23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. DA VIES presented a petition from certain residents of King Island in the State of Tasmania praying that the House will appoint a select committee to investigate the serious economic difficulties being suffered by ex-servicemen land settlers on King Island, under the war service land settlement scheme.
Petition received and read.
– I should like to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question without notice. Has he any information to report to the House in relation to the preliminary conference of Foreign Ministers at Geneva, having in view the subsequent possible summit conference, apart from information which has been contained in the press? Can he state to the House today, and regularly each day that he is here, the position as he understands it?
– Other than the fact that the Foreign Ministers’ conference at Geneva has now got under way after a short delay we have not a very great deal of information on it. The delay in starting was apparently due to the efforts of Soviet Russia to introduce both West Germany and East Germany into the discussions on an equal basis with everybody else. That was not acceptable to the Western powers because the seating of East Germany in these discussions, and thus the participation of East Germany in them, would have at least implied recognition of East Germany, which was not acceptable to the Western powers and, I think honorable members would agree, would not have been right. But that, apparently, has now been got over. I am not quite sure of the formula by which it has been got over, but the conference is now in being. I will endeavour to comply with the request of the right honorable gentleman to keep the House informed on this subject.
– I understand that each party is allowed to speak by permission. Is that correct?
– I am not even informed on that.
– Can the Minister for Trade give the House any information regarding the tractor bounty legislation which will expire on 30th June next?
– I am able to inform the honorable member that the Tariff Board report on this matter has been received and studied by the Government. I expect that the report will be tabled, and whatever action flows from it will be taken before this sessional period ends.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is intended to increase the rate of immigration to Australia in the approaching financial year, and if so, by how much. Will full employment first be restored?
– As the honorable member may realize, the fixing of the rate of immigration is a matter for decision by the Cabinet at the appropriate time. That, of course, is when the Budget is under consideration. There will be no exception to this practice on the occasion of the forthcoming Budget, and the matters that the honorable member inquires on will be determined then.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he is able to give the House any information regarding a proposal that a hotel be built by Qantas Empire Airways in Sydney.
– I am able to inform the honorable member of the current position in this matter. Qantas recently pointed out to the Government that the growing volume of its traffic and the expected additional traffic that will flow when the new Boeing jet aircraft are available in the near future raise the question of the adequacy of the hotel accommodation which is at the command of Qantas. It is well known, I think, that Qantas operates the Hotel Wentworth in connexion with its overseas passenger traffic. Qantas, itself, has made a suggestion to the Government that a new hotel might be built which would be controlled by that company. This matter has been presented to the Government by Qantas and I can say that it has transpired that private interests have indicated, being aware of this growing requirement of accommodation for overseas passengers, that they might be prepared to consider the construction of an hotel and the allocation of appropriate accommodation within the command of Qantas. Clearly this warrants the careful study of the Government and of Qantas. The present position is that the Qantas board of directors has been requested by the Government to study the situation and in due course to communicate its advice to the Government. Naturally, I can say that this issue is not one for decision by Qantas alone. The Government will be watching the situation which has revealed itself in this need for accommodation. Frankly that is all that can be said about it as at this moment.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is aware that the rate of accidents occurring on the waterfront at Port Kembla is very high. Is it a fact that these accidents are causing needless and tragic suffering, and that some have resulted in loss of life or the maiming of men employed on the waterfront? I direct the Minister’s attention to the reported statement of the city coroner at Wollongong during the inquest, on 11th April, into the death of a stevedoring manager, Captain Crompton, resulting from multiple injuries received when he was knocked down by a reversing motor lorry at a Port Kembla jetty. Is the Minister aware that the coroner is reported to have expressed amazement that more fatal accidents did not occur on the Port Kembla wharfs and that he affirmed that “ if things continue as shown in this evidence it will happen again “? I ask the Minister to cause positive and speedy action to be taken by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and all other elements responsible, to bring safety measures to the highest possible standard on the waterfront, and to ensure that the views of the Port Kembla branch of the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia are not only sought but acted upon because the workers in the industry, through bitter experience, know more about its particular dangers and their means of prevention than do other people.
– I think it is well known to the Department of Labour and National Service that the accident rate on the waterfront could be reduced. Not so long ago, my colleague, the present Treasurer, held a national conference on safety in industry and, since then, the department has been actively engaged in trying to have the principles enunciated by that conference carried into effect throughout industry, including work on the waterfront and in shipping. Consultation has been arranged recently between the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, and my own department, in order that the problem can be thoroughly thrashed out and we can come to common grounds on which action can be taken. Naturally, at this short notice, I cannot give the honorable gentleman full details, but I will get them for him. I can assure him that we are aware of the problems that have arisen and action has been taken to see what can be done. I have not seen the report of the coroner, but I will obtain a copy of it and if I think it would be worth while, will let the honorable member have a note about it.
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister in his capacity of Minister for Trade. The recent Governmentsponsored trade mission to the Pacific coast of North America emphasized the opportunities which exist there for the sale of Australian products. What action is the Government and the Department of Trade taking to follow up such opportunities?
– As the honorable member, who interests himself in this matter, is aware, the trade mission that recently went to the west coast of the United States of America has only just returned. It has not yet given its formal report to the Government. From my contact with members of the mission and with the Australian Trade
Commissioner in San Francisco, I can say unequivocally that North America is likely to be quite an important market for Australian manufactured goods, viewed in the long term. The clear conclusion of the members of the trade mission is that, quality for quality, Australian goods can compete in the United States markets and in Canadian markets. As costs tend steadily to grow in the United States, there is not much doubt, if we can hold our costs and maintain our efficiency here, that we shall establish, over a period, by devotion to this matter, real markets in North America. At the present time, we are highly competitive in a variety of goods, particularly the bulkier products such as water pipes and bore casings. It may surprise the public to know that Australia is able to sell competitively automotive parts in quite a useful volume into Canada. It is the intention of the Department of Trade to study closely the desirability of arranging a follow-up trade mission. It will be clearly understood, I hope, that the Government will not bear the cost of these trade missions, beyond providing, perhaps, one official to give the necessary service to the 30 or 40 private businessmen who will go abroad at their own expense or at the expense of their companies. I hold high hopes for the success of these missions.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister: Has the Government approved a site at Tullamarine for civil aviation purposes? If so. what area of land will be resumed? Will the Acting Prime Minister present a comprehensive report regarding likely developments in the Tullamarine area?
– My colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, who occupies a seat in another place, has made a public press statement on this matter. I will secure for the honorable member, and for others who are interested, particulars of that statement. In direct reply to the honorable member, I can say that it is understood that the present Essendon aerodrome will become inadequate for domestic air traffic within a comparatively short time, certainly not more than ten years, and the Government has decided that the most appropriate site for a new domestic airport would be Tullamarine, which is convenient to the city, to the present establishments and, indeed, to the homes of many people who are employed at present at Essendon aerodrome. No final decision has been taken with regard to a site near Melbourne for an overseas jet-plane terminal.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. I understand that several British colonies in the West Indies are in the course of combining into a new political federation. Some of these territories have provided valuable markets for Australian exports. Is the Government taking steps to strengthen our trade connexions with the new federation?
– The federation referred to by the honorable member came into being quite recently. My colleague, the Minister for Defence, was present on the occasion when the federation was formally declared. For some time we have had a Trade Commissioner in the West Indies. Australia conducts a useful trade with West Indies countries in meat, fruit, dairy products and a variety of other goods. It is the belief of the Department of Trade and of the Government that, with the new impetus to development caused by the establishment of the federation, we can look forward to further trade in this area. Our trade representation will be strengthened, and in due course, when the federation is in a position to negotiate, we will set about trying to negotiate for uniform tariff treatment throughout the federation to provide, if possible, a more uniform and enduring basis for our trade relationships in that area.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister advise the House whether the Prime Minister, while on his present overseas trip, is receiving his normal salary and free travel and accommodation, as well as the daily travelling allowance of £15 recommended by the Richardson committee and accepted by this Parliament? Will this policy apply in the case of the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for the Army when they go overseas later this month?
If this is so, will the right honorable gentleman advise me at a later date of the costs involved?
– I will not engage at question time in a discussion about the private allowances that are appropriate for the Prime Minister or for Ministers who-
– Private allowances!
– Well, the normal allowances arrangeable for the Prime Minister or other Ministers, or, perchance, for Opposition members who may go overseas, as occasionally happens, on public business. If the honorable member will put on the notice-paper a question with respect to any appropriate question of fact, I will see whether the required information can be supplied.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Supply a question. In view of the Minister’s press statement in reference to the sale of the ammonium sulphate plant at Ballarat, and the feeling of insecurity among the employees, will the Minister give an assurance that this factory will be kept working at its present capacity?
– I know the honorable member’s interest in this matter, particularly from the point of view of employment in Ballarat. This aspect was taken into account by the Government when it made its decision to endeavour to negotiate the sale of the plant as a going concern.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister please inform the House what stage has been reached in investigations undertaken by the Commonwealth Director of War Service Land Settlement with a view to alleviating the serious economic difficulties being experienced by soldier settlers on King Island, and at Mawbanna and Preolenna, in Tasmania?
– In reply to a question asked by the honorable member some weeks ago, I indicated that the Director of War Service Land Settlement would visit Hobart to discuss the matter with the State authorities. After I received his report, I decided that some assistance should be given to soldier settlers on the island, and I indicated to the honorable gentleman in a letter the basis on which the giving of that assistance would be approached. I understand that the settlers are not conversant with details of the assistance that it is proposed to give them. They were somewhat dissatisfied; so I have arranged for the Director of War Service Land Settlement to meet the Tasmanian Closer Settlement Board - because the State is concerned in this matter - and they will meet the executive of the settlers’ association and explain the approach that we are adopting. It has been arranged that a committee of three be appointed to investigate the accounts and the individual positions of the settlers. The committee will consist of the Commonwealth Deputy Director of War Service Land Settlement, a nominee of the Agricultural Bank of Tasmania, and a nominee of the Agricultural Department of Tasmania, and each of the settlers will be given every assistance in putting his case to that committee.
– I wish to direct to the Minister for Territories a question relative to the opening up of land for settlement in the Northern Territory. In view of the huge success of soldier settlement in the various States since World War II., and, now, proposals for the commencement of general land settlement in several States, will the Minister consider the opening up of experimental blocks with a view to adopting a similar general land settlement scheme in the Northern Territory?
– I assume that the honorable member has in mind agricultural settlement as distinct from pastoral settlement. If that assumption is correct, I think the short answer to the question is that experiments of various kinds have been going on for a number of years. As a foundation for those experiments, the Land Research and Regional Survey Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization was asked to make a regional land survey of certain selected areas in the Northern Territory. The division has completed that work and reported to us on the classification of soils, indicating that in the northern end of the Territory there are extensive areas which, under certain conditions, would be suitable for agriculture. Side by side with that survey - and this work has been intensified as a result of it the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Plant Industry Branch of the Northern Territory Administration have been carrying out a number of experiments with a variety of crops. Some of those experiments are being made on small experimental plots and others are in the nature of field trials.
Broadly speaking, although hopes have not been realized in respect of every crop that has been tried, the results with three or four crops, notably peanuts, pineapples and various fodders, have been regarded as very highly encouraging. At the same time, both the Administration and” a big private organization, Territory Rice Limited, have been engaging in work on rice growing. The results of the past season are such as to give the very highest measure of encouragement for the future of that industry in the Northern Territory. I think as a result of last year’s operations about 3,000 tons of rice will be marketed commercially in the coming months. As a result of all this work, 1 recently gave a direction to my department that we should try to survey the whole store of our knowledge on these matters in order to see what are the possibilities for doing precisely the sort of thing that the honorable member’s question suggests might be done, and that taking stock of the position is at present in progress.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, concerns medical benefits, particularly for pensioners. The dental hospital in South Australia is not able to cope with the demands made on it, and many members of the dental profession in South Australia are giving as much assistance as they can in treating age pensioners who otherwise would wait for two or three years before they could obtain treatment at the dental hospital. Has any consideration been given to including dental benefits in the national health scheme, particularly for age and invalid pensioners?
– If the honorable gentleman is asking whether consideration has been given to some form of dental insurance, the answer is that a good deal of consideration has been given to it, but that so far no satisfactory scheme has been evolved.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that it is intended to dispose of the land and buildings of the Royal: Australian Air Force establishment at, and in the vicinity of Merredin, in Western Australia, as surplus to Air Force requirements? If so, when is this disposal likely to take place? Will the local roads boards be given preference in tendering for this property for community purposes?
– I have recently approved of the disposal of part of the land and buildings occupied by my department at Merredin, in Western Australia. Some houses are being retained for occupation by members of the Air Force at another establishment in the neighbourhood, but land and buildings that are surplus to our requirements will be disposed of, as is the Government’s custom, through the department administered by my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. I understand that it is his practice to take due notice of the claims and needs of local bodies when disposing of surplus property.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister.Is it a fact that the Government accepted the Richardson report on the same day as its submissions were made to the Arbitration Commission in the basic wage case? Does the right honorable gentleman see any inconsistency in the Government’s actions in accepting the Richardson report, which recommended large salary increases for members of Parliament, and in refusing to support claims for increases for wage earners? Will the Acting Prime Minister say whether in view of its acceptance of large increases in salaries, the Government desires to support or oppose the application to the Arbitration Commission for an increase in the basic wage and restoration of cost of living adjustments?
– Honorable members will recognize that the question is purely political. The basic wage case is sub judice, and the honorable member should know that I cannot refer to it here.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister a question. Can the right honorable gentleman say whether there is any indication that Japan intends to increase her purchases of Australian wool?
– The practice of the Japanese authorities is to make allocations of exchange twice in each year for the purchase of wool. The terms of the Japanese Trade Agreement ensure that not less than 90 per cent of all exchange made available for the purchase of wool externally by Japan shall be made available for the purchase of Australian wool. The most recent sixmonthly exchange allocation by the Japanese Government provides for the purchase of a higher quantity of wool than in the previous sixmonthly period. On 1st April last, the Japanese authorities announced that their allocation for the first half of the 1959-60 wool year would cover the purchase of 390,500 bales of wool. That is an increase of about 10 per cent over the quantity approved for purchase last year. The structure of the Japanese industry is apparently such that it is customary to make a bigger allocation in the second half-year than in the first. So we mayassume that purchases by Japan in total will be higher this year than last year at least, the allocation of exchange points in that direction and we must regard this as highly satisfactory from our point of view.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that leading drug houses in South Australia are out of stock, and have not been able to obtain supplies, of anti-influenza vaccine produced by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, with the result that doctors and pharmacists are unable to obtain the serum? Does the Minister consider the health of the people to be adequately safeguarded in those circumstances? Are supplies of the serum being withheld because it is believed not to be effective against the type of influenza at present raging in Australia?
– I am glad to be able to set the honorable gentleman’s mind at rest. There was a very short period during which supplies of vaccine, which are distributed in Adelaide largely by Drug Houses of Australia Limited, were completely taken up. As soon as this was known a message was sent to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and a consignment of several thousand doses was immediately as the press would say rushed to Adelaide. I am sure that doctors in Adelaide will now be able once more to get all the vaccine that they require.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question without notice. In view of the Minister’s statement to a Western Australian organization that there were “ administrative and staffing problems which made it impractical for Australia to establish a mission in Formosa “, will the Minister explain how these problems can be solved in the case of a much more difficult post, namely Moscow where the estimated cost of establishment of a mission is in excess of £100,000, and yet remain a bar to representation in Formosa? Does the Minister know that the Australian Trade Commissioner in Manila recently visited Taiwan and said: “ An absolute pre-requisite to doing business in Taiwan is the appointment of an active agent “? Does the Minister not consider a country of 10,000,000 people, with an income per capita among the highest in Asia, as was stated by our Trade Commissioner in Manila, worthy of an Australian representative?
– Both matters the honorable gentleman has mentioned have been the subject of Cabinet consideration in recent times. If the honorable gentleman seeks to promote the conception that Australia is not sympathetic to the Nationalist Chinese cause, I would refer him to the very many occasions in recent years in which we have been extremely vocal in support of Nationalist China. The question of the resumption of a post in Soviet Russia is another matter, and it is also a matter which flows from the decision of the Government. Certainly, it was made on my recommendation, but it was a decision of the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Will he inform the House when the Department of Supply intends to commence the job of demolishing the surplus store building in Fitzgeraldavenue, Maroubra, in accordance with the agreement reached with the Randwick Municipal Council, after threat of a writ? Is the Minister aware that this dilapidated building is an eye-sore to local residents, is overrun by rats and all sorts of vermin which are breeding disease, and that the building is thus becoming a menace, especially to the children living in the immediate vicinity? Is the Minister aware that members of the Randwick Municipal Council are becoming irritable at the delay of his department in demolishing this structure as the council is eager to start the construction of numerous amenities for the various sporting bodies in the district?
– Irrespective of the threats, I will have a look at this matter and let the honorable member know what I can.
– I direct a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Has the right honorable gentleman seen a report that the water board of Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, has ordered the first sea water evaporating and distilling plant for commercial operations in a country with an adequate rainfall? Is the Minister aware that the Guernsey authorities have found that this will prove cheaper than building reservoirs and catchment areas? Can he say whether the C.S.I.R.O. is conducting research into this subject to see whether we could adopt a similar process in Australia and so provide adequate fresh water for our arid areas?
– I know that the turning of salt or brackish water into fresh water has been of particular concern to the C.S.I.R.O. for a number of years arising from the well-known fact that water is our scarcest and probably most valuable commodity, the shortage of which might eventually put some form of limit on our development in Australia. I do happen to know that the Island of Guernsey is in the course of installing multi-flash distillation equipment to turn sea water into fresh water. That probably comes about, I should think - I have no adequate knowledge of it - from the fact that Guernsey is a very small island with little in the way of a catchment. Local circumstances probably are such that the authorities there think they can afford to regard with some equanimity the very high cost of the resulting water.
The C.S.I.R.O. has been in touch with the firms in the United Kingdom which are interested in this multi-flash distillation equipment, and actually the chemical research laboratories at Fishermen’s Bend are investigating the matter to see if its application is possible in Australia, particularly from an economic point of view. Giving a very broad figure, I am advised that the approximate cost of fresh water obtained by this multi-flash distillation method probably would be 5s. for 1,000 gallons. The honorable gentleman will realize that that is far beyond a price that is attractive economically even for domestic or industrial purposes. I can assure him that this process and several other processes for turning unusable water into usable water are one of the constant preoccupations of the C.S.I.R.O.
– In view of what appears to be a satisfactory arrangement for the sale of the Australian-produced FN rifle to New Zealand, will the Minister for Supply examine the possibility of the sale of the weapon to other countries of the South-East Asia Treaty Organization?
– I shall be very pleased to have a look at this matter and consult with my colleague, the Minister for Defence, to see whether anything can be done in this direction.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that during the recent period of very low wool prices, world consumer demand for woollen products did not fall? Is it therefore a fact that the fall in the price of wool, insofar as it resulted from a demand situation, was due to a running-down of stocks, the level of which it should have been possible to ascertain? Is it also a fact that reasonably accurate forecasting of the trend of wool prices could be of great value to the wool-grower in deciding whether to withhold his wool from the market? If these are facts, could the Minister give an assurance that the Division of Agricultural Economics will review its methods of forecasting, so that it may in the future avoid the mistakes it has made in the recent past?
– I think that the methods of the Division of Agricultural Economics are pretty well up to date. However, I shall certainly take the honorable member’s suggestion into consideration. I do not think one could expect the division to enter into the forecasting of wool prices, because if, by any chance, its forecasts were erroneous, the whole wool industry and all the graziers would come down on it like a ton of bricks. When responsible leaders of the industry are themselves not prepared to forecast, it is not for the division to do so. I shall have a look at the other matter raised in the honorable gentleman’s question.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that the small allowances paid to members of the Citizen Military Forces, who give voluntary service to the community, are subject to taxation? In view of the fact that many of these men lose wages during attendance at C.M.F. operations, is the honorable gentleman prepared to recommend that these allowances be exempt from taxation?
– This matter has been considered from time to time, one might almost say from year to year. As the time for preparation of the Budget, when matters of this kind are given consideration, is approaching, the honorable member can bet that I shall have a talk with the Treasurer and see what can be done about it.
– I address a question to the Acting Prime Minister, in his capacity of Minister for Trade. In view of the Contribution which the Australian sugar industry is making to our foreign exchange earnings, and the vital importance of this industry to the welfare of a large sector of Queensland and northern New South Wales, will the right honorable gentleman say what steps are being taken to improve the world price for sugar, which for some time has been below the floor price established under the International Sugar Agreement?
– The International Sugar Agreement operates in such a manner that, when the world price for sugar falls below a certain pre-arranged level, the exporting countries that are signatories to the agreement withhold from world trade a certain quantity, on the decision of the council. Two or three months ago the world price fell below the predetermined level of 3.15 cents per lb., if I remember rightly, and the International Sugar Council then, acting within its power, directed a withholding by the signatories to the agreement of Ti per cent, of their export quotas, and a temporary withholding of a further 10 per cent. But Australia, being a member of the British Commonwealth, has certain special rights within the International Sugar Agreement. Our rights are attached to an arbitrary minimum amount that we are entitled to export, and so we were not affected by that general curtailment of the right to export. We have the advantage of that measure of freedom within the International Sugar Agreement and the right to the prices which are stipulated in the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement - the agreement between the United Kingdom and the sugarexporting Commonwealth countries. Furthermore, we have certain preferential advantages in other Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand and Canada. In short, the situation is that general steps have been taken within the world price stabilization arrangement to steady the world price of sugar; but up to the present time Australia has not been disadvantageous^ affected. I think that this indicates a pretty successful outcome of the negotiations within the Commonwealth and in relation to the international agreement, negotiations in which the Australian sugar industry and the Commonwealth Government shared.
– I ask the Minister for
Health a question without notice concerning the finding by the National Health and Medical Research Council, at its meeting in May, 1957, that tobacco smoking, and particularly cigarette smoking, is definitely a contributory factor in the production of cancer of the lung. I ask the honorable gentleman when the Government proposes to take some effective steps to give effect to the council’s resolution at that meeting that the Government should consider setting up a body representing the Department of Health, the Department of Primary Industry, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the tobacco industry, to inquire into, and make recommendations upon, measures to reduce the risk confronting tobacco smokers. I further ask the honorable gentleman to what extent the Government’s tardiness and circumspection in this matter is due to pressure from the companies that manufacture cigarettes, and to what extent it is due to the Commonwealth Government’s own £80,000,000 stake in indirect taxation every year on tobacco.
– The action to which the honorable gentleman refers took place long ago. I should like to inform him that among the most active and ready participants were the tobacco companies themselves. Much useful information has been received by the Government as a result of following the suggestions of the National Health and Medical Research Council.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper. (Mr. Ward having approached the Chair) -
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. The honorable member will cease to carry on with unseemly conduct, and I shall ask him to apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize, but I have not been guilty of any unseemly conduct.
Mr. HAROLD HOLT (Higgins- colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, who is indisposed, I lay on the table the following paper:
Extension of Television Services Statement by PostmasterGeneral made on 30th April, 1959.
Honorable members will be aware that on that occasion there were requests, from the Opposition side of the House in particular, that an opportunity be provided for a debate on this matter. Therefore, I move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Taxation - Thirtyseventh Report of the Commissioner of Taxation dated 1st June, 1958, together with statistical appendices. and move -
That the paper be printed.
As a result of the proceedings in the High
Court in the McGrath case it is not desirable that copies of the report be made available to honorable members, or published, until the Parliament has given the necessary authorization. I have mentioned this aspect to the Leader of the Opposition and he has, I understand, agreed not to oppose the motion, in order that the report may be circulated as soon as possible.
– For many years, since the decision in the McGrath case, in order to facilitate the circulation of the report it has been agreed that passage of the motion for printing be expedited. I agree that the paper should be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Tractors exceeding 10 belt pulley horsepower.
At a later hour of the day I propose to introduce a bill which will give effect to the Tariff Board’s recommendations in this report.
Ordered to be printed.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954. and move -
That the report be printed.
In the early 1950’s there was an acute shortage of brimstone throughout the world, and it seemed certain that this position would continue for a considerable time to come. This shortage endangered the continued production of sulphuric acid and superphosphate in Australian works. The Government therefore decided to encourage the production of sulphuric acid in Australia from indigenous sulphurbearing materials. There are a number of such materials, but the main ones are pyrites and the gases arising from the processing of various metallic ores. Most of them are more costly to use than brimstone.
When the policy was being worked out. the Government had discussions with people in the industry - both acid manufacturers and producers of the raw materials. The Government stated that production of acid from indigenous materials would be protected against acid derived from brimstone if it should later transpire that this material could be imported at a price which would render uneconomic the use of local materials.
As a result of this encouragement by the Government, the use of local materials for the production of sulphuric acid was developed until to-day approximately half of Australia’s sulphuric acid requirements comes from indigenous materials. Production of local sulphur-bearing materials was, of course, also expanded considerably. About the end of 1953, imported brimstone started to become available under conditions which led the industry to ask the Government to fulfil its promise of protection. The Tariff Board was then asked to investigate the matter and to recommend a form of bounty which would carry out the Government’s policy.
As a result, the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954 was enacted and the present bounty on sulphuric acid produced from pyrites was introduced. In 1957, after a further inquiry by the Tariff Board, the bounty was extended to acid produced from lead sinter gas. Also in 1957, the Government asked the Tariff Board to review the rate and conditions of the bounty which had then been operating for some three years. This reference led to the Tariff Board report I have just tabled. It recommends new bounty rates for acid produced from pyrites or lead sinter gas. The recommended rates are intended to encourage further conversion to the use of indigenous materials, lt includes an incentive element which is partly designed for this purpose.
The world sulphur position has been becoming easier for a number of years as new sources have been discovered. In the last few months it has become apparent that there is not likely to be any shortage in the foreseeable future. In addition, there have been substantial reductions in overseas prices since the Tariff Board concluded its inquiry. The Government has made a close examination of the whole position in the light of the changed circumstances. It has concluded that, in view of the extra costs involved in using pyrites and other Australian materials, economic reasons no longer justify continuation of the past policy. At the same time, the Government fully recognizes that it has obligations to those producers who co-operated with it by installing facilities for the production or use of Australian sulphur-bearing materials.
Because the recommendations made by the Tariff Board in the report which I have just tabled are designed to give effect to a policy of increased conversion from the use of brimstone, the Government has decided that the board should be directed to conduct a fresh inquiry. It will be asked to recommend rates of bounty which, whilst not being designed to encourage further conversion, will honour the Government’s obligations to the people who have cooperated in the past. I refer to the people who have installed facilities to produce or use Australian sulphur-bearing materials, including those who are at present committed to the installation of new facilities. In the meantime, the present bounty act and regulations will be continued for a further period of one year from 1st July next. I understand that my colleague, the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and
Excise, will introduce the appropriate legislation later in the day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
ASSENT TO BILLS.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Education Bill 1959.
Australian Universities Commission Bill 1959.
Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill 1959.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the Fisheries Act is to provide for the conservation of fisheries resources in extra-territorial waters and for the proper management of our fisheries in those waters. As honorable members are aware, the responsibility for fisheries within territorial waters rests with the State governments or the Territories Administration, but the Commonwealth is responsible for fisheries in proclaimed Australian waters beyond territorial limits. However, in order to maintain uniformity in the management of the contiguous fisheries, every effort is made by the Commonwealth and State authorities to collaborate in a common programme of control. When agreement is reached on the conservation measures necessary action is taken for their implementation by the Commonwealth and the States in their respective spheres of authority. As a result of this collaboration, some joint conservation measures designed to protect school shark and crayfish stocks have been introduced.
Two of the measures that have been agreed upon for the conservation of crayfish stocks off both the south-eastern coast and the western coast of Australia, involve a closed season for female crayfish and complete protection for female crayfish carrying eggs. In the course of preparation of the gazettal notices required to give effect to this control, it was found that the Fisheries Act, in its present wording, did not permit the prohibition of taking of fish of a specified sex only, nor the taking of fish carrying eggs. Both measures are, however, considered necessary to protect the crayfish stocks.
In June, 1958, the Tasmanian Government prosecuted fishermen for having female crayfish in their possession in Tasmanian waters during the closed season, but the charges were dismissed on the grounds that the crayfish were legally caught in extra-territorial waters, where it had not been possible to declare a closed season. It will be appreciated from that experience, that where the Commonwealth and State regulations are not complementary, the enforcement of fisheries conservation measures can be defeated. The bill I am now introducing is designed to amend the Fisheries Act to enable the Commonwealth to apply in extra-territorial waters, similar regulations to those being applied by the States in territorial waters. This would make it possible for uniform control to be exercised over the whole of the Australian crayfish fisheries.
I think I should refer to the fact that crayfish exports add approximately five million dollars to Australia’s overseas earnings annually and that if this level of export earnings is to be maintained proper conservation of crayfish stocks is essential. The enforcement of a prohibition against the taking of fish during a declared closed season would be greatly facilitated by making it an offence to be in possession or control of fish taken in contravention of statutory requirements. The bill now before the House makes provision for the existing Fisheries Act to be amended accordingly, thereby bringing it broadly into line with State fisheries acts.
There is a further amendment provided in the bill to prevent fishermen defeating the purpose of minimum size regulations by cutting up or dismembering fish at sea. It will be appreciated that once a fish has been filleted or even headed, it is impossible to determine its size when it was caught. The minimum size regulations are important features in any conservation programme and provision has been made in the bill for the Minister, when issuing a notice fixing a legal size for any particular type of fish, also to prohibit the cutting up of the fish before it can be inspected. Here again the Commonwealth is following the policy adopted by the States.
I think I should inform honorable members that, by agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, the policing of Commonwealth fisheries regulations is carried out wherever possible by State officers, which means that the State fisheries inspectors who are responsible for the policing of fisheries within the territorial waters are also responsible, under delegated powers, for the policing of fisheries beyond territorial waters, This is another strong reason why both Commonwealth and State regulations should be as uniform as possible.
A further amendment provided by the bill relates to the licensing of fishermen. When the Fisheries Bill was originally prepared, it was intended that all fishermen taking fish “ for trade or manufacturing purposes “ in proclaimed waters should be licensed under the Fisheries Act. Recent advice received from the Attorney-General’s Department has raised doubts whether the licensing of all fishermen could be enforced under the act in its present form. It was decided, therefore, that this opportunity should be taken to remove any doubts on this matter.
When the Fisheries Bill was introduced into this House in February, 1952, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture instanced some occasions on which the absence of Commonwealth legislation of the nature proposed had prevented adequate measures being taken for the protection of fisheries. The Minister then said -
Many of the trap fisheries oft the coast of New South Wales are outside the three-mile limit and, therefore, beyond the jurisdiction of the State of New South Wales. Fishermen have complained that their traps have been raised by “ fish pirates “ who remove the fish from the traps and sometimes cut the buoy line before releasing the trap. The result is that fishermen lose not only the fish, but also the gear which is extremely difficult to replace. It has not been possible to take effective action in such cases under existing laws, but the proposed legislation would enable action to be taken to protect the legitimate fishermen.
The Minister’s statement provided a clear indication of intention that the legislation was designed to protect the fishermen from such nefarious practices, However, since, in the latest opinion of the Commonwealth legal advisers, it is more than doubtful that the existing legislation, in fact, does provide such protection, it is proposed that the act should now be amended to place the issue beyond doubt.
When considering the amendments necessary to provide for the introduction of conservation measures, my attention was drawn to section 16 of the Fisheries Act which places the onus of proof squarely on the defendant. Although most of the States have similar provisions in their fisheries legislation, the Government considers it desirable that this section of the Commonwealth act should be amended. Clause 7 of the bill is intended to repeal section 16 of the Fisheries Act and to provide, in its stead, a modified form of averment. I commend the bill to honorable members.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, may I say that I compliment the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) upon the introduction of his first bill into Parliament?
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– by leave - On 20th April, bills were introduced into the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea to give effect to certain proposals on taxation in the Territory. Since then members on both sides of the Parliament have expressed a wish to debate the subject. They have said that this Parliament has the ultimate responsibility in respect of the government of the Territory; and they have also pointed out that taxation measures of the kind proposed may affect residents of the mainland of Australia as well as residents of the Territory. The Government welcomes every sign of the growing interest of Parliament in Papua and New Guinea and also recognizes that a discussion in this chamber may afford an opportunity of clearing away some misunderstandings that have arisen concerning the nature of the taxation proposals.
Over a fortnight ago, I distributed copies of the Territory bills and accompanying papers to the respective party rooms, to the Leader of the Opposition and deputy leader in both Houses, and to members who had expressed a special interest in the subject. At the conclusion of this statement I shall move that the paper be printed so as to afford the opportunity for any debate which members wish to have.
First, I shall explain the taxation proposals briefly. Secondly, I shall say something about the procedures which were followed to give effect to these proposals. Then, I shall attempt to direct the attention of the House to the nature of the problem we have before us. Any sound judgment on what is proposed to be done can only be reached from a clear, cool and exact understanding of some of the other questions to which it is related.
The taxation proposal now before the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea is, first, to abolish export duties; secondly to adjust import duties in a manner designed to lessen costs of living and costs of production; and, thirdly, to introduce income tax. The estimated effect of these proposals in the financial year 1959-60 was a loss of revenue of £890,000 from the abolition of export duties - a later estimate, following price rises, goes as high as £1,000,000; a loss of revenue of £230,000 from the adjustment of import duties; and a gain of revenue of £1,300,000 from the introduction of income tax, giving a possible net gain in revenue of £180,000. The calculation includes the anticipated effect on incomes of buoyant conditions in the coming year. It will thus be seen that a gain in revenue is not the purpose of the proposed change and that the Government is not making these proposals in order to increase the total burden of taxation on the Territory, but is trying to distribute that burden in a way that will be more nearly equitable as among individual taxpayers and less restrictive to the development of the Territory economy.
The rates of income tax will be approximately half of the rates imposed in Australia and the concessional deductions will be more than 50 per cent, higher than those allowed to the majority of Australian taxpayers. That is, the concessions will be slightly above those allowed in Zone A, the torrid northern zone, of mainland Australia. The effect of both lower rates and higher concessions will be to bring the tax for the family man on some of the lower incomes in the Territory below one-fifth of what his counterpart in most of mainland Australia pays. On higher incomes the Territory taxpayer will be liable for less than half the tax he would pay in Australia.
To illustrate this, I can give one quick example. A married taxpayer wholly maintaining a wife and two children, with a net income of £1,000, will be liable to a tax of £3 2s. in the Territory while his Australian counterpart is liable for £53 18s. For a net income of £1,500 the comparative figures are £29 6s. and £149 17s.
Company tax will be at a flat rate of 4s. in the £1 or a little over half the predominant company rate in Australia and generally comparable deductions will be allowed. Although based on Australian taxation experience, the Territory legislation has some small differences from Commonwealth taxation law on companies. The idea is that, in the light of Territory experience, concessions for primary production and mining better suited to Territory needs can be introduced later into the law of the Territory.
Without entering into detailed discussion of rates of taxation, it will be recognized that the level of income tax being introduced into the Territory is far less burdensome than taxation in Australia, particularly when regard is paid to the fact that o:her existing taxes are to be abolished or reduced and that the Territory is wholly free from sales tax, pay-roll tax, and land tax, and either does not pay or pays in a very much smaller amount most of the other special taxes, rates and charges to which the individual taxpayer and the business enterprise are subject in Australia. I feel sure that honorable members will agree with the principle that lower taxation should be consciously used in Papua and New Guinea as an attraction for those who live, work, or invest in the Territory.
Before leaving this phase of the subject I should like to say plainly that, although I have illustrated the levels of taxation in the Territory by making a comparison with levels of taxation in mainland Australia, and although we have drawn on Australian experience for what might be termed the mechanical design of the taxation system, it is no part of my thinking that taxes in the Territory should be tied to taxes in Australia. These horses have different journeys to make, so we should not hitch them to the same pole. The nature of the economy, the nature of the society and the needs of the Territory are so different from those of mainland Australia that the form of taxation and level of taxation in the Territory should be determined from time to time solely in consideration of local conditions and local needs.
The second point with which I wish to deal concerns the procedures followed in introducing taxation. The beginning, quite properly, was in this chamber when, in the Estimates debate of October, 1957, I announced that a review of methods of raising revenues in the Territory would be made. This announcement was subsequently repeated by me in Port Moresby. This review was undertaken by officers of the Department of Territories and the Administration of the Territory in consultation with persons and in the light of information supplied by companies in the Territory. A fifty-page abridgment of the report produced by the officers was tabled in the Legislative Council in October, 1958, and the document became public property. After a period of considerable public discussion, in the course of which a deputation from the Territory presented a carefully prepared case to the Government, a debate on the report was initiated in the Legislative Council in March last. At the same time the Legislative Council received a petition from certain residents of the Territory asking that no legislation be introduced without prior independent and public inquiry. That request and the whole of the information and expressions of opinion were taken into account by the Government before reaching a final decision that the change should be made. This decision was announced by the Administrator in a public statement at Port Moresby on 13th April, and by myself in this chamber on 14th April.
The debate in the Territory on the taxation measures has been adjourned until 22nd June in order to give an opportunity to members of the Legislative Council to study the measures. It is hoped that they will direct attention to any anomalies they may detect by giving notice of amendments. The Administrator has specifically invited draft amendments and, in accordance with the Council’s practice, he has fixed dates for lodging of notice of amendments. The Administration itself will be submitting certain amendments, mostly affecting the exemptions and concessions that apply to mining and oil, with a view to ensuring that the purpose of encouraging economic development is not impeded.
In passing, something should be said about the nature of the financial review prepared by officers of the Administration and the Department of Territories and later submitted to the Legislative Council for comment. If any one with a fair mind compares the document with the legislation now before the Legislative Council he will realize the falsity of the suggestion that what the Government has done is simply to adopt a departmental report. The question of adopting that report has never been put to the Government and the occasion to do so never arose. The place into which such a report falls will be seen more clearly if we now consider the nature of the problem before the Government. If we can understand more exactly the nature of the problem that the Government considered and the true nature of the decision that it made, we will, I suggest, find an answer to the question whether or not there should have been a public inquiry.
The main elements in the situation which, as the responsible Minister, I described to the Government were as follows. First, attention was directed to the rapid growth in the Territory Budget. In ten years it has risen from a total of £4,500,000- in round figures - to a total of £17,500,000. Most of that growth has been in the past five years, following a period of reconstruction following the war. The Commonwealth taxpayer who, ten years ago, was finding £3,000,000 - in round figures - is now providing £12,000,000 a year for the Territory. The Territory Administration, which was raising £1,250,000 in local revenue, is now raising £5,500,000. It is plain that the total of the Territory Budget will continue to rise and, if we are to do our job properly in the Territory, it may mount even more rapidly year by year. In these circumstances, any Government is bound to look ahead - and look far ahead - when it is being asked to spend more every year. I would like the House to appreciate that this revision of policy on taxation is only incidental to the whole of long-term policy for the Territory, but it is inescapably a question of policy and not simply one of taxation method.
A second aspect of the situation is the need to find a sounder economic foundation for the Territory so that in the years to come a rapidly advancing population will have occupations in which they can engage, and so that the Territory itself will eventually be able to meet more and more of its own needs from its own resources. Two simple facts have to be kept in mind. One is that in the Territory there are, in round figures, nearly 2,000,000 indigenous people and about 20,000 non-indigenous people. The other is that to-day, although exports are growing in a very encouraging manner, and although food production for internal consumption is also growing, imports are still roughly twice the value of exports. In a period of development and rising administration expenditure, this preponderance of imports is to be expected, and it may be expected to continue for some time, but it is not a situation that can continue for all time. So we are consciously shaping policy to bring about economic change, to promote the industries that will earn an export income, and to meet from Territory resources more of the needs which are mounting so rapidly with change in the living standards and habits of 2,000,000 people. These policies have to be pursued by various means other than taxation policy, but the simple question for the Government to decide regarding taxation was whether taxes were being raised in a manner that ran counter to our general aim - and, plainly, they were not being used in a way that helped our general aim.
The agricultural industries are going to provide, in the near future at least, the main exports of the Territory. Three of the major exports - rubber, cocoa, copra - are paying export duties. This impost of export duty falls on the industry irrespective of whether a profit is being made, and irrespective of whether a plantation is still being developed or is fully established. It does not allow for any form of deduction for the costs of development. The duty was imposed solely to raise revenue, and in the long term it is only a form of tax that becomes an unfair burden and a discouragement to the producer. Another main source of revenue, Sir, is import duties. It is probable that most of the duty is passed on to the customer, and, of course, it will be passed on to all customers by all traders, irrespective of whether the trade is making a good profit or a small profit, and every customer will pay the same price for his purchases, no matter whether he has an income of £10 a week or whether he has an income of £100 a week. Thus, in trying to increase revenue by increasing import duties, we add directly to the cost of living and the cost of production, regardless of where or on whom those higher costs fall.
A third aspect concerns the position of the Territory taxpayer. As a digression, Sir, I invite the House not merely to think of the present position, in which the great preponderance of taxpayers are the nonindigenous population, but also to have in mind the future position in which, with economic advancement, a more significant proportion of the taxpayers will be found among the indigenous people who are earning significant incomes. The Territory, in recent years, has raised from various sources something less than a third of what has been spent in the Territory. Since civil administration was restored after the war, we have spent over £130,000,000 in Papua and New Guinea, and about £35,000,000 of this has been raised in the Territory either by taxes or by fees and charges for services supplied. We do not aim to keep any fixed proportion between the Commonwealth grant and local revenue, and what the Territory raises in local revenue will be calculated from time to time in the light of prevailing conditions. But I submit that it is fair, and also in keeping with the hopes for the political advancement of the Territory, that as hopes for Commonwealth expenditure rise, and as business activity rises, so the measure of selfhelp by those who benefit from that expenditure and that activity should keep in step. If that point is accepted, the only question at issue is finding the best way of raising local revenue. In my view, Sir, “ best “ means the system fairest to the taxpayers and most helpful to the progress of the Territory.
To any one who has faith in the future of the Territory, the introduction of income taxation sooner or later appears inescapable. T ask the House: Could a self-reliant Territory depend for its revenues on a sectional tax which falls solely on producers for export? Could it depend largely on increasing customs duties so that the burden falls more and more on the cost of the capital equipment and the commodities needed to satisfy a rising demand during a period of economic development and great social change? Or could it depend on perpetually imposing more fees and charges on services provided for a pioneering community? Up to date, the tendency has been to increase revenue by raising the level of export duties and by searching about among the services and public utilities provided for this pioneering community to see whether we can extract a little more by way of duties and charges. That has been the tendency up to date, and that is the tendency which we are seeking to reverse.
Our submission is that income tax, which falls only on those who have income - and falls on them only according to their capacity to pay - is more nearly equitable than other forms of taxation; and, more importantly, it can be adjusted more readily both to take into account the expenses involved in establishing the means of production and in order to give relief to the individual taxpayer on account of his personal circumstances or his family commitments. If the House follows me that far, and if it it agrees that income tax is to come to the Territory at some time if the Territory’s finances are to be soundly based, I submit that it is better for income tax to come now, with the minimum of disturbance and the minimum of hardship, than for it to be postponed to the indefinite future until after, further development and more deep-rooted social changes have taken place.
Having traversed those three particular considerations which were placed before the Government, I again submit to the House that these are matters of political judgment rather than of exact fiscal calculation. They arise from a broad consideration of the present condition and future prospective progress of the Territory, and that, as honorable members will see, is immediately relevant to the question of whatever we should have embarked upon a public inquiry.
To conclude. Sir, what does the Cabinet decision mean? It means that we abolish export duties, we adjust certain import duties, and we introduce income tax at the levels indicated.
– How far will you adjust the import duties?
– That has yet to be announced. As is customary with tariff matters, the details will be announced immediately before the new rates are to come into effect.
– Are you eliminating some altogether?
– The total sum which will be lost to revenue as a result of the changes will be £230,000.
– What is the current amount of revenue obtained from them?
– At a guess, the current amount obtained from import duties is probably not more than £2,000,000. So you see that £230,000 out of £2,000,000 is a considerable adjustment.
The Cabinet decision means also that income tax is fixed at a level which will replace the income lost by abolishing or reducing those duties but will not place a heavier total burden on the Territory community. The decision means that the experience and practice of half a century of Commonwealth taxation in Australia should be drawn upon. Honorable members will recognize, of course, that that experience and practice have been worked out over the years, not only by the tax collectors, but also by the appeals of taxpayers. Although we shall draw on Commonwealth experience, special regard will be paid to conditions peculiar to the Territory and to measures necessary to assist overall policy for its development and the advancement of its people. By implication, the Cabinet decision means that, in the future, taxation in the Territory is to fall equitably on the whole community according to capacity to pay, modified to meet the personal circumstances of the taxpayer and the legitimate expenses of establishing and conducting an industry; and that all these questions will be decided in the light of the conditions and the needs of the Territory itself. That decision on policy was taken, Sir, after careful consideration of all arguments to the contrary which have been urged. It is the Government’s responsibility to take such decisions on policy and to account for them ultimately in this Parliament.
I would respectfully suggest to the House that, leaving to the Legislative Council for the Territory its function of debating the details of the taxation measures, the House might address itself to this broad question of policy and the decision on policy taken by the Government. I make that suggestion in the confidence that the policy will be found to be soundly based, that it was arrived at with a good intention and in keeping with the other efforts of Australia to advance the Territory, and that it will, in fact, be for the long-term benefit of the Territory.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Papua and New Guinea - Taxation Proposals - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
.- The House is witnessing an extraordinary situation. The Government has brought down a statement on taxation in Papua and New Guinea, not because honorable members generally desire to have this matter raised, but rather because of pressure from certain pundits in its own ranks. I do not know how many honorable members on the back benches on the Government side have been to New Guinea, but they are the people who have made the running in the Liberal Party room and have decided that there ought to be a debate upon this matter.
These backbenchers have neither power nor responsibility. What we are witnessing is a situation in which the Government tail is wagging the Ministerial dog. What honorable members on the back benches think of what the Government is proposing to do may be right or wrong; but, whether it is right or wrong, members of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea are entitled, surely, to the first say upon the matter. They are the people most closely affected. Three of the elected representatives have threatened to resign. The nominated representatives, as opposed to the purely official representatives, have given a sort of token sympathy to the resignation statement of the elected representatives. But that is all that honorable members of this House know about the matter. A fortnight ago, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) was good enough to give us, in the party rooms at any rate, a general outline of the Government’s policy on this matter. He furnished the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and myself as Deputy Leader with a statement of the Government’s intentions, and we are grateful to him for having let us have that information.
I suggest, now that we are apprised of the facts, that we ought to wait until we learn the opinion of the members of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea before we go any further in the matter. The legislation has been brought down in the council and the debate has been adjourned for a number of months. After the members of the council have given their opinions will be time enough, surely, for us to express an opinion upon their judgment. I have my own views on a number of these matters, but I hesitate to advance them because, though I have been in Papua and New Guinea on quite a number of occasions, I defer to the opinions of those who are resident in the Territory and who are doing a very good job for Australia. In that connexion, I refer particularly to the missionaries, to the public servants and to those who are engaged in private enterprise in a part of the earth’s surface which is so essential to our welfare and security. I have a very great respect for all of those who live so far away from the settled areas of Australia, who spend so much of their lives in those distant parts and who, with very few exceptions, carry out meritorious work on behalf of the people of Australia. They do not get so very much out of it in the way of worldly goods or worldly advantage.
The members of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea are not as representative a body as the members of this Parliament. Very few of them are elected by either the indigenous population or by the non-indigenous population; they are mostly official representatives or persons nominated by church interests. I do not reflect upon the official representatives because they have to carry out the wishes of the government of the day. I think that they do fairly reflect the opinions of the government of the day. In their general activities in the council and in their general work, they try to carry into effect what they believe to be the wishes of the Australian people.
What I should like to know about this rather strange debate is this: Is it intended’ here to decide the issue in the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea or is it intended to influence the debate in that legislature? I think the first question can be answered in the negative, and I think the second should be answered in the same way. If the honorable members who forced this debate did so only for the purpose of airing their views, the time of the Parliament is being wasted. If we are going to arrive at a conclusion, that will be another matter, but I am certain that we will not do so. We will merely occupy a certain time in debating the issue and then further debate will be left until August or September. That will not be of any advantage to the people who are living in this distant Territory so vital to us and who may wish to know what we think.
The Government, it is true, said as far back as October, 1957, that it would examine the incidence of taxation in Papua and New Guinea, and it was right in doing so. Export and import duties do operate very unfairly in many respects in Papua and New Guinea. If we are to build up the economy of the indigenous peoples, then we ought to get rid of export duties. As the Minister said, export duties are levied on coffee, on cocoa and on rubber. To a large extent, these industries are coming under the control of the indigenous people. It will not be more than 20 or 30 years before the indigenous people, through their cooperatives or through private ownership, will be exporting most of the products of the coffee and cocoa plantations, and also of the rubber plantations. Every endeavour is being made to-day to encourage the consumption in Australia of the products of Papua and New Guinea. I am told that all the rubber produced in Papua and New Guinea must be consumed in Australia before import licences are granted to bring in rubber from other places, and that is all to the good. That tendency must be encouraged. Similarly, efforts are being made to market in Australia the whole of the cocoa and coffee produced in Papua and New Guinea. We are doing a very good job. although we are running into some difficulty in the export of plywood to the United States of America.
From what I have seen of the Territory on the occasion of my visits, more and more of the indigenous people are being educated to run their own industries. More and more of them are taking a formative and active part in planning and conducting enterprises. To the extent that export duties are being removed, this is a good thing.
– Is that an actuality?
– My colleague, the honorable member for Parkes, asks m,e whether it is an actuality. It certainly is an actuality. The co-operatives, which the Chifley Government established in 1947, started with a turnover of about £36,000 a year. The turnover grew to over £1,000,000 a year, when copra prices were high. It dropped then to about £750,000, and it is rising again. I should like the honorable member for Parkes to accompany me to the Territory some time. We would find evidence of a great deal of development. The natives are the sole shareholders in the co-operative enterprises, and what I saw of them in the coffee and cocoa plantations provided an amazing sight. These people know the value of money. They know the value of better standards of living. I think that what is happening in Papua and New Guinea to-day is encouraging them to take an active interest in the affairs of their own government and in their own economy. That is true of the local government councils and it is true-
– Would you say that the Minister has done a good job?
– I do not propose to attack the Minister. I think that he has very successfully continued the work of his predecessor, who. in the first four post-war years, did not have the opportunities available to the present occupant of the post for putting into effect the wishes of the Australian people, who were prepared to see a substantial part of their earnings spent in the Territory so that the living standards of the people there could be raised as an example to the world of humane and decent tutelage. We have no reason to be ashamed of what we have done in Papua and New Guinea. We have never been guilty of colonialism in any form. We have never exploited the people of the Territory. They are responding to our effort, and the Parliament can take credit for the fact that since Papua was taken over, and since New Guinea became a mandated Territory of the Commonwealth, the people of Australia have never had reason to be ashamed of the efforts that are being made in their name and at their expense to develop this great region to our north.
As the Minister has said, we are spending a lot of money. This financial year, nearly £17,000,000 will be spent in the Territory. Only a tew years ago we were spending only about £3,000,000 a year. I think that it is right and proper that we should spend a lot of money in order to develop this area. We make our contributions under the Colombo Plan. Charity begins at home, and it extends first to places near home. We have great responsibilities to the people of Papua and New Guinea, and the more effectively we discharge those responsibilities, the better our relations will be with those people in the future. The better they should be with the peoples of Asia.
The Minister said that he wanted to get rid of export duties. As I have said, I think that is right. He also said that he wanted to adjust import duties. He proposes to reduce import duties by more than £200,000. I wish that he could do better than that. One of the most disturbing things with regard to Papua and New Guinea is to meet people who tell you that when they send a watch or a clock to Sydney or Brisbane to be repaired, they must pay import duty on the cost of repairs to the watch or clock when it is returned to them. That seems to me to be a ridiculous situation. Other import duties are much higher than those imposed in Australia. If people buy in Australia goods on which import duties have been paid they find it difficult to get those goods into the Territory without having to pay further import duties. That is an absurdity, and should be rectified.
With regard to income taxation, the third point in the Minister’s statement, no doubt there will be a great deal of dispute. For instance, the Minister said that the rate of income taxation would be only half the rate imposed in Australia, and that concessional deductions would be allowed to people with large families. That may be so, but a number of people in the Territory on the administrative level - public servants, bank clerks and representatives of businesses in Papua and New Guinea - fear, as they have already said, that this tax will be even more burdensome than the import duties that they have to bear. I would have hoped that the Minister could devise a scheme whereby the community as a whole would have a lighter burden to bear.
– The Minister said that at present £5,500,000 was raised in the Territory. Taxation will provide about £1,000,000. Where will the other £4,500,000 come from?
– I suppose the Minister will reply later. Possibly that sum is raised from export duties, import duties and the poll tax.
– Some of it comes from fees and charges, royalties, and the like.
– I think that the people of Papua and New Guinea should pay something towards the cost of their own administration. I have met native contractors in Papua who are doing extremely well. They are competent tradesmen. They tender for government contracts, and they employ native labour. They do the job just as well as Europeans can do it. That sort of thing should be encouraged. I do not think that the local councils object to the £2 per capita poll tax at all. They levy it. The Government only comes in in cases such as the Navuneram incident, where people, for one reason or another - mostly because of their own internal native troubles - do not want to pay any tax at all. The dissatisfaction of those people is not directed against the Australian administration so much as against members of their own tribe, and the problems that concern them generally relate to matters of land tenure and land occupation.
Taxation is a difficult problem. If it were easy to solve, then it would have been solved long ago. I hope that the Minister, if he can, will meet the wishes of the people in Papua and New Guinea who say that the proposed burden of income tax is too high, and that he will agree to lighten some of their burden. I think that it would be better for the Australian public to pay a few more pounds - even a few hundred thousand more pounds - than to cause discontent with the people who are doing such a good job for us on our northern ramparts. The Minister said that the income tax benefits for the people of Papua and New Guinea would be of the same nature as those in the torrid zone of Australia. I think that the people of Papua and New Guinea are entitled to greater benefits than are given to the people living in the northern portions of Australia. Indeed, I think that we should give even greater benefits to people living north of the 26th parallel. I think that still greater benefits should be be given to those people living north of the 20th parallel, and even greater benefits to the people living in Papua and New Guinea. I do not say that because I want to cultivate any particular friendships or to curry favour with any people. The people concerned have no votes in elections for this Parliament, but as I view the world situation today, and as I see the dangers in the Pacific area, I think that the more we do to settle and develop particularly develop the northern part of our Commonwealth and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the better it will be in the future for the children of this generation.
– First of all, I should like to congratulate the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on the step that he has taken to bring this matter before the House before it became a fait accompli, when there would be no use discussing it. I think that most of us will agree that the Minister has brought to his difficult task of administering the Territories efficiency and enthusiasm and that he has done a lot of hard work. Therefore, anything I have to say is not in any spirit of criticism of what the Minister has done in the past. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if this debate is a waste of time as the honorable member has suggested, I am surprised that an Opposition with any regard to its own responsibilities gave leave for the debate to come on. The Opposition had only to say, “ No “, to the statement, and it could not have been made. Therefore, it is useless to stand up and say, “ Yes, we agreed to the debate, but we believe it is a complete waste of time “. I have been over 30 years in the parliamentary life, and I did not think I would live to see the day when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would state in this House of Parliament that members of the Parliament had neither power nor responsibility.
– I said your backbenchers.
– You said members of the Parliament. Your statement applied much more to the members on the Opposition side of the House; but to have said that of any members was something I never expected I would live to hear. If the statement is true, the honorable member for Melbourne, who is now the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is just biding his time and hoping that he will be back in the Executive Government and will be able to run some fascist form of government. Surely, this is a democracy, and surely we have responsibilities just as the House of Commons has for many countries in all parts of the world. In our case, our responsibility is to our Territories. Therefore, I was not only surprised but considerably startled to hear any honorable member make a statement such as that made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He asked: “What is the debate for? Is it for honorable members on the back benches of the Government side to air their views? “ The honorable member then spent about twenty minutes airing his views on the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, as he has every right to do. Then he said the Legislative Council should have the first say and that we should have waited until we learned its opinions.
I quite agree, and I think all honorable members will agree with that statement, but in this case, if the Legislative Council of the Territory is to have its say, that will be on 22nd June, and the legislation is to come into force on 1st July. In the meantime, this House is to go into recess. I do not know why, with all the legislation that is coming forward, this House is to go into recess within the next ten days until August. The taxation in the Territory is to operate, including certain import and export duties, from the 1st July. In all the circumstances, what would be the use of any discussion in this House after 1st July? Therefore, I think the Minister for Territories has taken the proper steps, and I would like to thank him for his courtesy in making such a full statement. He said at the end of it -
It is the Government’s responsibility to take such decisions on policy and to account for them ultimately to this Parliament.
I think everybody agrees with that. It is very difficult to debate this particular problem and fulfil our responsibility to many Australian electors when we do not know what amendments have been proposed by the people who will be affected by this legislation. It is not that one wants to interfere in all sorts of legislation that comes before the Legislative Council of the Territory, but I think that every honorable member will agree, that when we are going to change the method of taxation from import and export duties to income tax, we are making a very big and radical change. In this case, it may be fully justified, but, at the same time, the people who are to be affected surely have a right to have their representations heard not solely in the Legislative Council which consists of sixteen officially nominated members out of 28 and very few elected members. It is, in fact and has to be in the early stages merely a body which only very seldom will have a majority view differing from the wishes of the Minister or the decisions of the Government itself. We are still in that stage and, therefore, this Parliament particularly now, has a greater responsibility than it would have if there were a majority of unofficial members plus elected members as distinct from official appointees, in the Legislative Council. I do not know whether the stage has been reached where it should be onethird each official, unofficial and elected members. That is a matter of opinion. But please let us remember that with sixteen officially appointed members in a council of 28, there is not very much opportunity for discussion on a very important matter of this nature other than through this Parliament.
– Hasluck’s guided democracy!
– At the start, all such councils have to be based on a form of guided democracy, as the honorable member for Parkes knows very well. You have to develop from a nominated council to one that is partly elected and partly nominated and eventually to a fully elected council. As I have said, all the times and all the dates are against a proper discussion in this House. I understand a deputation is coming down to see the Minister for Territories or the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) on Thursday next, it would have been far better if this debate could have taken place after those representatives had been able to state their case before members of this Parliament. Some of us might have agreed with some of their representations, or we might not have agreed with any of them, but at least all of us would have been in a better position to discuss this matter if we could have left it until after the Legislative Council itself had met and dealt with it. It will be quite impossible in this instance.
A fortnight ago, the Minister gave me a copy of the bill. It consists of 182 pages and 360 clauses. I do not know whether there was another document with it when it was introduced into the Legislative Council, but there is no second document with the bill now giving an explanation of the clauses as would be proper in a bill of that size. All this method of procedure comes back to the point, which I have made time and time again in this House, that Canberra is no longer a bush capital it is the National Capital. Communications are such that there is no excuse to introduce bill after bill and put them through this Parliament in such rapid succession that people outside who will be affected by the legislation are given no opportunity to make representations through their members. That observation applies particularly to this bill because the proposed change in taxation is important.
Finally, I would like to say that here again we come up against the question: If we are going to discuss this matter intelligently, should we not know what is to be our long-range policy and our long-term objectives with respect to New Guinea, whether as a whole including West New Guinea or as our trust Territories and our own Territories? I do not think anybody will suggest that we should divide the last two into two sections. Dealing with a problem of this nature, we come up against the question: If the objective is selfdetermination, as I believe it is and as the Minister has always announced it, we have to estimate approximately how many years it will take for the Legislative Council to develop from a purely nominated to a fully elected body. In what period of time should this take place, and what is to be the pattern of development of primary and secondary industries in the Territory itself? This has a very great effect on leasehold and freehold property and on other things. If we have that long-term objective, with at least a broad outline or blueprint for development over a number of years, we ask ourselves how income tax, as against the old methods of taxation, will affect territorial development, and what proportion of Territory income can reasonably be drawn off in taxation to be added to the sums of money that are made available by Australia for development of the Territory. I discovered only last week that I have a very minor personal interest in the matter. I hold 50 5s. shares in a company which I believe is in association with another company in some investigation into gold mining in some part of New Guinea. So if anybody wants to know the extent of my personal interest, there it is.
There are certain aspects of this matter that I think the House should look at. One of them, which was mentioned by the Minister himself, stands out clearly. He said -
The Administration itself will be submitting certain amendments . . .
In other words, the Administration has had a second look at it already - . . mostly affecting the exemptions and concessions that apply to mining and oil with a view to ensuring that the purpose of encouraging economic development is not impeded.
It is perfectly obvious that if we are not to give, in the Territory, the same concessions to mining and oil prospecting companies as we give in Australia, the development of the Territory will be adversely affected. I commend the Minister upon his statement that amendments of that nature are being prepared. I think I am right in saying that the mining companies pay also a 5 per cent royalty which is not paid in Australia.
– I do not think it is 5 per cent. They do pay a royalty.
– I have a letter on the subject which I shall show the Minister later. I do not want to read the details of it to the House. These companies pay a royalty which is not paid by Australian companies. There are all sorts of matters of this kind which need to be considered and, in the most kindly way possible, I suggest that when the Government proposes to take an important step which amounts to a major change of policy, the proposal should be examined first by an allparty committee, that is, a committee of members from both sides of the House. Whilst we probably all agree on the general basis of the taxing plan, possibly, somewhere in this House are brains capable of making suggestions for better proposals than are contained in the legislation. I have seen such things happen in other parliaments and they could happen here. I do not oppose the basic policy, but I do suggest that in future we must watch the timing much more closely. I should have liked this debate to take place after the people concerned had been able to make their representations. Then we would have been better acquainted with the views of Australian citizens in the Territory. After all, they are all Australian citizens. Many of them have voted on the mainland and probably many of the companies affected are registered here. I suggest that this is an aspect of which the Parliament should take notice. I thank the Minister for giving us this opportunity of debate, limited though it is.
.- Unlike the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), I have no direct interest at all in this matter, other than having received, like most other members, representations from various people who claim to be interested in income taxation in Papua and New Guinea. When my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that, in a sense, the debate was a waste of time, I think he really meant that there was nothing that this Parliament could do now about the matter. The passing of the legislation is a matter not for this Parliament at all, but for the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea. We are discussing this subject only because there has been agitation both from backbench members on the Government side and from representative people throughout the community who claim that there has been undue haste in the introduction of these measures. I do not know precisely what purpose the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) felt he was serving by making his statement to-day, but if it was intended that the House should form some opinion as to whether or not income tax in the Territory will be a good thing, or will be better than the taxing systems that have operated there in the past, I do not think that we are able to form that opinion from the information contained in the Minister’s statement.
If we were arguing on grounds of abstract theory about a developed economy, we might say that income tax was the most equitable method of taxation, but I doubt whether that is the position in the Territory. The proposed income tax will be of only minor importance in the provision of revenue. The Minister indicated that about £5,000,000 is now collected by the Territory in revenue. He has been good enough to supply me with the composition of this figure. Two taxes, one of which is to be abolished and the other to be varied upon introduction of income tax, form only a very small part of the total. In 1958-59, import duties, which are to be modified to some extent, although there is no indication of the nature of the modification, accounted for £2,200,000. Unless we are told the nature of the modification, it is difficult to say whether income tax, together with lower import duties, will, on balance, be better for the residents of the Territory. Export duties, which are to be abolished, aggregated £890,000.
At some periods of history it has been argued that if you hae! an export that other countries needed you could, as it were, make the foreigner pay by imposing an export duty on the commodity. I do not know whether those circumstances apply in the Territory, but commodities that have been bearing tax of £890,000 per annum are to be relieved of that burden. I would say that the number of people who will benefit from being relieved of that £890,000 will be very small, in comparison with the total native population and the total white population of 22,000 people. It may well be that a handful of big companies will receive benefits totalling nearly £900,000, with the rest of the community being asked to make up the deficiency by means of a general income tax imposed according to the level of their incomes and their circumstances. I suggest that this House should receive that kind of information.
I believe that, generally speaking, indirect taxation is not the best method of collecting revenue. In a properly advanced community, income tax is more equitable, but
I should need to know much more about the distribution of incomes in the Territory in order to give a considered opinion on these proposals. I would need to know what sort of people will have to pay the new income tax before I would be able to say that, on balance, the proposed system was better than that which exists now. I suggest that unless it has that sort of information this House is not in any position to make an intelligent appraisal of the change. I would at least be suspicious in my view because of the fact that export tax is being abolished altogether, because this tax can apply only to a few business operators who are making goods for export. They will get a distinct benefit in the remission of payments to revenue. Whether those same people will pay as much, or more, to revenue when the income tax is imposed is something on which this House has no information.
I have been surprised at the places in which some of the opposition to this measure has come from. For instance, all honorable members have been sent a bulletin from an organization in Sydney known as the Taxpayers’ Association. Now, I have found from experience that taxpayers’ associations are not usually, despite their claims, representative of all taxpayers. Rather do they peddle generally the interests of a few taxpayers. They are scarcely reflective of what might be called the “ vox populi “. They are often reflective of those with the greatest economic stakes in the community. Some of us are on the mailing list of this publication, and I read the publication with a great deal of interest. From time to time there is much valuable information in it. But to-day we got a repeat issue, as it were, in the issue of Saturday, 9th May, 1959, which contains over three pages, or pretty well the entire issue, devoted to the subject, “ New Guinea Income Tax “. Of course, the sort of people that the producers of this bulletin seem to be solicitous for on this occasion are people in Australia at the moment who have business establishments in New Guinea and who, for the time being, apparently are free of taxation in that connexion. Well, as far as I am concerned, any business in New Guinea that makes a profit in that Territory is entitled to pay a certain amount of taxes on its transactions. My friend the honorable member for
Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) claims to have a certain number of goldmining shares. I believe, again, that if people have investments in the Territory which are profitable, they are entitled to pay some taxation in the country in which the profit originates.
– They should pay heavy taxes as absentee landlords.
– They should pay an increasingly heavy tax. I agree that they are absentee landlords, or foreigners so far as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is concerned. At least if the income tax will collect a certain amount from the business concerns - “ foreign “, if you like to call them that, so far as New Guinea is concerned - and from foreign investors, I am all for having a certain amount of income tax imposed on their private enterprise. Surely the upholders of private enterprise are not going to be frightened of a little bit of Government intrusion on some of their profits!
However, on balance, whether some are going to pay a certain amount more and others are going to pay a great deal less, is something I should like to know. The sections of the community on which I should like a little more information are those people who at the moment pay export taxes, which at present yield £890,000 a year. Are there hundreds of these people or are there just a few who pay a vast amount of that tax? There may be hundreds, or there may be only one or two who pay significant sums. After examination of income tax statistics you can say that there are 3.000,000 taxpayers in Australia; but sometimes you find that something like 70.000 of those taxpayers pay more than half of the total tax collected. I should like to have a little information as to the incidence of this export tax on certain big companies operating in New Guinea. Will they, on balance, pay so much more, or so much less, in the new income tax than they have been paying in export tax? I suggest that these are all relevant factors that should be before this chamber before it can make an intelligent appraisal of the circumstances.
The Minister said in the course of his remarks that what we are discussing are matters of elementary judgment rather than of exact fiscal calculation. I agree there.
But he has given us very little information on which to make up our minds with some precision on what our fiscal calculation or fiscal appraisal of these measures should be. I suggest that that, after all, should be the most relevant factor. I have had communications from people on this, matter. In fact, I have written to the Minister on it, and he has been good enough to reply and to send me some information. Young people have gone to New Guinea to work in the Commonwealth Public Service, and one of the factors that they took into account, or claim to havetaken into account, when they did so, was the absence of income tax in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The Minister has suggested that there will be some reduction in import duties, although he does not tell us precisely how much. He says it will be something like £250,000 out of over £2,000,000. So the major part of the import duties will still apply in the Territory. Now, will a particular individual - let us say the young clerk of 2.1 or 22 who has gone to New Guinea to work in the Territory service, and, when he did so, took into account existing levels of taxation - be better off or worse off? He is going to be better off, to begin with, as the result of some relief in import duties; but he is going to be worse off by reason of the impact of the income tax. Which is going to be the greater? Like most people I would suspect that at least those in New Guinea who object to this measure at the moment do so not from any consideration of “ pro bono publico “, but rather from the point of view of individual interest. Will they be paying, in import duties and income tax, more or less in the aggregate than they were paying before in import duties alone? Is that the kind of circumstance that is surrounding the opposition to this measure?
Ultimately, it seems to me, the matter has to be resolved by the Legislative Council of the Territory itself. Apparently, subject to ministerial veto, the council is sovereign so far as the raising and spending of its revenues are concerned and, like any other parliament, it has to make an appraisal and take all the circumstances into account. The members of the Legislative Council may believe that income tax ultimately will be, as the Minister sees it - the fairest tax - and that we have to begin somewhere, and now. But it seems to me -doubtful whether the information given to us here is sufficient to enable us to make a proper appraisal.
I suggest that, at the moment, the import duties constitute the major tax, and will continue to constitute it, because after this measure has been passed import duties, even at their present level, will still raise somewhere in the region of £2,000,000 a year. They will still constitute the most significant tax even after the imposition of the income tax, and I suggest that import duties possibly fall as heavily on the native population who buy goods as they do upon the European section of the community. 1 would hazard a guess that the income tax will apply mainly to the European section of the community and not, I should hope, to the majority of the native people because, I understand, they get the sort of incomes that are deplorable by our standards and would hardly bring them within the ambit of the laws governing taxable income in Australia itself. So income tax will fall mainly on the European section of the community. But there are, I suggest, all sorts of class gradations even in that section of the community in Papua and New Guinea. There are some differences between people at the bottom of the Territory’s civil service and people at the top. I would suggest that there is some difference between the plantation owner and the waitress in the hotel. Again these are the sort of differences of income which should be taken into account before deciding, on balance, whether a new form of taxation is better than the old system.
It seems that no very material alteration is being made to begin with; the most material change is -the abolition of export duty which, I suggest, falls on relatively few people whereas import duty, which I consider is the most iniquitous tax operating in the Territory at the moment, is scarcely changed. This new income tax is being imposed, but we do not know much about its ultimate incidence. We are not told how much of the £1,300,000 which it is expected to yield will represent income tax from individuals and how much from companies. This sort of information would have been relevant to enable us to make an intelligent appraisal of this proposal.
– A great deal of that information was contained in the folders which were placed in your party room some weeks ago. The trouble is you did not bother to read it.
– It is not a matter of not bothering to read it. There are better methods of circulating information on this subject. Usually I get hold of what information I can on these matters. With all respect to the Minister’s courtesy on this occasion, this information has not, so far, fallen into my hands. In view of the suddenness of this matter being brought before the House to-day - I did not know until the sitting began this afternoon that it was to be dealt with - I doubt whether there has been adequate time for any honorable member to make an appraisal of the proposals which have been mentioned. However, if some of this information is contained in the material which the Minister has circulated I will most certainly have a look at it. But I still doubt whether that is the proper way of circulating documents for debate in Parliament. I receive all documents that are circulated in this Parliament through official channels, because I have my name down to receive them. I do not see why any different method should have been followed in circulating documents with regard to this matter. If they had been sent through the Clerk of the Papers instead of being placed on the caucus table I should probably have received them. Despite what newspapers say about caucus, quite a number of members go into the caucus room only when there is a caucus meeting. Members of the Opposition occupy other rooms in the House.
I, for one, have not seen the particular document which the honorable member for Chisholm quoted, but it seemed to me to be merely a rehash of the income tax and social services legislation which operates in this country. That hardly seems to be relevant to this particular matter. What is relevant, as I see it, is the present collection and incidence of taxation in New Guinea and how the purported changes will affect the various sections of the community. My interests, at any rate, lie with the indigenous population rather than with the European section so far as the alleviation of the burden of taxation there is concerned.
.- I think honorable members will agree that there was a marked contrast between the approach of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and that of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) to this matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition started off on the premise that he knew all about the situation, and rather patronizingly he said, in effect, “ I have been there, but maybe some of you people have not and consequently you do not have the knowledge of this subject which I, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, possess “.
– - That is right, too.
– That may be so. But in direct contrast I want to point out that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in a restrained and academic approach to this matter, said, quite rightly and properly, that there is much we do not know about this subject. Quite rightly he asked for further information, and there I am on common ground with him. I only contest the opinion he expressed in the early part of his address, that a discussion on this legislation was not within the province of this Parliament. Surely he knows that the administration of the Territories is a direct responsibility of the Minister and of this Parliament and it is quite rightly and properly within the province of this Parliament that this matter should be introduced and debated. It is something in which we shall all have to share eventual responsibility.
I think the honorable member is quite within his rights in asking for more information. I share his doubts on this matter because I am not well informed on the subject, and I do not think the House is, either. That is one of the obvious features of the debate. I agree with the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) that honorable members do not lack either power or responsibility in this matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, when he said they did, must have been thinking that he has suffered a great deal lately and was speaking from his own experience. His own disconsolate attitude in this debate suggested that he is resigned to being in opposition and that he lacks a desire to fight and so set an example of maintaining a virile Opposition which, 1 suggest, would be in the best interests of this country and of the Parliament. I now want to turn to the question-
– It is about time, too.
– It is about time that members of the Opposition became virile and not just content to leave it to members on the Government side to bring matters of policy and of urgent public importance before the House.
– Why are you so concerned?
– I am concerned about the future of this Parliament and of Australia and also of the honorable member as a potential taxpayer of the community. I agree with the honorable member for Chisholm that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is to be commended for bringing this matter before the House. If nothing else emerges from this discussion, we shall all be better informed on this subject than when we started. It is a refreshing change from the practice of past governments, both of my own persuasion and those of the Opposition, that a debate has taken place in the House on a subject such as this because in the past these matters have been cloaked in a great deal of secrecy. No doubt that attitude has been encouraged by the fact that honorable members have not taken such an interest in the affairs of the Territories as they might have done. Up to the present moment, under the system of remote control from Canberra, the making of toplevel decisions concerning administration and control of Papua and New Guinea has been shrouded in this form of secrecy. This may have been generated by a lack of interest on the part of members of this Parliament. However, I say again that the Minister’s action in tabling his statement so that honorable members might discuss it is to be commended.
Taxation is a matter of great importance and should be considered from all angles. It is not too much to say that the adoption of these proposals will mean the end of an epoch in the Territory. For example, many members of the European population went to Papua and New Guinea to get away from the whole situation down here, but they will find that civilization is catching up to them in a most unwelcome way. It must be remembered that the proposal embodied in the New Guinea legislation is taxation without representation. I suggest that that is a state which is repugnant to the average democrat.
If we must have taxation without representation, I believe it is incumbent upon us to be quite sure that we are acting fairly to all concerned and that we give everybody in the Territory an opportunity to express his view. It is safe to say that nothing that has happened in the Territory since the Japanese invasion has provoked such an outburst of opinion and brought forth so many objections as the present proposals. Yet, for a long time, it seemed that these objections would be brushed^ aside, with the Administration acting as judge and jury in a matter in which it appeared as a defendant.
The Minister for Territories has given us a public statement in defence of the introduction of these proposals. I believe that he has made a very able exposition from the administrative point of view. Unfortunately, he has not answered the objections which have been raised by the people of the Territory and I believe that this is a vital matter. Since I first brought this matter up in Parliament I have received many letters, many telegrams, and not a few telephone calls from citizens of the Territory, voicing their criticism.
I do not accept, necessarily, that those criticisms are valid. But I certainly believe that they deserve an independent investigation. I do not wish to go into the general provisions of the bills. The time allowed for this debate is limited, and I do not wish to prevent other members from speaking. But I say that, on the broad issues alone, these objections should receive some consideration.
The first point that I wish to make is that, whilst the rates of taxation proposed are lower than those in Australia, this is quite illusory because, actually, the tax per head would be higher than it is in Australia. And that statement disregards the fact that the citizens of the Territory have no medical benefits or social service benefits.
Secondly, the Minister stated that the taxes are intended to recoup the Government for all its expenditure on the white and non-resident population of the Territory. I believe that this is unfair because it may be claimed that the people of the other Territories, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, for instance, are not expected to recoup such expenditure on them although they are in receipt of social service benefits and also have representatives in this Parliament - the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). Those honorable members may not have a vote but they have a voice in the proceedings of this House.
My third objection is based on the claim that the official who compiled the original taxation report upon which so much reliance has been placed made a serious mistake in assessing the cost of living figures on which the estimates are based. He compared the cost of living at Port Moresby with the cost of living in the city of Canberra and I believe that a serious error in calculation has occurred.
The fourth point is that the proposed taxes, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), are only the thin edge of the wedge. It is inevitable that the rates will be raised soon - probably sooner than one expects. This may act as a boomerang on the Australian taxpayer. Income tax is recognized, generally, as a very expensive item to collect. Because this Territory is so large and communications are so difficult, the collection of taxes in Papua and New Guinea will be particularly expensive. The proposed taxes are intended to replace the existing export taxes and some import taxes which are cheap and easy to collect. For the new taxes, a whole new department must be created and staffed with officers at high rates of pay or at a rate which will induce them to go to New Guinea.
Other government costs will also be raised. For instance, it may be necessary to raise the salaries of civil servants in the Territory to compensate them for the payment of income tax. This is a matter of substance. To meet these additional burdens, either the taxes will have to be raised or the Australian taxpayer will have to dig deeper down into his pocket to make up the deficit. Private firms would also have to compensate employees for the new taxes, if they wished to retain their services, by giving them additional emoluments to cover the new taxes. The result will be a rise in production costs. As innocent as this proposal may look, the whole scheme involves a big disturbance in the economic life of the Territory. On the Minister’s own figures, the extra revenue raised would be unimportant. What, then, justifies the proposals in the face of fierce local opposition?
The Minister said that these taxes would be more equitable because people would pay according to their means. In theory, this is true. But I remind honorable members of Gladstone’s dictum that income tax makes a nation of liars. I am afraid that it is really a tax on honesty unless it is policed by a very efficient army of investigators. In such a widespread area as the Territory, the cost of a thorough investigation service would, I believe, be fantastic.
The Minister’s answer to all these objections is that he relies entirely on his officers because they are experts in revenue raising.
– That is not so.
– You have said that you relied on your officers to make this recommendation for the introduction of income tax.
– The Government made the decision on policy. It was a policy decision which only a government could make.
– That is as it may be. I have never questioned the capabilities of departmental officers. But I think that we have to start from the very beginning and accept the fact that the doctrine that the official is always right and the taxpayer is always wrong is a complete negation of democracy, as we should know it.
The officials who go to the Territory to levy the taxes will have a vested interest in the new taxes. The new department that we create will mean more jobs and more chances of promotion. The officials will not be unduly worried at the prospects of expansion of the already inflated army of public servants. But this Parliament must be concerned with that question.
I want to suggest two things to the Minister. He has covered at least one of them in his speech. I suggest that there should be some independent inquiry to examine the objections which the territorians have made. They are substantial enough to warrant it and, in any case, it would be an act of justice to the local people who have no parliamentary representative in this place. The Minister’s answer to this proposal has been that the Government would abrogate its responsibility if it handed this sort of matter over to a public inquiry. I think that this is obviously an overstatement. It is the Government’s responsibility to make a decision of this kind. It is also the practice of democratic governments all over the world to gain, by public inquiry if and when necessary, the information on which such decisions are based.
The controversy has highlighted the unsatisfactory constitution of the Territory’s Legislative Council, which has but three elected members and 25 Government nominees, sixteen of whom are officials directed by the Government. Surely it is obvious that on a Government measure, or a measure inspired by the Minister, the official members may be obliged to recognize the Minister’s wish, either expressed or not expressed, and that to vote against the will of the Minister would imperil the future of the public servants who did so. I believe, therefore, that the House will agree that it is reasonable that the official members should be permitted to vote in a matter of this kind according to their consciences, and not be obliged to toe the departmental line. It should be made manifestly clear by this Parliament and by the Minister himself that any officials who do vote according to their consciences in this matter of taxation will not be victimized for such an action. Give them freedom to vote according to their own conscience.
From a consideration of this matter it emerges, I suggest, that the time is ripe for an increase in the number of the elected members of the Legislative Council of the Territory, and also for some vital consideration of the proposition that the Territory should have a spokesman in this Parliament. I have advocated a public inquiry. I know that this would mean delay, but I believe this is a case in which justice is more important than speed. I suggest that it is vital for the Government to retain the goodwill and the confidence of the people of the Territory, and a form of public inquiry would help to achieve this end. I understand, as does the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) have agreed to receive a delegation of persons from the Territory who wish to discuss matters associated with taxation. I believe that this decision has been well received in the Territory itself, and I trust that the action of the Minister in tabling this statement and encouraging discussion will also have a good effect in the Territory. It may, however, achieve precisely nothing. In any case, this House has a duty to hear the opinions expressed by the people in the Territory, and if this debate does nothing else it will show to them that the Parliament is disposed and prepared to take an interest in the affairs of Papua and New Guinea.
.- I wish to speak only very briefly on this subject. On some of the points that he made, the logic of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) was quite astonishing, I particularly refer to his suggestion that if people in the Territory pay more in income tax, in the long run this will increase the burden on the Australian taxpayer. The Australian taxpayer has, over the last ten years, according to figures given to me by the Minister last week, paid three-quarters of the cost of administering the Territory. I make no complaint about that. I do not think that this country, having assumed the responsibility of tutelage in Papua and New Guinea, has been doing more than it should have done over the last ten years. Perhaps it has not been doing enough. I think, however, that the speech we have just heard will contribute to the illusions obviously entertained by the European community in Papua and New Guinea.
Most of these illusions, I feel, have been fostered by the newspaper, the “ South Pacific Post “, which, in its issues over the last three weeks, has reached about the most irresponsible level of journalism that I have seen for a very long time. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is described as a foreign tyrant, and the readers of the newspaper are told that senior Ministers of the Cabinet are being rocked by a backbench revolt - which, apparently, has been typified by the speech that has just been made. I suggest that if this newspaper is seeking to impress on the European community of the Territory that this Parliament is tremendously excited about the injustice of substituting direct for indirect taxation in the raising of a small part of the revenues of the Territory, then it is systematically misinforming the people of the Territory.
I wish, however, that the philosophy expressed by the Minister - that direct taxation is superior to indirect taxation - would penetrate more deeply into the Cabinet, and not only as far as the Minister himself. It would be a very good step, I think, in countering inflation if some of the- £130,000,000 that is paid in sales tax in this country did not have to be paid under that head of taxation. I am glad that the Minister, in speaking of customs duties, has mentioned the fact that a person pays the same duty on a particular article whether his income is £10 or £100.
I think that most of this Government’seconomic policy, and most of the economic policies of all governments which have administered the Territory of Papua and New Guinea over the last 30 years, have benefited European industries rather than native ones. I make no complaint of that. I merely say that a European community which has been largely the beneficiary from expenditure to the extent of £130,000,000- over the last ten years, only £35,000,000 of which was raised in the Territory itself, has no ground of complaint that the successive governments have been tyrannical or have not been endeavouring to foster European interests in the Territory.
I do not think there is any sound principle involved in taxing an export, and the Government is to be congratulated on abolishing that kind of tax. Incomes are produced by these exports, some incomes being high and some low, and there is a case for the imposition of a properly graduated tax upon these incomes and for the abolition of the export tax, which is paid at the same rate by all persons concerned, no matter what their incomes.
The forecast revenue for this year of £17,500,000, £12,000,000 of which is being raised by the Australian taxpayer to be spent in the Territory, represents a continuation of a steadily increasing appropriation of Commonwealth revenue for the advancement of the natives of Papua and New Guinea.
When all is said and done, the income tax which is now to be imposed in the Territory will raise an amount equal to only 6.6 per cent of expenditure there. It represents, quite rightly, a much lower rate of taxation than is imposed in the Australian community as a whole.
I believe that the general tenor of the new proposals is in the direction of justice. I think that the whole situation is being systematically misrepresented by the “ South Pacific Post “. If the European people of Papua and New Guinea believe the stuff that has appeared in that newspaper as to the state of opinion down here and are influenced by its suppression of anything that can be regarded as a systematic analysis of the revenues of the Territory, then their minds are becoming very much detached from reality because or irresponsible journalism. I believe that we in this Parliament have had enough of the practice of having everything that a newspaper says represented to us as public opinion.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, if there is one reason why this matter should be discussed in this Parliament, it is that the Commonwealth bears three-quarters of the total governmental cost of administering the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Moreover, the taxation measures proposed with respect to the Territory have a very direct bearing on quite a number of Australian interests which are concerned with Papua and New Guinea, and if, in fact, the Commonwealth Government and Parliament have power to direct the affairs of any country in which Australian interests are powerfully represented, it is very fit and proper that some discussion should take place in this House at an appropriate stage before the die is cast. This debate also serves to underline another important point that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is ruled by the Minister for Territories. The Minister, in his actions represents the Government, and behind the Government is this Parliament. It is just as well that people in the Territory should come to understand clearly and vividly that it is the Government as a whole and not just the Minister who must be called to account for whatever action is taken in the Territory.
Any Australian company which trades in New Guinea or Papua, or which owns land there, and any one in Australia who has shares or any other interest in a company in the Territory, must be affected by the taxation proposals, which inevitably will colour very much the outlook of Australian interests towards Papua and New Guinea. The great inducement to invest or to live in this Territory hitherto has been the absence of income tax. The tax now proposed will provide for only a very small part of the revenue required for the Territory, and the future trend is fairly apparent. The tax proposed will bring in less than twothirds as much as will be obtained from import duties, even at the proposed reduced levels of duties. The reduction of import duties foreshadowed by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) amounts apparently to only about 10 per cent. So there will be a very good case, on all the arguments which have been put by the Minister, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), for doubling the income tax in Papua and New Guinea. Indeed, if it is sound to impose a tax directly on the few Europeans rather than indirectly on the whole Territory and if the arguments that I have just mentioned are equitable the process clearly has only just begun. If the income tax rates were brought up to Australian levels, there would still remain the need to impose quite large import duties in order to maintain the present contribution made by the Territory to its total revenues.
These considerations throw the matter into relief and pose the question: What will be the Government’s future policy towards Australian investment and residents, and white investment and residents generally, in Papua and New Guinea? Logic, equity and morality are on the side of the Minister and the Government in support of these proposals. But these measures will inevitably sap the enterprise of Australians and their desire to live in and develop New Guinea and Papua. The Government’s policy may well be sound from the standpoint of trusteeship and the long-term future, but where in Papua and New Guinea are there the economic foundations necessary to pay for and carry out the aspirations which most Australians have towards the people there, and the kind of obligations which we have undertaken under trusteeship from the United Nations? The impact of these proposals on mining for oil and minerals may be mitigated, of course, but unless oil, minerals or some other new source of income is found to provide a sound economic footing for the Territory, it will become an increasing weight about Australia’s neck.
The Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea now costs Australia £12,000,000 annually. Any one who attended the very authoritative Summer School of Political Science held in Canberra early last year must have been impressed by the ambitions of the Minister, the Government, and the officials concerned, to develop this Territory and help its people further along the way. But this all involves the use of resources, and it requires an economic foundation. What amounts to a subsidy of £12,000,000 subscribed by Australia to-day will have to be very greatly increased in the future. And there are many things in Australia which urgently require the expenditure of £12,000,000 a year. What we spend in Papua and New Guinea we cannot spend in Australia on the many things which we need to do here. Until the Government can sketch some plan for the economic development of this Territory based on a realistic assessment of the potentialities of its resources according to present information, we can face the future in Papua and New Guinea only with a certain degree of misgiving. Even if the resources are there, Australian enterprise, investors and companies represent the only practicable means of development at our disposal, and will be the only practicable means for a considerable time to come. If they are discouraged, the economic future of this country will look even bleaker.
We have been aware for a long time that these proposals for the introduction of income tax in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea were to come up. The abridged report of the taxation official or officials concerned was published in October, but, so far as I can ascertain, the actual legislation was not introduced until about 17th April.
– It was introduced on 20th April.
– It was brought in on 20th April, and the members of the Legislative
Council have to give notice of amendments to the rates bill by 8th May, and of amendments to the income tax bill itself by 22nd May. I point out that the people of the Territory are not familiar with income tax, because they have not been subjected to it before, and, in many instances, the basic records necessary for the administration of the tax have yet to be established. I earnestly hope, since the matter lies mainly within the power of this Government, that the dates for giving notice of amendments will be extended. There are many temporary anomalies which we hope will be removed. For instance, all dividends paid after 1st July, even from profits earned before that date, will bear tax. So there will be, for Australian companies interested in the Territory, every inducement to pay out by 1st July all accumulated profits arising from their operations in Papua and New Guinea. However, Sir, I respect the Minister’s desire to limit discussion on the details of the taxation measures, which, probably, very properly should occur in the Legislative Council for the Territory.
When we come to consider the functions of the Council, we look askance at two facts. First, the official majority on that body is subject to government instructions issued from Canberra by a government which is subject to this Parliament. Furthermore, this Parliament and the Australian people meet three-quarters of the cost of administering the Territory. We therefore have no reason to apologize to the Legislative Council in the Territory for our discussion of the issue here. This debate leads to the valuable purpose of posing the question: What is the future economic policy of this Government towards New Guinea and what are the resources upon which it is to be based?
.- The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) alined himself with certain criticisms expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). But all honorable members are well aware that the honorable member for Mitchell represents private banking interests and big business interests in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, whereas the honorable member for Melbourne Ports represents the people in presenting the views of the Australian Labour Party on taxation. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports expressed quite clearly our views on the way that taxation should be levied in the Territory. It is a little disappointing that the information available to honorable members is limited. Personally I knew nothing about the matter until the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) rose to deliver his statement. In principle, I believe that the action of the Government is a step in the right direction. I approve of any action which replaces indirect taxation with direct taxation. We should examine the methods of raising taxation adopted by other countries and even by the colonies in the early days of their history. The position of taxation in Malaya before the 1939-45 war is interesting. In those days, a flat rate of £2 2s. was levied, and even the highest income earner paid only £2 2s. residential tax; no income tax was imposed.
I agree with the opinion of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports about export duties of £890,000 being abolished. But to my mind this is a little suspicious. I feel that it would be better if import duties, which now raise £2,200,000, were abolished. After all, the main responsibility of this Parliament is to protect the interests of the indigenous people of New Guinea. They number 2,000,000, but there are only 20,000 white people in the Territory. The abolition of indirect taxes and the imposition of direct taxes is a good move. We have been told by the Minister that a married taxpayer wholly maintaining a wife and two children, with a net income of £1,000, will be liable to a tax of £3 2s. in the Territory while his Australian counterpart is liable to pay £53 18s., and that, for a net income of £1,500, the comparative figures are £29 6s. and £149 17s. But an income of £1,500 in the Territory would be very small, and it is a pity that we were not told what the tax would be on higher incomes. If we are going to impose a tax, we should impose a higher tax on the person who earns the high income.
– That information was given in a paper circulated to all honorable members.
– I have not received it. This debate is a bit of a mystery. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, this matter was brought forward to satisfy pressure from back benchers on the Government side. It certainly was not introduced at the request of Opposition members. The step being taken by the Government is a good one, but I ask the Minister to watch carefully to see that the company taxation being imposed does not become part of the cost of goods. If it does, the people in the Territory will, in effect, be paying the company tax. It is good to see that sales tax and pay-roll tax are not being imposed. I join with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in expressing the hope that the principle outlined by the Minister will be introduced not only in New Guinea but also in Australia in the near future. We do not want to criticize it. We hope only that the legislation being brought forward will be a help to the people in Papua and New Guinea.
– in reply - As a certain time for this debate was allotted when the business of the House was being arranged, and as that allotted time has now expired, I do not propose to reply at length to the various points made by honorable members. However, I would be lacking in courtesy to those who have participated in the debate, and my action might possibly be misunderstood, if I did not rise now to say that all the points that have been made have been carefully noted and will be further studied by myself and my colleagues in the Cabinet when “ Hansard “ is available to us. If time were available, I think I could assist honorable members by supplying information for which they have asked, or perhaps meet some of their objections by pointing to figures which apparently have not come under their notice.
I am grateful to those honorable members who have publicly expressed their indebtedness for attempts I made in the past few weeks to give information to both sides of the Parliament. I assure honorable members that, if they would like to raise other matters directly with me by way of inquiry, I shall certainly do my best to meet them. I undertake also that, after a close study of the points made in the debate, I shall select those items on which honorable members have specifically sought information and, by the circulation of a further document, shall try to satisfy their inquiries. It would, of course, be much more satisfactory if I could do that in this chamber, but, as the time allotted has expired, I assure honorable members that all they have said has been listened to very carefully and will be taken into account by the Government.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Customs Bill 1959 proposes legislative changes to simplify certain aspects of Customs administration. These changes cover the movement of underbond goods, the abolition of declarations on certain Customs entries, the appointment of wharfs under the act, the licensing of carriages used in the movement of under bond cargo and the allowance of drawback of duty on goods exported from Australia.
It provides certain rights to licensed Customs agents in regard to matters which may involve the suspension or cancellation of their licence and makes provision for an agent whose licence has been suspended or cancelled to appeal to a Supreme Court against such suspension or cancellation.
Provision is made in the bill for an officer of Customs or police to arrest persons without warrant in certain circumstances and it places beyond all doubt the right of the Customs to require the production of genuine invoices for all goods imported. A penal clause of the act is amended to allow a monetary penalty to be imposed as an alternative to imprisonment. At the same time the opportunity has been taken to repeal certain outmoded provisions, and it makes minor machinery amendments to the existing act.
I turn now to those provisions which deal with the simplification of Customs procedures. The last few years have seen a change in the methods of moving under bond cargo within Australia. At federation, and for many years thereafter, almost all cargo was moved from port to port by ships. The provisions of the Customs Act controlling such movements are based primarily on this mode of transport. However, increasing use is now being made of faster means of transport such as road, rail and air to move customable goods, and the measures designed to control movement of goods by ship have had to be adapted to meet these means of transporting goods.
The Department of Customs and Excise, realizing these changing conditions, carried out a comprehensive review of methods of control, and the present bill embodies the legislative changes which will enable simplified and changed procedures recommended as a result of the review to be put into operation.
It is proposed to reduce documentation to a minimum and to authorize additional places, such as the central depots of road transport organizations, as places to which customable goods may be despatched. The bill also authorizes the establishment of a new type of Customs warehouse to be known as a transit warehouse where goods may be temporarily stored under Customs control.
Section 20 of the existing act provides for the licensing of all carriages, boats and lighters used in the carriage of underbond goods. Each of these vehicles must also have affixed to it a licensed Customs number plate. This licensing of carriages, boats and lighters will be simplified by the present proposals as the carriers and not the vehicles will be licensed and all vehicles owned or hired by the carrier will be deemed to be licensed. There will no longer be any necessity for each individual carriage to bear a Customs number plate. Adoption of the proposals will give carriers unrestricted use of all vehicles under their control in the movement of underbond goods and will simplify the work of the department in policing the use of licensed carriages.
The power of the Customs to appoint wharfs under the act is at present restricted to appointing wharfs within ports. [Quorum formed.] Modern wharf building practice extends wharfs for some distance over land, and as the limits of ports are usually defined on high water marks, the appointment of a new wharf can necessitate the redefining of the limits of a port. The bill proposes that wharfs may be appointed whether or not they are within port limits. This measure will save a considerable amount of detailed administrative work.
Section 155 of the present act provides that a declaration must be made on certain customs entries. The maker of the entry declares to his right to make the entry and as to the correctness of the details shown thereon. It is proposed to abolish this provision and, by regulation, to make a simpler provision by which the maker of the entry assumes responsibility for its correctness and by which he may be identified.
The provisions of the bill which repeal certain sections of the act relating to the allowance of drawback of duty, will enable a simplified procedure to be put into operation in the allowance of this duty concession. The simplified procedure envisages the use of two documents only as against the present five which are necessary. The repealed sections of the act relate to conditions and restrictions in relation to the payment of drawback and it is proposed to restate these in suitable regulations where they more properly belong.
These changes and simplified procedures have been included in this bill only after all factors, with major emphasis on the necessity to protect the revenue, have been fully considered.
It is proposed to delete two redundant provisions of the Customs Act. Section 1 14 of the act requires a ship to be entered outwards before cargo can be taken on board for export. This provision serves no useful purpose and with its deletion it is proposed to restate section 114. Under section 211, an officer who has arrested a person is required to give that person a statement in writing of the reason for his arrest. The repeal of this section will bring the Customs Act into line with present-day practice of other Commonwealth and1 State legislation.
Offences against section 232a of the act are serious matters, particularly as they involve violence, and a penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years is provided for such offences. Some magistrates in trying recent cases under this section have commented that the penalty provided is too severe to meet the circumstances of the particular cases. In one case the magistrate stated that he had no alternative but to release the offender on a good behaviour bond whilst in other cases magistrates . have employed the provisions of the State Justices Acts and imposed a monetary penalty on the offender. The Government considers it reasonable that the section be amended to provide for a monetary penalty as an alternative to imprisonment.
Section 180 of the Customs Act provides that any owner of goods may comply with the provisions of the act by an agent lawfully authorized. The Department of Customs and Excise licenses persons under this provision to carry out customs business on behalf of other persons. The regulations lay down the conditions relating to the licensing of customs agents.
The regulations do not lay down the grounds on which an agent’s licence may be cancelled, but they do provide for cancellation of licences by the Collector of Customs and for an appeal to the Minister by the agent against any such cancellation. The Minister’ s decision on the appeal is final.
It is now proposed to take away from the Collector the power to cancel an agent’s licence and to authorize the setting up of a committee to inquire into and report to the Minister on matters which may involve suspension or cancellation of a licence.
The Minister will have the power, after receiving the report of the committee, to suspend or cancel a licence. Restricted power will be left with the Collector to suspend a licence pending the hearing of the case by the committee when he considers it necessary in the public interest to do so. In such case the Minister on receipt of the committee’s report, will have power to remove the suspension, further suspend or cancel the licence. The grounds upon which a licence may be suspended or cancelled are specified in the bill. The agent will have the right to appeal to a Supreme Court against any decision of the Minister to suspend or cancel his licence.
Section 210 of the act provides that an officer of Customs or police may without warrant arrest any person who he has reasonable ground to believe is guilty of committing certain offences against the Customs Act. The power of arrest for assault of an officer in the execution of his duty is not provided for. This is considered a most necessary provision, and the department has in the past experienced difficulty in bringing offenders to justice through difficulty of identification some time after the offence was committed. The bill proposes to give the power to Customs and police officers to arrest a person without warrant if they have reasonable ground for believing that the person has assaulted an officer in the execution of his duties.
Certain amendments are to come into operation either on a date to be fixed by proclamation or on a specified date. These provisions are necessary to permit the making of complementary regulations and for administrative reasons. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954-1957.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize an extension of the bounty under the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954-1957 for one year. Under the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act, bounty is payable on sulphuric acid produced in Australia from prescribed local materials and sold for delivery in Australia or used in the production of any commodity. The prescribed local materials in the regulations are pyrites and lead sinter gas. The rate of bounty fluctuates inversely with rises and falls in the cost of importing brimstone. The rate applicable to the production of acid in the March, 1959, quarter is £3 18s. 6d. per ton. The maximum rate of bounty is fixed at £4 per ton. The principal act covers the production of sulphuric acid to 30th June, 1959.
Bounty payments have been made as follows in respect of acid produced for each year ended 30th June: 1955, £306,305 on 131,956 tons; 1956, £446,666 on 236,946 tons; 1957, £458,013 on 276,310 tons; 1958, £849,347 on 370,736 tons; and in respect of the half year ended 31st December, 1958, £652,135 on 183,895 tons. My colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), when tabling the Tariff Board report on sulphuric acid earlier to-day indicated that the bounty would be extended to cover the production of acid to 30th June, 1960, and that in the meantime a further reference would be made to the Tariff Board. In the course of his statement he outlined the reasons for such action. This bill implements the Government’s decision in regard to the bounty. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That is is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1958.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Adermann do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize an extension of the bounty on tractors under the Tractor Bounty Act for seven years from 30th June, 1959, and to increase the rates of bounty. Under the Tractor Bounty
Act 1939-1956, bounty is payable on tractors of a wide range of horse-power produced in Australia up to 23rd October, 1958, for sale for use in the Commonwealth or a Territory of the Commonwealth. In 1958, the act was amended to enable its operation to be extended by proclamation for a period expiring not later than 30th June, 1959. A proclamation extending the bounty to that date was subsequently made.
Bountiable tractors are the wheel types used mainly for agricultural purposes. Crawler type tractors are not eligible for bounty. The principal claimants for bounty in recent years have been Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited of Western Australia and the International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited of Victoria. Bounty payments on the production of tractors during the last three years ended 30th June have been as follows: 1956, £84,886 on 381 tractors; 1957, £128,467 on 735 tractors; 1958, £358,022 on 2,014 tractors; and on the production of the eight months ended February, 1959, £201,649 on 1,145 tractors.
The Tariff Board in its report on the industry, which I tabled earlier to-day, has recommended the continuation of assistance by way of bounty for a further period of seven years a”nd with increased rates of bounty. The Government has accepted the board’s recommendations with one exception. The board recommended the deletion of the profit limitation provision from the act and has recorded the view that a restrictive profit limitation must be expected to frustrate the purposes of the bounty. Nevertheless, whilst recognizing the force of the arguments advanced, the Government felt that it could not be committed to considerable expenditure of public funds for an extended period without regard to the profit levels achieved in the industry. The limitation of profits has, however, been raised from a level of 5 to 10 per cent, before tax, with discretionary power for the Minister to disallow interest.
At the present time, bounty is payable on wheel type tractors with a belt pulley horse-power exceeding 10 but not exceeding 70. The amended rates of bounty, which will apply from 1st July, 1959, commence at 20 belt pulley horse-power. There is little demand in Australia for tractors of between 11 and 19 horse-power. The number of such tractors imported in 1957-58 was one hundred. The maximum belt pulley horse-power of a tractor eligible for bounty will be raised to 80 and will cover the 77 horse-power tractor being produced by Chamberlains at the present time.
The prevailing rates of bounty com.mence at £80 on a tractor exceeding 10 belt pulley horse-power and rise according to the horse-power to £240 at 70. The amended rates of bounty commence with a higher rate of £269 for tractors of 20 belt pulley horse-power and increase by £2 for each unit rise in the horse-power to £389 for a tractor with a horse-power of 80. The amended rates avoid the payment of standard amounts for horse-power groups which may have tended to confine Australian production to two or three models. It is hoped to stimulate development of a wider range of tractors in which common parts may be used and thus lessen the unit cost of a relatively small total output.
The full rate of bounty, applicable to the particular horse-power, is payable only where the cost of parts made in Australia and used in the assembly of the tractor is 90 per cent, or more of the total factory cost of the tractor. Payment of full bounty at 90 per cent. Australian content or greater is being made because of small but important parts which it will be more economic to import until the Australian industry has expanded to many times its present size. Where the percentage of the Australian content falls below 90, it has been customary to reduce the rate of bounty proportionately. The principle of reducing the rate of bounty in accordance with the Australian content is maintained in this bill to the extent that for each 1 per cent, of Australian content less than 90 per cent., the bounty rate is reduced by 1.5 per cent. Where the cost of the Australian parts is less than 55 per cent, of the total factory cost, no bounty is payable.
The inducement towards the maximum use of Australian-made parts in the assembly of the tractors is considered a vital part of the bounty. In 1950 a special provision was inserted in the act relating to the calculation of the Australian content of the bountiable tractor. Under this provision, imported parts of a nature normally made in Australia, and up to 10 per cent of the total factory cost, could be used in the assembly of the tractor without causing any reduction in the rate of bounty payable. This covered a manufacturer who had designed a tractor with the intention of using Australian-made parts, but who could not always obtain them as demand was exceeding supply. As the period of scarcity has passed, the concession is being withdrawn.
It has been estimated that, on the basis of present production, bounty payments at the amended rates would rise to £600,000 per annum. In several places in the report, the Tariff Board has mentioned an Australian production of 10,000 tractors. Should this production be achieved, bounty payments could progressively rise to £3,000,000 per annum. Bounty has been provided for the Australian manufacture of wheel-type tractors since 1922, but the industry has not developed fully. Nevertheless, we have now the benefits of skill, knowledge and organization out of which an expanded industry could be built. The market exists, and the Government believes, with the Tariff Board, that the tractor industry has somewhat the same potential for economic and efficient Australian production, as has been amply demonstrated in the allied agricultural implement and motor vehicle fields. The bounty will continue to operate on the production of tractors to 30th June, 1966. The Government contemplates that the Tariff Board will again examine the question of assistance to the industry before the period of bounty expires and would stress that unless the industry has expanded considerably during the term of the extended bounty, serious thought might need to be given to the withdrawal of assistance.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.10 to 8 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to assistance to the gold-mining industry.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purposes of this bill are to amend the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1957 by extending its duration for a further three years, increasing the maximum rate of subsidy payable to a large producer, and raising the flat-rate subsidy payable to small producers.
As honorable members know, the goldmining industry earns a significant amount of overseas exchange. Whilst this is important, it is, perhaps, even more important to remember that some large settlements, in particular in Western Australia, are almost entirely dependent upon the continuance of gold mining. The Government is especially concerned with the latter, and it has been our endeavour to ensure that the industry receives reasonable returns so that it may carry on.
Since 1949 the official Australian price of gold has remained virtually constant, although for a period the industry received some assistance from sales at premium, prices on free gold markets overseas. In recent years the opportunities to sell at a premium on these markets have almost disappeared. In the face of rising costs, due in some instances to a decline in the grade of ore mined, there is little doubt that, in the absence of subsidy payments, some significant gold-mining enterprises would not have been able to carry on. The benefit to the industry of the Commonwealth’s assistance scheme is shown by the fact that about 30 per cent, of production is currently being subsidized. It is probably true to say that about one-quarter of the industry is now dependent upon the receipt of financial assistance for its continued existence. Meanwhile subsidy payments have grown from about £400,000 in 1955-56 to an estimated £900,000 in the present financial year. The scheme has, however, been successful in keeping the industry going. Australian gold production, after falling in 1955-56, has risen slightly each year since then.
Under the subsidy scheme gold producers are divided into two classes - large producers and small producers. Large producers, those whose output of gold exceeds 500 ounces a year, may claim subsidy if their average cost of production exceeds £13 10s. per ounce. The rate of subsidy payable to large producers varies with a mine’s cost of producing gold. Under the formula laid down in the act, the amount of subsidy payable in a year on each ounce of fine gold produced is three-quarters of the excess of average cost of production per ounce over £13 10s., with a present maximum rate of £2 15s. per ounce. Subsidy is not, however, payable to a large producer to raise his profits above 10 per cent, of the capital used by him in the production and sale of gold. Small producers, those whose annual output of gold does not exceed 500 ounces, are eligible for subsidy at a present flat rate of £2 per ounce.
The present act provides only for the payment of subsidy on gold produced up to 30th June this year. The Government has recently received both written and oral representations from the Chambers of Mines of Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory, requesting extension of the scheme for a further three years. The chambers also sought an increase in the maximum rate of subsidy payable, provision for a revaluation in certain cases of capital employed for the purpose of the profit limitation test, and special subsidies and loans for further development and expansion of the industry. The Government has given very careful consideration to all these requests. We have decided to continue our existing policy of offering financial assistance to the industry sufficient to enable efficient producers to remain in production. To that end, we have decided that the subsidy scheme should be extended for three years from 1st July, 1959, and that the maximum rate of subsidy payable to a large producer should be raised by 10s. per ounce. The proposed new maximum rate of £3 5s. per ounce will be payable at a cost of production of £17 16s. 8d. per ounce or more.
As many honorable members know, representatives of the industry sought a somewhat larger increase in the maximum rate. This included a loading to cover cost increases which might occur during the next three years. The Government could not agree to this. We believe it is wrong in principle to ask taxpayers to agree now to a rate of payment for which the need may never eventuate. On the other hand, as long as our policy is to offer financial assistance to efficient gold-mining enterprises in order to permit them to remain in production, we must take into account recorded movements in the cost of producing gold. Whilst costs are fairly stable at present, costs have increased since the rates of subsidy were last revised in May, 1957. The Government has obtained much detailed information on the extent of the rise since then. In our view, the increase certainly does not exceed 10s. per ounce. The proposed increase of 10s. is on the generous side in relation to the objective we have in mind.
The Government also proposes that the flat-rate subsidy payable to small producers be increased by 8s. to £2 8s. per ounce. This proposed increase will preserve the approximate relationship, which has prevailed from the beginning, between the rate for small producers and the maximum rate for large producers. The lower rate paid to the small producers is justified on the ground that they are not required to demonstrate their eligibility for subsidy by reference either to costs of production or capital employed.
The Government does not accept the proposal that, for the purpose of the profit limitation test, a revaluation of capital assets to present-day values should be allowed. This proposal would mean the virtual abolition of the profit limitation test for some of the longer-established companies. The Government is not prepared to do this, because it regards as of fundamental importance in bounty and subsidy legislation the principle that public funds should not be used to increase profits beyond a reasonable level, and the only practicable method of determining what is a reasonable level is by reference to the amount of funds actually employed. Moreover, the proposal would doubtless involve payment of subsidy to some gold-mining companies that are paying very high rates of dividend.
The special subsidies and loans sought by the chambers were claimed to be necessary to both maintain and expand gold production. We have no evidence that such special assistance is necessary to maintain output. Gold production is not falling. Moreover, development expenditure, which includes expenditure on prospecting, testing and preparing an ore body for mining operations, is admitted as a cost for the purposes of the subsidy scheme to the extent to which it can be regarded as a proper operational charge according to generally accepted accounting principles.
As I mentioned earlier, the industry has also requested special financial assistance for expansion. This took the form of requests for a special development allowance, a prospecting subsidy and government loans. At least at this stage, and on such information as it now possesses, the Government is unwilling to approve the provision of additional finance to expand the industry. These specific requests have, therefore, not been accepted. In the time available, it has not been practicable for us fully to consider whether or not it is in the national interest to employ more government revenue and the additional resources of the community required to expand the production of gold and, if so, the ways and means by which this might be done. We propose to give further consideration to these questions which raise complicated issues in the light of our overall policy of not subsidizing export production.
Meanwhile, I believe that the amendments proposed in this bill will offer the gold-mining industry useful assistance. Accordingly, I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Western Australia Grant (Northern Development) Act 1958.
Standing Orders suspended: resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Hasluck do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable members know, this Government attaches very considerable importance to ensuring a reasonable rate of development of the potentialities of the north-west of our continent. The bill now before the House proposes an increase in the amount of financial assistance to be provided by the Commonwealth to the State of Western Australia for expenditure by the State on developmental projects in the area of that State north of the 20th parallel of latitude during the five-year period ending on 30th June, 1963.
The Western Australia Grant (Northern Development) Act, passed last year, authorized the provision of Commonwealth assistance of £2,500,000 for the purpose. Subsequently the Government decided to offer to double this amount, the added amount to be available on the same terms and conditions as those applying in respect of the original grant. That was made a significant element in the programme offered to the Australian electorate on the occasion of the last general elections. This offer has been welcomed and accepted by the Government of Western Australia.
In our consideration of the increased offer the Government had prominently in mind the vastness and remoteness of the area, the potential it offers for development and the desirability of accelerating its development beyond that possible by the State from its own financial resources and the initial Commonwealth grant. However, we had also to remember that no matter how much we may wish to speed up the development of the north-west, we must not overlook the existing heavy financial commitments of the Commonwealth. There is a limit to the extent to which we may with reason undertake new financial obligations. In accepting our offer to double the existing grant the Premier of Western Australia has also accepted an understanding that £5,000,000 over the five years is the present limit to the Commonwealth’s direct financial assistance to all development projects in the north of that State.
As I mentioned earlier, the terms and conditions of the additional £2,500,000 grant are the same as those attaching to the existing grant. In brief they are that the State will submit to the Commonwealth for approval projects which it proposes should be financed from the grant, so that we may be satisfied that they are developmental projects which the State would not have been able to undertake without Commonwealth financial assistance in other words, that they will make a contribution to the development of the area additional to that which the State would undertake in the ordinary course from its own resources. Responsibility for the selection, planning and execution of projects to be financed from the grant will continue to rest with the State.
Three developmental projects have been formally submitted by Western Australia to the Commonwealth for approval. All have been approved as eligible for assistance under the act. The Premier has now informed us that he proposes to submit a further scheme as a project for approval under the act. I understand that a formal communication was received by the Prime Minister’s Department on Friday concerning the building of a diversion dam on the Ord River. This is currently being appropriately examined. Projects already approved are the construction of a deep water port at Black Rocks near Derby, the construction of a new berth at the Wyndham jetty and the carrying out of extensive investigations inthe NapierBroome Bay area to decide the most suitable and economic method of servicing the north Kimberley area which was recently opened up for pastoral settlement.
In submitting these developmental proposals, the State emphasized that it attached great importance to the need to provide suitable transport outlets for the produce of the Kimberley areas. The port at Black Rocks is intended to meet the requirements of both local and oversea vessels, oversea shipping companies being reluctant to have their ships rest on the bottom at low tide. The State considers that the existing single berth at Wyndham is far too small to accommodate modern vessels used in the beef export trade. Final cost estimates for the three projects are now being prepared. The former Premier warned that these might exceed the initial £2,500,000 granted. The increased grant will, we hope, not only enable the State to finance the full cost of these works, but also permit other projects to be undertaken, and the whole programme of development of the area to be speeded up.
Commonwealth funds have begun to flow to Western Australia towards meeting the cost of developmental projects in the northern part of the State. The scheme is under way. All that is needed now to accelerate the work is the assurance of additional finance. This will be provided in the bill now before the House, and I commend the bill to all honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beazley) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to facilitate the borrowing of money by co-operative building societies and the Commissioner for Housing of the Australian Capital Territory.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill and the one which follows it relate substantially to the same matter, although one concerns the Australian Capital Territory and the other the Northern Territory. Normally, both Territories would have been covered in the same item of legislation, but we have recently adopted a provision which enables the honorable member for the Australian Capita] Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) to record his vote on a matter solely affecting that Territory, and there is a similar provision in respect to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson).
We would have had a curious situation had both these Territories been covered by the same bill. I am sure both honorable gentlemen and the House as a whole will appreciate the adjustment that the Government is making in putting the House to this minor inconvenience of considering these matters separately rather than in the same piece of legislation. At least we have begun to make a little history with regard to the development of the voting rights of the members for both these Territories. Fortunately, it is not a matter which will stir them, I think, to any great exercise of controversy, but at least a beginning has been made.
The main purpose of this bill is to empower the Commonwealth to guarantee loans raised by co-operative building societies for homebuilding in the Australian Capital Territory. A similar measure relating to the Northern Territory, as I have said, will be brought forward shortly. I propose that we should deal with these two measures simultaneously if this suits the convenience of the House, although we shall vote on them separately.
This bill constitutes a further step towards a well-rounded housing policy for the Australian Capital Territory. With the rapid growth of Canberra, there has now developed a substantial group of home seekers who wish to build or purchase their own homes, thus producing a firm and increasing demand for housing finance.
Moreover, many households are being transferred to Canberra as a result of the movement here of certain Commonwealth departments. Many of these people regard building societies as a convenient source of finance for homebuilding. They are aware, no doubt, of the active part building societies are playing in Victoria and New South Wales. Honorable members may be interested to know that in 1957-58, for example, about 14 per cent of all dwellings completed in Victoria were financed through co-operative building societies; in New South Wales, the proportion was 19 per cent. Naturally, newcomers to the Territory, as well as some older residents, will be seeking facilities similar to those now well established elsewhere.
The Government has already demonstrated its support for homeownership through co-operative building societies in the 1956 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement relating to housing in the States. Demand for homeownership in Canberra has now reached the point where we consider similar developments in the Australian Capital Territory can be encouraged successfully. What has been done in other places provides grounds for a belief that co-operative building societies can help materially in housing Canberra’s present and future population. The Government is convinced that it can best assist them to do so by providing a guarantee for their borrowings. Indeed, without this guarantee, building societies might find great difficulty in obtaining funds on reasonable terms. Thus, we regard this bill as an essential prelude to the successful operation of co-operative building societies in the Territory.
The bill also provides for the guaranteeing of loans raised by the Housing Commissioner for the Australian Capital Territory. There is some question about the validity of the guarantee provision in the existing Territory ordinance. This measure will put the matter beyond doubt. These proposals are further evidence of the Government’s desire to give practical encouragement to home ownership and private homebuilding. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion (by Mr. J. R. Fraser) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).The question is that the debate be now adjourned and the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I suggest that an adjournment until the next day of sitting is not long enough. About ten bills have now been introduced to the House, which is supposed to go into recess on Thursday night. It is making a farce of parliamentary procedure to suppose that we can give proper consideration to ten bills in that space of time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to.
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to facilitate the borrowing of money by cooperative building societies and housing authorities of the Northern Territory of Australia.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. As I have already explained to the House, in speaking on the second reading of the counterpart bill for the Australian Capital Territory, the purpose of this bill is to provide for the guarantee of loans raised by co-operative building societies for home building in the Northern Territory. The bill also provides for the guarantee of loans raised by the Housing Commissioner and Housing Commission of the Northern Territory. 1 commend the bill to the House.
Before sitting down, perhaps I should comment on the views expressed by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). I assure the House that no discourtesy is intended to members of this chamber nor is it asked that they should deny themselves the opportunity of reasonable consideration of the measures which I have just brought forward. As honorable members supporting the Government are aware, the provisions of these bills, which are by no means complicated in their subject-matter, have already been indicated to members of the Government parties at least a week ago.
– What about this side of the House?
– J am coming to that. So far as the measure relating to Western Australia was concerned - it merely doubles the amount of the grant and is not a very complicated measure - that, as I have already said, was outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech before the last election. It was referred to also in the Speech made by the Governor-General when he opened this Parliament. The Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Bill merely continues provisions which have been in operation for several years, although it does increase the rates of subsidy. The two minor measures, relating to guarantees of funds for housing cooperative societies in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, do not of themselves raise large issues, certainly not issues of a complicated character.
As for honorable gentlemen opposite, the nature of this legislation was outlined by me, at a reasonably early point of time, to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and our purpose in bringing the bills forward to-night is to enable honorable gentlemen opposite to consider them at their normal party meeting, which will be held to-morrow. In the circumstances, I do not think that any one need feel that he has been denied reasonable opportunity for consideration of, I repeat, the relatively simple provisions contained in this group of legislation. It is not unusual, towards the end of the parliamentary sessional period, for minor bills, which have usually been deferred by the government of the day until more pressing and controversial matters have been disposed of, to come before the Parliament. I do not think this House will suffer any inconvenience in dealing with these matters in the time available to it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nelson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 2018), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Crean had moved by way of amendment -
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, and as it makes no provision for the restoration of cost of living adjustments to wages and salaries of Commonwealth public servants “.
, - I wish to indicate my support of the amendment moved by my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). At a later stage of the debate 1 would like to outline my reasons for supporting the amendment. In the meantime, the debate gives me an opportunity to canvass certain matters that vitally affect my electorate and which have been overlooked in the past. By bringing them to the attention of this Parliament I may succeed in initiating some action to remedy the defects to which I refer.
First of all, I shall direct attention to the Government’s neglect to assist in the development of the Northern Territory by pushing on with two very important railway projects which, I believe, should be proceeded with, or at least taken to the planning stage so that in the very near future, not the dim and distant future, the projects may be put in train. The first ot these that I wish to mention is the proposed link with Queensland by way of the Barkly Tableland. The other project is the northsouth line to link Alice Springs with the line that now runs south from Darwin. I believe that both these lines are essential to the development of the north. They would open up vast areas of country which should be developed in the interests of the Territory and of Australia. The Barkly Tableland line would well repay the Australian taxpayer, because it would traverse some of the most fertile and certainly some of the best cattle-producing country in Australia. It would also provide opportunities for closer settlement, not to the same degree as in other parts of Australia, but certainly to a much greater degree than we have seen in that part of the country. At the present time there is some justification for the existence of very large holdings in this district, but if a railway were constructed the Government could proceed to resume parts of these vast holding and split them up for closer settlement.
This line would provide an outlet for cattle produced in the Northern Territory, and it would also act in reverse as an outlet for Queensland pastoral holdings in times of drought. At present the properties in western Queensland suffer losses of millions of pounds in times of drought, with resultant economic loss to trie State and also to the national economy.
The construction of a railway line in this district would also serve to open up the area for mining pursuits. It would provide fast and cheap transport to the southern States, and would be well worthy of construction if only for its defence potential. If there were an attack on our northern areas, as happened in the last war, we could get troops and defence equipment to the threatened areas only by aircraft, and the capacity of this form of transport would be strictly limited. 1 believe it is a tragedy that at the time the line from Port Augusta to Marree was converted to standard gauge the standardization was not continued through to Alice Springs. The material, the plant and the man-power were on the job, but although it was considered necessary in the nation’s interests to convert the line to standard gauge as far as Marree, by some strange reasoning it was not considered worth while to standardize the line beyond Marree. This, I believe, constitutes one of the tragedies of our time.
At this stage I would like to refer to the 1957-58 report of the operations of the Commonwealth Railways in this area. This is the latest report available, and it shows that the profit for that year on the operation of the Port Augusta to Alice Springs line was, in round figures, £1,250,000. That is not a bad profit for any railway to make, especially one serving such a sparsely populated and under-developed area. The report says -
The surplus of earnings over working expenses was £1,734,512, an increase of £370,135, compared with the preceding year (1956-57), when revenue exceeded working expenses by £1,364,377.
That demonstrates beyond doubt that this is a profitable line, which warrants development and most certainly would be well worth while standardizing. Under the terms of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act, under which the Commonwealth took over the Territory from South Australia, we are obliged at some time in the future - I do not know when - to complete this line. Here we have a line that is gainfully employed and is showing profits, and the work of converting it to standard gauge should be proceeded with so that the utmost benefit can be gained from its potential value.
A clear injustice is shown in the operations of this railway because of the failure of the Commonwealth Treasurer to reimburse the Commonwealth Railways for what is virtually a subsidy of £741,124 on the carriage of coal from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta, in South Australia. If we deduct this amount from the profit of £1,364,337, we find that the actual profits are greatly reduced. The Commonwealth Railways Commission, in every report, directs the attention of the Parliament to this state of affairs. In that section of his latest report which deals with freight rates on Leigh Creek coal, he states -
The freight rate debited against the Electricity Trust of South Australia for the haulage of coal from the Leigh Creek coalfields is lis. 6d. per ton, the special concession rate granted by the Commonwealth Government to the Government of South Australia.
However, the earnings figure in respect of this traffic has been calculated at the ordinary freight rate for the distance involved. This figure exceeds the amount received from the Electricity Trust of South Australia on the 689,418 tons of coal carried during the year 1957-58 by £741,124.
The matter of the reimbursement of this amount in accordance with Section 44 of the Commonwealth Railways Act, 1917-1957, is currently under discussion with the Department of the Treasury. An amount of £741,124, representing the difference between the concession rate on Leigh Creek coal and the Commonwealth Railways’ standard rate, has been included in the accounts under the heading of “ Sundry Debtors “.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that if the South Australian Government is entitled to a subsidy on the carriage of this coal over a Commonwealth railway line - and I agree that it is entitled to a subsidy in this case - that subsidy should be met from Consolidated Revenue and not from the earnings of the railway itself. We have a situation in which the traffic on the line virtually has to bear the cost of subsidizing the carriage of Leigh Creek coal for South Australia. This should not be a matter of negotiation between the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and the Commonwealth Government. The cost of the subsidy should be met automatically by the Treasurer out of Consolidated Revenue, and the equivalent of any loss sustained on the carriage of Leigh Creek coal should be automatically credited to the accounts of this line. If the line’s accounts were in credit, the commissioner could, in the first place, improve the line and the standard of rolling-stock, and substantial reductions could be made in freight not only on live-stock, minerals and produce, but also on foodstuffs. This would have a con siderable influence by helping to keep down the already high cost of living in that part of Australia.
I pass now to pensions, Mr. Speaker. This matter has been mentioned in the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I want the Government to bear this question in mind when it is preparing its next Budget, if it does not take heed now and if it uses its numbers to defeat the amendment. I want the Government to consider the special conditions that exist in the north of Australia where pensioners and everybody else are at a distinct disadvantage compared with residents everywhere else in Australia. The Commonwealth itself recognizes this fact, because it has introduced a system of zone allowances for taxation purposes in recognition of the fact that residents in certain parts of Australia suffer from disabilities compared with the citizens of the rest of Australia. I ask the Government to consider this earnestly and seriously when it is reviewing pensions in making its plans for the forthcoming Budget, and to make some worth-while increase in pensions.
The same thing applies to wages, of course. The Government has not unpegged the basic wage. The amendment seeks to force it to do something in respect of its own employees. The Government could set an example to the arbitration tribunals and to the rest of the employers throughout Australia by doing something for its own employees in the Northern Territory. I point out that every increase in costs in the south is reflected in costs in the Northern Territory. The people of the Territory depend for their means of livelihood entirely on products from the southern parts of Australia. The recent increase of shipping freight rates will have a very marked effect on the cost of living in the north. Speedy action should be taken by the Commonwealth to put its own house in order, at least, by adjusting salaries, wages and conditions in respect of its own employees. This kind of action would assist wage-earners elsewhere.
I should like to direct the attention of the House also to certain matters concerning schooling in the Northern Territory, Mr. Speaker. We have heard at last that the Public Works Committee will visit
Darwin specially to investigate the proposals for the construction of a high school there. As has happened in many other instances, this move is about five or six years too late. The schools in the Northern Territory are badly over-crowded, and parents are being forced to move from the Territory in order that their children may be properly and adequately schooled. This should not happen. We have in the Territory a population which is willing to stay there, and parents should at least be given some encouragement to rear families there by an assurance that their children may be educated properly and under reasonable conditions. I know that the Public Works Committee will recommend certain proposals for a new high school at Darwin, but I am afraid that the necessary funds may not be forthcoming in time for construction to begin this year, because of the imminence of the next Budget. If that happens, of course, another year will be lost, and we may even have to wait another eighteen months before the construction of the new high school is begun. The same considerations apply to the new high school at Alice Springs. It has been in the planning stage for about ten years now, and I think it has at last been put in hand. These things are essential to the well-being and contentment of the community, but we meet with nothing but delays year in and year out. These requirements are elementary and they should be the first to be considered, because they are the important things.
I should now like briefly to mention the need for additional hospital accommodation in the Northern Territory. The hospital accommodation throughout the Territory is totally inadequate. Tenders were recently called for the construction of a new native ward at the Alice Springs Hospital, at a cost of about £80,000. The job is now nearly finished, and we find that the new ward will be used, not for natives, but to take the overflow from the ward for whites. So, the process of finding accommodation for natives starts again. This is typical of the whole situation. I do not know why a survey of the needs of the Northern Territory cannot be made. Such a survey should1 cover not only the immediate needs but the needs for, say, a tenyear period. When the survey was com pleted, funds could be allocated and work commenced. All these things are vital, and if they must be done, then the sooner they are done the better.
I refer now to the proposal of the Government on housing. I was very pleased when a bill was introduced to-day to authorize a Commissioner for Housing to borrow money for the purpose of building homes in the Northern Territory. The intention to set up this commission was announced twelve months ago, but authority is being given only now for the work of the commission to begin. If we wait for the housing commission to borrow money or for funds to be allocated in the Budget, another six to nine months will elapse before anything is done about housing.
I should like to refer briefly to Tennant Creek. This is the main producer of wealth in the Northern Territory and is the centre of our greatest mining activity, apart from Rum Jungle. Mines are producing some £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 worth of minerals each year. But the field is only in the developmental stage. One of the major problems to be solved is the provision of an adequate water supply not only for the mines, but also for the people who live in the community and who do the physical work involved in mining operations. I give the Government full credit for its efforts, but it is some three years since the initial attempt to find water was made. The Government is ultra-cautious in its approach to this matter. Certain risks must be taken in the search for underground water. The result of tests cannot be foreseen, and it is time that the Government made a further effort to provide an adequate water supply. Funds should be made available to enable the work to proceed. The longer the delay in providing a water supply, then the longer will be the time that the field is in its developmental stage.
I refer also to the provision of assistance for mining. Some assistance is given in the bill, introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to-night, but this assistance is restricted to mines that have reached the production stage. No readily accessible machinery is provided to afford assistance to men who are prepared to go out, to find the mines and to do the initial work necessary to prove that the mines can be brought to the stage of worth-while production. This, of course, involves money, but the rewards from mining far outweigh the initial cost of the encouragement to miners. We should install a series of batteries in promising areas. Some advocate portable batteries that can be moved from place to place. 1 do not know the practical aspects of them, but I do know that battery facilities should be made available at some centres in the Northern Territory. This all helps to boost mineral production. In the long run, worthwhile production must come from mines that are so assisted. We have Rum Jungle, Tennant Creek and Mount Isa, just across the border. This illustrates the possibility that exists for large-scale development of the areas. I do not think that any industry can compare with the mining industry in attracting large numbers of people to these areas.
– What about the new battery at Tennant Creek?
– It is not a new battery, it is a battery that has been started again. Where we had three batteries, we have started one, and I give full credit to the Government for doing so. But that is only an isolated incident. The results gained from starting that battery should convince the Government that a series of batteries should be established around the Northern Territory. Each battery could be just as profitably used as the one at Tennant Creek.
I leave the question of mines and turn now to agriculture. I shall refer particularly to loans for agricultural and pastoral activities. The answer to a question asked to-day highlights the fact that no soldier settlement scheme operates in the Northern Territory in respect of agriculture. There is no scheme such as that which exists in New Guinea, where ex-servicemen can apply under a separate scheme for advances of up to £15,000 or £20,000 to acquire agricultural interests. None of those things is available in the Northern Territory. There is, of course, one primary producers’ scheme which provides loans limited to £3,000 or £3.500, but that is totally inadequate. In the pastoral industry, we have the Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Act. Although this act was passed in 1954, only two applications have been made and not one penny has been advanced. This failure to provide encouragement is hindering the progress of the Northern Territory.
Taxation in the Territory also warrants consideration. Taxation proposals for New Guinea were debated in the House to-day. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) said that far greater concessions and exemtions would be given to residents in the Territory than were given to residents on the mainland. The Minister apparently feels that taxation concessions are needed to develop New Guinea. I say for certain that if they are needed to develop New Guinea, they are needed to develop the Northern Territory. The conditions are the same and the budgetary position is the same, with two exceptions. New Guinea has a large indigenous population. The native population there is about 2,000,000, compared with about 15,000 in the Northern Territory. In addition, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is being developed with the aim of giving self-government to the indigenous people at some time in the future, but at some distant date the Northern Territory will become the seventh State of the Commonwealth. They are the only differences. Taxation concessions are needed to encourage people to go to the Territory to make a living with their hands, their brains and their energy. Concessions are also essential to attract capital. An investor who can get a return of, say, 6 per cent, in the southern States, where conditions are relatively easy, will not invest in the remote areas for the same return of 6 per cent. He wants something more than he can get on the mainland, and he should be given that encouragement. The Minister for Territories made that point clear in the statement that he delivered to-day. Certain features of the statement were not clear, but the underlying theme was that taxation concessions would provide the impetus needed to create a flow of capital and people into the Territory. I feel that the same conditions should apply to the Northern Territory, where the cost of living is higher than anywhere else in the Commonwealth. Capital, both in the private sector and the Government sector, is badly needed to develop the Territory. The Government is lagging in its development of the Northern Territory. If concessions were made to private enterprise I feel sure that we would see greater development in the Territory, which in the long run would react to the benefit of the taxpayer generally. As long as the Northern Territory and the
Territory of Papua and New Guinea are allowed to struggle along on a pittance and are developed piecemeal, much of the taxpayers’ money will be thrown down the drain. The Government must enter upon a policy of development for the Northern Territory whereby large sums of money will be spent. In that way the taxpayer will get a return on his investment and the Territory will not be forced to subsist on hand-outs.
.- As is natural, the debate on this Appropriation Bill has ranged fairly widely, and I find myself in a measure of agreement with much of what has been said on both sides of the House. Some of the matters that have been mentioned are develop-; ment, mining, social services, repatriation, transport and standardization of rail gauges. The subject of wireless frequencies was also dealt with by the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), and I find myself in complete agreement with the thesis that he put forward.
But to-night I want to concentrate on one aspect of the debate in particular, and that is on the fairly frequent references that have been made to the subject of trade with red China. Last Wednesday I asked a question of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), I asked him whether he would prepare for the House a detailed statement showing how and by whom the recent Chinese trade delegation was sponsored and what its activities have been in this country. The right honorable gentleman replied to me stating, inter alia - 1 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.
The Acting Prime Minister was answering off the cuff and, I have no doubt, in complete good faith; but his answer illustrates the point that so far as the Government is concerned, sometimes its right hand does not know what its left hand is doing. I should like to read to the House a letter dated 12th June, 1958, written to me by Mr. Heyes, Secretary of the Department of Immigration. I will table this letter if honorable members require me to do so. Mr. Heyes stated -
Tn your letter of the 4th June you enquired concerning the Communist China Trade Delegation which is at present in Australia.
The visit of the delegation was sponsored by Messrs. Victor Dekyvere and Company, of Sydney, which company has been responsible for all arrangements made for the delegation in Australia.
The Commonwealth Department of Trade has assisted the members of the group in establishing contacts with Australian traders as it assists businessmen from any country but the visit was sponsored on a private basis. No official invitation was extended by the Australian Government and there is no suggestion that trade discussions at a Government level will be entered into.
It is understood that the delegation is visiting Australia with a view to arranging business with Australian firms. Members of the group have indicated that they are interested in purchases of wool, steel products and industrial chemicals. They also wish to examine prospects for selling tung oil, tea, embroideries, grey cloth, bristles, sulphur and manganese to Australian interests.
The delegation comprises twelve persons representing some of the State Trading Corporations of Mainland China.
Honorable members can see that there was in fact in the Government files fairly detailed information as to the sponsorship and activities of this delegation. I again ask the Government in retrospect to prepare for this House, before it rises, a detailed statement of the activities of that delegation since it has been here.
– Which part of the Government do you ask to do that, the left hand or the right hand?
– Left hand or right hand, as the honorable member likes. I think that sometimes the Government’s right hand does not know what its left hand is doing.
Let me make it clear that I do not in any way question the bona fides of the Acting Prime Minister in this matter. He answered my question in the House off the cuff. I also want to make it clear that I do not question in any way the loyalty of the firm that sponsored this trade delegation. In my view that firm did not know the purpose for which it was being used. I believe that it merely thought of this sponsorship as a normal commercial transaction. I do not believe that it even knew the reasons why it was chosen to sponsor the delegation. Indeed, the principals of the firm may think that the firm was chosen by chance, although I have a very shrewd idea as to why the Communists, who think ahead in their judgment, should choose this particular firm. But let me say that I do not make any imputations whatsoever that the principals of this firm knew what they were being used for, and I am sure that they thought of this matter as a normal commercial transaction.
Let me go further into this question of why we should be wary of trade with red China. It is not just a matter of strategic materials. The Acting Prime Minister in his answer to me on Wednesday last referred to strategic materials. Of course, it is always difficult to say what are strategic materials and what are not. An arbitrary list may not always be a complete one. I should have thought that wool, steel products and industrial chemicals were of the nature of strategic materials, potentially at any rate. But that is not the point. I do not believe that we can safely indulge in trade with red China on any large scale at all. China’s record as a trading nation in the last year or so is surely sufficient warrant for what I say. Honorable members will remember the behavior of China recently with regard to Japan. China threatened to ruin Japan by arbitrarily cutting off trade with a knife, as it were, unless China got political’ concessions with regard to communism. It was only because of the fortitude of the Japanese in withstanding this pressure that China’s efforts failed.
China misjudged her mark, but she tried and we know that throughout the world China has from time to time disrupted commodity markets in tin and rice, turning the tap on and off as it suited her, and entering into arrangements to- keep up the price when it suited her. China has had a certain amount of success in getting our people on side by seeming to be reasonable, but she is always prepared to break her word, as she has done in the past, and ruin on? market after another. The next market threatened is, of course, the wheat market, wherein the Chinese Communist and Russian surplus is building up.
– Does any other nation do it?
– That is the point to which I am coming. I do not believe that any other nation does it in accordance with a political plan. If the House will bear with me for a moment, I shall try to make clear what I mean. The point is this: Trade with China is bad mainly because it is one example of trading with the Communist bloc. I do not believe that the democracies can trade with the Communist bloc and survive. This may seem to be a hard saying, and I am reminded that Britain is so trading. That does not make the argument any the less valid, because the Communists are working to a long-range plan in this matter. Once they can make our economy dependent on theirs, once they can involve us in trade with them on a large scale, then they will dominate our politics. This is a characteristic of the contest between the totalitarian and the democratic ways of life. The totalitarian must win if it can infiltrate into the economy of the democracies. This is unfortunate, but it is true. The mechanism is quite simple and quite easy. The objective cannot be reached quickly, but if the Communists, whether they be Chinese, Russian, or any other Communists who build up trade in accordance with a political pattern, can involve their economy with ours so that any one of our industries is dependent upon imports from them, or so that any one of our industries is dependent upon exports to them, they will dominate our politics, because they will be able to raise inside our nation pressure groups whose political impact is, unfortunately, unmanageable.
If an importing industry in Australia is made dependent for its raw materials on Communist sources, and the Communist is willing, as he is always willing and ready for political purposes, to turn off the tapof trade, as was done with- Japan, the employees in that industry who are thrown out of work by what the Communists have done will bring upon the government - whatever government it may be - political pressures which must be yielded to or they will throw that government out of office. If an exporting industry’s market and prices are dependent upon Communist support of that market, that industry will be amenable to Communist political pressure.
Do not let us kid ourselves. This hashappened already. The wool industry is already ideologically in Communist hands. It does not realize that. The grazier thinks, only, “ I shall get an extra 3d. per lb.”. He believes he is just preserving his economic interests. But the grazier is now part of a Communist ideological bloc. He has already succumbed. Let us be quite clear about this. This has happened already ins
Australia. We already have our main industry clamouring for trade and other relations with the Communist bloc at any price, and this can be extended. This is a Communist plot already succeeding in Australia. It is quite inevitable, unfortunately, that a totalitarian country, where there is no public opinion, where industry and employment are all by government decree and there is no private interest whatsoever, can assault successfully any democracy whose economy is integrated with its own, because it will be able to raise in that democracy pressure groups sufficient to vote out of power any government which does not come to the Communist heel.
This is the real point of the Russian strategy. I do not think of trade with red China as being any worse than or different from trade with Russia or any other Communist country. I do not think of Australian trade as being any different from British trade, American trade, or the trade of any other democracy. I simply say - and it is manifestly true - that any democracy that is fool enough to involve its economy with that of a totalitarian enemy power will find its policies, over the long run, dominated by that power. This is not good enough. It is time we woke up to what is happening, and it is time that we stopped it. I know that Australia cannot act on its own. I know that Australia appears in only a very small part of this process. I regret that this egregious error in strategy is being committed by countries other than Australia. I know that unless we reverse this process the Communists will dominate our politics and take us, one by one, by a fifth column inside job.
We have to face up to this or go under, and the sooner we face up to it the less unpleasant it will be. It is easy to face up to it now, when the involvement is small. Allow the involvement to become a little greater, and it will be much more difficult to face up to it. It may, indeed, be then impossible to face up to it, because that is the nub of the Communist strategy. Each error on our part is made by the Communists a pressure point to nudge us into yet another error. Let us act now. I know that Australia cannot act unilaterally, but let us get together with our allies. Let us put the point. Let us not allow the world to go by default. That is all that we are doing to-day. This is, indeed, the inner Communist strategy at the moment, because on the military field there has been reached between the two great blocs what may be called a stalemate. That is a euphemism for the fact that either side can wipe out the other and neither has any defence. In those circumstances it is only the fifth column job, the inside job, which becomes important, and that is what Russia is up to at the moment. It is a longrangeplan, not a short-range plan, but unless we grapple with it now and in the short range, we shall be unable to grapple with it in the long range, when it has grown and become too great a problem for us to handle.
It is indeed ironic that communism thrives on its own contradictions. One of the Marxist doctrines is that the basis of life is economic, but the Communist practice has been exactly the opposite of that. The Communists say - Khrushchev said it quite openly - “ Trade is with us a political weapon “. The economic is made subservient to the political purpose. Marxism lives by denying its own theoretical basis. This is one of the three fundamental contradictions of Marxism. The second, of course, is this: The Marxist says that the capitalist lives by exploitation, by the confiscation of surplus value. He gives to the factors of production just enough to enable them to subsist and reproduce their kind. But that is a perfect description of the economic operations of the Russian State since the five-year and three-year plans were introduced. That is exactly what Russia has done. It has successfully done those things which it falsely accused capitalism of being ready to do. The third contradiction is the religious one: The Communist says, “ We are atheists “, yet the Communist has succeeded in mobilizing an evil and quasi-religious fervour to a degree which we have not been able to match in our own good cause. Once again there is a contradiction - the doing of the thing which is just the opposite of the Communist doctrine.
Now, Sir, the position is this: On the larger military front there is a stalemate. Fringe countries like ourselves - we are a fringe country - may be in danger of being abandoned, as a preference on the part of our allies to their risking world devastation and death in a complete war. Nom of the three or four metropolitan centres, the possessors of the major weapons, can be subdued by force of arms. Russia is looking for an inside job, and if we are foolish enough to allow the Communists to build up trade with us on any large scale, then we will hand to them the weapons, the instruments, to do that inside job successfully. We will arm the fifth column if we trade with the Communists. I think, Sir. that the House had better realize, as indeed other countries may well realize, that in the past ten years our record against the Communists has not been a brilliant one. Ten years ago or twelve years ago, we had control of the situation. To-day we have only this stalemate, the power to threaten mutual destruction. We are losing on too many fronts for it to be funny. It is time that we changed some of our tactics. It is time that we got out of the folly - it is not exclusively an Australian folly - of thinking that you can trade safely on a large scale with a Communist country, or that you can sup with the Devil without a spoon of the requisite length.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Cretin’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 30th April (vide page 1714), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time; and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 30th April (vide page 1714), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 30th April (vide page 1715), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
Thai the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendor debate.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 1997), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of the bill now before the House is to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and it is very closely related to the measure which follows it, the purpose of which is to amend the Public Service Arbitration Act. Both of these measures are so closely interwoven that it will be very difficult indeed to discuss one without discussing the other.
First of all, I point out that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act is the piece of legislation which has been amended most during the life of the Commonwealth Parliament. Ever since the principal act was passed in 1904, no fewer than 30 amending bills have been presented to the Parliament. Since 1951, the present Government has amended the act seven times and this bill is the eighth amending measure that has been brought down. I cannot think of any other legislation which has come before us, with the possible exception of the acts which are naturally amended after the passage of the Budget each year, such as the Social Services Act and the Income Tax Assessment Act, which have been so frequently amended since the passage of the original measure.
I point out also that in addition to all the amendments which have been made from time to time in the ‘twenties, the ‘thirties, the ‘forties, and twice in the current decade, two amendments have been of a major character which aimed at practically revolutionizing the methods of arbitration in Australia. I think it is because of those two major amendments brought in by the
Government, first in 1952 and again in 1956, when the jurisdiction of arbitration was divided into two phases - the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with wages and working conditions, and the Commonwealth Industrial Court to deal with offences in respect of industrial matters - that we have really appreciated the extent to which the machinery of conciliation for the settlement of disputes has become cumbersome, tedious and impossible of being worked smoothly. Indeed, this is indicated by the fact that, in 1958, an amending bill was introduced to correct provisions that were found to be unworkable in the 1946 act. Here again, in 1959, with the eighth amendment of this act in the last decade, we have proposed amendments to make what is termed “ streamlined arbitration “ work more effectively and more efficiently.
The Opposition is opposed to this measure and the measure which will succeed it. We will vote against this bill and if, in spite of our voting against it, the motion for the second reading of the bill is carried, we will endeavour to have certain amendments made in the committee stage. We said in 1952 and we said again in 1956 that the amendments being made would not streamline arbitration, but would make it more difficult of operation, would be frustrating both to employers and employees, would make arbitration more expensive and, instead of bringing about the industrial harmony which everybody desires to see operating in this country, would be a brake upon industrial harmony. We feel that what has taken place since 1956 in the way of amending legislation indicates that the “ streamlined arbitration “, as it has been called, is not doing the effective job that it was intended to do.
This first bill, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, aims to do three things in respect of the present act. The first is to refund the excess expenditure incurred by trade unions through the operation of court-controlled ballots. The second thing that it proposes to do is to permit a commissioner or a presidential member to take evidence in respect of a dispute or part of a dispute referred to the commission. The third proposal, against which both the trade union movement and the Opposition very strongly protest, is to provide for the constitution of a joint tribunal of the authorities established under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and under the Public Service Arbitration Act.
Before I commence to explain the Opposition’s reasons for opposing this bill, 1 think it is desirable to give the House some idea of how the conciliation and arbitration system is operating at the present moment. In 1956, the system started with a base of conciliators. They were to hear any dispute that came before the notice of the commisson, and endeavour, by conference with the parties and by bringing the parties together, to try to narrow down the dispute and, if possible, to settle it. But the conciliators had no power whatever to arbitrate upon any matter on which the parties were unable to agree. If a conciliator could not bring about an agreement, the dispute then went to what were called commissioners. In the previous legislation, they had been called conciliation commissioners. But now a new title was given to them. They were called commissioners and they had power to deal with all industrial matters except four matters which were specifically reserved to the discretion of what was known as the presidential commission. Above the commissioners was created the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It consisted of five judges, four of whom had previously been members of the Arbitration Court which became defunct under the new legislation. Perhaps that explanation oversimplifies the procedure.
First of all, there were conciliators, then commissioners, then the presidential members. The presidential members, under the act, were the sole authority - and are still the sole authority - for dealing with four questions. Those questions are the determination of the male basic wage; the determination of the female basic wage; the determination of standard hours, and the fixing of conditions for long service leave with pay. Those four questions were reserved to the commission and are reserved to the commission. They cannot be dealt with by commissioners. They can be mentioned in the proceedings before a conciliator, but, as I said previously, a conciliator has no power of arbitration.
Here is where the sting comes into this whole system of conciliation and arbitration. In the legislation of 1952, and grafted again into the legislation of 1956, was a provision allowing appeals from the decision of a commissioner to the Arbitration Commission itself, and there were further provisions that either the parties or a commissioner could bring certain disputes under the notice of the presidential commission with the suggestion that a dispute be taken out of the hands of the commissioner and should be dealt with by the presidential commission. The presidential commission consists of at least two judges nominated by the president, and one other person.
It is with the question of reference to the presidential commission that the legislation before us is mainly concerned. Some of the amendments which are proposed in this legislation are minor in character. But the clause to which the Opposition is strongly opposed is clause 8, which endeavours to bring about a united tribunal consisting of the presidential commission members in respect of proceedings under the conciliation legislation itself, and the presidential members in respect of proceedings under the Public Service Arbitration Act - two separate authorities which exist as a result of separate legislation. The proposal contained in clause 8 is to enable those two bodies to meet in a joint session and determine evidence in respect of a matter which is considered by the president to be of equal importance to both bodies.
I return now to the proposals in relation to the refund of excess expenditure incurred through court-controlled ballots. In 1949, the Chifley Government passed legislation which provided that where it could be shown that irregularity had taken place in connexion with any trade union ballot, those who were aggrieved had the right to bring it under the notice of the industrial registrar. Certain provisions were made for inquiry and, if necessary, for a final determination by the court as to whether or not the irregularity did, in fact, occur, and if so, whether a new ballot should be ordered.
The trade union movement was quite satisfied to accept that legislation as a safeguard against anything wrong in ballots. It claims, rightly I think, that a trade union, operating under registered rules, is just as entitled to manage its own affairs as is any other organized section of the community. The unions were prepared, however, to accept a provision by which a court investigation could be ordered if it could be shown that irregularities had taken place.
Unfortunately, the 1952 legislation - and, of course, the 1956 measure continued the provision - allowed persons not in control of a union to make representations to the court for a ballot controlled by that court. Section 170 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that a branch of an organization may make a request to the court to conduct a ballot in connexion with the election of officers of a union. It also provides that a percentage of members of the organization as a whole may make application for a courtcontrolled ballot. The result has been that some trade unions have been forced to spend thousands of pounds on courtcontrolled ballots which were ordered following requests by minority groups of members.
I propose to give the House some illustrations of the methods by which trade unions elect their officers. My own union is the Federated Storemen and Packers Union. The rules of the New South Wales branch provide that the committee of management must fix a date for the ballot, which generally occupies a period of two or three days. Members are then notified that the ballot will take place. The New South Wales branch usually arranges for some one associated with the Electoral Office to act as returning officer. Members come along, present their medals or tickets showing that they are financial members, and they are then given a vote. For three days this goes on, and finally the result of the election is made known.
In other cases the trade unions elect their officers at their annual general meetings. Members are summoned to attend the annual meeting, and at the meeting they are given their ballot papers. Then they elect their officers. The rules provide, of course, that if a member, for any reason, cannot attend the annual meeting he may apply for and be given a postal vote. In other cases, as in the case of coal-mining unions, the ballot for the election of officers is held at the pit-head. In some cases a union provides that a postal ballot shall take place.
There are very many methods by which annual elections are conducted. This bill proposes that where it can be shown to the court that the cost of conducting a courtcontrolled ballot is greater than would be the case in normal circumstances under the union’s rules, then the extra cost will be borne by the federal authorities. I suppose this arises from the particular position of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. This union elects its officers at what is called a star meeting. Members are notified that at a star meeting certain business is to be done. One of the main items of business at star meetings of the branches of the organization is the election of officers. When members attend a star meeting they receive their ballot papers, after having produced evidence of financial membership, and they then vote. But when a courtcontrolled ballot is held, the rules of the union are not followed by the court. The court takes the view that a postal ballot should be held, and to this extent the rules of the union are over-ridden. The names and addresses of all financial members are ascertained, the ballot papers are forwarded to them and the necessary provision is made for the return of the papers. The cost is very great indeed.
Under existing legislation, the only cost borne by the Government is the salary of the officer conducting the ballot and the rent of any hall used for the purpose. All the other expenses have to be borne by the trade union. Advice I have received shows that whereas in ordinary circumstances the Amalgamated Engineering Union was able to conduct its ballot at a cost of £400, the court-controlled ballot necessitated an expenditure of over £3,000 by the union. One can see, therefore, how this legislation can very seriously affect the finances of a union. When a few disgruntled members of a union, who are organized to a certain extent, have made up their minds to weaken the union financially, the provision by which courtcontrolled ballots may be requested is invoked to the utmost. The organized minority can then do its level best to destroy those who have control of the union.
This, I think, is a good illustration of the way in which legislative interference in union affairs can tend to weaken the trade union movement, as well as cause a good deal of frustration among the members themselves. The Amalgamated Engineering Union, for instance, is not a young organization. It has existed in Great Britain for well over 150 years. That is, of course, the parent organization. The union has functioned in Australia for over 100 years, lt has learned by experience, through trial and error, the best and most effective way of controlling its affairs. With the best intentions in the world, a parliament may pass legislation that makes it very difficult for people who are trying to do a good job for organized labour. Legislation may be introduced that flies right in the face of the experience of the past.
The Trade Union movement takes up this attitude: We think that the unions are entitled to conduct their own business in their own way. We believe that if a courtcontrolled ballot is held, it should be conducted in accordance with the registered rules of the organization. After all, the court tiself has registered those rules, and it is wrong and improper to allow the court to over-ride rules which are in compliance with the act, and which, in fact, could not have been registered unless they were in compliance with the act. Our opposition to this method of court-controlled ballots is very strong. For this reason we feel that we must protest against the legislation, even though it attempts to overcome a defect. We protest because we say that the court has no right to ignore the rules of a registered organization.
– You are not protesting against this legislation, but against past legislation?
– I am protesting against the principle behind the legislation. I think the Minister has summed it up correctly; I am protesting against the spirit and the principle of the legislation. If a union breaks its own rules the court can deregister it - and, indeed, organizations have been deregistered before to-day. When the court takes control of a ballot, it takes the attitude that it can defy and ignore trade union rules, and conduct a ballot as it thinks it ought to be conducted.
I want to deal now with the second proposal, which provides that the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission shall be able to authorize a presidential member of the commission, or a commissioner, to take evidence in respect of a matter which has been referred to the commission. In other words, the suggestion is that when a matter is before the commission by way of reference, as it may take some time for the matter to come for hearing before the commission in presidential session, and as it is desirable that time should be saved as much as possible, the president of the commission may authorize either a commissioner or a presidential member of the commission to take evidence which will go before the commission in presidential session and be read by it although it will not actually be heard by it.
We think that there are certain defects in this. We feel that before a matter actually goes to either a presidential member of the commission or a commissioner for the taking of evidence, there should be a further attempt to use conciliation to overcome the differences between the parties. I think that there are at present three conciliators appointed under the terms of the act. We feel that, if it will be some time before the commission can hear the particular dispute which has been referred to it, a further attempt ought to be made to bring the parties together by referring the matter to a conciliator. Even if the conciliator is not able to bridge the gap between the parties in respect of the whole of the dispute, he can at least make an attempt to bridge the gap in respect of some parts of the dispute. There are many trade union friends of mine on this side of the House, and I know that every one of them will agree with me when I say that when the parties reach agreement in respect of a certain matter, one finds not only that the agreement is carried out in its entirety, but also that the relations between the parties are better and more satisfactory than when conditions are fixed as a result of court hearings. That is the common experience of every one who has dealt with trade union matters. We feel that this measure is defective inasmuch as it does not provide for a matter to be sent back to a conciliator in order that he may try to iron out some of the differences.
Further, we feel that there is grave danger in the evidence being read and relied on by the members of the commission who will constitute it in presidential session and who will not have heard the evidence themselves. When you hear the evidence, you are able to judge the demeanour of the witness. You can generally tell by the way in which he makes his statements whether they are half-hearted, whether he sincerely believes in them, whether he has a grip of his subject, and whether he is a man who can be regarded as trustworthy. These things do not come out in the written or printed word. It is the actual hearing of the man’s words and the watching of him giving evidence that enable you to determine the weight that you can attach to the evidence itself. The several members of the commission in presidential session to whom the evidence is submitted by the presidential member or the commissioner by whom it is taken all certainly get the gist of what has been said by reading the evidence, but it is very doubtful whether they can get the atmosphere in which the evidence was given. And the atmosphere, 1 think, is the important thing in relation to evidence. 1 want to deal now with the third proposal, which, 1 think, is extraordinary, and with which I certainly hope the Government will not further proceed. It will enable the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in presidential session, to join itself with a tribunal appointed under the Public Service Arbitration Act when dealing with a dispute that is subject to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The two bodies will sit together and hear any evidence that may be adduced, and we have been told by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), in his very eloquent secondreading speech, that they will make their decisions separately. Obviously, as they are functioning under two separate acts, they cannot unite in the form of a joint tribunal and make a decision on matters some of which are within the province of one body and some of which are within the province of the other. So we shall have a most peculiar position.
The Opposition is opposed to this proposal. It opposes it, first, on the ground that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Public Service Arbitration Act, which are the subject of this proposal, are two separate and distinct acts which deal with two separate and entirely distinct classes of persons. The Public Service Arbitration Act, and the Public Service Arbitrator functioning under the terms of that act, deal only with Commonwealth public servants and employees. The arbitrator can deal with nobody but the servants of the Crown in the shape of the Commonwealth. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act covers other employees who are entirely distinct. It can and does cover persons employed by State governments, municipal authorities and private industry. So we have two distinct acts dealing with two separate classes of people.
The next reason for our opposition to this proposal is even stronger. Both the authorities concerned have to take account of entirely different considerations. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission takes into consideration, in whatever decisions it makes, the capacity of the community to pay. Whether it is determining the basic wage, standard hours, or long service leave, its power of determination is limited to its being satisfied that the community can afford to pay whatever it proposes to award. The Public Service Arbitrator works on different principles altogether. From the day when the Public Service Arbitrator’s court first sat in 1921, Mr. Atlee Hunt, who was then arbitrator, and who had been a very distinguished Commonwealth servant, took the view that the capacity of the Commonwealth to pay reasonable and decent wages to its employees was not a factor to be taken into consideration in determining the wages and conditions of Commonwealth employees. He said that account should be taken, not of the capacity of the Commonwealth to pay, but of what was a fair and decent wage. So we have one body that has to take into consideration capacity to pay and, on the other hand, another authority which, for almost 40 years, has said that it does not take into consideration the capacity of the Commonwealth to pay, and that it is concerned with what is a fair and reasonable wage.
I come now to the third ground for objection to the legislation. Whatever the Public Service Arbitrator awards is the maximum amount that can be paid. The Public Service Arbitrator fixes wages and salaries giving a minimum and a maximum amount. No Commonwealth department can pay any less or any more than the rates determined by the Arbitrator and indeed the Auditor-General and his officers have been given strict instructions that they must check to see that the rates so determined are paid. So, the Public Service Arbitrator determines the maximum amount that can be paid. But the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission fixes not the maximum but the minimum rate of pay, and that is the lowest amount that can be paid by an employer who is cited under an award. He can, however, and very frequently does, pay considerably more than the award rate. The bill is aimed at overcoming difficulties that have arisen in what is known as the white collar workers’ case, which is before the Arbitration Commission. But one will find a procedure being adopted that will fix the maximum rate of pay for technological and professional officers in Commonwealth employment and the minimum rate of pay for those in outside employment. Private industry will be able, to the fullest extent possible, to compete against the Commonwealth for technological and professional officers. This is wrong from every stand-point. It is wrong from the Commonwealth stand-point, from the community stand-point and from the stand-point of the employees. Therefore, we oppose the passage of the legislation.
A further factor also arises. Any decision made by the Public Service Arbitrator must come before the Parliament. The act dealing with public service arbitration provides that a determination must be laid upon the table of the House and that Parliament has the right, if it so desires, to disallow a regulation. On one occasion in 1953, I moved on behalf of the Opposition that a regulation which proposed to stop adjustments to the salaries of public servants be disallowed. The Parliament did not disallow it; my motion was rejected. Since then, Commonwealth public servants have not received the benefit of the adjustment of salaries.
We regard this legislation as an attempt to destroy the prestige, reputation and ver of the Public Service Arbitrator. It is designed to reduce him to the level of a commissioner and to take the fixation of wages and conditions for public servants out of the hands of an authority that has existed for almost 40 years and place it in the hands of the Arbitration Commission. We say that is entirely wrong. In 1920, William Morris Hughes introduced the Industrial Peace Act. He put forward the very sound theory on industrial relations - the relations between management and men - that if boards or authorities were created to specialize in the industrial conditions of a section of society and were riven an opportunity to function properly, they cO’ 11(1 be successful. His subsequent legislation showed that his theory was sound. First, a Public Service arbitrator was appointed. Mr. Atlee Hunt, who had been in earlier years secretary of the Department of External Affairs, was the first arbitrator, and he was an exceedingly good one. He did for Commonwealth public servants what Mr. Justice Higgins did for employees covered by the Arbitration Court. He laid sound principles upon which wages and working conditions could be assessed. At the same time, the Hibble tribunal was appointed and, while it existed, the coal-mining industry had the best possible industrial conditions. The third body appointed by Mr. Hughes was a shipbuilding tribunal, of which Mr. Mick Connington was chairman.
These three organizations, operating under separate acts and authorities, formed a most effective system to deal with industrial matters. Mr. Justice Gallagher is still the Coal Industry Tribunal. The shipbuilding tribunal, of course, has gone. The Public Service Arbitrator remains and we do not want to see his powers destroyed. Next year, it will be forty years since that legislation was passed. The Public Service Arbitrator deals with employees whoare different from other employees and with an industry that is different from other industries. Sick leave, annual leave, travelling allowances and other conditions in the Public Service are different from conditions in 0 her industries. This is a completely different type of employment and Opposition members will fight against anything that is likely to diminish the prestige and reputation of the Public Service Arbitrator.
If ever we needed legislation to improve industrial relations, we need it now. Australia is expanding as an industrial nation. Employees and employers are organized and we need the machinery to deal with disputes as soon as they arise. We need the machinery to enable both sides to meet, to bridge their differences and to attend to the job of developing Australia. Under present legislation, with its ponderous superstructure of references and appeals, case after case remains to be heard and months will go bv before many of them are dealt with. What will be the result? It will be frustration, irritation and annoyance in industry, with rolling strikes and all sorts of things. If we are to be successful, our system of industrial arbitration most oe simple, speedy and inexpensive. Those requirements can be found in the system of wages boards in Victoria, and could be a feature of the Commonwealth system. If the Parliament, by its legislation, gives industry a system of arbitration that speedily, simply and inexpensively settles disputes, it will vitally help the development of Australia in the years to come.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was really quite amazed to hear the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), for whom I have the greatest respect, suggest that the present arbitration machinery has a ponderous superstructure and is likely to bring about difficulties and disputes. Surely nobody knows better than he, unless it be the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), that never has there been greater peace in industry in Australia than there is to-day. That peace has only been built up because of the arbitration system initiated by this Government.
– Sane trade union leadership has done that.
– If sane trade union leadership is responsible for the present peace in industry, that leadership has on;y been made possible by the secret ballot, which is the very thing that the honorable member for Bendigo has protested against to-night. It seemed to me that the reasons advanced by the honorable member for his party’s opposition to this bill were very hollow reasons. Let me deal first with the very serious objection which the honorable member says the Opposition will make to the third part of the bill, namely the right to consolidate matters before the commission when some of those matters come from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and others come from the Public Service Arbitrator. I am very much afraid that the honorable member for Bendigo has completely missed the intention and the true character of the amendment now before the House. He says that his party is opposed to this measure because there are different regions of dispute. He then listed three points of opposition to the bill. The honorable member said that the two acts the subject of the proposal are separate and distinct. The Public Service Arbitrator deals with Commonwealth public servants only, whereas the commission deals with all other employees, including State employees, municipal employees and private employees. I think that the House may reasonably ask whether a person who is a Commonwealth public servant is singularly different from any other person in industry, whether his employer be a State government, a municipal authority or a private enterprise employer. I do not think, therefore, that the honorable member’s first ground for objection stands up.
The honorable member’s second ground for objection is a most interesting one. He said that the commission, when it is deciding a rate of pay, must be satisfied of the capacity of the community to pay. That is a remarkable admission coming from the honorable member for Bendigo, a former president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the leading speaker for the Opposition on this matter, because to accept that principle is to abandon any claim that may be pushed by the unions for the restoration of automatic quarterly adjustments to the basic wage. I am most pleased to hear the honorable member for Bendigo take this very worthwhile view that, as far as he is concerned, the principle to be observed by the commission must be the capacity of the community to pay and not a restoration of automatic quarterly adjustments. My understanding of the situation is that this principle was laid down by the Arbitration Court itself and is not to be found anywhere in the legislation. The honorable member for Bendigo said on the other hand that the Public Service Arbitrator must fix a fair and reasonable wage. He pointed out further that the arbitrator sets scales that are minimum and maximum, that there is automatic progression, and that the Commonwealth cannot pay more than the maximum, whereas a private employer can pay more than the award rate of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. What the honorable member fahed to say - this is where he missed the point - is that they are separate decisions. The arbitrator and the commission can sit together in order to hear the evidence, but, having heard the evidence, they separate and give their decisions separately. If there are different principles that concern on the one hand the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and on the other hand the
Public Service Arbitrator, when they separate to give their decisions they can apply those different principles to the evidence they have heard.
The honorable member concluded his speech by saying that cases were mounting up in the registry. He then said that we should not have a consolidation. Well, I do not know how much in conflict you can be with your own thoughts, because if it were not for the practical solutions that have been adopted by the president, deputy presidents, commissioners and parties to the dispute, the present case before the commission, known as the white collar workers’ case, would really be foundering. If all the evidence had to be heard by one bench, and then be heard all over again by another bench with only one member different on it, what a tremendous amount of time would be wasted. The suggestion of consolidation came from a man whom I have heard the honorable member applaud. It came from the president of the commission, Mr. Justice Kirby, who, when referring to the nineteen disputes, fifteen of which I think were from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and four from the Public Service Arbitrator, said -
In view of the similarity of the cases in this group it is unfortunate that there is no statutory power to consolidate the hearing of any two or more cases coming before the Commission irrespective of the Act pursuant to which the cases come before the Commission. Consideration might, I suggest, be given to an amendment of the legislation to permit this.
That was said by the man who is in the best position to know the way in which he was tied by the act as it now stands. The measure before the House is designed to facilitate the hearing of cases and to provide a streamlining which the honorable member for Bendigo wants. Yet, the Opposition has decided to oppose the measure. Honorable members opposite are completely in conflict with their own principles.
The second of the amendments dealt with by the honorable member for Bendigo is the one that provides that evidence may be taken by a deputy president or a commissioner after a dispute has been referred to the commission; or, indeed, the president under the terms of the legislation can decide the time at which it is to be referred. The honorable member for Bendigo, of course, has lived many more years than I have and he can give an historical picture which I cannot give and which I cannot toa great extent comprehend, but at least I can tell this House that under the present legislation there is some doubt as to whether’ part only of a dispute can be referred to the commission constituted in its referencesense. The purpose of one of the amendments to the present act is to make it perfectly clear that a part of a dispute only can go to a reference commission. Thepresident of the commission in his report for the period ended 13th August, 1958, said -
It is convenient to discuss at this stage the possibility of another amendment which practical experience in the handling of the Commission’s, full bench lists has suggested. It concernsSection 34 and the subject of references of disputes from a single Commissioner to a full bench. The President may direct that a dispute be referred to a full bench if he, “ having regard to the reasons for the application, is of opinion that the industrial dispute should, in the public interest, be so dealt with”. Section 34 (3). If the President directs that a dispute be referred to a full bench he then nominates the members of the bench and fixes thetime and place of hearing. In many circumstances, the handling of the Commission’s work as a whole would be facilitated if the President, having come to the conclusion that it was in the public interest that a dispute should be referred to a full bench, could then also direct at what stageof the hearing the dispute should come before the full bench.
At present, one or more of the parties appearing before a commissioner in a d spute may apply for a reference of the dispute to the full commission under the terms of the act, and the commissioner must then immediately consult with the president of the commission. The hearing of the dispute will be at an absolute standstill from then until the president has decided whether or not, in the public interest, the matter should be referred to the full commission. There was some doubt, of course, as to whether part only of a dispute could be referred. When this bill is passed the parties to a dispute will be able to go before the commissioner who deals with the industry concerned and therefore knows it, and put to him those matters that they want him to decide and ask him to refer part only of the dispute to the full commission.
The honorable member for Bendigo said that the Opposition opposes this proposal because there are two defects in it. He said> first, that before a matter goes to a deputypresident or a commissioner for the hearing of evidence it should go to a conciliator in order that the gap may be bridged. This is a remarkable ground on which to oppose the legislation, because in the act there is provision for parties at any time to seek a conciliator to chair a meeting in order to compose their differences. To oppose the bill on that ground is really quite extraordinary. The second ground of opposition stated by the honorable member for Bendigo was the danger in the procedure, because a decision would be made by a person who had not heard the evidence. He went on to refer to the importance of the demeanour of a witness in determining whether he is reliable and should be believed. As far as I am aware, the honorable member for Bendigo has never opposed section 43 of the act, which provides that on a matter as important as the basic wage, if one of the presidential members is at any stage unable to carry on with the hearing, and is obliged to leave the bench, he can be replaced by somebody who merely reads the transcript to bring himself up to date. A provision of that kind has been in the act since 1904, and I have never heard anybody complain about it.
– Section 43 does not provide all that you say. It is in section 44.
– I am obliged to the honorable member. He apparently knows about the provision and I am surprised at his second ground for opposing the amendment. Apart from the act itself, the honorable member also overlooks the normal procedure in courts of appeal in ordinary matters of law. An appeal court has before it, perhaps, a transcript, and sometimes even less than that. Sometimes it has only the affidavit of one of the parties as to what he understood the evidence to be, or perhaps only scratchy notes made by a magistrate. In all these instances, it has no opportunity of considering the demeanour of a witness. So I believe that the two grounds put forward by the honorable member for Bendigo in no way can justify opposition to the bill. Indeed, on the principles enunciated by the honorable member for Bendigo the Opposition should, I feel, pass the measure on the voices.
The honorable member for Bendigo dealt with a matter which I regard as the most important part of the bill. The other matters which have been dealt with are machinery matters, designed to make the procedure more streamlined and to overcome practical difficulties which have been raised by the president in his annual report. When the report was tabled in the House, there seemed to be no protest from the Opposition about what the president asked for. We come then to the secret ballot provision. This, of course, provides an opportunity for the Opposition, including the honorable member for Bendigo - in his case with some hesitation, I think - to bring up the old story about secret ballots. It is a simple story. Oft times it has been pointed out in this House that we have never had in Australia a period of greater industrial peace than we have to-day. The present Government made the institution of secret ballots for the election of union officials one of the principles of its election platform and policy in 1949. The people of Australia wanted secret ballots, and the people of Australia include unionists. Make no mistake about it, a great proportion of the union’s of Australia voted for the Liberal Party and, in doing so, voted for secret ballots in trade unions. If the Australian Labour Party seeks to go to the country constantly with the promise or threat - call it what we will - of abandoning secret ballots, it will be many, many years before honorable members opposite find themselves on this side of the House.
The honorable member for Bendigo said that the Labour Party approved the provision, which was previously in the act, that if one went to a court and proved an irregularity the court could order a new ballot. Let us examine this. Make no mistake, there are irregularities in trade union affairs. An executive member of the Opposition made no bones about irregularities in union affairs. At page 1785 of the “Hansard” record of debates of the 22nd Parliament, third session, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is reported as having said -
No ore can deny that there has been some corruption in trade union elections and no one will attempt to justify corruption in trade union elections.
That honorable member left no doubt about whether there was corruption and he repeated those sentiments throughout a long speech, which the House will remember as the one in which he spoke of the czars of the trade union movement, who were lopping off the heads of their officers. lt was a most interesting speech, but the importance of it to-day lies in the ready admission that there was corruption in trade union ballots. Under the former provision, when corruption was seen, persons who went along to the court and sought to prove it were subject to the strict standards of proof. If they could prove that corruption had occurred, the court would order the taking of another ballot - supervised by the union officials who had supervised the previous election at which the corruption occurred. Opposition members said that that was a pretty good provision and they supported it. Even though they recognized that there still were cases of corruption in union ballots, they were not prepared to say, “ Let us prevent this from happening by petitioning the court for a secret ballot controlled by the court “. The honorable member for Bendigo said that the nasty thing about secret ballots for the election of trade union officials was the cost to the union. He said that a minority could cause expenditure of thousands of pounds. Let us have a look at what this minority is. He referred to section 170 of the act which states that the number of members required to petition for a court-controlled ballot shall be as prescribed and is set out in regulation 139, which states -
For the purposes of section 170 of the Act, the number of members of an organization or branch by whom a request under sub-section (1.) of that section for the conduct of an election for an office specified in the request under that section may be made is - (a) in the case of a request by an organization - one thousand, or one-tenth of the total number of the members of the organization, whichever is the less.
This is the mere handful, the mere minority that is costing the unions so many thousands of pounds. The regulation continues - (b.) In the case of a request by a branch - five hundred, or one-fifth of the total number of the members of the branch, whichever is the less. The honorable member for Bendigo referred to the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and its method of election of officers at star nights. On those nights it can muster only 10 per cent, of its membership, which then proceeds to elect the office bearers. A member must attend in order to have a vote. The 10 per cent, referred to in the statutory rule is the percentage of membership which must petition the court for a secret ballot.
Most unions in Australia provide for postal ballots, which is a normal and reasonable procedure to enable as many membersof a union as possible to vote. The Amalgamated Engineering Union does not have postal ballots. In order to have postal ballots, the union must pay for printing and postage, but those expenses must be borne even in a court-controlled ballot. They are the constants. The only extra cost to be borne by the union is likely to be the salary of the officer appointed by the court to conduct the ballot, and the rent of the offices from which it is conducted. The legislation already provides for those expenses to be met. The amendment now before us is designed to benefit the Amalgamated Engineering Union and other unions which do not now provide for postal voting for the election of office bearers. The Amalgamated Engineering Union star nights cost a minimum amount of money. The honorable member for Bendigo has said that the cost of such an election is £400 and that a court-controlled ballot, which is conducted by post, would cost £3,000. The legislation now before us provides that the Commonwealth will meet the cost of such postal ballots. Yet, for some strange reason, the honorable member objects to the proposed amendment because of the cost that the union will be called upon to bear. But, as I have said, the purpose of the amendment is to save the union the cost of such a ballot. The opposition that has been raised to this proposed amendment is empty for the reasons that I have made clear to the House. They are absolutely devoid of substance.
On the aspect of consolidation, the honorable member for Bendigo sought to attack the Government on the ground that it was whittling away the influence and authority of the Public Service Arbitrator. Not a bit of it! I am sure the Public Service Arbitrator, who has been sitting in that very tenuous office as an observer during the hearing of the white-collar workers* case, could not regard this proposal as in any way diminishing his influence or authority. He is a man for whom I have the greatest respect as an arbitrator, and I am quite certain that he would not regard this amendment in that way. These amendments as to consolidation of disputes and the hearing of evidence by a deputypresident or a commissioner have been recommended by the president himself. I have studied them very carefully and have found them to be in accord with sound industrial principles. They tend to streamline the act and to achieve those objectives which the honorable member for Bendigo so aptly summed up as necessary - simplicity, speed and inexpensive operation. I am at a loss to understand the opposition to the payment of the difference in cost to a trade union of an ordinary ballot and a court-controlled secret postal ballot. I support this bill. I hope that the Opposition will see the folly of its objections and allow the bill to pass on the voices.
– The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) for some time has adopted the habit of taking the lead on behalf of the Government whenever industrial legislation comes before this House. He has had a good deal of experience along those lines in the short time that he has been here, because this Government has meddled more with the industrial legislation of this country since it came to office than has any other government during the life of trade unions in Australia. This legislation follows upon other stupid legislation that has become law under this Government. The honorable member for Bruce has said that he cannot understand our opposition to the proposal that the Government will pay the difference between the cost of an ordinary union ballot and the cost of a court-controlled ballot. Let him understand once and for all that trade unionism does not trade with principles. Trade unionism stands on the principle that it conducts its own affairs just as he, or any other person, seeks to conduct his own business affairs.
The trade unions in this country have a proud record, and they would be in a much better position to-day if the Government were not continually meddling in their affairs. Australia is not enjoying industrial peace at present as a result of secret ballots. The existing state of affairs is the result of two circumstances. First, before this lucky Government came to office we experienced a difficult period. We had to fit into industry large numbers of men who had never been trained for industry. We had to fit square pegs into round holes. All over the country the trade unions were trying to find jobs for men who were completely unfitted for them. To the everlasting credit of the great Amalgamated Engineering Union and other similar organizations, the men were trained and played their part in our war effort. Secondly, after the war we had the equally difficult task of returning our discharged servicemen to the jobs that they had previously occupied. The honorable member has spoken about regimentation. Let me tell him this: If a Labour government had not been able to regiment the full potential of this country, we should not be sitting in this free Parliament to-night.
On the question of trade union ballots, I challenge any honorable members on the Government side to prove that the Amalgamated Engineering Union has improved one iota since the introduction of courtcontrolled ballots. The Amalgamated Engineering Union is held in very high regard in every English-speaking country in which it operates in the world. It does not want a meddlesome government to tell it how to run its affairs, any more than the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen wants the Government to meddle in its affairs. If the honorable member for Bruce believes that the unions will be satisfied with the sop handed to them by the Government, he is wrong. I never imagined that I would see legislation presented to any free British parliament suggesting that a trade union should make application to a Minister for the cost of a trade union ballot. I have yet to know of any other piece of legislation so degrading as this coming before the Parliament. This legislation, in effect, suggests that a trade union will make application to the Minister for the difference between the cost of conducting a ballot for the election of its officers under its own rules and the cost of conducting it under, perhaps, an unorganized set-up by the Registrar, with all respect to that gentleman. If a trade union ever docs such a thing, then trade unionism is on the way out as a fighting force. Let there be no mistake about that. Whatever difficulties we face in the trade union movement, I hopethat I will never live to see the day when any Minister will receive a cringing letter from a trade union secretary asking for payment of the extra cost of conducting a ballot. We will fight our own way through industrial and political difficulties, and finally we will win. Make no mistake about that.
The honorable member for Bruce runs away from the provisions of the act, which lays down, first of all, that every member of a union must have his right to vote in a union election. The Registrar is empowered - in fact, he is forced under the act - to see to it that every union rule complies with the requirements of the act. A union must make its rules comply with the act in order to retain registration. The act lays down the golden rule that a union must see to it that every member has the right to vote. In order to retain registration, a union must in all cases observe that provision.
I happen to know the Registrar, and I know that he is at great pains to see that trade unions do observe the provisions of the act in the conduct of ballots, the maintenance of membership lists and all the other things required by the act.
Now let me turn aside for a moment, because I have something to say to the honorable member for Bruce. It is a shame that he should rise in his place, make an attack on a man whom he should be lauding as a great leader of the trade union movement, and then run out of the chamber rather than remain and perhaps be advised on one or two of the things that he admitted he did not understand. Early in his speech, he posed this question: Is the Commonwealth public servant any different from the ordinary worker outside? To him, there is no difference. Obviously the honorable gentleman has a lot to learn. When members on the other side of the chamber rise to speak on legislation of this character, by which we are cutting still further across the province and the powers of the Public Service Arbitrator, I wonder why they do not seek to find out why the Public Service Arbitrator was appointed in the first place. If the Minister or his officers had done that on this occasion, we would not be dealing with this kind of legislation to-night, because the report on which the Minister relies as the basis for the introduction of this legislation itself gives the reason why a Public Service Arbitrator was appointed.
The position of Public Service Arbitrator was created in the 1920’s. I wonder that honorable members such as the honorable member for Bruce do not try to gain an understanding of the machinery of the trade union movement, the industrial arbitration court and the Public Service Arbitrator’s
Court, and of the reasons for the establishment of those courts. In case the honorable member for Bruce reads “ Hansard “ to-morrow to learn the facts, I shall quote from a speech, most relevant to this matter, which was made by a former member of this Parliament - a man whose name has gone down in Australian history for his understanding of the things which concern the workers. Strangely enough, I am making my speech in support of the case put forward by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), and the man whose words I shall quote in a few moments - the late Mr. W. M. Hughes - was himself at that time the honorable member for Bendigo in this House. The speech was made on 3rd September, 1920, on the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill. I shall give a few quotations from it which will show the reasons for the original appointment of a Public Service Arbitrator, so that I can link that up with this report and show how futile is the approach of this Government to the urgent industrial problems that confront us month by month and year by year in this country. Quite early in his second-reading speech on that bill, Mr. Hughes said -
Its object is primarily to relieve the congestion in the Arbitration Court, which has become of so serious a character as to menace the industrial peace of the community. The bill will remove from the Arbitration Court some thirty-three cases-
The Minister should have read this earlier - which are now on the list, and - although I am not speaking from the book - I think that will reduce the number of cases listed . . .
The Public Service Arbitrator was originally appointed to do the very thing that this Government has done in recent years in its own legislation. The Public Service Arbitrator was appointed to relieve the Arbitration Court, first of all, of the intricacies associated with Public Service inquiries. Mr. Hughes continued on that occasion in 1920-
In practice, however, it has been found that the circumstances of the public servants of the Commonwealth, governed as they are by the laws of the Commonwealth, and regulated as they are most precisely by the regulations under the Public Service Act, render inevitable an eternal conflict between the awards of the Court and the regulations to which I have referred, which, of course, derive their authority from the statutory law enacted by this Parliament. As honorable members are aware, the Public Service Act, dealing as it does with many thousands of men who are engaged in very many different branches of very many occupations, is a most complex mechanism. When an Act and the regulations thereunder govern the salary, the conditions of labour, the circumstances of promotions, &c, of every individual, it must be very apparent that a stranger coming into a dispute between public servants and the Commonwealth must be at a loss <o thread his way through the ramifications of the statutory provisions and the regulations thereunder, and at the same time to understand the bearing which an award in respect of one se.tion of the Public Service has upon another section.
Later in the same speech Mr. Hughes said -
With the exception of this appointment of a special Judge, or Arbitrator, I emphasize ‘hut public servants will find themselves in exactly the same position as at present, only that they will be able to have their cases more speedily dealt with.
The final quotation which I wish to make from that speech delivered in 1920 is -
I repeat that all the Bill proposes to do is to create a Public Service Arbitration Court. Presiding over it would be one who could be either a lawyer or a layman, but who would be concerned in no other interests. Honourable members must admit that this will be a far better method of dealing with Public Service affairs than that which exists to-day, where a Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is required to give so much of his attention to a Public Service matter arising as he may be able to spare in the course of dealing with industrial problems emanating from any and every industry throughout the land.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, there was the basis of the creation of the position of Public Service Arbitrator. When I read this second annual report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, I understand, perhaps better than does the honorable member for Bruce, the difficulties confronting the president. No words of his could indicate really the great value of the president in the industrial field. But the president’s work is being cluttered up as a result of continued amendments of the legislation by this Parliament, allowing appeals against this, that and the other. On the day when this Parliament gave a right of appeal against decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator, it destroyed a great principle- - a principle which brought peace in industry within the framework of the Commonwealth Public Service. It is hypocritical of members on the Government side to talk about desiring peace in industry, in view of the terms of the 1920 act. That legislation remained in operation until this meddlesome Government amended it in 1950. I find that the original act gave to Commonwealth public servants the longest period of social protection that they have enjoyed, and at the same time, maintained peace in that particular phase of industry. Section 19 of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920 provides -
No person or organization shall in any proceeding under this Act be represented by counsel or solicitor.
Section 20 reads -
No determination of the Arbitrator made under this Act shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question, or be subject to prohibition or mandanus, in any Court on any account whatever.
These are two of the provisions of the legislation that stood the test for 30 years under this Government started to meddle with it. To-day the hearing of cases is being delayed. Throughout this sessional period honorable members on both sides of the House have been asking the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and on one occasion the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when cases listed on behalf of Commonwealth public servants will be dealt with. The delays have been due to the meddlesome tactics of this Government. I sympathize with the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, who was impelled to report in this fashion -
The Act provides that the full bench in such cases-
He was referring to the nineteen cases - shall be constituted by not less than three members of the Commission nominated by the President, at least one of whom is a Presidential Member and one is, where practicable, the Commissioner concerned. . . . The remaining five cases directed to be referred to a full bench pursuant to Section 15a of the Public Service Arbitration Act required a bench constituted by at least two Presidential Members of the Commission nominated by the President and the Public Service Arbitrator.
One result of this Government’s legislation has been to take the Public Service Arbitrator right out of his own field. He has to sit with presidential members of the bench who, I say, in the words of the late Mr. W. M. Hughes, and with due respect to Their Honours, are not conversant with the Public Service regulations. To-day, the Public Service regulations number no fewer than 153, and all of them affect, in some way or another, the lives of public servants by prescribing their terms of employment and conditions. The regulations are quite distinct from the provisions of the act itself which has about 100 sections. It is evident from what the honorable member for Bruce said that he does not know the present Public Service Arbitrator nearly so well as I know him. He followed in the footsteps of men who were capable of dealing with situations that arose in the Public Service, and doing all the things that were needed to be done within the framework of the rules of unions and associations to which sections of public servants belong. But that was not good enough for this Government, which wanted to hamstring somebody and to do things differently. So it destroyed legislation that had stood the test for 30 years, and it has meddled in this field ever since it came to office. The president’s report continues -
The benches could not be constituted by the same members for all of the 19 cases because of the different requirements of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act on the one hand and the Public Service Arbitration Act on the other hand.
That is not an admission by the President that his machinery is not effective. It is a direct stab at this Government for setting up machinery that was inadequate to meet the situation and establishing a code that should not have been dealt with in that way. Mark my words! Commonwealth public servants throughout the country will one day realize what the Government has done in relation to this matter.If we analyse carefully what the President has said in his report, we see that he has done no more than point out the machinations concerning the Conciliation and Arbitration Act all those things about which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) warned the Government to-night. The Government is building a machine that will destroy arbitration in this country and will eliminate the kind of conciliation that was originally intended. I shall deal with that aspect of the matter when I come to the relevant provision of the amending legislation. But first let us see what else the President has stated. His report continues -
In view of the similarity of the cases in this group it is unfortunate that there is no statutory power to consolidate the hearing of any two or more cases coming before the Commission irrespective of the Act pursuant to which the cases come before the Commission. Consideration might, I suggest, be given to an amendment of the legislation to permit this.
Let me pause there. It is something new in Australia to find a situation in which the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has to ask the Government to make a complete change in the legislation relating to arbitration. The President has not recommended that this course should be followed because it is the best course; he has stated merely that it is the only way of overcoming the difficulty that has been created as a result of the legislation that this Government has put on the statute-book. Continuing, he stated -
This group of 19 full bench cases will pose serious problems to the Commission-
As a result of this Government’s legislation, and for no other reason - and the representatives of the parties in relation to procedures and the fullest co-operation will be needed from and amongst all parties concerned and the Commission itself.
In other words, as a result of this Government’s legislation, the President is making an appeal to all parties the employers and the unions which have been castigated by the honorable member for Bruce and which perhaps will be castigated further by other supporters of the Government. In this report, the President appeals to all of them for their co-operation in order to enable progress to be made with the hearing of this group of cases. I challenge honorable members on the Government side to say that the honorable member for Bendigo has not correctly described what is happening now in relation to conciliation and arbitration proceedings in this country.
The President’s report continues -
The heavy full bench list and the burden of work on Presidential Members, two of whom are fully occupied with separate industries, are such that it will not be long before serious consideration should be given to at least one additional appointment.
And so the report goes on! This Government is continuing to set up industrial arbitration machinery that will further retard the establishment of harmonious employer,employee relationships. Mr. Deputy Speaker, if this Government keeps on introducing the type of industrial arbitration legislation that it has brought before us time and time again during the nine years, more and more honorable members will rise in their places and protest.
Only yesterday, I appeared as an advocate in respect of a stoppage of work on the previous Monday. The Chief Commissioner could not indicate when it would be possible for him to deal with that particular case although it arose out of an actual stoppage of work. I sympathize with the Chief Commissioner who has his problems as a result of this Government pushing over the rights of the workers. What an open season this is for the employers! Nobody has yet interpreted precisely what the term “ public interest “ in the industrial field in Australia means. As things tighten in this country, employer and employee will be using the machinery that has been set up by this Government, and interpreting the meaning of the phrase “ public interest “ in such a way as to delay cases for months longer than would have been possible under the Chifley Government’s legislation of 1947, which streamlined arbitration for the first time in the history of Australia. That legislation was as a breath of fresh air to the workers of this country in the settlement of industrial problems. When the history of industrial arbitration in Australia is written, it will be seen that the Chifley Government’s legislation of 1947 was the only industrial arbitration legislation that brought satisfaction to both employers and employees in the industrial field.
I cannot help thinking of these regulations and their effect on Commonwealth public servants in the light of what the honorable member for Bruce said to-night. He attacked the honorable member for Bendigo on the case he made and said that he does not understand the difference between the Commonwealth public servants and the ordinary industrial workers. That is an admission on the part of the honorable member for Bruce that he does not understand the basis on which awards are made and that the important factor is the capacity of industry to pay. That was the principle laid down by the full court in the last margins case, but that dictum was not laid down for Commonwealth public servants. If it were, the most they could expect from a government of the present complexion would be basic wage increases from time to time.
Surely to goodness honorable members on the Government side understand the difference between a judgment of the Arbitration Court in a wage matter and a decision of the Public Service Arbitrator. The whole framework of wage making is different in the two jurisdictions. In the case of the Public Service Arbitrator, the determination of 1937 still stands, but it can be varied at any time on application by either party. The industrial machinery of the Public Service Arbitrator has worked successfully since it was set up in 1937. By contrast, in the field of industrial arbitration we are tied with ropes and everything else that goes with logs of claims. That is quite different from the way in which members of the Public Service have had their claims dealt with since 1920.
I urge the unionists not to set the clock back by agreeing to legislation of this character. I sympathize with the President. He is trying to do a tremendous job and when he makes a plea of this character he does not come to the Government advising that more members should be appointed to the bench to achieve greater efficiency but in an effort to catch up the backlog of claims before the court that has built up as a result of this Government’s previous legislation.
The Government stands branded for what it is in respect of industrial legislation. Although the honorable member for Bruce has often spoken on this matter, I can only come to the conclusion that he is ignorant of the background of the industrial legislation this Government has brought down. But he consistently brings forth the same arguments. Although the honorable member has often put forward the Government’s case it is obvious that he knows nothing of the background of Public Service arbitration or of conciliation and arbitration as described by the honorable member for Bendigo. Surely when we are dealing with conciliation and arbitration, we must realize that every time we touch it we touch the living standards of the workers. We must remember that the worker, the trade unionist, whether he votes Liberal or Labour, after all makes this country what it is. He is the one who produces and he is entitled to just consideration of his problems at all times and in a manner in keeping with the services he is rendering to this country irrespective of the union to which he belongs.
As to the public servants, the Minister should be at least as fair to them as was the late W. M. Hughes, who in 1920 faced reality and said that Commonwealth public servants could not be dealt with along the ordinary lines of conciliation and arbitration. That same conditions applies now. If the Public Service Arbitrator were free to speak his mind, as a man of great experience he would be the first to say that under this set-up certain principles must be followed. That is the most that can be said about “ public interest “. Where dicta have been laid down by the court they should be followed. The honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out that in fixing the remuneration of public servants, the maximum and not the minimum rate has to be considered.
.- This seems to be a singularly unpleasant hour at which to have to commence a speech, but I hope that I will make the process somewhat tolerable by a resort to brevity. It seems to me to be one of those strange manifestations of masculine thinking that at a quarter past eleven at night we should be directing our attention to legislation of this consequence. I venture to suggest to the House that it is all the poorer because there are not a few women here. If there were, we would not be legislating in this fashion at this time.
I should be the last person to say to the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), or to my friend the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) that the present system of conciliation and arbitration in Australia is faultless. I do not believe that any person looking at the system which has developed over the last half-century or more would say that it represents perfection in all manner of things. Of course, it is anything but perfect. But the imperfections of the system which present themselves are a challenge to our ingenuity and sense of responsibility and to what I would regard as being our characteristic initiative in these matters.
Although it is relatively easy to point to the weaknesses which exist in the Australian conciliation and arbitration system, it seems to be a rather odd pattern of thinking that some gentleman on the Opposition side should say that the whole system should be scrapped. It is a useful exercise for the House to recall what happened in 1942 in relation to the Australian approach to arbitration. In 1942, the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was AttorneyGeneral of this country and he convened in this capital city a constitutional convention. The purpose of that convention was to ask the representatives of the various States to go back to their respective legislatures and put before them a set of proposals to cede to the Commonwealth power to legislate in respect of a number of social and economic problems.
It is of some consequence to recall that one of the powers asked for by the then Attorney-General, now the Leader of the Opposition, was that the State parliaments should cede to the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate with respect to employment and unemployment. On the surface that may seem to be of no great consequence, but at the time of the conference, the then Leader of the Opposition in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly, Mr. A. S. Watts, moved an amendment in these terms -
That after the word “ employment “ the words, “not including the fixing of wages and conditions of employment “ be inserted.
The then Attorney-General’s response to Mr. Watts’s amendment was characteristic. He declared -
I appeal to Mr. Watts not to press his amendment. If a legal dispute arose as to the meaning of the words, that meaning would be a matter for decision by the High Court.
Here is the punch line -
Why fetter unnecessarily the. powers of Parliament?
I think that it is a fair thing to say, that the thinking of the Labour Party in this country to-day, as it has been for many years, is that the Parliament should determine all forms of social and economic conditions, thai this Parliament should shape economic conditions at all points and in all circumstances. Therefore, I say to the Opposition and to the House that when the Opposition criticizes the existing conciliation and arbitration system, what it is doing, in effect, is to say, “ We believe that this Parliament should have complete power to legislate with respect to wages, hours of work and conditions of work “.
– So it should.
– I have met with approval. I can recall the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) on one occasion saying that the responsibility in this matter should be determined entirely by Parliament.
There is the contrast. This side of politics has for many years adopted the traditional approach of support for the principle for independent arbitration. As against that, the Labour Party has put forward the view that, instead of having an independent arbitral system, you should have an arbitral system that is exposed to the persuasion and to the direction of Parliament.
One’s mind goes back to the general election compaign of, I believe, 1952 or 1953, when the present Leader of the Opposition, dealing with the introduction by the previous Parliament of the right of appeal from decisions of conciliation commissioners on various matters, said two things. First, he said, “ If we are elected to power we will wipe out the right of appeal from decisions of conciliation commissioners “. Secondly, he gave a clear undertaking to the Australian electorate that if the Labour Party were returned the issue of margins would be completely settled. How did he propose to settle that issue? The only way that he could have settled the margins issue would have been to expose the then conciliation commissioners to, in effect, a form of political direction and political control, and the only possible way in which that circumstance could have been developed would have been to remove the security of office of the conciliation commissioners.
I say to my friend, the honorable member for Blaxland, without any heat or malevolence, that he surprised me this evening by the vigour of his speech and of his attack on this legislation. I should have thought that the legislation would have created hardly a ripple on the political scene. I hope that no honorable gentleman opposite will say, “Well, that is simply indicative of your shallow thinking on this matter “, because if I may say so myself, I hope in a spirit of tolerable modesty, I have a sense of conscience in these matters. When one comes in contact with trade unionists of various callings and sees the kind of problems that they face from time to time, one gets to know their fears and their worries and, indeed, their hopes. It is not true to say that all sympathy for the trade union movements rests with the Labour Party. As was pointed out by my friend, the honorable member for Bruce, in an excellent fashion, the fact of the matter is that tens of thousands of trade unionists throughout this country vote for this Government and have consistently assisted to return it to office.
So I say to the honorable member for Blaxland that when he said that the honorable member for Bruce simply got up, made a few ill-considered remarks and then walked out of the chamber, that was a rather uncharitable and ungallant remark to make. The simple truth is that the honorable member for Bruce had been sitting in this chamber the whole evening, as I had been, listening to the debate on this matter. Then the honorable gentleman got up and walked outside the chamber, for no other reason than to have a well-earned cup of tea. I do not think that this sniping at the fact that the honorable member for Bruce walked out of the chamber enlivens or aids the standard of debate.
– The honorable member for Blaxland has himself left the chamber.
– I am not going to say that the honorable member for Blaxland is not in the chamber now, because that sort of thing does not help. I do not believe that it assists the Parliament or the electorate in coming to an intelligent and an informed decision on this matter. I shall not weary the House by endeavouring to recapitulate the points made by the honorable member for Bruce. I believe that he spoke with lucidity and force this evening, and with a clear and capable comprehension of all the relevant facts involved. I think that that is also the sentiment of every person in this House who listened to him, whether we agree with the points he made or not. His was an excellent contribution to this debate.
I turn from that, Sir, to another point. The honorable member for Blaxland said, as did the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), in a sense, that the trade union movement is completely capable of conducting its own affairs. That, to me, is quite an intelligible remark and a statement that one is not going to attempt to dispose of lightly. But I want to put this in all sincerity to the honorable member for Bendigo: Australia is possibly the most highly unionized country in the world. I believe that some 61 per cent, of wage and salary earners in Australia are members of trade unions. No fewer than 1,800,000 Australians are trade unionists, but there are some facets of trade union behaviour that do not impinge exclusively on the trade union movement, and I propose, Sir, to give but one or two fleeting illustrations of what I have in mind.
– That does not apply only to trade unions.
– That is perfectly true, and. I am indebted to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for his interjection. The point at issue is that, whether you are dealing with the employers’ point of view or with that of the employees, there are literally millions of people who fall in between the two. What the employer does, on the one hand, and what the employee does, on the other, vitally affects the lives, the welfare and the security of every member of the Australian community. That is why I say to the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Blaxland that you cannot simply confine the affairs of the trade union movement and say, “ Brother, this does not interest you. This is no business of yours “, because the truth of the matter is the complete reverse of that.
May I give one vital illustration of the sort of thing that I have in mind. This may touch one or two tender and sensitive parts of the political anatomy of my friends of the Opposition, but I mention it because it is worthwhile to do so. Let us take the case of unity tickets. I can recall, as no doubt the House will recall, that last year I presented in this Parliament a photostat copy of a unity ticket that was currently being run in connexion with a waterfront election in Brisbane. Honorable gentlemen opposite are quite entitled to say to me, “ Well, that was the business of the Waterside Workers Federation “. It was not only the business of the Waterside Workers Federation. Let us take the case of Czechoslovakia. In February, 1949 - I believe that that is the approximate date - some 80 per cent, of the trade union movement in that country was anti-Communist, but due to the introduction and to the operation of the unity ticket tactic, Czechoslovakia’s trade union movement became completely Communist-dominated. I remind my friend, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who is interjecting, that it was the Communist-controlled and the Communist-directed trade union movement in Czechoslovakia that led the coup that overthrew democratic government in that country. So I say, Sir, that that is an illustration of the vital way in which trade union affairs affect and are entitled to concern, not simply the Government and the members of the Government parties, but every person in Australia.
Reference has been made to secret ballots. This, of course, is in line with the subject that I have been discussing. Again, the honorable member for Bendigo asked, “ Why should there be court-controlled ballots? Why should the Government pretend to seek a mandate to interfere in union affairs?” The Government is not interfering in union affairs. Trade unions have made 172 applications for protection and assistance under the Government’s legislation which was introduced in 1951. I think that that is a pretty solid and apt testimony to the success of the Government’s legislation on trade union ballots.
I do not believe that we are thinking very clearly at all if we run away from the fact that a court-controlled ballot ensures, amongst other things, justice for every member of the trade union in which such a ballot is held. It ensures a genuine spirit of democracy instead of the complete farce that has occurred sometimes at union meetings when time has been talked out, and the proceedings have continued until well after midnight. On such occasions the average trade unionist thinks, “ I will get into hot water with the wife when I get home to-night. I will have a lot of explaining to do if my wife will not accept my statement that I was attending a trade union meeting”. I have seen it in shearing sheds where a degree of intimidation has been put on various members of the shed in relation to such a matter as declaring the sheep wet or dry. It only needs a degree of intimidation to force some people into saying, “ Rather than stand up against this sort of thing I will take the easy way out “.
There is not an honorable member in this House who can conscientiously say that there has not been gross intimidation in trade union affairs in the past. Beyond the fact that countcontrolled ballots secure justice and democracy in trade union affairs, they are a vital defence weapon because they have enabled this country to shake off a good deal of the militancy of. leadership of the extremist element in the trade unions that has threatened to destroy the industrial and economic life of this country.
On 9th April, the Brisbane “ Courier Mail “ published an editorial dealing with a dispute at the Rocklea works of the English Electric Company of Australia Proprietary Limited. There was an instance of the sort of trouble that comes about when there is a vast disparity between. State and Federal awards. That paper was summonsed for contempt of court. I hope that no person will say that this is an attack on the newspapers generally or on the particular paper concerned. Many people, including myself, were genuinely disturbed at the trend that the stoppage at the works had taken. I believe that the cause of the stoppage can be easily understood. I know what my feelings would be if I were working under a Federal award alongside a fellow who was working under a State award and there was a difference of 25s. a week in our pay. I would gradually acquire a sour attitude of mind. That is more or less what happened at the Rocklea works of the English Electric Company.
The Commonwealth Industrial Court found that the newspaper concerned and the editor-in-chief had been guilty of contempt of court. I do not argue the judgment at all. There were many people, including myself, who took the view that the judgment was not sound in all. matters. But I use this as an illustration of a broader problem. The paper had suggested that there should be a form of appeal from the Commonwealth Industrial Court to the High Court.
May I put a personal point of view on that point? I would be unhappy to see the High Court concerned in an energetic and frequent way with industrial matters and industrial politics. I believe it would greatly weaken the prestige and status of the court. Possibly a number of colleagues on both sides of the House, particularly my side, would say that that may not be the case. But I put that point for the consideration of those people who may be prompted to suggest that, in view of the judgment concerning the Brisbane “ CourierMail “, there should be a form of appeal from the Commonwealth Industrial Court to the High Court. It would be a sad, unhappy day for this country to see the High Court brought into the maelstrom of industrial politics. Australia has gained much from the judgments, the prestige and the calibre of people who have sat on the High Court. It would represent a grave injustice to the traditions of the Parliament and to the hopes of the future if the position of that court were to be weakened in any way.
May I conclude by congratulating the new Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) on the manner in which he has approached his new portfolio. With characteristic energy, he has set about the task of pursuing a policy that had been pursued previously by the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). That policy is to seek to maintain with dignity and a sense of understanding, sound, intelligent and stable industrial conditions throughout the length and breadth of this country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
House adjourned at 11.38’ p.m.
The following answers to questions were: circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) According to the 1954 census which segregated employment in rural industries into individual occupations, there were 111,557 persons employed in dairying in Australia. I have no reason to believe that this figure has altered significantly in recent years. On the manufacturing side, the official figure of the average weekly employment in butter, cheese and processed milk factories in 1957-58 was 10,870; average weekly employment in the icecream industry during the same year was 2,104 persons. (b) The average weekly employment during 1957-58 in factories classified as margarine manufacturing establishments was 1,212.
(Source: Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics )
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What decision was recorded by the International Court of Justice in respect of claims submitted some few years ago by Japan for the right of its pearling luggers to operate off the northern coast of Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
On 8th April, 19S9, in answer to a question asked in the House of Representatives by the member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) on the subject of pearling by Japanese nationals, the Attorney-General stated - “ There is a provisional regime pending a hearing before the International Court of Justice of the dispute between Japan and Australia. The issues to be tried before the court have not yet been decided upon and the possibility of settling the whole matter without resort to the processes of the court has not been despaired of “. There has been no alteration in the situation since that date.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the .Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
d asked1 the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice: -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590512_reps_23_hor23/>.