House of Representatives
23 April 1959

23rd Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

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Dr. EVATT presented a petition from 1,000 citizens of Australia praying that the House will -

  1. Give immediate consideration to the matter of increasing the rate of age, invalid and widows’ pensions to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage;
  2. Amend the National Health Act to make the pensioner medical service available to all pensioners irrespective of means; and
  3. Provide increased pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners.

Petition received and read.

Petitions in similar terms were presented as follows: -

By Mr. MINOGUE from 1,000 citizens of Australia.

By Mr. COPE from 1,000 citizens of Australia.

By Mr. HAYLEN from 1,001 citizens of Australia.

Petitions received.

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Minister for Trade · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP

– I take this opportunity to inform the House that during the absence overseas of the Prime Minister 1 shall act in his stead and administer his department.

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– I ask the Minister for Trade whether Cabinet has yet received any recommendation from the Minister for Civil Aviation in respect of the proposal to establish a landing ground for jet aircraft at Tullamarine, Victoria. If any such recommendation has been received, has any decision been made? If not, when is one expected to be made?


– Due to my short absence from Australia, I am not in a position to answer the question. I shall ascer tain the position and inform the honorable member who, I know, is greatly interested.

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– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Social Services, ls it a fact that, in order to qualify for a subsidy of £2 for £1 for the provision of homes for the aged, an organization has to give an undertaking that the male inmates of the homes will not be under the age of 65 years? If this a fact, is any provision made for ex-servicemen in receipt of a service pension, which is available at the age of 60 years? If no provision is made for service pensioners, will the Min;ster consider amending the act in order that service pensioners may be provided with this benefit?

Minister for Social Services · RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– 1 remind the honorable member that the Aged Persons Homes Act was designed to assist the churches and charitable organizations which have been struggling valiantly to provide homes for our homeless aged people. For an organization to attract a subsidy of £2 for £1 under the act, it is required that accommodation shall, for the time being, be confined to women over the age of 60 years and men over the age of 65 years. That was done to relieve to some degree our most urgent social problem. I hope the honorable member for Henty is not suggesting that the scheme should be widened to include younger people, to the prejudice of our aged men and women. I have no doubt that the time will come when the latter will be adequately provided for and then, and then only, the question of widening this scheme might arise.

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– Has the PostmasterGeneral noticed that provision is being made in South Australia for the sale of television sets at the beginning of next month, and that limited telecasts will then be made? Will any charge be made for the licensing of sets before the national stations are operating, or will licences be unnecessary before that time, even though other stations are operating?

Postmaster-General · DAWSON, QUEENSLAND · CP

– The date on which television sets will be available for sale is, of course, a matter for the trade to determine. We can give no direction in the matter. I am not sure of the position in South Australia. I know that in Brisbane, which is similarly situated, the trade has decided that the sale of television sets will not commence before a certain date, which is under consideration now for possible review. The main reason for this course is that there is a warranty on sets for a period, and if sets are purchased too soon some of the value of the warranty is lost to the purchaser. However, that is a matter between the trade and the purchaser.

Although the commercial services and also the national services are not timed to start until about the end of this year in Brisbane and early next year in Adelaide with regular programmes pattern services will be provided for some months by the stations in order to determine the effectiveness of their technical equipment. That is to say that preliminary services will be provided by some of the stations. The act lays down that a person purchasing a television set must pay a certain registration fee. That would apply from the time the set was purchased, irrespective of what programme was available,

Mr Thompson:

– And before the national station began to operate?


– Yes.

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– I ask the Minister for Supply whether any agreement has been reached with the British Government to use Australia’s rocket range at Woomera as a launching place for British missiles.

Minister for Supply · PETRIE, QUEENSLAND · LP

– I presume that the honorable member is referring to a cabled report in regard to satellites. So far, no request has been received from the British Government, but if one is received it will certainly be considered by the Australian Government.

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– I ask the Minister for Health: When may I expect a reply to my representations concerning the withdrawal of hospital fund benefits from a number of private hospitals in my electorate? As this is an urgent matter affect ing the lives of accutely and chronically ill people for whom there is a shortage of hospital accommodation, will the Minister reverse his previous decision? Finally, is he aware of the much-needed service given by private hospitals? If so, why does he deny hospital fund benefits to these institutions and to the people who have need of their services?


– I am not quite sure whether the honorable member means by his question that he wants a further reply or that he has received no reply at all.

Mr Luchetti:

– I have not received a reply.


– In that case, I will see that a reply is forwarded to the honorable member as soon as possible. I would point out to him, however, that it seems unlikely that benefits have been withdrawn. I think that what he means is that benefits have not been further extended.

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– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. In 1955, when the Colombo Plan was extended until 1961, it was said that further extension of this plan would be considered in 1959. As the real work of this plan is dependent on long-range preparation, I ask the Minister, as Australia’s representative, whether he has expressed an opinion on this further extension. Has he any knowledge of the views of the other contributing countries on this matter?


– I do not have the precise dates in my mind to which the honorable member refers but, at any rate, a few years ago it was decided that the Colombo Plan, as a matter of form, should be extended until some date in the next year or so. In answer to the main purport of the honorable member’s question, I can say that I have never heard any hint that any country has had in mind ceasing contributions in connexion with the Colombo Plan. It has been tacitly assumed, I think, by all countries that the Colombo Plan will continue, probably without limit of date - anyhow without limit of date that can be foreseen. I am afraid that I cannot say anything more precise than that, but that is the general feeling in all countries which have been connected with the Colombo Plan, particularly as donor countries and, 1 would expect, too, as recipient countries.

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– I direct a question without notice to the Deputy Prime Minister. I ask him-


– Order! The honorable member should direct his question to the Minister for Trade.


– ls the Minister for Trade aware that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ has recently acquired control of the “ Daily Mirror “? Is he also aware that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ therefore now controls the “ Daily Mirror “, the Sydney “ Sun “ and Channel 7 television station, giving it monopoly control of these important mediums of propaganda? In view of the detrimental effects of monopoly control, more particularly under the direction of the present power-drunk executives of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, will the right honorable gentleman give immediate consideration to the introduction of legislation to curb the activities of newspaper and other monopolies, which have become increasingly powerful and arrogant under the present Government’s administration?


– The honorable gentleman raises a matter of policy, and it is not customary to discuss such matters at question time.

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– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Is the Minister aware of the anxiety felt by some people that the recent rise in wool prices is somehow connected with a deep laid plot by iron curtain countries to undermine our economy? If this is so, would the Minister encourage a similar plot somewhat earlier in the wool selling season in the coming year?


– The honorable member has offered a very ingenious suggestion, but one that is quite beyond my capacity to put into effect.

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– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Is the honorable gentleman . aware that the cost of advertisements inserted by business people in the. pink pages of the telephone directory is to be substantially, increased this year? By way of explanation, I point out that it has been brought to my notice by a constituent of mine that the cost to him of an advertisement is to be increased from £56 to £81 this year. Will the honorable gentleman institute inquiries into this matter with view to seeking information from the advertising contractor as to the reasons for this increase?


– I shall look into the matter mentioned by the honorable member, and I shall advise him of the result of my investigation.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Will the right honorable gentleman advise the House whether the tractor bounty legislation will expire on 30th lune next? Has the Tariff Board report on the Australian tractor industry yet been received, and may it be expected that legislation to renew the tractor bounty will be introduced before the end of this session?


– I will bring myself up to date on this matter and make a statement in the House with regard to it as soon as possible.

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– I ask the Minister for Health a question without notice. Yesterday, in reply to a question on notice about hospital benefits for aged persons and the difficulties experienced by some institutions in getting the guaranteed fund benefits, the Minister said -

The principle of selecting the patients and not the hospital for the purposes of the guaranteed fund benefits was thoroughly investigated and found to be administratively impracticable.

Can the Minister explain in what way it is administratively impossible to give these fund benefits to the people who are patients in the smaller hospitals, which are principally concerned in this matter?


– Prior to the introduction of amendments to the National Health Act last year, there was always a considerable number of hospitals in which fund benefit was not paid. I made it clear in the House that when the special accounts procedure was introduced and implemented there would still be a number of institutions in which special accounts benefit, which is in this case fund benefit, would not be paid. Those institutions, as I explained at the time, have always been in receipt of Commonwealth benefit, and still continue to receive it. I want to point out also to the honorable gentleman that the purpose of the amendments to the act was to provide assistance not to hospitals but to individuals.

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– Has the Minister for Defence received the Allison report dealing with the subject of superannuation for service personnel? If so, has this report been considered? Can some announcement regarding it be expected in the near future?

Minister for Defence · DENISON, TASMANIA · LP

– The honorable member’s question is similar to one that was put to me by the honorable member for Werriwa, I think last week. At that time I said that I had received a report a day or two earlier and that it would be considered. It is in the process of being analysed now. Although the matter comes under the Ministry of Defence it is singularly a Treasury problem. The Treasurer and I will go into the report within the next few days and probably the matter will go to Cabinet within the next week or two.

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– ls the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the serious national shortage of teachers is being aggravated by the calling up of teachers for national service training? Does he know that such call-ups are causing disruption in classes and ill effects on children’s schooling as well as being unsettling to the young teacher establishing himself in his career? Will the Minister recommend that teachers be exempted from national service training? Failing that, will he confer with the Minister for the Army to ensure that teachers are not called up for service during the academic year?

Minister for Labour and National Service · LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– Administrative action is taken both by myself and my colleague, the Minister for the Army, to ensure, as far as is practicable, that no school teachers are called up during the academic year. T think the honorable gentleman will know that, under the act, there is no power to exempt particular classes of people such as school teachers or university students from their training or to postpone that training substantially. However, we take administrative action, after consultation between the two departments and the Teachers’ Federation or, if necessary the university authorities, in order to ensure that teachers are called up prior to the date on which they are allotted to schools for duty. This is done both in the interests of students who might lose their teachers and also in the interests of the teacher himself because we do not want his period of teaching to be interrupted during the first or second year in which he is allotted to a school. Recently - I think within the last few months - a survey was carried out. I am informed that no disruption takes place and that virtually all call-ups and training are done prior to the allotment of the person to a school. If the honorable gentleman has in mind subsequent training in the Citizen Military Forces, I think that the Minister for the Army gave a reply to a question on this problem in the House a few weeks ago. I shall find out what the Minister said and let the honorable gentleman have a copy of his reply.

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– I wish to preface a question to the Treasurer by saying that it is asked in view of the alarming tendency of industrial enterprises to establish new industries in areas close to the capital cities, and so neglect a most important factor, the development of Australia as a continent, which should be the object of the Commonwealth Government in co-operation with, and bearing in mind the responsibilities of, the various State governments. Will the Treasurer say whether practical consideration is being given, or will be given, to granting extra concessions in the next Budget for industrial undertakings which people have already established, or are willing to establish, outside a certain radius of a capital city?


– I appreciate the importance of the matter raised by the honorable member. I know that it has been considered - and, indeed, dealt with - from time to time, by the State governments in particular. Circumstances vary so greatly throughout Australia that it can perhaps be coped with more satisfactorily on a State basis than by any attempt at a Commonwealth policy operating uniformly within the States. The disadvantages which industries establishing themselves outside the metropolitan areas experience are set off, in some instances at least, by advantages such as the availability of labour. The main disadvantage or problem is the ‘transport cost entailed in getting goods from centres outside the metropolitan areas to the coast or other parts of the Commonwealth and in getting materials and equipment from the principal centres, which usually are located on the coast, to industries in the interior of Australia.

I know that there are ministries for decentralization in various States. The honorable member will be aware that there has been in Victoria a Ministry of State Development and Decentralization. This question of freight costs, in particular, has been examined by those ministries. Whether the Commonwealth Government can do something to assist in the solution of what is a problem of great magnitude I cannot say, but I shall have the matter examined. Whether that can be done before the next Budget is a matter which I shall have to go into, but I shall certainly consider what the honorable member has put forward.

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– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. By way of explanation, may I say that the television station in Adelaide, controlled by the Melbourne “ Herald “ and the “ Advertiser “ newspaper, has begun broadcasting test patterns and other material on Channel 7, the channel allocated to it by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The station claims that the purpose of the transmissions is to assist retailers and television service and installation companies to install, test and adjust television receivers. Will the Postmaster-General inform me whether it is a fact that the company is not using the television transmitter which it is licensed to use on Channel 7? Is it using some old, low-powered experimental equipment licensed for use on the experimental channel, Channel 8, and has the experimental equipment only one-fiftieth of the power of the transmitter that the “ Herald “ and Advertiser “ station is supposed to use on Channel 7? If so, is this station acting illegally in using on a channel for which the equipment has not been licensed a transmitter which has not been inspected by officers of the Broadcasting Control Board, and is it not clear that the present transmissions are useless as a guide to Adelaide people who are contemplating the purchase of television receivers?


– I do not think that the honorable member would expect me to answer in detail that long technical question.


– The Minister can do it.


– Yes, I might. If the honorable member likes, I could take up another quarter of an hour on all the technical aspects of it. However, I do not think that that would be satisfactory. I have no doubt that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has supervised this installation, just as it supervises all installations, and that it will be in a position to give me a complete answer to the question. I shall pass that answer on to the honorable member.

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– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I understand that the existing legislation covering the payment of bounty on the production of sulphuric acid in Australia from indigenous materials will expire on 30th June. Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to give the House any information about future action in regard to this bounty?


– I am not in a position to give any information at the present time, but I can say that the matter is being actively considered by the Cabinet.



– I desire to ask the Minister for the Interior a question about the publication, “ Australia in Facts and Figures”, which is produced by the News and Information Bureau, a section of the Department of the Interior. I should like to know why this very good and informative publication is not printed at the Government Printing Office.

Minister for the Interior · FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– I am not aware of the reason. I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member have what information I can obtain.

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– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Will the Minister consider sending a message of sympathy and good wishes, on behalf of the Government, to Mr. lohn Foster Dulles, who is gravely ill, and also an expression of appreciation of his great services - indeed, very great services - to the free world?


– Yes, indeed, Sir, I think that would be completely justified. Every thinking Australian has feelings of the greatest sympathy with Mr. John Foster Dulles in his present illness. I can think of no one to whom the gratitude of Australia in a considerable number of directions is due more than to Mr. John Foster Dulles. I will certainly bring the honorable gentleman’s proposal to the attention of the Prime Minister.

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– My question without notice it addressed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that thousands of persons who have been inoculated with a serum produced by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories as a safeguard against influenza are living in a fool’s paradise, firmly believing that they are immune to the present epidemic raging throughout Australia, when the true position is that the serum has been found to be ineffective as a protection against variants of the influenza germ?


– No, I do not think that is a fact at all. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories produce, not a serum, but a vaccine, against influenza. It has a very considerable degree of potency, but not, I think, 100 per cent, effectiveness, against influenza. The honorable gentle man must realize that the word “ influenza “ is frequently used as a not very precise term, and that whilst a person may receive an inoculation of an anti-influenza vaccine which, in fact, prevents him from developing influenza in the strict sense of the term, he may still develop other respiratory diseases closely similar in their clinical manifestations to influenza.

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– May I preface a question to the Minister for Defence, Mr. Speaker, by saying that a joint CommonwealthWestern Australia committee has recommended the provision of a deep-water port at Black Rocks in the north of Western Australia, and that the former Western Australian Government announced plans to proceed with the project? Can the Minister advise the House whether the strategic value of this proposed port has been investigated and, if not, whether it will be investigated?


– I am not aware of the particular project to which the honorable member has referred. I do know, however, that the Navy hydrographic service people have been right up and down the west coast of Western Australia and have made a number of recommendations concerning various ports - Cockburn Sound and several others. I shall follow up the suggestion of the honorable member and give him the information he seeks.

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– I ask the Minister for Supply whether anything has been decided with regard to the disposal of surplus Army blankets for distribution by the Mayor of Cessnock, where many unemployed miners are in great need. I asked the Minister a question on this matter yesterday. Can he give a decision at an early stage as to any price or cost involved in the distribution?


– Since answering the right honorable gentleman’s question yesterday, I have made inquiries and I have found that there is a quantity of Army blankets available for disposal. I understand that the price is about 15s. to £1 each, and I have asked the Department of Supply to make contact direct with the Mayor of Cessnock on this matter.

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– In putting a question to the Minister for Primary Industry I refer to the large export trade in the low grades of meat, particularly beef, to the United States of America, which has brought considerable benefit to the Australian meat industry. I ask him whether resentment is building up among American producers, who fear a threat to their own market because of the large quantities of meat being shipped from Australia. Is there a danger of American restrictive action? If so, does the Minister think it worthwhile to approach the Government of New Zealand, where producers also participate in this trade, to inquire whether shipments may be regulated, and so preserve the market? Finally, does the Minister consider that some action should be taken to restrict the slaughter of Australian breeding stock which, if continued at the present rate, could threaten the future of our meat industry?

Minister for Primary Industry · FISHER, QUEENSLAND · CP

– I do not think that we can count on the American market for manufacturing beef continuing as a permanently important one, particularly unless we take some sensible action to handle it. There is a measure of concern among some producer organizations in the United States of America and Canada with respect to certain aspects of meat imports. The chairman of the Australian Meat Board, who has just returned to Australia, has indicated that this measure of concern exists. The moral of his story is that supplies of meat to North America could well be a subject for discussion between Australia and New Zealand. The matters that probably could be discussed with good effect would be the possibility of regulating supplies in an orderly manner and of reaching an understanding on the selling techniques that should be employed. J do not think that this subject, in the first instance, need be discussed at ministerial level. The appropriate authorities to discuss it would be the meat boards in Australia and New Zealand established by Statute in those countries to handle overseas marketing. Indeed, since his return the chairman of the Australian Meat Board has already had a consultation by telephone with the chairman of the New Zealand Meat Board on this matter.

The honorable member also asked about the restriction of the export of meat. The Division of Agricultural Economics and other organizations are examining the potential effects of exports to America on our cattle industry. But it is not the prerogative of the Commonwealth Government to impose restrictions on the slaughter of livestock, even if we would wish to do so. The appropriate way to handle this matter would be for the Australian Agricultural Council to discuss it, and I will see that the item is put on the agenda for the July meeting.

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– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, refers to the steamer “ Taroona “ which is on the run between Melbourne and Tasmania. In view of the great importance of the tourist industry to Tasmania in general and to the north-west coast in particular, and in view of the fact that the vehicle-carrying ferry “ Princess of Tasmania “ is booked out until next April, will the Minister use every endeavour to have the “ Taroona “ kept on the run next season and to have it include Burnie as a port of call?


– The Minister responsible for the administration of this department is in another place. I will have inquiries made and will let the honorable member have an answer to his question.

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– Has the Minister for External Affairs considered the suggestion that I made some time ago that the Government provide assistance for the training of Korean technicians in wooltop making in Australia? I add that such a step would not only be an act of international goodwill but would also be of great assistance eventually to the Australian wool industry.


– Although I was not in the House at the time I had referred to me the honorable member’s reference to the subject about six weeks ago. Anything we can do to help the development of the wool textile industry in South Korea we will certainly be anxious to do within the limits of our resources. When I was in South Korea recently, I took the opportunity to offer two fellowships in wool technology in Australia to two individuals selected by the South Korea Government. The offer was well received, and 1 hope that the two individuals will be able to get to Australia towards the end of this calendar year. They will spend about a year at the Gordon Institute of Technology at Geelong and will subsequently spend some time with suitable wool textile firms. I may say that a South Korean who did a wool technology course in Australia a few years ago is now occupying, so I was told, a very senior position in the largest of the wool textile firms in South Korea. j INDEMNITY PAYMENTS TO

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– My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I should like to know whether the Minister has any explanation to offer for the Government’s strange silence on the findings of the select committee of the Senate on the question of indemnity payments which was so hurriedly prepared and published before the last election. Does the Government’s silence mean that it intends to take no action in the matter, or does it intend to keep the matter in cold storage until the next election?


– The House will no doubt remember that when this matter was previously raised, my colleague, the present Treasurer, made it clear that while the Government deplored the practice of extorting indemnity payments or stand-by payments, or whatever else one might care to call these payments, it was a moral problem that had to be faced by the trade union movement and answered by that movement. 1 personally think from the information given to me that the trade union movement nas stopped the maritime unions from receiving the money and the overseas purchasers from attempting to make the payments.

Two questions were raised by the select committee. The first was whether the payments were subject to taxation; and in that connexion it is clear that they are exempt from the taxation laws. The second was whether an offence was committed under the Crimes Act. Again, it is quite clear that no offence has been committed. I point out to the honorable gentleman that, so far as the maritime unions were concerned, it should be stated in their defence that they did think they were acting according to a genuine industrial principle in being able to get their men to man ships coming to Australia on old ships which had been sold to overseas purchasers. The problem whether the law should be amended is a matter for the Treasurer, the Attorney-General and myself. The matter has not been forgotten, but it is only in recent weeks that we have been able to get a legal decision whether the Crimes Act had been infringed. It is now under active consideration. The report will not be shelved. As soon as we can get together to determine what should be done, I shall inform the House.

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– In directing a question to the Attorney-General, 1 refer to the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia a few years ago, and the finding by that commission of grievious weaknesses in the Australian law relating to security. 1 ask the honorable gentleman: Has the Government given consideration to the repair of the weaknesses thai were highlighted by that royal commission?



Speaker, on coming into office I found that my predecessor had given consideration to this question, and that there were papers current upon it. I have had them brought forward, and they are under my eye at present.

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Calling of Divisions


– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. I ask, in view of recent happenings, whether you will consider taking steps to vary the procedure used when divisions are called in this House, so that in addition to issuing the instruction. “ Ring the bells “, you will also give the direction, “ Search the lifts “. Alternatively - and the fate of governments might hinge on this matter - would you consider having the emergency bells in the lifts connected to the division bells in this chamber, so that the division bells will continue to ring until an imprisoned member may be released and take his place in the chamber?


– I will consider the matter raised by the honorable member. I am not sure that this is not a matter for the Joint House Committee, but we will certainly inform the honorable member of our decision.

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Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.

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Mr SPEAKER (Hon John McLeay:

I have received a letter from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -

The continued failure of the Government to take effective action to reduce the high level of unemployment throughout Australia. 1 call upon those honorable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -


.- It is appalling, Mr. Speaker, that the Opposition should have to adopt this course of action in order to direct the attention of the Government to the serious degree of unemployment that exists to-day throughout the Commonwealth. The situation is not yet dangerous, perhaps, but it is nevertheless serious. The matter of urgent public importance that I have submitted has already been outlined to the House by you, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not read it again. I merely say that it has been framed and lodged, according to the requirements of the Standing Orders, because the Opposition has every reason to believe, as, indeed, have many persons who are to-day looking for employment and are unable to secure it, that the Government has no intention of moving to relieve this situation. It has obviously accepted, for reasons best known to itself, a state of affairs in which, on its own figures, approximately 70,000 persons are looking for useful employment.

The Opposition again puts the point of view that it has previously expressed in this chamber, not once but on many occasions, both by way of questions directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service and by proposing the unemployment problem as a matter of urgent public importance for discussion by the House. It is prepared to fight the Government all the way on this matter, until the Government accepts the principle of full employment, rather than one of a high level of unemployment, to which it so obviously subscribes at the present time.

It might be argued that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who now sits at the table, is in the unhappy position of having inherited the present serious situation from his predecessor. But that is quite beside the point. What we are discussing at the moment is Government policy, deliberate policy that has been designed and applied in recent years, as a result of which the present large pool of unemployed has been almost inevitable. No one understands this better than the honorable gentleman himself, but whenever his attention is directed to the situation in this House he primarily concerns himself with offering facetious replies.

We commenced the year 1959 with a most significant statement from the Minister. He made the remarkable statement, on 21st January if I remember correctly, that 1958 saw an improved employment position as compared with the previous year. But what was the real position? In actual fact, according to figures released in December, 1958, almost 6,000 more persons were registered with the various offices of the Department of Labour and National Service, as requiring jobs, than was the case in the corresponding month of the previous year. In addition, the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit, commonly referred to as the dole, was almost 1,600 greater than in the previous year. It is remarkable that the responsible Minister should talk about improved employment opportunities during 1958, when a glance at his own published figures will show that there was a most significant increase in the number of persons registered for employment in that year.

Let me put the position in another way. At the end of January, 1957, the number of persons registered with the various offices of the Department of Labour and National Service was 52,629. At the end of January, 1959, only two years later, the number had increased to 81,901. Yet in the face of this alarming situation, the responsible Minister, the Government spokesman, has the temerity to suggest that 1958 saw an improved employment position as compared with 1957. He even suggested in his statement of 21st January that the present high level of unemployment is quite normal, although he knew that it was palpably and tragically worse than was shown by the corresponding figures for 1957.

On 13 th April the Minister released the employment figures for March of this year. I have the statement before me at the moment, and it appears that the number registered in that month fell by 7,582, from 76,926 to 69,344. The number receiving unemployment benefit was 27,669, being 538 less than in February. I remember that only a few days ago I asked the Minister a question in this House concerning unemployment, and he told me I would be pleasantly surprised when he announced the figures for March.

Mr McMahon:

– Well, was I not correct?


– I assure the Minister -that I am not satisfied with a decrease of 5.38 in the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit. That is no cause for satisfaction or complacency on the part of the responsible Minister. Each year there has been a considerable increase in the number of persons registered for employment in this country. While there may be a decrease in one month, the next month will show a substantial increase, and at the end of the year there is always a considerable increase over the preceding year.

Let me state the position quite clearly. Throughout 1956 the number of persons registered for employment was about 31,000. Throughout 1957 it was about the 52,000 mark. In March, 1958, the figure was 64,000. One can see a steady increase each year, from approximately 31,000 in 1956 to 64,406 in 1958. Now, in March, 1959, according to the figures released only a few days ago by the Minister, the figure is 69,344. Yet the Minister talks about improved employment opportunities.

A similar unhappy position prevails with respect to unemployment benefits. In March, 1957, there were 13,077 persons receiving the benefit. By March, 1958, the number had increased to 24,485. The last available figures, the ones to which I have just referred, for March of this year, show that 27,669 persons are now receiving the unemployment benefit. That is the position in relation to the rise in unemployment. I suggest that there is no escape for the Minister. He has a definite case to answer in respect of the increase in the number of persons registered for employment. He cannot continue any longer to fool the people.

It must be admitted that there is a remarkable similarity between the news releases published each month by the Department of Labour and National Service. Almost without exception they refer to seasonal factors and sometimes to school leavers, in an effort to account for the rise in unemployment. I am sure that the Minister himself will agree that seasonal factors and children leaving school cannot account for the tragic rise in unemployment during the last few years. If the Minister does in fact believe that they do, he may be assured at once that that type of wishful thinking is not shared by honorable members on this side of the House. The problem, as he knows, goes much deeper than that. The potent factor is the lack of job opportunities, which is primarily due to the reluctance of this Government to face up to its responsibilities. This is an opinion held not only by members of the Labour Party generally. Let me refer for a moment to comments by sections of the Australian press which are normally reluctant to offer anything approaching criticism of the Liberal-Country Party Government. Tn February, 1959, when the situation generally was probably a little worse than it is to-day, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ published this comment -

The ranks of the unemployed … are fully comparable with the extreme trough of the 1952-53 recession. And still we have had no word that the Government proposes to do anything about checking the drift. A month ago in order to allay fears about the drift, Mr. Holt issued a special statement that the Cabinet would study the employment trend when it had assembled certain data by the middle of February. Here we are with mid-February behind us and with the news of a record monthly leap in the unemployment figures, but still not a word as to what the Cabinet’s findings were . . .

On both these vital issues of employment and housing, the Opposition can literally say that the Government has not only taken no steps whatever to correct trends which are proving contrary to its expectations, but that it has not even deigned to offer a word of explanation of its inertia . . .

Its silence can either be construed as a confession of its own uncertainty or a stubborn touchy vanity which could be disastrous for it.

On the same day the Sydney “ Sun “ published an article headed, “ Paralysis in High Places “, which read -

If there is one thing you can rely on the present Federal Government for when any sort of real crisis approaches, it is complete and absolute inertia.

It has an unequalled facility for pointing out where troubles and dangers lie.

But when it comes to meeting them with action, it is struck with a crippling, unshakable paralysis. It collapses into a dream of words and figures and leaves the country to fend for itself.

It is clear to every one now, if it wasn’t before, that the men at the controls are adept at handling only one instrument - the brake - and reading one signal - the stop-and-do-nothing signs.

I suggest that both of those extracts can be described as fair comment, but yet the complacency remains. If, in point of fact, certain data relevant to employment matters were placed before Cabinet as far back as February, 1958, obviously Cabinet had no intention of treating the matter seriously, even if it was considered at all, because the situation to-day is just as bad as it was then, if not worse. The Labour Party’s attitude to unemployment has been described in various ways by senior Ministers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself referred to it as a kind of psychological warfare. We believe that to ignore unemployment or to adopt the attitude that unemployment is not at a high level, is a worse kind of psychological warfare, and one which if adopted by us would most certainly lead to the belief that the Opposition, as well as the Government, was not vitally concerned in this matter.

To advance a theory that 1958 saw an improvement ‘in the employment situation, when on the Government’s own admitted figures the number of persons registered for employment had, in less than two years, increased by almost 30,000 is, to say the least, extraordinary, and in my opinion it is a clear indication of the Government’s lack of a proper sense of responsibility. As the level of unemployment has risen, the Minister has been intent, not on correcting the situation by developing a plan to meet the crisis, but rather on finding a basis for a false comparison of figures relating to the work force. I turn to a news release of the Department of Labour and National Service for the Minister’s interpretation of what is meant by the Australian work force. His own statement reads -

The Australian work force, as defined by the Commonwealth Statistician for census purposes, includes employers, self-employed, wage and salary earners, unemployed persons, and all helping in any industry, business, trade or service but not in receipt of a wage or salary.

This concept -of the Australian work force is completely unrealistic and has, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), been invented in comparatively recent months by the present Minister and his predecessor for the purpose of suggesting a lower percentage of unemployment in the community than actually exists.


– Order! The honorable .member’s time has expired.

Minister for Labour and National Service · Lowe · LP

– I should have thought, prior to listening to the speech of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and after reading the matter of urgency that is placed before the House, that every sensible person here, whether he be Liberal, Country Party or Labour, would have agreed that all governments were permanently wedded to the idea or concept of full employment in this country. Full employment, of course, is a principle that this Government and, I believe, every Labour government, will do their very best to achieve. I wish the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) would stop mumbling while I am speaking. This is an enormously important matter which presents great personal and social problems. I myself have no doubt that members of the Australian Labour Party. and particularly those on the Labour benches whom I respect, are permanently wedded to the concept of full employment, just as we aTe oi this side of the House. The Australian people, too, are well aware of the principles involved and so for that matter is the Australian trade union movement.

The honorable member for Bass well knows that a Tasmanian election will be held shortly. It has become part of the pattern of Australian political life that when elections approach this problem of unemployment or full employment, whether or not it is a great problem, is raised if it is felt that some political advantage can be gained from it. If the honorable gentleman looks at the figures relating to Tasmania he will not be able to get any great satisfaction from them, and I do not believe that this matter will become a real political issue there.


– Order! The honorable member for Parkes will cease interjecting.


– I state quite clearly that this Government is permanently wedded to the concept of full employment and that we do whatever is practicable to ensure that that concept becomes a reality. The matter of urgency raised by the honorable member for Bass falls into two parts. The first part relates to whether the present level of applicants for employment could be reduced and the second relates to the means that are adopted by the Government to try to carry out the policy of full employment.

We, as a government, have never claimed - and I do not think any government has ever claimed - that at every tick of the clock, on every day of the year we can ensure that there are as many jobs of the right kind as there are people able and willing to fit into them. It would not be practicable to ensure that at every place and at all times it is possible to find the right kind of employment for individual talents or that there is readily available in a particular place opportunities for all. We do our best and what we think is practicable, but we have never said that at every moment every person will be able to find a job that he is suited to and that we can fit him into it immediately. I quote only one person in respect of that argument, a very great trade union leader and probably one of the most sensitive about this problem. I shall read part of a statement made by Lord Citrine this year when he addressed the Australian trade union movement. On 19th February last he said -

There always would be some transitory and temporary employment.

He went on to say -

Even during a period of full employment in any country under any social system some unemployment would always exist in some part of the country. 1 put this to honorable members: We believe in this concept of full employment and we do our best, in practical terms, to keep the level of unemployment as low as practicable.

Now let us look at the facts. The first thing mentioned by the honorable member is that at the present time in the total workforce of 4,000,000 people, about 1.7 per cent, are registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service. I mentioned to him for the purpose of the Tasmanian election that the figure for Tasmania is 1.5 per cent. Of course, we would like those figures to be lower, but I will deal with the main argument put forward by the honorable member as to whether under prevailing conditions we could have an appreciably lower percentage of unemployed at the present time. Remembering that the figure is 1.7 per cent., the House will be glad to know that we have gone a long way since the days of Lord Beveridge when he wrote his monumental work, “ Full Employment in a Free Economy “, in which he said that the objective then was the reduction of unemployment to a level of not more than 3 per cent. The figure in Australia to-day is 1.7 per cent., and we lead the world in trying to make a reality of this doctrine of full employment.

Let me move on. Some important factors have been mentioned. The honorable member said it was wrong to say that there had been an increase in employment opportunities throughout Australia. His criticism will not bear examination. The simple fact is that if we take the number of wage and salary earners, excluding rural industry and domestic workers - that is. not the general work force - we find that in December. 1949, there were 2,550,000. in December, 1957. 2,917.000. in December, 1958. 2.945.000. and. from January. 1958, to January, 1959. I am pleased to be able to say, the number of civilian wage and salary earners had increased by 24.000.

There is positive evidence to support the claim by the Government that opportunities for employment have increased, and they are still increasing.

Turning to the second factor, that is, vacancies with the Commonwealth Employment Service, it is true that the number of these vacancies declined to 21,700 at the end of March, but the really important figure from the point of view of my friends on the other side of the House is that on the average, 9,500 new vacancies a week were notified to the Commonwealth Employment Service. We were able to provide 7,600 people to fit into those vacancies. I put it to honorable members that this is a clear indication of a dynamic economy. Last month, in March alone, more than 30,200 people were provided with employment through the Commonwealth Employment Service. Therefore, we come to this conclusion, that growing opportunities for employment are being provided month in and month out. I notice, Mr. Acting Speaker, that honorable members opposite are not a scrap interested in this debate, because they are gabbling amongst themselves on the front bench. [Quorum formed.]

There is a third factor to which I direct attention. Young people are quickly finding employment. I sum up this part of the argument by saying that employment opportunities are, in fact, increasing, and we can draw the conclusion that those people now in employment have a reasonable expectation - indeed a better than reasonable expectation - that they will keep their employment. They want security of employment and there is every right for them to expect that they will get it. In a practical sense job opportunities are continually opening up, and I have already mentioned the number of people placed in employment by the Commonwealth Employment Service. This means, in very clear terms, that no one should think for one moment that he is likely to remain out of a job for any substantial period.

Unfortunately, owing to the interruption which just occurred, I cannot deal with the present levels of employment and argue the Government’s case on that aspect of the case. However, I want to deal with the second part of the question showing what, in fact, the Government has done.

Mr Bryant:

– Nothing!


– I will prove my statement, and the honorable member will be compelled to withdraw his comment. In February of this year, the Commonwealth Government approached the State governments and asked whether they were prepared to accept additional finance for local government works. They requested £4,000,000, and that full amount was granted to them. Secondly, again in February of this year, the private trading banks were permitted to withdraw £15,000,000 from the special accounts, and that money was made available to private industry to promote the extension of employment opportunities. Thirdly, in recent weeks the Government has agreed to increase substantially the amount of money available to the States for road purposes. As a result of joint Commonwealth and State contributions the way is now open to permit allocations for roads and bridges by the Commonwealth, States, and local governments by something like £750,000,000 during the next five years. As I have said, this is a joint contribution, and the increase, as compared with the previous five years, will be something like £250,000,000. Action has been taken by the Government also in special cases, such as Western Australia, Cessnock and similar places, to ensure that money is available to local government and other authorities so that employment opportunities may be increasingly provided.

I make but one statement here. It is perfectly true that we have before us a real challenge. Owing to migration and the natural increase of births we will have to provide opportunities for the increasing work force over the next five or ten years. In manufacturing industries alone, the increase will be of the order of 40 per cent. The Government regards this as a challenge which can be easily met, and it will, in fact, be met. The Government has successfully met all the challenges in the past and this country is now at the height of its development and in a prosperous condition. I see no reason at all why the Labour Party should be in a state of despair. I. mention but two or three matters that give us cause for confidence. I make no predictions, because I know how hazardous predictions are; but I should like to mention to the House a few matters that are deserving of attention. Wool prices have gone up over the last few months from an average of 42id. to 55±d., and each penny increase adds between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 to our overseas reserves. Our overseas reserves are in a very healthy state. The Commonwealth Bank’s international funds now stand at about £415,000,000, which is a fall of only £15,000,000 compared with 30th June last year. Subscriptions to Commonwealth loans are high. The last loan was expected to bring in £25,000,000, but it brought £60,000,000 into the Treasury. Lastly, economic conditions in the United States and the United Kingdom are continuing at their present healthy level.

Therefore, we look at this problem as one of change. Admittedly, change always has to be met, but the changes now taking place in Australia are not single changes. There are many changes over a very wide area. We on this side of the House have complete confidence in our ability to meet this challenge of change. I have no doubt as to the feelings of honorable gentlemen opposite, the feelings that they have in their hearts and minds about full employment. I challenge them to state in all decency whether they disagree with me when I say that the policy of the Government is to sustain full employment, prosperity and rapid development in this country.


– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.


– At the outset, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) made one point, and that was that his Government was wedded to a policy of full employment. I can only say that it is a strange marriage into which the Government has entered - a marriage without consummation. When the Minister speaks in this House about job opportunities and employment opportunities he is obviously not paying regard to the facts. He is obviously discarding the information that is available to him in the reports of his own department.

The Minister referred to increased wool prices, and the increased stability that he said would flow from our growing overseas credits. Only last week, I led a deputation to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen)’ concerning the import of textiles from overseas. The deputation was informed that, despite the fact that textiles worth £83,000,000 are being imported into this country this year, no guarantee could be given that further large quantities of yarn would not be imported from Japan in the future. This question of imported textiles is vitally important to such organizations as Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited, in Victoria, and the weaving mills in Marrickville. Confronted by this situation, the manufacturing industries in Australia dare not increase employment. The textile industries do not know where they are going. I invite the Minister for Labour and National Service to tell these captains of industry, particularly the textile industry, what the Government intends to do in the future.

The Minister spoke of the thousands of jobs that his department had found for people in the last week, but he did not say that many of the people who applied for jobs had come from other jobs, and that all his Department was doing was arranging transfers. In point of fact, the department is not finding jobs at all. If we want to discover the real facts about employment all we need to do is look at the Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics. The bulletin for January, 1959, indicates that between January, 1958, and January, 1959, there was a fall in the number of males in private employment in this country.

The Minister spoke about the Government’s policy in relation to job opportunities, but what do we find if we look at the statistics? The monthly bulletin shows that in the building materials industry there has been an increase of only 444 males throughout Australia between February, 1958, and February, 1959. If we turn to the manufacture of transportation equipment we find that over the same period there has been a drop in employment of more than 1,100. If we turn to the clothing and textile industry we find that in the same period the number ot persons employed has declined by more than 300 - I am referring to males only at present.

As for females, we find that in the clothing and textile industry there has been a drop in the number employed. In the last two years, there has been a general taperingoff in the number of married women in employment. What will happen in the future? This year, as a result of natural increase in the population, 20,000 more people will be seeking jobs, but we have no jobs for them. At Clyde Industries Limited, for example, hundreds fewer will be employed this year than two years ago. In the New South Wales Railways the number is down by 4,000 compared with three years ago. No matter what industry we look at, this country is balanced on the thin edge of unemployment.

We are not looking ahead to the future. In the next ten years, there will be an increase in our work force of up to 100,000 people. Leaders of industry are scared of this Government’s policies. They are scared to expand their industries and to introduce automatic machinery, which is being used in Japan and other countries. They are frightened to move forward and attempt to compete with those other countries because they do not know how the policy of the Government will affect their future.

The Minister told us of the number of jobs that his department found for people last week, but if he had been honest he would have told us how many other people moved out of jobs in the same period. In many cases the number of people leaving jobs was greater than the number going into jobs. That is what is happening in this rapidly developing nation, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) congratulated recently on attaining a population of 10,000,000. With a population of 10,000,000 we need a live government, a government that will move forward, a government that will give a guarantee of stability to manufacturing industries, not for twelve months or two years, but for many years ahead so that they can assist in the development of this great country. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said in this chamber that increased returns will come from wool, but we were told five days ago that overseas commitments might enable this country to bring increased quantities of yarn from Japan. The result of this will be to destroy such Australian industries as Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited and John Vicars and Company Limited. I say that the Minister is not facing up to the responsibility which rests upon a leader whose destiny should be, not merely to provide answers to questions by looking up the record to see how many jobs his department found last year, but to look at what will happen in 1961 and following years and plan in such away as to save Bruck Mills and John Vicars, and other Australian undertakings. The Minister should be able to assure us that the Government has a plan for development that will provide the number of jobs that will be required by a growing work force; that there will be security of employment and expanding opportunities in existing industries. Until we get a Minister who looks at Australia on that level, we shall merely get reports such as we have received from month to month showing how many people moved out of this industry into that. I challenge the Minister to take any news release that he gets from his department and show me one line in it that will give people heart and enable them to have confidence that the Government is giving a lead to provide job opportunities in the years that lie ahead.


.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) apparently misconstrues the attitude of his party and of former Ministers of his party when they were in Government. He said that we would not have any progress until we had a Minister who wanted full employment. The attitude of at least one Minister in the last Labour Government towards full employment can be seen quite easily in volume 201 of “Hansard” of 17th March, 1949, at page 1644. Although only two months before, there had been 180,000 unemployed in Australia, Mr. Dedman, the Minister to whom I refer said -

It would be idle to assert that our techniques, either for administering a full employment economy or for maintaining employment in that economy at a high level over a long period, are perfect.

On the other hand there have constantly been assertions from this side of the House that at all times we must have full employment or the nearest that we can get to full employment, and that when we do not have it, governmental action should constantly be taken to inject into the economy the capacity to absorb those people who are temporarily unemployed.

It is interesting to note that the Opposition, having brought forward a matter of urgency, has deserted the chamber. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), said that the position was not yet dangerous but that it was serious. A year ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) described the unemployment situation as a crisis. Let us see what the honorable member for Bass said about the position a year ago. During the third session of the 22nd Parliament, on 13th March, 1958, as reported at page 331 of “Hansard”, the honorable member for Bass said -

  1. . then we must concede at once that it has been most effective because 100,000 Australians are looking for work to-day.

The honorable member for Bass, not more than half an hour ago, said that there are 70,000 people looking for work to-day. So, on his own figures, the position has improved by 30,000 in twelve months. No wonder he says that the position is not dangerous, but only serious! No wonder he has shifted from the position taken up by the Leader of the Opposition a year ago when he described the unemployment situation as a crisis. The honorable member for Bass said, in the same debate -

In other words, the demand for labour is not expanding sufficiently to absorb the additions to the Australian work force each year according to the process described by the honorable member for Bendigo. At the moment, our population is increasing substantially, from natural increase and immigration, while at the same time there is an alarming decrease in the number of jobs available to additional workers.

In that very same debate, the honorable member for Bendigo said - and he indicated parenthetically that it was a conservative estimate - that an additional 30,000 schoolchildren were coming into the workforce each year, and that there were an additional 30,000 workers from the migrant intake, making a total annual increase of 60,000. So, on the figures used by the honorable member for Bass, there has been a decline of 30,000 in the number of people seeking work at the same time as there has been an increase in the total workforce of 60,000. In other words there has been a net improvement of 90.000 over the year. No wonder the honorable member has said that the position is no longer dangerous but just serious!

Then the honorable member for Bass went on to say that the Minister had used a wrong basis in giving figures of the workforce. I wonder how many people in Labour organizations share that view. The president of the Australian Council of

Trades Unions does not share it. We have had the great advantage of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) quoting an interview with Mr. Monk in 1958 when he came back from overseas. In the course of a television interview with Mr. Leonard, Mr. Monk said -

I think the Government should release credits immediately to the Commonwealth Bank or to the central bank to improve the position. I think money should be made available particularly to local councils where men can be employed very quickly with money.

That is precisely what the Government has done, and it is the reason why the Government has achieved the results which I have been able to point out in reply to the argument put forward by the honorable member for Bass. The report of the television interview continued -

Mr. Leonard. ; In the Parramatta by election, the Labour candidate was saying that there were 100,000 unemployed. Do you agree with that figure?

Mr. Monk. ; I do not know on what that is based. I think the unemployment figures produced by the Department of Labour and National Service serve as a trend, not as an exact figure. I do not think we have yet any serious problem with part-time employment.

When Mr. Monk made those statements, Opposition members said that he was incorrect. Then, Mr. Loft, from the same organization, said the same thing as Mr. Monk had said, but members of the Opposition said that they disagreed with him too. Mr. Loft was followed by the third member of the tripartite, Mr. Souter, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions who said precisely the same thing.

To submit this matter as one of urgency is something that the Opposition could only do with its tongue in its cheek. During the last general election campaign, it was said by Labour speakers that we were on the verge of a depression and about to topple over. Surely if anybody knew whether there was unemployment in the community it was the electors. As the former Treasurer used to say, the hip pocket nerve is very sensitive. At the election, the Government was returned with an increased majority, notwithstanding the catch cries about the dangers of depression and unemployment.

The truth of the matter is that unemployment is not a fear of the Opposition; unemployment is a prayer of the Opposition. Labour wants to see unemployment because it sees in unemployment its only prospect of becoming the government. Opposition members raise these scares but it is obvious to the people of Australia that this is truly a confidence trick. So long as they fail to justify those fears as they have failed io-day, they will not get the support of the people.

Mr Ward:

– I rise to order, ls the honorable member for Phillip in order in reading a newspaper while his colleague is discussing such an important matter as this?


– There is no point of order involved.


– 1 am sure that the honorable member for Phillip has realized that the argument is already won and that the Opposition has not justified its urgency submission. Therefore he can go on reading. He will learn a lot more from the paper than from listening to the Opposition’s weak case.

I feel that the statistics on which the Statistician bases the percentage of unemployment are inaccurate to the extent that they take the same ratio of work force to total population as existed in 1954. Yet we know that the trend of population and of immigration intake has been such that the percentage of the population represented by the work force has been constantly climbing. So, when it is said that the present unemployment represents only 1.7 per cent, of the total work force, the proportion is probably much less than 1.7 per cent. Over the last three years, unemployment reached a level as high as 10 per cent, in Western Europe, and at one time in that period there were over 5.000,000 unemployed in the United States of America and something like 200.000 unemployed in Canada. When we consider that, at the same time, we had about 25,000 people in Australia receiving the unemployment benefit, we can see that it has been a mighty effort on the part of this Government to maintain the high level of employmen which has been maintained, and the Government ought to be complimented on the task that it has performed instead of being criticized by the Opposition with spurious arguments about the present level of unemployment in Australia.


.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was somewhat amused at the rather extraordinary way in which the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) has endeavoured to solve the unemployment problem in 1959 by copious remarks about a debate that occurred in 1958. He neglected in every respect the figures and the arguments which had been placed before the House by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), and he kept entirely off the question of the growing unemployment in this country. I want to stress now just as I stressed the seriousness of the unemployment trend twelve months ago, that the growing seriousness of the trend in unemployment over the last twelve months has justified every one of the statements which were made in 1958. Over the last three years, there has been a growing trend of unemployment and, each year, the degree of unemployment has been greater than it was at the same period of the preceding year. Tn order to illustrate that without giving too many figures to the House, I simply point out that, since 1956, unemployment has been steadily increasing. It is best to take the figures for the month of March in each year, because that is the month which gives the most favorable figure from the unemployment stand-point. The figures for April. May and June in each of the last three years have shown an increase over the figures for the same months of the preceding year. But, to take the figures for the month of March, in round figures, in March, 1956, there were 30,000 registered unemployed. Tn March, 1957, the figure was 46,000, and in March, 1958, it had reached 64,000. The figure for March, 1959, was 69,000.

Mr Stokes:

– What about the increase that the honorable member mentioned?


– We shall come to that in due course. I am saying that, over the last three years, the number of registered unemployed in any month has been greater than the number for the same month in the previous year. If the honorable member cares to examine the figures published by the Department of Labour and National Service, right from the time when publication of these statistics began, he will find that from 1946 to 1951 unemployment in Australia was absolutely negligible. T am rather surprised at an intelligent member like the honorable member for Bruce making some remark about 180,000 unemployed in 1949. It is quite true that there were that number of unemployed, but that was due solely to the coal-miners’ strike in July and August of that year, which tied up the whole of Australian industry. When we deal with a matter of this description, we should deal with it on the basis of the facts and not accept as being genuine situations that are extraordinary in the Australian community.

In conjunction with the figures that I have given, we must consider the fact that, as the volume of unemployment increases, the unfilled vacancies decrease, according to the figures given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). There were fewer unfilled vacancies registered in the month of March last than in February, because the tendency is for the number of unfilled vacancies gradually to decline as unemployment increases. This is a serious matter. We have pointed out the trend that has been continually growing, and in spite of all the reasons and facts given by the Minister about what the Government was doing, the fact remains that, during the last four years, the degree of unemployment has increased. In the light of that trend, we are quite entitled to ask the Government what it proposes to do in order to solve the problem.

We must bear in mind that the population of Australia is increasing by 220,000 every year and that the official figures published bv the Commonwealth Statistician clearly indicate that, although :total employment has slowly increased in the last three years, the number of males employed by private enterprise has been declining. The increase in total employment has taken place, not in private industry, which is responsible for the great bulk of production, but in government circles. In private enterprise, the tendency is to employ more and more females, and the figures for the last three years show that in private industry the employment of females has increased and the employment of males has declined. I suggest to the House that those facts must be taken into consideration. We must decide whether the present policy will deal with the situation. Production in this country is increasing, and that is a good thing, because increased production means a higher standard of living. However, when one looks at the effect of increased production in some sectors of the Australian economy, one is astonished. Black coal, for example, is being produced in greater quantities than ever before in the history of Australia; yet there are more unemployed coal-miners in Australia now than we have had for very many years! Increased production accompanied by falling employment is one of the contradictions in society that we must resolve.

The Minister, very rightly and properly, pointed out that certain things had been done by the Government. He said that the Government had made £4,000,000 available to the States for the relief of unemployment, that it had permitted the release of funds from the special accounts of the private banks with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in order that measures for the relief of unemployment might be taken, and that the Government had decided to increase its financial contributions to road construction very substantially. Those things have been done, but they have not halted the growing unemployment trend and solved the problem.

I suggest to honorable members that they examine that very valuable document on full employment which was published in 1947 or thereabouts, and I suggest to the Government that something else in addition to capital expansion is required in order to increase employment in this country. Capital expansion does a very effective job in its way, but it is only one of two important factors affecting the economy. The second factor is adequate purchasing power. T believe that the reason why unemployment in Australia continues to increase is that the purchasing power of the masses of the people is not as great as it should be. I am satisfied that if the Government changed its policy and took the view that the time has now arrived for a restoration of wage adjustments and for an increase in the basic wage, pensions, child endowment and other benefits, it would stimulate the economy and enable the community’s greater production to be purchased by the masses of the people. As a consequence, the lag in private industry would be overtaken, more employment opportunities would be provided, and the people would enjoy the higher standard of living that should follow from increased production.

My -suggestion to the Government is: Certainly, keep on with the job of increasing capital facilities; but pursue a policy that will give the Australian people the maximum purchasing power to enable them to consume the increased production and, at the same time, increase their standards of living and find opportunities for employment for persons who are at present unemployed.

Minister for Air · Evans · LP

Mr. Deputy Speaker, the text of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), his theme song, was that unemployment is growing in Australia. That is simply not the case. The honorable member has presented a false picture, not borne out by the facts. The population of Australia is growing dramatically and, of course, anybody who takes his figures from some time in the past may find the semblance of support to his argument. The fact is that Australia’s population is growing enormously, rapidly and dramatically, while prosperity and earning power are both increasing. All this has been done against the background of very high employment, which is being sustained in this country.

The Opposition produces this unemployment bogy whenever it can. It stumped the country at the last general election on this same subject of unemployment. The people simply did not believe the Opposition’s tales then, because what they were saying about unemployment just did not tie in with the facts as the people knew them. There is no more substance in the argument that the Opposition is putting forward to-day about unemployment than there was in its arguments about unemployment last November. It is another case of the Opposition’s crying wolf.

Let me say at once that although I do not agree, and the Government does not agree, with the Opposition’s view about the employment situation, there is no lack of sympathy on our part for an individual who is out of a job. I myself have much sympathy with any person who is out of work at any time, but appeals to individual sympathy do not give the true picture of national employment. In our federal system the responsibility to maintain employment is shared between the Commonwealth Government and the ‘State govern ments. Our share is to create the conditions in which business and industry can expand and prosper and in which high employment can persist. We have consistently created those conditions over the nine very varying years in which we have been in office. Our Budget policies, our monetary policies, are designed to sustain a high rate of employment at all times. We are playing our part.

I do not attempt to deny that there are individual areas in Australia which are facing some employment difficulties. The honorable member for Bendigo referred to the position on the coal-fields. I know that difficulties have occurred, for example at Cessnock, where large-scale mechanization of mining methods has been going on for some time; but I believe that when we look back on to-day from a few years ahead, when we are able to see things in perspective, we shall see that the coalmining industry in the north of New South Wales has come through a very difficult period of its history much more successfully than that industry in many other countries. Let us not forget that the coalmining industry’s troubles are not confined to Australia. However, the efficiency of the industry is rising and our export markets for coal, lost so many years ago and believed by many to be gone forever, are being regained, and there is definitely hope for that industry to-day.

Can anybody point to another country in the free world, of like industrial structure to Australia, which has a higher consistent level of employment and at the same time a higher consistent level of expansion and development than we have? Could anybody justly argue that the Government has deviated, for one moment in its nine years of office, from its task of creating and maintaining the conditions under which expansion and development and high employment can continue? In the last two years this country has been passing through an extremely difficult period. There was a dramatic drop in our export earnings. The House knows very well that the total receipts from wool and metal production over the last few years have fallen. In 1957-58, our exports earned us £164,000,000 less than in the previous year. Those are the conditions which, under different management, might have caused catastrophic unemployment in Australia. Yet that has not occurred, because the management of the internal economy has been good. This Government saw what was happening and acted in the correct way.

In February, 1958, the Loan Council, with Commonwealth support - because the Commonwealth had, in fact, to find the money - made supplementary grants totalling £5,000,000 to the States and the authority of local government bodies to borrow was increased by £3,000,000. In June, 1958, grants to the States were increased by £10,000,000, and the limits of local government borrowing were again increased. The Commonwealth’s own works programme was considerably increased. In February this year the limit of local government borrowing was again increased by £3,400,000. At the same time, consistently during this period the Commonwealth Bank made releases from deposits, totalling £90,000,000 in the twelve months to last February. There have been special grants for development in Western Australia, and the new arrangements for financing increased road works are well known. These are some of the means by which we have met our responsibilities to sustain a high level of employment during a difficult economic period.

Now I turn to the number of people receiving unemployment benefit. I concede that the figures do not include all the people unemployed at any particular time, but the number of people in receipt of unemployment benefit is the most reliable single indicator of the employment trend. The figures have been relatively stationary for quite some time. Then consider the number of applicants for positions. We find that from the end of February to the end of March this year the decline in the number of applicants for positions was 7,500 - the greatest decline in any month since 1952. The rate of placement in March by the Commonwealth Employment Service was at the highest level since March, 1950. That is not consistent with the picture that the honorable member for Bendigo tries to paint. These facts and figures give us a picture, not of consistently worsening employment, but of the reverse. And all this time, the country has gone on developing its industries, business has expanded, our immigration programme has proceeded, with the migrants being steadily absorbed into the Australian economy. At the same time, earnings have risen remarkably. That, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is not a picture of a stagnant economy. Compare it with conditions in countries overseas. In the United Kingdom in March of this year there were over 500,000 people registered as unemployed. In the United States of America, 6 per cent, of the work-force or more than 4,000,000 people were out of work in March. In Canada, 8.9 per cent, of the work-force was out of work. What is the position here? From recollection, I think in only two months since 1950 has the number of people receiving unemployment benefit exceeded 1 per cent, of the Australian work-force.

Mr Calwell:

– It will get worse.


– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition says that it will get worse. That is his theme song. He hopes it will get worse. I believe that what I said when I began to speak is true: The Opposition is always crying wolf. It hopes for unemployment because it will then have the political conditions in which it will prosper.


– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.


.- The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) concluded his remarks by saying that the Opposition hopes for unemployment. No greater falsehood was ever uttered. It is the Opposition, consisting of the Australian Labour Party, that has postulated the ways and means by which unemployment can be completely eliminated in any civilized community. When I came into this Parliament the Government of this country was led by the late Mr. Lyons and unemployment was between 11 per cent, and 15 per cent, of our work force. By 1939, when war broke out, under a United Australia Party Government the number of unemployed had reached 267,000. However, not long afterwards the then Prime Minister - the same right honorable gentleman who holds that office to-day - said that since the outbreak of war unemployment had been practically eliminated. AntiLabour governments had been so purile and so barren of ideas over a long period of years that it was not until this country was in dire distress that there was adopted a policy which, for the duration of the war, resulted in practically every ablebodied man being in employment. The then government manipulated and operated, as did a subsequent Labour Government, the monetary controls of the country on a planned system which enabled the employment of every man and woman who desired to be employed. I know that the honorable member on the Government side who follows me in this debate will say that because of the necessity to protect Australia, powers of industrial conscription could then be exercised. That is true, but nevertheless well laid plans are possible of operation, without industrial conscription, so that the avenues of work desired by every man will be available.

The allegation that we hope for unemployment is untrue. But the figures demonstrate that the Government not only hopes for unemployment but also governs in a way that results in unemployment being a certainty, although it is wholly unjustified. The Government believes that unemployment is necessary. We have the statement of Professor Hytten, an adviser of the Government, who said -

Australia should aim at stabilized economy of about 6 per cent, to 8 per cent, unemployment.

At a conference of the Australian Country Party in Ballarat not long ago, a Mr. McLeod is reported to have said that the country would not get back to normal until there were eleven men applying for one man’s job. As far as I know, nobody challenged Mr. McLeod at that conference. It is all very fine for the Ministers to use the official figures on unemployment, but the plain fact is that the real figures are at least twice as great as the official figures of those registered for employment.

Mr Howson:

– There is no basis for that whatever!


– The honorable gentleman says there is no basis for that. Does he know that the economy of Australia has so deteriorated since this Government took office that to-day more married women are in industry than ever before in our history. The married women are not in industry because they want to go out to the factories or offices; they are in industry through sheer economic necessity. Interest rates are higher than ever before, with the consequence that our debt structure is pyramiding, usury through excess hire-purchase rates is pyramiding, and land values have reached record heights. A young couple wishing to purchase a home in the present circumstances has no alternative but to decide that the wife should go out to work. The Government has at its disposal the means of remedying this most undesirable state of affairs. However, my point is that unemployment is greater than it ever has been before. Where the husband and wife are both working and the husband loses his employment, he frequently does not bother to register for employment, because of the income brought into the home by the wife. He seeks employment off his own bat and, in the period of his unemployment, the wife keeps the home going with the money that she earns.

There is a substantial number of other reasons for the present situation. Not least amongst them is the failure of the Government to take action to protect the woolgrowing industry. Consequently, we have been at the mercy of the hijackers of the world’s wool trade. They have taken out of this country, at about half its true value, approximately 75 per cent, of the current wool crop. Of course, that has had a reaction on the employment opportunities available. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) denied that he could find any evidence of pies or rings or combines.

Mr McMahon:

– I did not say pies; I said international combines.


– The Minister said pies; his words are recorded in “ Hansard “. They were known in this country in 1948, and I can produce the evidence that pies and other combines have operated here. We did at one time have a man who took action of an arbitrary character to deal with the hijackers in the world’s wool trade. When William Morris Hughes realized the situation confronting the wool-growers, whose prosperity in turn affects the opportunities for employment available to the workers, he used the Customs Act to impose controls.


– Order! The honorable member is wandering a little.


– I may be wandering slightly, but this is directly related to the question of employment avenues. Another cause of the present problem is the Japanese Trade Treaty. It is all very fine to say that, without reciprocal trade with Japan, the Japanese would not buy our wool. But the Japanese do not buy our wool merely because they sell goods to us; they buy it so that they in turn can sell woollen goods to other countries. One might well ask: Where do they get the sterling or dollars to pay for our wheat and wool? They get the currency from other countries, because they sell their manufactured woollen products to countries from which they can obtain sterling, dollars or other convertible currency. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is interjecting, will have an opportunity later to speak on this matter, but I know that what I am saying hurts him.

I turn now to another aspect of this problem. Although the Labour Party initiated the immigration programme, we are opposed to the continuation of an excess rate of immigration when there is serious unemployment in this community. I would be the last to say that there should be any restrictions whatever in bringing from European countries the dependants of persons who are already here, or their relatives, but I do say that a stage has been reached where there should be some limitation on immigration until we have practically full employment for those who are now unemployed.

So far as the Japanese trade treaty is concerned, I have letters from manufacturers and employees in my electorate complaining of the effect of the treaty on their employment opportunities. One person in my electorate wrote -

I have seen my workmates put out of work, and have now myself been put on to three days per week together with 28 of my other workmates. I would be glad if you would ask the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) how he can possibly refute what is happening now and will happen in the future by a statement based on past figures.

That situation is not peculiar to the toy trade in which that person is employed.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- We have now heard all the members of the

Opposition who wish to speak in this debate on what is supposed to be an urgent matter of national importance. One would have thought that from that discussion we would have heard from the Opposition constructive suggestions about what should be done, but apart from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who referred to that matter towards the end of his speech, we did not have one constructive suggestion from the Opposition on what is supposed to be a matter of supreme importance to the nation. It is a pity we have to listen to the Opposition when honorable members speak in such destructive terms. Instead of having constructive ideas about how to deal with the situation, they have tried to destroy the whole atmosphere of development and confidence in the community.

It would have been so much better if the wording on this proposal had referred to means of increasing employment in Australia instead of dealing with the subject of unemployment. It would have been so much more important to hear talk on useful employment, because the important thing is not only to see that everybody is employed, but also to ensure that he is employed usefully, and that the people are engaged in industries which are making goods that the public wants to buy. Possibly, it would be even better still if they were employed in manufacturing goods which people overseas wish to buy at a price that would compete with goods made in other countries.

It is important that we should be engaged in providing jobs in industry to supply goods manufactured in the most economical way. It is no use at the moment trying to provide jobs for people to make more radio sets if the people want television sets. This is relevant to matters brought forward by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) who referred to the textile situation. He suggested that possibly locally made textiles weve meeting adverse competition from imports from overseas. That is not the situation. The fact is that the public to-day prefer to buy durable consumer goods such as television sets, motor cars and hardware in preference, at the moment, to textiles. Therefore, we should not be trying to find new avenues for employment in the textile industry, but should be trying to provide for employment in new industries supplying the goods the public wants.

The honorable member for Bendigo spoke about the coal industry. It is no use providing more jobs in the coal industry to miners who use picks and shovels, because coal won by the old methods is produced at such a price that nobody can afford to buy it. The policy of members of the Australian Labour Party in 1948 in trying to put their heads in the sand and avoiding mechanization on the coal-fields led Victoria to develop its own coal-fields because that State could not afford to pay the high price of New South Wales coal landed in Victoria.

We have the same problem with export trade. The only way we can get more people to buy our coal is to produce it at a price that people can pay. At the moment, the Japanese would be prepared to buy our coal, but if we ask too high a price or produce it at too high a price, they will buy American or Canadian coal instead of ours. Therefore, we have to make certain that we mine coal in such an economic manner that people can afford to buy it. Therefore, we must use the most modern machinery to produce coal. If we do not, there is no point in producing it.

This merely illustrates the problem, which is the task of the Government, of providing more jobs in industry and in the new types of industries producing products that the public wants to buy. The record of the Government in this connexion is extremely sound. In the past nine years, this Government has provided 610,000 more jobs in industry - a record of which any government could well be proud. We have established an environment in which new jobs in new industries are being provided every day of the week. It is important that we should see that new industries are being brought to Australia and established here all the time and to ensure that industrial leaders make up their minds to establish industries here. We must see that capital and finance are available to enable them to establish industries. We must see that our industrial leaders have the knowledge and know-how to get industries going, and that the most modern machinery is available so that the goods can be made economically. If we try to go on using machines which are out of date, we shall only price ourselves out of the market, and provide avenues of employment which are not useful but a waste of time.

One would think that the Opposition would have dealt with the problems of providing a skilled work-force for the new industries here such as the chemical industry, and particularly the petrochemical industry in Victoria, the plastic industry, electronics and the production of electrical goods. Those are the industries in which we need a good work-force. In this age of automation, we need mobility of labour. It is a pity that honorable members on the Opposition side did not address themselves to these constructive matters and examine the needs of the work-force in the decade of the 1960’s. To my mind, it is most important to remember that in the next ten years, nearly every worker will at some stage of his life find himself in a different industry. We shall have to see, therefore, that he gives some attention to being re-trained to take on a new job. We must provide a mobile work-force able to change from an old and deteriorating industry into one that offers new and exciting possibilities of useful employment.

Summing up, we have, as a government, looked at this problem in a constructive manner. We have had no constructive suggestions from the supposed representatives of labour. As always in the past ten years, we say again that the industrial movement in Australia has to look to the Liberal Government to provide the answer to providing increasing and exciting avenues of employment in this great country.

Discussion concluded.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

page 1513



Mr SPEAKER (Hon John McLeay:

Order! As it is now past the time provided for “Grievance Day”, Order of the Day No. 1 will not be called on. The Committee of Supply will be set down for a later hour this day.

page 1513



Minister for External Affairs

– by leave - In March and early April I had a series of assignments that were concerned, in one way or another, with Australia’s relationship with the countries of Asia. These were the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East conference in Queensland, an official visit to Japan and Korea, and the annual Seato conference in New Zealand. It may be of interest to honorable members if I say something of these various tasks.

In March, at Broadbeach, in Queensland, I attended a ten-day meeting of Ecafe. As leader of the Australian delegation I had the honour to be elected chairman of the conference, and my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) was the spokesman for Australia on most occasions. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade (Mr. Swartz) was also a member of the Australian delegation.

Seventeen Asian countries were represented at this Ecafe conference and seven non-Asian countries. In addition, ten other countries sent observers. Eight United Nations specialized agencies and fifteen non-governmental organizations were also represented. Including 27 members of the Ecafe Secretariat, the total numbers attending were 220. As I have said before, it was the largest single Ecafe conference we have had in Australia.

These Ecafe meetings are very useful. They deal with a great many practical problems of human welfare, such as more food, better clothing, better basic economic services and many other things of direct and immediate importance to millions of Asian people. Typical subjects that are dealt with by Ecafe are population pressure, food production, telecommunications, hydro-electric development, industrialization, regional trade, low-cost housing, road building, statistics, census taking and economic matters of these general kinds. The commission deals with these problems in a wellorganized businesslike way. It has a permanent secretariat in Bangkok consisting of a considerable number of experts drawn from most Asian countries and from some western countries. The secretariat produces a number of surveys and reports, many of which are of outstanding quality. These reports are then discussed and developed by expert committees and working parties comprising representatives from many countries. Australia frequently provides specialists with expert knowledge in particular fields of work. These expert committees frame recommendations or conclusions to be passed to member governments of Ecafe and to the Ecafe organization itself. This whole process results in a valuable contribution to the information available to the Asian member governments in solving the problems of the region.

The recent fifteenth session was an example of the practical way in which Ecafe goes about its business. The session began with discussion of a most valuable and comprehensive survey of economic conditions in Asia and the Far East - a survey which reflects the good and the bad - the progress and the continuing problems. The magnitude of these economic problems in Asia is obvious, but there is something inspiring in the active way in which they are being tackled - by the Asian governments themselves, by international programmes like the Colombo Plan and by the United Nations agencies.

One of the issues of particular importance which concerned this last annual session of Ecafe was the population problem. This is not a problem which concerns all Asian countries equally. The Thai representative made this point clearly. But certain countries face a tremendous and progressive problem arising from the contest between population pressure and food production. The Ecafe report on population pressure recognized that resettlement was not a solution. By resettlement is meant the transfer of population from one part of a country to another. The problem might be solved by reduction of the birth rate. Japan is one country in the Asian area where a stabilization of population is in prospect through measures that have been taken. But measures of this kind are for each country itself to decide in the light of its own ethical, cultural and other traditions. Even if the birth rate were to be substantially reduced for the future, the problem of population pressure would remain for a considerable time ahead. In the meantime - and this was the line taken by the Australian delegation - an effort must be made to allow the great and growing human potential of the region to be more effectively utilized. This can only be done through the provision of capital equipment and technical training. The Australian

Government is already providing aid of this kind, especially through the Colombo Plan.

Ecafe is a co-operative institution. Practically all the countries of Asia and the Far East were represented at this fifteenth session of Ecafe, and so were many of the countries of the west. These western countries, including Australia and New Zealand, sent strong delegations, and most of them made practical gestures of assistance to the Asian countries. These non-Asian governments - including Australia - have an essential role to play in the commission’s work. They do not seek to intrude in Asian affairs but they do seek to offer assistance where it is needed, and requested, by Asian governments. In most cases, they have had experience of the sort of economic and technical problems which now confront the Asian countries. On the expert committees and working parties, the non-Asian members can therefore provide valuable guidance to Asian countries. More than that, Asia and the Far East is not a closed self-sufficient region. There are problems of trade and investment which can be solved only on a world-wide basis. It is important therefore that great powers like the United States and the United Kingdom and smaller countries like ourselves should be represented on the commission and should take an active part in its work.

There is also a good deal of co-operation within the Asian region itself. This has been demonstrated, for example, by the intra-regional trade talks which have given the Asian countries an opportunity to see how far, among themselves, they may achieve greater stability in their foreign trade and overseas earnings. There are dangers in this, of course. We do not want a closed Asian trading bloc; nor, I believe, do the Asians themselves. A system of multilateral trade is one which will bring most benefit to Asian countries, to Australia, and to all countries of the free world. The Australian delegation made this clear at Broadbeach.

But other regions are forming their own economic groupings. The European Economic Community contains some dangers for Asian countries which they were quick to point out. The Australian Government has supported the movement towards integration in Europe for a variety of sound reasons. But a responsibility rests on the countries of western Europe, as well as on those outside, to ensure that arrangements are not made which promote regional interests - in this case European regional interests - at the expense of world trade and world economic co-operation.

As well as co-operation among countries of the region as a whole, co-operation on practical problems among smaller groups of countries within the Ecafe region is developing in a very satisfactory way. In this regard I speak particularly of the Mekong Valley project. The Mekong is one of the world’s great rivers. At present it is almost completely untamed and very largely unused. The project for its development affects four countries, Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam and Laos, for whom it provides a unique opportunity for joint effort and intimate collaboration in what can properly be called a majestic undertaking. The Mekong Valley scheme is a multi-purpose project which will seek to deal with navigation, flood control, water conservation, irrigation, and power generation. It will benefit 17,000,000 people living along the Mekong Valley. A comprehensive report on the project was completed last year by a United Nations survey mission headed by the well-known American engineer. General R. A. Wheeler. This report said that, with the development contemplated. “ This river could easily rank with South-East Asia’s greatest natural resources. Wise conservation and utilization of its waters will contribute more towards improving human welfare in this area than any other single undertaking.”

The scheme, when completed, will rival in magnitude the world’s greatest riverdevelopment schemes, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority scheme in the United States. The total cost of the scheme will be very large. So far, the project is still in the stage of investigation involving expenditure of about 9,000,000 American dollars. These investigations will take about five years to complete. A number of countries have already pledged support. The United States, Canada, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have all pledged varying amounts of aid. At this last Ecafe session, Australia pledged aid up to an amount of £100,000 Australian to be made available in the form of training, expert advice or equipment.

Dr Evatt:

– Is that limited to the Mekong River project?


– That £100,000 is for the investigation stage of the Mekong project.

That leads me to the point that there is a large identity of interest between Australia and the Asian countries. We are a developing country too, with a great need for capital, although we have advanced a good deal beyond most of the Asian countries and, especially in the field of technical aid, we have a good deal to offer them. Further, as an exporter of primary commodities and as a world trader, we have a vital interest, along with Asian countries, in greater stability of commodity prices and in access to markets. We want to see arrangements which will expand world trade, not diminish it. We, too, are concerned that the European common market does not become a closed market. That is the economic side. On the humanitarian and political side, we are vitally concerned, along with Asian countries, in extending human welfare in Asia. We believe that that is the basis on which political stability can be built. Ecafe cannot do the whole job; but we believe it can make a most useful contribution.

I now come to another subject, the SouthEast Asia Treaty Organization. This year, the Seato Council met in Wellington, New Zealand. The work of the past year was reviewed and plans made for the year ahead. Seato is now over four years old and has advanced well beyond its teething problems.

It is concerned with a wide range of issues - military, political, economic, and social. But when all is said and done, the principal reason for the existence of Seato is military security. Seato is a deterrent against aggression, a collective security treaty backed by the pledge of the greatest single nation in the world - the United States of America - that in the event of an attack on any member from Communist sources, each of the other members will rally to its assistance. This is a most valuable asset for every country in SouthEast Asia, not least for some that are not members of Seato.

The military arm of Seato keeps at work throughout the year. At the Seato headquarters in Bangkok, each country has military planners who jointly study possible situations that would be caused by an act of Communist aggression and consider measures to meet them. The activities of the military planners during the past year, and also the recommendations of their seniors, the Seato military advisers, were examined by the Seato council in Wellington. Most of this work is highly secret and the House will not expect me to go into detail. But some Seato work in the military sphere is public knowledge - notably Seato military exercises. These exercises are designed to give experience in active cooperation between forces of Seato countries. Two such exercises have been held in the last nine months. There is in fact one exercise, “ Sea Demon “, under way at present in the waters between Singapore and Manila, organized by the Royal Australian Navy. Naval vessels of the United Kingdom, United States, France and New Zealand are also participating, with observers from the three Asian Seato partners. Two more military exercises will be organized in the next two months.

But the most immediate threat in the area to-day is not a military one. The very existence of Seato, and the military cooperation being developed through Seato, demonstrate to any potential aggressor that aggression will be resisted effectively and collectively. This situation assumes that national and collective defences will be maintained. Our defences are the shield behind which peaceful economic development can proceed.

But the Communist threat persists, and in its most malignant form it confronts us in the shape of Communist subversion. In the final Seato conference communique, it was said -

Despite the continuing possibility of open aggression, the principal threat to the security and independence of the Treaty Area is now being presented in more indirect forms. These call for imaginative and varied counter measures.

Concrete measures to combat subversion were discussed at Wellington, including ways of expanding co-operation and of increasing public awareness of the varied nature of the Communist subversive threat. Here again I cannot be specific because of the secret nature of this work, hut the House will know from earlier statements which I have made the urgency and priority which the Australian Government attaches to anti-subversion activities.

In promoting the security and welfare of the Seato region, member governments have to look beyond the tasks of combating military aggression and Communist subversion. They have to tackle problems of raising production and living standards and coping with- economic fluctuations. What I said earlier about Ecafe and its activities has relation to these problems. Seato too has a role to play here. Seato is a forum where eight governments can review and discuss frankly at a high political level economic problems of the region and their implications, not only in the economic sphere, but also in military and political spheres in the widest sense.

The question still remains of what role Seato should play in taking action in the economic field, as distinct from providing an opportunity for discussion and examination of economic problems. Here the plain fact of the matter is that in many cases - probably in most cases - action can be taken most effectively in wider forums than Seato, under the Colombo Plan and in Ecafe, for example. Many of the major economic problems of the region involve other countries as well as Seato members, and the most profitable approach on the economic side appears to lie in using other existing channels and organizations, as I have said, such as Ecafe and the Colombo Plan. The function of Seato here is to give a lead, to provide some stimulus, and to promote understanding and awareness of what is needed. The effectiveness of Seato is not to be judged solely by what is carried out through Seato machinery.

There is, in addition, quite a lot that can and should be done in ways directly associated with Seato. As honorable members will know, the Australian Government has had a programme of Seato defence support. Under this programme, first instituted in 1956, the Australian Government has undertaken commitments up to a total of £3,000,000.

Dr Evatt:

– Is that an annual figure?


– No, it is a total figure. This programme is put into effect by the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Defence, using the staff and experts of our two departments, and with the assistance on occasion of some other departments. The Australian defence support programme does not provide weapons or ammunition. It is in the main designed to provide economic assistance that will help the Asian members of Seato to discharge their defence responsibilities. As such, the- Australian programme is a contribution to the defence of the Asian Seato partners in this collective defence arrangement. It is also indirectly a contribution to the economic betterment of member countries. Let me give some examples of what is actually being done.

During 1958, Australia provided the Philippines navy with four large coastal patrol boats, for use, amongst other things, in anti-smuggling activities. We have provided Thailand and the Philippines with a range of equipment which is not in itself warlike equipment, but which is useful for their fighting services. We have provided Pakistan with military telecommunications equipment. In Thailand and Pakistan we are doing something to alleviate shortages of skilled labour in their fighting services, by helping to institute technical training programmes, providing equipment and training aids, supplying some instructors and also some facilities in Australia and in other ways. Training of some labour in one of the dockyards is an example.

We have provided training facilities in Australia for many servicemen from the Asian Seato partner countries. We have also provided for visits to Australia by officers of the armed forces of those countries. They see here some of our activities in which they are professionally interested and concerned, and our own Australian officers may become acquainted with their opposite numbers in Seato countries.

These are some examples - and only a few - of the Australian defence support programme, the value of which was recognized at Wellington by other Seato members. Other forms of assistance are being given by some other countries, most notably by the United States, which is doing a very great deal indeed. New Zealand, for example, is helping in the field of skilled labour, including training in New Zealand in naval dockyards.

At the Wellington Seato meeting, the United States put forward a project to combat cholera, which has been a great scourge in Asia, and is still an important health problem despite the considerable counter measures which have been taken. The Americans are prepared to contribute a very considerable sum of money for the humanitarian purpose of establishing a cholera research project into the causes of cholera. It will be carried out on a regional basis and under a Seato label, and the cooperation of qualified persons and institutions from Seato member and non-member countries will be sought. This is a good example of regional assistance for a nonmilitary project under Seato. Australia will be ready to make a contribution to this project, the nature depending on the form which the project takes after it has been elaborated.

These are just some examples of what can be regarded as practical steps by Australia and others to discharge our wider obligations under Seato. Seato is progressively building up habits of co-operation among its members, who look naturally to one another as associates.

One new feature of the Seato Wellington meetings was this: We held, in addition to our normal closed meetings, a special restricted session in which each Minister was accompanied only by two others - his chief civil and chief military advisers. No record of the meeting was taken. These arrangements encouraged a full and frank discussion on any question relevant to the Seato council region. As a result, there were achieved a frankness and an intimacy which have never before been achieved at a Seato council meeting, and which all Ministers agreed should be aimed at in future meetings.

Dr Evatt:

– Was any attempt made to have Malaya represented as an observer?


– No. We have never made any attempt to induce any other country either to join Seato or to come to the Seato meetings as an observer. Now let me say a word about continental China. In the Seato region the principal potential threat comes, as honorable members know, from Communist China, abetted by Communist movements in some other countries. During the past year there has been a considerable increase in the economic strength of Communist China, and further increases will occur in the years to come.

I wish I could report to the House that there was evidence that Communist China was adopting a more reasonable attitude in international affairs, but unfortunately this is not the case. Threat of force was employed in an attempt to gain control of the offshore islands which were and still are subjected to bombardment from the mainland. The territorial objective is not the offshore islands. The political and strategic objectives are much wider than this and include getting the Americans out of the Pacific. Now the world has seen the ruthless use of force in the autonomous country of Tibet in order to force a system on the Tibetan Government and people other than that of their own choice. Chinese actions in Tibet are greatly to be condemned and must be very much in the minds of any one considering the state of present and future possible relations with the authorities in Peking.

Let me say a word about Japan. I was in Japan for the last week in March and then for three days in Korea. It was my purpose, at their kind invitation, to make contact with the Japanese and the Korean Governments, not to negotiate any specific agreements. In Japan I was able to have talks with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Minister for Education, the President and members of the Science Council of Japan, the Minister in charge of the Science and Technics Agency, roughly the equivalent of our Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and many others.

My talks with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister were most valuable to me. We discussed matters relating to direct Australian-Japanese relations, and also talked frankly and at some length on a range of wider international questions of interest to both our countries. We considered possibilities of greater co-operation in the United Nations and elsewhere. I look forward to continued consultations and co-operation between our two governments on international developments which affect both Australia and Japan.

As honorable members will know, the Australian Government has been laying great emphasis upon the need for greater international co-operation in the field of science. At the last session of the United Nations General Assembly I introduced a resolution, which was subsequently adopted unanimously, which was designed to promote international scientific co-operation. With this in mind, I took with me to Japan the Research Secretary of Physical Sciences of C.S.I.R.O. in order to explore whether we could increase co-operation between Australia and Japan in the field of science. This step by a visiting Minister - which was an unusual one - appeared to be welcomed in Japan and enabled me to extend the range of my contacts and discussions considerably. I was satisfied that there is considerable scope for programmes of cooperation between Australia and Japan in the scientific field. In a number of fields of pure research the Japanese are outstanding. In applied research, too, Japan is reaping the benefits of modern large-scale research programmes in such industries as telecommunications, television, photography, plastics, and scientific instruments - just to name a few. The rapid transference of research results from the laboratory to industry is a problem which is of the greatest importance to Australia, and Japanese experience in this field can be very helpful to us. They seem to have significantly reduced the time-lag between scientific achievement and its practical application in industry. I think one can say that to-day Japanese industry is definitely research-minded.

Let me say something of Japan’s industrial and economic progress. In the last six or seven years industrial production has doubled. Production of machinery and chemicals has more than doubled in that period. Shipbuilding in Japan has almost equalled the combined total of those two great shipbuilding nations, the United Kingdom and Western Germany. There has been significant growth in the supporting industries, such as electrical power, and marked advances have been made in the manufacture of technologically advanced products and electrical equipment of. all kinds. I do not want to occupy the time of the House with a recital of figures, but accustomed as we are to incessant propaganda about the achievements of Communist China, it is interesting to note that in 1957 Japan’s output of coal was about half that of Communist China - and remember the difference in the population of these two countries. It is also interesting to note that Japan’s production of steel was twice as large as that of Communist China, and her production of electrical power four times as large as that of China. Japan, indeed, is one of the great industrial nations of the world and has the essential requirements for great industrial strength in the modern world, by reason of her industrial capacity, a very skilled and hardworking labour force, and a large population. A most impressive fact is that Japan’s industrial strength has been built up by domestic Japanese capital, domestic management, and technicians. There has been no direct United States economic aid to Japan for a number of years.

Thanks basically to a generous and farsighted Peace Treaty, Japan has been able to emerge as an independent nation pursuing constructive policies in the United Nations and in other international organizations. I was encouraged by the appreciation among Japanese leaders that the interests of their country lay with the democratic world. This is by no means confined to the defence and security protection afforded by the United StatesJapanese mutual security treaty which is now being re-negotiated.

But if Japan is to survive as a viable economic entity she must look first and foremost to her international trading relations. Japan cannot maintain employment and social and political stability without a substantial volume of export trade. Japan’s dependence on foreign trade is well understood by her Communist neighbours for whom Japan would represent a prize of the greatest significance. Communist China has deliberately cut off all trade relations with Japan in the hope that, by exploiting the traditional Japanese interest in the Chinese market, she can force a reorientation in Japan’s external policies. This campaign by Communist China was in full swing while I was in Japan and, of course, created much public attention. Confronted with these Communist tactics, it becomes more important than ever for the countries of the free world to continue demonstrating their willingness to give Japan reasonable opportunities to sell her products in their markets and have access to raw materials. There is an awareness among Japanese leaders and business people that Japan’s interests as a trading and shipping nation place her among the community of nations practising multilateral trade policies. T was happy to hear from Japanese commercial and business leaders that the present trade agreement between Australia and Japan was working well from their point of view as well as from ours; indeed, I believe that the trade agreement has been the vehicle for the promotion of goodwill and understanding between the two countries.

Now a word if I may about Korea: In Korea I met the President - the distinguished President - Dr. Syngman Rhee, the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister, the United Nations Commander, and others.

Australia has been represented in Korea since 1947 by Australian diplomatic officers serving on the various United Nations Commissions. When war broke out we were second in time only to the United States in having forces in action. Australian contribution of economic aid to Korea - almost £2,000,000- was the fourth largest amongst contributing countries, notwithstanding their size. In these and other ways Australia has been associated with the Republic of Korea since its inception. I was received with great warmth and appreciation for the help we have been able to give, and for the bonds built between Australians and Koreans during the fighting.

No visitor can fail to be impressed with the general atmosphere of sturdiness and vitality among the Korean people. Although their country is divided and on the edge of the Communist world, the Korean people are not dispirited or apathetic. They are actively engaged in modernizing their country and in strengthening their social, economic and political structure. Elections have been held at regular intervals for the Presidency and for parliament ever since the Republic of Korea came into existence in 1948.

The devastation caused by the war in Korea has been very largely overcome and the emphasis is now on programmes to strengthen the economy with the assistance of United States economic aid. This economic assistance is the more necessary by reason of the huge defence burden undertaken by the Republic of Korea. Confronted by the Communist regime in North Korea and by Chinese armies across the Yalu River, the Koreans are maintaining armed forces of 630,000 men, out of a population of probably 22,000,000. Their well-trained army of eighteen divisions in the field and ten in reserve is one of the largest in the world, notwithstanding the populations of other countries.

The United States retains two divisions in the field in Korea. Including the cost of its own forces, the United States is contributing something like a billion dollars a year - something like £500,000,000 - for the economic and military support of the republic. This represents by far the largest single aid programme undertaken by the United States in Asia. I may say that Turkey still maintains a strong infantry brigade group of something like 5,000 men in South Korea.

I was very glad to visit Korea again - I had been there seven or eight years before. Australia has deep and continuing interests in Korea which can be regarded as the northern anchor to the defensive island chain of the eastern mainland of Asia. I think that is a legitimate conception. Korea is the anchor to this chain that hangs down the east coast of the Asian continent. We have important political interests there. I was glad to be able to assure President Syngman Rhee and the Korean people of Australia’s continuing moral and political support for the United Nations’ position in Korea.

Finally, in giving an account of my visit to Japan and Korea I must mention the most unfortunate state of relations between those two countries. This has deep historical roots. The two countries, however, have been carrying out direct negotiation for some time in an effort to bring about an improvement in their mutual relations. Both sides explained their viewpoints to me. I was encouraged to feel that, while the matters at issue between them are considerable, both sides realize that they are situated side by side as the only anti-Communist countries in the region, and that there is a great need to compose their differences.

Now, Sir, just a few matters in conclusion. Some of the things that stand out in my mind - these are not in order of importance - as a result of the contacts that I have made recently are, first, the resurgence of Japan; secondly, the importance of American military strength as a stabilizing factor in the East; and thirdly, the fact that Australia’s name stands high in the countries that I have visited.

Dr Evatt:

– By “ resurgence of Japan “ does the Minister confine himself to military affairs?


– No, I was thinking mainly of the economic and industrial side. This brief survey of the recent conferences of Ecafe and of Seato, and this report on my visit to Japan and Korea, are designed to give a picture of a range of problems confronting South-east and East Asia at the present time. Asia is of vital importance to Australia, and our policies must always take account of it. Policies will sometimes differ, but fortunately, in most matters, Australia’s interests are either identical with those of our Asian neighbours, or at least do not conflict with them. We can take good heart from that.

I lay on the table the following paper: -

International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 23rd April, 1959- and move -

That the paper be printed.

Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.

page 1521


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 22nd April (vide page 1475), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-

That the bill be now read a second time.

Wide Bay

.- I commend the Government for bringing in this bill. It is very pleasant indeed to know that the bill meets with approval from both sides of the House. I am sure that, 30 years ago, no one could have contemplated that to-day, we would be discussing such a bill as is now before the House. Only 30 years ago the universities in Australia were at a comparatively early stage of their development. Times have changed since then, mainly because of the financial factor. In that period the Commonwealth has become increasingly important in the realm of finance and the States will have to retire more and more to the sidelines so far as university finance is concerned.

It would appear that the time will come when most of the finance for universities will be provided by the Commonwealth. I think that is only to be expected. There is nothing unusual about the belief that the Commonwealth should be asked to provide finance o*- advice regarding universities. Surely. if the Commonwealth is to provide money it is also entitled to provide advice. I have heard the suggestion that, under a unitary system, the Commonwealth would have complete control of universities. But the fact is that under the federal system, unitary control, that is, complete control by the Commonwealth of the activities of every university, is not necessary. It is just as possible for universities, working throughout the various States, side by side with the Australian Universities Commission established by the Commonwealth, to preserve their academic freedom, as it is possible in the United States of America, for example, for a forestry commission to work side by side with various forestry departments in the States of that country.

To-day, we have arrived at a stage at which it has become imperative to get things rolling. The difficulties are many and varied. They relate to buildings; they relate to the teaching staff required; and finally, and most importantly, they relate to the student, because it is the student who finally occupies the most important position in our thoughts when we speak of universities. The more students there are, the more buildings they require, and, perhaps, the more universities are required. The more students there are the more teachers are needed and, in time, the more scholarships that will be granted. So it is obvious that, in a country in which university education is now being looked upon as a good thing, whereas, 30 years ago, it was merely tolerated, it is only natural that to-day we must have more regard to university education. We must have regard to it by spending money because unless we spend money it is no use merely talking about the problem.

What, then, are the main functions of the Australian Universities Commission? The main functions are, of course, informing and advising the Government. The advice that this commission must give will relate to a number of matters but there are some important factors to which I wish to direct my attention. In the first place, I should like to commend the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) for his suggestion that new universities should be established. The tendency to-day is to think of universities as big institutions in size. A university does not necessarily become great because its buildings are big. Surely the interests of the student and teachers would be better served if more universities were established at various centres throughout the Commonwealth. If that were done, students, for example, would not have to go 1,100 miles by train from Cairns to Brisbane to attend a university. As you know, Mr. Speaker, a lot of students cannot afford to fly from Cairns to Brisbane to attend a university. Is it reasonable that we should continue for long a state of affairs in which a student has to travel 1,100 miles every time he wishes to attend a university? So I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper that we must contemplate the establishment of universities at various central places throughout Australia.

Not only is it a matter of travel but it is a matter of proper academic contact between student and teacher. It is obvious that in a small university there is a closer and more friendly academic contact than there is in a large university. There is a tendency which has been developing for some time to regard universities as shops. In fact, the students at one university in Australia call it, affectionately, the “ shop “. A university is never a shop. A university exists for the specific purpose of giving advanced students a better education and better appreciation of values in life so that whether they become leaders or whether they remain ordinary citizens, they will be better citizens. Admittedly, it exists to train people for the professions. The Australian universities are noted throughout the world for their high academic standards. In fact, the standard of the medical faculty in the Queensland University is so high that some students who cannot pass in medicine at that university go to Edinburgh so that they can get through their course. As honorable members know, Edinburgh has a very good medical standard, but it is a fact that the Queensland medical school has reached an extraordinarily high standard. I shall have a little more to say about standards shortly.

As I have said, the necessity for new universities is at once apparent. But we need more than new universities. For students who, after all, are the most important element in our considerations, conditions are by no means happy at the present time. May I draw the attention of honorable members to a summing up of the problems of universities in the Murray report?

What is the use of having a university to which we bring all and sundry from hither and yon when it is found that this result is obtained? The report states at page 121 -

A survey of the records of students enrolled at six universities for the first time in 1951 showed that of every 100 students only 61 passed the first-year examination; only 35 graduated in the minimum period of time; and only 58 have graduated or are expected to graduate at all. Such a high failure rate is a national extravagance and can ill be afforded. Extensive consideration of the problem really indicates that there is no one cause and we have discussed various factors such as the preparation of students, the gap between school and university, the pressure of curricula, teaching methods, inadequate staffing and the absence of student-guidance.

We cannot ignore the fact that this high failure rate exists.

I should like to mention one or two of the factors responsible for the high failure rate. In the first place, there is the problem of immaturity. It is well known that a lot of students, at the age of seventeen or eighteen, are not fitted to go from the atmosphere of a school, where their actions, their academic teaching, and their movements outside, all are completely controlled or almost completely controlled, to the atmosphere of a university where complete freedom of movement is possible and where a student can stay away from a lecture and receive no more notice than, perhaps, a frown the next time he is seen by the lecturer at his lectures - if, indeed, the student’s absence had been noted in the first place. The fact is that the step from secondary school to the university is a very serious step. It has an important effect on a student, and many students find that they take twelve months to settle down at the university. Some students never settle down. I can think of one in particular who had a glorious two years at the university and who flopped each year, although he was quite capable.

Mr Whitlam:

– Where is he in practice now?


– I point out that I am not referring to myself. That sort of thing is by no means uncommon. A student with a brain of good capacity may go to a university and flop in his first year because of the disturbing effects of his new environment. If he has enough sense, he pulls himself together after the first year, settles down, goes on with his course, and gets through it all right. But some students never get to the end of the course.

Mr Uren:

– What happens if the student holds a scholarship?


– We know that if a student holding a scholarship is foolish in the first year, the authority responsible for the scholarship says, in effect, “ You did not get through your first year. We shall see how you get on under your own steam next year, and if you do well enough we shall see about your scholarship then.”

Mr Uren:

– Speak for the broad masses.


– I am speaking for the broad masses. Not only am I speaking for them, but I am one of them, because 1 happen to be the product of a scholarship. Since the honorable member has implied that I am not one of the broad masses, ! do not hesitate to tell the House that I am the product of a scholarship. I did not have the advantages of great wealth. My father died when I was six weeks old, but, because by mother was prepared to make sacrifices for me and I was able to obtain an open scholarship to the University of Queensland, I was able to complete my studies without having to pay anything myself. I take this opportunity to say “ Thank you “ to my State for making that scholarship possible. So I class myself among the fortunate ones who have received scholarships and among the masses that my honorable friend has referred to. As I see it, we all are part of the one nation, and any one who has the ability, and who wants to go to a university, has it in his hands, under the scholarship system, to go ahead and learn a little more. May I say, too, that when he has learned a little more he will learn to be tolerant and not class-conscious. He will learn, too, that there are in the world people who say one thing in public and another thing in private.

But perhaps I am digressing. I want to deal more fully with the problem of the failure rate at the universities. I have mentioned one factor - the disturbing effects of the change from’ the secondary school to the university. There are many other factors. I shall not deal with them all, but I shall deal specifically with one which I think is serious. That is the problem of a low standard of entry. As the position is at present, a student in one faculty that I shall tell the House about - the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland - can flop in any year of his course. 1 recall that 30 years ago, the Faculty of Engineering at that university had a very high standard, and it was well known that if a student was able to survive the first two years of the engineering course it would be most unusual for him to be failed in the third or fourth year, because he would have shown, in his first and second years, that he was a good enough student to get through. However, in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland, it is just as easy now to go down in the fifth year as it is to fail in the first year. What is the effect of this on the medical students in Queensland, whom we regard as our future doctors? They are subjected to the eternal nervous strain of knowing throughout their entire course that, no matter how well they may have done in the first two years - or even the first three, if you like - some of them inevitably will be failed in the fifth year. 1 think that that is a matter which the proposed Australian Universities Commission should consider. 1 believe that if some students are to be eliminated in order to keep down the numbers in a profession, the numbers should be kept down in the beginning. It should not be possible for a student who is not brilliant to take anything from seven to ten years to complete his course. Only one-tenth of the medical students in Queensland have been able to complete the course without a post or without repeating a year. Would anybody suggest that that is a fair indication of the intellectual capacity of the students who embark upon the study of medicine in Queensland? Surely more than one-tenth of them should get through without posts or the repetition of a year. So I suggest that if there is a deliberate intent on the part of the universities in Australia to limit the number of graduates, the number of entrants to the faculties should be limited by maintaining a high standard of entry and keeping out those who have not been able to attain it. Any who do succeed in embarking on a course that they cannot complete should be eliminated in the first two years, so that the students generally will not suffer from the never-ending nervous strain of knowing that some of them will inevitably fail, and so that some students will not find their financial resources exhausted after having taken, say, the second year twice, the third year twice, and perhaps the fourth year twice.

The time to cull is at the beginning. If the culling cannot be done at matriculation by requiring, in addition, a qualifying examination or standard before studying for a profession, it should at least be done during the first and second years of all courses. I do not suggest for a moment that once a student has passed1 the first and second years of a course he should be allowed to go haywire in his final years and inflict himself upon an unsuspecting society which does not realize that he is a misfit. I think that the professors and lecturers have enough intelligence and sufficient powers of observation to watch students carefully and to see how they are going. Indeed, many a student in the past has been told, in so many words, “ Just watch how you are going “.

As I have said, there are many reasons for student failures. It is essential that students should not be prevented from attending a university if they are good enough and if they want to attend. But it is of no use for their time to be wasted once they get there. Australia cannot afford to have about onehalf its university students falling by the wayside. We know that some of them would fall by the wayside anyway, but the proportion should not be as great as one-half. The wastage in our universities at the present time is much too great, and I suggest that the proposed Universities Commission should1 undertake a continuing study of the wastage by failure.

I should like to direct your attention also, Mr. Speaker, to paragraph 354 of the Murray report, which reads -

For these various reasons, it appears to us that the day is past when planning of university development can be left entirely to individual institutions or confined within the boundaries of one State. We consider, therefore, that the time is no%v ripe for a permanent Australian University Grants Committee. We believe that it would foster that continuing discussion within universities and between universities which is essential for their good health.

Paragraph 355 reads -

We have accepted the representations of the universities and the States that State funds are no longer adequate to meet the existing situation.

I forecast, Mr. Speaker, that within a comparatively short time the grants made available as a result of the investigations of the Australian Universities Commission will far exceed anything that we envisage to-day. Although in the past education was regarded as a privilege for the favoured few, to-day it is known to be a necessity for all. Not every student has the intellectual capacity to reach university stage, and it is not derogatory to anybody to say so. The trouble to-day is that many people think that the only way to gain snob value is to acquire a white collar or a degree. That is entirely wrong. Providence gives each of us different qualities. To some it gives the ability to shoe horses properly - and I am told by my friend, the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes), that farriers are in great demand to-day for the shoeing of racehorses. Young lads do not like the idea of shoeing horses because their girls do not approve of that as a trade. So the farrier’s art is a dying art to-day. Nobody wants to be a farrier. Is there anything dishonorable about being a farrier? Is there anything dishonorable about constructing a building? From what I have heard, one of the greatest men who ever lived was a carpenter. Yet, there is a strange idea abroad, especially of recent years, that if you want to be anybody you must wear a white collar. I believe that that is entirely wrong.

If the proposed commission does nothing else throughout its life it can at least bring education to all those who deserve it. I believe that our universities will do one important thing anyway. If they do not make brilliant scholars of all students at least they will help their students to learn how to live better lives.


– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) has entertained us quite effectively in support of this legislation. Especially in the closing stages of his remarks he directed the attention of the House to the declining remuneration being paid to artisans and manual workers. In that respect, of course, he is supporting the members of the Opposition who continually contend in this place that there is a need to restore and maintain margins for manual workers and artisans in order to give some recognition of the great value of their work to the national economy.

There can be no question but that the rich university experience of the honorable member for Wide Bay equips him well to participate in a debate on such measures as those we have before us. In fact, his experience probably contributed in some considerable degree to the successful speech he has made.

We are debating the Australian Universities Commission Bill, and a bill to amend the Education Act 1945 in order to facilitate the implementation of the Australian Universities Commission Bill. The purpose of the Australian Universities Commission Bill is to establish a very important body which will be capable of giving good advice to the Government not merely about the monetary affairs of the universities, but also on the full range of university development in Australia. All honorable members and, I believe, most people in the country, recognize the great value of universities generally and, like the Opposition, they are bound to support a proposal of this kind that is designed to put the universities on a better basis.

The Opposition favours this legislation. We always favour increased Commonwealth acceptance of responsibility. We recognize its great importance to a fast-developing continent like Australia. We know that educational opportunities have been denied in the past, and we recognize the importance of ensuring that young Australians in future will have educational opportunities equal to the very best available in the world. We believe, however, that these measures are somewhat late in coming forward, that they are many years overdue. We believe that the Government has failed to a considerable degree to accept its responsibilities while it has been in office, and we would like to know why.

It is possible that, if the Prime Minister had not developed the habit of going overseas each year and had not, a short time ago, gone to the United Kingdom and been attracted to Sir Keith Murray, we would not have had this Murray committee report at all, and the universities would still be languishing in a state of financial embarrassment. I know there are many members on both sides of the House who hope that the Prime Minister will visit the United Kingdom again this year and find some one equally appealing as Sir Keith Murray, and invite him to come to Australia in order to set him up as head of a committee to investigate the needs of education generally, because there is not very much logic in selecting one of a large number of factors contributing to an educational system, and concerning ourselves exclusively with that one in the hope - or the certainty, as perhaps the Government believes - that it will solve the whole problem.

Although the Prime Minister has done something very worth while in bringing forward this proposal to set up a commission, there is still a great deal to be done, because education deficiencies are glaringly apparent throughout Australia, in the primary and secondary education fields in particular. For many years, the Government has evaded its responsibilities to the universities, and we are very pleased to see that effect is being given to the Murray report. Proposals for great improvement in the university system, involving an expenditure of more than £20,000,000, have the enthusiastic support of all sections of the Parliament.

The fact of the matter is that the Government has failed to take into account a large number of extremely important matters during its period of office. It has failed even to recognize the great impact on education of the immigration programme. The greatly enlarged attendances at primary schools at present have not been the subject of any special consideration by the Commonwealth. It could well be, of course, that tax reimbursements to the States are based on the inclusion of some provision in this regard. However, the need for increased facilities, for increased teacher training opportunities and matters of that kind, have not received the attention they obviously deserve.

When this Government took office in 1949, it had at its disposal the provisions of the Education Act 1945, and what a wonderfully comprehensive and allembracing act it was! It provided the Government with adequate opportunities to move into the field of education. It was introduced by Labour in 1945 and has been available to this Government ever since it has been in office. Labour had broken the time-honoured barriers in establishing this act. Tt was specially concerned with the need to provide rehabilitation opportunities for ex-servicemen through university trainin?, and that was facilitated with other matters through this legislation. It is quite refreshing to look at the purposes of the Education Act 1945. Sub-section (2.) of section 5 provides -

The functions of the Commonwealth Office of Education shall be -

to advise the Minister on matters relating to education;

to establish and maintain a liaison, on matters relating to education, with other countries and the States;

to arrange consultation between Commonwealth authorities concerned with matters relating to education;

to undertake research relating to education;

to provide statistics and information relating to education required by any Commonwealth authority; and

to advise the Minister concerning the grant of financial assistance to the States and to other authorities for educational purposes, and shall include such other functions in relation to education as are assigned to it by the Minister.

They are wide and comprehensive functions. I invite the attention of honorable members to the opportunities afforded by paragraph (f) which provides for advice to be given to the Minister concerning the grant of financial assistance to the States. It can readily be seen that if the Government had had the will, it could have achieved something similar to what we hope to achieve under the provisions of the legislation currently before the House, but unfortunately very little was done.

The Education Act, which is being amended by the legislation before us, involves two important instrumentalities - the Commonwealth Office of Education and the Universities Commission. Both these bodies have done an outstandingly good job. The Commonwealth Office of Education has had a very comprehensive role to play and it has done extremely well in many respects, but it is clear that, due either to the fault of the office itself or of the Minister at the helm. it. has failed to avail itself of all the opportunities available under the provisions of the Education Act; it could have done much more.

Mr Whitlam:

– Its staff was reduced by over 60 per cent.


– I recognize that the staff was reduced. Any honorable member who has not been able to appreciate the matters relating to this situation would do well to read the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) in which he gave full details.

One reason which has contributed to the Government’s failure to avail itself fully of the Office of Education is that inadequate reporting obligations were incorporated in the original act. Section 7 of the act provides -

The Director shall, once in every year, furnish to the Minister a report containing a summary of the work of the Commonwealth Office of Education during the preceding year.

I do not doubt that the Commonwealth Office of Education has fulfilled its obligation to report to the Minister, but it has had no obligation, nor has the Minister, to table a report in the Parliament, so that it may be debated. For that matter, no report is available in this place for the benefit of honorable members. That is a most unfortunate circumstance. It applies to the Commonwealth Office of Education and equally to the Universities Commission, which also was established under the Education Act. So, a long time went by without the Government doing anything and without the House having a reasonable opportunity to check on progress. Then, the Murray committee eventuated and we realized that there had been a great accumulation of deficiencies. We appreciate now, of course, that although all the machinery and authority was available, years and years of Liberalism had failed to see use made of the machinery and authority.

The Murray committee made some startling revelations. Everyone suddenly realized that compared with other countries there had been a low intake and output of students in Australia. Our output figure was one-tenth, proportionately, of that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and many other countries had much better records. We found also that we had inadequate facilities. We realized that the Parliament had not been progressively informed of a developing crisis and suddenly we found the need to spend an emergency grant of £20.000,000 on education in a very short time. It is not to be spent generally on education; the position is much worse than that. Tt is to be spent solely on universities, which represent only one segment of education. How much worse could the position be? If a committee, similar to the Murray committee, is established to investigate the general needs of education we will get a shock that will really startle honorable members and the community generally.

We had to find £20,000,000, although the crisis had been developing progressively over a period of ten years, and no worthwhile reports had been made available by the Government. The Parliament had not been made aware of the magnitude of the crisis, and even the Prime Minister was shocked out of his complacency and his lethargy. He had spent many years denying any responsibility for education. When I first came to this place, I made a speech about the need for federal aid in the field of education, but the Prime Minister rebuffed me on that issue. In many answers to questions he averred that the Government had no responsibility on the issue. Although he had previously contended that the emergency or helping-hand provision contained in section 96 of the Constitution should only be used where the States appealed for assistance - a tradition which he had rather helped to establish and sustain - he suddenly decided that he wanted to assist the States and that he would do so whether they asked for it or not. That was the magnitude of the problem as revealed to us by the Murray committee and that was the extent of the Commonwealth Government’s lack of activity, although, by virtue of Labour’s Education Act, it had adequate opportunities to do something about this matter.

The Murray committee shocked the Prime Minister into action, and for him it was fairly impetuous action; it disregarded many of the delicacies of the Constitution for which he had so much regard in previous times. It is true that the existence of a federation has created difficulties for the universities, and, indeed, for Australian education generally. Historically, the universities were created and supported by the States. It is now clear, however, that State budgets cannot meet the total cost and all eyes have turned to the Commonwealth. Although education is not a subject which the Constitution places under federal control, two particular issues have served to establish some rights to Commonwealth participation, and they are fairly recent issues. The first was the 1946 referendum, which extended Commonwealth power to deal with benefits to students. The second was the 1951 Commonwealth statute which directly provided money for universities. Although some doubts as to its validity have been expressed often enough, it is probably very fortunate that nobody has bothered to challenge this measure. The constitutional problems which deterred the Prime Minister from taking action for such a long time have not been properly clarified, at least by any competent authority, but apparently they are being conveniently side-stepped at present. I do not think there is anything particularly wrong with this, but it is the fact of the matter that concerns me. If we can side-step them now we could have sidestepped them long ago and avoided the great crisis which developed in education. lt is difficult to know the extent of the damage that has been done as a result of the humbugging on this issue. So many people have contended that the States have specific rights about education. They have talked about sovereign States for so long that I am reminded of the story of the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden. One of the Premiers who was attending a conference said, “The States have sovereign rights”. Sir Arthur Fadden replied, “ That may be right. You have the rights, but I have the sovereigns and you are not getting any “. That is the essence of this situation. That is why we are overcoming so many of these problems in a short time; because the Commonwealth has the sovereigns and in the long run, because of the desperate nature of the situation, we are prepared to brush aside so many of these technicalities. It is a pity we waited so long because education and the universities have to get the sovereigns.

Mr Hulme:

– Where are the sovereigns?


– Some have come along in the £20,000,000 that has been granted to the universities. A few years ago in the face of the attitude then of the Prime Minister, we would not have got that £20,000,000. Tn his second-reading speech. the Treasurer said -

The proposed commission will be something of an experiment in co-operation between the Commonwealth and State Governments and the universities. It will not be a body of coercion; its whole success will depend upon its securing the confidence and trust of all those who are interested in the universities.

Of course, that is the very essence of the situation. I sincerely hope that there has been some discussion with the States about this matter for we concede - as the constitutional experts of this place would not only want to concede but condone - that there is a genuine constitutional problem still persisting about this matter. As we must depend on the co-operation of the State Premiers, I sincerely hope the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Government have at least taken pains to ensure that the States will remain au fait with the Commonwealth’s intentions.

We must have some account for the fact that, up until a very short time ago, not one of the States had asked for assistance under section 96 of the Constitution, and that it was only a matter of a month or two ago when the first and only Premier to do so - the former Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Hawke - came to a Premiers’ Conference in Canberra and asked for assistance. Generally speaking, the States have not asked for this assistance, so I sincerely hope they have been paid the courtesy of some consideration by the Prime Minister. I mention it because no reference has been made to it in this debate, especially by the Treasurer when introducing the measure. Let us hope the States are not disgruntled and will co-operate, especially having regard to the statement by the Murray committee that co-operation on the part of the universities, the Commonwealth Government and the State governments is essential to the success of this scheme.

Very vital issues are involved. We want to see this committee idea extending so that all sections of the Australian education system will be fully represented in the long run and so that all sections other than the universities will get some of the sovereigns to which I have referred. The fact of the matter is that, due to the failure of the Government to act earlier in these things, irreparable and irretrievable damage has been done to so many aspects of the Australian economy. The Government stands indicted and condemned on these issues.

I support the measure and congratulate the Government on having achieved it, but the Government must be criticized also for the lone delay that has occurred. When we think of the effect on Australia’s atomic energy enterprise, for example, we can recognize that power problems, medical services and other services would have benefited by a higher output of students from the universities. When we recognize that Australian industry has been prejudiced and that our ability to compete in overseas trade has been impaired by the shortage of university graduates, we see the significance of this lapse. The C.S.I.R.O. and the important work it does could have been adversely affected and so also could many other aspects of the Australian way of life. Therefore, this Government stands condemned because, as I have said, this crisis has developed menacingly over ten long years during which the Liberal Government has stood immovable like the Sphinx and absolutely useless in its attitude to this matter.

I contend, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this legislation, while it could be extremely beneficial with its great potentialities and opportunities, could similarly be a wash-out. The House does not have an opportunity of discussing these matters from time to time, and this was one of the failures which was inherent in the administration of the Education Act. Little more benefit need be obtained from this measure unless we avail ourselves of the opportunities, especially in the Parliament, to keep the issues under this legislation under careful scrutiny.

I want to refer now to the composition of the committee. The fact is that no mention has been made by the Government of its failure to accept holus bolus the recommendations made by the Murray committee so far as the composition of the commission is concerned. It is known, of course, that the commission has been instituted, in most other respects, almost in complete compliance with the Murray committee’s recommendations. For example, in chapter 8 under the heading “ The Need for an Australian University Grants Committee “, the Murray committee has said -

We believe that the Commonwealth Government needs continuous advice on the financial requirements of the universities if the universities are to develop rationally and coherently and we recommend the appointment of a permanent Australian University Grants Committee.

Then, so far as the composition of the committee was concerned, it made very clear-cut and specific recommendations. It proposed that there should be a chairman and seven other members, two of whom were to be lay members. But in contrast to this recommendation, the bill is providing that the new commission shall have a chairman and a total of four members. Since the Murray committee went to such great pains to recommend the seven members - in paragraphs 377 and 379 of the report - I shall make direct reference to them. The report stated -

We assume that governments will wish to continue to give universities the measure of financial freedom which is essential to their welfare and we feel that this is more likely to continue if the Committee includes among its number nonacademic or lay members who, by their personal standing and experience, would carry the complete confidence of governments and public.

Then in paragraph 379 the committee said -

Even so, there would appear to be not less than five groups of disciplines which should be covered by the Committee - arts, social sciences, pure sciences, applied sciences (including engineering) and medicine and dentistry.

In paragraph 381 the committee finally states clearly that it recommends seven committee members, two of whom would be lay-members. The committee considered the inclusion of lay-members to be very important, having regard to the apparent need to win the support of all sections of the Australian community on this matter. The Murray committee has gone to sufficient trouble to indicate its views on the composition of the commission, and I feel that some Government spokesman should at least tell us the reasons why the Government has failed, in this legislation, to give effect to the recommendations of the committee.

Since I have only a few minutes left, let me contend, in conclusion, that the whole field of education is in need of a similar review. Similar committees should be established, because we recognize the great work done by the Murray committee. The States are not prepared to relinquish their rights - that is apparent - but they are willing to co-operate with a committee of political neutrality. Just as they have cooperated on the universities issue, they will be prepared to do so in respect of every other sphere of education.

There is a crisis throughout Australia in education, and I want to mention several facts which will tend to substantiate this view. First, there is the immigration pro gramme. Some 100,000 migrant children are not being adequately catered for. This ultimately, of course, has its effect in the universities. Reference has been made to the failure rate in universities, which is very high compared with that of other countries. I remind honorable members of the 1951 test year, when a survey was made of 100 students. Only 61 passed their first-year examinations, only 35 graduated in the minimum time, and only 58 have graduated or are expected to graduate at all. This indicates a number of things. It could well mean, of course, that the ground-work in primary and secondary schools is inadequate. On the other hand, it could well indicate a need for an overhaul of teaching and tutorial methods in universities. In any case, it is evidence of a very serious educational problem which needs urgent overhaul.

Then, of course, it is worth mentioning that university enrolments are expected to increase to an alarming extent in the near future. This similarly demonstrates the need for special attention being given to the whole problem of education. The fact of the matter is, according to the Murray committee’s predictions, that although there are 36,465 students attending universities at the present time, by 1967 there will be approximately 80,000. When we have regard to that expected increase of 120 per cent., we can readily see that this is a problem worthy of urgent attention.


– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


– I listened with great respect and attention to the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) last night and to the well-presented speech of the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) this afternoon. Although there is a feeling that one should follow the seductive reasoning of both of these exponents of university life, I feel that my remarks will be distinctly non-U and very much Lucky Jim in approach. I think - of course, one cannot be churlish about these things - that the advent of the Commonwealth in any shape or form into the educational field, as a Santa Claus prepared to provide the necessary money, is a very good thing indeed, but I have a feeling that we have not thought sufficiently about this matter and that we have not started at the right end.

It is a very good thing to do some refurbishing of the universities, to gloat about the £20,000,000 that has been made available, and to talk about the organizations that will be set up and which will do something for the universities. This is splendid, I agree, but if we are going to put first things first, we should start at the other end. Do not blame the Australian Labour Party in this regard, because its programme with regard to education for the Australian people covers primary education, technical education, secondary education and, using this new and delightful term, tertiary education.

Perhaps there is still a certain amount of reverence associated with the average worker’s approach to education. When you mention the words “ professor “ or “ Canberra University “ and talk about degrees and like paraphernalia, they go into a sort of trance and do not realize that these are merely the things associated with the results of what happened originally to the kiddies in the little red school-house. As a dynamic and down-to-earth organization, the Labour Party has insisted that in approaching the problem of education we should begin at the primary level and go right through.

I heard the honorable member for Hughes say that it has taken many years to achieve the results foreshadowed by this legislation. Having read a report, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was jolted into activity and almost collapsed in upon himself - which, you may imagine, would be a frightful thing - when he saw how dreadfully we have neglected our universities. But if he had turned his eye to the neglect of education generally in this country, he would have collapsed altogether. He would, perhaps, have disappeared from the House in a fury at the thought that so many things should have been allowed to come to pass.

The Labour government in the war years was bereft of the machinery necessary to do very much about this matter, because of constitutional difficulties and because many people, including so many teachers, were at the war. But it made an attempt to get somewhere by establishing the Com monwealth Office of Education. As the honorable member for Werriwa has so brilliantly put it, the battle all the time is to gain some sort of precarious foothold in the constitutional Alps, if one may use that expression, in order to render assistance to those in the valleys. The State authorities are so jealous, so intense, and so desirous of doing things in their own way that we can only be a kind of rich aunt, dribbling largesse here and there when the opportunity presents itself. It is not always accepted or wanted, because there are jealous leaders of thought in education in the State sphere, men with qualifications, who see in this an invasion of their own darling rights in respect of education, and they are not particularly impressed with the moneybags from Canberra who say, “ You can have this and that on certain conditions.”

However, this has all been explained, and I do not think there is any great difficulty in this direction. I have not yet known of any one refusing, except after a struggle, money extended to him. The records of this Parliament over the last fortnight will show that such an attitude is still in existence and is evident when pressure is applied on members of this House or members of the community to receive a grant in aid or a substantial increase in remuneration. This problem, therefore, does not arise.

The problem that does arise is this: Have we, even by this measure - and it is a good one because it does something for education - adopted the right approach? I suggest that we have not started where the problem is most serious. There has been much discussion about what sort of plans we will have for the universities, and about what place the humanities will occupy as against the technical side of education. But we must keep in mind the fact, as indicated by the literature of England at this moment, that so many of the red brick universities that we are creating as sub-branches of the Sydney and Melbourne universities, although they are autonomous, are only plush-lined technical colleges. One wonders whether our thinking is as dynamic as it should be on the matter.

The questions of procedure and set-up in universities, their libraries, their research facilities and so on, are all very important, but I still think that we would have adopted a more natural and pioneering approach to the problem if we had done something about primary education. If we look in the doors of the primary schools, we see rooms in which 90 kids are huddled together, trying to learn the rudiments of education from one harassed teacher. Their school playgrounds are filled with gravel, because of bad planning in the past which now allows no chance of providing playing fields. The areas are restricted and inadequate. Youngsters in high schools have to go miles for a swim, and further miles for their other sport. They arc limited, in regard to both their mental progress and their physical education, by the slum approach of the past to State schools and general education, and by the expansion of cities, particularly of Sydney and Melbourne.

As has been pointed out by other honorable members, we have a migration scheme of which we profess to be extremely proud. We talk about the numbers coming into this country and our golden dream of what they are going to do for us. If that is a valid concept of migration - more people, more work, more development, a country with a population large enough to protect itself - we first ought to be considering something for the children of the community, our own children and migrant children, who have become a serious problem to education authorities in all States. If we rush forward with this grant in aid, if we go forward with these ideas in regard to education, the primary schools should first have the advantages, later the secondary schools, and finally the universities, all in the proper and normal sequence.

To-day there seems to be in this House a feeling that every bachelor of arts is destined to be an Einstein. I have to warn the House that the proportion is much lower than that. The statistics of this country, particularly the rather gruesome statistics of unemployment, show that we could do with a great many more fitters and turners and ordinary technicians, and greater advances on the technical side of education. In fact, the country is screaming for technicians, and if we do not want the whole of the unemployment position to worsen - I put it to you. Sir, that both sides of the House now desire fervently that we maintain full employment - we must give technical education to youngsters, who will in their turn provide employment for the unskilled.

Only the other day, 1 went round portion of my electorate to find out for myself what the employment situation was. At the various employment offices I found there were signs of a growing trickle, rather than a stream, of unemployment in the unskilled groups. Flecked here and there was the occasional unemployed migrant - Italian, Hungarian, Bait, or as the case may be. The authorities, and particularly one senior officer, said that if some of the young unskilled Australians whose education was neglected had had training as technicians, it would be possible, with every twelve skilled men, to absorb 50 unskilled men. That is one of the problems.

I heard the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), in his splendid speech, mention the anxieties besetting universities, but I suggest that they are academic and occasionally unreal in the face of the real national problem, which I think is one of primary education. The Commonwealth finds great difficulty in prevailing upon the States to accept its well-meant assurances. And so it might, because the Commonwealth Government, no matter what its political complexion - Liberal or Labour - comes bearing gifts, and one must beware of Greeks bearing gifts! Very soon the States may find another section of their activities absorbed. We offer to help the States in gathering their taxes, and we finish gathering all their taxes. The dynamic, gigantic and prosperous State of New South Wales, of which I am an unworthy resident, has not been given back what we took from it. So when we talk about education, there is a certain shuddersome reaction from the educationalists of Australia, particularly those in the bigger States.

When one looks at our record in education, one finds that it is not particularly convincing. We as a Labour Government tried to do something with the Commonwealth Office of Education. We splattered little bulletins around the country and helped in the general plan of education, particularly adult education. We were able to do a little, but in the broad stream of education, we did not have much influence, although we spent a good deal of money.

With the Australian National University and all its expensive experiments we began - and as a Labour man I regret to say it - at the wrong end. A chap said to me the other day - I am sure that the graduates in the House will excuse him - “ What do they do at the Australian National University? “ 1 said, “ Oh, well, they research upon research. They look into things that have already been looked into “. He said, “ That is a little unkind. Do they give degrees? “ 1 said, “ No “. He said, “ Cor, it must be a good job! What else do they do? “ I said, “ Oh, they issue books and have them printed “. He said, “ Have you any? “ I had only two. One was a survey of the elections in Eden-Monaro, which I found completely inaccurate and badly written. The other dealt with a by-election in Gwydir, which quoted all the wise-cracks that I had made as Labour publicity director in Gwydir in 1954, when the present honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) was returned to this House. My efforts were frustrated by his activities.

I do not say that that is the only literature of the Australian National University. There is another publication on demography and theories of migration, race change, and all that sort of thing. I thought that also was rather in the apprentice class. I am not attempting to belittle the great value of the Australian National University, but in a country like ours, which I submit again is in the pioneering stages of education, a good teaching university must be worth a lot. We have a university college in Canberra, which ought to be a university, and so on.

These matters just occur to me in passing. Perhaps comments of an acid nature in the general calmness and sweetness that has prevailed, most unusually, over the last few days, are not out of place. I thought I would give some of my own views upon the subject. I think the House will agree that if we desire earnestly to get into the problem of education, we should tackle it where it is toughest, at the levels where it is most needed, at the physical, economic and migration levels. That is where we should start planning. Otherwise the atmosphere becomes too rarefied. One gets rareficalion of the eyebrows. We become too highbrow, and we do no good with our £20,000,000. I have read all the reports, and I have come to these conclusions reluctantly, but I think there is some merit in them. These are only vagrant thoughts that I express as I wait for the Minister to come into the House to reply to those who have taken a lot of trouble in discussing these two bills.

I do want to make another point in regard to universities. It is almost 200 years since this country was discovered. There is in it a vibrant and active literature. But in no university in Australia is there a chair of Australian literature. We have tried in New South Wales, as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) knows, to do something about it. We have tried to have this activity attached to the Chair of English in the faculty of arts. We raised about £50,000 out of a possible £80,000 to permanently endow a chair of Australian literature. If the Commonwealth, with its money and its other attributes, is able to come into this field of education, it should move as soon as possible towards the establishment of a chair of Australian literature at all capital city universities. There is no possible chance of obtaining that as an amendment to the bill, so I merely make the suggestion. The days are gone when one could be diffident about or a little contemptuous or afraid of a free and open discussion of Australian literature and an educated approach to the great Australians who have produced literature over the last 150 years, and particularly the last 50 years. There is merit in the desire felt by many authors, many teachers, and indeed many parliamentarians, that we ought to have, very proudly, in our universities a chair for the study of Australian literature, which will help to nourish that literature and assist us to get out of a bog which is causing a great deal of anxiety to the Australian writer. In Sydney yesterday the Miles Franklin award was given to a young man who was originally, I think, a South Australian, but who is now employed in New Guinea as a patrol officer.

Mr Hasluck:

– A Western Australian.


– I am sorry; I thought perhaps you might have spread your net a little wider. He is a very brilliant writer, and he won a prize awarded by Miles Franklin, a famous author of the past, who left the whole of her estate for the encouragement of Australian literature.

This is relevant to the bill in this connexion. She suggested that every year those people interested in literature - and she named the judges - should select the book giving the best boost to Australian literature and the concept of Australia as we see it. Mr. Stow, with a brilliant story on missionaries in the north-west, won the award but I am sorry to see that his book was not printed in Australia. Only five out of the seventeen books which were strongly in the running were printed in Australia. Surely, if we do concede that we should have a chair of Australian literature the build-up of the university must include some publishing arrangement with the university as at Oxford and elsewhere. 1 understand that the Melbourne University does a great deal through local book-sellers under its own imprint. Nevertheless it is rather tragic to find that prize-winners in this country still must go abroad for sale and recognition because there are so few publishers in this country and the quantity of books flowing through is rather too large to give writers a chance. Perhaps I might, without advertising my own wares, point out that that is the delay in publishing my book on China; I have had to take my place in the queue with Australian writers.

But the point I make before I conclude on this matter is that subsidies provided by educational grants to publishers would not be out of order. They could be supervised by the university groups. These subsidies could be something in the nature of payment of royalties such as we now make in sponsoring the Commonwealth Literary Fund.

This is not an idle piece of airy nonsense. It is something serious which has a great deal to do with our general education. I said that I had a non-U approach to this bill. Like lucky Jim and the red brick universities some people look upon them as plush-lined technical schools where you can get a degree and go out. You do not see any great philosophical outcome from the work of the man who gets a mechanical degree of some sort, such as a doctor or lawyer; and the humanities have been crowded to the wall. But I accept that as the general pace of living and the general attitude in this year of grace.

I say to the Government and to the Minister at the table, as a responsible

Minister, that if we tinker with education at all it must not be entirely at the top level. This legislation goes with the Labour Party’s blessing. It is something the Government is trying to do, but do not let it get into the hands of some lazy old committee which will not do anything. I ask the Government not to be intimidated by the fact that the professor is too busy to make a report. It must just take him and see that he does it and justify the spending of this vast amount of money. The spending of £20,000,000 in New South Wales to overcome the class-room crisis would be terrific. It would smooth out many of the creases from the foreheads of parents who are wondering how on earth their children will get through the year’s schooling in the present situation. So, even though we have started at the wrong end we might be able to influence the States by our judgment and enthusiasm to accept more and more the fact that the federal Government, holding the purse-strings, must obtrude eventually into the field of education. If we do that I suggest that we should do much more at the primary and technical levels before we do any more at the tertiary level.

The real reason for my rising was to point to the fact that we should, as an act of common sense and of expedition, suggest that all the universities should have a chair of Australian literature. This would remove our inferiority complex. It would help us not only by helping the students, but also by helping those people who have helped to help the students. In short, since universities are collections of men and women engaged in study, we should be able to understand and appreciate without an inferiority complex the products of our own country.

The first of the measures, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for Werriwa and the honorable member for Hughes has the endorsement of this side of the House. The Australian Labour Party has never been niggardly in regard to any advance made in education. Education is a fetish with the party and always has been. Perhaps, the party has been a little romantic on some occasions and has not put the proper investigation into it because education is a sacred thing with many of the pioneers. They were not able to enjoy its benefits because of the poverty of their circumstances. We do support this measure and hope that it will prove to have vitality and strength. 1 conclude by saying that we hope that the Government will adopt the suggestions that have been conveyed by other honorable members and myself from this side of the table.

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– Honorable members are debating two closely related bills, one for the establishment of an Australian Universities Commission and a consequential measure to make certain amendments in respect of the activities of a body which at present exists and has a similar name. These measures are consequential on the investigation of Australian universities made by the Murray committee and the adoption of the recommendations of that committee. As all honorable members know the chief consequence of the adoption of those recommendations is that very greatly increased sums of money will be available in the coming years for the development of Australian universities and to make it possible for more young Australian men and women to go to universities.

I think a very gratifying feature in this debate is that on both sides of the House there has been so clear a recognition of the importance of this subject and such ready support from the Opposition as well as from the Government benches for the objectives of these measures. I listened with very close interest to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who, like honorable members who have gone before him, mentioned one or two aspects of the whole question which were of particular interest to him. I think all honorable members who know his own contribution to Australian literature and his own interest in the subject will pay particular attention to what he said about the claims to recognition by scholars of the development of Australian literature to a place not only of significance in the cultural progress of our own people but also to a place of some significance, I believe, as I am sure he believes, in the cultural progress of the civilized world. We Australians, I think, are now making no mean contribution to the imaginative insight that human kind in the Western world is achieving through literature in the present generation.

In speaking to this measure I feel that it is unnecessary for me to explain the merits of the bill because they are so generally conceded. So I want, if I may in the time available to me, to enter into the discussion of a rather broader field of the problems of university education. What these bills will do will be to set up a universities commission which will have certain functions. Of course, we hope for great things from the commission. But at the same time I should like to express my own hope that this commission will always realize that its functions are limited and I hope, too, that both the present and future governments will realize that the capacity which lies either in governments, parliaments or commissions to make good universities is very limited.

I should like also to express at the outset my view that there is a real need for the universities themselves and for the Australian public to escape the illusion that the measures which this Parliament now has before it and those actions which will follow from the passage of these bills will, by themselves, make everything all right for our Australian universities. Although these measures will result in an improvement in the allocation of money to the universities, that fact in itself will not necessarily mean that we will have better universities.

Mr Uren:

– It will help a lot.


– It will help considerably. If I can illustrate my point clearly by a humble analogy, it is this: You may have a first class engine in a motor car but it is no good unless you have some fuel in the tank. These bills and the measures to be taken under them will put fuel in the tank. But merely filling a fuel tank will not make a bad engine any better.

We have to escape the illusion that simply by providing money and greater opportunities for universities to become better universities we have, in fact made them better. Hence, although we welcome this move - members on both sides of the House welcome the move - we must remember that any reform and any regeneration of Australian universities must come from within. I express the hope, with some confidence in the outcome, that the Australian Universities Commission will never be deluded into thinking that it can do the job of reform and regeneration on its own. I hope - and this is even more important - that the universities themselves will see that they must do that job of reform and regeneration, and that now they have a much better opportunity of doing it than they had in the past.

I welcome these measures, as the House welcomes them, because they increase the capacity of each university to tackle its own problems. I would deplore the longterm effects of the legislation if it were to blind universities to their basic problems, if it were to lessen their will to overcome those problems, or if it made them feel that they could shift their task to some one else. I believe and hope that the Australian Universities Commission, over the years, will encourage and facilitate the shaping of better universities in Australia, but will always remember that the shaping of better universities is a task that cannot be done by Parliament, governments, or commissions. It can only be done by each of the universities concerned with its own affairs.

Having said that in a preliminary way, I pose this question to the House: What are the problems that face Australian universities to-day? On the one hand, there is a set of problems which might be called the problems of their physical resources - the problem of having enough buildings, enough equipment, being able to meet their running expenses, recruiting adequate staff, and making it possible for students to attend the university. Translated into practical measures, those are problems that can be solved by capital grants, by maintenance grants, and by financial measures that make it possible to improve staff salaries. They can be solved by grants for scholarships and particular research projects. They can be solved by the provision of finance for improved accommodation and maintenance of students while they are at universities.

The report of the Murray committee naturally and necessarily revealed a very considerable pre-occupation with those problems of physical resources, and in tackling those problems it showed a natural and necessary pre-occupation with what might be called the mechanical and organizational side of university management. Without speaking in any critical way of the Murray report as a whole, I think that we can all see, when we read it closely and carefully, the truth that we have now entered what might be called a factory age in education. That is, so much of what was contained in the committee’s report was directly applied to the task of producing a series of educational factories, each of them fully equipped with up-to-date machinery for gaining and spreading knowledge, each of them equipped with all the other gadgets that modern education seems to require, and each of them staffed by a clean, keen and highly efficient staff of people who would be in fact technicians of instruction and research.

Pre-occupation with that side of education is natural. Looked at from a national point of view, it is also necessary, and in a report which was concerned mainly with the particular question of how, why, when and where does a government and a parliament make financial provision for universities, one would expect those questions to be uppermost. Furthermore, as we all know, the case that has been made so cogently for the entry of the Commonwealth into this sphere of education is a case that rests largely, although not wholly, on the national need for the products of universities, for the graduates who are required in the professions, for scientific work in industry, and for the staffing of various fields of government responsibility. These graduates can only be produced by universities.

Mr Whitlam:

– The Prime Minister based his case solely on the historical reason.


– Not solely. He pointed to the historical conditions in the post-war period which led to government entry into this field, and then he added to that arguments related to the national need for graduates, together with one or two other arguments. The point of the matter is that we have in fact accepted the national responsibility to help to ensure that universities do not lack the means of fulfilling their tasks of providing the nation with persons equipped with certain higher levels of skill and technical competence.

That problem of meeting the needs of the universities for certain physical resources is, however, by no means the whole problem of Australian universities. I should like to direct the attention of the House more particularly to those other problems which, I think, are of greater consequence than the ones we are tackling in this legislation. The Australian Universities Commission Bill will help to provide the tools that the university needs in order to do its work, but the wider concern - and it must be the concern of each of us as Australian citizens, even if not as legislators - is what use will the universities make of the tools that we provide for them. And this brings us to a graver problem - the actual quality of the graduates who are turned out. It is not a question whether one of their graduates has passed in Mathematics III., but what sort of person that graduate is. It is not a question of whether one of their graduates has learnt the contents of several text-books, but whether he has learnt to think. Has he learnt to think straight? Has he learnt to value truth? Has he learnt to apply tests of truth that are the real tests of truth? The question is not whether the graduate can build a bridge, take out an appendix, pull teeth, or cure a horse with the gripes - all those things are the subject of academic attainment to-day - but what purpose shanes his actions? It is not a question of whether he is qualified to teach biology or physics to high school students, but what intellectual standards he brings when he makes a judgment. It is not whether he is qualified - and I say this with all due respect and deference to my learned colleague opposite, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) - to plead at law and express an opinion on constitutional matters, but whether he can give leadership and enlightenment to his fellow men.

Those are the real tests of a university graduate. It is the way in which a university can survive that sort of scrutiny of its graduates that points to the deepest problems of universities to-day. I make no apology for using language which to some honorable members might seem to be high flown. I say that our greatest poverty in Australia to-day is not a poverty of technicians, teachers, chemists, and holders of higher diplomas. It is a poverty of the spirit. It is a lack of understanding rather than a lack of capacity. I think we have to show more concern over this than over the fear that we may not have enough scientists to do our research, and enough holders of diplomas of commerce to enter our public services.

This is cleary not ,a field into which the Universities Commission will be able to intrude very far or in which it will have very much competence. It is not a problem that the commission will be able to solve. It is true that the commission will try to ensure that the salaries of the staffs and the conditions under which the staffs work are good. It will try to ensure that no girl or boy who is capable of profiting from a university education will lack the opportunity to go to a university. It will also have to try to see that the national resources are used economically and well and are spread as far as they can be spread over all the universities of Australia. It may have a function to perform in seeing that there is no unnecessary duplication between the specialization of one university and the specialization of another university. But a Universities Commission cannot go very much further than that. As I have tried to indicate, the rest, which is so much more important than what goes before, is up to the staffs and the students and the governing bodies of the universities themselves. Indeed, I would hope that the Universities Commission will not try to trench on this sort of field because if a commission did try to set itself up as the sole directing, governing, thinking body for university education we could get some very ill consequences.

We could get the ill consequence of uniformity. I dread the prospect of uniformity in university education - uniformity of curricula, uniformity of staff, and uniformity of outlook, so that all we get is a sort of production line of packaged students, the contents of each package being like the contents of every other package. I dread that sort of university, and sincerely hope that the move we are now initiating will not result in that sort of uniformity in Australian universities. I do not believe it will.

Another evil is the evil of conformity. It would be, in universities, a most unhappy condition if we had an overall, national, directing body that required conformity in all universities to standards laid down by some one outside those universities. I do not believe the Universities Commission will work in that direction at all. It is well that it should not. because conformity in the academic field would stifle all that is best in scholarship and damage all that is really noble in that noble term “ academic freedom “ - much abused as that term has been in Australia of recent months - and it would impede the free ranging of the best minds of our country.

Another ill consequence that one might fear is the heightening of a tendency which is already apparent in Australia. That is the tendency to distort the purpose of universities to mere technical training, the holding of examinations in order to give a man a certificate to do a particular job. It is true that we have a problem in Australia of producing competent men in various fields in order to do the jobs which the nation needs to be done and in order to set up standards of qualifications which will entitle them to do those jobs and create confidence that they are doing them properly. When I speak of “ technical training “ I use the term with complete respect to the holders of diplomas and degrees and to those who examine for diplomas and degrees. Yet, with all respect, that sort of technical training is only at the very margin of what a university really can be. It is only a little part of what a university should be.

I think that the whole of the Western world to-day is being afflicted in a curious way by the dread idea that we may not be keeping up with Russia, just as so many foolish forms of activity have been indulged in in the suburbs because of the necessity to keep up with the Joneses. If they have a piano we must have a piano; if they have a motor car, we must have a motor car; if Russia turns out so many engineering students we must turn out exactly the same percentage, and so on. The national reasons for that attempt to keep up with Russia in the field of university education are quite clear and understandable, but such an objective may sidetrack us into missing some of the peculiar and most precious qualities of our own Western civilization, in which we have placed value on other phases of life than technical competence. So, I express the hope that nothing that we are initiating now will have the final result of distorting the purpose of the universities to mere technical training and the mere production of technicians.

As a slight digression from that theme, I would like to express to this House, seeing that this is a political assembly, the developing dangers of what I would call the “ technocrat “ in the art of government and the field of social organization. We need the fellow with technical skill, whether he be a doctor, a lawyer, or a man versed in public administration, engineering or the sciences. We need him so badly that we are inclined to exaggerate his wisdom. The field of social organization and the art of government are so highly specialized in themselves that I think we are making an error if we imagine that a chap who is a good scientist, a good lawyer, or a good engineer is necessarily the best man to deal with the basic social problems that wc encounter in these days; or that he is necessarily the best man to undertake the very high and responsible duties of government in Australia.

If I hark back several centuries, most honorable members will follow me when I say that there is a great deal of wisdom in the old conception of the philosopherking. I speak of philosophy in the sense of the ability to see things whole and to see them clearly. The philosopher-king was the person best equipped to govern. It was not the technician who was best equipped to govern. That is a point that I think we should keep in mind when we are considering the contribution which universities can make to our life in Australia.

I have said enough, I think, to indicate my own personal approach to this bill. We hope for great things from it. We believe that, as a consequence of the passing of this measure, the physical resources of universities will be increased very greatly. We believe that universities themselves will have much better opportunities in future than they have had in the past. But all that may mean nothing unless, in the universities themselves, without intervention from any outside body whether a government, a parliament or a commission, people who have dedicated themselves to the academic life, to scholarship, and to all that those two expressions mean in the fullest and finest sense, will be able to develop universities, to give them a breadth and a nobility and to recapture a vision which T very much fear may be slipping away from some of them at the present time under the pressure of this constant demand to turn out candidates for examinations and give them their certificates as a result of their success at those examinations.

I sometimes have the privilege still of invading university common rooms or the rooms occupied by university staffs, and I sometimes have an opportunity to address university students. Yesterday, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) expressed a passing opinion that university staffs to-day do not occupy quite the same position that they occupied years ago. I have something of the same feeling. It is difficult, of course, to give any validity to one’s own fleeting impressions, because the change may be in oneself rather than in the object at which one is looking. But one does have the impression, when one goes back to old resorts, that there are on university staffs now so many people who are getting more and more like civil servants trotting off to committee meetings with shiny brief bags. So many members of university staffs, and particularly some of the newer members, look like the sort of people that one sees in the less wellconducted espresso bars - a little scruffy.

Mr Haylen:

– The Minister ought to be careful.


– That may be a hard judgment, and I place no particular value on it.

Mr Haylen:

– Is the Minister confusing the terms “ reffo “ and “ scruffo “?


– “ Scruffy “ was the word that I used. If the honorable member wants a definition, it means that there are grease spots on the trousers, the hair is unbrushed and the fingernails are dirty.

Mr Haylen:

– And the finger is in the cup.


– No; the person of whom I am thinking is to be seen stirring his coffee with a crust of bread. If the honorable member is satisfied with the definition of my term that 1 have given, I shall proceed. I give no great value to this impression of which I have spoken, because it is a fleeting impression. It may be that the change is in me rather than in the university staffs, and I do not want to say anything that would be offensive to any of my many friends in university common rooms. But I do feel that the future of the Australian universities rests with the staffs. It is only when the great teacher emerges in a university - only when the man of personal distinction and of great intellectual integrity and real moral quality emerges - that you get from students something more than the wish to pass the examination. It is when the great teacher comes to a university that the graduates of that university have about them something that shines rather more brightly than the ink on their diplomas.

My last words would be to express to university staffs, if I may, a wish that in their strongholds - strongholds that are beset by many enemies - they will have an opportunity, which will be much better as a result of this legislation, to carry on a fight which has been going on for centuries and which I hope will continue for centuries to come.

Port Adelaide

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). I agree with him that the importance of the debate on these bills that are now before us is not so much in the bills themselves as in the opportunity afforded us to discuss the general activities of the universities and their effect on the people.

Unfortunately, my parents could not afford to send me to a university. I should have liked very much to attend a university, but I did not have the opportunity.

Mr Drummond:

– That was a very great loss to this nation.


– It has been a great loss to me. But that does not mean that I know nothing of university conditions. Before I entered this Parliament, I had served for more than thirteen years as a member of the council of the University of Adelaide, and had been a member also of the finance committee and the education committee of that university. To get perhaps a little away from universities, I served for sixteen years as a member of the council of the School of Arts and Crafts, and I was for a number of years chairman of a primary school committee. So honorable members will realize that, although I have not had any great educational opportunities apart from the ordinary State school education, I have had opportunities to meet people who know a great deal about these matters, and have myself had a little to do with the running of a university.

I became a member of the council of the University of Adelaide in 1933 and ceased to be a member of that body in 1946. Honorable members will appreciate that I joined the university council about the end of the depression and that I saw something of the great effects of the depression on both the finances of the university and the number of students coming forward. At that time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I had experience in dealing with the cases of students who were not able to pay their fees. 1 was a member of a committee that made recommendations as to what should be done for them. After World War II., when the post-war flood of students occurred, we had to expand the university by adding rooms and constructing additional buildings, and the experience that I had in this connexion again brought me very closely in touch with the financial problems and needs of the university.

I may say that I had the great privilege of serving on the council of the University of Adelaide when Sir William Mitchell was Vice-Chancellor and later when he was Chancellor. He was one of the true old school - a man whose speech even to-day reveals his Scots ancestry. Sir William displays a great deal of the qualities of the Scottish Covenanters and others who fought for the rights of man and the dignity of the character of man far back in the history of the Scots.

The Minister for Territories, in the early part of his remarks, referred to the need for a university to do more than merely turn out persons who can teach economics, treat people who are ill, or defend citizens in the courts. I think that if a university is able to produce only those qualities in its graduates and not the great human qualities that we regard as being really important it has not reached the heights that a university should attain.

The Australian Universities Commission Bill, I think, is to a degree a corollary of the Murray committee’s report. Perhaps it did not grow entirely out of that report, but the report focussed attention upon the need for it. The Minister and other speakers have spoken about university thinking and the individuality of universities. The Minister said that he did not want them all to be moulded in the same pattern. I quite agree with him in that. I say deliberately that the individuality of a university stems directly from those associated with it, from the council and the professors down to the students. In Adelaide, we call the governing body of the university a council, but the governing body of some other universities is known as a senate or by some other name. Whatever name it is given, it is really only the managing committee of the university. That is what it boils down to.

My resignation from the South Australian Parliament entailed my resignation also from the council of the University of Adelaide. At the time, I told those who had been my colleagues on that body that the thing that I felt most of all was my departure from the university council. My honorary work in those days included work for the National Fitness Council, for friendly societies and for other organizations. People who do such work for its own sake become connected with these organizations. The man who is out for money never troubles with them.

All through my association with the council of the University of Adelaide I was able to appreciate the need to provide the highest standard of education possible for the people of this country. But it was only after the war, with the introduction of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme under which many ex-servicemen attended universities, that we at the University of Adelaide, at any rate - and this probably applied also to other State universities - began to get fairly large amounts of money from the Commonwealth to assist with our finances.

That inflow of money was necessary because, immediately after the war, new buildings had to be erected for the accommodation of ex-service students, both men and women, and additional teaching staff had to be appointed to cope with the increased enrolment. You know, yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that at that time many people were asking why the Government had to come into those things. They asked why private enterprise or private individuals were not invited to provide the money for university education. In fact, at that time the University of Adelaide was perhaps more dependent than most of the State universities on private donations. At that university, we had the Elder Hall, an old building which was donated to the university by Sir Thomas Elder. We had the Barr Smith Library, which was presented to the university, and which replaced the former library that had been located in quite inadequate quarters. The Barr Smith Library is a very fine building, but we could not have had such library accommodation had it not come to us from a private benefactor. It was not until after I became a member of the university council that Barr Smith presented that building to the university. The honorable member for New England will appreciate the importance of these things.

I could tell the House of other work that has been done at the University of Adelaide as a result of private benefactions and the provision of scholarships by private people. Had it not been for these private benefactions the university would not have been able to do all the things that should be done, and which it was finally able to do.

I may say that at the time I left school higher education was not available to me because there was no high school to which I could go. The only higher educational institutions available were colleges like St. Peter’s or Muirden or other colleges where a young lad’s fees would take almost all the contents of his father’s pay packet.

Another gift to education by a private benefactor in Adelaide is the Waite Institute, donated by Sir Peter Waite, for agricultural research, &c. That institute was under the charge of the finance committee of the university council. I went there regularly with other members of the committee to see what work was being done and what was needed. The Director of the institute used to come to the monthly meetings of the council to report on what was being done, and I had the opportunity to see in those years the great growth that occurred, financed mainly by private donations. T remember that on one occasion, when we wanted more funds for the university, and a bill was brought before the Parliament for that purpose, I was one of the parliamentary representatives on the council. The chancellor of the university said to me afterwards, “ T want to congratulate von on what you have done for this university “ At that time, we were talking about the Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital. medical students received maternity training. Later, I told the university council, “ I will not be satisfied until we have a qualified director in charge of the hospital, and not a doctor who voluntarily gives his services”. The chancellor turned to me and said, “ Thompson, you know if you want that director of obstetrics you will have to see we get more money “. But where could we get more money? Not by appealing for donations. We could get it only from the South Australian Parliament. I was very happy to see that not long afterwards the qualified director of obstetrics was appointed, which was a great thing for the medical students.

As a result of increased enrolment at the university arising from the award of post-war scholarships, including those to ex-servicemen, we needed not only new buildings but also additional lecturers for the increased number of students, and new professors for faculties that were inaugurated. Of course, the Commonwealth was paying the fees of Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme students, but that was not enough. All through these years, until I came here in 1946, I was aware of the necessity for the Parliament to do something more for the university. You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that in my early years on the university council we were depending on funds donated by private individuals and on government grants. I am not trying to drag in party politics. I remember that in 1931 a committee was appointed to inquire into what budgetary provision could be made, because the previous budgetary provision had been overspent. I remember the Liberal leader of the Opposition saying, “ Why not appoint a committee to go into the whole thing without any acrimonious discussion, and we can put it through without politics being brought into it? “ The committee appointed included three members from the Government side and three from the Opposition. I was one of the Government members on the committee. I recollect one of the leading members on the Government side saying to us. “ You could cut down on the salaries you are paying in the Education Department “. So we got the Director of Education of South Australia to come before us, and he was able to demonstrate that South Autralia was paying its teachers less than other States were paying their teachers. I arn referring to school teachers, and not to university teachers in that context. I remember how the director fought for his teachers by saying that unless we gave them something reasonable we would not get teachers of the quality that we should have. It was not until the uniform taxation system came into being, with the increase of Commonwealth grants of various sorts, that we were able to give the people of South Australia the kind of education that we should have been giving them years before.

In view of all I have said honorable members will realize that when the present measure came before us the first thing I looked at - although I appreciate the need to have a university here in Canberra instead of a university college- -was what help we could give to universities already established in the States. When we decided to establish a research university in Canberra, I know that some leaders of State universities felt that the work could have been done in their universities. I am sure that they will admit now that they were wrong in holding that view; they could never have done what has been done here.

The Education Bill is merely a machinery measure; the major measure is the Australian Universities Commission Bill, clause 3 of which contains the following definitions - “ the Commission “ means the Australian Universities Commission established by this Act; “ university “ means a university within Australia, and includes an institution or proposed institution specified in a direction that is for the time being in force under the next succeeding section.

The “ next succeeding section “, which is clause 4 in the bill, is of great interest to me. It says -

The Minister may, by instrument under his hand, direct that this Act shall apply in relation to an institution or proposed institution in Australia specified in the instrument, being an institution or proposed institution for the provision of higher education (including a residential college connected with a university).

The commission will not be limited to considering only established universities but will be able to deal with proposed institutions, including a university college. The Minister for Territories referred to the character of students being formed. Quite a few organizations, such as church institutions, feel that, apart from attendance at universities, students should have the benefit of a residential college where they will be helped with the higher aspects of life as well as with ordinary educational attainments. On one occasion in Adelaide, more money was required for a residential college for women. A recommendation was made to the university council supporting the suggestion and requesting that funds be made available. I favoured that suggestion, but unfortunately finance was not available. The commission to be established under this bill will be able to devote funds to the purposes of residential colleges, if it is satisfied that it should do so.

I have not dealt with the teaching side of a university. I do not profess to know much about it; I have not an academic qualification. However, I do know something of other aspects of life. As a member of a university council, I found over the years that the men who gave the most weight and proved most inspirational to the council were not businessmen but medical or legal men. When we discussed questions concerning the functioning of the university, they seemed able to get the best grasp of all the points most quickly. I may appear to be a bit of a heretic in the eyes of some people, but I think that many of those trained in economics follow too closely the teachings of their professors or the theories contained in books. Some people break away, but in the main most of them seem to follow the same line of thought.

I agree with the Minister for Territories that we want men who are concerned with more than the number of marks obtained by a student. I remember a State Minister of Education who, when addressing pupils about to go to secondary schools, impressed on them that the man who had the highest marks was given the best job. In Adelaide on one occasion, I was the last speaker at a big dinner given in one of the hotels for teachers and others concerned with education. I spoke after the Minister, the Director and others. I told those people that their job was more than teaching reading, writing and arithmetic; they had a responsibility, also, to build the character of the students under their control. That has always been my opinion. As the Minister for Territories said, no matter how efficient a motor is, it will not go without fuel. I would add that unless we have teachers of a high standard, we will not make the best use of the fuel.

Mr Turnbull:

– Not just reputations.


– No, not just reputations. Many people mix up reputation and repetition. Repeating something a hundred times does not make it true, and a reputation as an authority does not necessarily make a person an expert. We all know the saying, “The old grey mare is not what she used to be “. The old grey mare who has been working on the job year in and year out is not able to grasp new ideas as quickly as the younger people can.

I know that my remarks have not been confined entirely to the bill. However, when I commenced to speak I said that the bill provided us with an opportunity to express ourselves so that the members of the commission, when appointed, may have an idea of the way we were thinking when we passed the legislation. I value very highly indeed the wonderful work done by our universities. Throughout the years that I attended primary schools and watched their work, right through from the little tots in the infants schools to the bigger pupils, I appreciated the work done by those responsible for educating our children. I have said on many occasions that those who selected the headmistresses for the infants schools did a wonderful job. They seemed to be able to pick out the people who could teach the little ones to enjoy going to school and could give them something on which to base their future education. I have found right throughout the system people who appreciate the higher needs of education.

The Government has not decided how many members shall constitute the commission. It will be not less than three or more than five. The bill sets out how they can be appointed. Those provisions form the bulk of the bill; but the meat of it is in the clause I have read to the effect that the commission will be able to give assistance not only to established universities but also in other branches of education. I support the bill. I hope that as a result of this measure the lower grades of education, such as primary schools and technical schools, will also be able to get assistance through the new commission.


.- I have been greatly impressed by the high standard of the debate on the bill before the House. The bill provides for an Australian Universities Commission to be set up to examine proposals and advise the Government on the working of our universities and ways in which they can be given Commonwealth assistance. The universities are important to the future of Australia. We must appreciate that Australia is destined to become one of the greatest seats of learning in the world. Our geographical setting alone affords us an opportunity to exercise a tremendous influence in that regard. Already we have done a great deal along those lines by receiving students from Asian countries adjacent to Australia who seek to graduate through our schools of learning and qualify in scientific and technical studies. They also hope to gain academic advantages which will enable them to become successful administrators in their own countries. I feel that we have built up much goodwill by opening up avenues for those people to take advantage of our universities and schools of learning. We have increasing obligations also to our own people to ensure that facilities are afforded them so that they can get the best education and become qualified to meet the more advanced requirements of professional life in this modern scientific world. I join with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in expressing an earnest hope that, in developing these great possibilities, we shall look not only to our academic advancement, but also seek to improve our appreciation of the broad humanities. I hope that we will exercise ourselves in those matters which will develop our sympathy and understanding in our relationships with one another and in the lives of other people.

I recognize that there must be an everincreasing demand upon our universities both financially and in the provision of professorial staff, and that it will not be easy to meet those demands. Therefore, it is desirable that we should set up a commission such as that proposed in this bill. An examination of our educational needs should not be confined to universities but should be extended also to primary, secondary and technical education. The Commonwealth Government should ensure that those who undertake that important work receive support and encouragement. Unless we approach this task with proper understanding and appreciation of all that is involved, we will not attain the general progress that is essential, nor will we derive the full advantage from this proposal.

Much could be done in Australia to relieve the pressures on those who administer education but lack essential finance. An ever-expanding programme is required in every branch of our educational life. 1 suggest, therefore, that the proposed commission should be given the task of examining thoroughly the various questions that are so important for the future of our universities. Our future university students will have to be educated initially in our primary and secondary schools, and we must not neglect these aspects of education. The universities must be given sound material from which to turn out leaders in the industrial and professional fields. We have an obligation to ensure that people in humble circumstances who possess the necessary inherent talent should be given an opportunity to develop that talent. While we afford opportunities to people of other countries to come here and be trained in our universities, surely we should give like opportunities to every Australian boy and girl who wishes to take advantage of them.

I contend that the Government should give tangible support to all aspects of education, and not confine its assistance to the level of universities. I believe that as the products of the universities are of such great value to commercial and business interests, there is an obligation on the commercial and business community to make more generous donations to these institutions than they have done in the past. Those who find themselves in favoured circumstances should consider making bequests for the purpose of improving facilities in universities, thus helping them to carry on more successfully. I have the privilege to represent a constituency that bears the name of one who, in his lifetime, made very generous and worthy contributions to the University of Adelaide. I speak of Sir Langdon Bonython. Because of the bequests that he made, his name will ever be associated with that university. We know, too, that the University of Perth was richly endowed by Sir John Hackett, who believed that every boy and girl in Western Australia should be given the opportunity of free education from the kindergarten right through to the university level. I believe that this should be the case throughout Australia, and that no person prepared to gain the necessary qualifications and to dedicate himself to the higher branches of learning should be deprived of the opportunity to fit himself for leadership in the community, which I believe is essential in assuring our future destiny.

I very warmly approve and support the bill that has been presented. I hope it will be but the forerunner of further action on the part of the Commonwealth to support more liberally all branches of education in Australia.


.- The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) when speaking yesterday on the two bills before the House, expressed his regret at the fact that more time was not given to honorable members to study legislation coming before the House. I find myself in agreement with his statement. The two measures we are now discussing are very important, because they deal with education generally and the provision of educational facilities, both of which are very important subjects for the Australian people, and in regard to which acute problems have arisen. Both the honorable member for Chisholm and myself were members of the Victorian State Parliament. When legislation of this kind was introduced into that Parliament, almost without exception an adjournment of the debate for a week or a fortnight would be granted to enable honorable members thoroughly to study the contents of the bill and to secure sufficient information to enable them to discuss it intelligently and make suggestions for its improvement. I would like to see a similar practice adopted in this House.

As was stated by the Minister when introducing the two bills, their purpose is to provide balanced facilities and, apparently, balanced development for our universities, to provide sufficient funds for them, and to place the whole matter of Commonwealth scholarships under one control. Clause 13 of the Australian Universities Commission Bill deals with the functions of the commission, and a perusal of the clause would give the impression that those functions are too limited. The clause provides - . . the functions of the Commission are to furnish information and advice to the Minister on matters in connexion with the grant by the Commonwealth of financial assistance to universities established by the Commonwealth and of financial assistance to the States in relation to universities.

One wonders whether those functions go far enough. At present we have one university in Queensland; one in Victoria, already established, and one in the process- of being established - the Monash University; and three in New South Wales, one of which is the University of Technology. I have referred specifically to the eastern States.

As our population increases, and the density of population in the eastern States becomes more apparent, more universities will have to be established. Will the Australian Universities Commission determine whether new universities are advisable, and if so, where they should be established? This matter is exceedingly important, because all persons who have been associated with university administration know only too well the problems associated with accommodation and facilities that constantly arise. For four years prior to the Second World War, I was a member of the council of the University of Melbourne, and I well remember the difficulty that confronted us in providing accommodation for the increasingly large number of students who desired to secure for themselves the benefit of the university courses. I remember also the terrific struggle that the council had to secure Union House, which is now one of the important buildings of that university. I remember also the difficulties we faced in our efforts to overcome the lack of accommodation in the chemistry school. When I became a member of the council that school was overcrowded to such an extent that three students were using the same desk. Such conditions make the teaching task very difficult and give rise to feelings of exasperation and frustration. At that time we approached the government each year in order to secure financial assistance to be used, not for the balanced expansion of the university, but to meet the everyday problems that we, as a council, had to face. Therefore, the creation of the proposed commission, which will have cer tain functions to perform to assist the balanced and orderly development of universities, is in the interests of university education generally. This Government, or future governments, will have to determine whether the limited functions of the commission, as defined in clause 13, will be retained. Some authority should have the task of guiding and leading on the question of the establishment of new universities as the occasion arises.

The University of New England has been established in New South Wales. Queensland’s needs would be met if a university were established somewhere in the midlands of that State. Similarly, the establishment of a country university in Victoria would enable students to undertake study on a number of subject of great importance to the production and development of the State. Probably I shall be accused of being parochial in my outlook, but I suggest that Bendigo is a suitable place for the establishment of such a university. Bendigo is in the midlands of Victoria and the surrounding natural features could be helpful in the training of students in various subjects and sciences. For instance, Victoria does not have a school of veterinary science for the training of veterinary surgeons, even though the treatment of stock, in the broadest and widest sense possible, is a matter that engages the serious attention of the people of Victoria. A country university in that State would afford ample opportunities for students to obtain training in veterinary science, rural science, geology and a number of other subjects. In addition, country students would have the opportunity to pursue their studies in conditions that are entirely suitable to them.

The bills before us raise the whole matter of education which, as all honorable members know, is not confined to universities. The university is the apex of the educational structure, but below that apex we have the base of primary, secondary and technical education which must be considered if we are to make the best use of the university facilities that are available to us. Unless the base of education is of such a standard as to lead to a sound apex - the university - we shall not be able to obtain the best results from our universities. Therefore, we must give earnest consideration to the needs, not only of the universities but also of primary, secondary and technical education if the best results are to be obtained from our educational system.

If one compares the standard of education a century ago with the standard of education to-day, one will see the great improvements that have been made. Many subjects never dreamed of a century ago are now part and parcel of our ordinary education system. As time goes on, probably more changes will take place. As the sum of human knowledge increases, our education system, from the base to the apex, must be under constant review so that the best results may be obtained from the system and the very highest standard of learning imparted to our children.

We cannot separate the base of education from the apex. For that reason, clause 4 of the bill is exceptionally sound because it provides that certain institutions shall be regarded as universities. I have mentioned clause 4 specifically because of the possible effect it may have upon technical education in Australia. For 21 years I was a member of the council of what is now known as the Royal Melbourne Technical College. The college was established in the ‘eighties and was known as the Workmen’s College. It has now grown to such proportions that it is probably the most influential and the largest of the technical schools in Australia. It is satisfying a need in the community, a need that cannot be ignored or rejected because, whilst the universities deal very properly with professions and the arts and sciences, the technical schools are the foundation upon which is built the increased production that enables our manufacturing industries to compete with the manufacturing industries of other countries. The technical schools provide the best technological assistance to industry generally.

The technical schools are providing the technical training that is essential for industry. In these institutions, too, the standard of training has been raised enormously in the last 30 or 40 years. As a consequence of participation in administration, I have an idea of the difficulties which were experienced and are still being experienced by technical institutions, certainly in Victoria, and probably in all States. In the early 1930’s, when we had a depression, there was a change of mind by the Australian people about education. From then on, education consciousness commenced to grow. In a few years the enrolment at the Melbourne technical college jumped from 2,000 or 3,000 to 10,000. There was a desire on the part of young men and women, and boys and girls leaving school, to attend the technical college in order to obtain the education necessary to fit themselves for a place in the commercial and business world.

We had tremendous problems to overcome. Buildings were in a poor state of repair. Classrooms were required throughout the city of Melbourne. There was a lack of teachers and there was a lack of funds. Poor salaries were being paid. Difficulties of that kind made the struggle to provide technical education in Victoria extremely difficult. In addition, apprenticeship laws came into operation in the 1920’s in Victoria, as in other States. These were aimed at giving the best possible technical education to apprentices in industry. It was my great pleasure, as Minister for Labour in Victoria in 1946, to introduce into the State Parliament a measure that provided for apprentices to be given, during their hours of employment, academic and technical training at technical schools. This was because it was believed that the better the training we gave apprentices and the more efficient they became, the better Australia’s industry and manufactures would be. The Royal Melbourne Technical College has grown to such an extent that in all probability it will be made a college of the new Monash University. I think the same may be said of the technical schools at Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong, where the standards of technical training are exceedingly high. If, as a consequence of this legislation, recommendations in regard to financial assistance, progress, development, expansion and facilities, are made to the Commonwealth Government, and funds are made available as suggested by the commission to these various annexes of education, the result will be a vast improvement in our educational facilities, with great benefit to the Commonwealth.

These are matters which should be placed before the House during the discussion of measures such as these. One wants to see education studied carefully and understood properly, and sufficient money made available from the revenues of the Commonwealth to ensure that education is not subject to the frustrations and disabilities which have been so evident during the last twenty or 30 years. I think a very strong case exists for education to become the responsibility solely of the Commonwealth Government.

Mr Timson:

– Oh, no!


– I believe that because I believe in standards. I believe in one national standard for the Commonwealth. That standard should be applicable and available to every person. The only way to have a satisfactory standard of education is to have a national standard controlled by the National Parliament. If we are to provide the money - it seems to me that under this legislation year by year the amount of money provided by the Commonwealth will constantly increase - we should have a substantial say in, if not control over, the whole education system so as to ensure that the money we provide is used in the best interests of the Australian people. I know that those people who believe in the federal system as against a unified system, regard with apprehension and fear any transfer of power to the Commonwealth. But there are some matters which are, in my opinion, of such great importance to the Commonwealth that, particularly as we provide the money, we should have control over them and should see that the very best is provided for the people. T conclude by saying that I hope that the passing of this legislation will make conditions in the higher branches of education much easier than has been the case in the past, and that the financial assistance will be such to ensure that all forms of education are not denied the finance necessary to enable them to function with the greatest efficiency.

Sitting suspended from 5.42 to 8 p.m.

Minister for Immigration · Angas · LP

– The House has been treated to a truly interesting discussion on this bill, and it is pleasant to see these matters discussed with such objectivity, free - for a change - from party divisions and party bitternesses. Indeed, Sir, I think it would be true to say, since we are discussing academic questions, that the attitude of the chamber, in its form of discussion,, rather resembles that of a university common room, and I think most honorable members will agree with me that the more we can agree on some of these great national questions in this chamber, and the- more we can cultivate this dispassionate approach, the more successful all of us are going tobe in the solution of this country’s outstanding national problems. 1 should like however, before going on to make a few observations of my own in concluding the debate on this legislation, to reply to one or two points which have been made by honorable members during the course of the debate. In doing so, I regret that my own duties in other places have prevented me from being in the House for the whole of the time that these discussions have taken place. The Government, I am sure, appreciates the generous references that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) made, ever so rightly, to the part that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has played in bringing down this legislation and in his whole attitude towards the problem of Australian universities. But there was one aspect of his speech which was subsequently echoed by more than one speaker on the opposite side of the House, particularly by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in the concluding speech just before the suspension of the sitting, to which I should like to direct my attention.

The right honorable gentleman, in supporting this legislation on behalf of the Opposition, nonetheless urged that it should’ be followed by supplementary action for primary and secondary education amongst the States. Whatever our own views of this may be, I think it must be said that, as a proposition, it is at least very debatable.. For one thing, we would have to realizethat if this idea were put into effect it would’ immediately involve a very considerableaddition to the Budget of this country. Secondly, I do not think we should ever lose sight of the fact, whatever our views about federation or unification may be, that, hitherto, education has been essentially the prerogative of the States. Speaking for myself - and, I am sure, for my colleagues on this side of the House - I think the argument is strong that the States can undertake this work a good deal better than can the Commonwealth, not only on account of their historic origins, but because they are essentially so very much closer to these intimate, family, personal problems which are involved. And, of course, honorable members, whatever they may think of the proposition submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, must concede that if this Parliament is going to make large grants to the States then, as a corollary, the Commonwealth, as the custodian of the taxpayers’ money, must insist that it have quite a loud voice in the manner in which the money is spent. lt seems to me that if we bring this about, undoubtedly it will undermine the State educational system as it now exists and - this is perhaps equally important from a practical point of view - it would arouse the hostility of every State Government, irrespective of its particular line of politics. So I say to honorable members that, whilst not for a moment closing our eyes to this important and very difficult problem, at this stage, at any rate, I believe that we should tread warily.

In this particular matter, as I see it, a prerequisite of success is State cooperation. Hitherto, in the Commonwealth’s essays in the field of education, this cooperation has been obtained, and the States are certainly co-operating well in the kind of ideas which are being expressed in the legislation which we have been debating this afternoon and yesterday. I feel, Sir. that it would be a very great mistake at this juncture when, in the sphere of education, the Commonwealth and States are so happy, for us, perhaps by some dramatic, revolutionary act in trying to enter the field of primary and secondary education, to shatter this atmosphere of goodwill by attempting to intrude on what the States regard as their intimate preserves.

Now I should like to say a word or two about some of the criticisms made by my friend, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). The honorable gentleman, whose views I am sure so many of us. irrespective of our politics in this chamber, respect, asked whether there was any necessity to maintain the Commonwealth Office of Education with its present staff. If I understood him aright, he quoted the figure of 203, and said that was too much. My honorable friend also quoted the Public Accounts Committee in support of his own criticism of the size of the staff, and he went on to say that, now that the Australian Universities Commission appears to be taking away some of the work of the Commonwealth Office of Education the functions of this office appeared to him, in some respect, to be superfluous.

I think the House should know that the situation with respect to what the honorable member for Chisholm has said is this: The Commonwealth Office of Education did not perform the functions which will now be done by the Australian Universities Commission. It did administer, and it still does administer, the States Grants (Universities) Act, and it did not have at any time one completely occupied officer engaged on this work. Furthermore, so far as numbers are concerned, the House may be interested to know that the present staff of the Commonwealth Office of Education ranges between 155 and 160, and that, obviously, is more than 40 less than the figure quoted by my honorable friend as applying when the Public Accounts Committee made its report.

There is another question which I feel deserves passing attention. This was raised by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) in his wellconsidered and thoughtful speech. The honorable member called the attention of the House to the alleged expropriation of the conditions under which Colombo Plan students are being housed and generally accommodated. That is. of course, a matter of importance to this Parliament because we on this side of the House and, I think honorable members opposite rightly attach much importance to the successful operation of the Colombo Plan. I should like to assure the honorable member that the evidence is that Colombo Plan students proper are quite well accommodated, and so far as I can ascertain, they are not being exploited by landlords. The Commonwealth Office of Education has found, and is still finding, them suitable accommodation.

In making these criticisms, the honorable member should have distinguished between the actual Colombo Plan students and the larger body of Asian students who come to this country in a private capacity under the aegis of various organizations or else under their own steam. I am quite willing to concede that students in the latter category may be experiencing some of the difficulties of which the honorable member for Barton complains. I think that, in considering this problem we must remember that it is severable from that of the Colombo Plan students proper.

It seems to me that the universities commission to be established by this legislation can be regarded as an example of the ad hoc or specific arrangement that we are gradually evolving from time to time as between Commonwealth and States to make our undoubtedly very difficult and very complicated system of government work more smoothly. With all the clashes which have been taking place since the war in Commonwealth-State relations, it is true to say, especially in the last three or four years, that there are hopeful signs that at long last we are creating, by mutual consent as between the Commonwealth and the States, various organizations which can overcome rigid constitutional difficulties. This, I feel, can be placed in that classification. The legislation provides for consultation on behalf of the commission, also for investigation and for advice. As honorable members have freely recognized, there is no hint whatsoever of any form of compulsion. I feel that this is a piece of legislation of some importance in that degree alone.

It can be fairly said that the bill is another story in the monumental work of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself who has devoted so much of his personal attention to these matters in the interests of higher education in Australia. Consider the record. This Parliament appropriated approximately £1,000,000 in 1951. The sum was raised in 1957 to approximately £2,300,000. Then for the three-year period 1958, 1959 and 1960-1 am giving the calendar years - there has been an enormous increase, consequent upon the recommendations in the Murray report, of no less than £20,000,000 for the cause of the universities of Australia.

Nevertheless, may I utter a hope and a warning at this juncture, and in doing so I take up in a way the cry of my honorable friend from Bonython (Mr. Makin) who spoke this afternoon. I was very glad te hear him pay tribute to people in his State and mine - South Australia - for their philanthropic work for the Adelaide Uni versity. One recalls the distinguished names of Barr Smith, Waite, Bonython, and Murray, and a number of others whom I have not the time to mention, and who have made tremendous benefactions to the Adelaide University. One realizes that had it not been for the far-sightedness and philanthropy of these gentlemen, their descendants and their families, the Adelaide University would not be in the form that we know it to-day. The honorable member for Bonython was also good enough to remind the House of the distinguished name in Western Australian of Sir Winthrop Hackett and the benefactions under his will to the Western Australian university. One could point to educational edifices in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and find that they are indelibly associated with the work and bequests of great, farseeing, unselfish men and their families in the cause of higher education.

I think that in legislation such as this it is fitting that we who are, in a sense, their spiritual heirs, if not their lineal descendants, should applaud and pay tribute to what they have done. But at the same time, in doing so and in reorientating the national policy towards State universities, I think we should also appeal to those of the Australian public who are in a sufficiently adequate financial position to do so, to carry on this great work of voluntary contributions to the development of our universities. I can think of few greater tragedies for the future good life of this country if the voluntary spirit of giving were to be abstracted and denied and if people generally were to be looking always to the government - not only the Commonwealth Government but also the State governments - for the initiative and the provision of the wherewithal in this field.

I think we are all agreed that universities in Australia have before them, under wise leadership and inspiration, an exciting future. One of the things which, personally, I hope they will do within the lifetime of many of us here, is to develop their own idioms, something peculiarly their own in expressing our national characteristics. It has been said in this debate, and I agree most heartily, that we hope there will be an extension of the residential college system. Those of us who have been at universities, whether in this country or in England, and have had the benefits of the residential college system, know that they go to something quite vital, something absolutely essential, to the success and to the real meaning of a university. Speaking for myself, I find it very hard to envisage a university in the real sense of that term, without a residential college system. I hope very much that as time goes on this system will become completely general in every State because I know that it will be vastly to the benefit of all those who are able to profit from it. But in looking to the future, Mr. Speaker, one likes to imagine - and I am sure that this is not a vain imagining; I am convinced that it will actually happen - the contribution that our own universities can make, not only to our Australian culture but to the common stock of world thought, in the manner of the ancient fountains of culture in Oxford, in Cambridge, in Heidelberg, and at the Sorbonne. One also likes to feel the possibilities that lie within our grasp of assisting students who come here from Asia - Asia, which is so tremendously important to us and which in the future will become, I hope, so intimate with us in so many respects. At the moment, as many honorable members may realize, we have between 1,500 and 2,000 students from Asia at our universities.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– That is the number of Colombo Plan students, is it not?


– The Colombo Plan figure is between 450 and 500 but the total, counting those who have come here privately, is between 1,500 and 2,000. Of course we all hope that, as the years proceed, these totals will increase steadily year by year and that this will forge an enduring link between us and our neighbours to the near north. I think, too, that honorable members will agree with me that as Australia’s population grows we must look to the establishment of other universities, not in the precincts of the great capital cities but, I hope, in the larger provincial cities.

Mr Calwell:

– In the rural areas, too.

Mr Clarey:

– They could be established in such places as Bendigo, for example.


– I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that we need decentralization in this matter and I hope that my friend the honorable member for Bendigo will live to see his wish fulfilled in the form of a really flourishing university in the fine and prosperous city of Bendigo.

Mr Calwell:

– He might be the first chancellor.


– He would make a fine and distinguished chancellor, I am sure.

Mr Davis:

– He would be a very old man.


– The honorable member for Deakin is pessimistic. The population of this country is increasing very rapidly and I hope that our provincial universities will increase rapidly also. Surely, in agreeing in the broad on this, we would also agree upon the nature of the ultimate aim- to strive by our own efforts, individually, in the States, and nationally, to widen existing university education so that it will be available in the future, at least towards the closing years of this century, to the great majority of those who desire to undertake it and not, as has been the case in the past, merely to an ambitious and intelligent minority of our citizens.

In concluding the debate on this measure I should like to say this: As the twentieth century proceeds, and as our university education undoubtedly expands, the personal interest of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during his term of office in this decade will be regarded more and more as one of the really great contributions towards the development and the promotion of higher education. I would like to feel, and I .am sure that the House will agree with me, that the Prime Minister’s contribution, as manifested in the last two years, to solving these present difficulties will shine, as we move further away from this particular period, as a star of everincreasing magnitude.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Definitions).


– I seek the indulgence of the committee to correct a mistake that I made during my speech in the second-reading debate. I ascribed the Academy of Science building to the Australian National University. I think that at the time the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) interjected, correcting me, but I was still not quite certain whether any Government money was being spent upon the building. I understand now that the main proportion of the money for the building has been subscribed, not by the Australian National University but by the Academy of Science. I do not know that it matters very much, except that I have been attacked by the space men from the flying saucer itself, as well as by the people from the Australian National University, for making that statement, and I wanted to put the matter to rights.

I was not in any way attacking the work of the Australian National University, which I believe is an excellent institution. I was merely, by way of comparison, showing what we can do here in Canberra as compared with what can be done by the States, which are so short of money that they cannot build even the one-teacher primary schools that are needed so badly in country centres. I repeat, I was making a comparison and was not in any way criticizing the work that is being done either by the Academy of Science or by the Australian National University.

The second matter that I want to refer to relates to clause 4 of the cognate measure, which states: -

Section five of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following subsection: - “ (3.) In relation to university education, the Commonwealth Office of Education shall advise the Minister with respect to such matters only as the Minister directs.”.

At the second-reading stage I pointed out that we were removing almost entirely Part III., dealing with the Universities Commission, from the Education Act, and were renaming that body the Commonwealth Scholarship Board. I was not in the House when the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) spoke at the end of the secondreading debate. I apologize to him for my absence. I understand that he said I had been in error in stating that there were 203 members of the staff of the Commonwealth Office of Education, and that there were, in fact, 40 less than that number. I took the figure 203 from the 26th Report of the Public Accounts Committee, on the Commonwealth Office of Education. That report was brought down in 1956. What I do wish to point out once again is that the report stated that the States administered the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. I feel that, despite the requirement that the Commonwealth Office of Education shall advise the Minister on such matters as he directs, that office will lose a large number of its functions to the Australian Universities Commission, an excellent body of which I heartily approve. I cannot really see any justification for continuing the Commonwealth Office of Education. There will not be much for it to do with regard to universities under this clause. It will only be doing what other bodies could do. I pointed out in my speech on the second reading of the bill how the Commonwealth Office of Education was looking around for work, and that is borne out by the 26th Report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. The Office of Education is looking for work to keep its staff engaged. Now that it is no longer concerned with the ex-servicemen’s reestablishment scheme, which was the real reason for its being, and now that it no longer controls the Universities Commission, it is redundant. Any work that has to do with the Colombo Plan could be done by a small staff in the Department of External Affairs. Any work on education research could be done quite easily by the research professors in the Australian National University. If they could not do research on education, who could? T again suggest that there is no reason for continuing the Commonwealth Office of Education after we have passed these two bills.

Clause agreed to.

Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.


.- The Opposition, as has been indicated, approves of the establishment of the commission to inquire into the needs of our universities. We think that the Murray committee did remarkably good work for Australia and we want to see that work extended. We approve of the proposed commission - particularly of the chairman, Professor Sir Leslie Martin - and we would like to see its work expedited.

The act as it now stands will only help the universities until 1960. This commission is necessary to recommend details of a plan for the future, and to recommend to the Government the annual appropriations of money that should be made for existing universities and future universities. We know that our universities are in a parlous plight. We also know that education generally throughout Australia - primary, secondary and technical education - is also in a parlous state. We would like the Government to appoint another committee to inquire into all phases of education in Australia, particularly secondary and technical education. We are conscious also that as the population increases, the States need more money in order to carry out work in primary and secondary education.

In its policy speech on the occasion of the last election, the Australian Labour Party promised that it would appoint a fully representative committee, similar to the Murray committee, to examine and report on the needs of primary, secondary and technical education. We directed attention to the fact that, in 1946, the people, by an amendment to the Constitution in respect of social services, empowered the Commonwealth Parliament to make grants to students. This bill rests upon another section of the Constitution, by which the Commonwealth can make grants to the States. We would like to see the power in section 51 of the Constitution employed, and the Commonwealth scholarship scheme developed. I know that there are people in this chamber - the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is interjecting - who do not want to develop the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. If it had not been for the action of the Chifley Government in securing an amendment to the Constitution, in 1946, we probably would not have a university problem such as we have to-day. Thousands of the boys and girls who have gone through our universities since 1 946. and who are still going through them, would never have been able to see the inside of a university.

Mr Roberton:

– That is nonsense.


– I am glad to have the condemnation of the Minister for Social Services, because he was one of the obscurantists who opposed the passage of the referendum in 1946. If his snail-like approach is indicative of the speed with which Liberal Party and Australian Country Party members are prepared to travel on the road of education, the whole school system throughout Australia will soon break down.

Whatever is being done with regard to university education touches on only one phase of the problem. We cannot solve the problem of university education unless we also do something with regard to primary schools and secondary schools. Where are the students to come from for the universities unless we do something to enable our bright young children, whether their parents be old Australians or new Australians, ..o enter the universities? Russia leads us to-day, unfortunately, in the field of scientific and technological education - but not in the humanities, however. The United States is certainly much ahead of us in respect of the number of students relative to population that it is able to put through its universities, and that is to be deplored. Britain does much more than we do in the matter of university education also.

We of the Opposition say that the Government should go further ahead than it is going in this matter of education. I know that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) believes that some responsibilities must be left to the States in these matters, but the very fact that we carried the referendum in 1946, and used the powers given to us in order to build up our universities, shows that we can also do something beneficial with the aid of grants to students to enable clever boys and girls to go through the universities and play their part in the development of a greater Australia.

In its statement of policy the Labour Party said that if it became the government it would ask the committee that it would appoint to examine the possible extension of the 1946 plan so as to ensure that lack of money did not deprive any promising Australian boy or girl of his or her basic human right to a fuller eduction. Knowledge is power, according to the maxim that we learnt in our youth. Knowledge is never a burden for anybody to carry either. We think that it is highly desirable that we should tackle the problem of education at this stage. It is an urgent problem - a really desperate problem - and we should’ not find reasons for asking the States or other people to do more than they aredoing at present.

I think that in some respects some phases of our educational life will collapse. I can see those residential colleges, particularly the secondary school residential colleges, closing down because they cannot carry on. I can also visualize other systems of education getting into desperate straits. It would be well if the Minister had another look at all aspects of education in this country. Our children are coming into the schools at a very great rate. We are glad to see that. At one time we were an ageing community, but now, according to the demographers and statisticians and others competent to make predictions as to our future we are, to use their word, a “ young-ing “ community - it is not a very euphonious word, but I suppose it is as good as “ ageing “. It means that we are a young community again, and we must not think along the lines of 20 or 30 years ago. It was not until 1957, when we had a population of almost 9,000,000 people that we had as many young people in the fifteen to nineteen years age group as we had in 1937, and then we had fewer than 7,000,000 people. The fact that we had so few people in the fifteen to nineteen age group in 1957 was due to the fall in the birth-rate - the catastrophic fall in the birthrate - in the depression years. It has been estimated that had there been no fall in the birth-rate - and there would have been no fall in the birth-rate had there not been a depression - 380,000 more children would have been going through our schools in recent years. In military terms, we lost the equivalent of about nine divisions because of that fall in the birth-rate. But our population is growing and will grow very rapidly over the next few years. And that makes the whole question of education one that cannot be dealt with on the basis of placing provision for universities only high on the agendas for meetings of State and Federal Cabinets.

I see the question of universities as a most important one. We have not got enough universities; we want more. I like to see rural univerities established and I should like to see university colleges established in all provincial towns, because I think we are placing a heavy burden on country people by requiring them to send their children to metropolitan centres to be educated. Under the Commonwealth scholarship system, assistance is given to students who would not have been given that assistance in other times. I conclude by asking the Minister to do something on that matter.


.- i sympathize with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) for wishing to jump upon the band wagon, as he always tries to do when the Government brings in some useful legislation.

Mr Calwell:

– I do not need your sympathy now, or at any other time.


– You will not have my sympathy if you do not want it; it is withdrawn. As we are in committee, I prefer to address myself to the provisions of the bill. I shall not roam over the whole field of education. There are other honorable members quite as sympathetic towards education as is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

The bill provides that this commission shall furnish information and advice to the Minister. It provides also for the commission to furnish reports containing recommendations. There is nothing in the bill to require the Minister to accept the advice and the recommendations, but it is well known that this proposed commission is based upon the English Universities Grants Committee, and we know how that committee functions. The committee in England is an independent committee, consisting of Treasury officials and of persons skilled in university administration. The reports of the committee as to what is required for universities and how much money should be furnished for them are invariably accepted. The effect of that is that the universities in England have been able to preserve their independence. They have not been subjected to political interference in any way at all. They are able to teach what they believe should be taught and are able to carry on the research which they believe should be carried on. Generally speaking, they are not controlled in any way. That is a most important principle. This Australian Universities Commission Bill will not interfere with that principle in any way at all, because it is the intention of the Government that the commission should operate in the same way as the English committee.

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that some of the members of this Parliament consider that education in this country should be subject to national control. They believe that we should have what they call a national standard - one dull level of education - with everybody compelled to learn the same things and to be taught in the same way. That would not help education. That would not help the people of this community. The essence of university education is that each university shall be able to teach the things it believes should be taught, and shall be able to conduct the research which its lecturers, demonstrators and professors are best able to engage in.

The view has been expressed in this chamber that the universities should be under the control of the Government because the money that they use is furnished by the Government. If that view were ever accepted in this country, we should be subject to the greatest totalitarianism that the world has ever known. I do not believe that the Australian people would stand for that sort of thing and this bill certainly does not envisage it.


.- I should like to refer, first, to the composition of the proposed commission. The bill is rather vague in this regard. It mentions a permanent chairman and certain other permanent members, numbering from two to four. I have not heard all of the debate on the bill, but I have heard most of it. I have not heard yet any justification of the lack of precision in regard to the membership of the commission.

I know that the proposal in the bill is contrary to the recommendation of the Murray committee and to the practice of the British Universities Grants Committee. As I recall, the Murray committee recommended one permanent officer - the chairman - and, I think, seven part-time members of the commission. Seeing that so much of this bill reflects the recommendations of the Murray committee, I am wondering why the Government - I wish the Prime Minister was here, because probably he knows - did not adopt that recommendation.

Whilst speaking on the composition of the commission, let me say that I hope that, both on the commission and on the committees from which it is empowered to seek aid, there will be a wide representation of the community. With all due deference to academic people, I do not think the commission should be comprised entirely of university administrators and people of that type. I think the universities must recognize that they have an obligation to the community, just as the community must recognize that the universities should have a fair amount of independence in making their judgments about what a university ought to do and ought to be. If the community provides the amount of money that it is to provide, I think it is up to us to ensure as far as possible that the advice that is given - it will be only advice, but advice can be very pointed - will reflect the broad opinion of the community.

There are still, many people who are prepared to say that the financial troubles of the universities arise because the mass of the community does not feel that the universities have something for them. I think that that is entirely wrong, and that our society has benefited vastly from university enterprise. A part of the problemarises from the fact that the universities havenot publicized, and people have not publicized on their behalf, the great things that a university provides for a community, I hope that the commission and the committees that it will call to its aid from time to time, will represent a diversity of opinion in the community.

Although it is mentioned in sub-clause (2.) of clause 13 that the universities will have fairly broad functions, the bill does seem to lay a fair degree of emphasis upon financial provisions. The experience of the British Universities Grants Committee is that it has been able, on a considerable scale, to render to universities aid other than financial aid. I read a report only a couple of days ago of very important help that the British commission had been able to give in relation to buildings, the selection of staff, and the kind of courses provided. I think that our commission will need to be just as aware and just as concerned about the quality of the product that comes from the universities as about making financial provision for the universities. I shall reiterate a point that I made in my earlier speech: The bill does not specify a period in which finance is to be made available to the universities. I repeat that in Britain the period is rive years. The Murray committee recommended a three-year period. No period is mentioned in this bill and I am wondering why. Has the Government made up its mind? Quite justifiably, it may be going to await some experience before making a firm decision. I know that university administrators are very impressed with the idea that there should be a comparatively long-term arrangement so that all concerned, knowing what moneys are to be made available over a period of years, may so allocate their finances that they will be used with the utmost economy and the greatest possible efficiency. I trust that the intention is to provide a specific period and that it will be reasonably lengthy as recommended by the Murray committee. A three-year period, I suggest, would be the absolute minimum.

It is not much good talking about not intruding on the independence of the universities. Let us be frank about this. If we are to have a national policy for universities and a co-ordination of universities, each university will have to give up some of its independence, even if it will be giving it up to the cause espoused by other universities.

I am not talking about what the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) referred to as the deadening or dull level of uniformity. Co-ordination can mean something altogether different from uniformity, and I think that the proposal behind this bill is that there should be co-ordination. There is tremendous wastage in universities, as there is in other independent institutions, in respect of teaching and research. There is duplication in the provision of services and in the conduct of research. I hope that co-ordination will result in group research and integrated research in place of the emphasis that is given in many faculties to individual research. There is a wide field that is relatively untapped in connexion with group projects. The kind of work for which our degrees, especially the higher degrees are awarded depends on individual research. That is a retarding factor. I should like greater emphasis to be placed on coordinated research and group research in which groups of people in different universities will be able to combine. I am sure that the community generally would be all the better for such co-ordination and integration both in teaching and in applied and pure research.

Finally, I make the point that has been made by the Labour Party in this House on numerous occasions and which has been made again in connexion with this bill: I think it is grossly inconsistent for us to consider this kind of allocation to the universities and wipe our hands, virtually, of primary and secondary education. It is self-evident that the efficacy of the provision that we are making for universities will depend very much on what provision the community makes for primary and secondary education, and for another field of education that is frequently forgotten, technical education. The ability of this country to compete with other countries economically, and its ability to defend itself militarily have obvious foundations in education at all levels. Whatever level we are talking about there are things which this National Parliament cannot deny nor shut its eyes to. If measures such as those now under consideration are to be successful, we must look also at other levels of education.


– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.

Minister for Immigration · Angas · LP

– I just want to reply to something that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has said. I am not going to traverse the argument again about extending the ambit of this legislation to primary and secondary education, because I discussed that in my secondreading speech only a little more than half an hour ago, and T do not propose to take up the time of the committee going over ground which has been fairly well canvassed on both sides of the House during the second-reading debate. But the honorable gentleman from Barton asked why we had departed from the recommendation of the Murray committee that there should be seven commissioners. T feel that he is justly entitled to an answer to that question. I do not think that there is any particular magic in the number seven. I cannot find anything peculiarly attractive about it myself. But perhaps the honorable gentleman opposite is a student of astrology.

Mr Whitlam:

– The Murray report itself mentions it.


– I know that, for some people, the number seven has an imaginative and a symbolic interest. But one reason why the Government is not prepared to ally itself with seven commissioners is that, inevitably, if we selected the number seven, there would be a pressure from various interests in the States to have one representative from each State. It could easily be argued, on the analogy of so many arrangements in this country, that there should be one representative from the Commonwealth and one from each of the States. Well, Sir, there might be some advantage in that but, on the whole, the Government’s view is that the commission will be more effective, more businesslike, and more workable, if it is divorced from what could be a composition representative of particular State interests, and if it is a smaller body, as is provided in the legislation.

As to the actual number, the Government’s thinking is not completely hard and fast. At the moment, the intention is, apart from having obtained the distinguished services of Sir Leslie Martin as the chairman, to find one outstanding and experienced business man for a commissioner, and for the other commissioner to be some one who is highly regarded throughout this country on account of his academic qualifications. The committee may be interested to know that the Government is also hopeful that the commission will commence operations as from the beginning of the next financial year - that is, from 1st July. If this arrangement, in course of time and as a result of experience, proves in need of amendment I have no doubt that it will be considered by the Government in the light of that experience. But, to begin with, we intend to operate this commission on the lines indicated by the bill. I think that, as time unfolds, the committee will find that the Government has not been unwise in deciding on this present course of action.

Remainder of bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

page 1555


Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 21st April (vide page 1372), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-

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.

page 1555


Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.

In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments):

Clause 8 -

Section four of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “ (2b.) A member of the Legislative Council referred to in paragraph (c) of sub-section (2.) of this section -

shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral on the nomination of the Administrator;

may at any time be removed from office by the Governor-General; and

shall, unless re-appointed, cease to hold office at the expiration of three years after the commencement of his term of office.

Senate’s amendment No. 1 -

Clause 8, proposed sub-section (2b.), leave out paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), insert - “ (a) shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral on the nomination of the Administrator; and

shall, unless re-appointed, cease to hold office on the date immediately preceding the date of the next general election of members of the Legislative Council.”.

Clause 12 -

Section four ka of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (3.) and (4.) and inserting in their stead the following sub-section: - “ (4.) An elected member or non-official member of the Legislative Council who is a party to, or has a direct or indirect interest in, a contract made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth under which goods or services are to be supplied to the Commonwealth shall not take part in a discussion of a matter, or vote on a question, in the Legislative Council where the matter or question relates directly or indirectly to that contract.”.

Senate’s amendment No. 2 -

Clause 12, leave out the clause, insert the following clause: - “ 12. Section four ka of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - 4ka. - (1.) A person is not qualified to be a candidate for election as a member of the Legislative Council if, at the date of nomination -

he is employed in the Public Service of the Territory or of the Commonwealth;

he is an undischarged bankrupt; or

he has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for an offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth, or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, by imprisonment for one year or longer. (2.) An elected member of the Legislative Council vacates his office if he ceases to be entitled, or qualified to become entitled, to vote at elections of members of the Legislative Council. (3.) An elected member or non-official member of the Legislative Council vacates his office if -

he becomes a person to whom any of the paragraphs of sub-section (1.) of this section applies;

he ceases to be a British subject;

he is absent from three consecutive meetings of the Legislative Council otherwise than on leave of absence granted by the Administrator; or

he takes or agrees to take, directly or indirectly, a fee. or honorarium, other than a fee, an allowance or travelling expenses under the next, succeeding section, for services rendered- in. the Legislative Council. (4.) Any question concerning the application of the last preceding sub-section in relation to a non-official member of the . Legislative Council shall be decided by the Legislative Council, unless the Legislative Council refers the question to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, in which case the question shall be determined by that Court. (5.) An elected member or non-official member of the Legislative Council who is a party to, or has a direct or indirect interest in, a contract made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth under which goods or services are to be supplied to the Commonwealth shall not take part in a discussion of a matter, or vote on a question, in the Legislative Council where the matter or question relates directly or indirectly to that contract. (6.) Any question concerning the application of the last preceding sub-section shall be decided by the Legislative Council and a contravention of that sub-section does not affect the validity of anything done by the Legislative Council.’.”.

Clause 15 -

Section four n of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the word “ seven “ and inserting in its stead the word “ nine “.

Senate’s amendment No. 3 -

After clause 15, insert the following new clause: - “ 15a. Section four qa of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - 4qa. Where a person who has, whether before or after the commencement of this section, purported to sit or vote as a member of the Legislative Council at a meeting of the Legislative Council or of a Committee of the Legislative Council -

was not, in the case of an elected mem ber, a duly elected member by reason of his not having been qualified for election or of any other defect in his election; or

had vacated his office as a member, all things done or purporting to have been done by the Legislative Council or that Committee shall be deemed to be as validly done as if that person had, when so sitting or voting, been a duly elected member of the Legislative Council, or had not vacated his office, as the case may be.’.”.

Clause 16 -

Sections four v to four z (inclusive) of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: - “4z. - (1.) The Minister shall cause each Ordinance assented to by the Governor-General or the Administrator, or from which the GovernorGeneral or the Administrator has withheld assent, to be laid before each House of the Parliament as soon as possible after the date of assent, or after the date on which assent was withheld, as the case may be. “ (2.) Where the Governor-General or the Administrator withholds assent from an Ordinance, or the Governor-General disallows an Ordinance in whole or in part, the Minister shall, as soon as possible, cause a statement of the reasons for withholding assent, or for disallowance, as the case may be, to be laid before each House of the Parliament.”.

Senate’s amendment No. A -

Clause 16, in proposed sub-section 4z (1.), after “ possible “, insert “, but in any case within fifteen sitting days of that House,”

Senate’s amendment No. 5 -

Clause 16, in proposed sub-section 4z(2.), leave out all words after the word “ shall “, insert “ cause a statement of the reasons for withholding assent, or for disallowance, as the case may be, to be laid before each House of the Parliament as soon as possible, but in any case within fifteen sitting days of that House, after the date on which assent was withheld or the Ordinance was disallowed, as the case may be.’.”.

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

Mr. Chairman, although several amendments are involved, I think it would be convenient to the committee to consider them as one, because they are designed to give effect to a single principle. They were introduced in another place and were agreed to there, although in fact they originated in a suggestion made in this chamber. During the consideration of the measure in committee in this chamber, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) drew attention to a provision in the bill under which it was possible for the Governor-General to remove one of the nominated non-official members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. It was explained to the committee and to the honorable member for Mackellar that the reason why that provision was in the bill was simply that, in the event of one of those nominated nonofficial members becoming subject to any of the disqualifications that applied to members, it would be possible to remove him from office. For example, if he became bankrupt, was found guilty of a criminal offence, accepted a bribe, or accepted an office of profit under the Crown, and thus disqualified himself, it would be possible for the GovernorGeneral to remove him from membership of the council.

The honorable member for Mackellar pointed out that it might be possible for an ill-disposed Minister to use this power in a vindictive or capricious way in order to remove from his position on the Legislative Council a member who happened to offend him. I assured the honorable member that that was not the intention but, having recognized the point, I agreed to look at the matter and, if the Government found it desirable so to do, to cause amendments to be introduced in another place. Those amendments were introduced in another place and agreed to, and, they have now been returned for the consideration of honorable members.

The effect of the amendments is to delete the existing provisions of clause 8 and insert certain new provisions, to make certain deletions from and insertions in clause 12, and to insert a new clause after clause 15. I think I represent fully and accurately that effect of these rather complicated amendments when I say that what they will do will be to write into the bill all the disqualifications to which a nominated non-official member of the Legislative Council may be subject, to make the cessation of his membership automatic when he becomes subject to one of those disqualifications, and to make the interpretation of the disqualification a matter for the Legislative Council itself.

The first amendment eliminates the possibility that any Minister could remove one of these nominated members for a vindictive or capricious reason. It was never the intention that that should be possible, but these amendments make it doubly clear that a Minister does not have that power to bring a member to heel, as it were, by threatening him with expulsion. I feel sure that this amendment, which is fully acceptable to the Government, will give satisfaction to both the honorable member for Mackellar and the committee. I hope, too, that the acceptance of this amendment by the Government will help to demonstrate to the people of the Northern Territory that, in creating this new class of nominated nonofficial members, we are making a genuine attempt to establish a class of members who are independent and who are not subject to instruction ordirection by the government of the day.

I propose to move -

That the amendments be agreed to.

Mr Whitlam:

– Are we not dealing with only one at the moment?


– I was dealing with the whole series of amendments.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– If we take them separately, it will be much easier to understand them.


– If it is the will of the committee, we shall take them separately.

Senate’s amendment No. 1 -

Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -

That Senate’s amendment No. 1 be agreed to.


.- Mr. Chairman, Senate’s amendment No. 1 relates to proposed sub-section (2b.) of section 4 of the principal act which appears in the bill in these terms - (2b.) A member of the Legislative Council referred to in paragraph (c) of sub-section (2.) of this section -

  1. shall be appointed by the Governor-

General on the nomination of the Administrator;

  1. may at any time be removed from office by the Governor-General; and
  2. shall, unless re-appointed, cease to hold office at the expiration of three years after the commencement of his term of office.

Paragraph (a) is to remain, paragraph (b) is to be deleted for the reasons given by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), and paragraph (c) is to be replaced by a paragraph, now lettered “ (b) “, in these terms -

  1. shall, unless re-appointed, cease to hold office on the date immediately preceding the date of the next general election of members of the Legislative Council.

The Minister has not explained why this change is sought, or perhaps I am too dull to understand what he said. I point out that it is rather difficult to achieve an understanding of three pages of amendments in three seconds. What was the reason for providing in the first place that a non-official member should, unless reappointed, cease to hold office at the expiration of three years after the commencement of his term of office, and then changing the provision to provide that he shall cease to hold office on the date immediately preceding the date of the next general election of members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory? It seems to me that the revised version is much better, but why was the provision for three years made in the first place? Was it due to slovenly drafting, or was there some other reason?

Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) [9.131. - Mr. Chairman, I just wish to express my thanks to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) for this amendment. I have no doubt that the Government had no intention of abusing the powers given to it in the bill as it was originally drafted, but the amendment reduces the possibility of such abuse, and I think it is a substantial improvement in the bill.


.- Mr. Chairman, this procedure is most confusing and difficult. There is no reference in the notice-paper to the fact that these amendments which have been made in another place were to be dealt with in this chamber to-day.

Mr Hasluck:

– The matter was discussed with the deputy leader of the honorable member’s party.


– Well, he is not here, and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is not here either. I think both would have been here if they had expected that this matter would be coming on to-night.

Mr Hasluck:

– They knew.


– All I can say is that

I happened to be sitting at the table, and I have sent a message to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I hope that they will be here. But I am caught in the position of having to deal with this matter now on behalf of the Opposition. And I suppose I am in a more fortunate position than are honorable members in general, because at least 1 have just been handed a copy of the amendments made in the other place.

Mr Clarey:

– That is more than we have.


– Yes. No other honorable members have copies of the amendments.

Mr Hasluck:

– They have been circulated. Every one got them.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– We received them only five minutes ago.


– Exactly- five minutes ago. It is an unsatisfactory legislative procedure to expect us to deal instantly with amendments which were made after deliberation and on notice in another place.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– Why not leave them until Tuesday?


– Yes, unless there is some real urgency. We should be able to consider these matters and debate them much more satisfactorily if we were to leave them to the next sitting day. That is not a captious suggestion, Sir. We have been handed a printed list of amendments made in the other place and also a roneoed list of additional amendments made there. We have also a copy of the amending bill which left us a fortnight ago and which is now being further amended. But it is impossible to understand properly what has been done unless one co-ordinates the following documents - first, the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1953, which is available to us in a consolidated form; secondly, the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1955; thirdly, the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1956; fourthly, the Northern Territory (Administration) Act (No. 2) 1956; fifthly, the bill in the form in which it was before this chamber a fortnight ago; sixthly, the printed list of amendments from another place; and seventhly, the roneoed list of amendments from another place.

It is one of the disadvantages of dealing with legislation in this Parliament that a considerable time is taken in consolidating acts. The acts up to and including those of 1953 have been consolidated. Since 1953, there have been three Northern Territory (Administration) Acts - one in 1955 and two in 1956 - which have not been consolidated with the previous ones. We had the bill in the form in which it was before this chamber a fortnight ago. We now have two separate batches of amendments. I think, Sir, that no legislature in the world could be expected to deal very coherently with amendments to such dispersed legislation at the drop of a hat as we are being asked to do now. There is no urgency about this matter.

I think it is easy enough to understand some features of the first of the amendments, and I imagine that we can deal with that forthwith. The first amendment has two features. First, it removes the provision to which many of us objected, which provided that a nominated non-official member could at any time be removed by the Governor-General. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and many members on this side of the chamber pointed out that that provision removed any independence which the non-official members might have.

The Minister said on the earlier occasion that the nominated official members were persons who were nominated by the Government and had instructions from it, and he made the distinction that the nominated non-official members were nominated by the Government but were not under instructions from it. We countered by pointing out that they were not under instructions from the Government but they could be removed by it. Therefore, it was reasonable to assume that a non-official member who kicked over the traces, or who it was apprehended was likely to kick over the traces, could be removed by the Government for greater precaution. We thought that such precautions were particularly odious since there was a majority of nominated members, official and non-official, over the elected members in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, and therefore no ordinance could be passed by the Council unless it had the concurrence of the majority of the nominated members. That is, an ordinance would never get on the statute book unless the majority of the nominated members approved of it. That meant that it would never get to the stage of being vetoed by the Administrator, as is possible under the act, or by the GovernorGeneral, as is also possible under the act, or by the Parliament, which is the third rampart of defence that is available to the Government under the act.

At least we thought, Sir, that it was necessary that the Legislative Council should be able to enact its ordinances. The welfare of Australia as a whole, which finances the Northern Territory and which employs so many of the citizens of the Territory, was adequately safeguarded by providing that any ordinance passed by the Legislative Council was subject to that triple veto. Our arguments apparently have prevailed, and the paragraph which enabled non-official members to be removed at any time by the Governor-General has been eliminated. We congratulate and thank the Minister for having done so.

Paragraph (b), the second part of the first amendment, to which the honorable member for Chisholm has referred, seems to be a reasonable one, but we think that we are entitled to some explanation in regard to it. He has not told us why the term of office of a non-official member should no longer terminate at the end of three years but should terminate at the next general election of elected members to the council. I see no objection to that myself. Nobody seemed to be raising any objection to it, but I think that the Minister might, with good grace-

Mr Hasluck:

– I think I have treated you with good grace. You get pretty cheap.


– Anybody’s view of you would be cheap at the price you put upon yourself. Are we not entitled to know the reasons for this further change? We do not object to the first change. I thought that it might be a gracious act on the -Minister’s part to give us the reason for the second change. The honorable member for Chisholm has asked for it in a perfectly courteous way, and although I see no objection to it, I think that the Minister might touch upon it.

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

.- Either the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) is personally inattentive to the business of the committee or he is not in the confidence of his own party. The history of this matter is that in committee, before these bills Went to the Senate, there was quite a long discussion of this particular point. The merits of it were thoroughly canvassed, and following that discussion an assurance was given on behalf of the Government that we would look very carefully at the proposal and introduce an amendment in another place unless there was some unforeseen objection to doing so. We found there were no unforeseen objections. The bill was introduced and debated in another place, and the Opposition there accepted it. AH of that debate, both here and in the other place, was fully recorded in “ Hansard “.

Then, when the message was sent from the Senate and we became aware that the message was on its way to this chamber, first the .parliamentary officers, secondly the Whip of the party, and thirdly myself personally, discussed the whole question with the ‘Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who, we understand, is the one who makes arrangements about the business of the House, in co-operation with the Government, and it was agreed that this matter could be brought on this evening. I personally explained with care, and in some detail, to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the nature of the amendments. He was fully apprised of them. I would assume that the members of the Opposition who were responsible for conducting the business of the Opposition in the House also were fully advised of the nature of the amendments and the fact that, immediately after the passage of the universities legislation, this particular message would be taken into consideration. So there has been no discourtesy to the Opposition. On the contrary, every care has been taken, in the customary way, to let the Opposition know that this business was coming on, and precisely what the business would be.

I apologize to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) that, in explaining what might be termed the substance of this group of amendments, I overlooked the comparatively minor and verbal amendment to the clause now under consideration. When the bill was originally before the House, it was provided that the term for nominated non-official members should be three years. That was a copy by the draftsman from the Papua and New Guinea Act, where there is a similar provision in respect of the appointment of nominated non-official members. When we had to take this whole group of clauses into consideration in order to give effect to the point made by the honorable member tor Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), it came to the notice of the draftsman that it would be as the honorable member himself has recognized, a better way to make the appointment of all members of the Legislative Council terminate at the time when the Legislative Council went out of existence because of the holding of an election. It avoids the rather awkward situation that might arise where all the other non-official members had ceased to be members of the Council because they were submitting themselves for election, but the non-official nominated members still remained because they had a three-year appointment. In effect, as the period between elections is three years, with the usual variations of a month or two either way, these members will hold office for three years, but the actual termination of their appointment will be with the holding of an election rather than on the expiration of three years.

Senate’s amendment agreed to.

Senate’s amendment No. 2 -

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– I move -

That Senate’s amendment No. 2 be agreed to.

As honorable members will see, the printed list of amendments reads -

Mr Hasluck:

– Yes, that is quite so.


– The other matter to which I want to refer relates to proposed new sub-section (5.), which reads as follows: -

An elected member or non-official member of the Legislative Council who is a party to, or has a direct or indirect interest in, a contract made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth under which goods or services are to be supplied to the Commonwealth shall not take part in a discussion of a matter . . . -I think that I am right in saying that in this respect the position in this Parliament is the same as that in the State parliaments. That is, that an honorable member may be indirectly interested to the extent that he may be a shareholder of a company provided that that company has more than 25 members. If that is so, then no violation of the act is involved.

Does the same principle apply with regard to the Northern Territory Legislative Council as, I think, applies both here and in State Houses, whereby, so long as there are more than 25 members of a company, that company may be interested in a contract with the Commonwealth, and a member of Parliament who is a shareholder will not be disqualified from being a member of Parliament?

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– In answer to the first question of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), I point out that members of the Public Service in the Northern Territory are members of the Commonwealth Public Service and would be in exactly the same position as Commonwealth public servants elsewhere in Australia should they wish to resign in order to contest an election.

I come now to the second point. The conditions affecting membership of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory are rather more liberal than those in respect of this Parliament. By an amending bill introduced by me in this Parliament in a previous session, we faced up to the fact that in a Territory such as the Northern Territory a very large part of the population is associated in some way or other with the Government on a contractual basis. For example, a pastoralist may have what is virtually a contractual relationship to maintain an airstrip on his pastoral station for a sum of £75 a year. Therefore, we amended the Northern Territory (Administration) Act so that such people were not disqualified from membership but as members were disqualified from taking part in either a discussion or a debate on a matter in which the member was financially interested.


.- The amendment that we are considering repeats in part the provisions of section 4ka of the latest amending act, with the exception of paragraph (d) of sub-section (1.). This provided - (1.) A person is not qualified to be a candidate for election as a member of the Council if, at the date of nomination -

  1. he, in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of not less than twenty-five persons -

    1. is concerned or interested in a contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth; or
    2. participates, or claims to be entitled to participate, in the profit of, or in a benefit or emolument arising from, such a contract or agreement.

The Opposition would like to hear some reason why that paragraph is being taken out of the legislation. We opposed the amendment to section 4ka when the bill was before us. Several persons were sitting on the council at that time as elected members, and one at least was a Labour member. We suspected that the Government did not like his criticisms and wanted to prevent him or anybody like him from becoming a member of the council again. However, that issue was decided at the time, but we still hold our view. In regard to this amendment, we should like to know why the Government feels it necessary to remove what seems to be a perfectly reasonable disqualification.

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– I am not quite sure whether I follow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) exactly. I think he may be comparing the text of the amendment with an out-of-date copy of the parent act. By previous legislation in this chamber we removed the provision to which he has referred for reasons which I have just given to the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes).

Mr Calwell:

– I am sorry; that is a fact. I was looking at an earlier act.


– The amendment brought down in another place does not vary the bill which was passed by this chamber only last week, in respect of that matter.


.- This little passage between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the

Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) illustrates the difficulty that we find in tracing amendments to the legislation at this short notice. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was looking at the acts consolidated to the end of 1953. In the third of the subsequent acts, which have not been consolidated, paragraph (d) of sub-section (1.) of section 4ka was omitted.

Senate’s amendment agreed to.

Senate’s amendment No. 3 -

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– I move -

That Senate’s amendment No. 3 be agreed to.

This is the last of the substantial amendments in the series giving effect to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It repeals section 4qa of the principal act and inserts a new section 4qa in its place. The effect of this is to validate any acts that may have been done by the Legislative Council even during the presence and membership of a person who was in fact disqualified or was subsequently found to be disqualified to sit on the council at that time.

Senate’s amendment agreed to.

Senate’s amendment No. 4 -

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– I move -

That Senate’s amendment No. 4 be agreed to.

This is an amendment to clause 16 of the bill. The bill, as it reads at present, requires the Minister to table in Parliament ordinances and, in some cases, a statement relating to ordinances as soon as possible after assent. An amendment was moved in another place, and agreed to, which adds after the words “ as soon aspossible “, the words, “ but in any case within fifteen sitting days of that House “. The effect of that - and it is an idea which the Government readily accepts - is that although the Government should honour its obligation to table these ordinances and any accompanying statements as soon as possible, there should be an outer limit beyond which it cannot delay the tabling, and that outer limit should be “ within fifteen sitting days of the House “. It is a decided improvement. It is likely to ensure that there are no more delays in presenting to this Parliament ordinances which are either assented to or not disallowed or those which are not assented to or are disallowed and the tabling of the accompanying statement.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– Is the period long enough?


– It will present the Department of Territories and the Administration with some practical difficulties in regard to printing, but we are sure we can easily overcome those difficulties. We could get the text in an emergency quickly and table a typewritten copy rather than an actual print of the ordinance. I imagine that would be acceptable to the House.


.- The significance of this portion of the measure appears to be this: In 1947 the following section 4z. was inserted in the principal act: -

Every Ordinance assented to by the Administrator or by the Governor-General shall, as soon as may be after being assented to, be laid before each House of the Parliament.

A fortnight ago we passed a bill, which by clause 16 provided that that section among others should be repealed and the following inserted in its stead: -

The Minister shall cause each Ordinance assented to by the Governor-General or the Administrator, or from which the GovernorGeneral or the Administrator has withheld assent, to be laid before each House of the Parliament as soon as possible after the date of assent, or after the date on which assent was withheld, as the case may be.

That was an important improvement because it provided that this Parliament should learn of ordinances from which assent was withheld and not merely ordinances to which assent was given. Now, Mr. Chairman, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is asking the committee to amend the legislation in accordance with the amendment from another place by providing that the tabling should take place as soon as possible but in any case within fifteen sitting days of that House. Again, that is important because it provides an outer limit, but I cannot see why one needs fifteen sitting days to receive an ordinance from the Legislative Council and to table it in this Parliament.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– It may take longer in some circumstances, or an aircraft might go astray.


– That circumstance is most unlikely. I concede that one air flight could be delayed.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– Fifteen days is the standard practice in the House.


– I am not referring to the time within which the House has to disallow an ordinance. The committee is dealing purely with the provision for tabling it. The disallowance comes in the next paragraph of the clause. The only machinery involved is for the ordinance to be sent from Darwin to Canberra and tabled in this Parliament if it is sitting. This Parliament is not always sitting the whole time that the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is sitting, but even when this Parliament is sitting at the same time as the Legislative Council, I do not see that it is necessary to wait fifteen sitting days before tabling it. Fifteen sitting days is five weeks. This is completely a machinery measure. I am not now directing myself to the time within which this House has to adjust its procedures to debate the disallowance of an ordinance. There is an advantage, I would submit, in tabling an ordinance and then if necessary having a longer time for this House to come round to discussing it, but members should be able to get the ordinance as soon as possible. Even if, as the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has said, an aircraft may go astray, that is something which in these days is known very quickly.

Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes:

– I have overlooked the reference was to fifteen sitting days.


– Fifteen sitting days is equal to five weeks if the House is sitting all the time, but the practice is growing - and I think it is a good one - of sitting for four weeks and rising for one week. In effect, that means there could be six weeks between assent to and tabling of an ordinance if the House was sitting when the ordinance received assent. Of course, it could mean a longer period if this House was not sitting when assent was given. I would suggest that at least as regards this particular sub-clause fifteen sitting days could be abridged.

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– Of course, I do not have the extensive acquaintance with Commonwealth legislation that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) can claim. He has a professional standing in these matters and undoubtedly a wide knowledge of the statutes of the Commonwealth, but when I made an inquiry on the point he is raising, I was informed by our own advisers that this period of fifteen sitting days was a term scattered throughout the whole of Commonwealth legislation.

Mr Pollard:

– Why perpetuate it if it is undesirable?


– It is the customary period. A particular reference which I would bring to the notice of the committee is section 48(l.)(c) of the Acts Interpretation Act which states that regulations must be tabled before each House of Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after making the regulations. That has nothing to do with the period allowed for their discussion. Presumably when this amendment was submitted in another place and the draftsman was examining it and advising us to accept it, undoubtedly both the mover of the amendment and the Commonwealth’s adviser had in mind the standing practice in all Commonwealth legislation which provides for tabling in fifteen sitting days.

There is, of course, no reason at all why, if legislation is passed by the Legislative Council during a period of recess of this Parliament, it should not be tabled on the very first day this Parliament assembles. I was looking at some of the departmental records to-day on this matter and found that in many cases, as soon as this Parliament reassembles, the department has ready a whole sheaf of these ordinances to be brought in and tabled, according to the statutory requirements, by the Clerk on as early a day of sitting as we can manage. Fifteen days is an outside limit and not a minimum.


– I would feel satisfied with the drafting of this provision in view of the fact that the words “ as soon as possible “ are still contained in section 4z to which we are referring. The provision states that the Minister - shall cause a statement of the reasons for withholding assent, or for disallowance, as the case may be, to be laid before each House of the Parliament as soon as possible . . .

The statutory requirement on the Minister to take that action as soon as possible still remains. It does not seem that this amendment adds very much to the statutory requirement, lt may be considered a slight safeguarding improvement, but in view of the fact that the words “ as soon as possible “ remain in the clause and they are conjoined with the mandatory word “ shall “, I feel that the proposal of the Government in this case is a satisfactory one.


.- I do not dispute that this period of fifteen days is frequently used in legislation of this kind, but the fact that it has been used in other acts is not, I believe, a sufficient reason why we should persist with it. After all, means of communication are very much easier between the various parts of this continent now than at the time the Acts Interpretation Act was last amended - and still more since the time when that particular section was inserted in the act. I am not disputing that it may be necessary to give Parliament a certain time in which to move for the disallowance of a regulation. It may be necessary to give the Parliament a certain time in which to move for the disallowance of an ordinance. It may be necessary to give the Minister a certain time, as is proposed in the next sub-clause, for stating the reasons for disallowing an ordinance. But where it is purely a routine matter, such as the tabling of an ordinance, I think it is quite unnecessary to allow five sitting weeks or fifteen sitting days, even though that is described as a maximum period. I would think that we should prescribe a shorter time for this routine matter.

I have mentioned this period, which quite frequently appears in the Statutes, with regard to the tabling of annual reports. I have pointed out again and again to the House that the time is too long. The Minister has drawn a parallel with that section of the Acts Interpretation Act which deals with the time within which the Parliament has to act to correct any subordinate or delegated legislation.

Mr Hasluck:

– No, I referred to the period within which the regulation must be tabled.


– And then there is a further period within -which we have to act if we are to disallow it, or to correct that subordinate legislation. But I would draw a parallel with the provisions in about 60 acts, I think, of this Parliament which require annual reports to be made by various Commonwealth instrumentalities, boards, commissions and the like. The formula which is usually used now is “ within fifteen sitting days “. We used the same formula last week in connexion with the Australian National Airlines Bill. But this formula has a certain disadvantage in regard to those reports, as we know perfectly well. Most of the reports are tabled after the end of the financial year, after 30th June - during the Budget session, but after the consideration of the Budget has concluded, and, in most cases, after the consideration of the Estimates for the relevant department or instrumentality has also concluded. I believe that if the elected people in this place are effectively to superintend delegated legislation and the acts of the various bodies that the Parliament creates, we must give the Parliament the opportunity to deal with their acts and administration with reasonable promptitude. The reports of most of the 60 authorities that have to report to the Parliament come down when the period for discussion of the relevant Estimates has elapsed. I regret to say that if this proposal goes through unamended we may well find that this purely machinery matter of tabling the ordinance is not attended to until after a session is well advanced.

Senate’s amendment agreed to.

Senate’s amendment No. 5 -

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– I move -

That Senate’s amendment No. 5 be agreed to.

This is an amendment to clause 16, which appears on page 7 of the printed bill, at lines 42 to 45. The amendment proposes to leave out all words after the word “ shall “, and to insert the following: - cause a statement of the reasons for withholding assent, or for disallowance, as the case may be, to be laid before each House of the Parliament as soon as possible, but in any case within fifteen sitting days of that House, after the date on which assent was withheld or the Ordinance was disallowed, as the case may be.

Honorable members will recall that one of the changes made in this bill was to require not merely the presentation of ordinances, both those allowed and those disallowed, those assented to and those not assented to, to Parliament, but also to provide that in the case of ordinances which had been disallowed or from which assent had been withheld a statement showing the reasons should also be tabled. Consequential upon the amendment to which the House has just agreed, it is proposed that not only shall the Minister be required to present that statement as soon as possible, but that the outside limit of time during which he must table the statement is to be fifteen sitting days. I think the same principle is involved as in the amendment to which the House has already agreed.


. I support the Minister in this matter. This is a substantial matter, whereas the one that we were debating a few minutes ago was simply a sham matter. There is no doubt that the Government cannot refrain from the actual tabling in the House. It must be done as soon as possible, irrespective of the fifteen days’ limit. This amendment is a good and substantial one, because a government might say, “ We are not ready to give our opinion on this “, and “ as soon as possible “ might therefore be inordinately stretched out. This is a good and substantial amendment. I support it, and I support what the Minister has said.

Senate’s amendment agreed to.

Senate’s amendment No. 6 -

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

.- I move -

That Senate’s amendment No. 6 be agreed to.

This amendment is consequential on the amendments already agreed to. It is a proposal for certain deletions from the schedule to the act. It is merely a necessary amendment following the agreement of the committee to the amendments previously discussed.

Senate’s amendment agreed to.

Senate’s amendment No. 7 -

Minister for Territories · Curtin · LP

– I move -

That Senate’s amendment No. 7 be agreed to.

This amendment is another amendment to the schedule, of a similar kind to the one just agreed to.

Senate’s amendment agreed to.

Resolution reported; report adopted.

page 1566


The following bills were returned from the Senate: -

Without amendment -

Northern Territory Representation Bill 1959.

Without requests -

Customs Tariff Bill 1959.

Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1959.

Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill 1959.

Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill 1959.

Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Bill 1959.

Excise Tariff Bill 1959.

page 1566


Assent to the following bills reported: -

Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill 1959. Australian National Airlines Bill 1959.

page 1566



– I wish to make a personal explanation. In my speech during the second-reading debate on the Australian Universities Commission Bill and the Education Bill I made a statement which I desire to correct because the observations I made might be hurtful to the author of a statistical survey to which I referred. During my speech I said -

One was a survey of the elections in EdenMonaro, which I found completely inaccurate and badly written.

I regret my lapse. I had in mind the terms of a public relations document that had been printed elsewhere and which had no reference to the literature issued by the people at the Australian National University. I regret the inaccuracy. I also referred to a by-election that was held in Gwydir some years ago, which was also the subject of a survey. My references were purely facetious. I respect the work of both writers, one who dealt with the survey in Eden-Monaro, and the other who dealt with the survey in Gwydir.

House adjourned at 10.3 p.m.

page 1566


The following answers to questions were circulated: -


Mr Whitlam:

m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

Who in Australia gives, or would give, the authority to tap telephones or intercept letters which in the United Kingdom must be given by the Home Secretary?

Mr Menzies:
Prime Minister · KOOYONG, VICTORIA · LP

– I am having this matter examined and I propose to discuss it with Cabinet as soon as possible.

Soviet Legation in Canberra.

Mr Menzies:

s. - On 15th April, the honor able member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked me during question time whether the former Third Secretary of the Soviet Legation in Canberra, Vladimir Petrov, would continue to receive income from the Commonwealth after the Soviet Legation is reopened. As long ago as 8th October, 1957, in answer to a parliamentary question, I stated in the House that Mr. V. Petrov and his wife were not being maintained by the Commonwealth. I repeated this information in answer to a further question on 19th November, 1957. Following the present request, I have looked into the matter and can say that the same situation still applies.

Laws on Radio-activity.

Mr Whitlam:

asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -

What Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory ordinances and regulations concerning radio-active substances have been made in conformity with the model act and regulations recommended on 19th May, 1954 and 7th November, 1957, respectively by the National Health and Medical Research Council?


n. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -

With one exception, it has not been considered necessary, as yet, because of adequate existing controls, to make ordinances and regulations for the territories referred to in conformity with the model legislation on radioactive substances approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The exception is the Fluoroscopes Ordinance No. 3 of 1958.

Pharmaceutical Benefits

Mr Ward:

d asked the Minister for Health upon notice -

  1. . Is it a fact that some forms of epilepsy can now be largely controlled by the use of certain drugs?
  2. Are Diamox tablets prescribed for this purpose?
  3. If so, are they supplied free under the Commonwealth Medical Scheme on the basis of twelve tablets and one repeat to each prescription?
  4. Can he say whether the necessity of securing a new medical prescription every seven or eight days and a fresh supply of tablets every four or five days causes the unfortunate sufferer from this complaint great inconvenience, loss of time and expense?

    1. Will he examine this situation immediately with a view to devising a more satisfactory arrangement and make the result known as soon as possible?

n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Yes.
  2. Diamox tablets, although used mainly as a diuretic, do have a use in the treatment of epilepsy.
  3. 4, and 5. Diamox tablets are available free as a pharmaceutical benefit on the basis of twelve tablets with one repeat. However should a medical practitioner require a greater amount for the treatment of a particular condition he may, by making application to the Commonwealth Director of Health in his State, receive authority to prescribe extra repeats for the drug. He may also endorse the prescription so that the patient may obtain the total number of tablets prescribed on the one occasion.


Mr Swartz:

z asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -

  1. How many bases are being maintained by Australia in the Antarctic region?
  2. Are these bases being used for the gathering of meteorological, magnetic, ionospheric and auroral data for Australian scientific records?

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Australia maintains three bases on the Antarctic mainland. These are Davis, Mawson and Wilkes. In addition Australia maintains a base on Macquarie Island in the sub-Antarctic region.
  2. The bases are used for the gathering of scientific data and as bases for exploration of Australian Antarctic Territory. This year the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions will pursue a programme of scientific research in the following fields: Auroral studies, cosmic rays, ionospherics, terrestrial magnetism, seismology, glaciology, biology, physiology, geology and meteorology.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.