22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to direct the attention of the right honorable Minister for External Affairs to the serious situation which confronts a British dependency, Malta, where, I believe, an initiative by Australia and the Australian Government might produce satisfactory results and the easing of a serious crisis - a result which would certainly be of benefit to the Commonwealth as a whole and to the people of Malta, who displayed such special and superb courage in the war that they received the unique honour of being decorated, as a people, by His late Majesty, King George VI., with the George Cross. In asking the Minister to intervene, if possible, or at least to examine the possibility of intervention by using our good offices in both the United Kingdom and Malta, I am acting partly at the instance of spokesmen in Australia of a large number of citizens of Malta who are now becoming citizens of this country. I would ask the right honorable gentleman to give this matter special attention. I assure him that if he does so we on this side of the House will support every attempt to bring the crisis in Malta to an end on a basis of continuing membership of the Commonwealth by Malta, and on a basis of justice to its people as well as to the people of the United Kingdom.
– I have been personally interested in Malta for a very long time in that it lies in the area for which I had some degree of responsibility for more than two years in the middle of the last war, and because I have myself seen the tremendous devastation that Malta, particularly Valetta, suffered as a result of bombing in the war years. After the war Malta’s part was recognized, as the right honorable gentleman has said, by the award of the George Cross to the island and its people, and also in a perhaps more practical fashion by an outright gift of £10,000,000 from the United Kingdom, as a gesture, towards the repair of war-time devastation in Malta. As I understand it, in the years since then, there have been substantial subventions by the United Kingdom to Malta. I speak from memory in respect of the figures when I say I believe that the year before last Great Britain gave £6,000,000 to Malta for development plus, I think, an additional £1,000,000 for social services. In the last year, the amount was reduced from £6,000,000 to £5,000,000, and I think that the amount of £1,000,000 for social services was continued. I think it was as a result of the reduction of the subvention to £5,000,000 that Mr. Mintoff, ex-Prime Minister of Malta, resigned. He refused the £5,000,000. The population of Malta is between 300,000 and 400,000, so I think that the bounty of the United Kingdom has been very considerable, indeed. In addition, there was the gesture of the offer to integrate Malta, politically, with the United Kingdom, so that Malta would send members to the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster. On this and, I think, other relatively minor points of friction, Mr. Mintoff recently resigned. I would think that the United Kingdom had shown, by its actions over the years, its great appreciation of the heroism and the fortitude of the Maltese people in their war-time sufferings, which included severe economic privations. I think that Great Britain has given sympathetic attention to the people of Malta. I do not speculate on the extent to which the present situation may have been created for political reasons. I do not know about that but, ostensibly, it came about because Malta was dissatisfied with the degree of bounty - considerable though I would like to believe it was - that the United Kingdom was offering. I appreciate the attitude of mind of the Leader of the Opposition. We have in Australia, I expect, some tens of thousands of Maltese who have come here by immigration over the years. They are an established and, I think, well integrated part of the Australian community. I think I am right in saying that the Australian Government has warm feelings towards the people of Malta, both by reason of their fortitude during the war and also because they have become, in appreciable numbers, good citizens of Australia in the period since. I find it difficult to believe that this situation cannot be worked out sympathetically and fairly between the Government of the United Kingdom, which has already shown its sympathy in a practical fashion, and the people of Malta. I cannot see how the Australian Government, if it had a mind to do so, could effectively inject itself into this issue. I believe that, as in other instances, that would not necessarily be appreciated by the two parties concerned - the United Kingdom, our Mother Country, on the one hand, and Malta on the other. If I could see any way in which we could affect this situation for the better - a situation which is much to be regretted - I would be perfectly willing to ask the Government to consider it, but I do not see any such way.
– The PostmasterGeneral will recollect that, recently, I made representations on behalf of the Geelong Junior Technical School Parents Association concerning the establishment of a techniciansintraining school in Geelong. The facts submitted concerning the necessity for such an establishment, because of the everincreasing demands of the most progressive provincial city in Australia, appeared to me to be worthy of favorable consideration. Therefore, can the Minister inform me whether any decision has been reached?
– Tt is true, as stated by the honorable member for Corio, that he brought to my notice the desirability of establishing a technicians-in-training school at Geelong. Some little time ago, the Postal Department decided to establish such schools in cities outside the main cities of Australia, and a start was made at Ballarat. As a result of the inquiries that I have made, following the honorable member’s representations, I find that the school at Ballarat has proved so successful that it is intended to extend this principle to other cities in Australia and to other centres in which the number of trainees warrants the establishment of such a school. In those centres it is intended to include Geelong. I cannot tell the honorable member exactly when the Geelong school will commence, because the date has not been finally determined, but I can assure him that provision is being made for trainees from Geelong to be trained near their homes pending the establishment of the school.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. Will the Minis ter indicate whether there is a prohibition against the entry into Australia of Turkish nationals who desire to visit this country as tourists, some of them for the purpose of visiting relatives? Would not the fact that Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization pact and the Baghdad pact provide the necessary assurances regarding the entry of Turkish nationals? If proof of the good faith of any such national, and of his bona fides as a genuine tourist, is required, would not the possession of a return passage voucher be sufficient proof?
– The honorable member’s question involves various matters of policy of some complexity, which are now under review. Therefore, I feel that it would be improper to say very much at this stage. However, I hasten to assure the honorable member that the Government appreciates very deeply the importance of Turkey as a bastion of the interests of the democratic powers in the Middle East, and is highly conscious of the goodwill that has developed between Australia and Turkey over the last twenty years or more. We are, of course, most desirous of developing all phases of tourism as a thriving Australian industry. The acceptance of a return passage voucher as a guarantee for the admission of tourists such as Turkish nationals - a suggestion that is superficially attractive - was formerly the practice of the Department of Immigration, but it did not work with very great success or with any particular advantage to our own interests. It has been found by officers of the Department that the possession by visiting tourists of such a voucher most frequently resulted in their going to the relevant shipping or air line company quite soon after their arrival and obtaining a refund of the amounts that they had paid in the country of their origin. Therefore, the expedient, although it has a superficial attraction, rather defeats itself. I am personally investigating the whole problem, and I feel that, as I have indicated, it would be premature to say more now.
HOME NURSING ORGANIZATIONS. Mr. BUCHANAN.- My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In view of the enormous savings in bed costs made possible by home nursing organizations, which relieve the strain on hospital accommodation, will the Minister consider the advantages of applying hospital benefits to these organizations in the same way that these benefits are paid to hospitals?
– There is an arrangement at present, under the Home Nursing Subsidy Act, for the payment of financial assistance to home nursing organizations. It would be rather difficult, I think, to organize these payments on the same basis as the bed subsidy paid to hospitals. But the matter has not been overlooked, and quite a number of the major home nursing organizations in Australia are now receiving subsidies from the Commonwealth Government for their support.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. I preface it by pointing out that, recently, I made direct representations to the Minister concerning an import licensing matter involving one of my constituents. Last week, I received a letter signed “ L. W. Hamilton, for R. W. C. Swartz”, who, I take it, was handling the matter for the Minister. Is the Minister responsible for this form of reply to representations made by members of this Parliament? Does he condone this method, and does he not think an honorable member is entitled to a reply direct from the Minister to whom he has made representations?
– Yes, I am responsible for the answer the honorable member has received. I thought all honorable members of this House understood that Mr. Swartz, the honorable member for Darling Downs, is attached to the Minister for Trade in order to assist the Minister in the political administration of the functions of the department. In that capacity he conducts interviews with great success, as every one knows, and signs letters. I think it is well known that Mr. Swartz is at present leading, with very great success, a mission to a number of countries in South-East Asia. If the honorable member for Herbert would have preferred to receive no reply until Mr. Swartz returned, then I cannot understand his lack of interest in his constitutents. I have many important matters to attend to. It is of great convenience, not only to me, but also to those who correspond with me, to have some one capable of signing the kind of letters signed by Mr. Swartz. In the absence of Mr. Swartz on his important and successful mission, I asked Mr. Hamilton, who is a Parliamentary Secretary, to deal with this kind of correspondence, and Mr. Hamilton has been kind enough to do so for me.
– I ask the Minister for Air: What is the significance of the movement of jet fighters to Dubbo this week? What is the purpose of the exercise which, I understand, began yesterday? Is the aerodrome to be used regularly by the Royal Australian Air Force?
– Dubbo is the centre of an air exercise of some importance that is being carried out during this week. Number 22 Squadron, which is the City of Sydney Squadron - a Citizen Air Force squadron equipped with Meteor jet fighters - is undertaking the defence role in the exercise being carried out from Dubbo air-field, the attack being provided by Canberra aircraft from Amberley. The principal purpose of the exercise is to test the mobile control and reporting unit of the Royal Australian Air Force, which has been centered at Dubbo for about a year, and which will shortly go to Malaya. This unit is a very modern and effective radar set which can detect high-flying supersonic aircraft at considerable distances and then take over the control of the defending fighter aircraft against the invading force. As I have said, this unit will move to Malaya later this year, in time to be operating at Butterworth air-field when the first of our Sabre fighter squadrons arrives to take up its operation duties at Butterworth. It follows, as the honorable member will appreciate, that Dubbo is being used for this exercise because the mobile control and reporting unit is there at present. It also follows, I think, that Dubbo will not be used regularly, although it is quite possible that exercises of this kind will be carried out again in the future.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Did the Commonwealth Mental Institutions Act operate between October, 1948, and August, 1956, by agreement with the States? What was the purpose of the legislation and what government was responsible for its repeal? Will the Minister inform the House why inmates of mental institutions are denied pensions, while senile persons who are permanently confined to hospitals and benevolent homes receive pensions? In view of the fact that the cost of upkeep and maintenance of mental patients accrues during their period in those institutions, will the Minister consider allowing payment of social service benefits to them, at least to the extent of the pension rate, to help meet their debt to the institution on discharge or at death?
– I do not know whether I have heard quite clearly what the honorable gentleman said; I could not hear the end of his question, but I think that the general strength of it was to ask me whether the present act governing payments by the Commonwealth to mental institutions was an alteration of the previous one. If so, the answer is, “ Yes “. It is based on quite different premises and is designed to supply what the mental institutions chiefly need, and that is capital funds. It is doing that. The question of the payment of social service benefit to inmates of mental hospitals is a complex one and cannot be settled entirely by the needs of those patients. In fact, as they have been certified, the position of patients in mental institutions is materially different from that of those in public hospitals.
– My question, which is addressed to the Postmaster-General, relates to the hearing in Brisbane of applications for television licences. I ask the honorable gentleman why the hearings of these applications were not concluded but were adjourned to a date to be fixed, in Melbourne, and the hearings of applications for licences for television stations were commenced in Adelaide. Would not the hearings of applications for television licences in
Brisbane have been more satisfactory if they had been finished there instead of being interrupted?
– As the honorable member for Moreton has stated, the hearings by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of applications for commercial television licences in Brisbane commenced last week. It was anticipated that those hearings would be completed within the week. The board had to make its arrangements for the hearings in Brisbane and in Adelaide, followed by a report to the Minister, and for hearings then in Perth and Hobart. The intention was that the board’s reports would be furnished as early as possible so as to allow effect to be given to them without delay. At the hearing in Brisbane, a great deal of legal argument on matters of general import developed between counsel for the various applicants. As a result, the hearings were protracted beyond the anticipation of the board. The board did not complete the first hearing in the first three days. It was, therefore, faced with the fact that it had advertised that the hearings would commence in Adelaide today. It also knew that counsel in Adelaide had made special provision to attend on behalf of some of the applicants at the Adelaide hearings. Therefore, although the board recognized the desirability of completing the Brisbane applications before commencing the Adelaide ones, in the circumstances that had arisen it had no option but to proceed with the Adelaide hearings. It has, therefore, adjourned the Brisbane hearings; and the Adelaide hearings, if they are not completed, will also be adjourned to a date to be fixed in Melbourne.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Can he say or will he ascertain whether any survey has been made as to possible subterranean sources of water supply in the outer areas of the Australian Capital Territory? If no such survey has been made, and in view of the importance that such supplies could have to those following rural pursuits in the Territory, will he give early consideration to having a survey made?
– As far as I know, no such surveys have been made. However, I will look into the issues involved and see what we can do.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has any information to impart to the House on the progress of the discussions with respect to the bringing down of a wheat stabilization plan this year.
– I have met members of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation on each occasion on which they have asked for a meeting, and on the agreed date. This has included meetings with them on the question of a review of the whole industry and, secondly, on the general outline of a wheat stabilization scheme. I am now awaiting a report from the Wheat Index Committee, a body which comprises representatives of the Wheatgrowers Federation, the Australian Agricultural Council and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I hope to receive that report shortly. To-day, I am meeting a select committee of the Wheatgrowers Federation to discuss such items as computed costs. The honorable member will know that everything which the Government and I can do to bring forward this legislation as soon as possible is being done, but the initiative and progress in this matter now resides with the Wheatgrowers Federation, the Australian Agricultural Council and the Wheat Index Committee.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Trade, refers to the closing down, by the Shell company, of its oil-fields and refineries in Indonesia and the importation of petroleum products, refined and crude, from that country. Will the action of the Shell company in closing down its Indonesian installations adversely affect, the supply of petroleum products in Australia? If such action will affect Australia, what action does the Government propose to take to maintain supplies of petroleum products to Australia? As £52,000,000 was spent by Australia in the first seven months of this year on the im- portation of petroleum products and £15,786,000 was spent in Indonesia-
– Order! The honorable member is giving information instead of seeking it.
– Is there any likelihood of the imposition of petrol rationing by the Government in the event of the importation of petroleum from Indonesia being restricted?
– In reply to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, 1 am quite confident that I can say there is no likelihood of petrol rationing being introduced into Australia because of anything that may occur in regard to petroleum production in Indonesia. In the second place, the question is so couched that it may imply that the Shell company, of its own decision and preferences, is closing down its operations in Indonesia. I do not think that is intended, and I am quite sure that that is not the case. Whatever may happen there to interrupt production I am sure is related to no other circumstance than the internal disruption occurring presently in Indonesia. As to the earlier part of the honorable member’s question, if he would put it on the noticepaper I will see that he receives a reply.
– I wish to seek information from the Minister for Immigration concerning the Labour party’s policy on immigration. A few months ago the Leader of the Opposition expressed views at the Citizenship Convention in which he called on the Government to cut immediately the total intake of migrants. Last night, at Richmond, Victoria, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, “ We should take as many migrants as we can from England and Europe because the day will come when we will not be able to get migrants from anywhere “. This is a view supported, in some respects, by the honorable member for Yarra. Can the Minister now advise honorable members on this side of the House what the policy of the Labour party is on this matter, because we do. not wish to misunderstand the Opposition’s views on this national question, particularly in view of a forthcoming debate?’
– Order! The question is out of order. The policy of the Labour party does not come under the control of the Minister for Immigration.
– I direct a question without notice to the Treasurer. What action does the right honorable gentleman intend to take to protect the Australian people from the operations of financial groups of doubtful integrity which seek deposits from the public at high rates of interest, in some cases exceeding12½ per cent.? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the money so obtained is lent to credit-starved small business people and others in the community at extortionate rates of interest? If he is aware of these facts, will he tell the House what steps he is taking to meet this serious national problem?
– As has been explained by the Government time and time again, the subject raised by the honorable member is not a matter coming within the constitutional jurisdiction of this Government, but it does come within the jurisdiction of State governments.
– I ask a question of the Minister for External
Affairs. In view of the fact that at our technical schools there are large numbers of students - 800 to 900 at Melbourne and Geelong - from neighbouring friendly nations, such as Taiwan in the north, parts of Asia, and as far west as Pakistan, will the Minister ask the Government to consider making additional financial assistance available to the State governments concerned to enable them to provide the extra accommodation and staff needed for this essential international activity?
– I appreciate the purport of the honorable member’s question, but I do not believe that this Government, nor the State governments, I expect, would agree to receive an allocation of money for a specific purpose such as that mentioned by the honorable member. Notwithstanding that, I shall certainly inquire into the question raised by the honorable member. I know the problem facing these schools, and I know the number of Asian students in particular who attend both in Melbourne and Geelong.
– I ask the Minister for
Trade whether he approves of the issuing of special import licences, and other category licences, to newcomers to this country, some of whom have not been here long enough to become naturalized, while business people of long standing in the community have been unable to obtain licences, and in many instances have been gradually forced out of business. Also, many Australians who have lived here for a long time are unable to start small businesses because of their inability to obtain licences.
– If the question is meant inversely to imply that the questioner and the Labour party feel that a newcomer to Australia should not be entitled to engage in business in this country on the same terms as native-born Australians, then that is not the policy of the Government, I am glad to say. Newcomers to Australia are certainly shown no vestige of preference. I think the honorable member will find, if he examines any particular cases, that a number of New Australians, during a period of no-quota restrictions, had sufficient foresight to take out licences and became entitled, through their historical trading at that time, to continue in business.
– I direct to the Minister for Health a question which I preface by stating that I understand the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales have spent very large sums in trying to prevent the cattle tick and redwater disease from entering the dairying districts of New South Wales. Is there any truth in the report that has been attributed to the Minister that as ticks had been found far south of the Queensland border in an area where they had not been found before, or at least had not been found for many years, there was a suggestion of sabotage of the tick eradication plan upon which so much money has been spent? Has consideration been given by the Minister or his officers to the possible introduction of the tick egg or the tick itself in the mud upon vehicles, attached to the footwear of human beings, or upon rugs which have been spread, for picnic purposes, in the tick-infested areas across the border? If the officers of the Department of Health have not yet considered this aspect, will they consider arranging for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization or the universities to station a research officer for a number of days at each main border crossing to ensure that ticks are not introduced by these means? Will they consider also having the wheels of all vehicles pass through a bath of proper solution at the border, and the footwear and rugs of all people coming in fumigated, as is done in other parts of the world to combat other diseases?
– I think that all the eventualities that the honorable gentleman envisages have already been examined scientifically and the opinion universally held is that the only method of carriage of cattle ticks, other than by deliberate attempts to spread them, is on animals which are the natural hosts of the tick.
Matters Discussed on Motion for Adjournment.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the House. By way of explanation, I mention that recently, on about two nights a week, discussion of a number of matters has taken place during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House. Like other members, I constantly raise matters of vital national importance. On 23rd April I raised two matters and made what I thought were serious allegations about the administration of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. One of them was the victimization of an exserviceman in regard to appointment, and another was the refusal of the board to appoint a man permanently because of an adverse security report. I asked that the matters be referred to the Prime Minister for his attention. As yet, I have not received any reply and, so far as I know, the matters have not been referred to him. I now ask the Leader of the House: What action is taken by the Minister who is in charge of the House during the debate on the motion for the adjournment, to bring matters of vital national importance to the attention of Ministers in order that members may receive an appropriate reply?
– The procedure which is followed is not one which flows from the Minister who happens to be at the table and in charge of the debate at the time. I have established through my own office a practice whereby, on the following day, extracts from the daily “ Hansard “ containing passages which relate to specific departments are sent to the Ministers concerned, so that they will have immediately under their notice matters raised on the previous night during the adjournment debate. I think that is the most practical way of handling the matter, since all Ministers are not likely to be, and in fact could not be, in the House at the one time to hear these discussions. It is then a matter for a Minister himself to follow up, either personally or through his department, whatever facts and representations have been put to him by the member concerned. If the honorable member for Grayndler feels that he has a complaint to be directed against any particular Minister, I shall examine what he puts and see that it is brought to the notice of the Minister concerned.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. Due to the general concern that Western Australia is failing to maintain the rate of population increase recorded in other States, particularly her neighbour South Australia, will the Minister indicate whether there is any established plan which encourages the States to lift their intake of immigrants? After a splendid record of high absorption of immigrants, a few years ago Western Australia retarded the intake. Does the Minister consider that the maintenance of a sound immigrant flow tends to stabilize industries and open up further employment potential rather than to create embarrassment?
– I suppose I can say as a South Australian myself that one reason for the success of South Australia, to which the honorable member has alluded, is undoubtedly the quality of its State Government. If the House will pardon me, I might add as a corollary that it might not be unrelated to the quality of the South Australian representation on this side of the chamber. It cannot be stated too often that the Government’s immigration programme must be linked with the absorptive capacity of Australia as a whole and of particular parts. As the honorable member is aware, there has been over the past two years or so, some degree of unemployment in Western Australia, perhaps more than elsewhere. Realizing this, the Government has tried to meet the wishes of the Western Australian Government. Therefore, it has been the policy of this Government to send to Western Australia only those immigrants who are personally sponsored by residents of the honorable member’s State and, secondly, such Commonwealth nominees for whom specified employment opportunities exist. I would say this: The more the Western Australian .Government can improve local economic opportunities, the greater the chance will be of accelerating the migrant intake, and thereby emulating the shining example of my own State of South Australia.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether it is a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has engaged, or is about to engage, the full-time Director of the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music to conduct about 40 orchestral concerts in Melbourne this year at a fee of 100 guineas a concert, making a total payment of about £4,000? If that is a fact, is it also true that the commission will thereby pay more for the part-time services of the full-time Director of the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music than it pays for the fulltime conductor of the Victorian Symphony Orchestra? Is this situation in the best interests of Australian ‘music and particularly of Victorian music, which has been neglected by the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– The honorable member has referred to a matter which comes entirely within the scope and the authority of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to determine. It is not a matter which is referred to me when the decision is taken. Therefore, I am not in a position to advise the honorable member whether his statements are correct or not. I shall make some inquiries and advise him of the true position and the reasons for whatever the commission has done in this matter. In the few years that I have held my present portfolio, I have found that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is particularly concerned with building up a high level of culture in art and music in Australia; and it does not hesitate to employ the best and most experienced persons in positions such as that referred to by the honorable member.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House what reasons actuated the Government in negotiating the conversion in London of a loan of £20,000,000 bearing interest at 3 per cent, into a 6 per cent, loan of nearly twenty years currency? Was Australia so short of reserves that this loan could not be redeemed? If Australia is so short of international reserves, will not the additional burden of £600,000 over twenty years cause further deterioration?
– The question raised by the honorable member concerns a matter that was considered very carefully by the Australian Loan Council, which is the constituted body for such a purpose. The Loan Council unanimously decided on the course of action that was eventually taken. Members of the council were of the opinion that this was the best method of conversion or of refinancing the amount concerned after taking into account all the circumstances and the availability of funds both here and overseas.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The urgent need for the Commonwealth to take action to ensure that sufficient funds are available to each State of the Commonwealth to provide adequate public education facilities for its people.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- We mean everything we say about the urgency of the subject we have .proposed for discussion. Education is a matter of vital concern to every member of the community. Oneeighth of Australia’s population attends school, and one of the largest labour forces in any calling in the professions or in industry is employed in the teaching services. The people themselves are vitally concerned with education, as parents and also as citizens, because their children are at this moment struggling against the inadequate provision of the past. They are struggling against the inadequacy of an education system which would, if it were adequate, fit them to face anything that the world might hold in store for them.
The word “ education “ is not mentioned in the Constitution. Nevertheless it has been recognized that in the final resort, when we are dealing with the matter of education on the highest financial levels, education is a Commonwealth responsibility, lt is also a Commonwealth responsibility on other grounds.
It is no wonder that the people who wrote the Constitution about 60 years ago failed to foresee the pressure that education needs would bring to our nation. In 1901, the total cost of education in Australia was under £2,000,000. The total capital expenditure on education facilities in 1901 was under £200,000. So nobody at that stage could be aware of the fact that in time to come education would form one of the greatest projects in this country, whilst at the same time the failure to mention education in the Constitution as a matter for Commonwealth action or responsibility would result in strangling the State education systems because of the lack of resources available to them to meet the demand for education.
Nothing has highlighted the position better than the question asked by the honorable, member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) only a few moments ago. He. pointed out that hundreds of’ students from abroad are attending technical schools in Australia. They were brought here as part of our essays in world affairs. Each one of them will cost about £100 a year to educate. If there are 500 or 600 of them we are moving towards a stage where wc will have to spend up to £500,000 of public money to educate people brought here in accordance with Commonwealth Government policy.
There are also other reasons why the Commonwealth Government should take action to see that something adequate is done in the education field. First, immigration places a great strain on the education systems of the States. Secondly, over the years, there has been a change in the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States, a change that has placed the States in a position where their resources to meet the increased demand for education are rapidly dwindling. The Commonwealth is receiving a greater measure of the nation’s revenue, and has greater power at its disposal.
Thirdly, there is a greater demand by the people of Australia for higher education for their children. There has been a social change in the last ten or twelve years, brought about, I believe, by some of the actions of the Chifley Government. I have in mind the establishment of the Commonwealth’s financial assistance scheme for students, the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme and the expansion of university education generally. These have had their influence right through the community. There is a social revolution on, and everybody has realized that the bright child, no matter what his financial background, should be entitled to reach the highest level of education. Unfortunately, at this moment, this opportunity is not available to every Australian child.
Fourthly, there has been inadequate provision in the past for education. Perhaps nothing exemplifies this so much as the state of some of the schools which children attend.
Finally, there is a serious distinction between the States themselves in their expenditure on education. I am well aware that we cannot measure the efficiency of education systems by the annual expenditure in each case; but there are very serious differences between the States in their expenditure per head of population and per child in the schools. I believe that this must be reflected in some children finally getting greater opportunities than others do. That, alone, is a reason for Commonwealth action.
I refer now to the pressure placed on the State education systems by the Commonwealth’s immigration policy. In the last ten or twelve years, we have brought about 1,000,000 people to this country. There are perhaps 125,000 more children in State schools as a direct result of immigration, because one-eighth of the population generally consists of children attending State schools. Of course, it is highly likely, as statistics appear to show, that there is a higher proportion than that of children in the families of immigrants. But take the figure as 125,000 children. Multiply it by approximately £60 per annum as the cost to a State government of educating a child. This single factor alone, therefore, has placed an extra burden on the States of approximately £7,000,000 a year, as a direct result of Commonwealth policy, and so is a direct challenge to the Commonwealth to take some action in order to help the States to bear that burden. Of course, we know that the burden falls unequally on the States. I understand that statistics show that the largest proportion of immigrants settled in Victoria. This means that a correspondingly larger proportion of the increased cost of education has fallen on that State.
Now I shall deal with the change in the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. I shall take as an example a Commonwealth instrumentality, the Postmaster-General’s Department, which is important to everybody in Australia. Nobody would say that the postal, telegraph and telephone services are more important than the schools in which children are educated; yet we find that the annual capital cost of education is only about £15,000,000, whereas we are spending almost twice as much as that on capital works for the postal and allied services. The last report of the Postmaster-General showed that capital expenditure on these services in the year concerned was £30,720,665. All the States together, according to the last available figures, spent £15,373,394 on capital works in the education field in one year.
I am not suggesting that the services rendered to the community by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should be reduced in any way; but I am suggesting that the disparity in the figures I have given is an interesting example of two things: In the first place, of the capacity of the Commonwealth to handle its responsibilities and the incapacity of the States to handle theirs; secondly, the existence of a set of values in the community which allows such a great proportion of our resources to be placed at the disposal of a public service such as the Postmaster-
General’s Department as against those placed at the disposal of another public service such as the education system. Of course, the answer to this is that the States have reached the end of their tether. They have no further capacity to meet the demands on them in the education field.
I know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in answer to questions, has pointed out that the Commonwealth disposes funds to the States and that it is up to the States to decide what they do with them. But what are the facts? According to the latest figures available, the total amount given to the States for the last financial year was a little over £199,000,000 per annum. Add another £18,000,000 for the claimant States, and the result is a total of £218,000,000. The total expenditure on education in that year was £70,000,000. So, of the total grants to the States, 30 per cent, has to be spent on the schools and there is no way in which the States themselves can expand their resources in order to meet the need. Therefore, in the end this problem must be placed fairly and squarely before this Parliament. Eventually, only the Commonwealth will be in a position to meet this challenge. One has only to consider the great resources at the disposal of the Commonwealth in order to appreciate that fact. Recently there was a sale of surplus material at St. Mary’s. There were 12 tons of nails over at that project! I wonder how many nails are required for an ordinary school.
Let us consider the expenditure in the last few years on various Commonwealth matters. We have bought a dozen Lockheed Hercules aircraft. They cost £1,250,000 each. Every one of them, in terms of finance, is equal to thirteen or fourteen high schools. The present building cost of high schools in Victoria is about £70,000. This is a challenge not to the defence system, but to our set of values. If we can afford to buy aeroplanes at £1.250,000 each, and put young men in their twenties in charge of them, we can also ask the people to support a system which will build adequate schools.
Dr. Cunninham, of the Australian Council of Education Research, is quoted in Hartley Grattan’s “ Australia “, as having said ten or twelve years ago that no State government in this country had, at any stage, asked the people to meet what he considered to be the needs of the education system. Therefore, there is every sign, first, that the States cannot meet the demand upon them, and secondly, that only the Commonwealth has the resources to do so. There is an urgent need for Commonwealth action.
In the past the States have neglected or ignored this field of expenditure. Past neglect to build adequate schools is reflected in the type of schools to which our children go. In my electorate is the Moreland High School, which has first-class teachers, first-class scholars and a very conscientious, public-spirited, mothers’ club. The school has 523 children. It is situated on 1± acres of land, more than half of which is covered by the school buildings. This school was declared a high school only three or four years ago although the building has been there for 70 or 80 years. Recently, the mothers’ club, as a result of its work, collected the money to put in seats on which children could sit down at lunch time. But it was impossible to find sufficient space in the school grounds for enough seats. In the past, we have failed to establish high enough standards for our State schools and now we have this legacy. The result is that, in graduations from our universities, we are lagging seriously behind other countries. The number of doctor of philosophy degrees issued in various countries is shown in the following table: -
The figures for science graduates are as follows: -
So we are lagging seriously because we have failed to meet the educational needs of the community. I feel that this is a matter to which all of us should give the greatest possible attention. I realize that the Constitution mentions education not at all. But there are some things that the Commonwealth could do. It could accept responsibility for building schools.
– Do you want a federal system of education?
– If I had to choose between the Constitution and the children I would support the needs of the children. The dead hand of the ‘nineties should no longer be allowed to strangle the education systems of this country. They are completely inadequate. The Commonwealth could step into the field and build schools without trespassing on the administrative authority of the State. It is nonsense to suggest that by doing so a bureaucratic centralism would be built up. That is only an excuse for escaping responsibilities. In the final analysis, the challenge will lie before this Parliament. I have been saying so in the two years or more since I came here and the more I study the difficulty and see the concentration of power and resources in the Commonwealth, the more I realize that the States cannot find the answer, and that the answer can only came from us.
The Commonwealth could develop ancillary services. It could make various publications more readily available to the schools. It could support the libraries. It could support the film industry in such a way that it would help to fill the need.
It is no use offering the excuse that somebody, 60 years ago, in writing the Constitution, left the responsibility for education on the States. It was a different time and a different age. Expenditure on education 60_ years ago was a mere fragment of the national expenditure. The whole social structure and the demands upon it have completely changed. Therefore, this is a challenge that we, as a nation, must accept. The Australian child, whether in Queensland, Western Australia, or Victoria, has an equal right to every opportunity that the educational system can give it.
No subject could be more important than this. It is not a matter for political disputation. The Government of Victoria, which is of one political colour, has found itself incapable of meeting the educational needs of the State; the Government of New South Wales, which is of another political colour, has also found itself incapable of meeting the educational needs of the State. Only the Commonwealth can meet those needs.
The Commonwealth has the resources to build the St. Mary’s project at a cost of £28,000,000 and to spend £100,000,000 on national service training.
If we apply ourselves to it we can answer this challenge.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The subject raised by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) is, beyond question, a very important one and it will not be very easy to discuss it within the fifteen minutes allowed to me. But I should like to say to the honorable member that I rather envy the easy way in which he sets the Constitution on one side on the ground that it is out of date. The fact is that it still exists. The fact is that education, except in Commonwealth territories, remains a function of the States. And the further fact is that I have not heard very much, if any, agitation in Australia, to have education transferred to the Commonwealth so that it would be under one control and follow a uniform pattern. Nobody has suggested that. Most educational experts will agree that it is most undesirable. Therefore, we are dealing with a problem in which the Commonwealth does not have power over, or responsibility for education in the States or by the States. But it does possess, in modern circumstances, certain financial resources which are not unlimited, as the honorable member may suppose. They are limited, but still substantial. They have needed to be substantial, having regard to the events of recent years.
I do not want to attempt to go right through this field. I merely begin by emphasizing that, in a federal system, it is a very great mistake to ignore the existence of varying authorities in respect of varying problems. It is quite true that education is a matter of great national importance. So is water supply. So is land settlement. So are many things.
– So is transport.
– So is transport. Some of these things are clearly within the State jurisdictions, and what the Australian Constitution has done is to divide up the matters that concern the nation - the matters. that concern the people as a whole - and say to the Commonwealth, “ You will be responsible for A “, and to the States, “ You will be responsible for B “.
Honorable members will have observed, as they listened to my friend, the honorable member for Wills, that, in reality, what he is saying comes to this: Though the Commonwealth finds some money, it ought to find more; and it can find more for the States without difficulty. I did not understand him to say - though it has been said by some others - that the Commonwealth ought to provide large additional sums for the States and earmark them for education. If he has that in his mind, I just want to warn him, in a friendly way, from my own considerable experience of these matters, that the States will not thank him for it. The States have at all times insisted that when they receive money from the Commonwealth, whether it is by way of tax reimbursement or by way of supplement to the loan raisings, the States themselves should be the masters of their own expenditure, and that they are not to be challenged by the Commonwealth as to how they ought to spend the money that they get. That has become practically an article of faith with all the States in their dealings with the Commonwealth. I take no exception to it, .for this .purpose.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we come right back to the ultimate question: Has the Commonwealth been putting the States in funds as properly as it should put them in funds in a -federal system in which they have great responsibilities and need financial help? On that, I think a few figures may be very illuminating to honorable members. At any rate, I will take the risk of stating them. I have taken a period of seven years, to give a reasonable spread. I have taken the period beginning with the financial year 1951-52 and ending with the financial year 1957-58. Including both years, that is a period of seven years. In that period, the States have spent approximately £500,000,000 net on education- £400,000,000 on running costs, and £100,000,000 on capital expenditure. Those figures do not include outgoings on university education, in respect of which I will say something later this afternoon, and in respect of which, for various reasons, including historic reasons arising out of the war, the Commonwealth has taken a great and growing part. It is also not possible to be quite precise about the figures, because some States include under their education vote some items that others do not include. For example, some States include the cost of libraries and museums; others do not. But the figure that I have given is near enough. It is substantially correct.
Over the seven years that I have taken, £500,000,000 has been spent on education - £400,000,000 on running costs and £100,000,000 on capital expenditure. In the same period of seven years, Commonwealth payments to the States, excluding special grants and specific purpose grants such as the university grants, but including supplementary moneys for the State works programmes - in other words, moneys over and above what the market has yielded - were of the order of £1,750,000,000. The States have received the whole of the benefit of loan raisings, because the Commonwealth has voluntarily forgone its statutory share. Loan raisings on behalf of the States - again excluding certain moneys that were raised for specific purposes - amounted to £475,000,000. On top of those two very large figures, the States themselves raised £500,000,000 in revenue.
Let me repeat those figures: The States have received £1,750,000,000 from the Commonwealth, £475,000,000 from loan raisings and £500,000,000 from their own revenue, and the total cost of education in the same period has amounted to £500,000,000. That means, Sir, that, over the period of seven years, the States have had £2,725,000,000 to apportion to their own expenditures as they thought fit, and that, in fact, they apportioned £500,000,000 of that to education. That was a matter entirely for the States to determine. When I quote those figures, it will at once be obvious to all honorable members that it is plainly absurd to talk about us starving the States, or in some way depriving them of resources for education.
– Was the expenditure on education £500,000,000 out of £2,700,000,000?
– It was £500,000,000 out of £2,725,000,000 - a little under 20 per cent. But whatever the figure may be, that is for the States to determine, surely! They are responsible for irrigation in the States. They are responsible for land settlement. They are responsible for transport, including railways and roads. They are responsible for police and many other things within their own boundaries and their own constitutional charters, and, of course, one of the great things is education. To attend to all these matters, they have had this vast sum over the period of seven years.
But perhaps the point that I ought to emphasize is that, if we leave out what they have had from their own revenue and what they have had from loan raisings, and concentrate solely on what they have had from the Commonwealth in terms of money over and above those sums - that is to say, £1,750,000,000 over the period of seven years - it would come rather oddly from an Opposition member to complain that that was inadequate, because, in point of fact, in the previous seven years - the last seven years of the administration of the party to which honorable gentlemen opposite belong - the total provided by the Commonwealth for the States was not £1,750,000,000; it was £278,000,000. That comparison is not strictly fair, because the first three of the seven Labour years were years of war. But, when the war was over, and financial considerations as between the Commonwealth and the States became increasingly orthodox and reverted to the normal constitutional pattern, the rate at which Labour provided money for the States was not very high. Indeed, in 1948-49 - the last year of Labour’s administration - the total tax reimbursement and supplementary grants to the States amounted to £53,000,000. The Labour government made no addition to the loan raisings. We have provided for the States hundreds of millions of pounds that the loan market did not yield. If the Commonwealth’s provision had gone on at the rate at which our predecessors had been making provision, 1 would not be quoting a figure of £1,750,000,000. I would much more likely be quoting a figure of £600,000,000 or £700,000,000.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that the attitude of the present Government towards this matter has been one of generosity and understanding. The figures indicate that, after all, we ourselves have paid in this fashion something like 65 per cent, of State expenditure, including, of course, their expenditure on education. We have at all times adopted a liberal attitude on this matter. We have understood the importance of education. Our record in the tertiary field is conclusive evidence of that.
Why should we not recognize the importance of education? After all, I may perhaps be permitted to say, before I conclude, that nobody has a greater sympathy with this problem than I have, because I myself owe everything to scholarships, prizes, and exhibitions, provided by other people - right through, in a small country State school, in a State school in a country town, in a small private secondary school, in a great public school in Melbourne, and in the University of Melbourne - as others have gained their education. I am by no means unique in this respect. I ought to understand something about the importance of the educational system in Australia. That is why I say that, if the honorable member for Wills reflects on the few simple facts that I have had time to state, he will, I think, in fairness, instead of accusing this Government of a parsimonious approach to this matter, be the first to admit that we have approached this problem with a proper and inevitable regard for constitutional responsibility, but with a generous approach on the financial side that is, indeed, the measure of our understanding of this problem.
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has presented a case which, on the facts, is unanswerable. At any rate, it has not been answered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who does not dispute, therefore, the need for increased votes for the education of the children of Australia.
The case that is put before the House to-day has been presented largely, as honorable members know, as a result of the efforts of teachers, parents and interested organizations from one end of Australia to the other. They want this Parliament, not to find refuge in some escape from the facts, but rather to face the facts and see what can be done to improve the position. The Prime Minister’s answer is simply to sweep aside everything that the honorable member for Wills has stated in his able analysis, and to say - and I submit that this is a proposition which is quite incorrect - that education, except in Commonwealth territories, remains a function of the States. This statement is partly true, but the Prime Minister has entirely overlooked the fact that although the old constitutional demarcation could have been described in that way, the Constitution was amended in 1946 to deal with this kind of problem, and direct power was given to the Commonwealth to make provision - not merely by State grants - for, amongst other things, benefits to students.
The whole purpose of the constitutional amendment was to give this Parliament power, as the occasion demanded, to make provision by legislation for benefits to students - in other words, to make educational grants, this Parliament being responsible for them. It is not. therefore, a question of divided legislative power and responsibility; direct power and responsibility reside in this Parliament. The plan started by Mr. Dedman in, I think, 1948 and 1949, which provided for grants to be made under what was called, I believe, the Commonwealth scholarship system, was not dependent upon anything except this power that I have mentioned, and there is not the slightest doubt that if this Parliament wishes to carry out what is suggested in the proposals put forward this afternoon, the power is broad enough to enable it to do so. I hope, therefore, that we can have an end to the suggestion that there is some constitutional inhibition against the Commonwealth carrying out these proposals.
– That ludicrous argument will not provide an answer, I can assure you!
– Of course, the Prime Minister never has any doubts. He is so constitutionally supreme that he thinks he has merely to say that something is ludicrous and we will laugh. He is frequently wrong in matters such as this, and he will not face up to the facts. I say that these are the written words of the Constitution - “ benefits to students “. These benefits may be granted at the discretion of this Parliament. So, when the Prime Minister grasps at this constitutional support for doing nothing, he is really grasping at a straw.
Various interested bodies have prepared a case for presentation. They have carefully analysed it and called meetings all over Australia to discuss it. They intend to call another one this month. Their purpose is to try to secure additional finance for education and to bring these urgent needs before the attention of the National Parliament. Reference has been made to Commonwealth assistance given in the field of tertiary education, and it has been suggested that Commonwealth assistance should not extend into the primary and secondary fields. The Murray report on education, however, said in this regard -
Every young man or woman who wanted a university education and had the intellectual capacity to profit from it should have a fair chance of getting it.
They have no fair chance of getting it in this country.
– Only one in four!
– Yes, the Murray report says that only one out of every four Australian boys and girls who are fitted to be university graduates gets a chance of becoming a graduate. This is really a criticism of our lack of primary and secondary educational facilities, including teaching staff and necessary equipment. The Murray report makes this further comment: -
The technical and specialist requirements are without doubt in themselves no less than a matter of life and death to the nation.
The report refers in this connexion not merely to tertiary education, but also to education available in the secondary and primary schools.
The petitions presented to this Parliament on the matter of education have been signed by about 130,000 citizens, and the Australian Teachers Federation, which is one of the major interested bodies, has this comment to make -
The report in more than one instance shows that the extent and success of university education is dependent upon what is done at the secondary level. Quoting from the Commonwealth Census of 1954, it records that only 45.8 per cent, of 15-year olds, 20.5 per cent, of 16-year olds and 9.4 per cent, of 17-year olds are in full-time education of any sort. We are told, too, that in New South Wales a study of the record of pupils leaving school on reaching the statutory age of 15 years, indicates that a considerable proportion of them possessed the general mental ability which one encounters among the undergraduates successfully studying at university. In 1957, only 4.4 per cent, of the New South Wales 17-18 year-old group entered the universities of that State. On the other hand, statistical evidence suggests that 16 per cent, of any agc group of the Australian population have intellectual ability above the minimum generally considered necessary for success at university.
– It depends on whether they want university education.
– Of course it depends upon whether they want it, but how many of them would refuse it if the opportunities were there? It is because the opportunities are not there that you can say, “ Perhaps they do not want it “. I say that the great bulk of them probably would want it. We hear much to-day of the contention that science must assume a position of much greater importance in this country. We cannot have proper scientific education unless we have teachers who can teach scientific subjects, not merely at the universities but in our secondary schools, lt is in the secondary schools that the great scientists receive their basic training, and our weakness is at the secondary level.
I submit, further, that it is a great mistake for the Prime Minister to compare education with other matters in which the States and the Commonwealth have concurrent jurisdiction. I have made the point, which I think is unanswerable, that the Commonwealth can act directly, under the new constitutional power given by the Labour Government of Mr. Chifley in 1946, in the matter of education. The Commonwealth would be free of restriction. Apart from this aspect, however, the problem need not be debated on constitutional technicalities in the way that the Prime Minister would wish it to be debated. Consider the need. Is the need there? Does not the Murray report show us the necessity to ensure that not only shall the edifice be properly constructed, but also that the foundations of it shall be well and truly laid. We can only do this by providing adequate primary and secondary educational facilities throughout the States, as well as in the Commonwealth territories, and that can be done only by the provision of more Commonwealth funds.
The final fallacy of the Prime Minister’s argument is the assumption that all the money given to the States is given by the Commonwealth, as though the Commonwealth itself owned the money. The money comes from taxes levied under the uniform taxation system on all the people of Australia. Providing this money to the States is merely giving back a portion of what the people have paid. Therein lies the fallacy of the Prime Minister’s argument. We do not hesitate to lend the States money. The States have just as much right to borrow as the Commonwealth, and the States are charged interest on what they do borrow. The Commonwealth really has a trusteeship to see that the money is devoted to the fields where it is most necessary. This case for more money to be given to the States has been made out. There is great public demand for it and the case put forward by the honorable member, who is the chairman of the Opposition’s education committee, is sound and well based.
– In replying to the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) charged the Prime Minister with an attempt to- use the form of the Constitution to justify the attitude of the Government towards the provision of funds for education. I do not propose to lock horns with the Leader of the Opposition on a purely legal question. However, it seems to me to be amazing that he should state airily and with, to me, considerable naivete, that an amendment to the Constitution in 1946 giving the Federal Government power to make provision for benefits to students can be extended to cover the whole field of education and to justify the Federal Government in assuming all the sovereign rights of the States in the matter of education. I believe that view would not be sustained by many of his colleagues in the legal world.
– He did not hold that view in 1946.
– No. He referred to what was done under that provision. Although he could not quite get the name of the scheme, I think he was- referring to what was done under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. There was particular reason for that scheme, and it was justified. It was a particular matter from which flows some of the further action of this Government to carry out what it considers to be its proper obligations in the field of education. Let me deal’ for a moment with the remarks of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). He was asked by way of interjection whether he meant, in what he was saying, that he believed in a federal system of education. He failed to answer that question, but it seems to me to be patent from the wording of his letter.
– I said, “ Yes “.
– There we have a definite statement that the Opposition believes in a federal system of education. In order to determine how sound such a proposal is, we must look at the various factors which bear on it. Two factors come immediately to the mind of any one giving proper attention to the matter. The first factor to be considered is the degree of responsibility for the provision of education resting on the States as distinct from the degree of responsibility resting on the Commonwealth. I say without hesitation that the prime responsibility for the provision of education rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the States.
– Under the Constitution.
– Under the Constitution, yes. Thank you for the acknowledgment. The States are responsible particularly for primary and secondary education, and also for tertiary education. It is very interesting to point out that there is ample evidence that the States agree with that contention. They agree that it is proper that the prime responsibility for education should rest with the States. I understand that at a conference in 1954, which is only a few short years ago, the matter of sharing the cost and the responsibility of education was thoroughly discussed, and all Premiers agreed that, while they would like more money if they could, get it without any conditions, the imposition by the Federal Government of conditions as to the expenditure of any special grants was opposed by them. “ There must be no tags “, they said. It is interesting to note that only recently the Minister for Education in the State of the honorable member for Wills, made a statement to the effect that education must remain a State matter.
– Well, he is wrong.
– He is a man who knows what he is talking about, and he holds the office of Minister for Education in the Victorian Government. He cannot be brushed aside with the statement that he is wrong, merely because his remarks do not happen to suit the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He said that there is a tendency for the authority - in this case, the Federal Government - which provides money for specific purposes to impose conditions regarding its expenditure. I ask the honorable member for Wills, who is talking to somebody else, to listen to this. The Minister said that the overall picture of education in Victoria is one of tremendous strides forward. Those strides are made with the money that has been provided to the States under tax reimbursements, as outlined by the Prime Minister a few moments ago. The Victorian Minister for Education went on to say that he naturally favoured more money for education, so long as Victoria did not have to surrender State rights and hand over responsibility to Canberra- That put the matter in a nut-shell. That is the view not only of the Victorian Minister, who, fortunately for Victoria, happens to be a Liberal Minister, but also of all States.
If the claim, of the States that money should be made available without special conditions attached by the Federal Government is right, then inevitably the money comes under the heading of tax reimbursements. It is under that heading that the State Premiers can put1 forward their cases at the proper, time. Furthermore; under tax reimbursements, the authority still rests with the States to determine exactly how the money shall be spent. That is proper because of the sovereign authority of the States, However, apart’ from that aspect, may T point out that not only is this present system in our opinion quite proper from the constitutional point of view, but also, from the practical’ point of view, it is the best system that can be devised? A variety of conditions prevail throughout the States and those conditions can be dealt with properly by each State Government with the knowledge that it has of its own conditions. It would be ever so much more difficult for the Federal Government to deal with them properly- As an example, I mention the climatic conditions in. the north of Queensland as compared, with the climatic conditions, in. Tasmania, Can the Government here at Canberra provide for the everyday education system which would give attention to those climatic conditions as well as the Queensland Government, in the first instance, and the Tasmanian Government in the second instance? I say, No!
The State governments, with full knowledge of the conditions in the States, have also dealt with other problems, such as the different ages for attendance, the varying need for rural schools, the provision of transport, which is part of the education system. The State governments have particular and peculiar knowledge of those problems, but the Federal Government has no such knowledge. Then there is the question of decentralization, which is being pursued in Queensland and New South Wales by the appointment of regional directors. The proposal of the honorable member for Wills is directly opposed to the principal of decentralization. The State governments also know how the greater demand for secondary education in agriculture affects them. For all these practical reasons, I say that it is far better to accept the fact that the prime responsibility for education rests with the State governments.
Then there is the question of tertiary education, which is the provision of more and more educational facilities at the university level- This is necessary so that our young people, having passed through the primary and secondary schools, may receive further education. As has already been pointed out, the constitutional problem here is not as great as it is with primary and secondary education: At the end of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, which at the conclusion of the war provided more money for the universities so that our men could be trained when they were discharged from the services, this Government in 1951 introduced State grants for universities. It made available then an amount of £1,000,000 towards this particular grant for instrumentalities which had their own autonomy. As a record of the acceptance by the Federal Government of its overall responsibilities in this regard, may I point out that that start in 1951 of £1,000,000 has been increased and a sum of £2,300,000 will be made available in the forthcoming year. It has been indicated that there is more to follow.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired!
.- I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) quite freely admitted in his speech that this matter, proposed for discussion by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), is of very great importance. Members on this side believe that it is of extreme importance. The primary purpose of this debate so far as members of the Opposition are concerned is to direct the attention of the Parliament and of the nation to the serious situation which to-day exists, particularly at the primary school level, owing to inadequate finance for educational purposes. It must be completely apparent to most people who take an active interest in this matter, that the present facilities for education are failing to provide the required standard at both primary and secondary school levels. That is merely because in recent years sufficient finance has not been available to enable the various State instrumentalities to provide for these things. In other words, this restriction of finance has created a crisis in education. It would be extremely foolish for this Government or any other Government to ignore this fact, which has been stated repeatedly by educationists, both individually and collectively, and by interested parties including the Australian Teachers Federation.
Since the end of World War II. education departments have been faced with an almost impossible task to overcome the serious shortage of buildings, trained staff and equipment in order to provide an adequate standard of education. In no State of the Commonwealth has this problem been satisfactorily solved. The crisis to which the attention of this Government must be directed to-day arises from the need to cater for the rapidly increasing school population. Until recently the increase in enrolments had been confined largely to primary schools, but within the next few years secondary schools will be faced with a similar difficulty. The increased demands which these larger enrolments will make will have to be met against a background of inadequate buildings, a shortage of trained and qualified teachers and a lack of essential equipment. The present facilities can only be regarded as being completely inadequate to meet existing demands. In 1957, there were approximately 740,000 children in Australia from whom the secondary school population in 1958 has been selected. In 1960 that figure will rise to 885,000 and by 1964 - that is only six years hence - it will increase to more than 1,000,000. It means, in effect, that during the next three years our secondary school population will increase by more than onethird. To state the matter in another way, for every three children who attend our secondary schools in 1960 four will attend those schools in 1964. The new demands created will have to be met against this background of inadequate facilties
Obviously, the solution lies in the provision of more and more qualified teachers and additional buildings and equipment. This alone will provide for the greatly increased enrolments which can be expected in the near future. If we accept the fact, as I believe we can, that State education departments can do no more than meet their existing commitments, we must agree that the solution of these difficulties will possibly be found only in a more sympathetic approach on the part of the Commonwealth Government. I know that whenever the subject of financial assistance for education purposes is raised in the National Parliament, the question of constitutional difficulty is presented as a valid reason for dismissing it.
As far back as 1945, when the Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition, he dealt most effectively with this matter. He indicated quite clearly in this House that the constitutional difficulty does not enter into the matter at all. On that occasion, when speaking on education matters generally and with particular reference to financial assistance to the States for education, he said that in his opinion there was no legal reason why the Commonwealth should not come to the aid of the States. He said that there was no constitutional difficulty under section 81 of the Constitution or under section 96, which makes provision in respect of special grants. The considered opinion of the right honorable gentleman at that time was that there was no reason why the Commonwealth should not come to the rescue of the States in the field of education. No one, least of all myself, would dispute the right or the qualifications of the right honorable gentleman to offer legal advice on that matter.
Therefore, I say at once, quite frankly, that we may dismiss as completely irrelevant any contention that constitutional difficulty stands in the way of the Commonwealth providing finance to the States for the purposes of education. For that reason, I believe that this Government should immediately consider the establishment of a committee of this Parliament to investigate the subject of education generally, in co-operation with the States. Such a committee should inquire, if necessary into existing conditions and to what extent and upon what terms financial assistance from the Commonwealth should be provided. The membership of such a committee does not concern me greatly. There are educationists available in this country with sufficient knowledge and experience of Australian conditions who, I am sure, would be glad, if requested, to make their services available to assist such a committee-
I believe that Australians are sufficiently advanced in their social thinking to acknowledge that an adequate system of education is essential to our national welfare. If we are wise, we will accord this matter a high priority - certainly much higher than it enjoys at the present time. The report of the Murray committee of inquiry into university education, to which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) referred, is a most important document. 1 acknowledge at once that the findings of that committee have been honoured in their entirety by this Government. That action may well prove to be a major step forward in the development of Australian education, particularly in relation to universities. But that report gives a clear indication of how necessary it is for a similar approach to be made towards secondary education, because it is upon such an approach that the success of university education depends. I am sure that most honorable members will acknowledge that the success of a student at the tertiary level is completely dependent upon the initial preparation received in the secondary school. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to establish a committee of the kind I have indicated and give it an opportunity to report on existing conditions in primary and secondary schools. We cannot continue to ignore the importance of education from a national point of view; it is a sound national investment.
A moment ago I pointed out that noconstitutional difficulty stands in the way of the Commonwealth making financial assistance available for education. The Prime Minister raised this matter and referred to the increased funds which the Commonwealth Government had made available for education in recent years. The fact remains that the commitments of the States in this field have greatly exceeded the increased amount of money available to them.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKEROrder! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The proposal before the House has been very astutely drafted. It refers to -
The urgent need for the Commonwealth to take action to ensure that sufficient funds are available to each State of the Commonwealth to provide adequate public education facilities for their people.
The proposal is so drafted as to make it not at all clear whether what is intended is that the Commonwealth should increase the block grant that it makes to the States, or whether it should make a specific grant for education. In the first place, if the Commonwealth increases its block grant to the States it is clear that the States, being able to use their discretion as to how they spend the money, may not spend it on education at all. In the second place, if the Commonwealth makes specific grants, then the education system becomes centralized, and I do not think that any educationist in Australia would care to see that.
– Why not?
– Well, in Tasmania, for example, owing to its comparatively dense population, the best form of school may be what is called an area school. A number of children are brought together from small surrounding districts and provided with certain facilities. In Queensland and New South Wales, the best system may be small one-teacher schools, supplemented by radio sessions, such as the “ School of the Air “. So, according to whether the State is closely or sparsely settled, there may be need for different education techniques. According to whether the conditions are rural or industrial, you may have to adapt your education system. Centralization cf education, which would result in one pattern of education for the whole of Australia, would be disastrous to the children of this country. I think that sufficiently answers the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell.)
At the Premiers conference in 1954, the question of Commonwealth aid for education was discussed. The Premiers were very careful to ask for more money but without tags attached. The Premier of New South Wales made this illuminating statement. He said that if New South Wales could get more money for education, it could spend the money: If the Commonwealth could assist New South Wales further, it would be appreciated. When money is given to the Premier of New South Wales to spend as he likes, he spends it. He has shown a great capacity in that direction.
The Premier of Victoria wanted more money for education, but he wanted it without tags attached. The Premier of Western Australia opposed Commonwealth control of education, but he still wanted more money. So the proposition clearly is that the Commonwealth should provide the money for education, but should exercise no control over the way it is spent. Surely no honorable member is so naive as to suppose that when a government provides money it does not sooner or later begin to feel that it should exercise some control over the expenditure of that money. The Commonwealth octopus would gradually strengthen its grip on education until our education system became a truly centralized one.
– It is most unparliamentary to refer to the Commonwealth as an octopus.
– Honorable members can readily see that what I am saying is true. Once the Commonwealth provides all the money for education, sooner or later it will occupy the whole field. The Commonwealth, if it did not do this, would have to meet great expenses in administration and receive no advantages in exchange.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that the Commonwealth has been particularly generous to the States. Members of the Opposition have alleged that the Commonwealth has been parsimonious. Have the States had sufficient money for education? In the few minutes remain ing to me I want to refer to the performance of New South Wales, the State from which I come, and with which I am familiar. Since 1946-47, New South Wales has had transport deficits of £54,000,000. Indeed, the figure would be nearer £98,000,000 if the indirect subsidies given to the State transport instrumentalities were considered. Since 1946-47, almost £100,000,000 has, if I may so put it, gone down the drain in New South Wales on transport deficits. This money might otherwise have been available for education. The transport deficits in New South Wales are entirely due to a lack of business management in those enterprises. I point out that ten years ago the Government of New South Wales was urged by an expert report to abolish trams in Sydney. Ten years ago, I urged in the State Parliament that diesel-electric locomotives should be used on the railways, but there were too many interested votes on the coal-fields for the Government to do anything about my suggestion. Also, the Government did not replace trams with buses because it was too responsive to the wishes of the tram operatives’ union.
I do not want to stray too far in this regard. I merely point out that the New South Wales Government has had transport deficits of nearly £100,000,000 because it has never managed its affairs in a businesslike way. In recent times it has introduced automatic quarterly adjustments to the basic wage. Every one shilling increase in the basic wage in New South Wales costs the Government, on account of its employees, £300,000 per annum. The New South Wales Government has spent £90,000,000 in the last few years on the generation of electricity, when funds for this purpose could have been obtained from private enterprise overseas, had the Government so desired. But because it is a socialist Government, it did not do so, and that money has not been available for education.
In contrast, Victoria spends 40 per .cent, more than New South Wales on school buildings, yet it gets £10,000,000 less in loan allocations from the Loan Council. The reason why some States are not able to meet their obligations in the field of education is that they have grossly mismanaged their affairs. Some States, such as
Victoria, have managed better. Others, such as New South Wales, have managed worse, but it is clear that the Commonwealthhas provided block grants that would have been adequate if the States had managed their affairs properly.
Indeed, since 1950-51, the Commonwealth has made supplementary grants, in addition to the formula grants, to the tune of £71,000,000, and its reimbursements to the States have risen from £25,000,000 in 1949-50 to £70,000,000 in 1957-58.
I have dealt with New South Wales at some length. I appear to have gone away from education somewhat, but I have simply tried to make a point that has not been adequately dealt with in this debate, namely, that with proper management of their affairs the States could meet their education responsibilities. Any additional moneys provided must be, according to the attitude of the State governments, simply in globo grants to be spent on education or to offset further transport deficits, or else specific grants, which would bring about a centralization of education with which no educationist could possibly agree.
.- It is clearly apparent that the Opposition has made out an unanswerable case for federal aid for education. I think it may be well for me to remind the House, as the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) has already indicated that he knows little about the subject under discussion, that we are at present debating a matter of urgency raised on behalf of the Opposition by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). The matter is -
The urgent need for the Commonwealth .to take action to ensure that sufficient funds are available to each State of the Commonwealth to provide adequate public education facilities for their people.
It may not be known to Government supporters that last week about 130;000 people petitioned this Parliament in relation to education. It may not be known either that some of the most enlightened organizations in .Australia are working together enthusiastically to accomplish some realization of the tremendous importance of obtaining federal aid for education. The petitions presented here show -
Those are undeniable assertions of fact -
I hope to develop this aspect in the short time available to me, because it is most certainly a matter to be taken into account. It is a matter of recognizing that large numbers of immigrants are coming here, and that the Commonwealth, which is bringing them here, is failing to provide adequate educational facilities for them. The petitions continue -
The petitions, therefore, read in a similar strain to the matter of urgency which has been raised by the Opposition. I want to remind the House once again of the niggardly manner in which this matter has been approached to-day by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He has thrown up the protective barrier of the Constitution, which he is able and prepared to invoke at any time, even though his attitude in respect of these matters is completely inconsistent. I suggest to honorable members who may have been impressed by what the Prime Minister said to-day about the constitutional hazards besetting the Commonwealth in regard to finance for education, that they would do well to read what the right honorable gentleman said in this chamber on 3rd August, 1945 -
Now I turn to the position of the Commonwealth with regard to education. There is an agitation in some quarters for the transfer to the Commonwealth of the constitutional power to make laws with respect to education. I do not propose to discuss that, because, in my view, the problem is urgent, and it should not be considered upon the basis of some more or less remote constitutional possibility. After all, education was :not included among the subjects referred to the people at the recent referendum, and, therefore, the constitutional aspect does not at .present arise. There is, however, no legal reason why the Commonwealth should not come to the rescue of the States on the matters that I am discussing. Either by appropriations under Section -81 of the Constitution, as to which I agree that there is some constitutional doubt, or by conditioned grants to the States under Section 96, as to which there is no constitutional doubt, the Commonwealth could make available substantial sums in aid of educational reform and development.
Is this the same gentleman who to-day denied the authenticity of the claim that these actions were conceivably possible under the Constitution? The Prime Minister on 3rd August, 1945, not only went to the trouble of pointing out that it is possible for the Commonwealth to take these actions but he also actually specified the provisions under which it could do so. Now, in this year of grace 1958, when the Opposition, having been impressed by what the Prime Minister said in 1945, says precisely the same things, the Prime Minister goes to great pains to deny not only what the Opposition says to-day but also what he said in 1945.
To what extent is the Prime Minister prepared to humbug the people of Australia in these matters? We do recall that in 1945 he was in opposition, while to-day he is in government. When the Australian Labour party was in government it faced up to this issue. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said -
The relevant sentence of section 96 of the Constitution provides that the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit. . . . And there is no shadow of doubt that there is nothing whatever to prevent the States receiving greater financial allocations from the national revenue to enable them to provide adequately for education and other fundamental social services.
So the people of Australia, listening to this debate to-day, will be concerned about the Government’s inconsistency. Since the war the States have made as much provision in buildings, teacher training and equipment, as was made in the previous 160 years. In New South Wales alone, for example, it will be necessary in the next three years to accommodate an additional 32,000 children. The honorable member for Bradfield went to some trouble to belittle the amounts devoted by the New South Wales Government to this purpose. Indeed, he went so far as to say that in Victoria 40 per cent, more was being expended on school buildings than was being expended in New South Wales. From what more authentic document can I quote than the “Commonwealth Year Book” for 1957? Unfortunately, the honorable member for Bradfield, like the Prime Minister, has already left the chamber, being not at all interested in hearing the other point of view on this subject. May I remind him that the “ Commonwealth Year Book “ shows that in 1954, the last year for which figures in respect of this matter are available, New South Wales expended £5,400,000 on school buildings, while Victoria expended £4,600,000. It is tremendously important that honorable members coming to this place armed with figures should make some attempt to be accurate, and I do not think anybody would stand up here and deny the accuracy of the figures appearing in the “ Commonwealth Year Book “.
Let me inform Government supporters that organizations all over Australia are concerned in this matter - parents and citizens’ associations, mothers’ clubs, education councils, teachers and parents’ councils, and many others. They are not prepared to stand idly by while the Government closes its eyes to this issue. I make the prediction that this matter will become a great election issue. There is no other issue on which the Government is deserving of so much condemnation. Let us agree, in the first place, that this matter should not be treated in any partisan manner. We as Australians should recognize the great importance of facing this problem. Can we not agree that it is essential for us to establish the common ground that Australians should enjoy the best educational facilities available to anybody in the world? Would that not be a start? If we are . prepared to make that concession, we can set about making objective inquiries to determine whether or not there are deficiencies in our education systems. I put it to the House that in every State there is a great number of deficiencies. The first is in the capacity of the States to overcome the great difficulties regarding equal pay. The second is the excessive class loading which is evident in every State. Whereas the recommended class loading is about 30 or 35 pupils, in many parts of Australia we attain a class loading as high as 80. Another serious aspect is the excessive rate of university failures, which should be corrected.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) rendered a service to-day when he said that the whole House regarded this problem as very important. It is very important, first, because it has enabled honorable members to know just how much the Commonwealth has given to the States for education. The second reason is that the debate has directed attention to the precarious character of the constitutional status that we have in this matter. lt is true that the Opposition is defending its position on the ground that the referendum of 1946 made some provision for education for students but that, I submit, is a very doubtful ground for pursuing this further demand for increased grants for education. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that there was no doubt whatever about the power of the Commonwealth to deal with this matter. I recall the days when the right honorable gentleman was addressing the Constitutional Convention of 1942, which would have had the effect of destroying the federal system altogether. One matter that was before that convention was employment and unemployment. When he was asked what he meant by employment and unemployment in this context, the right honorable gentleman answered that he would not like to commit himself to any kind of definition. He said that that would be a matter for the courts to determine.
In this particular case, there would not be much likelihood of the courts being required to determine whether the Commonwealth Government was right in giving money for education under section 96, or even under the new provisions of the welfare referendum. I imagine that when the right honorable gentleman said so confidently that the Commonwealth could act directly in regard to education, he had not counted what the cost would be. What does he mean by the Commonwealth acting directly in education? Does he mean that the Commonwealth Government is going to set up its own schools throughout the Commonwealth in competition with the States, or that it should take over the whole of the education systems of all the States?
The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) pointed out rightly that one of the difficulties in this matter was the great diversity of population, climate and living conditions. It would be almost impossible for a centralized authority to handle all the diverse problems that would arise under a centralized system of such a character as national education would be.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Commonwealth had a trusteeship in this matter to see that the States did all these things. I imagine that that again is something the States do not want. They do not want the Commonwealth to direct them in these matters. They want to be entirely free to use the money as they think best provided that they can get the money. But as the honorable member for Bradfield pointed out, if the States get extra money, they will want to be free to say what they will do with it.
The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) said that this matter had been brought before the House on the request of 130,000 petitioners. I suggest that the names attached to those petitions were collected by false agitations which deliberately misled the community concerning responsibility for education generally and the amount that is actually being spent on education. The people were also misled on the rights and powers that the Commonwealth has in connexion with education. So we have before us, as it were, petitions obtained under false pretences and signed, so it is said, by 130,000 signatories. This debate has been beneficial in clearing the atmosphere in that regard and revealing the facts to the petitioners. The facts are entirely at variance with the statements that have been presented by the Opposition. This debate has provided an opportunity for the people as a whole to realize, first, the constitutional position; and, secondly, what the States are capable of doing.
When he opened the debate, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) complained that the Constitution did not make any provision at all for education. He referred to the horse and buggy days of the Constitution and said that it was out of date and should be altered. In that connexion, I remind him again that it is only under the powers that have been mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Commonwealth has any power whatever to deal with education. The right honorable gentleman said that as a result of immigration we now have an entirely new education problem on our hands in providing for the education of all the people who are coming into Australia. I am inclined to believe that the Commonwealth Government has already taken into account its duties with regard to immigration in its tax reimbursements to the States. If one works it out, it is evident that provision has been made to meet the needs of children in the proportions of 25 per cent, immigrant children and 75 per cent, native-born children. In its tax reimbursements, the Commonwealth has made adequate provision for the education of that proportion of immigrant children.
The honorable member for Wills expressed regret that different opportunities for education were available in the various States: I hope that there will always be different opportunities for education and that we will not have a dull level of uniformity. Unless we have variations, there will be no progress. I welcome the different standards in the States because they provide opportunities to emulate what has been done elsewhere. One State can draw its plans from the achievements of another.
We tend to forget that this is a federal system and the functions have been distributed not merely according to the resources of the States and the powers of the States to perform their duties, but also upon the principle of the desirability of having them performed by one authority rather than another. This, I take it, is one of the really important things. Education was not written into the Constitution and is only precariously in the Constitution at present. We want to maintain all the differences possible in order to get real progress in the standards and quality of educational services. This problem is not to be solved by an easy and facile method of handing out some money to be spent on educational services. That would merely aggravate conditions. The States will go on asking for more and’ more and will get more and more, and there will be less opportunity to get back to the real basis of the federal system in which functions are distributed according to capacity to perform them and capacity to pay for them.
I think there has been an. inclination to overlook the amount of work that the States have done in the way of education.
Like the honorable member for Bradfield I want to take New South Wales as an example and point out that the Government of that State has received by way of tax reimbursement over the financial year 1956-57 something like £71,000,000. It has raised from its own resources. £65,000,000. Over the same period, the State Department of Education has spent £36,000,000. That is to say that, looking at the face of the matter, 50 per cent, of the tax reimbursement has been spent on education. As a matter of fact, it would be fairer to say that something like 27 per cent, of the total amount available for New South Wales from tax reimbursement has been spent on education. Whether that is enough is again a matter for opinion, but it has been pointed out that more could be done by the States if they wanted to do it.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States in connexion with universities and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. Downer do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is designed to give effect to the statement which I made to the House in November last in reference to the Murray Committee. It is perhaps desirable that I should make some preliminary remarks on the bill, because it deals with a subject which is not unassociated with the debate just concluded.
I apologize to the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) for having gone out of the chamber for a while; but I heard him from another place. I merely felt that, because of a temporary derangement from which I am suffering - not mental, I hope - I should like to go outside for a while. I heard his remarks. He will be very glad to know, I am sure, that this bill, like earlier bills in this field, gives effect to the views which he was good enough to quote from the speech that I made in 1946. I then pointed out, as he was good enough to remind me, that the Commonwealth should, under section 96 of the Constitution, make grants to the States for specific purposes.
I am happy to say that, having become Prime Minister once more, I initiated in this House the first of such grants in respect of the universities. They occupy a distinct position in the field of education, partly - and perhaps principally - because, after the war, the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme came into operation and it had a very marked effect. It greatly increased the number of those persons who wanted to attend universities and it presented to the universities, as a consequence, a very acute problem which has grown over the years. To that problem we directed our attention and we have endeavoured to put our assistance in that field on a regular and adequate basis. That, really, is the purpose of this measure.
I do not want to rehearse the previous arguments. The position in relation to the particular field of education is, of course, materially different in that while the States have been quite willing and, indeed, anxious to receive grants under section 96 of the Constitution for the universities, they have, in all other matters, strongly resisted a grant with a tag on it - a grant ear-marked for some particular purpose falling within the State jurisdiction. Anyhow, that is a matter about which we have had an interesting discussion.
This bill gives effect, as I have said, to the announcement that I made on the 28th November, 1957. Therefore, perhaps I do not need to make an unduly long speech to the House about it. It deals with the finances of the State universities insofar as we are affecting them over the threeyear period from 1958 to 1960. I refer to the calendar years, 1958, 1959 and 1960, so that some of the provisions are already operating in 1958. Under this legislation, authority is given to make valid whatever has been done. It is anticipated that at the end of the three years, or before, there will be in existence, and in operation, a Commonwealth universities committee, or commission, which will, thereafter, having examined the position of the universities, make orderly recommendations to us about them. Of course, it will also be able to do a great deal of useful work in avoiding unnecessary overlapping between universities and - if I may use that terrible word - rationalizing the work of the universities on an Australia-wide basis.
The bill does not deal with any of the other recomendations of the Murray committee. I am dealing with the financial implications and requirements of the years 1958, 1959 and 1960. Legislation over the years from 1951 to 1957 provided for Commonwealth grants to the States for university purposes, and the amount provided by the Commonwealth for recurrent expenditure on universities has increased, in fact, from £1,103,000, in 1951, to £2,300,000 in 1957. The report of the Murray committee, among other things, clearly indicated the need for much more substantial financial assistance, and the present bill makes provision for maximum Commonwealth assistance of over £20,000,000 over the three-year period, 1958, 1959 and 1960.
The recommendations of the Murray committee involve obligations on the part of both the Commonwealth and the States. In general, the provision of funds by the Commonwealth involves the States in maintaining at least their present level of expenditure on universities, Commonwealth grants being additional to, and not by way of replacement of, State expenditure. I have consulted the Premiers in all States who have, in general terms, accepted the corresponding financial responsibilities for their States. This increased financial provision for universities, in which Commonwealth and State governments are joining, opens a new era in the development of university education in Australia.
I have said that this bill deals with the Government’s decisions on financial assistance to State universities and honorable members will note that Part II. of the bill, and the accompanying schedules, set out the maximum financial assistance the Commonwealth is making available for the years 1958, 1959 and 1960.
The first clause to which I would direct the attention of the House is clause 7, which provides for an emergency grant in each year to remedy urgent deficiencies of universities, as revealed by the report of the Murray committee. This is not a matching grant, but is contingent on the State level of expenditure on universities being at least at the level required in 1957 to attract the maximum Commonwealth grant. We are not expecting that this will cause any difficulties for the States. This money may not be spent on new buildings or sites, for which provision is made under clause 9 of this bill. I have also made it clear to State Premiers that it would be contrary to the recommendations of the Murray committee and to the intentions of the Government for any of it to be devoted to meeting the cost of increasing the salaries of university staff holding positions that existed in 1957. Provision for Commonwealth assistance for this purpose is made under clause 8. In accordance with the established practice for grants for recurrent expenditure, a small component of this emergency grant is to be devoted to the teaching and administrative costs of residential colleges.
Clause 8 provides for grants. for recurrent expenditure. The first of these, again, follow the long-established principles with which honorable members will be familiar from previous legislation. The maximum Commonwealth grant payable in respect of 1958 represents a 10 per cent, increase above the 1957 level and provision is made for a further 10 per cent, increase in each of the years 1959 and 1960. In its report, the Murray committee recommended salary increases to bring standard professorial salaries to £3,500 per annum, with pro rata increases for other members of the academic staff. The Government agreed to provide its share of the Murray committee’s estimate of the cost of these increases on the normal 3 to 1, State-Commonwealth basis for recurrent expenditure and, under this section, £187,500 is accordingly provided for this purpose. If a university increases staff salaries, it will be entitled to its share of the total, as set out in the second schedule.
Honorable members will note that provision is also made under clause 8 for grants for recurrent expenditure to South Australia for the South Australian School of Mines and Industries as this institution has, since the beginning of 1957, provided courses of study which lead to the degree of bachelor of technology at the University of Adelaide.
The Commonwealth enters a new field in providing capital grants for university building programmes. Under clause 9, these grants are provided on a matching basis of State and Commonwealth contributions, and in general envisage a continuation of the present level of State expenditure on university buildings. The third schedule sets out the projects which the Commonwealth will assist, and shows in each case the appropriate State and Commonwealth expenditure. Honorable members will recall, no doubt, that the Murray committee prepared such a schedule as a result of its investigations.
Estimates of costs of particular buildings can only be approximate at the present stage of planning, and accordingly the bill provides for ministerial discretion in varying the amounts the Commonwealth will provide for particular buildings. In accordance with the Murray committee’s recommendation, I would accept without question any variation up to 15 per cent, of the estimated cost. The bill, however, clearly states that the total amount of Commonwealth money provided for a university is not to be exceeded. The 15 per cent, variation is an internal matter, due, of course, to the inevitable fact that some costs may be under-estimated and some not.
– Is there any particular reason for fixing it at 15 per cent.?
– No, except that it seems to us to be a reasonable margin. I am stating this, as a matter of administration, as a broad indication to the States and to the universities.
Honorable members will notice, from a study of the third schedule, that in all States the Commonwealth and State contributions are on a £l-for-£l basis, except in Western Australia and Tasmania, where 25s. of Commonwealth money is provided for every £1 of State expenditure. But, in New South Wales, the Commonwealth offers more than £1 for £1 for the University of Sydney and less than £1 for £1 for the New South Wales University of Technology. This follows precisely the Murray committee’s recommendations. At each university the Commonwealth contribution is calculated to bridge the gap between the State contribution and the Murray committee’s judgment of the university’s needs for the years 1958, 1959 and 1960.
We have also agreed to provide assistance for the building programmes of residential colleges affiliated with universities, and clause 10 provides £600,000 for this purpose. The fourth schedule of the bill indicates the allocation of this money between States. It is left to the States to decide how much money a particular college will get. This money is available only for the independent affiliated residential colleges and not for colleges or hostels administered by a university. In the schedule of university building projects, capital grants are provided for colleges administered by a university where the Murray committee deemed it appropriate. Payment of capital grants for residential college buildings is on the basis of £1 for every £1 provided by State governments and from other sources. In some instances, the provision from other sources may be more material than the State contribution. The Murray committee recommended that there should be yearly limitations on the provision of this money, but we have not felt this limitation to be necessary. Its removal will give fullest opportunity for an early increase in the provision of residential college accommodation.
In brief, Part II. of this bill provides, over the three-year period, for emergency grants totalling £4,500,000, grants for recurrent expenditure amounting to just over £9,000,000, capital grants for university buildings, and their equipment and sites, of some £7,270,000, and grants of £600.000 for residential college buildings - a total of £21,370,000.
Proceeding to Part III. of the bill, honorable members will recall that the 1957 legislation provided grants for recurrent expenditure for each of the years 1957 and 1958. Grants for 1958 provided in this legislation have been superseded by those in the bill now before the House. Part III. therefore amends the 1957 legislation by deleting from it reference, to the year 1958. So that this now becomes the comprehensive provision for that year.
This amendment to the 1957 act also provides for grants for the South Australian School of Mines and Industries for the year 1957’, as these grants had not been approved prior to the introduction of the 1957 legislation. So that, in respect of that institution, 1957 is brought into a bill which otherwise relates to 1958, 1959 and 1960.
As honorable members are aware, the Murray committee made other recommendations which are not dealt with in this bill. It made recommendations affecting the Australian National University and the Canberra University College. Though decisions have not yet been reached on all of these, we have already taken action in respect of the recommendations for the Australian National University, for increases in recurrent expenditure at the Canberra University College, and for certain capital developments at the college, such as the establishment of a science faculty. Other matters that arose under the report as between the college and the National University are still under very close discussion and examination.
The committee also made recommendations on the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme - which, in fact, came into operation in 1950, and has gone on - and I have, asked the existing Universities Commission to make thorough investigations of what these recommendaitons would involve. These investigations require consultation with State education departments, which administer the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme, and with the universities, and it has not yet been possible to present firm recommendations. I expect that the result of the commission’s investigations will be made available as soon as practicable.
Finally, Sir, may I refer to the recommendation for the appointment of a permanent Australian Universities Committee. The Government has agreed to the establishment of this committee, and this is a matter which is receiving my personal attention, but I anr not yet able to make any specific announcement about it. As honorable members will not need to be told, it is not quite simple to get together the appropriate people for a body as significant as I hope this one will be.
In my statement to the House last November, I referred to some of the moreimportant problems of our universities - the need for more graduates, the need to reduce wastage, the inadequacy of buildings and equipment, and the ever-increasing budgetary difficulties of the universities. This bill sets out to provide additional financial assistance which should help the universities to remedy as many of these problems as they can in the shortest possible time. But money is not all, Mr. Speaker. The State governments, and more particularly the universities, must be expected to act to remedy other deficiencies to which the Murray committee drew attention. It is my hope that when the permanent committee comes to consider the needs of our universities it will find the situation in them - I am sure it will - much less critical than did the Murray committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Messages from the Governor-General reported transmitting (a) Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1958; and (b) an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the service of the year ending 30th June, 1958, for the purposes of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve established by the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955, of such sums as the Treasurer from time to time determines; and also a further message transmitting Additional Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving capital expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1958, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty an additional sum not exceeding £11,206,000 for the services of the year 1957-58, viz.: -
That, in addition, there be granted to Her Majesty for the services of the year 1957-58, for the purposes of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve established by the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955, such sums as the Treasurer from time to time determines.
That there be granted to Her Majesty an additional sum not exceeding £3,537,000 for the services of the year 1957-58, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Fairhall do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPherson-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill and of the associated Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill is to obtain parliamentary authority for certain expenditure for which provision was not made in the 1957-58 Estimates- The various items contained in the additional estimates can be considered in detail in -committee.
Some re-allocation has been made within :the total defence appropriation of £190,000,000, with consequential increases and decreases in individual votes. Included under the Department of Air is an amount -of £3,500,000 for payment of claims for logistic support to the Royal Australian Air Force during the Korean operations.
New items of capital works expenditure include -
Aluminium Production Commission - additional capital . . . . 700,000
Post . Office Stores and Services Trust Account - additional advance . . 500,000
Rail standardization, AlburyMelbourne .. 200,000
A further £1,282,000 is being provided ;for the Canberra works programme. Including these additional amounts and other relatively small votes, representing rearrangements under the new works and acquisition programmes there is unlikely to be any marked variation in the budget total of £122,400,000 for capital works.
Additional appropriations are sought for departmental and miscellaneous items of ex- ;penditure totalling £2,600,000, including Royal Visit, £85,000; Assisted Migration, £228,000; United Nations Emergency Force Contribution, £98,600; Bush Fire Relief, New South Wales, £20,000; and Trade Publicity, United Kingdom, £30,000.
The Appropriation Act 1957-1958 includes an amount of £119,363,000 for payment to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. The final outcome of the year’s transactions cannot be foreseen with absolute accuracy at this stage, and an appropriation has therefore been included in the bill to provide for the payment to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve of any additional amount that may be available- I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my second-reading speech on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) I indicated that it was necessary to seek an additional appropriation for capital works and services. This bill will effect that appropriation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Messages recommending appropriation reported.
Motions (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £234,361,000 for or towards the services of the year 1958-59.
That there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £48,986,000 for or towards the services of the year 1958-59 for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure.
Standing Orders suspended; resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on resolutions of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. Fairhall do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £234,361,000 to carry on the necessary normal services of government, other than capital works and services, during the first five months of the financial year 1958-59. These are services approved by the Parliament in the appropriation acts, 1957-58. The several amounts provided for ordinary services are -
They represent, with minor exceptions, approximately five-twelfths of the 1957-58 appropriations. The amount of £80,603,000 for Defence Services provides for expenditure on the current defence programme and the amount of £33,927,000 for War and Repatriation Services provides for expenditure on war pensions and repatriation and rehabilitation services. Except in relation to defence, no amounts are included for new services. However, an amount of £16,000,000 is sought for Advance to the Treasurer to make advances which will be recovered within the financial year; and to make moneys available to meet expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to Parliament.
– Is the amount of £16,000,000 for Advance to the Treasurer in any way unusual?
– No, there is nothing unusual about it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPhersonTreasurer [5.33]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £48,986,000 to carry on the necessary normal capital works and services of Government for the first five months of the financial year 1958-59. There will be Commonwealth works in progress at 30th June, 1958, expenditure on which must be continued until after the 1958-59 budget has been considered by Parliament. In addition^ it is the practice to programme the capital works and services in the major Commonwealth departments, including the Department of Works, the PostmasterGeneral’sDepartment and the Department of CivilAviation. The appropriation will also provide funds to ensure continuous employment and to enable purchases of materialsin advance for the carrying out of those programmes of works.
The bill provides for five months’ expenditure at the annual level at which expenditure was approved for the purposes of capital works and services in 1957-58.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate and (onmotion by Mr. Osborne) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which has been received from, the Senate, represents a general amendment of the Navigation Act. The original act was considered for many years before it. became law. It was first submitted to Parliament in 1904, but as the Minister said in the Senate it “ did not get beyond the stageof infancy “. A royal commission sat in the years 1904 to 1906, and it was largely on its recommendations that the proposed bill was remodelled, lt was again introduced in 1907 and in 1908, but it was not until 1910, after further alteration, that it was introduced for the last time. Discussion went on over several sessions, until in 1912 the bill passed both Houses. Royal Assent was given in 1913.
Before the administrative machinery could be made ready, World War I. occurred, and then by an amending act in 1919 a further provision was made that - “ It shall not be necessary to proclaim that the - whole Act shall commence on the one date but the several parts . . . may be proclaimed to commence on such dates as are respectively fixed by proclamation “.
Under this new provision the first instalment of the act, the Part headed “ Coasting Trade “, was brought into operation in 1921.
In the meantime an amending bill was passed in 1920. This contained a number of important amendments to bring the act abreast of developments in life-saving appliances and other matters, on the lines recommended by the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. This convention had been adopted as honorable members will recall, following the loss of the “Titanic” in April, 1912. From time to time- in 1925, 1926, 1934, 1935 and 1942 - amending bills were passed to make particular, but not far-reaching, changes.
In 1952, there was another series of amendments to enable some of the functions of the war-time Maritime Industry Commission to be carried on. Arbitration machinery was provided within the framework of the act, an Accommodation Committee was set up, and certain disciplinary measures introduced, which followed closely the lines of the orders made by the Maritime Industry Commission. Again, in 1953, an amending act was passed to implement the 1948 Safety of Life at Sea Convention. The arbitration provisions, inserted in 1952, were repealed by the 1956 act when the Arbitration Court was reconstituted as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
All these amending acts had some particular purpose, such as to provide wireless on small ships, to implement the International Load Line and Safety Conventions, and to continue the work of the war-time Maritime Industry Commission. There has not, however, until now, been an opportunity to review the legislation, and to make amendments found by experience to be necessary or desirable. Some anomalies have arisen with the passage of time whilst others have been discovered to have existed in the earlier legislation, and there have been some important constitutional changes and legal decisions which affect the maritime law.
So, the House will realize that a general review of the act has become necessary. The bill makes such a review, and in the process a good deal of tidying up has been done, dead wood removed, penalties increased, and as is to be expected, some new and important matter introduced on which there is room for differences of opinion. The bill has been very fully debated in the Senate, particularly in committee. I could not cover all of its many provisions in a second-reading speech, but I will mention the more important ones, and some others which may not be important in themselves but which call for some explanation.
In the first place, clause 2 makes provision for bringing the amendments into operation as they may be required, piece by piece, on dates to be fixed by proclamation. The reason, of course, is that it will be necessary to make new regulations under some of the new provisions, and these will be issued and the relative sections brought into force, when they are ready. By clause 3 of the bill, section 1a. of the act is being repealed. This is a section which has never been enforced and which, in fact, is inconsistent with the provisions of the act which permit British ships to engage in coasting trade under permit. The total exemption of naval ships is being removed because some new provisions are to be applied to naval and other crown ships. These are those governing the right to payment for salvage service, the obligation to pay salvage, and the extension of the principle of limitation of liability to Government ships.
The Government also proposes to remove some of the restrictions which prevent an unnaturalized person, resident in Australia, from serving as a ship’s officer. It is proposed in clause 12 that an alien who has been resident in the Commonwealth for one year shall be allowed to take the examination for a certificate of competency, but that if he passes he shall not be issued with a certificate for any of the five higher grades of extra master, master or first mate of a foreign-going ship, extra first class engineer or first class engineer. For a grade below those five, he will be granted a full certificate, but the reason why he will not be granted a certificate for one of the first five positions mentioned is that it is the policy and practice in British countries not to allow aliens to serve in these positions. Our Australian certificates are recognized for service in any British ship, because they are issued on the same standard and qualifications of candidates as apply under the Merchant Shipping Act. It is therefore essential that we shall not issue foreigngoing certificates that cannot be used or recognized abroad. On the other hand, there is no reason why such men should not serve in local ships; and to enable them to do so, on their establishing their qualifications, it is proposed to issue them with permits which can be exchanged for foreigngoing certificates when they become naturalized.
Several provisions are being inserted, or altered, to enable the Commonwealth to ratify conventions of the International Labour Office. These relate to the minimum age for going to sea which is covered by clause 22 of the bill; the certification of able seamen - clause 26; the certification of ships’ cooks - clause 76; the medical examination of seafarers - clause 78; and the repatriation of seamen - clause 102.
The bill proposes to leave most of the detail on these matters to be incorporated in regulations instead of in the act and, of course, the new provisions will not be brought into effect until the regulations are issued.
The procedures for logging seamen and imposing minor penalties for breaches of discipline are being clarified and in some respects modified. Clause 70 will give a seaman a right to lodge an objection with a superintendent, where the penalty imposed on him exceeds £2. The superintendent will have power to disallow the fine if he considers that the seaman was unjustly fined.
The liability of the shipowner to continue a seaman’s wages in case of his sickness is being extended in some circumstances and modified in others by clause 81. It is extended in the case of a seaman landed sick or injured at his home port. A seaman’s benefit at present is sometimes limited to wages for one month only, but it is proposed to make this three months, if the seaman has not recovered. On the other hand, provision is being made for a seaman who is away from his home port to be returned home when he is fit to travel. After his return home, his wages will continue until a week after his recovery, or for a maximum period of three months.
By clause 102, a new division 19 is being inserted regarding the relief and maintenance of distressed Australian seamen abroad. At present, these matters are governed by the Distressed Seamen Regulations issued under the Merchant Shipping Act, but the British regulations are not completely suitable for our purposes. Now that Australia has a diplomatic and consular service, it is possible to devise a set of rules for the relief of distressed Australian seamen, and their return to Australia, relying on our own officials in places where they are available.
The procedures by which a foreign ship may be allowed to carry passengers or cargo on the coast are being simplified. Honorable members will remember that section 286 of the act, which allows permits to be issued where the service by licensed local ships is inadequate, is limited to British ships. A foreign ship cannot get a permit under that section, but nevertheless foreign ships are allowed, on special occasions, ‘when there is no other ship available, to carry passengers or cargo under a certificate of exemption issued under section 422a. It is unnecessary to have two types of special permission to engage in coasting trade. Therefore, the bill proposes to allow a permit to be issued to a foreign ship if neither an Australian nor another British ship is available. This will not increase the occasions on which the services of a foreign ship may be obtained; it will only simplify procedures.
The penalties throughout the act have been reviewed, and many of them have been increased. In particular, I invite attention to clause 123, which raises the penalty from £100 to £1,000 where lifesaving appliances are deficient, and clause 125, which raises the penalty for submerging a loadline from £100 per inch of submersion to £500 an inch.
In this brief summary of the more important features of the bill, I have indicated its comprehensive nature, and the variety of subjects dealt with. I would like to add that both shipowners and maritime unions have been consulted on many of the matters included. It would be too much to hope that complete agreement on all matters would be obtained between those parties or between them and the Government, but there is a measure of common agreement and the Government is confident that the act, in its amended form, will effect a significant advance in our maritime legislation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
Agreement with United Kingdom.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Social Services Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1958, No. 30- and I ask for leave to make a brief statement concerning these regulations.
– The regulations give effect in Australia to the new reciprocal agreement on social security between the United Kingdom and Australia which was signed by the two Prime Ministers during the recent visit of the Right Honorable Harold Macmillan to this country. For the purposes of the agreement the United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
The new agreement came into force on 1st April, 1958, and replaces the previous agreement which had operated ever since 7th January, 1954. When the 1954 agreement was negotiated it was realized by both parties that some revision would be necessary after a few years’ experience of its operation. This was because it was largely in the nature of an experiment in reciprocal agreements, linking, as it did, for the first time in our history a scheme of national insurance with a scheme of noncontributory social service benefits.
Eligibility for Australian pensions under the 1954 agreement depended on a person’s insurance status when he left the United Kingdom, that is, on his record of contributions to the national insurance scheme or to the contributory old-age pension scheme in force before 5th July, 1948. Thus a person who was not insured in the United Kingdom could not receive an Australian pension by virtue of the agreement and a person who had only a partial insurance status received a reduced pension. Married women who depended on their husband’s insurance also received a reduced Australian pension.
On the other hand, it was possible in certain cases for a former resident of the United Kingdom to qualify for an age pension immediately on arrival in Australia even though he had only ten years’ residence in the United Kingdom. That was one of the anomalies.
Although, on the whole, the 1954 agreement has worked satisfactorily, the existence of these defects and anomalies led to consideration being given to the adoption of a new basis under which residence in the United Kingdom and not insurance status would determine eligibility for Australian pensions under the agreement. This was the basis adopted in Australia’s agreement with New Zealand which has been in operation since 1949, and subsequently in New Zealand’s agreement with the United Kingdom.
The same basis has, therefore, been adopted for the new agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom. It means that, in future, national insurance status will have no bearing on a person’s eligibility for Australian pensions or benefits under the agreement. Instead, every qualified person who fulfils the normal residential requirements of the Social Services Act, after treating residence in the United Kingdom as residence in Australia, will receive an Australian pension under generally the same conditions as Australian citizens.
The change from insurance status to residence gives the most important concession in the new agreement to married women not insured in their own right - and they form the vast majority of United Kingdom women pensioners - and in other cases where persons are not fully insured. At present, these people have their United Kingdom pensions supplemented only to approximately two-thirds, in most cases, of the maximum Australian pension. As from 1st April, 1958, their United Kingdom pensions will be supplemented, subject to the means test, of course, up to the maximum Australian rate, as soon as they have completed a combined period of residence in the two countries, appropriate to the type of pension claimed. This eliminates the need for “ pro rata “ assessments, and thereby greatly facilitates the administration of the new agreement. As a result of this the majority of United Kingdom married women in Australia will receive up to 33s. 6d. a week increase in pension.
The agreement will work in this way: A former resident of the United Kingdom who claims an age pension in Australia will be treated as if he had lived in Australia for any period during which he lived in the United Kingdom. If the combined period of his continuous residence in the two countries is not less than twenty years he will be residentially qualified for an age pension. His United Kingdom retirement pension, if any, will then be supplemented by an Australian age pension to bring the total of the two pensions up to the maximum rate payable under the means test - at present £4 7s. 6d. a week. A husband and wife will each receive the same amount in total pensions, that is, a total of £8 15s. a week.
A married woman depending on her husband’s insurance and receiving a United Kingdom retirement pension equivalent to say, 20s. a week in Australian currency will benefit in this way: Under the 1954 agreement she would have been granted an Australian age pension of £1 14s. a week, making a total of £2 14s. a week. Under the new agreement, she will still receive her United Kingdom pension of 20s. a week, but her Australian pension will be increased to £3 7s. 6d. a week, making a total of £4 7s. 6d. a week, which is equal to the maximum pension.
An Australian age pensioner proceeding to the United Kingdom for temporary residence will continue to receive his Australian pension during the period of his temporary absence. If he proceeds to the United Kingdom for permanent residence, he will be paid his Australian pension for the period of the voyage and a United Kingdom retirement pension at the full standard rate of 50s. sterling a week immediately on his arrival. If he is married, and his wife is over 60 years of age, he will receive an additional 30s. a week.
Residence in the United Kingdom will count as residence in Australia and a person who became permanently incapacitated for work or blind in the United Kingdom will be treated as if he became permanently incapacitated for work or blind in Australia. Thus a former resident of the United Kingdom will be residentially qualified for an invalid pension if he has completed a combined period of five years’ continuous residence in the two countries. Subject to the means test he will receive an Australian pension at the maximum rate of £4 7s. 6d. a week. Where, however, he became permanently incapacitated for work or blind in the United Kingdom he cannot receive more by way of invalid pension than the equivalent in Australian currency of the full standard rate of United Kingdom sickness benefit, that is, £3 2s. 6d. a week Australian.
An Australian invalid pensioner will be able to receive payment of his Australian pension during a temporary visit to the United Kingdom. If he goes there for permanent residence, he will be paid a United Kingdom sickness benefit at the full standard rate - £2 10s. a week - for so long as he remains incapable of work. This will also apply to a person who was receiving a sickness benefit, a rehabilitation allowance or a tuberculosis allowance when he was last in Australia.
The provisions for widows’ pensions are similar to those for age pensions. Generally, widows who move from one country to the other for permanent residence will receive the appropriate widow’s benefit of the new country. An Australian Class A widow proceeding to the United Kingdom for permanent residence will receive a widowed mother’s allowance of 70s. a week plus 12s. a week for each child after the first. A class B widow will be paid a widow’s pension of 50s. a week. Provision has also been made in the agreement to enable any widow who was receiving a widow’s pension or an invalid pension in Australia to qualify for an unemployment or sickness benefit at the rate of 50s. a week as soon as she arrives in the United Kingdom if she intends to remain there permanently and is not otherwise eligible for a widow’s benefit.
A United Kingdom widow pensioner coming to Australia for permanent residence will have her appropriate United Kingdom pension built up to the maximum Australian rate, this is to £4 12s. 6d. a week, plus 10s. for each child after the first, or to £3 15s. a week where there are no children. A notable concession made by the United Kingdom is that a widowed mother in Australia will in future be paid a widow’s benefit at the rate of 70s. a week, instead of 50s. a week because the additional pension in respect of her first child (previously withheld) will now be included. An Australian widow pensioner temporarily in the United Kingdom will continue to receive payment of her Australian pension.
The Social Services Act already enables the payment of unemployment or sickness benefit for former residents of the United Kingdom residing permanently in Australia. Persons visiting this country for less than twelve months will be able to count residence in the United Kingdom as residence in Australia. Australian citizens proceeding to the United Kingdom will be treated as having paid United Kingdom national insurance contributions for each week during which they were resident in or gainfully occupied in Australia, and including the period of the journey if it does not exceed thirteen weeks. This is of importance for many Australians who visit the United Kingdom annually on working holidays.
Australian families proceeding to the United Kingdom for permanent residence will continue to draw child endowment up to the time of their arrival in that country after which they will be granted United Kingdom family allowance of 8s. a week for the second child, 10s. a week for the third child and subsequent children in each family. Similiary, United Kingdom families will receive family allowance up to the time of arrival in Australia and will then be granted child endowment. Where families move from one country to the other for temporary residence, each country will pay the other country’s benefit on an agency basis. This will not interfere with the existing provisions of the Social Services Act whereby Australians temporarily abroad continue to receive child endowment if they remain residents of Australia for taxation purposes during their temporary absence. Provision is also made in this agreement for the payment of United Kingdom guardian’s allowance in respect of any child in the United Kingdom one of whose parents had been resident in Australia at any time after 5th July, 1948, the date on which the present national insurance scheme commenced in the United Kingdom. It is required that the parent must have been over fifteen years of age at that time.
Through removing several anomalies, the agreement may bring increased social security to any British subject in the United Kingdom and Australia. It is of particular significance for the 700,000 British migrants already in Australia, and for the 30,000’ Australians who go to the United Kingdom annually. Nor do our thoughts stop here. Provision has been made in the agreement for an extension of its benefits to any territory, for whose international relations the United Kingdom is responsible. I refer particularly to Malta, Cyprus and the Channel Islands, all of which territories, particularly Malta, have sent migrants to Australia. A proviso of any extension is that the territory concerned has a reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom covering similar benefits. Should a request for reciprocal benefits be made by any of the territories mentioned, Australia now has the machinery at hand to bring them into the present agreement with the United Kingdom.
I am sure that all honorable members will welcome this agreement as another link in the chain of kinship which binds together the peoples of our two countries- As the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of Australia said when they signed the agreement -
The vast network of ties between the United Kingdom and Australia is reinforced by the Reciprocal Agreement on Social Security which we have signed to-day. We have been brought still closer together when we recognize residence in one country as being equivalent to residence in the other. . Though the objectives of our two social security systems are the same, there are great differences in their administrative methods. The fact that we have been able to weld the two systems together with an improved Reciprocal Agreement demonstrates goodwill and understanding between our two Governments.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on this matter
– Is leave granted?
– There is something I should like to know.
– Order! The honorable member for Port Adelaide has asked for leave to make a statement.
– Is not the Minister going to move that the paper be printed?
– Order! There being no dissentient voice, leave is granted.
– I understand that the paper is not to be the subject of a motion that it be printed, so I have asked leave to make a statement on behalf .of the Opposition, lt is very gratifying, indeed, that an agreement has :been arrived at which will help honorable members like myself who .have had brought before them many difficult cases concerning social services for British immigrants. Under the old agreement, only an immigrant who had already participated in an insurance scheme in Great Britain had any hope of getting a pension in Australia. Under this new agreement, British people who come to live in Australia will be eligible for the same social service benefits as people born here, or as other people from overseas who have lived here for very many years.
The new agreement will be of immense benefit to British immigrants. Many honorable members have had brought to their notice instances of immigrants who have found themselves in very difficult circumstances in relation to social services. A case, in example, is that of a woman immigrant from Great Britain whose husband dies a few years after they arrive here and leaves her to look after their children. Under the previous legislation efforts were made to meet such a case, and discretion in that regard was vested in the Director of Social Services. The new agreement will mean that the exercise of such discretion will no longer be necessary, because such a person will be automatically entitled to social service benefits on the same basis as an Australian-born person.
I should like some clarification of one phase of the Minister’s remarks. He said that arrangements had been made whereby this agreement could be extended to cover other British countries. He referred to Cyprus and Malta, in particular to Malta. I have had considerable difficulty with social service cases concerning Maltese people. I take it that there can be no reciprocity with such places as Cyprus and Malta unless there is in existence in those places some social service system which could work reciprocally with the Australian system. There is not much likelihood of Australians settling in either Malta or Cyprus. It looks as if such places must have some social service or pension scheme before any reciprocity can be arrived at. I hope that something in that direction comes about, because I think that we, as Australians, should try our level best to give equal opportunities to people who come here to make Australia their home. Right from the outset they should have equal rights with Australians, since they have come here to :be part of our nation. Immediately New Australians have been naturalized they should be entitled to full social service benefits.
The Minister said that the agreement with New Zealand meant that a person’s period of residence in New Zealand would count towards his qualifying period of residence in Australia. Quite recently, a lady came to this country with her husband and son. The son married, and after seven or eight years the husband died. The lady returned to England, but later she wanted to come back to Australia. However, she said, “ Unless I can be sure that I will be entitled to social service benefits in Australia, much as I want to come back and be with my son I will not come back “. This agreement will - clear up all doubts as to the eligibility for social service benefits for people like that lady. I think that even the old agreement would have covered her.
The new agreement will enable us to make people coming from Great Britain feel at home immediately, because they will be entitled to the same social service benefits as they would be entitled to had they been .born here. This agreement is, in effect, a forthright statement that we -in Australia are one with the old country, as so many people here regard Great Britain. The result of the agreement will be that people coming here from Great Britain will not be sacrificing their social service entitlement in that country. They can come here to be children of the same great family.
I point out, however, that some Australians may not understand the position as regards reciprocity in respect of the social -services entitlement of Australians living in Great Britain. The position will be that an Australian settled in Great Britain will be entitled, not to the Austraiian rate of social service benefits, but to the British rate. Similarly, British people settling here will be entitled to Australian rates of benefit.
When the Minister was speaking, some of my colleagues naturally interjected with statements to the affect that an age and invalid pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week was too little. I do not want to dwell on that phase of the matter. I do want to say, however, that the British settlers to be affected by this agreement will receive the benefit of any increase of pension granted in the same way as Australians will. I have previously advocated a general increase of pensions and social service benefits, and I shall not spend time advocating it again to-night. I do not think anybody could seriously advocate that people settling in this country should receive more in pension from the Government than Australians do. That is a reasonable attitude.
The Opposition has not discussed this agreement, but I have discussed it with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and I think I can say on behalf of the Opposition that we welcome very much indeed the fact that British people coming to settle here will be on the same footing as regards social service benefits as Australians. Most recipients of social service benefits come from the ordinary working section of the community. Such people as businessmen do not rely on those benefits so much as other people do. The Opposition is very satisfied that this reciprocal agreement will put the ordinary people of both Great Britain and Australia on the same footing. Australians settling in England will benefit from the agreement just as British people settling here will benefit from it. However, I am not quite clear about the position of Australians going overseas. We are told that Australians settling permanently in Great Britain will receive the Australian rate of pension until they land in Britain, and will receive the British rates of pension once they are settled there. I am not quite sure whether the payment of the British pension to Australians will be automatic. I take it that some arrangement has been made so that no difficulty or delay will be faced by Australians who are entitled to social service benefits when they settle in Britain. That is all I want to say on the matter.
I do hope that we shall be able to make other agreements similar to the one that we have made with the United Kingdom. I hope that the Government will be able to make agreements with some of the Euro pean countries from which many of our immigrants have come - not only Malta, but countries such as Latvia and Lithuania. I hope that this principle will be extended and that we will entitle our immigrants to all our social service benefits once they have become naturalized. They should become, not just new Australians, but full Australians, entitled to all the benefits that we can give them.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
States Grants (Additional Assistance) Bill 1958.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill 1958.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Osborne) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Osborne) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 1368), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill proposes to amend the 1952 legislation and also the 1946 legislation insofar as that legislation escaped amendment in 1952. WhenI was the Minister for Information in 1946, I had the honour to bring in the bill dealing with the establishment of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. I said, on that occasion, that I was confident that the bill would commend itself to honorable members generally; that it was a good bill; that it would socialize an industry that needed socializing; that it would take over communications from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and a smaller body; and that I was sure that, over the succeeding years, it would give great satisfaction to the people of Australia. 1 am glad to say that the bill passed without much difficulty. It was really a most important piece of legislation because it gave effect to an Imperial Conference decision made in London in 1945 to bring under governmental control the overseas communications of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Prior to 1945 we had all sorts of little companies working in this field of overseas communications and it was not a satisfactory arrangement at all. The 1946 legislation was substantial because, in addition to giving effect to certain important principles, in those days, we had to consider the rights of people employed by the private companies. When we blanketed them into the new organization which was being set up by the authority of Parliament, provision had to be made for remuneration, superannuation, leave benefits and other matters. That legislation which, as I have said, was a fine piece of socialization, passed through the Parliament without difficulty. It remained unaltered and unamended until 1952 when the present Government saw fit to alter it because of developments in the intervening years.
It looks, now, as if, every four or five years, whoever constitutes it, this Parliament will have to consider amendments to this legislation because we live in days of remarkable achievement in the scientific world. We are never certain just what new discovery to-morrow will bring forth. In 1952 we were talking about entering the jet age. We got out of the atomic age into the jet age. Now we are in the space age and a lot of this legislation will be obsolete in a few years time.
The 1952 legislation passed through Parliament without much difficulty. This legislation makes some other amendments to the legislation on the statute book which, in the opinion of the Government is desirable and necessary. The alterations are not very substantial. They are not really very important but 1 agree with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) that, to some extent they are necesary. I think that we have to keep up to date with developments as they occur throughout the world, particularly inside the British Commonwealth of Nations.
If an inter-governmental agreement is reached at some conference inside the British Commonwealth, it is only right and proper that the consenting parties should ask their Parliaments to implement the decisions that are made. The changes in the inter-governmental machinery which had been agreed to by all the partner governments in 1952 were validated by this Parliament. It approved of the provisions of the relevant legislation without division. The Minister for Social Services, who introduced this bill in the unavoidable absence of the Postmaster-General, has said that the measure, will bring the act into line with the developments that have taken place in the intervening five years since 1952. Certain alterations are to be made in the existing legislation because of changed conditions in Australia.
The Overseas Telecommunications Commission which the 1946 act set up has been a very responsible and a very helpful body. Some very distinguished citizens have served on it. Apparently, there have been no politics in the work of the commission because those who were originally appointed to it have continued to be reappointed when they have wished to continue to serve and have not been disqualified because of advancing years. The first chairman of the commission was Mr. James Malone, who, for many years, had served as chief of the Wireless Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and who gave distinguished service in war and in peace. I think it will be generally agreed that he gave excellent service on the commission until he retired. Another former official of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, in the person of Mr. S. F. Kellock, took Mr. Malone’s place as chairman, and has presided over the commission for a number of years. Sir Giles Chippindall is a member. His recent retirement from the position of Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs on reaching the retiring age is regretted by every honorable member, and he leaves the service with the good wishes of everybody. I hope that he will be able to continue as vice-chairman of the commission, and that his attainment of the age of retirement from his Public Service position will not affect his membership of this statutory body. A very distinguished Melbourne barrister, Mr. Gregory Gowans, Q.C., who, like Sir Giles Chippindall, happens to be a very good friend of mine, also is a member of the commission, and has rendered excellent service in that capacity.
I do not think that it would be right to neglect to pay tribute to the work of Mr. W. C. Balmford the former Commonwealth Actuary, who also is a member of the commission. Mr. Balmford was brought out from England to serve as actuary to the body that was to be appointed in the days of the Lyons Government when we were to have a national insurance scheme. He has stayed on in Australia and has since acted in many capacities - and always with great success. Another member of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission is Mr. A. W. Wynne, a gentleman who may not be so well known to newer members of this Parliament, and who was associated with the newspaper world for quite a long time. He, too, has given good service as a member of the commission. I suppose the test of how well these members have served is their capacity to manage the enterprise of the commission successfully. The net profit for the year which has just ended, as disclosed in the 1.1th annual report of the commission which was presented to the Parliament some time ago, amounted to £200.245.
This is not a very big instrumentality, but it is an important one, and the work that it does has a great bearing upon our relationships with other countries. So far as I know, there has been no serious complaint from other countries about the quality of the communications controlled by this organization as part of the great network that operates not only within the British Commonwealth, but in the world generally.
– Very favorable references, particularly to its work during the Olympic Games, have been made overseas.
– The Minister for Social Services, who deputised for the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in bringing in the bill and moving its second reading, mentioned that matter in his second-reading speech. As one who played some part and had some authority in the conduct of the Olympic Games, I also should like to pay tribute to the work performed there.
If I may interrupt the theme of my remarks here, I should like to say that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who was the chairman of the Olympic Games Organizing
Committee, is entitled to a deep measure of gratitude from the Australian people for the work that he did, as are all those who worked under him - and I excuse myself for that encomium, because I happened to be, too, a member of the executive committee of the Olympic Games Organizing Committee. It is true, as the PostmasterGeneral has indicated, that the work of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission in despatching to all corners of the earth as promptly as it did the messages that emanated from the main stadium, and the other Olympic Games stadiums in Melbourne, was something of which we may very well be proud. I am sure that it helped to make Australia’s name even more favorably known around the world.
There is a very real partnership in the British Commonwealth in the field of telecommunications, and as I have said, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission - the Australian national body - is as important and as respected a body as any that constitutes part of the world telecommunications network. As the world seems to contract under our very eyes - as I have said, we are now in the space age, and space and distance have been annihilated by telecommunications, signals, aeroplanes, and many other modern devices - I like to tell my friends in Sydney and Melbourne that Sydney is less than three-quarters of an hour’s flight from Canberra, and Melbourne is only one and a half hours from Canberra by air, which, of course, makes Sydney and Melbourne suburbs of Canberra. I do not know that that is altogether appreciated everywhere, but, still, it is a fact, and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission may possibly take over even more functions than it. has at the present time. It will soon be hard to distinguish between what is internal in a Commonwealth the size of our own, and what is overseas, when it comes to telecommunications.
The bill makes some amendments to the principal act which, as the Minister for Social Services has said, are purely formal. The term “ acting commissioner “ has been re-defined in clause 3. Insofar as that is an amendment dictated by experience, there can be no objection to it. Clause 4 deals with the remuneration of- the commissioners. I do not know that it is altogether right to take away from the Parliament the authoriy which it has always exercised until quite recent times, of determining the remuneration of people who hold office on these quasi-governmental bodies. The Minister for Social Services argued that, because amendments to the law governing the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission have enabled the Governor-General in Council to determine the salaries of commissioners of those bodies, we should adopt the same procedure with respect to the Overseas Telecommuncations Commission. The chairman’s remuneration, of course, is at present determined by the GovernorGeneral in Council, and, to that extent, the Government can claim consistency, if it wishes. The money value of the remuneration of the other commissioners should be brought more into line with present reality, of course. The Government is stepping perilously close to criticism, and even condemnation, when it admits the extent to which inflation has galloped ahead in this country. However, we shall not offer objection to that clause.
Clause 7, so the Minister for Social Services has said, deals with leave, dismissal, and the vacation of office of commissioners, and we do not offer objection to it. Clause 8 provides that the salary of an officer shall be subject to the approval of the Minister if it exceeds £2,000, instead of £1,500, as at present, and we do not offer objection to that. The Minister has argued that the object of the change in the principal act to be made -by clause 9 is to avoid unnecessary and time-absorbing administrative machinery. No doubt experience has shown that something -of that kind is necessary, and so we offer no objection to that provision.
Section 38 -of the principal act, which this bill proposes to amend, contains a provision that the commission shall not. without the approval of the Minister, acquire by purchase any land exceeding £5,000 in value, dispose of any property, right or privilege valued at over £5,000, or enter into any contract for the supply, either directly or indirectly, from places outside Australia of equipment or materials of a value greater than £5,000. I do not know what mystic quality that amount of £5,000 possessed which caused us to stipulate it in the 1946 legislation. It was unaltered in the 1952 amending bill, but the Minister now says that the bill before us proposes to raise the amount stipulated in each instance to £20,000, because the financial limit which was imposed in similar provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act ought to be imposed in this case.
The Government says that this course was dictated by another necessity, which was to bring the amount into a close relationship with reality under existing conditions. The phrase the Minister used was, “ in view of the marked alteration of currency values since these provisions were made in 1946 “. He says that because of this the alteration should be made. I know, of course, that inflation has galloped since this Government came to power. I used to hear about the value of the £1 in 1949 being 12s. lid., as compared with the 1939 value of 20s. But of course, the diminution in the purchasing power of our money in those times was brought about because of our participation in a terrible war. I do not think the value of the Australian £1 depreciated much between 1946 and 1949. If it did, it would not have been to the extent of more than 2s. or 3s. But every one knows that since this Government came to power in 1949 the £1, which was worth 12s. lid. in the days of the Chifley Government, has depreciated in value until it is now worth less than 5s. Even so, if we increased the figure mentioned in the legislation from £5.000 to £10,000, we would be approaching parity with the depreciated value of the Menzies £1. However, the Government proposes by this legislation to increase the amount stipulated in each instance to £20,000. It apparently expects that before this legislation is again reviewed the value of the Australian £1 will be down to 2s. 6d. or thereabouts - provided, of course, that the Government remains in office. It is just as well to stress this point for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of people who are listening to me to-night, so that it will influence the result of the Victorian elections to be held on 31st May, and perhaps) of some elections for the Legislative Council of Tasmania and Western Australia next Saturday.
The other provision in the bill to which I wish to refer relates .to the liability of the property of the commission in respect of Commonwealth taxation. I think that it is right, as a principle, that a Commonwealth business undertaking should pay
Commonwealth taxes. The Government does not propose that the commission shall accept any legal obligation to pay State or municipal taxes. 1 think that the Minister, although he has not said so, will probably consider the desirability of making ex gratia payments to municipalities, if those payment are not already being made.
– They are being made in those particular circumstances.
– 1 think that is proper. I would not alter the provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution which exempts the Commonwealth from paying taxes or rates to States or municipalities.
– Why? Mr. CALWELL. - Because I do not think the Commonwealth should. If the honorable gentleman had not served in a State parliament and been a minister for about six days, he probably would have a broad national outlook. But I would requite these State or municipal authorities with what is fair and reasonable. I would not make constitutional alterations that are unnecessary, anyway, to do the fair thing. I always want to maintain the supremacy of the authority of the Commonwealth, because I believe that as the years pass, and because of the contracting influences of all the developments and inventions that are bringing the various parts of the world closer together, we will tend towards a greater degree of centralization in Australia, and State parliaments will have less authority and will not seem so important in the minds of the public. However, they have to carry on under the existing organization of our society and the provisions of our Constitution, and they should always be paid what is fair and reasonable. I knew that we had not previously placed upon this body the obligation to pay Commonwealth taxes, and I am glad that it is now proposed that it should do so.
The legislation is objectionable only in some minor respects and to the extent to which I have criticized it. The Opposition will not oppose its passage. We will not divide on the second reading, and I do not think we have any amendments to move in committee. Again I offer my congratulations to this body which has, under the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and his predecessor in this Government, and in the days when Senator Cameron and Senator Ashley were Postmasters-General, given very distinguished and disinterested service, not only to governments and parliaments but to all the people of Australia. Whatever brickbats may be thrown at some other government authority, I have never yet heard any hostile expressions with regard to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. It has done a good job, at times in very difficult circumstances. Whenever the challenge has been thrown out to it to rise to some great height of public service, it has always done so, and we have always been proud of what it has done.
.- We are examining the bill before the House in entirely different circumstances from those that surround the amending legislation brought down in 1952. The House will remember that this commission was set up in 1946, and in the few years following the volume of traffic declined quite a deal, as the war-time traffic demands decreased. Finally, in 1952, we discussed amending legislation. In that year there was a worldwide decline in telegraph traffic, and the traffic through the Overseas Telecommunications Commission in Australia dropped by 17 per cent. The recovery then became rapid in the years 1954 and 1955, and, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has said, the commission achieved spectacular success in 1956 when, through its skill and ability, it was able to tackle the prodigious task of catering for the telegraph, photo-telegraph and telephone requirements resulting from the Olympic Games. In the last report that we have of the commission’s operations, we find that on its turn-over for the year, after paying back interest to the Treasury, it was able to show a profit of some £200,000. I believe this is a remarkable achievement and a credit to the men who have been entrusted with this work.
I cannot agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he socialized this service to Australians. This is a business undertaking. It has been operated almost entirely free from Government control by a commission which has, because of its very freedom, been able to function as a business organization. It is quite different from the form of democratic socialization, which involves the taking over of radio stations, television stations, banks and insurance companies, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition believes in and preaches whenever he has the opportunity.
It is interesting to note that the operations of this service have extended to Asia and to many other countries. The last review of the service showed that 68 per cent, of the international telegrams lodged in Australia were sent to the British Commonwealth and the remainder to other countries - to Europe, to the United States of America and to Asia. We find that the volume of commercial message traffic, excluding the press, has risen to a grand total in and out of Australia through the services of the commission to almost 60,000,000 words a year. Other services have been made available to us through the commission. In Queensland, we have an exceptionally long coastline subject, at certain times of the year, to cyclones and storms. We cannot pay a high enough tribute to the services rendered by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, in handling the calls advising about the progress of cyclones. Unfortunately our ability, particularly our financial ability, to establish meteorological stations in the north where cyclones occur at certain times of the year is not sufficient to meet the need, and so we must rely on ships operating in the area to radio essential information to the nearest telecommunications station, which transmits it to the meteorological organization. It is then issued as a warning to people likely to be affected by a cyclone. The commission performs a very valuable service to the people living in coastal areas, particularly in Queensland.
The commission has set up an organization which can operate swiftly to enable immediate action to be taken for air-sea rescue should the need arise. It also provides a radio medical-service. Many of our island resorts near the coast, which have no contact with the mainland except by launch, are connected to the nearest telecommunications station, which transmits messages of an urgent nature, for instance, in the case of sickness or accident.
The commission operates throughout the world. A study of the map supplied in the commission’s reports from time to time indicates the progress that is being made on a world-wide basis. In addition, the service is of great value within Australia in times of distress or of danger. The operation of the photo-telegraph service between Australia and Canada, New Zealand, Singapore which relays to Japan, the United Kingdom which relays to most European countries and to South Africa and to Ceylon, and the United States of America enables Australia to draw closer to other countries through this modern form; of transmission.
I was very interested to read in the commission’s report some facts about the staff. According to the latest figures, 46i per cent, of the net receipts were allocated to employees’ salaries and other benefits. The staff employed in 1957 to operate, maintain and develop the international cable and radio services and the radio communication services with the Commonwealth Territories and with ships at sea, totalled 967. The commission has set an example in the provision of staff amenities which should be followed by many other organizations and by other Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities. Where the commission has set up a station, which requires men, with their wives and families, to live in rather lonely places, it has first made every effort to acquire adequate and modern housing for them. To-day, there are, I think, five houses belonging to the commission on Thursday Island. As one man is transferred away, the house is ready for another man to move in. This example could well be followed by other Commonwealth instrumentalities which require men sent to outlying stations to find their own accommodation. These men must secure accommodation on a rental basis or purchase a home before they can bring their families to live with them. The commission has met this problem by providing housing wherever possible and the houses are adequate for the needs of the occupants. After all, if a man has to live on Thursday Island, or at some other lonely spot, he is entitled to a decent house and surroundings for his wife and family.
This bill, which contains only machinery amendments to the principal act, is in itself a tribute to the commission. The commission has been able to keep up to date with world: standards in the equipment- that it uses and in the training of men-. All that the Parliament, has to do is- to pass this simple machinery measure to bring the principal act up to date with present conditions. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, we are living in a changing world and further amendments may be required], perhaps even before another five years have elapsed. At the moment, we can enjoy calm confidence arising from the knowledge that with all the changes that are taking place in this field of communication, the men to whom we have entrusted the task of carrying out the commission’s work have kept up to date with their equipment and with technical knowledge. We can say with pride that the service offered by the commission is equal to, and in some respects better than, the services operating in other parts of the world. As’ a parliament, we should pay tribute to the men who, with foresight and with knowledge, have given this service to us. I commend the bill to the House.
.- I wish to say a few words on the clauses of the bill that deal with the accounting side of this body as a statutory corporation, and also on the suggestion that the opportunity is- being taken to recognize the responsibility of the corporation to meet certain kinds of taxation. I am sure that on first hearing the second-reading speech of the Minister everybody thought that here, at least, was to be a recognition of the fact that if this statutory body possessed property in certain local government areas the principle would be observed that rates should be paid. But that- is not the case; and it is difficult to discover the taxes- to which this commission willi be subject. Under proposed new section 50, which- is covered by clause 12, the commission is to-be exempt from the great principal’ tax,, namely, that on. income. That proposed new section reads -
The Commission is subject to taxation (other than taxes on income) . . .
That will remove the commission from three-quarters of the taxing field. I am not arguing that the commission should be subject to income tax. I simply say that the Government should indicate whether this great new principle of applying commercial tests to statutory corporations is being brought into- effect’ by- this- provision. Proposed new section 50 reads -
The Commission is subject to taxation (other than taxes on income) under the laws- of the Commonwealth, but is not subject to taxation under a law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth to which the Commonwealth is not subject.
That means, in effect, that the corporation is not liable to income tax-. Neither is it liable to- be rated for municipal purposes. And since no State tax can be applied, what taxes will the corporation now pay as a commercial enterprise which it did not pay before? Here, one ought to note carefully what might be called the philosophy of the Government with respect to statutory corporations. The Minister referred to it when dealing with proposed new. section 50. He said -
Later thinking on the subject has been that, where a statutory corporation is conducting a commercial undertaking, the full true cost of its activities should be reflected in the accounts, and that it should meet the same business charges as would have to be met if the undertaking were conducted by private enterprise.
Apparently, that is the philosophy of this Government concerning the conduct of statutory corporations. Certainly, it is not the philosophy of the Labour party in these matters. This is apparently an indication of how the Governments’ philosophy is to be implemented. Proposed new section- 50 is being inserted- as- the great gesture, but for all practical purposes it will have no effect at air because the- commission will be exempt from the majority of taxes- for which a< commercial enterprise is liable. Income tax- is out, State taxes are’ out and the local government authority tax is out. So, it would seem that the only tax for which the commission will be liable will be sales tax’ on certain plant, and” so’ on, that it might use in its undertaking.
This is just another example of how the Government claims to adhere to a theory, but in practice ignores the theory. I ask the Government what, precisely, proposed new section- 50 means. Can the’ Minister indicate” the taxes which the Australian Overseas Telecommunications Commission will pay under this legislation which it does not’ pay now, and what is- the estimated annual cost in that respect to the Government? This proposal seems to me to’ be purely a bookkeeping device, because -all that it means is that the amount involved will be taken out of the accounts of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and will reapper as an additional impost in some other Commonwealth revenue account. It is another example of the bookkeeping mysteries that exist in connexion with the national accounts of the Commonwealth.
It is rather striking, also, to note a belated recognition on the part of the Government with regard to book-keeping that will be practised in connexion with this undertaking. Proposed new section 47 (1.) reads -
The Commission shall keep proper accounts and records in accordance with the accounting principles generally applied in commercial practice and shall do all things necessary to ensure that all payments out of its money are correctly made and properly authorized and that adequate control is maintained over the assets of the Commission and the incurring of liabilities of the Commission.
Here again, something appears in statutory form which ought not to require expression in this way at all. Surely, as was argued here the other night, if a commission or a board is set up, it will keep proper records and accounts in accordance with proper accounting principles. Why is it necessary to write this sort of thing in statutory form? I do not think there has been any indication that anything has been wrong with the accounts in the past, but here is written into the statute the intention this commission’s accounts shall be kept on proper commercial lines. Most government undertakings have very efficient accounting systems, although from time to time examples have occurred of records not having been kept in’ the form in which perhaps” they should have been kept. That has not happened as a result of any lack of statutory power or because of inefficiency in management, initially, but because of the fact that in certain undertakings it has been difficult to recruit the necessary accounting staff to do the work properly. T think that was largely the genesis of the trouble that arose in connexion with the Australian Aluminium Production” Commission. It was not a- case of that body failing to keep accounts’ but that it did not have adequate staff or supervision- to see that its accounts were properly kept.
Here, the requirement has been written in statutory form, but it seems to me there ought to be no necessity for this procedure. Although a statutory corporation seems to be regarded as a very effective device in certain circumstances for carrying out operations that are not normal governmental or departmental operations, the fact ought always to be recognized that as a statutory corporation it is nevertheless a public authority which ought, properly, to be accountable to the public for its operations arid ultimately answerable to the public via the medium of ministerial control. It is true that from time to time attempts are made to segregate what are called the day-to-day activities of these corporations from something which is called policy.
I think it was to-day that the Minister, in answering a question, said that that aspect was a matter for daytoday administration and not one of policy, so far as the Government is concerned. Often, a very fine line of distinction is drawn between What is day-to-day administration on the one hand and what is policy on the other hand. It is difficult sometimes to know where the fine line has to be drawn between what is an activity of the organization for which it is publicly accountable, and what is called policy for which the Government feels it is answerable in Parliament. It is not just a question of day-to-day administration. Day-to-day administration is the result of policy in many instances, anr1 *t can have vital effects on a public undertaing. Such undertakings should keep proper records, but the making of a profit should not be the test as to’ whether a statutory corporation is operating successfully. The test of success of a statutory corporation or a public body is whether if renders service to the public at the lowest possible cost. We should not be concerned With the making of profit. Sufficient revenue should be derived to cover costs, but the particular body should not be required to make a profit. Admittedly, in some years if may make a profit, but not every year. The test applied to British statutory corporations is that over a period of from three to five years expenditure and revenue should balance. No attempt is made by such bodies to make profit.
This bill outlines what happens with profits. If a profit is made, what happens to it. is largely a. matter for the Minister, or the Treasurer, to determine. He may say that in lieu of being granted more capital in the future, the undertaking may keep the profit it has made. Alternatively, he may say that the profit shall be paid into Consolidated Revenue. The aim should be to derive sufficient revenue only to meet the current costs, after allowing normal amounts for depreciation. I do not believe that any notional interest should be charged in the commercial accounts of government undertakings whose original capital is derived from Consolidated Revenue. Their aim should be simply to render service to the public at the lowest possible cost, associated with good management, efficiency, and proper financial control. Such undertakings should keep proper accounts and should follow normal accounting principles. That should be an unwritten rule for government undertakings rather than a statutory requirement. It is true that in the past there have been occasions when undertakings have been able to say that there was nothing in the relevant act about accounting procedures, except that the Treasurer may prescribe forms of account. There are all sorts of arguments about what is meant by “ forms of account “.
One matter that is clarified by the bill is the relationship between the statutory corporation and the Auditor-General. So far as the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was concerned, there seemed to be some doubt as to whether the AuditorGeneral had any power to scrutinize its financial operations, or whether he could simply take the final balance-sheet and only concern himself with whether a profit or loss was made, or whether the commission’s accounts were just covered. I suggest that the statutory corporation is still a public entity and that it should still be subject to some control by the Auditor-General. The bill before the House provides that the Auditor-General shall have access to the accounts of such a body. That is an improvement, and it is just another of the fruits that have flowed from investigations made by the Public Accounts Committee. Many of the matters discussed by that committee are matters about which one could not get wildly enthusiastic. They are questions sometimes of very minute details and abstract principles. They are matters that do not lend themselves very easily to parliamentary debate, but at least they are matters of significance and importance.
The Public Accounts Committee in the past has examined these matters and has recommended in its reports that certain changes should be made. Some of the financial provisions that are mentioned unspectacularly in this bill, and very remotely in the Minister’s second-reading speech, flow from the fundamental work that has been done by that committee. I pay tribute once again to the members of that committee, and in particular to its chairman.
These matters are receiving close scrutiny. Apparently, notice is being taken of the committee’s findings in the place where it matters most - the Treasury. Provisions similar to those outlined in this bill were made twelve or eighteen months ago in relation to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Some of those provisions appeared to flow from the deliberations of the Public Accounts Committee in the case of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. That was one of the early magna opera of that committee, and matters that received its attention included the question of whether allowances should be made for capital and whether certain taxes should be paid in certain circumstances. They are not matters about which all people necessarily agree. One’s concept of a statutory corporation varies according to one’s political views in respect to public undertakings, but it should be recognized in our society that no matter what type of government is in office we will have undertakings of this kind. We all want them to be run as efficiently as possible, although some people might differ about the relationship of such undertakings to the system of private enterprise on the one hand, and on the other hand to what is called socialization or nationalization. These questions of efficiency, control, management and the participation of the workers in the daytoday activities of these public undertakings are matters of great concern.
One matter about which I am in some doubt relates to reclassification. The Minister said that the proposed amendment to the act would avoid administrative difficulties that have been experienced in the past. A proposed new section seeks to amend section 19 of the principal act. Ti mainly affects sub-section 3 of section 19 of the act, which states -
Whenever any position is reclassified the position shall be deemed to be vacant.
That section was inserted originally, supposedly to give protection to members of the Public Service, because the questions of reclassifications and salary levels are of fundamental importance in the operation of that service. If, for instance, the appeal provisions in Public Service legislation could be evaded by appointing a person to a job at a certain level and suddenly reclassifying that position, either higher or lower, according to whether the appointee was liked or disliked, great injury could be done to the smooth working of the Public Service machine.
As I see it, the effect of this amendment is to remove the operation of the protective sub-section (3.) in certain circumstances. I am not quite sure that it is harmless as the Minister indicated. I do not think that these officers come within the Public Service Association, but I should like to know whether this clause had the blessing of their organization. It is the kind of complicated provision that laymen sometimes advocate without knowing precisely what it means. It will remove, for all practical effect in certain circumstances, the operative force of section 19 (3.). I cannot see that in the verbiage used some other protection is given in lieu. If the Minister cannot give now the assurance that protection remains, perhaps when the bill goes to the other place his representative will indicate that there is no snag about it. I do not mean that anything is being done deliberately or subtly, but sometimes changes are made simply because somebody aims at avoiding administrative difficulty, even though the course proposed is in conflict with the granting of justice to individual members of the staff. I should like the Minister to take counsel with his advisers afterwards as to whether the proposed amendment meets with the approval of the staff of the telecommunications service.
– As was stated by my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who introduced the bill for me. the measure provides for a revision of the various provisions in the present act and is largely of a machinery nature. This revision is desirable in order to brins these provisions into line with present practice in other legislation and also to make provisions relating specifically to the telecommunications service comparable with those existing in other countries.
I am glad to find, from the remarks of honorable gentlemen to-night, that the provisions of the bill generally meet with the approval of the House. There have been some mild criticisms of various aspects of it, particularly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), but I feel that the attitude which has been generally shown towards this amending bill reflects an appreciation of the very good work which has been done over a period of years by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. The commission, therefore, can take pride in the fact that its good work has been appreciated and that expression has been given to that appreciation to-night. I think I should thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition particularly for the personal references which he made to members of the commission, both past and present. It is perfectly true, as he said, that the chairman and other members of the commission have always been drawn from various sections of our telecommunications and industrial life and have been particularly fitted, by virtue of their experience, to deal with the problems which confront the commission. We have had drawn from the top level of the Postmaster-General’s Department men who know a great deal about general telecommunications problems. We have had actuaries and men drawn from the field of accountancy. At the present time, as was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, we have a man who has had considerable experience in the newspaper world. That has been of advantage to the commission because of the impact of its operations on the transference of news and the very great volume of business done by the commission with newspaper interests.
– How many people are employed by the commission?
– Nine hundred. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, on several occasions in passing, that this was a socialized institution. Of course, we cannot let that statement pass without comment. This is a government instrumentality fulfilling a certain purpose under its own charter. Its work is being carried out by independent men of very great competence, and there is nothing at all of a socialistic nature about its operations. Its day-to-day operations and administration are not governed by any political body, nor is it required to take into account in its operations anything whatsoever of a political or party nature. It is, in some respects, a denial of the compliments paid to the members of the commission and their work to characterize the organization in the next breath, as a socialistic experiment.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made some comment also on the amendments proposed to the amounts which may be expended by the commission in various ways including the acquisition of land and the purchase of equipment. The amount of £5,000 provided in 1942 is to be increased to £20,000. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition thought he saw in this proposed amendment an opportunity of suggesting to people who possibly had not given the matter very much thought that this was an indication of inflation in the country. The real need for this increase lies in the very great expansion in the operations of the commission. Its business has expanded very largely since its inception in 1942, with the result that in order to carry out its operations it needs more property and equipment of an increased scope and technical excellence. So, expenditure on equipment has increased materially, not as a result of any form of inflation, but because greater amounts need to be expended on various items for the proper conduct of the commission’s business.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) made some interesting comments and asked several questions to which I shall apply myself. He referred in particular to proposed new section 50 which deals with the liability of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission to taxation, and reads -
The Commission is subject to taxation (other than taxes on income) under the laws of the Commonwealth, but is not subject to taxation under a law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth to which the Commonwealth is not subject. i
There cannot be much doubt about the intention of that provision. It means that the commission will now be required to pay certain Commonwealth taxes excluding income tax which it was not liable to pay previously. However, it will not be liable to either local government authority or State taxes. I shall give the honorable member for Melbourne Ports the information he has requested: First, I refer to the taxes which the commission will be required to pay under this amendment. They will include such taxes as pay-roll tax, sales tax on all operating stores and equipment of the commission, and various customs duties on capital goods spread over the life of the assets of the commission. The estimate given to me by the commission as to what this will mean in added charges shows that the total annual cost will be about £25,000 in pay-roll tax, about £9,000 in sales tax, and £20,000 in customs duties and other similar taxes, making a total annual cost of £54,000. But in order to get the net result of this amendment, we must take into account the fact that some of these items will be recoverable because of the system of operation of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission in conjunction with the Commonwealth Telecommunications Union. 1 think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports knows very well that in the common-user system, which is part of the agreement in the union, there is a formula. I cannot go into it in detail now, but it determines between the Commonwealth users of the system just what proportion of the operating costs and the profits shall accrue to each of the members. As a result of that formula, the total additional cost under this amendment will be reduced by about £29,000. This means that the net cost as a result of these taxes will be from £25,000 to £30,000 per annum. The honorable member will realize that, at this stage, this is just an estimate but it answers his questions.
I now pass to the question of local government authority taxation and the liability of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission to local government rates. It is plain from the amendment that the commission - and this applies also to all other government instrumentalities operating in the same way - is not liable to local government taxes. However, for some time past, it has been the practice for the commission and similar bodies to make certain ex gratia payments to local government bodies for services rendered in certain circumstances. I pointed out the fact by way of interjection to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) when he was speaking.
For the information of honorable members, the position is that the commission will continue to make ex gratia payments as it has done in the past, for all services such as water, sewerage, electricity, garbage collection, sanitary services, and the like. Also, where the commission provides a residence for an officer or employee or some other person associated with the commission, and the residence is used solely for domestic purposes, an ex gratia payment equivalent to the local authority rates in that area is made to the local authority. In those cases, reference is generally made to the Department of the Interior which determines the amount to be paid.
Further, if a residence is detached but is included in the area on which a Commonwealth office is situated - that is, if there is a Commonwealth office with a building detached on a particular block - rates are paid on the building which is used for housing purposes on the Commonwealth block on the basis of the area of land on which the house is situated in relation to the area on which the other building is situated. In the case of a building which is used by the commission solely for the conduct of its technical services, ex gratia payments are not made.
That is the general position. It applies to every Government instrumentality, and it arises from the fact that although this commission is operating a commercial service, it is not operating in competition with any other service. In addition, it provides certain services for the Government on which it loses money, such as the coastal radio system to which the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) referred. It is a very valuable service and it is not purely a competitive commercial undertaking. Therefore, the Government decided some time ago that these ex gratia payments would be made although the actual liability to pay straight-out local authority rates does not exist.
Statements have been made during the debate on the type of service that is provided by the commission. I assure the House that the commission will continue not only to provide the excellent services which it is already -operating but also to extend the services which are available from its operations according to the increasing demand made upon the commission, and also according to the constantly developing engineering techniques which guide its operations. Honorable members will know that there are constant developments in radio telegraph and radio telephone techniques and the equipment necessary to operate them. The development of such items as transistors is an indication of the constant progress with which the commission is quite competent to keep pace. Such developments will ensure that the service the commission is providing to our people will bear favorable comparison with similar services overseas. it is interesting to note also that the commission is operating as a partner in the Commonwealth Telecommunications Union and that, as a result of this, there has been established a very strong Commonwealth network in which all Commonwealth countries are partners, and in which there is a very satisfactory common-user system. As a result, the service is a credit to the Commonwealth as a whole and of great benefit to member nations. I referred just now to the development of services. I should like to point out that a recent development which has been pursued by the commission is the provision of direct telex services with other countries. For some time we have had a teleprinter system operating internally. That is now being extended, through direct radio telecommunication services, to other countries, and already plans have been made - in some cases they are practically completed - for the provision of direct telex services to such places as Great Britain, America, New Zealand, Hong Kong and, lately, Japan. Arrangements for the service to Japan have not yet been completed, but they will be shortly. These services will, of course, offer a great advantage to the people in Australia who are carrying on our vital overseas trade and consequently will assist greatly in building up our economy.
It is pleasing to know that, since shortly after its inauguration, the commission has been able to finance its operations from its profits. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out, the commission .is not essentially a profit-making body; but it is proper that any body such as this, which is operating on a thoroughly sound business basis and carrying out its work efficiently, should make a small profit. The commission has been able to do that. With the authority of the Minister and the Treasurer, its profits are ploughed back into the commission’s capital works, leading to a steady build-up of its services. The steady expansion of services to which I have referred is being carried out without further demands having to be made on the public purse. I think that from all aspects the encomia that have been heaped on members of the commission and the employees who carry out its work are well justified. It is pleasing to know that, as a result, this bill will be given a relatively easy and speedy passage.
.- I should like to support the commendatory remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) on the work of the Australian international communications system. It is a remarkable thing that the entire overseas telecommunications system of this country is in the hands of only 900 men and women. Surely this is one of the most important services rendered by public servants in the Commonwealth, yet only 900 people are concerned in carrying it out. This is the really silent service of the Commonwealth. It is more silent than the Navy. It is a service that operates behind the scenes. It is a service consisting of highly trained technical men, and I have great admiration for its work. We do not come into contact with it very much except when a bill like the present measure comes before the Parliament.
It is a pity, perhaps, that the work of the system is not publicized. The people who carry on that work are providing Australia with a wonderful service in maintaining the intricate network of overseas communications which is so important to the wellbeing of the Commonwealth and also to the part that we are playing in international affairs.
The “Commonwealth Year Book” for 1957, at page 427, gives an outline of the history of cable and radio communication in Australia. The “Year Book” entry reads as follows: -
Merging of Cable and Wireless Interests. - Following upon the recommendations of the Imperial Wireless and Cable Conference in London in 1928, which examined the situation that had arisen as the result of the competition of the beam wireless with the cable services, Imperial and International Communications Limited (since renamed Cable and Wireless Ltd.) was formed and took over the operations of the Pacific Cable Board and the control of the Eastern Extension Cable Company and the Marconi Wireless Company.
The Overseas Telecommunications Comission came into being later, and Australia thus came into line with other countries.
The “ Year Book “, at the same page, shows some of the figures relating to the immensity of the commission’s work. In 1955-56 1,441,000 international telegrams were received in Australia and 1,374,000 were despatched from Australia - a total received and sent of 2,815,000. In 1951- 52 2,686,000 international telegrams were received and sent. So the increase in traffic has been steady. The phenomenal total of 34,690,000 words was sent to the United Kingdom and other countries in 1955-56, and the total number of words received in Australia was 40,454,000, making an aggregate of about 75,144,000 words sent and received over our international telecommunications system.
We also have an excellent system of coast stations set up round the Commonwealth. As at 30th lune, 1956, there were 54 wireless stations established at points around the Australian coast and twelve around the coast of Papua and New Guinea. During the year ended 31st March, 1956, these stations handled a total of 12,081,193 paying words.
The work of the international telecommunications system does not ordinarily come before the public. It comes into the public view only in the form of statistics issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. The volume of work handled by our telecommunications system, as shown in the bureau’s figures, is staggering.
I should like later to mention the sterling work performed by the commission during the Olympic Games in Melbourne. During the last year the telephone calls to and from other countries totalled 70,840, an increase of 10,207 over the previous year. According to the Postmaster-General’s annual report for the year ended 30th June, 1957, we have extended our direct radio telephone links to Canada and India, to replace services which were previously switched at
Oakland, U.S.A., and London respectively, Services were also made available, via London, to Bahrein, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ethiopia, French North Africa, Ghana, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Spanish North Africa, Tangier, Turkey and the U.S.S.R. Australian telephone subscribers now have access to 94 overseas countries as well as to many naval and passenger ships at sea.
I and other honorable members had an illustration of the excellence of our radio communication services when we were aboard R.M.S. “Strathaird” in 1952 on our way to England. We were in communication all the time with Australia and received up-to-date news of Australian happenings.
Part of the successful staging by Australia of the Olympic Games in Melbourne was the ability to afford the correspondents of newspapers and newsagencies overseas a rapid means of sending news and results to their countries. The games were conducted at fifteen scattered areas in Victoria. A complex internal system of telecommunications was required to co-ordinate the various events. There was a great internal telecommunications control system which consisted of a local network at each venue, including standard speech circuits, timing and signalling devices and, in some cases, local public address systems. A mutually supporting teleprinter, telephone and radio network connected the venue and the Olympic accommodation centres with the principal control centre at the main stadium.
Extensive telecommunication services were also provided for the press. Representatives of the Australian press and international agencies covering the games established special offices at the main stadium and they were furnished with facilities there and at the press viewing seats in the stadium. Press messages were despatched by machine telegraph equipment over direct channels to Australian and overseas destinations. Visiting pressmen in the hotels in Melbourne had a service provided in their bedrooms. A night press telegram collection service was arranged, with collection boxes located at the reception desks of a number of hotels. Telephone and teleprinter services were installed in the hotels to handle messages. This was a tremendous feat. It must have taken weeks and months of organization before the games commenced.
At the Chief Telegraph Office, the normal picturegram equipment was augmented by the use of portable apparatus. Picture transmissions to other. Australian cities averaged 90 per day. So we had a wonderful coverage in our press of what happened at the Olympics. We know, from our own reading at the time, of the wonderful variety of pictures that was sent to our various newspapers.
The great volume of international telecommunications traffic was handled by the Overseas Telecomunications Commission, nearly 3,000,000 words being transmitted via the public telegraph channels. Incoming messages from abroad received at the Olympic Village totalled 9,664, and 290 were received at the main stadium. Phototelegrams transmitted overseas totalled 2,110 and 2,466 calls to and from Melbourne and overseas countries were connected over radio telephone channels.
Shortly before the games, the London channels to the radio telephone exchange in Sydney were supplemented by a new radio telephone exchange at Perth in Western Australia, linked with London by two channels. A radio link was also opened between Sydney and Vancouver and this, in addition to providing access to the telephone and telegraph system of the North American continent, enabled connexions to be made with London, via the newly opened trans-Atlantic cable. As the Olympic Village was to be converted to normal housing, telephone facilities there were planned on a permanent basis. The national teams were provided with a total of 143 exchange lines, while a further 114 were installed for the village administration authorities.
At the stadium a telephone information bureau was established which was called MOLY - 16. Several switchboards were converted for the bureau which served the public, and particularly overseas visitors, with olympic information. Some 30,000 inquiries were received by MOLY - 16 which was in operation from 9th November to 14th December, 1956. This is an amazing story of technical victory by highly trained technical men. These men were not publicized. They did not get their names in the newspapers. They were not even heard of. But they worked behind the scenes before and during the enormous programme of the Olympic Games.
I did not hear then and I have riot heard since of any breakdown in the transmission of the Olympic Games information from Melbourne. That is a wonderful feat, considering the complexity of the task. This was the first time that Australia had had to put on something as big as the Olympics and the telecommunications men rose to the occasion magnificently and showed even the older countries of the world’ that we could do the job when put to the test. So, to-night, I pay tribute to the men concerned for what they did oh that notable occasion in our history.
The PoStmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), under whose department this system operates; has rather contradicted the idea that this is a socialized service. I am sure that he would not call it private enterprise. I’ do not know what other category he could put it in, for truly it is a socialized utility, whatever the Government may say about it. How nervous the Government is when- we suggest that it is conducting a socialized enterprise! Yet the Government is actually conducting- socialized services that were operating long before it came into office and even- before Labour came into office. Some such services were established at the time of the adoption of the Constitution. The more modern organizations, however, include the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Meteorological Bureau, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, arid TransAustralia Airlines.
– What about the Postal Department?
– I was coming to that. I would rather say that the Postal Department is a- nationalized service. There is no one in competition with the Postal Department which conducts telegraph and telephone services throughout Australia. A nationalized service is one to’ which there is no opposition, private or governmental: We can say that the only truly nationalized service in the Commonwealth, apart’ from the socialized services, is the department conducted by the Postmaster-General, who is now at the table and who is doing a mighty good job is a Minister. He has helped me a’ lot iri my electorate and I have to pay tribute where tribute is due. I know that a few post offices have yet to be built in other electorates. But I am not growling. I have had several built in my electorate in the past few years and that is a good thing. But the Postal Department is a nationalized service, whatever the Minister likes to say about it. Radio Australia is a socialized service.
This bill tries to tidy up some of the weaknesses of the existing act. It is designed to bring the act up to date, arid, what is very important, to bring it into line with other Liberal ideas about socialized industry such as the paying of taxation. The Government has done that with several other socialized enterprises- and this is just a Liberal touch to a piece of Labour legislation. As the Minister said, under this bill the pay-roll tax will bring in £25,000, the sales tax £9,000, and the customs and excise duties about £20,000, a total of approximately £54,000.
The Opposition is not opposing the bill because it is a really good measure in its main provisions. However, we may query some of the Liberal party ideas that are evident in it. It is interesting to see the change proposed in clause 1 1 which deals with section 38 of the principal act, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) Kas said. Section 38 (2.) of the principal act1 provides that the commission shall not, without the approval of the Minister, acquire by purchase any land the cost of acquisition of which exceeds the sum of £5,000; dispose of any property, right or privilege having an original or book value exceeding the sum of £5,000; or enter into any contract for the supply, either directly or indirectly, from places outside Australia, of equipment or materials valued at more than’ £5,000. This is the interesting change. As a result of the inflation that has developed’ iri the last ten years, the Government proposes to raise the amount specified in those three instances to £20,000, or four times as much. This is the same as the financial limit imposed in a similar provision of the’ Broadcasting and Television Act; and the Government’s action is’ a tacit admission that the value of money has changed radically and rapidly in’ recent years”. The principle behind the change is sound, of course. What worthwhile property can a great service such as the Overseas Telecommunications Commission hope to buy for £5,000 in these days? It will need £20,000 to buy now what it could have bought for £5,000 ten years ago.
– The service has been extended. The Postmaster-General explained that.
– That is quite so. The cost of the service, also, has been extended owing to the inflationary situation in Australia to-day. It is of no use for the honorable member to try to argue that fact away.
– It now takes £4 to do what the Labour government could do for £1.
– It takes this Government £4 to do what the Labour government was able to do for £1.
The change proposed in relation to the fixing of the remuneration of commissioners is all right, and there is no other contentious provision” in” the bill, so far as I can see, Mr: Acting Deputy Speaker. In- conclusion, I. should like” to repeat that the Opposition supports the measure, but places its own interpretation on various aspects of it. I should like to pay warm tribute again, to the 900 faithfull men and women who, out of sight of- the public, operate’ our overseas telecommunications system, so efficiently that the- service provided is easily the equal of- the best obtainable, anywhere else in the world.
.- The remarks of- the Honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) impel me to say that it is remarkable that, every time the question of socialization and socialized industries comes to mind, he and members of the party to which he belongs, like a small boy who whistles as he passes through a graveyard”, to dispel his fear of the unknown, make excuses for something that they, just cannot define. They are so scared of these words “ socialism “ and “ socialization “’ that, at every possible opportunity, they submit that socialization is quite normal, although I doubt whether more than a few of them appreciate the real meaning of socialism and socialization. But this, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, is not the time for me to go into that, and I know that you would not permit me to do so.
– Will the honorable member tell us what he” thinks socialization means?
– No, I do not propose to. Nor do I propose to point out that it is a denial of the individual’s right to conduct his affairs as he, in his own wisdom, would wish to do. lt takes away from him all his initiative and enterprise and denies him his rights as- a free individual in this very free world. I do not propose to go on along those lines, because I know that you, Sir, would not allow me to do so.
I turn now to the bill. Sub-section (1.) of proposed section 47, in clause 12, provides -
The’ Commission shall keep proper accounts and records in accordance with the accounting principles generally applied in commercial practice . . .
That is an extremely important provision. The Public Accounts Committee has frequently directed its attention to this aspect of public accounting. Perhaps it would be as well for honorable members- to understand that, under the Treasury’s system of accounting, accounts are kept on an absolute cash basis. The question of debts or credits to be collected or paid’ at some time subsequent to the close of the financial year does not enter into” the normal Treasury system of keeping accounts. In order to overcome the difficulty presented by that fundamental practice in Treasury accounting, provision must be made to enable business undertakings - and this is a business undertaking in the’ form of a statutory corporation conducting a normal business in the course of which” it receives remuneration for services rendered - to keep their accounts on a commercial basis in order that we may ascertain whether they are operating as efficiently as possible from the stand-point of costs.
I do not say this in criticism of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Aust.) I join with other honorable members who have already spoken in paying tribute to the work that the commission has done, and I hope that this bill will facilitate services of the kind that it has been able to render in the past. As honorable members have unanimously said, the commission has done, and is doing, an excellent job.
I turn from that aspect of the keeping of accounts to sub-section (1.) of proposed section 53, in clause 13, which provides -
The Commission shall, as soon as practicable after each thirty-first day of March, prepare and furnish to the Minister a report of its operations during the year ended on that date, together with financial statements in respect of that year in such form as the Treasurer approves.
Such a provision, in relation to an organization like the commission, which is intended to be a statutory business corporation, does not tie in with the requirement that accounts shall be kept in accordance with commercial practice.
Down the years, this Parliament has been faced with the spectacle of reports statutorily required to be presented being submitted to the Parliament at any old time after the close of the year to which the reports relate. This has not happened so much in recent years, during which we have, fortunately, been relatively free from this practice. But unfortunately, we still find that commercial or business undertakings conducted by the Government present their reports very late in the financial year succeeding the year to which the report relates. Any commercial undertaking is required to complete its accounts as soon as is practicable, and I am sure that the Commissioner of Taxation would not be satisfied with the explanation that it had not been found practicable to complete the accounts for a given financial year within the time specified. Business undertakings have to meet this requirement in order to discharge their commitments and obligations to supply returns to the Government for taxation and other purposes. I see no reason why, when a statutory corporation is authorized to conduct its business on commercial lines, it should not be brought into line with ordinary commercial enterprises and required to present its annual report within a normal specified period, just as ordinary commercial enterprises have to complete their accounts within a specified time for income tax purposes, although the Overseas Telecommunications Commission is, of course, exempt from income tax.
If this stipulation were made, it would then become an obligation on the commission’s management to have the accounts completed in time for them to be audited by the Auditor-General and presented to the Parliament within a reasonable time after the close of the year to which the report relates. This would afford members of the Parliament an opportunity to discuss the accounts while the subject matter was still warm, and in time for something to be done if anything undesirable were apparent. It would not be too late for the Parliament to adopt remedies, make suggestions, or offer criticisms. I do not make this suggestion to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in particular. I make it now because I have the opportunity to advance this point of view for the consideration of the Government and the Treasury. I suggest that whenever similar measures are drafted in future they should stipulate a specified period within which the accounts of the body concerned are to be ready for presentation to the Parliament after having been passed by the auditors.
I want to make one further point. It concerns the clause which protects the commission from actions which might otherwise lie against it by reason of any default, delay, error, omission or loss, whether negligent or otherwise, in the transmission, receipt or delivery of a telecommunication. I know that the commission is extremely proud of its very high record of speed and accuracy, and, particularly having in mind the many circumstances outside its control that it has to contend with, such as weather conditions, I believe that the commission does a remarkably good job, but there are occasions when errors creep into transmitted messages. When such an error does occur, is it the fault of the commission, or does the blame lie at the door of the Postal Department? The Minister has control of both organizations, and I suggest to him that he should impress on all officers in these departments associated with the transmission of messages the tremendous importance of accuracy and speed, and the great loss that could result to a commercial undertaking because of an apparently slight error or an apparently slight delay. They should be told of the necessity to take extra care because of the great loss that may result from an error. They should realize that a greater responsibiliy than ever rests upon them, because of the fact that Parliament has exonerated them from blame from errors or delays, whether negligent or otherwise, to see that their work is carried out with the greatest possible accuracy and expedition. Persons have complained to me about errors in messages they have received, particularly from overseas, but in every case there has been a reasonable explanation. I have never had to take such a matter to higher authority, because the explanation has always been satisfactory to those who have complained. I am not, therefore, prepared to say that I know of any case where carelessness has occurred. But when Parliament removes the liability to legal action, which must be accepted by other persons giving service to the public, the obligation is all the greater upon those giving the service to make sure that the trust resposed in them by Parliament is not abused.
I repeat that I join with other honorable members in commending the commission for the work that it has done. As a matter of fact, I commend all those responsible for our communications service throughout the continent. I believe they are deserving of the greatest praise for the job they do. In very many cases, they carry out their work under extreme difficulty. In conditions of fire and flood these people have stood by their posts when they could very well have walked out. I believe that they are rendering great service to us and that we owe them a real debt of gratitude. I conclude this very brief speech by suggesting to the Minister that if he ever has occasion to review this legislation he should consider fixing a definite time within which the accounts of the commission are to be prepared and presented to him, so that he can then present them to the Parliament. I should be very pleased to see the present Minister, for whom the House has to-night expressed the highest regard, establish a record for the short time taken to present accounts to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
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 Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1952.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests: -
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill 1958.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill 1958.
Customs Tariff (Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland Preference) Bill 1958.
Excise Tariff Bill 1958.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The term I used in my answer referred to by the honorable member was not “ 522 spies and agents “, but was “ 522 Soviet espionage cadre workers “. The term “ cadre workers “ refers to Soviet employees of the Soviet espionage service. This is clearly stated in the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage. The figure of 522 espionage cadre workers identified by the Petrovs therefore refers to the professional espionage officers of the Soviet Union. In view of this clarification, perhaps the questions asked do not any longer arise. But in any case, in relation to these cadre workers, I do not know how many of them have been retained in the service of the Soviet espionage services. I am still less able to say whether they enjoy any liberty in the Soviet service. If the honorable member would reflect upon the fact that not only have these people been engaged in the conduct of Soviet espionage throughout the world, but also that their identification seriously hampers their future employment as diplomatic masqueraders on similar activities in all non-Communist countries, he will now realize and, I hope, .appreciate the magnitude of the contribution these disclosures represent to the defence of our freedoms not only in Australia but to the free world as a whole.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. Statistics of numbers of persons admitted to special benefits as received by the Statistician from the Department of Social Services on the reporting basis established in 1931 have always excluded migrants in reception and training centres. The numbers of migrants in reception and training centres in receipt of special benefits are subject to considerable variations and it was considered inadvisable to incorporate them with numbers of “ ordinary “ recipients. The honorable member will be aware that the table in the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “ includes separate figures of monthly amounts paid under special benefits for “ migrants “ (i.e., in reception and training centres) and “ ordinary “ recipients. The question of the Statistician obtaining and publishing a separate series of numbers of such “ migrants “ admitted to special benefits is under consideration.
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What was the (a) total butter consumption in Australia, (b) consumption per head of population, (c) subsidy paid, and (U) retail price per lb., in 1949 and in each succeeding year?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Lottery and Gaming Ordinance 1952 (No. 16 of 1952).
Lottery and Gaming Ordinance 1952 (No. 36 of 1952).
Ordinance No. 16 of 1952 was passed by the Legislative Council in October, 1951, assented to by the Administrator on 2nd February, 1952, and disallowed on 29th February, 1952. Ordinance No. 36 of 1952 was passed in May, 1952, assented to on 5th September, 1952, and disallowed on 9th October, 1952. 3. (a) There have been five ordinances to which the Governor-General’s assent has been withheld since May, 1951, namely–
Aboriginals Ordinance 1952 and Mining Ordinance (No. 2) 1952. - These odinances contained certain technical defects in the provisions relating to establishment of a Trust Fund and did not follow exactly the Government’s policy in the matter. They were replaced by the Aboriginals Ordinance 1953 and the Mining Ordinance 1953.
Alice Springs Administration Ordinance 1953 and Darwin Administration Ordinance 1953. - Both these ordinances contained drafting defects which would have precluded their effective operation, and action for the withholding of assent was taken on the recommendation of the Commonwealth’s legal advisers. The defects in question were repaired in ordinances with the same titles which were passed by the Legislative Council in June, 1953.
Police and Police Offences Ordinance 1956. - Objections on certain points of law were also seen in the case of this ordinance, which was subsequently replaced by the Police and Police Offences Ordinance 1957.
There were no ordinances other than those referred to in (a) above which failed to receive the Governor-General’s assent within the prescribed period of six months.
t asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Agricultural leases: The term of such leases may be any period not exceeding 99 years and no limit is prescribed as to area. Rental is at such rate (if any) not exceeding 5 per centum per annum as the Administrator determines for the first ten years of the term and thereafter is 5 per centum per annum of the unimproved value of the land. Rentals are re-appraised at the expiration of the first ten years and thereafter every twenty years during the currency of the lease. Provision is made for an appeal to the Supreme Court against an appraisement if rental is raised by more than one-third. Agricultural leases are subject to improvement conditions which require that the land shall be planted with approved plants within specified periods.
Pastoral leases: These may be for terms not exceeding 99 years in Papua and 30 years in New Guinea. Rental is at such rate (if any) not exceeding2½ per centum per annum as the Administrator determines for the first ten years and thereafter is2½ per centum per annum of the unimproved value of the land. Rentals are re-appraised at the expiration of the first ten years of the term and thereafter every twenty years during the currency of the lease. Provision is made for an appeal to the Supreme Court against an appraisement if rental is raised by more than one-third. Improvement conditions require the stocking of the land with sheep or cattle to a prescribed number within prescribed periods.
Leases of allotments in town areas: Leases of allotments in town areas may be granted for business or residential purposes for any period not exceeding 99 years. There are no limitations in Papua but in New Guinea such leases may not comprise less than ½ acre or more than 1 acre. Rent for town allotments is5 per centum per annum of the unimproved value in Papua and 10 per centum in New Guinea. The unimproved value is re-appraised every twenty years. Leases are subject to improvement conditions requiring the erection and maintenance of buildings to a prescribed value and fencing of the land.
Leases for business purposes of land not included in a town area: The area of such leases may not exceed 10 acres and rental is at such rate as is fixed by the Administrator and is specified in the lease. These leases, which may be for any period not exceeding 99 years, are subject to improvement conditions.
Leases for residential purposes of land not included in a town area: These leases may be for any term up to 99 years. The area may not exceed 5 acres and rental may not be less than 10s. per acre or less than £1 per annum in the aggregate. Leases are subject to improvement conditions.
Mission leases: Leases of land not exceeding 5 acres may be granted rent free to a corporation having for its object the establishment of Christian missions, or to any person in trust for any institution or body having such objects, subject to certain prescribed conditions.
Special leases: Special leases may be granted for any term not exceeding 50 years for certain specified purposes or for any purpose approved by the Administrator. Such leases are to be of an area deemed sufficient for the purpose of the lease and at such rental and other conditions as the Administrator thinks fit.
Land available for leasing is advertised from time to time in the “ Papua and New Guinea Gazette “. Land suitable for agricultural or pastoral purposes is offered for application at stated rentals and conditions and town lots for business or residential purposes are advertised for application by tender on a minimum reserve premium. Applications received are considered by the Land Board which in each case recommends the most suitable applicant having regard, in the case of agricultural and pastoral land, to the applicant’s experience and financial capacity to develop the lease.
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority Reports.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has replied as follows: -
t asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The details sought by the honorable member are shown on the attached statement: -
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) £50. (b) 2,200. (c) 6,100.
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
i asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Number of immigrants whose applications for citizenship have been refused or deferred since 1949 -
l asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
These figures relate only to the number of certificates granted and do not include, as do the figures given in 1 above, the number of children under sixteen years of age, naturalized by reason of having their names shown on a parent’s certificate. Figures of children included in parents’ certificates issued this year are not yet available.
It is estimated that there are approximately 30,000 cases which are in various stages of examination or in which certificates have been issued and are held by local government authorities awaiting conferment on the grantees at naturalization ceremonies.
The number of aliens over sixteen years of age registered in Australia on 31st December, 1956, was 406,000, and all of these persons will be residentially qualified for naturalization by 31st December, 1961. As 156,000 aliens had fulfilled the residential requirements but had not applied for naturalization by 31st December, 1957, the number of persons resident in Australia, not residentially qualified for naturalization on that date but who will complete the residence requirement within the ensuing four years if they remain in Australia, would be about 250,000.
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
What is the name and any former name, the age, the tonnage, the passenger capacity, the charter period and the ports of call of ships chartered by the Inter-Governmental Committee for European Migration to bring migrants to Australia?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question are as follows: -
The ports of embarkation for vessels vary according to the complement approved by my department for movement. Ports of embarkation in Northern Europe are either Bremerhaven or Cuxhaven, whilst in Southern Europe, Genoa, Trieste, Naples, Piraeus and Valetta are used. Under ICEM bulk booking notes, embarkation may take place at two ports in Europe. Routings also vary depending upon the water and fuel capacities of the vessels. All ships, however, normally call at Port Said, Suez, Aden, Fremantle, Mel bourne and Sydney, whilst Colombo is used -whenever fuel or water is necessary. Routings are prescribed by ICEM, Geneva, in consultation with the Commonwealth Government.
The following details of recent conversions or improvements which have been effected to these /ships have ensured that a high standard of accommodation has been maintained: -
In respect of each of these vessels, the general terms of the contract between ICEM and the shipowners include the following provisions: -
The owner shall present the vessel at the first port of embarkation and maintain her throughout the period of this agreement in a seaworthy condition and in all respects fit to carry the intended complement of passengers and crew.
The vessel shall be maintained in the highest class of its classification society and in accordance with the laws, regulations and specifications of the country of the vessel’s flag and of the countries of embarkation, ports of call and debarkation, including all international conventions applicable to boatage life-saving equipment and passenger vessels generally.
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The general rules relating to eligibility of Europeans so far as nationality is concerned, are as follows: -
Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and United States of America are eligible as nominated or unnominated migrants whether or not they have relatives in Australia.
Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Jugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics who are residing outside communist territory, are eligible on the same basis as nationals of the countries referred to in (a). fcl Nationals of the countries named in (b) who are residing in those countries are eligible if nominated by relatives in Australia other than cousins.
Nationals of all other countries are eligible only if they are the wives, minor children, dependent parents, fiances, or fiancees of their nominators or are unmarried women between the ages of 18 and 35 years.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
What are the conditions that govern the admission to Australia of parents, including widowed mothers, of families of migrants already in Australia?
r. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Generally, the parents, including the widowed mothers, of European migrants already in Australia are eligible for consideration for admission except that in respect of certain nationalities, an additional pre-requisite is that such parents must be dependent upon their nominators in this country. The latter dependency clause prescribes that parents shall be accepted as dependent on their children here if - (a) the father is 65 years of age or over and has no adult sons living in the same country; or (b) the mother is widowed or divorced (irrespective of age) and has no adult sons living in the same country. If the former requirement is not applicable, but dependency is nevertheless claimed, the following further rules are applied: - (c) if the father has means of his own, he may not be classed as a dependant even though the sponsor may be contributing towards his maintenance; and (d) the father may not be regarded as dependent if his age and physical condition would permit him to take up immediate employment upon arrival here. The dependency clause applies principally to those countries bordering the Mediterranean, from where there has always been a large number of applicants for migration to Australia. It was necessary to introduce this requirement early in 1956 to ensure that, within the limitations imposed by the Government on the numbers of migrants we may receive each year, the immigration programme as a whole maintains the necessary degree of balance between types and occupations. For this reason, it is only reasonable, in those countries where there is high level of interest in emigration and consequently, that special conditions of eligibility must be applied, that consideration should first be given to those most deserving of it on compassionate grounds and for reasons of family reunion generally.
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Admission of Asians into Australia.
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are are follows: - 1, 2 and 4. Statistics are maintained of Asians in Australia under certificate of exemption at the end of each quarter. Separate sets of statistics are kept for (a) students and (b) others. Statistics for “ students “ do not show year of arrival, but this is available for “ others “. Countries of former residence are available in respect of “ students “ but cannot be supplied in respect of “ others “. The following table shows the number of “ others “ in Australia under certificate of exemption as at 31st December, 1957 (the latest date at present available) according to period of entry and State of residence.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1958, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580506_reps_22_hor19/>.