23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– During the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House last Thursday the Postmaster-General made a statement on the establishment of television stations outside the metropolitan areas. The Opposition - some of its members in particular - desires that that statement be made in a form which will enable the making of a motion for printing and, if possible, a debate. Will the PostmasterGeneral make the statement in that form at some convenient time?
– It will be remembered, Mr. Speaker, that when I made the statement last Thursday night the Leader of the House stated, after some discussion, that I would be prepared to table the statement if that were desired by the Opposition, and to provide some opportunity thereby for a debate. That is the position, Mr. Speaker, and if the right honorable gentleman or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will indicate to the Leader of the House when the Opposition would like that to be done, I shall be happy to do it.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has the Government reached decisions on requests by the goldmining industry for further financial assistance? If so, will these decisions be announced, and any legislation to give effect to them be introduced, during the present session of Parliament, as the act under which the industry is currently receiving assistance expires on 30th June next?
– In reply to the question of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie I am pleased to advise him and other honorable members that the Government has decided to extend the operation of the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act for a further period of three years from 1st July, 1959. We have also decided to recommend that the maximum subsidy payable to large producers on gold produced after 30th June next be increased from £2 15s. to £3 5s. an ounce, and that the flat rate subsidy payable to small producers be raised from £2 to £2 8s. an ounce. It is my intention to introduce amending legislation next week, when I shall explain in more detail the Government’s policy on assistance to this industry.
– I desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question without notice. I preface the question by informing him that the committees of some returned soldiers’ clubs in my electorate have received reliable information that telephone lines to such clubs are being tapped - and they emphasize that the information is reliable. Is this a fact? The club committees are not fearful of any information that may be gained, but they are alarmed at the prospect of the privacy of the telephone conversations of their members being interfered with in any way.
– The honorable member for Banks, whose knowledge of postal matters I appreciate, has referred to reliable information which, he states, the returned servicemen’s league clubs have that their telephones are being tapped. In passing, I would have you notice that I am wearing an R.S.L. tie at the moment. However, the information to which the honorable member refers is not reliable because telephones are not tapped. I really think that the honorable member for Banks, with his knowledge of post office procedure, knows that the tapping of telephones does not proceed in the department.
It may be that some of the normal procedures which are carried out from time to time under the Post and Telegraph Act have caused some people to misinterpret actions taken by the staff to ensure the efficiency of the telephone system. For instance, under the act, certain people are empowered to observe the operation of the telephone system from time to time to ensure that it is as efficient as possible. All honorable members know that it is quite common, during a trunk line conversation through a manual exchange, for a telephonist to intrude and say, “ Are you getting through? “ That might be interpreted as being some form of surveillance, but of course it is not. Also, as the honorable member will know, certain of the top linemen, the supervising technicians, from time to time in testing the efficiency of trunk line cables and so on have to tap into these cables to ensure that the service is proceeding properly. But I want to make it plain that that does not involve in any way listening in to conversations. Furthermore, any officers appointed to that job are under an oath of secrecy and there is a very heavy penalty for any infringement of that oath. I can assure the honorable member that he may tell his inquirers that nothing is being done in the department that would constitute in any way a violation of the privacy of a telephone conversation.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will give urgent consideration to the problem of providing suitable accommodation for the Commonwealth National Library. At present the library is located in various parts of Canberra and therefore is of less value to the community, and is considerably more difficult for the library staff to handle. In addition, the contents are more liable to deteriorate than if the library were properly housed under a single roof.
– I can acknowledge the importance and significance of the points brought out in the honorable member’s question. Frankly, I do not know whether this is one of the matters that are at present under consideration by the National Capital Development Commission, but I am sure that it is a matter within the general consideration of the Government. I will see that what the honorable member says is kept clearly in view.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister: In view of the everincreasing unemployment in the coal-mining industry, did the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments more than two years ago set up a joint committee to investigate and report on the possibilities of a coalbased chemical and liquid fuel industry? Further, was the chief engineer of the Joint Coal Board sent overseas to study the latest developments in coal treatment methods and on his return to Australia favorably recommended the development of a coalbased liquid fuel industry? Has the Government dealt with the reports? If it has not, can the Acting Prime Minister say when it is likely to do so, or is it a fact that the reports have been shelved in favour of the development of a petrochemical industry initiated by the oil monopoly, based on imported crude oil?
– The record of the Government is clear in respect of its awareness of unemployment resulting from developments in the Australian coal-mining industry. I am not able to give any information about the current position in respect of the studies, which the honorable member states, have been conducted. However, I will secure information and advise the honorable member on this point. I can say unhesitatingly, having been concerned, myself, with the policies which led to certain decisions by private companies to establish a petro-chemical industry, that there was no question of comparing policies concerned with coal against policies concerned with imported petroleum products. The petro-chemical industry which it has been announced is being established by a combination of the various companies in Victoria was clearly a matter within the decision of those companies alone. The Government did not influence them.
– In view of the extensive and wasteful gluts of tomatoes from time to time in Australia, will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to foster local production of tomato paste and pulp by banning the importation of these commodities?
– I am familiar with and sympathetic with the objective which the honorable member states in connexion with the importation of tomato paste. However, the Government does not use its customs powers, under which imports may be prohibited, for the purpose of protecting an Australian industry. This power is constantly used, as every one knows, for the protection of our overseas currency reserves. As a result of the application of that policy, import licences are not granted and have not been granted to import tomato paste if it is available in Australia. To ensure the availability of certain food products and to sustain employment, temporary permission has been given from time to time for certain imports, but never for large quantities or for a duration of time that would extend into the next tomato producing season. Departments with which I have been associated have been concerned - and I am sure the Minister for Primary Industry is at present concerned - with trying to stimulate tomato production in this country so as to avoid the necessity to import tomatoes or any tomato products.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question with reference to Commonwealth cooperation with the States in war service land settlement. On what date is the existing agreement between the Commonwealth and the States due to expire? Will it be renewed? If it will not be renewed, will the Minister indicate whether a scheme of closer settlement has been planned to replace the existing one? Will the Minister say whether clear indications can be given to the principal and agent States of the Government’s future proposals in respect of this important matter?
– The Commonwealth Government has decided that in agent States no further acquisition of land will be made for war service land settlement after 30th June. In principal States further acquisition is a matter for the State governments. Since the rest of the honorable member’s question concerns a matter of Government policy, I will give a considered reply to it.
– Can the Postmaster-General tell me whether it is intended to place the first television station in western Victoria precisely at Ballarat? Would this give a service to Hamilton, Warrnambool, Casterton and Portland? If not could the intended situation be moved west so that these important towns would be included with those to obtain the benefits of television?
– The honorable member for Wannon has asked, Mr. Speaker, whether it is proposed to locate the projected television station in the Ballarat area precisely at Ballarat. I direct his attention to the fact that in the statement I made last week I defined in broad terms the areas to which commercial television would be extended. I particularly used the term “ broadly “ in referring to the areas concerned. I also stated that the use of the name of a town or a city did not necessarily mean that the particular station would be established in that town or city, and that there would be large rural areas adjacent to the towns specified which would have to be served. I also pointed out that in the investigations which will be made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board into applications for licences, all relevant questions, including this question of the actual siting of the various stations, will be gone into carefully, and that no final determination will be made until the report of the board is available. That is the position, and I can assure the honorable member that when applications in relation to the area to which he refers are considered by the board, the actual siting of the station will be given very close attention, and every effort will be made to provide as wide a coverage as possible in the area.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the Minister yet in a position to give a reply to a question asked yesterday with reference to the airworthiness of the Electra aircraft operated by Ansett- A.N.A.? I ask this question in the interests of the travelling public. I travelled in one of these aircraft about three weeks ago, and I noticed the outboard motor, in a banked turn, vibrating as though it was saying, “ Ta-ta! “ Is the Minister satisfied that the proposed conversion will overcome this defect and that it can be satisfactorily carried out by Ansett-A.N.A.? The Minister will remember that, some years ago, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited converted a Stinson aeroplane, which operated between Tasmania and Broken Hill, and which ultimately disintegrated in the air, with the loss of all passengers and crew.
– Yesterday, in reply to a similar question asked by another honorable member, I said that I would refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, in another place. I also said that I was quite satisfied that the Lockheed Electra was a very safe aircraft. As a matter of fact, in all my experience of aircraft, which extends over a rather lengthy period, I have never known the Lockheed company to turn out a bad aircraft.This has been true right from the days when Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith flew the Pacific in a single-engined Lockheed aircraft.
– Have you flown one yet?
– Yes. As to the proposed modification of the Lockheed Electra, it is merely a matter of, shall I say, tilting theengine three degrees up from its present position.
– Why is it being done?
– To overcome vibration. The honorable member for Darling stated that when he looked out the window he saw the outboard motor going up and down like a yo-yo, or something of that kind. I think perhaps it was the honorable member’s own spirits that were wavering a bit.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories, and it refers to the legislation providing for the imposition of income tax in Papua and New Guinea which is now being considered by the Legislative Council of the Territory. Will the Minister clarify the matter by stating whether it is intended that all mining companies shall be subject to income tax, or whether gold-mining companies will receive the same treatment as is accorded to such companies on the mainland?
– Under thelegislation which is now before the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea, mining companies in the Territorywill not receive the same exemption as do mining companies in Australia. As the honorable member will realize, at the present time there are very few mining companies operating in the Territory.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister been able to turn his attention to the importance of the features mentioned in the letter addressed to him on 30th April by the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, Sydney, concerning the need for free tranquillizing drugs for patients discharged from mental hospitals? If so, will the Minister undertake to have representatives of the medical committee that advises him confer with medical superintendents of mental hospitals, officers of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, and other social workers interested in the wellbeing of the unfortunate people who are discharged to face society after having their mental illness relieved, with a view to ensuring their permanent recovery by providing free the tranquillizing drugs the continued use of which is deemed absolutely necessary by top-line medical advice in each case?
– I did not quite gather from the honorable gentleman’s question whether he wanted me to advise the associaton concerned.
– I asked whether the Minister had received a letter from the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association and whether he would get representatives of the advisory committee to discuss the problem with the superintendents of mental hospitals, officers of the association, and social workers, in order that the committee may get a clear picture of the real need for these tranquillizing drugs.
– I have received a letter, and it will be referred to the advisory committee. I cannot undertake - offhand, at any rate - to arrange for the committee to interview people. If I once commence that process, this committee, the members of which serve in a voluntary capacity, will be snowed under with all sorts of demands. I think that the members of the committee are completely capable of arriving at a decision out of their own experience, because they will make a decision on the basis of the clinical use of the drugs. However, I shall have a look at the honorable gentleman’s suggestion.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Last week, the Minister made a statement indicating that the tobaccogrowing industry in Australia had been expanding, and he said that he would not be in a position to indicate firmly the size of the current crop until the Central Tobacco Advisory Committee had considered production reports. The committee has met, and I now ask the Minister whether he is yet able to give further information about the level and value of Australia’s production of tobacco leaf for 1958-59.
– The Central Tobacco Advisory Committee met at Canberra last week under the chairmanship of the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry. The committee is composed of representatives of growers, manufacturers, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and the State and Commonwealth departments concerned. According to the estimate made by the committee after its discussions, the crop for the current season will be 7,400 short tons, as against 6,118 short tons last season. In order to show how the industry has grown, I should like to give the House the figure for the 1949-50 crop, which totalled 2,068 short tons. So the tobacco industry is really on the way to real growth and value in this community.
With respect to the value of the crop, tobacco leaf is sold at auction, as the honorable member knows. Since somewhat less than one-third of the current crop has been sold to date, the best I can do is to hazard a guess at the approximate value of the current season’s crop. I would put it at between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question without notice. When the Budget for the financial year 1959-60 is being framed, will the right honorable gentleman consider giving substantial pension increases to age, invalid, soldier and widow pensioners? I remind the Treasurer that, with few exceptions, last year’s Budget gave no increases. Further, will the right honorable gentleman have the in creases for which I ask paid retrospective to the first sitting day of the Budget sessional period?
– I gather that honorable gentlemen opposite propose to raise some of the items mentioned by the honorable member in his question by way of an amendment to the Appropriation Bill now before the House. I hope that an opportunity will then be presented for an exchange of views, not in the limited form of question and answer, but as a full expression of opinions from both sides of the chamber, and I hope that I will be able to participate in the discussion.
– Yesterday, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relating to the unfortunate delay in the handing down of a judgment affecting airline pilots. I preface my question, which is supplementary to that asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, by pointing out to the Minister that there is a considerable body of evidence which would indicate that the morale of airline pilots is cause for very genuine concern. Will the Minister consider arranging a conference between representatives of the airline companies and the airline pilots in order to determine precisely the cause for the deterioration of morale? Pending judgment on the airline pilots’ log of claims, will the honorable gentleman indicate whether any attempt has been made to negotiate a review of the salaries paid to air crew?
– Yesterday I did reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Melbourne. I am now glad to be able to advise the House that the decision of the commission will be handed down on the 19th of this month. There has been a delay, but it has been unavoidable and due entirely to the sickness of Mr. Justice Wright. I am also able to advise honorable members that in the meantime there have been negotiations relating to increases in the salaries of pilots and that some increases have already been granted. For example, I am able to announce that Boeing 707 captains are receiving an increase of £720 per annum, first officers £450 per annum and second officers £250 per annum. Lockheed Electra captains are receiving an increase of £250, and first officers £150. In the case of the Fokker Friendship, Grade II. officers are receiving an increase of £225, but there has been no increase in the salary of Grade I. officers. In the first part of his question, the honorable gentleman asked whether a conference to ascertain the cause of discontent by airline pilots could be held. I will be only to happy to consider that suggestion, and, if anything can be done, I will act upon the decisions made.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is mandatory that the parents or guardians of a national service trainee be informed forthwith if a trainee, as the result of illness or injury, is confined to hospital during the period of his training. What procedure is followed to inform the parents or guardians?
– Whilst I do not know whether there is anything mandatory about this matter, it is the custom of the Army in all cases of injury or illness, except those of a very minor nature which may occur in the field, to inform immediately either the parents or guardians of a national service trainee. This is done personally.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. In view of the action of the United States of America in imposing high tariffs against our wool - the only country to do so - in drastically curtailing imports of our lead and zinc, in constantly opposing our attempts to establish a small market for our meat there, in imposing an embargo on our dairy products and in disrupting traditional markets for our wheat, does the right honorable gentleman intend to bring the whole question of these United States trading practices most forcibly before the next meeting of the contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which would appear to be the only open forum where our grave objections to these practices may be made known generally?
– The Government has never hesitated, as the occasion has arisen, to bring before the meetings of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade particular issues concerning our facility to trade either generally or with particular countries. With respect to the items mentioned by the honorable member, which have also been mentioned by myself in this House - items that Australia desires to sell to the United States - we are already trading in some of them as a result of commissions or agreements within Gatt. I do not mind saying that we have complained about the high tariff on Australian wool entering the United States, but it is indeed a tariff that is recognized by Gatt. It flowed from some of the earliest discussions - as far back, I think, as 1947. So that is not a matter that can be taken up with Gatt.
With respect to our interests in wheat, where our commercial trading encounters the problems of non-commercial disposals, we have not only continuously made representations - substantial and direct representations - that have been recognized and have borne fruit with the United States administration, but in 1955 we also raised the general policy issue in Gatt, where a resolution purporting to establish principles and what I might describe as very loose rules indeed emerged from the initiative of the Australian Government.
With regard to our opportunity to sell dairy products in the United States, that country, as a result of its own domestic policies, raised within Gatt in 1954 the question of getting a waiver to permit it to impose quota restrictions. That waiver was granted by Gatt.
Our problems with regard to lead are currently under discussion at a special meeting of the appropriate United Nations body in New York. I am hopeful that some good will flow from that discussion. I think I have indicated that while we do have certain problems, they do not lend themselves in toto to the application of a general rule by Gatt, but wherever it is appropriate we have already made representations to Gatt with regard to these matters.
– I direct my question to the Acting Prime Minister. By way of explanation I remind the right honorable gentleman that last week I asked him whether the Cabinet had made any decision with regard to a proposal to establish an airport at Tullamarine, Victoria. The right honorable gentleman said that he was out of touch with the matter, and that he would let me know. It is now Wednesday of this week, and he has not yet given me an answer. In view of statements made in the press, in another place, and in this House yesterday. I now ask the right honorable gentleman: Has the Cabinet yet made any decision to resume land at Tullamarine for the purpose of establishing an airport, for use in connexion with either international, interstate, or intra-state services? If it has, how much land is to be resumed? I ask for a straight answer, free from evasions such as were practised yesterday.
– I will make no answer to a question that includes an aspersion of the kind contained in the latter part of the honorable member’s question.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, concerns the unemployment position in my electorate. A recent survey carried out in my electorate showed that more than 1,000 persons were registered as totally unemployed. Whilst I view this situation with great concern, what is more alarming to me is the fact that of this number, approximately 400 are under the age of nineteen years. I ask the Minister: Will the department under his administration confer with the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry with a view to making a survey of the employment potential of the electorate, similar to the survey that was carried out in the Cessnock area, in order to ascertain what help can be given?
– I have some doubts about the accuracy of the figures that have been given by the honorable member. I shall be only too happy to make an investigation. In fact, immediately after question time I shall make certain that correct figures are obtained from the department and I shall also inquire whether a survey can be carried out by the department itself, or if necessary with others, to ascertain what is the employment potential in the honorable gentleman’s electorate.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Is a special Army committee making a survey of the uses to which the large amount of Army property in Australia is being put? Is it’ a fact that this committee has declared the Long Bay rifle range surplus? If it has, will the Minister advise me when this land will be made available for sub-division into building blocks for ballot among the large army of land-hungry people who are eagerly seeking blocks on which to build homes?
– Obviously, the honorable member has been reading the newspapers. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, quite a series of articles have been published, which are entirely false, and which have created some embarrassment, in relation to the matter to which the honorable member has referred. On a number of occasions, one Sydney newspaper has stated that there is £30,000,000 worth of land in Sydney held by the Army. That is quite a fantastic statement. It is true that I have set up a departmental committee to survey the whole of the land holdings of the Army in Australia. This is a very important task and one that cannot be done in a hurry. I am sure honorable members will appreciate that the first consideration is to determine the future requirements of the Army in respect of the land it holds and the places where the land is held. These matters, again, are related to our defence requirements.
One of the Sydney Sunday newspapers published a statement this week that the Long Bay rifle range was to be declared for disposal and sold to home-builders. That is completely untrue. This statement brought in its train a great amount of correspondence to me and I have no doubt it produced much corespondence for, and resulted in much pressure on the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, as this land is in his electorate.
– A press fabrication?
– Yes, I should imagine that you would have many applications as the result of the article. The published statement is quite wrong because this balance of the land that is held by the Army in that area is part of the property which is subject to investigation. There has been some misunderstanding about it, and I take this opportunity to make it perfectly clear that some years ago the Army did declare for disposal some 64 acres of land in that area. In this case, as in all similar cases, the Army itself does not dispose of the land to home-builders or sub-divide it. The Army hands the matter to the Department of the Interior, as it must do, and that department carries out the disposal. I understand that negotiations are proceeding in relation to this area of 64 acres, which has nothing to do with the other area of 150 acres now held at Long Bay. As a matter of fact we are in the process of preparing, on this area of 150 acres, facilities for a new system of training called “ train-fire “. An entirely new type of range - the first of its kind in Australia - is being built there to train Army personnel. The honorable member may assure those people who approach him that there is at present no intention whatever of subdividing that area at Long Bay, and that we shall know what should be done with it only when we have the report of the investigating committee.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister have prepared and made available to this House before it rises a detailed statement showing how and by whom the recent Chinese trade delegation to Australia was sponsored and what its activities here have been?
– I am afraid that I cannot undertake to have compiled a detailed statement on this matter, because I believe the Government would be without knowledge on the point which the honorable member raised. But I take the opportunity to answer the honorable member by saying that the recent mission to Australia of purchasing agents of some part of the Chinese mainland Government was in no sense sponsored by this Government. Trade relations between Australia and .mainland China are normal in respect of a variety of products ranging from wool to wheat and other foodstuffs. There is not and there never has been any restriction on the sale by Australians of those products to mainland China. Nor is there any obstacle or obstruction to imports from that country, which are subject only to our import licen sing, tariff, and other rules of general application. The restrictions that exist are those which flow from our general, announced policies on strategic materials, and a variety of materials which are not classified as strategic but are somewhere between those which are free to be exported and those which are forbidden to be exported.
– What are strategic materials?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney does not cease interjecting, I shall deal with him.
– The recent visitation was regarded by the Government, myself, and the Department of Trade, as being no different from a visit to Australia by any other purchasing agent. It was not sponsored and we did not take any initiative in volunteering any information, let alone engage in any sales promotional activities with these people. I said on one occasion in the House - and this takes me the whole distance - that if those people from China who were here contemplating purchases wanted to understand any aspect of our policies, they would be given no more and no less information than would anybody else similarly engaged in a commercial activity.
– The Minister for Immigration knows that many migrants are disappointed and embarrassed to find that they are not eligible for medical and hospital benefits until they have contributed to a registered benefits fund for two months or, in obstetric cases, for ten months. I now ask the honorable gentleman, first, whether he will suggest to the Minister for Health that benefits be made available without a qualifying period to migrants who commence contributing to a fund within a reasonable time after their arrival in Australia; or secondly, whether he will make facilities available at all the migration offices overseas for prospective migrants to subscribe to funds for the qualifying periods before they leave for Australia: or thirdly, whether his department will at least pay the necessary contributions for assisted migrants until they secure employment in Australia.
– This matter has been considered in the past by the Department of Immigration, and was also the subject of investigation, at one stage, by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. However, the honorable gentleman may be interested to know that discussions are now taking place between the Department of Health and the Department of Immigration on this very subject. When these matters have been resolved I shall inform my honorable friend accordingly.
– by leave - Whilst the Commonwealth Banking Corporation will not be formally established until the banking legislation has been proclaimed, which will not be until about the end of the year, it is necessary to proceed at once with the appointment of the board of the corporation, so that the reorganization necessary to give effect to the legislation and to constitute the corporation can be carried through. This action will include planning of such things as staffing and accommodation, arrangements for the commencing of business by the Commonwealth Development Bank and the integration of the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and the Commonwealth Development Bank into the framework of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
Accordingly, Cabinet has decided to appoint Mr. Warren D. McDonald, C.B.E., to be chairman of the board of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation which is being set up under the banking legislation recently passed by the Parliament. Mr. McDonald is at present chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, which operates Trans-Australia Airlines. He will in due course retire from that position but, because of the various problems confronting T.A.A. during the coming months, by reason of the introduction of its new fleet of Fokker Friendship and Electra aircraft, and associated matters, he has consented to carry on his work with T.A.A. at least until these particular problems have been dealt with.
Cabinet has also decided to appoint Mr. E. B. Richardson, C.B.E., as managing director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and Mr. A. N. Armstrong as deputy managing director of the corporation. Mr. Richardson is at present deputy governor of the Commonwealth Bank and Mr. Armstrong is general manager of the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
I should add that under the legislation the board of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation will comprise eleven members, of whom it is required that eight shall be neither directors nor officers of the bank nor members of the Commonwealth Public Service. The legislation provides that the other three members shall be the Secretary to the Treasury, the managing director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the deputy managing director of the corporation. With the appointment of the chairman, therefore, seven other members of the board have still to be appointed. The Government intends to make these appointments at an early date, Mr. Speaker.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. I wish to refer to a news item which appeared in to-day’s issue of “The Canberra Times” under the heading “ Canberra Roads Not Safe, Says Turnbull “. The item reads -
The Government should set an example regarding safe roads in Canberra itself, Mr. Turnbull (CP., Mallee) urged in the House of Representatives last night.
Speaking to the committee stages of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill, Mr. Turnbull said that in and around Civic Centre there were a number of corners graded the wrong way.
Sir, I wish to state that I made no mention whatsoever last night of the Canberra roads. On no occasion have I been critical of them, being fully occupied with the roads in my electorate and being prepared to leave Canberra roads to the Minister for the Interior and the wide-awake honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not in order in debating the matter.
– May I say then, Sir, that I was rather startled by one headline on the front page of the same newspaper which read “ Reporters and Reds in Melee “, I thought for a moment it was “ Mallee “.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, namely: - Construction of a new Government Printing Office at Canberra.
The proposal provides for the construction of a steel-framed brick-faced industrial type building of one story and an adjoining administrative block of two stories. The building will provide accommodation for the Commonwealth Government Printer and his staff. The preliminary assessment of the cost of the proposal is £2,800,000. I table the plans of the proposed building.
– I am glad to hear the Minister’s statement that this work is to be referred to the Public Works Committee. I trust that the committee will deal with it promptly and that the building will soon be an accomplished fact. For far too long have conditions in the Government Printing Office been far from satisfactory, and numerous representations have been made to this Government and previous governments to have the position rectified. I have not seen the plans for the building but I hope that they will depart from the flat-roof style used in this Parliament House building. The Public Works Committee will be well advised of the difficulties experienced with flat roofing in Canberra, and also will see that the provisions for amenities, toilet facilities and wash rooms are completely adequate for both present and future staff.
– Like the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), I am very glad that the Government is taking action to establish better conditions for the Government Printer and his staff in Canberra. I am particularly interested in the printing industry as a whole, as most honorable members know. One of the big cost elements of the printing industry, as is the case with any other industry in Canberra, is the cost of electrical power. I do not know whether the committee can also consider that matter when it is making its inquiry. Originally Canberra was to obtain the first flow of cheap electricity from the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. Under my jurisdiction as Minister for the Interior we could not get that, and we had to use power from other sources in New South Wales. However, now that the Snowy Mountains power-house is in operation and a large volume of power is going into the grid feeding the southern electrical district of New South Wales, I should like to ask the Minister whether the government printing establishment and other industries in Canberra, as well as the inhabitants, will now get the benefit of the cheap power which they should be getting from the Snowy Mountains scheme, because all other fuels available to Canberra are very expensive.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, namely: - Construction of a new Technical High School at Darwin.
The proposal provides for the erection of a technical high school to accommodate 500 pupils and the necessary staff. The structure will be of reinforced concrete frame with infill panels of cement brick work. The building will consist of two upper class room floors elevated on piers to provide covered play and assembly areas. The preliminary assessment of cost of the proposal is £400,000. I table the plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, namely: - Erection of a Mail Exchange at Roma-street, Brisbane.
The proposal provides for the construction of a building consisting of part basement, ground floor and three upper floors, and provides accommodation for the central mail exchange. The building will be of reinforced concrete construction and will be faced in brick. A preliminary assessment of cost of the project is £400,000. I table the plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, namely: - The Edison Telephone Exchange at Brisbane.
The proposal provides for the construction of a building consisting of basement, ground floor and seven upper floors, and provides accommodation for equipment associated with the Brisbane telephone network, trunk line equipment, and associated manual trunk exchange. The building will be of reinforced concrete construction and it will be faced in brick. A preliminary assessment of cost of the proposal is £800.000. I table the plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 30th April (vide page 1714), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Onbehalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment to the motion now before the House -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House declines to give a second reading to the bill as it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants, and because the Government has failed to intervene in support of the claim by the Australian Council of Trade Unions before the Arbitration Court for an increased basic wage and for the restoration of quarterly cost of living adjustments”.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– A Supply bill is a necessary measure when Parliament proposes to adjourn, as it will next week, and will not resume until after the commencement of the next financial year. The moneys which have been so far voted by Parliament are sufficient only to cover the period which ends at 30th June, 1959. This bill and its associated measure provide for the payment of normal services of government for a period of five months from 1st July, 1959.
– Order! Will the honorable member please resume his seat for a moment. I have considered the amendment, which may be divided into three parts. In my opinion, the last part relating to a claim before the Arbitration Court is not relevant to the subject-matter of the bill and is therefore out of order. The first two parts dealing with social services and cost of living adjustments are in order and may stand as the amendment before the House. The amendment will now read as follows: -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “this House declines to give a second reading to the bill as it fails to make adequate provision for social service payments, including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants.”
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I should be pleased if you would indicate the reasons for the deletion of the latter part of the amendment as originally moved.
– Order! I have indicated that it is not relevant to the subjectmatter before the Chair.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I will proceed to deal with the first two propositions of the amendment.
As I have already said, in normal circumstances a Supply bill is purely a machinery measure but in this particular instance it is an indication to this House that the Government has no intention of remedying the needs of certain sections of the community who, at the moment, by reason of the fall in the value of money and the inadequacy of wage payments are suffering serious economic hardship. I propose to illustrate my argument later by quoting from government documents.
It would not have been an unheard ot event if the Government had introduced what might be called a “little Budget”. This Government presented a “ little Budget” during its previous term of office and there are plenty of other occasions on record where, after the beginning of a financial year and due to change in financial circumstances, a government has seen fit to vary its original propositions as stated in its Budget. Although a government may lay down its budgetary programme for twelve months, a change of circumstances within that period does not preclude the government, if it really wishes, from bringing down legislation involving additional expenditure for social service purposes such as have been mentioned in the amendment.
In order to get this matter in perspective, we need to go back to the circumstances of the last Budget which was introduced in this House in August 1958. At that time it provided for an aggregate deficit of £110,000,000. The Government felt, at the beginning of the financial year, that the economic circumstances were such that revenue, at the then existing levels, would fall short of the total responsibilities of government, both in income and capital accounts, by a sum of the order of £110,000,000. The difference was to be made good by the issue of treasury-bills which, for all practical effect, represent an increase in the money supply.
The reason given by the former Treasurer on that occasion was that there had been a fall in export incomes which had had unfortunate internal repercussions on the Australian economy; people’s incomes - some people’s, at any rate - in consequence, had declined and the anticipated revenues would fall short, particularly in the field of income tax, by some £50,000,000 on existing rates, of what had been collected in the previous year. In addition, the Treasurer hinted that economic circumstances were such in the community - although he did not say it as precisely as this - that the economy as a whole needed a stimulus that would be provided by additional spending.
We would suggest, on this side of the House, that the need for that stimulus still exists because, at the moment, about 70,000 people are registered with the Department of Labour and National Service as being without jobs and wanting jobs. We maintain, always, that whilst the majority of people register when they have not a job and are looking for one, there are numbers of people in the community who do not record themselves with the Department of Labour and National Service or who do not record themselves immediately. The present situation in the Australian community is apparently due to the inadequacy, in aggregate, of total economic activity. At least 70,000 people who want to work cannot get a job. Therefore, there is still need for an economic stimulus of some kind.
The other day one of the Sydney papers used the expression that the economy needed more steam in order to make it function at its full capacity. It is clear that in order to provide all those people who want a job with a job and in order to increase the industrial potential, the amount of housing, and the other various things necessary in our community life, some kind of economic stimulus is needed. That was, broadly, the assumption on which the Budget was postulated in August, 1958. It was postulated on the assumption that during the ensuing financial year, over and above the revenues normally collected, about £110,000,000 would need to be found to meet the obligations of government, both Commonwealth and State, in respect of what are broadly called income and capital accounts.
I think that the Treasurer, during the week-end, filed for the information of honorable members “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ No. 14, a quarterly publication containing a wealth of very important information. The bulletins indicate the situation of government finances on the latest available date before publication. According to page 7 of “Treasury Information Bulletin” No. 14, up to the end of the
March quarter or thereabouts, there had been an overall cash deficiency of £117,700,000. But there were still three months of the financial year to run in which the largest amount would be collected from two important taxes - the company tax and the income tax. In the past, the revenue collected in those three months has far exceeded expenditure. Therefore, whilst the overall cash deficiency, up to date, has been of the order posited by the Government for the full twelve months, it can be expected that by the end of June, 1959, the excess of revenue over expenditure in the remaining part of the year will have reduced that deficit to about £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 - perhaps even a bit less. In other words, in the aggregate, the net revenue position will be about £70,000,000 better than was anticipated at the beginning of the financial year.
Members on both sides of the House will recall certain events that have taken place during the last month or so with regard to the emoluments of members of Parliament. It was claimed by some critics that this sort of thing ought not be done until the needs of wage-earners and pensioners had been recognized. Largely, criticism in this country is channelled through the daily press and the suggestion, now, is not that, because the Government appears to be about £70.000,000 better off than it thought it would be at the beginning of the financial year, various social service payments should be increased, but that there should be reductions in taxation.
The Labour Party has not any reservations about this matter. Prior to the last general election in November of last year it recorded that, as a matter of social justice, substantial increases should be made in age and invalid pensions and in child endowment payments and that the Commonwealth should restore quarterly adjustments to those people directly employed by it. We regarded it as a matter of social justice that these people are entitled to those payments. But we also regarded it as a matter of economic common sense that, because economic activity in the community was flagging, we should restore that activity by paying purchasing power to those people in the community who would be sure to spend the money immediately. And who would be more likely to do that than the aged and the sick living, in many cases, on miserable pittances, and the family groups including wives and children who are finding it very difficult, on the ordinary wage, to maintain a decent standard of living?
The economic argument to which considerable currency has been given in the last twenty years or so is that the way to stimulate an economy is to put purchasing power into the hands of people who will be sure not to hoard it but who will spend it on food, clothing and shelter and on equipment of one kind or another. They will thus deplete the stocks held by business concerns, and those business concerns will, in turn, place orders with factories. The factories, finding a greater and greater demand for their products, will place orders for capital equipment. We must have this kind of proper balance between the economic capacity of the community to produce and the economic capacity of the majority of the people to buy. It is this economic capacity to buy that has been eroded away by the inflation that has existed in our economy over the last ten years, as a result of which the value of our currency has declined at an average rate of something like 7i per cent, per annum. This has meant, in effect, that each year the £1 has been worth ls. 6d. less than in the previous year.
The deserving sections of the community to which I have referred can be aided by a direct Government policy involving the increase of social service payments. Of course, Mr. Speaker, this kind of proposition was put forward in the election campaign. The most important items of social service payments that it was suggested should be increased were age and invalid pensions and child endowment. In the aggregate, the proposed increases of these benefits would have cost about £80,000,000 extra per annum. Certain people in the community laughed the proposal to scorn, saying that it would lead to violent inflation. They conveniently forgot that inflation had been the order of the day for the previous ten years. The supporters of this Government were the last people who should have cried the wolf of inflation, when the innocent lamb had been slowly devoured over a period of nearly ten years.
This Government said in August of 1958 that it would have been a good thing for the Australian community, and that production and consumption would have been roughly equated, if a further £110,000,000 had been pumped into the economy. In the event, it is now found that the amount that would have been required is not £110,000,000, but may be only about £50,000,000. But let us consider the position of the Australian community to-day. It is not a case of prosperity for everybody, because about 70,000 people have not got jobs. Surely it is a good thing for the Australian community to have people who want to work employed in doing the things that require to be done, providing the goods that the community needs. The time is still opportune, even in May of 1959, for this additional stimulus to be given to the community by way of increased social service payments generally. We appreciated this position in November last, and if social service payments had been increased at that time it would have been of great advantage to the community. It might have cost, say, another £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 over the four or five months that have elapsed since last November, but, on the other hand, we would have had less unemployment and increased production.
On several occasions in this House, during debates on the adjournment motion and at other times, we have raised the question of unemployment as it exists in Australia to-day. Unfortunately, our remarks have fallen on cold, unsympathetic ears. Government supporters produce statistics and say, “Oh, well, the position is a little bit better this month than it was last month “, or, “ It is so much better this month than it was in the corresponding month of last year”. All the time they express a philosophy of despair and stagnation, and a failure to recognize the true position. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said in this House the other evening that he was surprised to find that living standards had declined. If he had read statistics available for the last two or three years he would have had no reason for surprise. He said that he had been astonished to find that, measured in real terms, and allowing for price rises, the standard of living of the Australian people at the end of 1957 was lower than it had been in 1956. This would have been obvious to him if he had studied the White Paper on National Income and Expendi ture that was tabled in this House during the Budget debate last year.
The fact that living standards have declined is not a matter of surprise to the ordinary person in the community who cannot augment his income with dividends or some other payments besides his wage. He is dependent always on his weekly wage for his sustenance, and while his wage is pegged and prices rise every week and every year, his .standard must be reduced. After all, the majority of people in the Australian community are not dividend receivers. They are wage receivers, or recipients of social services or some other kind of remuneration which is paid at a flat rate and not .increased to cope with inflation caused by deficiencies of government. Week by week and year by year the value has been running out of the .incomes that these people have been receiving. Because this value has been running out, a situation of stagnation has developed in the community. The shops cannot get rid of their goods as quickly as in previous times, because of the decline in purchasing power. People now have to make choices. A person now says, “ I would like this and that, but it is simply a question of this or that “. When you add up all the “ thises “ that are taken and all the “ thats “ that are left, you have the elements of depression.
This Government should be taking a very serious view of the structural changes that are taking place in the Australian community. It appears that, with more and better machinery, the same work-force can produce an increased quantity of goods, but unless the purchasing power of the community is increased, these goods cannot be sold. In those circumstances unemployment must rise, or, to say the least, the potential labour force in each succeeding year cannot be taken up in full. This is a serious matter, and if it is not corrected in a short time - and this Government is doing nothing to remedy it - the whole situation will blow up in our faces. One way to remedy the situation is to pay these extra amounts of money to the people who really need them. This is the basic reason why the Opposition has moved the amendment in its present form.
There are, however, quite a number of problems in the Australian economy at the moment. We on this side of the House have referred to them during previous debates. We will have an opportunity to refer to them, I suppose, at greater length during the Budget debate a few months from now. However, I am endeavouring to show honorable members the shape of things to come. As I say, the Government seems to have no realization of the urgent need of large sections of the community. If it does realize this need, it seems disposed to adopt the view, “It is not worth doing anything for them now. After all, they can wait until August, and we may do something about it then “. I was interested to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) say this afternoon, when answering a question put to him in this House, that he had heard of the amendment that we proposed to move, and that he hoped to participate in the debate. I hope that the Minister will participate in the debate again, because, on Thursday last, he tossed down a bill providing for the appropriation of something like £250,000,000 and was content to explain it with a secondreading speech lasting less than five minutes.
I suggest that there is need for a more full and more frank disclosure of the circumstances of the Australian economy at the moment, particularly in view of some of the things mentioned in this “ Treasury Information Bulletin “. Therefore, I hope that the Treasurer will take an opportunity to intervene in the debate. I am sure that nobody here will bear any grudge if he indicates that he proposes to increase pensions by 10s. or 12s. 6d. a week, and if he indicates that, after years of failing to admit the justice of the arguments that have been advanced, he proposes to admit the validity of the claim for the restoration to something like their proper purchasing power of child endowment payments, the rate of which has remained unchanged for nearly ten years. I hope that he will do that, but I very much doubt whether he will.
At least, it seems clear at present that, owing to a pick-up in the prices of our exports, and to certain changes in the loan market to which I shall refer in a moment or two, the deficit in the Commonwealth’s finances for the current financial year will be of the order of £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 instead of £110,000,000. But I repeat that the Australian economy still needs stimulation. It still needs the injection of some steam in order to take up the undoubted slack that exists at present. This cannot be done by starting another Snowy Mountains scheme immediately. We heard the other night of a scheme in another country that will take five years to plan. We cannot wait five years for the stimulation that is required in the Australian economy, but we can act immediately by increasing the incomes of people whom we can expect to spend what they receive.
Surely even the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) would not suggest that anybody who depends on a pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week lives in luxury and ease, or that anybody can support a wife and three children at luxury standards on the average Australian wage of £17 a week. In my view, there is no margin for luxury in that kind of living, and there is need to augment family incomes, and to raise the standard of living of the citizens generally by increasing their incomes immediately. If the Government likes, it can make the increases retrospective to 1st March last, as we did with certain other payments; or, if the Treasurer is willing to do something about this matter, there is nothing to prevent him from making the increases retrospective at least to the beginning of the next financial year instead of waiting until some time in October, or thereabouts, when the relevant legislation will receive the GovernorGeneral’s sanction.
This “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ which I have before me contains a great deal of statistical and other material relative to the loan market as it exists in Australia at present. The borrowing of money by governments from whatever sources are available to them, either internally or overseas, is part of the broad conspectus of the Australian economy. Some years ago, we on this side of the House suggested that one thing that the Government could do to encourage small individual investors would be to devise a kind of security similar to the war savings certificates which were issued during World War II. Those securities protected not so much the rate of interest as the integrity of the capital sum invested. A war savings certificate could not lose its value once the purchaser had held it for a minimum period of about six months. One bought a certificate for 16s., and the interest accumulated automatically. Often, people have very good reasons for wanting to cash their savings, and if the holder of a war savings certificate had a good reason for wanting to cash it, he did not lose any of his capital. The introduction of a similar kind of security was mentioned on this side of the House, as I have said, as far back as five years ago, but it was not until a week or two before the last general election that the Government introduced that kind of security in the form of special bonds, which began with series “ A “ and have now reached series “ B “. I have been interested to read that although that kind of security has existed only since October, 1958, up to the date of publication of this Treasury bulletin £20,200,000 had been raised by the issue of these special bonds. This indicates simply that there was available a form of borrowing which the Government could have used over a considerable period.
The only complaint that I make about the special bonds is that, in my view, the interest rate originally quoted was too high. I think that one thing that every one in the Australian community should endeavour to do is to bring down the whole level of interest rates existing at present. But, on the contrary, because of the failure to grapple with interest rates in certain fields such as hire purchase, interest rates continue to rise. The interest, of course, is a profit to the person who lends the money, but it is a charge on the person who is forced to borrow the money. There are considerable sections of the Australian community which are forced to borrow if they want to purchase anything that involves the expenditure of more than £100, whether it be furnishings, a television set, a motor car or a house. The amount involved varies according to the kind of durable goods concerned. Every person who is forced to borrow in order to buy these things - and the great bulk of the Australian community is forced to do it - pays in interest on every £100 that he is forced to borrow several pounds a year more than he should be required to pay.
I say it is time the Government grappled with this serious situation. It is of no good to say that, in the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, it would be unconstitutional to take action in this matter.Why does the
Government not take the initiative, pass the necessary legislation, and let some of the sharks who are profiteering in this field challenge it before the courts? We should then see where public sympathy is. At least, if such a challenge were made in the courts and the full facts were divulged, you would get an alinement of public opinion - and certain sections of the community are content to look at public opinion when it suits them - sufficient to permit an alteration of the Australian Constitution to clothe the Government with any powers it may need. A Commonwealth government ought to have power to regulate interest rates in the Australian community.
This Government has been content to do nothing, and to ignore certain instruments that it could have used in this field. Instead of trying to bring interest rates down, it has said, “ We have to offer onehalf of 1 per cent., or something more, above what some one else is offering “. The consequence has been that the interest rate on gilt-edged securities, which, at the time of the Labour Government, stood at3¼ per cent., now stands at over 5 per cent. Most tragic of all, the short-term interest rate, which ought to be little more than1 per cent., now stands at nearly 4 per cent. The short-term rate for terms of less than two years in Australia to-day is more than was the rate for long-term gilt-edged securities at the time of the Labour Government. The Government has condoned this by the introduction recently of what is called vaguely the money market. The Treasurer has not made an official statement in the House on the proposed operation of this new instrument, but the “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ contains information which indicates what this money market will mean to the Australian community.
Two things have happened in the loan market. We suggest that the first of these should have ‘been introduced years ago. For the first time for many years, the small borrowers are being considered and in about six months they have contributed some £20,000,000. That relieves to some extent the financial problems causedby loan redemptions that fall due this year and in the next few years. The other factor is that a substantial part of the subscriptions to the February loan came from the banks.
On page 7 of the “ Treasury Information Bulletin “, the following statement appears: -
The loan receipts of £159.9 million in the first nine months of this financial year compare with receipts of £90.8 million in the corresponding period of 1957-58.
Loan raisings so far in this financial year have been nearly £70,000,000 greater than they were for the corresponding period of the previous financial year. However, £20,000,000 of the additional £70,000,000 came from a source that was available for many years past - the small subscriber, who is now given a guarantee that he will not lose any of his capital. The statement in the “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ continues -
Receipts during the March quarter of this financial year, which included unusually large subscriptions from trading banks and from brokers and dealers associated with the new short-term money market, totalled 86.9 million, compared with £20.8 million in the March quarter of 1957-58.
From this source of borrowing, we received £66,000,000 more than we received in the corresponding quarter of the previous year. Why? Because much of this money has been subscribed by trading banks whose only other course would be to put it into treasury-bills yielding 1 per cent.! The creation of this so-called new money market has enabled the banks to invest their funds in short-term Government securities yielding 4 per cent. Consider the difference between £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 of bank money temporarily invested at 1 per cent, and £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 of bank money invested at 4 per cent.! Increases such as those in parliamentary salaries pale into insignificance before these devices which serve only a small section of the community and which rob the majority of the community. It is simply money manipulation, which should not be allowed, and which should not be condoned by the Government.
This Government is indictable for its failure to grapple with the serious situation that faces the Australian community. It has ignored the very real existence of substantial unemployment, which has existed not only for twelve months but for three or four years now. Each year, aggregate employment should increase by 70,000 to 80.000 people. But the total number of people employed at the end of June, 1958, was the same as the number employed at. the end of June, 1956, when we had about 250,000 fewer people in this country. These figures support the arguments of my colleague, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) who dealt with the introduction into the Australian community of more machinery and efficient methods of production. No one cavils at more efficient methods of production, but it is economic stupidity to use a machine and sack a man and not re-absorb him. After all, the machine does not buy the goods; the man does!
We should so order our economy that these developments benefit the majority of mankind and do not merely augment the profits of large monopoly groups. The Labour movement and the trade union movement want to reduce the drudgery of labour but they also want to maintain the security of employment for everybody able and willing to work. Surely in a country such as Australia, which has a deficiency in education facilities, power, transport and housing, skilled labour freed from one avenue could be gainfully absorbed in another avenue. We as a Labour Party say that these things can be done only by proper social planning. Something should also be done to correct another great evil. Rates of age and invalid pensions are not as adequate in 1959 as they were in 1958 and the rate of child endowment is exactly the same now as it was ten years ago. If money is given to pensioners, they will not hoard it; they will give it to shops in exchange for goods. The money will go back directly to the factories and the factories will need to increase their output and their labour force.
The amendment of the Opposition is moved because we feel that the Government now has an opportunity to act. If need be, the Parliament could sit for another month to pass the legislation necessary to increase immediately social service payments and to attend to other matters mentioned in the amendment. If that were done, we would have a little Budget that improved the economy and not a repetition of the circumstances of a few years ago when a little Budget that hindered the economy was introduced. Part of our difficulty flows from the mistake which was made when that little Budget was introduced. On this occasion the Government could at least correct the mistake by paying those who will spend and whose additional spending will stimulate the economy as it needs to be stimulated.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I would very much like to give myself the luxury of taking issue with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), but as he has regaled the House with a little pre-Budget propaganda, I shall leave it to some of my colleagues to deal with his comments and turn my attention to a matter which I think is of some national importance and which concerns the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I refer to the fact that towards the end of the year, in August and for a few months thereafter, there will be assembled in Geneva the conference held at ten or eleven year intervals by the International Telecommunications Union, to which Australia is a signatory. From this conference I fear that irreparable damage will be done to a service in this country which I hold to be of considerable value. That is the service presented to Australia by the amateur radio operators.
Sir, the task of the International Telecommunications Union, or its major task, will be to decide how the radio frequency channels are to be allocated between the variety of services requiring room therein. It will have to decide which frequencies will be made available to broadcasting, local and international, to television, to communications, to radar, to navigation, to amateur radio, and to all the other services that are increasingly finding use for the radio spectrum. Already member countries have sent to Geneva their proposals for amendment of the frequency allocation table. Australia has sent her proposals abroad, and at Geneva those proposals are being correlated with the proposals of other countries. The final correlation will be circulated to all members of the union and will serve as the working document for the conference which, as I have stated, will begin in August or September.
With regard to the section with which I am particularly concerned - the radio amateurs of Australia - I want to express some concern at the reluctance of the
Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to make public the recommendations. The fact of the matter, Sir, is that these recommendations have been sent abroad for the express purpose of being published to other members signatory to the convention. It is rather an odd circumstance in my view that we in Australia should not have access to these proposals. I think it is rather important to note that without the opportunity for debate given by a ministerial statement or the tabling of a paper in this House, it may well be that the matter would pass unnoticed by Parliament or even by the Government itself. This leaves a completely unsatisfactory situation in which Australia may well find herself committed by international agreement in this very important matter of the availability of radio frequency channels without either the Government, the Parliament, or the people of Australia knowing what has been proposed and what has been approved by agreement in our name.
– The people cannot even hear your speech. It is not being broadcast.
– That is so. It may well be that the Postmaster-General feels that he has the best experts in this country within his department and therefore, on a matter as technical as this, there is not much point in referring it either to the Government, the Parliament, or the people. My appreciation of the technical competence of the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is not reduced by my belief that there is, within the communications industry of this country outside the Postmaster-General’s Department, a body of people who are thoroughly competent to express views on this subject. I do not suggest for a moment that the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department do not bring a full sense of responsibility to their task in this connexion, but, as I shall show later, they would not be human if they did not take advantage of their peculiar situation in this matter. The PostmasterGeneral has agreed - I am afraid rather reluctantly and only under considerable pressure - to make available the recommendations with respect to amateur radio operations that have gone abroad in the name of Australia. When these recommendations were published at the week-end I think a considerable number of members on both sides of the House, because this is not a party issue, probably received letters and communications of one kind or another from amateur radio operators urging that the Government should not make the proposed reductions in their allocations.
As I pointed out, my interest lies particularly in the allocations for the use of amateur radio operators. These people are a minority. Their activities are noncommercial, yet they provide an extraordinarily valuable service to this country. It is for those reasons that I believe I am justified in taking up the cudgels on their behalf in this House. The Postmaster-General has been very co-operative on this matter within the limits of his reluctance and arranged for me to meet in Melbourne, a couple of weeks ago, the members of the sub-committee that advises his department on these technical matters. That committee is the Frequency Allocation SubCommittee. After some superficial discussions with the committee on what, after all, is a deeply technical subject, I came away not at all satisfied that the right thing was being done, but worst of all I came away with a very great concern for the 3,500 radio amateurs of this country, whose future I believe to be seriously threatened by the proposed reductions in the frequency channels available to them.
Perhaps I should say a word or two about these amateurs and the service that they render to this country. First of all, as I have said, they are members of a noncommercial organization. They represent a minority of the taxpayers of Australia. Because they are non-commercial and because their activities are of a spare-time nature, they are regarded, I am sure, by the Administration as having a very low priority in the scheme of things generally. Perhaps, unless this matter is brought to public attention, the amateurs will lose valuable privileges for all time and Australia may well lose an extraordinarily valuable asset. The amateurs consist of an international body of technical enthusiasts. They number something like 250.000. They are found in every country in the world, not excluding iron curtain countries. They are a group of non-commercial technicians who interest themselves in this technical occupation in their sp-re time and at their own cost. The Australian radio amateurs equip themselves, as their past record has shown, in order to serve this country when it needs them most. Those occasions in recent times have been in time of war and during periods of civil emergency. These people find in radio an outlet for their experimental, developmental and inventive skills. They are drawn from all walks of life. You will find radio amateurs amongst industrial apprentices and atomic scientists. You will find them amongst school teachers, sportsmen, politicians, and even statesmen. I think that one or two crowned heads - whether they are still crowned I do not know - in times gone by, have been interested in amateur radio. You will find radio amateurs in factories and laboratories. You will find them heading the communications departments of the armed services. You will find them in broadcasting services. The important point, I think, is that their international operations provide a very potent source for the development of international understanding and goodwill, and nobody will doubt that we are in great need of that commodity to-day.
The amateurs are recognized by the International Telecommunications Union as a fully fledged international service with international frequencies specifically reserved for their use. There was a time, as many of us will remember, when the wave lengths below 100 metres were regarded as of little value and the amateur was free to romp in that spectrum as he wished. I do not think that it is too much to say that his inventive and developmental skills and his tenacity enabled him to show that those wave-lengths were not entirely useless. Little by little their value was expanded as new techniques were discovered, until to-day wave-lengths not down to 100 metres, but down as low as 3 centimetres, with tremendous technical problems involved, are nevertheless very valuable public property. As these wavelengths become more valuable, so the amateurs have been squeezed down further and their allocations reduced and restricted until to-day they operate in very narrow bands.
The only free space to-day for the amateur, to carry on his experiments is in the radio frequency channels below 1 centimetre in wave-length. That is pretty valueless territory at the moment, because we have developed neither the equipment nor the techniques to make use of it. But little by little, as amateur radio operators move into this territory, and, of course, with the assistance of scientific laboratories, we will discover how to use these extraordinarily high frequencies, and once again the amateur radio operators will be squeezed down still further; that is, assuming that they have not been squeezed out of existence already. It is because of the possibility, or even probability, that they will be so squeezed out that I think it is necessary to refer to the position at this time.
Amateurs throughout the world, by international reservations made at counterpart conferences to that to be held at Geneva, employ bands in harmonic relation to 80, 40, 20, 10, down to 5 metres and into the shorter wave lengths. These are world reservations, and the availability of these frequencies to the amateurs need for international communication has encouraged into their ranks a vast number of people over the world - as I have said, numbering over 250,000 - to pursue technical knowledge and experience in those particular frequencies. The immediate dividend that we and most other countries have received from this activity is that during times of war, we have been able to call on a great army of radio-trained technicians experienced in these high frequency techniques and they have been most useful. During periods of civil emergency when the ordinary channels of communication have gone out of action, we have found on almost every occasion if not every occasion that there have been amateurs there with portable equipment and so on to take up where standard communications have faded out. Certainly, they are only emergency communications, but they get us through and in most of the States, particularly in New South Wales, there is in being an emergency network allied to the civil defence group which would render valuable service if ever the time should come when we find need of it.
For all these reasons, Australia owes a debt to its radio amateurs, and I believe the amateurs are entitled to expect something a little better from Australia and from the Government than is proposed now when we seriously plan to reduce their allocations, some bands coming down by one-third and some by one-half. I believe if we make these reductions we will discourage from entering amateur radio - training themselves for national service - a vast number of young men - and, indeed, young women - who are going into technical occupations in Australia. The great danger is that we may regard the amateurs in Australia less as a national asset than as a group of people who are merely putting valuable frequency channels to rather inferior use.
I think it is worth noting, by way of comparison, that the 200,000 amateurs who are licensed in the United States of America, where the problem of availability of frequencies is at least as great as, if not considerably greater than our own, enjoy a much higher status with their government. Here in Australia when changes are proposed, notice merely comes out as a departmental edict to the amateurs and they must accept it. In the United States, if there are proposals to change conditions under which these stations operate, there must be a public notification of the proposal and an opportunity given by the Federal Communications Commission for interested people to give evidence in public on the pros and cons of the proposed change. Here is evidence of a vastly higher appreciation of the amateurs in America than we afford them in Australia.
I should like to refer now briefly to the administrative processes which have produced the present situation. After the second world war, all communications in Australia have been controlled by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department because it administers the Post and Telegraph Act. During wartime, the allocation of frequencies was under the control of the Navy and wartime requirements took priority as should be the case. At about the time the amateurs received their licences back after the war - because naturally they were immobilized during the war - there were set up a number of technical committees within the Postmaster-General’s Department. One of these was the Technical Advisory Committee and under that there was a subcommittee called the Frequency Allocations Sub-Committee. The personnel of this Frequency Allocations Sub-Committee was drawn from the Postmaster-General’s Department, the armed services, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board when that was ultimately instituted, the Department of Supply, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Civil Aviation.
The point I stress to the House is that it will be seen that these members were representatives of services which are themselves major users of radio frequency channels. As I have said, I do not for one moment believe that these people would have brought any sense of irresponsibility to their task of advising the Government on the allocation of frequencies, but they would indeed be something more than human if they did not regard the services they represent as having a higher priority than the amateur transmitters on the side. As I say, I came away from this meeting of the sub-committee firmly believing the amateurs were being given a too low priority altogether.
Now, Sir, I do not believe anybody who has looked at the scene or is acquainted with telecommunications in any shape or form, will misunderstand the great problems in this field to-day. In the past ten years, the number of applications for the sort of services used by taxis, ambulances, police, supply authorities and so on have increased from 2,000 to 10,000. They all make great demands on the radio channels available and though they are to be regarded as having high priority, the tendency will be to squeeze out those of lower priority. That is precisely the move at the moment because, as the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has pointed out, it is required to make additional space available for these utility services.
There are two ways of doing this job. One is by the use of more modern techniques because, in the course of discussion I had with the Technical Advisory Committee, one organization - a communications authority - pointed out that it made a vast multiplication in the effectiveness of the channels available to it by using modern transmission techniques. The second way is to squeeze out those of lower priority who occupy frequency channels. I suggest that the department must devote itself with more enthusiasm and greater industry to the task of promoting more modern techniques of operation. When that happens, there will be more effective use of frequency channels available and less need to squeeze out those who may be regarded as having lower priority claims.
On another point, we are told there is great need for additional frequencies to be made for international broadcasts, yet those few of us - extraordinarily few - who happen to turn a dial on a radio receiver and attempt to listen to an international broadcast will be left, 1 am afraid, in little doubt as to the value of international broadcasts. The audience must be pretty near zero for this great reason: Where to-day most countries have high-powered short-wave transmitters on the air interlarded with a great deal of propaganda - because that is their main function - we find that for every station that comes on the air there also comes on the air a powerful jamming station operated by some other country. The net result is to wash out almost completely the value of international broadcasts, and to clutter up channel after channel with meaningless noises which are incomprehensible to the average international listener, if any. All of this represents a complete waste of the most valuable frequency channels. If the International Telecommunications Union is to do a real job, it must devote some of its attention to this problem to clear up this jungle which has developed on the international broadcasting bands. If that is to happen, there will be one less source of pressure acting on the amateurs to reduce their share of available frequencies.
T am forced to the conclusion, after the closest possible scrutiny of this situation, that there is no justification for the drastic reduction in the amateur bands proposed by the Postmaster-General’s Department for adoption at the Geneva conference. Already, there is much too little room for the amateurs to operate, because in the post-war years the number of Australian amateurs has doubled from 2,000 to about 4,000. When one considers the prospects of a great multiplication of interested parties one can imagine the hopeless situation which we shall have in future years, if we cut the frequency allocations now available. The number of people wanting to use those frequencies will have doubled, trebled, or multiplied perhaps even more than that. In answer to this proposition, the defence of the Postmaster-General’s Department is that one may listen on these amateur bands and find that they are not sufficiently occupied by the existing amateurs. That may be true for a large part of the day because, as I have pointed out, these people are recognized internationally as operating an amateur service for non-commercial purposes, which means that the stations are operated necessarily by men who have to work during the day. Consequently, one may go round these bands during part of the day and find very few stations transmitting, particularly on channels used for short-range communications.
In regard to the major bands which are useful for international communications, I challenge the Postmaster-General’s Department to substantiate any claim that they are unused. Those bands are so thick with stations that communication is already extremely difficult. So much is this so that the amateurs themselves are adopting the most modern techniques for achieving operating efficiency. On the bands made available to commercial interests, one may find the same sort of situation, except that, in periods when those frequencies are not being used for the transmission of commercial traffic, they are occupied by delightful contraptions called V-wheels, which are automatic transmitters that merely keep the channel open, sending a signal which conveys no intelligence at all. So, although it can be said that those bands are occupied, they are not always occupied for any useful purpose.
I suggest that the department may be persuaded to give second thoughts to its recommendations for a reduction in the channels available to radio amateurs. Those who are acquainted with the problem will have a full appreciation of the tremendous importance of the matter and the difficulties that our delegation will face at the Geneva conference. It will need reasonable freedom to reach international agreement, because if there is no international agreement there will be chaos in the use of these bands, which are capable of producing interference all over the world. In the present frame of mind in which the delegation is going abroad, I am afraid that the only proposals which it will make, substantiate and fight for are those which will be to the detriment of the Australian amateur transmitter.
I believe that if the facts were brought: to public attention, and honorable members and the people of Australia generally fully appreciated the splendid service which they have had in the past and can expect: in the future from their radio amateurs, the members of the delegation would go abroad with the knowledge firmly fixed in their minds that the Australian people actually appreciated their amateurs and wanted their facilities preserved in full. The next best arrangement would be to send abroad a delegation with a direction. I wish there were available in this House some simple machinery by which we could direct the delegation to go to Geneva to fight for the preservation of the amateur status and amateur facilities, but I am afraid that that is not possible.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral not direct them?
– Yes. There are two other matters that I should like to mention in closing, in order to put this position in perspective. One is that the amateurs of Australia, through their parent body, the Wireless Institute of Australia, have sought and, I am glad to say, received the approval of the Postmaster-General to sending to this international conference an observer with a watching brief. The amateurs of Australia have subscribed about £2,500 to cover the expenses of that observer. The same course is being followed by amateurs in almost every other country which is a signatory to the agreement. That is an indication of the importance that the amateurs of the world attach to the question. If there is to be any further great curtailment of the frequencies available to amateurs, the band will become almost unusable, and the final liquidation of the amateurs as a body will not be too far off.
The second point I want to make will illustrate once again that we in Australia do not value our amateurs as do the people of the United States of America. The last international conference fixed the frequency channel of the 20 metres band at from 14,000 to 14,300 kilocycles. Although the United States of America and New Zealand preserved for their amateurs the whole width of that internationally allocated band, we in Australia did not do the same. Australian amateurs have been operating for many years under an edict of the PostmasterGeneral which reduced the band by 50 kilocycles. Now that is to be reduced by 100 kilocycles. That means that we in Australia are not even providing for our amateurs the full use of frequencies upon which there has been international agreement. These factors indicate that the amateurs of this country do not enjoy the priority which I believe is warranted by their service to the country. I urge, as I hope other honorable members will do, that this matter of the proposals for Geneva be reviewed at some time between now and August, when the conference assembles, and that we adopt a new attitude. First, we should not propose a reduction, and secondly we should support any country which stands out for the preservation intact of those facilities which are now available to the radio amateur.
.- Before stating my reasons for supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), I should like to say that I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). I also have received representations along the lines stated by the honorable member, and I am in complete agreement with every word he uttered. In view of his submissions, the least that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) can do is to give very serious consideration indeed to a review of the position. If the delegation goes to Geneva with a set of recommendations conceived in secret, which will ultimately mean the stultification of radio amateur activities in the Commonwealth, it seems to me that that will be an illustration of bureaucracy run mad. I hope that the Government will not rely for the last word upon this committee, which I suppose could be called an expert committee, but will give serious attention to the technical arguments submitted by the honorable member for Paterson. Every honorable member knows of his interest in this realm of communications and we have always listened to him with great interest and profit. I was very happy to note that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), who holds views similar to those of the honorable member for Paterson, has placed on the notice paper a number of questions dealing with this matter, and I understand that he will make some submissions along these lines later in the debate. Suffice it for me to say that I join with the honorable member for Paterson and that I am prepared, to the limits of whatever influence I have in this House, to support his submissions to the hilt.
Having said that, let me say that 1 am very enthusiastic in my support of the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The reasons that he has adduced for Government action along the lines he suggested are of such a concrete nature that I am at a loss to understand why the Government should be at all hesitant in giving his amendment very serious attention. Whether this country likes it or not, we are in the throes of a creeping inflation which is inexorable in its incidence. Up and up and up it goes. Despite all the Government’s legislation to deal with it, despite the Government’s administrative acts, despite the proclamations made almost weekly by spokesmen for the Government, we have that continual rise in the cost of living, and I would say from my observations that there will be continual rises in the future. That being so, surely we as a Parliament ought to give very serious consideration to the plight of people less fortunate than ourselves. When this Parliament recently decided to increase the salaries and allowances of members and Ministers, in accordance with the recommendations of the Richardson committee, there was universal criticism from outside the Parliament. I would say, speaking from the knowledge I have gained from many interviews with members of the public - and I know that many other honorable members also had such interviews - that the criticism mainly had its genesis in the fact that members of the Parliament had decided on these increases for themselves while other less fortunate members of the community who are in very deplorable circumstances - the recipients of social services - will have to wait until October or November before they can expect any increase of their pensions, if any such increase is provided for in the coming Budget.
Therefore, I submit earnestly that in all fairness the Government, if it wishes to be consistent, and if it is of the opinion that a change in conditions entitles members of this Parliament to increases in salaries and allowances, should apply the same yardstick to recipients of social service benefits. Nobody in this House would seriously suggest that on £4 7s. 6d. a week a pensioner can wax fat. Everybody knows that quite a number of pensioners are living in the most deplorable and distressing conditions. It is the bounden duty of the Parliament to ameliorate these conditions at the earliest possible moment. There is no need for the Government to wait until the Budget is brought down before it does that. I remind honorable members that, as another honorable member has mentioned, there is such a thing as a “ little “ Budget. We had the “little” Budget of 1956, when the Government decided that, because of the prevailing circumstances, it could not wait till the Budget itself was brought down in September. It introduced the “little” Budget to deal with exigencies of the moment. To-day we have reached the position where the recipients of social service benefits in many cases are in a state of almost semi-destitution. Not all of them, but quite a number of them. This is happening at a time when it is within the capacity of the Government, by means of legislation which it could introduce at very short notice, and whose implementation I am certain the Opposition would do nothing to delay, to give these social service pensioners at least a modicum of justice. The time is overdue when this should be done, because last year there was no increase of age pensions, a fact about which the public expressed a great deal of surprise at the time.
Since last year’s Budget there has been a continual increase in the cost of living. It keeps going up and up and the public at large, I am convinced, is of the opinion that the Government should act with alacrity in this matter. A number of social services should, I submit, receive immediate consideration from the Parliament. I am not at all satisfied with the national health scheme, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am convinced that it is a much overrated scheme, and the longer it operates the more confused honorable members become about it. The Chifley Government was alive to the fact that in a welfare state - and that was the Chifley Government’s objective - it is necessary to have a health scheme which will operate irrespective of the economic circum stances of the patients. So that government introduced a scheme which provided. for free hospitalization, for medical attention on the panel system, and pharmaceutical benefits. That scheme was wrecked by the High Court, aided and abetted by the British Medical Association, which was. not prepared to support the scheme. The1 B.M.A. boycotted the Chifley Government’sscheme, but later it relented and was prepared to support the provision of free lifesaving drugs and medical treatment for pensioners. The present scheme, inaugurated” by this Government some years ago with a great fanfare of trumpets, consists of subsidizing bureacratic and cumbersome hospital and medical benefit fund schemes. But no limits are imposed on doctors’ charges. It seems to me, after careful perusal of the provisions of the scheme and experience of its operation for some years, that the scheme starts off on a good basis but fallsdown at the time when it should provide practical financial support of a nature which would enable a patient to meet the expenses of a serious illness without dipping very deeply into his savings. It is true that art insured person receives a refund of 12s. for a consultation with a doctor which costs him 17s. 6d., and there are a few benefits of that kind under the scheme which are acceptable to members of funds. But there comes a time when a patient must have a serious operation in a hospital. If his income is above a certain figure he is charged the full rate by the hospital. He may receive a bill totalling 170 or 180 guineas for specialist’s and hospital fees, and all he gets back in refund is 50 or 60 guineas. That is quite ridiculous. A hospital and medical scheme worthy of the name should provide that where a patient is billed for large sums of money for medical and hospital treatment he should receive a reasonably large refund. The ordinary run of patient has no difficulty in finding 17s. 6d. for a consultation with a doctor. If he is insured with a fund he receives a refund of 12s. for every consultation. But when he is faced with a huge bill for medical and hospital treatment he receives only a relatively small refund from the hospital and medical benefit funds. No national health scheme is worthy of the name until it makes provisions along the lines I have indicated.
Now let us look at the subject of maternity allowance. The maternity allowance at present ranges from £15 to £17 10s., and the rates have remained unchanged since 1943. During that time there have been terrific increases of the cost of bringing new Australians into the world. I suggest that the Government should give serious consideration to helping the family man by increasing the maternity allowance. After all, every party in this Parliament believes that we should build up a virile and ever-increasing population, and encouragement of our natural increase is the best way to do that. We spend large sums of money - and rightly so - in bringing immigrants here in order to give Australia an increased and virile population. I suggest that it is time the Government gave some consideration to helping the mothers of Australia by increasing the maternity allowance.
The same argument can be applied in relation to child endowment. The rate of this social service benefit has remained unchanged since 1948 except for the inclusion of the second child, at the rate of 5s. a week benefit, in 1950. Obviously the rates should be doubled to meet present conditions.
Unemployment and sickness benefits now stand at £3 5s. a week for a single person and £5 12s. 6d. a week for a married person, plus 10s. a week for each child. This is what the unfortunate people who are unable to find employment, or who are sick, are expected to live on. I can assure the Government that, despite its negative attitude in relation to this matter, there are many deserving citizens who are unfortunate enough to be unable to find employment. The amount unemployed persons receive in benefit is less than half the rate of £9 15s. for a single person and £12 10s. for a married man which is payable under workers’ compensation. There should be some relation between workers’ compensation and the rate paid to the recipients of unemployment and sickness benefits.
Now I. come to age and invalid pensions. Nobody in his right senses would suggest that £4 7s. 6d. a week meets present-day requirements. What is needed is an immediate steep increase in these pensions. If the Government is not prepared to make a steep increase at least it should make an immediate increase of some kind, pending the introduction of the Budget in September, when a bigger increase may be granted.
Last year the Government took great credit unto itself for the introduction to the social services structure of a new development - the 10s. a week rental allowance for single rent-paying pensioners. All I can say is that this new provision only touches the fringe of the problem. I understand that only 10 per cent, of pensioners are eligible to receive that allowance. In restricting eligibility for this allowance the Government has perpetrated a grave injustice on property-owning pensioners who are extremely hard hit by the present inflation. No such consideration has been given to these thrifty citizens who, by their ownership of property, have demonstrated that they are prepared to fend for themselves. Over the years they have acquired properties but they have found that as a result of the creeping inflation which this Government has done nothing to stem they are unable to cope with the expenses involved in maintaining them. Almost monthly, and certainly yearly, repairs have to be made. Municipal rates and the regular overhead of gas and electricity have to be met. Because costs are going up everywhere the local government authorities are compelled to increase their rates. All those things affect the welfare of the property-owning pensioner. The bill for an ordinary bit of plumbing done on a house is anything from £20 to £40. Pensioners, because of their infirmity or age, are not in a position to paint their own houses, and the cost of the job is often £200 or £300. The Government should give earnest consideration to the making of a grant to pensioners who own properties. My suggestion is consequential upon the rental concession which was introduced last year.
I wish to say a few words about the unemployment position. During the last twelve months the number of people receiving the unemployment benefit has fluctuated between 22,000 and 30,000 and the number registered for employment between 52,000 and 81,000. A variety of interpretations has been placed upon these figures particularly when they have been mentioned by honorable members on this side of the House, but one unquestionable conclusion is that the year 1958, which concluded only a few months ago, was to very many people the worst period for unemployment since 1950, except the month of January, 1953, when 36,817 people were receiving unemployment benefits.
It seems likely - and this view is more or less accepted by the Government - that for the first time in many years Australia is faced with a hard core of 40,000 people unable to find jobs. The fact that this figure is less than 2 per cent, of the total work force has meaning only for the government economists. The task of providing employment to absorb the greater proportion of those out of work must be left, in the main, to the Government. But at all times there must be repeated expressions of public disapproval of the state of unemployment which seems to have become a permanent feature of our society. The Labour Party will continue to hammer home to the Government this state of affairs. The task of reducing unemployment must receive first priority from any government if it has any human instinct in its make-up.
But the Government has another task. It should implement services to reduce the short and long-term social effects of unemployment. I have prepared several questions on this subject which need to be asked. The first, which we as members of the national Parliament should ask ourselves is: How many of those receiving the unemployment benefit have been in receipt of payment for two years or more? This is a very important matter because we want to know whether chronic unemployment is confined to a particular section of the population. We should try to discover also whether, when one person who has been unemployed for a time gets work, another worker takes his place on the list of unemployed. The second question is: What is the age group of the unemployed? Are most of the workless over 45 years, as many suspect, or are they newcomers to the labour market? If they are people over 45 years of age - and an examination will find whether this is so or not - then it appears to me there must be a new attitude towards the employment of these people. If our society is to condemn people to unemployment after they reach the age of 45 then we must expect ructions in the future unless we find an answer now.
The third question is: Are the unemployed mostly skilled or unskilled? Where is the vacuum occurring? Can jobs be found for workers who seem to be unable to find work for themselves? A fourth question is: Are many of the unemployed itinerant? We know that those who depend on seasonal work are unemployed for periods. Are many unemployed dependent on employment close to homes which they are purchasing? If a worker is compelled to go great distances from the place where he resides, travelling and accommodation necessarily involve himself and his family in a great deal of hardship.
Other questions are: How many unemployed are considered to be unemployable? How many dependants are there in most families affected by unemployment? Are the families most severely affected those with several children, or those with one or two children or those without children? We then have to consider how adequate is the unemployment benefit for the single man and the family man. I suggest that it is completely inadequate. How can members of a family live on £6 2s. 6d. a week without severe repercussions in their lives? For a week or two they may be prepared to accept the situation but after that they have to tighten their belts. When the savings in the bank account have all been withdrawn the family has reached a most deplorable condition.
We should ask ourselves also to what extent are border-line physical or mental disabilities a factor among the marginal unemployed? One of the lessons of the depression was that after a very long period of unemployment certain types of workers became permanently unemployable. Before this happens again remedial action should be taken by the Government. Now is the time to study the nature as well as the extent of unemployment before the total numbers of unemployed become too unwieldy.
Last week I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) a couple of these questions and he pleased me by saying that he would make some inquiries and let me know the answers. Up to the present, I have not received any answer from him, but it appears that the Minister is sympathetic and is prepared to give some thought to the questions. But I asked only two of a number of questions which the Government must face if it is to do the right thing by this unfortunate section of the community. We must remember that the figure of 40,000 unemployed represents some 100,000 men, women and children whose future can be blighted if they are subject to prolonged unemployment in the midst of normal conditions.
Another matter to which I wish to make some reference is Federal and State financial relations. I am one of those in this House who are firmly of the opinion that the Government must change its outlook if the States are to receive fair treatment in the future. In recent years some new facts have emerged which have necessitated a fresh approach to this very vital matter. One is the impact of post-war migration. As a result of the implementation of the Commonwealth migration policy the States are having tremendous burdens thrust upon them without receiving adequate compensation. I know it has been said by the Government that the increase in population has been taken into consideration when the annual reimbursement of tax revenue is made. But the fact remains, when everything is added up, that the amounts the States receive as compensation for the liabilities .they incur as the result of migration are infinitesimal in comparison with the assessment of actual requirements.
It is important to consider that the migration intake in the various States has never been in proportion to their population. Victoria has a very heavy proportion of migrants for reasons which I will not mention now. But it is universally acknowledged that Victoria is receiving the greatest intake of migrants. In the last two years, the population increases from migration in the various States were as follow: -
It can be seen, therefore, that different States have different problems because of the differences in the number of immigrants received. What presents no difficulty in one State may present a lot of difficulty in another. Successive Commonwealth Budgets do not disclose the financial burden that is imposed on the community by immigration. It is incontrovertible that the bulk of this burden falls upon the States, and the municipalities because these are the authorities that have to provide new roads,, new schools, new hospitals, more electricity supplies, and more water. Increased demands are made on health services and on a multiplicity of services for the population. These additional services, directly and indirectly, are paid for from State and local government budgets. All State governments, irrespective of their political complexion, have claimed - and their claim, quite rightly, has been more vociferous in recent years - that Commonwealth grants, have never adequately acknowledged this burden. For example, Victoria, with its big immigrant intake, has never been properly provided for in the financial reimbursements from the Commonwealth..
I suggest that, because of the change that has taken place in relation to theimmigration intake, we should see that thegeneral tax reimbursements to the Statesare seriously reviewed. Under present circumstances, the people who contributeper capita most to the federal tax fund get the least from it. The personal income tax paid per head in the various States and theamount of reimbursement per head’ received by the States are as follow: - lt can be seen that there is a great opportunity for the Government to give very serious consideration to the inequality that has grown up in relation to tax reimbursements as a result of developments that haveoccurred since the formula was first agreed upon. The Commonwealth Grants Commission which exists to give grants to the three less populous States was formed in 1930 for the purpose of considering dis.abilities, mainly due to tariff policy, which those States suffered. But the pattern of 1930 has changed. Because of the industrialization of various States which received grants in 1930, the conditions of that time do not apply to them to-day.
Be that as it may, the States’ share of the income tax yield of £205,000,000 must be increased if the present system of government in Australia is to survive. In many respects, Commonwealth policy is imposing new burdens on the States. Commonwealth aid to universities was introduced as a result of the Murray report. The Murray committee said that whilst the university education system in Australia was inadequate, the school system was equally inadequate. Therefore, it is inevitable that if a greater range of university resources, financed by the Commonwealth, is to achieve its full effect, the teaching standards of schools :and their output of potential undergraduates will have to be increased. Somebody will have to find money for this. Under the present circumstances, it looks as though the States will have to stretch their meagre resources to the utmost in order to find sufficient finance for this very laudable objective.
Looking ahead, it appears that there will have to be a new outlook on the part of the Commonwealth if we are to make the best of the opportunity that is being presented to the Australian people. The Commonwealth should begin by formulating a national plan to meet the public works programmes necessary for Australia’s orderly development. The growing population and economic expansion of the Commonwealth will increase the pressure on public works. Housing, education, public health, irrigation, water supply, power, fuel and transport problems must be tackled if trade and industry are to flourish and develop. But this Government simply does not worry about the position. We need a plan to use our opportunities, but we will not be in a position to profit from them unless effective progress is made in overcoming the housing shortage and increasing facilities for secondary and university education. The States simply have not the resources to implement this imperative course of events. Until the Commonwealth recognizes that it has an obligation to show a greater and more tangible interest in the problems of the States, an attitude of procrastination will prevail.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Before turning to my main topic, I associate myself wholeheartedly with the remarks made by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). The set of circumstances which he disclosed reveals an attitude of mind which sometimes passes unnoticed, but which results in decisions being taken by the Public Service which ought to have been taken by the Parliament itself. I do not think that public servants, sometimes, are aware of the consequences of what they are doing. I am perfectly certain that we on this side of the House, and in the Parliament generally, are not always aware of what is going on. While I aline myself with the honorable member for Paterson, I would say to him that here, again, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
Turning to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and my esteemed friend from Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), I must say that I dissociate myself from the amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition. I am always interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Batman, and this afternoon he had a number of interesting things to say. But I cannot believe that he had any real appreciation of the economic consequences of his proposals. Nor do I think that he considered fully the financial measures that would be required to give effect to them. I am entirely in sympathy with his ideas, but I am out of harmony with the way in which he would give effect to them.
No one could view with greater satisfaction than I the approach of the time when the Government will be able to give - as it has been giving every year - additional social benefits to the members of the community who are in need of them. But I think that this would not require, as has been suggested, a separate Budget. On the other hand, the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports could be given effect only by introducing a new Budget or bringing down additional estimates such as we have here. There are no moneys in the Consolidated Revenue Fund to meet such a commitment, and so an entirely new financial plan would be necessary to give effect to what has been asked for. I do not think anybody would dream of suggesting that the economy of this country is in such a condition that it needs the kind of surgical operation suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Batman.
As I said earlier, I do not intend to do more than make one or two remarks about certain aspects of the legislation before the House. I do not intend to speak about all the finance bills that are before us for consideration. There are three of them. The first one deals with certain additional items of expenditure, and the estimates supporting that legislation are before us. This measure is designed to provide for services up to 30th June of this year. It has been made necessary by the fact that some departments either have run out of funds or miscalculated when preparing their original estimates, and they need extra money to carry on until the end of this financial year.
When, in other days, I used to be a bit cynical about this kind of thing, it seemed to me that governments could quite easily alter various conclusions of their Budgets - that is to say, they could get a credit balance if they wanted to, merely by under-estimating the amount of money they would need for works and services over a particular period. When I look through estimates of this kind now, I sometimes wonder whether this is not actually happening. Did the departments quite genuinely under-estimate what they needed? On the other hand, are these new works so immediately essentia] that they must be done now, or could they be deferred until after the Budget is brought down in August? Unless there is a special reason which makes it essential that additional money be provided, I would suggest that such works and services as are now the subject of additional estimates should wait until the beginning of the next financial year.
The next bill that is before us for consideration deals with supply for works and services, to meet payments up to 30th June of this year. These payments are for works of various kinds. Here again, I am in sympathy with the people who have to prepare these estimates for works and services, because it is extraordinarily difficult to disentangle them from the general mass of subjects requiring attention. The officers of the Public Service, particularly the Treasury officers, who prepare these estimates have my profound sympathy.
The additional estimates that I mentioned, honorable members will realize, involve an amount of £57,000,000. The Supply bill provides for an amount of £55,000,000, and the third measure, the Appropriation Bill (No. 2), seeks the provision of £247,000,000. This bill will take effect as from 1st July next. In other words, it will enable the government departments to pay for goods and services, as from 1st July, at a rate no greater than the rate at which they were spending as at 1st July last year. The bill will cover the period from July to September of 1959, and, in the main, it authorizes only the expenditure of an amount equal to that which the departments spent on similar goods and services in the same period of the previous financial year. There are some exceptions to this, as honorable members will see if they go through the various items and compare them carefully, but in the main the exceptions are not very material and can, I think, be passed over.
There is one aspect of the Supply bill to which I would like to refer. It concerns loan transactions, and the meeting of certain requirements out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I would like to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on the buoyancy of the funds at his disposal, which has enabled him to transfer £40,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to defence services, in order to pick up a debit of £78,000,000. This, I believe, speaks well for his administration. I have always believed that defence services, at least in peace-time, should be paid for entirely out of revenue, and I think it was improper for us to spend as large a sum as £78,000,000 on defence out of loan funds. As I say, I think all defence services should be paid for from revenue.
I now come to the last few remarks I want to make. I ask honorable members to turn to page 5 of the Supply Bill 1959-60, where the various bodies controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department are set out, together with the amounts of money that they require. In this connexion I wish to confine my remarks entirely to the Prime Minister’s Department. It will be seen that the Prime Minister is concerned, not only with administrative activities associated with his own office, but also with the administrative control of the Audit Office, the Public Service Board, the GovernorGeneral’s Office, the National Library, the High Commissioner’s Office in London, the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Office of Education. I wonder whether honorable members realize - I myself find it hard to realize - just what inroads are made into the Prime Minister’s time by his exercise of administrative control over these various offices.
We all know how difficult, and even impossible, it is for us to find time for all the thinking that we need to do, and it must be obvious that much of the Prime Minister’s time is taken up by the various bodies that I have enumerated. Like ourselves, the Prime Minister has to deal with matters within the interstices of time that remain from the performance of unavoidable duties. I put it to the House that we should make a review of the situation, perhaps through an organization and methods committee, to see how these responsibilities could be redistributed more effectively, thus giving the Prime Minister more time for the many important matters requiring his attention. I would like to see him have time to put his feet up and think about the country’s various problems. If he has not that time, then we are the worse off, because we expect him to do the thinking and the leading for us.
Let me refer, as an example, to the Audit Office, which has a very large staff and spends a great deal of money. The AuditorGeneral has been appointed by the Parliament to give advice as to how our accounts and finances have been handled. We could not, therefore, put the AuditorGeneral under the control of the Treasurer, because, after all, he is the critic of the Treasurer. If you did not put him under the control of the Treasurer, where would you place him? I put that question to honorable members and ask them to think about it and see what they would do if they “had to make this kind of reorganization.
Similar remarks apply with regard to the Public Service Board. This is another agency that the Parliament has created, for the purpose of managing the organization which we call the Public Service. The Public Service Board has a very important duty to perform in the organization and arrangement of Public Service activities. The Prime Minister, I suppose, ought to be the head of the Public Service as well as the head of the Government, but can you imagine the Prime Minister having sufficient time to deal with all the problems of the Public Service? Some honorable members on the other side of this House are continually asking the Prime Minister questions about furlough, leave, pay and other such matters. The Prime Minister cannot possibly have personal knowledge of all these things. There have been occasions, as honorable members know, when he has delegated some of these powers to a Minister who had, perhaps, fewer duties to perform than other Ministers. We have thought that the Prime Minister was doing the work, and then we have been disillusioned when we found that it was being done, not by him but by somebody else. We did not know whether that somebody else was capable of doing the job entailed.
So, again, I find myself in a quandary. If I take the Public Service Board away from the Prime Minister in order to give him time to do his work, where do I put the board? It is true that it is an independent organization. It is one of those statutory corporations that we do not know what to do with. We cannot decide what is its status, and we do not know whether or not we have control over it. However, there it is - like Mahomet’s coffin, suspended between heaven and earth, and we do not know just how to bring it down to earth and make it fit into our scheme of things. I put it to the House that the work that the Prime Minister would have to do if he personally attended to his job as head of the Public Service Board would be such that he would not have time to do anything else. In these circumstances, I think, you see some of the reasons why we do not always get from the Prime Minister the answers that we want, and why we are not always satisfied that he has done the things that he should have done. In the words of the general confession, he has left undone the things that he ought to have done, and he has done the things that he ought not to have done - and we are the worse for it.
We come, then, to the GovernorGeneral’s Office, which, I think, is one of the establishments that cannot be dissociated from the Prime Minister or the Cabinet. I should say that the GovernorGeneral is fairly easy to get on with and that the Prime Minister would not have a great deal of difficulty in meeting the problems that the administration of the Governor-General’s Office raises. So I think that the administration of that office should be left with the Prime Minister’s Department as being one of the odds and ends of the activities to which the Prime Minister can attend.
The next item on the list is the Commonwealth National Library. This afternoon, we heard a question asked in this House about that organization, and we heard that there were all sorts of difficulties associated with it, particularly because it is housed in buildings distributed about the various parts of Canberra. If the Prime Minister administers the National Library, the problems of policy-making with respect to the library must be very great indeed. The work associated with the library just cannot be readily delegated to any one else. So. there again, with respect to the National Library, we must ask the same old question, “ Where is it to go? “ Should we do as is done with the libraries in the various State capitals, and put it under a board of trustees administered by an executive officer, thereby leaving ourselves without any great control over it, except perhaps that derived from the fact that the executive officer would have to submit his estimates to the Treasury in order to obtain funds for the conduct of the library? Tt may be that, in some such way, we could relieve the Prime Minister of the activities involved in the administration of the National Library at least. It is true that the Commonwealth National Library is linked with the development of Canberra, but that aspect of it is of far less importance than is the need to save the Prime Minister the time that is at present taken up in his administration of this organization.
I turn next to the High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom, for which £338,600 is to be voted by the Supply Bill 1959-60. I should like to give the House at least an idea of the amount of work that has to be done in connexion with the High Commissioner’s Office in London. How is this work done? Who is it that looks after all the different activities in which the High Commissioner is engaged on behalf of the Commonwealth? The offices of the High Commissioners in Canada and other parts of the world are administered by the Department of External Affairs, and I think that there would be no difficulty in transferring the administration of the High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom to that department. It is liaison between the High Commissioner’s Office and Australia that we want rather than liaison between the High Commissioner’s Office and the person in the Prime Minister’s Department who supervises the administrative activities at Australia House in London.
Next is the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which, I suppose, has been one of the greatest godsends to this country. It has enabled us to find a way through the difficulties caused by the provisions of the Australian Constitution relating to taxation and to make grants to the States. The activities involved in the administration of this body also, I think, could quite easily be removed from the Prime Minister’s Department and be concentrated in the Department of the Treasury.
The second last item in the list is the Office of Education. Those honorable members who listened to and took part in a debate in this chamber over several days the week before last will realize that the administration of a department of education is no sinecure. Indeed, we should want a whole new department of education created to do all the things that honorable members want done in the field of education. The name used at present for this organization with which I am dealing is “ Office of Education “, but I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that there will be a department of education before very long, and that it will be doing much greater work than is being done now. It is not that I do not want the Commonwealth to do that work. The Prime Minister, because of his love of education and his high regard for what is being done in the universities, hangs on to the administration of the Office of Education, and this administration perhaps entails more activities than does the administration of most of the other organizations in the department put together.
Then we come to the item “ Official Establishments”. This embraces a whole congeries of activities over which the Prime Minister has administrative control and in respect of which he must make decisions from day to day if the ordinary work of these establishments is to be carried on.
I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, that here is a problem in administration that is well worth the careful attention of everybody. If you kill the Prime Minister through overwork, you have to get another, and he may not be nearly so good. Besides, you will kill the successor, too, in the end, if you allow his administrative work to be cluttered up with all these activities that I have mentioned. So I suggest that one of the important things that the Parliament might do is to examine the way in which the administrative work of government is being done and to consider whether the way in which it is organized at present enables it to be done as well as it could be done.
.- Mr. Speaker, I should like to commend to the House the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). He is a wise man in matters of administration, and I hope that the Government will seriously consider his constructive thoughts about decentralizing the powers of the Prime Minister. As one of my colleagues has said, the trouble is that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is an empire builder. One may be excused for thinking so when one sees the list of departments and bodies under his administration. I think that the decentralization of those organizations would be of great advantage to the whole country.
I wish to deal with a number of matters - the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), the extension of social services, television in north-west Tasmania-
– What about the northeast?
– You have got yours. I wish to deal also with postal workers’ wage claims, a new scheme which has not been put forward in this Parliament before, and, finally, with the employment of Australian artists on television.
The amendment moved by my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, has my full support as a practical way of assisting a great many people in Australia who are not getting justice to-day - age, invalid and other pensioners, and people in receipt of child endowment. I believe that as a result of the increases in federal parliamentary allowances, the authorizing legislation for which finally passed the Parliament the week before last, the Government is morally and ethically bound to do something really practical for age, invalid and widow pensioners, and for folk who receive child endowment. That is the way I look at the matter. I regard it as a challenge to me to do all I can to improve the lot of those people. We on this side of the House claim that a great many people in Australia are not receiving justice. Members of the Parliament, generally, claimed that they were not receiving justice. Our injustice has been remedied. Let us now attend to the people who still suffer from injustice. Let us do something for them group by group. To my mind, the pensioners are the ones who should be attended to next.
The Opposition’s amendment is significant because it means that we are deliberately asking the Government to remember what it did for Opposition members and Government supporters in this Parliament by introducing the parliamentary allowances legislation a few weeks ago. Let us now relieve the injustice inflicted on the great field of penisoners throughout Australia - a field totalling more than 500,000 people. This is not a hypocritical approach on my part. I supported the basic increases in parliamentarians’ allowances, not the extravagances, and I said at the time in this House that justice had to start somewhere, that the Government decided that it should start with members of the Parliament, and that I hoped justice would go out in everwidening circles throughout the Australian community. All right, then. This is the time to start dispensing that justice. We should not have to wait until Budget time to give justice to these people; I am quite serious when I put that proposition to the Government. In the next part of our amendment we say that we will not vote for the second reading of the bill unless the Government makes provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to the wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants. I shall have something to say about postal workers in a moment.
I shall deal now with the extension of social service benefits. In England after the war, the Labour government greatly extended the range of social services and included in the benefits the supply of hearing aids and spectacles to pensioners. The need for thought on this problem is long overdue in this country, and the Government should introduce legislation to enable it to help age and invalid pensioners obtain these aids. Many pensioners are suffering because they cannot afford to pay for eye treatment and for the provision of hearing aids. The circumstances of a lady who came to me last week shows how pensioners are suffering because of the high cost of hearing aids. The Government would not be involved in very great cost by providing pensioners with these aids because only a very small number need them. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) smiles. He is evidently not interested in the suffering of these people.
I have suggested that our social services should be extended beyond the present fields, and I suggest further that the provision of hearing aids for pensioners is a good starting point. The age pensioner to whom I have referred receives £4 7s. 6d. a week. She has had a hearing aid for six years, although the life of an aid is five years. The present cost of a new hearing aid is between £89 and £94. Batteries last about three weeks and this lady pays 16s. 6d. for four new batteries every three or four weeks. In addition, she pays 25s. for an overhaul of her set. Age and invalid pensioners cannot possibly pay for a new hearing aid and it is time that the Government gave some assistance to them. If the Government were to pay for new batteries, that would be a good start and would be of material assistance to these pensioners. They obviously could not pay the whole cost of a new hearing aid. Why, even some members of Parliament who have just had a salary rise would find it difficult to pay £89 for a hearing aid. I put to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table, if he is listening, that he should consider this matter before the next Budget is prepared.
Many pensioners to-day cannot afford to buy hearing aids, because of the high cost, although they need them.
I want to deal now with the question of television for the north-west of Tasmania. With a fanfare of trumpets, last week, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) announced the third phase of the television scheme for Australia. We have been waiting for this for a long time, and his announcement received much publicity. It will, of course, take a long time to implement fully. The scheme announced by the PostmasterGeneral revealed that the north-east coast of Tasmania, which is in the electorate of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) will have television facilities. I am very glad to know that one part of Tasmania outside Hobart will have television.
A Mr. O’Grady recently examined television sites in the area, but I know for certain that he did not go to the northwest coast. He examined two sites outside Launceston, which I agree should have television, and these sites have been approved. One is on Mount Barrow. These sites will enable television to be received from Hobart. On the other hand, it could be brought from the mainland by coaxial cable through King Island to the north-east coast. However, the Postmaster-General made no mention of television for the vast northwest and west coasts. These areas are in my electorate and in the electorate of my colleague, the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies). He and I have repeatedly asked the Postmaster-General to give favorable consideration to the provision of television facilities in the north-west of Tasmania, and I was shocked to learn that this vast area was not included in the third phase of the scheme.
Television could be provided by a coaxial cable from Melbourne, through King Island to the north-west or alternatively a booster station could be erected on the top of Mount Roland, which is 4,000 feet high and 40 miles south of Devonport. Such a station would cover the entire north-west coast and would also reach the isolated west coast. Television will never come to these areas if we rely on the scheme of the Postmaster-General, and I cannot understand why he should exclude half the area of Tasmania. To-night, on behalf of my colleague, the honorable member for
Braddon, and the people in my electorate, I ask the Postmaster-General to send Mr. O’Grady back to Tasmania to investigate the Mount Roland site in the north-west so that it can be included in the third phase. This site would provide television for Devonport, Penguin, Ulverstone, Burnie, Wynyard, Stanley and Smithton, and would cover the big mining area of the west coast.
The honorable member for Braddon and I will not stop fighting for the provision of television in this area merely because the Postmaster-General has announced that television will be provided for the northeast and north of the island. I do not live on the west coast. I live in the central north of Tasmania and would probably be provided with television by the scheme that has been announced. However, I am thinking of the people who will be in the television no-man’s-land for decades unless it is provided by a coaxial cable or booster station.
– You and I would not be able to afford it.
– That may be so. We had the technical possibilities of Mount Roland examined and I have been advised by a man who knows a good deal about television that for a very small outlay a concave screen could be installed on the top of Mount Roland. The State Government intends to build a scenic road to the top of this mountain within the next eighteen months, and this will provide easy access to the site of the screen. The screen could pick up the programmes from Hobart, which is 170 miles away, because no mountains intervene, and could relay them to the coastal towns of the north-west. The technical advice given to the honorable member for Braddon and myself is that the installation of a screen is possible and could be done at a very low cost. I therefore ask the Postmaster-General to have this suggestion investigated. The “ Advocate “, which is an influential newspaper in the northwest and is one of the best country papers in Australia-
– For us or against us?
– It is a few shillings each way, politically, but on the whole it is not too bad as newspapers go. It gives my colleague from Braddon a good run, and that is important.
The editor of the “ Advocate “ asked us this week-end what would happen about television for the north-west coast. He is very concerned about the limited third phase scheme for Tasmania. We assured him that we would continue to fight for the extension of television to this area.
I refer now to the question of wage justice for postal workers. If any body of workers in Australia deserves wage justice it is the postal employees. They are the most loyal public servants in the Commonwealth. I have a great deal of admiration for the Postmaster-General’s Department, as I have often said in this House. It is the biggest organization in Australia. More capital is invested in the department than in any private industry in Australia. Every employee of the department is helping to make the organization work efficiently, so much so that last year the department showed a profit of £4,000,000. Recently in this House I asked the PostmasterGeneral a question concerning the £10 telephone installation fee, which I have referred to as a Ned Kelly act. A fee of £10 is charged not only for the installation of a telephone but for transfers of telephones. The Postmaster-General said that the Government did not propose to reduce or abolish that fee because of the high cost involved in installing or transferring a telephone. I think that the introduction of this fee was a retrograde step, and when Labour becomes the government I hope that it will do away with the £10 installation fee, which is a wicked imposition on ordinary folk who find it hard enough now to make ends meet.
The employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department - 33,000 of them - have had a claim before the court for many months. That claim involves employees of all ranks. A few weeks ago 1,000 of them received an increase, but up to date the remaining 32,000 have received nothing. I make a plea to-night that the Government will bestir itself, particularly the department and the Postmaster-General, and help these employees. It is all very well for honorable members to have wage justice, but I am very concerned with the fact that a section of postal workers has not had a basic wage rise for twenty years. That statement takes some swallowing, but the information has been provided to me by a union official in
Tasmania. Justice is definitely overdue when you get that sort of anomaly in the industry.
– To which section does the honorable member refer?
– I have forgotten for the moment, but I have the information in my files in my office in Launceston. I did not expect to be speaking to-night on this matter, otherwise I would have had the full details with me. It is a fact that there is a group of postal workers - not a very big one - that has not had a basic wage rise for twenty years.
I come now to something new, but something about which I have been thinking for quite a number of years. I have made a study of Antarctic and Arctic exploration over the yeaTS and it has occurred to me that the Antarctic could become nature’s refrigerator for surplus foodstuffs. I suggest that an Antarctic food storage committee be set up, with representatives from the Department of Trade, the Department of Primary Industry, and the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs, to investigate the possibility of storing Australia’s surplus food, produced in good years, in the Antarctic for use in times of famine, whether by people of this country or people of the countries of South-East Asia which are recipients of aid under the Colombo Plan.
– We prefer to burn it.
– As my . colleague, the honorable member for Macquarie has significantly remarked, we prefer to burn our surplus food. During the depression years we burnt millions of tons of food. One of the greatest crimes of humanity was deliberate destruction of foodstuffs during the four depression years while 2,000,000 people were dying of starvation in the world.
One of the four freedoms in the Atlantic Charter is freedom from want. We should put this principle into practical effect. The Old Testament records that in the days of the Pharaohs, Pharaoh had a dream about seven fat kine and seven lean kine. When asked to interpret the dream Joseph said that it foretold that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. He suggested that food should be stored in the seven years of plenty to last through the seven years of famine. Joseph’s advice was followed and not only was Egypt saved from starvation but also food was transported to Palestine in order to stave off starvation there. As a reward, Joseph became the equivalent of the prime minister of Egypt. We should do something similar to-day.
– What about the people who are starving now?
– We should be giving them food free of charge. We should be sending food under the Colombo Plan to people in need of it.
If we want to do our bit to ensure that there shall be freedom from want, if we want to avoid wastage of food in times of glut and low prices, the possibilities of implementing my scheme should be considered. Its practicabiilty can be proved beyond doubt. The idea that the Antarctic could be a great natural refrigerator will have occurred to anybody who has read Antarctic history. In recent years our men at Heard Island and at Mawson have given us a lot more information on this matter. I do not think that my scheme is as fantastic as it may sound. Food has kept wholesome for decades in the Antarctic. In his book, “The Conquest of the North Pole”, J. Gordon Hayes states that Rasmussen, a great Antarctic explorer, who was born in Greenland, made a second Thule journey in 1917 with Wulff and Dr. Koch to the north-west of Greenland and on 28th April, 1917, they found one of Nare’s depots. Nare had led an expedition to this area in 1877. In his book Hayes says -
A bear had eaten the sugar, but 400 lb. of mutton remained and tasted perfectly sweet after 40 years. The dogs were regaled on a mass of tallow. Two tins of coffee were discovered on May 1st at Thank God Harbour and their contents were also excellent.
That was after 40 years in the Antarctic ice, which proves that food can be preserved indefinitely in Antarctic or Arctic regions.
Cherry Garrard, in a book entitled, “ The Worst Journey in the World “, states that on the barrier, which is in the Antarctic, on 28th January, 1911, tins of food were found that had been left by Shackleton in 1908. They included Rowntrees cocoa, Bovril, extract of beef, sheep’s tongues, cheese and biscuits, all open to the snow and all quite good. They were eaten over several days. Amundsen took fresh potatoes from Norway to the Bay of Whales on his expedition.
My third illustration of the fact that foodstuffs keep indefinitely in the Antarctic is provided by a member of one of Mawson’s 1911-1914 expeditions. This gentleman, whose name is Mr. Watson, is still alive and is now a school teacher in this country. I wrote to him about this matter and he replied stating -
I would say that if well encased in hermetically sealed containers and stored safely and purposefully, all kinds, even butter and cheese, would last indefinitely.
He referred to mutton which had been left on the snow after the sheep had been killed on the way south. That mutton was eaten during a period of seven months. In two summers and one winter in the Antarctic, while Mr. Watson was there, none of the food went bad. Those statements from a man who understands the Antarctic show that it is practicable to store food in that area. Mr. Watson further stated -
Even in summer, the food cached a few feet under the snow would be as in a refrigerator and, as is found with snap-frozen food nowadays, would be preserved indefinitely.
So, Mr. Speaker, I suggest to the Government that a committee should be formed to ascertain whether the scheme is practicable and whether we can cover the cost of storing food. If the scheme were put into effect, we could bring the stored food from the Antarctic in times of famine or when prices were high and so help producers throughout Australia to maintain an even income over doubtful years, both good and bad. We could cover them by payments such as we arranged for our wheat during the second world war. We could make a similar arrangement through an equalization scheme if we stored wheat or flour in the Antarctic. Any foodstuffs could be stored there, including fresh meat, tinned fish, tinned rabbit, tinned condensed milk, wheat, flour, dehydrated vegetables, butter, cheese, preserved foods, coffee and cocoa. They could be stored indefinitely in the Antarctic with the use of very little storage space. I would call this great plan “ Movement Deep Freeze “.
– The goods need not necessarily be tinned.
– That is so. Even fresh meat has been found 40 years after it was stored, perfectly fresh and edible.
Finally, I want to mention our Australian artists of television. I am very concerned about the way the powerful interlocking television companies have got this Government bluffed on the matter of Australian artists on television. I am absolutely convinced that those companies have the Government bluffed. They are not acting in accordance with the requirements of the Broadcasting and Television Act, despite what the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has said in this House. Those stations have not carried out the provisions of the act in respect of time given to Australianproduced programmes. The Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia has put up a remarkable fight with this Government to get more Australian programmes on television. The figures it has given us show that three Sydney television stations gave the following hours to Australian and foreign artists in the week ended 27th February, 1959: -
This is not good enough in any language. A great monopoly is being created in this country which is becoming so powerful that it will dictate to this Government. In fact, it is already doing so. As the television octupus extends to other cities and towns in Australia, the television interests will dictate even more to this Government. I can see plainly that unless we have a strong government here - such as a Labour government - Australian artists will be left in the wilderness for ever and a day by the present television companies.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will take this matter up later in the debate. I am introducing it clumsily, but I am very concerned about it. The Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia has given us some startling figures and also stated the comments of chambers of commerce and other organizations which are very concerned by the shortage of Australian artists on television. Recently a very fine programme, a presentation of the play “ The Caine Mutiny Court Martial “, was presented by Australians. It was widely approved by important and influential people in theatre circles and by listeners generally and showed the complete ability of Australian actors and actresses. -
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– I do not want to make any comment on the amendment moved by the Opposition. In the first place, it covers so much ground that too much of the time available for this debate would be spent in answering some of the completely incorrect suggestions put forward by the Opposition. Instead, I want to speak on two or three other matters.
Although I am conscious of the difficulties that might be involved, I. suggest to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) that it would be of advantage to the Citizen Military Forces if some of their junior officers could go to the Woomera range when certain weapons are being tested. I fully appreciate that there may be times when, for security reasons, this would not be possible, but many of these young people put a tremendous amount of enthusiasm into their service. After all, they are being trained for any future conflict and it would be of tremendous advantage, both to them individually and to the armed forces as a whole if they could witness these tests. Even if only a limited number could be taken to the range, all the armed forces would benefit. One of the difficulties might be in the matter of accommodation, but some of these young lads would be prepared to put up with inconvenience for the sake of the experience they would gain from such an expedition.
I suggest that some consideration be given to increasing the age at which child endowment ceases to be payable. It may be said that if this suggestion were adopted the term “ child endowment “ would no longer be appropriate and that the payment would be more in the nature of a grant for the purposes of education. With our standards of education continually improving, the schooling of children frequently continues to the age of seventeen or eighteen. There is discussion at present in New South Wales on extending secondary school studies from five years to six years, with one examination at the end of four years, and another at the end of six years. If this proposal is put into effect the age at which children leave secondary schools will be raised. As we all know, financial assistance is very valuable at that stage, but under present circumstances that is just when child endowment ceases. I want to emphasize that in making this suggestion I realize that in these circumstances the payment would be more in the nature of a grant for education. I merely say that this need could be covered without entering a new sphere of the legislation by providing that child endowment shall continue while a child is attending secondary school. I am aware that there are administrative difficulties, but I think these could be overcome and that the education of our young people would benefit.
I strongly support the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) in his plea on behalf of amateur radio operators. We know the tremendous value of these folk to the Commonwealth in time of emergency. During floods, bush fires and hurricanes, if their equipment is not damaged, they are able to keep open lines of communication when telephonic communication is interrupted. They have been instrumental in bringing assistance to areas which would otherwise have been completely isolated as a result of failure of normal means of communication. For that reason, particularly, sympathetic consideration should be given to the representations on behalf of amateur radio operators.
The matter of training was well covered by the honorable member for Paterson who has a far greater technical appreciation of the situation than I have. When television was first introduced it was said that it would assist in providing technicians for service in the event of a future conflict, because their training could be used outside the sphere of entertainment. That argument can be advanced just as strongly on behalf of the amateur radio operators who are prepared to spend their leisure time in an activity which is more than a hobby. It has become almost a faith with them, and they provide a medium of communication, not only within the Commonwealth but also with overseas countries. Their value is tremendous, in three or four different directions.
The honorable member for Paterson directed our attention to the danger that once again a board or group of people was bypassing this Parliament. That is a matter that we must watch very closely. We must ensure that the rights, privileges and responsibilities of this Parliament are not usurped by committees, boards, or other organizations. I cannot support strongly enough the request and suggestions made by the honorable member for Paterson in his admirable speech on supply early this afternoon.
I want to deal now with an entirely different topic. Over a long period, we have spoken about the dangers of communism. I do not think that any one in this House is unaware of my own feelings on this matter and how strongly I feel about the danger of communism to Australia. Unfortunately, very many people in this country are not aware of this danger and have tended to feel in recent years that the danger has receded. Even in spite of the tremendous efforts of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Macmillan, the former Secretary of State of the United States of America, Mr. John Foster Dulles, who, unfortunately, because of ill health has had to resign from that position, and of other members of the American State Department and many other people, communism has made tremendous gains in recent years. There have been occasions when we have had the advantage. There have been occasions when we have been able to reveal our strength, to take a firm stand and to say to the Communists, “You advance no further! “ And on these occasions we have, I believe, come out of each particular incident victoriously. I think that all honorable members know that I have expressed here on previous occasions my belief that if we show firmness towards communism we will ultimately be victorious in the cold war, and that the cold war will never develop into a shooting war.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that there are ways of combating the evil of communism. The first is by making the defences of this country and of the Western world strong, and in recent years we have taken some admirable steps in that regard. But there is a second field in which we should be more vigorous in combating communism - the propaganda field. In that field, unfortunately, on a number of occasions the Communists have been more successful than we have, with the result that we have lost what advantage we might have gained had we cultivated that field of propaganda more fully. One particular instance of this failure on our part to match the Communists in the propaganda field was in relation to the recent happenings in Tibet. The action of Communist China in Tibet presented us with a tremendous psychological advantage, because here was a case, within the Asian sphere, in which the Communist Chinese had revealed themselves as a nation not to be trusted, as a nation prepared to go to almost any lengths in an endeavour to force its own ideology on other people. This action of Communist China made other Asian nations pause, Mr. Speaker, and take another look at the Chinese Communists. Perhaps it made them pay a little more heed to the warnings that we of the West have been giving in recent years about the aims of communism.
There is a third field - the field of economic aid. In this field, again, I fear that sometimes we are allowing the Communists to gain an advantage over us in respect of assistance given to countries that need it. I think that this is particularly so in the Asian theatre, where we need to get a deeper and fuller understanding and appreciation of the history of the countries concerned, and a clearer realization of our responsibility to them. At this point, Sir, I should like to quote a statement made by the Honorable Mr. Tan Siew Sin, Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Federation of Malaya, at the Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference, held at Montreal, Canada, in September last year. Mr. Tan said -
If one reads newspaper headlines one has the impression that the most important things which should occupy our attention are the progress or otherwise of the cold war, the ability to send objects into space to circle the globe in 90 minutes, and indeed the ability to send objects on to another planet, and so on. These matters are admittedly of very great importance in themselves and should be given the consideration which is due to them, but to the teeming millions of our terrestrial plane, and particularly to those teeming millions living in the overcrowded lands of Asia, and to a lesser extent, Africa, the matter which is of most direct and intimate concern to them is the matter of getting enough to eat, of getting a roof over one’s head and of getting adequate clothing for those near and dear to oneself. It is perhaps an over-simplification of the facts to say that the world lives by trade. The highly industrialized countries of North America and Western Europe do indeed live by trade in its narrow technical sense, but the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa, by and large, live by the commodities they are able to sell on world markets.
It cannot be t:J strongly emphasized that the loss of income of primary producers must inevitably have boomerang effects on the highly industrialized countries, for the simple reason that these countries must, in the last analysis, find their markets, or a large part of them, in Asia and Africa. It therefore stands to reason that if the primary producers are impoverished they would be too poor to buy from the West.
I think that there is a tremendous truth contained in these words, and that we in Australia know the value of that truth. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), in his capacity of Minister for Trade, has taken the most vigorous steps to promote among the trading nations of the world the thought that it is urgent for the industrialized countries to have a full appreciation of the need for the primary producing countries to stabilize their economies. This is true in our own country and our own Commonwealth, and I believe that it is true of the Asian countries that are primary producing areas. If we can assist in stabilizing the economies of those countries I believe we will achieve much.
I am conscious of the tremendous contribution that has been made by the United States in this regard, and I am also not unmindful of the great contribution the Americans have made both in Europe and in Asia in providing financial assistance for the rehabilitation of countries adversely affected by the second world war. When we think of the billions of dollars that the American people have given for the assistance of under-developed countries and countries ravaged by the last war we realize what a debt of gratitude the world owes to the United States.
I believe, Sir, that we have to go even further than that, and that the mere fact of assisting in the rehabilitation of such countries does not fill the bill. We have to, as it were, carry on from there. As I said previously, the countries of Asia, with perhaps a few notable exceptions, are largely primary producing countries. That means that their economies are mainly dependent on the prices they can obtain in the world’s markets for their primary products, and that is something over which in so many cases they have absolutely no control. The economies of some of these countries depend on only one or two commodities. A drop in the world prices for these commodities can have a disastrous economic effect on those lands, and thereby on the world market, which can outweigh any financial assistance that can be given to the countries concerned through the Colombo Plan or in other forms of economic assistance.
We have to be very careful that we do not hand out large sums of money to under-developed countries for the purpose of helping them to stabilize their economies, and yet fail to succeed in stabilizing their economies because of a drop in the price of the world market for the commodities on which these countries mainly depend. If we could evolve some scheme for stabilizing the world market for, and therefore the financial return from, the main commodities of each such country, I think we would have found the answer to one of the problems confronting us in regard to Asian countries. This form of assistance need not be regarded as charity, as sometimes such assistance is regarded when given either through the Colombo Plan or through some other channel of aid. But still another step is required. If we assist Asian countries to improve their primary production and to obtain a better return on the world market for their primary products, we shall keep those countries operating economically within the sphere of their production. They would therefore have no need to set about establishing secondary industries for themselves - industries which would perhaps be doomed to failure - in an effort to achieve economic stability. They would be able to purchase their secondary industry requirements from the West because they would have the finance derived from the sale of their own primary products with which to do so. But if they became engaged in the secondary industries, in time they would be competitors with the West in secondary products and the position could arise where there would be too much secondary production and not sufficient primary products with which to feed the peoples of the world.
On a number of occasions we have been told by people who have made an investigation of this matter that unless we are prepared to increase our primary production we will not have sufficient food for the world’s population X or Y years ahead. Consequently, this would have a doublebarrelled effect. If primary production is increased the question of how to dispose of it will arise. But as the economic stability of these lands is developed they will be able to purchase more primary and secondary products and raise the living standards of their peoples.
I know these things pose tremendous problems. One difficulty in many of these areas is the insufficiency of capital with which to commence development projects. In that regard what I have been saying about establishing a stable price for their products on the world market will not answer the initial problem of sufficient capital funds with which to commence these projects. If that were solved a start might be made to produce all these things on an economic level and help stabilize the prices. I know that what I have suggested is tremendously complex. I think the people in these countries realize that it is complex. I should like to quote again from the speech of the Malayan Minister. He concluded by saying -
I wish to emphasize that I am only too painfully aware of the tremendous difficulties involved in the matter of arrangements to stabilize commodity prices. These are many and complex and common sense dictates that enthusiasm should be tempered by realism. Commonsense also dictates that such realism need not hinder achievement or success or blind us to the heights beyond. A prosperous Asia and Africa would not only induce economic stability but also political stability as well, and political stability in the Pacific Area which in the not too distant future might become the centre of gravity in world politics, may well be the key to the stability of the world as a whole.
I am conscious of the tremendous difficulties in the suggestions I have made. I fully appreciate that in regard to world trade there have been times when both Russian and Chinese Communists have been prepared to use almost any amount of finance to undermine countries either in Europe or Asia. So when I talk about Australia joining with the other countries of the West, particularly the United States of America, in working towards a plan for this end, I am aware of the great problem which confronts us in the attitude of Russia and Communist China. Evidence of this was seen some little time ago when the Chinese Communists purchased rice from Burma and flooded the Ceylonese market with it to the detriment of the Burmese people, and thereby put the Burmese in hoek, if 1 may use that expression, to them in regard to this finance.
T am aware that these are dangers, but the Communists are prepared to use this weapon of trade and economic assistance with all their might, particularly in the field of propaganda. We can oppose them by our military strength, and by our way of life and democratic principles. We can show these people that our standards are far above anything the Communists can offer and we can also point to the things we have done for the betterment of mankind within our empire as it was so called.
A matter which I greatly deprecate is the criticism of colonialism. It has no sense and no value. Some of these Asian countries such as India and Malaya openly admit the debt they owe to the United Kingdom for the assistance they received in establishing their own countries. Yet we hear members of the Opposition blathering this tripe about these peoples being exploited for over a thousand years.
There may have been some instances that we cannot be happy about, but there are also things of which we can be proud. We can be thankful for our heritage and for the contribution our forebears made to the uplifting of the standard of living in matters such as health and hygiene, also economic progress and development. Many men from the Old Country devoted the whole of their lives to what was then known as the colonial service. They worked not for their own progress, but for the development and uplift of the people in the areas in which they served. Let us never forget that. There may be pages of darkness in our history, but there are many more pages of which we can be mighty proud. Let us not fall into this propaganda trap which the Russians have set. Let us look at this matter as we should and grasp the opportunities to help these countries develop and advance. Let us realize the great contribution that we in Australia can make. If we can do this in the days that lie ahead, then, in the words of the Malayan Minister of Commerce and Industry, we may say that-
Commonsense dictates that such realism need not hinder achievement or success or blind us to the heights beyond.
We may be able to help establish stability and climb with the Asian nations to the heights beyond. Thus we will make a valuable contribution from this Commonwealth to the progress, development and economic stability of this area and the welfare of its peoples.
.- The measure before the House seeks the approval of Parliament for an expenditure of £57,000,000. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) on behalf of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading, which requests the House to refuse the appropriation of this sum of money to the Government in the absence of adequate provision for social service payments including age and invalid pensions and child endowment, and also because no provision is made for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants, and further, because the Government has failed to intervene
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in making reference to that portion of the original amendment.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, I will deal with that at a later stage. I was indicating the attitude of the Opposition. One of my colleagues suggests that we might have something further to say on the amendment at the committee stage. Obviously, when the Parliament is asked to grant £57,000,000 for items set forth in the schedule to the bill for each department, honorable members have the opportunity of discussing a wide range of subjects.
First of all I wish to take the opportunity to pass a few remarks about the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock). I quite agree with some of the things he said but I wish to emphasize that when he accuses the Opposition of having been critical of the virtuous part that people of the British stock have played and the contribution they have made to the welfare of mankind, I join issue with him. No member of the Opposition has ever adversely criticized the remarkable contributions of the people of our own race to the welfare of mankind generally in any age or at any time. We have, from time to time, indicted and condemned governments in other parts of the world and even governments in this country when justice has been denied to humanity.
The honorable gentleman used a good deal of his time in a condemnation of communism - communism, I take it, of the type practised by Russia and red China and other Communist countries. The Opposition yields no place in its condemnation of communism as it is known in those countries which are presumed to be practising the Communist way of life. By virtue of the fact that Labour has been the major force in bringing the standard of living of the people of this country to its present high level, and also, over a long period of time, of winning adult suffrage for the people of this country, there is no danger of Australia adopting a Communist way of life so long as its people have access to the ballot box and can claim their just portion of annual production.
The party to which the honorable member for Lyne belongs speaks with two voices on communism. To-day, in this Parliament, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) evaded a question about the part that the Australian Government, led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), has played in fostering and encouraging trade with red China and other Communist countries. Throughout the speech which the Acting Prime Minister made to-day, he denied any active government association with the trade mission that recently visited this country from red China. But what are the facts?
A trade mission did come to this country from red China. By some manner or means it made contact with the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry. Either officers were put at the disposal of the trade delegation from red China or, alternatively, letters of introduction were furnished to enable it to interview various marketing authorities in Australia. The plain fact is that the delegation visited the offices of the Australian
Wheat Board. It was met by members of the board and executive officers, and powwows were indulged on the possibility of exporting Australian wheat to red China.
I have no quarrel with that action. But when the Government evades its responsibility and attempts to tell this Parliament and the people that it has not played some part in sponsoring and encouraging trade with Communist countries, it is sinking to the depths of hypocrisy. Everybody knows that goods of many kinds are now being exported from this country, particularly to red China. Everybody knows that the Government holds absolute power and control over the exports of commodities from this country. By lifting of a finger or the signing of a document it can prevent any goods going to red China at any time. But it is not doing that.
Over the ten years during which this Government has been in office, trade with red China has grown very substantially indeed. Let me illustrate how active the Government has been in participating in unity tickets with red China and other red countries behind the iron curtain. Government supporters have frequently alleged participation by members of the Australian Labour Party with Communists in socalled “ unity tickets “ in trade union elections. Such action pales into insignificance when compared with the action of the Government in playing the unity ticket game with the iron curtain countries, particularly red China, over the last few years. The Government’s action is all the worse because money is involved; prosperity is involved.
Let us see where the Government stands. I have taken out figures for only two periods. The value of exports from this country to red China for the eight months ended February, 1958, was £7,200,000. In the remaining four months of the financial year probably £3,000,000 worth of goods would have been exported, making a total of £10,000,000 worth of goods exported to red China. What about the unity ticket there? For the eight months ended February, 1959, exports to red China were valued at £9,766.000. One could say, at a rough estimate, that in that year at least £12,000.000 worth of Australian products had been exported to red China under the very eye and with the active participation and consent of this Government.
When we examine the type of goods exported to red China, we find at the head of the list that great Australian product, wool. The Minister for Primary Industry told us to-day that goods of strategic importance are not going to red China. But for the last twelve months he has studiously refrained from making available to the members of this House, publicly or privately, any list of strategic goods which are not permitted to be exported to red China. He has not denied, nor will he deny, that of all the things that should not be exported to red China, if that country is a menace to Australia, wool is probably of paramount importance. It is on record that the Russians have admitted that the greatest factor in their defeat of the German army was that their soldiers were clothed in wool whereas the German soldiers were clothed in synthetic products.
Exports of wheat have gone to red China through the Australian Wheat Board. More important still, exports of steel, lead, zinc and tin have gone to red China. If there are any more important strategic materials than iron, steel, lead, zinc and tin I should like to know what they are. They are the very basis of munitions manufacture. I suppose, if we had the list available, we would find that about the only things that the Government does not allow to be exported to red China are rifles, bombs and manufactured armaments produced in this country. Why this humbug? I see that the honorable member for Lyne has gone out of the chamber.
Either the Chinese and communism in China are a menace or they are not. If they are a menace, this Government has no right to assist China to build up its army and make its people completely satisfied with the Government which presides over them. The people whom this Government has allowed to import goods into red China from this country are rendering a service to the citizens of red China and encouraging them to tolerate their Communist administration, expand their economy and extend their territorial control over various parts of Asia. The same may be said of exports to other iron curtain countries, such as Poland and Czechoslovakia.
– What about the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Russia?
– The Government has also brought that about. Already, the representative of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is installed at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. It is not that this Government has any liking for the Russians, or for Communists. We know that Government supporters detest them, but when money is involved they have no hesitation in dealing with them. Honorable members opposite stand condemned. They are in an entirely different category from members of the Labour Party who are accused of being involved in what are known as unity tickets, which, after all, are only a particular procedure adopted by ambitious men who want to see a member of the Labour Party elected to office in a particular trade union.
Let us be frank about the position and hope for a little more consistency and common sense from honorable members such as the honorable member for Lyne. As a matter of fact, I sold wool in the Melbourne market yesterday and did reasonably well out of it because of the active competition of red China and Russia. As a result, within a fortnight some red Chinese currency will flow into the pockets of my family - having been changed, of course, into Australian money. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and many other honorable members in this Parliament who are active primary producers have received cash from red China. Their hands are red. As far as I am concerned, I admit no guilt. I do not think any good can be served by the Government of this country depriving any other country of the right to purchase the commodities that we have in excess, which are of value to those countries, and which they, in line with their particular philosophy and outlook, may wish to make available to the people whom, for the time being, they happen to govern.
– Blood money!
– It is blood money from the point of view of the honorable member for Moreton. He is consistent, but the members of the party he supports are utterly inconsistent. The wool-growers and wheat-growers of this country are looking hungrily for the active competition of the U.S.S.R. and red China in our wool and wheat markets. Yet honorable members opposite have the audacity to stand up in this Parliament and talk about the menace of communism, while, at the same time, through their monetary transactions with Communist countries, they are raking in the loot. Did you ever hear anything like it? If it were not so tragic, it would be laughable in the extreme.
– Even the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee cannot say a word!
– Of course, he cannot. It is laughable and ridiculous, and it demonstrates the extremely hypocritical attitude of the Government. We hear the honorable member for Lyne saying how necessary it is for us to build up the democracies and the freedom-loving peoples in those parts of the Asian world that are not at present under red domination. Let us consider this proposition. I was in Bangkok eighteen months ago. The people of Thailand are members of a delightful race, not yet under the heel of Communist dictatorship - at least not openly, at any rate. But no sooner had I left the country then there appeared a report in the press to the effect that a number of politically minded gangsters had approached Ministers of the Thai Government in Bangkok and said, “ You are out. You have nice jobs in India, and we are in.” Overnight they changed the government in Thailand, and not by means of the ballot-box. Yet Australia is a party to the rendering of economic aid to Thailand in order to keep that country out of the red orbit.
We do not know at what tick of the clock the people of Thailand or Burma, or any other country in Asia, are likely, voluntarily or as the result of a coup d’etat, to jump right into the lap of red China. The irony of the situation is that the Government of Australia is actually supplying arms and munitions to some of these people, believing that they are giving these articles of war to people who are secure from Communist domination. We have no more hope of an assurance that they will remain free from Communist domination that we have of flying to the moon. We do not know at what tick of the clock the arms which we are supplying them will fall into the hands of active Communists. These remarks apply with equal force in the case of Indonesia. The great powers of the world, such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and even Australia, are sending their military junk to Indonesia, with the very good intention of combating communism. But we do not know when there may be a coup d’etat in Indonesia, and the very rifles and ammunition that we are supplying to that country may be used against us.
In view of these circumstances, I suggest that this Government should be following a policy designed to help raise the standard of living in countries that are still free from Communist domination. I suggest that we should even supply food and other goods designed to improve living standards, at reasonable prices, to people who are already under Communist domination. We are selling these things to them at present, and if we were to make some gifts to people who might have nefarious intentions with regard to Australia, they may tend to believe that we are well disposed towards them and do not wish to interfere in their affairs, but, on the other hand, are prepared by example and precept to encourage them to reject utterly Communist dictatorship and Communist practices.
I am all for the Colombo Plan. I am all for economic assistance to these countries. Nobody could feel more strongly about this matter. I went so far as to say, when we had an enormous wheat glut in Australia, that the Government of this country ought to give to those countries where poverty is the order of the day, at least 50,000,000 bushels of wheat free of all cost. I said that the taxpayers of this country had strong enough shoulders to bear the cost of that quantity of wheat if we gave it freely to impoverished peoples.
However, we now have a government which includes among its members a Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who stood up in this Parliament only recently and indulged in a tirade of abuse against the United States of America for its give-away policy, its concessional policy, with regard to the sale of its surplus products, and who followed that up by saying unctuously that he realized that the great U.S.A. had been generous to other countries that are in economic difficulties and whose people are half-starved. He qualified that, however, by saying that he does not believe the United States should follow this policy to the point at which it may damage the economy of Australia. I should think that any damage to our economy caused by the give-away policy of the United States, or of this Government if it wished to adopt that policy, could be amply compensated for eventually, because our wasteful expenditure on armaments could be correspondingly reduced. Australia is spending £200,000,000 a year on outmoded defence methods. We are simply pouring this money down the drain. In the event of war breaking out, undoubtedly nuclear weapons would be used by the first power that thought it might get the worst of the scrap.
These are matters of great importance, and they are matters that the Australian people and the Commonwealth Government ought to ponder upon.
– Does the honorable member mean that we should not defend ourselves at all?
– I have never said anything of the sort. I have always believed in defending ourselves. I have never failed to advocate that policy. But I do believe that there is a need to examine our defence policy and ascertain to what extent our expenditure is justified. I agree that it may be sound policy to maintain something in the nature of a police force for our own protection and for United Nations purposes and as our contribution in treaty organizations. T believe that scores of millions of pounds are being wasted on defence instead of being devoted to the much more desirable purpose of relieving the distress of fellow humans in other parts of the world who are driven to communistic policies by hunger, fear and poverty. That is my view of the matter, and I do not think that that view differs very much from that of any 0’her member of the party to which I belong.
I want to take the opportunity now, Mr. Speaker, to say a little about the Government’s expenditure on civil aviation. In the schedule to the bill, revision i* made for the appropriation of £254,500 for the Department of Civil Aviation. Everybody knows of the Government’s proposal to establish a jet airport at Tullamarine, outside Melbourne. People are almost tired of hearing, in this House and in another place, the story of that proposal presented from two different angles. All I have to say about it is this: A wealth of information, pro and con, has been assembled, on the one hand by the authorities and experts of the Department of Civil Aviation, headed by Mr. Anderson, the very able Director-General of Civil Aviation, and Dr. Bradfield, an Assistant DirectorGeneral. These are the advisers of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), and they have been reinforced in their advice by State instrumentalities in Victoria, for their part, determining that a new airport should be established at Tullamarine, to be developed ultimately into an international jet airport and to be available for the use of Boeing 707 jet aircraft probably within the next twelve months. On the other hand you have the people who are protesting against the proposal. Perhaps they are not devoid of some selfinterest, but neither are ‘hey devoid of a civic sense. They, for their part, have had the assistance of able propagandists in putting their point of view. A mass of evidence supporting both points of view has been assembled, and the Government, advised by the Minister, has to make a decision between those points of view.
Up to the present, Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding several requests that I have made in an effort to ascertain the Cabinet’s decision on this matter, I have been unable to get the story. One Minister has said in another place that the site “ has been chosen only after a most intensive examination “. What does he mean by “ chosen “? Does he mean that the Cabinet has approved? Another Minister, to whom I addressed a question on the subject yesterday, said -
To set the honorable member’s mind at rest, however, let me inform him that no such decision as he has mentioned has been taken.
I had asked whether the Government had decided to establish at Tullamarine an international jet airport that would take Boeing 707 planes, it may be that at this stage the Government has not finally decided whether the airport will take Boeing 707 aircraft. But the point about it is: Has the Government decided to resume at Tullamarine an area of land which, ultimately, if it so desires, may be used for an international jet airport to serve Boeing 707 planes? On that point, I cannot get a straight answer, either from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is Acting Prime Minister, or from anybody else.
For my part, I should like to say that I have endeavoured not to be unduly influenced by either side in this argument, and to formulate my own opinion. I live within three miles of the existing Essendon aerodrome, and I can say on behalf of the residents of that area that, at certain times, ranging from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., when most people want at least peace - up to 5.30 a.m. or 6 a.m. is enough for me - especially on clear mornings, one has to put up with a terrific noice from the testing of aircraft engines at Essendon airport.
– We have to put up with a terrific noise here, too.
– If the honorable member does not like it, he may leave the chamber. That is what I do when he speaks. The present noise problem at Essendon is quite minor compared to what all the experts the world over say will be the case when Boeing 707’s land at Tullamarine. And planes even larger than these are already projected - planes that will carry 15,000 gallons of fuel and will have enormously powerful engines. I earnestly suggest that the Government is making a very grave and serious mistake if it decides finally that Tullamarine shall be the site of an international jet airport to take Boeing 707 planes, which are quite small compared to planes that are projected for the future. Tullamarine is only eleven miles from the centre of Melbourne city. The surrounding areas are covered with houses, which have crept right to the boundaries of the site for the proposed airport. This is a desirable residential district, and the future welfare of Melbourne, which is expanding rapidly, requires that any international airport for the use of the jets of the future shall be established at a range of not less than, and preferably more than, twenty miles from the heart of the city.
The experience of the world shows that whenever those huge Boeing 707 jet aircraft have been landing, and especially at aerodromes in England, the greatest problem has been that of noise. It has been so arranged, for example, that these enormous planes shall not land at, or take off from,
London airport except in daylight hours because the frightful noise that they make would impose too great a strain on the nerves of local residents if these aircraft took off and landed at night over residential areas. In the United States of America, wherever possible, the aerodromes used by these jets have been established at substantial distances from residential areas.
– These aircraft have to refuel at Boston because they cannot take off at New York with a full load of fuel without passing too low over residential areas.
– That is right. The noise problem is so great that noise suppressors have been fitted to the engines. Anybody with an elementary knowledge of engines knows that noise suppressors of any kind reduce engine power, and the fitting of suppressors to aircraft reduces the payload that can be carried.
I make an urgent appeal to the Minister for Civil Aviation to keep himself free from the unconscious prejudices of both parties to this dispute - to put it kindly - and to endeavour to view the matter in the light of the facts and do what he thinks is best, not for the immediate present, but for the not too distant future. It would be a tragedy indeed, Mr. Speaker, if the Tullamarine site were developed by the expenditure of the £20,000,000 that it is proposed to expend on it over the next few years only to find, after incurring such enormous expenditure, that the location was unsatisfactory. Therefore, I make this last appeal to the Minister.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to Tullamarine, but I have been beguiled into following him to red China. I had no intention originally of making any comments upon red China. I was astonished as the honorable member addressed the House, because I almost thought that he had so much of his tongue in his cheek that he ought to have become almost inarticulate. I agree with almost everything he said about red China - surprisingly enough, since he was saying it as a representative of the Australian Labour Party.
That was the really surprising thing about his speech. The fact is that there are certain members on this side of the House who are opposed to the Government’s policy in regard to China, but it is the Opposition that stands for trade with that country. Yet anybody who listened to the honorable member for Lalor would have supposed that it was the Opposition that was opposed to trade with China and that the Government and all its supporters unitedly stood for it. That is the impression that the honorable member’s remarkable speech tended to convey.
I agree with the honorable member almost entirely in what he said about trade with red China. The fact is that a number of our primary producers - the producers of wool, wheat and some metals - are anxious to find markets for their products. I have no doubt that if the honorable gentleman himself were now Minister for Trade he would be trying hard to sell wheat, wool and all the rest of it to red China. Indeed, he nods his head in approval of that observation. Of course he would try to sell to red China.
There are members on this side of the House who believe that red China’s trade policy is part of the cold war that is being waged by that country against the Western world. These honorable members believe that it is a matter of policy for red China to involve the West, and especially countries like Australia, in this kind of trade, and then, by the threat to cut off that trade at the drop of a hat, to demand some diplomatic or other concessions from the Western countries that are foolish enough to fall into this trap. Having become involved in this trade, we fear that a red Chinese government will then demand, for example, that Australia should recognize red China for the purposes of the United Nations. That is something with which the Opposition agrees, but it is not something, I think, with which a large number of members on this side of the House agree. Therefore, I regret the inconsistency of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) today - T am being quite frank about it - in saying that the Government had nothing whatever to do with the visit of certain Chinese representatives at present in this country. The honorable member for Lalor was, of course, perfectly right in saying that the Government must know of their presence here, that it must aid and assist them, and that it has indeed connived at trade missions that have gone to that part of the world.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), a member on the other side of the House, led a mission of Labour representatives to red China not very long ago, and we are still awaiting with great interest the booklet that he has promised to write about his visit. However, I want to say a word or two on this question of cultural exchanges, because I do not suppose they were in a position to do very much about trade negotiations, being at the time on the Opposition side of the House. Australians are inclined to be quite courteous people, and when you find yourself the guest of another government, you are apt to say pleasing things about that government and about that country. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Parkes, being a courteous man, did precisely that. But I think it is about time that we made a study of the courteous and foolish things that so many of our people have to say when they go to China or, for that matter, to Russia. We should study the use that is made by Communist governments of these courteous and foolish remarks by way of suggestion to their own peoples and those who fall under their sway that here is outside evidence of the excellence of their regime and the excellence of all their ways.
We must remember that the delegates who come from Communist countries to Australia or to other Western countries are very carefully chosen, and usually come with a knowledge of our language. They are able to understand what they hear and they are able to put their story across in our language. How many of the people who go from a country like this to red China or to any other Communist country can speak Chinese, either to know what is being said or to tell a story from our point of view? How many of our people are specially chosen for what I will call subversive work? Of course, none of them are! Was the honorable member for Parkes the carefully chosen instrument of the Western world in the cold war that is carried on not through our choosing but through theirs? Of course he was not. The people that we send are innocents abroad, but the people who come here are specially trained and know precisely what they are doing. No Communist country ever does anything, even though it be to compose a piece of music, unless it has some political objective.
These people come here and have freedom of movement. They can go anywhere and fraternize with any of our people. What freedom of movement do our people have when they go to these countries? They are taken where it pleases the government of these countries that they should go. They are shown what it pleases this government that they should see. They hear what it pleases this government that they should hear. Not very long ago, Mr. Mikoyan went to the United States and did very well with the business people there. An American businessman believes that everybody else has the mentality of a businessman. He would assume that a Russian is human, and for him being human is to be a businessman. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is as well that the blunder was retrieved by Mr. Mikoyan losing his block at the end of the visit. That was more by good luck than by good management.
The honorable member for Lalor suggests that we should not arm ourselves or our friends in South-East Asia; we should rather send free wheat and other foodstuffs to these countries and presumably buy their friendship. Anybody who holds such a simple notion of the cold war as to suppose that you can buy friendship by this means certainly ought not to be on the Government side of the House. But my fear is that there are some other members on the Government side who ought not to be there either. He reminds me of the appendix to the manual of military law. He reminds me of that mythical soldier who, throwing away his arms, said, “ I will soldier no more “. He does not want to defend this country or to help our allies with anything so antiquated as weapons. Yet the fact is that weapons, particularly the nuclear bomb in the possession of our great ally, the United States, have alone preserved peace so far as peace has been preserved.
Nobody suggests that we can fight the cold war only with conventional weapons. Of course, it is fought on many fronts and in many ways, in trade and through subversion of one kind or another. We must use whatever are the appropriate weapons to fight the cold war in those fields, but it is surely supreme folly to say that we do not need to consider also the use of conventional arms. That was the reason for the coming into being of Nato and Seato. Who shall say that they have not served their purpose and will not continue to serve their purpose? It is not, of course, the whole means of defence, but it is nevertheless a vital part of it.
Of course, countries like red China speak about encirclement. They will say that the wicked Americans, by establishing bases in South Korea, Japan, Formosa, the Philippines and a whole ring of them around South-East Asia, have encircled them. But surely our memory is not so short that we do not recall that Hitler also claimed that he was being encircled. This is one of the oldest tricks in the history of politics. When you are an aggressor, you pretend that somebody is going to attack you. When you are an aggressor, you pretend that any defensive alliance made against you has an aggressive purpose against you. However, Mr. Speaker, I did not really intend to speak on this matter at all. I was provoked into doing so by the tongue in cheek attitude of the honorable member for Lalor, but it has given me an opportunity to express a point of view that I think I share with a certain number of members on this side of the House, if not with members on the Opposition side.
I really rose to speak upon two matters, the first of them related to my electorate and both of them related to the Department of Health. These are purely practical matters, and I raise them in a Supply debate on the old principle that, if the Government seeks money, it must first hear the complaints of the Parliament before it is granted. I refer to Government policy in regard to sufferers from chronic illnesses in registered hospitals. I refer in particular to the Neringah Church of England Home of Peace for the Dying at Wahroonga in my electorate, and I believe that there are many other hospitals of the same kind about which other honorable members are concerned. It will be recalled that in the recent election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) drew attention to the fact that there was a gap in our health insurance. Those people who needed hospitalization most - sufferers from chronic illness, old people and people suffering from an illness that existed before they sought to insure - were the very people who were not able to insure and for whom no proper provision was made. As I said, the Prime Minister promised to remove this anomaly in the health insurance scheme. A bill was introduced by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to amend the National Health Act 1953- 1957, which sought to give effect to the promises that had been made. These people of whom I spoke were to be provided for under special amendments to the act. I direct attention in particular to section 82e (h) which reads - in the case of a registered hospital benefits organization, hospital fund benefit is not payable in respect of accommodation and nursing care of a special account contributor at an institution unless -
My complaint centres on the phrase “ an institution that provides accommodation principally for permanent patients “. The hospital to which I referred - the Home of Peace for the Dying at Wahroonga - as its name implies provides accommodation for people whose days are numbered. In fact, the information that I have been given by the spokesman for the hospital is that at this home the average length of stay, from the time the patients come in until the time they die, is 93 days. In another home at Petersham, conducted by the same Church of England organization, the average length of stay is 70 days. Many of those people are old people - that is true - but they go to the Home of Peace because they are suffering from cancer or some other disease that causes their days to be numbered.
May I return to the phrase to which I have just referred? Is this an institution that provides accommodation principally for permanent patients? The Minister for Health regards it as being precisely that - an institution providing accommodation principally for permanent patients. These are people who have been, in effect condemned to death and have been sent to the home because they have a very short time to live! But the Minister regards them as principally permanent patients. I well understand that the purpose of section 82e (h) is to exclude convalescent homes, homes for aged persons, rest homes, and homes that are not hospitals - that is to say, homes that do not provide for people who are ill. I can understand the need for that section, but how can it be said that a home for the dying such as 1 have described is not a hospital in the ordinary acceptance of the term? The hospital that I have described is registered under State legislation, and to hold that it is not a hospital for the purpose of the National Health Act is beyond my comprehension.
I can do little about this except point to the anomalous situation. In fact, I would put it more strongly than that: It is a breach of faith on the part of the Government. The Government has so clearly promised to provide proper hospital facilities, and the financial means to achieve them, for chronically ill patients, and in this legislation it has taken advantage of a section that has crept into the act unobserved by honorable members. The Government has taken advantage of that to slide out of its obligations, to evade its promises.
Paragraph (ii) of section 82E(h) leaves it to the Director-General to judge whether an institution is a hospital for the purpose of paragraph (i), and there is no appeal to the Minister from the opinion of the Director-General. That, of course, simply aggravates the offence. The Minister has persistently refused to do justice in this case, or in this class of case. A private member can do no more than direct attention to an inconsistency, an anomaly, the evasion of a promise, and the infliction of great hardship on a large number of people. It is for the Government to rectify that situation or else take the consequences for a breach of faith, the consequences that will flow if the public feels that it has suffered from that breach of faith. I can do no more than direct attention to this matter and ask that the Minister again consider it. It is things like this - a series of broken promises - that, in the end, bring a government to ruin.
Now I turn to another matter that I have previously raised in the House. This matter also relates to the Department of Health. In the past I have pointed out, and I do so again, that under the present medical health scheme, there is no adequate insurance against the fees charged by medical specialists. The tables of benefits set out by the main medical benefitsorganizations provide for very small contributions from the funds towards the cost of operations. It may be that in the case of a tonsillectomy, an appendicectomy or other simple operations of that kind an insured person can recover perhaps 80 per cent, or even 90 per cent, of the fees that he must pay to a medical practitioner. But for serious and expensive operations, such as a cancer operation costing 100 guineas, the contribution made by the fund is quite trivial. If a man has to foot a bill for 100 guineas, what use is it for him to be told that the fund will provide 15 guineas towards that cost? What I have asked the Minister to consider or to bring to the notice of these various funds is a proposal that a new table should be introduced enabling people to insure not against trivialities but against really substantial fees that may be charged for specialist services. If you want to insure your house what use is it to be told that you may insure the front fence but that you cannot insure the house itself? Clearly the thing that you want to insure against is the big risk, not the little risk. There are many people who do not want to be insured in respect of illnesses the treatment of which costs only a guinea or two, or even against operations costing 10 guineas, but they want to be covered for the really big operations. What they dread is suddenly having to foot a very large bill. I feel sure that many people in the middle income bracket would be quite happy to have an insurance table that excluded in the first place all the trivialities but which included the big fees. They want insurance against payment of big fees. Such a table would not necessarily involve payment of any larger premium but it would be an insurance against a different kind of risk, a real risk about which I think a large number of people are greatly concerned.
– The large risks are not restricted to those in the middle income group. What about people in the lower income group?
– This matter applies to anybody. When I raised this matter on a previous occasion - I do not recall whether it was in the House or elsewhere - the Minister told me that the premium would he so high that not many people would be willing to pay it. But he had in mind insurance against all the little things you insure against plus the big things as well. What I am suggesting is a table which would involve a premium no higher than a family man would now pay but which would insure him against the big things and leave out the little things which people generally are prepared to take in their stride. Once again I direct attention to this matter, and I hope the Minister for Health will read what I have said since he is not here to hear it.
It is useless for the Minister to say that this is a matter for the medical benefits funds. He cannot say that this is not a matter for him or the Parliament. The plain fact is that the Government has committed itself to this health scheme which involves the setting up of medical benefits organizations. It is an integral part of the Government’s scheme, and the Government cannot reasonably claim that what the medical benefits organizations do is not the concern of the Government. Of course it is! The Minister could use his influence to brine this matter seriously to the attention of the medical benefits funds! If they are not interested in this and think it does not matter, let me remind them of the political point of view because they may have to bear in mind that the public is or is not behind this scheme. I am sure that thee are to-day many tens of thousands of people who find fault with the scheme to which I have drawn attention and therefore ar~ not wedded to the scheme as it is. Unless the medical benefits organizations are willing to meet those people, they will lose the support of many subscribers with whom the medical benefits organizations apparently will not be bothered. I suggest it is time they did bother with such people and it is time the Minister for Health drew their attention to the need for action on their part to meet the requirements of a large number of people in Australia.
– I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Brad field (Mr. Turner) into the field of external affairs and the dangers to us from the cold war. I think the honorable member speaks feelingly when he refers to a stranger visiting a strange land because he would know from his journeyings in the Northern Territory with what suspicion a stranger may be regarded in those circumstances. I know the honorable member probably enjoyed the experience and has chuckled over it since then.
I do wish, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to support very strongly the remarks made by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) this afternoon when he spoke of proposals that are being adopted by this Government to reduce the radio channels available to the amateur radio operators in Australia. I believe the radio hams, as they are called, have earned a great name for the service they have given to this country.
– All over the world.
– That is true, but I am referring to-night particularly to those in Australia, and to the great service they have given in keeping communications open in times of national disaster - fires, floods and the like. I believe that the radio amateurs are held in very affectionate regard by the people for those services. Indeed, there have been frequent occasions on which governments have paid tribute to the great work done by them. It cannot be stressed too much that the radio hams are not merely hobbyists fiddling around with home-made equipment or equipment they have purchased just for their own amusement. In the main, they are dedicated young men who have invested a lot of money in transmitting and receiving equipment and who devote a great deal of their time to study which keeps them abreast of the developments in electronics and in changing radio techniques. Through their clubs and associations, they offer training and assistance to learners, organize services in the community interest and, in general, do what everybody in Australia regards as a grand job for this country.
Tn time of war, the armed forces have been able to draw from the ranks of the amateurs trained wireless and telegraph operators. In time of peace, the radio clubs and societies have played their part in providing recruits for the Citizen Military Forces and in establishing and maintaining training classes for those services. I believe everybody agrees that they are a band of enthusiasts who deserve and should be given whatever assistance lies within the power of the Government to give.
– Do they get any assistance now?
– I believe they are getting a very raw deal, in the name of this country but without the sanction of this Parliament, unless it is the tacit sanction of the Parliament. The honorable member for Paterson speaks with far greater technical knowledge of this subject than I can ever hope to possess, and he has put before the House a very strong case indeed. It is a case which should persuade the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to change the recommendation that has been made.
I admit that it is difficult for the Minister to go against the advice of his officers because they are experts and the Minister is the parliamentary head of the department who must accept responsibility. But when organizations put forward a case such as that put forward by the honorable member for Paterson and that advocated in another place, which will be discussed further in this chamber, they must carry weight as against the opinions of people outside this House. These arguments must be weighed against the advice of the Minister’s own officers and the Minister must make a decision as to whether, in fact, justice has been done or an injustice perpetrated.
The present Commonwealth Government seems to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to be fostering policies which could lead, as the honorable member for Paterson has said, to the removal of amateur radio operators from the air. The amateurs - and there are some 4,000 of them in Australia - are really up in arms about this. I believe that the short waves have really been sizzling over the past few nights. I believe that there have been conversations from one end of the continent to the other on this subject because the amateurs really feel that they have been treated slightingly by this Government and that the proper claims they have for consideration are being disregarded for commercial, government and semigovernment interests and, indeed, for foreign interests.
The allocation of wave bands involving international use of the air and associated matters is to be discussed at the convention of the International Telecommunications Union to be held in Geneva soon. This convention is held every eleven or twelve years and the last one was held in Atlantic City in, I think, 1947. Australia sends representatives including men selected from the Postmaster-General’s Department. The proposals that are to be put forward have been framed by a committee known as the Frequency Allocation and Services Committee. That committee has recommended among other things very severe reductions in the wave bands available to amateurs in Australia. At present, Australian amateurs operating in the 80-metres band have the channels for 3.5 to 3.8 megacycles. It is proposed to reduce that range to 3.5 to 3.7 megacycles, which is a reduction of onetenth of a megacycle or, as honorable members will know, 100 kilocycles. In the 40-metres band the present range is from 7 to 7.15 megacycles and the range proposed by the committee to which I have referred is from 7 to 7.1 megacycles, a reduction in that instance of .05 of a megacycle, or 50 kilocycles. In the 20-metres band the present range is from 14 to 14.35 megacycles, and the proposal is that the channels available in that band shall he from 14 to 14.25 megacycles, which involves a reduction of one-tenth of a megacycle or 100 kilocycles.
– Who will get the rest of those channels, if they are taken away?
– As the honorable member for Paterson has said, the Government has the task of allotting the channels in the bands. But the suggestion made bv the amateurs is that there is ample other space in the radio spectrum which can be allotted to the commercial interests, which are mostly intruding into this band, without any interference being necessary in the allocations now available to amateur operators.
The proposal of this Frequency Allocation and Services Committee, if put forward by Australia and adopted at Geneva, will severely limit the operations of radio amateurs in Australia, because, as I understand it, the Geneva Convention fixes maxima only, and it is still possible for the
Government of an individual country to impose further restrictions within those maxima. The reason for the indignation of the radio amateurs is that at present the short-wave bands are very crowded, and obviously they will become more crowded as the population of this country increases and the number of amateur radio operators grows. As I have said, the amateurs claim that there is plenty of space in the rest of the radio spectrum which can be allotted to other services without disturbing their allocations.
It should be remembered that it was the radio amateurs themselves who were the original users, indeed the discoverers, of short waves. As the honorable member for Paterson said this afternoon, when broadcasting developed the amateurs were allotted frequencies below 100 metres on the band, and it was the amateurs themselves who, relegated to that area, developed the use of short waves and demonstrated their efficiency to such an extent that the interest of commercial and governmental users was aroused. I believe that if the present proposals were implemented the amateurs could be squeezed out of the short-wave bands because of the intrusion of commercial and foreign interests. I hope that the Postmaster-General will have another look at this matter. Indeed, I feel that he must, because the weight of argument against the proposals of the Frequency Allocation and Services Committee is such that it must be given regard by him.
I have received a number of representations on this matter, including some from the Canberra Radio Society itself, putting forward very strong arguments as to why there should be no change in the allocation of channels to amateurs. I have received a letter from three constituents in the Research School of Physical Sciences of the Australian National University, and I propose to read portions of it. The letter opens by referring to the reductions that have been proposed by the committee, and proceeds -
These reductions have been recommended by a committee of the Postmaster-General’s Department, to frame the Government’s policy for the forthcoming I.T.U. conference at Geneva.
The letter then sets out the proposed changes. It first states the original United States and Australian allocations, which were varied eleven years ago so far as Aus tralia is concerned but are still extant in the United States. The letter continues -
There is considerable poaching by commercial stations on these bands, which the authorities seem to ignore.
That reference is to poaching by commercial stations in other countries, which are also signatories to the convention, on the bands allocated here to amateur radio. The letter continues -
It is realized that the demand for channels in the high frequency region is heavy, but it is very much heavier in North America than it is here and it is not thought necessary or desirable to curtail amateur activity there.
Some of our recently lost frequencies, especially 7.15-7.3 megacycles, are now being used for European and Far East propaganda broadcasts, and for each broadcast there is a jamming station belonging to the opposition. The result is that 7.15 to 7.3 megacycles is now useless for everybody. The American answer to this has beento allow amateurs to use 1 kilowatt of telephony in this band and not to bar them from it. We know that this privilege would not be abused here in Australia.
Of course, the power allotted to an amateur operator here is 150 watts, compared with the kilowatt allotted in America. The use of a kilowatt of power would involve the use of much more expensive material than most amateurs can afford. The letter continues -
Technical progress in radio mostly stems from large research organizations these days, but amateurs do provide a large body of people with some technical knowledge and experience. At present there is a great shortage of people with technical skills and we are always hearing about the gravity of the situation and the superiority of the Russians. To us, this seems no time to discourage a useful activity of some 4,000 Australians, but rather a time to restore some of the lost frequencies.
It seems to us that no harm would be done if we followed the American and Canadian regulations for frequency allocation and transmitted power.
To follow a policy of continual reduction of bands will undoubtedly result in loss of interest and reduction in the numbers of amateurs who form a very useful pool of skilled people. We don’t believe the frequencies we stand to lose will be put to a more worthy use, as this has not been the case in the past.
Other protests have been made. I have one in the form of a telegram sent by the operator of amateur radio station VKI, which reads -
Protest slashing amateur frequencies benefit foreign broadcasting stop Query treatment Australians compared other countries example U.S. allocations 3500/4000 7000/7300 view service record emergency potential.
Prom Coffs Harbour comes this telegram, obviously from an amateur operator in that area -
Further drastic restrictions frequency allocations amateur radio operators tragically shortsighted when Australia already lags badly higher technical education. As high school teacher deplore progressive extinction facilities training youth adults skills necessary our survival. Suggest F.A.S.C. organize compulsory courses Russian Chinese.
Mattei, Coffs Harbour High.
I do not propose to take up much more of the time of the House on this matter. I do stress again that the radio amateurs of Australia, like radio amateurs generally throughout the world, as the honorable member for Paterson has said, do a most useful job in the community. They are men who have trained themselves and who continue to train themselves by keeping abreast of developments in this field. When disaster strikes in the form of flood, hurricane or fire, they are always ready and always willing to take up the task of keeping communications open, and it has been the custom of this House to express appreciation of the services these men have given. I cannot stress too strongly that they are not to be regarded merely as hobbyists who operate these stations for their own amusement or their own benefit. They have given tremendous assistance to this country, both in time of war and in time of peace, and I suggest that the country is repaying them badly indeed when, as has been recommended by the Frequency Allocation and Services Committee, it seeks to reduce the channels available for them to carry on their work, maintain their skill, and extend their experience.
I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is at the table, will see that the arguments put forward in this House both during the day and to-night are brought to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral so that he may weigh the worth and the force of these arguments against the advice of the Frequency Allocation and Services Committee, which I believe is dominated by departmental representatives. Certainly it is a committee on which the amateurs are not represented. I believe that they should have the right to be represented on that committee and to put forward their views, even although the weight of numbers in the committee told against them. I hope that Australia will not play a scurvy trick on its radio amateurs by reducing the number of channels available to them for their work, particularly at a time when this country is developing and when its population is continuing to increase so rapidly.
I suggest most seriously, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we should discontinue the present method whereby those matters are, in effect, dealt with in secret by a departmental committee whose recommendations are adopted, and sent overseas as the views of this country, without first having been ratified by this Parliament. In fact, they are never dealt with by this Parliament - never brought before either this House or the other House. These recommendations then become legislation by international convention, not legislation by this Parliament. I believe that that is a very grave fault in the procedures that are adopted in these cases, and I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will take the opportunity to discuss this matter with a view to correcting the procedures.
– Before proceeding to the main subject that 1 wish to discuss to-night, I should like to join with the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and other honorable members who have stressed the need for a different outlook to be taken by the Pos’.masterGeneral and the department in respect of amateur radio operators. I do not, like the honorable member for Paterson, know the technical side of this subject. Also, I have not in my possession the details that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has, to judge from his speech. However, I have already received three telegrams on the matter from three of the leaders of the amateur radio operators in my own State, Victoria. I was recently, with some other honorable members, in Antarctica. Communications from many Australian stations there are received by an amateur radio operator, in touch with other amateur operators all over the world. I know well the excellent job that amateur radio operators have done in recurring national crises, such as bush fires and floods, in every part of Australia.
– And in shipwrecks.
– Yes, and also in shipwrecks, especially in other parts of the world. The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) also reminds me of the work that they did in wartime. Here we have a not very vocal section of the public, but a very important section of it, whose members have given a lot of their time to something which some people may call a hobby, but which is really a science. These people have very often produced results which have been of great value to the commercial radio operators. Now we propose - or we did propose, at one stage - almost to ignore them before this international convention meets. This is another instance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of something that I have mentioned in this House before. I make another plea - perhaps only a plea in passing, but still a passionate plea - for more consideration to be given to the proper workings of, and procedure in, this House of the Parliament. We are divorced from the people. Unlike a State Parliament, we are not sitting in the main centre of population of the area we govern. As a result of the procedures we follow, either we do not discuss things of importance - in the present case, the question of the wave-lengths for amateur radio operators - or we put bills through with such speed that the people who will be affected do not even have a chance to make representations to their elected representatives on matters that they would like to be considered, and which very often should definitely be considered, before the measures are passed. Can we blame these people if they think that we and the federal Public Service have developed what they term a fine disregard for the feelings of the people we are supposed to govern? I hope that every member of the House will consider this question of parliamentary procedure and, particularly in this case, the question of what the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has called “ legislation by international convention “.
We had another case recently of such legislation by international convention. This was in the civil aviation field, and concerned a charter agreement made some time ago, which was unknown to the public generally. The result was that some Australian people entered into a number of charters with airline companies in good faith. They’ paid money for their tickets for charterflights overseas, and then suddenly we, the Parliament - not just the Minister for Civil Aviation, because it is no good blaming anindividual Minister in this case, as we are all equally responsible - at a week’s notice cancelled one charter and at a month’s notice cancelled another. I do not propose to discuss the rights and wrongs of charters, but I do say that if we intend to alter the conditions governing charters, at least we should give reasonable notice - I suggest at least two or three months - of the intended alteration, so that people will not make all their arrangements for charter flights and then suddenly find that they are acting against some rule, regulation or directive of which they knew nothing when they purchased their tickets.
Therefore, I not only join with those who ask the Postmaster-General to reconsider the position regarding amateur radio wavelengths, but I also join with the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory in regard to legislation by international convention. If the international conference concerned were a conference of the International Labour Organization, we would proceed as usual. We would send some of our leading businessmen to the conference, in company with the public servants, as representatives of Australia. Why should the amateur radio operators have to raise funds to send their observer to this international radio conference, which is to deal with something that is not just a matter of concern to individuals? I think that everybody in the House will agree that the work of the amateur radio operators warrants their representatives being included among the people Australia is sending to this conference. However, we can only ask that the matter be reconsidered. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is in charge of the House at the moment, has been at the table for only five minutes, so he will not know what was said by the honorable member for Paterson, and he will know only very little of what was said by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory. However, I ask him to ask the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to read in tomorrow’s “ Hansard “ the remarks of these two honorable gentlemen, so that he will be fully apprised of what has taken place in the course of this debate.
I had intended to speak mainly on CommonwealthState financial relations, but in view of the speech by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and the very excellent speeches by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) - especially the first quarter of an hour or twenty minutes in the case of the honorable member for Bradfield - I should like to make some remarks in support of what some of these honorable gentlemen said. lt was quite like old times in the Victorian State Parliament to hear the honorable member for Lalor make a very good effort on a very bad case. As the honorable member for Bradfield said, the honorable member for Lalor was talking with his tongue in his cheek, but some of his arguments were quite telling. He was in really good form. Even if you disagree with what I am going to say, I ask you to take some notice of what not only the honorable member for Bradfield and other honorable members of this House, but also other people of importance outside, have said in issuing warnings on certain principles which are enunciated by all too many people in Australia to-day. I had twelve and a half years in the Army, and I have had nearly 32 years in politics. I know that some people say that soldiers ought to keep out of politics, and vice versa. But be that as it may I feel that, looking back over the history of the last 40 or 50 years, it is a fair thing to say that the men of the services won two world wars and the politicians or statesmen have lost two world peaces. What I am afraid of now is that, with the best intentions in the world, there are many excellent citizens in this country to-day who, because of their enthusiasm to do the trade deal of the month, take the cash in hand and waive the rest, will be the cause of our losing the cold war which is now rampant throughout the world.
When we are talking on foreign affairs in this House we have to think not only of how we interpret what we say or what is intended to be said but also how other people interpret it. I know that I said a few things in a foreign affairs debate earlier in this session with which many honorable members did not agree, but I do not retract any of them. All I ask honorable members to do is to read Dr. Subandrio’s interpretation in “ Current Events “ issued by the Department of External Affairs in February when he returned to Djakarta and spoke about his visit to Australia. I was very glad he came here. Every one of us wants the friendliest possible relations with our next door neighbours and in particular with our very close neighbour, Indonesia. But it becomes very difficult and takes on a rather different aspect when the President and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Indonesia travel around the world and sign pacts, as they did in Warsaw, containing a condition that if they supported the recognition of red China in the United Nations then Poland would support them in their claims to West New Guinea.
There is some pretty rough kind of trading going on in the world to-day and it makes it a very difficult, if even a challenging world in which to live. However, I do not think anybody so far has accused Australia. We are looked on as a colonial country which has achieved its independence but we are not regarded as either predatory or imperialistic. Therefore, we can operate in certain ways which are rather more difficult for other very close friends of ours.
When I say we have to be careful of what we say we must remember that the timing of the expression of certain opinions which we might hold is also very important. I want to refer, for example, to a statement by a very excellent Australian citizen for whom I have a very high regard, namely, the chairman of the Export Development Council who, I presume, in that position does not speak against government policy even if his words are not actually government policy itself. Just after the whole of Asia had been warned and all the free countries of Asia had been upset by what has been termed “ the Hungary of the Himalayas “, he chose, the following week, to make a speech in Perth before the Associated Chambers of Commerce on export development in which he said there was need to streamline the machinery for permission to export to red China. He went on -
We welcomed the restoration of diplomatic relations with the Soviet as an additional market for wool. We would like to see closer trade relations with the satellite countries.
– Who said that?
– Sir John Allison, chairman of the Export Development Council. Putting aside for the moment our individual opinions of whether he was right or wrong in what he was advocating, I think that the timing of that statement as regards the re-publication of it in Asian newspapers, particularly in SouthEast Asia, was most unfortunate. Those people can say to us, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said with regard to other things, “Are you genuine in your policy with regard to aggression by red China? “ I have lived long enough to know that it would be foolish to say that we will not have any contact with red China. At the same time I realize, or suggest, that it is very difficult to have contact with a country with which we are still technically at war. There is no peace in Korea; there is only an armistice.
However, we have had many contacts and I agree with the honorable member for Bradfield that unfortunately rather a large number of them are what we might call “Marco Polos 1958-59 model”. Undoubtedly, as always happens, the members of the delegation went to places which their hosts wanted them to see. On the other hand, I remind honorable members that when Lord Lindsay, who can speak Chinese and who was with the Communists, if I remember rightly, for four years in the late 40’s, applied for a vise to the mainland of China it was refused. I presume that was because he had also been to Nationalist China at Taiwan. Therefore it is not a question of whether you can come or go to Peking or not; evidently the red Chinese choose the people whom they want to go to their own particular country.
I ask honorable members who have been there and are advocating closer co-operation with the red Chinese to read books like Guilliane’s “ Blue Ants “ or “ Six Hundred Million Chinese “ as I think it is known in Australia. There is a book written by a university student who went there, entitled “ Red Carpet to China “. There is also the story of the treatment of a St. Columban missionaries described in a book recently published. If those honorable members do not realize the difficulties of dealing with the red Chinese at what I call the Madame Guillotine “ stage of the revolution, I think that they, after reading books of that nature, will have a much better and wider perspective of the problems involved.
I, too, did not like very much the answer given to the question asked by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to-day. The red Chinese delegation has been here for some time. I believe that the honorable member for Lalor was right in saying that members of that delegation had had dealings with the Australian Wheat Board. I was not very keen about the restoration of the Russian legation at Canberra, although I know that we probably must have contacts of this nature. But I happened to arrive at Broadbeach - I was not there officially - the day after the announcement was made and found that our Ministers and the senior members of the Australian Wool Board’ were lunching with the Russians. One cannot help feeling a little cynical. Trade is the dominating interest in all too many minds.
If we are to trade with red China let us at least realize what has happened to other people who have gone to red China with their eyes blindfolded - certainly not understanding the way in which red China looks on this trade. I have previously said in the House that when I was in Taiwan last year 1 saw in the newspapers that our butter producers wanted to get into touch with the red Chinese delegation to negotiate the sale of butter to China. Apparently our butter producers did not know that the Chinese do not eat butter and do not make it. I said that our butter producers would find that, as with the Japanese cement or the Burmese rice, their product would be bought and they would be under-sold with it in their own market. Four days later I arrived in Hong Kong and somebody walked into the office of the Trade Commissioner and put down on the table a pound of butter in a wrapper bearing the words “ Product of Peking “. Exactly what I had said four days earlier had come to pass! A politician is rarely proved to be a good prophet in such a short space of time.
I do not like to think that we are selling wool to red China in order to provide uniforms for the armies that are over-running
Tibet. I would far rather see our Government subsidize our wool-growers to the extent of that trade than go on with it at the moment. But if we are going on with it, please let us remember that, at this time particularly, statements such as those of Sir John Allison can be very dangerous and can be used as excellent propaganda by the Communists throughout the whole of Asia.
As I think the honorable member for Mackellar has warned us on previous occasions, under no circumstances must we allow this sort of trade to become geared to our economy to such an extent that if China treated us as it treated Japan and cut off its imports from us at a moment’s notice, the effect on our economy would be very serious. In other words, if we are to trade with China it should be on the basis of a “ oncer “. I understand that people in Melbourne who have sought to buy from China found that deliveries were delayed to such an extent that fashion goods, for instance, missed the market. Such delays interfered very seriously with their own administration and organization because they could not count on supplies. As a result, they have been in considerable trouble.
Time and again Mr. Khrushchev has told visitors to Moscow that trade is one of the main weapons in the cold war. As the honorable member for Lyne said, ask Burma what happened to rice. Ask the Japanese what happened to the cement obtained in the north and under-sold in their markets in the south. Ask Malaya what happened with rubber. What happened to the economy of Malaya as a result of the dumping of tin by the Soviet and the consequent fall in tin prices? All the way through, we have to keep our eyes wide open and be alive to the fact that the bullets and shells of the cold war are trade and propaganda.
Therefore, I support what was said by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). I go all the way with him. It is not that I do not want to see our woolgrowers get a better price. The Russians are shrewd enough to see that they do compete in the wool market for at least a year or eighteen months after their diplomatic representatives have been given permission to return here. They are not ignorant of world conditions and I expect that to happen. But if we are going to risk the future of Australia by taking the cash in hand for £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 worth of wool exported to red China, and waive all other considerations, I think that that is a very short-sighted policy.
We have had a warning from a visitor who is at present in Australia, and we have had warnings from other people. I know that honorable members will say to me, “ If we do not supply wool to red China it will be supplied by West Germany or some other European nation”. I would say, in all friendliness to our allies and friends in Europe, “ Please remember that you are more interested in Europe than in the Far East; but we live in the Far East and are more interested in what is happening here “. That is why I feel that the remarks of the honorable member for Lyne were of very great importance.
I know that, in the past, the Colombo Plan has done a very good job but I do not feel very happy when, even as a first instalment, we give only £100,000 towards the Mekong River project - half the amount that we gave to ourselves in salary rises. I do not say that in any spirit of criticism. I voted for the salaries legislation. I just mention it as a matter of comparison. The Mekong Valley project may be the means of tying four countries together in closer unity by providing them with four times as much hydro-electric power as we expect to get from the Snowy project, and also raising their standard of living and production by irrigation.
There are all sorts of things of that nature by means of which we could do a lot more than we are doing at present, and I am sure we would do more if we realized that our future prosperity depends to a large extent on what happens in the countries around us. We must be prepared to do more than we are doing at present to assist backward countries to raise their standards of living by increasing their production. We must give their own people technical education rather than make presents to them of such things as buses. Buses wear out in a few years, but technical knowledge remains. We should give them the know-how and, by improving their production techniques enable them to go from strength to strength.
Again, I should like to issue a warning on the question of how far we can go with trade with red China. At least, let us be honest about it, say what we are doing, and realize the consequences of our own actions. Until quite recently, I was having a fairly violent argument with the powersthatbe of the Australian Broadcasting Commission because I felt that the commission’s news commentaries were definitely being slanted towards closer contact with the Communists rather than being critical of the Communists. One lady who came back from a visit to Taiwan was asked to broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. When she presented her script everything was cut out except a few comments on the flowers and the natural beauty of the country, a bit about agriculture, and the way the people lived. I think that there has been a slight change in policy recently. But what we do not realize is that this sort of thing is going on almost unseen in our midst. I think we have to open our eyes much wider to the dangers of the propaganda in our own country.
I do not want the Australian Broadcasting Commission to give only one point of view. I do ask that both sides should be equally represented as regards time and commentary. I know that certain of the commission’s special commentators have been in this Marco Polo class of 1958. They even had a Miss Marco Polo, 1958, who did a great deal of broadcasting. I am sure that if one of her students had gone to her and said, “ After three week’s intensive study of educational problems I think that all your views on education are wrong”, she would have been very surprised. Yet that is the same thing as a person who has made a three weeks’ study of red China saying that the views of other people who had been studying it for a long time were all wrong.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission should be careful to ensure that equal time is given to both sides of the question. I do not advocate that we should not have any contact at all with red China or even that we should not have any trade with that country, although, under present conditions, I am rather inclined that way. But I do suggest that we must understand what we are doing, what the effect will be on Australia and what the effect will be on other people who live alongside red China, and not thousands of miles away - although distances of thousands of miles do not make very much difference with to-day’s methods of communication.
Go to Korea, where very few of our parliamentary visitors have been. Go to Viet Nam. Go to any of the countries that have recently experienced Communist aggression. You will then learn something, of what they are struggling against and something of the magnitude of their problems. You will have a very much more realistic outlook than we are inclined to adopt, sitting away down here in Australia. These are the people who are fighting our battles. As for the Nationalist Chinese in Taiwan, one would think they had the plague, from the point of view of this Government. Not a Minister has been allowed to visit them. Yet if it had not been for the Nationalist Chinese during the last war we would have felt the effects of an invasion.
We in this country, and the Government itself, are sitting on the fence, and I think it is time we adopted a more realistic attitude. We should face up to these problems and not continue to let down some of our allies, and people who are providing a large measure of our defence, in the way that we have been doing recently.
.- I did not think that the Government was sitting on the fence in the matter of international affairs, particularly with regard to the countries to our north; I thought it was not even game to look over the top of the fence. About the only remarks of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) with which I really agreed were those made towards the end of his speech, when he said that we ought to be doing more with regard to the situation in countries to the north of us. Here we have the principal apostle in this House, I suppose, of private enterprise, capitalist enterprise and free trade, exuding pessimism, showing himself to be absolutely defeated. He told the House that Mr. Khrushchev had said that trade is one of the main weapons of the cold war. I thought that trade was one of the main vehicles of private and free enterprise. I thought it was one of the main vehicles and weapons by which the system that he espouses was able to hold its own against all comers. But as soon as the people whose system he opposes - and we likewise oppose - step on to the scene and say that trade is one of their main weapons, he wants to vacate the field.
It appears that this Government - and the honorable member for Chisholm seems to espouse its cause very effectively in this regard - has some sort of affectionate attachment for the smaller countries on the fringe of China and Russia, but it does not want to have anything to do with those countries themselves. I agree that there are potential dangers in any dealings with people who adopt such difficult political attitudes, but we live in the same world as they. We must face our responsibilities. I think it was Bernard Baruch who said, “ If trade does not cross frontiers, armies will “. That, of course, seems to me to be the fundamental lesson of the history of the last 40 years. What was one of the principal causes of the 1914-18 war? It was the threat to freedom of trade and to the right of nations to purchase the goods necessary for national survival. The principal reasons for Hitler’s adventures in the second world war were the right to obtain lebensraum and the right to trade, to have access to the natural resources of the world.
I am completely out of sympathy with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Chisholm in this regard. I realize that he displays much more sincerity in his approach to these matters than most of his colleagues do, but I am afraid he has become a little reactionary in his attitude, and I am disappointed to find that the last revolution he is prepared to recognize is one that happened as long ago as 1776.
I thought we were given a very interesting example to-day of the efficacy of the Government’s actions in a field in which it is supposed to be very efficient. I think it was the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) who asked the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) about trade with China. The Minister admitted that we were more or less ignoring China, but said that if the Chinese came along and wanted to trade with us, well and good, and that it seemed that our trade with China was expanding. In the last few weeks we have heard from the right honorable gentleman a very strong complaint to the effect that with the United States of America we are making no progress at all. So, in the field in which he expends all his energies we make no progress; in the field which he tries to ignore we are making great progress.. I notice that in the schedule to the bill before us an amount of £112,700 is to be provided for the Department of Trade, and I suggest that we might well be given some explanation as to what the department is doingwith this money.
When I look at the Government’s activities, I see contradictions on all sides. There is the contradiction between its attitude toair travel and to rail travel. There is a contradiction between the Government’s attitude to parliamentary salaries and itspolicy with regard to the basic wage and pensions and other social services. There are contradictions in the Government’s policy on overseas trade. It is obvious that the Government is unable to face therealities of modern life and that, as a result, the country is going from bad toworse.
I believe the Government’s attitude towards parliamentary salaries to be absolutely indefensible. The Labour Party has advocated increases in pensions and hasopposed the freezing of the basic wage and all the other impediments used by the Government to prevent increases in the real” living wages of ordinary working people. For the Government then to adopt the attitude that it did towards parliamentary salarieswas completely indefensible. But that is the Government’s affair. It will have to face the nation on this question, because it is theGovernment.
I have given some of the reasons that have induced the Opposition to introduce this amendment. Honorable members opposite are laughing, but I suggest they will not laugh when they face the logical result of their policies outside this Parliament. Donot forget that one of the major causes of bitterness in the community at present isthis Government’s attitude on wages. Nothing is causing more concern, nothing is more calculated to rouse the trade union movement, and nothing hascaused more bitterness towards the parliamentary institution itself than the Government’s inconsistent attitude with regard to the basic wage and tosocial services. These are simply the facts of political life, and I put them forward as one who is in close association with the people who have to live on depressed’ standards. The Opposition puts forward1 this amendment and suggests that all honorable members give deep consideration to their responsibility to try to raise the living standards of everybody in the community.
There were some other matters that the honorable member for Chisholm mentioned, to which I should like to refer. If we are in the dreadful state in which we must ignore the 600,000,000 people of China, and in which we must not associate with the 180,000,000 people of Russia, and we must not trade with them at a time when markets for our primary products are collapsing and we cannot introduce our goods into markets overseas, then what are the reasons for our being in this position? I say that the principal reasons for our disabilities in international affairs are the old difficulties associated with ignorance, intolerance and closed doors. If the Chinese choose to act “in a childish fashion with regard to vises, is that any reason why we should do so? Of course not! We do not have to adopt their standards; we should be setting the -standards. In the past Australia has had a pretty good record with regard to its relationships with other nations.. We have never associated ourselves - openly, at any rate - with the old policies of Europeanism which, in my opinion, have made the Asians reasonably distrustful of people of European descent. The last 300 years have not given Asians any reason to trust European attitudes towards other nations, and therefore Australia has a role to play. Australia’s history gives it a European background, and its geography gives it an Asian location. Therefore, we can be the link between the East and the West.
I believe that the defeatism that is espoused by honorable members opposite is not good enough. It is not exactly Government policy, because the Government seems to accept some of the realities >of life, although it allows its back-benchers to express the more reactionary, hopeless and pessimistic attitudes. We on this side of the House believe that there is an essential unity in humanity. I remind honorable members of the words that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) used the other afternoon when some literary works from Ceylon were presented to us in the Parliamentary Library. He said that these works, which dated back 1,500 years, demonstrated1 the essential unity of the -mind of man. I believe that, too.
I believe that there is no significant difference between races of people and that it is possible to break down the barriers that keep nations apart. We have seen this for ourselves. We recall that, at the end of World War II. on 15th August, 1945, our people were bitterly antiJapanese. By 15th September, 1945, after we had large numbers of Japanese in our prison camps for three or four weeks, it was necessary to issue orders against fraternization. It is simply by the removal of the barriers of distrust and misunderstanding between peoples that we are able to find this essential human unity. Therefore, I hope that the pessimistic attitude espoused by the honorable member for Chisholm will receive no responsive hearing, even among Government supporters.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) spoke for this side of the House with the vision of a world in which peoples can get along together - a world in which they have to exist together. If there, is no co-existence, there will be non-existence. For my part, when we send shipments of wheat, wool or butter to China, I do not see it as feeding 600,000,000 blue ants, or helping the mobilization of armies against us or providing Chinese soldiers with uniforms. I see it as clothing people who need clothes, feeding people who need food, and giving shelter where shelter is needed. I believe that that is the attitude that we must adopt. No doubt it is reasonable enough to expect that a person like the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), who is steeped in the political traditions of his party, will approach this matter in a spirit of pessimism and cynicism. We on this side of the House believe that unless you approach it with optimism and trust, and unless you are prepared to play on in this field, you will come to the end1 of the road for humanity. We have to open the door to other peoples. For the sake of our own national economic security, we have to sell our wheat, wool and butter, and it is folly to fly in the face of the people who wish to buy it from us. Members who belong to the Australian Country Party, of which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are a member, and who represent the people engaged in the primary industries, probably understand this much better than do the great exponents of free enterprise trading in the principal Government party - the Liberal Party of Australia. Apparently, there is a world to be won even yet for the Liberal Party, which looks to the benefits of trade.
These are some of the side issues that have been brought into the debate on the principal issue to-day. The principal issue that faces Australia at the moment is the raising of the living standard of the Australian people, and so the amendment proposed by the Opposition deals with things for which this Parliament is directly responsible - social services and the living standards of people who are employed in the Commonwealth Public Service.
Let us consider social services first. Nobody can establish that the age pension is an adequate living income, lt does not permit a reasonable standard of living at all. It is a mere pittance which only perpetuates penury. My friend, Senator Cameron, calls the lot of the pensioners, I think, subsidized pauperism. This is a fact, and we have to face it. Is this a problem that the fourth wealthiest nation in the world cannot solve? Is it a problem that a nation with a national income of something like £6,000,000,000 a year and a population of 10,000,000, some 3,500,000 of whom are workers, cannot solve? Can the 3,500,000 workers who are earning salaries and wages not keep the other 6,500,000 of the population in decency and comfort, and free from want?
The solution of the problem is a simple matter of the re-adjustment of incomes, and this is where the wage system and the pension system come in. What we term the pension is not really a pension, but rather a superannuation which is given to people who, by perhaps 40 years of work, have produced the goods and the services of which we make use. We say that the social services system should be completely reexamined and that nobody should retire into poverty. The pensioner who lives alone and has to pay rent finds it impossible to live satisfactorily on the age pension. The position of the invalid is perhaps even worse, and the situation is certainly worse for the thousands upon thousands of people who at present have to try to live on the unemployment benefit. Unemployment is another challenge which this Government refuses to face. Year after year, the numbers of the unemployed slowly increase, especially at certain times of the year.
– They are falling month by month.
– I have pointed out before that we on this side of the House are interested, not in percentages, but in people. If there is one person out of work, that is a national calamity. 1 do not know whether the honorable member for Barker and his colleagues know much about unemployment. I belong to a generation which was unable to get work for years after leaving school at eighteen or nineteen years of age. I belong to a generation which saw its parents receive their marching orders when their mortgages had been foreclosed, and which yet managed to survive. Therefore, unemployment is a very real thing to me. I represent an electorate in which the winds of economic misfortune blow early and blow very cold, and I know exactly what unemployment means. Those who are thrown out of work have nowhere to turn. They have no resources behind them. Most of them are probably married and have two or three children, and live in a rented home, and even one week’s unemployment or three days’ sickness is of extremely serious consequence to them. I am not trying to paint a picture of misery that is not true. I do not suggest that this country faces the serious kind of depression that it experienced in 1932. I say simply that this addiction of Government supporters to percentages, totals, aggregates and abstracts is inhumane. Their approach to the problem must be altered.
I am completely unimpressed when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) produces figures to show that the number of unemployed has fallen by 500. I say that unless it falls right back to a point at which only 900 or 1,000 are receiving the unemployment benefit, as was the case when this Government was elected to office on 10th December, 1949, the Government has been making no effort to overcome this problem. I once saw some figures which indicated, I think, that 908 people were receiving the unemployment benefit when this Government was elected to office.
– You are the guilty people.
– The honorable member for Wentworth, with the benefit of his background of scientific study in the field of economics, should know that the cold1 winds start to blow towards the end of the financial year. I could take him to dozens of small firms and factories about the fringes of Melbourne where three, four, six or ten people have been dismissed in the last few weeks. This is one of the facts of life. What does the Government do each year to try to take up the slack?
– It does nothing. It is expert at doing nothing This dismissal of workers occurs towards the end of every financial year. Government supporters call it seasonal, but it is tragic for some homes, and the Government should do something about it. The necessary facilities are available to the Government.
– It has the power.
– It has the power which it could exercise through the banking system. But does it attempt to use it? lt does not. Is it any easier to get finance for a home these days than it was eight or ten years ago? Of course it is not.
– It is much easier.
– You can get money for a home when you want it.
– I only hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the “ Hansard “ reporter is taking down the interjections of those who say that it is much easier to get money for a home now than it used to be. I can refer to those honorable members within the next seven days ten people who have not found it easier.
These are some of the challenges that this Government does not face. It does not seem to be able to take up these challenges. The Opposition has proposed its amendment with respect to social services and the salaries of Commonwealth public servants in order to highlight the condition to which the nation has been reduced. We say that there are certain aspects of social services which are a serious reflection on the humanity of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). I need quote only the case of civilian widows. What opportunity has a person to raise a family of two or three children properly when the bread-winner of the family has died perhaps between the age of 30 and 40? This sort of thing is happening every day. People who are left in this situation cannot pay rent and they cannot maintain a decent standard of living.
I have emphasized particularly the plight of civilian widows in the metropolitan areas who have two, three or four children to care for. The widow with no children or with a grown family may perhaps be able to get a job and get along satisfactorily. The widow with one child may be able to find some one to mind that child while she is at work, but the position is tragic where a widow has two or three children. We all know of numbers of families in this plight. The civilian widows should receive the same treatment as the war widows receive. I do not say that that would give them a luxurious standard of living, but we should adopt at least that standard.
Unfortunately, it appears that there are no standards in this matter. We have no standards to apply when we consider the basic wage. We have no standards when we consider the living wage for people on the lowest wage. What is the position to-day? The basic wage is £12 or £13 a week, but in a recent gallup poll those questioned said that at least £16 was required for a reasonable standard of living. This, of course, is not touching the needs of the average citizen. Every Australian requires more or less the same standard of living. The people who live in my street, whether they are school teachers or waterside workers, want a home, a car and furniture. They do not want luxuries and private yachts, but they want the goods that they help to manufacture. No consideration is given to the cost of these goods. I should say that a reasonable attitude to adopt would be that a person who works in industry should receive a wage which would enable him by the time he is, say, 30, to have married, to have started his family, to be in occupancy of a house, to run a motor car, to look at a television set and all the rest of it. What would that involve in cash? To have a reasonable standard of living to-day, a person needs the use of capital goods to a total value of between £7,000 and £7,500. Surely, it is not impossible to evaluate what a person should be paid to obtain these things. If giving the average citizen these services means a reduction of higher incomes and a redistribution of the national income, then it must be done. We approach this problem with the needs of ordinary human beings in mind. In Australia, great demands are not made for luxuries and we do not see the vast discrepancies that occur in other countries. Therefore, we say that this is a nation in which this experiment could be made. I should think at present it is almost impossible for a person to have a reasonable standard of living unless he has an income of £22 or £23 a week. It is not an unreasonable objective for a person to aim at owning a home and a car, and having a holiday when he becomes entitled to long service leave.
I challenge the Government to produce evidence that it is attempting to give this form of justice to the people of Australia. Iri the field of social services, we find that, although the Minister has been asked about it many times, he has done nothing for the aborigines. We know that they are under the specific care of the Commonwealth and this Government cannot avoid its responsibilities. Yet the living standards of these people are continually deteriorating. We find that justice is not being done for public servants all over the country. This applies particularly in instrumentalities such as the Postmaster-General’s Department. The wages paid to postmen, technicians and skilled employees in the post office are a disgrace to an instrumentality which is vital to the community, which always makes profits and which has a highly technical function to perform.
For these reasons, I support the Opposition’s amendment. I look in vain for any action by the Government to provide the things that I consider are first priorities. I see no evidence of a concrete or practical approach to the problems of housing and education. All over Australia, with the possible exception of Tasmania, the schools work under great pressure. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is able to produce millions of pounds for university education, but he ignores the foundations of education in the primary and secondary spheres. This country can support a luxurious airline system. This morning, the Minister for Labour and National Service announced rises in the salaries of airline pilots. No doubt they are well justified, but they are all handsome - I think they go as high as £700 a year. Yet this industry is completely subsidized from the public purse!
I urge all honorable members to examine the figures that have been supplied in answers to questions. They will see what goes on in the airline system. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), and 1 have been given figures in answer to questions we have asked, and they show that in the last ten years some £111,000,000 has been spent on airlines, but only £3,000,000 has been repaid by the airline companies. This leaves £108,000,000 in capital grants in the last ten years. Each passenger carried has been subsidized to the extent of £5. Yet we find hostesses in golden smocks. One hostess recently asked me would I like two or three spoons of cream. I, in my simple, socialist, friendly way, said that I would not place too heavy a burden on the taxpayer and would have milk.
The railways, the backbone of the Australian transport system with some 26,000 miles of railway lines, has had a total capital investment of £770,000,000 in the last 100 years. But the financial fantasy is that they have had a huge and overwhelming burden of debt placed upon them. In the past ten years or so, the Australian railway systems have paid £137,000,000 in interest alone. They have paid to this Government, which subsidizes the airlines to the tune of £108,000,000, £22,000,000 in pay-roll tax. This is indefensible! It is a piece of fantasy which in the years to come will cause those who examine the position the same perplexity as I suffered when 1 first saw the figures. Indeed, I rang the Treasury officials to find out whether my arithmetic was sound.
We have come to the end of the road as far as this Government is concerned. In all the fields for which it is responsible, and particularly in the fields of repatriation and social services, I find a lack of imagination, a lack of vision, the perpetuation of anomalies, the giving to the few and the taking from the many. The amendment we have moved is one of our first shots in the campaign to awaken the people of Australia to the realities of the life that faces them as long as this Government survives in office.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anderson) adjourned.
Messages received from the Senate intimating that it concurred in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by the House of Representatives with reference to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and that the provisions of that resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Roberton) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to raise a matter concerning certain actions on the part of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) that I consider to be utterly indefensible and repugnant to all sense of common decency. On 13th April last I contacted the Minister and pointed out to him that a summons had been issued to a recently naturalized new Australian who had not registered for national service. I pointed out to the Minister that this young man was anxious that no conviction be recorded against him. I also pointed out that he was willing to meet all his obligations under the national service training legislation and that any failure to register had been brought about because he was not fully conversant with his responsibilities. I know that that is no excuse, but the young man was summoned to appear before the Carlton court on 21st April. On 16th April the Minister replied to my representations of 13th April and said -
I have arranged for this case to be examined urgently and I shall let you know the result as soon as I can.
On 20th April I received a telephone call from the work place of the young man in question, and one of his workmates said that the case was set down for hearing on 21st April and sought my advice. I told him that if he would give me his telephone number I would get in touch with the department and let him know the result.
I rang the department and said that no information had been received on the matter. 1 was told to contact a Mr. Wickham. I contacted Mr. Wickham and he told me that the summons could not be withdrawn and that was the end of the matter.
I was in the Public Service for 30 years and I know that Ministers, if they wish, can have summonses withdrawn. I then rang the work place of this new Australian and told his mates that he would have to attend court and tell his story. I said that he would probably be fined a nominal amount and that would be the end of the matter. However, I promised to get in touch with the Minister again in the interval and sent a telegram to the Minister, again stating the position and asking whether he could do anything in the matter. When I came to Canberra on Tuesday, 21st April - the day on which the case was to be heard - I went to the Minister’s office. I was told by his secretary, in a very brusque manner of course, that nothing could be done. I said that it was absurd to say that nothing could be done. When I entered this chamber on Tuesday afternoon the Minister came across to me and said, “ We have discovered that we can withdraw that summons “.
– That is not true.
– That is an unmitigated lie. It is true.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
- Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– Mr. Speaker, there comes a time when, in the cause of truth, a remark cannot be withdrawn.
– I name the honorable member for Scullin.
– I will withdraw from the chamber.
– Sir, may I ask that the honorable member for Scullin be recalled and given a further opportunity to withdraw his remark? He is a little excited and I think that he should have another chance.
– Mr. Speaker, I withdraw anything to which you object.
– Order! The honorable member was asked to withdraw the remark that he made with reference to the Minister.
– I withdraw it. On Tuesday, 21st April, the Minister spoke to me and said that he had issued instructions for the withdrawal of the summons. On the following day I saw the Minister again and asked him whether the summons had been withdrawn. He said that, unfortunately, it was too late to withdraw the summons. I too, thought that it was too late. The Minister said that the young man in question had been fined £5, but that the fine would be remitted. I then wrote to this young man in the following terms on 24th April: -
I got in touch wilh the Minister in connexion with the summons served to you. After having been told by the Department that they could not withdraw it, the Minister finally told me that he was endeavouring to have it withdrawn. Apparently, however, he was too late. He then informed me that he would secure a remission of any fine imposed upon you. I would be grateful if you would let me know whether you have been fined in any way for not having registered, as I would be able, I think, to secure the refund of the amount to you.
On Thursday night I saw the Minister and asked him what had occurred in connexion with the case. He said that it had not been possible to remit the fine of £5. I told the Minister that he had promised to remit the fine, but he said, “ I did not promise to do it at all.” Well, he did promise. However, later that week I went to Melbourne and I discovered that the young man had been fined not £5 but £10 for having failed to register. Then, on 1st May - not in response to any representations made by him - he received the following communication from the department: -
I am writing to inform you that your liability to render service under the National Service Act has been deferred so that, under present circumstances, you are not required for training.
In the first instance this matter was so important that a person with only a mediocre knowledge of the English language and with very little knowledge of procedure had to be summonsed. After he had been summonsed the Minister stated that the summons would be withdrawn. It was not withdrawn and the young man was fined £10. Then the
Minister stated that the fine would be remitted, but it was not remitted. Following upon that the young man was told that he was not to be called up for national service. I am aware that on 18th September last this young man received a communication from the department asking him to register. A form was enclosed, and after completing the form he sent it back to the department. When he received the summons he got in touch with the department and informed the officers there of what he had done. He was then told that he would hear no more about the matter.
That is the sort of administration that we get under the Minister for Labour and National Service. And this is not the first time that such a thing has happened in connexion with representations made by me to the Minister. It has happened on previous occasions and has been equally indefensible and repugnant to every sense of decency and justice. I wish to inform you, Sir, that I do not want new Australians to resent the unjustifiable and unreasonable actions of this Government. When they are informed by me that they will not have to pay their fines, I expect that they will not have to pay them.
– Order! the honorable member’s time has expired.
– I think I should make quite clear, first of all, what the law is with regard to registration. I do not mean the law in relation to the call-up for national service training.
The law with regard to registration is that Australians and aliens must register for national service training if they are liable to do that training. The young gentleman to whom the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has referred had been in Australia six and a half years, and for four years of that period he had failed to register for national service training. He did not register until he was informed by the Department of Labour and National Service that he should do so. There are no extenuating circumstances in this case. He speaks English fluently, he works in a factory where there are dozens of other Australians all of whom are registering, and those who are called up carry out their national service training.
There were no extenuating circumstances of any kind. That being so, were we to discriminate in his favour because he was a migrant? I could not think so, and I do not think so at present. What did happen was that the honorable member for Scullin came to me and asked me whether I could have a look at the case. When I read that the man was an immigrant, I told the honorable gentleman I would do my best to see whether I could be of help. I went out of my way to help him. I got the permanent head of the department and we had the complete file in front of us to see whether there were sufficient extenuating circumstances to permit us to exercise discretion or make some recommendations. I informed the honorable gentleman immediately to that effect. I gave him no assurances and would not do so. Secondly, the honorable gentleman mentioned that I then said that I found out there were no extenuating circumstances. I found it had gone too far and in fact the man had been taken before the court and had been fined. An independent judicial inquiry decided that this gentleman should be fined. In the light of these facts, was I to intervene and say, “ I am going to discriminate in your favour purely and simply because the honorable gentleman came to me and asked me to exercise what influence I could “. Personally, I think it would have been a disgraceful thing if I had done so and, in fact, having done my best in every possible way because I thought he was nervously excited and perhaps a little unbalanced, I did what I could to bring him back to scratch and see what I could do for this migrant.
The honorable gentleman has made a further accusation that there have been other occasions when we have not acted. I will talk this over with my officers, but here and now I am prepared to say that I have never before had any discussion with the honorable gentleman since I have been Minister for Labour and National Service. So on two counts he is wrong. I made an offer to help. I made no positive statement because I did not know whether it was in my power to act.
This is the first time I have seen the honorable gentleman on a matter relating to the administration of this portfolio. Sir, on other occasions I have had to say that there are one or two members of the
Opposition - and I say only one or two because I believe the great mass of the Opposition can be trusted - whom I will not see alone. In future, whilst I will do everything I can see that the normal justice is meted out to cases represented to me by the honorable member, I will certainly never see the honorable gentleman alone again, and I will certainly not have a conversation with him unless it is recorded.
.- I regret that I was not present to hear what the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) had to say, but 1 do know a little about the case to which he has made reference because I have discussed it with him. If the honorable member for Scullin says he had certain assurances from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), and the Minister denies it, and if we then get to the point where we have to believe one and disbelieve the other, my money goes on the honorable member for Scullin. I will take his word any time against the word of the Minister.
The Minister for Labour and National Service offered a gratuitous insult to members of the Opposition. He said that with one or two exceptions, they were people who could be trusted. Then he said of the honorable member for Scullin, “ I have never had any conversations previously with the honorable member “, indicating that he was one of the people who could not be trusted. I can also claim the distinction that I have never taken any matter up with the Minister because I would not trust myself with him. So all my representations to the Minister will be strictly on a letter basis.
Let me turn to one or two other matters concerning this Government and its administration. For some considerable time, honorable members have been raising in this House the question of new Australians who are refused certificates of naturalization. I wish to deal with the unfair aspect of this matter. I do not say I know all the details about every application and what might be revealed as a result of an examination by government officers, but I certainly believe it is distinctly unfair merely to refuse applications and not to give the reason to the persons who have applied and been refused. At least they are entitled to know on what grounds their applications have been refused. I have been taking up a case with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer). The chap to whom I am referring has been refused a certificate of naturalization and has put up what appears to me to be a reasonable request. I will read to the House a copy of the letter he addressed to the Minister for Immigration -
I have now received your communication to The Hon. E. J. Ward, M.P., in which you said that my application for naturalization was refused by a previous Minister and that you cannot vary it.
I know of no reason for such decision and feel that British justice entitles me to either naturalization or the reason for refusal.
Therefore, I ask if I am not a fit and proper person that you take the necessary steps for my deportation, since I believe that no person who is likely to be a danger to this country should be allowed to remain here.
– From what country does he come?
– I do not know, but I imagine he is from Yugoslavia. I have here a letter which the Minister for Immigration sent to this gentleman. It shows how ridiculous the situation is. The Minister set out his powers as Minister in a letter dated 6th April, 1959, and stated -
It is quite in accordance with both the intention and the letter of legislation enacted by Parliament that a person should be refused naturalization and yet be allowed to remain in Australia. The essential point is that naturalization is a privilege, not a right, which the Minister is empowered to grant or withhold “without assigning any reason” (Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1958); whereas the Minister’s powers of deportation are much more limited under existing legislation, and even more so under the Migration Act which will come into force soon.
In your case, I could deport you only -
after referring the matter to a Commissioner appointed by the GovernorGeneral; and
if the Commissioner reported to me that you were not a fit and proper person to be allowed to remain in Australia, in view of your conduct and character.
These provisions are contained in the Aliens DeDortation Act 1948 and are re-enacted in the Migration Act 19S8. I do not regard your case as one calling for action under the Aliens Deportation Act or Migration Act, but am nevertheless satisfied that you should not be granted naturalization.
The man is refused naturalization not because of physical disability or any other cause, but because he has been adversely reported on by Security. This chap has said - and it is quite reasonable because that is the assumption he has arrived at - that if he is a security risk, he should not be allowed to remain here. If the Minister regards Riznic as not a proper person to be given a certificate of naturalization, why does not he refer the matter to a commissioner, as he said he has power to do.? Let the commissioner determine whether the migrant is a fit and proper person to remain in Australia. If the commissioner decides that the migrant is a fit and proper person, in my opinion the migrant should be granted a certificate of naturalization.
A number of people are in this position, as 1 found when I obtained the figures from the Minister. The number may not appear to be large but, from 1949 until 1958, 136 applications for certificates of naturalization were refused on security grounds. If these migrants are security risks why was that fact not disclosed at the time they were applying for entry to Australia? If they misled the Australian authorities, if their applications were based on false information given to the Australian authorities, and if they are security risks, why are they allowed to remain here? Are they to remain here indefinitely? We have the ridiculous position of the Minister on the one hand declaring that a migrant is not a fit and proper person to have a certificate of naturalization, and on the other hand being not prepared to declare the migrant to be not a fit and proper person to remain in Australia. I think it is about time that this system was reviewed. When a person is refused a certificate of naturalization the reason for the refusal ought to be stated. If he disputes the justice of the refusal, he ought to be given an opportunity of arguing the matter before some independent tribunal or court, which can finally determine it. I hope that the Government will take some action along these lines.
There is one other matter to whichI want to refer. I have tried to get some reply from the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) to questions about the loss of a Neptune aircraft near Richmond aerodrome on 4th February of this year. The Minister has told me in previous correspondence of the procedure for investigating these matters. I have tried to get advice from the Minister on the result of the investigation. I have sent messages to him, but there has been no reply, and therefore, as the Minister refuses to answer my questions relating to the stage reached in the investigation or the result of it, I am obliged to raise the matter here and to give the reasons why 1 am very seriously concerned about the outcome of this investigation.
Certain information which has been given to me was certainly not disclosed in the press reports of this accident. Here are the questions that I want the Minister, or somebody else in authority, to answer at some time: How long the aeroplane had been airborne before trouble was reported. How long elapsed between the first report of trouble and the actual crash? What orders were given to the pilot in charge of the aircraft? Did the pilot express a desire to make a forced landing away from the aerodrome or did he express a desire to abandon the aircraft? I am given to understand that certain messages along these lines were actually passed between the aircraft and the people who were in charge on the ground. If my information is correct, it would appear that the Government, or people representing the Government, were more concerned about saving the aircraft than they were about saving the lives of the men in the aircraft. This information was passed on to me. If the Minister had been prepared to answer my inquiries, I would not have been obliged to take this course. I recognized the seriousness of these allegations, and that is why I hesitated to raise them in this Parliament. But if one cannot get a reply from a Minister, if this is to be a silent government-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am concerned at the matter which was raised by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). I believe that he put forward in this House to-night the case that there should be discrimination in the operation of national service training. I believe that discrimination at any time is very bad and ought to be eliminated. But for the honorable member to stand up in this House and say that not only should there be discrimination, but that discrimination ought to have operated because he, the honorable member for Scullin, brought a matter to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), is to misuse the forms of the House.
– I did not say that.
– Order! The honorable member has spoken.
– In the course of putting his case he, very wrongly in my view, attacked the probity not only of the Minister, but also of one of the Minister’s servants, a public servant of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Scullin said that he himself had been a member of the Public Service for 30 years. If so, he ought to have a greater loyalty to that service than to suggest that a member of it had quite airily dismissed his representations. The honorable member says that this prosecution ought to have been withdrawn, because he had put up a case. The act provides for prosecution before a magistrate. For a matter of centuries, we have come to recognize the impartiality and judicial nature of the office of magistrate. When the legislation providing for this method of resolving these cases was before this House, the honorable member for Scullin, as far as I remember, did not attack that part of the legislation. He did not suggest that such a matter ought not to go before a magistrate, or that if it did we ought not to accept the magistrate’s ruling. Then, of course, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said “ I know something of this matter, because 1 have had discussions with the honorable member for Scullin “. The only thing that he could learn about it from the honorable member for Scullin was what the honorable member for Scullin himself has put to the House. For many centuries, all the courts have excluded hearsay evidence. What the honorable member for East Sydney could put would be no more than hearsay and therefore should be completely disregarded.
– Did you say “ hearsay “, or “ smear-say “?
– In the case of statements by the honorable member for East Sydney, the two terms are synonymous. Then there was an attack by the honorable member for East Sydney, in association with the honorable member for Scullin, on the probity and honesty of the Minister for Labour and National Service. In my experience the Minister, in the administration of his present portfolio and his previous portfolio, has always been most cooperative. There has never been, and could never be, any doubt about his probity, and in his administration of the Departmentof Labour and National Service. I believe he is doing a magnificent job. Proof of that is evident in his refusal to discriminate, when requested so to do by the honorable member for Scullin. I am sure that the Minister will always adopt that attitude completely.
The honorable member for East Sydney then dealt with naturalization, saying in effect that every person who applied for naturalization should be given it. Naturalization is a privilege which we hold dear, something which an immigrant seeks to attain when he has fulfilled the qualifications and can apply for it. I for one would never wish the Australian Government to relinquish the right to decide who is to be an Australian citizen. The honorable member for East Sydney said, “ Let us have an independent tribunal “. We have provided that the Minister shall have a discretion as to whether naturalization should be granted. Once again the honorable member for East Sydney, inferentially, attacked the probity of a Minister in the administration of his department, and there could be no greater distortion of the truth than to suggest that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) would be actuated in any way other than by a desire for the proper administration of his department. I am convinced that the Minister would at all times act in a proper manner. I do not believe that a mere application for naturalization by a person who is regarded as a security risk should entitle him to naturalization. If an independent tribunal were established it would be necessary to put before the tribunal confidential and highly secret information which had come to the Minister’s knowledge, and the source of it. That is a course which inevitably would completely cripple the processes that enable the administration to find out whether or not a person should properly be entitled to naturalization. I believe that the present system is the system which ought to be retained, and I have no doubt that it is being properly used and has never been misused.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the reason for continuing the practice of exempting private investors from income tax in respect of an appreciation of capital received in the form of bonus shares?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is assumed that the honorable member has in mind the provisions of section 44 (2)(b)(iii) of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act, which exempts bonus shares distributed by a company wholly and exclusively out of profits arising from the re-valuation of assets not acquired for the purpose of re-sale at a profit. A provision to this effect has operated almost from the incepton of Commonwealth income tax and was endorsed by the Royal Commission on Taxation 1932-1934. The reason for this exemption is that the fund from which the bonus shares are issued is not in any way related to realised profits of the company, but represents the appreciation in the capital value of the fixed assets of the company. The bonus shares accordingly amount to no more than an additional title to that which the shareholder already possesses, namely, a proportionate interest in the capital of the company.In these circumstances, and because of their essentially capital character, such bonus shares are not subject to tax.
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
How did the degree of Bachelor of Science come to be attributed to Flight Lieutenant Davis Hughes in the Royal Australian Air Force list of February, 1942, and to Squadron Leader Davis Hughes in the lists of October, 1944, and May, 1945?
– I refer the honorable member to the statement made by Mr. Davis Hughes in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales on Tuesday, 22nd April, 1959.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Strength figures for officers, as at 15th August, 1945, are not available. However, as at 1st October, 1945, the strength for each rank concerned was - Lieutenant-Generals, 8; majorgenerals, 24; brigadiers, 113; colonels, 203. (Note. - The above figures are for the entire Australian Military Forces at that time. No division between Permanent and Citizen Forces is available.)
Strengths as at 1st April, 1959, were-
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I would refer the honorable member to a reply which I made on 2nd March to a similar question asked by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr.
Peters). In addition to the borrowings listed in the reply, the Commonwealth made the following cash and conversion issue in London in March last: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount was received by the Commonwealth Government from the disposal of its holding of 51 per cent, of the shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Total receipts from the sale in 1951 of the Commonwealth’s shareholding in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited were £1,919,621 18s. 6d. out of which brokers’ commission amounting to £17,790 15s. was payable, leaving £1,901,831 3s. 6d. as the net amount received by the Commonwealth.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What stage has been reached in connexion with the commencement of the standardization of the railway line from Marree to Alice Springs?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
Preliminary investigation work only has been carried out in respect of the standardization of the railway line between Marree and Alice Springs and no decision has been reached about the date of commencement of the project.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590506_reps_23_hor23/>.