22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce to the House - I did it somewhat informally yesterday - that during the absence overseas of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) will act as Minister for Primary Industry.
– In view of the international situation, especially in connexion with Indonesia and Holland, and other matters, can the Minister for External Affairs now indicate an approximate date on which the House can discuss these vital and urgent matters?
– I do not believe it is going to be possible to provide an opportunity for a discussion on that matter at this time, nor do I think it would be appropriate to do so when the matter is just about to come before the First Committee of the United Nations - probably to-day. The matter will go to the First Committee and then to the General Assembly itself, and I do not believe that this is an appropriate time to discuss the matter here. Things might be said which would disturb the discussion in the United Nations. I think, from what he has said himself, and from what the Prime Minister and I have said, that the right honorable gentleman is fully aware of the situation. I think that, now, we can only wait and see the result of the discussion in the United Nations. Subsequently, of course, I expect there will be, and I think there should be, an opportunity for discussion of the matter in this chamber.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs yet examined a statement allegedly made by the Leader of the Opposition in which he said, first, that Mr. Dulles had sought an agreement on conventional arms which would have given the Western nations great supremacy over Russia, and that Mr. Dulles never intended the recent disarmament talks to succeed; secondly, that the term “ free world “ is a complete cliche; and, thirdly, that one of the propaganda lies of the cold war was to imply that the launching of the Russian satellites was some war-like threat by the Soviet, whereas actually it was one of the agreed projects of the International Geophysical Year?
– A point of order, Mr. Speaker. I desire to ask whether an honorable member is entitled to ask a question that really does not relate to matters which this Parliament is required to consider.
– Order! The only point is whether the honorable member’s question is based on a newspaper report.
– It is general knowledge.
– The honorable member is in order.
– I should like to-
– A point of order, Mr. Speaker. Did the honorable member for Isaacs give his word that this question is not based on a newspaper report?
– Yes, that is what the honorable member said.
– Well, nobody believes him.
– Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should withdraw that remark.
– Sir, I withdraw it.
– I ask the honorable member for Isaacs to conclude his question.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I suggest that you request the honorable member for Isaacs to read the whole of that question again because, as a result of the disturbance that has been created by honorable members opposite, some of us did not hear a considerable part of it.
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– I put those questions to the Minister for External Affairs, and I conclude by asking: Does he not think that such utterances would be particularly pleasing to the Kremlin?
– I take a point of order on two bases. The first is my belief that the Standing Orders provide that questions may be directed to Ministers only on matters for which they are responsible in this House; and the second is my belief that the Standing Orders state that an honorable member is not entitled to ask a Minister for an expression of opinion.
– The honorable member for Isaacs was in order. I call the Minister for External Affairs.
– I regret, Mr. Speaker, as I believe the honorable member for Isaacs regrets, that the Leader of the Opposition has thought fit to criticize the bona fides of Mr. John Foster Dulles in respect of disarmament.
– What right has the Minister to say that?
- Mr. John Foster Dulles has linked, as we have linked, and as the representatives of the United Kingdom also linked, the question of the reduction of conventional armaments with the attempted reduction of nuclear armaments. The two aspects of the matter are linked together, and the Australian Government is in full accord with the attitude of Mr. John Foster Dulles and the American representatives on the Disarmament Sub-Committee. It would be fatal for the West - for the democracies - if there were to be a reduction of nuclear weapons without a similar reduction in what have come to be called conventional arms and weapons.
– That is not the point, surely!
– The Leader of the Opposition is believed publicly to have criticized the bona fides of Mr. John Foster Dulles - and that I deplore. This kind of thing is becoming almost a habit with the right honorable gentleman.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Isaacs asked the Minister for External Affairs whether he thought that such utterances would be pleasing to the Kremlin, and the Minister is using the question as an occasion to attack the Leader of the Opposition.
– There is no point of order.
– I was asked three questions by the honorable member for Isaacs.
– By arrangement!
– Not by arrangement at all. I had to get the three questions from the honorable member.
– Order! I must ask the House to come to order. I must also point out that the questions that are being asked, and the answers to them, are getting far too long.
– I rise to order for the purpose of obtaining your clear ruling on this matter, Mr. Speaker. Of course, the Standing Orders forbid the asking of questions which invite an expression of opinion by Ministers, but when a Minister proceeds to give an opinion which I, as the person affected, am not allowed to debate, I submit that it is intolerable. You, Sir, are now allowing a question of a personal character to be answered by the Minister. He will answer it, and I shall have no chance of replying to him. I have already challenged him to a debate on this question, and I should be glad to have one.
– Order! I have already ruled that the question is in order, and it is left to the good graces of the Minister to reply in accordance with his authority.
– I have been asked by the honorable member for Isaacs what I consider to be a proper question, in three parts, arising from remarks that are alleged to have fallen from the lips of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Based on a newspaper report.
– Based on the statements of people who heard the right honorable gentleman speak. It appears to me that the main purport of the comments of the Leader of the Opposition was to throw considerable doubt on the bona fides of Mr. John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, which is, I suppose, the greatest friend Australia has. I deplore that, and the Government also deplores it. This Government is behind the proposals that have been made in respect of disarmament by Mr. John Foster Dulles and his representative on the Disarmament Sub-Committee. That is particularly so in respect of the relationship between the reduction of conventional arms and forces and the reduction in nuclear arms and forces on which the right honorable gentleman threw scorn.
In the second part of the question I am asked whether the term “ free world “ is a cliche, which statement also was credited to the Leader of the Opposition, who applied it, as I understand it, to countries of South America and the Middle East. No Western democratic influence is being attempted to be exercised on any country in the Middle East. The Baghdad Pact was entered into on the initiative of the countries of the Middle East for their own protection against potential aggression by Soviet Russia. The countries of South America, presumably by reason of their belonging to the Organization of American States, do not derogate in any way from their being properly described as free countries of the world.
– They are dictatorships; they have no democratic rights at all.
– There are very few countries of the world, except countries ruled by Labour governments, which the right honorable gentleman would applaud as being free countries. The third part of the question implied that the right honorable gentleman had said that one of the propaganda lies of the cold war was that the launching of Russian satellites–
– I rise to order. I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order for the Minister for External Affairs - as he is obviously doing - to read from a manuscript in giving a reply to a question without notice. Furthermore, is there not some limit to the time a Minister may occupy in answering a question?
– Order! The right honorable gentleman is in order. The method of replying and the subject-matter used in a reply rest entirely with a Minister.
– On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the paper I have before me bears the question which I was asked by the honorable member for Isaacs. I got it from him because the question was rather lengthy and complicated.
– I rise to order. In view of the fact that the Minister has admitted that the question was arranged between himself and the honorable member - he says he took down the question because it was complicated and he has already got the answers typed to read - it cannot be suggested that all this was done on the spur of the moment.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 142 reads -
Questions may be put to a Minister relating to public affairs with which he is officially connected . . .
I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the question and answer come within the provisions of that Standing Order.
– I rise to order. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider Standing Order No. 144, which contains this provision -
The following general rules shall apply to questions: -
Questions should not ask Ministers -
for an expression of opinion; . . .
– Order! I have already ruled that the question is in order.
– Mr. Speaker, I can condense what is necessary to reply to these three questions by saying that the Government very greatly deplores this additional evidence of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition constantly adheres to the Communist view and constantly decries our friend–
– I rise to order. I ask that the Minister withdraw that expression, because it is offensive and insulting.
– Order! I ask the right honorable gentleman to withdraw that remark.
– I would be grateful, Sir, if you would be good enough to let me know what I am expected to withdraw.
– To clarify the matter, will the Minister repeat the statement?
– I shall attempt to put it in another form.
Opposition Members. - Withdraw.
– Order! I want to say that in the confusion that was taking place I was not able to hear clearly what the right honorable gentleman said. In fairness to all concerned, if he will repeat it I shall make a judgment.
– I think it could be put like this: The Government deplores the fact that the Leader of the Opposition appears to embrace every available opportunity for decrying our great friends, whilst not similarly decrying the attitude adopted over
A long period of years by those who may very well be our potential enemies.
– The Minister’s previous state.ment was out of order.
-Order! The ruling is that the remarks were not unparliamentary.
– I rise to order. What the Minister did say and what the Leader of the Opposition requires to be withdrawn is that the Leader of the Opposition always accepts the Communist view.
– Due largely to the noise that was going on in the chamber, I did not hear it in that strain.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs, by way of a supplementary question, arising out of the last question, how he reconciles his puerile sycophancy of Mr. Dulles with the statement made by Mr. Dulles at the time of the Suez crisis that he would prefer, if he were an American serviceman, not to fight alongside British soldiers? Secondly, how does the Minister justify the same childish attitude in regard to the statement by Walter Lippmann that Mr. Dulles flew to the last disarmament sub-committee meeting in London to throw in a packaged demand in order to stave off any adverse effect that an agreement between the Allies might have on the German elections? How does the Minister reconcile his veneration for Mr. Dulles with those two statements, particularly the statement that Mr. Dulles would be ashamed to fight beside a British or French soldier?
– I am afraid that I could not hear or follow the rather garbled question of the honorable member, but, if he will repeat it in intelligible language, I will be very glad to reply to it.
– Does the honorable member for Darebin wish to repeat the question?
– Yes. I ask, by way of supplementary question, arising out of the one previously asked of the Minister for External Affairs, how he can justify the statement that he has given to this House by way of reply to the last question. How does he reconcile his puerile sycophancy of
Mr. John Foster Dulles with the statement made by that gentleman, at the time of the Egyptian crisis, that he would not wish to fight alongside a British or French soldier. Secondly, how does he justify his-
– Order! I draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he is out of order in asking the right honorable gentleman to justify something.
– I accept your wise ruling, Mr. Speaker. I ask the Minister for External Affairs now whether he does not consider his reply completely inaccurate in view of the statement made by Mr. John Foster Dulles at the time of the Egyptian campaign, that if he were an American soldier he would feel ashamed to fight alongside a British or French soldier. Secondly, does he not consider his answer completely inaccurate in view of the statement made by Walter Lippmann that Mr. Dulles flew to the last disarmament sub-committee conference in London in order to save the allies from breaking apart and to save Dr. Adenauer at the hands of the German electors?
– This is. such a lot of garbled nonsense that I cannot understand it even now. I will merely say that Mr. Dulles has never said anything of the kind. The honorable gentleman’s question is garbled nonsense, bringing in a number of individuals and misquoting practically all of them.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that a shipment of 10,000 lb. ot prawn tails, to retail at 4s. 6d. per lb., has been received from Japan, and that a further shipment of 20,000 lb. is due to arrive. Will the Minister consider the impact of such imports on the prawning industry in Australia, particularly in Queensland, where the selling price of whole prawns is about 6s. per lb.? Are these imports controllable within the terms of the trade agreement with Japan?
T.lr. McEWEN. - I do not know whether it is a fact that these shipments have arrived or will arrive. I have heard or read somewhere - at the moment, frankly, I cannot recall where - that a shipment of prawns or prawn tails has come in from Hong Kong. If the Australian prawning industry feels that, under the present customs tariff, it is unable to compete with imports of prawns from any country other than Japan, the correct course of action for the industry is to apply for a hearing by the Tariff Board of its case for increased protection. If the industry feels that it is menaced by imports from Japan arising out of the trade treaty with that country, the proper course for it is to seek an interview, in the terms that are clearly understood in industry now, with appropriate officers of the Department of Trade, in association with representatives of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. The facts of the situation will then be studied, and if there is what I might describe as reasonable prima facie evidence of a menace or possible menace to the industry due to imports from Japan, the circumstances will be examined by Mr. McCarthy, the advisory authority. Appropriate action will then be taken, having regard to the advice given by Mr. McCarthy. This latter course of action, however, should be taken only with regard to imports that result from the provisions of the new Japanese trade treaty.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Does the Government intend to erect a permanent building for the Canberra University College and to retain that college as part of the Melbourne University, or at any stage to elevate it to the status of a full university?
– All these matters are under active consideration at the present time, and it is too early to make a detailed statement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Having regard to the fact that the trade treaty with Japan has been in operation for almost half a year of its three years duration, and remembering the gloomy and hysterical foreboding of a purely party political nature expressed by the Opposition, has the Minister any comment to make upon, or worries concerning, the functioning of the trade treaty to date?
– It is undoubtedly a fact that, arising from propaganda launched without justification - and sometimes lor party political motives - to the effect that resulting from the trade treaty with Japan there would be a flood of Japanese imports into Australia, there has been some falling off in the placement of orders with Australian manufacturers, followed perhaps by a small amount ot unemployment. As to the substantive impact upon Australian industry of the new trade treaty, while I cannot, and will not, attempt to speak with certain detailed knowledge as to what will happen in the future, sufficient time has already elapsed, as indicated by the honorable member, to afford some glimpse of the incidence of the treaty. The figures 1 shall quote may give some indication ot the impact on Australian industry. In the licensing period prior to the conclusion of the treaty, 3 per cent, of total licences issued were for goods to come from Japan. In the licensing period since the conclusion of the treaty, 3.5 per cent, of total licences issued were for goods to come from Japan.
Turning from the totality of imports to those imported by retailers, prior to the conclusion of the treaty 7) per cent, of all imports came from Japan. Since the conclusion of the treaty, on the basis of orders placed, 10 per cent, of all imports for retail sale in Australia will come from Japan. These figures show some increase, but certainly no catastrophic or serious increase. It has to be borne in mind that the H per cent, and the 10 per cent. I mentioned represent the percentage of imports, not the percentage of the Australian market of which these imports form only a microscopic proportion, because the Australian market in total is overwhelmingly supplied from Australian sources.
I shall make one further observation of fact on this important matter. The director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia indicated his fears to the Department of Trade several months ago that not fewer than 40 sections of Australian industry would be menaced by the Japanese trade treaty. As was intended, arrangements were made - such arrangements to operate on a basis established by an amendment of legislation in this Parliament a year earlier - for a study, in conjunction with senior officials of the Department of Trade, by an industry section thought to be in some jeopardy, aided and supported by the central administration of the Chamber of Manufactures. It was found that, although the spokesman for the chamber mentioned that 40 sections of industry were affected, in fact only 28 sections have sought and had discussions and examinations. The outcome of the study was that only four industry sections have up to the present time asked for an examination of their circumstances by Mr. McCarthy, although there is some evidence that two other industry sections may make a similar request in the near future.
Honorable members may be interested if I were to conclude by naming the industry sections that have asked to have their circumstances examined. The first is the cotton printed piece goods section of industry, which is under examination by Mr. McCarthy. The second is the knitted outer-wear section, the third is umbrellas and the fourth is porcelain insulators. There is also some evidence at the present time that the toy industry and the furnishing fabrics industry may ask for references. In total, there is no evidence up to the present time that Australian industry is seriously affected at all by this treaty.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House when the Government intends to make a determined and sincere attempt to solve the housing shortage which has been confronting Australia since the end of the last war and which has and is causing extreme hardship and unhappiness to many thousands of Australian families?
– We are very conscious of the problem. We have been conscious of it throughout our period of office. We have in fact done more and are continuing to do more in this field than any previous government in Australia.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Trade, relates to the price of copper. In view of the tremendous importance of the Australian price of copper both to mining companies and to copper fabricating firms, could the Minister indicate to the House whether he has any further information as to when the Tariff Board report on copper will be completed?
– The question of protection on copper was referred to the Tariff
Board some months ago - practically on the day that the industry asked that the matter should be referred to the Tariff Board. I then indicated to the board that 1 desired it to treat the inquiry with the greatest possible urgency. I am sure that the board has been conscious of that need, but, despite fairly constant recent inquiries from me, the board has not yet been able to conclude and present its report. Though I have a clear intention to refrain from imposing any pressure on the board, which must be left free to do its own work, 1 have indicated to the board that this matter is so important and so urgent that I would think it would be very useful if the board could possibly allow the Government to have its report in time for the matter to be considered, with a view to any action decided upon by the Government being taken before the end of this parliamentary sessional period. If that is practicable, it will be done.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Last week I asked the right honorable gentleman whether there was any truth in the report that interest rates were to be increased by the associated banks. The Prime Minister replied that my question was the first that he had heard of the proposition. Is it a fact that, notwithstanding his disclaimer last week, the associated banks are increasing interest rates from 6 per cent, to 8 per cent, as from 2nd December on advances on all wool shipped, payable on arrival at overseas destinations, or wool sent on consignment? Is the Prime Minister aware that this will have a very damaging effect on the sale and price of wool? Are the increased rates to apply to all business transactions or only to wool? Was the reply given last week due to the fact that the right honorable gentleman is not informed of major changes in financial policy?
– This is, of course, properly a question for the Treasurer. I still have not heard of the statement, apart from what the honorable gentleman himself has said. The Treasurer will be back to-night. I will get him to give a reply to this question to-morrow morning when the House meets.
– 1 ask the Minister for Trade a question without notice, ls it a fact that the main overseas buyers of Austraiian greasy wool for the three months ended 30th September, 1956, were the United Kingdom, Japan, France and Belgium, in that order, and that for the three months ended 30th September this year the order of importance was Japan, the United Kingdom, France and West Germany? If that is so, is the Japanese Trade Agreement responsible for the fact that Japan was the largest buyer of our wool for the three months ended 30th September this year? How does this fact measure up with the statements of Opposition members that Japan had large supplies of wool, and would not be a buyer at our sales?
– 1 thank the honorable member for the information given in his question. The information is correct in stating the leading buyers of our wool. As to whether the Japanese Trade Agreement is responsible for Japan being such an important buyer of our wool, I would not claim that the agreement is responsible, but I say without fear of contradiction that the agreement makes it highly probable that Japan will remain for years to come a very large buyer of Australian wool. The agreement ensures that for years to come the overwhelming percentage of purchases of wool by this great wool consuming and wool re-exporting country will be made in Australia to the great advantage of our wool industry and the Australian economy.
– What about the statement by Opposition members?
– As usual, they are wrong.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Has the Minister noted the substantial increase in unemployment in various parts of Tasmania, particularly in the north of the State? Is the Minister aware that at Devonport recently it was necessary to convene a meeting of the council, together with representatives of local organizations, and the public generally, to consider ways of assisting more than 200 unemployed persons in that town? Will the Minister confer with officials of his department in Tasmania to ensure that a maximum effort is made to assist the large number of people who desire employment, but who are unable to find it?
– I am not aware of any significant movement in employment in Tasmania. To-morrow, I think, the monthly survey by my department of employment movements for the month of October will be published. The figures will show that over the whole of Australia there has been a slight increase in the number of vacancies recorded, a reduction in the number of persons registered for work, and some decrease in the number of those on unemployment benefit. The figure I have for Tasmania as a whole, as at the 9th November, reveals that there are 621 people on unemployment benefit.
– Is that negligible?
– For a workforce as large as that in Tasmania, the figure represents a fraction of 1 per cent., I suggest. The latest figures show a decrease of 28 males in receipt of unemployment benefit and an increase of twelve females.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Territories. I understand that at Madang, in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, a native who had been serving a sentence of five years on a charge of murder was recently proved innocent and released from prison. If this is true, can the Minister explain this apparent miscarriage of justice?
– The facts as stated by the honorable member in his question are broadly correct. In answer to my inquiries, I am informed that what happened was that a killing took place in a rather remote village a little over five years ago, and that a group of the villagers, including the man who is now found to have done the actual killing, entered into an arrangement that one of their number should be designated the murderer, and put on trial, and, in the familiar American expression, should take the rap for the village. Apparently the person so chosen was a consenting party to this arrangement. He was brought to trial, and the conduct of the trial and the success of the conspiracy were assisted by the fact that the interpreter in the court also entered into the conspiracy and helped to make sure that the evidence that the conspiring parties desired to have presented was, in fact, clearly presented. The case was heard before the late Sir Beaumont Phillips, one of the wisest and most experienced judges that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea has ever known, and a man of great acuity and experience in these matters. The conspiracy was undetected, and the chosen victim was sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
Recently, when the prison in which he was held was being inspected, in accordance with the usual custom of visiting prisons, and prisoners were asked whether they had any complaints, this prisoner said that it was about time that he was let out. When inquiries were made of him, he said, “ I was to come in here for only five years “. When the records were examined, it was found that, in fact, his sentence was for a longer period than this. The victim said, “ The arrangement made with me back in the village was that I should serve five years, and then get out, and it was on that understanding that I was a consenting party “. After that, an investigation was made, and the whole plot was disclosed. The prisoner who had been wrongly convicted has been released, and the question of compensation for him is being examined. Both the interpreter and the real killer have been brought to trial.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make a statement setting out the order of priorities followed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in the provision of telephones for new subscribers? Will the Minister also clearly indicate the precedence accorded to the various professional groups such as doctors, bank managers, school teachers, and other citizens, in the allocation of telephones? What advantage is afforded to people who tender medical certificates in support of their application for a telephone?
– I can tell the honorable member now, briefly, that No. 1 priority is given to professional people such as doctors and nurses, and to certain institutions such as ambulance brigades. The next highest priority is accorded to business applications, and high in the list of business applications come ex-servicemen who are establishing their own businesses. In the residential field, priority is given to those who present some form of certificate indicating that there is a compassionate reason, in addition to the ordinary reasons, for the installation of a telephone. That is the position generally, but I will give the honorable member, in a written reply, a detailed list of the priorities followed in dealing with new applications for telephones.
– I desire to ask the Acting Minister for Primary Industry a question. Is it a fact that high-protein wheats command a premium of about ls. a bushel for each additional 1 per cent, of protein content, and that Canadian wheats under consideration for import to droughtstricken States have about 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, more protein than some available Australian wheats have? Could those Canadian wheats, therefore, be worth much more than the present small disparity between the prices indicates? In considering the advice of the Australian Wheat Board about the purchase and transport of wheat for drought-stricken States, will the value of the protein content, and the percentage of that content, be taken into account in addition to the other factors considered? Is it a fact that a higher protein content means higher food value and better baking quality?
– I understand that the higher protein wheats do command premium prices, but I do not know whether the increase is ls. a bushel for each additional 1 per cent, of protein, as the honorable member suggests. I also understand that when the Australian Wheat Board was considering the importation of wheat and made its representations to the Government, it also took into consideration the protein content of the wheat which was proposed to be imported. I know that the protein content of wheat has a very marked effect on the quality of the bread produced from it.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill 1957.
Without amendment -
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1957.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Flax Fibre Bounty Act 1954, as amended by the Flax Fibre Bounty Act 1957.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Davidson and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Davidson, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to give effect to the decision of the Government to extend for three years, to 31st October, 1960, the operation of the Flax Fibre Bounty Act which expired on 31st October, 1957. The bounty has operated from 1st November, 1954, and is paid on sales of flax line fibre processed from straw grown in Australia. It first applied over a period of two years and was then extended for a further year to 31st October, 1957, following on recommendations by the Tariff Board in its report of 8th February, 1957.
Honorable members will recall that the Tariff Board recommended a three years’ extension of bounty, but the act was extended for only one year pending a comprehensive review by the Government of the necessity for the further maintenance of the industry, including the Flax Commission, and the form of assistance. The review has disclosed that the industry is operating under considerable difficulty, due principally to the depressed world market for flax following on the pressure of Russia selling low-priced, low-quality flax line fibre, and partly to the necessity for considerable capital expenditure on modern plant and adequate straw coverage. There exists intense overseas competition in the finished product.
Flax fibre is processed in Australia by the Flax Commission, which is a Commonwealth authority operating mills at Ballarat, Colac, Drouin, Lake Bolac, Myrtleford, and Strathkellar in Victoria, and at Mount Gambier in South Australia. A small cooperative company also operates a mill at Boyup Brook in Western Australia with material assistance from the State Government. The main function of the Flax Commission, as expressed in the Flax Industry Act, is the maintenance and development of the flax industry in Australia to ensure that sufficient supplies of flax are available in Australia for defence and that the industry would have the capacity to produce adequate supplies of flax in the event of war. It is now, however, apparent that continued assistance to the flax industry cannot be justified on defence grounds alone.
In the light of the continuing trading losses of the Flax Commission, which last year exceeded £100,000, despite the receipt of bounty, and the urgent need for further capital, the Government has decided to withdraw from the field of flax production at the earliest opportunity by closure of the mills in Victoria and South Australia after the current year’s harvest has been processed. Naturally, consideration will be given to any offers to purchase mills as going concerns, and the benefits of the bounty will continue to be available on the flax subsequently produced and sold.
The following amounts of bounty have been paid on flax produced and sold since 1st November, 1954: - Year ended 30th June, 1955, £4,907; year ended 30th June. 1956, £58,070; year ended 30th June, 1957. £49,823.
The productive capacity of Australian processors of flax line fibre is regarded as being in the vicinity of 1,450 tons per annum, but actual production has not attained that figure. Tonnages sold to spinners during the years ended 30th June, 1955, 1956 and 1957 were, respectively, 1,188, 1,157 and 871 tons. In the last two years, this fell far short of the capacity of the market to absorb supplies, and 934 and 1,216 tons of fibre were imported in the respective years. The bounty proposals follow the Tariff Board recommendations except in two directions, in that it is proposed to recommence the application of the recommendations as from 1st November, 1957, and to eliminate the annual limitation on the amount payable as bounty on sales of any one year.
The extension of the period of bounty for a further period of three years is proposed for the reasons that it would cover the Flax Commission during the closing down of its operations, that it would give the co-operative in Western Australia the opportunity to rehabilitate itself and complete its plans for the installation of new machinery and facilities which are so necessary for economic production; and that it would give a measure of assistance to the purchasers of any of the commission’s mills.
An annual limitation on the amount payable as bounty is deemed unnecessary for the reasons that the maximum rate of bounty has been fixed at £75 per ton of fibre, and that payments are limited to what the market can take. That is, bounty is paid on sales. The expectations are that bounty payments are unlikely to exceed £90,000 per annum. The basic rate of bounty is £65 per ton of grade B fibre, and it is proposed, in accordance with the Tariff Board recommendations, to reduce this rate progressively by £5 in the second and third years as results flow from the expected efficiency arising out of the capital improvements.
The present practice will be continued of adjusting the basic bounty rate inversely, and by the same amount, in accordance with movements in the landed cost of imported fibre. The maximum amount by which the rate of bounty can so rise is £10. Honorable members supported the bill for the original act to give assistance to this industry, and I am sure that they will raise no objection to the extension of its application till 31st October, 1960. The question of further assistance after that date will be the subject of a reference to the Tariff Board, and will receive consideration in the light of the circumstances then prevailing. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13th November (vide page 2146), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The proposal before the Parliament seeks to make a very minute reduction in the present exorbitant total amount of taxation that is levied from the Australian community in the form of sales tax. It is estimated that, allowing for the small reduction of £4,000,000 a year, a total of £130,000,000 a year will still be taken. from the pockets of the consumers of Australia by one of the most iniquitous taxes that has ever been devised by man. Sales tax makes it possible to impose upon the poor man the same level of tax as is imposed on the wealthy man; to impose on the needy the same rate of tax as is imposed on the greedy. Under this proposal, the poor man whose requirements of salt are the same as those of the rich man, will be compelled to pay the same amount of sales tax on the salt that he purchases as is paid by the rich man, so that at the end of the year, he will have paid as much sales tax on salt as has the millionaire. The sales tax legislation imposes a tax on the cake that the working man eats, so that in respect of every pound of cake that he buys he pays the same amount of tax as does the millionaire. By means of this tax, the Government is able, by indirect methods, to secure revenue from the community without the community appreciating the degree to which it is being fleeced by the Government.
This is a form of indirect taxation against which the community would rebel if it but appreciated the extent to which it is being exploited, and the extent to which the poor people - and the great majority of the people are of that class - are being compelled to pay the costs of government and of defence, costs which ought to weigh more heavily on the shoulders of those who can best afford to pay them.
– Would the honorable member replace sales tax by direct taxes?
– I agree that, instead, there ought to be a direct tax. Let governments be honest about this matter. If they want to tax the community, let them do it in a direct way. Let them impose taxes which the taxpayers can see and either approve, or disapprove, at election time. I believe that there ought to be a substantially greater increase of the income tax payable by those in the higher income brackets than there is at present. There ought to be a substantially higher income tax payable by the very wealthy monopoly companies that are allowed to exploit the community almost ad lib. There ought to be reintroduction of land tax on very valuable properties, some of which are worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, a tax which this Government repealed in 1951.
I believe there are many other forms ot taxation, all of them direct, which ought to be explored, instead of relying on this particular form of taxation. 1 think William Pitt was the first cunning scoundrel to discover this method of taxing the poor in order to relieve the rich of their proper contribution to the cost of government and of administration. The supporters of the Government speak of sales tax as a tax on luxuries, but how can they justify such nonsense when we see included in the list of items that are subject to sales tax such things as common table salt, ice cream, condiments, jelly crystals, biscuits and soft drinks?
Let me turn to the items that are subject to tax at the rate of 8i per cent. They include furniture. Will any newly married couple agree with a Minister who tries to convince the community that a tax on furniture is a tax on luxury? Can the tax on a bed, a kitchen cabinet, a settee, or something else that is essential in the home, rightly be described as a tax on luxury? Of course it can not! Yet, that is implicit in the bill that we are now discussing. Instead of dealing with a paltry reduction of £4,000,000 in a full financial year - it will be only £3,000,000, of course, for the balance of this financial year - we ought to be discussing a proposal either to repeal the sales tax legislation completely - and that is Labour’s printed and stated policy - or to make a very much more substantial elimination of items from the list.
If the Government is truly bent on taxing luxuries, why not impose a graduated sales tax, so that, for instance, a Rolls-Royce motor car which cost £3,000 or £4,000 would carry a higher rate of tax than would the Volkswagen, the Holden, or the working man’s car? Let there be a graduated rate for radiograms, if there must be a tax on such things. Do not let us have a flat rate of 25 per cent, on the radio set that costs 20 guineas and also on the set that costs 220 guineas, such as the wealthy can afford. Let those radio sets that are of the cheaper kind, such as those which ordinarily would go into the working man’s home - and a radio can no longer be described as a luxury - be taxed at a lower rate. If we must have this stupid business of levying taxation in such a way, let a higher rate - an ever so much higher rate, if we like - apply to the very valuable radiograms, television sets and so on. The so-called cheap television set, which can be purchased for 179 guineas, ought not to be subject to the same flat rate of sales tax as is the set which costs 400 guineas and which has attached to it a cocktail bar. The person who can afford to buy that kind of set ought to pay a higher rate of sales tax than the working man. But I think that the working man ought not to have to pay sales tax at all on the necessaries of life such as furniture, and the things that he has to consume every day.
I turn now to household appliances. How can anybody justify the continued imposition of sales tax on washing machines, refrigerators and household appliances of a similar type? Are not the women of Australia entitled, after all these years, to be relieved of the slavery and drudgery of household duties?
– The Government wants to send the women back to the wash-tub and the wash-board.
– Of course. That is what it wants. There was once a prominent member of the Liberal party who said that he thought it was entirely wrong for a working man to get married; that that was a luxury that a working man should not enjoy. He went on to say that, if by some chance working men found it possible to enjoy the luxury of marriage, it should be made certain that their wives were used for breeding cheap labour for the employing class. Those views were published in the official journal of the Tory party - in 1 884, I admit, but I suggest that similar views are still held by presentday Liberals. The only difference is that the supporters of the party now dare not speak so candidly as did those of former days. 1 ask again: Why should the women of Australia be prevented, because of the application of this savage and unjust sales tax upon household appliances, from obtaining the appliances or be compelled to make a greater effort to obtain these things which are so necessary?
But let us contrast the treatment meted out to the working man affected by sales tax with that upon people who backed this Government financially - the wealthy and great manufacturing concerns. The great steel and manufacturing industries suddenly discovered that it was quite wrong and unjust that they ought to pay sales tax on industrial gases. They had only to make an approach to this Government and we find, under this measure, that sales tax on industrial gases has been not merely reduced, as was done by the Government in the cases with which I have dealt so far, but eliminated altogether. I turn to another item, travel wear, to show how certain interests have benefited by a substantial reduction of sales tax. Previously the rate was 25 per cent., but now it has suddenly been cut to 12i per cent. If the Government had been prepared to reduce even by 12i per cent, sales tax on the items that are in every-day use by the working man, such as cake, condiments, salt, jelly crystals and the other things I have mentioned, by the same amount many of those items would now be entirely free of sales tax at this moment. But because sales tax on travel wear is more likely to affect the very wealthy friends of the Government rather than the working man - he can never afford to have holidays, anyway, let alone buy expensive travel wear - a reduction is made. According to a magazine from which I intend to read, the wife of one of the wealthy friends of the Government paid £47 10s. for a handbag. So, the Government has now decided that sales tax shall be reduced on travel wear from 25 per cent, to I2i per cent.
Let me pause a moment to quote from the official organ of the Federal Council of Leathergoods Manufacturers of Australia, a journal known as “ Australian Travel Goods and Handbags”. I am looking at an article which appears on page 18 of the September issue of this year. It contains a very serious charge against the Government which 1 hope will not go unanswered before this debate concludes. I propose to read the article to the Parliament, and challenge Government representatives, including the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) who appears to be almost asleep, to get up and explain why this charge against the Government regarding Budget leakages has not been answered. One of the most serious things that can ever happen to a government or in a democracy is for the Parliament, or the Cabinet, to be so irresponsible, if not so corrupt, as to allow leakages of Budget information to reach their friends regarding proposed reductions or increases of taxes. I remember that this kind of thing - not a straightout leakage, but an accidental leakage - led to the resignation of Mr. Hugh Dalton from the socialist government in Great Britain. But leakages occur every year in regard to sales tax, so far as this Government is concerned. Every year newspapers are able to forecast Budget proposals and accuse the Government of leakages. Every year people in business reap off millions of pounds in profits as a result of being able to speculate on the information so obtained. But no resignations from the Government occur. All that happens is that the Minister on the front bench smiles as if it were a perfectly normal thing to happen to benefit the Government’s wealthy friends. No action is taken. This article, which is headed “ Budget Scoop “, is as follows: -
In our June issue we gave the trade our tip that the next budget would contain relief from the burdening 25% sales tax on travel goods and associate items. Immediately, however, many responsible people in the trade condemned this magazine for publishing irresponsible rumours.
I pause to say that I do not know whether the article of June did contain that information. I am simply quoting what the article in the September issue says. But the most important thing is its further assertion that its tip, or alleged tip, in the June article was based on certain ministerial information. The article goes on -
Several went as far as saying that we had damaged normal trading by spreading unfounded rumours. Some of the more astute buyers, however, made closer inquiries and asked us just how certain we were that the budget would contain relief to the industry. We answered that the source from which we derived this important information was one close to the only two men who would have any set ideas on what the budget should contain three months before its release to the public.
Four of Australia’s largest retail stores took heed of this advice and planned their buying accordingly. But to the best of our knowledge not one manufacturer in the trade took our information seriously. . .
We do not think it is necessary to repeat our credo that this magazine will never publish anything that is not based on the strongest possible fact. But the following amazing story on how we obtained our vital budget information may give some interesting foresight on the workings of the democratic politician’s mind.
Some time ago, the officer responsible for arranging the purchase of the wardrobe and travel items of one of this nation’s highest politicians in preparation for a forthcoming tour, casually mentioned to his boss the disparity between prices of Australian and overseas travelgoods. The politician, being a man of unique character when it comes to spending his own, not the taxpayers’ money, asked his officer to make inquiries to ascertain why Australian travel items cost so much. He was visibly surprised to hear from his officer that the main reason for the heavy price tags was an “ almost unbelieveable “ sales tax of 25%.
This magazine was proud to supply that officer (copies were also sent to Sir Arthur Fadden) with the facts and figures from several surveys we had taken. It was in early June that we heard that the appropriate persons concerned had agreed then that 25% was indeed an anomaly in an industry so vitally connected with every day commodities. Believe it or not, that is the basis of the recent budget relief to the industry.
This instance got us to thinking …” What would happen to train and tram fares if politicians did not have gold passes “.
Members of this Parliament no longer have gold passes, so that particular remark does not apply to them. I want the Government to go into this matter. This magazine can be dealt with severely if the charges contained in this article are false.
– What is the name of the magazine?
– It is called “ Australian Travel Goods and Handbags “, and the article I have read appeared in the issue of September last. I want the Government to take action to have this magazine dealt with if it is shown to accuse the Government falsely of allowing leakages of Budget information with regard to sales tax.
– What sort of action?
– I want action taken against the persons responsible.
– What sort of action?
– I want theCrimes Act to be invoked if necessary.
– What provisions of the Crimes Act?
– Everybody knows that it is an offence under the Crimes Act for anybody in a government department to reveal information of this kind. It is all very well for the Government to use the Crimes Act when a member of a union breaches the law, but let it use the Crimes Act against those responsible for leakages of Budget information. I know that the Treasurer himself is not responsible for this kind of thing because, to my knowledge, the Treasurer did not go overseas prior to the last Budget. But it was some other high-ranking member of the Cabinet who evidently was responsible for the decision made in this particular respect. One of the amazing things about sales tax is the care with which the Government refrains from applying it to consumption goods contained in the C series regimen which, prior to the time when this Government arranged, through the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, to have the quarterly cost of living adjustments eliminated, was the basis of these adjustments and so enabled increased costs to be passed on by the employee. The Government has studiously avoided applying sales tax to items in the C series index. This is a tax which, if it were placed on other items, could not be passed on by the employee to the employer or to somebody else. But every care has been taken to see that no sales tax is imposed upon an item of consumption which is included in the regimen which is used for making automatic adjustments to the basic wage.
I want to say, in conclusion, that the Government has been prepared to impose sales tax, which amounts to £13 a year, for every man, woman and child. It is easy to work out. A total of £130,000,000 is to be levied on the consumers of this country next year. On the latest calculation of population, we have 10,000,000 men, women and children in Australia, so that they will pay £13 per head. A man and his wife and three children will have to pay a total of £65 a year in the form of the indirect tax called sales tax. I use the example of a man, his wife and three children because that now represents the average-sized family. I wonder how much longer that man would vote for this Government if, on every income tax assessment that he had to pay, was a line reading, “ Sales tax - £65 “. It ought to be there. If the Government is prepared to impose a tax of this kind it should be honest enough to let the people know how much they are paying.
But the burden does not end there. I remind honorable members of another indirect tax which is almost as vicious as sales tax. It is the indirect tax of excise, which amounts annually to £23 per man, woman and child or, for a family of five, £115. The total amount paid by such a family in sales tax and excise is nearly £200 a year, or £4 a week. Yet people pay that amount without realizing the extent to which it is dipping into the purchasing power of the money that they earn each week from the industry in which they are employed. The Labour party believes that sales tax, being an unfair, iniquitous tax, which forces the poor to pay as much as the rich, should be repealed altogether.
– A Labour government brought it in.
– We brought a lot of other things in about the same time. One was the reduction of pensions by 2s. 6d. a week. Do honorable members know why those things were done? The Labour government did them because the anti-Labour parties which controlled the Senate forced the Labour government to do them. They said, “ Unless you do as we say we will not be prepared to allow you the money with which to carry on the Government “.
It is all very well to be wise after the event, and I admit that that is all that I am being when I make this comment: Looking back over the history of that time, it is easy to see that the best thing that the Labour government could have done would have been to call for a double dissolution. We should have said, “ We refuse to govern unless we have the power to govern as we want to govern “. But that was not to be. Probably, if I had been a member of the party then, I would have made the same mistake. All the things that the Labour government was forced to do in 1930 and which are now being paraded as Labour policy were forced upon that government as a result of the control of the Senate by the anti-Labour parties.
Opposition Members’. - And by the banks.
– Yes, undoubtedly, because in 1924 a government with politics similar to those of this Government had placed the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a specially selected board of businessmen who ensured, when the Labour government came into power, that the people’s bank was not permitted to give the financial relief that ought to have been given to the Labour government. So, it is useless to interject about Labour having introduced these measures. The stated policy of the Labour party, which is all that matters now, is the repeal of the sales tax.
I am not one of those who contend that, because we made a mistake in the past, we should perpetuate it. I hope that the Labour party will always endeavour to be right rather than consistent. If we have done things that were wrong, I hope that we will be big enough to say that we were wrong, and that we will rectify the mistakes. It is a disappointment that the Government has given such miserable relief to the people who are affected so much by sales tax. Instead of debating this proposal, I would far rather be debating a proposal - although I hope that debate would not be necessary - for the complete repeal of the sales tax.
.- I do not propose to hold the House for very long, but I consider that the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) warrant some comment. His words must be given some consideration, because he is a member of the executive of the Australian Labour party and of the “ shadow cabinet “. He said that the policy of the Labour party was to repeal the sales tax. I take it that the members who sit behind the honorable member for Hindmarsh support, in toto, every word that he said.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– That is very good, because the honorable member said, a few moments ago, that we should repeal this sort of legislation and sock the rich man. I was glad to hear him say that. I only hope that men working for the basic wage or a little more will hear it. They will soon realize that if foolish men such as those who comprise the Opposition to-day get into power and put this sort of policy into effect they will kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Then, when men are thrown out of work and become eligible to receive the unemployment benefit which the Government recently increased by 100 per cent., where will that money come from? The Opposition’s proposal is to place a penalty on the people whom it claims to represent in this place. This proposal will do far more harm than good.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh also said that the Labour party introduced sales tax in 1930 because it was forced to do so by the hostile Senate of that day. Did any one ever hear such trash? The sales tax was brought in by the Scullin Government to provide finance which the Government needed. It was absolutely necessary to introduce it. It was not enforced by the hostile Senate of those days, as claimed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who is now taking himself out of the chamber - it is a pity that he did not do so half an hour ago.
The honorable member referred to the sale of high-priced radiograms. The remarks that I made a few moments ago apply also to this subject. By socking the man in the higher income strata, one would penalize the working man whom the Labour party is supposed adequately to represent - I say that it represents him inadequately. Everybody will agree, I think, that indirect taxes are not popular. Every reasonable Australian would get rid of them as quickly as he could if it were possible to do so. I should like to ask members of the Opposition by what means they would abolish sales tax without killing the goose that lays the golden egg - the employer of the working man.
– Who is the goose?
– Everybody knows what the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) would do. He is very fortunate to be in this place. He is one of those who will be seeking assistance from the new Development Bank at this time next year or shortly afterwards. 1 understand that there are people outside who are looking for him. He is not a golden goose, but he is one of those members of the Labour party who will probably get killed. As one of my colleagues reminds me, he is a dinkum goose.
Everybody would dearly love to get rid of the sales tax. But we must be reasonable and sensible and have a proper approach to this subject. It is the approach of the Government to reduce sales tax as much as possible over a period of years. The items on which sales tax are being reduced in this legislation are the ones that concern the people most. I agree that it is unpopular to have a sales tax on washing machines, wireless sets, radiograms, or anything else that is used in the home. But the Government must have the finance that it derives from sales tax if it is to shoulder the responsibility of carrying out development and providing necessary works and services.
A short time ago, the Labour party was crying out that the pay-roll tax should be abolished. Do Opposition members realize that if the pay-roll tax were removed, the people who pay it would have to pay an equivalent amount in another way?
Honorable members opposite should do some real thinking about these matters, because I am afraid they will do harm to the working man and to the average man in the street if they follow the policy enunciated by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I shall detain the House no longer on this subject. I felt impelled to rise and say a few words about the stupid policy being propounded by the honorable member.
.- I might almost be hurt by the honorable member’s description of the policy of the Opposition as stupid if he had referred in any way to the bill before the House. There are several matters that he did raise, however, to which I should like to refer. He is an ardent supporter of sales tax at the present time, and it appears to me that his views are out of step with those expressed by the man who was previously his leader in the Australian Country party, the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), when the sales tax legislation was introduced in 1930. At that time the honorable member for Cowper said -
Primage duty and sales tax oppress the poor much more than the well-to-do.
I wonder if the 27 years that have elapsed since that statement was made have changed the situation to such an extent that sales tax does not oppress the poor.
I rise principally to give forthright support to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in his demand, request or suggestion that the sales tax be reduced. This tax has everything against it from the point of view of general taxation principles. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) referred to the history of sales tax. When the tax was first introduced it was an emergency measure. Whether its introduction was brought about by the Senate or by the banks, or by any other person or institution, is beside the point. It was an emergency measure brought down by the Government to raise money in a particularly difficult constitutional and financial situation. Governments sometimes have recourse to odd kinds of methods of raising revenue. They introduce unusual types of taxation, such as window taxes, chimney taxes, sales tax and pay-roll tax. We find that we have to pay 3d. tax on a cheque and on a receipt. These methods of extracting revenue from the people are merely ways of avoiding governmental responsibility to tax the people according to their ability to pay, and by direct methods.
When sales tax was first introduced the annual Budget was very much smaller, both relatively and absolutely, than it is to-day. The revenue raised by the sales tax represented quite a small proportion of total revenue. At this time a Labour government was in office. The Labour party does not believe in indirect tax. It believes in taxing according to ability to pay. With the defeat of the Scullin Government, the treasury bench was occupied by the party known at that time, sort of temporarily, as the U.A.P. - the AU-for-Yourself party or some such name - and during the seven or eight years before the war the ratio of revenue raised by sales tax to total revenue increased to 12.9 per cent. After the Labour government took office in 1941, there was a gradual reduction of this proportion from 15.8 per cent., to which it had increased in 1940, to 8.2 per cent, in 1949. Since the present Government took office in that, year there has been a gradual increase in the proportion of indirect taxes to total taxes, with the result that the major part of the burden has been placed fairly and squarely on the consumers in the community, the great majority of whom are wage-earners. Last year the amount raised by sales tax represented about 12 per cent, of total revenue, and an exercise in simple arithmetic shows that this year the proportion will be about 11.5 per cent. The percentage has been consistently higher during the years of this Government’s term of office than it was under a Labour government. As I have said, we do not believe in indirect taxation, and if we wish to have a just taxation system we must apply our minds very carefully to the problem of finding a way to abolish sales tax. It is a difficult matter, because a study of this year’s Budget shows that the total revenue to be extracted by sales tax will amount to £129,500,000. I am always intrigued with the speeches of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when introducing these measures. He has dedicated himself to the role of Father Christmas. When introducing this bill he said -
The concessions proposed involve an annual loss of revenue amounting to approximately £4,000,000 per annum, or £3,000,000 for the current financial year.
The odd feature of the matter is, however, that despite the concessions that the Treasurer says will be granted to the people, by reductions of sales tax, the total revenue expected from this source will increase by about £4,000,000. The Government and its supporters, when speaking on taxation matters, continually play with words. The honorable member for Canning spoke about the burdens that would be placed on the poor by increasing the rates of tax applicable to the hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in the higher income tax group. He said that such an increase would eventually act to the detriment of the man on the basic wage. This proposition is rather reminiscent of the old argument used in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, about boiling people in oil for their own good. The honorable member’s suggestion is to the effect that if people pay sales tax now they will be happier in the future, because the rich will be able to invest in the good things in the community, and thus improve the position for everybody. That is an involved kind of dialectical argument which has no relation to the matter before us.
Couples who marry and set up house find it necessary to pay about £500 for furniture. Even at the reduced rates of sales tax set out in this bill they will have to contribute about £45 in sales tax on the purchase of this furniture.. If they buy a motor car they will have to pay about £160 in sales tax. This kind of tax is absolutely indefensible, and honorable members on all sides of the House must give deep consideration to the problem of removing the burden from the family man, on whom it falls most unfairly.
In concluding this discussion I would like to remind readers, or listeners-
– Or listeners. The honorable member for Mallee happens to be listening on this occasion. I remind the House of the remarks of Adam Smith which appear in his book, “ The Wealth of Nations”, which was written in 1776. Honorable members opposite, with their archaic political philosophies, might know a little of that period, because 1776 was the year of the American revolution, which is the last revolution that they are prepared to recognize. Adam Smith said -
The subjects of every State ought to contribute towards the support of the Government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities . . .
The tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain, and not arbitrary . . .
Every tax ought to be levied at the time, or in the manner, in which it is most likely to be convenient for the contributor to pay it.
Of course the sales tax is levied in the manner in which it is most likely to be convenient for the extractor, the taxation collector, to get it. Even in purchasing a house, despite all the items included in the cost of a house on which sales tax is not payable, a person has to pay £30 or £40 in sales tax. When a person is investing in a home and has to buy furniture and many other necessary items, he should not be forced to pay these indirect taxes. It is fundamental to our policy that indirect taxation must be removed, as it constitutes a burden on consumers and falls unjustly on the lower income groups. I ask the House to give consideration to my remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos.1 to 9) 1957.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 3rd September (vide page 254), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
.- This resolution embodies the rates of sales tax which shall apply during the current year, and we have just discussed the various alterations that have been made in the individual items. As honorable members are aware, under the so-called little Budget some two years ago the rates of sales tax in respect of motor cars were increased from 162/3 per cent, to 30 per cent., and in respect of commercial vehicles, motor cycles, parts, &c, from 121/2 per cent, to 161 per cent. The rate on other items was increased from162/3 per cent, to 25 per cent in March, 1956. The impact of sales tax falls very harshly on certain industries in the community. Although the reason given in the little Budget was that we had to cut down expenditure in certain directions - the objective being ostensibly a social one - this was another example of the left hand of this Government not realizing what its right hand was doing, because only just prior to the imposition of these taxes a vast expansion in the motor car industry had taken place in various States, particularly South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. While the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was giving his blessing to the expansion of motor plants in those States, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was imposing a tax which made it more difficult to sell the vehicles produced. The Government’s chickens are now coming home to roost because, according to this morning’s newspapers, some 600 people have been laid off in the motor car industry in South Australia within the last few weeks.
Now is the time when this Government should consider some reduction in the rate of tax on motor vehicles. I represent an electorate in which a large part of the motor industry is centred. General MotorsHolden’s Limited, Standard Motor Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited and Rootes (Australia) Limited have factories at Fishermen’s Bend in Victoria. Similarly, a large part of this industry is centred in South
Australia. However, many hundreds of people who were formerly in employment which was a useful adjunct to the economic development of this country, for no reason of their own, but simply due to the financial policy of this Government, now find themselves without a job. Similarly, there are signs of decreased activity in the production of certain other types of durable goods, as they are called, such as radios, refrigerators, furnishings and the like. The proposed reductions are very small in respect of furniture. An article of furniture that formerly cost£1 10 will now, as a result of the generosity of this Government, cost £108 6s. 8d. Whether any honorable member seriously believes that kind of alteration will make any real contribution to the economic life of those industries, I do not know, but it seems to be a very unreal assumption indeed. The time surely has arrived when we should face up to the problem of whether sales tax, except on particular items, is a very sound method of raising revenue.
We have reached the stage in Australia where the bulk of the tax is collected on a few items. The last available statistics are those contained in the 35th report of the Commissioner of Taxation, which deals with collections for the year ended June, 1955. That report shows that in round figures less than £800,000,000 of total wholesale sales of approximately £2,500,000,000 was subject to sales tax, the major portion of which amount was collected in three categories, namely, at the rate of 10 per cent.,121/2 per cent, and162/3 per cent. The total yield was £100,000,000. The tax collected on the so-called higher items taxed at the rate of 20 per cent, and 331/3 per cent, had very little real effect in the community. Those taxes might have been designed to cover certain luxury items, but basically the bulk of the sales tax bears on items which can be said to be essential in the economic and social life of Australia.
The reason given in 1 956 for the increase in sales tax on motor cars was that it would damp unnecessary expenditure. It is very doubtful whether those circumstances still prevail in 1957. As I mentioned, this tax is collected on items such as furniture. Surely no honorable member will say that to furnish a home is not difficult enough, having regard to the present inroads of inflation, without adding another 10 per cent, or121/2 per cent, to the cost in the form of sales tax. We ask the Government seriously to face up to the situation. At least let us be honest about this tax and recognize it for what it is. It is not a tax on luxuries; it is for the most part a tax on essential items. There is no longer any social philosophy behind it; it is simply a means of continuing to raise over £100,000,000 revenue per year. We concede the claim that if the Government still requires £100,000,000 an alternative to this tax must be evolved, but it is hard to imagine any tax that could be worse in its impact than sales tax, which bears on necessities purchased mainly by people with average income and inflicts on them additional economic difficulty.
In the interests of equity we claim that this is a stupid and antiquated form of taxation. It is no answer to say, as some honorable members do, that the tax was introduced initially by a Labour government. The tax in the years of its maximum collections has been continued by this Government from 1951 to 1957. This Government should face up to the situation.
– The Labour party denies that it believes in the tax.
– There is no subterfuge about it; we disbelieve in the tax. We say that it is an antiquated form of raising revenue, and this Government should stir itself from complacency and face up to the realities of 1957.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Davidson and Mr. Cramer do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions in regard to the first and second readings, committee’s report stage, and third readings being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9. and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) presented by Mr. Davidson, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13th November (vide page 2100), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This “bill, which amends the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act, might well be regarded as a historic bill. It represents the final stage in the very important and indeed, one might say, imposing war-time agreements on wool. Honorable members no doubt appreciate the importance of the wool industry to Australia, and will realize that, with the outbreak of war in 1939, this country faced the same problems regarding the disposal of Australian wool as arose with the outbreak of war in 1914. The big problem was to ensure that Australian wool, which was essential for war purposes, would be retained for the allied cause and that arrangements could be made to enable the wool to be made available in the United Kingdom, where it was most urgently required. In World War I. and again in World War II., we found that it was necessary for an agreement to be reached between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government in respect to the purchase and disposal of Australian wool. The agreement made during the early portion of World War II. was an agreement by which the Australian Government undertook, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, to purchase all wool produced in Australia. That wool, in turn, was sold to the United Kingdom at a price originally fixed at a fraction over ls. Id. per lb. Subsequently, by agreement, the price was increased to ls. 3id. per lb.
As we are now dealing with the concluding stages of an imposing business transaction, it would be well for the House to give some slight consideration to the tremendous tasks which fell upon the Australian Government in the management and the sale of wool to the United Kingdom. Although an average price was fixed, it was not by any means an easy matter to determine exactly the amount the grower should receive for the wool that he had sent either to a wool-broker for handling or to a wooldealer for proper classification. In both the World War I. scheme and the World War II. scheme, wool had to be classified into hundreds of types to enable its spinning values to be properly assessed. In addition to the appraisal of wool in this country, arrangements had to be made for storage and shipment overseas. This entailed a great amount of organization and the use of much shipping in order that Great Britain might have all the wool she needed to carry on her war-time activities.
I think the people who were associated with the scheme and its administration in Australia are entitled to commendation for the manner in which they performed the tremendous task imposed upon them. In World War I., the scheme was administered by what was known as the Central Wool Committee. I think the name given to the organization that administered the scheme in World War II. was the Australian Wool Realization Commission. Those organizations did a tremendous job for Great Britain and for Australia.
Towards the end of World War II. a tremendous carry-over of wool was foreseen, and, as the wool had been purchased By the United Kingdom from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, it was necessary to form an organization to enable that wool to be marketed in orderly fashion. As a result, what was known as the Joint Organization was formed. The Joint Organization was responsible for the orderly selling of wool so that the market would not be depressed. An idea of the magnitude of the task confronting the Joint Organization can best be obtained by pointing out that something like 15,000,000 bales of wool were surplus at the end of the war, and the problem of marketing 15.000,000 bales of wool, together with wool being produced annually in Australia, required very careful consideration. Above all else, Australia did not want economic difficulties because of a depressed price for wool in this country.
The agreement for the purchase of Australian wool by the British Government was terminated, I think, on 31st July, 1945. In accordance with the terms of the agreement, for the succeeding twelve months wool produced in Australia was also to be purchased by the British Government. Since 1945, the question of the sale of this wool, and the distribution of the profit to Australian wool-growers, has been before the Parliament on a number of occasions. The original bill to enable the distribution of profits from the sale of the surplus wool was passed in 1948. To-day, nine years later, this House is about to pass the last piece of legislation necessary to enable the proceeds to be distributed to Australian wool-growers. The share of profits to be distributed among Australian wool-growers amounted to £93,000,000, and the distribution of £93,000,000 to individual wool-growers has been a most complicated task for the organization.
I think the first distribution of the proceeds was in 1949. A further distribution was made in 1952, and still others in 1953 and 1954. The last one was made, I think, in 1955. However, the whole of the wool had been sold by 1951. So six years have elapsed between the sale of the last bale of wool and the coming of this measure before the House. Certain difficulties have been experienced with regard to the distribution of the profits. What caused the greatest delay was the claim by what were known as wool-dealers in respect of the profit which they should receive from the wool they had purchased from growers and had reclassed or sorted into appropriate grades. That matter came before the High Court of Australia. The High Court rejected the claim made in what is now known as the Poulton case. Subsequently, the wool-dealers appealed to the Privy Council, and it was only recently that the decision of the Privy Council made it clear that the wool-dealers themselves had no claim in respect of the wool that passed through their hands. That matter having been determined, the distribution of the remaining portion of the profit is the subject of the measure now before the House. The sum involved is £2,500,000. Of that amount, £2,200,000 was claimed by the dealers. The remaining £300,000 is the sum that has been made available to the Australian Wool Realization Commission as a result of the woolbrokers being unable to ascertain the present address of some of the persons to whom the money is due. Because of that, the £300,000 has been returned to the commission and the question now is: What shall be done with that money?
The final stage in the distribution of the profits was reached on 17th March this year, and the proposal in the bill is to extend the period during which payments can be made until 30th June, 1959. So, in effect, the passage of this legislation will mean that a further period of eighteen months is granted to the commission to make the final division of the proceeds now in its possession. Certain difficulties arise. The first difficulty is to trace the owners of wool, who up to the present have not been located. The second difficulty is with respect to a sum of money which was held by the commission to meet unforeseen expenses that might be associated with the Poulton case. So this legislation, in addition to extending the time during which the distribution of the profits can be made, also lays down what is to be done with unclaimed money, and with money the ownership of which is in dispute. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), in his secondreading speech on the bill, said that the sum of £300,000 had been returned by the woolbrokers to the commission because the owners could not be traced, but since then some owners have been traced and the commission believes that it will be able to trace quite a few more. But the bill provides that the money that has not been claimed by the owners at 30th June, 1959, will revert to the Wool Research Trust Fund.
The £10,000 that has been held to meet unforeseen expenses, also, will be paid into the Wool Research Trust Fund. The question as to what shall be done with moneys paid into court that are the subject of disputed ownership arises also. The bill will permit the procedure in relation to such disputed moneys to be continued. They will be paid into court, and there they will remain for three years. If, at the end of the three years, ownership has not been properly determined, those moneys will be paid into the trust fund.
The Opposition raises no objection to this bill. It considers that it is right and proper that the wool disposal scheme should now be finalized, and the money distributed, and that money that cannot be distributed because the owners cannot be traced, or because the distribution, if made, would be so insignificant as to be unwarranted, should be paid into the Wool Research Trust Fund. This will enable such moneys to be used, at any rate, in the interests of the wool industry as’ a whole, and will give to the industry the benefit of whatever research is undertaken as a consequence of tha creation of the fund.
Once again, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I desire to commend those who have so skilfully administered the wool disposal scheme over the last seventeen years. Their great achievements have made it possible for the wool-growers to receive higher incomes than they would otherwise have received. I think that we can safely say, on the finalization of this great scheme, that something was attempted, and that something of great benefit, not only to the wool-growers, but also to Australia as a whole, was done.
– The purpose of this bill has, I believe, been explained very clearly by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), and I do not propose to recapitulate the various points that he made. This measure writes the last page in a chapter of success in the great task of disposing of accumulations of Australian wool, and clips that have come in during the currency of the disposal scheme, and of making final payments to the growers who were entitled to share in the distribution of the profits of the Joint Organization. I wholeheartedly agree with the honorable member for Bendigo that, as we complete this tremendous transaction - it is being completed now, since the only subsequent formality will be a repealing measure - we should acknowledge the efforts of those good Australians who have taken part in ensuring the success of the scheme, which has meant a great deal, not only to the wool-growers, but also to Australia’s economy generally, and to the people of Australia, who have benefited from the funds made available by this scheme.
I think that, in considering the problems that faced the Central Wool Committee, which later became the Australian Woo! Realization Commission, we should remember that, at the end of World War II. in 1945, it was generally expected that the problems of disposing of the accumulations of wool would be very great. The accumulation of 6,790,000 bales of Australian wool that had to be disposed of was largely lower-grade wool that would not ordinarily have been absorbed by the overseas market.
In addition, the clip for the L944-45 season, which was known as the interim clip, and which totalled some 2,800,000 bales, had to be disposed of. The Government’s advisers were inclined to take rather a pessimistic view of the outlook for the wool market, and, as I have pointed out, the magnitude of the task seemed very great to those who had to undertake it. Fortunately for those responsible for the disposal of the wool, events took a sudden turn, and the economic assistance given in Europe enabled the market there to recover, and an unforeseen demand for wool was created. Admittedly, the recovery of the wool market was hastened by the threat of war in the Korean crisis, and a long period of sales at unprofitable prices was avoided. In fact, disposals of wool by the Joint Organization realized a great deal more than had been expected, and, as the honorable member for Bendigo has mentioned, £93,000,000 accrued to the Australian wool-growers out of Australia’s share of 50 per cent, of the proceeds of the Australian wool to be sold. This measure provides for the final distribution of that money.
As I have said, as we close the book, we should acknowledge the efforts of those good Australians who did the job, and who were responsible for the success of the scheme. In particular, I should like to mention Mr. A. F. Bell, the first chairman of the Central Wool Committee, who, unfortunately, was not spared to continue his work for very long. He was succeeded by Sir Owen Dixon, who was followed by Sir William Owen. Both of these men are Australians of great distinction, who have added to this country’s stature by their achievements in various other spheres of activity. I should like to mention, also, the late Mr. Murphy, the first chairman of the Australian Wool Realization Commission, who was succeeded by Mr. Norman Yeo. I pay tribute, also, to the present chairman, Mr. Norman Carson, and to Messrs. Cowdery, Bakewell, Hitchins, Renshaw and Kyle, his colleagues on the commission. Those of us in this place who are aware of the immensity of the task that these men have accomplished do not hesitate to acknowledge the great work that they have done for Australia by ensuring the success of the wool disposal scheme.
.- I join with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) in supporting this bill wholeheartedly. I believe that it is in the best interest of those who will be affected by it. At present, £2,500,000 of the profits of the Joint Organization remains undistributed. As has been pointed out, this bill will extend the time for the distribution of those profits, which, under the existing act, expired on 17th March of this year. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) pointed out, in his second-reading speech, the Australian Wool Realization Commission has received 5,050 claims to the “ dealer wool moneys “, and has paid 3,570 claims totalling £486,780. The main point is that approximately 1,480 claims remain to be dealt with, and that further claims are still being received. If further claims that may be legitimate are still being received, this bill is very necessary, and very worth while, and I support it wholeheartedly.
I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Corangamite mention the persons responsible for the highly successful administration of the wool disposal scheme. I do not wish to repeat what the honorable member said, but I should like to compliment those persons who made most of the payments to the growers for their wool. I refer, of course, to the woolbrokers of Australia. It shows that their book-keeping methods are excellent, because I have not heard one complaint from a wool-grower who sold his wool through the usual channels. The wool-growers were paid shortly after the money was made available by the Government. The fact that those many thousands of wool-growers were paid without any complaint is something of which the woolbrokers of Australia should be very proud. We in this House should compliment them.
One of the reasons why the extension provided under this measure was necessary was the time lost during the hearing of the Poulton case. I believe that if this bill is given publicity by honorable members who represent wool-growing areas, every man who sold his wool to a wool dealer will have adequate opportunity to make his claim and have it investigated. At the end of the extended time - 30th June, 1959 - any man who has not by then had his claim investigated or who has not made his application, must realize that he will forgo any payment that may - and I say “ may “ advisedly - be due to him. I support the bill completely, and 1 am sure that my colleagues are behind me in that support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6th November (vide page 1871), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is a relatively small bill in size, but it certainly raises a very important question for Australia - the question of the amount of money made available for the maintenance, reconstruction and making of roads. The bill proposes to do two things. The first is to determine the amount of assistance that is to be given to the States this year and next year from the receipts of the diesel oil tax. The amount which is expected to be received from this tax is £3,000,000 a year, but because the legislation is being passed considerably after 1st July, the date of the beginning of the financial year, the receipts for the current year will be only £2,000,000, the bill proposes that for this year and the next financial year there shall be made available to the States the sum of £3,000,000 in each year. So, the bill, in effect, returns to the States the proceeds of the diesel oil tax, plus £1,000,000 for this financial year.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) suggested in his second-reading speech that the distribution of the tax receipts will be in accordance with the formula at present used for the distribution of petrol tax receipts.
– Well, I simply put the question as to whether that is correct or not.
– No, it is not.
– I am assured by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) that it is not correct. But let me point out that the Treasurer’s speech certainly does not make that clear, because he said -
When determining the distribution of this supplementary payment of £3,000,000, the Government considered various alternative methods which have been suggested in recent times to take account of factors additional to area and population. It has finally decided that, rather than adopt at this stage a new formula which might be taken as anticipating its review of the main legislation, the special grant of £3,000,000 should be distributed in the manner set out in the schedule to the bill.
Certainly, on hearing and reading that, one would get the impression that the formula now in operation for the petrol tax was to be used under this measure also. However, it is clear from what has been said both on this side of the House and the Government side that the distribution is not to be strictly in accordance with the formula for the petrol tax, which is on the basis of threefifths in accordance with population and two-fifths in accordance with area. The bill states the amounts that are to be granted to each of the States, and the proposal is that New South Wales shall receive £800,000, Victoria £700,000, Queensland £500,000, South Australia £325,000, Western Australia £475,000, Tasmania £150,000- which is equivalent to the 5 per cent, provided for in the formula - and that for Commonwealth purposes the sum of £50,000 is to be allocated. That makes a total of £3,000,000. So, whatever confusion has arisen has, I think, arisen because it was not made clear in the Treasurer’s speech that the proposal was a departure from the present formula in some respect or other.
There are certain comments which I desire to make in respect of, first, the speech delivered by the Treasurer when introducing the measure in which he said, with some considerable pride, that during the life-time of this Government some £180,000,000 had been made available for roads, and compared that figure with the amount of £80,000,000 made available in the previous 24 years under the governments in office in that period. The impression intended to be given by that statement is that much more has been done by this Government in eight years to respect of roads than was done by previous governments in 24 years. But the figure of £80,000,000 does not give a clear picture to persons who desire to get some information about what was done about roads during those 24 years. There are certain factors which ought to be pointed out so that this wrong impression may be removed. In the first place - and this is very important to remember - in the 24 years prior to this Government’s accession to office, uniform taxation had not been in operation for very long. It was only during World War II. that uniform taxation came into operation.
Prior to that time, there had been a great responsibility on the States to raise taxes. They had their own form of income tax. and they were obliged to find money for the construction of roads. It is possible, therefore, to give a wrong impression of the progress that has been made during the last eight years compared with that made before uniform taxation. With the advent of uniform taxation, the States did not continue to impose income tax on the citizens within their borders, with the result that the money that was required for road works had to come from the Commonwealth.
– But not entirely from that source.
– No, not entirely. I shall deal with this aspect later. I do not want to give any false impressions, either. I say, however, that the very important source of money for road construction - income tax imposed by the States - was no longer available to the State authorities, and that they had to use, for roads purposes, some of the money received by way of taxation reimbursement from the Commonwealth.
Other factors that might well be considered, when we compare the record of the last eight years with that of the previous 24 years, include, first, the increase of population during the periods concerned. We are dealing with a total period of 32 years, and for a considerable portion of the 24 years before this Government came to office the population of Australia was a great deal smaller than it is to-day. We also must consider the fact that the petrol tax was lower then than it is now, although, to be fair to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), I must admit that he stated that, during the lifetime of this Government, the petrol tax had been increased from 3d. a gallon to 8d. a gallon.
Another factor is the increasing use of motor vehicles, including heavier motor cars and trucks which were unknown 32 years ago. This has resulted almost entirely from the expansion of the economy since World War II. There has been a tendency for capital machinery of that kind to be both improved and enlarged as a result of our war-time experience. Another factor that might well be considered concerns the sub-division of land, which has increased at a tremendous rate, particularly since 1946. This has meant that municipalities have had to expend great amounts of money on the construction of roads.
– But those who sub-divide have to find some of the money themselves.
– That is a different matter. The Treasurer also overlooked the important fact that since this Government has been in office, the cost of practically every article that is used by the Australian people has increased by as much as 150 per cent. Those are all-important factors which must be borne in mind when we are discussing this question of what has been done in eight years with the money that has been available, compared with what was done in the previous 24 years. Having said that, I say that this bill will not solve the problems associated with Australian roads. It is true that the additional £3,000,000 which is to be distributed amongst the States will be of some assistance to them in tackling the matter, but it will by no means solve the problem.
– It is not claimed that it will do so.
– I am simply pointing out that, by the provision of £180,000,000 over the last eight years and the proposed grant of £3,000,000 this year and the same amount next year, this Government will not solve the problem, and that the question that the Parliament has to ask itself is, “ How can it be solved? “ When the Commonwealth passes money to the States, they are then empowered to pass it on to the various State authorities, so that the money may be used for the purposes for which it was granted. In all the States, there are two authorities which deal particularly with roads. In Victoria, we have the Country Roads Board, and in other States there are similar bodies, but probably with different names. The Country Roads Board of Victoria has the task of dealing with main roads, and in certain circumstances it has the assistance of the municipalities. In areas in which the board does not operate, the construction and maintenance of roads is the task of the municipalities, which vary in size, and also in respect of the revenue that they receive. They vary also in their responsibilities. For instance, municipalities which have to construct roads across plains have not the same problems as have those which must construct roads over hills, mountains and other natural obstructions. However, all municipalities secure their funds from three sources, the first being government grants; the second, receipts from the registration of motor vehicles, driving licence fees, and things of that kind; and the third, taxation on property, this being the source upon which the municipalities depend mainly for money for road construction.
Some interesting figures appear in a brochure that was distributed recently in connexion with a conference of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. Mr. P. Behan, in the presidential report, referred to a report that was prepared by Sir Bertram Stevens, a one-time Premier of New South Wales, which indicated exactly how money was raised for road construction. For the State of New South Wales, it was shown that, of the amount used, federal contributions under aid road agreements were responsible for 17.8 per cent.; State motor vehicle taxes, 21.5 per cent.; public vehicles tax, 1.1 per cent.; general revenue, such as grants, 10.8 per cent.; contributions to works by property owners, 6.7 per cent.; and local government property tax, which is imposed by the municipalities, 42.1 per cent. Those figures indicate how the money that is used by the municipalities on the construction, maintenance and repair of roads in their localities is obtained. I think that it is only right that some of the difficulties that the municipalities have to face in connexion with the financing of roads should be brought to the notice of the House.
A municipality is in the unfortunate position of having limited taxing powers. It cannot tax beyond a certain amount. In Victoria, I think that the limit is 4s. in the £1. Therefore, no matter how pressing may be the need for road construction, or road maintenance and repairs, the municipality is limited in the amount of revenue that it may raise. In addition, there has been in the past a tendency on the part of State governments to add continually to the responsibilities and duties of municipalities. This is certainly true of Victoria, and I suppose that it is true of the other States as well. Whereas, previously, municipalities were concerned mainly with the provision and maintenance of parks, drainage systems, roads and footpaths, they must now, out of their own revenues, provide such things as libraries and public health centres, administer the law relating to weights and measures, and perform a number of other functions that impose additional burdens on them, despite their limited taxing powers.
As a consequence of ail these things, the amount which can be spent on roads by municipalities is constantly diminishing, and the roads are not in good condition. It is bad enough for municipalities in metropolitan areas. Their taxing powers are limited, but because of the greater amount of property, and its comparatively higher aggregate value, they are able to raise much larger amounts of revenue than is the case with shires and boroughs spread throughout a State. As a consequence, the roads controlled by boroughs and shires fall into disrepair.
I mention these facts because I notice that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) is present. Possibly, as a result of hearing about some of the difficulties being experienced in my electorate, he may be able to give a helping hand to overcome some of them. My electorate embraces the very large military camp of Puckapunyal. This training camp covers a large area and houses many vehicles, and much military equipment, such as tanks, armoured cars and other vehicles used for training in driving. There are also trucks which are used for the carriage of goods and troops. Some of these vehicles are very heavy. Three municipalities adjacent to Puckapunyal are constantly raising with me the question of obtaining assistance from the Commonwealth to repair the roads in their areas which are being used by the military. These are the shires of Seymour, Mclvor and Pyalong. Roads radiating from the Puckapunyal camp are being constantly used by military vehicles, and I know from personal knowledge how dangerous is the condition of some of them at the present moment as a result. One road between Tooborac and Seymour is 16 miles long, but it is in such an unsafe condition that for the last eighteen months I have not dared to use it. As a result, when I go to Seymour, I have to make a journey 20 miles longer each way, that is a total of 40 miles on the forward journey and the return journey. This is one of the areas in which the Commonwealth might well make funds available to repair roads which are being constantly ploughed up and broken by heavy military motor vehicles, and are not in a safe condition for use by the general public. I assure the Minister that I can give him full information about these roads which will demonstrate the urgent necessity for assistance, over and above that available at the present moment, to restore them to a safe condition.
My complaint in regard to the whole question of roads is that I can see no sign yet of national planning or of a decision being made by a competent authority to deal with them. Perhaps, the Commonwealth alone or the States individually or the Commonwealth and States in conjunction could tackle the problem. It seems to me that a conference or consultation of some kind should take place between the Commonwealth and the States to determine whether the Commonwealth should take over the arterial roads connecting capital cities. Those roads are essential for defence and necessary for transport traffic now operating between capital cities throughout the Commonwealth. The Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney is one of the most dangerous roads in the Commonwealth. Hardly a week-end passes without a major tragedy occurring on that road. That fact emphasizes the importance of maintaining it in a proper condition to protect the lives of the people who use it. It was constructed many years ago to carry two-way traffic, but to-day it is used by vehicles of a width and weight that were never contemplated when it was built. It is hundreds of miles in length and was built to carry much lighter traffic than it is called upon to bear to-day. In a word, it is too narrow and it is not strong enough to take the traffic which now uses it.
If we are to reduce the heavy transport costs associated with industry to-day - which, I have been informed, represent 30 per cent, of the cost of commodities - we can do it only by seeing that we have roads which will enable traffic to move more quickly and safely than is now the case. 1 suppose every honorable member has had an experience similar to mine of travelling behind a slow-moving vehicle on some highway and being unable to pass it when nearing curves or approaching the crest of a hill. These restrictions cause congestion in the movement of traffic. The only way of tackling this problem is to treat arterial roads as a national responsibility. They must be so regarded first from the standpoint of economics, and secondly from that of defence. If they were taken over by the Commonwealth under some understanding with the States and money was made available to reconstruct and widen them the result would be a tremendous improvement in both the speed and safety of transport, as well as from a strategic viewpoint should Australia become involved in another war.
Arterial roads should be a Commonwealth responsibility, whilst major roads that are not arterial roads, and rural roads, which might be described as minor roads, should be the responsibility of the States. If a plan could be evolved and money made available to enable it to be carried out for the respective authorities to deal with the kinds of roads I have mentioned, both the public and the transport industry would be given a greater security. Somebody has to move in this matter. The Commonwealth is the national authority, and those in control of the National Parliament should take the necessary steps as a matter of national urgency to implement a Commonwealth plan of road reconstruction and improvement. To the extent that this bill enables more money to be made available to the States, it is a bill that must meet with our approval, but it does not overcome the fact that we have not national planning of roads, which is essential for our development.
The Commonwealth cannot evade its responsibility in connexion with our road system. In providing, in part, moneys for the construction and maintenance of roads, the Commonwealth has an obligation to see that the taxpayer gets the maximum of value and service for his money. Only the closest co-operation between the Commonwealth and the various State authorities, working together in a planned manner, can achieve this. Unless the review of the main legislation with respect to road grants, which was mentioned by the Treasurer, provides for this co-operation and planning, the present deplorable position will be accentuated and our road problem will be greater than ever.
.- Before I commence my remarks in support of this bill I want to express my appreciation of the speech that was made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). Whenever the honorable member speaks in this House we all listen with interest because we know that he will have given the subject deep thought. Although we do not always agree with him, we know that what he says is genuine and sincere. The honorable member for Bendigo, I am certain, did misunderstand the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about the distribution to the States of the proceeds of the tax on diesel fuel. However, I appreciate that he could misunderstand that statement because, on reading it again, I see that it is a bit ambiguous. The Treasurer said -
It has finally decided that, rather than adopt at this stage a new formula . . .
That could mean that the existing petrol tax formula would be used. But what the Treasurer meant was that no formula at all would be used in the distribution of the proceeds of this tax, but that all the arguments that have been put forward regarding the distribution of funds such as these would be considered. I am gratified to think that the arguments that Victorian members have used over the years have borne fruit and that we shall get some justice from this bill. If the distribution of money in this case were to be made on the same formula as the distribution of the petrol tax revenue I, for one, would not support this measure.
This bill, which is known as the Commonwealth Aid Roads (Special Assistance) Bill, authorizes the payment to the States of £3,000,000 in each of the next two years as further financial assistance in connexion with roads. I stress that this bill is not a tax bill. I think it is important for honorable members to realize that the payments which will be made will come from Consolidated Revenue. I am going to be particularly careful that I do not infringe Standing Orders by going into the details of the diesel fuel tax, whether merits or demerits, although the Treasurer himself mentioned them in his second-reading speech. Briefly, he discussed that tax in his second-reading speech on this measure and also in his Budget speech. He said that a tax on diesel fuel would provide approximately £2,000,000 in the current financial year and £3,000,000 in the subsequent year, and that those sums would be paid into Consolidated Revenue, from which the distribution of these sums of money would be made. I want to stress that this financial assistance for roads will not come directly from a tax on diesel fuel.
I support the measure because it will provide more money for roads. I support it with enthusiasm because it will give a better deal to Victoria than that State enjoys under the formula for the distribution of petrol tax to the States. I have never claimed that Victoria should receive petrol tax funds in direct proportion to the collection of petrol tax in that State, but I have maintained that Victoria deserves a better deal than it has been getting. I have not been able to obtain figures to show how much Victoria or any other State will collect from, or contribute in, diesel tax. Therefore, I have not been able to work out a ratio of distribution to contribution, but I do know that the ratio will be much nearer to the formula that I suggested in this House on 17th May, 1956, when I recommended that these funds should be distributed on a basis of four-fifteenths for area, six-fifteenths for population, and fivefifteenths for road vehicles.
Victoria’s roads carry a tremendous volume of heavy diesel automotive vehicles which are registered in other States, particularly in South Australia and New South Wales. Most of these interstate vehicles are very heavy, travel at high speeds, and extensively use roads in my electorate of Wimmera and in the electorates of Bendigo, Murray, and Indi. As in the main Commonwealth aid roads legislation, this bill provides that moneys granted to the States may be used by the State governments themselves or be passed on by them to their associated local authorities for expenditure on roads or for the purchase of roadmaking equipment. I hope that the Victorian Government, in apportioning the available money, will keep those electorates that I have mentioned in mind.
– What about the electorate of Mallee?
– The Mallee may get some of these vehicles, but I do not think that it gets nearly as many as the electorates of Wimmera, Bendigo, Murray and Indi.
– What about Wannon?
– Wannon gets very few of them, but I do support the suggestion which was made recently that a State highway should be constructed from the South Australian border to pass through the electorate of Wannon, through the town of Edenhope, then through Wimmera and on to Bendigo, using the shortest possible routs.
As most honorable members know, I drive in my own car to Canberra, and 1 have tried about twenty different roads in coming here. I find that I have to go a long way out of my direct course to find a route on which I can travel with reasonable speed and safety. From the electorate of Bendigo there is great difficulty in getting to many places. The problem is to get off the Western Highway, which goes from Melbourne to Adelaide, and to get on to the Hume Highway. There is no direct road that one can use. I have tried going down the Hume Highway as far as Puckapunyal where the military camp is located, then going through Heathcote and trying to join up with the Western Highway, but it is impossible to do this. One has to go back through Bendigo and drive very many more miles than one wishes to drive.
The honorable member for Bendigo mentioned that the Hume Highway was a dangerous road. Since I have been a member of this House I suppose that I have travelled on the Hume Highway 30 or 40 times. The time before last was the first occasion on which I have been on that road without seeing an accident. One sees the results of two or three accidents practically every time one drives from Melbourne to Canberra. The roads need serious attention, particularly the Hume Highway in the area around Gundagai, where there are many hills. With just two lanes of traffic it is impossible to pass with safety when heavy vehicles are negotiating these hills.
I remind the House that this is really an interim measure. Honorable members will have an opportunity later to discuss amendments to the formula that now operates in respect of petrol tax, and to the formula laid down for distribution of the proceeds of diesel fuel tax. I support this measure, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage.
.- The purpose of this bill is to appropriate and distribute the proceeds of a tax of ls. a gallon on automotive diesel fuel. I support the principle of the bill. An amount of £3,000,000 will be distributed this year, although the Government expects to collect only £2,000,000 in tax. In a full year it is anticipated that tax collections will amount to £3,000,000. My first comment about this measure is that it should have been introduced years ago. I have been advocating the imposition of such a tax as this ever since I first became a member of this Parliament. Many millions of pounds have been lost to the States because this Government, through some strange process of reasoning, has refused to face up to the problem in the past. Why on earth it has refused to do so I do not know. A tax on diesel fuel was imposed in Great Britain in 1934, in the United States of America in 1941, and in New Zealand in about 1947 or 1948. This tax, therefore, is by no means novel, lt was introduced years ago in other countries that have road problems similar to those existing in Australia. We have realized most belatedly that we must introduce a tax on diesel fuel, and that diesel truck operators must contribute towards road maintenance in the same way as do the operators of petrol-driven vehicles.
While I support this bill up to the hilt, I regret that I was not speaking to it seven or eight years ago. I am satisfied that if the Government had done the right thing and imposed this tax some years ago we would have had better roads throughout the Commonwealth, because the money collected would have been spent for the purpose for which it was raised.
The Government has indicated that it will review the main Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation in 1959. I deprecate the policy of leaving this review for another two years, because roads are disintegrating daily. Accidents “ galore “ are occurring. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) mentioned the state of the Hums Highway. The majority of accidents on that highway are head-on collisions, which occur because the road is too narrow. What can be said for the Hume Highway can be said also for many other roads. Not. only is* this highway disintegrating, but it is by no means wide enough for the vast quantity of traffic that uses it in this modern; age. The Government, in an endeavour to gloss over its inefficiency in not tackling the problem now, is making what it suggests is a- magnanimous gesture by grant-‘ ing’ to the States £3,000,000 this year, although^ it will collect only £2,000,000 in. diesel fuel tax. There is nothing very charitable about this, because the Government is hanging on to £17,000,000 that it will collect this year in petrol tax. From this source it will collect £51,000,000 and give back to the States only £34,000,000. How it can suggest that it is being generous in these circumstances surpasses my comprehension. As a matter of fact, the Government knows perfectly well that it is. not doing the right thing by the States, and in an endeavour to salve its conscience for the time being it is throwing £1,000,000 to the States while still hanging on to £16,000,000 that it should also make available to them.
The. Government has had a remarkable opportunity, when bringing down this legislation, to face up to the problem and make a name for itself. Honorable members opposite have not performed many statesmanlike acts since they have been in office, and if it had faced up to this question, the Menzies-Fadden Government would have been remembered in the future as the Government that ultimately tackled the Australian roads problem. It has let a great opportunity go by the board.
In looking through the speech by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) I find that he has side-stepped the question of the formula. He has dodged it most adroitly.
– It has not come up yet.
– It has not come up, but he has dodged the question of the formula for distribution of diesel tax collections.
– Oh, no!
– He has definitely dodged it. He said in his speech that distribution to the States will be made in accordance with the schedule, and if we read the schedule we find that the amounts to be allocated to the various States bear no relation to the amounts of petrol tax to be allocated. In other words, the Government is attempting to please everybody, to compromise.
Again it has shown lamentable weakness in not tackling the problem properly. The Treasurer did not explain how the various grants to the States were computed. He made simply a terse comment at the end of the speech, saying that New South Wales would get £800,000, Victoria £700,000, and so on. There is absolutely no relation between the amounts granted under that schedule and the allocations to be made of collections of petrol tax. It seems to me that a new formula has been evolved as a compromise between the interests of the various States. The Government cannot dodge the issue much longer, because it will have to face up to it in 1959, if it is still in office - and I have very grave doubts whether it will be.
Speaking on behalf of the Victorians in this Parliament, of both the Labour and Liberal parties, and, I suppose, the Austraiian Country party, we are disagreeably surprised at the amount to be granted to Victoria. We expected £1,000,000. Undoubtedly the great majority of vehicles using diesel fuel operate between Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. These huge juggernauts are concentrated to a large extent on the highways between those three cities. For this reason we expected a larger amount to be granted to Victoria, and I must express my regret that that State did not receive the £1,000,000 that it requested.
It is time something was said about the hypocritical attitude adopted by Mr. Bolte and some other Victorian spokesmen. Mr. Bolte and the Country party members of the Victorian Government say they disagree with the present allocation of petrol tax under the formula, because the money is not spent in the State in which it is collected. They say that Victoria contributes about 32 per cent, or 33 per cent, of the amounts collected by way of petrol tax, and receives back only about 17 per cent. They claim that the money should be expended in the State in which it is collected, because the roads on which there is a heavy density of traffic require much more attention than those in, say, Queensland and Western Australia, on which traffic is much more sparse. That is the theory advanced by Mr. Bolte. I would not mind so much if Mr. Bolte applied that principle when he allocates the money received by him under the petrol tax formula and by way of motor registration fees. But, despite the fact that 62 per cent, of the amounts represented by petrol tax and motor registration fees are collected in Melbourne, only 2 per cent, of the money is spent in that city.
Mr. Bolte advocates one policy in regard to Commonwealth distribution of petrol tax, while applying in his own State a similar formula to that adopted by the Commonwealth. He should be consistent. In Melbourne all the arterial roads to the main suburbs are disintegrating. For instance, the Sydney road, under the control of the Coburg City Council, is in a state of complete disrepair because of its continued use by the juggernauts that go along that road to the Hume Highway. However, theCoburg City Council does not receive any of this money, although the condition of the roads has been brought about by interstate traffic. In addition, despite the fact that the money is collected from motorists in Melbourne, the same could be said of dozens of other arterial roads in that city. We are not asking for a 100 per cent, return; we are asking for a reasonable amount.
In New South Wales it is mandatory for 20 per cent, of ‘the proceeds of petrol tax and motor registration tax to be spent on roads in Sydney, but in Melbourne protests are continually being made about the formula adopted in respect of the tax. I do not agree with, the present petrol tax formula, but I do say that Mr. Bolte and his government should be consistent and exercise a little bit of common sense. I suggest that he reinforce his case by allowing the municipalities in Melbourne to share in the petrol tax allocation now being made. I am not suggesting 40 per cent, or 50 per cent.; we would be satisfied with 10 per cent., but we are receiving only 2 per cent.
– What amount is being allocated to Northcote?
– Not a brass farthing; and many other suburbs are in the same position despite the fact that many thousands of pounds are being contributed, in the form of petrol tax, by the people in those suburbs.
Another significant feature of this bill is that all the proceeds of the tax are to revert to the States. Because this year the tax will not be collected for a full year, an amount, in round figures, of £2,000,000 will be returned, but £3,000,000 is expected to be collected in a full year, and that amount will be handed to the States. I hope this is an indication of things to come. I hope that in 1959, when the Government reviews this legislation, it will recognize the purpose of the act as originally enacted in 1926 and refund the total receipts to the States. Clearly, the original intention when the Federal Aid Roads Act was passed in 1926 was to collect only sufficient money to meet the obligations incurred under the agreement with the States. To substantiate my argument I shall read extracts from “Hansard” of 8th July, 1926, when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Treasurer. In his Budget speech in that year, he stated -
The State governments, lacking the power to impose Customs duties, are unable to effectively reach all road users. The Commonwealth, therefore, is co-operating with the States in a national roads policy, and will impose special Customs duties which will be hypothecated for road construction. The imposition of these duties at the source will ultimately result in the road users paying this special tax proportionately to their use of the roads.
During the course of the debate on the Federal Aid Roads Bill in the same year, the right honorable gentleman, speaking very critically of State governments, said -
It is impossible to know what the State Governments will do in the future, for they have already changed their ground so often. In these circumstances, the Government has decided to proceed with its policy, and will impose only sufficient taxation to meet the obligation it has incurred.
The obligation was £2,000,000 a year for ten years - a £20,000,000 road programme. I read again - - and will impose only sufficient taxation to meet the obligation it has incurred.
It is quite clear that in 1926 the Bruce-Page Government intended that all the proceeds of the petrol tax should be handed back to the States, but since then, for a variety of reasons, governments of all party persuasions have used the money for other purposes. I am not attempting to alibi any one; but the Australian Labour party has now recognized the error of its ways and our policy now is to return to the States ail proceeds of the petrol tax. At the end of next year when the Opposition becomes the Government, that will be the object of one of the first measures we will bring down, because we realize that under the present circumstances it is impossible for the States, with their meagre resources, to find sufficient money to meet their obligations in respect of road requirements.
Of the £490,000,000 collected in petrol tax to this year, only £260,000,000 has been returned to the States. In other words, £230,000,000 has been utilized by the Commonwealth for purposes other than those of the original act. According to the Treasurer, the Government is very pleased with its allocation of the petrol tax to the States. He said the States have received £175,000,000, which is true; but he did not say that £278,000,000 has been collected in the same period, which means that the Commonwealth has retained £103,000,000. Because of these astronomical figures I suggest it is quite easy for the Government to say, “We have given £175,000,000 to the States “. But more money in the form of petrol tax is being collected now than by any other previous government. In 1940 there were 820,000 vehicles in Australia, and in 1950 the figure ross to 1,434,000, whilst in 1957 it reached 2,321,000. In the seven years from 1950 to 1957, the number of motor vehicles in Australia increased by approximately 900,000. So, it is quite easy for this Government to say it has given to the States larger amounts than any other previous government gave to them. On the other hand, 542,000,000 gallons of petrol were used in 1950, whilst in 1956 the figure rose to 992,000,000 gallons. Once again, it is not difficult to understand why the amount collected has increased.
The Government will now grant to the Slates £37,000,000 a year, £34,000,000 from petrol tax and £3,000,000 from diesel tax. Compared with the magnitude of the roads problem, this is an insignificant amount. The mantle of complacency that apparently rests upon the shoulders of the Government is causing dismay to everybody who has the interests of Australia at heart, because the Government is not effectively tackling this problem. Why wait another two years before making any worthwhile progress in the implementation of a national roads plan or in reaching some agreement with the States to provide them with more finance? It is idle to say the States should spend more money. They have no power under their Constitutions to raise money by a petrol tax. Under the Constitution of the
United States of America, the State and Federal governments have power to raise money by means of petrol tax, and the rate varies from six to eight cents a gallon in the States, while the Federal rate is three cents a gallon.
The Australian States have scraped the bottom of the barrel to raise money for all sorts of purposes, including hospitals and schools. No State has sufficient money to carry out very essential works, and it would not be fair to ask them to scrap the building of hospitals or schools to raise money for roads while the Commonwealth is already raising £16,000,000 more in petrol and diesel taxes than it returns to the States.
The nation’s needs for improved streets and highways cannot be stressed too frequently. Everybody agrees that something should be done. Since I have been a member of this House, I have heard Government supporters say that we must face up to our responsibilities on the roads question and that something should be done. But nothing is done! It is time the Government really studied this problem. I had hoped that something would be done very soon. I have perused the annual report of the Australian Automobile Association, which was distributed to honorable members only this morning. The president. Mr. Clements, made a most significant statement in that report. He said -
During my recent discussion with Senator Paltridge, the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport, he advised me that Governments, both Federal and State, were awaiting the ultimate decision regarding the Victorian legislation imposing a mileage tax on heavy vehicles. He stated that if the decision of the High Court of Australia was upheld, then all State Governments would bring down similar legislation. That would increase road funds considerably - it is unthinkable that collections would be used for any other purposes - and, in the Minister’s opinion, would undoubtedly lead the Federal Government to provide greater financial assistance for roads than at present.
I hope that the Minister’s opinion is supported by the Government. The Victorian legislation has been held to be valid and other States are introducing similar legislation. Press reports suggest that the legislation will be implemented by Christmas. Therefore, we look to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), to persuade the Government, if he has not already done so, that it should provide far more financial assistance than it has in the past. However, I am not at all certain that the Government favours a national roads plan which would correlate the activities of the States and the Commonwealth. When speaking on the Estimates, I made some comments about the necessity for a national roads plan and yesterday 1 received a letter from the Minister for Shipping and Transport, in which he said -
During the recent debate on the estimates for my Department you asked in your remarks in the House, when the Government intends to introduce a National Roads Plan. I should like to comment upon this matter in response to your inquiry.
Referring to the plan, he said -
However with States anxious to preserve their rights to determine how they shall spend finance available to them on roads within their States, it is considered that the establishment of a national roads authority widely representative of roads construction authorities and road users is not a practicable concept.
– Who said that?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport, in a letter which I received from him yesterday. It seems to me that we cannot expect much as far as a national roads plans is concerned. Apparently the Commonwealth is not willing to join with the States in a national plan to hammer out the problems in a way to suit all interests. I support the view of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). Surely some plan could be agreed upon so that the Commonwealth could accept responsibility for the arterial roads between the capital cities. If that were done, State governments would be relieved of the responsibility to maintain these arterial roads. That responsibility is very heavy, because those roads are pounded more than are other roads. If the Commonwealth accepted the responsibility, State instrumentalities would be able to do a much better job in maintaining other roads.
On the question of financing a national roads plan, I suggest that we should consider what is being done in other countries. We are always told that no money is available. We could do no better than look at the way in which America has financed the construction and maintenance of its roads. After all, America has the biggest traffic problem in the world and has naturally given much more consideration to financing its gigantic road schemes than have other countries. Several years ago, the American Government introduced the
Federal-Aid Highway Act. It decided that the Federal and State governments in America should co-operate on the construction of federal highways and that the Federal Government should pay 90 per cent, and the State governments 10 per cent, of the cost of the highways. The interesting point is that the basis of financing that scheme was the imposition of taxes on motorists, but all the amount collected from such taxes is used for road purposes. That is the principle we advocate. In America, the petrol tax was recently increased from 2 cents to 3 cents a gallon, and the estimated increase of revenue over a sixteenyear period is 9,295,000,000 dollars. The whole of that amount will be placed in a fund to be used on roads. The American Government has recognized the propriety and fairness of petrol taxes being used exclusively for road purposes.
I do not believe in copying everything done in America, but in matters such as this, where the problems in America are more intense than they are in Australia and as the conclusion 1 have mentioned has been reached after many years of frustration, delay and inconvenience, some notice should be taken of the way in which road works are financed in America. The present scheme in America under the Federal-Aid Highway Act is that the Federal Government pays 90 per cent, and the State governments 10 per cent, of the cost, but the money provided by the Federal Government is found by the imposition of taxes on motorists. The tax on diesel fuel has also been increased from 2 cents to 3 cents a gallon and a most interesting tax has been imposed - a tax advocated by many road users in this country. A proportion of the money received from sales tax on motor vehicles and motor parts is to be given to road authorities for the construction of roads. In America, the tax is divided into two categories. The tax in the first category has been increased from 5 per cent, to 8 per cent, and in the second category from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent. In other words, The American Government has said, “ We are collecting so much money from sales tax on motor vehicles that it is only right and proper that a certain portion should be used for the construction of roads “. In that way, the American Government is financing road works. Other taxes have also been imposed in America, but I shall not mention them at this stage. Those I have mentioned provide most of the Federal Government’s contribution under the American Federal-Aid Highway Act, which is proving to be a great success.
In the present situation, the State governments in this country do not know where they are going. It is true that they collect a certain amount from their motor registration fees, that the Commonwealth returns a part of the revenue from the petrol tax and that local authorities provide the remainder of the finance necessary. It is estimated that the receipts from these three sources are approximately £100,000,000 a year. A committee recently established by the Australian Transport Advisory Council estimated that over the next ten years £1,643,000,000 would be needed to put our roads in proper condition. That committee was entirely non-political and its members were men from all States who knew their subjects. The committee estimated that the amount I have mentioned was needed but that it was subject to amendment according to changing circumstances. We are providing about £100,000,000 a year, so it can be seen that there is a huge gap.
I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should immediately find an additional £60,000,000 a year; that is not within the realm of practical politics. However, until such time as the States and the Commonwealth hammer out a plan for the maintenance of arterial roads between the capital cities, the Commonwealth should do the right thing by the States and return to them the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax. Such a gesture would meet with the approbation of every one. Government supporters and Opposition members would metaphorically pat the Government on the back. They would say that, after eight years of inactivity, at least something of a statesmanlike calibre had been done. The Government should not wait for another two years but should hand back the money to the people who gave it - the motorists - to be used for the purpose of constructing a decent road system in this country. The present patchwork system does not please anybody. It is causing terrific perturbation amongst local authorities, State governments are at their wits’ ends to find the necessary finance, and this Government goes complacently on tucking away for other purposes £16,000,000 a year and saying, “ We will deal with the question in two years’ time “. There is no time like the present, and I hope that the Government, even as a death-bed repentance, will decide to bring forward legislation that is well needed in this country.
Sitting suspended from S.S5 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to grant further financial assistance to the States in connexion with roads, and for other purposes. I commend the bill, and wish to make several observations in connexion with it. I am always pleased to learn that more money is being provided for road construction or maintenance in Australia. On other occasions in this House I, with other honorable members, have listened to impassioned appeals for a more imaginative approach to the colossal problem of improving our highways to cater for the ever-growing volume of transport. I have previously directed attention to the auto.bahns of Germany and to the modern highways and toll-roads of the United States of America.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), before the sitting was suspended, laid great stress upon the need in Australia for a national roads plan. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo that a national roads plan is essential. We must no longer delay in providing better facilities to match our general industrial expansion and our increasing population.
In his second-reading speech on this bill the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) rightly drew attention to the increased allocations under this legislation. An increase from £9,000,000 in 1949-50 to £34,000,000 in this current year is no mean achievement. Notwithstanding what my good friend, the honorable member for Bendigo, said on this point, I believe that some praise is surely due to the Government for an expenditure, in connexion with roads, of no less than £180,000,000 in eight years, compared with an expenditure of £80,000,000 during the preceding 24 years. But setting that on one side for the time being, and endeavouring to be realistic, I suggest that we must give careful consideration to the responsibilities of local authorities throughout the country. These are the bodies faced with the formidable task of maintaining the country’s roads and vastly extending the Australian road system. How far will £34,000,000 go in an expensive road construction plan? How soon can a satisfactory solution be found? By what means can many more millions of pounds be allocated for this commendable purpose? In my opinion, these are only a few of the questions that must be answered in a sound and sensible way.
The Australian Council of Local Government Authorities, which is meeting this week in Canberra, urged on Monday last that a government inquiry should be instituted to determine an equitable distribution of money to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads scheme, and also the road requirements of the various States and their financial ability to provide those roads. I notice with a great deal of interest that the annual report of the Australian Automobile Association, released only this morning, includes specific statements in respect of roads and road finance. This up-to-date report says -
The Australian Automobile Association has long contended that finance for roads should be provided out of Consolidated Revenue and from loans, according to requirements and the availability of resources, rather than that it should be tied to any particular tax or taxes. The failure of governments to implement that policy led the Australian Automobile Association to formulate alternative and second-best proposals.
At the same time the Australian Automobile Association must remind the Federal Government that Australia’s roads have been allowed to fall into a shocking state, whilst motor vehicle owners have contributed huge sums to Consolidated Revenue. For example, since its introduction in 1926, the petrol tax has yielded over £450,000,000, but only about £245,000,000 of these collections has been spent on roads. £205,000,000 has been used for other purposes, despite the pressing need for an improved roads system. Admittedly, increased federal funds are now being allocated to the States for roads, but even at the present time over £14,000,000 per annum is being retained in Consolidated Revenue.
Quite recently, I sought from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) information on the use in Australia of rubberized roads, which have proved so helpful in other countries. The need for research in this and related matters is generally recognized, and the Australian Automobile Association, according to the report from which I have quoted, is pressing the Government to institute a road research laboratory. The association’s annual report states -
According to the Committee of Transport Economic Research, the estimated minimum requirements for a reasonable and practical programme of road construction and maintenance will call for an expenditure of approximately £1,643,000,000 during the next ten years.
I submit this information as confirmation of the value of more interest in, and finance for, roads in Australia, notwithstanding that it may only be a few million pounds or a passing interest. 1 believe that the making of any increased contribution is a step in the right direction, and should be commended.
This bill provides for the disbursement of an additional £3,000,000 to the States. I wish to comment on the method of disbursement later, but at this stage I want to stress, first, that section 4 of the bill provides that £3,000,000 allocated to the States each year for a period of two years shall be expended -
Secondly, there is a clear relationship between this additional assistance offered to the States for roads and the proposed duty of one shilling a gallon on automotive diesel oil consumed by road vehicles. This contribution towards road maintenance, particularly by heavy road hauliers, is overdue. The industry itself, I believe, was expecting such a duty, recognizing the extensive damage that heavy vehicles have caused for some considerable time. The major road damage has occurred in Victoria and New South Wales, where interstate transports using the highways in an almost continuous stream have made apparent the instability of earlier road construction. Because of this fact, and the obvious relationship of this extra £3,000,000 for roads to the revenue from the tax on diesel fuel, I concede that a case exists for the gesture which the schedule to the bill makes to Victoria.
I am, of course, concerned that industries such as the timber industry and the mining industry in Western Australia are to be placed at a distinct disadvantage because of the way in which the tax on diesel fuel will be collected. We shall hear more of that later. I strongly urge, before any exemption procedure is settled, that some helpful concession be extended to industries of the kind I have mentioned, so that their contribution may bear a proper relation to their use of public roads. Three States, encouraged particularly by the formula under which Commonwealth Aid Roads moneys are distributed, are, according to this bill, foregoing some £175,000 in favour of Victoria. I have conceded that there is a very good argument for this, but let us look a little more closely at what those States are doing for Victoria. Victoria is to receive £700,000. Under the normal formula, its share would be £519,000. Queensland is to receive £500,000 instead of £567,000, and South Australia is to receive £325,000 instead of £331,000. My own State of Western Australia, which would normally receive £576,000, is scheduled for only £475,000.
I have already conceded the point that, in this instance, such a good case for Victoria exists that no strong argument can be advanced against the non-application of the normal formula for the disbursement of this £3,000,000. However, I see a danger sign in the Government’s decision, and I believe that the danger should be emphasized now, and continually re-emphasized until the normal review of the formula is being made by the Parliament. I direct attention to the fact that the Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, referred to the expiry of the present Commonwealth aid roads legislation in June, 1959, and went to great pains to point out that the Government did not wish to anticipate the results of the review which would of necessity take place before that date. Any one listening to his speech would, therefore, have thought that the intention was to maintain the status quo - to continue the normal practice and to distribute this £3,000,000 according to the formula. Instead, an arbitrary method has been used, and Victoria, which for so long has complained of a disadvantage under the formula, will benefit to the extent of an extra £180,000. One should not conclude that this move forecasts a change in the formula.
– It is a good indication.
– We shall- see about that. Speaking again as a Western Australian member, I would extoll the value of the system which recognizes Western Australia’s vast area and relatively low population for the purpose of tax reimbursements and the disbursement of aid roads moneys. However, the encouragement given to Western Australia under this formula is, I affirm now, only part of the assistance that is warranted. That State represents onethird of the entire area of Australia. It is far less developed than is the remainder of the continent, and even when we exclude the desert areas, the State’s responsibility is still tremendous. The Commonwealth, in my opinion, need never apologize for any financial contribution made to encourage development in Western Australia. Without Commonwealth aid, may I ask, what hope has that State of developing the vast area that we in Western Australia know as the North-West?
On many occasions, the North-West has been advocated as an area that should be tax-free. Although there may be constitutional difficulties related to such a proposal, I should like it to be considered sympathetically. Undoubtedly, capital and population would be attracted if the incentive of a tax-free area were provided. I have been an advocate for the appointment of a Commonwealth-State Commission for the North-West, and the consideration of this bill affords me an opportunity to say that my ideas embrace the improvement of port facilities, increased activity in mining, which is so attractive in Australia to-day, and the provision of more research stations and experimental farms for the cultivation of suitable crops. If such measures were adopted, the cattle industry would receive an impetus similar to that given in the Northern Territory. The area would be provided with more roads, as is intended under the terms of this bill, and, in my opinion, the water problem would be solved.
This leads me to say that, in the main, Western Australians are Australians first of all. If you want proof of that, Mr. Speaker, I would direct your attention to the fact that no protest has come from Western Australia about the millions of pounds that are being spent on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which, of course, will benefit primarily New South Wales and Victoria. This undertaking is recognized as one of national importance. It is indeed that. We in Western Australia recognize it as such, and we make no protest about the money that will be contributed for it. But I emphasize that the North-West of Western Australia, also, is of national importance. Surely it warrants the enthusiastic and sympathetic attention of the Commonwealth Government, and the expenditure of many millions of pounds over a term of ten to fifteen years. I am sure that, if the NorthWest received the attention that it warrants, Western Australia would absorb a more acceptable percentage of the Australian population, and would also add to its splendid achievements in the field of production.
I emphasize these points about Western Australia, Mr. Speaker, so that no one will get the erroneous idea that the distribution of the £3,000,000 provided for in this measure on an arbitrary basis, as I have indicated, justifies the anticipation of a new formula for the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation at some later date. The present formula was designed by statesmen, who, with far-seeing eyes, saw Australia as a nation, and not as a number of separate States, and provided for a formula that assisted and encouraged the vast underpopulated areas. That formula does not warrant any amendment.
.- I support the bill to the degree that it provides additional revenue for the States for road purposes, but at the same time, I oppose the method of allocating the additional funds. As has been pointed out, the purpose of the bill is to provide for an appropriation of £3,000,000 to supplement the payments that have already been determined under the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation, making a total of £37,000,000 for the current financial year. The additional £3,000,000, of course, is to come from the proceeds of a tax of ls. a gallon on diesel fuel used in road vehicles.
– Not all of it.
– No. In the current financial year, £2,000,000 will come from that source, and in future years, £3,000,000. Under the formula normally adopted for the distribution of aid road funds, Tasmania receives 5 per cent, of the total allocation, the other 95 per cent, of which is distributed, three-fifths in proportion to population, and two-fifths in proportion to area. That formula is designed to effect an even distribution as between States with large areas and small populations, like Western Australia, and those with small areas and large populations, like Victoria.
In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) implied that the formula was being adhered to, but, as has already been pointed out, when the matter is examined closely, one can see very clearly that the formula is not being adhered to. The Treasurer said -
When determining the distribution of this supplementary payment of £3,000,000, the Government considered various alternative methods which have been suggested in recent times to take account of factors additional to area and population. It has finally decided that, rather than adopt at this stage a new formula which might be taken as anticipating its review of the main legislation, the special grant of £3,000,000 should be distributed in the manner set out in the schedule to the bill. The question of whether or not any change should be made in the distribution of the main Commonwealth Aid Roads grants is a matter which will be considered in due course.
Despite that statement, the Government is adopting an entirely different method of allocating the funds. Under this legislation, New South Wales is to get special assistance amounting to £800,000, which is the same amount as it would get if the formula were applied. Victoria, which is to get £700,000, would get £512,500 under the formula, so it is getting an additional £187,500 under the legislation. Queensland, instead of the £500,000 which it is to get under the legislation, would get £60,500 more than that if the formula applied. South Australia, which is getting £325,000 under the legislation, would get £327,000 under the formula. Western Australia, which is, of course, the hardest hit of all the States, is to get £475,000 under the legislation “ instead of the £569,000 it would get if the formula were applied - a drop of £94,000. Tasmania’s grant under the legislation will be £4,000 more than the amount it would receive under the formula.
The point I make is that no formula is attached to this proposed distribution of revenue. The method to be used in the allocation of the amounts is an arbitrary method, and there is no actual definite pro cedure laid down, and no indication is given to us of what led the Treasurer to allocate the amounts in the way proposed in the bill.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) said he found it pleasing that additional assistance was being given to the States, but I was disappointed not to hear him offer any criticism of the method of distribution. As a matter of fact, he supported the method of distribution despite the fact that his own State will lose some £94,000 as a result of the use of that method. The honorable member seems to think that that is quite all right. He expressed the opinion that the formula would not be disturbed when the Commonwealth aid roads legislation comes up again in 1959. But there is a strong hint in the Treasurer’s second-reading speech that the formula will be disturbed, and an interjection by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) also gave a good indication that the formula will be disturbed.
– Hear, hear!
– I hope that that will not prove to be the case, because there is no justification for it and, as I have already pointed out, the two States mainly affected will be those with large areas and comparatively small populations - Queensland and Western Australia, but mainly Western Australia.
The Government, in bringing down this legislation, has apparently taken notice of criticism by Victorian members of this House, mainly on its own side of the chamber. As a result, it appears that there is a strong hint, as I have already mentioned, that there will be a disturbance of the formula when the time comes. I want to direct the attention of honorable members to the twenty-third report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission which, in a chapter headed “ Inequalities among the States “. gives a table in which it draws attention to the total area, the road mileage and the sealed road mileage of the States. Let us take two examples. Victoria’s area is 87,884 square miles compared with Western Australia’s 975,920. In Victoria there are 104,630 miles of road compared with Western Australia’s 83,777, and the mileage of Victoria’s sealed roads is 12,367 compared with 5,147 in the huge State of
Western Australia. As a matter of fact, Western Australia has the lowest mileage of sealed roads among the mainland States.
– Less than South Australia?
– Less than South Australia, which has 5,306 miles of sealed roads. In considering legislation which deals with assistance to the States for road purposes the whole road problem should be looked at from the point of view of national interest. That is my opinion and, I think, the opinion of all honorable members. Even from the defence aspect alone it is necessary for us to have good road communications. I interpolate here, for a moment, that I think it would have been far better had this Government devoted a large proportion of the defence votes it has been granted since it took office, to the building of better roads and the development of new roads throughout Australia. The total of £1,287,000,000 that has been wasted since 1950-51 on defence which is, for all practical purposes, pretty well useless at the present time, would have been better expended on improved transport facilities - not only roads, and not only in respect of defence. We have to consider the needs of civil defence also, There may come a time when we will want to get the population out of our heavily populated cities into other areas, and unless there are good means of transport that will be very difficult to do.
I want to emphasize to the Victorian members of this House that their State receives other benefits from the Commonwealth at the expense of the other primary producing States. That should be kept in mind. High tariff walls have helped to build up secondary industries in Australia, particularly in Victoria. Western Australia, which could buy more favorably in world markets than in the east of Australia, earns overseas credits from the sale of its products. High tariffs are an advantage to the Commonwealth as a whole, but that advantage is gained at the expense of the primary producing States. As a matter of fact, Western Australia had an adverse balance with the other States of £53,000,000 in the last financial year. But you have to remember that Western Australia because of its exports, had a favorable balance of £21,000,000 overseas in the same year. That lends emphasis to the point I have just mentioned. That adverse balance of £53,000,000 with the other States indicates our position relative to them, but it is estimated reliably that Western Australia is keeping 10,000 people in Victoria in employment in the production of over £30,000,000 worth of goods for the Western Australian market.
In 1956-57, for instance, £38,976,000 worth of goods was imported from Victoria by Western Australia, and only £8,625,000 worth of goods was exported to Victoria by Western Australia. That gives an idea that Western Australia, with its huge area, is not getting enough assistance from the Commonwealth, and not only in respect of grants for roads purposes. There are other factors also. I also point out to Victorian members that their State is to get the benefit of a standardized rail project from Wodonga to Melbourne, which will relieve the Hume Highway and other Victorian roads of a certain amount of wear and tear. The Commonwealth is paying 70 per cent, of the cost of that project which, on present estimates, will mean the payment of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000.
– That was a result of your report.
– It was a result of efforts made by different people in this chamber. All States are entitled to more finance for roads. There is no question about that.
I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), and other honorable members who have spoken on this subject, that all proceeds from petrol tax should go to the States for the purposes of improving and developing roads. The estimated revenue from petrol tax in the current financial year is £52,000,000, but only £37,000,000 of that amount will be returned to the States leaving £15,000,000 to go into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Even if that sum alone were diverted to road development it would enable a tremendous improvement to be made - not enough, but, still, it would be something in the direction of diverting moneys, as we think should be done, for the purpose of developing roads throughout the Commonwealth.
The petrol tax, since its introduction in 1926, has yielded more than £450,000,000, but of that sum only £245,000,000 has been returned to the roads, the difference of £205,000,000 having gone into Consolidated Revenue. It may be said that when the Australian Labour party was in office, it did not make available to the States the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax for road works. That is true enough. I think it was wrong of the Labour Government not to have done so, but it must be remembered that when Labour was in office different conditions prevailed. Australia was at war for most of its period of office, and even when we emerged from the war, there were neither the men nor the materials available for use on road works that have been available in recent years.
The Committee of Transport Economic Research has estimated that we need to expend £1,643,000,000 on roads during the next ten years, or more than £164,000,000 per annum. That is a huge sum, but it will be necessary for us to spend approximately that amount if we are to get our roads to a reasonable standard. What we need, not only in respect of roads, but for all transport in this country, is a national transport authority to co-ordinate the various forms of transport, so that we may be able to get the best out of them and so reduce costs. The need for such an authority, which has been emphasized during the course of the debate, cannot be shirked on the ground that transport is the responsibility of the States. We must look at transport as a national matter, and this Parliament must play its part in dealing with it. We must not forget that in Australia we have the most efficient government-operated airways in the world. That is something of which we can be proud, and there is no reason why, provided that our planning is on a national basis, the various other forms of transport should not be just as efficient.
An important fact which we cannot ignore is that one of every six, or approximately 17 per cent., of the Australian work force is either engaged in the transport industry or connected with it. It also is a fact, as has been acknowledged in this House from time to time, that about onethird of our gross domestic expenditure is expended on transport, thereby inflating the cost of most manufactured articles and primary products. In the latest report of the Australian Automobile Association, which came out to-day, it is stated that 35 per cent, of our national income is spent on transport. The proportion was 29 per cent, approximately three years ago; last year or the year before, it was about 33* per cent.; and this year it is 35 per cent. I want to know where we are going in regard to our transport, and when we propose to get down to the job of tackling the problems that confront us. Similar problems have been tackled successfully in Great Britain by the British Transport Commission, and in the United States of America by the United States Interstate Commerce Commission. Those bodies assure overall control and planning, and so provide for an efficient transport system, with each mode of transport dove-tailing. The result has been an efficient transport system in those countries.
The committee of honorable members from this side of the House which considered transport matters, and which presented its report only about twelve months ago, recommended for Australia a somewhat similar transport authority to those which exist in the United Kingdom and the United States. It directed attention to the fact that section 101 of the Constitution provides that -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
The committee suggested that such an interstate commission should again be established to deal with our transport problems and to co-ordinate them.
Recently, a series of lectures was given at the New South Wales University of Technology, in the form of a symposium entitled “ Transport, Traffic and Science “. It was pointed out. in the course of the discussion, that road transport accounts for approximately 75 per cent, of the total annual expenditure on transport; that rail transport accounts for 21 per cent., and that the balance is accounted for by sea and air transport. It was stated that, of the total expenditure on road transport, only about 7.5 per cent, is actually spent on the roads themselves, such as for road development and maintenance. That is, only about 1.7 per cent, of our total national expenditure goes on roads. An important point emphasized at this symposium was that the work value of the amount spent on roads was only a little higher than it was prior to the last war. On the other hand, it was stated, road traffic had increased two-and-a half times over that period. It can be understood, therefore, why our roads are getting into such a dreadful state. We have to appreciate that practically the same work value is being applied to them as was applied prior to the war, to meet a volume of traffic which has increased by twoandahalf times.
I again say that it is obvious that we must have a national roads plan. The additional £15,000,000 that is being paid into Consolidated Revenue horn petro) tax collections each year would go a long way to meet the needs of a roads system which has been starved of finance for many years. We need a ten-year programme to cope with the work that requires to be done. If we had a co-ordinated transport plan, so that all our transport systems dovetailed, there would be less traffic on the roads and, consequently, costs generally would be lower. As I have already pointed out, the standard rail gauge between Wodonga and Melbourne will mean that there will be less traffic on the Hume Highway and other roads in the area, and consequently there will be less wear and tear on those roads. Each form of transport must, of necessity, be able to do the job that is required of it and for which it is best suited. If we have modernized railways and get rid of breaks of gauge, which stand in the way of an efficient rail transport system, a considerable volume of traffic will be removed from the roads. lt has been estimated that the average train in Australia carries 400 people, or 300 tons of goods, and that it would require 200 private motor cars, or 30 semi-trailers, to carry the same number of people or quantity of goods. I suggest that much of the traffic that is using the road does so because the railways are out of date and, consequently, do not give efficient service. As we all know, there is a good deal of delay in connexion with rail transport, so people divert their traffic to road transport, despite the extra costs involved. That process, of course, tends to inflate the prices which consumers have to pay for goods they purchase. In addition, there is increased wear and tear on the roads, so that taxes must be raised to provide more funds for road repairs.
In the course of a paper that was read at the symposium at the University of Technology, it was stated that the volume of our road traffic would double by 1970, and that that increase would consist mainly of private motor cars. It was emphasized that, whereas the average private motor car carries about 1.8 passengers, a bus that occupies three times the space of the motor car can carry 70 passengers; but if a suburban train is used, it can carry the equivalent of twenty bus loads. Honorable members therefore will be able to see what an advantage it is to have a co-ordinated transport system, with each form of transport doing the job for which it is best suited. The importance of public transport also was emphasized at the symposium, and so, too, was the time lost through congestion on the roads, caused mainly by the use of private vehicles. An efficient public transport system would relieve the roads of much of the great pressure that is on them at the present time.
Transport costs are becoming an increasingly important factor, not only in our internal economy, but also in regard to our position in competitive world markets. We shall be pushed out of our markets overseas unless we can reduce costs. As the Australian Automobile Association has said, 35 per cent, of our gross domestic expenditure is accounted for by expenditure on transport. That applies not only to costs on primary products, minerals and metals which have to be exported overseas, but also to costs on manufactured goods that have to be shifted from one point to another. As a result of the Japanese Trade Agreement, cheap products will be coming into this country and competing with our manufactured goods. I want to emphasize what Sir Godfrey Heyworth, chairman of Unilever Limited, said at the 1955 annual meeting of his organization. I emphasize this statement because it shows how important transport costs are. He said -
Our investment in transport, handling equipment and warehouses amounts to £18,000,000, or nearly 15 per cent, of our total investment in manufacturing and distribution facilities. Our annual expenditure on transport is equivalent to nearly one-half of the total wage and salary bill of our 250,000 employees. Transport also affects the amount of working capital we need. The slower the movement of raw materials, intermediate products and finished products, the larger the stocks that have to be maintained and financed.
He pointed out -
A day’s delay in our world-wide operations would tie up another £5,000,000 working capital. All this shows why we take such an active interest in transport, and why efficiency of transport is as important to us as efficiency of manufacture.
That statement emphasizes, more than anything I can say, the importance of transport costs in the ultimate cost of a product. Australia has the highest transport costs of any country in relation to gross domestic expenditure. They represent 35 per cent, of such expenditure compared with 10 per cent, in Canada, which has the next highest transport costs in relation to its gross domestic expenditure.
The mere allocation of another £3,000,000 will not adequately meet this problem. Last April a committee of six Ministers was set up to do something about transport. That committee was supposed to go into the question of transport costs with a view to bringing about reductions. Up to the moment, apparently, it has not done anything; otherwise our transport costs would not have jumped to 35 per cent, of our gross domestic expenditure. Possibly, it may be working on some very extensive programme, but I would be very pleased if the Prime Minister would let the House know, as quickly as possible, what it is doing. I emphasize that the Australian transport problem is crying out for treatment on a national basis. So far the cry has fallen on deaf ears. Other countries have their transport problems but they have also a national plan to deal with them. It is a job of this Government to devise a plan, obtain the co-operation of the State governments and local government bodies, and then go to work to co-ordinate transport. Each method of transport could then be used to do the job which it is best equipped to do, and the result would be an efficient transport system capable of operating at a minimum cost.
.- This bill provides for the distribution of £3,000,000 to the States, part of which will be collected by way of diesel tax and the balance will be provided from Consolidated Revenue. This bill has nothing to do with the rate of tax. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) dealt with all manner of things that have no relation to the bill, such as defence, airways, standardization of railway gauges, costs. Japanese goods, and a few other things. I will not try to follow him into all those avenues but shall make one reference to defence. If any State needs money for defence roads more than any other State it is Queensland. When honorable members, particularly those from the southern States, realize that Cairns is as far from Brisbane as Brisbane is from Melbourne, they will gain some appreciation of the vast distances in Queensland that have to be catered for by roads. Queensland has enormous resources in its northern areas, particularly of minerals, and when these are developed, the Queensland of the future will be really the Australia of the future. This emphasizes the need to provide for road construction in that State.
I wish to dissociate myself from the unAustralian and untruthful remarks of the honorable member for Stirling. He said the sum of over £1,300,000,000 which has been spent on defence since this Government assumed office has been wasted. That statement shows how utterly disloyal he is to this great nation of ours.
– I rise to order. I ask for a withdrawal of the honorable member’s remarks that what I said was untruthful and his suggestion that I am disloyal.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark complained of.
– On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the word “ untruthful “ is not an unparliamentary expression.
– Order! The honorable member requests a withdrawal of the suggestion that he is disloyal.
– I will withdraw the word “ disloyal “, but I will not withdraw the word “ untruthful “. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, side-stepped the question of the formula. The honorable member was not fair to the Treasurer in saying that, because there was no sidestepping. The Treasurer simply said that the formula was not in question because it was not under discussion in this bill. The measure makes no reference to it. I think that every honorable member knows the background of the provision of this money, and that the reason for the introduction of the tax is that interstate road transport operators have not paid their rightful dues towards the cost of repairing the roads, which, in the past, they have damaged. As a consequence, this tax has been imposed to compensate the States for damage alone to their roads. Obviously the Commonwealth is trying to look fairly at this question and allocate the money to States on the basis of damage done to their roads. The States that have been most seriously affected by interstate traffic are, undoubtedly, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, in that order. Perhaps Queensland has suffered to a greater degree than Victoria. Goods are transported from Longreach in the west over all the southern roads in Queensland. Almost all the produce that is carted by interstate hauliers to the southern States passes over a wide network of roads in Queensland. From that point of view Queensland may be unfairly treated under this, allocation, but we are not grumbling.
The honorable member for Stirling and any other representative of Western Australia who might question the allocation of funds to these three States, surely must recognize the fairness of this distribution. They must admit that they have not as many interstate hauliers operating in their State as have the other States in question. The damaged roads of the continent provide the basis for this distribution, and the money is not allocated in accordance with the aid roads formula. That formula does not come under discussion in this bill.
– Well, it should.
– It should not. The honorable member for East Sydney knows that this Parliament approved the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement which will expire on 30th June, 1959. Obviously, the agreement could be amended but it has nothing to do with the bill now before the House. This Government has made provision for increases in the petrol tax under the appropriate legislation. At the same time, it has proportionately increased payments to the States. Whereas originally such payments were made at the rate of 3d. a gallon, the States now receive 8d. a gallon. So I want to correct the imputation that was cast against the Treasurer by the honorable member for Batman. I say to any honorable gentleman who would suggest that the distribution of moneys should be based in this way in future that such a proposal might be contested by a non-party combination of honorable members from the far-distant States such as Queensland and Western Australia who would fight against any alteration of the formula.
Up to the present time, Queensland governments have allocated all registration fees for the purposes of road construction and maintenance. However, so far, the heavy-vehicle tax which is payable in Queensland and which amounts to £1,250,000 or £1,500,000 a year has not been allocated to road construction, lt has been promised that road construction in Queensland will benefit from that money in future and I hope that that promise will bc honored by the present Queensland Government. But that is by the way.
To return to the point that was raised b the honorable member for Batman, I point out that the argument by Victorian members that all the money collected from the petrol tax in Victoria should be used in that State, is not supported by the Premier of Victoria in regard to the expending of revenue gained from registration fees. If I understood the honorable member for Batman correctly, although the bulk of the registration fees are collected in the City of Melbourne, only 2 per cent, of the revenue is spent in Melbourne.
– I referred to petrol tax and registration fees.
– That emphasizes my point. Many honorable members have been on shire councils. Do those councils spend all their receipts from rates on the roads that run through ratepayers’ properties? Obviously not. Some revenue goes into administration. Some goes into the construction of other roads. No one can suggest that ratepayers use only the roads that go past their own properties. They use all the roads. That fact should be borne in mind in considering the distribution of moneys received from petrol tax.
In considering road construction and maintenance in the larger States, we must acknowledge that additional miles of roads need to be constructed in those States in order to enable them to achieve increased productivity. We have to look at roads, from an Australian point of view, nol merely from the point of view of the little garden State of Victoria, on behalf of which it has been claimed that the petrol tax money collected there should be spent in that State. After ali, Victorians do go to sunny Queensland to enjoy their holidays and they like to travel over beautiful roads in other States.
I cannot follow the reasoning of the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), who stated that Western Australia has been unfairly treated in the distribution of this money. I suppose that it could be alleged that Queensland, too, has been unfairly treated because it is not receiving an allocation in accordance with the formula. But this money comes from the users of the main interstate highways, and because it is to be used in the repair of those highways, which have been damaged more than other roads, I think that the Government is making a fairly just distribution. I commend the Government for that.
As far as the registration of motor cars is concerned, I notice that Australia has a car for every four and a half persons, which is about the third or fourth highest ratio in the world. Australians use about 900,000,000 gallons of motor spirit a year and because between 70 per cent, and 80 per cent, of our requirements are refined in this country, the Government obtains more revenue from excise on petrol than from import duty on it. That is the basis upon which the Government has allocated the federal aid roads grant. The allocation is now 8d. a gallon, an increase of Id. a gallon having been granted by the Government under the economy budget last year. The Government is alive to the position and recognizes the need to assist in the construction of interstate highways. Consequently, in this legislation, it is providing the sum of £3,000,000 for this year and another £3,000,000 next year. So, all in all, I think we can be satisfied that the Government has done a reasonable job. I commend the bill but I want to say that when we come to discuss the formula, perhaps the House will hear a different argument.
.- Though my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), with his becoming modesty, did not stand up in this House and proclaim that he was the one responsible for this measure, he could quite easily have done so insofar as the tax on dieseline is concerned. I think that this legislation is a tribute to his patience and insistency, ever since 1949.
The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), who has just completed his comments on this measure, said, by way of disagreement with the statement of the honorable member for Batman, that the formula was not in issue in this debate. I disagree with him. When the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) introduced this bill he stated that it was essentially an interim measure. He said - the Government felt that it would be preferable to leave the existing Commonwealth aid roads legislation intact and to seek authority for this additional payment in a separate bill. In adopting this procedure, the Government has sought to avoid anticipating the results of the review of the main legislation which will be made in due course.
I would say, therefore, that the Treasurer himself has forecast that a review, if it is not now taking place, is shortly to take place, and that he has invited comment from members on both sides of this chamber as to how the 1949 legislation can be improved. I presume, therefore, that any comments or constructive suggestions which honorable members may care to make are openly invited by the Treasurer and that, in that sense, the matter is in issue.
– The honorable member sounds like an optimist.
– After the supreme optimism of the honorable member for Batman and the fruits it has borne I think that there is every ground for being optimistic.
I wish to direct attention to the difficulties that municipalities are experiencing in financing road construction and other works. Originally the role of the municipality was to provide the necessary finance for roads and certain social services, mainly health services. Recently, however, additional duties have been given to municipalities, both by the State and Commonwealth authorities. The expenses incurred in connexion with these additional tasks must be borne by the municipalities. A very real case in point at present concerns a road job carried out in the electorate of the honorable member for Batman. The Victorian Country Roads Board has constructed a large overpass in Hoddlestreet, which has to be lighted by the municipality, the cost being about £4,000 a year. This overpass has been constructed for the benefit of through traffic, and the municipality should not be required to bear this expense. That is just an example of the numerous extra duties that municipalities have had to assume, and for which they are expected to pay.
In the municipality of Preston there are 74,000 people, but there are no more than about 25,000 ratepayers, who have to find the money for the provision of necessary services. More than one-third of the total income of the municipality is devoted to road construction. For some unknown reason, the Commonwealth makes no contribution towards the maintenance of main roads or State highways on which there are tramlines.
The States themselves are experiencing financial difficulties. As the honorable member for Batman has said, the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, does not apply the same kind of reasoning to his own financial policy as he does to the method of allocating collections of petrol tax. This is just one manifestation of the difficult position in which the States find themselves.
We have heard interminable arguments between rural and city interests, and I have never been able to appreciate how members of the Country party can segregate the sectional interests of the countryman from those of the city dwellers, upon whom he relies to purchase and consume his products. In a balanced economy, conflict between the two interests just does not exist. Just as the conflict, if any, between, say, Western Australia and Victoria is resolved by a proper formula for allocation of these tax collections, so the conflict between rural and urban interests will disappear when a proper formula is worked out.
Victoria, which has 30 per cent, of Australia’s population, and approximately the same proportion of Australia’s motor vehicles, contributes 31 per cent, of the petrol tax revenue. It is true that Victoria received only 17 per cent, of the portion of the revenue allocated for roads, or about £5,500,000 of a total of £34,000,000 made available by the Commonwealth. That is not in dispute. It is true, also, that only 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, of that amount of £5,500,000 is spent in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. The rest is spent in the country. As I said earlier, the need for roads to be provided for isolated settlers, and for developmental roads in the country, is not disputed, nor do we attempt to write down the importance of such roads. The solution of our roads problem lies in the production of a suitable formula to solve the financial problem.
Apart from the municipalities and shires, the section of the community which has the greatest cause for complaint about roads is the motoring public as a whole. Motorists are required to contribute enormous amounts of money by way of taxes, both direct and indirect, from which they receive no return. They have only the dubious pleasure of risking, if not life and limb, then their vehicles. There is always a real danger of breaking a spring or some other part of a vehicle on the roads over which motorists are forced to travel, which have not just the ordinary pot-holes, but now have potholes within pot-holes, making it all the more difficult for the unfortunate motorist. We find from a study of an article appearing in the July, 1956, issue of the journal of the Royal Automobile Club of Australia that the costs of the modest car owner have soared sky-high in the last few years. Registration fees have increased considerably. If a man buys a car within the £1,000 to £1,200 price range, he will have a great deal of expense to meet. If he runs the car for 5,000 miles in the first year, at an average petrol consumption of 20 miles to the gallon, he will have to pay about £450 for the first year of operation of the car. That figure includes petrol tax as well as the cost of comprehensive insurance and third-party insurance.
– It includes sales tax.
– Yes, which is 30 per cent, on new vehicles and 16f per cent, on replacement parts. With roads in their present condition, a lot of replacement parts are needed. The sales tax on motor cars is at the rate of 30 per cent, of the wholesale value. As I said previously, the motorists are the section of the public most affected by the present unsatisfactory state of our roads. They pay most and receive the least benefit. Besides the taxes that they pay as car owners, they pay other taxes as ratepayers. This means that the owner of a car, whether it is used for private or business purposes, virtually pays twice. He pays sales tax and petrol tax and then he pays, as a ratepayer, for the maintenance and construction of through roads in his own municipality.
The need for a national road plan is appreciated by every one, except those in the most responsible positions. Let me direct attention to the excellent work that has been done by the Australian Automobile Association in publicizing the need for a plan. In the association’s journal dated 26th March, 1957, Mr. Clements, the president of the association, said that the Australian Transport Advisory Council should be abolished, as it has ceased to carry out any constructive function at all. He said that it has rejected every positive plan that has been put up for the nation’s highways, including the Renshaw plan for New South Wales. We on this side of the House believe that the time has arrived when we should work out a suitable policy. The proposal that has been put forward, involving the expenditure of £1,600,000,000 for a tenyear plan, means that £160,000,000 a year would have to be provided for road purposes. I think we need, first, an ultimate plan; and secondly, an immediate plan. By an ultimate plan I mean one whereby certain fields of taxation are allocated to the States by the Federal Government for road purposes in an attempt to place this matter beyond the whim of any party that may be in power in any of the States or in this Parliament. We should have an immediate plan whereby additional funds are made available from general revenue and not from any particular fund. I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that it would be unwise to ear-mark any particular fund for this purpose, because any increase or decrease in that fund would automatically affect the object for which it was allocated.
We believe, first, that the immediate programme should be to hand back to the States all the petrol tax collected, even in accordance with the existing formula, whether it be unjust or otherwise. Secondly, at least 10 per cent, of the sales tax collected should be allocated to the States for roads. If sales tax on motor vehicles is expected to yield in the vicinity of £43,000,000 this year, 10 per cent, of that sum, or £4,300,000, would go to the States.
– As is done in the United States of America.
– Yes, as is done in the United States of America. If that practice were adopted to meet the immediate demands of the States, the Commonwealth would be contributing a much fairer share towards the maintenance of our national roads. That would then give the States and the Commonwealth time to implement a long-range plan whereby a field of taxation would be allocated to the States.
I was surprised to learn from the honorable member for Batman that, in a letter to him dated 19th November, 1957. the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) denies the feasibility of a national roads plan. The Minister stated -
Such a development of a national roads plan could only be successful if a wide measure of agreement between States is forthcoming. However, with States anxious to preserve their rights to determine how they shall spend finance available to them on roads within their States, it is considered that the establishment of a national roads authority widely representative of roads construction authorities and road users is not a practicable concept.
If the will is there, a way can be found. If this Government, or any government for that matter, wants to set up an authority which is capable of conceiving and carrying out, in co-operation with the States, a national roads plan, that can be done. If this Government has not a mind to do it, then it will not be done. That is the only basis upon which we can judge this Government’s willingness to formulate and carry out a national roads plan.
.- Usually, when a Victorian rises in his place in this House to say anything in support of a better deal for Victoria in the matter of Commonwealth grants for roads, he is regarded as, if not actually accused of, being parochial. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) said he wanted the House to know that honorable members from Western Australia are Australians. I want to make it perfectly clear that whilst I regard it as my duty to present Victoria’s side of the case, I am .first an Australian and secondly a Victorian.
As one who has taken every opportunity to visit other States in order to try to appreciate their problems properly, I realize that the less populous States cannot possibly raise sufficient revenue to enable them to carry out works which we, as Australians, ought to regard as being of national importance. I realize also that if war should come to this country - and heaven forbid it should - the States of Western Australia and Queensland, and the Northern Territory would have to bear the brunt of the attack. For that reason, if for no other, I feel it should be the ambition of every Australian to do everything in his power to assist to build up and strengthen those States as rapidly as possible.
Victorians should also realize that nature has endowed their State very richly with natural assets and resources for which they can claim no credit; but at the same time, due to its own good management and sane government Victoria possesses a very large proportion of Australia’s secondary industries. Victoria is one of the most prosperous States in Australia, if not the most prosperous. To the credit of most Victorians, I believe they recognize these facts and are willing to do everything they can to help build up the weaker States. At the same time, they feel that the contribution they are making is proportionately far greater than those of, say, New South Wales and South Australia. They feel also that this excess contribution is at the expense of the Victorian motorist and householder. I shall give the House one or two facts, which may or may not be properly appreciated, in support of that statement. Motor registration fees in Victoria are the highest in the Commonwealth. Very frequently a householder or a home-builder finds that after he has purchased a home he still has to contribute some hundreds of pounds to local municipal councils. I have in mind the case of a young couple who arranged finance to purchase a home through the War Service Homes Division. The loan was to be paid off over a number of years. To their great surprise - admittedly they had a corner block - they received an account from the local council for road-making involving them in an additional expenditure of £700 or £800. Admittedly, also, they were allowed twenty or 25 years to pay that money. That sort of thing does not happen in Western Aus tralia, where road-making is financed by returns from, the petrol tax. In South Australia I understand home-owners contribute only 10s. a foot towards the cost of roadmaking.
In terms of motor vehicles to the square mile, Victoria has twice as many as Tasmania, three times as many as New South Wales, eleven times as many as South Australia, fifteen times as many as Queensland, and 42 times as many as Western Australia. In spite of the fact that the area of Victoria is only l/34th of the Commonwealth, it has 27 per cent, of the total population and almost 30 per cent, of the motor vehicles. For every 100 square miles of Victoria, there are 119 miles of roads, which is by far the greatest proportion in the Commonwealth. In addition, since the war Victoria has accepted 40 per cent, of the immigrants who have come to Australia.
At present the annual expenditure on roads in Victoria, through both the State Government and the local municipal councils, is £25,000,000, but a ten-year plan drawn up by the Country Roads Board in conjunction with the local councils recommended a minimum annual expenditure of £38,000,000. That means that Victorian roads at the present time are being denied an additional expenditure of £13,000,000 which is the sum required to keep Victorian roads at even a very moderate standard of repair. Victoria’s case for a greater share of the petrol tax collected by the Commonwealth was not improved by the reported statement of Sir Thomas Maltby to the Municipal Association of Victoria, but actually he was misreported. To put the facts perfectly clearly I say that if a local council in Victoria has a road to build it approaches the Country Roads Board for a loan. The board says, “We will give you a certain amount to carry out that work. Here is £25,000 for that job.” The council has to call tenders, the lowest of which may be for £30,000. The board will not give the council any additional money although it would not raise any objection to the council obtaining the money through other channels. However, some councils have not been able to do that, and consequently at the end of the financial year the £25,000 allocated by the Country Roads Board remains unexpended. Sir Thomas Maltby has said, “ What is the good of me approaching the Federal Government for additional money when you have not spent what has been already given you? “
The honorable member for Swan, in speaking to this bill, said, “ Let us see what the other States are doing for Victoria “, and he quoted the allocation to that State from the additional £3,000,000 to be obtained by means of the diesel fuel tax. I shall show honorable members the other side of the picture - what Victoria is doing for the other States. During the financial year ended 30th June last, New South Wales received from the Commonwealth £8,500,000 out of £16,000,000 which it paid in petrol tax. South Australia received £3,500,000 out of a payment of £4,750,000. Victoria received less than £3,500,000 from £15,000,000 paid. All that Victoria respectfully asks is not that it receive all the money that it pays in taxes but only that it receive a more equitable amount than it is receiving at present. 1 want to make one point for the Commonwealth Government. It has received a fair amount of criticism because, as a result of the imposition of the diesel fuel tax, some industries have passed on the tax in the form of increased charges. I want to make it perfectly clear that the Commonwealth Government as such is receiving nothing for itself from this tax. As a matter of fact, in this year it will receive £2,000,000, but will pay £3,000,000. If any criticism is to be levelled at a government because of the imposition of this additional tax, it should be levelled at State governments. The Commonwealth Government has arranged, as from next Monday, to lift the additional impost placed on diesel operators in Canberra and I believe that the Victorian Government is to pass legislation which will come into operation after this bill is passed. That is a particularly good example to other States and I hope that they will have the good sense to lift the discriminatory additional tax that they have placed on diesel operators.
To the extent that this bill recognizes, not only that the States require additional moneys for roads, but also that the percentage of the grants previously made to Victoria under the formula has not been adequate to Victoria’s requirements, I support it.
.- The bill proposes, during this financial year and next financial year, to make an additional amount available to the States for the construction of roads. It arises from the Government’s belated decision in this financial year to impose a tax on diesel fuel. That tax will raise £2,000,000 this year and £3,000,000 next year. In each of those years the Government will make a payment of £3,000,000 to the States as a whole. Honorable members have rallied in such numbers to speak on the bill because it provides the last opportunity before 1959 to discuss this form of participation by the Commonwealth in the building of roads in this continent. The present principal act, the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, expires at the end of the financial year 1958-59. I do not cavil in any respect at the allocation between the six States of the amount provided by this bill. Since the bill arises from the levying of the new tax on diesel fuel, it is wiser to allocate it with greater regard to the contributions by diesel users and to the wear and tear on roads by diesel users in the eastern States. It would not have been appropriate to apply the area and population formula which has been a feature of the main legislation to disburse the petrol tax over the last decade or more.
As in any bill dealing with the allocation of Commonwealth moneys to the States, there is a fertile field for the States to criticize us and for us to criticize the States. Tt is insufficient to say, as one honorable member pointed out earlier, that the Victorian State argument that the proportion of petrol tax raised in Victoria should be spent in Victoria–
– That has never been claimed.
– I know that the honorable member did not claim that, but the trend of the argument by many honorable members has been that there should be a re-allocation in favour of Victoria, and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) went that far, at any rate. The argument by Victorian State politicians loses very much force when one recollects that the Victorian Government does not spend all its motor taxes on roads in Victoria. It is criticizing us for failing to do something which it fails to do, also. Similarly, if I may venture a criticism of honorable members from Western Australia on both sides of the House, who have spoken on this bill, they are apparently dissatisfied with an allocation which, on a per capita basis, is very favorable to their State. The Western Australian State argument loses much of its punch when one recollects that the motor taxation imposed by Western Australia is very much less than that imposed by other States.
– lt will be increased later.
– I accept that information. The last comparative figures which I have are from the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which was presented to us a month ago. It compares the State taxation revenue per capita for 1955-56.
– Other States have increased their taxes.
– I know. I remember that Victoria has put up its motor taxes.
– Keep going!
– These are all helpful interjections; do not think that I spurn them. South Australia imposed motor taxes at £4 3s. 4d. a head and Western Australia at £2 5s. 3d. a head in 1955-56. I presume that Western Australia is now redressing the balance a little because the Commonwealth Grants Commission has penalized it to a certain extent for its failure to charge motor taxes comparable to those in other States.
– What is the rate of Victorian taxation?
– These figures appear on page 9 1 of the Commission’s report. For the benefit of the honorable member for Wannon, I point out that the Victorian taxes for that year were £2 12s. lOd. a head - next lowest to Western Australia.
– Thank you very much.
– I am prepared to oblige in these matters in a completely nonpartisan, dispassionate manner.
I rise to participate in this bill in response to the implied invitation by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that we should give the benefit of our views on the road problem at this consideration of the petrol and diesel tax reimbursements. My contribution is made in the light of the decisions of the Privy Council and the High Court on the taxability of road users. I know reference is often made to the Commonwealth’s practice in the Chifley Government’s time. It is said - and quite rightly - that the Chifley Government did not devote the whole of the petrol taxes to the construction of roads, but at least in those days the High Court had for a quarter of a century upheld the constitutionality of State road taxes. However, in 1953 the High Court, as then constituted, doubted the correctness of those earlier decisions and the Privy Council reversed them. Subsequent taxes were also held unconstitutional. It has been only in the last couple of months that State road taxes of a particularly limited character have been held valid by the High Court, by a bare majority, and that the Privy Council has refused leave to appeal from those decisions.
I said that the State taxes were of a particularly limited character because they provide for the taxation of road hauliers for the purpose of maintaining roads. No State taxation is valid which purports to tax road hauliers in order to construct, reconstruct, widen, straighten or strengthen roads. State taxes are valid insofar as they maintain the roads as they are. That still leaves a very great gap in the capacity of the States to raise moneys for roads within their borders. By contrast there is still no limitation on the capacity of the Commonwealth to levy fuel tax for road purposes and the charm of the Commonwealth tax is that it is by far the most equitable tax. The road taxes that the States levy - licensing drivers, registering vehicles, charging per ton mile - are rather hit-and-miss affairs. They require a great deal of policing and, of course, they bear with varying severity on road users, as distinct from the Commonwealth tax, which bears with proportionate severity on road users. The owner of a motor vehicle pays the same registration-fee or the same licence-fee whether he travels 1,000 miles or 100,000 miles a year with that vehicle. But that owner pays a Commonwealth petrol and diesel tax pretty much in accordance with the amount of use he makes of the vehicle and the amount of wear he imposes on the roads. So the Commonwealth petrol and diesel tax is a constitutional tax and an equitable tax.
Where I disagree with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator
Paltridge) and, with respect- because he is an amiable and conscientious Minister - where I express disappointment in him, is the defeatist and negative attitude which emerged from the letter that he sent to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) after that honorable member had spoken on the estimates for this department. The honorable member for Batman read that letter in the debate this afternoon. The Minister takes the attitude that it is not practicable to have a national roads plan in Australia unless the States agree. I must say that I think that is abdicating the Commonwealth’s responsibilities. If, as I believe, and as every honorable member in this House has propounded at one time or another, the whole of the petrol tax should go to the construction of roads and not just two-thirds of it, then I should think that without varying the present formula, without upsetting calculations that have been made in every State on the basis of that formula, the Commonwealth could do a great deal by allocating the residue of the tax to the States in accordance with its own view of the necessity of particular roads. We must never overlook the fact that the Commonwealth, since the inception of the Constitution, has had the power and, one would think, the duty to legislate with respect to trade and commerce among the States.
– Do you think the Commonwealth would have increased the tax the way it did if all the tax was to go to roads?
– I should hope so, because it could be usefully spent on them. Under section 96 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth can make grants to the States on any terms it sees fit, and that applies to grants out of the petrol tax in the same way as it applies to any other tax. Let me quote the most flagrant case which has occurred in our experience. The busiest highway in the Southern Hemisphere - the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne - was untrafficable for a couple of weeks last year. Surely, the Commonwealth must find that an intolerable position. The Australian economy should not be asked to bear such an unnecessary burden, such an anachronistic burden. The remedy surely would be for the Commonwealth to make a grant to Vic toria and New South Wales under section 96 of the Constitution of an adequate amount over a planned space of years or months to see that the Hume Highway is fit to carry the .traffic that wants to use it. I hope honorable members will not think I am interested merely in the fertile and prosperous south-east crescent of Australia: I would apply the same principle to every developmental road in Australia, to every inter-capital road in Australia, and to every road which bears the weight of commerce and industry between the great commercial and industrial centres of Australia.
We should not take the passive and supine attitude which the Minister for Shipping and Transport takes on this matter. The Commonwealth should allocate the whole of the proceeds from petrol tax to the construction of roads and it should earmark that one-third of the petrol tax which it at present keeps for its own revenues to the construction of intercapital highways. There is nothing contrary to the federal system in that. It is something that those other traditional federations, the United States of America and Canada, do, and it is something that we, under placitum (1) of section 51 of the Constitution can spend money upon - trade and commerce between the States. It is spending a tax that we alone, under section 91, can levy, as it is an excise duty, and it is making a grant to the States under section 96 on terms that we see fit to apply for a national purpose.
Let me conclude by pointing out the magnitude of this problem. 1 want to pay tribute to the present Minister for Shipping and Transport, and to his predecessor, for the contributions they have made to the understanding by Australians of our transport problems. Many of the figures quoted by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and the honorable member for Batman were taken from publications of the Minister’s department. The year before last there was the roneoed publication about costs of transport operations in Australia. That publication was prepared for the Australian Transport Advisory Council. In February last year there was the roneoed statement on Australian roads, prepared for the same body. A few months ago there was the multigraphed report of the Committee of
Transport Economic Research, relating to road and rail transport. As this last report is the latest information on the subject, I will quote from it. Page 55 of the report shows, in a table setting out the financial extent of a reasonable roads programme agreed on by the Commonwealth and State advisers at 1956 cost levels, that in the present financial year £50,000,000 would be available from local government rates and taxes, loan funds, and miscellaneous general revenue expenditure, and £64,000,000 from tax paid by motor vehicle owners. That makes a total of £114,000,000. The estimated minimum requirements for a reasonable and practicable programme of road construction and maintenance in all States were £133,000,000, leaving a deficit of £19,000,000.
This bill and subsequent calculations enable £4,000,000 more to be available for the construction of roads in this financial year than was anticipated at that time. That still leaves a deficit of £15,000,000. Let me make reference to a table on the following page, which shows how the estimate of tax paid by motor vehicle owners was made. It was made up of a £33,200,000 grant from the £49,400,000 collected in petrol tax, and £30,900,000 from State registrations and motor taxes. At that time the contribution by the Commonwealth was in excess of the contribution by the States. As a result of this trill the contribution by the Commonwealth will be still further in excess of the contribution by the States. But there is still this deficiency, this gap. How is it to be made good? Everybody agrees that our roads will have to be improved if our transport costs are to be diminished, and our transport costs are the most unnecessary and the most excessive costs in our community. The gap for this financial year will be £14,000,000. The table that I have mentioned indicates that it is estimated that the gap for 1965-66 - the last year in that table - will be £54,000,000.
I hope that the Treasurer and his advisers -will take into account the contributions to the consideration of this problem which have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House, in response to the invitation issued by the right honorable gentleman in his second-reading speech, and, in amending the Commonwealth Aid Roads
Act in 1959, will make proposals for covering that gap. I suggest that the constitutional and the responsible attitude to take is that, in the interests of trade and commerce between the States, the Commonwealth should, firstly, allocate the whole of the petrol tax - the most equitable and most easily collected tax - to the construction of roads, and secondly, ear-mark the balance of that tax, which the States do not get at present, for the construction of interstate highways and inter-capital highways - the highways that we must have if Australia is to be treated as a modern economic unit and not, as the present legislation envisages, as a collection of six separate State compartments.
.- I should like to make a brief contribution to this debate. For a long time, I have felt that the consideration of a measure such as this affords honorable members an opportunity to impress upon the Government the need to do more than has been done in the past to construct and maintain main roads and the arterial road system. I support this measure, which will afford some relief and ease existing conditions. It represents at least some progress towards the objective that we have in mind. In the welter of words poured out by honorable members on both sides of the House, we should not forget what this bill is designed to do, and the reasons that have motivated the Government in providing for this special assistance of £3,000,000, which is to be made available in addition to the normal Aid Roads allocation to the States which, this financial year, will total £34,000,000. The special assistance of £3,000,000 will be distributed among the States, as the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has indicated, in the following amounts: New South Wales, £800,000; Victoria, £700,000; Queensland, £500,000; South Australia, £325,000; Western Australia, £475,000; Tasmania, £150,000, and Commonwealth Territories, £50,000. The feature about these allocations is that they are not made on the basis of the usual formula, which has been a subject of the greatest controversy in this Parliament for some time.
As previous speakers have pointed out. the special assistance is to be provided o it of the proceeds of a tax of one shilling a gallon on diesel fuel used in road vehicles. There is no need for me to deal with this aspect ot the matter, which has been dealt with very well by those honorable members who have discussed the need for this tax, which will share the responsibility for the upkeep of the roads in a more equitable manner, by placing more of the responsibility on those who use the roads most, and who, perhaps, do the most damage to them. I think that one of the most interesting features of this debate, and of similar debates, is the general feeling in the Parliament that more money must be provided for the maintenance and development of our road system. The Government also now seems to be of that opinion, and I take some comfort from the remarks made by the Treasurer, who, in his second-reading speech, said -
Nevertheless, the Government has decided that some further assistance for roads should now be given to the States. The existing Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation will expire on 30th June, 1959, and the whole question of Commonwealth assistance for roads will therefore be reviewed before that date.
Those words give comfort to most honorable members, and particularly to those who felt that the allocation was not the most equitable that could be obtained. I will discuss that aspect of the problem later. The fact that, in April of this year, the Government appointed a sub-committee of the Cabinet to suggest methods of improving Australia’s transport system indicates its awareness that the solution of this problem is vital. Even if that subcommittee considered only one aspect of our transport problems - our road system - it would be doing very important work.
Most of our roads are far below the standards needed for the operation of modern transport at its highest efficiency. They have not kept pace with the tremendous progress that has been made, even in the last ten years, in methods of transport. An efficient road system would help to reduce our cost structure considerably, and would benefit our economy greatly, and it is one of the most important problems that we have to consider at the present time. The solution of this problem would greatly reduce our petrol bill, which, as everyone knows, is paid in dollars. It would help to reduce the drain on our overseas reserves, and would improve our trade balance. Any one who doubts that assertion needs only to discuss petrol costs with transport operators in other countries, particularly in Germany and the United States of America, where, as you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, and other honorable members know, great expressways which, in Germany are known as autobahns, are used very extensively by large transport operators. Last year, I discussed these problems with transport operators, particularly in the United States, and was told that the operators were quite prepared to pay heavy tolls on expressways in preference to using ordinary roads. One operator told me that, by using expressways, he could save one dollar in every five dollars of his petrol bill.
I am glad that the Government has shown practical interest in road problems, and I congratulate it on the action that it has taken in appointing the sub-committee of the Cabinet, and now, providing for this special assistance to the States for road works. Small though it may be, it will be greatly appreciated, and will be thankfully received by the States. All countries have had to face up to the problem of improving roads. The sooner we in this country improve our roads, and move with the times, in order to keep pace with the improvement in transport methods, the better it will be. I suggest that the Cabinet sub-committee should consider very carefully the formula under which Commonwealth aid roads funds are distributed, in order that the allocation may be made in the best interests of Australia as a whole. I make that suggestion sincerely, because 1 am aware that many honorable members have felt at times that some of the weaker States have probably received more than they were entitled to, and that some of the eastern States have not received enough. We have to remember that some of the States are more industrialized than others, and that the development of those States - I refer particularly to Victoria because secondary industries have developed at a great pace there over the last five or six years - is something the effect of which we have to consider. The strain on the road system serving the big industries established in those States is very great.
Victoria has become heavily industrialized, far out of proportion to the amount that that State receives in Commonwealth aid roads grants. I do not suggest for one moment, as the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) have suggested, that we should not give very serious consideration to the development of the State from which they come, Western Australia. We all know that Western Australia and Queensland have their problem of long distances. I know something of the Western Australian problem. I have travelled over many thousands of miles of roads in that State, and I realize the tremendous difficulties that the people of Western Australia face. If roads are important to Victoria, then so are aerial services to Western Australia. Commensurate with the importance of good roads to Victoria is the importance of Victoria receiving a worthwhile allocation of money to keep its roads in good condition, because Victoria has a particular problem of its own. The roads leading from other States to the heavy industries established in Victoria are being used extensively in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. I think that that is a point that Western Australia’s members are apt to forget.
– Western Australia cannot depend on airlines alone. It must have roads too.
– I appreciate that, but at the same time Western Australia gets a very good allocation of money for road maintenance. Apart from that, Western Australia also has the benefit of subsidized aerial services which help the Western Australian people to cover the big distances in that State. I think that Western Australian members are apt to forget the special problems that confront the Victorian people at present because Victoria is a heavily industrialized State in which the call for road maintenance is particularly heavy. Tt is in the interests of Australia as a whole to assist Victoria to maintain an efficient road system. At present the Victorian Government and Victorian municipal councils are heavily penalized in regard to road maintenance, particularly in areas through which pass the arterial roads which serve big industries. The property tax in municipalities adjacent to big industries in Victoria is a problem which is a constant headache for councils. The reason is that the tax has to be high in order to provide the councils with funds to maintain arterial roads in their areas. Road maintenance is a drain on the funds which should be devoted to the other services that councils have to provide. It is quite wrong for a property owner in one area to be heavily taxed to keep in good condition roads serving industries which are assisting our national economy. 1 think that this is a matter which the Commonwealth Government must examine with a view to doing something towards improving the position of municipal councils through whose areas pass arterial roads serving heavy industries. The fact that the Treasurer has indicated in his second-reading speech that the Government will look at this matter when the present agreement expires gives great comfort to me and, I think, to other honorable members who have been doing their best to have the allocation of funds for road maintenance improved. If this bill is an indication cf Government thinking it means that the Government is prepared to increase allocations for road maintenance, and that is a step in the right direction. I think we ought to have more of that kind of thing. I believe, as I said before, that we are now turning towards giving more serious consideration to this very important problem in a way which, I think, will help considerably in the improvement of this country’s economy as a result of a better developed road system.
.- The bill provides an additional £3,000,000 for the States this year, and the same amount next year, from the proceeds of the tax of ls. a gallon on automotive diesel fuel and will, I am sure, have the support of every honorable member. The acceptance by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) of the principle of paying the entire proceeds of the diesel fuel tax to the States for road purposes is a very valuable forward step which this House should note and seek to be taken with respect to other tax collections from road users. I offer my congratulations to the Treasurer for this forward move. I can only hope that from this start the principle will be extended eventually to the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, and that from that point onwards we will be able to accept certain definite principles. The first of those is that there should be no diversion to other purposes of funds collected from road users. I also suggest that a national plan for roads throughout the Commonwealth is necessary. I want to say further at this stage that this is a question with which the honorable members should deal on a national, and not a State, level. We come to this place to represent Australians, to represent constituencies throughout Australia, to speak for people who are Australians whether they be in Queensland, Western Australia or any other State. I say, too, that the great undeveloped areas of Australia deserve the support of the more populous areas, just as the districts surrounding big country towns deserve the support of those towns because the towns depend on the people in the surrounding country for the wealth and strength of their civic and social life. The heavily populated centres of Australia could not exist if it were not for the fact that there are vast areas in this country which produce wealth in abundance. Those areas may be under-developed but, nevertheless, they play a most significant part in the economic structure of the nation. If we are to ignore the necessity for providing adequate roads for the whole of Australia we are becoming indeed very small. We are becoming pigmy Australians unworthy of our responsibilities here. I only hope that we will never again hear in this place complaints about what is happening in some particular State in respect of roads.
It is true that at this juncture the formula is not being considered in connection with the distribution of the proceeds of the diesel fuel tax. There is, of course, nothing to stop honorable members from addressing themselves to this matter and expressing their opinions about what should or should not be done, because this is “ a bill for an act to grant further financial assistance to the States in connexion with roads, and for other purposes “, but my brief remarks will be directed mainly to expressing the view that there should be no diversion of money that is collected for road purposes. I wish to make it thoroughly and abundantly clear, when I say that, that my remarks are addressed just as much to State authorities which collect motor vehicles registration fees, fees for issuing driving licences, and the various other taxes levied on road-users, as they are to this Government. Having offered congratulations to the Treasurer and the Government on the forward step represented by this legislation, I trust that the principle of “ no diversion of roads moneys “ will be adopted throughout the Commonwealth.
With regard to the formula, to which I have already referred, I think there is no doubt that the real problem is not how the money that we are receiving to-day ought to be spent, but whether we have enough money to do the job that needs to be done I know that the Minister for Local Government and Works in New South Wales, n> a plan that he submitted recently, suggested that it was necessary to spend £225,000,000 over a period of fifteen years on road construction and reconstruction in that State. Of course, that is only a relatively small matter. I suggest that we should put first things first. How can we enlarge our field of vision in relation to roads if the money that is collected for roads at present is not being spent on roads? I prefer to survey the Australian scene as a whole, and I suggest that that is the way in which the matter should be examined by this House.
I like to think that a positive plan will be adopted and that steps will be taken to fix a standard for our roads. As it is, we find that there are varying standards throughout Australia; that certain States have a particular standard for their roads and that other States have a standard that is somewhat lower. If we could plan a national roads programme, which would have regard to the whole of the needs of Australia, starting, as it were, with the grass roots, the local authority areas, and extending to cover the States and the Commonwealth, I think it would be well worth while. A national roads programme must go beyond the conception of well-planned highways from capital city to capital city. To be truly national, it must include all requirements. I believe that a carefully planned and integrated system of road construction would provide a basis for the smooth running of the vehicles which are necessary to our economic and social life. One cannot hazard a guess at what would be saved in terms of man-hours, or the degree to which production, especially rural production, would be stimulated, if the type of roads which are so urgently needed in Australia at present were constructed.
Local government bodies, and also the various State road authorities, have made a significant contribution to the essentia] planning of such a system, but the real difficulty is concerned, not so much with a national plan, as with the provision of sufficient money to carry out any kind of plan. The most logical thing would be for the entire proceeds of the petrol tax and Ihe tax on diesel fuel to be made available for road construction. Similarly, in the States, the entire proceeds of the registration of motor vehicles and the issuing of driving licences should be made available. I say to my good friends in local government that they have a responsibility not to weaken on this matter merely because the National Parliament of Australia is taking a few additional steps towards a proper scheme for the Commonwealth as a whole. I make it clear that I believe that the whole of the roads require attention and that that attention should be on a national pattern. I think that the roads should be considered as a whole, because it would be useless and idle to have the best possible express highways, or speedways, between Sydney and Melbourne, Melbourne and Adelaide, and Sydney and Brisbane, if the roads leading to the hinterland, to the areas of primary production, were neglected, and if the bridges that were required over our mountain streams were not built. All of those things are important. I believe that we could really deal with this question if we had a proper conception of national roads.
The approach of this Government to the matter of a national roads policy is lacking in planning and purpose. This is the first time, to my mind, that the Government has really come forward with assistance in the form of a sum of money somewhat in keeping with the sums that the taxpayers have provided by way of petrol tax. As I have indicated, all the authorities concerned must play their part and accept their responsibilities if the necessary funds are to be provided. The principle of “ no diversion of taxes “ ought to be taken up by the people of Australia, just as it has been adopted by the road-users of the United States. I have in front of me a number of publications which have been issued in the United States dealing with this very important matter of the provision of good roads, and I think that further consideration ought to be given to this subject at a later time, so that a full appreciation of the work that is being carried on in other lands might be gained by honorable members.
The American Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 is worthy of consideration by the House. On examining the act, I find that its provisions are most stimulating and encouraging. In many ways, it provides a pattern for the type of legislation which could be enacted in Australia to give us the roads about which we all talk and dream, and which we all want, but in respect of which no definite, practical steps are taken. I find that, in America, it is a case of “ no diversion “. The entire proceeds of taxes on road users are dedicated to roads and are put into a trust fund expressly for the construction and maintenance of roads. The funds are divided into (A), (B) and (C) categories, with 45 per cent, being allocated for projects on the federal-aid primary highway system, 30 per cent, for projects on the federal-aid secondary highway system, and 25 per cent, for projects on extensions of these systems within urban areas. That is the kind of pattern that ought to be adopted in Australia.
The act contains other sections dealing with funds over and above those which come from road users, and it provides for the manner in which they shall be applied. It refers, too, to roads and trails in national parks, to public lands highways, and to special provisions for federal domain roads. I am certain that all of those sections would be of considerable interest to honorable members. I sincerely trust that mature consideration will be given to the American legislation. I believe that the people of Australia, given the opportunity, would not be lacking in the spirit which the Americans have displayed in regard to their roads legislation. I think that if the Australian people were asked to vote on the question - “ Do you believe in the entire proceeds of the petrol tax and the tax on diesel fuel, together with the proceeds from registrations, licence-fees, and so on, being devoted to road purposes exclusively and banked in a trust account” - they, like the people of the United States, would vote in the affirmative. I have in my hand a booklet entitled “ Good Roads Amendments “, containing the texts of constitutional provisions safeguarding highway revenues, issued by the National Highway Users Conference in Washington. It sets out amendments of the type which have been adopted in the United States of America. In each instance, to achieve this end it was necessary for referendums to be held in the various States, and in every case where these proposals were submitted to the people they were carried by an overwhelming majority. For example, in Alabama 215,000 voted in favour and over 105,000 against. All of these amendments which have been accepted are conclusive and clear and they are worthy of the consideration of this Parliament. 1 ask honorable members to recall that on another occasion the honorable member for Batman very rightly stated in this House that when roads policy was first determined in this country the Federal Aid Roads Agreement was made in 1926. 1 have a copy of the relevant act in my hand. At that time it was determined that a federal aid roads trust account should be established to receive money that would be collected by way of petrol tax for the purpose of building good roads. I suggest again to the House that the proposals that have been adopted in other countries are worthy of our consideration. T have many more examples here, and I can only hope that honorable members will give them some attention. 1 wish to deal with one or two pertinent local matters affecting Australia. I have given evidence of what is taking place in other parts of the world, but I received information from the Treasurer, only this afternoon, concerning the amounts collected in petrol tax from the taxpayers and road users of Australia and also the amount of money which has been allocated for road purposes. The figures show that from 1952-53 to the present year, £174,462,000 has been collected of which £110,823,000 has been paid to the various States for road purposes, leaving with the Commonwealth a balance of £63,639,000, which belongs not to it but to the roads of this country. The Government should take to heart the urgency of our roads problem and spend the balance of that money on road repair and construction. It should not wait until the present agreement expires in 1959.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is the provision of funds for strategic roads. The Director of Civil Defence in New South Wales, Major-General Dougherty, has made strong criticism of the failure of the Commonwealth to provide money for defence roads. The urgency of doing this must be appreciated by all. One cannot consider the question of civil defence without thinking of the urgency of providing better roads in our country. During the war the military leaders were most active in searching for new roads through the Blue Mountains in case an invader should apply a scorched earth policy. They wanted to find means of taking stock and goods from the seaboard over the mountains, but there was only one road in existence which could be used for that purpose. Mr. Eugene Black, of the World Bank, has suggested that not only the money collected by way of petrol tax but also some part of the defence vote ought to be spent on better roads and works of that kind. Strategic roads are of the utmost importance.
The Treasurer, in his reply to my question gave figures showing the amounts spent on strategic roads, and on other roads serving, or likely to serve Commonwealth purposes. Those figures show that of the funds allocated for defence roads, the sum of £722,000 remains unexpended. I should like to know from the Minister for Defence why that money is not being spent on urgently needed strategic roads. Recently I asked the Minister whether he had seen the report of a statement by Major-General Dougherty in regard to this matter, and he said that he had not seen it. I should like to know now whether he has since seen it. Also I ask him: Who is responsible for the failure to spend this money? Is it the Minister or is it the defence chiefs - the military leaders of this country? Surely, they cannot be so complacent as to think that we do not need strategic roads in Australia. These are an urgent necessity and there should not be so large a sum as £722,000 remaining unexpended in the fund for strategic roads. The country is sorely in need of strategic roads, and at the present time many unemployed are languishing who could be usefully employed on road construction. These roads should be built as a national necessity.
I have referred to this matter in the past. I again ask honorable members to think of the desperate situation in which we would be placed if even one bomb - nuclear or any other kind - were to be dropped on any of our capital cities such as Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane or on any other big city or town. On Sunday afternoons we see so many motor vehicles approaching and leaving our cities that they are forced to travel bumper bar to bumper bar. How could that traffic escape in the event of attack? I earnestly suggest to the Minister for Defence and to honorable members that we all have a responsibility not to trifle with this subject but to demand that the Government should get on with the job and spend the money it has available to provide strategic roads for civil defence as well as other roads that are so urgently needed.
.- In the few minutes at my disposal I wish to deal with one or two salient points raised in this debate and to rebut one or two statements which I believe were incorrect. I wish to be definite in what I have to say because I have only ten minutes in which to speak. I have not heard one honorable member say whether he is satisfied with the schedule to the bill which sets out how the money will be allocated. I want to say, definitely, that I am satisfied with it. I believe that it is in the best interest of all and will give a fair deal. I have spoken on many occasions in this House on the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. I do not think I am extravagant in claiming that during the last eleven years I have spoken about it in the Parliament more often than any other member. I have always advocated that we should have a fair formula. It has been said by honorable members, I think on both sides of the House, that I have advocated that all the money collected in petrol tax in Victoria should be spent in Victoria. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have always said that all I want is a fair deal.
– What is a fair deal?
– I will tell the honorable member. I believe that the principle on which this £3,000,000 will be allocated represents a fair deal. What is the position with regard to the formula? How is it brought about? First of all, it is agreed to at the Premiers conference. Once every five years, at that conference, a decision is made to continue the formula for a further five-year period. How do the Premiers react to this decision? The only Premier who thinks he is getting an unfair deal is the Premier of Victoria, irrespective of whether he represents the Australian Country party, the Liberal party or the Labour party. He always gets the same treatment; he is outvoted. On one occasion some bright soul suggested, “ Why not leave the formula to the House of Representatives? “ Of course, the matter has to be finally settled by this House. The Premiers conference makes a recommendation and this Parliament has to translate that recommendation into legislation. How is that legislation dealt with? In this House we have members from all the States, and this is about the only subject on which they vote together on State lines, forget their party strifes and even their various party political creeds. They vote together on State lines simply because they know that self-preservation is still the first law of the universe. If a representative from Western Australia voted to change the formula, he would know that he would lose his seat in this Parliament as a result.
I want to rebut one or two arguments that have been put forward in this debate. The reason that the allocation of the sum of £3,000,000 to the various States is so good is that it has not been made by the people who will participate in it. It has not been made by people who are affected by strong State parochialism. It has been made by an independent body the like of which I have advocated ever since I came into this Parliament. An independent body has never before been assigned to this purpose. The State Premiers and the members of the Parliament are steeped in parochialism. What chance have they of making a just decision on the matter? No chance whatever.
It has been said that it is a great thing to know when to take advantage of an opportunity but it is also said that it is a greater thing to know when to forego an advantage. Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, did you notice the Western Australian members foregoing an advantage? The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) said, “ I am quite happy about the allocation to Victoria in the present bill “. He did not try to push the advantage that Western Australia receives under the general formula of the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. Did you notice that the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) also did not try to push his advantage? It was a very shrewd move and I give those members full marks for it. It is a good thing to know when to forego an advantage. They said that they were quite happy that Victoria should have this money. But they said it in order that they might also say, “ Thus far and no further. Do not touch the formula “.
The money to be allocated under this bill is only intended to cover a period of two years. That is because the term of the Federal Aid Roads Agreement ends at the end of 1959. At that time, if the diesel fuel tax is continued, it will be levied under the general act. I believe that this allocation of £3,000,000 constitutes a recognition of the advocacy of certain members in this House over the years. On a number of occasions, including the debate on the Budget, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has stated, as he stated to-night, that the Government should reduce taxes and increase pensions. He has stated that the Government should give more money and take less. I would say to the Labour party, “ Never have him as a Treasurer or you will be bankrupt in three months “. He never says where the money is to come from although he proposes to give a lot away.
He is not like the man whom he calls his great predecessor, the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley. When I moved the adjournment of this House in order to have a little more money from the petrol tax applied to road construction and maintenance, Mr. Chifley said, “ There is no reason for saying that all the petrol tax money should be expended on roads than there is for saying that all the money collected from excise on beer should go to the building of hotels “. There are the two points of view. Which is right? The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said that the Chifley Government had not allocated the whole of the petrol tax for expenditure on roads. That was an understatement. In the financial year 1945-46 the Labour Government collected £12,192,000 in petrol tax. From that amount it paid to the States £3,328,000 and retained £8,864,000 in Consolidated Revenue. Therefore, Labour paid to the States just over a quarter of the proceeds of the petrol tax and retained just under three-quarters. In the financial year 1954-55, this Government collected £32,038,000 in petrol tax and paid to the States £24,242,000, retaining £8,796,000. Therefore this Government reversed
Labour’s procedure. It paid three-quarters of the petrol tax to the States and retained a quarter.
In the financial year 1945-46 the Labour Government retained £8,864,000. In 1954-55 this Government retained £8,796,000 or only £68,000 less than Labour retained in 1945-46, despite the fact that, in the meantime, collections had increased by £20,846,000. Although the honorable member for Batman has always been very vocal in claiming that more money should be allocated from petrol tax for expenditure on roads, when I moved in this House recently for a small additional amount of money to be given to Victoria, all his colleagues voted against it. I am sorry to say that the honorable member for Batman was absent.
– I was sick.
– I would like him to tell me whether he would have voted for my amendment if he had been here. Of course he would not have voted for it because the Labour machine would have crushed him if he had.
– Tell us about the Calder Highway.
– A man said to me the other day, “It is not a highway; it is only called a highway “. But, of course, that is only a play on words.
When the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) was speaking and I asked him, by interjection, whether he did not consider that some of this money should be spent in the Mallee he said that heavy diesel-driven transport used roads in other electorates much more than they used those in the Mallee. What about the Calder Highway? Any one who travels on that road will meet large transports at frequent intervals. The road from Pinnaroo to Ouyen, through Murrayville, down through Sea Lake, and also the Murray Valley Highway, all carry big transports. I support this measure. From now until 1959 when the whole formula will be revised honorable members may depend on it that I will advocate a better formula for the principal Commonwealth Aid Roads Act.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) proposed: -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I feel that I should direct the attention of the House to the need, which I believe exists, for some safeguards or protection for Australian employees of diplomatic missions or embassies in this city or in other parts of Australia. Let me assure the House at the outset that what I have to say will be by no means an attack on the system of diplomatic immunity. I believe that that system must exist and must be reciprocal between the various countries. It may be that some limit should be placed on the extent to which diplomatic immunity or privilege is applied.
During recent months and years several cases have been brought to my notice concerning Australian employees of embassies or diplomatic missions who have suffered grievous loss and hardship because, having sustained injury or illness while at their employment, they have found themselves not covered by workers’ compensation. In September of this year I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in this House whether he would consider initiating discussions between officers of the Department of External Affairs and the heads of diplomatic missions in Canberra with a view to securing an agreement under which members of the staffs of diplomatic missions here employing labour, in a domestic, household or other capacity, would undertake to pay award wages to, and provide award conditions for, those employees. I also asked the Prime Minister whether he would seek an undertaking that all employees of the staffs of diplomatic missions in Canberra would be covered by insurance under the workers’ compensation ordinance. I assured the Prime Minister that at present these provisions did not apply and that cases of real hardship had occurred which, I believe, could be obviated with goodwill on both sides. In October the Prime Minister gave me a written reply, in which he stated: -
The Australian Government has no power to interfere in the domestic arrangements of diplomatic missions, many of which employ their own nationals or nationals of countries other than
Australia. However, missions which have approached the Department of External Affairs on the subject have been told of Australian award conditions and the department has brought to their notice the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Ordinance. It is my understanding that a number of diplomatic missions do, in fact, cover their employees under this ordinance.
That statement, I believe, was a very proper one and also, of course, it is true. So far as diplomatic missions are concerned, workers’ compensation policies have been taken out to cover the staffs employed at the embassies or at the diplomatic offices. However, the cases that have been brought to my notice are those of employees of members of diplomatic staffs resident in Canberra and employing Australians at their homes in various capacities. I do not propose to detail many of the cases, but I shall refer to one which has received some publicity in recent days. It is the case of a woman who came to Australia with a member of the staff of the United Kingdom High Commissioner and was employed in the capacity of nurse to the children of that family. In June last year, while engaged in her duties and as a result of some action taken by the child of the house, she suffered a fall which resulted in very severe injury to her spine. It was necessary for her to receive hospital treatment here and subsequently to travel to Sydney for specialist treatment involving considerable expense, as well as the expense incurred in hotel accommodation. Subsequently, she had to spend a very considerable period in hospital in Sydney.
When the treatment had been partially undertaken and she was encased in a steel brace or a plaster cast, she returned to her employment. During that period, when rising hurriedly one night to attend to the child, she suffered a further injury. She was then compelled to remain in hospital in Sydney for some four months. During the course of that time, while still in hospital, she received a letter from her employer stating that he was invoking the “ breach “ clause of their agreement and giving her notice of the termination of her services. Her employment had been at the rate of £5 sterling a week plus keep, which is considerably below the ruling rate for similar employment in Australia, which is £8 a week plus keep. However, the letter to this woman terminating her employment is in these terms -
The plain fact is that the only reason why any of us came to Australia at all was to do a job of work for the C.R.O. As you know we really can’t do justice to that job without a full time able-bodied Nanny, we would never have engaged you otherwise.
Subsequently the letter stated -
I haM; therefore decided to invoke the break clause in > our contract and to terminate your engagement. The contract of course provides for a month’s notice, though in the circumstances I would propose to offer you your pay up to the end of June.
The employer also offered to provide this woman with a passage back to England. The statement of the spokesman of the High Commissioner’s office has repeatedly appeared in the newspaper to the effect that this woman is a British subject and should return to England where she can receive benefits under the National Health Scheme. In point of fact she has not lived in England for twelve years and has never paid into the scheme. She was engaged in Sweden and came direct from there to Australia to take up this appointment. She has no desire to return to England. She has frequently made known her intention of remaining in Australia, and has in fact enrolled in my electorate. As a result of the failure of her employer to take out workers’ compensation, this woman has suffered a very grievous loss not only in respect of the expense involved in travelling to Sydney and staying at hotels while she received specialist treatment but also in respect of her hospital account which amounts to £208. In addition, she has received advice from her doctor that he can give her no assurance of a cure. It may follow, therefore, that for the rest of her life she will be compelled to wear either a metal brace or a plaster cast to maintain her injured spine in place.
I believe that every Australian engaged by diplomatic missions here should be afforded the protection that is given to every other employee of every other employer in Australia, namely, the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act, to obviate the likelihood of a case occurring similar to the one I am now mentioning. It is true that no case could lie against the employer in this instance because of the diplomatic immunity that exists. The statement has been made that that diplomatic immunity will not be waived to allow the woman to sue to recover any damages at all. I believe it may be beyond the power of the Government to do anything in this instance, but the Commonwealth Relations Office or the United Kingdom High Commissioner himself, should, in the interests of goodwill, see that this woman is reimbursed for the very grievous suffering and the considerable expense she has incurred.
For those reasons I bring the case to the notice of this House. Some reference has also been made to the death of a doorman who was employed at the United Kingdom High Commissioner’s Office. While the widow in that case has received no compensation, I inform the House that the United Kingdom High Commissioners Office did everything that was proper and right and had the employee covered by workers’ compensation. I believe that the weaknesses illustrated in our relations with the diplomatic missions should be rectified so that the woman to whom I previously referred may be compensated, and others may not be placed in a similar position.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to refer to what 1 regard as a very serious situation. Repeatedly, we have been told in this House that Australia is exceedingly short of American dollars, so short in fact that when the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) proceeded overseas recently he was compelled to return empty-handed and the Government was forced to change its previously announced defence plan because we were unable to provide the necessary dollars to secure what is known as the F.104 Starfighter. When I read in the daily press the other day the report of an interview with people who had been tripping overseas wasting dollars, it occurred to me that this was rather an unusual situation - a Government on one hand being forced to change its defence plans because of a lack of dollars, and dollars evidently being made freely available for all sort of purposes for holiday trippers overseas. The report, from which 1 briefly quote, appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, of 19th November, 1957, and relates to an interview by a representative of that newspaper with Mr. and Mrs.
Ian Jacoby, of Vaucluse, upon their return from overseas after a three of four months’ world trip. It reads -
America impressed Mrs. Jacoby as a dog’s world. “ The petshops in America are fantastic “ she said. “ You can buy little rubber pants, guaranteed damp-proof, for puppies. There are perfumes for dogs, “ Scentsation “, “ Kennel Number 5 “ and “ Petunia “, mink trimmed coats and even hats. Sacks of 5th Avenue has a pet corner where there are jewel collars costing 40 or 50 dollars. It is quite fashionable “ said Mrs. Jacoby, “for a woman to have her dog’s outfit made to match her own. Monkey-skin collars are very popular for the bigger dog. I brought back a gold jewel collar for my French poodle Pepe “.
– Why not some rubber pants?
– As a matter of fact, that was mentioned to me in a discussion I had with the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who said, “Besides getting Pepe a collar, why did she not get him some of the rubber pants that are provided for puppies? “ I am given to understand that, in buying this dog’s collar for Pepe hundreds of urgently needed dollars were wasted. I do not mind honorable members laughing, but this is a very serious matter. It appears that Mr. Ian Jacoby, if honorable members are unaware of it. is the principal of Custom Credit Corporation Limited. Custom Credit Corporation Limited has an association with the National Bank of Australia, which holds 40 per cent, of the share capital. Evidently, when asking for dollars to be made available, if you know the right people you can get them; the purpose for which they are required does not matter.
Repeatedly in this Parliament recently, member after member has deplored the apparent superiority of the Russians in the scientific world. Is it any wonder that they are gaining superiority in the scientific world when the leaders of the nation - these people who are supposed to be guiding our national financial affairs - have a mentality such as that displayed by these people when they were interviewed on their return to this country? AH that they could say about the great American nation was that it had apparently become a dogs’ world. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) should tell us how holiday-makers on an overseas trip extending over three or four months can find some hundreds of dollars, urgently needed for Australia’s defence programme, to buy a jewelled dogs collar for Pepe. I am not satisfied with the existing situation and I am appalled at the prospects of what we term the western world and the free nations if this type of tripe is to be dished out through our daily press by people when they return from overseas jaunts.
As I have already said, I do not mind honorable members laughing, but this is a serious matter. I hope that the Government, and particularly the Treasurer, will explain what has happened, how these people are able to get these urgently needed dollars and how they are able to waste them overseas on the type of purchase that I have indicated. This matter is serious enough to warrant the attention of the Government and I hope an explanation will be forthcoming from the Treasurer.
.- I desire to bring before the House an aspect of censorship which, to date, has not been adequately stressed. As a review is now being carried out by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), I feel that the time is appropriate to place this aspect before the Government for consideration.
Some time ago I asked a question on notice regarding the banning of a book and a film. I shall deal first with the book, which is “ The Dollar and the Vatican “, by Avro Manhattan. Two hundred and ten copies of this book were held in customs pending investigation. Mr. Sheppard of Morgan’s Book Shop in Sydney has authorized me to use the information which I shall now give. He had 210 copies of this book held in customs for six weeks from last September. Several approaches were made to the customs officer concerned, and he was informed that the book would be referred to the Collector. On 25th September, Mr. Sheppard saw the Collector, who said that he had read the book and added, “ I can see nothing wrong with it, but because the Roman Catholic Church might find objections, I will refer it to the Comptroller-General in Canberra before I release it “. This was done and the book was subsequently released. This action was taken only after the book had been circulating for nine or twelve months.
The aspect that I want to place before the Government is that the censorship of such books, whether on political, religious or other grounds not intended originally by the censorship regulations, has the effect of establishing an unofficial religious censorship by booksellers. A bookseller will not import a book, no matter how commendable it may be, if he thinks it will have trouble with the customs officers. Naturally, he does not want a valuable consignment of books tied up in the customs office while he enters into protracted negotiations with customs officials for their release - and he could not be sure that he would get a release. The aspect I place before the Government is this censorship by nuisance tactics created by the Customs Department. The motives of customs officials may be laudable; I do not question their motives, but I do question the legality of the action that is being taken with these books, which is tantamount to religious censorship.
The second matter that offends against the censorship regulations, in my opinion, concerns a film which was recently banned. Regulation 14 of the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations provides -
No film shall be registered, which in the opinion of the Board and the Appeal Censor- -
is blasphemous, indecent or obscene
is likely to be injurious to morality or to encourage or incite to crime
is likely to be offensive to friendly nations
is likely to be offensive to the people of the British Empire
depicts any matter, the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interest.
I refer specifically to the imposition of something that was never contemplated by the Constitution, and that is a direct exercise of religious censorship. I make these statements conscientiously believing that they apply to the Protestant religion at this stage. I would be prepared to make similar statements to defend any man’s religion and, for that matter, to defend a person’s freedom not to worship. The freedom to worship must be maintained. That is set out in section 116 of the Constitution, which provides -
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, . . .
I believe that this aspect of censorship should be aired, no matter what religion is involved. The matter to which I refer has been placed before the Minister, and I shall read his own statement. The film is “ Shadow over Italy “. It was imported by the Gospel Film Ministry Limited for exhibition to Protestant audiences only, and depicted matter affecting the Protestant religion. It was banned. An appeal was lodged, and a letter, written to the appellant, was in the following terms: -
On 6th May 1957, the Chief Film Censor wrote: “ I wish to advise that your Appeal against the rejection of the above film was held by the Appeal Censor on 30th April 1957. A representative from your Sydney office was present.
The decision of the Appeal Censor is as follows:
I agree with the Chief Censor’s notes on this film. Much of the commentary could only raise the ugly head of sectarianism and give offence to a very large number of good and loyal Roman Catholic members of the community. Subject to deletion of all words within brackets in the attached script, the film may be registered. Otherwise, Appeal disallowed and deposit to be retained.’.”
That letter was signed by Mr. C. J. Campbell, Chief Censor. Most of the film script is censored. Indeed, I would say that 85 per cent, of it is censored. I have not seen the film and I have not read through the script, though I stress again that it was only for exhibition to Protestant audiences. Without commenting on the rights or wrongs of that particular script, it does not appeal to me personally. That is no reason why the principle of censorship should be invoked to introduce what is, in effect, religious censorship. The Minister for Customs and Excise said in a letter on the 22nd May, 1957-
When I have had the opportunity of fully examining your submissions on the matter and the Appeal Censor’s recommended deletions, I will furnish you with a further reply.
That letter was addressed to the federal director of the Gospel Film Ministry Limited. The contents of the chief censor’s letter of 6th May, imposing the religious ban, are confirmed in the Minister’s further letter of the 14th June. I think that the Minister, in his wisdom or otherwise, whose motive I have no desire to question, should reconsider this form of censorship. It is totally undesirable and I am sure that our Roman Catholic friends will agree that such censorship is undesirable as it could be used against either side or both sides. It could be used against other religious sects and in accordance with the Constitution it should be thoroughly avoided at all costs as being unconstitutional.
We want to preserve our freedom of religious worship and our freedom not to worship. We also want to preserve our political freedom. However commendable - or otherwise - the motive may be, we have no desire to see censorship used in a way that will derogate from those freedoms. If a film or a book such as the one I have mentioned had been written in Australia by an Australian, and produced in Australia, it would not have been subject to the same censorship. It could have been subject to censorship by the States. The best way to deal with this type of literature, from the point of view of censorship, is to leave it to the States and to the good sense of the importing bookseller, who will not import something that in the final analysis he knows he will toe unable to sell. He may have a demand for pornographic literature for a time. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is in possession of a book that could not have been allowed into the country. It is far worse than many others that have been banned.
– How did he get it?
– That matter will be brought up later. I ask the Government to bear this in mind and see that this type of religious censorship is not exercised in contravention of the Constitution.
– I rise in respect of the matter raised by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). I have heard of the case referred to by the honorable member, but I am by no means aware of all the facts. However, I shall go into the matter and so far as it affects my departmental responsibility, that is in respect of diplomatic privilege, I shall advise the honorable member as soon as I become aware of the facts surrounding this case.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
i asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
olt asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Payments of compensation made under the provisions of the National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations are subject to regulation 59 which provides for secrecy as regards information disclosed by the applicant for compensation. The view has always been taken that these secrecy provisions apply also to the amounts assessed and paid to each individual claimant. I am not, therefore, at liberty to supply the information requested by the honorable member.
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice: -
What types of deductions are included in the table on page 65 of the Thirty-fifth Report of the column headed “ Total Deductions “ shown in the Commissioner of Taxation in respect of the following grades of actual income: - (a) £20,001- £30,000, 451 taxpayers, total deductions, £384,333; (b) £30,001 -£50,000, 185 taxpayers, total deductions, £309,185; (c) £50,001 and over, 57 taxpayers, total deductions, £269,449?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The types of deductions referred to by the honorable member are set out in detail in the explanatory notes on pages 57 and 58 of the Thirty-fifth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation. “ Total Deductions “ consist of rates and taxes on non-income producing property; gifts to specified institutions; one-third of the amount of calls paid to mining companies; livingawayfromhome allowance; subscriptions to trade, business, or professional associations; expenditure on scientific research; election expenses of a candidate for Parliament; expenditure on land used for primary production; expenditure on wire and wire-netting; allowances to residents of isolated areas, viz., Zone A and Zone B; allowances to members of the Defence Forces serving overseas; losses incurred during previous seven years; concessional deductions for spouse, daughter-housekeeper, children under sixteen years of age, student children and invalid relatives; parents of taxpayer; housekeeper; medical, dental expenses, etc.; funeral expenses; life assurance premiums; education expenses; certain amounts allowable to lessees.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The estimated cost of collection is not calculated in respect of returns falling within grades of income. The cost of collection of income tax is related to the type of income derived and not to the amount of that income. Returns are sorted for processing into the following six categories: -
The estimated cost of collection in respect of each type of return for the year ended 30th June, 1955, was as follows: -
The numbers of taxpayers in the grades of actual income in question fall predominantly in category F. The average cost of collection per assessment for the 2,395,000 assessments processed in that category is 15s. 4d., but separate costs are not kept for each grade of income within that category. As a general rule, the cost of collection is higher in the higher income grades and lower in the lower grades.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) The total amount of net tax assessed to all resident individual taxpayers for the 1954-55 income year, the latest year for which statistics are available, was £314,733,930. (b) In order to state precisely the amount of net tax that would have been assessed if concessional deductions for dependants had not been allowed, it would be necessary to make over 1,500,000 hypothetical assessments. However, on the basis of available statistics, it is estimated that for the income year 1954-55, the total of net tax assessed would have been increased by approximately £30,000,000 if concessional deductions for spouses, parents, daughter-housekeepers, &c, had not been allowed, and by an additional £25,000,000 if concessional deductions for children, invalid relatives, and student children had not been allowed.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of money has been granted to each State Government specifically for water supply schemes during the five-year period ended on the 30th June, 1957?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
During the five years ended 30th June, 1957, the Commonwealth contributed directly towards the cost of only one water supply scheme being constructed by a State. That is the comprehensive water supply scheme in Western Australia and Commonwealth payments towards the cost of that scheme were £2,067,000 during the period mentioned. The payments were made to the State in accordance with the Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Act, which came into operation in 1948.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the (a) number of companies, (b) amount of their taxable income and (c) amount of their net tax, in the following grades of income: -
£1-£5.000, £5,001-£10,000, £10,001 -£20,000, £20,00 1-£50,000, £50,001 -£100,000, £100,001- £150,000, £150,001-£200,000, £200,001-£250,000, £250,001 -£300,000, £300,001-£350,000, £350-001- £400,000, £400,001-£450,000, £450,00 1-£500,000, £500,001 -£550.000, £550,001-£600,000, £600,001- £700,000, £700,00 1-£800,000, £800,001-£900,000, £900,00 1-£ 1 , 000,000, £ 1 , 000,00 1 -£ 1 , 500,000, £1,500,001-£2,000,000, £2,000,00 1-£3,000,000, £3,000,001-£4,000,000, £4,000,001-£5,000,000,
£5,000,001 and over?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Statistics extracted from returns of income of companies are not classified in all the grades of income specified by the honorable member. For the income year 1954-55, the latest year for which statistics are available, the grades of taxable in- come by which statistics are tabulated and the numbers of companies, the amounts of taxable income and the amounts of net tax in those grades are shown in the following table: -
z asked the Minister for Terri tories, upon notice -
Have arrangements been agreed to for the transfer of the administration of Christmas Island to Australia from Singapore?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
On 7th June, 1957, the Minister for External Affairs announced that Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, was to be placed under the authority of the Australian Government. This island has hitherto been under the authority of the United Kingdom and, for administrative convenience has hitherto been administered from Singapore. The formal measures required to make the transfer are the making of an Order in Council in the United Kingdom and the passing of an act by the United Kingdom Parliament; and the passing of a Request and Consent Act and an Acceptance Act by this Parliament followed by the making of another Order in Council in the United Kingdom. These measures are now in train and it is expected that the Australian legislation will be introduced in the present period of sitting of this Parliament. In the meantime discussions are taking place for the interim arrangements for the administration of the island pending completion of the transfer. Christmas Island has no indigenous inhabitants and the only activity on the island is that carried out by the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission, which is jointly owned by Australia and New Zealand.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: -
These operating profits have been calculated before provision for depreciation of the dredge or other fixed assets which are worth some £56,000.
Linemen’s Training School at Doncaster. Mr. Ward asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact that a property was acquired by the Commonwealth in the district of Doncaster, Victoria, for the purpose of establishing a linemen’s training school?
If so, (a) when was the property acquired; (b) from whom was it purchased; (c) what was the price paid; (d) is any income being received from it at present; if so, what are the details; and (e) when is it proposed to proceed with the construction of the linemen’s training school?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19571120_reps_22_hor17/>.