public Accounts Committee sits idly by and does absolutely nothing to investigate the matter on behalf of the Parliament? It is a shocking state of affairs, and it seems to me that the committee under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Warringah is nothing more or less than a cover-up for the Government’s misdeeds. If that is to be the practice of the committee, the sooner it is wound up the better. It is no wonder that the Opposition very wisely had nothing to do with the Foreign Affairs Committee when we know very well that all these committees have been used as nothing more or less than a means of covering up the crookedness that goes on in certain government departments that ought to be examined immediately.
– You are incriminating your own colleagues.
– I discussedthis matter with my colleagues who are members of the Public Accounts Committee and they are most irate to think that the chairman of the committee refuses to bring the matter under the notice of the committee. It is not the members on our side who are refusing to deal with the matter; it is the chairman of the committee and the majority that he is able to command on it. I should like the honorable member for Balaclava-
– Why do they want it covered up? They are as crooked as they look.
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. The honorable member for East Sydney just hurled across the chamber a remark at the honorable member for Petrie which I believe is decidedly unparliamentary and should be withdrawn, and a suitable apology made to the honorable member.
– What was the remark?
– If I am asked to repeat what he said, I shall. He said to the honorable member for Petrie, “You are as crooked as you look “.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw that remark.
– I mentioned no honorable member by name at all; but if you regard me as having offended, I withdraw.
Mir. CLYDE CAMERON. - Mr.
No Member shall allude to any debate or proceedings of the current Session in the Senate, or to any measures pending therein.
The estimates in respect of the Public Accounts Committee are included in the Estimates that are now before the other chamber.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh is in order.
– No wonder the gaols are full.
– I now want to deal with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton).
– I rise to order. The honorable member for East Sydney has just made a remark which, quite contrary to the normal practice, is not offensive to me. I am delighted to know he would not have me defend him.
-Order! The honorable member is out of order.
– The Minister for Social Services-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to direct to the attention of the Minister for Social Services, who seems to be taking no interest at all in this matter, the fact that I am referring to the reply he gave on Tuesday last, 22nd October, to my question regarding social services for aborigines. He stated -
No matter what proportion of aboriginal blood he has, if, by reason of character, standard of intelligence and social development he is considered a suitable person to receive payment, subject to the usual conditions.
He would then receive social service payments, regardless of the proportion of aboriginal blood. I informed the Minister that that provision is not being applied in South Australia. At the Point Pearce and Point McLeay mission stations aborigines are being refused unemployment and sickness benefits in spite of the fact that they are of standard intelligence, have a character that is above reproach and can claim social development of a sufficiently high standard to entitle them to the same benefits as white men receive.
– Have they exemption certificates?
– No, they have not; and that is the point I am coming to. Under section 111 of the Social Services Consolidation Act they do not need exemption certificates in order to qualify for unemployment and sickness benefits; but the Minister gave the impression-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) referred to the Public
Accounts Committee. I think we should look at the facts; and the first and undisputed fact is that the committee is armed with powers and charged with responsibilities entrusted to it by this House. They are fairly large powers and responsibilities.
The honorable gentleman from East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has endeavoured to focus attention on his particular interpretation of one of the clauses defining the responsibilities of the committee. He referred to that section of the act which obliges the committee to examine the AuditorGeneral’s report. The inference drawn by the honorable gentleman from East Sydney, for reasons of his own, is that that should be interpreted as meaning that the Public Accounts Committee is obliged to examine any matter contained in the report of the Auditor-General, and report on it to this- Parliament, of which the committee is an instrument, whenever any member of this House or any one else wishes it to do so. lt is indisputable that, over the years of its existence, the Public Accounts Committee has, I think, carried out its duties with justice and with courage. There is no person in this country who would criticize the honesty and effectiveness of the work done by that committee. These are facts.
The next indisputable fact is that over the years, under relevant legislation, the committee has acted, as it should act, as an instrument of this House. It has, on occasions, been very critical of the Government of which the majority of its members are supporters. It has done that because all members of the committee have accepted their larger responsibilities as servants of this institution of parliamentary democracy. It is also an indisputable fact that in these times only a committee such as this can safeguard to all of us who sit in this House the right that the Parliament must preserve - the right of the Parliament to know why it is spending money and on what it is spending money; the right to retain in the hands of the Parliament the control of the purse.
The Opposition has launched an attack on one particular governmental activity. Attention has been focussed on that and it is outside the scope of this discussion to consider whether the accusations are right or wrong. The fact is that the attack has been launched. What the honorable member for East Sydney is saying to the Public Accounts Committee, a committee of this House, is, “ You should drop all those things which, over the years, you have accepted as responsibilities, not to the Government or to any party, but to the House. You should smash the organization that you. have built up “. Because accusations have been made, some of them unquestionably irresponsible, the honorable member considers that the committee should concentrate on them. In other words, the honorable gentleman, who is now leaving the House, has said that the committee should be the instrument of politics; the instrument of any particular section of the House that wants to use the power and energy and resources of the committee for a particular political purpose.
Once that were permitted, the only thing that stands between the individual members of this Parliament and financial irresponsibility would be destroyed. It is impossible to follow the reasoning of the honorable member for East Sydney in this matter. Again, he has displayed that courage that has characterized him over the years. On every occasion when he himself has come before an inquiry he has run away. That i» the truth, about this belligerent, bombastic individual. When he is confronted with a real situation he retires. He says that he fights the Communists. But when Mr. Healy comes in, he bows and scrapes to him. He makes great, general, sweeping accusations. But when he is asked to go into a court and substantiate them he pleads privilege.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who is not without a sense of humour and other qualities, is mistakenly a supporter of the honorable member for East Sydney. Here is the situation. The House is asked to accept the opinion of a member of the calibre of the honorable member for East Sydney. We have to contrast that against the record of years of unquestioned honest service of the committee as a whole. Then we have to weigh in the balance the character and capacity of the honorable member for East Sydney and the character and capacity of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). Members of this House and the public are entitled, in this judgment, to ask “Of these two individuals, who has served his country the best? “ I have no doubt what the verdict of the country and the verdict of this House will be.
– I hesitate to rise at this late hour to defend the integrity and honesty of the National Parliament. Not only is a great suspicion indicated in the report of the Auditor-General, concerning the St. Mary’s project, but also grave suspicion is permeating the whole community on this subject. The man in the bus, the man in the tram, and the man on the boat, all are wondering just what is wrong with St. Mary’s. There are 45,000 people in my electorate who also are wondering what is wrong at St. Mary’s. I want the answer. What is wrong at St. Mary’s? I venture to suggest that the Public Accounts Committee, instead of deciding solemnly at its meeting recently to adjourn until after Christmas, should have immediately, even if there was only a suspicion that there was something wrong with our Government, undertaken an investigation of the St. Mary’s project. What is the Government afraid of? That is the question that we want to have answered.
Failing in an attempt to get a select committee appointed to probe the suspicion, the next best thing for which we can press is an investigation by the Public Accounts Committee. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not say anything against the honesty of the personnel of the Public Accounts Committee. He pointed out that the chairman of the committee had said in the House that neither the Government nor a Minister, nor any one else was in a position to prevent the committee from doing its duty. The Auditor-General has made some caustic comments regarding a contract at St. Mary’s, alleging dishonesty in connexion with it. I know, being connected with a union the members of which are actively employed on that contract, that there is crookedness and corruption connected with it. Suspicion regarding this matter is widespread at the moment. Why does not the Public Accounts Committee forget about its holidays? It is starting early on the Christmas holidays. Why does it not investigate this allegation of crookedness and corruption? We cannot allow those words, crookedness and corruption, to be connected with a project with which Her
Majesty’s Parliament is associated. If there is any doubt about this contract why are Government supporters so keen to prevent any discussion of it? We are not in America. We are not living in Chicago. We are in Australia, where we are supposed to be clean and honest.
– You sound like the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– Honorable members may smile, but, being an honest man myself, 1 desire to know the truth, fs this contract crooked or is it not? Are the allegations of the Auditor-General right or wrong? Did this Government sign a contract for £23,000,000, and then surreptitiously alter the amount and increase it to £28,000,000? Where has the extra £5,000,000 gone to? Who got it? What was it paid for?
I can tell the House of one happening that occurred at St. Mary’s. There was an area of 1 1 ,000 square feet of concrete floor laid. A tradesman was sent along to set tiles in the floor. He was a trained man, and he would know, of course, what he was talking about. He was sent by his firm, a sub-contractor, to set 1 1 ,000 square yards of special tiles which were considered necessary in an ammunition factory. When he arrived and saw the state of the concrete floor, he rubbed his hands over it, picked it up-
Honorable members opposite are amused. It seems humorous to me, too, but the fact is that he picked the concrete up and found that it was in fragments. Why did that concrete break up? It did so simply because the mixture used was in the proportion of one in eight instead of one in three. Was that honest or was it crook? The tiles could not be laid on that floor, and the 11,000 square yards of concrete had to be torn up and re-laid. Honorable members may laugh at that, too, if they wish.
I want to know something about this contract, Mr. Speaker. I want to know the results of an inquiry as to whether it was honest or dishonest. I am not concerned about some of the honorable members opposite who are laughing and interjecting, urged on by their senior Ministers, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). If he were an honest Prime Minister - and T say this deliberately-
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark. He is imputing that the Prime Minister is dishonest.
– I withdraw it. But if the Prime Minister is a real, good Australian - and most Australians are honest - he would order an inquiry immediately, so as to remove the suspicion with which the public views this Government, not only because of the St. Mary’s project, but also because of other contracts into which it has entered during the last twelve months.
.- I do not want to make any reference to the dry storm that has just passed over, other than to say to the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) that the Elizabethan playwrights would have described him as a humour - and I leave it to his own intelligence to determine precisely all that that involves. 1 rise this evening for two reasons: first, to deplore the attack made on the probity, the integrity and the honour of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). I am quite sure that on reflection the honorable member for Hindmarsh will regret it, because I feel certain that every responsible, thinking person in this House has the utmost affection and admiration for the honorable member for Warringah. If the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) were in the chamber to-night, I am sure that he, too, would greatly regret and deplore the attack that has been made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Of course, as far as the behavour of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is concerned, we have come to expect it, as the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davies) has said. The honorable member for East Sydney is the wrecker, and it is about some of his wrecking that I wish to make some deliberate comments this evening. I refer to a matter that I identify as one of the most singular acts of political vandalism in Australian history. In April, 1954, one Vladimir Petrov defected from the employ of the Soviet Union and sought political asylum in this country. From that date until about three weeks ago the honorable member for East Sydney, prodded and joined on occasions ‘by the right honorable member for Barton-
– The right honorable member for Hunter.
– He does not know whether he is going into the Hunter electorate seat or the Hunter ejection seat. However, from that date on the two honorable members to whom I have referred have made constant attacks on the Government of this country, upon the security service of this country, upon the three royal commissioners who presided over the inquiry, upon the Attorney-General and upon the honesty and integrity of a host of officials in contact with the Government and the administration of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Now an extraordinary silence has come over this place. The honorable member for East Sydney hasbecome silent with regard to these attacks. Previously there was no term of abuse tooextravagant for him to employ. He has, as he usually does, imputed to other people his own debased motives. Why has therebeen this extraordinary silence? I suggest that the reason is to be found in the fact that the Prime Minister, a few days ago, made it plain that Vladimir Petrov has identified 522 N.K.V.D. agents throughout theworld. That identification of 522 espionageservants of the Soviet Union is a matter of uncommon importance to every thinking and serious-minded person. Why has thissilence descended upon us?
If we go back to 1945, to the end of the war, we remember the appearance onthe world stage of Alan Nunn-May, closely followed by Fuchs. Pontecorvo, the Rosenbergs, Greenglass-
– Who are they? Bullfighters?
– I suppose in his ignorancethe honorable member would immediately identify them as bullfighters. When we consider the list of people such as those towhom I have referred, is it any wonder that the identification of 522 agents of the Soviet Union is a matter of importance?’ It means that Vladimir Petrov has identified and sealed off 522 sources of information of the Soviet Union. In assessing itsmaterial strength Moscow would unhesitatingly look to the honorable member for East Sydney and say, “ We must include him in our calculations, because no person in that British legislature has done more todiscourage any one from defecting from the Soviet Union than has the honorable member for East Sydney “. It is perfectly true, as my friend, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) interjects, that that is a matter of complete regret to the honorable member for East Sydney. I pause here to interpolate the thought that it will be a grand day for this Parliament and this country when manned satellites become a reality, because we shall be able to send the honorable member for East Sydney off solo. With the satellite that has passed overhead, with the command to-day of immense technological strength, it is perfectly clear to any examination that the gains that the Soviet Union has got from people such as Alan Nunn-May, Fuchs, Pontecorvo, Greenglass, and all the rest of them, have been of great magnitude and that again, related to the identification by Petrov of 522 espionage agents, is to be considered.
I say quite deliberately to the honorable member for East Sydney that by his conduct and his behaviour since April, 1954, he has positively identified himself as a political vandal. He is a wrecker. He is a destroyer. I repeat - and I finish on this point - that by his actions and by the manner in which he has constantly criticized the Government and the Prime Minister, and tried to vilify the Petrovs, the honorable member for East Sydney fits into the design of the Soviet Union to see that no agents will defect from its service.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), during one of his characteristic speeches on the motion for the adjournment of the House, complained that I had not paid any attention to what he had to say. That is not quite true. I did pay some attention to what he had to say - confessedly, not very much - but then no one, not even the honorable member for Hindmarsh, would expect me or any other intelligent person to pay very much attention to what he had to say.
– Will you put that into English so that I can follow it?
– It does not matter. He did say that there were aboriginal natives in South Australia who qualified for unemployment benefit but were not receiving unemployment benefit. If that is the position - and I very much doubt it - the honorable member for Hindmarsh could rectify it in a matter of minutes by coming to see me, by ringing me on the telephone if he does not like to see me, or even by writing me a letter. But it serves no useful purpose, except to delude the credulous, to bring a matter like this before the House in the debate on the motion for the adjournment. I make the explanation to him as comprehensive as I can, that aboriginal natives are eligible for unemployment benefit if, by reason of their character, standard of intelligence, and social development, they are considered to be suitable persons to receive unemployment benefit, and if they qualify under the usual conditions. No exceptions can be made in their case. The provisions in relation to unemployment benefit require that a person shall have been employed, and that he shall have lost his employment for any reason; that he shall register for employment and that he shall be able and willing to accept employment if it is found for him, unless he can find it for himself. Any one who can comply with those conditions immediately becomes eligible for unemployment benefit, regardless of his race.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh, and other honorable members who might be interested in this question, should always remember that the Commonwealth Government, through the Parliament, has power to make laws with respect to people of all races other than the aboriginal native race of Australia, and, so far as the Commonwealth Government can, it concedes to aboriginal natives all the social service benefits that it is competent, constitutionally, for any Commonwealth government to concede to them, subject only to the welfare laws of the States in which they live.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, The Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve was established by act of Parliament assented to in November, 1955. The purposes of the Reserve are defined in section 6 of the act and are explained in more detail in my secondreading speech in this House on 26th October, 1955. Its object is the reduction of Commonwealth Government debt - particularly debt maturing in the next few years, which includes a large proportion of war debt for which there may be considerable redemptions on maturity. The resources available in the Reserve will be available to assist in meeting redemptions of this Commonwealth debt and also, as and when securities representing such debt can be repurchased before maturity, to acquire and cancel them, so reducing the total amount of debt outstanding. Pending the use of balances in the Reserve for debt reduction, they may be temporarily invested in securities issued or guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government. 2, 3, 4 and 5. The transactions of the Reserve during 1955-56 and 1956-57 were as follows: -
Since its establishment in 1955, moneys in the reserve have been invested in special Commonwealth loans raised at the end of each financial year to complete the Commonwealth and State borrowing programmes approved by the Australian Loan Council. Other Commonwealth securities were acquired by the Reserve in 1955 through the transfer of the investments of the Debt Redemption Reserve Trust Account and in June, 1957, upon the closing of certain other trust accounts. The investments of the Reserve have also been varied by purchases and sales of securities and by the conversion of maturing investments into new Commonwealth securities. Under the provisions of section 6 of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955, securities purchased by the Reserve with a face value of £30,021,000 in 1955-56 and £45,801,380 in 1956-57 were cancelled, and the balance in the Reserve was reduced by the net cost of these securities, amounting to £27,961,941 in 1955-56 and £43,443,169 in 1956-57. At 30th June, 1956, and 30th June, 1957, the Reserve held the following investments (at cost): -
s asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Station ABN, Sydney, 48 per cent.; Station TCN, Sydney, 46 per cent.; Station ATN, Sydney, 67 per cent.; Station, ABV, Melbourne, 39 per cent.; Station GTV, Melbourne, 62 per cent.; Station HSV, Melbourne, 51 per cent. The proportions (expressed as a percentage) of the Australian programmes devoted by each station to the categories specified are shown in the following table: -
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has furnished the following replies: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19571024_reps_22_hor17/>.