22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GRIFFITHS presented a petition from certain electors in the States of the Commonwealth praying that the House will take immediate steps to increase social service benefits for mothers and their children.
Petition received and read.
Mr. DUTHIE presented a petition from 3,156 citizens of Australia praying that the Government will make provision, by means of a referendum, for the alteration of certain sections of the Constitution which relate to the aboriginal people of Australia.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the acting Minister for External Affairs whether the Government has considered, or is about to consider, the bringing of the situation in Formosa and certain islands off the coast of China and the action of certain powers in relation to that area, before the General Assembly of the United Nations with a view to obtaining an order from that supreme body for a cease fire. If such an order were issued, as I believe it would be, it would immediately tend to end, for the time being at least, the anxiety over the situation. I appeal to the honorable gentleman to make a decision on the matter, and to make the right decision.
– In reply to the right honorable gentleman, I point out that negotiations are proceeding at the present time in Warsaw in connexion with this matter. I think it would be a good thing to allow those negotiations to proceed to a concluson before any other action is taken.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry inform me how many people are killed annually by farm tractors - overturning on them? Is the Minister aware that a simple attachment has been invented which will prevent a tractor from overturning? Could the Minister arrange for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or other interested bodies to be represented at a demonstration of this new invention to be given at Langwarrin, Victoria, on Sunday morning next?
– I was not aware that a great number of people are killed by tractors overturning on them, so I am not able to give the honorable gentleman the statistics for which he asks. As to the second part of his question, I did not know that there was an appliance that could be attached to a tractor in order to prevent this kind of accident happening. I suggest that the honorable gentleman might refer this matter to the tractor testing station at Werribee. That station has been established for this purpose, and I am sure that if the honorable member referred the matter to the committee controlling the station, it would have a demonstration carried out and the necessary publicity given. As to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I shall draw the attention of my colleague to the fact that the test is taking place and see if some publicity can be given to it.
– I preface a question to the Minister for the Navy by stating that I have received advice from the Federated Storemen and Packers Union, Western Australian Branch, that eleven store employees in the Department of the Navy, Fremantle, are to be retrenched. Will the Minister have these proposed dismissals investigated with a view to the notices being withdrawn or employment being found for the employees in question in some other Commonwealth department?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter which has been mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall certainly do as he asks and see what possibility there is of placing in other spheres of employment those whom he says have been retrenched.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Defence. Has the Government of New South Wales expressed any dissatisfaction to him concerning the organization of civil defence, particularly in regard to Commonwealth and State relations? In any event, can the Minister inform the House whether any reorganization of civil defence is contemplated?
– I have had no communication from the New South Wales Government on the question of civil defence. I remind the honorable member, as I have mentioned in the House before, that an inter-departmental committee is at present studying that particular problem and, as a result of its recommendations, consideration will be given to the matter by the Government.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Do the recent statements inside and outside the House by the honorable member for Chisholm, who is chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, condemning trade with red China and other Communist countries, indicate that the Government is retreating from the views recently expressed by the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Primary Industry seeking more trade with those countries?
– Sir, the honorable member for Chisholm is well able to offer his own views, which he does with great ability, but he would be the first to agree that, on such matters, he is not expressing Government policy necessarily. What Government policy is on these matters is, of course, expressed in the ordinary course by Ministers or by myself.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry read a statement that was made by the chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board concerning a suggestion that a chair of genetics should be established in an Australian university and that approximately £20,000 should be spent on research, which would help the poultry industry considerably? Will the Minister give consideration to this question to see whether there is any way in which the Commonwealth Government can assist in this matter?
– I have not seen the statement, but, as the honorable gentleman and the chairman of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board would be aware, the board was established by the New South Wales Government. The chairman might have been critical, but to the best of my knowledge he has the opportunity within his own capacity to do something for the egg industry. I have not yet heard of any revolutionary action taken by him to support the people in that industry. As the representative of the New South Wales Government, he might first refer to that Government the question as to whether it is prepared to take action regarding the appointment of a professor of genetics to a New South Wales university.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. I remind him that, in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Lang on 16th September directing attention to the lack of opportunities for Australian artists, authors, playwrights and performers over Australian television channels, he replied that he was satisfied that the licensees were doing their best to increase the use of Australian talent. Is the Minister aware that a survey taken recently over a period by the Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia showed that only 32 per cent, of Australia’s talent was used over ATN, channel 7, against 68 per cent, of overseas talent? Is the Minister satisfied that this imbalance of opportunities in favour of international talent against Australian talent is fair? Is he aware that, because of lack of engagements and encouragement of Australian performers, Australia’s largest television studio at Pagewood, Sydney, has closed down and the property is being acquired by a motor firm? What does the Minister intend to do about this anti-Australian attitude?
– Order! The honorable gentleman must confine himself to his question. He is making a speech.
– I can say quite briefly, in reply to the honorable member for Banks, that I know of no reason why I should alter the statement that I made in reply to the question asked on this subject recently by the honorable member for Lang. I stated then that I was satisfied that the television licensees are doing their part in attempting to increase the use of Australian talent. I repeat that they are doing their part. There are others who could do a good deal as well, and to whom the honorable member for Banks might issue a little advice. The honorable member referred to surveys that have been made. The statements that I have made are based largely, not upon surveys carried out by the licensees themselves or by other interested parties such as the one to whom the honorable member referred, but upon independent surveys carried out by firms peculiarly competent in the making of impartial surveys. and the supplying of proper reports. I repeat, that I still stand by the statement that I previously made and to which the honorable member has referred.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air. It refers to the movement of Sabre jet squadrons to Malaya. Is it a fact that elaborate precautions are being taken to fly these single-engined planes over large areas of water? Could they have been transported more economically, more safely and more efficiently in an aircraft carrier such as H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “?
– I announced quite recently that the first of the two Sabre jet squadrons destined for the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya would begin its movement on 1st December, and that the other squadron would begin on 1st February of next year. It is, as the honorable member has suggested, a formidable undertaking to move two single-engined jet squadrons over such long distances and such wide expanses of ocean. However, elaborate precautions have been taken to provide navigational aids and air-sea rescue facilities along the route. We shall receive assistance from the Royal Air Force and from friendly powers. The honorable member asked me whether it would be possible to send these aircraft to Malaya in an aircraft carrier. It would, I think, be technically possible for the aircraft to make the ocean journey on the deck of a carrier, but how they would be discharged from the carrier at a wharf in Penang and transported from there to Butterworth airfield, some considerable distance away, 1 do not know. It would not, I think, be very easy or even practicable. But there is another more important consideration. Flexibility and mobility are essential requisites of modern air power. No one can possibly foretell where or in what circumstances these squadrons will be required to operate in the future, and it is essential that they should be able to transport themselves on their own wings. That, I may say, is. the very firm view of the Royal Australian Air Force and of the members of the squadrons themselves. To forgo the opportunity to carry out this important exercise would be to give away the chance of demonstrating to themselves and to others their capacity to move over long distances whenever called upon to do so.
– I ask the
Minister for Supply some questions concerning the severe American restrictions on the importation of lead and zinc. Is it the official view that these restrictions are arbitrary, savage and ruthless? If so, is this. Government going to sit down under these restrictions? Is it the view of Ministers that we can do nothing but go cap in hand and1 then accept this tremendous blow to Australian industry? Is it a fact that the Government has known for many months that these restrictions were likely to come into effect? Has any really effective, case been put before the American Govern-, ment, and, if so, how does it come about that such savage restrictions as these are now imposed?
– It should first be understood that the cuts were made by the United States Government, which is quite at liberty to act in any way that it sees fit. The honorable member asked what had been done over the past few months. I do not think that anything more could have been done than has been done by the Australian Government from the very start. The Minister for Trade is one of the toughest negotiators that any government could have appearing for it, and he has been there personally making representations. In regard to the present attitude of the Government, I might say that we are doing two things. First, we are continuing to make the strongest representations that we can through our Ambassador and through our Minister for Trade, who is in the United States, to the United States Government. Secondly, as a matter of urgency, we are following up the suggestion of the United States Government that a multi-lateral agreement be reached between the other countries concerned.
I am reminded in reference to one section of the honorable member’s question, that we knew about the cuts a few months ago. That was when we started to make our representations to the United States Government. They have been made strongly ever since we knew of this possibility.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, concerns the release to the press of reports from the National Radiation Advisory Committee. In future, could arrangements be made for such reports to be made available first to the medical profession? At the time of publication, the last report was not available to any medical organization, and therefore no informed comment was possible. This was all the more unfortunate, as at least some of the press reports were distinctly misleading and departed in important respects from the wording and the meaning of the document.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for his suggestion. It is a very useful one, and I think I will take steps to see that in future these reports are made available at the right time to professionally interested bodies, whatever they may be.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. I desire to know when the Prime Minister proposes to announce the Government’s plans, if any, to meet the extremely serious position that has arisen as a result of the further drastic curtailment of Australia’s trading opportunities overseas caused by the decision of the United States to cut lead and zinc imports by 20 per cent., and the certain further drastic fall in Australia’s export income, with the rapid draining away of our overseas financial reserves. Is it intended to make an announcement immediately or in the next few days, or does the Prime Minister propose to gamble with this nation’s future and delay any statement, no matter how dangerous the situation becomes, until after the elections are concluded on 22nd November next?
– Order! The honorable member will ask his question.
– Finally, will the Prime Minister admit that many of the nation’s existing difficulties arise from the failure to arrest internal inflation, or, as he described it in 1949, to put value back into the £1?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I say that it is merely a more vehement way of putting the question that has already been asked by the honorable member for EdenMonaro and answered by my colleague. As to the second part, for the honorable member for East Sydney to talk about inflation, having regard to the only financial policies that have been advanced by his party, must be the all-time high in sheer political humbug.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to a statement by a prominent Victorian that a combine is operating in wool auctions? In view of the grave disquiet to the wool industry caused by such a statement, and the serious repercussions that might result, will the Minister have the statement investigated?
– As I said in the House the other day, the Department of Primary Industry has made detailed investigations into the question of whether combines are operating at wool auction sales in Australia. We have not been able to get satisfactory or verifiable evidence that those combines do operate. If the gentleman to whom my colleague from Hume refers can give us any evidence, we will have it investigated immediately. But we are interested not only in evidence from him. If the brokers, the Australian Woolgrowers Council, or any one else can give us any evidence - none of them has done so - we will quickly have it investigated and will quickly make the results known to them.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he can say when the inter-departmental committee on civil defence is expected to decide how this year’s civil defence appropriation should be spent. I further ask the Minister whether he will impress on the committee how urgent the matter has become in view of the recommendation by the New South Wales Director of Civil Defence, MajorGeneral Dougherty - a former member of the Military Board - that his State should cease to be represented on the CommonwealthState Civil Defence Committee until the Commonwealth makes a clear and unequivocal statement on its civil defence plans, or at least takes the CommonwealthState committee into its confidence.
– I have had occasion to point out in the House before, of course, that the general level of civil defence preparations must be related primarily to the assessment of the need made by the Department of Defence. Up to this point in time, of course, the Commonwealth has made its contribution through the Civil Defence School, at Mount Macedon, which, as I am sure the honorable gentleman will appreciate, is regarded on all sides as being a thoroughly efficient and thoroughly successful school. Regardless of the assessment of the need, however, it is agreed that there ought to be a basic level of general preparations, and that there ought to be agreement with the States as to the division of responsibilities. The honorable member will have noted that, this year, there appears in the Estimates a vote of £300,000 for this work. How it is to be done is a matter that has been referred to the inter-departmental committee that he has mentioned. I think I can assure the honorable gentleman that there will be no unreasonable delay in the presentation of the committee’s report, or in the consideration of it.
With reference to the comments made by the responsible Minister and the Director of Civil Defence in New South Wales, I think it can be said, not unreasonably, that New South Wales has done a fairly good job in civil defence as far as it has been able to go. I can well understand the impatience of the people concerned, because, from here on, further progress may well have to wait on the sort of determination that the inter departmental committee will make. Again, I assure the honorable member that there will be no unreasonable delay.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Defence, refers to the appointment of the Allison committee a little more than twelve months ago to inquire into the pay and allowances of the defence forces. Is the Minister able to indicate whether any revised rates or conditions of benefits for retired service officers will apply to officers who have retired since the appointment of the Allison committee?
– As I mentioned yesterday in this chamber, the Allison committee has not presented its report and recommendations in relation to the retirement benefits of permanent members of the services, and I think it would be quite improper for me to suggest at this stage what may take place after the Government has considered the recommendations of the committee. Therefore, I cannot at this time make any comment as to when anything that may be recommended will apply.
– When does the Prime Minister propose to make to the House the statement that he promised yesterday would be made in relation to the restrictions on the imports of lead and zinc into the United States of America? Will he make immediate representations to the United States Government for the easing of restrictions on imports into that country of Australian lead and zinc, with particular emphasis on the extensive market in Australia for United States goods, our adverse balance of trade with that country, and Australia’s commitments to the United States on dollar loans? Will the right honorable gentleman also consider having the tariff amended in order to give preference to countries with which Australia has a favorable balance of trade?
– The concluding part of the question obviously relates to a matter of policy. As to the first part, perhaps the honorable member was not here when it was answered by the Minister for Supply in his capacity as acting Minister for Trade.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relating to the Minister’s promise, given in the House some time ago, that consideration would be given to a suggestion made here that the Government would recoup to unions at least part of the cost of court controlled ballots. Has this matter been further considered? Is the Minister in a position to make any statement or to suggest any amendment to existing legislation?
– Pursuant to the undertaking that I gave at the time, a good deal of work has been done on this matter within my department, and I have made preparations to bring the matter to Cabinet for consideration. The matter has not yet received that consideration. When it does, it will be dealt with as a matter of policy in the normal way.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral received any reports or complaints from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, or other sources, concerning an act that was presented on TCN, channel 9, on Saturday afternoon last in a programme entitled, “ Accent on Youth “? The act in question was described as an exhibition of rock ‘n roll dancing. If no reports or complaints have been received, will the Postmaster-General make immediate investigations regarding this act, as I have been informed by mothers of young daughters that in their opinion the act was immoral, disgusting, offensive and entirely unsuitable for presentation on any television programme?
– I have not received any report, either from the Broadcasting Control Board or other source, concerning the programme referred to by the honorable member. However, I assure the honorable member that the Broadcasting Control Board is in a position to investigate any complaints that are made. If programmes do not conform to the standards laid down by the board for observation by licensees, the board is glad to hear of them and to take remedial action. I shall have the programme referred to by the honorable member investigated by the board, and I shall advise the honorable member of the result of the investigations.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry explain why poultry farmers in Melbourne find it more profitable to sell their eggs in Adelaide than in Melbourne, and why poultry farmers in Adelaide find it more profitable to sell their eggs in Melbourne than in Adelaide?
– No, Sir.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth Statistician has concluded his inquiry into the claim by the Premier of Queensland that the actual population of Queensland is 30,000 in excess of the figure published by the Commonwealth Statistician? If the inquiry has been concluded, will the right honorable gentleman say what the finding is? If the inquiry has not been concluded, will he say when it is expected that he will be able to reply to the Premier’s claim?
– I am not up to date on that matter, but I will find out the position this afternoon. If the honorable member would renew that question tomorrow morning, I would hope to be able to answer it.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES.Would the Minister for Supply care to enlarge in more detail on a statement he made recently to the effect that the taxpayers had to find £10,000,000 a year to keep our air services in operation? Did he mean that we subsidize air services, as opposed to railway services, to the extent of £10,000,000 a year? If not, what was the meaning of the statement?
– I think the honorable member has taken something out of its context.
– You said it twice.
– In the Estimates debate a suggestion was made by, I think, the honorable member for Werriwa, to the effect that the Government was interfering too much with airlines administration, or something of that sort, and I made the point that, as the Government in other words, the Australian taxpayers provide, through the Department of Civil Aviation, about f 10,000,000 for the administration of the airways and the provision of facilities, it was quite proper that the Government should take an intelligent interest in the way the operators of airlines carried on their business.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether he and Cabinet studied the whole of the transcript of evidence taken by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in regard to the issue of television licences in Adelaide and Brisbane, before the decision to disregard the recommendations of the board was made? What are the reasons for ignoring the recommendations of this independent body of distinguished, reputable, impartial and capable administrators? Have any promises, undertakings, or agreements, orally or in writing, been entered into between the Government and the applicants for television licences in Adelaide and Brisbane?
– The reply to the last question is “ No, certainly not “. The whole of the submissions by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to me, and then to the Cabinet, were thoroughly studied before the decision was arrived at. The reasons for the Government’s decision were referred to briefly by me, and in greater detail by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. There is nothing further to add to what was stated on those occasions.
– Several weeks ago, I asked the Postmaster-General for information concerning the proposed extensions to the Launceston Post Office. On that occasion the honorable gentleman promised to secure the information for me. I now ask him whether he has secured that information and whether it could be made available to me.
– I shall be glad to have another look at the matter raised by the honorable member. If I have been a little lax in obtaining the information, I am sorry, but I shall get it as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. It is on a matter which I would have raised at the meeting of the House Committee this morning had I then been aware of it. Can any action be taken to vary the form of construction of the super-imposed roof on the eastern side of this building? I may say, by way of explanation, that the structure certainly seems to be much higher than had been my impression of it from examining the plans, and it does seem that it is certain to create very bad conditions indeed in the offices which will be adjacent to the structure. I would think that it is essential that some action should be taken to see that the structure does not rise to such a height as at present is indicated by the framework.
– I shall have a look at the question the honorable member has raised and advise him of the result of my inquiries. I remind him that he is a member of the House Committee.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Is he aware that recently in the United States of America it was discovered that quiz shows on television were rigged, and that corruption on a wide scale existed in this sphere of television programmes? Does the Minister know that in Australia television stations, whilst to my knowledge not following this practice on quiz sessions, are evidently rigging television interviews? Is he aware that some stations are evidently wining and dining certain persons prior to interviews, nominating the questions and no doubt advising the answers to be given? Is it a fact that channel 9, for instance, consistently removes certain skilled questioners from its panel in order to save the person being interviewed from answering embarrassing questions? In view of the monopoly control of television stations by newspaper interests under the policy of this Government, will the Minister have an immediate investigation made into this rigging of interviews in order to prevent a repetition in this sphere of Australian programmes of malpractices similar to those revealed in certain television programmes in America?
– The honorable member for Grayndler starts his question by referring to a possible rigging of television shows in America. I should think that probably he does not know very much about that, but has read it somewhere. Then he goes on and implies that the same thing is being done here. Finally, he bases his question on a statement that this is being done. That is a method of taking the mind of the listener along. The honorable member may possibly be referring to something which happened in the television world not long ago which was the subject of discussion in this House. I should be interested to know whether that incident was the basis for his question.
I do not think there are any particularly objectionable features about television shows in Australia at present. Certainly there are some shows in which the interviewers and questioners take from those who are being televised statements which perhaps they did not want to make. But if that happens, it is the fault of the person being questioned for more or less giving himself away in his replies.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether, in order to clarify the position, he will answer the following questions in respect of the amending legislation recently passed by the House to provide a supplementary allowance to certain classes of Commonwealth pensioners who pay rent and are deemed to be entirely dependent on their pensions: Does the interpretation of the Minister’s statement, “ deemed to be entirely dependent on their pensions “, mean that any additional income, no matter how small, will make a pensioner ineligible for the supplementary allowance? For example, will an income of, say, 2s. a week make the pensioner ineligible for the rent allowance of 10s. a week? If not, what is the maximum amount of income permitted before a pensioner incurs disqualification for this additional supplementary allowance?
– I regret that the honorable member for EdenMonaro did not hear what I had to say in connexion with this matter when I introduced the amending legislation. The supplementary allowance is designed to relieve hardship and improve the circumstances of those who are dependent on a single pension, who have to pay rent and are deemed to be entirely dependent on one pension. All the discretionary powers are vested in the DirectorGeneral of Social Services, and it is for him and no one else to determine whether such persons are deemed to be entirely dependent on their pensions.
– Does the Minister for Health agree with the view of Sir Macfarlane Burnet that the time has come for the Federal Government to re-examine the status of fundamental medical and biological research, and with his suggestion that the Government should appoint a small commission for this purpose similar to the Murray Committee that it appointed to examine the position of universities?
– I had the benefit of Sir Macfarlane Burnet’s views on this matter quite some time ago, and have discussed it with him and other members of the medical profession.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Townley) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision with respect to financial and rationalization arrangements in connexion with the equipment of certain domestic airlines.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
During recent months, the major domestic airlines TransAustralia Airlines, which is operated by the Australian National Airlines Commission, and AnsettA.N.A. have placed orders for more than £18,000,000 worth of aircraft equipment, most of which is due for delivery before the end of 1959.
T.A.A. will buy two Lockhead Electra aircraft, two 800 Series Viscounts and twelve Fokker Friendships, while AnsettA.N.A. will buy two Lockheed Electra aircraft, four 800 Series Viscounts and six Fokker Friendships.
These orders raise acute financial problems of a very similar nature for both operators which can be satisfactorily solved only with some measure of government assistance. The purpose of the Airlines Equipment Bill is to authorize the Commonwealth to give such assistance under terms and conditions which will ensure the stability of the domestic air transport industry and promote the objectives of the Civil Aviation Agreement Acts of 1952 and 1957 approved by this Parliament. It will be recalled that the purpose of this legislation as set out in the agreements is to ensure -
I turn first to the measure of assistance which we seek for the commission. The commission’s re-equipment programme will cost approximately £10,000,000. The commission’s capital is £4,870,000, including the sum of £500,000 made available in June, 1958, for the purpose of meeting deposits on new equipment. An additional £1,000,000 capital is to be appropriated in the current Budget, which the commission urgently requires for the same purpose. It is intended to make this available as soon as practicable after the approval of this bill, thus bringing the commission’s capital to £5,870,000. Notwithstanding this additional capital, the commission will still have a cash deficiency at the peak of its reequipment programme of approximately £5,000,000. This bill contains provisions which will completely meet the commission’s requirements.
At present, the commission can borrow under section 31 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1956 up to £1,000,000, but only for temporary purposes on bank overdraft. It is proposed to replace this section by a new section which authorizes the commission to borrow up to a sum not exceeding in aggregate £3,000,000 at any one time, and to authorize the Treasurer, in appropriate circumstances, to lend up to this amount in the form of interestbearing Treasury advances or to guarantee repayment of loans up to that amount. These extended powers will be used initially to assist in financing the two Vickers Viscount 800 Series aircraft and also some of the Fokker Friendship aircraft.
In addition, Parliamentary approval is sought for arrangements in respect of the two Lockheed Electra aircraft, which will give the commission access to the equivalent of £2,350,000 in United States currency. First, the Commonwealth has negotiated a loan of 3,000,000 dollars (£1,350,000 Australian) from J. P. Morgan and Associates at43/4 per cent., and the Commonwealth proposes to re-lend this amount to the commission at the same rate of interest repayable over a period of five years. Approval for this loan is being sought in the Loan (Australian National Airlines Commission) Bill 1958, whilst approval to re-lend the proceeds of the loan to the commission is sought in this bill.
The Commonwealth has also negotiated a loan of 13,000,000 dollars in United States currency to enable Qantas to purchase five Lockheed Electra aircraft. Approval for this loan is being sought in the Loan (Qantas Empire Airways Limited) Bill 1958. Because of arrangements recently concluded with the New Zealand Government, under which Qantas will use the excess capacity of Teal’s three Electra aircraft, Qantas will now require four instead of five Lockheed Electra aircraft. Rather than reduce the Qantas loan, which is on very favorable terms, to the amount necessary to finance four Electra aircraft, an arrangement is proposed, with the consent of the lenders, under which the commission will buy the surplus Electra aircraft from Qantas and pay Qantas interest and principal corresponding exactly with the Qantas commitment in respect of that aircraft under the loan agreement. In addition to obtaining the benefit of the very favorable interest rates, the commission will receive credit of 2,250,000 dollars, equivalent to £A. 1,000,000 under this arrangement.
To sum up, subject to approval of this bill, TransAustralia Airlines will have received, for purposes of re-equipment, the following Government support: Additional capital of £1,500,000, of which it received £500,000 in June, 1958; the proceeds of a 3,000,000dollar loan from J. P. Morgan and Associates at 43/4 per cent for one Electra; credit of 2,250,000 dollars at a similar interest rate, from funds originally raised on behalf of Qantas; and the right to borrow a further £3,000,000 in the form of interest-bearing Treasury advances or Government-guaranteed loans.
This support, in various forms, gives the commission access to £7,000,000 of additional Government funds or Governmentguaranteed loans to cover its re-equipment programme, i think it is fair to say - and indeed to emphasize - that these arrangements, if approved by Parliament, will fully meet all requests by the commission for assistance to enable it to re-equip. I should also point out that, if the bill is not approved, the commission will not be in a position to proceed with the full reequipment programme it needs to maintain its competitive position.
I turn now to outline the re-equipment problems of Ansett-A.N.A. The present management of this organization is very sensitive to its urgent need, to acquire the turbo-prop aircraft necessary to give it fleet parity with the commission, and has taken positive steps towards this end. As I have already indicated, it has obtained approval for the purchase of two Lockheed Electras, four Viscount 800 series, and six Fokker Friendship aircraft, involving the early disposal of two DC6 aircraft and one DC6B aircraft during 1959. However, the private airline has substantially similar financial needs to the commission and would be greatly handicapped in financing the projects without some forms of assistance. If Government guarantees are available, a greater percentage of the total outlay for aircraft and spares can be borrowed and lower interest rates can be negotiated, although not as low as the Commonwealth has been able to obtain on the money it borrowed on behalf of T.A.A. and Qantas. A longer period for repayment can also be obtained.
It will be recalled that the Civil Aviation Agreement of 1952 authorized Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to borrow, with the assistance of government guarantees, or in certain circumstances, Treasury advances, up to £4,000,000 to purchase an equal number of heavy aircraft comparable in type and price to those authorized for purchase by the commission. This clause clearly recognized the difficulty of the private company raising capital or obtaining loans when in competition with a government instrumentality which has all its needs met from government sources.
Since 1952, the prices of aircraft, including spares, of comparable capacity have almost trebled, and the measure of assistance which we now propose to give to the commission is of such magnitude that to maintain the relativity established in 1952, it is clearly necessary to review the limits then imposed on the level of guarantees available to the private operator. I should perhaps point out that the practice of governments guaranteeing the purchase of aircraft and related equipment is being resorted to in many countries, for example, the United States, where the Government has enacted special legislation authorizing the Civil Aeronautics Board to guarantee aircraft-purchase loans.
After taking into account all these matters, it is considered fair and equitable to offer Ansett Transport Industries Limited guarantees for the purpose of enabling the purchase of two Lockheed Electra aircraft, of loans not exceeding £3,000,000 and repayable over a period not exceeding seven years, and for the purpose of enabling the purchase of sue Fokker Friendship aircraft and related spare parts, loans not exceeding £2,000,000, and repayable over six years. These guarantees are in addition to the contractual entitlement of Ansett-A.N.A. to guarantees under clause 3 of the Civil Aviation Agreement under which, at the present time, a balance of £1,300,000 remains available for further guarantees. AnsettA.N.A. proposes to seek assistance under that clause to facilitate the financing in part of two Vickers Viscount 800 series aircraft.
It is most important to appreciate that while the commission - that is, T.A.A. - receives the greater part of its assistance in hard cash, in the form of capital or the proceeds of loans negotiated by the Commonwealth on its behalf, the assistance proposed for the private operator is limited to guaranteeing repayment of loans which it negotiates on its behalf. Unless there is a default the Commonwealth will, at no stage, be responsible for providing any funds for the private airline. If there were default, the Commonwealth has an adequate security over the aircraft which will ensure that, in any event, it will not be involved in loss as a result of the giving of the guarantees.
It will be noted from the bill that very strict conditions would attach to the guarantees. In particular, the money must be borrowed on reasonable terms, the lender is to take proper security over the aircraft and the loan arrangements must contain provisions transferring the benefits of the securities to the Commonwealth if the Commonwealth is called upon to make payments under the guarantees, and the Treasurer may impose any other conditions he considers necessary to protect the interests of the Commonwealth. The aircraft must be fully insured and cannot be sold, mortgaged or otherwise charged and cannot be taken outside Australian territory except after furnishing such security as the Treasurer may require.
In addition to these financial conditions, it is a condition of’ any guarantee that Ansett Transport Industries Limited enter into certain obligations relating to its aircraft fleet. If, and for so long as Ansett A.N.A. is bound by these obligations, the commission is by force of provisions in the proposed legislation similarly bound, but not otherwise.
These obligations all relate to the “ quality “ and “ quantity “ of aircraft capacity to be provided by two major domestic operators. The Government has already taken decisions which set the qualitative pattern of domestic airline services. It will be recalled that, originally, the commission proposed to purchase two Caravelle aircraft and AnsettA.N.A. four Lockheed Electra aircraft. The Government rejected both these requests, since it was quite clear that the stage would be set for a struggle by each airline to outequip the other, regardless of the capital cost involved.
In the domestic field, where there are only two major operators, the pre-requisite for stability is to achieve adequate and
Comparable front-line equipment and then to ensure that such equipment is used for a reasonable period before being replaced, thus reducing to a minimum the heavy capital investment involved in airline operations. When these principles were made clear to the operators they finally agreed to purchase two Lockheed Electra aircraft each and to build the remainder of their fleets around Viscounts and Fokker Friendship aircraft, both of which have Rolls Royce Dart engines.
What I might term the quantitative aspect of aircraft capacity is simply the number of revenue traffic ton miles which the aircraft fleets are capable of providing in a given period at a particular revenue load factor. In general terms, the load factor is the ratio of aircraft capacity actually used to aircraft capacity provided and available for use on a given route during a specified period. If profitable load factors are to be achieved, it is essential that the combined capacity of the T.A.A. and AnsettA.N.A. fleets does not exceed’ the capacity necessary to perform the aviation task in this country. Both airlines firmly and unreservedly support this proposition.
Part IV. of the bill sets up machinery to ensure that the two airlines do not provide excess capacity. First of all, an estimate is to be made of the traffic on competitive and non-competitive routes during a specified period. A determination will then be made on the basis of an optimum revenue load factor of the aircraft capacity necessary for the commission and the company respectively to carry one half of the total traffic on competitive routes and to operate its non-competitive services during that period.
In the light of this determination the two operators will then be mutually bound during the period in which any guaranteed loans are not repaid in full by three obligations. First, neither airline must provide on competitive routes, during the specified period, more aircraft capacity than is necessary to carry half the estimated traffic at the predetermined revenue load factor.
Secondly, the operators must dispose of any aircraft capacity in excess of that required to operate their competitive and non-competitive services after making due allowances for the need for stand-by aircraft, maintenance and overhaul of aircraft and crew training and similar matters.
Finally, there is an obligation on the airlines not to acquire additional aircraft which would result in the capacity limitations being exceeded, and not to introduce aircraft of a type which, having regard to the types already in operation, would be detrimental to the stability of the air transport industry. This latter obligation is, of course, designed to stop a wasteful reequipment race leading to a multiplicity of new and expensive aircraft types. These obligations have been discussed in detail with representatives of the two airlines, and they have indicated that not only do they support control of aircraft capacity along the lines proposed, but regard some such form of control as essential for the future stability of the Australian domestic air transport industry.
Nothing in the bill affects existing rationalization machinery established under the civil aviation agreements. This machinery will continue to be used to determine routes, time-tables and fares and freights rates and related matters, but the task of co-ordination will be greatly simplified because aircraft capacity of the airlines has first been pegged to the amount necessary to perform the domestic air transport task. It is most important to appreciate that this system will intensify rather than reduce competition. Although there is a limitation on the aircraft capacity to be provided, there is no other limitation on the amount of traffic which either airline can carry.
Currently, the total annual revenue on competitive routes is £19,000,000. Although the airlines will provide, on an equal basis, the capacity necessary to carry this traffic at a specified optimum revenue load factor - it will probably be in the vicinity of 70 per cent. - they are each free to carry as much of the business as they can attract on their authorized capacity. A shift of only 1 per cent, in the traffic is equivalent to a revenue increase, without significant extra cost, of £190,000, so that there will be a great incentive to attract an extra percentage of the market and, at the same time, to reduce costs.
The measures proposed in this bill are fair and non-discriminatory, and stand or fall as a related whole. They are consistent with this Government’s established domestic air transport policy. The new equipment will give the Australian travelling public a first-class air transport system. The rationalization of fleets will eliminate excess aircraft capacity and, at the same time, retain the competitive incentive which has contributed so greatly to the efficiency of the domestic air transport system.
Furthermore, it should contribute greatly to stability in an industry which is receiving considerable financial support from the Government. This support is not confined toaircraft purchases by the airlines but covers also the heavy annual costs involved in the maintenance and operation of airways facilities. We are naturally concerned, therefore, to see that this industry is placed on a sound economic basis as soon as possible. All our rationalization commitments have been directed to this end and to the maintenance of competition in Australian civil aviation. I commend the bill, which is vital to the re-equipment programmes of the domestic airlines.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
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 and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve the raising by way of loan of moneys in the currency of the United States of America to be lent to Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. Townley 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.
In this bill, Parliamentary approval is sought for a borrowing of 13,000,000 dollars by the Commonwealth from the Chase Manhattan Bank of New York and associated banks to finance the purchase of aircraft and equipment by Qantas Empire Airways Limited. Legislation is required to appropriate the loan fund to enable the proceeds of the loan to be paid over to Qantas, and to appropriate the Consolidated Revenue Fund to ensure that principal repayments and interest and other charges due on the loan will be met. The loan agreement with the Chase Manhattan Bank was signed in New York on 17th June by the Australian ConsulGeneral, acting on behalf of the Commonwealth.
This borrowing will furnish part of the dollar funds required by Qantas for the purchase of five Lockheed Electra turboprop aircraft and related spare parts and equipment. As payments are due on these aircraft, the Commonwealth will receive advances from the lenders and will re-lend these amounts to Qantas. Under a formal agreement to be entered into with the Commonwealth, Qantas will assume full responsibility for the payment direct to the lenders of all interest charges and principal repayments on the loan. However, other charges associated with the loan will be met in the first instance by the Commonwealth, and these will be reimbursed by Qantas.
As already explained in connexion with the Airlines Equipment Bill, it was decided, after the loan from the Chase Manhattan Bank had been arranged, that Tasman Empire Airways Limited should purchase three Electras, one of which would be made available to Qantas on a charter basis from time to time. Qantas accordingly needed to operate only four Electras in its own name. As the loan agreement specifically covered the purchase of five aircraft, the full consent of the lenders was obtained for Qantas to transfer one of the Electras to TransAustralia Airlines, which has also decided to purchase two of these aircraft. A bill covering a borrowing on behalf of T.A.A. to finance the purchase of its second Electra will be introduced into the House immediately after the present bill.
The sale of the fifth Electra to T.A.A. did not require an amendment of the loan agreement. However, the agreement has been amended, as indicated in the letter appearing as the second schedule to the bill, in order to permit advances to be made to the Commonwealth, and thence to Qantas, in units of 1,300,000 dollars instead of 1,000,000 dollars as originally agreed. This amendment was made to meet the mutual convenience of both the lending banks and of Qantas. As this was a borrowing in the name of the Commonwealth under the authority of the Commonwealth loan programme for 1957-58, the proposed terms and conditions were submitted to the Australian Loan Council before the loan agreement was signed, and received its full concurrence.
The loan agreement is reproduced as the first schedule to the bill. Interest is payable at 41 per cent per annum on three fifths of the loan and at 43/4 per cent per annum on the remainder. Honorable members will realize that these are by no means unfavorable rates. The loan is repayable in ten equal semi-annual instalments between 30th June, 1960, and 31st December, 1964. A commitment fee of i per cent per annum on the undrawn amount of the loan is payable from the date on which the Chase Manhattan Bank agreed in principle to make the loan, namely, 15th May, 1958. All of the funds are expected to be drawn in the second half of 1959.
In effect this borrowing is very similar to the loan raised by the Commonwealth in November, 1956, on behalf of Qantas for its Boeing jet aircraft. The Commonwealth in each case merely acts as an intermediary between the lender and Qantas, incurring no net financial liability but giving Qantas the benefit of its high credit standing overseas.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
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 and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to approve the raising by way of loan of moneys in the currency of the United States of America to be lent to the Australian National Airlines Commission, and for purposes connected therewith.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Mr. Townley 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.
This bill is very similar to the Loan (Qantas Empire Airways Limited) Bill, about which I have just spoken. It seeks the approval of Parliament for a borrowing of 3,000,000 dollars by the Commonwealth from a group of United States banks to finance the purchase of a Lockheed Electra aircraft and related spare parts and equipment for the Australian National Airlines Commission. The aircraft will be used by Trans-Australia Airlines on its internal services in Australia. The legislation will appropriate the Loan Fund to permit the proceeds of the loan to be paid over to the Australian National Airlines Commission and will appropriate the Consolidated Revenue Fund to ensure that principal, repayments and interest and other charges on the loan will be met on the due dates.
The loan agreement was signed in New York on 10th September by the Australian Consul-General, acting on behalf of the Commonwealth. The lenders are the four United States banks whose names appear in the schedule to the bill, with one of them, J. P. Morgan and Company Incorporated, acting as agent.
As was explained earlier when the Airlines Equipment Bill was introduced, T.A.A. intends to operate two Lockheed Electras, one of which will be acquired from Qantas and the other will be mainly financed under this loan. The current borrowing of 3,000,000 dollars is actually part of a 12,000,000 dollars loan arranged with the four banks named in the loan agreement. The other 9,000,000 dollars will go to Tasman Empire Airways Limited to assist with the financing of its own three Electras. The same interest rate is payable under the two separate loan agreements, and the other terms and conditions are broadly similar after making allowance for the fact that T.E.A.L. is borrowing in its own name and requires the funds about six months later than T.A.A.
Under the loan agreement covering the financing of the T.A.A. Electra, the Com monwealth will receive advances from the lenders as payments fall due on the aircraft and will re-lend these advances to the Australian National Airlines Commission. An agreement will be entered into between the Commonwealth and the commission under which the commission will assume full responsibility for reimbursing the Commonwealth for payments of principal and interest and all other costs of the borrowing. This borrowing is being made in the name of the Commonwealth under the authority of the Commonwealth loan programme for 1958-59, and, accordingly, the proposed terms and conditions were approved by the Australian Loan Council before the loan agreement was signed.
The loan agreement is reproduced as the first schedule to the bill. It is similar in most respects to the loan agreement for the Qantas borrowing. Interest is payable at 4£ per cent, per annum, which is slightly higher than the rate we obtained for Qantas in the agreement signed three months earlier. We were very fortunate to negotiate a rate as low as 4i per cent, for the T.A.A. borrowing, as the yields on United States Government securities had risen appreciably in the meantime - that is, in a period of three months.
The loan is repayable in equal semiannual instalments from 31st December, 1959, to 30th June, 1964. A commitment fee of i per cent, per annum on the undrawn amount of the loan is payable from the date on which the lending banks agreed in principle to make the loan, namely 25th July, 1958. All of the funds are expected to be drawn in the first half of 1959. As with the borrowings on behalf of Qantas, the Commonwealth is merely acting as an intermediary, and there will be no net call on Commonwealth cash resources because of this loan.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) 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 Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring’ in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act, to enable its operation to be extended by proclamation for a period not extending beyound 30th June, 1959, and allowing the bounty to be terminated before that date, should this be desired.
I explain to the House that the question of further assistance to the industry has been referred to the Tariff Board. Public inquiries have been held, but the board has not yet presented its report. The Government considers it reasonable to extend the benefits of the bounty until such time as it is in a position to examine the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Hence the proposal in this bill that the bounty may be extended by proclamation until 30th June, 1959.
The Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act provides for a bounty of lOd. per lb. in respect of cellulose acetate flake produced in Australia and sold for use in the manufacture of cellulose acetate rayon yarn in each of the three years ended 30th June, 1958.
Bounty of £99,489 was paid to Colonial Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited on 2,387,737 lb. of flake sold during the year ended 30th June, 1956, rising to £113,258 on 2,718,187 lb. of flake sold in the year ended 30th June, 1957, and then declining slightly to £100,980 on 2,423,534 lb. of flake sold during the year ended 30th June, 1958.
The principle of assistance by bounty to this industry was adopted when the matter was previously considered by the House, and the proposed amendment will enable the same measure of assistance to be continued until the Tariff Board’s report has been received and considered by the Government.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
– Does the Minister know when the Tariff Board’s report will be available?
– No, I cannot tell the honorable member that.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) 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 Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1956.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Tractor Bounty Act, to enable its operation to be extended by proclamation for a period expiring not later than 30th June, 1959, and allowing the bounty to be terminated before that date, should this be desired.
I would explain that the question of further assistance to the industry was referred to the Tariff Board, which has conducted public inquiries on the matter. However, the board has not yet presented’ its report and, therefore, the Government considers it reasonable to extend the benefits of the bounty until such time as it is in a position to examine the recommendations of the Tariff Board. Hence, the proposal in this bill that the bounty may be extended by proclamation until 30th June, 1959.
The Tractor Bounty Act has provided for the payment of bounty on wheel-type tractors for the period of nineteen years which ends on 23rd October, 1958. The rates of bounty have been varied over the period, but generally speaking can be said currently to range up to £240 per tractor according to the belt pulley horse-power of the engine and the extent that parts made in Australia are used in the assembly of the tractor.
Bounty payments during the years ended 30th June, 1956, 1957 and 1958 were £55,035, £158,303 and £467,088, respectively, and the bounty claimants have been Howard Auto Cultivators Limited, Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited and International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited. The first claim from the International Harvester Company concerned production during the year ended 30th June, 1957.
The principle of assistance to this industry has been accepted on several occasions when the matter was previously before the House. The proposed amendment would enable the same measure of assistance as is now current to be continued until the Tariff Board’s report has been received and considered by the Government.
I commened the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 1485), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Opposition has given consideration to this measure. It has already passed the Senate without amendment, and as members of the Australian Labour party in the Senate offered no objection to its provisions, we do not pro pose to delay the House very long now in the consideration of it.
The amendments to the principal act made by this bill are not of great importance. They are not of such major importance that many people will be stirred by consideration of them. I should imagine that if they contained a proposal to reduce the duties on whisky, beer, tobacco and cigarettes many people throughout Australia would be greatly interested. The Government, having imposed very heavy increases, in those duties in the little horror Budget of March, 1956, not having reduced the duties in any way since, and, apparently, not proposing to reduce them before the general election, will have to answer before the bar of public opinion on this matter. 1 leave the matter there. As far as this bill is concerned, it can pass, and I do not suppose that any observations will be made about it by any other Opposition member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 1384), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a very brief bill, consisting of four clauses only, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Its purpose is to continue in operation sections 24 to 33, inclusive, of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. Those sections provide for preference to ex-servicemen in certain fields of employment. This measure is closely related to the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill 1958, which follows it on the notice-paper, and which amends the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act 1946- 1955.
The bill that we are now considering carries on the preference provisions that I have mentioned until 30th June, 1960. As the sections of the principal act that provide for preference expired on 2nd September of this year, there is a period in which they have not operated. Clause 2 makes the preference provisions retroactive to 2nd September last, and clause 4 makes incidental provision in order to enable the intention of clause 2 to be properly carried out. The Opposition raises no objection to this measure. We know that it is necessary because of its close parallel with the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill 1958.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 1387), on motion bv Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is somewhat similar in character to the Reestablishment, and Employment Bill (No. 2) 1958, which has just been passed, although it deals with an altogether different aspect of employment, which was originally associated with the war effort. The original Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act was passed in 1 946 in order to put into legislative form the regulations with respect to the dilution of labour that had operated during World War II., when it was very necessary that the country’s productive capacity, especially in relation to the production of munitions, should be considerably increased. Because there was a shortage of trained and skilled men, it was necessary to reach an arrangement with the trade union movement to enable the up-grading of persons who had not been apprenticed and who had not been trained in the specific skills required in industry generally.
As a consequence of conferences between the appropriate Commonwealth departments and the trade unions concerned, a dilution scheme was eventually evolved. One of the conditions of the scheme was the granting of preference in employment, and preference in the retention of employment when employees were being discharged, to those who were recognized tradesmen - in other words, tradesmen who had undergone an apprenticeship and, as a consequence, were regarded as being skilled tradesmen. The intention of the original act was to safeguard their rights. The employment of those who were known in the general scheme of employment as dilutees was not to affect the employment rights of recognized tradesmen after the war was over. That, I think, was an essential provision. If the trade union movement were to grant to persons the right to become dilutees - to undergo a period of training neither as intense nor as sound as that received by an apprentice - it would indeed be a disaster to the recognized tradesmen if, as a consequence, in the general competition for employment when the war ended, they were to lose their jobs to lesser skilled men. So, this provision of retention of their rights in the shape of preference and also protection against dismissal in favour of dilutees became law.
Since this legislation was passed many of the things that were expected to happen when the war ended have, in fact, not happened. But other things have happened which have indicated that a measure of this description, to deal with our rapidly changing complex industrial conditions, should be continued. So, this particular legislation has been amended from time to time to deal with new aspects of employment that have arisen. The skilled trades that are covered by this legislation are the engineering trade, the boilermaking trade, the blacksmithing trade, the electrical trades, the sheet metal trade, and the boot industry. The machinery that is provided under this legislation, and the creation of a central committee, which governs and directs the activities of local committees in each State, have enabled a standard of craftsmanship in respect of all these trades to be maintained.
The work of these committees was extended to deal with immigrants. Large numbers of immigrants have entered this country as part of the Government’s policy. Many of them have claimed to be skilled tradesmen, and it was found necessary to test the soundness of their claims, to see whether their training in particular crafts was up to the standard required in Australia. Some machinery was necessary, and so an amendment to the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act provided for these committees to determine the standard of skill that had been reached by immigrants.
This was very essential, because our system of apprenticeship in Australia covers a period of five years. We have technical schools in each of the capital cities and in many provincial towns, which are giving sound tuition in skilled trades. The apprentices are receiving academic training as well as practical training. The whole idea behind the apprenticeship system in Australia has been to turn out a very highly skilled tradesman.
The same practice is not carried on in all European countries. In some European countries, such as England, there is a period of apprenticeship, which follows a somewhat similar line of training to that which takes place in Australia. But in other European countries, instead of the all-round training of apprentices which is so typical of England and Australia, there is a tendency for persons to be trained in specialized sections of industry. Instead of a person being trained as an all-round fitter, or an all-round turner, or an all-round machinist, he would be trained for two years in one aspect of that class of work. At the end of his two years apprenticeship he would be regarded as a skilled tradesman, but only for a section of the work connected with engineering. These people, coming to Australia and claiming to be engineers, were found, in many cases, not to be up to Australian standards.
In order to overcome the frustration and, at times, bitterness and difficulties that were being experienced by immigrants who claimed that they were engineers but whose abilities were not up to Australian standards, the local committees and the central committee have given tests to determine whether the immigrants measure up to the required standard. In order to obviate much of the trouble that we have had in this regard, a system of trade testing is now being conducted by the Department of Immigration in parts of Europe and England. An intending migrant is told before he leaves the shores of his own country whether his standard of training is up to the level demanded in Australia. Very important work is being done by those committees.
This bill does not propose to interfere with that particular aspect of these committees’ work. The committees also have the responsibility of deciding whether per sons who have been trained as craftsmen in rae various technical schools provided by the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy, have reached a standard that entitles them to be recognized as tradesmen in industry generally. That type of work has been done by the committees by regulation, but this bill proposes to give legislative effect to that action.
Generally speaking, this legislation has proved to be very beneficial to industry. It tends to maintain a high standard of efficiency in those people seeking to enter recognized trades. With reference to the preference clauses in respect of engagement and termination of services, the same provision is being made in this bill as is provided in the Re-establishment and Employment Bill. Preference is extended until 30th June, 1960, with this difference: Whereas in the past, as each amendment has been made to the bill, preference has been carried on and effected in respect of those who became recognized tradesmen after the date of the passing of the amending bill, this bill provides that whilst preference will continue to recognized tradesmen until 30th June, 1960, it will only operate in respect of those tradesmen who were recognized as tradesmen prior to 2nd September, 1958. Any tradesmen who were recognized as tradesmen after that date will not be covered by the preference provisions.
There is one other matter that is dealt with in this measure which I regard as a very important matter, and which I feel will give some measure of hope to people who, through various causes, have been just outside the scope of the act. They are in what might be termed the twilight class. Because their employment in an industry did not start before a certain date, or because they have not completed a certain number of years of training within a specified period, their claims for recognition as tradesmen cannot be dealt with by either the central committee or the local committees. In order that honorable members may appreciate the point better, I say that in order to be recognized as a tradesman, an applicant should have -
A local committee, of course, is the committee for the State.
During the last twelve months, I have had a good deal of negotiation and correspondence with the Minister for Labour and National Service, and his department, in respect of 48 men who are employed at the Bendigo Ordnance Factory, and who are classed and recognized there as skilled tradesmen. They are receiving the rates applicable to skilled tradesmen, and are performing work requiring engineering skill of the highest degree. But because they were not employed as tradesmen before 1940, or were not engaged for seven years before 1952 on this class of work, the committees are not able to recognize them as tradesmen. Some of these men are ex-servicemen of the British forces. Some were employed in the Royal Air Force and others in the British Army. They have received training of some description, and certainly the work that they are doing qualifies them as persons who should be regarded as tradesmen.
As I have said, their employer regards them as tradesmen and they are paid the appropriate rate. A provision in this measure may give some hope of recognition to such persons. The admission of persons who have not served an apprenticeship in Australian industry is a rather ticklish problem, because the trade union movement is very jealous of itsright to ensure that tradesmen are skilled and properly trained. It is exceedingly difficult to’ get any of the craft unions, such as those of the engineers, blacksmiths, moulders, and boilermakers, to agree to any deviation from conditions that they believe are necessary in the interests of the preservation of their crafts at the highest possible standard.
The provision contained in this bill is a simple one. It permits the central com mittee of any one of the six trades concerned to deal with any matter other than those matters prescribed in the act. The only requirement is that before embarking on the matter of deciding whether certain people, for whom the act does not contain special provision, should be classified as tradesmen, the central committee must get the consent of the Minister for Labour and National Service to such a course. The Minister having given consent, the central committee will be able to determine whether or not it will recognize these people as tradesmen.
The committee consists of a chairman appointed by the Government, two representatives of employers, and two representatives of employees. In deciding a matter of this description, the chairman shall not have a vote; the decision has to be made by a majority of the members of the committee. This means, of course, that, for a majority to be obtained, either the two representatives of the employees and at least one representative of the employers, or the two representatives of the employers and at least one representative of the employees, must vote together. So a decision to deal with a person who is just outside the scope of the legislation as it stands, will depend upon the representatives of the employers and the employees in the industry determining amongst themselves that the case is a good one; that it should be considered, and that action should be taken.
I think the proposal is eminently fair, and one to which the House should agree. It certainly holds out hope to people who are qualified but find themselves, because of the restrictions now contained in the act, unable to have their claims for recognition dealt with. The proposal gives hope to people who for some time past have been unable to see their way clear towards recognition of their skills. It is a just and fair proposal. The matter has been considered by the Opposition, and we agree to the bill. We think that a continuance of the operation of the preference provisions until 30th June, 1960, is reasonable. We raise no objection to the passage of the measure.
.- I do not want to delay the passage of this bill because I, like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), approve of it. But certain observations should be made in regard to some features of the scheme. I do not think that they have been made previously, and it is appropriate that they should be made now.
As the honorable member for Bendigo said, the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act was passed as a war-time measure. Many men started off in skilled trades in the early days of the war and other men were diverted into those trades and, in some instances, compelled against their will to remain there. They felt that they could be doing a better, more efficient, or perhaps more spectacular job if they were allowed to wear a uniform and go overseas. But the nation said, “We must have production at home as well as having men away fighting”, and these men were compelled to remain and perform a highly useful job in the trades to which they were diverted. Because of that, they are naturally deserving of some protection of their rights. I am glad that this protection is continuing, although there must come a time when some alteration or breakdown of the preference provisions will be required.
I agree with the honorable member’s statement that tradesmen in skilled occupations are extremely jealous of their rights. They are jealous in two ways. First, they want to make certain that those persons who will ultimately gain certificates of qualification as skilled tradesmen will be really entitled to those certificates and will be really skilled tradesmen in every branch of the trade.
Secondly, an important matter is that the apprenticeship laws of this country are based not only upon making certain that every man who embarks upon a period of training shall be skilled and fully qualified but also upon the availability of employment when his apprenticeship is completed. For that reason, over the years the intake of apprentices has been limited by two factors: First, the availability of skilled tradesmen to train apprentices on the job under practical experience; and secondly, the demand which will exist for the particular type of trade for which they are trained.
When the pressure of war came upon the country the trade union movement very generously broke down a rigid rule concerning the employment of skilled trades men in order to assist this country in its war effort. At that time, the honorable member for Bendigo was head of the trade union movement and, although it was not easy to agree to that breakdown, it eventually came about after many discussions. During the post-war years I was associated with rehabilitation and reconstruction work, and I pay tribute to the fact that the trade union movement gave splendid cooperation in connexion with the tradesmen’s rights regulations. It willingly opened its ranks to admit men who had been compelled to remain at home and engage, in some cases, in uninteresting occupations, in spite of their desire to serve in the armed forces overseas. The trade union movement admitted these men and accepted them as skilled tradesmen. 1 do not know whether such a tribute has ever been paid to the trade union movement in this place for that co-operation, but I appreciated the actions of the unions. I had personal experience of the problems that had to be solved in the closing stages of the war and in the immediate post-war period, and I know that if the trade union movement had not co-operated we would have been in a very sorry plight. I do not say that that co-operation was unexpected or that the trade union movement would have given us less than it did, but in view of the fact that the intake of skilled men into certain trades is based primarily on the consideration of employment opportunity, we must agree that it was a very generous breakdown on the part of the unions to admit these men into their ranks.
In the early post-war period there was a fear that employment opportunities would not be sufficient to absorb skilled men who were supposedly, or as they were unjustly accused, only partly skilled. Many economic discussions took place from the year 1941 onwards, and the records of them can be seen in the Parliamentary Library. It was generally expected that there would be considerable unemployment. It was necessary to convince some unions that this would not be the case, and it was a great relief to know that the fears of the economists and scientific thinking people were proved to be unfounded, because employment was found for these men. It was only natural that, because of the fact that during the war normal production in many lines had come to an absolute stand-still, there should be a tremendous demand for the production of these goods when peace returned. It was found that there was a shortage of skilled men, and this was one of the reasons for the co-operation of the trade union movement in admitting tradesmen into a trade as skilled persons. This helped to overcome the shortage of manpower in the immediate post-war years.
As the honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out, this bill extends or continues the decision of the trade union movement concerning employment in highly skilled occupations. I appreciate the continuation of that co-operation. Of course, we have to realize that the time will come when the trade union movement will be faced! once more with the consideration which dominated its thinking in the earlier days, namely, the quantitive intake of apprentices as related to the opportunities for employment. This factor will have a strong influence on whether the trade union movement can admit all of these men without the severe restriction which is imposed, first on their being certain of successfully undertaking their training; and, secondly, whether it will be possible to employ them when their training is completed. It is no good making a decision after men are trained; the time to do that is when, as apprentices of sixteen, seventeen or eighteen years of age, they are asking for training. If they cannot be accommodated in one trade they can go to another, but even then the number accepted for training must be governed by the possible availability of employment when their apprenticeship is completed. I sound the note of warning that the volume of employment available in skilled trades must affect the number of apprentices and, therefore, control of the number trained must be exercised at the beginning of the apprenticeship.
Australia is at an advanced stage of development, but there is still room for further development. The honorable member for Bendigo, who is a representative of the trade union movement, is demonstrating confidence in the future development of our country by agreeing to the continuance of this legislation. If we can employ all the skilled men who come into the country who are able to satisfy the standards prescribed by the local and central committees, all may be well. But the time may come when the trade unions might think about returning to the old system of exercising control over the intake of skilled tradesmen at the apprenticeship stage.
The honorable member for Bendigo is continuously and closely associated with the trade union movement, and I suggest there is justification for retaining the preference clause for men who were not in the armed services. Many of them could perhaps be enjoying greater benefits if they had been allowed to enlist. But we compelled them to remain behind. Whilst they might have been able to sleep in a bed every night and have three good home-cooked meals a day, and whilst they might not have been worried by the sound of shot and shell and other things that worry men on active service, there were nevertheless some things which they missed. Undoubtedly, there were sacrifices required of them. Possibly these sacrifices were not so apparent at the time, but they became apparent later in their relations with people with whom they were associated in the post-war period. So I would say that the preference provisions in this legislation will have to continue for quite a long time. Those who were, in the war-time period, diverted into industry or compelled to remain in industry, will be entitled to this protection for so long as we provide protection for those who were actively engaged in the armed forces.
The other aspect with regard to the intake and the extension of registration to immigrants is also interesting. I have no doubt that there will come a time when the trade unions will say, “ So far and no further. We want a return to the old standards.” In view of the fact that the trade unions were so co-operative in the past, I feel that they will approach this matter with common sense and sound judgment. If they make such a request, the government then in power should consider it with sympathy and say, “We must consider their views and treat them as generously as we possibly can, in the light of the fact that they considered the needs of the nation in its time of crisis “.
I support the bill, and I say again that I rose only to put on record the fact that the trade union movement is deserving of the tributes paid to it for extending the cooperation it gave at the time when that was so necessary.
– We are indebted to the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) for the tributes he has paid to the trade union movement and its members for the part they played in keeping industry going during the war. It is healthy to find that at least on one afternoon the great sacrifice that the trade union movement made is being recognized by every member of this House. It may lead to the line of thought that we should not forget to recall the sacrifices of the men who remained at home. The sacrifices made by the trade union movement in the interests of the nation prove that there is no section of the Australian people more concerned with the defence of this country than the trade unionists. Those of us closely concerned with the movement, like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), remember the sleepless nights of May, 1940, after France had fallen. We remember what was involved in the recognition that we in this country had to produce, not only the war material that we needed for ourselves, but also war material to assist the Mother Country in the Middle East and other places. Those of use who were saddled with the responsibility at that stage of changing the line of reasoning of the craft union organizations in Australia will never forget the guarantees that were required by the leaders of the organizations.
It was healthy to hear the honorable member for Moore say that at some stage the trade union movement must say, “So far and no further “. But I am afraidand this is my main purpose in rising to speak - that the pressure that came, as a result of war, for the changing of the approach of the trade union movement, will remain with us for many years to come because of another force. I am hoping, and no doubt everybody in this chamber is hoping, that never again will we have to call on the artisans in industry in this country to make the sacrifices that they made during the last war. As the honorable member for Moore said, thousands upon thousands of men would have much preferred to don uniform and play their part in the fighting forces than to stay behind to work in industry. For instance, the action of the railwaymen during the war is a splendid illustration of what many men would have done had they been permitted to follow their own bent. Large numbers of railwaymen volunteered for overseas service before the man-power regulations were clamped on them to prevent them from doing so. It is well recognized that if the workers of Australia had been allowed to follow their own desires, the great bulk of them would have joined up when the acid test of war came to this country.
One fact on which the honorable member for Moore did not touch, although I thought he might well have done so, was that the men who had to remain behind in industry responded mightily to the nation’s need. The great response of the workers year after year during the war should never be forgotten. They responded to the nation’s need without stint, although their wages were pegged at the 1937 level.
– They were getting better than five bob a day.
– An interjection of that description is quite unbecoming in a debate of this character, because- 1 tell the honorable member that thousands upon thousands of workers in industry would have much preferred to have served in’ the forces at five bob a day than to have remained in industry, as they were forced to do by the man-power regulations. Have a look at how the man-power provisions forced men to say in their jobs! Have a look at the apprentices of that time! They were young men who were anxious to go to the war, perhaps not for the valour involved, but for the experience that they could get - but they were not allowed to go. Every man who was apprenticed in this country during the war was man-powered and pegged to his job. I have in mind one particular apprentice. Every second night he was on patrol on Sydney Harbour. Every second week-end he gave the whole of his time to military training. Yet to-day he is not recognized as having rendered any service in respect of the great national war effort. That is one of the tragedies relating to the sacrifices- made by thousands of men in this country who, under our present system, will never gain recognition for what they did. So I am grateful to the honorable member’ for Moore for the tributes that he has paid to those people.
However, I want to go on from where the honorable member left off. He said that the time would come when the trade union movement would say, “ So far and no further.” I was pleased that the honorable member made the point that the trade unions, particularly the craft organizations, must see to it all the time that they protect the standards of their trades. We are now approaching a stage in this country’s development when that is more important than it has ever been in the past. When I was in America towards the end of last year I visited Detroit, and I put to the captains of industry in the automobile factories - the Chrysler factory in particular - the question: “ Where are you going to get your apprentices in a period of automation? “ The manager of the organization said, “ Well, you know where we are getting them from at the present time.” I said “ I would not know that, which is the reason why I asked the question.” They said, “ At the present time we have highly trained officers who are doing nothing else but tour Canada to buy tradesmen there, for use in our factories. We do not care what we pay.” The point that the trade union organization has to consider - and the honorable member for Bendigo is alive to this - is that the further we go along the road to automation, the further we go along the road of leaving for the .average individual the mere machinist’s job, the greater will be the need for the highly skilled artisan, who is going to be the superman in control. That is one point I want to make during this discussion. It is a good thing to recognize that the new Australians come within the framework of this. But we have to go a long way further in relation to the availability of skilled tradesmen in this country than we have ever gone before, if we are going to develop ourselves as a secondary industry nation in the way that we should.
We have to compete with industrial developments in other countries. A new technology will have to be developed in skilled training. There will be a responsibility on the trade unions to see that that is done; but it cannot all be left to the trade unions. There is also a responsibility on the departments associated with the development of this country to see to it that, in the new machine age, our technology advances.
The honorable member for Moore said that he hoped to see the acceptance of the principle of the training of the youth in the skilled trades. I agree with him. But what is happening in the United States of America to-day? There it has been found that that is insufficient. American laws in relation to apprenticeship extend to men of 25, 26 and 27 years of age. A change is taking place. One has only to walk into a factory that is being modernized, particularly a textile factory, to find that a complete change is necessary in the training of artisans.
The trade union movement will play its part in this respect. It will see to it that the new Australian will be afforded an opportunity to receive the training necessary for the operation of the new machinery which has been so carefully described by the honorable member for Bendigo. He will be able to take his proper place; but we will have to go a long way further than that in the future machine age in this country, leaving aside America and the old countries. We have to be prepared to develop, in the very near future, a new training scheme for those who will be displaced. In the new machine age, first of all, it will be necessary to have men who are more highly trained than ever before. But, apart from those men, many unskilled employees will be thrown out of the form of employment to which they have been accustomed, perhaps all their lives.
I give credit where credit is due. The war-time agreement in respect of the dilutees was arrived at between the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the short period before his Government fell, and the trade unions and employer organizations. But the whole plan was implemented by a Labour government. I put it to the House that, if we are to take advantage of automation in the new phase of industrial development, we are going to have just as big a problem, as war-time governments had in meeting national man-power requirements.
The honorable member for Moore spoke about “ job opportunities “. That is one of the factors that are being taken very closely into account by trade union organizations.
– There are a lot of youths coming on, -you know.
– That interjection is in keeping with an outlook which we on this side of the House do not hold. We know full well that any developing country will take care of its youth,
My concern is for those who will be displaced by youth and those who want to take profit out of the industry at the expense of those who are getting old. The retraining of the men and women who will be displaced as a result of the new machine age will become a national responsibility in the very near future in this country just as it will in every other country in which automation is developing. In Germany, there has been a retraining programme for those who have been displaced. In Great Britain, this is recognized as a great problem which has to be faced not only by the trade unions but also by the Government. This is the position in all countries in which the automation age is upon us.
I believe that, before the period that this bill prescribes expires, it will be found wanting in many directions. Admittedly, it will provide the necessary committees to deal with those who are partly trained. But we shall be faced with a much bigger problem than that inside the next three years. As the honorable member for Bendigo indicated, the Opposition is supporting this measure. It has the support of the trade union organizations because it is filling a necessary requirement within the framework of our present standards. But I believe that it will have to be reviewed before long if it is to meet the problem of the displacement of manpower. Consider the railways for example. Merely because of a new technology in locomotion, 50 or 60 married men - skilled tradesmen and semi-skilled tradesmen - are being displaced in certain country towns from jobs to which they have been accustomed. These men will have to be retrained to take their proper place in society. If men are to be displaced because of a new type of locomotion or because of the introduction of any other new machines, there is a responsibility on the government of the day, whatever its political colour, to do two things: One of them is to provide the necessary training for those people in whatever form of work they are going to undertake. The other is to ensure that those people have continuity of employment in the process. The trade union movement will assist, but the responsibility must not rest entirely upon it. A government responsibility is also attached to this problem.
.- When the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E.
James Harrison) was speaking, I interjected that the people to whom he was referring were getting more than 5s. a day. That interjection was, I think, justified. Men who served their country in time of war never look for any praise, and they do not want it when it is given to them. They believe that they only did their duty, and that when a country is in danger any man worth his salt will do his duty to protect it. But when I hear the honorable member for Blaxland say how members of the trade unions had sleepless nights during the war because of all that they had to do I find it rather tiresome. I have heard him repeat such statements every year for two or three years and have answered him on every occasion.
I give the men of whom he speaks every credit. I agree that probably some of them could not have gone to the war because they were in certain occupations which were necessary to the conduct of the war. But I do not know how the honorable member for Blaxland can stand up and talk about the great sacrifices made by people who remained in this great country during the war. That kind of statement becomes very tiresome to me. Therefore, whenever he speaks along those lines, I shall interject and shall try to put the matter in some form of decent perspective.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 23rd September (vide page 1546).
[5.51. - No answer has been given to the charge that the Department of Health, in contempt of the Parliament, circulated all the provisions of this bill now being discussed by the committee to societies registered under the National Health Act as decisions, long before this bill came into the Parliament at all. That charge is based on the communication sent out from the Department of Health on 7th August in which every provision of this bill was set out in detail and apparently communicated to the societies concerned as representing decisions made by the Government of the country. So far as I can see, no reference was made in that communication by the Department of Health to the fact that these matters were dependent on the will of Parliament, and that these decisions would come into effect only if the Parliament approved the legislation.
It has frequently - and I think quite wrongly - been stated that some public servants regard themselves as the real government of Australia. I think it would not be astonishing if ‘heads of departments working under Ministers as vacillating and weak as those who constitute the present Administration, did feel that they, in fact, had to be and were the real government of Australia. But when attention is directed in the Parliament to the fact that a public department has completely anticipated the will of Parliament and has communicated to outside bodies proposals yet to be approved by the Parliament, and communicated them to those outside bodies as decisions which, from 1st January next, will be enforced, I suggest that, if the Government is prepared to allow a matter such as that to go unanswered, and is not prepared to make a proper explanation to the Parliament of how that extraordinary procedure came to be followed, then the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is not conscious of the dignity of his own position or of the duties and responsibilities appertaining to it. I regret that at an earlier stage in these proceedings when the charge was first made, the Minister chose to ignore it, but I trust that he will now deal with it during the committee stage of the bill.
There are two other matters to which 1 wish to refer. The first is the provision in the bill that where a society has accepted a sufferer from chronic illness as eligible for benefits in that society, it will not be able to transfer him to the special fund. It seems that the effect of that will be to do injury to those societies which have acted generously with their contributors and to place in an advantageous position those societies which have acted meanly with their contributors because apparently, where a society has rejected the claim of a chronic sufferer, it will be able to transfer that member to the special fund and be rid of any further liability to him. But where a society has acted generously and has accepted that chronic sufferer for benefit, then it will not be allowed to transfer him to the special fund. That seems to me to create an invidious position as between societies, and I would like the Minister to examine it and see whether some amendment is not required.
The other matter to which I wish to refer, and on which I propose to move an amendment, is the provision in clause 15 that, on reaching the age of 65, a contributor will automatically be transferred to the special fund. There will be no need even to inform the contributor that he has been transferred to the special fund, but from the time he is transferred to the special fund, he will be ineligible to contribute for or to receive benefit greater than the rate of benefit payable in respect of public ward treatment. I know the reason why the Minister has put that provision in the bill, but it appears to create a very substantial injustice indeed in that it deprives a man aged 65 and over of his right as a citizen to contribute for whatever rate of benefit he chooses.
Therefore, I propose for the acceptance of the committee, an amendment which will preserve to the man of 65 years the right himself to choose whether he will be transferred to the special fund or whether he will go on as an ordinary contributor to the fund, therefore, of course, depriving himself of the benefits which would come to him by membership of the special fund. The amendment I propose is to clause 15, and accordingly I move -
In clause IS, at end of proposed section 82b, add the following sub-section: - “ (5.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions of this section, the contributions of a contributor who has attained the age of sixty-five years shall not be credited to the special account if he otherwise elects.”.
I hope that amendment will be acceptable to the Minister. Tt interferes in no way with the principles governing the legislation he has brought before the committee. It does, however, preserve for the individual citizen a right he ought to possess. A man may be 63 years of age. He may have chosen for years to pay a contribution at the higher rate so as to attract benefit at the higher rate to enable him, if illness besets him, to have a private room and private ward treatment. If he wishes to continue in that way, and if he wishes not to go into the special fund, why should he be forced into it against his will? That is not the voluntary insurance to which the Minister has made such a proud claim in this debate. It deprives the ordinary citizen of rights that he should possess. The proposition is perfectly simple. It simply gives a man of 65 the same right as any other to go on as an ordinary contributor to the fund or to go into the special fund if he so chooses and reap the benefits, but not to shut him out from the opportunity of insuring for benefit at the highest rate which any society is paying, and not to shut him out from the right in case of illness to have private ward treatment if the benefit from his society or his own financial position permit him to enjoy it.
– I refer to the third point that has been raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), and that was the point canvassed during the debate last night. The issue of whether or not the details contained in this bill should be discussed with an outside body appears at first blush to be a very valid point. May I put this point to the honorable gentleman? We are dealing with a pretty extensive organization. We are dealing, in some respects, with a rather involved organization. There are some millions of people in Australia who are concerned with the medical benefits scheme in one form or another. The honorable gentleman has said that it is quite wrong for the Minister for Health and his departmental officers to have entered into negotiations with an outside body prior to the approval of this Parliament.
– No, I did not mean that. I mean that it is proper to discuss them and to negotiate, but they should never have conveyed these proposals to the societies as final decisions and not even mention that Parliament had not discussed them.
– I urge the honorable member to consider this point: Parliament has the power of legislating. That is agreed. If. in this House, an alteration is made to the provision, then accordingly it would remain for further negotiations to take place. I tell the honorable gentleman quite candidly that I would be the last person to approve of the surrender of parliamentary authority to an outside body.
But it happens very often in our modern state that before legislation can be introduced there must be negotiation and consultation. It happens every day of the week. It occurs when we are contemplating international agreements. It occurs with relation to agreements between the States and the Commonwealth. I do not see anything sinister at all in what has happened.
– These points in the document were not conveyed as proposals, but as decisions.
– I think they were conveyed as tentative decisions, and I do believe that one is entitled to use the description “ tentative decisions “. If the Minister, impressed by arguments used in this chamber, believes that the tentative decisions that have been agreed upon should be altered, then it is quite within his authority to modify those tentative decisions. I simply say that I see nothing sinister at all in what has happened. I believe the Minister has acted quite properly and in keeping with conventions relating to matters of this kind.
.- I support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I think it is quite reasonable to suggest that a person who attains the age of 65 years should have the right to elect whether to come within the provisions of this legislation or to continue his membership of a particular organization, and not be transferred to the special account outlined in this measure. The mandatory requirement contained in this bill denies such a person, I feel, the opportunity to obtain, in many cases, the relief that is available to him at present from the organization to which he now belongs.
The legislation as at present framed contains a mandatory requirement that those who attain the age of 65 years shall be transferred to the special account, although some of those concerned may not approve of this. We frequently speak of the desirability of preserving the freedom of the individual in matters oncerning him personally. I believe tha. this legislation cuts down that freedom to a significant extent. I hope the Minister will realize that our suggestion is very fair and modest, and that it will provide a larger measure of justice for those who will be affected by the legislation. I support the honorable member for Eden Monaro in his request that the Minister and the committee give this proposal sympathetic consideration.
.- The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has raised three points in the committee this afternoon, and I shall deal with them in the order in which he raised them. First, he accused officers of the Department of Health of having circulated what were represented as decisions prior to the introduction of the legislation. I did not reply to this charge when I spoke at the second reading stage because I really thought it was not a serious charge. Now, however, I will certainly explain the circumstances. This document, which is in no sense a decision and does not in any way represent itself to be a decision, was not circulated by the officers of the department but by me.
– Yes, I am not absolving the Minister at all.
– It was circulated by me at a meeting which I had with the benefit organizations, and the circulation of it was perfectly correct and proper. I had a long and intricate discussion to conduct with the members of the benefit organizations, and it seemed to me the merest common sense that they should have before them, for the purposes of the discussion, a document setting out the Government’s proposals. That is what the document is. The honorable gentleman need feel no alarm that the officers of my department are going outside the proper sphere of their activities, because nothing of the sort is the case.
– The document does not say that these are proposals. It says they are decisions.
– It does not say they are decisions, either. The honorable member can rest assured that what the document contained were proposals put forward for the purposes of discussion, and it was circulated by me and not by the officers of my department. I take full responsibility for it, and I am quite certain that any other Minister, when conducting long and intricate negotiations such as these were, would do exactly the same thing. I am also quite sure that Ministers of previous administrations have done the same thing. It is a matter of pure common sense.
There is one other thing I want to say, though, about the officers of the Department of Health. Suggestions have been made in the committee that the officers of that department have been, as it is termed, standing over some of the funds. Let me make it perfectly plain that that is not the attitude of the officers of my department. They exercise, as, of course, they are bound in the course of their duties to exercise, constant liaison with the funds, and, on some occasions, supervision of their financial activities. So they should, because those financial activities involve the handling and expenditure of large Government subsidies. But I am sure I can say, without any fear of contradiction, that representatives of all the benefit organizations in Australia have, from time to time, expressed to me their highest opinions of the value, the tact and the general good sense of, and the assistance afforded by, the officers of the Department of Health. I take this opportunity of saying how much this Government and the country owes to their handling of frequently very difficult situations.
I now wish to refer briefly to another matter raised in the committee by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) concerning a special organization. This is connected also with the second point raised by the honorable member for Eden Monaro this afternoon, concerning organizations which already pay full benefits and which have no excluding rules. I think that was the second point raised by the honorable member.
– Not quite, but go on.
– As I understand it, the point made by the honorable member was that there are some organizations which already pay full benefits without excluding rules, and that they feel themselves disadvantaged by not being able to pass their contributors, the chronics and like cases, into a special account and have them paid out of the special account.
– Yes, that is part of it. .There are some societies which have accepted chronics and others which have shut them out.
– There are some such societies in Australia. One, of course, is the railway and tramway organization to which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred yesterday. Nearly all of these organizations have some special arrangements. Some are contract organizations; that is to say, they provide their medical services by contracting with a doctor. That is quite proper, of course, and there is no objection to it.
– Except from the British Medical Association.
– No. there is no objection from the B.M.A., either. Some organizations have special rates of contribution; nearly all of them, have some special feature. However, the point I want to make is that really the amendments in this bill neither advantage nor disadvantage any organization, these or others. There are not a great number of these organizations, but they are not in any way disadvantaged by this legislation. This legislation is designed to procure an advantage for contributors, not for organizations. If an existing organization finds it is able to pay out of its ordinary fund for preexisting ailments, its contributors are not under a disadvantage, but the great bulk of the organizations and the big organizations^ - I remind the committee that in Australia over 6,000,000 people are insured in these organizations - have excluding rules. The amendments in the ball will in fact benefit contributors to those organizations which have excluding rules, but they do not simultaneously impose any disadvantage on the contributors of organizations which do not have excluding rules, because those organizations can still continue what they are doing. If the management committee felt that it would be better off if the organization revised its rules and so came under the amendments which are now being made to the National Health Act, it would be at perfect liberty to do so.
– Does the Minister mean that a society which has accepted a chronic sufferer and is paying him benefits can transfer him to a special account?
– If it likes to set up a special account, it can do so. There is no objection. The society itself makes that decision.
– I thought that was ruled out by the bill.
– No. Some organizations - very good ones - have already notified the Department of Health that they do not wish to come under these amendments. If they do not wish to do so, that is all right; it is entirely their own prerogative.
I turn now to the third matter raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and referred to by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). I admit that the honorable gentleman has a point here. In fact, it is a matter to which the Government has given considerable thought. I have not been quite satisfied that all that was possible was being done in this regard and so, while I cannot accept the honorable gentleman’s amendment - I shall explain in a few moments why the Government is not willing to accept it - I intend to move an amendment myself. The effect of this amendment will be to secure to contributors substantially the advantages that the honorable members for Eden-Monaro and Bonython have pointed out that they should have. As I understand it, the purpose of the honorable gentleman’s amendment was to secure to the special account contributor, who may in fact have been paying at a higher rate before he was put into the special account, not only adequate benefits compared with other members of the organization but indeed benefits commensurate with the contributions that he has paid. I agree that this is desirable and, as I say, this is a matter that the Government has considered. I come now to my amendment.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. AdermannThe Minister may indicate what his amendment is, but the committee cannot deal with it until the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has been dealt with.
– I intend to move that paragraph (d) of proposed new section 82e be omitted. This paragraph reads -
I consider that this is a better way to secure the objective of the honorable gentleman than his own amendment, for two reasons. The first is that an amendment which allowed individual contributors to make the decision would, I think, really disrupt the whole course of the bill. It would be extremely difficult for organizations if the management committee had not the right to decide whether it should set up a special account and, having set up a special account, who should be allowed in it. We might very well find that many organizations, rather than submit to that position, would refuse to take contributors over 65 years of age. As I pointed out, this bill is intended to help contributors at present at a disadvantage. While I agree with the principle referred to by the honorable gentleman, I think that he will probably agree with me that the method I proposed is the better method. It will be much easier for the organization and will secure the advantages much more firmly for the contributors.
– In view of the assurance given by the Minister that the object which I have stated will be achieved by his amendment, as I conceive it will be, I ask for leave to withdraw the amendment that I have moved.
Proposed amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Amendment (by Dr. Donald Cameron) agreed to -
In clause IS, proposed section 82e, omit paragraph (d).
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 1382), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I suggest that as this bill and the Wheat Export Charge Bill are intimately related, we might, with the leave of the House, discuss them together.
– Is the House agreed that the bills should be discussed together? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill and the associated taxation measure are, in the very nature of things, of profound importance to the people of Australia generally, but in particular they are of great importance to the wheat industry and to those associated directly with it. I refer to people engaged in the flourmilling industry, employees on wheat farms, and people engaged in shipping wheat and in wheat operations generally.
May I say, Sir, that in days gone by a measure of this kind would have excited considerable debate and the expression of great differences of opinion in this Parliament. But, fortunately, since 1948, the wheat-growers of Australia have been receiving the benefits of stabilization schemes that began with the first post-war wheat stabilization measure, which was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. In view of the fact that, from 1948 to the present time, the wheat industry, and the country generally, have had the benefit of the stabilizing effects of these measures, which have resulted in a first-class example of organized marketing, and of co-operation between the legislatures of the six States and the Commonwealth Parliament, as well as between the wheat-growers’ organizations, I think if is appropriate that, at this juncture, I should pay tribute to the men - and also the women - who, for no less than twenty years, to my knowledge, advocated and worked for - and eventually persuaded the parliaments of this country to give them - a measure of protection that is probably unsurpassed in any other industry, or at any rate any other primary industry, in Australia.
The principle of the measure now before the House is, in every respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, exactly the same as that of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1948 - a principle which was incorporated also in the 1954 act.
– What about the measure before that?
– Does the honorable member refer to the 1946 act?
– The 1946 measure caused a good deal of political disputation, but, as I have told the House before, and as I repeat now for the benefit of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), we have long since passed the stage at which such a measure calls forth that kind of disputation. If the honorable member wants an historical recitation of the pains and sufferings of the wheat-growers of this country, under either Labour or nonLabour governments, between 1921, when the governmental wheat-handling arrangements for World War I. ceased, and 1948, I should be prepared, if I had sufficient time at my disposal, to point out to him that, in the main, the wheat-growers of this country were sadly and badly deserted by those in this country who should have been the first to defend and help them.
In passing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to recite to the honorable member some examples of the returns that were received in the years of which he is thinking. In the 1939-40 season, in a period when the present Government parties were in office - one of them under a different title - the first payment to growers at rail sidings was ls. 4d. a bushel. By 1941, the payment had risen to 2s. lOd. a bushel, and by 1942, it was 3s. lOd. At that stage, we had only just reached the end of the term of the first Menzies Government, which preceded the Curtin Government, and which severely limited the maximum price that the wheat-growers could get at sidings. In 1943, the payment was 3s. lid. a bushel. During the 1945-46 season, it was 4s. Id. In 1948, after an inquiry presided over by Mr. Justice Simpson, which was representative of various interests in this country, the cost of production was ascertained and recommended to the government of the day as a basis for a stabilization scheme. From that time on, the returns to the growers were guaranteed by the stabilization pool of 1948, and by subsequent pools on a basis similar to that envisaged in this measure.
I have recited those figures because they illustrate that, as time went on and governments realized the importance of this industry to our great Commonwealth, a more generous realization developed in the political mind and the governmental mind. As a result, in respect of organized marketing for the wheat industry, we are on a relatively sound basis from the stand-point of the growers, whatever may be the ultimate effect on the country of the guaranteed price obligations which the Commonwealth has had to assume under measures of this kind since 1948, and will have to assume under this bill.
I know that there are in this country, among the wheat-growers’ organizations and elsewhere, elements that are prone to tell the people of Australia that, even under this form of marketing of wheat, the wheatgrowers have, in effect, made substantial sacrifices. This has been suggested by the Australian Wheat Board in a table that is incorporated in its annual report for the year 1956-57. The board says, in effect, that had this scheme not operated, and had certain factors that operated some years previously continued to operate, the wheatgrowers of this country would have been £129,001,261 better off than they are at the present time. The figures contained in this table are very interesting, and, with the concurrence of the House, I shall incorporate them in “ Hansard “.
– The incorporation of the table will be subject to the approval of Mr. Speaker and to the printing difficulties involved.
– The table is as follows:-
The footnote to the table states -
This Schedule illustrates that, if export prices had prevailed throughout each year for local sales, the sales for Human Consumption would have realised £129,001,261 more than has been the case and those for Stock Feed, etc., an additional total of £68,048,991 making a grand total of £197,050,252.
I hope the honorable member for Mallee will take note of this.
– Why pick on me?
– Because the honorable member is vitally concerned. The Australian Wheat Board, by incorporating that table in its report, has said to the wheat growers of this country, in effect, “ If it had not been for the present scheme and for the war-time marketing arrangements, you would have been £129,001,261 better off than you are”.
– It does not necessarily follow.
– The Minister would not know what it was all about. It is important, I think, to indicate also the other side of the picture, and, in order to do that, I shall refer to another table. This table shows the amount received by farmers for wheat grown between 1919 and 1939. It also shows the amount that would have been received had the proposed wheat stabilization plan been in operation. When the table refers to the “ present “ wheat stabilization plan, it means the 1946 plan, which the honorable member for Mallee mentioned. The explanatory note to the table states -
In assessing farmers’ loss, the amount of £4,820,833 must be added to the total of column 13. This represents the loss in 1919-20 which did not go to the Stabilization Fund. The difference in value of wheat sold under open market and stabilization as per columns 6 and 9 is £125,251,036 in favour of stabilization.
In other words, if a stabilization scheme of the character of the 1948 scheme, of the character of the scheme that followed the 1948 scheme and of the character of the plan now before the House had been in operation between 1919 and 1939, the farmers in that period of Australian history would have been more than £125,000,000 better off.
With the concurrence of honorable mem bers, I incorporate the following table in “ Hansard “. It is taken from “ The South Australian Wheatgrower “, 22nd February, 1946.
The ball provides in relation to the 1958-59 wheat season and all seasons up to and including the 1962-63 season, a guaranteed price for all wheat consumed locally and up to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported. In the first year of its operation the plan is based on a guaranteed price of 14s. 6d. a bushel for those quantities that I have mentioned. In each of the succeeding four years any variation in cost of production will be provided for in the guaranteed price for those particular seasons. Honorable members should note that the basis on which the cost of production of wheat is determined has been somewhat varied. I have not the exact tables, but I understand that, as a result of an examination made by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the cost of production is based now on a yield per acre of 15.5 bushels. The previous cost findings were based on an average wheat yield in Australia of 13.5 bushels per acre. The reason for the change is that since the original plan of 1948, wheat-growers have been employing better methods of farming. They have enjoyed good seasons, and a greater assurance of payable prices. Valuable information has been available to them as a result of the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and they have received higher incomes, particularly during the wool price boom years. Wheat-growers have availed themselves fully of all those opportunities. But because of increased efficiency, their cost of production is assessed on a basis that is not as advantageous to them as was the previous assessment. As against that, consideration must be given to the fact that apart from the last drought season, over the last ten years in Australia there has been a much smaller area of wheat under cultivation than in 1948 and previous seasons. From memory I think the area under wheat in Australia has declined over a number of years from a peak of about 15,000,000 acres to a relatively stable figure of 12,000,000. In the year 1956-57 there were only about 9,000,000 acres under wheat in this country. However, except for the drought year that I have mentioned, the yield per acre has increased from 13.5 bushels to about 15.5 bushels. In many cases the yield has been as high as 17, 18, and even 19 bushels per acre. All this reflects credit on the wheatgrowing com munity and on the people who have assisted over many years to put the marketing operations of this great industry on a sound and economic footing. It also reflects credit on this Parliament for the legislative action that it has taken.
One cannot overlook the part that the respective State governments have played. It has not been easy in the past to get a measure of unanimity between the six State parliaments, the Commonwealth Parliament and the people who are concerned in the operation of this great marketing scheme. In addition to the variation of the figures that are used in assessing the base costs, there has been a more generous assessment of the value of the farmer himself as an owner-operator. The figure has been raised from £935 per annum to £1,040 per annum. In reality, that increase does not mean that the farmer is any better off, because, by virtue of continued inflation in this country, £1,040 has no greater purchasing power today than £935 had five years ago. All that I can say with respect to that additional allowance is that a figure has been fixed which would allow the farmer to-day, if he had that actual amount in cash, to purchase exactly the same amount of goods as he could have purchased five years ago. So in reality there is no real generosity shown here.
– -What about 1949?
– In 1949 the amount that he was allowed was not affected by the inflation that has taken place since.
– How much was it?
– That does not matter. The amount then allowed him was the equivalent of, if not more than, the sum of £1,054 allowed to-day. The honorable member for Mallee is quibbling. I do not think that I can better illustrate my point than by saying that whereas the found cost of production of wheat in 1949 was 6s. 3d. a bushel, to-day the found cost of production of wheat is 14s. 6d. a bushel, The cost of production, not only of wheat, but also of all other commodities produced in Australia, has more than doubled since 1949. So if the owner-operator’s allowance in 1958 is £1,054, the equivalent amount in 1949 would have been approximately £500.
– The amount was £390.
– Well, the amount of £390 was fixed as a result of a recommendation by a tribunal presided over by Mr. Justice Simpson, and accepted by the Government of the day. I will not quibble over the difference between £390 and £524.
Let me look at something else. Under the present cost assessment procedure there has been an increase in the allowance for interest on the farmer’s equity. It is now being raised, I think, to 5 per cent., which is nominally a much more generous allowance, but which in terms of purchasing power is no more generous than the allowance for interest on the farmer’s equity in 1949. Actually, the amounts are not large. In reality, they are not important one way or the other. They do not affect the price per bushel by more than a mere decimal point. Taking into consideration that the farmer is allowed Arbitration Court award rates as the price of the labour of his family - whether or not he pays his family Arbitration Court award rates - one can say that the figures used in the assessment of the cost of production, for the 1948 five-year plan, the subsequent five-year plan, or this five-year plan, do not materially affect the average cost of production figure. When one considers that the cost of production figure on which this legislation is based is probably far above the actual cost of production of those farmers who have land of high productivity, one realizes that the cost formula is an exceedingly generous one.
The Minister pointed out that the wheatgrowing industry was dependent for its survival and future prosperity very largely on overseas markets. He might well have said that the people of this country are dependent for their prosperity upon the wheat-growing industry and the price it receives overseas. The Minister referred to the International Wheat Agreement, and to the difficulties facing the industry because countries which produce surplus wheat are selling to other countries in the currency of the purchasers, and because so many wheatproducing countries are selling at a price which is below cost of production. That is quite true. But in the last five years, and in the preceding five years, taking the position by and large, Australian wheat sales have been good. I do not think that prices have been substantially below cost of pro duction, except in respect of a few small sales. We have been lucky because the Australian Wheat Board has been able to find on the perimeter of Australia markets that have returned prices satisfactorily to the wheat-grower and the board. This country is in greater difficulties with regard to the International Wheat Agreement. The first agreement was introduced into this Parliament in 1948 by the Chifley Labour Government, and it was ratified by this Parliament. It was negotiated by that government with the other wheat-growing countries, such as Canada and the United States of America, and a vast number of purchasing countries, which included the United Kingdom.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was about to refer to the application of the International Wheat Agreement to Australia. The history of Australia’s participation in international wheat agreements is worth recalling. In 1948, after many attempts, an international wheat agreement was successfully concluded. On that occasion, Australia, with Canada and the United States of America, all producing countries, entered into an arrangement with a number of purchasing countries. The agreement had a currency of four years and provided for minimum and maximum prices. It covered a quantity of 456,000,000 bushels and was to expire in August, 1953. That agreement was of substantial value in stabilizing world wheat prices. Although it is true that it covered a minor proportion of total world wheat production, it set a standard and was of very great value to the people concerned. I considered, as did the Australian Labour party, that its greatest value was that during that period of four years it demonstrated very clearly that it was possible in this world of people of different races and creeds, to conclude an agreement surrounding the supply of a basic foodstuff and provide for a stabilized price, with lower and upper limits outside which wheat would not be sold.
At the expiration of that agreement a conference of purchasing and producing countries was held, at which Australia was represented. Unfortunately, a difference of opinion arose between the United States of
America, Australia and Canada on the one hand, and the purchasing countries on the other. The most important purchaser was the United Kingdom which was committed to buy the largest quantity under the previous agreement. The presence of the United Kingdom and its adherence to the agreement was the factor which gave that agreement its greatest stability. The quarrel that developed ultimately resulted in the United Kingdom dropping out as a purchaser from the agreement which was concluded covering a period of a further three years. Because of the absence of the United Kingdom which had previously been committed to purchase 177,000,000 bushels, the quantity covered in the next agreement was reduced to 397,000,000 bushels.
To that extent the strength of the agreement was reduced. I think the quibble was over a sum amounting to approximately 4d. or 5d. a bushel. In my opinion the people mainly responsible for losing a more efficacious agreement than was obtained were those sent to that conference to represent the Australian Government. While they were quibbling with the United Kingdom about whether it would pay 5d. more or 5d. less they lost the United Kingdom as a purchasing member. But even if the price had been 5d. lower than we wanted, it would have resulted in a value to the Australian wheat-grower much greater than the value that 5d. represented.
In 1956, at the expiration of the second period of the International Wheat Agreement the present Government ratified a further extension of it. Australia’s quota was reduced to 29,000,000 bushels and the total overall quota of the participating supplying countries was reduced to 293;000,000 bushels. If that sort of thing continues after this current agreement expires, we can say good-bye to any further international wheat agreement. That would be most undesirable at this period in our history when current events are demonstrating very clearly that possibly it is more imperative than ever before that the primary producing countries of the world should get together and protect themselves and ensure that the producers within the confines of their countries are protected in regard to the prices at which they sell their products. All I can do at this stage is to express the hope that wiser judgment will be shown at the next conference and that the value of the next international wheat agreement, or any international agreement covering sugar or any primary product, will not be lost as a result of a quibble over a few miserable pence.
The other matter I wish to mention, because of its impact on Australia and its influence on the end returns of export wheat to Australian wheat-growers and to the economy of this country, is the very vexed problem of shipping freights on wheat exported to other countries. When we come to examine this problem we find that owing to the fact that Australia owns no ships whatever engaged in the overseas trade of the world, but is dependent for the shipping of wheat on what are known as tramp steamers, or on the chartering of steamers which do not belong to the great combines, we have to accept from time to time whatever freight rates the owners of these vessels like to charge. To demonstrate the importance of this factor to Australia, particularly in regard to wheat, let me mention these facts: In December, 1956, the Australian Wheat Board was paying, in terms of Australian currency, freight on wheat to the United Kingdom at 7s. 4id. per bushel. That is the equivalent of £1 a bag, sufficient to make all the difference between a profit and a loss on the one hand to the Australian wheat producer and, on the other to have a substantial effect on the national economy. It was said that the freight was high because of a very strong demand for charter ships to take coal across the Atlantic. In reality, that charge of 7s. 44d. a bushel bore no relationship whatsoever to the cost of running the ships by the people who owned them. In January, 1957, the freight had dropped to 7s. 2 3/8d. a bushel; in July it was down to 2s. Hid. and in November to 2s. 9£d.
These freight charges indicate quite clearly the dangers which confront this country, particularly in regard to wheat, and how we are at the mercy of the whims and wiles of people who own the ships which take our products to the other side of the world. I understand that quite recently the Australian National Shipping Line took some wheat for the Australian Wheat Board to India and some barley to Japan. It is not so much a question of whether ships are owned by the Government or by private enterprise. Nor is it a question of whether they show a profit as a result of their operations in taking primary products to other parts of the world. The profit they make must be measured, in any circumstances, in relation to the deterrent effect that the use of these ships has on increases of freights charged by other lines. In some instances, the ships could be tied up for months on end, and their crews paid during that time, but still, in an indirect way, by keeping freights down, they could be a profitable investment for the people of Australia and the people whose products are handled by the overseas shipping lines. That principle could be extended to cover the freight on all kinds of Australian products.
In regard to our other primary products, we are at the mercy of what is known as the conference line - a combination of British and foreign owned ships which enters into arrangements with primary producing organizations, with the blessing of governments of this country, and from time to time makes demands for increased freights which bear no real relationship to the cost of running the ships. When these shipping lines make these demands, the people of Australia have no alternative but to pay up.
We are a young country of 10,000,000 people, with a long coastline of 12,000 miles. Surely we have reached the stage where we, as a country with such a coastline and such a population, should become the proud owners of ocean-going vessels, as are the little Scandinavian countries - Norway, Sweden, Denmark and others - which today send their ships into the world markets, gathering trade and carrying goods all over the world, able to carry seawise their own commerce and exploit the commerce of other countries. We should not any longer than is absolutely necessary be left to the exploitation of others.
– But what did the national shipping line charge for the carriage of wheat to India? Have you any figures on that?
– No, I have not. The honorable member might tell me. If it was too high a figure, at least the profit made from charging that amount accrued to the people of Australia in the balancesheet of the Australian national shipping line - the line which was built up to 44 ships, during the war-time crisis, by the Labour government, and which, small as it may be, stands as a tremendous insurance against exploitation by the private shipping lines. My only complaint is that the line is not large enough. I hope it will be increased so as to be a much greater instrumentality than it already is.
Before my time runs out, I wish to say a few words about the bill which is associated with this stabilization measure. The other bill is designed to impose a tax on export wheat and thereby finance a stabilization fund. Under the terms of the legislation, a tax of 18d. is to be levied on every bushel of export wheat when the price exceeds the guaranteed price, and be used to build up a fund, not to exceed £20,000,000, to be utilized to bring the grower’s return on 100,000,000 bushels up to the guaranteed price in the event of the price received not reaching that level. We endorse that principle. We established that principle in 1948. We believe it is a good principle. It is fortunate indeed that, despite the high cost of production of wheat in this country, the fund has so far been called upon only in comparatively recent years.
I understand that over the past five years - the figures I am about to use are only approximate - the tax on export wheat of 18d. a bushel has built the fund up to about £8,000,000, even after, in recent years, the payment of something to the growers. I remind the Parliament that that £8,000,000 is £8,000,000 that was taken from the people who contributed to the scheme under the legislation that lapses this year. It is rather surprising to me that members of the Australian Country party have not made a demand that that £8,000,000 be returned to the growers who were the contributors to the pool conducted over the last five years. They have not made that demand, and I must admit that I have not seen any such demand made by the wheat-growers themselves. Perhaps their judgment has been good. In these circumstances, the Government has seen fit, not only to provide in this legislation for the levying of 18d. on every bushel of wheat when the price exceeds 14s. 6d. a bushel on overseas markets, and also to create a stabilization fund especially designed to cover the next five years, but also to put that credit of £8,000,000 into the new fund. 1 believe that that is good business, because although we have been lucky in the last five years and the proceeding five years in regard to overseas prices for wheat, it could well be that the operations of the next five years will not be as profitable, that world prices may not be as stable as in the last five years. We all hope and pray that they will be. If they are not, the fact will be brought home to the wheat-growers of this country that they cannot compete profitably in outside markets because of the cost structure in Australia to-day.
Since 1949, the cost of production of wheat in Australia has risen from 7s. Id. a bushel to 14s. 6d. a bushel - an increase of 7s. 5d. a bushel. The major cause for that increase is inflation of our cost structure, and the responsibility for that lies with the present Government. What a happy position we would be in if the Government had honoured its promise to keep costs down and to stabilize the £1. To-day we would be producing wheat at a cost of 7s. a bushel, and we would derive the benefit of being able to compete in the world’s markets with the great United States and the dominion of Canada.
My time is about up, but I shall have more to say of a constructive nature about the legislation when the bill is at the committee stage.
.- Since everybody seems to favour this bill, I do not think I need to make a very long speech on it. I do not intend to go into all the ramifications of the measure, because they are well known. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has given them in detail, and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has also given the details that are necessary in order that people may know how the plan will operate.
It is rather delightful to see the honorable member for Lalor in such a good mood to-night. It speaks volumes for the bill that he could find no fault in it. We know that when wheat industry stabilization was first suggested in this House in 1945, there were heated debates whenever the subject was raised, and speakers on each side of the House had a great deal to say about it. It was a vital subject then. New members of the House and people outside who are not familiar with what was said in those days can read the “ Hansard “ reports of the debates of twelve and thirteen years ago. When the Labour government brought forward a stabilization proposal, it was not accepted by the wheat-growers or the States, and the Australian Country party put up a sterling fight to have some provisions removed from the bill and others inserted which, when done, made the measure at least acceptable to wheatgrowers as a whole.
The honorable member for Lalor mentioned that the fund was still £8,000,000 in credit. I should think the figure is nearly £9,000,000. He pointed out that that amount is being carried over from the plan that was in operation in the last five years and will be placed in the new fund. He said that he had not heard the Australian Country party raise any objection to that proposal, nor had he heard any objection from the wheat-growers. The Wheatgrowers Federation is in accord with the proposal to use the credit from the stabilization plan of the last five years in order to establish the new fund, so the wheatgrowers are satisfied with it in every way.
When the stabilization plan was first introduced in this House in 1945 there was quite a different set of circumstances. At that time, the war-time acquisition was in force and the Labour government decided to take the money for the plan from the 1945-46 crop and to make that the foundation for the scheme. The bill was brought before the House twelve months after that crop had been stripped and put into the silos or the sheds where it was being received because a lot of wheat was in bags at that time. The bill was brought into the House and on 6th December, 1946, I had one or two things to say about it. I said -
Fancy introducing a measure at this stage in connexion with the acquisition of the 1945-46 crop, and doing so in the dying hours of the session. If the Government intended to act in this way it should have done so before now. It appears, however, that the Ministry realizes the desperate position in which it stands in relation to the wheat-growers, and Ministers are prepared to clutch at any twig in order to save themselves.
That is what happened. People throughout the country, including 98 per cent, of the wheat-growers, were against the legislation being made retrospective for twelve months for the purpose of taking money from the 1945-46 harvest as a foundation for a wheat stabilization plan in this country.
Of course, the Australian Country party fought against that and the proposal was rejected by some State governments. Labour brought forward, afterwards, a much better proposition to which we were able to give full support. At that time the then honorable member for Hume was always interjecting, “ You are against stabilization “. But, of course, we wanted stabilization on sound lines. Had it not been for the fight put up by members of the Australian Country party in this chamber, it would have been many years before stabilization on correct lines was introduced in this country.
The Wheatgrowers Federation and the wheat-growers generally have agreed to the bill before the House and it would be wasting money to conduct a poll of wheatgrowers on it. But, at the time of which I have been speaking the growers were clamouring for a poll and they could not get it. At that time I said -
A poll of growers was asked for, without success, by some honorable members to ascertain whether this scheme was favoured by the majority of the wheat-growers. Now a similar request has been made from various States. Surely if this were a democratic Government it would accede to these requests, but it has declined to do so.
The report of the debate shows the following interjection and reply: -
– Who has accused the Government of being democratic?
– I used the word “if”.
And I used that word advisedly.
This bill is one of the most important, I should think, that have been before the Parliament this year, because the wheat industry is most valuable to Australia. The bill will foster the industry by giving it security for the coming harvest and the four subsequent harvests. It guarantees a home consumption price for wheat, covering human consumption and stock feed. This generally amounts to about 60,000,000 bushels. It also guarantees 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat. The amount to be taken into the fund will be ls. 6d. a bushel if the export price is ls. 6d. a bushel in excess of the guaranteed price. But if it is more, only ls. 6d. a bushel will be taken. That is the limit. If the export price is less than ls. 6d. above the guaranteed price - say, 9d. above it - only 9d. will be taken. So it is a very fair proposition. If I were to speak for my full time of half an hour I could do nothing but praise the bill on which I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry.
I think there is only one point on which the Australian Agricultural Council did not agree and that was the federation’s request for the inclusion of a higher profit margin in the home consumption price. I am pleased to say that the council did agree however to examine the federation’s proposal again before the 1959-1960 wheat season commences. Of course, it is well understood among wheat-growers, and by other people, that the cost of production on which the guaranteed price is fixed each year is announced on approximately 1st December in each year. I approve of the bill and I know that the wheat-growers generally are happy to have it.
I want to pay a tribute to those men and women who founded the wheat industry in this country. I have heard members of the Opposition say recently that the people who took up fairly large holdings in this country did so under the most advantageous circumstances. One such honorable member comes from the wheat country but apparently he knows very little about it. The men who went up north into the Mallee and other wheat-growing areas faced extremely difficult circumstances. No one can honestly contradict the statement that the most progress was made in those areas when conditions were the hardest. Strangely enough, when conditions are very good great progress is not always made. In the electorate which I represent, when incomes were small and people had to live on very little money, they brought the Mallee into production. Although most of the pioneers have passed away, some of their sons and daughters are still there. The pioneers laid the foundations of this great industry and I pay a tribute to them to-night. The whole face of that country has changed in the last 40 years. In fact, it has changed much in the last ten years.
– A lot of people in that area have now gone in for sheep.
– That is right- and good ones, too. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has given me the opportunity of announcing that the London exhibition this year of fat lamb carcases from the Mallee electorate took first, second, third and fourth prizes. If anybody wants a better record than that they are pretty hard to please.
Perhaps I am one of those who may be considered as old-fashioned because I still believe that this country is dependent for its stability and its future progress on the primary industries. The wheat industry, of course, has played its part magnificently. Recently I came across an address by the chairman of a company who said this: -
It is an indication of the changing nature of the Australian economy that, despite the setbacks experienced by the primary producing industries last year, the population as a whole are still enjoying what would be regarded in many other countries as an exceptionally high standard of living. For example, any mature observer cannot fail to be impressed by the enormous increase in the number of motor vehicles on our roads. In Australia there is now one motor vehicle for every four persons, man woman or child! Without quoting statistics in other fields, this alone is a pointer to the financial status of a community in which over 65 per cent, of house-holders own or are buying the homes in which they live.
I ,am speaking of the wheat industry and primary producers generally because many branches of primary production are concerned. Many sidelines are taken into consideration in the formula to determine the guaranteed price based on the cost of production. Research showed that not one farm of all those that had been studied depended solely on the production of wheat. The booklet I have cited included this comment - . . despite the setbacks experienced by the primary producing industries . . . , the population as a whole are still enjoying what would be regarded in many other countries as an exceptionally high standard of living.
Of course, it is obvious on reflection that the good seasons for the primary industries of Australia that have been experienced would keep the Commonwealth on a fairly high standard of living for a limited period. Let us consider the number of motor cars on the roads. There is no doubt that the numbers have increased. I am not treating this matter as party politics, but purely on its merits. We must all agree that in the past six months or twelve months, many more new motor cars have appeared on the roads, but have honorable members noticed how many second-hand cars there are in the dealers’ backyards and sales premises?
– They have been replaced by new motor cars.
– Of course, but the second-hand cars that have been taken in are worth millions of pounds. The new cars would not be on the roads if the old cars had not been traded in. I remind honorable members that the wheat-growers, the wool-growers, the producers of dried fruits and all those who work on the land are paying prices for all sorts of goods that they must have, which are based on their year of highest income despite the fact that the price of wool, for example, has since fallen by 40 to 50 per cent. The high costs to which the honorable member for Lalor referred were brought about chiefly by high prices for primary products. That was the basis of advocacy for increases of wages under industrial awards. As prices of primary products are lower if prices generally come down as the honorable member for Lalor has suggested, the whole community would not be on any lower real standard of living.
– I did not suggest that they should come down. I said that they had run away.
– I repeat that the community generally would not be on any lower standard of living. I suggest that we cannot maintain the present wage level and general costs in Australia permanently by artificial means. It can be maintained only temporarily in that way. We must realize that the foundation of our prosperity lies with the primary industries. Therefore, the Government and honorable members on both sides of the House must give more thought to fostering primary production. That is the real basis of our national wealth. It comes from wheat, wool and countless other products of the soil. Melbourne and Sydney and every other place in Australia have been built as a result of products of the land and the future stability of Australia depends on that source.
I know that honorable members in this House from the cities do not realize that. They look to this corner of the House and call it “ hill-billy corner “ simply because we stand for all those things which are good in Australia; all those things which give the nation stability. Yet, because they are in the bright lights of the city, they are dazzled by its artificial radiance. We must look to our primary industries if we are to continue the stable conditions we have had in the past. I appreciate the measure we are discussing; we have to get down to fundamentals and give full support to those primary industries which have been our bulwark in the past and on which we must depend for our future progress.
.- 1 rise to support this measure, which I am pleased to see is supported from both sides of the House. Having said that, it might appear that the best thing I could do would be to resume my seat; but I believe there are one or two things which can stand repetition and emphasis. It is obvious that a new stabilization plan to operate for five wheat years from the beginning of the 1958-59 season is regarded as highly desirable by all Australian governments and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, to ensure continuation of our established wheat marketing system and to provide an effective method of operating government price guarantees. This is proved by the fact that neither the States nor the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation want a ballot to be taken. These polls are expensive, and the States which would have to conduct the polls agree with the federation that growers strongly favour stabilization.
The first attempt to stabilize the price of wheat in Australia occurred in 1938 when the Commonwealth enacted the Wheat Industry Assistance Act 1938, which supplemented the legislation passed by each of the several States. The main purpose of these acts was to stabilize the price of wheat used for home consumption. It was in 1946 that the Commonwealth passed the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act, and that was the first legislative measure which attempted to establish a permanent wheat marketing organization on a nation-wide basis. All States, however, did not pass the complementary legislation necessary to give effect to that proposal, and, consequently, in the absence of Commonwealth powers in respect of internal marketing, the 1946 act did not function, except for the establishment of a stabilization fund into which tax contributions levied under the Wheat Export Charge Act 1946 and the Wheat Tax Act 1946 were paid.
In July, 1948, a further attempt to establish a permanent wheat marketing authority in Australia was made, and it was at that time that the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and State Ministers for Agriculture, in conference, reached agreement on certain modifications of the 1946 plan. After a poll of growers was taken, the requisite legislation was introduced by the present honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and subsequently was passed by the Commonwealth and State governments prior to the end of 1948. That was the first time in the history of the industry when a peace-time plan for the internal and external marketing of wheat was established with one central marketing authority.
The provisions of the 1948 plan and those of the 1953 plan have been substantially maintained in the present legislation, but with modifications to fit in with changing conditions in the industry to meet the wishes of the growers and to have a scheme which is fair to the growers and to the taxpayers as a whole. I would like to direct the attention of honorable members to the new features in the new plan. There is a change in the home-consumption price provisions. Whereas under the old act the homeconsumption price was calculated on a complicated formula which involved consideration of prices of 14s. a bushel and Australia’s selling price under the International Wheat Agreement, under this measure it is proposed that the home-consumption price shall simply be equal to the guaranteed price, subject to an important review, without commitment, of this basis of pricing before the 1959-60 season commences.
This year the Commonwealth will guarantee a return of 14s. 6d. a bushel to growers on up to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported from the crop of the first year of the plan. This guaranteed return of 14s. 6d. is based on the findings of a recent survey of the economic structure of the wheat industry conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and is to be adjusted in each of the following years of the plan in accordance with movements in costs revealed by a cost index established by the survey that I have mentioned. In this revision of wheat costs, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has taken into account changes in the structure of the industry since the previous survey some years ago presented a major problem in regard to the selection of farms for costing, and in costing procedures. The bureau’s survey confirmed that in the years between the two surveys the acreage under wheat had contracted, plantings of other cereals had increased, and more live-stock, particularly sheep, were being run on wheat farms. Associated with the increased running of live-stock is a trend towards wider rotations in wheat cropping, with a greater area being sown to pastures.
All the data collected by the bureau in this survey was examined by the Wheat Index Committee. This committee consists of the director of the bureau as chairman, a representative of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and a representative of the Australian Agricultural Council. The committee made certain submissions to the Government on what are called imputed cost items. I do not want to refer to all the various costs involved, but I shall deal briefly with the more controversial ones only. On the matter of yield the federation suggested a divisor of 14i bushels an acre. The index committee’s majority decision was 15i bushels, and the minority decision, by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation representative, was 14.8 bushels. The final Government decision was for 15i bushels an acre.
In accepting the majority recommendation of 151 bushels, the Government was conscious of the need to maintain balance between this and other decisions it was called upon to make. It also recognized that all other items of cost had been brought up to date in the light of the changed situation in the wheat industry in the post-war period, and decided that in the circumstances it would not be realistic to go back beyond that period.
On the owner-operator allowance the federation’s recommendation was for £1,040 subject to Arbitration Court variations made after 1st May, 1958. The Wheat Index Committee made no majority decision, but a minority decision was reached for £1,040 subject to Commonwealth basic wage adjustments during 1957-58. Taking these recommendations into consideration, the Government’s decision was for £1,040 for the first year of the new plan.
The Australian Wheat Growers Federation recommended inclusion of the farmer’s home with the value of the land, but a select committee agreed not to press this item. The Wheat Index Committee made a unanimous decision to exclude the farmer’s home, although Mr. Stott, who was the representative of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, in subsequent discussion with the Minister indicated that he considered that the homestead should be included for costing purposes. The Government decided to adopt the recommendation of the Wheat Index Committee.
On the question of the method of valuation of the land, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation and the Wheat Index Committee recommended that the “ fair market value “ method should be used, and the Government adopted this recommendation.
I am aware that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation is not completely satisfied with two points of the present plan, the first one being the yield divisor of 15i bushels an acre used in the calculation of the guaranteed price of 14s. 6d. a bushel for the first year of the plan, and the second one relating to the profit margin on wheat sold for home consumption. The federation can be sure, however, that the Australian Agricultural Council, at its meeting on 15th August, gave these points full consideration before agreeing to adhere to its original decisions.
With an anticipated world surplus of wheat this year and an expected Australian crop of approximately 180,000,000 bushels, it will be a great comfort to the growers of Australia to have this new stabilization plan behind them. This could very well be a time when taxpayers generally could be called upon to supplement the stabilization fund. If they are asked to do so, I know that they will do so willingly, knowing what a fine contribution the wheat industry has made to the Australian economy for very many years past.
I have very much pleasure, Mr. Speaker, in supporting the bill.
.- Several wheat industry stabilization acts have been passed by this Parliament and the State parliaments since the war. This, however, is the first such bill to be passed since a recurrence of drought. I regret that the various governments and the wheat-growers have not seen fit to deal, in this latest stabilization legislation, with that problem. It is a problem which frequently confronted us in Australia before acts of this kind were introduced. During the last drought affecting the wheat industry, in 1944 and 1945, as in the last season, wheat had to be taken from one State to another. On the last occasion the Commonwealth paid the cost of transporting the wheat from States that were not affected by drought to those that were. New South Wales had to import wheat from Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, and Victoria had to import it from New South Wales. I should point out that although Victoria was also exporting wheat to New South Wales, but of a different grade, Victoria also imported wheat from Western Australia. In all those cases, except the last-mentioned, the Commonwealth paid the cost of transport, and in the last case the Australian Wheat Board itself paid the cost of transport.
For reasons not concerned with drought, but due merely to inadequate production, Queensland had, some years after the war, to import wheat from other States.
– That is wrong. Get up to date. We are exporting.
– I will bring the honorable gentleman up to date. In 1945-46 Queensland had to import wheat from New South Wales and South Australia, and in the following year from those two States and Victoria as well. In each case the cost of transport was borne by the Commonwealth. In 1950-51, Queensland had to import wheat from South Australia, and the cost of transport was borne by the consumers in Queensland. In 1951-52. up till the end of March, 1952, Queensland again had to import wheat from South Australia. This time, the freight was borne by the Australian Wheat Board. In April, 1952, and in May and June of 1952, it had to import wheat from South Australia, in each case the cost of transport being borne by the Commonwealth.
– Have you the quantities there?
– For which particular month does the honorable gentleman want the quantity?
– The total quantity for the season would do.
– I shall mention the last month I gave. For May and June, 1952, 853,713 bushels were imported by Queensland from South Australia, the bill for transport being paid by the Commonwealth. Are there any other months the honorable gentleman wishes me to deal with?
– What is the point, anyway?
– I have not the time to make that plain to the honorable gentleman who last interjected. In 1956-57 and 1957-58, once again Queensland had to import wheat from South Australia, and on each occasion the cost was borne by the consumers in Queensland. Last season, not only did Queensland have to import wheat, but New South Wales also had to import wheat. It had to import it from Western Australian, South Australia and Victoria, and the cost of transport had to be borne by the consumers in New South Wales alone. It was not borne by the Commonwealth as on the last occasion when wheat had to be imported by New South Wales, and it was not borne by the Australian Wheat Board, as has happened with imports by Victoria and Queensland.
Drought presents a new problem under the wheat stabilization scheme. It is a problem which we know will continue to arise in Australia, where we have always had droughts and presumably will continue to have them. Yet this legislation perseveres with the notion that Australia, economically and climatically, is in six watertight - I do not know whether that is the apt word - compartments. The idea I want to put is that this legislation ought to provide for wheat to be available in every State at the same price. It is a principle which we acknowledge and always have acknowledged in this legislation, and it is repeated in the present bill in respect of Tasmania, which always has to import wheat. The principle that has been adopted always in the act, and which is reproduced in clauses 23 and 24 of the present bill, is for an additional 2d. to be added to the home consumption price of wheat so that Tasmania can get its wheat at the same price in its ports as wheat is delivered in all other ports in Australia.
I should think that that is something which we should have introduced in the new circumstances which have arisen. It should not be beyond the statesmanship of the Commonwealth and States and the wheat-growers themselves, because it requires a partnership between all three to bring in such an amendment. The difficulty is that the effects of drought cannot be isolated in Australia as long as we have section 92 of the Constitution preventing the erection of barriers between the water-tight compartments. This is a matter which affects all consumers and all processors of wheat. I am particularly aware of the consequences because I have more poultryfarmers in my electorate than has any other honorable gentleman. Poultry-farmers rely on the by-products of wheat, but they are not the only people affected by this disparity of prices between the States. Pigfarmers, biscuit manufacturers and flour millers are also affected. The trouble is that as long as there is this disparity in prices between the States, there is a snowballing effect. In respect of all our primary industries, except wool, that portion of our production which cannot be consumed in Australia must be sold overseas, and sold at a loss. The game, therefore, between all Australian primary producers is to see how much they can sell in Australia and how much they must sell overseas at a loss.
Various stratagems are adopted to overcome this difficulty. One stratagem is that adopted in this legislation where the Commonwealth Government undertakes to pay the losses on exports up to a certain amount. Another stratagem adopted is that used in the electorate of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), where the dried fruit growers get control of the packing sheds. A blend of both methods is adopted by dairy-farmers, who get control of butter and cheese factories, and then secure a subsidy for those factories. In all these cases, if you can get control of the processors or if you can persuade the Commonwealth to subsidize the producers, some orderly marketing can be achieved. But in some of the other industries where no elaborate processing is required, as in the poultry industry, or where the Commonwealth will not pay a subsidy, as in the poultry industry again, the disastrous consequences of this disparity between the States can be seen.
The products of the poultry industry are more easily carried, since they are produced in a packaged form, than the products of any other industry. Anybody who has a truck can take his eggs across the State border, and thus take advantage of the fact that he can sell all his production in Australia and avoid selling any of his surplus production overseas. The Commonwealth, as well as the States, can do nothing about that as long as section 92 applies to marketing. The difficulty that has arisen in the last year in the wheat industry is that in order to pay the cost of transport from Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, which were not affected by drought, to New South Wales, all consumers of wheat in New South Wales had to pay an extra 4s. id. per bushel for their wheat. It was inevitable, therefore, that the cost of biscuits baked in New South Wales, the cost of flour milled in New South Wales and the cost of eggs and pig meat produced in New South Wales all rose very much higher than in the neighbouring States. Therefore, producers in Victoria and South Australia were able to deliver their products to New South Wales at a lower price than it cost the producers and processors of those products in New South Wales to get their goods on the market.
The effect of the fragmentation of the Australian economy does not end with the fact that those products inevitably cost more to produce in a drought-affected State than in a State that is spared drought. The States that are not affected by drought can immediately cash in on those that are affected by drought. I know that, when my proposal sinks into the minds of some Government supporters, it will be said, “ Are you suggesting an impost on the wheat-farmers? “ I am not suggesting anything of the sort. Ever since we have had this stabilization scheme for the wheat industry, the Australian consumers of wheat as a whole have subsidized the cost of transporting wheat from, the mainland to Tasmania. What I am suggesting is that the same device should be used in order to see that the price of wheat to all consumers in Australia is the same. I want to avoid this discriminatory charge which is at present imposed on consumers in the drought-stricken States. Queensland has been drought-stricken for two seasons, and
New South Wales was drought-stricken last season, but any of the States could be drought-stricken in the next few seasons during the currency of this agreement.
The contribution by consumers - not producers - of wheat in Australia as a whole to meet the cost of transporting wheat to Tasmania is very clearly set out in clauses 23 and 24. A flat rate of 2d. a bushel is made. If the Australian Wheat Board, however, reports to the Minister for Primary Industry that that charge is more than is required, or less than is required, the Minister can reduce the amount or increase it. I suggest, Sir, that if, on the same principle, there is drought in any particular State or States, the Australian Wheat Board can make a similar recommendation to the Minister, and he can implement it.
The charge made for Tasmania and proposed for drought-affected States is not a charge on the wheat-grower; it is a charge on the wheat consumer. The proposal involves a smaller charge on the wheat consumers in Australia as a whole than is involved at present in the discriminatory charge on the consumers of wheat in any State which, from one season to another, happens to be stricken by drought.
Sir, I apprehend that there will also be the argument that this measure has been agreed to by the States and by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. But, as I mentioned earlier, it takes all three parties to make this agreement. First, the wheatgrowers must agree to any stabilization scheme, because, if they do not want to come into the scheme, we cannot make them come into it while section 92 of the Australian Constitution remains. Then, Sir, the State parliaments have to pass legislation, because it is necessary for them to apply the home-consumption price for wheat sold in their borders. Lastly, this Parliament must pass legislation, because under the Constitution only this Parliament can impose duties of excise, grant bounties on the export of goods and control overseas trade. It may be true that we shall not have a stabilization scheme unless the Wheat Growers Federation agrees and unless the State parliaments agree. But we shall not have it, either, unless we in this Parliament agree also. I would think it should not be beyond the resources of statesmanship in this Parliament to see that this desirable amendment of the stabi lization scheme was made. It is simply not true that we have to wait for the States and the wheat-growers to come to some agreement on this. We can give a lead. In fact, some of the proposals in this scheme did not initially commend themselves to the wheat-growers, but the growers later came round, and accepted them.
There is no penalty whatever on growers in the scheme which I have suggested. They have always acquiesced in the continuing necessity for a charge on consumers in order that Tasmania may have the wheat which, otherwise, it could get only at a higher price than is paid by the consumers in any other State. Sir, I would think that the States likewise would appreciate a lead in this matter, because it may be, as I have said, that, although Queensland has been drought-stricken in the last two seasons, and New South Wales was drought-stricken last season, any of the other States - and perhaps the same ones again - may be drought-stricken within the currency of this agreement. Since the Commonwealth foots the bill for all losses on wheat exports when we have bountiful seasons and produce too much for our own needs, and1 have a carry-over, and therefore have to sell overseas, I think it is not unreasonable that our leadership and our views in this matter should be considered.
I reiterate that this suggestion involves no charge on the wheat-growers. It involves an equal charge on the consumers as a whole. The wheat-growers will not be prejudiced in any way by the suggestion which I have made. The wheat consumers in any State which is stricken by drought will be very greatly benefited by the suggestion which I have made. It is a suggestion which, in all fairness, should be accepted by the wheat consumers in every State. It is quite anarchic and archaic that, in Australia, we should regard ourselves, geographically, climatically, and economically, as six different States. We are, in fact, one community, geographically, climatically, and economically. We should have provided in this stabilization agreement for a fair and uniform approach to an industry on which everybody in Australia, wherever he lives, and whether or not there is a drought, so greatly depends, and on which, in reasonable times, we also depend quite largely for our export income.
– Mr. Speaker, it is not my intention to delay the House long. Like my colleague, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), I believe that this is one of the most important bills that has been brought before this House in this sessional period. It deals with a very important industry with which every honorable member should make himself familiar. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) rightly said that most of the wheat-growers have enjoyed the benefits of stabilization and orderly marketing since 1 948. I should like to tell the House, Mr. Speaker, that Queensland was the State that pioneered orderly marketing. The orderly marketing of wheat in that State goes back to 1920, when the growers formed their own marketing organization. I suggest that the scheme that is now proposed is largely modelled on the basic principles of the scheme that was introduced in Queensland.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to delay the House long, but I want to raise one matter in particular that has exercised the minds of the wheat-growers for quite a long time. On occasions, owing to a short crop - generally caused by drought in Australia - quantities of wheat have to be carried over to the next season for the benefit of the consumers in this country. I agree with that, for we must provide for our own people first. But, sometimes, that wheat is held for two years, and the grower is not paid for it for two years. The wheat is subject to certain unavoidable deterioration, and the growers have to bear that loss as well as the cost of storage when wheat is carried over in this way for the benefit of the people of this country. I maintain, Sir, that, when it is necessary to carry wheat over, when there is a short crop, in order to provide for the needs of the Australian people until sufficient production is available in following sessions, the community as a whole should buy that wheat so that the grower may be paid for it instead of being compelled to hold it over. Provision to achieve this has been lacking in wheat stabilization measures ever since the first such measure was introduced in 1946. I should like the House and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to take note of that, Mr. Speaker, because I do not think it is fair that the growers should continually carry the expense of holding the wheat over and be kept waiting for their money for long periods when wheat is carried over for the benefit of the nation as a whole.
I should like to mention another matter also. In two or three places in the bill there is a reference to the quality of wheat, particularly for export, as being what is termed fair average quality wheat. This raises a problem that will be tackled by the Wheat Industry Research Council, and it is a good thing that it is to be tackled. Queensland produces the best quality wheat in Australia. A similar quality wheat is produced in the north-west of New South Wales, where the climatic conditions are similar to Queensland. The wheat produced in Queensland has the highest protein content of any wheat produced in the Commonwealth. I can remember some years ago when we had a surplus of wheat. At that time one of the experts on the wheat board told me that if all Australia’s wheat was of the same high quality as that grown in Queensland, there would be no difficulty in selling our total production.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said that in certain years some States had to import wheat. That is so, but that has been happening ever since we have been growing wheat in this country. The honorable member knows that, even if he did not mention it. Queensland has been an exporting State on half a dozen occasions in the last twenty years to my knowledge, and Queensland has built up a fine export market not only to Japan but to New Zealand also. Japan was prepared to pay a premium for our wheat if we could guarantee to maintain its high protein content.
My main purpose in speaking to this bill was to direct attention to the carry-over of wheat, which will benefit the community as a whole. I do not object to this, but why should the wheat-growers generally stand all the loss? This is a matter that should be looked at in the interests of the industry as a whole. I support the bill wholeheartedly.
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. Downer) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to the stabilization of the wheat industry.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
.- I should like to say a few words about clause 24, as my State, Tasmania, is specially mentioned in this bill. Because Tasmania grows wheat that is too soft for bread making, all breadmaking wheat must be imported from the mainland. It is interesting to know that Tasmania has increased its wheat acreage from 3,900 acres in 1956-57, to 5,884 acres in 1957-58. Production of wheat during the same period has increased from 88,555 bushels to 153,493 bushels. Even though Tasmania could perhaps grow more wheat than it is now growing, it could never reach a stage where it would not have to import wheat. About four years ago the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization experimented with a harder wheat for Tasmania, but the experiment was not successful because of Tasmania’s climate.
This clause indicates that a charge is to be made on the whole wheat industry for the purpose of raising sufficient revenue to pay the freight on wheat imported into Tasmania from the mainland. The levy is 4s. per bushel, which will total £400,000. I feel that the Australian Wheat Board has found the answer to the problem of who is to pay the freight on wheat shipped from the mainland to Tasmania. I think it is only fair that the cost should be spread over all the industry as a whole.
Silos have been built in Hobart and Launceston during the last twelve months for the storage of imported wheat. Previously, wheat could not be stored in Tasmania. Shipments had to be made irregularly and heavy handling costs were involved. The silos at Hobart have been completed and when the Launceston silos are completed, Tasmania will be able to store millions of bushels of wheat which will last for many months even if shipping delays occur. The Tasmanian consumers are grateful for the contribution of £400,000 towards their freight costs. They are pleased that consumers throughout the Commonwealth are helping to pay that cost, which is increased because of Tasmania’s isolation from the mainland. Although Tasmania is only a small wheatgrowing State, I hope that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will continue its efforts to find a hard grain wheat that can be grown in that State. At present, the whole of Tasmania’s wheat production is used in the manufacture in Hobart of Australia’s best biscuits.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- As the yield of wheat last year was light, and as wheatgrowers’ costs during the year have been high, I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to keep the first advance on the coming crop at least at the same percentage level of the cost of production as in recent years. This is of vital importance and would be the coping stone to this very favorable legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 1384), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill 1958-59.
Without amendment -
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1958-59.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 1399), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from 18th September (vide page 1403), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
– (1.) That, in this Resolution . . . (vide page 1399).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Downer and Mr. Osborne do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Downer, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) agreed to -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 1483), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Once again this familiar measure has come before the Federal Parliament for our consideration and deliberation. Every year the three claimant States, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, have their finances augmented by special grants. This procedure dates back to the early 1930’s, and has been a feature of the financial activities of those three States during the intervening years, irrespective of the type of government that has been in office in Canberra. During the last twelve months these States have presented to the Commonwealth Grants Commission their requests for help in this financial year. The report of the commission, which is always an excellent document, presents this year, on page 13, a fund of information in respect of the whole of the Commonwealth. South Australia asked for £5,250,000, Western Australia for £11,100,000, and Tasmania for £4,400,000. On page 83 of the report appears a summary of the commission’s recommendations. The commission gave its verdict at its final meeting in July of this year.
As we know, the commission goes from capital to capital of those three States, and meets the State Premiers, Treasurers, and Treasury officers. All the facts in relation to the financial problems of the States, in every phase of their activities, including education, hydroelectric undertakings, other electrical undertakings, railways, and so on, are presented to the commission. The commission examines State expenditure on social services, hospitals, health services, and the like. A very detailed inspection is made, and I have always commended the commission for its sincerity in handling this difficult situation as between those three States, its tremendous activity in finding the facts about State finances, and the excellent report which comes each year to the Federal Parliament for consideration.
In assessing the needs of the claimant States, the commission has to look at the actual expenditure by the States in various fields. The whole economy of the States is examined with great thoroughness. The commission finally makes its decision, against which there is no appeal. The States have to accept the determination, as it comes before us in the Federal Parliament. On this occasion a total of £20,750,000 has been recommended to the three States as a special grant for 1958-59. I am more concerned, of course, with the Tasmanian aspect than with that of the other two States.
I might mention that Tasmania has been penalized because of its heavy expenditure on health services and social services. The present Premier, the Honorable Eric Reece, who has succeeded the Honorable Robert Cosgrove, who was Premier for eighteen years, in his recent Budget has taken notice of certain recommendations by the Commonwealth Grants Commission with respect to expenditure on health services and social services. As a result Tasmania has to make a substantial cut this financial year in the expansion of its health services.
Like other States, Tasmania has had a very big increase in population through migration, and the demand on its health and education services has been particularly heavy. Tasmania has the biggest hydroelectric works in Australia, except for the Snowy Mountains scheme. At the present time, 96 per cent, of the Tasmanian people are linked with hydro-electric power. Migrants have been brought in to help develop the resources of the rivers. In the northern part of my electorate, near Cressy, a beginning was made last February on a £27,000,000 hydro-electric project. As I said a while ago, it seems a pity that we have to cut down on our expenditure on hospitals and schools. These two facilities, which give broad assistance to any State, have been strained to the utmost in Tasmania by the increase in population. We are very proud of the Tasmanian schools and justifiably so. So far, 44 area schools have been established. They are fine modern buildings. The Education Department has never stinted its expenditure on education. When Tasmanian scholars come to the mainland schools they go up one grade, but when scholars from Victoria or any other mainland State come to Tasmania they generally go down one grade.
– The honorable member for Chisholm says, “ Nonsense! “ But it is not nonsense. All the statements I have made are factual. I have spoken to many parents of children who have come to Tasmania from the mainland whose children have had to be put down a grade. The Tasmanian education system is definitely second to none in the Commonwealth. The standard of the school buildings is high, the facilities for the use of the teachers and the children are up to date and the area schools system so successful that education experts from other countries have visited
Tasmania specially to inspect them. They have returned to their respective countries to report on what they have seen.
– I agree with you as to the buildings, but not as to the grades.
– The honorable member must have visited a section of the State which was lacking in these modern facilities when he went to Tasmania. Hospital development, in Tasmania has forged ahead as rapidly as in any other State. The relevant figures show what the Tasmanian Government has spent per capita on education and health services; and for years Tasmania has been ahead of the other States in both these fields.
In the next twelve months, however, expenditure on some new hospitals and on other aspects of our health services will have to be cut. I have had the privilege of being the chairman of a hospital board for six years, and I served as a member of the board for eight years. Therefore, I know how much the Tasmanian Health Department has done to help hospitals in Tasmania. There are now 26 major hospitals in that State. But it is a sad day for any State when its Government has to cut down expenditure in the two important fields of health and education. Because Tasmania has spent more than what the Commonwealth Grants Commission regarded as a fair average for the mainland claimant States, it has been asked to cut its expenses. As a result, in the next twelve months expenditure will have to be curtailed in the fields of health and education.
Tasmania spends a tremendous amount each year in the development of hydroelectric power. I have already mentioned the new scheme at Poatina, near Cressy, in my electorate. It will be the biggest in Australia apart from the Snowy Mountains Scheme, lt was commenced last February and within the next ten or twelve years £27,000,000 will be spent on its development.
– The State Electricity Commission of Victoria controls a bigger organization than the Snowy Mountains Authority.
– That is the first time I have heard that strange claim. I am speaking of hydro-electric power.
– I am talking about electric power.
– I am dealing with hydroelectric power. The Snowy Mountains scheme is devoted entirely to the production of hydro-electric power as are all the schemes in Tasmania. This undertaking at Poatina will eventually have 2,500 people living in the new township to be established there. The plan is to build an underground power station similar to the Snowy Mountains Authority’s power station. That will be the main characteristic of the project. It will be 400 feet long, 300 feet wide and 100 feet deep, going in under the western tiers. Water will be brought from the Great Lakes down the western tiers by canal and pipeline to the underground station. At the present time shafts 500 feet deep are being sunk to levels at which tunnels will be driven into the mountain for the purpose of building this underground power station.
The Hydro-electric Commission of Tasmania has been noted, in all its activities, for the way it looks after its employees and the new village of Poatina will be no exception. Most modern facilities of every kind are being provided for the workers for cooking, recreation and other amenities. Wherever that commission has undertaken a project, it has established a temporary town, modern in every respect, even to the street numbers of the houses. Public buildings have included a modern school, hospital, recreation rooms and workshops. These places are an education for any one to inspect. The new village of Poatina will be the fifth or sixth which the Hydroelectric Commission of Tasmania has built within the last fifteen years.
As soon as the project is completed most of the village is moved to the site of the next undertaking. Only a few men are left to look after the installations. At the present time, the buildings at Bronte Park are being taken to Poatina, that is from the highlands to the lowlands. To shift a whole township and re-settle the workers in a new area is an important part of a tremendous project such as the establishment of a new hydro-electric power station.
Tasmania has not been criticized by the Commonwealth Grants Commission for its expenditure on hydro-electric power. The only comment from the commission has been in regard to the expenditure on health and education. It is a good job that the State has not been restricted in regard to hydro-electric power, because a large number of men are employed in the hydroelectric development programme. It would be a tragedy if expenditure in this direction had to be curtailed. Already 2,200 workers in the building industry are unemployed in Tasmania.
We know that employment depends on finance and credit, and that when a country’s financial resources are restricted in any way the employment forces are affected immediately. The development of any country or State centres around finance and the availability of markets in which to sell its produce, because markets consist of the mouths of people to be fed and the bodies of people to be clothed. The assistance given by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to the three claimant States, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia, is the very lifeblood of their development. We are grateful for the additional grants provided, but it is a pity that the provision of services like health and education should be adversely affected by the commission’s report. To my knowledge, this is the first time in my twelve years as a member of this Parliament that Tasmania has had to restrict expenditure in these fields because it has, in the opinion of the commission, spent too much per capita on health and education.
The Poatina scheme will take ten years or twelve years to complete, and it is easy to imagine the wonderful assistance that the expenditure of £27,000,000 in a period of ten or twelve years will be to Tasmania. New roads have had to be put into the area. The State Department of Public Works has co-operated with the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission, which is putting new, broad, modern, bitumen highways into the area, which will become a great tourist attraction.
In arriving at its recommendations the Commonwealth Grants Commission considers every phase of State taxation - estate duty, stamp duty, land taxation, liquor taxation, racing taxation, entertainment taxation, poker-machine licence-fees, motor taxation - and equates the State’s revenue from these sources with income from similar sources in the non-claimant States. All the way through, the commission compares a State’s income and expenditure with those of the non-claimant States.
At present the membership of the commission consists of Sir Alexander Fitzgerald - the chairman - Mr. A. J. Reid and Professor Wilfred Prest. On page 93 of the commission’s report appear the following acknowledgments: -
The Commission gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance which it has received from the representatives and officers of the Commonwealth and of the claimant States. The Premiers and Ministers of the claimant States have helped the Commission in every possible way by making the hearings and tours of inspection informative and comprehensive.
I pause there to say that one of the features of the visits of the commission to the claimant States is that the commission’s members make personal inspections of State projects. They do not just sit in an office in Hobart, Adelaide or Perth and hear the evidence put before them by the Treasurer, the Premier and other officers. They go out and make an on-the-spot inspection to inform themselves about what money is being expended and how. That is only right, of course, because the claimant States are spending Commonwealth money, and the commission is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the expenditure of the money is proper expenditure. The commission’s report continues -
The Commission is also indebted to the Stale Treasury and other Government Departments in each of the non-claimant States and to Commonwealth Departments for the provision of information and statistical data which were required for the Commission’s work during the year.
This year information has been sought more extensively than in previous years on several aspects of State finance; and the Commission has been greatly assisted in its work by the additional data which was so readily provided.
The work load of the Commission’s small staff was heavier this year in several respects, and the Commission expresses its appreciation of the capable and energetic services given by the Secretary (Mr. K. J. McKenzie) and all members of the staff.
Those acknowledgments are dated 15th September, 1958, and the report has only just been completed for presentation to the Parliament. I should like to pay a personal tribute again to the commission for its exhaustive inquiries and its sensible attitude to the States, as well as for the ex cellent manner in which it is carrying out the assignment given to it over the years by the Commonwealth Government.
.- The bill is designed to provide to the three claimant States, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, an amount of money which has been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. In this financial year Western Australia is to receive about £11,000,000. Somebody very kindly concedes that that is not enough. I could not agree more with that very generous sentiment, but I fear that if I over-emphasize my agreement with it, it will be taken as a reflection on the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and reflecting on that body is the last thing I want to do.
I wish to direct some thoughts to the commission’s twenty-fifth report, which has just been issued and which recommends the grants we are now considering. Paragraph 54, which appears on page 31 of the report, reads -
The basic premise of the Commission from the outset has been that, irrespective of the cause of its budget deficits, a claimant State should receive sufficient assistance to enable it “with reasonable effort “ to carry out its proper functions at standards not appreciably below those of other States.
That has been the basis on which the commission has operated over a long period. Each claimant State has to submit evidence, which is naturally in the form of financial records, that it has made an effort to help , itself by raising sufficient revenue from taxes, and that it has attempted also to help itself by cutting its administrative expenditure to the lowest possible level. It also has to show that it is not claiming Commonwealth assistance in relation to the provision of services which are of a higher standard than the standard of similar services attained or attainable by the non-claimant States. That has been a reasonable basis on which to operate.
There were a number of other factors which the commission considered at various times in arriving at the level of the grants. At one stage the commission acted as it has not acted this year, and perhaps not for some years, and penalized a State on the ground that it had used its loan moneys unwisely, extravagantly or mistakenly. It required that the State, in addition to making a reasonable effort to provide for itself so far as it could from its own revenue raisings, should also administer itself as economically as possible. It stated that the State would be required to make an additional effort because of its expenditure of loan moneys in that way. It was expressed as equivalent to a severity of taxation from 5 to 7 per cent, higher than the standard severity adopted from the experience of non-claimant States. I refer to this matter because I shall speak on it later on.
At page 33, paragraph 62, of its report, the commission commented upon the case submitted to it by the Commonwealth Treasury as to how it should apply its judgment in connexion with the grant. Paragraph 62 states -
The Treasury views may be summarized in the following statements made at the Canberra hearings -
The commission sat in Canberra, and this was the statement submitted by our Treasury. I ask honorable members to listen carefully to this very remarkable submission - “The State should either make an effort by way of revenue raising or by effecting economies in Governmental expenditure or else it should be prepared to accept rather lower standards. . . .”
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would not permit me to express in plain language my thinking at a suggestion such as that from a responsible body of Commonwealth officials! I am surprised that the Treasury should submit a suggestion of that kind and use words as bald as those. Perhaps it could have recommended that if a State was not carrying out the requirements in regard to revenue raising and was not effecting economies, the standards existing in the State should be looked at and that the commission should give the State a reasonable warning and indicate where the State had fallen down on the job. But the commission was told that a particular State should be prepared to accept a lower standard than applies in any other State. Fortunately, the commission exercised its judgment on the matter. It decided, very wisely, to ignore the Treasury’s suggestions. The members of the commission discussed it at some length. On page 36, paragraph 71 of the report states -
The Commission adheres strongly to the view that a claimant State should make a reasonable effort to meet its own financial needs and exercise all possible economy in carrying out its legitimate functions. The degree of effort made must be assessed in the light of the particular circumstances obtaining in the State and of what is done in other States. The Commission has come to the conclusion that, having regard to the “ political and economic realities “ of the present situation, the methods by which it achieves this end have been effective, and that to go further than the Commission does at present would be to offend against that part of its principle which insists that a claimant State should be enabled to perform its functions at standards not appreciably below those of other States.
So, happily, the commission adhered to the principle that at least there should be equality of opportunity to carry out State functions and to put the citizens in each State of the Commonwealth on a reasonably equal level. It rejected the submission of the Treasury that when things were not quite so happy a lower standard should be applied in one State than in the others. I commend the commission upon having attacked the problems which undoubtedly faced it in a human and understanding way. Above all, I commend it upon having attacked the problems without departing from the fundamental principle which applies under this system of helping the less developed and weaker States financially. Under federation, those States have undoubtedly encountered financial difficulties, although there may have been times when they have obtained some gain.
There is one point in connexion with the work of the commission on which I would like to make a suggestion. Some months ago, I was privileged, as were a number of other Western Australian members of this Parliament, to make a very comprehensive and exhaustive tour of the north-west of Western Australia as the guest of the “ West Australian “ newspaper. The company placed at our disposal every possible means of learning everything we could about that vast area which is the responsibility of the State of Western Australia. I would suggest that the Commonwealth Grants Commission could well undertake a tour as extensive as the one ti. at we undertook. I know that, as the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has stated, when visiting the States the members of the commission look at the projects which the States are undertaking. They observe how the States are using their loan money and ascertain whether the projects represent a burden or a benefit to the State. But the northwest of Western Australia is seldom visited by people who have the power to afford assistance to develop this vast area.
I think that the newspaper company that I mentioned is very keen on the development of that territory and I am reasonably sure that if it were suggested to the company that the members of the commission should be its guests on a tour such as the one that we made, the company would accept the proposal. It certainly went to some trouble to arrange a comprehensive and educational tour for us. However, that is for the company to decide. Whilst I am not prepared at this stage to indicate to the commission what conclusions it should reach as a result of such a tour, I am satisfied that it would come back with the impression that there is an undeniably vast wealth potential in the soil of that country. All our wealth emanates from the soil, whether through the crops we grow, the stock we raise, or the minerals that we mine. All our basic value is in the soil. In this area the soil is capable of producing anything that we want. It is literally untapped. There is a possibility of developing all three basic types of production - agriculture, stock and minerals.
– Water is needed.
– I am indebted to my honorable friend from Gwydir for that interjection. The harnessing of water supplies would be essential.
– What has this Government done?
– This Government has done more than any other Government since federation. It is the first and only government to provide a direct grant of £2,500,000 for the development of the north-west and that was, I hope, only an initial grant. This Government has made the money available to the State Government to be used at its discretion. We do not dictate to the States. This is a democratic government, although there are times when I wish that it would do a bit of dictating to some of the States. I could wish that were so, because we would make a lot of progress and there would be much less passing the buck by the States to the Commonwealth Government.
Members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission would see the potentiality of that area if they made a visit to it. They would be impressed by the need for some greater measure of assistance because Western Australia has a limited financial capacity. They would see the need for help towards the development of that area and they could suggest how it could be achieved. We must remember that a State can be penalized for the expenditure of its loan moneys if losses occur. If Western Australia attempted something on a large scale, the commission might very well say, “ You have started something beyond your resources, brother. Now you can carry the baby yourselves. We cannot suggest any assistance for you at this stage “. But if the commission supported such a task, I am sure that even if it could not assist Western Australia, it would see evidence of the tremendous cost that the State must carry to provide essential services in that area. The cost of services in Western Australia generally compares very favorably with the cost in the rest of Australia. Therefore, the cost of services in our compact residential areas must compare very favorably with those in the nonclaimant States, because the excessively high cost of hospitals, education, roads and other services in the vast area that I have mentioned is a component of our overall costs.
I suggest, therefore, that at the first opportunity, the members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission should make a tour of that country. They should study at first hand the terrific burden which is imposed on the States and which Western Australia cannot carry itself. Even if the commission could make some reference to that- matter in a report following a visit to the area, it could be helpful in providing further thinking on what could be done for the development of that part of Australia.
– This bill is very pleasing to me. It has reference to several matters in which I have a special interest. One of them is uniform taxation on which I come to grips with honorable members at times because I believe that uniform taxation is a boon to the smaller States. I also strongly favour the system of grants to the claimant States. This measure shows how successful the scheme has been in helping in the development of South Australia. That is evident from a study of the amounts that are recommended as grants to the States. In introducing the bill, the acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) stated -
In arriving at the recommendations contained in its twenty-fifth report, the Grants Commission has continued to adhere to the general principle of financial need. The commission has interpreted this principle to mean that, provided the efforts made by a claimant State to raise revenue and control expenditure are reasonable by comparison with the efforts made by the non-claimant States, its special grant should be sufficient to enable it to function at a standard not appreciably below that of the non-claimant States.
That statement is very pleasing to me. I have looked forward to such an expression of opinion for many years, going back to the time preceding the provision of this financial assistance from the Commonwealth to the States which were lagging behind the stronger and more progressive States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The amounts to be provided for the claimant States under this bill are -
The acting Treasurer pointed out that the grant to South Australia was lower this year, but the grant to the other two States had been increased so that those States could be placed on a comparable basis with the bigger States. That shows that South Australia has advanced greatly over the past ten to fifteen years. Before I was elected to this Parliament, South Australia was faced with great financial difficulties, particularly in the early 1930’s. It was difficult at that time to get the State Parliament to agree to taxes which would enable the government of the day to keep pace with the other States. After grants to the States and uniform taxation were introduced, South Australia began to develop. We were able to provide services comparable with those available in the other States and to advance generally. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) have referred to the great cost of services provided by the States. In proportion to its total population, South Australia has had the largest increase in population of all the States and, consequently, it has been faced with the greatest expansion in education, hospital and other services. Despite those extra calls on the State’s finances, industrial progress has been rapid and South Australia might become one of the nonclaimant States before many years are past.
During the Second World War when there was an urgent need for munitions, great buildings were constructed in South Australia. As a result, at the end of the war when there was a tremendous call on building materials, we were able to get overseas companies to establish themselves in that State and to use buildings which had been constructed for war purposes. We are still continuing to make industrial advances in South Australia.
I remember when members of the State Parliament were envisaging great progress in industry. I should like to give credit particularly to one member of the State Parliament of those days, and I am sorry that he did not live to see the advances which he forecast and for which he worked so hard. I refer to the late honorable member for Port Pirie, Mr. John Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald adopted the role of pioneer in the State Parliament, advocating the bringing of water from the Murray River to Whyalla and Port Pirie and adjacent areas. He also spoke of the desirability of establishing shipyards in that locality. He predicted that a time would come when the iron ore being taken from Iron Knob and Iron Baron, and which was being sent to New South Wales and overseas ports for smelting, would be processed in blast furnaces at Whyalla, and that a big city would grow up there. I was very sorry that Mr. Fitzgerald passed away before he could see these things come to pass.
These are the developments that have taken place in our State which have enabled us to grow so rapidly. I learned just recently that in the course of a few years we will have a big steel industry with a number of blast furnaces at Whyalla. For some years we have had one such furnace, producing pig iron, and justifying the forecast of the late Mr. Fitzgerald. Instead of the iron ore being shipped to other places, it is now being turned into pig iron right on the spot. The gentleman of whom I have spoken advocated the establishment of a shipbuilding industry in this district, and we have there at the present time, I think, the biggest shipyards in Australia. The majority of men engaged in the Australian shipbuilding industry are employed at Whyalla.
T am recounting these happenings, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to show what can happen when a State is assisted by what I may call equalization legislation. I use that term because I believe that this measure is designed to place the smaller States on an equal footing with the bigger and stronger States. Having been equalized in that way, we have been able to record the achievements of which I have spoken.
– And under a good government.
– The government is doing, in many instances, only what the Labour party has enabled it do do. The honorable member knows very well of some of the things that have been done in South Australia to push the State ahead. Let me refer to the Leigh Creek coal-fields, as a result of which electrical services have been provided throughout the country areas of the State. This undertaking was made possible by the Labour members in the Upper House supporting the members of the Ministry in that place. I remind the honorable member that the government control introduced by the Playford Government has nationalized our electricity undertakings in South Australia. We are really socialistic in that State so far as electric power is concerned, and this has been of great benefit to our industries. But it could not have been brought about if the Labour members had not been prepared to support it. The only members who opposed it in the Lower House were Liberal party members. When it went to the Upper House for the first time, five Labour members, two members of the Cabinet and one Liberal member voted for it. All the other Liberals voted against it and defeated the measure. Then the Premier persuaded one of the Liberals to change over. He brought the bill down a second time and it was carried by the votes of five Labour members, two Ministers and two Liberals.
For these reasons I say to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), “ Do not consider all the industrial achievements in South Australia as being due to the government of that State “. I want to give the government all the credit that is due to it, but I am concerned as to what we are doing for South Australia, and not what we are doing for a particular government that may be in office in that State. The Labour party accepts the principle behind this legislation. It is one of the things that Labour stands for. Honorable members opposite at times call us socialists and all sorts of other things. I have always said that I do not care what name you call me by, and that what I am concerned about is what I stand for.
– We do not call the honorable member for Port Adelaide names.
– Whether you call me names or not, I stand for what my colleagues stand for. I stand for the policy of my party, and I suggest that the provisions of this legislation are, to a great extent, in line with that policy.
Honorable members opposite have stated that they do not like unification. Uniformity is a part of unification, and uniformity is really the keystone of this measure - uniformity for the people of Australia. Years ago we had some capable men in the public service of South Australia, men doing very good work indeed. Our finances, however, did not allow us to pay them salaries comparable to those being paid in other States and in Commonwealth departments. I think the honorable member for Barker will agree that we lost some very capable men because they could command larger salaries in another State or in the Commonwealth service. But when we received the benefit of this uniformity that I am speaking about, when we began to be helped by the Commonwealth to attain a position comparable to that of other States, we were able to retain some, although not all, of those men whom we would otherwise have lost.
I should now like to refer to a matter this is always very dear to my heart. I refer to the education of our people, whether they be children commencing school, at kindergarten level, or in the infants’ schools, the primary or superprimary schools, the high schools or the universities. I have been very much interested in all these phases of education throughout my lifetime. I was associated for many years with the council of the University of Adelaide, and I know what we tried to do for that university. Some of the suggestions that I put forward were quite valuable. I always endeavoured not to push my own barrow or that of my party, but to push the barrow of the people of the community. In the days before we received this assistance from the Commonwealth we were in a position in which we could not pay our teachers the salaries that should have been paid to them. 1 have previously referred to the attacks that were made upon our educational system by those in opposition to the Labour party at that time. South Australia was referred to as the State not able to pay even an award wage. When the Labour party was defeated and the Liberal party came to power, the Government tacked on to legislation that we had introduced a provision that whatever the award wage for teachers in the State happened to be, it was to be reduced by 5 per cent. That was done not by a Labour government but by a Liberal government. At that time it felt that it could not pay even the award that had been given to teachers, and teachers’ salaries we reduced by 5 per cent. The position has altered and South Australia is now brought into a position almost equal with that of other States.
In his second-reading speech, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth Grants Commission had examined the budgets of non-claimant States as well as the budgets of claimant States, to satisfy itself that the efforts of the claimant States to raise revenue compared favorably with the efforts of the non-claimant States. For quite a long time after hospital benefits and other measures to assist hospitals had been introduced, the Royal Adelaide Hospital was not charging for its services. However, we were eventually compelled to come into line with the other States and the hospital had to impose charges so that we could say that our efforts to obtain revenue were comparable with those of other States. Time has gone on and I am pleased to see that South Australia is in a position where it will be able to manage with a smaller amount this year than it has received previously.
I am pleased to see that substantial assistance is being given to Western Australia. I for one feel no jealously and no resentment at the amount being granted to Western Australia, because I feel that the Grants Commission is attempting to put us as Australians, no matter what State we live in, in a comparable financial position. I suppose that if it were not for losses on railway, tramway and bus services in South Australia, we would not be getting this amount now. South Australia’s deficit is caused mainly by transport losses. How- ever we find that other States suffer in the same way. For instance, New South Wales has huge losses on its transport services. I do not know how we will overcome these losses, but attempts are being made to do so and I believe that the position will improve. However, the States face a difficult task in avoiding losses on transport services. In South Australia, we have attempted to meet the position by the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives. They are now operating between Adelaide and Melbourne and have effected substantial savings in transport operations. Diesel-electric locomotives are being introduced generally in South Australia and I feel that they will’ ease the position there.
Until South Australia’s position is improved generally by the establishment of bigger industries in the State, we will still need some assistance from the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Moore was most emphatic that the soil was the source of our wealth. I do not doubt for one moment that unless our primary industries are prosperous we cannot hope to progress. However, secondary industries and not primary industries have been responsible for the advances made by South Australia.
I do not desire to discuss at this stage the amounts that have been granted and the methods by which the Grants Commission, arrived at them. I know that this, year South Australia is receiving a small amount representing an adjustment to the grants paid some two years ago. We are told that the estimated needs of South Australia for 1958-59 amount to £5,201,000, and we are to receive £49,000 to make up for a short payment in 1956-57. I went into the question of this short payment two or three years ago and pointed out that an adjustment could become very difficult for a State if it had to refund a large amount that had been overpaid. I do not want to go into that again because the amount is not very large at this time. I appreciate the value of this legislation and look upon the work of the Grants Commission as being really Australian in its attempts to give all the States and the people in the States an equal opportunity.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Barnard) adjourned.
Political Parties - Television - Trade with Communist Countries - Japanese Trade Agreement.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I do not often speak on the adjournment, but I want to reply to some observations that were made in the Senate on 16th September by Senator McManus. He mentioned my name and the name of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron).
– Order! I advise the honorable gentleman that he cannot canvass proceedings in the Senate.
– I do not propose to do so. I propose to reply to statements that were made and I propose to use “ Hansard “ only for the purpose of refreshing my memory on what was said. I do not intend to quote from the “ Hansard “ report; I can quote from newspaper reports, if necessary.
On this occasion, Senator McManus attacked the Australian Labour party, which he called the Evatt party, on the sources of its revenue. He averred during the course of his remarks that his party was not in any way associated with big business, that it did not take donations from any big business organization and that it conducted its campaigns, both Federal and State, on donations from eight trade unions affiliated with this party, or what is really a rump of a party, in the State of Victoria. Victoria is the only State in which unions are affiliated with what is now known as the Democratic Labour party. In other States where this organization exists, there are no unions affiliated with it. Formerly, the Democratic Labour party was the AntiCommunist Labour party. The eight trade unions concerned are nearly all broke, like most trade unions to-day, and this particular party, this splinter group, would not be able to obtain very much money from those trade unions.
It was stated by Senator McManus in his attack upon the Labour party that we had deserted the things we used to stand for, that we are associated in some way with the Communist party, that we are taking support from it, that we are associated with it in unity tickets, and similar statements all of them false. The Australian Labour party, which is the only Labour party in this country, is referred to as the Evatt party, and the term “ Evatt party “ is used as a slur and a smear. An attempt is made by members and supporters of the Democratic Labour party, and by sections of the daily press, to prove that the Australian Labour party, under its present leadership, is different from the Australian Labour party under the leadership of the late Mr. Chifley, and, before him, the late Mr. Curtin. But all that is false.
On 14th September, in a radio broadcast, I challenged a Mr. Santamaria to contest the Melbourne electorate against me as the candidate of the D.L.P., because, as I said, I believe that he is the real leader of the D.L.P., although he leads it from behind. I made that challenge, as I said, on 14th September. On 3rd September, in Mr. Santamaria’s paper he is the man who founded it, and he still directs its policy, and controls a very powerful organization generally he stated that the D.L.P. would not fall for any preference appeal. On 16th September, in the Senate, Senator McManus said that, in regard to preferences no definite decision had been arrived at by the Victorian branch of his party. There are two voices, and I believe that what Mr. Santamaria says is true. On Sunday last, in another broadcast, I again challenged Mr. Santamaria to stand against me for the Melbourne seat. I told him that he could come down from his ivory tower or emerge from his hide-out, wherever it was, and submit himself to the electors so that they could decide whether or not his views should be supported. On the first occasion, he declined. I was then attacked by a Mr. Denis Jackson, on the “ Catholic Hour “ programme, for attacking Mr. Santamaria. I was accused of raising the sectarian issue, by some strange piece of alchemy, because I had challenged this gentleman to oppose me.
It has been said by Mr. Santamaria and the supporters of the D.L.P. that the Australian Labour party is somehow associated with communism on the one hand and with big business on the other. I said that 1 could prove that the D.L.P. was financed by wealthy interests, and I want to take a few minutes “to-night to prove the case that I made. The story is this: In December, 1953, a firm known as Commercial Consultants of Australia, public relations consultants, was registered in the name of Francis Charles Smedley, at 522 Punt-road, South Yarra. Smedley was an employee of J. Walter Thompson Australia Proprietary Limited. He was sent to Melbourne to form this organization by the managing director of the firm, Mr. Lloyd Ring Coleman. This group was established with the aid of money from the oil companies and it attempted to coerce the Labour governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland into abandoning price control in respect of petrol. This firm was concerned not only with State politics - and I do not want to go into them very much except to say that this organization played a very big part in causing the Labour split in Queensland. The firm interfered, too, in Western Australia. I am not sure at this moment whether the government of the time in Western Australia, which insisted on maintaining price control, was a Liberal government or a Labour government.
This body that I have mentioned was very active, and it was a fairly powerful body. Its primary object was to conduct certain public relations activities on behalf of the oil industry, particularly in relation to the removal of price control, as I have said, and the obtaining of higher prices for petrol. The work was to be carried out principally in conjunction with the Oil Industry Joint Prices Committee - a body representing all the major oil companies, and headed by Mr. Hamilton Sleigh, managing director of H. C. Sleigh Limited. In addition, Commercial Consultants of Australia was to carry out public relations and advertising activities on behalf of two companies - the Shell Company of Australia Limited, of which Mr. W. H. Anderson, who was also federal president of the Liberal party of Australia, is a director, and H. C. Sleigh Limited, of which Mr. Hamilton Sleigh, as I have said, is managing director.
This organization went to work, and it ultimately began to interfere in federal politics. This is the answer to those people in the D.L.P. who say that they have no association with big business. They do not like my charge that they have sold themselves out to the Liberal party. They do not like my statement that the Liberal party has bought the D.L.P., lock, stock and barrel, and that the D.L.P. is merely the Liberal party’s junior chamber of commerce, as it were, and is prepared to sell its principles, its votes and anything else that the Liberal party likes to pay for. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its forbearance, Mr. Speaker. The activities of Commercial Consultants of Australia in the federal political sphere consisted, among other things, of providing a link in 1955 between the Liberal party and the AntiCommunist Labour party. There was no Democratic Labour party in existence at that time, and nobody outside the State of Victoria associated with the AntiCommunist Labour party.
The most important part played in the association between the Liberal party and the Anti-Communist Labour party was played by Mr. John Mullens, the former Labour member for Gellibrand, who opposed me in the Melbourne electorate at the 1955 election and was defeated. On a number of occasions after the middle of 1955, Mr. Mullens was often seen in conference with Mr. Smedley, whom I have named, and a man called Hervey-Tennyson, at 522 Punt-road, South Yarra. On at least one occasion, shortly before the federal election of 1955, Mr. W. H. Anderson and Mr. Mullens were in conference together at the Punt Road office. I know these things because there was a bust-up later, and sixteen people were sacked. Some took their grievances away with them, and they have told a few stories.
The exact details of the agreement reached between Anderson, representing the Liberal party, and Mullens, representing the A.C.L. party, are not known. However, it is known that a sum of £22,000 was made available to Mullens, presumably for distribution between the various A.C.L. candidates. At least, it is certain that Mullens received financial support throughout his campaign and afterwards. During the campaign, Commercial Consultants of Australia paid Duplications Limited, of Carlton, for the printing of propaganda, and a number of the staff of Commercial Consultants of Australia was employed in addressing envelopes to post this material to the electors of Melbourne for the purpose of ensuring my defeat
Earlier in 1955, this man HerveyTennyson claimed that Commercial Consultants of Australia had stage-managed Mullens’s challenge to debate communism with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) at the Hobart conference of the A.L.P. In February, 1956, £1,000 was made available to Mullens to finance a visit by himself and eight other A.C.L. speakers to address the Labour party conference in Sydney. After Mullens’s defeat in the federal election, he was placed on the payroll of Commercial Consultants of Australia and received £20 a week. The cheques for this were made payable to a Mrs. Hall, who was said to be a relative of Mullens. On many occasions last year Mullens presented himself at the office of Commercial Consultants of Australia demanding payment of money allegedly due to him. It is reported that he demanded payment of a lump sum of £2,500 to finance an overseas trip - and he had the overseas trip, whoever paid for it. He did not have the money to pay for it. He asked also for the equivalent of his former parliamentary salary for one year, in accordance with promises said to have been made to him by Mr. Smedley and Mr. Anderson.
Shortly before Easter, 1956, there was trouble, because information had leaked out from the National Bank about the payment of £22,000 to the Anti-Communist Labour party. After that things happened. There was the disappearance of £33,000 for which Mullens and Anderson were not responsible. Because of all that was happening in Commercial Consultants, the organization was wound up by some decent people in the Liberal party and the commercial life of Australia.
I recite those matters because I believe them to be facts. They are the answers to the D.L.P., which is continually smearing the Australian Labour party. The D.L.P. claims that it -obtains its finance from the people. I say again that the D.L.P. is being financed by the oil companies principally. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who was attacked by Senator McManus for stating that £30,000 was made available by the oil cartel, was -very near -the mark. The sum .was about £22,000. Those facts envelopes to post this material to the electors of Melbourne for the purpose of ensuring my defeat.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
.- I propose to say something about replies given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to complaints from this side of the House regarding the inadequacy of provision made for Australian artists on television programmes. Now seems to be the appropriate time to raise this matter, because, when I look at the Government benches, I am reminded of a television programme. I think it is called “Tombstone Territory “. The Postmaster-General said, when presenting his survey, that it had been made by an independent authority. By that means he tried to throw doubt on the accuracy of the survey that had been made by people engaged in the industry or those who hoped to be engaged in the industry. It is not difficult to ascertain which survey is the accurate one, because the television programmes are published in the daily press and one can work out for oneself how much time is devoted to Australian artists and how much time is devoted to imported musical recordings.
Actors Equity, which is vitally interested in this matter, predicted that Australian artists would not get a fair go if television was established in this country with hungry commercial interests hoping to extract the greatest profit possible from the undertaking regardless of whether they were giving service to the Australian community or acting in the best interests of the country. Actors Equity took a survey for the period 16th July this year to 22nd July, inclusive. Channel 9 in Sydney had a total viewing time during the week of 744 hours. The Postmaster-General misleads us when he talks about the Australian content of television programmes because he lumps together such things as sport, news, children’s programmes, magazine programmes, documentaries, variety shows, and musicals. If we examine the position carefully we find that very few Australian artists are employed on television in Australia to-day. Those who are employed are not given an opportunity to improve their techniques. They are not given adequate time to rehearse for the very few Australian programmes that are televised. Of the 74± hours that Channel 9 was telecasting, sport took up four hours five minutes. There was one announcer, and the other people engaged in the sport sessions were obviously unpaid. News sessions took up one and two-third hours and required only one announcer. The children’s programmes accounted for 2i hours and in those programmes the employment prospects for Australian artists are practically nil. The magazine programmes, such as “House and Garden”, “Beauty Case”, “ Dick Hyde’s Motor Show “, “ Thursday at One”, “Cookery News”, and “Do it Yourself” took up eleven and a quarter hours. Twelve artists, five demonstrators, and eight musicians were involved in those programmes. The documentary programme accounted for half an hour. The variety shows accounted for two hours. The “ Bobby Limb Show “ employed an orchestra of seven persons and nine artists. It took up half an hour. A show called “ What’s My Line “ employed five performers. “ Australia’s Amateur Hour “ requires one compere and one pianist. The remainder of the people involved in “ Australia’s Amateur Hour “ are unpaid performers.
The musical shows took up one and a half hours. There was one musician employed for one hour and another musician employed for half an hour. In addition, seventeen hours of viewing time were taken up with imported musical recordings. During that period of seventeen hours one Australian announcer was employed playing records for one and a half hours. During the period of the survey the time allotted to Australian plays on channel 9 was nil. There were no Australian plays employing Australian artists during that period.
Channel 7 was in no better position. Its total viewing time during the same week was 84 hours 53 minutes. The Australian content of its programmes was 29 hours 53 minutes. The artists state that when they do get an opportunity to appear on television they are not afforded sufficient time for rehearsal, so that they can put their show over in a proper manner. Knowing of this handicap, the Postmaster-General stated in the House that the technique of Australian artists is not up to the standard required on television. He also said that every encouragement is being given to them.
The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has pointed out that the Pagewood Studios are closing down. We are all aware of the struggle that Pagewood Studios have had to keep afloat. Now they are compelled to close. It would appear that the prospects of Australian artists being afforded opportunities to make short films and prepare live shows for television are becoming more remote than ever. It is said that General Motors-Holden’s Limited is negotiating for the purchase of the Pagewood Studios. Apparently they are going permanently out of action.
The Melbourne stations are no better. HSV channel 7 in Melbourne had viewing time of 57 hours 35 minutes during the period 16th August this year to 22nd August inclusive. The Australian content of programmes on that station was 19 hours 55 minutes, including all the sporting and news sessions and the other sessions that I mentioned with regard to Sydney. In the whole of the period there was one quarter hour devoted to an Australian show, a comedy show employing five artists. During the rest of the period only a few comperes, a few guest artists, and a few musicians were required.
GTV channel 9 had a total viewing time during the same period of 76 hours 10 minutes. The Australian content of its programmes was 25 hours 36 minutes. The time devoted to drama during that period - I am referring to drama performed by Australian artists - was nil. Australian musical shows took up 30 minutes for the whole of that week, and employed one artist for fifteen minutes and a vocal quartet for fifteen minutes.
That is the extent of the employment of Australian artists on the various television stations. It is no use the Minister coming into this House with a prepared brief from the commercial interests that control the television stations and saying that every encouragement is being given to the development of Australian art and Australian shows, because that is not happening. People who possess television sets - and there are quite a few of them in Melbourne and Sydney - have complained about the quality of programmes. I have seen the socalled western programmes criticized in some of the journals devoted to television. 1 regret to say that the national stations are no advertisement for the activities of the Government in this particular field. Recently I asked a question in regard to the failure of the national stations to put over their programmes properly. People are complaining that they are not getting proper service from the national stations. I frequently have viewed programmes of national stations, and have been amazed at the poor quality of some of them. One such programme is “ Leave it to Hesling “. I viewed it merely because some people had complained about it, and I never talk on any subject unless I know that I have the facts at first hand. So I took the opportunity of viewing this programme. The leading actor was supposed to be a star artist, but the programme was an insult to anybody’s intelligence.
There is no doubt in the world that one of the reasons for the poor quality of the programmes of national stations is that this Government does not believe in government undertakings. It does not believe in national effort, even in the field of television, and so it wants to give advantages to the commercial people, to whom it is handing out television licences. Those people control not only television stations; they also have the radio and newspapers tied up. If ever a monopoly existed in this country in the sense that one group of interests - perhaps divided into various companies and organizations - controls an industry, it is evident in this control of the whole system of publicity in this country. I hope that the Government will take note of my protest.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like to support the statements made regarding Australian television by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). When the legislation to establish television in this country came before this House, we on this side strained every effort to persuade the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), of the certainty that this situation would develop. To-night it gives us no satisfaction to be able to report to the House that the situation has developed, as we knew it would. A tremendous volume of cheap and nasty television programmes is coming to Australia from other parts of the world - programmes which have been used overseas and rejected, or rejected without being used at all. We knew that the Australian who had to learn the technique of television would not be wanted, first, because of the expense of putting on an Australian show, and, secondly, because the cheap product would, for the time being, have an advantage in production techniques. We suggested that the only way out of this dilemma was to impose a 33i per cent, quota for Australian artists. That request was refused. We battled it out here, day after day, in long debates. I read the record of those debates only the other day, and everything that we forecast from this side of the House has, unfortunately, come true.
An additional situation has arisen. The Postmaster-General does his best in the circumstances and tries to be fair, but he is being badly misinformed. When an Australian programme is telecast, he is told. “ This is not of good quality. It is not as good as the programmes from overseas. Australians have to learn.” The answer to that is that amongst the best artists in the world are numbered many Australians. Some of the best dancers, dramatists and screen-writers have come back to this country from overseas. They left this country because of lack of opportunity. What they need to-day is an opportunity. It is bad for this Federal Parliament, above all, to be talking about the poor quality of Australian television and Australian artists.
The honorable member for East Sydney is right on the ball in recounting the whole of the sequences in which the Australian has been crowded to the wall. I know that there are difficulties in the way of presenting shows that cost a great deal of money. The television entrepreneurs know that there is a public sentiment in favour of the Australian play, drama and musical show, and so they make some sort of an attempt to put them on, but those shows are crowded for time. They are stinted for money. The result is that the Australian shows are not as brisk and lively as they could be. But they are still more than comparable to “ Tombstone Territory “, “ Mr. Maverick “ or any of those other shows from overseas.
– What about “ Superman “?
– Of course, I thought “ Superman “ had a deep political significance for the Government. The serious question is the future of television. I believe the Government to be seriously embarrassed in regard to our trade overseas. Sooner or later it will have to cut imports. Here is a wonderful opportunity to do something with regard to television programmes; to make sure that our television programmes are largely Australian. To-day, our television is some mongrelized version of everything that no other country wants.
In order to illustrate the point, there is just one other thing I want to say before I sit down. Television is not efficient because it is not up to date, it is not new, and it is not reasonable so far as Australia is concerned, because it is not giving jobs and job opportunities to Australian artists. When you turn on television and find that the play you are listening to and watching is twenty or 30 years years old, that the star died ten years ago, and that the whole situation is something out of the past, it is like looking at ghost images upon the screen. Must we take these things as being the best that can be given? The Minister is a reasonable man who does his best. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board advised him that these matters would be best left to the good taste and good sense of the companies concerned. It has not worked out in that way. The Government has been prepared to say to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, “You have made a recommendation about television licences. We will not accept that. We insist that there be two commercial television stations in each of two cities, Brisbane and Adelaide.” The Government could also have said in the past, and it could say now, “ We are not satisfied with your reports about the value and efficiency of television programmes, and we are not satisfied that an opportunity is given to Australian artists “. For these people it is a matter of bread and butter. It is their living.
– Would it save any dollars?
– There is a grand opportunity for saving dollars while giving Australians a chance. I refuse to believe, and I think it is very wrong to canvass in this
House, that there is something inferior in Australian programmes already on television. I think that they are splendid. They can be improved, because they need money, opportunity, and time to perfect.
– “Alabama Jubilee” is one of the best shows.
– Yes, and so also are the Lashwood Show and “ Sydney To-night “, which for production as a play is an extremely slick and interesting experiment. Sometimes it may have a tendency to slow down a bit, but, given a chance, it will be one of the great Australian shows.
The point is that we are thinking in the wrong way. We have television now, and it is a wonderful invention. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the capital cities can enjoy it. But is there any satisfaction for us as Australians when we realize that we are using rubbish that has been discarded by the rest of the world? Despite the fact that eventually licences will mean a great deal of money to persons holding them, these persons are not prepared to support Australian talent. It is the same with Australian literature, which has bad to struggle. We have tried for years to get a chair of Australian literature at Sydney University. We had a target of £80,000, but all we could get was £20,000. We talk of the development of the Australian consciousness. That cannot happen if we are commercially retarded by those people who decide to go in for profit, profit and, above all, profit. The libel upon the Australian performer should be nailed at once. Given the opportunity, whether it is in ballet, drama, or television, the Australian artist is equal to, and sometimes incomparably better than, the average in any country, whether it be America or the United Kingdom.
.- I want to direct attention to the most recent political somersault that has been taken by the leading members of the Government. In my place in this House for a number of years, and particularly during the discussion upon the Japanese Trade Agreement, I listened to member after member on the Government side of the House say that the Australian Labour party was opposed to trade with Japan, but was in favour of trade with red
China. They endeavoured to establish as a fact that because people were in favour of trading with particular nations they identified themselves with the ideologies of the governments of those nations. To that contention, of course, we strongly objected. We said, “ We will trade with any nation in the world. We will trade with Japan, but we won’t trade with any nation to the detriment of our industries in Australia, secondary or primary “.
To-day, however, we find that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is in another part of the world endeavouring to form a bloc with the Soviet nations in order to promote freer trade. He is seeking to secure markets in the Soviet bloc in both Europe and Asia. I remember, of course, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) saying that if Australia sent a pound of butter to Communist China it would be like a silver bullet aimed at the heart of this country. I remember equally extravagant language being used by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and other members of his party and of the Ministry itself. But to-day the Government is seeking trade with red China.
I have here an announcement which appeared in the most recent issue of the “ Canberra Newsletter “, which is published on behalf of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. I ask honorable members to listen to this, very carefully. It reads -
It is announced that an order from Communist China for steel amounting in value to £1,500,000 has just been received by Lysaght’s Port Kembla works, and at the Farmers and Settlers’ Association conference in Sydney this week a resolution was carried in favour of exploring the possibilities of extending trade in other commodities with that country.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) points out that there is no bar to trade with Continental China-
Listen to this - except with regard to strategic goods, and sales are in fact being made. For instance, sales of Australian wheat were recently made there. The United States still places a ban on trade with Red China, quite apart from the question of goods of “ strategic “ value; but Great Britain and other Western countries have recently decided to extend their China trade by substantially reducing the list of goods coming within the category of strategic materials. “ In the present state of depressed overseas markets “, says Mr. McMahon, “ Australia should make every effort to find new outlets for her exports and explore every part of the world, including China. The promotion of trade through international agreements, the Trade Commissioner Service and the organizing of businessmen’s missions to overseas countries are all of great value to us. Both our primary and our secondary industries are reaping the benefit.”
Australian manufacturers who may be interested in trading with the China mainland are invited to contact their State Chamber for further information regarding trade potential of non-strategic goods. “Non-strategic goods” - £1,500,000 worth of steel! I hear a Government member interject “ So what? “ Must we on this side continually submit to being called Communists? In proof of that assertion supporters of the Government say, “ The Labour party believes in trade with red China “. During the last general election campaign, members of both the Liberal party- and of the de facto liberal party attacked the Labour party on the ground that it said, “ We will trade with red China in. common with other nations of the world, but we won’t do so to the detriment of the industries of this country, primary or secondary “. They said, “ These people must be banned from political life “. The Australian Democratic Labour party said that, and members of the Government parties said it. Members of the D.L.P. said, “We support the Liberal party because, although we pretend to be adherents to the economic ideals preached by the Australian Labour party, on a question of such vital importance as trade with red China we desert every other principle we had in order to prevent this country from trading with red China”.
But to-day, these people are ready to trade with red China. I am not condemning trade with red China. I do not condemn trading with Japan, Germany, the United States of America or any other country. What I say is that, as every other country trades with Australia only in order to promote the interests of its people, so we, in our trading with another country, whether it be America, China, Russia or Japan, should so trade as to promote the interests and the development of Australia.
Mr. Speaker, I rose only because I was overwhelmed with indignation at the hypocrisy and humbug of the Ministry which sits opposite me. It is unfortunate that to-night those who were the bitterest in their denunciation of the Labour party in connexion with trading with red China, such as the honorable members for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), Moreton (Mr. Killen) and Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), are not in their places so that I might find out whether they now agree with the attitude of the Government and endorse the remarks of the Minister for Trade made in Canada and elsewhere. He is seeking - even praying - to secure trade with those countries which he condemned and in respect of which he also condemned this party for suggesting that Australia should trade with them. I hope, Sir, that at the forthcoming general election the people who have traded upon this question of nonassociation by trade, or by any other means, with countries of the Communist bloc, will start their campaign by apologizing for the attitude they have taken in the past towards the Labour party on this issue.
I believe, of course, that the Minister who is at present abroad is making a lot of very serious blunders in connexion with trade. I do not think it is a blunder to endeavour to secure trade with mainland China, the Soviet satellites, the Soviet itself, Germany, South America or any other country, but I believe that the principles upon which he is operating and which brought into being the Japanese Trade Agreement are not in the interests of the development of primary or secondary industries in Australia.
– That is a foolish statement.
– The honorable member for Gippsland says that that is a foolish statement. I challenge him to deny that he did not say that Australia should not trade in any way with Communist countries?
– The honorable member says “ No “. I accept his word that he did not say that. He is one of the Government supporters who is most silent in this chamber. He does not speak on controversial questions at all. But he supported, by interjection, the honorable members for Mackellar, Moreton and Chisholm and he sneered at members of the Labour party because we favoured trade with Communist China.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) said he was so overwhelmed with indignation that he had to speak to-night. We are getting used to the sort of speech that the honorable member made. His speech tonight reminds me of the night that he came into this chamber with a shirt which he said had been made by the Japanese. He exhibited it here in the chamber and said, “ We will fight against the Japanese Trade Agreement as long as the Labour party has breath in its body “, or words to that effect. But for the last seven weeks of this Budget session the Japanese Trade Agreement has not been mentioned by the Labour Opposition. There is a reason for that.
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that during the last sessional period I made reference, during a speech, to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was interjecting at the time. I said - and at the time I said it I thought that the statement I was making was a fact - that the honorable member for Lalor had spoken against the Japanese Trade Agreement. The honorable member immediately rose and denied that he had done so. He said1, “ I have never opposed the Japanese Trade Agreement”, and he was so sincere about his denial that I felt I had to do something about it. Honorable members will either recall, or can see in the “ Hansard “ record, that I rose afterwards and made a personal explanation in which I said that I had erred in making the statement that I had made. I said that I had thought that the honorable member for Lalor, with other members of the Labour party, was against the Japanese Trade Agreement, but that I had found out that, as he had said, he had not opposed it and, in fact, had been out of the country when the agreement was being debated. When I included him in my speech among those not in favour of the agreement he left no doubt about where he stood in relation to that matter.
What happened in the meantime, when the House was not sitting? The honorable member for Lalor is recognized as the only man in the Labour party who knows much about primary production. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has some knowledge of it, so, in fairness to him, let me put it this way: The honorable member for Lalor is the spokesman of the Labour party on legislation referring to or encompassing primary production. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is interjecting now, is a man of the footpaths. He would be lost in the great outback. Anyway, the honorable member for Lalor is the spokesman of the Labour party as far as primary production is concerned. Being the spokesman for the Labour party on primary production, the honorable member for Lalor has no doubt said to his colleagues, “ There is an election coming along. We are hoping to get the votes of some of the primary producers. This Japanese Trade Agreement is a godsend to them “. Japan is one of our best buyers of wool. The Japanese buy a tremendous amount of our wool and keep the market prices up. They are buyers of our wheat. They are in the dried fruits market and the sugar market. In fact, their buying of primary products encompasses very many of the primary goods we produce. Therefore, the Labour party, as no doubt everybody can see, was told, “ You want to soft-pedal on this agreement because we are coming before the people shortly The Labour Opposition is not going to tell me that it is a coincidence that just at the drop of a hat, as it were, every one of them has decided to steer clear altogether of any mention of the Japanese Trade Agreement. That would be something stranger than fiction. So we have the honorable member for Scullin changing his tactics - altogether a change of act, a change of scenery. In fact, the Labour party is able to turn on a change of act and a change of scenery in record time as circumstances demand. Its members are also able to be silent on socialization the moment an election is close at hand. A few members like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) come out now and again and make a statement on socialization, as also does the honorable member for East Sydney. But, generally speaking, when we get near election time there is not a word from the Labour party about socialization.
I am going to say to this House and to anybody who cares to listen that even the most careful listener to all the Labour propaganda during the coming election campaign will not hear anything about socialization. So I ask the people of this country, through you, Mr. Speaker, to listen carefully on 15th October to the opening speech of the Labour party’s general election campaign, which will be delivered by its leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who will then be seeking election for the division of Hunter. Listen to his speech carefully, and if he refers in a favorable way to Labour’s main objective - the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange - I am prepared to apologize when I come back to this House after the election.
Do you recall, Mr. Speaker, some recent words of the Leader of the Opposition? He said, “ Labour will submit an alternative Budget, and the acceptance of it by the people will be the first move in Labour’s implementing its objectives”. That is what he said. What objectives? The objectives of socialization! There is not the slightest doubt about that. So the people of this country should be warned that Labour, just after a general election, is quite a different party in its utterances from what it is immediately prior to an election.
.- The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) rose to speak because, he said, he was overwhelmed with indignation. I am rising to speak for the same reason. The honorable member has criticized the Government because it has agreed to the export of something over £1,000,000 worth of steel to red China. Just for the sake of the record let me say at once that if that steel had not been supplied by Australia it would have been supplied by the United Kingdom or by West Germany. I am not speaking loosely when I make that statement. I am speaking of a fact that I know. What this proves is that it is impossible for one country, such as Australia, to cut off trade with Communists powers by itself. It is possible for trade to be cut off with Communist countries only if the western countries stand together and agree to do so.
It would be a very naive person who would suppose that the Communist powers engage in trade with us for purely economic reasons. Leaders of Communist countries, such as Chou En-lai, have said quite plainly, quite distinctly, quite unequivocally, “We engage in trade for political reasons, and for political reasons only.” They are not concerned with trade as we are concerned with trade. They are not concerned with it as a matter of economics. Very well! If the Western world continues to engage in trade with the Communist powers it must ultimately be caught in that net. This is a political thing, not economic. We know there have been examples of it, cases where Communist powers have simply cut off trade as with a knife, when a western country has become dependent on that trade. Take the position of Australia, which to-day sells £20,000,000 worth or £30,000,000 worth of wool to red China. Now, £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 worth of wool may be a not very great proportion of the total sale of wool by Australia; but it is enough to affect the price appreciably. Suppose that next year the red Chinese say, “ We will buy none of your wool,” and the result is that the price declines in Australia. What will the graziers say then? What will the Labour party say then? They will say that we must sell our wool to red China. Supposing China then said, “ Very well! The price is that you must recognize our regime. You must support our admission to the United Nations.”
I leave aside, for the moment, the question of whether those would be good things or bad things. I say only that the Communists will be in a position to bargain with us and demand a price which political pressures may require us to pay. I bring the example right home to our own position in this country. That is a trap into which the Western world is falling. Unless the Western world combines to cut off trade with the Communist countries we will lose the cold war. To honorable gentlemen opposite, that might be a matter for congratulation. They have always been on the side of Russia and China and all our enemies. They have always given aid and comfort to our enemies. Loss of the cold war might not be a matter of concern to them, but it is a matter of concern to us who wish to retain the independence of this country. So, I rose to correct an error on the part of the honorable member for Scullin, and I rose because I, too, was overwhelmed by indignation.
.- I listened with very great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) regarding Labour’s plank of socialization. He said that we did not say anything about this at election time. It would be most interesting to hear the honorable member for Mallee or any other Australian Country party member get up on the stump at election time and say that he did not believe in socialization because, if the Australian Country party did not believe in socialization there would not be any butter subsidies or special freight concessions in time of drought. Those benefits represent phases of socialization. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) should be the last one to oppose socialism because one of the greatest socialized industries in the whole of Australia is in his electorate. I refer to the Norco Butter Company. The farmers had to form that company themselves because they were being exploited so much by private enterprise. They took the matter into their own hands and socialized that factory.
Last night, during the adjournment debate, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) referred again to the internal workings of the Australian Labour party and to a statement made by a Dr. Burton. Dr. Burton, I suppose, is quite at liberty to make whatever statement he sees fit to make, but he does not make statements on behalf of the Australian Labour party. Does the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) speak for the Government when he opposes its policy of trading with red countries? ls he the spokesman for the Government? In reply to a question which I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to-day, the right honorable gentleman said that the honorable member for Chisholm was quite entitled to say whatever he liked. Is not Dr. Burton entitled to say whatever he likes? Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways.
I do not want to delay the House: because 1 know it is getting very late, but last Wednesday I mentioned the inner Cabinet, which is sometimes known as the first eleven. I apologize for not having mentioned that the first eleven is a very unbalanced team because the Government has omitted to include, as a googly bowler, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the names of officers of the Public Service and the Parliament; showing their official designations and annual salary; who are in receipt’ of (a), £6,000 a year or more;.(b). £5,000 to £5,999,. (c). £4,000 to £4,999, and, (d) £3,000 to £3,999?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is. as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following replies: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580924_reps_22_hor21/>.