23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. Can the honorable gentleman say when the new pharmaceutical benefits will come into operation? Will they commence on 1st January next? Also, what will be the position with regard to drugs that are not covered by the pharmaceutical benefits scheme? Will there be anything on the prescriptions issued by doctors to show whether the drugs prescribed are covered by the scheme?
– The provisions of the recently passed National Health Bill, which apply to pharmaceutical benefits, will not be proclaimed to come into operation on 1st January. At the request of the chemists, I have agreed to delay the proclamation of that part of the act for sufficient time to enable the chemists to make the necessary administrative arrangements for the changeover. However, the relevant provisions will be proclaimed as soon as possible in the New Year.
The actual position with regard to prescribing under the new arrangement will be precisely the same as it is now. When the patient goes to a doctor the doctor will write a prescription in duplicate for a pharmaceutical benefit, just as he does now. The patient will take that prescription to the chemist, who will dispense it for the patient just as he does now, but the chemist will be entitled and, indeed, expected to charge the patient 5s. The adjustment in respect of the remainder of the cost of the prescription will be made, again just as it is now, from the returns sent in by the chemist to the Department of Health. The chemists at present are paid monthly-
– What will be the position in respect of drugs not on the list? Will there be for them a different kind of prescription?
– The position there will be the same as it is now. The doctor will write a prescription for a drug that is not a pharmaceutical benefit in the same way as he does now. The prescription will not carry the letters “ N.H.S.” on the top of it, and will be dispensed by the chemist as at present.
– It will not be in triplicate form-
– Order! I think this matter is developing into a debate.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he can give honorable members any information on the resolutions introduced and debated in the United Nations recently on nuclear explosions. Can he say anything with regard to the principle that Australia adhered to in determining whether to vote for or against those resolutions?
– A considerable number of resolutions concerning nuclear explosions were dealt with during the current session of the United Nations Assembly. Those resolutions were brought forward by Soviet Russia, the United Kingdom, Morocco, India and several other countries. The principles that Australia has always adopted since this matter came under active public discussion are, first, to support proposals for the banning of nuclear tests under international arrangements and proper control, and that there should be no further nuclear explosions while arrangements are being discussed; secondly, that Australia has always been opposed to the emergence of any fourth, fifth, or additional nuclear power.
Resolutions frequently contain a considerable number of clauses, some of which we can support and some of which we cannot. In the case of resolutions which we cannot support, we have abstained from voting and have explained the reasons for our abstention. There were about six or eight resolutions directed generally towards nuclear explosions and nuclear control. We have adopted a consistent attitude ever since this matter came under active public discussion.
– Does the Treasurer recall that a few weeks ago during the debate on the motion to adjourn I criticized the methods that were being employed, and the type of questions that were being asked by investigators of the Taxation Branch in Tasmania? Is it a fact that the Commissioner of Taxation ordered an investigation into the charges that I made? Has the Treasurer yet received a report from Sir Patrick McGovern on the result of that investigation? I may mention that I have received further information from farmers which confirms the allegations that I made.
– I do recall the matter that was raised by the honorable member, and I gathered subsequently that Sir Patrick McGovern was making inquiries into the honorable member’s allegations. I have not yet had anything put before me by Sir Patrick on this matter, but I shall get in touch with him in the course of the day and try to ascertain some information for the honorable gentleman before he leaves Canberra.
– I direct my question to the Minister for External Affairs who, no doubt, will recall that in August negotiations were opened in London between the governments of India and Pakistan on the Indus Valley waters dispute with a view to drawing up a programme for the development of the use of the waters of this valley which would involve an expenditure of about one billion dollars, to which this Government has agreed to contribute. Can the right honorable gentleman give us any information on how these negotiations are progressing? Has any indication yet been given of the amount that Australia is likely to be asked to contribute?
– The Indus waters matter has been under active discussion and negotiation, not since last August but for a number of years. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has taken a foremost part in these negotiations as an honest broker acting between the two governments which are principally concerned. I am not up to date in respect of the last few weeks, but when I last heard of the matter it had been progressing well, thanks largely to the part that was being played by Mr. Eugene Black, the chairman of the International Bank.
It has been proposed that the International Bank should contribute over a period of years towards the large capital sum which is involved, and that other well-disposed countries should contribute also. I cannot at this moment state the precise amount that Australia is likely to contribute over a period of years, but it is expected that it will be quite substantial.
– In view of the many important aspects of the Colombo Plan which were discussed at the recent meeting of interested nations at Jogjakarta, will the Minister for External Affairs arrange for the report of the Australian delegation to be tabled in the House early next year so that honorable members will have an opportunity to debate the numerous issues that were raised?
– Yes, certainly.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. I ask the Minister: Is there any proposal to amend the law in the Northern Territory which provides for a term of imprisonment without the option of a fine for supplying intoxicating liquor to aborigines?
– No proposal of this kind is being considered by the Government. I am aware, however, that there has been a certain amount of what may be called public agitation in favour of such an amendment. Strangely enough, the agitation comes from people who profess to have the interests of the aborigines at heart. If I may say so, it seems to me that we need to straighten out some of our thinking on this subject. Any one who has worked among aborigines or had anything to do with them will know that there is no single cause which contributes more to the degradation and debasement of the primitive and ignorant aboriginal than does intoxicating liquor.
In the Northern Territory about eight years ago, it was found that the customary penalty of a fine did not act as a deterrent and that it certainly seemed to be an inadequate penalty for what is really an abominable offence of debasing a fellow human being. Therefore, a penalty of imprisonment without the option of a fine was introduced, and it has had a considerable deterrent effect. It should be remembered, also, that, although the penalty is a term of imprisonment, the law provides that a person - particularly a first offender - who incurs a penalty for having supplied liquor to an aboriginal may appeal to a higher court and, if he shows mitigating circumstances, have the penalty reduced.
I would, myself, on all occasions, strongly defend the appropriateness of this severe penalty, because the offence, in my mind, is one which requires a severe penalty. I would put the seriousness of the offence in its most extreme form by saying that, in the Northern Territory, we have had experience of excessive drinking among aborigines leading to other crimes even as great as the crime of murder. Surely honorable members would not think it appropriate that, when a poor, besotted aboriginal is gaoled for murder, we should say to the man who contributed to the aboriginal’s corruption, “ Pay a fiver at the door as you go out “.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question. In view of the current report that national service training is to be discontinued, with a consequent saving of approximately £10,000,000 a year, will the right honorable gentleman consider allocating an equivalent sum to the various State governments for expenditure on the construction of houses?
– The first matter raised by the honorable gentleman will no doubt receive attention in the statement which my colleague, the Minister for Defence, proposes to seek leave to make a little later in the morning. As to the second part of the question, irrespective of what changes in defence policy may occur, the financial implications of those changes would raise questions of Government policy which it would not be proper for me to comment on at this point.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister’s attention been invited to a direction issued by Conciliation Commissioner Findlay to a leading Victorian wool firm to discontinue its two-year-old bonus plan for its employees? Is not it a fact that the New South Wales State Dockyard, at Newcastle, has a bonus plan for its employees and that miners employed by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited enjoy a lead bonus? Does not Commissioner Findlay’s direction amount to an infringement by the State of the rights of individuals?
– I received a report this morning that Conciliation Commissioner Findlay had directed a Victorian firm not to make bonus payments to its employees. I understand, too, that these payments had been made for about two years and were of advantage to the employees of the company. I think it is rather quaint that strike action should have been planned prior to the matter going to the conciliation commissioner and that, subsequently, the conciliation commissioner considered it necessary to order the company not to make the payments and the employees themselves not to receive them. I, personally, think it is regrettable that this should have occurred purely because it was thought that the practice might spread and the union itself might lose some authority over the employees. I think I should say, too, that what the honorable gentleman has said about these payments at the State dockyard in New South Wales is correct. I am not so certain about the payments by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to its mining employees, but I will find out and let the honorable gentleman know what I learn. If I may make one other comment to the honorable gentleman, knowing his interest in these matters, again I think it is quaint that the Australian Council of Trade Unions should be lending its support to action by the Waterside Workers’ Federation to have a bans clause taken out of the recent waterside workers’ award made by Mr. Justice Ashburner. This is a first-class award which gives great benefits to the waterside workers and some benefits to the shipowners. I think that we should regard this award not only as being comprehensive and giving benefits, but also as asking that some responsibility be accepted. After all, if we have an arbitration system we cannot have a situation in which either party picks the eyes out of any award and rejects what it does not like.
In the case of the Waterside Workers Award it seems clear that it was expected that only in return for the continuing of work could higher payments be justified.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether it is a fact that the population of the Northern Territory is about 50 per cent, white and 50 per cent, aboriginal? Does the law exclude the aboriginal from drinking intoxicating liquor? Has the Government permitted the establishment of two breweries in Darwin? Will the liquor concessions legislation add to the facilities for drinking in the Territory? A lot of us agree with the Minister’s condemnation of the effect of alcohol upon aborigines and upon other people. In view of the fact that almost 50 per cent, of the population of the Northern Territory needs protection will he give consideration to an almost complete prohibition on the sale of alcohol or, certainly, to some stricter control of it in the Territory?
– There are about 21,000 persons in the Northern Territory who are regarded as Australian citizens and about 15,000 who, under the law, are classed as aborigines or wards of the State. Two breweries have been established in the Northern Territory. It was not a question of permitting them to be established. It was merely a matter of not intervening to prevent the establishment of a business. No particular permission was required. I think that total prohibition in the Territory would introduce quite a number of other considerations besides the welfare of aborigines. I would not, myself, be an advocate of total prohibition. The consumption of alcohol by aborigines who are still in a primitive and ignorant condition is against the law and the supply of alcohol to them is against the law and penalties are provided. That seems to me to be the best way in which this problem can be approached.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. In view of the widespread publicity that has been given to the disgraceful living conditions of personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force in Darwin where families are said to be living in bush shanties, will the Minister comment on this and on the statement that Canberra has decreed that 260 men must live in these buildings?
– The honorable member is quite clearly referring to what is known as “ emergency housing “ on the Air Force base at Darwin. Some Air Force families are living under sub-standard conditions on the base.
– You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain silent.
– I have never attempted to disguise this. On the other hand, I have made the most strenuous efforts to bring this state of affairs to an end. It will end in June, 1961, when the housing needs of the whole base will have been completely met. Seventy-five houses are being built on the Air Force base in a three-year programme. No. 5 Airfield Construction Squadron will progressively move out, starting shortly, and will give up a number of houses to airmen posted to Darwin. The whole problem is being progressively solved.
A mischief has been done by some critics in suggesting that the sub-standard housing is official Air Force housing on the base. That is not so. It is a relic of the post-war period when airmen trying to get places for their families, as other people did in Darwin, built dwellings for themselves in Air Force sheds. They are not official houses, but the Air Force authorities had to take cognizance of the fact that people were living there and also had to deal with the problem that when one airman moved out he sometimes attempted to sell his occupancy to an incomer. To regularize the situation these occupancies were recorded and were offered to incoming airmen in accordance with a list of priorities for housing.
But if an airman does not want to have one of these dwellings he is not obliged to take it. A refusal does not affect his right to temporary housing allowance which is in effect a subsidy for rent paid for civilian accommodation off the base where proper service housing is not available. If he does not take one of these dwellings that does not affect his right to retain his position on the waiting list for a proper house on the base.
– When he can get it.
– Order! I direct the attention of the honorable member for East Sydney to the fact that he has already been warned, and if he interjects again I will deal with him.
– The only alternative to recognizing this situation would have been to turn the airmen out of these dwellings, something which none of them would wish to happen.
– In view of the fact that there are over 12,000 outstanding applications for telephone services in the Sydney metropolitan area, including more than 1,300 in my electorate, will the PostmasterGeneral indicate whether he considers the back lag is normal, or whether any special plans are in hand to alleviate the situation? If no special relief programme is contemplated, will the Minister ask the Treasurer for special financial assistance to facilitate a programme for the overtaking of outstanding applications in a prescribed period?
– Over a period of five or six years there has been a steady reduction in the number of outstanding applications for telephones. I speak from memory when I say that the gross number of outstanding applications about three or four years ago was between 70,000 and 80,000. That has been reduced to-day to something slightly over 40,000. Of course, as the honorable member has pointed out, there are still certain areas in which the number of outstanding applications is fairly high, but attention is being given to those areas. As an indication of the attitude of the Government on this matter I point out to the honorable member that the total amount made available from Consolidated Revenue for capital works in the Postal Department has been increased from £32,200,000 last year to £35,000,000 this year. The department is steadily catching up on the lag, as the figures I have quoted show.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by saying that for at least six months every year, at the con clusion of the sugar season, there is a deal of unemployment in areas where sugar is grown. Will the Treasurer consider a scheme whereby the Government would pay to local authorities for six months each year amounts equivalent to the unemployment benefit that would otherwise be paid to persons affected, if the local authorities were to employ such persons on developmental works, such as concrete channelling, sewerage and so on, and were to find the money necessary to make up the difference between the wages payable for such work and the unemployment benefit?
– The honorable member puts forward an interesting suggestion. However, I see quite a few problems and complexities associated with it. In the first place, the law as it stands requires unemployment benefit to be paid to an individual who qualifies under the terms of the legislation. It would require amending legislation to provide that the unemployment benefit now paid to individuals be transferred instead to local government authorities in the area mentioned, quite apart from the complex problem which would arise as to CommonwealthState relations, and the area of jurisdiction which the Commonwealth would normally enter in these matters.
It is appreciated that in certain areas of Queensland particularly there is a seasonal problem of employment. So far as the generality of workers engaged in industry in those areas are concerned, industrial awards have taken into account the fact that work is of a seasonal and perhaps spasmodic character, and the rates payable under an award there have been loaded accordingly. So I imagine that most workers in those areas who have a full season of work, and who receive unemployment benefit when not employed in the off-season, are able to average out not unreasonably over the year. However, Sir, the Commonwealth Government has, as is known, made additional provision for all the States, including Queensland, in the course of this year. What we have arranged in relation to the Mr Isa railway project should, I believe, give some added stimulus to industrial activity in Queensland. I hope that as a result of a combination of those circumstances the practical problem which the honorable member puts to us will be met rather more satisfactorily, and certainly more in keeping with the normal policies pursued by this Government, than would be the case if we adopted the suggestion he has made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. What stage has been reached in the planning or construction of Commonwealth offices in Adelaide for the purpose of housing the many Commonwealth departments now scattered throughout that city?
– There are no positive plans in hand for the construction of large Commonwealth offices in Adelaide. In view of the very pressing need for large-scale expenditure in other capital cities, and the fact that suitable accommodation has been found in fairly modern buildings in Adelaide, that city is a little lower on the priority list than the other capital cities.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs, in his capacity of Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization: In view of the very valuable contribution made to the economy of the wool industry of Australia by the processes, such as Siroset and moth-proofing, developed by officers of the C.S.I.R.O. research station at Belmont, will the Minister consider giving formal recognition to this work by submitting recommendations for suitable awards to those concerned?
– The good work of the wool textile research laboratories of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is widely known in respect of the development of Siroset, moth-proofing, fleece-proofing, drip-dry material, and the rest. This work has been done, and these things have been achieved, in the ordinary course of C.S.I.R.O. scientific research work. From time to time, however, officers who do particularly responsible jobs or achieve something novel are recommended for honours*. I instance the fact that Dr. Farnworth, who was respon sible for the development of the Siroset process, was awarded an M.B.E. in, I think, the last honours list. The matter generally will be kept under notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. In answer to a question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Wakefield, the Minister tried to give the impression that I was in error in suggesting that there were restrictions on the sale of aircraft manufactured in Australia. Did the Minister not admit, in the course of that answer, that the consent of the overseas companies concerned with the manufacture of various aircraft had to be obtained in order to manufacture those aircraft in Australia for any purpose other than Australian use? Is it a fact that this consent was never obtained in the case of the Avon Sabre, and that there has always been considerable opposition in the United States to the granting of such consent? Will the Minister now answer the question asked by the honorable member for Wakefield, and will the Government seek to eliminate these restrictions in the future, so that aircraft may be manufactured in Australia for supply to other countries, thereby reducing the cost of production?
– I hope I can make this matter clear to the honorable member for Yarra. I have had about three tries to do so already. The position is that one of the terms of the contracts for the manufacture in Australia of the North American Sabre, the English Electric Canberra and the RollsRoyce engines that power them was that if Australia wished to export these aircraft she would have to make an arrangement with the overseas manufacturers of them. In the case of the aircraft and engines I have mentioned, and indeed all aircraft that have been made in Australia during the last ten years, these arrangements were made and approval was given.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister considered the proposal of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the first national programme of research into all phases of the dairying industry? If so, can he inform the House whether first priority will be given to the investigation of possible new forms of dairy products, or whether sufficient funds will be available for examination of factors affecting markets and the attitude of consumers, such as quality, packaging, presentation and nutritional value?
– The Dairy Produce Research Committee has made recommendations to me, which I have approved, covering various aspects of research, including, to a certain extent, the matters mentioned by the honorable member. About twenty items are included in the list, and I cannot remember them all, but I will give the honorary member a full copy of the proposals of the committee.
– Did the Prime Minister recently receive a deputation from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations seeking a special grant of £10,000,000 to meet the immediate and challenging problems besetting local government bodies throughout the nation? If so, will the right honorable gentleman tell the House whether he has yet reached a decision on the submissions made to him? If he has not, will he give earnest consideration to the problems of local government, especially those caused by the inflow of immigrants to Australia, which brings in its train financial stresses and strains on all local governing organizations?
– Accompanied by my colleague, the Treasurer, and, I think, the Postmaster-General, I did receive a deputation of representatives of local government bodies. The spokesmen for those authorities put their views very fully, and also provided certain additional matter which they invited us to study. I hardly need to point out that in the last few days there has been singularly little opportunity for either the Treasurer or myself to carry the matter any further, but we are not forgetting it, and the whole position will be examined.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that in some rural areas there is a shortage of non-official postmasters or post- mistresses? Will he consider setting up a pool of these operators for use in emergencies, and so avoid undue hardship to those subscribers who, through no fault of their own, find that they have no means of communication, particularly by telephone?
– I shall be glad to give attention to the suggestion by the honorable member for Wimmera. In brief explanation, I point out that generally the department has a list of persons who desire to obtain postings as non-official postmasters when opportunities arise, but I do not think that anything in the nature of a priority list is available. However, I will see whether some practical use can be made of the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman in agreement with the suggestion made by the Prime Minister of Malaya during his recent visit to Australia that members of this Parliament should visit his country? Is the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister to Malaya, during which he will be accompanied by the honorable member for Barker, the outcome of the invitation extended by the Prime Minister of Malaya? If so, why was not a member of the Opposition included so that the delegation could have been more truly representative of this Parliament?
– The honorable member probably knows that I had some discussion on this matter with the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I would like to know about it.
– Well, it ended by my saying that I thought, on the whole, I would not pursue the notion that I had in my mind of choosing some member of the Opposition to go.
– Mr. Ward was waiting.
– Who was waiting?
– Mr. Ward.
– We would have left it to your own good judgment.
– If you had told me that, I could have made a decision earlier.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Did he have an opportunity, while he was in New York attending the current session of the United Nations, to discuss the operations of the United Nations Special Fund for under-developed countries with the fund’s director, Mr. Hoffman? Does he believe that this fund is operating successfully? Can he tell me approximately how many nations recently pledged support to the fund and what was the total of their pledged contributions? What sort of projects are undertaken by the fund? Is it a fact that about four-fifths of the money from the fund is spent in countries outside the iron curtain?
– Yes, I did meet Mr. Paul Hoffman, who is the manager of the special fund, on several occasions in New York and I have also corresponded with him. The fund is in its early stages. There were two meetings in the earlier part of this year and a third meeting will be held in December. For 1959, about 25,000,000 dollars was, I believe from memory, produced by about 60 countries, and for 1960 the amount will be about 32,000,000 dollars, and will come from something like the same number of countries. About 120 applications have been made for aid under the special fund, totalling about 125,000,000 dollars. These are for general developmental projects such as water supply, irrigation and power, and applications for industrial surveys, land development surveys, fisheries surveys and the like. The applications cover a wide range. The amount applied for is considerably greater than the amount available. This results in close scrutiny of the applications, some of which are rejected and some of which are amended, so that the total amount of money available is able to meet the applications that are approved by the approving body.
As to the geographical distribution of the aid, all continents are represented; but most of the money, of course, goes to the more under-developed areas of the world, such as South and South-East Asia, the Middle East and parts of South America. I would expect the honorable member’s estimate that four-fifths of the money is used outside iron curtain countries to be approximately correct.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say what progress is being made in arranging a conference on civil defence between the Commonwealth and the States?
– I understand that the Prime Minister issued invitations to the State Premiers to send representatives to a conference on civil defence. I intimated in my statement in the House recently that this conference would be held. Unfortunately, as yet, it has not been possible to agree to a date for the holding of the conference. A tentative date was fixed. I think five Premiers indicated that they were not able to attend and one Premier did not reply to the invitation.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question without notice, and I promise to make it easy. Has the Minister frequently expressed appreciation of the work of rifle clubs in Australia in training men in the use of service rifles? Has he from time to time denied that he would sponsor any action that would limit the activities of rifle clubs? Does he now propose to charge rifle clubs for ammunition at such an amount per 1,000 rounds as would force many riflemen to give up their activities and cause many rifle clubs to close? Will he take the earliest opportunity to make the frankest possible statement on this matter?
– This matter has been under current consideration by the Government, and I hope to make the full statement required by the honorable member within the next day or two.
– Recently I asked the Minister for Trade a question relative to the importation of pig meats from New Zealand. I now ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether, in view of the improvement in local supplies, he will use his kind offices with the Minister for Trade to have any further importation of pig meats reconsidered. In view of the recent statement made by the Minister for Health regarding the outbreak of swine fever in certain countries, will the Minister for Primary Industry endeavour to ensure that if any outside supplies are required, they will be drawn only from New Zealand, where the incidence of disease would not be a threat to the local industry?
– For a period there was a slight shortage, more particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, of pig meats, and there were, I think, some imports from New Zealand. But with an excess from Queensland available to supply southern markets I do not think there have been any supplies coming into this country from other countries. With regard to imports from other countries, the importation not only of live-stock, but also of carcasses is controlled by the Minister for Health, and quarantine regulations protect the country against the introduction of disease. I think imports are permitted from Eire and Northern Ireland only, apart from New Zealand. I will convey the honorable member’s remarks to the Minister for Trade and to the Minister for Health.
– by leave - Cabinet has completed its consideration of the new threeyear defence programme. The decisions taken are related to the requirements of the strategic situation. This takes into account trends in the international situation, the assessment of possible threats to our security based on the best available intelligence, and the plans developed in conjunction with our Commonwealth partners and our allies in Anzus and Seato to meet various contingencies that could arise.
We have seen no reason to vary the broad strategic principles on which our defence policy has been based since the previous review of 1957. Events since then, including the top-level East-West talks that have been held this year, which now seem likely to culminate in a summit conference, have served to confirm our previous views. These principles are briefly as follows: -
Global, or full-scale, war remains not impossible, but unlikely, as a deliberate act of policy. However, limited wars could break out in various unstable areas.
The primary aim of our defence effort should therefore be the continual improvement of our ability to re-act promptly and effectively with our allies to meet limited war situations. The forces maintained for this purpose also enable us to fulfil a worthwhile role in the cold war, e.g., the stationing of forces in the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya. At this point 1 might mention that the Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, during his recent visit to Australia, welcomed the presence of our troops in his country. He said they gave a feeling of security to the Malayan people and helped them to plan for peace and prosperity.
Finally, Australia is a small nation, with limited resources. The most effective way of ensuring our safety is through association with allies in the collective defence arrangements which have been developed in our area of strategic interest. We therefore continue to attach the highest importance in our defence policy and planning to participation in British Commonwealth defence co-operation, Seato and Anzus. It goes without saying that membership of these arrangements, which give us the benefit of defence in depth from possible aggression, carries complementary responsibilities. We must maintain an effective capability to honour our treaty obligations in the future as we have in the past. We all hope that the United Nations will become more and more significant in the prevention of war and the settlement of international disputes.
At the outset I give a brief review of the defence programme. The objectives of defence policy are achieved through the defence programme, which makes provision for the organization and equipment of the forces to enable them to fulfil their approved roles. In determining the scope of the programme, and the financial resources that can be allocated to defence, Cabinet must have regard to the requirements of other sectors of the economy, to ensure that economic stability and national development are not prejudiced by a disproportionate expenditure on defence.
The present financial year is the final year of the three-year programme which was announced in 1957. As it is essential that the services should be able to plan ahead in the organization of their forces, the ordering of equipment and the commencement of other essential capital projects, the decisions taken in the present review cover a new three-year period.
The strategic role of the Navy is to ensure the defence of sea communications, and to co-operate with allies and sister services in general operations of war. Our naval policy places special emphasis on anti-submarine capabilities. The naval programme has been reviewed against these requirements, and the need to plan ahead for the replacement of units as they become obsolescent, having regard, at the same time, to new developments and trends in naval warfare. This is a special problem in the case of the Navy, because of the length of time and high cost for construction of major new units.
Our examination of the measures required to be initiated now for the provision of the most effective naval force possible, within available resources, has raised for consideration the future of the Fleet Air Arm. This comprises the aircraft carrier “ Melbourne “ with its front line establishment of five squadrons of Sea Venom fighters and Gannet anti-submarine aircraft. These aircraft will be worn out by mid-1963. The higher-performance, more sophisticated aircraft which would replace them could not operate from “ Melbourne “, but would require a more modern and faster carrier. A replacement carrier of a modern type, that would be suitable to our requirements and within our Budget, is not available from any likely sources. The construction of a new carrier for the Royal Australian Navy could not be seriously considered; the cost would be completely prohibitive, and the time required for new construction would not meet our needs. In any case, the position is that naval aviation is now a complex and costly enterprise, both in respect of carrier and aircraft. It is therefore extremely doubtful if it is possible for a small navy such as the Royal Australian Navy to keep pace with modern developments in this field, without unduly prejudicing other essential defence activities, not only from the joint service aspect, but within the Navy itself.
After close examination from all points of view, and the fullest consideration of the views of its service advisers, Cabinet has reached the decision that the Fleet Air Arm will not be re-equipped when the present aircraft reach the end of their service life in 1963. Until then, however, and this point is emphasized, the carrier “Melbourne “ and its aircraft have a useful operational role, and will continue in full service with the Royal Australian Navy.
In addition to the Fleet Air Arm, the operational fleet comprises -
Three Daring class ships, the last of which joined the fleet this year. These vessels, which were built in Australian shipyards, are considerably larger than the destroyer and are very efficient units.
Two Battle class destroyers.
Three fast anti-submarine frigates.
Training and survey ships and miscellaneous small craft.
Work is proceeding satisfactorily on the construction in Australian shipyards of four new type anti-submarine frigates, and two of these will come into service during the new programme period. This provides a modern and effective fleet, at ready availability. It is well suited to carry out the Navy’s tasks, and maintain the fine tradition of the Royal Australian Navy. Two ships, of the destroyer-frigate type, will continue to serve in the Malayan area as part of the Commonwealth strategic reserve.
In addition to the ships in commission there is a reserve fleet of destroyers, frigates and other vessels. Those which can be brought into operational service in the event of war are maintained at varying degrees of readiness. Those whose useful service life has ended will be disposed of.
Cabinet has also considered possible new naval projects which might be commenced in this programme. Prominent among these is the proposal for the introduction of a submarine force in the Royal Australian Navy. Information placed before Cabinet indicated that the trend in major navies is towards an increased proportion of their fleets being underwater, whether for interdiction or anti-submarine tasks. Oddly enough, the submarine has apparently become a most effective anti-submarine weapon. Obviously the introduction of a major new arm of the service requires the fullest consideration, and considerably more information than is now available, before a decision can be reached, including the possibility of construction in Australia. The Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) has been directed to make further investigations, with a view to the submission of a detailed report covering type, costs and other relevant data.
At the same time, further inquiries will be made into other possible new requirements, which could include such projects as the surface-to-air guided weapon destroyer, the provision of guided weapons for existing escort vessels, modern minesweepers, &c. It can be seen that the final form of the naval programme cannot be determined at this stage. All the items mentioned are modern, but they are complex and extremely expensive. It follows, therefore, that before any decisions are reached the most searching examination must be made of every relevant aspect. These inquiries will be completed as soon as possible.
I come now to the Army. In the Government’s previous defence review in 1957, the major emphasis was placed on the need for mobile and readily available forces, adequately provided with modern equipment. The Navy and the Air Force have always been able to re-act quickly in the event of emergency, but the Army, which has a more difficult problem of organization, has needed considerable time to complete its preparations. This time will not be available in present-day conditions. In the case of the Army, therefore, priority was given to building up the regular brigade group, in addition to the battalion in the strategic reserve in Malaya. It obviously takes time to raise and train a force of this type, but the objective has been substantially achieved. The strength of the brigade group has been raised from 2,300 in February, 1957, to its target strength of 4,100. It has been intensively trained, and has conducted brigade formation exercises on an extensive scale.
The experience of the past two and onehalf years has confirmed the soundness of the Government’s policy, and has pointed to the strong desirability of proceeding further with the re-organization of the Army. The aim is two-fold; first, to im prove the capability of the regular forces to respond swiftly and effectively to the demands which might be placed upon them, and secondly, with the regular forces more readily available, the next logical step is to make the reserve forces more readily available. This matter has been under close examination by the Army authorities and the Government for some time, but it became apparent that further progress in the desired direction was frustrated by the heavy maintenance, training and administrative burdens imposed on the Army by its present tasks and form of organization. One of the major problems for the Army has been the increasing proportion of the vote required for maintenance, that is, for pay and allowances, clothing, food, accommodation, and training of the forces. Maintenance expenditure now absorbs 80 per cent, of the total Army vote. This has meant a corresponding reduction in the amount of the vote available for capital equipment, at a time when equipment has become more costly than ever before.
The inescapable conclusion has emerged that there must be a major re-organization of the Army to enable it to concentrate on the provision and equipment of the type of forces required by the strategic situation, and therefore some present Army commitments must be reduced. This is the unanimous view of the Chiefs of Staff, and it accords with defence thinking throughout the world to-day.
These considerations required a searching re-appraisal of the future of the residual national service training scheme, which, it will be recalled, was cut back in 1957 to a selective call-up of 12,000 trainees annually. The scheme was introduced at a time when global war appeared far more likely than it does to-day, and it has provided for the Army a pool of some 200,000 men, with basic national service training and with some years of more advanced training in the Citizen Military Forces. At the present time, however, national service greatly handicaps the development of a more effective Army because of the excessive demands it makes on both man-power and money, without adequate compensatory military advantages. Almost 3,000 Regular Army personnel are involved in the administration and training of national servicemen, and the scheme requires the maintenance of command and administrative organizations which are materially larger than would otherwise be necessary. The total cost of national service training is over £9,000,000 a year, which represents a subtraction of one-seventh of the present Army vote from higher priority military tasks, particularly the provision of modern equipment.
A further complication is that national servicemen complete their periods of training in Citizen Military Forces units. There is. therefore, in the Citizen Military Forces a mixture of troops, some of whom are volunteers for overseas service and others of whom are not liable for overseas service. Thus, if an emergency developed and it became necessary to mobilize, extensive rearrangement and cross-posting would be necessary within the Citizen Military Forces, and this at the very time when any delay might be dangerous.
The Government has accordingly decided, after a most careful review, that national service training should be suspended. There will be no further intake for full-time training, and the January, 1960, call-up will not proceed. However, part-time training of national service personnel now serving in Citizen Military Forces units will continue until 30th June, 1960 - the end of the present financial year. In reaching this decision, the Government has not been unmindful that national service training has had other than purely military advantages for the young men of this country, but it has also taken into account that only about one-fifth of those reaching the age of eighteen each year are trained under the present scheme. Of course, national service training can be viewed, not in isolation, but only as one of many elements in the overall defence plan.
I turn now to our proposals for the future organization of the Army, which are linked with, and in part depend on, the decision to discontinue national service training. In regard to the Regular Army, the Government has decided that -
The strength of the Brigade Group will be increased from its present level of just over 4,000 men to a new figure of 5,500.
A third battalion will be added to the existing two battalions, increasing the tactical flexibility of the brigade in operations.
All three battalions will be raised to full tropical establishment.
A logistic support element of 3,000 men required to support the brigade will be raised, instead of being organized as at present largely on a shadow basis in head-quarters and depots.
The three-battalion Brigade Group will be additional to the battalion group which we maintain in Malaya. This re-organization, together with the related equipment proposals referred to later, will be completed within the new programme period. Australia will then have in the Brigade Group a unit which, while relatively small, will be the most effective Army formation ever established in this country in peace-time - a thoroughly trained, readily available, wellequipped force.
I have already said that the present strategic situation requires the ready availability of both the initial and the follow-up forces. It is in the provision of follow-up forces which can become operational in a short period that the Citizen Military Forces have a most important part to play, and the Government has given close attention to building the C.M.F. into a strong and efficient force. The present strength of the C.M.F. is a little over 50,000, of whom some 30,000 are national servicemen completing their training, and some 20,000 are volunteers. The weaknesses of C.M.F. organized in this way have already been mentioned - namely, that, in the event of this Government or future governments requiring to use these units, re-arrangement and cross-posting of volunteer and national service elements would have to be undertaken.
The Government has decided that, with the suspension of national service training, the planned strength of the re-organized C.M.F. will initially be 30,000, all volunteers in the Australian Army tradition. This means an increase of 10,000 over the present volunteer strength of the C.M.F. The
C.M.F. will have an order-of-battle of six infantry brigade groups, with appropriate combat and logistic support forces, replacing the present framework of three C.M.F. divisions. The forces will be so organized, in keeping with current strategic priorities, that some C.M.F. brigade groups will be available in a very much shorter time than has previously been possible for C.M.F. forces. Others will provide the basis for any expansion of the Army which may be desirable or necessary, according to circumstances.
The Government has considered how the efficiency of the C.M.F. may be increased and how service may be made more attractive. It has been decided that C.M.F. training will be integrated with that of the regular units. C.M.F. periods of camp training will be carried out as far as possible with elements of the regular Brigade Group, and large-scale combined exercises will be held periodically. Integration will be aimed at to the maximum extent practicable in all such combined training, including the functions of command. The Government is deeply conscious of the fact that many of our most distinguished war-time leaders came from the C.M.F., and should come from them in the future. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) is now examining the practical arrangements for this proposal, the full details of which will take time lo finalize as it will mean re-arrangement of both A.R.A. and C.M.F. training programmes.
Two further measures will be taken to strengthen Army organization. A scheme is being worked out by the Army to provide a reserve of ex-regulars on a basis similar to that existing in the Navy and the Air Force. This will provide a gradually increasing pool of fully trained man-power available to supplement the regular forces in any emergency.
Training in the Australian Cadet Corps provides a foundation of military knowledge and discipline for a fair percentage of the youth of Australia and develops in the cadet desirable citizenship qualities. There is constant pressure from the schools to expand these units. It has been decided to increase the strength of the corps by 5,000 to a new total of 38,000, and the necessary provision for this will be made in the new programme.
The concept of more readily available Army forces requires the provision of an adequate scale of modern equipment, and an amount of almost £30,000,000 is provided for this purpose in the new programme. More than half of this - some £15,000,000- will come from local Australian production. Priority is given to equipment for the Brigade Group, which will complete its re-equipment with the Australianmade FN rifle by July, 1960, and with the 105-mm. howitzer about the same time. Considerable quantities of a wide range of modern weapons, ammunition, armoured vehicles, radio, radar and stores of all types, also, will be acquired during the programme period. These will include among new items a sustained-fire machine gun, and the 105-mm. pack howitzer, which breaks down into components for easy transport. Having in mind the type of terrain in which the Army may have to operate, the mobility of the Brigade Group is to be greatly improved by the provision of a substantially increased scale of light aircraft support - fixed and rotary wing - and amphibious and water craft, from the larger ocean-going landing ships medium type to smaller types of amphibians for maintenance and port operations.
Provision is also being made for the procurement of considerable quantities of modern types of equipment for the C.M.F., which will, for example, be substantially equipped with the FN rifle by the end of the programme period. Where wide issues of certain types of specialized new equipment cannot be made throughout the Army, a number of such weapons will be held at centres where both regular and C.M.F. units can train with them. This has proved to be a successful arrangement with the Centurion tanks located at Puckapunyal, which are used by A.R.A. and C.M.F. armoured units. This practice will be followed wherever practicable. Constant attention will be given to the possibility of improving the standard of equipment by the introduction of new weapons, including, for example, Army types of guided weapons, as they are developed and proven suitable to Australian requirements.
As I have already said, some 3,000 A.R.A. personnel are engaged in the administration and training of national servicemen. With the cessation of national service training, and the re-organization of the Army, there will be reductions in headquarters, administrative, maintenance and training units. As many as possible of the personnel affected by these changes will be absorbed in other postings. Undoubtedly there will be a proportion who, because of age and qualifications, cannot be suitably placed, and their accelerated movement out of the Army will be necessary. The precise number involved will not be known until re-organization has progressed further. At the same time, there will be a movement in, and training of, young men to build up the combat units. The general effect will be to improve the ratio of combat to support troops. The Minister for the Army has in hand the detailed working out of these arrangements, and further information will be made public as progress is achieved.
The strength of the A.R.A. as a result of the decisions now taken will be 21,000, with an order of battle comprising the infantry brigade group and its logistic support force, the battalion group serving in Malaya, a battalion of the Pacific Islands Regiment, and appropriate head-quarters and administrative staffs, maintenance and training units. The C.M.F. will have a strength of 30,000, organized into six infantry brigade groups with appropriate combat and logistic support elements.
A further proposal designed to increase the efficiency of the Army in modern conditions is currently under consideration. This relates to a re-organization of the operational units in the order of battle, both A.R.A. and C.M.F., on lines similar to the United States Army, which is based on the pentomic division, comprising five strong battle groups, instead of the divisionbrigadebattalion structure. Advantages of this new form of organization are stated to be greater flexibility, and therefore greater suitability to mobile war conditions; and the saving of man-power without loss of combat efficiency. The capacity to cooperate with other British Commonwealth forces would be retained. Re-organization of the Australian Army along these lines would be accomplished within the strength figures that I have already given.
The Government is convinced that the decisions on the Army which I have announced accord with the present strategic requirement, and will produce regular and C.M.F. forces well organized, trained and equipped, which will be able to play a prompt and effective part with our allies in any hostilities in which we may become involved.
The main operational elements of the Royal Australian Air Force are three bomber squadrons equipped with Australianbuilt Canberras; three fighter squadrons equipped with the Australian Avon Sabre; two maritime reconnaissance squadrons, two transport squadrons, and two control and reporting radar units, with a third to be installed this financial year. A force of one bomber and two fighter squadrons is stationed at Butterworth, as part of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya. The twelve C.130 transport aircraft approved in the last programme have all been delivered and are in service, and have contributed most significantly to the mobility of the Australian forces.
The selection of a suitable replacement for the Avon Sabre fighter is an important requirement in Air Force programme planning. In the last programme the Government deferred a decision on this matter, as a suitable type was not available. Since then the Government has approved the re-arming of the Sabre with the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, and this has greatly increased its capability in the day fighter role. The Sabre also continues to be a most effective aircraft in the ground attack role.
Nevertheless, the re-equipment of the front-line fighter squadrons with a suitable replacement of the Sabre remains an important objective. The R.A.A.F. and the Government have kept themselves fully informed on various new types of fighter aircraft in service or under development overseas, but the position has not yet been reached at which we feel we can make a final selection with confidence. The type selected must have a day and night allweather capability with supersonic speed, and in addition must meet our distinctive Australian requirements, arising primarily from our geographic position and the great distances in our area of interest. The problem of selection of a suitable replacement is therefore not simple, and the Government is not prepared to gamble on such a costly project. However, types of aircraft which might meet our needs are expected to become available in the programme period. Provision has been made, therefore, for a commencement in the latter part of the period of the acquisition of new fighter aircraft. The type to be selected will be determined by Cabinet at the time, on the basis of a full submission by our technical military advisers.
The question as to whether any new type of fighter is to be purchased abroad or manufactured in Australia will depend upon many considerations which are not yet clear, though we recognize the importance of maintaining an aircraft construction industry. No decision is being made until we have finally determined what type of aircraft we will adopt.
The maritime element of the R.A.A.F. at present consists of one squadron of P.2V.5 Neptune aircraft, and one of Lincolns. The Neptunes have proved to be an outstanding maritime aircraft and are particularly suited to a country like Australia, with its long coastline. The present Neptune squadron, based at Richmond, New South Wales, has a regular exchange of training exercises with Neptunes of the United States Navy. The Lincolns have now become obsolete, and it has been decided to re-equip the Lincoln squadron with 12 P.2V.7 Neptunes - an improved version of the P.2V.5. The P.2V.7’s, fitted with the most modern anti-submarine equipment, together with the present P.2V.5’s, which have recently been modified to the higher standards, will provide the R.A.A.F. with a modern and effective anti-submarine force. The new air craft will be located in Townsville, the north Queensland base.
Since our earlier decision in principle to introduce the first R.A.A.F. surfacetoair guided weapons unit, investigations have been proceeding of selection of the most suitable type, and a strong technical mission visited the United States and the United Kingdom earlier this year. The Government has decided to purchase the British Bloodhound Mark I. surface-to-air guided weapons system, including missiles, launchers, associated equipment and spares. The Bloodhound is a semi-active homing system which has been accepted by the Royal Air Force. Although complex, it is capable of air transport in R.A.A.F. Hercules aircraft. Aus tralia has been associated with the development of this weapon at Woomera. Most satisfactory arrangements have been made with the United Kingdom authorities for the participation of R.A.A.F. personnel in practice firings of this weapon, both in the United Kingdom and at Woomera.
The purchase of eight helicopters, to meet an Air Force requirement for search and rescue, and Army requirements for light liaison duties and casualty evacuation, has been approved. Provision is also made for commencement in the programme period of construction of an additional air base in the Darwin area.
I now come to the Citizen Air Force, at present comprising five squadrons. The technical complexity of modern aircraft requires full-time and specialized training of pilots. The accepted view to-day is that it is not possible for pilots to become combat-worthy in modern types of aircraft by intermittent, part-time training. The Government has reluctantly accepted the logic of this view, so far as flying duties are concerned. But the personnel of the C.A.F. are extremely capable and experienced in many other tasks in the R.A.A.F. It has been decided, therefore, that the five Citizen Air Force squadrons will be converted to a non-flying basis, and that their personnel will in future be trained in those R.A.A.F. functions which they could usefully perform in time of emergency.
The Permanent Air Force element of these squadrons, some 400 men, comprising the greater part of their strength, will be used to form a fourth permanent fighter squadron. This will be equipped initially with Vampires, later re-arming with Sabres. The formation of this extra squadron in Australia will enable rotational replacement of personnel in the two fighter squadrons stationed in Malaya.
An active defence research and development programme will be continued. The major part of this effort will be on guided missiles in conjunction with the United Kingdom. We are carrying out an intensive series of trials of a variety of weapons, including the Black Knight ballistic missile, several of which have been fired with great success, and the longer-range Blue Streak for which major facilities are being prepared in the Woomera area and up as far as Talgarno on the north-west coast. Several important devices to meet the particular needs of the Australian Services are also under development.
In respect of defence production, the F.N. rifle programme for Australia and New Zealand is to schedule. A substantial order for the Australian-developed Malkara anti-tank weapon has been placed by the United Kingdom for the British Army. Numbers of the highly successful Jindivik target aircraft, also developed in Australia, have been sold overseas, with the prospect of further orders. St. Mary’s factory is in production, and provides, as intended, a war-time capacity such as we have never had. Government factories have been modernized and equipped to meet the services’ requirements, and this work is continuing as new weapons are developed.
A series of advisory committees, comprising leading Australian industrialists, meet regularly to advise the Ministers for Defence and Supply on industrial mobilization matters, and to ensure that the Government is kept apprised of those aspects of industrial expansion which may well vitally serve defence needs in the event of war. In this respect, I would like to make special mention of the valuable work being done by the chairman of the Joint War Production Committee, Mr. Ian McLennan, and many other Australian leaders of industry, who, in an honorary capacity, give us the benefit of their wide experience.
As for the financial aspects of the programme, I have already indicated that the Navy programme has not been finally determined, pending further investigation into and consideration of possible new projects. A precise figure of the cost of the new defence programme which I have outlined cannot therefore be given at this stage. Honorable members will remember that the estimates recently passed by this Parliament provided £192,800,000 for the current financial year. That figure may be exceeded in subsequent years of the new programme period, but this will depend on decisions yet to be taken. The final figure, of course, will be indicated in the budget preceding each programme year.
I come now to defence administration. It will be recalled that the Prime Minister announced last year some important changes in defence organization. Briefly, the Minister and Department of Defence, who have always had the functions of policy formulation and co-ordination, were given a clearly defined authority over the defence group of departments - Navy, Army, Air and Supply - to see that defence policies are effectively carried out. In addition, greater economy and efficiency in the services were to be achieved, through integration of activities and the development of common services, to the greatest practicable extent.
– This sounds like the Morshead report.
– This came from the Morshead report. This arrangement is working extremely well in practice, and a smoother and more efficient administration has resulted. For example, inspection services have been closely co-ordinated, resulting in substantial economies in man-power, and similar action will shortly be taken in respect of design functions. Investigations are well under way into the practicability of integration of a wide range of other service activities. Furthermore, a major study on the possible application of electronic data processing to service stores, personnel, finance and other functions, is now nearing completion. This is all forward thinking, based on the belief that in the future all arms of the services will, and indeed must, progressively become more closely knit.
In conclusion, let me say that the decisions I have announced have been reached by Cabinet after a most comprehensive and searching examination of all the issues involved. Cabinet takes into account all the wide range of complex considerations in the formulation of defence policy - military and strategic, external affairs, financial and economic. Naturally much of the information is highly confidential. We have the benefit of advice from our own advisers in these various fields - all highly expert. Scientific and technological developments in weapons and methods of warfare are increasingly important in these days. These must also be closely scrutinized, in conjunction with our scientific advisers. In addition, due to the exceptionally close relations developed with our
Commonwealth partners and our allies in Seato and Anzus, we enjoy the great advantage of completely frank exchanges of views with them on mutual problems and plans. This takes place regularly at all levels - military, official and ministerial. During the last few months, for example, we have had the opportunity of talks, during their visits to Australia, with General Festing, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Air Marshal Pike, the Chief of the Air Staff, designate, of the Royal Air Force, Admiral Felt, the United States CommanderinChief, Pacific, and Mr. McElroy, the United States Secretary of Defence.
A study of the new proposals shows that the Government has placed emphasis on two major points: First, to have our forces, regular and citizen, more readily available than they have been in the past; and secondly, to provide them with modern equipment, in greater quantity and more varied type. This review has involved some important changes, but they are all in conformity with the policy that has been followed during the past two and a half years. In fact, the further changes now announced are a logical development of that policy, which we are convinced is the right one for Australia in present strategic circumstances.
Defence programming and planning cannot be static. Changes are inevitable as a result of changing world conditions, and the almost bewildering rapidity with which new weapons and techniques are now developed. The Government will keep the defence programme under constant review. Progress in the achievement of present objectives will be closely watched. Flexibility will be maintained, and any adjustments necessary will be made, if these are required in the national interest.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Defence Review - Ministerial Statement, and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– by leave- At question time the honorable member for Wilmot asked me whether I had received any information from the Commissioner for
Taxation concerning allegations the honorable member made in the House earlier in the session. I told him that I would have inquiries made and see whether the information was available. I find that the Commissioner has completed his report, which is now in my hands. I propose to make a statement on it later in the day, if that proves possible, but I believe that I should at this point inform the honorable gentleman that on the face of the report it would appear that he has been grossly misinformed, and that the basis of that misinformation is both malice and mischief.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I bring up the following report: -
Forty-fourth Report of the Joint Committee ot Public Accounts presenting Treasury Minutes on the Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth, Twentyeighth, Thirty-second, Thirty-third and Fortieth Reports - together with summaries of those reports, and move -
That the report be printed.
I want to add just a few brief remarks. I should have liked to talk longer on this matter, but the time has gone quickly this morning. This report recounts the action taken by the committee to prevent its reports, after tabling, f om being pigeonholed and forgotten. Last week, I reminded the House that each report of the committee is sent to the Treasurer, who undertakes to discuss with the departments concerned the action they propose to take to give effect to the comments and recommendations made by the committee. When the Treasury receives the departmental comments it prepares a minute, which it sends to the committee, which in turn submits the minute to the Parliament. This morning there are six Treasury minutes of the type mentioned, dealing with the committee’s recommendations, together with a summary of the committee’s reports which we have prepared for the information and convenience of the honorable members.
In the main, Sir, we have discouraged debate on these reports immediately after they have been presented. We felt that there was missing a lot of essential evidence that ought to be available if the House were to be able to debate a report with some degree of satisfaction. Now we have in this case all the material available for a debate. For example, we have the report of the committee, the evidence taken by the committee, the documents and various exhibits submitted to the committee in support of the evidence, the six minutes of the Treasury, and our comments on those minutes. So there is available a mass of material which would make possible a really intelligent debate on the activities of the committee.
I could not help thinking, when I was reading through this report this morning, that even the most caustic critic of administrative inertia could not fail to be impressed by the imposing list of reforms and economies that have flowed from the activities of the committee, as shown in the Treasury minutes in this report.
Ordered to be printed.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, I bring up the report relating to the following work: -
The proposed construction of a Mail Exchange at Roma-street, Brisbane.
I shall keep my comments on this particular project short. The need for the project arises from the growth of Brisbane and, indeed, the growth of the Australian population generally. It is interesting to note that if in the next twenty years mail handling in Brisbane rises at the rate by which it has grown in the last ten years, the quantity handled is likely to rise from 205,000,000 items in 1958 to an estimated 510,000,000 items in 1980. The existing facilities for handling mail are divided between the parcels exchange, which is at present located at Roma-street, and the G.P.O. building itself, where there is available approximately 40,000 square feet, including 15,000 square feet in annexes located in old buildings which were purchased originally for demolition. I am sure that the time has long passed when these buildings ought to be demolished and new buildings proceeded with.
The concentration of mail handling in the G.P.O. building leads to a tremendous traffic problem in that facilities for docking and loading are completely inadequate. The Amalgamated Postal Workers Union has for some time been complaining about the facilities available, and I think the Post Office has done the best it can do to ameliorate this condition. However, short of re-building, a satisfactory job cannot be done in this regard.
In order to get some of the mail traffic out of town and provide that mail from outlying areas will not have to come into the heart of the city, a new site has been selected at Roma-street. The suitability of this site was most thoroughly examined by the committee. The committee is satisfied that it is the right place in which to locate a mail exchange, from all points of view, including proximity to the railway and to the William Jolly Bridge.
The building will consist of a basement, a ground floor and three upper floors. It will have a frontage of 99 feet on Romastreet and a depth of 173 feet through to May-street. There is room for continued expansion on one side, the other side being closely associated with the present parcels handling exchange. The building will be of steel-reinforced concrete, semi-industrial in design in keeping with the activities to be carried out there.
The usual amenities will be provided. The committee, as with other projects which have been before it, has given in this case an exhaustive, and, I am afraid, exhausting, consideration to the question of airconditioning. We have been concerned quite a bit with the cost of air-conditioning, and every effort has been made to see whether some equally satisfactory and cheaper system might be provided by the use of what are known as package airconditioning units instead of central plant. Having regard to the type of mechanical installation in the mail-handling exchange, for mail sorting and so on, and the desirability of providing the proper distribution of conditioned air, the committee, after a very thorough analysis, came to the belief that there was not a great cost margin between a central station air-conditioning plant and package plants, and therefore has decided to accept the recommendation of the Department of Works in favour of a central plant system. Nevertheless, the committee points out that every case of airconditioning must be considered on its merits, because in certain cases package units will have obvious advantages over central plant.
The estimated cost of the project is £536,000, and the estimated period of construction is eighteen months. The committee’s report is to be read in conjunction with that presented earlier dealing with the Edison telephone exchange. It will be necessary to complete the Roma-street mail exchange and to remove to it all the mailhandling facilities now in the G.P.O. before the site can be cleared for the construction of the Edison exchange. There is therefore some element of urgency in the matter, and I commend the report to the House.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Notice of Motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Melbourne proposing the disallowance of the amendments of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (Staff) Regulations made by Statutory Rules 1959, No. 80, being proceeded with forthwith.
.- I move -
That the amendments of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (Staff) Regulations made by Statutory Rules 1959, No. 80, be disallowed.
The Australian Broadcasting and Television Act was the product of a report submitted to this Parliament in 1942 by the Gibson committee, which, in the previous year, had been established by the Menzies Government under the National Security Regulations for the purpose of reporting on broadcasting in Australia. Amongst other things, that committee recommended the establishment of a joint parliamentary statutory committee to report to Parliament from time to time on broadcasting matters. I happen to have been a member of that committee. It was a matter of great significance, I think, that every recommendation made by the committee was incorporated in the legislation of 1942 without the slightest alteration. This Government, some two years or so ago, abolished the statutory committee for reasons which seemed good and sufficient to it. A previous Postmaster-General, the late Mr. Anthony, in 1949 suspended the operations of that committee, and during the whole ten years that this Government has been in power this parliamentary committee has never functioned.
While it was in existence the committee did good work. In its seventh report to the Parliament, under the signature of all its members, the chairman being Senator S. K. Amour, the committee dealt at great length with the regulations which had been drawn up under the Broadcasting and Television Act for the proper working of the committee and for the protection of members of the staff. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting - that being its title - consisted of nine members, of whom the only one still in the Parliament, beside Senator Amour, is the present Chairman of Committees, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). The committee in that report gave its opinion on each of the regulations that were referred to it for examination and report. It recommended that regulations 1 to 6, 10 to 17 and 19 to 22 be approved.
The committee was unanimous in all those decisions, and I refer particularly to those regulations because included in them are the three which the Government has altered. We object to the alterations, not only because of the specific changes that are made but also because of the failure of the Government to consult the staff association of employees of the commission before making its decision. There is no safeguard in the Parliament now for the protection of the employees of the commission or the authority of the Parliament. We suggest that the Minister has been misled by the commission with regard to these regulations, and we think that the new statutory rule should be disallowed in order that the matter may be further and more extensively considered.
The staff association made requests to the Minister to be heard on the question of the amendment of these regulations, but it was refused a hearing. It has no other means to make its objections known except through members of this Parliament, and the Opposition, having considered the representations made to it, believes that there is great merit in the arguments put forward by members of the association, speaking for something like 2,800 employees of the commission.
The general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Charles Moses, is a man with whom I have been in disagreement on quite a number of occasions, but for whose many splendid qualities I have a great admiration. I have disagreed with his administration, and I still think it is unfortunate that he does not consult sufficiently with the people with whom he must work if the organization is to function effectively. The amendments to the regulations that are the subject of my motion were presented by the general manager to representatives of the association on 2nd June of this year. The general manager did not ask them for their opinions. He simply said that the commission had decided to make alterations and that the matter was being referred to the Minister. When the association learned of this decision it felt aggrieved and appealed to the Minister - the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) - on 6th July. The Minister, by letter dated 6th August, intimated that he refused to vary his decision, which was one of approval for the proposals put before him.
The association is convinced that the Minister has failed to appreciate the reasons which motivated the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, under the chairmanship of Senator Amour, when it drafted the initial statutory rules covering the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s staff, and particularly as they affect the structure of the organization, the lines of authority, the responsibilities and the security of permanent officers. The association does not object to amendment of the regulations designed to bring them up to date. It does not object to the alterations as they affect the structure of the organization, except insofar as the proposed organization will take away the right of this Parliament to have any say in the matter at all and will expose the members of the association, as they fear, to discriminatory action on the part of the general manager or of the commission. It is argued by members of the association that if the proposed re-organization is justified in the opinion of the Parliament, the amendments could be drafted in such a way as not to destroy the basis of vital statutory protection for the staff provided as a result of the seventh report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, to which I have referred.
The association felt very aggrieved at the refusal of the Minister either to consult with it or to take any notice of its representations. It directed a final appeal to him by telegram on 14th August asking him to defer tabling the amendments in order to allow due consideration of the amendments which the association itself had drafted, and which would recognize the organizational changes and also preserve the statutory form of protection that was available to the staff under the regulations that have now been rejected. The Minister replied by telegram immediately, refusing the association’s request. I suggest to the Minister that this sort of treatment does not help to promote the development of harmonious relationships between the ministerial head of the organization and those who work very well and with devotion in their chosen avocation.
The association has lost all faith in the commission. It is distressed and disturbed because of what has happened in Arbitration Court proceedings between 1948 and 1959, when the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has gone into court as the advocate for the commission. I am told that the commission itself directed the general manager to appear for it and to oppose the claims of all the senior officers and of all other members of the staff. As a result, there is grave discontent and much dissatisfaction throughout the whole of the staff. The general manager, I am told, did not want the job; it was forced upon him. It seems to me that it would have been much better if the commission had briefed counsel to appear for it, and had not jeopardized relations between the general manager and the rest of the staff by compelling him to criticize and in some cases - for this, he is responsible - to attack the positions of officers who have to work under his direction. A most unfortunate situation has now developed, and something ought to be done by the Government to effect the necessary desirable changes.
The Postmaster-General was told by the association in its letter of 6th July, amongst other things, that the amendment to the staff regulations effected a fundamental change in the structure of the regulations, detrimental to the interests of the permanent staff and, secondly, that the regulations were contrary to the principles recommended by the Standing Committee on Broadcasting and approved by the Parliament in 1947. In regulation 5, which is the first regulation amended, the definition of “ Controller of a Division “ included controllers of the programme and administrative divisions and provided for any other officer in charge of any other division to be designated “ Controller “. The association says that there is, therefore, no need to amend the regulations to enable the commission to add, for example, a Controller of News and a Controller of Technical Services (T.V.). The sections dealing with the news and technical services, and television, were previously known as departments and are now to be known as divisions, along with the programmes and administrative divisions. Similarly, news divisions and technical divisions can, under the presentregulation 20, be added without difficulty.
I have copies of regulations 5, 10, 20 and 21 as they existed before they were altered and as the Government has altered them in the new regulations; and I also have the alternatives suggested by the association to improve this and the other amendments made by the Government at the request of the commission. I have no doubt that the Postmaster-General has seen these various proposals. There is nothing contained in them which could be regarded as likely to destroy the efficiency of the organization or to interfere with effective working but, on the other hand, there is a helpfulness about it all which is to be com mended. The main idea in the draft of the proposed new regulation by the association is to protect its own members. For instance, regulation 5 (1) provides, amongst other things - “ Senior Officer “ means -
This provision has been deleted, and has been replaced with the words - “ Senior Officer “ means any officer determined by the Commission to be a Senior Officer for the purposes of these Regulations.
In the new definition, the association sees very grave dangers to the security of employment and the rights to positions occupied by officers at present on the staff.
– But that was in the previous regulation.
– It may have been, but there is no reason why the positions that have been particularly defined should not continue to be so defined in the present regulations. There are alterations, as I have said, to regulations 5, 10, 20 and 21. Perhaps there would not be so much suspicion in the minds of the employees - and that includes practically every senior officer down to the lowest-paid employee - if the atmosphere in the commission’s employment had not been poisoned by a number of events which have occurred over the last eight or nine years.
Dealing with regulation 10, it is suggested that, in future, duties and responsibilities may be varied at the whim or will of the general manager and those whose advice he is prepared to take. I know that it will be argued, as it has been put to me by members of the commission with whom I have discussed the matter, that the fears of the employees are groundless. But are they so groundless? The general manager’s advocacy for the commission in the recent senior officers’ case was attacked by Mr. Birkett and was criticized by the Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Galvin. I direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to Determinations No. 6 of 1959, and to No. 11 of 1959 in order to show just how critical the Public Service Arbitrator was of the evidence presented, of the manner in which the general manager conducted the case, and of the unfairness which he believed was shown to the employees’ representative. I shall quote a passage from page 101 of Determination No. 11 of 1959. This was not so very long ago - only a few months. The Arbitrator said -
I do not propose in these reasons for my determination to discuss at length a number of matters introduced during the proceedings which, in my opinion, were not germane to the proper consideration of the claims and the grounds upon which those claims were stated to be based. It is my view that their introduction merely delayed the search for truth, in relation to the grounds upon which the claims were based and impeded and unduly prolonged the hearing.
That is a criticism of the conduct of the general manager by the Public Service Arbitrator. He continued -
The transcript of the proceedings speaks for itself in this connexion and being a public record, needs no further comment from me other than that the difficult task confronting Mr. Birkett and later myself was certainly not eased by the methods employed.
I interpolate that if it had been any other body than the Australian Broadcasting Commission that had been criticized in that manner, there would have been a good deal of publicity accorded to the criticism in the press, but, unfortunately, there was no public mention of the facts. Mr. Galvin went on -
I state categorically that, in these circumstances, the evidence adduced from the witnesses for the Association as it related to the claims before me seems, on the testimony given by them under cross-examination and the evidence adduced from the witnesses for the respondents, to have been placed before this tribunal by them in good faith and to the best of their knowledge and belief and that the opinions sought from them - again in relation to the claims - were given with candour.
The Arbitrator was all praise for the manner in which the representatives of the association and its witnesses had put their case and he was highly critical, as I have indicated, of the conduct of the representatives of the commission before him.
So, Sir, you can see the atmosphere that exists throughout the commission’s service to-day. Any alteration that has been made in these regulations would necessarily and naturally suggest to the minds of most members of the staff that something was being done that was detrimental to their interests and unnecessary. No evidence has been adduced by the Government of the necessity to make any of these alterations at all. It may be, of course, that the Government feels that some changes were needed because of the advent of television and because the work of the commission was increasing very considerably. That would, of course, be a legitimate reason for altering the regulations to add new positions to those already defined. But what was done, according to members of the staff with whom I have discussed the question, has really not been proved to be necessary at all - at least up to date. When he circulated his new regulations the Minister added a small roneoed statement which certainly did not give all the information that honorable members have a right to expect. What was contained in the statement was an intimation that these regulations were necessary to increase the efficiency of the service. If the officers of the association only had the chance to come before the Minister and have a discussion with him, I am sure they could convince him first that all is not well in the commission; and, secondly, that the alterations made were not all entirely necessary and that some of them can be used and are intended to be used to the detriment of those who have worked for the commission for a long time. Those people now feel that any day the commission can reduce a man’s position, allot him fresh duties and, even when he has won from the Arbitrator an increase in his salary, can, by re-allocating his duties, reduce him in status and therefore cause him to receive a lesser remuneration.
It has been pointed out to me that the assistant general manager, for instance, still remains the assistant general manager on a substantial salary, but his position has been reduced to that of a mere liaison officer. If the general manager were sick the assistant general manager would take his place; but while the general manager, Mr. Moses, is functioning, the assistant general manager, Mr. Finlay, will have no effective work to do. The real effective work will be done by Mr. Duckmanton and somebody else whose duties have been more specifically defined. If the Government claims that is not so, I hope an assurance will be readily forthcoming in order to set the minds of quite a number of people at rest on this very important point. It is important. I do not want to go back over the speech I made in 1957, but all that I argued then is quite germane to the present situation. The commission is employing people on contract. It should be permitted to employ people on contract if the persons concerned are musicians or artists of one kind or another. But the commission and the general manager, I am told, have abused this right and have imported people - 1 mentioned the names of quite a few in 1957 - from the United Kingdom principally and have employed them on contract for a certain period. After those persons had returned to the United Kingdom - 1 have no doubt they were very able people - the positions that they once filled were advertised as permanent positions. Then those people overseas who were once employed on contract could apply for permanent appointment and in several cases they have been appointed over the heads of Australians who had better claims and who had been ignored by the commission and by the general manager.
Up to date I know that the general manager has made the great mistake of concentrating the whole business of the commission in his hands, and I am very glad to learn that at last he is being made to delegate authority to quite a number of people. That is part of the purpose of the regulations, and if it were the sole purpose I would not have any criticism to offer. But I think the purpose of delegation can be achieved without making the other alterations which cause the members of the staff to be so fearful as to their future prospects. Above all things we want contented services wherever Commonwealth instrumentalities are functioning. I do not think there is the same contentment in the Australian Broadcasting Commission as there is in the Commonwealth Public Service. It may be that Sir Richard Boyer, who recently made a report to the Commonwealth Government on recruitment and organization of the Commonwealth Public Service, is attempting to put his ideas into operation in the A. B.C. I could be wrong in that regard, but I know that some of the plans he has put forward for the future contol and management of the Commonwealth Public Service are not in agreement with the principles adopted in some States. For instance, the New South Wales Public Service Board defended seniority as a basis for promotion in the New South Wales service. Sir Richard Boyer and others have the idea that seniority is a matter of little or no consequence. If they are allowed to implement that idea in the A.B.C. the way will be easy for quite a number of people to secure rapid promotion. I think more people have had rapid promotion in the employment of the A.B.C. than in the Commonwealth Public Service in proportion to numbers employed.
So I move the disallowance of the regulation, not that there is not some merit in the case which the Government puts forward, but because I want the Government to start afresh and bring down a new regulation which will incorporate improvements and at the same time remove the justifiable fears of possible victimization from the minds of members of the A.B.C. staff who have given service to the commission and to the Parliament quite as distinguished, meritorious and loyal as has the General Manager or anybody else in the commission’s employ.
– Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– I have been listening with interest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to try to find a real basis for the Opposition’s action in attempting to disallow these regulations. I must confess that it has been difficult indeed to find any real basis for it because on several occasions during his speech the honorable member has, in effect, proved that the action that has been taken under these regulations has been justified. He seems to be concerned only with what he describes as a justifiable fear by the men employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of possible future victimization - some vague fear that there may be victimization under these amended regulations. I shall show that there is no justification for these fears. The amended regulations, as they stand, simply bring the old regulations which, frankly, were out of date, into accord with present-day practice and the increased development and responsibilities of the commission.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that he approved the principal feature of the amendments, that is to say, the delegation to other officials of much of the authority, which until now has been exercised by the general manager alone. If that were the only object of the regulation, apparently the honorable member would have nothing of which to complain. I can assure him that not only is it the only objective of the proposal, but also that it is the result which will be achieved. The possibility of victimization, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition professes to see, does not reside in the proposed amendments.
He has requested, first, some explanation of the commission’s reason for making these amendments, and secondly, an undertaking on some of the matters which he has mentioned. The strange feature about the Opposition’s move is that on 26th October, only a few weeks ago, the Opposition’s press, radio and television committee had a conference with the Australian Broadcasting Commission which, I understand, lasted for a couple of hours. In a round-table discussion with members of the commission, including the chairman, Sir Richard Boyer, a great many features of the commission’s work were discussed in a very frank and friendly manner. I understand that the discussion covered such matters as the news service provided by the A.B.C., the suggestion that the A.B.C. should publish a newspaper - a suggestion, incidentally, which was advanced not by the A.B.C. but by the committee - the further development of Radio Australia, and the possibility of the production of news films. Strangely enough, the Opposition committee made no reference to the regulations, of which it was then fully aware, at a time when it could have obtained whatever information it desired about the commission’s intentions.
– That was not the function of the committee at all. When facilities are given to such committees, the Minister should not twist-
– I am not twisting anything. I am pointing out that this committee which, no doubt, reports to the Labour caucus, was having a discussion with members of the commission, but failed to take advantage of that splendid opportunity o discuss this particular matter, and so place itself in possession of the full facts. If the committee had done so, its members would have been completely satisfied about he reasons for the commission’s action.
– It is dangerous to have talks with the commission if they are to be twisted in this way.
– I am not twisting anything. I am merely making the statement that the committee had an opportunity to discuss this matter with members of the commission.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr. Speaker, I want, now, to deal quite briefly with the reasons and the justification for the amendments of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (Staff) Regulations. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said this morning that I had apparently failed to appreciate the effect of the amendments on the whole structure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I challenge that statement. These amended regulations were submitted to me for my approval, and I took the trouble to inquire into them fairly thoroughly. I am perfectly satisfied that they are justified, and that, indeed, they are essential to the effective working of the commission.
Let us realize, Mr. Speaker, that the existing regulations were promulgated in 1947 - twelve years ago. Since then, there has been a very large expansion in the duties, responsibilities and staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. For example, at 31st October, 1947, the staff numbered 1,130. At 9th October last, it was 2,401. It has more than doubled. At 31st October, 1947, the commission controlled 41 broadcasting stations. It now administers 70 radio stations and three television stations. So, it will be obvious, without my going into details of expansion of other kinds, that there ought to be a considerable expansion in staff to cope with the increased duties and responsibilities.
The present regulations, which, as I have indicated, were promulgated in 1947, were based on the then existing structure. No provision was made for any expanded duties or responsibilities, and, consequently, they were quite inflexible. Constant amendment would have been necessary in order to keep them up to date with development. As the services provided by the A.B.C. have expanded, it has become essential to do something about these regulations. Care has been taken, in altering them, to ensure that far greater flexibility is provided than existed previously. That is why the amended regulations are in more general terms, and not in such definite terms as before.
Because of the development of the commission’s activities, it applied itself in 1957 to the problem of amending the regulations. However, the general manager was then due to go overseas, and the commission decided that it would be preferable to wait until his return before finalizing the proposed amendments of these regulations in order to allow him, while overseas for some time, to have a look at the arrangements in various other countries so that he could give the commission the benefit of the information so gained. As a result, a final decision regarding the amendments to the regulations was not made until early this year.
An interesting point relating to the need for the alteration of the regulations, Sir, is that, during the hearing of claims by the Australian Broadcasting Commission Senior Officers Association in 1958, the Assistant Public Service Arbitrator directed the commission’s attention to the fact that the allocation of duties and responsibilities as between certain officers which had been accepted for several years was at the time inconsistent with the then existing provisions of the staff regulations. That pronouncement by the Assistant Arbitrator shows that action had to be taken to bring the regulations into conformity with present-day practice.
Under the previous structure, which had really been outgrown, the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission had, for many years, only one immediate assistant - the Assistant General Manager. With the growth of the commission’s activities, an increasing number of departmental and section heads have been working directly under the General Manager’s office, the number at present being fourteen. That does not include the State managers. So it will be seen that the direct responsibility for all these developing departments and branches was concentrating more and more in the hands of one person - the General Manager - and, obviously, he was becoming over-worked. Not only that, but also he was getting into a position in which he had more and more direct control over all the officers, the organization and the work. The amendments to the regulations, instead of increasing his authority, as has been suggested, have the effect of breaking down his authority by bringing about decentralization and the delegation of powers.
In order to cope with the situation, Sir, the commission has decided, in brief, that it will follow the practice which is adopted in all large organizations, whether in the Public Service field or in private enterprise - the practice of having a chief executive officer with, under him, shall I say, a line of senior assistants each of whom is responsible for a particular activity or group of activities in the general scheme of things. Each assistant has definite responsibilities, and definite authority is delegated to him. He is, of course, responsible to the chief executive - in this instance, the General Manager - for the operation of his particular department, division or section, but the General Manager is not concerned with all the day-to-day details of these activities.
– Did the Minister suggest all this to the commission, or did it decide on it for itself?
– The commission is completely empowered, under the Broadcasting and Television Act, to do all these things. It is a statutory body and it has authority to take all the measures that it has put into effect by means of the amended regulations. So there is no question as to whether I drafted them. I certainly did not, because it is not my function to do so. But I did approve them when they had been drafted.
I should like to point out that, under the amendments to the regulations, there is, in my opinion, some limitation of the powers of the commission which is not evident in the act itself. Let us have a quick look at the actual amendments. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition dealt with them earlier. Regulation 5, in its original form, provided -
The regulation then goes on to specify certain definite departments and provides for the bringing in of other departments, in these terms - and, if the Commission so determines, the officer in charge of any other Department of the Commission; . . .
The amended regulation simply states - (1.) In these Regulations, unless the contrary intention appears: “ Branch Manager “ means a manager of a branch of the Commission; . . .
That is plain enough. It does not put into the hands of the General Manager any more power than he previously had, but it allows a flexibility in this matter which is necessary.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition complained that it was not necessary to go so far as to remove the definition of “ Controller of a Division “ which appeared in the original regulation, because the original definition contained the words “ or the officer in charge of any other Division of the Commission “. The honorable member said that the necessary authority was given in those words, and he asked why we needed to vary the regulation. I direct his attention to the fact that that provision is overborne, shall I say, by regulation 20, which, as will no doubt have been noted, provides -
The service of the Commission shall consist of four Divisions as follows:
Then the four divisions are specified. They are the only four divisions which are, in strict terms, legal under these regulations.
The commission, as a result of the extension of its activities, particularly into television, has had to develop other divisions, particularly an engineering division. Officers have been appointed in that division for which no provision exists in the present regulations. Then there is another amendment to the original regulation 5 which reads, at present - “Senior officer” means -
The amended regulation simply says - “ Senior officer “ means any officer determined by the Commission to be a senior officer for the purpose of these Regulations;
I ask honorable members to note that these words are similar to the concluding words of the original regulation. It is a much simpler provision, although the power is not limited.
– It takes away the statutory protection from those four or five main officers.
– No. How can it? lt embraces any officer deemed by the commission to be a senior officer. From time to time the commission specifies in a list those who constitute senior officers.
The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has reminded me of a point which I was going to make later on. Several times the Deputy l eader of the Opposition said that the staff association had not been consulted. These regulations apply to the senior officers of the organization. The staff association is an organization of those below the level of senior officer. They are not directly affected by these regulations. It may be argued, of course, that, later on, when they get promotion, they will come within the scope of these regulations. But at present they do not. In addition to the staff organization to which the honorable member referred there is an Australian Broadcasting Commission senior officers association which was consulted before these regulations were promulgated. The amendments were discussed by the General Manager with the executive of that association before being put into effect and were accepted by the executive without reservation. I have seen that statement in the transcript of the proceedings before the Arbitrator who heard the case. It was stated before him that the senior officers’ organization had been consulted.
I know where all the information which honorable members opposite are putting up has come from. We all know its origin. I want to point out that there are other aspects of this matter which have not been properly discussed.
– What about regulation 10?
– Regulation 10, as it stands, provides -
We say, in the amended regulation -
A senior officer shall perform such duties and have such responsibilities as the General Manager determines.
In other words, there has been no real change in the position except that instead of specifying that a branch manager, controller of a division and a director of a department shall be responsible for the proper supervision of a branch, division or department respectively, that provision has been included in the one sentence. It is much simpler.
It has been said that the re-organization will affect the position of Mr. Finlay, the Assistant General Manager, and that he has been pushed to one side. I think that I would not mind very much being pushed to one side for a salary of £4,450 which is about £1,000 higher than that of those who are supposed to be displacing him.
Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I preface my remarks by saying that, in relation to the amount of money expended and the size of the staff employed, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is largely ineffective in this community. In terms of its impact upon the public, the Australian Broadcasting Commission simply does not fulfil the function for which it was established. Embittered by their failures to capture a reasonable share of public attention, far too many Australian Broadcasting Commission executives have retired into their cultural ivory towers and are sheltering there without going out and doing the job of making the national broadcasting service the effective instrument that it ought to be. I should like to make it plain that no personal reference is intended to the General Manager, Mr. Moses, nor to any other member, personally, of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I admire the very high qualities possessed by Mr. Moses although I differ very considerably from him on some of the administrative methods which he has adopted. But I have a very strong impression, built up over some years, that fear is a very potent factor in the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in a way which does not exist in the Public Service or in any other Commonwealth instrumentality.
– That is a reflection on the commission.
– It is a reflection certainly. It is a serious reflection on every one who allows such a condition to exist. If you care to associate with senior officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission I suggest that you will not be left long in doubt that fear does affect the administration, almost to the extent of paralysing many of its activities.
– You cannot praise them and blame them.
– I am not praising them and blaming them; I am blaming them, but I am saying that I am not making a personal reflection on any individual official.
– There must be somebody who makes them afraid.
– Yes. It is a serious error in the performance of his administrative duty. But there is no personal reflection.
– Who is he?
– It applies to the commission - to the General Manager and to all those top-level administrators of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who allow this condition to go on. Senior officers are in a state of constant apprehension that the ground will be cut from under their feet. They never know, when they take a stand on any issue for the purpose of performing their duty for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, at what point support will be completely withdrawn from them. I do not know whether that has been the experience of the honorable member for Gwydir, but it has been the experience of many of those who were formerly his colleagues on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s staff. We have had experience of this in this Parliament. The staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission cannot depend on the administrative heads of the commission for support in any stand that they take as officers of the commission. They do not know when they will be left high and dry or out on a limb. I notice the honorable member for Gwydir nods his head in apparent approval of what I am saying. As a result of the state of affairs to which I have referred, members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s staff have learnt from experience that it is unwise for them to exercise their individual judgment. They have learnt that it is not wise to display initiative; that it is wiser to do nothing wherever possible and to pass the buck in every conceivable instance on to some other officer or some other department of the commission. That atmosphere, which has existed in the A.B.C. for a long time now, is entirely injurious to the service which the commission ought to be rendering to the public. It produces discouragement and cynicism in the commission’s staff and, in fact, it means that while the A.B.C. is, of course, producing some magnificent programmes, as we will all agree, on the whole it is unimaginative and cautious in the extreme and has created a position in which only a very small minority of listeners and viewers in Australia tune in to its programmes.
– That cannot be refuted.
– That is so, and I am very sorry that it cannot be refuted. I think it is a national disaster.
– Have these regulations anything to do with that?
– I am going to show that these regulations will greatly increase the effects of which I am speaking. It is a disaster, because it is clear to those who are familiar with commercial radio and commercial television, that the national interest requires that a large percentage - I would say at least 50 per cent. - of the radio and television audiences should be taking the national service at all times. But, in fact, only about 15 per cent, appears to be the present figure.
– It is a very important 15 per cent.
– It is a very important 15 per cent. Of course, any minority is important, but in a democracy the majority also is very important. It is this attitude of getting back into your ivory tower and saying, “ We are catering for a very small but important minority “ which is destroying the effectiveness of the A.B.C. in broadcasting television and radio programmes to-day.
This state of affairs will be intensified if the amending regulations now under review are not disallowed. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the amendments to these regulations remove the statutory protection at present provided for the staff, as laid down in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Broadcasting and as approved by this Parliament. The standing committee, in its seventh report, provided that statutory protection for members of the staff. Parliament endorsed and adopted that report and this amendment of these regulations, if not disallowed by Parliament, will take that statutory protection away entirely.
– The seventh report repealed what had been provided before.
– I agree with the substance of what the honorable member says. I would not consider it an exaggeration to say that with the adoption of these amendments there could develop a virtual reign of terror inside the A.B.C. I will substantiate what I say by an examination of these regulations. A state of affairs could develop in which any man who dared to stand up for his rights could find that, overnight, despite any ruling given in his favour by an arbitrator, his status and his position in the organization of the A.B.C. could be drastically reduced or completely destroyed at the whim or decision of the general manager, thus completely destroying the benefit of any arbitration decision that he had dared to seek and obtain in his own favour.
The Minister has said that the delegation of authority is the only object of the amendment and that it will have that effect.
He added that the fear that victimization could result is entirely baseless. How could the Minister say that if he really has an understanding of what is involved in these regulations? The Minister has dealt first of all with regulation 5. As pointed out by the staff association, there is no need whatever to amend the regulations to add various additional controllers because they already provide for “ any other officer in charge of any other division” to be designated a controller. The Minister has answered that by saying that regulation 20 restricts the number of divisions to four. Would not the simple thing to do have been to alter regulation 20 if there were not some other purpose involved?
– It would have been much simpler. !».1r. ALLAN FRASER- Yes. This proposal takes away from these people the statutory protection they have. That would not have been done if the Minister had simply adopted the obvious course of amending regulation 20. Where it refers to -‘Sectors of departments it specifies directors for seven programme departments and provides that any other officer in charge of any other department shall be designated ps a director. So, again I say, there is therefore no need to amend that definition unless there is some other purpose in amending these regulations.
The commission has power to add any number of directors if they are directors of any other department of the commission, in the correct sense of that term. We are dealing with senior officers, and the Minister has pointed out that senior officers are specified as assistant general manager, controller of a division, a branch manager, a director of a department and any other officer determined by the commission to be a senior officer for the purpose of these regulations. The amendment strikes out these particular specified officers and specifies - “ Senior officer “ means - Any officer determined by the commission to be a senior officer for the purposes of these regulations.
The Minister says that that should, in no way, be feared; it does no harm to any existing officer of the commission. I point out that it does. The Minister simply seems to be unable to recognize this point. It withdraws from the assistant general manager, a controller of a division, a branch manager and a director of a department the particular statutory protection which an earlier parliament wisely considered it was necessary for them to have. This is now taken away from them completely. Secondly, the Minister says that this is not the affair of the staff association; it concerns only senior officers, and the senior officers’ association has been consulted and has agreed to the amendments.
I will make two comments. First, we can imagine the type of conference which took place between the senior officers and the top brass of the A.B.C. Which senior officer would have dared, knowing the set-up which exists in the commission, to stand up and express his opposition to the amendment which the general manager had expressed himself to favour? Secondly, it is suggested that members of the staff association are not senior officers. The whole point is that from now on, a “ senior officer “ simply means not a holder of a particular position but any officer whom the commission, for its own purpose, determines to be a senior officer; and therefore the designation could apply to many members of the staff association.
– The determination need not be made even by the commission; it would be made by the general manager.
– I accept that correction. Any one whom the general manager determines is a senior officer, from that moment is a senior officer until the general manager, at his whim or his will, decides he is not a senior officer any more. Of course, the staff association ought to be concerned about that. Anybody who is concerned with industrial organizations or with the rights of employees in this country ought to be concerned about a position like that being allowed to develop in a most important government instrumentality.
But let us turn to regulation 10 to which I directed the attention of the Minister while he was speaking. I feel that the PostmasterGeneral and the Minister for Air who is also at the table, will agree that the effect of this is that in future, duties and responsibilities may be varied at the whim or will of the general manager, acting on his own whim or on such advice as he is prepared to take. From now on, not one member of the staff association of the A.B.C, high or low, can feel safe in the performance of his duties. With or without reasons being supplied to him, he knows that overnight, at a moment’s notice, the whole of his duties and responsibilities, his position and his appointment can be changed by the general manager.
– That would affect his status as a senior officer.
– It would affect his status completely. That is why I say the acceptance of these amendments by the Parliament could establish virtually a reign of terror in the A.B.C. Who, except a man who completely disregards his own interests and the interests of his family, will dare to be active in the affairs of the staff association, or active in the promotion of the industrial rights of the officers of the A.B.C, knowing that whatever the arbitration tribunal may decide the general manager has the power completely to cut the ground from under his feet by changing overnight, and completely, the duties and responsibilities that the officer has to undertake?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has already pointed out that the General Manager’s advocacy in the recent senior officers case was seriously discredited by the Public Service Arbitrator in his determination.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– It has quite a lot to do with it. The Minister may say it has nothing to do with it, but the adoption of these intimidatory tactics - because that is what they were - by Australian Broadcasting Commission executives in the hearing of this case is an example to every member of the A.B.C. staff who may dare in future to stand up for his industrial rights or those of his colleagues. In particular, this form of intimidation can now be practised without limit, because of the power to be conferred on the General Manager to vary, at a moment’s notice, the position, the duties and the responsibilities of any one at all in the employment of the commission. I suggest that it requires little imagination to see how hopeless the position of the staff could be under these amended regulations, as has already been shown by the fact that the statutory conferences are largely abortive. Arbitration has had to be undertaken at considerable financial cost, and those who take part in it are subject to the personal attack of the General Manager and the senior officers of the A.B.C. The General Manager is able from now onwards to take the position of saying to an employee, “ You had better take what I think you are worth in the job to which I appoint you, because if you choose to go over my head to arbitration I can completely defeat the effects of that arbitration by altering your duties and responsibilities immediately the arbitration decision has been given “.
Regulation 10, as it is now to be amended, sets out that the duties and responsibilities of senior officers in their positions shall be in accordance with instructions issued by the General Manager from time to time. That will have one other effect - that of creating continual chaos in this very unhappy organization, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It will destroy almost every remaining settled line of authority in the service which was established by statute, and replace it with what you could call a catch-as-catch-can arrangement, under which no one will really know from day to day where he stands as between one decision of the General Manager or the commission and the next decision of the General Manager or the commission. It was Parliament that established the relationship and the responsibilities of senior officers as between one and the other, and it would be most unfortunate now if Parliament itself destroyed the relationshipwhich it created or endorsed. I suggest to the House that the effect of the amendment now before us will certainly be to destroy that relationship.
Before I close I want to refer to two letters. The Minister will remember that he suggested that a committee of the Parliamentary Labour Party which recently interviewed the commission could have taken up this matter with the commissionand received a satisfactory answer from it at the time. I suggest that the Minister has dug a hole into which he has himself fallen, because I intend to quote, as a complete answer to his suggestion, from twoletters, one written by the Minister himself and the other by Sir Richard Boyer,. chairman of the commission, agreeing to meet that party committee. The Minister’s letter refers to a proposed discussion between the committee and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. He states in the letter that he would give his permission on the understanding that the chairman would avoid expressing any opinions or views to the committee or disclosing any information which is confidential on matters relating to the business or other private affairs of the broadcasting and television services. Sir Richard Boyer, as chairman of the commission, in writing to Mr. Stewart, who had written to him on behalf of the committee, said, “ I feel sure- “
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I move -
That Mr. Allan Fraser be granted an extension of time.
– The question is, that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro be granted an extension of time. Those in favour say, “ Aye “, to the contrary, “ No. “. I think the “ Noes “ have it.
– The “Ayes” have it, Mr. Speaker.
– Is a division required?
– Yes. The “ Ayes “ have it.
– I have already put the question. There will be no division, as there was no demand for one.
– There was a demand for a division.
– Yes, but by one member only.
– There was more than one member.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain silent.
– More than one member called for a division.
– Order! The honorable member will please remain silent.
– The honorable member for
Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has drawn a thrilling picture of an organization in which there is a Gestapo man under every microphone and a Star Chamber in each revolving disc - a picture which would do credit to. Alexandre Dumas, senior, himself. It is complete with the sinister personality of the “ Grey Eminence “, the general manager, hiding behind the curtain and sending man after man to destruction.
– How do you know all this?
– I have been listening to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro or I would not have known it at all. [Quorum formed.] In the closing stages of a long session I think that any honorable member who had taken the trouble to find out the real reason for the amendments to these regulations, and the basis of the Opposition’s motion to disallow them, would laugh the matter out rather than take it seriously. The only misfortune of the whole thing is that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has cast very grave reflections on a body of people who are trying their best to serve this community in the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The amendments to the regulations to which the Opposition objects are an administrative measure which is very necessary and overdue. The Broadcasting and Television Act, under which the commission operates, gives the commission power to appoint a general manager and officers, and to create and abolish positions - in other words, to determine its own organization. The original act, which became law under the Labour Government in 1942, gives the commission autonomy to establish its own organization, but the regulations of 1947 - those whose amendment we are now dealing with - in addition to setting out in detail the procedures for appointing staff, for promotions and appeals against promotions, and that sort of thing, also designated in some detail the senior positions in the commission. In other words, the intention of the act, which was to give the commission autonomy in determining its own organization - a necessary prerequisite to the independence of any statutory body that is to work properly - was completely undone by the 1947 regulations, which set out a very rigid organization for the commission.
To fetter an independent statutory body with a rigid organization was a mistake in itself. It was wrong in principle, as I hope to establish later. It was not the intention of the act. Section 47, which was inserted in 1946, before the date of these regulations which are now being amended, said quite plainly, “ the commission may, from time to time, create any position in the service of the commission and determine the salary, or the range of salary, applicable to that position “. It went on to say that the commission may abolish any position. Then the regulations of 1947, by setting up this rigid structure, imposed fetters on the freedom of the commission. As I say, it was wrong in principle, it was not intended by the act and it led to absurdities in practice. For example, the commission was free under the act - and was obliged in practice, from necessity as the commission grew - to vary the duties of its senior officers from time to time, but it could not alter the designations of their positions, because the regulations of 1947 had given names to certain positions.
– You could have varied the regulations.
– That is what we are doing now. For example, the regulations required the maintenance of a department called the variety department. The term “ variety “ has gone out of the entertainment and musical field long since, and yet there is a variety department in the Australian Broadcasting Commission - or there was until these amendments were brought in - simply because this rigid structure had been imposed on the commission in 1947. The old regulations allowed for only four divisions, the programmes, administrative, clerical and general divisions. The A.B.C. did not have power under the regulations to set up a news division. It could not establish a technical division. Can you imagine a statutory body or a private company, or a government department if you like, trying to set up a television service without having power to establish a technical division? The suggestion is an absurdity in itself.
– Then how has it managed to introduce its television service?
– It has done it by ignoring these regulations, by trying to get round them - not by ignoring them entirely, but by doing the best it could by shifts and changes within this rigid structure. But there were more absurdities than this. A very bad organizational structure was imposed by the regulations, because there were in fact fifteen senior officers, heads of sections or departments, directly responsible to the general manager. If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro really wants to understand the difficulties of operation of the A.B.C, the difficulties of proper relationships between the general manager and the section heads and the staff, he might consider that under the former system imposed by the 1947 regulations there were no less than fifteen heads of sections or departments reporting directly to the general manager and responsible directly to him. How could any organization carry on under such a system?
This rigid organization, even though it was a mistake, might have been workable in 1947 when the regulations were introduced, but it had become quite impossible by 1957. In 1947 there were 1,140 employees of the commission. To-day there are 2,400, more than twice as many, and the commission in all that time has not been able formally to alter its internal organization. This has been a considerable burden to the executive of the commission, not only in operating a radio service but, more particularly, in undertaking a television service as well.
Re-organization was decided upon by the commission itself in 1957, but could not be effected at once. A main purpose of the general manager’s visit overseas in 1957 was to examine the organizational structure of other broadcasting systems so that he could advise the commission on them. One of the things he found out, incidentally, was that the organization of the Canadian broadcasting commission is almost identical with that which has now been adopted by our own A.B.C. under these amended regulations.
The system that the commission decided’ to to adopt was what is known in some administrative circles as the “ line across “ or the “ spread-out “ line of authority, with the general manager at the top and beneath him a small number of divisional or departmental heads, or whatever you like to call them, reporting to him, each one of them being responsible for a section of the organization beneath him. There are six divisional heads under the new system adopted by the A.B.C, working directly under the general manager. The general manager has an assistant. He is called the assistant general manager general. He is Mr. Finlay, who was the assistant general manager previously. Mr. Finlay has to-day a special status in the organization of the commission, just as he used to have previously as assistant general manager. He is in effect the general manager’s deputy. He acts for the general manager when that officer is absent. He deals with all problems of regional stations, announcing staff and special project work such as royal tours, the Olympic Games and matters of that kind.
Beneath the general manager and the principal assistant general manager, whose special status has been preserved, as I have explained, and who has a very distinct salary differential from the other assistant general managers and departmental heads - he is paid at a much higher rate, as has been mentioned by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) - are a line of six divisional heads, each responsible to the general manager for a department or a division of the activities of the commission. The first department is that of programmes, the head of which is Dr. Keith Barry. He is called an assistant general manager. The next department is administration, under the control of another assistant general manager, Mr. Duckmanton. Then there is the finance department, the head of which is Mr. Gifford, who is called a controller. Then there is the news department, the controller of news being Mr. Hamilton. The engineering department is presided over by a controller of technical services, Mr. Hadfield. The last department is that of publicity. The director is Mr. Buttrose, who is responsible for the publicity of the commission and for concerts.
Instead of dealing with fifteen people having varying duties and responsibilities, the general manager now deals with only six departmental heads. This is the sort of rational, up-to-date administrative set-up that you will find in most departments of the Commonwealth and in most large industrial concerns to-day. If there is any valid criticism to be made it should be levelled at the Parliament and the Government of 1947 for a lack of understanding of the true value of a public commission or a public authority and the independence that it needs. If any criticism is to be levelled at the commission, it is that the re-organization was not carried out long ago. How the general manager has managed in the past, in the inevitable chaos that must have been created by the rigid organization imposed on him under the 1947 regulations, is hard to understand.
This change was long contemplated. It was carefully thought out. It was discussed in detail with the senior officers who are the persons concerned, and who collectively approved. They did not approve through their senior officers’ association; they were individually and collectively consulted when the scheme was being formulated. The new system is consistent with the arrangement in other broadcasting commissions, particularly the one in Canada. I agree that the change was not discussed with the staff association of the A.B.C, and why should it be?
– Why should it not be?
– An organization such as the A.B.C. is a creature half-way between a government department and a private enterprise, and having some of the characteristics of each. Consider both sides of its character, if you wish. Does the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or any other organization of that kind, consult the union to which its employees belong when it is contemplating an internal re-organization of its executives? Of course, it does not. Let us move into the field of the Public Service. If a re-organization of a department of state of this Commonwealth is being considered, does the department consult the Public Service Association as to whether it is wise to alter the organization in a particular way? Of course, it does not. It consults the Public Service Board, which is its own organization, if it wishes to.
– There is no analogy between the two.
– Of course, there is an analogy between the two. The amendment of the regulations does not affect the rights of the senior officers. All the arrangements of the old regulations about appeals against promotion and matters of that kind are left unchanged. As I said, I believe that the mistake of imposing a rigid organization on the Australian Broadcasting Commission by these regulations of the Labour Government in 1947, which was not intended by the earlier act of the same Government, arose from an imperfect understanding of the nature of an independent statutory authority or, as such authorities are called in England, of a public corporation. There has been great development in the use of these public corporations in Australia in the years since 1947, and a lot of knowledge about them has been accumulated.
The principal authority on independent statutory authorities in this country is our Public Accounts Committee, so ably presided over by our honorable friend from Warringah (Mr. Bland). In its report on the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, the committee considered in great detail the nature of statutory corporations and the requirements for their proper management. In paragraph 67 at page 62 of the report, the committee said -
We repeat our statement, to be found in paragraph 21 of Part I. of our Report, that unless the corporation-
The committee was referring to any corporation; it was discussing public corporations generally - is given a degree of managerial freedom, the burden upon the Minister will be intolerable-
I ask the House particularly to note the following words, which were - and the objectives sought in creating the statutory corporation will not be attained. These objectives include continuity in policy, flexibility in organization, freedom in management and elasticity in finance-characteristics that are not necessarily found in the organization of ordinary government departments, where it is expected thai both high policy and detailed administration will bend in the direction desired by the government of the day.
It is this flexibility of organization that has been needed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for so long, and it is given by this amendment of the regulations. I hope I have satisfied the House that this reorganization is necessary in practice. I hope that the discussion of the Public Accounts Committee on statutory corporations generally will establish that the rigid organization originally imposed on the commission was wrong in principle. It follows that the amendment of the regulations to give freedom to the commission to alter, amend and establish from time to time its own internal organization is not only common sense but is correct in principle.
This misbegotten motion which the Opposition has brought here to-day was, in my opinion, generated by three things. The first is the narrow socialism of the Opposition, a socialism which cannot bear to think of any instrumentality not being under the direct control of the government of the day which, when Labour is in office, means the political party of the day. A more enlightened socialism would not fall into this error. It is interesting that one of the principal authorities on public corporations is Lord Morrison, formerly Mr. Herbert Morrison. He stressed in his book, which I have not time to quote here, the need for independence of organization for public corporations.
The second point is that the circumstances found a ready mischief-maker in the person of a former senior staff officer of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He left the commission’s service to become the secretary of the Staff Association of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, an industrial organization of the more junior members of the service. This former employee has quite clearly, with scant regard for his obligations as a former employee, been passing information to one of the senators who initiated this move.
Thirdly, this found a ready listener in the caucus in the person of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and particularly in the person of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who cannot bear to see any important instrument of public activity that is not completely the creature of the government of the day. Though I admire many of his characteristics, and though my feelings for him like those of many Government supporters, approach affection, his present attitude of mind reflects the autocratic attitude that characterized his work as a member of a Labour government and particularly when he was Minister for Information. He made it clear in his speech on the Estimates in 1957 that if he had the power again he would make the Australian Broadcasting Commission completely dependent upon the Minister, that it would become the creature of the government of the day. Gone forever would be any hope of an independent, objective attitude in the news service of the commission. This Government entirely repudiates that attitude of mind. If there is to be any value in the commission, and if its news service is to retain its present very high repute, the independence of the commission must be most zealously preserved. The amendments of the regulations which my friend, the Postmaster-General, has introduced, have been designed to that end.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority … . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 3193) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House, namely: - Construction of a technical high school at Darwin.
The proposal provides for the erection of a technical high school to accommodate 500 pupils and the necessary staff. The structure will be of reinforced concrete frame with infill panels of cement brickwork. The building will consist of two upper classroom floors elevated on piers to provide covered play and assembly areas, a single story administrative wing and a manual training block.
The committee has stated in its recommendations that there is an urgent need for the high school, that the design is appropriate for its purpose, and that the site is the best available. In addition, the committee has recommended the re-introduction into the trades block of appropriate ablution facilities and inclusion in the proposal of a complete assembly hall to accommodate 1,000 children, which is intended also to serve a future academic high school on the same site. These two items can be reconsidered by the Government when final designs and estimates are prepared.
Upon the concurrence of this House in this resolution, detailed planning necessary for carrying out this work can proceed.
.- In this instance the Public Works Committee has established a very high standard of high school building for the rest of Australia to emulate. One of the deficiencies of Darwin itself is the absence of what one might term monumental buildings. The deficiencies of Australian education are exemplified in the poor quality of school buildings which are located throughout Australia, with the exception, perhaps, of Territories under the control of the Commonwealth. No State government is able to undertake a building of the standard of the Darwin technical high school. The people of Australia can look well at this building, with its assembly hall, air-conditioning, and general planning, and demand similar standards for the schools that are being built in the States. In this case the Commonwealth is the leader in style and example.
It is significant that the Public Works Committee which has recommended this proposal is composed of honorable members from both sides of the House. I presume, therefore, that Opposition members have made their contribution to the setting of this high standard, to which people throughout Australia should aspire for State schools. I understand that in Victoria out of 60 or 70 high schools only three have assembly halls while hardly any technical schools have an assembly hall.
Air-conditioning in schools is regarded as an almost exotic provision, and I hope, both for the people of Darwin, who are in desperate need of efficient secondary education, and for the people of Australia, that the Government will proceed with the construction of this school with the greatest possible expedition and that it will not be deterred from fulfilling the recommendations of the committee, no matter how many Treasury officials or other people seek to intervene and have the proposed expenditure curtailed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 24th September (vide page 1363), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is similar to the measure which was introduced last year. Virtually, it sums up the overall financial position of the Government’s account as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) sees it at the present time. The purpose of this bill is to provide for the issuance of treasury-bills totalling £61,000,000, of which £37,000,000 will be set aside for defence purposes and the remaining £24,000,000 for redemption of Commonwealth securities which were issued for war purposes.
The measure last year provided for a sum of £110,000,000, of which £78,000,000 was to have been for defence purposes, and the remaining £32,000,000 for redemption of Commonwealth securities which were issued for war purposes. Last year, it was anticipated that the overall budget deficiency would be £110,000,000, but the financial result for the year was very different from what had been anticipated. A statement issued recently, with the authority of the Treasurer, indicates the position of the Consolidated Revenue Fund as at 30th June, 1959. Instead of an anticipated deficit of £110,000,000, the Government concluded its operations with a deficit of only £28,000,000. If the Treasurer was so wrong last year when he sought £110,000,000 and needed only £28,000,000, we might ask ourselves now, when he is seeking £61,000,000, whether in fact he will require anything at all. That is a hypothetical question which might be posed at this stage.
– It is a delightful prospect.
– It may be a delightful prospect, but I do not think that the statement reveals the true situation because, in our attack on the Government’s financial policy during the debate on the Budget, we pointed out that the Government did not have to resort to treasury-bill finance to the extent of £110,000,000 and was able to complete its operations with a deficit of only £28,000,000 because it had allowed the banking and other financial institutions to increase their holdings of government securities by some £70,000,000 or £80,000,000.
We have here a situation which sometimes may be camouflaged to a great extent. Recently, we have had legislation before us to legalize or to make possible a new kind of security called a seasonal treasury-note which, as we see it, is only a variant of the treasury-bill method of finance with the added disadvantage that, instead of bearing interest of only 1 per cent., payable by the Government, as such, to another channel of the Government - the Commonwealth Bank - it bears interest at the rate of 3 per cent. The difference between the 1 per cent, and the 3 per cent. - on an average amount of about £100,000,000 a year, it comes to £2,000,000 - falls mainly into the hands of financial institutions in our community, the private banking system on the one hand, and the new short-term money market, as it is called, on the other. To use a phrase, they whack up between them the additional £2,000,000. That is the kind of camouflage which may well be continued within the succeeding twelve months.
– And the Government gets it back in party funds.
– It goes back into all kinds of places.
When the Treasurer, in preparing his Budget, looked at the total outgoings in the form of expenditure, on the one hand, and the total incomings in the form of taxation and other revenue, on the other hand, he found a deficiency of £61,000,000, and this simple little bill purports to allow that amount to be raised by treasury-bills. By the use of a bookkeeping device, some part of that £61,000,000 is to be allocated to defence expenditure, and the remainder to these government accounts such as the National Debt Sinking Fund and the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
What is not always realized about these funds, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that, to a great degree they represent bookkeeping entries and that, at times, it is hard to see what is the real overall position of the Government accounts.
– I can assure the honorable member that this is the real cash position.
– It is the theoretical cash position as the right honorable gentleman sees it at the moment. All I am stating, as my initial postulate, is that, this time last year, the Treasurer sought permission to raise £110,000,000 in this way, and he found, at the end of the financial year, that he required only £28,000,000. In other words, he was £82,000,000 out.
– He was out the right way, though.
– The right way depends on the way in which one regards the interests which benefit. That is the point that I want to elucidate, if I can, in the time at my disposal. The point that I was going to make before I was interrupted was that, although it makes a difference in the distribution position, it does not make any difference in the aggregate whether you have £1,000,000 of credit expansion in the community taking place through the private banking system or whether it takes place through government credit expansion. What makes the difference is how the £1,000,000 is spent - or, in the instance which we saw last year, how £82,000,000 was spent.
– It was spent in precisely the same way as last year’s Budget predicated.
– It was not spent precisely as the Government predicated. At this time last year, the Minister predicated a need to have recourse to £110,000,000 worth of treasury-bill finance. At the end of the financial year, total expenditure was much the same as had been forecast, but, instead of the whole £110,000,000 having come from treasury-bills, only £28,000,000 had come from this form of finance and £82,000,000 had come from an increase in the holdings of government securities on the part of the private banking system.
– What did that cost?
– It cost the difference between the market rate on bonds of something like 4 per cent, for short-term securities, or 5 per cent, for long-term securities, and the rate of 1 per cent, on treasury-bills, which would have been the operative rate if the course predicated by the Treasurer, to use his own word, had been followed. The difference between £80,000,000 worth of treasury-bills issued at 1 per cent, and £80,000,000 worth of bonds issued at an average of between 4 and 5 per cent, is quite significant in relation to the Government’s final revenue position. It is even more significant in relation to the position of the private financial institutions in the community.
We of the Australian Labour Party have been chided - this is one of the points that I want to clarify - when, at election time, we have said that the difference between expected revenues and expected expenditure ought to be made up by treasury-bills, and we have been told that that is inflationary finance. However, it is a matter of relativity. As I say, in essence there is no difference between credit expansion in the community which takes place in the form of an increase in overdrafts on the part of the private banking system and credit expansion which takes place as a result of issues of treasury-bills by the Government. It depends, again, on where the private banking system disposes of its assets.
After all, the volume of money in the community should have relation to what the community wants to do, on either private or public account. We on this side of the House have argued, for a good many years, that what has been wrong in the Australian economy is that there has not been the right balance between what may be called public investment on the one hand, and private investment on the other. Frequently, at question time in particular, and at other times, in this House, honorable members point to shortages of schools and hospitals, the inadequacy of transport facilities, and deficiencies in the provision of electric power and water and sewerage services, as well as other public requirements, in their respective States. More can be done in these fields only if more of the resources of the community - in most instances those resources are limited - are devoted to public rather than private activity. But the final division between public and private investment largely depends on the policy pursued by this Government, which, by means of its control of income tax, which is the major source of revenue at the present time, and of the allocation of loan moneys through the Australian Loan Council, virtually determines the total amount of public investment in the community. This Government has failed to intervene in the economy where it should and, apparently, has chosen to exercise its central bank control and use the private banking system as the regulator of the division between public and private investment, instead of acting directly itself. When this happens, a great deal of initiative is shifted away from the Government, where it ought to belong, and falls into private hands.
If honorable members care to study the banking statistics that are circulated from time to time to members of the Parliament, they will find, on examining the aggregate holdings of government securities by the banking system, that significant changes take place from time to time. Government securities held by the private banking system, on the one hand, and advances made by it, on the other hand, rise and fall from time to time. After all, the private banking system has a certain degree of choice - a choice that can be limited or varied by the policy pursued by the central bank, either by disposing of its assets by increasing advances in order to stimulate private activity, or by subscribing to government securities, in which case the money is expended on public development. Quite a number of documents have been issued recently, some of them by private organizations and some of them by committees which have a certain degree of government authority behind them.
I think that most honorable members have received, within the last twelve months, a very interesting booklet dealing with the projected development of secondary industries in Australia in the next ten years. It was suggested in that booklet - and I think most members will not query it - that there was need for more public investment in future than we had had in the past. It also implied that there should be some relationship between public investment, on the one hand, and private investment on the other because, as was pointed out the other night in another debate, technical capacity cannot be developed in a community unless the educational facilities available to citizens are increased. It was said that it is out of technical capacity or the development of “ know-how “, which flow primarily from the resources devoted to education, that industrial potential is increased. Therefore, there must be a greater degree of integration, in the future, between public and private investment. That statement conveyed nothing new to honorable members on this side of the House. We have been pointing that out for a great number of years. But the only way in which you can alter the existing balance between public investment on the one hand, and private investment on the other, is by the kind of measure that we are now contemplating.
This is really only an academic exercise. The total expenditure of the Government is £1,600,000,000 and its total revenue £1,500,000,000. Whether the difference of £100,000,000 is hypothecated - in the manner of this legislation - to defence activity rather than to another kind of activity does not matter much. I think that even the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) will agree that whether £37,000,000 is devoted to defence services rather than to social services is largely theoretical. It is sometimes a little easier, theoretically, to say that at least it is going into an activity that has long-term results rather than one that evaporates as the expenditure is made. But the over-all effect is the same, whether you apply the expenditure in this direction or in that. Therefore, I say that there is not much substance in the provision that £37,000,000 of the total amount shall be allocated to defence services, while, as the Treasurer has indicated, the other £24,000,000 is to be divided between anticipated deficiencies in the funds flowing into the National Debt Sinking Fund, and this other fund which has been created over the years, the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
What is involved here is the whole question of balance, as it were. There is some need to clear up a great deal of the mysteries that exist in Australia with regard to the public debt. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was good enough to circulate for the benefit of honorable members a comprehensive document produced in Great Britain recently - the report of the Radcliffe committee. This document is about an inch and a half thick and it has about 500 pages and approximately 1,000 paragraphs dealing with the monetary situation as it existed in the United Kingdom. 1 emphasize, again, that probably there is need for such a systematic examination of our own monetary and financial affairs as was engaged in by the Radcliffe committee in Great Britain.
One of the things to which the Radcliffe committee pointed as being the determinant of the total volume of money in the community and of the flow of money to the various channels that a community needs was the public debt. I would submit that there is a great deal of ignorance and, often, of misunderstanding in Australia about the public debt. I refer honorable members to the most recent issue of the “ Treasury Information Bulletin “, and incidentally, I congratulate the Treasurer and his predecessors for publishing this very informative document. Bulletin No. 16. dated October 1959, page 15, discusses the holdings of the public debt in Australia. In some respects, if you look at the sum quickly, it looks rather astronomical. The total is £3,590,000,000. If I owed £3,590,000,000 to somebody else it would be quite a problem for the somebody else. But £3,590,000,000 owed by the community as a whole, to the community as a whole is not quite the same problem.
When you dissect the figures in this “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ you find that most of this apparently astronomical sum is held by the left hand of the Government on behalf of the right hand. Of this sum of £3,590,000,000, £432,000,000, or about one-eighth, belongs to the Commonwealth Bank which is only one removed from the Government. I would ask honorable members to note the significant difference between the amount held by the trading banks at 30th June, 1959, compared with the amount held at 30th June, 1958 - £311,800.000 instead of £234,000,000. It is co-incidental, almost, that that figure corresponds to the difference between the
Government’s anticipated deficiency for the last financial year of £110,000,000, and the final deficiency of about £30,000,000. Instead of issuing treasury-bills to the value of £80,000,000, bearing interest at 1 per cent., the difference of £80,000,000 was taken up by the trading banks. Then holdings of Government securities rose by £80,000,000, a sum which was provided at interest rates varying from 3 per cent, to 51 per cent. The savings banks which are, for the most part, Government undertakings, held £744.000,000 or close to onefifth of the total national debt of Australia. Life assurance offices held £218,000,000. They are simply glorified channels for accumulating the savings of the people of Australia. Commonwealth and State governments and local and semi-government bodies held £792,000,000. These are the most significant items and they total about £2,000,000,000 of the £3,590,000,000- very much over half. When you look at that situation and notice, from year to year, the fluctuations that take place in the holdings of the total amount of Government debt as between one channel and another, you find that this is largely a siphoning action, mainly through Government-controlled channels, and that the money is put into this fund rather than into that.
This is a homely example, perhaps, but it concerns every member in this House: The amount which every member of the Parliament contributes from his salary towards the parliamentary pensions fund is invested in government securities of one kind or another. This helps to improve the overall situation of the Government and the amount of public investment in the Australian community. We need to have a little more clarity and to make a more critical examination of these problems than sometimes we are disposed to give them. It is easy for the Treasurer to say that all he is doing here is simply getting sanction, on behalf of the Government, to make up a deficiency between his anticipated revenue and his anticipated expenditure. That is the position as he sees it, but I suggest that he was very much wrong last year.
– I was not in the job last year.
– Well, whoever was there before you were. I do not think that, proportionately, the present Treasurer will be any more successful this time next year than was his predecessor this time last year. But largely it is only a matter of convenience. It is also a question of attitude on the part of the Government towards the private banking system rather than towards the public interest. This Government leans towards the interests of the private banking system more than it does towards the public interest. Sometimes the two may tend to coincide, but often there is a fair margin of difference. In this particular year, an aggregate of £80,000,000 more held by the private banking system in government securities than in the previous year meant an increase in the revenue of the private banking system of, I suppose, some £2,000,000 or more. That means that an additional £2,000,000 of interest was payable by all the taxpayers of Australia to the private banking system in particular.
– Their profits are pretty low at the moment.
– They might be too low for them, but there are many other people whose standards are low as well; but they do not get the same facilities to improve their standard of living as does the private banking system. But I do not want to go into that at the moment. If the honorable member comes down to my city - I have not been to his recently - and looks at most of the prominent corners, he will see where these struggling banks have their palatial buildings in spite of the fact that they claim that their costs are rising faster than their revenues. That condition does not apply to the banking system only. As most people put it, prices are rising faster than incomes. That condition is being experienced by the majority of citizens of Australia. For my part, I prefer to put my sympathy with the citizens of Australia rather than with the private banking system. That, mainly, is the difference in attitude between members on this side of the House and those on the Government side. We exist to serve different kinds of people. In the aggregate, £80,000,000 more of Government securities held by the private banking system at the end of the year than at the beginning probably means £80,000,000 more of public activity during the year. That £80,000,000 more of public activity, done at the rate of 4 per cent, or 5 per cent., is different from £80,000,000 worth of activity done at 1 per cent.
– That would keep money out of circulation.
– It is the function of the Government to put money into circulation or take it out of circulation as it determines according to the circumstances. That is not the function of a few boards of directors. What has happened under this Government, through its banking legislation, is that a great deal of initiative has been taken out of the hands of the public authority and put into the hands of irresponsible private authorities. It is true that they cannot be so irresponsible as to wreck themselves and the economy, but it does make some difference that they should be the determinant rather than the public authority.
– But that does not make them irresponsible.
– It may not make them irresponsible, but it may give them a little more fat than they should have. It may also mean their taking that fat to themselves at the expense of other sections of the community. After all, does not the Government exist to adjudicate between one section of the community and another? All I am saying is that the Government’s degree of adjudication makes the position somewhat different from my point of view. I regard it as my duty, on behalf of the Opposition, to show precisely what is being done here. Technically, I cannot see why a measure such as this needs to come before the House at all.
– I wish it did not have to.
– With all respect to the Treasurer, I doubt whether it needs to. At least the Treasurer did not seem to need to come to Parliament this year to correct a mistake that was made last year. He said he needed £110,000,000 but in fact he needed only £30,000,000. Now he is saying that he wants £61,000,000, and am saying that it is extremely doubtful whether he needs that amount. 1 was hoping, in a sense, that he would ask for more than £61,000,000, because that would mean a little more public development and a little less private development in the community.
In my book, the building of a school in the electorate of my colleague from Barton (Mr. Reynolds) ranks far higher than the building of a bank on the corner of Collins and Queen streets, Melbourne. In one circle of the City of Melbourne there are four corners at the moment either occupied or will be occupied within twelve months by very lavish buildings, either by banks or insurance companies or other financial concerns.
– You would not want to see shanties there?
– No, but I would prefer seeing shanties there than to see children going to school in tents and sheds as is the case in Melbourne at the moment. I would prefer to see discomfort to patrons of a post office rather than children being without a school at all. The patrons of post offices do not have to suffer inconvenience all the week because of inadequate buildings, but children going to school have to suffer that way. It is better for the community to have more public hospitals and schools than to have more insurance company buildings, bank buildings and hotels. But these buildings rather indicate the scheme of choice so far as this Government is concerned. I very much doubt the estimate of this Treasurer and he disclaims the estimate of his predecessor.
– Oh, no!
– The Treasurer says, “ Oh no “, but at least he assumed the estimate of his predecessor who was 250 per cent. wrong. Instead of needing £110,000,000 he needed only £30,000,000; but the difference was not made up by the activity not taking place. I repeat that the difference was made up because he allowed the private banking system to invest to the extent of that difference. 1 am not a betting man, but I would hazard a reasonable guess that when we come to deal with a similar measure next year we shall find that the sum of £61,000,000 that is postulated here will have proved to be unnecessary. I doubt whether the present Treasurer’s estimate will be very much closer to the fact than that of his predecessor. However, I take the opportunity, as I think we should, to try to tear a little bit of the camouflage away and see what really resides under it. We on this side of the House say that it is the duty of the Government to serve the interests of most of the citizens, and not just the interests of a few of the citizens. There might not be very much marginal difference in the long run between whether you issue £100,000,000 worth of treasurybills from the Commonwealth Bank direct to the Government - as I think should be done - or siphon them off to intermediaries, either the private banks or this new mystical organization, the short-term money market, where people are supposed to deposit £50,000 over-night and want it back in the morning. The number of people who would want to do that must be very limited, indeed. If at the end of the year you find that it has cost you £2,000,000 a year more than it should have to issue the £100,000,000, you can generally rely on your gentlemen friends in the press not to say anything about it. But if anybody here or there, or a government department, spends £30,000 too much, there is something wrong about that, though apparently there is nothing wrong when £2,000,000 goes into the pockets of the banking system.
Some three or four years ago this Government raised the rate of interest payable on special accounts lodged with the Commonwealth Bank by the private banks from i per cent, to J per cent. An increase of i per cent, may not seem very much, but when you consider that increase on an aggregate sum of £300,000,000 a year it is a pretty good cop flowing directly into the pockets of the private banking system. It takes a lot of explaining away against an over-expenditure of the Department of Supply amounting to £30,000. Equally, at the end of this financial year, instead of the £61,000,000 having been issued by the Commonwealth Bank to the Government at 1 per cent., it will have been farmed out among the Government’s friends in the private banks and the short-term money market at 3 per cent., or whatever the rate may be. The difference of £2,000,000 in the cost of doing that, over and above the cost of issuing the money from the Commonwealth Bank direct to the Government, will be borne by the community.
It is time that the people in the press gallery here had something to say about this. If the newspapers are really organs of public opinion they ought to be giving a little of this information to the public. They have not done so, because they are part of the establishment, whose members do not talk about one another. So, the newspapers forfeit their right to be regarded as channels of public opinion. At least, they are a little bit tinctured by self-interest in these matters, and it is our duty, as an Opposition, to show this thing up for what it really is.
The measure appears simple enough superficially, but when you strip away some of the camouflage and look at the realities underneath you find a very different picture. Therefore, on behalf of the Opposition, although we are not at this stage opposing the measure, I remind the House that last year things turned out very different from the estimate of the then Treasurer. His estimate was well away from reality, and I suggest that in twelve months’ time the present Treasurer’s estimate will prove to be just as wrong as was the former Treasurer’s estimate.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) started off in quite a good strain, but wandered off in a socialistic wonderland, somewhat like Alice did, and allowed his bitter opposition to the private banking system to outweigh his reason. After all, who provides the money that the private banks lend? It all comes from the pockets of the people. On page 18 of the “Treasury Information Bulletin “, from which the honorable gentleman himself quoted, are set out the number and the amounts of interestbearing and other deposits, and from whom they came. However, I am not going to spend my time arguing with the Opposition about the private banks, because I do not think that subject really concerns the bill.
– It is just a red herring.
– Yes, it is just a red herring drawn across the track. I should like to congratulate the Government on the financial position of our Treasury. As a result of careful husbandry and shrewd accounting, and of wise Government policy, it is probable that no other country’s treasury is in a stronger position than ours. This is the result of the policy that has been pursued, even though I do not agree that we will actually have a deficit this year. I think that the Budget drawn up in order to try to curb the horse of inflation, and prevent it from getting into a gallop or even a trot, is a very wise one.
This bill is merely a bill to authorize the Government to increase its overdraft by £61,000,000, if necessary. Whether or not it will be necessary to do so, I do not know. The last Premiers’ Conference discussed the question of the loan funds which are dealt with in this bill. Subsequently, one of the State Treasurers said in a speech to a State Parliament -
I think the Commonwealth Treasury are hagridden with the fear that they will run out of money and they do not know just how wealthy they are and how strong their finances. Every time I go to a Loan Council meeting I spend all my time and ingenuity trying to show them just where they have their money hidden away and how rich they are.
– Who said that?
Hiley, the Queensland Treasurer. It was not said by a member of the Opposition. I think that to a large extent this is a matter for congratulation of the Government and not for criticism of it, although, on the other hand, I think we might be a little more generous in the way in which we distribute some of that money and in the manner in which it is spent.
Actually, this bill deals with two things - the £37,000,000 loan fund for defence expenditure and £24,000,000 to finance redemptions of Commonwealth securities issued for war purposes. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) introduced the bill, as acting Treasurer, he said -
It is estimated that, in addition to utilizing thi current receipts of the National Debt Sinking Fund, it will be necessary to call on the balances in that fund and in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve to the extent of £24,000,000 to finance redemptions of Commonwealth securities issued for war purposes.
As honorable members know, the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve is, if we are frank with ourselves, rather a confidence trick, supported by legal technicalities, which makes the Constitution a farce as far as federalism is concerned, and makes it entirely a means of unification. Section 94 of the Constitution provides -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of customs, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
Then when we use section 96 of the Constitution and hand out funds which we require to be applied to a specific purpose only, we are bringing about unification at such a rapid rate that the people can hardly see the way it is going. I know that unification is the policy of the Opposition, but it is not the policy of this side of the House.
At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held on 4th and 5th March of this year Mr. Hiley directed attention to the fact that the Commonwealth is reducing its indebtedness at an average rate of f 137,000,000 a year. The following appears in the report of the conference: -
Mr. HILEY. ; . . . You reduced your indebtedness last year by ?189,000,000.
– Part of that was done from the profits of previous years. It is not an annual figure.
Mr. HILEY. ; The year before that, you reduced it by ?113,000,000; the year before that by ?125,000,000, and the year before that by ?133,000,000. Let us make it ten years, if you like. In that time the Commonwealth will become a net creditor on its public debt.
The whole of the public debt will, in effect, be borne by State governments and local governments. Later in the report the following passage appears: -
Mr. HILEY. ; Are you clear, Sir, that the trend is that in from six to ten years’ time you will have no net public indebtedness, while our indebtedness will be towering? As long as that factor is realized, I shall be happy, because that is the one that really worries me.
Mr. BOLTE; Hear, hear!
– That is a point that I would like to have a look at, Mr. Hiley. I see the argument that you are putting. It may be falsified in terms of years or in some other way, but I would like to have a look at it.
And I would like to ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) whether the Government has had a look at it and with what result.
– We have certainly had a look at it, but one fact that is glossed over is that most of the post-war State debt has gone into productive assets, whereas the Commonwealth war debt was nonproductive expenditure.
– I am merely saying that this is the fact.
– Undoubtedly the movement is in the direction that Mr. Hiley mentioned. No one has contested that.
– Let me direct the attention of honorable members to page 12 of the printed Budget speech of the Treasurer. This is the final portion of statement No. 2, where the Treasurer sets out the total expenditure from Consolidated Revenue Fund as ?1,385,300,000. He gives ordinary expenditure as ?1,385,000,000, then deducts defence expenditure charged to loan fund, ?37,000,000, and to the result obtained he adds an amount of ?37,000,000 expenditure as appropriation to Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, and leaves the total expenditure at the original figure of ?1,385,300,000. In other words, it was decided that ?37,000,000 of defence expenditure was to be charged to loan fund, so we have taken ?37,000,000 of our revenue and put it in the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. In spite of that we then say that we are going to have a cash deficiency of ?61,000,000.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) pointed out in his speech in the Budget debate that this is a way of saying that we are in deficit this year because we have paid off a good deal of our debt that we owed on capital assets. On the same page of the printed copy of the Budget speech we see a summary of transactions outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Under cash receipts we find an amount of ?190,000,000 for loan raisings available for State works and housing programmes, and then a special loan which is shown as ?37,000,000. Then there is a section headed “ other transactions to be financed “, under which we find an amount of ?37,000,000 for defence expenditure to be met from loan fund. In other words, we have taken £37,000,000 of revenue and appropriated it to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, and then we take £37,000,000 of treasury-bills in order to provide for the defence loan fund. I do not know the rate for the treasury-bills, but I presume it is very much less than the rate of interest paid on ordinary loan funds.
– It is 1 per cent.
– While the States pay between 4 per cent, and 5 per cent, on all their loan funds. By using the treasury-bill system the matter does not come under the control of the Australian Loan Council, nor is any of our capital works expenditure under the direction of the Loan Council, while all the State loans are under such control. I am not complaining about that. I am just mentioning the fact because of Mr. Hiley’s statement that we have been paying considerable sums of money out of revenue for our capital works, the figures being as follows: -
1950- 51- £173,000,000.
1951- 52- £155,000,000.
1952- 53- £145,000,000.
1953- 54- £141,000,000.
1954- 55- £127,000,000.
1955- 56- £140,000,000.
1956- 57- £146,000,000.
1957- 58- £153,000,000.
1958- 59 - £167,000,000, with £37,000,000 in treasury-bills. 1959- 60 - £178,000,000, with £37,000,000 in treasury-bills.
In other words we have been averaging well over £150,000,000 per year from revenue for our capital works.
– We have been taxing people to get it.
– Quite so. I am not complaining about it.
– The States have tax resources too.
Treasurer is making an AliceinWonderland statement when he says that the States have tax resources. The States’ tax resources - let us be honest with ourselves - are so restricted that if they want extra money they must add an extra £1 to motor car registration fees. Since the advent of television even entertainment tax is worth very little to them. One of the best solutions to our difficulties at the moment with regard to State and Commonwealth finances would be to provide wider and more elastic taxation fields for the States, because at the present time they are very restricted.
As a result of the policy that is being perpetuated by this bill, the States are paying us interest and sinking fund charges on a large amount of their loan money which was under-written - and I congratulate the Government on under-writing it - by the Commonwealth because insufficient funds could be obtained from loans. Let us say that the States’ loan spendings over the last ten years have averaged £200,000,000 a year, as against £150,000,000 a year that has been spent in the Commonwealth sphere, but taken out of revenue. If the spirit of the financial agreement was being observed by us to-day we would make some provision such as I am about to propound to honorable members.
Let us say that the ratio of State expenditure on capital works to Commonwealth expenditure is four to three. The Commonwealth should then say to the States, “ We will pay three-sevenths of the interest and sinking fund charges on the total loan funds being spent by Federal and State Governments since we began paying for our public works out of revenue “. This would amount this year to £35,000,000, approximately. It would be somewhere between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000, which is the extra amount that we are paying the States this year over and above the amount provided under the formula. I do not think, therefore, that we are being very generous at the present time. If a portion of this amount, say half of it, were paid as an addition to the existing payments, all or the States would be out of their financial difficulties. We cannot say that those difficulties have been due to bad house-keeping on the part of the States as over the last ten years they have been mainly showing deficits. We are writing off annually an average of £137,000,000 of our public debt, and the Commonwealth Government “‘ill have no public debt at all at the end of eight years. The money is there and the public debt is being written off all the time. Why should the Treasurer say that we have no money? It is stacked away in millions. I am not criticizing the Government for doing this because if all of it were allowed to flow out and we only repaid the public debt as provided by the National Debt Sinking Fund-
– Where is it stacked away? If we repay a debt, that does not mean we have cash.
– No, but you are only required to repay your debt from the National Debt Sinking Fund over a period of 53 years. The Treasurer’s Statement of Receipt and Expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1959, at page 48, shows that the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve had a balance at 1st July, 1958, of ?299,000,000. Receipts were ?38,000,000 and expenditure ?100,000,000, leaving a balance at 30th June, 1959, of ?237,000,000. How has that balance been built up? It has been built up to a large extent from the interest and sinking fund payments made by the States on moneys given to them as loan money, although in fact the money came out of Commonwealth revenue. The interest and sinking fund payments go into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. As I say, although we may be temporarily short of cash, we are writing off our debt at a rate which will completely repay the whole of it within ten years.
– Are you suggesting that we are repaying our debts before it is necessary to do so?
– If you are not, you are investing the money somewhere else, so that you have it in other funds.
– The real point in the argument is whether the Commonwealth is reducing its debt more rapidly than its obligations require of it.
– If you have a look at the rate at which you are writing off-
– That is not the point.
– Order! The honorable gentleman will address the Chair.
Deputy Speaker, the Commonwealth debt is decreasing very rapidly, and the State debts are increasing at a rapid rate each year. I should be very pleased if the Treasurer would explain, when he is speaking to the bill, how this comes about if we are not writing off our debt in unnecessarily large lumps. I do not hold myself out as an expert on financial matters. These allegations were not refuted at the Premier’s Conference but the Prime Minister said then that he would look into this question. I am asking whether the Government has had a look into it, and with what result. I do not want to talk at any length on this bill. I hope we shall not need the ?61,000,000, but apparently the ?37,000,000 is required because it is not coming out of revenue. The Government has put this amount into the Loan Appropriation Reserve. It then gets an overdraft so that loan money is used for defence purposes; but the Loan Appropriation Reserve has another ?37,000,000 in it. I presume that this will be used to swell loan funds if insufficient money is subscribed by the general public and the banking, business and life assurance institutions. This is like a holding company in a big business undertaking, with a lot of subsidiary companies. The directors know that they can work within that circle and, unless there is a very good companies act, the accounts can show a situation which does not exist. The Government is doing that at the moment. At the Premiers’ Conference held at Canberra on 4th and 5th March, 1959, Sir Thomas Playford said, in effect, that we all ought to produce our accounts on the basis which the Commonwealth Grants Commission forces on Western Australia and Tasmania and forced on South Australia until this last financial arrangement. This extract appears in the report of the proceedings -
Sir THOMAS PLAYFORD. ; If the Grants Commission checked it, it would disqualify you and rule you out for life.
– We will have a look at that point.
All I ask is whether the Government has looked at that point, and with what result. As I say, in ten years’ time the States will carry the whole of the public debt and the Commonwealth will not have any. We are not being generous. The little extra that would be provided for the States by a review of the Financial Agreement would help them, and both parties to the agreement would gain the advantage of financing loan works out of revenue, instead of only the Commonwealth, one partner, having this advantage. That would be the fair, honest, right and correct thing to do under the Financial Agreement.
I was a member of Parliament when the Financial Agreement first went through the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. The whole spirit of it was to try to stop competition in the loan market and to try to share, on an agreed basis, the money raised from the loan market. In this way, the interest rate would be kept down. I say without hesitation that by financing our own works out of revenue, entirely free of interest and sinking fund payments, with the whole burden of these payments placed on the States, we have completely abrogated the whole spirit, if not the letter, of the Financial Agreement.
.- I shall not detain the House for long, but there are some marked weaknesses in the arguments of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to which I wish to direct attention. The Treasurer has said, in effect: “ This is a simple bill. I want to raise £61,000,000, which is the total of the Budget deficit. If I can raise the loan, I will spend £37,000,000 on defence and £24,000,000 on the redemption of maturing securities.” He expects his case to be accepted on his own representation, and he wonders why there is criticism of what he has advanced. In his second-reading speech, he said -
Total expenditure on Defence Services in 1959-60 is estimated at £192,800,000.
Having heard the statement on defence delivered this morning, we could reasonably expect that that large sum of money would not be spent, because there will not be much of a defence force maintained by this country next year, according to the latest plans of the Government.
– But it is not getting less costly.
– The Treasurer says that, and maybe he is right or maybe he is wrong. However, let us assume that £192,000.000 is to be spent and then let us see how valid is the Government’s argu ment that it needs to borrow money in the way it has suggested. Estimated ordinary revenue for this financial year is £1,385,300,000 and ordinary expenditure, including defence expenditure and expenditure on capital works and services, is also estimated to be £1,385,300,000. That is, the Budget is balanced. If it is right to charge capital works and services to revenue - that is what the Government is doing - then the Budget will balance. But it is proposed to charge £37,000,000 of expenditure to Loan Fund and to pay that £37,000,000 to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. Although the Budget is supposed to be balanced, there is at least this amount of deficit to begin with and then there is the additional £24,000,000 which the bill also looks after. State works and housing and war service land settlement are estimated to cost £227,000,000, but the gross loan raisings are estimated at only £190,000,000. The difference of £37,000,000 is the appropriation to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve for payment through a special loan to the States.
We might reasonably ask why this course is being adopted. The reason is obvious. If the Commonwealth were to raise the money by treasury-bills direct, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has suggested, it could only charge the States 1 per cent, interest and not 3 per cent., 4 per cent., or 5 per cent. So, the money, when raised, is to be transferred to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. But the Budget is now £37,000,000 in deficit. This is met by charging the £37,000,000 of defence expenditure to the Loan Fund. Why not just borrow the deficit and charge £37,000,000 of capital works to the Loan Fund. Of course, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), with the advice of his officers, has found a way out. He has found that if he were to do that he would be in trouble immediately. He would need Loan Council approval, and he could not get that. Borrowings for defence are exempt from Loan Council approval, so by this device the Commonwealth avoids having to secure State approval. The total authorization sought in the Loan Bill is £61,000,000. So, the £37,000,000 is, by a bookkeeping device, claimed to be for defence. It could be for anything. The other £24,000,000 is for redemptions of maturing securities. Gross loan raisings are estimated at £190,000,000. Gross redemptions are put at £70,000, leaving a net loan raising of £120,000,000. Of the £70,000,000 redemptions, £46,000,000 will come from sinking fund, leaving £24,000,000 to be raised by treasury-bills.
The simple facts are that the Commonwealth and State debt this year is estimated to rise by £227,000,000. Ordinary Budgets are balanced and the £227,000,000 is for State works and war service land settlement. Public loans are estimated at £120,000,000 net and the sinking fund will provide £46,000,000 - a total of £166,000,000. The balance of £61,000,000 must be raised by treasury-bills, and that is what the Loan Bill is for. It is not to raise money either for defence or for redemptions. It is to pay for that part of the State works programmes which the loan market will not or cannot meet. The whole operation is deliberately confused with the Loan Consolidation Investment Reserve, with defence expenditure charged to loan, and with redemptions, firstly to confuse the public; secondly, to evade Loan Council control; thirdly, to extract 5 per cent, interest from the States on treasurybill finance; and fourthly, to conceal the collapse of the loan market under this Government.
The fact that there has been a failure of the loan market, no matter how the position has been disguised, is shown by the Commonwealth Bank’s statistical bulletin for September last. In 1958-59, the change in bond holdings, excluding government holdings, was that banks and the money market generally increased their holdings by £110,000,000; companies increased their holdings by £14,000,000; insurance and pension funds increased their holdings by £4,000,000; but the amount held by the general public decreased by £68,000,000, leaving a net increase of £60,000,000.
– That is brought about by repayment of war debt.
– I know what it is for. I know that the general public holds £68,000,000 less in government bonds today than it formerly held. The money that has been repaid to the public has not been re-invested in government bonds.
– The public puts its money into banks and the banks invest their funds in government loans.
– I am not so sure that that was done, and if it were done it is the banks that will gain most from the transaction. There is something wrong when the public does not buy government bonds and instead invests in banks in the hope of getting a better return. That is the kind of prosperity that will ultimately send a country bankrupt, because it is an illusory form of prosperity. If the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who appears to be about to interject, would like to know a little more about that matter, I suggest that he read the report of the symposium held in Sydney last week to which contributions were made by Mr. Roger Randerson and Professor Richard Downing, Professor of Economics at the Melbourne University. Both those eminent persons said that the state of the economy is not as the Government represents it. Mr. Randerson went so far as to say that what is claimed in regard to our prosperity is largely illusory.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that he could find a few people who praise the state of our economy? There are plenty of them.
– I have heard the Treasurer himself say that Australia is enjoying permanent prosperity.
– I have never used the word “ permanent “. I would not be as optimistic as that.
– The right honorable gentleman’s remarks are on record in “ Hansard “, and I will be pleased to present him with a personally autographed copy. I have heard the Prime Minister say that Australia is enjoying unparalleled prosperity. If our prosperity is unparalleled, why does the Government resort to these devices in order to raise loan moneys?
– Because we are repaying a colossal amount of war loans in succeeding years, as the honorable gentleman knows.
– I also know that the Treasurer went round the world a few months ago seeking more money. In the course of a speech delivered to the Parliament on his return he told us that some dominions had tried to get money from London and New York. He told us that we were not unsuccessful in the last financial year in extracting loan money from the London market in competition with the under-developed countries. As a matter of fact, from what the Treasurer said, Australia took 70 per cent, of London’s tendings last year and one-third of New York’s lendings. He also held out hope that we might be able to borrow from West Germany. Probably a little later we will be borrowing from Japan; a little later still, when the climate is right, we will be borrowing from Russia; and, perhaps even later, we may be borrowing from red China - that is, if this Government lasts.
– The Government will borrow wherever it can get money.
– Exactly, and that is how the country is kept going.
The Radcliffe committee has been referred to, and I wish to quote one or two observations made by that committee. It is reported that -
The committee are all for encouraging the Commonwealth countries to borrow as much as they can outside London, as many of them have been able to do in the past 18 months. [f they cannot borrow outside London apparently some countries will be in very great difficulty in a very short time.
I wish to make only two other observations. One concerns the investment by banks and insurance companies in buildings, a matter to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred. He was heckled by some members of the Australian Country Party and by some members of the Liberal Party because he complained that the banks and insurance companies were erecting large buildings on some of the most valuable sites in all capitals in Australia. As a matter of fact, seven big jobs are being undertaken in the golden mile of Melbourne at the present time, in volving a total expenditure of about £20,000,000. While the banks and insurance companies are able to do that out of the reserves they built up from huge profits earned over the years, the small people - co-operative building societies, small builders and small income earners - who want to build are not able to do so. Miss Strong, the assistant secretary of the Building Industry Congress which was held in Melbourne last week, said that small builders were finding it difficult to raise finance. Some people are spending all the money that is available in a way that is not beneficial to the country, while others are unable to build at all.
– A record number of houses is being built.
– The Treasurer says that a record number of houses is being built. It may be a record so far as this Government is concerned, but the number of houses is completely insufficient to meet the demands of the people. If the building rate is as good as the Government has been claiming for the last ten years, why are there still slums in existence all over the country? Why are people still living in shanty towns? Why are people still living in insanitary conditions in sub-standard homes within a few miles of the general post office in all capital cities?
At the last annual meeting of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, a very powerful organization which is operating in Australia, the directors in presenting their report said -
Your directors, while acknowledging the work done by various Governments in attracting new capital to Australia, believe that there is a tendency to over-emphasize the importance of foreign companies in the country’s development. They wonder whether the Federal Government, in the overall picture, and the State Governments, in their anxiety to attract foreign capital to their own Stales, overlook what has been and can be done by Australian industry. Competition on the basis of equal opportunity is the essence of free enterprise, but there should be no special concessions or assistance by Governments to overseas companies to the detriment of local industry’s ability to compete and expand.
All honorable members on this side of the chamber agree with that sentiment. The report continues -
Overseas control of any section of industry could be contrary to the interests of the Australian shareholders especially in the long term, and is likely to be to the detriment of the employees and customers of that industry and of the Australian public generally. Absentee control does not necessarily lead to better or more efficient management and, in an emergency, could well result in Australian interests being sacrificed first.
Incidentally, the chairman of directors of this organization is Sir Norman Brookes.
– Is he a supporter of the Australian Labour Party?
– He is a very strong supporter of the Liberal Party. I was never able to obtain any donations to campaign funds from this company. The report concludes in these terms -
Your directors are submitting to stockholders at an extraordinary general meeting to be held on 28th September amendments to the articles of association aimed at preventing control of the company from falling into non-Australian hands.
If that is the state of the economy, as revealed by the report of the directors of Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited, it is no use for the Treasurer to claim that everything is all right. He must have this bill passed to authorize him to raise £61.000,000. He wants the people to believe that the economy will be stable for the next twelve months but, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said, a lot can happen in that period. Maybe the deficit will be less than is expected, but it may be considerably more. We are living from day to day and, in the opinion of some sections of the nation, we are still living on borrowed time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bury) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper -
Report from the Joint Committee on
Ordered that the report be printed.
Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta - Attorney-General. - by leave - I move1 -
The purpose of this motion is to allow parties, who gave evidence or submitted documents to the committee, to publish and use that evidence or those documents.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- The purpose of this bill is to authorize the Commonwealth Bank to issue and to circulate £61,000,000 worth of new money to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Government. The first point that should be made by the Opposition in relation to a measure of this kind is that the bill registers the recognition, by the conservative parties in this country, of the use of the Commonwealth Bank for this purpose. At this stage we must cast our minds back to 1931 when a Labour government was in office. The then Governor of the Commonwealth Bank served an ultimatum on the Government of the day to the effect that not one penny would be made available to it. The country was faced with a financial crisis which was the result of a policy of dictatorship which was implemented by the banking interests. They succeeded in wrecking the Labour Government.
The amount that was involved in those days was a mere £27,000,000 which was needed to save this country from the effects of the depression. To-day, as a casual passing thing, we have the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank prepared to issue £61,000,000 worth of new money. It is important that this matter should be emphasized in view of the experience of previous Labour governments.
The heading of this bill is -
A bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money for defence purposes.
That heading is misleading. The bill does not seek to authorize the raising of money for defence purposes. Tt seeks to authorize the raising of £61.000,000, of which £37.000.000 will be expended on defence purposes and the remaining £24.000.000 will be used to redeem securities. No one can suggest that this latter purpose is a defence purpose.
This method of trying to separate into categories the raising of money in this way is totally unsound. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has pointed out, it does not matter whether you regard this money as being raised for defence purposes or for social services. The economic effect is exactly the same. This is an example of the out-dated and oldfashioned method of drawing up bills and compiling public accounts which prevails in the Commonwealth at present. The £24,000,000 to redeem securities is merely a bookkeeping entry. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out that, of the £3,590,100,000 of public debt classified in the sixteenth “ Treasury Information Bulletin”, £1,281,000,000 is held by the Government itself and by government bodies. In other words, more than onethird of the so-called debt that the government system in Australia owes, it owes to itself. It represents merely a bookkeeping entry. The £24,000,000 which ostensibly is being raised under the terms of this bill for the redemption of securities is nothing more than a fiction. The sole purpose is to balance the accounts at the end of the financial year.
Whether or not the Government will in fact draw the £61,000,000 is the next question to examine, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Last financial year, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, the Government expected to draw £1 10,000,000 but, in fact, drew only £29,500,000. Deficit financing is very unreal to this Government. It seeks to raise money in every other conceivable way - by increasing revenue, from loans, from private persons and private institutions, and from the central bank itself. All these are methods which are not identified with the present method of raising funds for the redeeming of securities through the National Debt Sinking Fund. If, having turned to all those other methods, the Government finds that it has not enough money, it turns to the central bank for the balance. There is no real deficit financing in this - no plan to finance public works or something of the sort by turning to the central bank. This bill is merely a document introduced into the Parliament in an attempt to balance the Government’s accounts at the end of the financial year.
I think that the House ought to be concerned with what is a deficit. For many years a deficit was regarded, I think rightly, as the difference between revenue and expenditure - the difference between the amount of revenue that the Government could raise in cash and the amount of cash that it spent. But a different meaning of the term “ deficit “ has now slipped in. This Government considers as cash funds its revenue plus borrowings from every conceivable source other than the central bank. That is the sum of the cash resources that this Government considers it has available. If that sum is less than expenditure, the Government says that it has a deficit to the extent of the difference. If you look at it that way, £61,000,000 is the margin at the present time. But the correct way to look at the Government’s financial position, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is to have regard to the revenue that it is able to obtain in various forms such as taxation, on the one hand, and what it spends on the other. The difference between the two is the real deficiency - the deficit.
This financial year, the Government’s expenditure is expected to be £1,682,263,000 and its revenue is expected to be £1,385,263,000. So there is an actual deficit, this financial year, of £297,000,000 - not £61,000,000. I think it is time that this was emphasized. A deficit is the difference between the money the Government can raise by way of revenue and the amount it spends. This represents the amount it has to borrow. The deficit is the extent to which you go into debt, surely. I think that any one looking at the matter from a business point of view would agree with that. To what extent, then, does the Government expect to go into debt this financial year? The answer is that it expects to go into debt to the amount of £297,000,000. This deficit is approximately equal to the deficit of last financial year. These last two deficits, I think, are substantially greater than was any other deficit in the history of Australia, in either nominal or real terms. These two record deficits of £297,000,000 have come at the end of a series of deficits under the financial management of this Government.
We must think of the effect of these continuing and growing deficits. The first effect is debasement of the country’s purchasing power as a result of the continuous cycle of rising prices and costs. It is wrong simply to regard this as inflation. Inflation can come to have an accepted favorable meaning, as it has for a number of distinguished people who do very well out of it. What we are suffering from is debasement of the purchasing power. It is very difficult to sell the idea of debasement, but very easy to sell the idea of inflation, and the present Government has done this very successfully. If we think of the matter in the proper terms of debasement of the standard of living of those who cannot keep ahead of the cycle, and debasement of the purchasing power of the Australian currency, we have, I suggest, a better idea of the real meaning of the Government’s financial policy.
The first effect of the kind of deficit financing of which this bill is a part is debasement of the standard of living of those who cannot keep up with the rising prices. The second effect is the important matter raised by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes)- the growing public debt. Here, the honorable member made very vividly a very strong point which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) seemed to find great difficulty in answering. That point is that the total of Commonwealth and State debt has been growing over the last few years. The documents tabled with the Budget for the current financial year indicate that the total debt has increased from £2,826,053,469 in 1949 to £4,040,901,005 in 1959. We have to understand a number of things about this. First, the debt said to be owing by the Commonwealth has fallen from £1,817,169,436 in 1949 to £1,649,280,606 in 1959. Secondly, the debt said to be owing by the States has risen very remarkablyfrom £1,008,884,033 in 1949 to £2,391,620,399 in 1959.
I think that this change in the debt situation of the States and the Commonwealth, although it gives a significant clue to what has been going on in Commonwealth finance, is not nearly as important as Mr. Hiley and the honorable member for Chisholm think it is. The explanation of this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is fairly simple. When we refer to table No. 19, at page 93 of the budget papers for 1959-60, where this debt is classified, we see that it is only since 1956 that the Commonwealth’s debt has declined. It was £1,926,566,757 at 30th June, 1956. That was its highest point. It declined to £1,649,280,606 at 30th June, 1959. There has been a decline only over the last three years, and it has not been a big decline - only about £300,000,000. This decline has taken place because the Commonwealth has written off treasury-bills and other government securities mainly held by other government bodies, including, particularly, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. If we refer to the table at page 15 of the “ Treasury Information Bulletin “, to which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred, we find that holdings of Commonwealth securities by Commonwealth and State governments and local and semigovernmental bodies have fallen from £885,300,000 to £792,300,000 in the twelve months to 30th June last, and that holdings by the Commonwealth Bank have fallen from £440,500,000 to £432,500,000. The Commonwealth Government has used the financial situation in order to write off treasury-bills.
Treasury-bills and securities held by the Commonwealth Bank alone in 1955, when this process began, amounted to about £525,000,000 and to-day they amount to about £405,000,000. The seasonal factor is involved but I have taken corresponding months and there is about £120,000,000 alone there that has been written off. This does not mean that this money is available to spend. As the Treasurer pointed out by interjection earlier in the debate, this does not mean that the Commonwealth had that amount of money available. It chose to write off treasury-bills. In a contrary way, it could have chosen to issue new treasurybills. But because it was able to do this to balance its accounts, does not mean that it had the cash. It did not have the cash. It is purely and simply a bookkeeping entry.
So the Commonwealth has written off treasury-bills to that extent, but on the other hand, it has debited, as it were, the new loans increasingly to the States. The new loans are charged against the States. The old loans have been written off, probably at the rate of not more than £80,000,000 a year since 1955. The loans that have been written off are those that were debited against the Commonwealth.
– They were the war loans.
– What does it matter? The new loans that have been raised have been charged against the States. I do not think that this is very important in the overall pattern, but the net effect is that the interest charged to the Commonwealth has hardly risen. In 1949 it was £51,000,000; to-day, it is £52,000,000. However, whereas the interest chargeable - that is the correct word to use because it is not all actually charged - to the States in 1949 was £32,000,000, to-day, it is £96,000,000. The amount is three times what it was.
– That is the big point.
– Yes. I think that that has particular relevance to the point raised by the honorable member for Chisholm. When the honorable member raised that point the Treasurer said, “ But the States have taxing power “. With a chargeable interest burden that has risen from £32.000,000 to £96,000,000 in the space of ten years, the States, with their very minor, insignificant and declining taxation power, have been forced into an increasingly difficult position.
As was pointed out by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports the States are carrying on what the Opposition regards - and I would think some members on the other side would regard - as most important activity*: such as education, the building of roads, water supply, sewerage and, to some extent, housing. Those are basic services. The States are being forced into a position in which they have to pay more in interest to the Commonwealth and have te rely upon minor and diminishing taxation powers. Consequently, we find State expenditure on basic services declining relative to other kinds of expenditure, including that of the Commonwealth, which pays for its public works and for defence substantially out of revenue. The Commonwealth has had no difficulty in getting money for fighters, and other defence equipment although, according to the speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr.
Townley) this morning, this is not now as easy as it was. Previously, no limits applied.
The Snowy Mountains scheme, valuable as it is, has never had the disadvantage of shortage of funds such as State works even more essential than the Snowy Mountains scheme have had. However, this relative decline of Commonwealth debt and the increase of State debt is not important as a financial procedure because it is all part of the same scheme. Nevertheless, we have to be sure of the economic effect that it has.
– The total State debt, before the war, was four times that of the Commonwealth, and the ratio is much the same to-day.
– Yes, but in those days the States had full taxing powers and it was easier for them to carry that debt. I cannot understand that kind of interjection. Do Ministers really understand the position? Are they just trying to pass the buck to the States? The States’ debts may have been four times as high as the Commonwealth debt before the war, as the Minister for Supply has said, but the States’ taxation capacity was probably twenty times higher than it is now. Did the Minister not think of that?
– The States have been assisted by Commonwealth tax reimbursements.
– The tax reimbursements have been very inflexible. The pressures that have been exerted at conferences between the Premiers and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have revealed that. I think that this issue has to be broken into somewhere, and I think that before long the Commonwealth must break into it by allowing greater flexibility. The interjection of the Minister for Supply and the earlier one of the Treasurer show that there is little or no flexibility in this field.
I turn to another point: I have said that, last year, there was an actual deficit of £297,000,000 in the Commonwealth finances, as there is this year. Facing that deficit, what does the Government do? The first thing it does is to tura to people outside the Government’s financial structure to borrow from. It turns to the public, to the private banks and, finally, to the public banks. What the Government will do this year, I think, is pretty well illustrated by what it did last year. Last year, faced with an actual deficit of £297,000,000, as it is again this year, the Government managed to borrow £31,000,000 abroad. It managed to borrow £27,000,000 from the public - that is to say, from private citizens who, no doubt, were on varying ranges of income - through the issue of special bonds. Probably, another £30,000,000 or so was obtained from the public in Commonwealth securities. So a total of perhaps £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 was obtained from the public. The rest of the borrowing last year - no doubt between £160,000,000 and £180,000,000 - was from private banks and other financial institutions. I suggest that the Government will be in greater difficulties this year in all those fields. There was a big upward trend in borrowing from overseas during 1956, 1957 and 1958. Overseas reports say that there is now a decline in the moneys available. We know that the amount of private money has declined very considerably. Three years ago, £23,700,000 was borrowed from the United States of America, but only £5,800,000 was obtained in the last financial year. So, the Government will find it harder to borrow from abroad in the next twelve months. Nor do I think it will be easier to get money from the ordinary private citizens. What about the rest of it? The Government still has to raise almost as much money as it raised last year. How will it do it? Last year it adopted a piece of financial jiggerypokery which I think members of the House did not fully understand. We are told that resort to the Commonwealth Bank would mean inflation. But members of the Australian Country Party, by interjection, said to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that borrowing from the private banks and the private short-term money market was not inflationary because it would draw off spending power which belongs to the banks and would otherwise be spent in other directions. But that is not so. The process of borrowing which took place last year from the trading banks and from the private short-term money market was just as much inflationary as it would have been had it been done through the Commonwealth Bank in the first place. Indeed, it was more inflationary for reasons that I will mention in a moment.
Precisely what happened was this: Instead of going to the Commonwealth Bank directly for £90,000,000 or £100,000,000 and securing it by means of a bill of this kind, as the Government could have done, it agreed to release from the special account £90,000,000 to the private trading banks. If honorable members look at the “ Monthly Review of Business Statistics “ they will find that the balance in special accounts from July, 1957, to February, 1958, was about £340,000,000 all the time. Then there began to be a release, and by June, 1959, the balance was £250,000,000. This means that £90,000,000 had been handed over by the Commonwealth Bank to the trading banks.
What did they need that £90,000,000 for? Normally they would have lent it to their customers on overdraft, but we find that they did not do that. Their overdrafts in February, 1958, were £750,000,000, in June, 1958, £832,000,000, and in June, 1959, £795,000,000; that is to say, £37,000,000 less. They did not lend this £90,000,000 to the public. What did they do with it? 1 think we have the authority of the Treasurer for this. In his Budget speech, when he was talking about money the Government raised last year, he said -
But there were also exceptionally large subscriptions to Commonwealth loans by trading banks which were unusually liquid at that period.
You’re telling me! They were unusually liquid to the extent of £90,000,000. The Treasurer went on -
Moreover, the new short-term market institutions, which were establishing portfolios of securities, contributed heavily to Commonwealth loans. A considerable part of their funds was obtained from the trading banks.
I ask honorable members to note those words - “ a considerable part of their funds was obtained from the trading banks “. The process was simple; the £90,000,000 flowed out of the special accounts in the Commonwealth Bank but instead of flowing directly to the Commonwealth Government at 1 per cent, it flowed to the trading banks which, in turn, either lent it to the Commonwealth Government at 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, or to the short-term money market at something in between. Then the shortterm money market lent it to the Commonwealth Government.
The Treasury Information Bulletin No. 16, at page 15, which was quoted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) shows precisely what happened. The holdings of Commonwealth securities by the trading banks went up from £234,200,000 to £311,800,000, an increase of just on £78,000,000. The holdings of the savings banks, which would be the private ones mainly, rose from £721,100,000 to £744,300,000. The money market dealers - I think the Treasury should find a much more respectable name for them than that, and I hope it will alter it by next year - had nothing at the beginning of the year but by 30th June, 1959, they held £49,000,000. Companies not elsewhere included had holdings which rose from £82,500,000 to £96,500,000. These financial geniuses were £163,800,000 better off in holdings of government securities at the end of the process compared with what they were at the beginning.
If members of the Australian Country Party think about this they will see that this was a more inflationary process because the Commonwealth Bank lent to the trading banks and the trading banks lent to the short-term market. Instead of borrowing directly from the Commonwealth Bank at 1 per cent., the Government was borrowing from these intermediaries at 4 per cent, or 5 per cent. I think, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports pointed out, if the gentlemen of the press discovered some kind of jiggery-pokery in a couple of government departments as a result of which people were defrauded to the extent of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 they would give it headlines throughout Australia, but I suggest that anything the honorable member or I have said in this debate will not be given headlines iri any newspaper tomorrow. But I want to say quite clearly, so that they can quote it if they so desire, that this is a piece of financial jiggerypokery in which the people of Australia have been defrauded to the extent of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 during the course of the last financial year. Probably as a result there will be considerable contribu- tions to the funds of the Liberal Party before the next elections.
I suggest it is much better for the money the Government requires, such as the £61,000,000 mentioned by the Treasurer, or even more, to be taken directly from the Commonwealth Bank at 1 per cent, or so than to be channelled out through the various streams of finance and be borrowed back from the private money lenders at 4 per cent, or 5 per cent. That would be far less inflationary and far less costly. It is satisfactory to borrow from private lenders money which would otherwise be spent, but this was not money which would otherwise be spent. The Government passed it out, or a substantial part of it, through the special accounts and put it into circulation in the first place. It was not money which would otherwise have been spent.
If new money is to be created, as it is being created under this legislation and as it should have been created to an even greater extent last year, instead of adopting the process I have described it should be created through the public banking system and not through the agency of private money lenders. It is satisfactory to borrow £61,000,000 in this way at the present time and it would certainly be satisfactory to borrow even more, but the process in this coming year will be very similar to that of last year with the exception of these facts: First, the Government will not get as much money from overseas as it obtained last year; secondly, it will get no more from private individuals than it got last year, and thirdly, it is not asking for as much money from the central bank because it is getting more money from the trading banks.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– I rise to order. Earlier in the debate the honorable member for Wentworth secured the call and he immediately moved the adjournment of the debate. I direct attention to Standing Order No. 89 which reads -
The Member, upon whose Motion any debate shall be adjourned by the House, shall be entitled to pre-audience on the resumption of the debate.
On the resumption of the debate the honorable member for Wentworth was not in his place to receive the call. Standing Order No. 90 provides -
In the event of a Motion for the adjournment of the debate upon any Question being negatived, the Member moving the Motion for such adjournment may address the House at a later period during such debate.
That is in a case where the motion was negatived; in this case it was not negatived. Standing Order No. 64 reads -
No Member may speak twice to a Question before the House, except in explanation or reply.
I contend that as the honorable member for Wentworth had already received the call, and was not in his place on the resumption of the debate he is not entitled to speak at this juncture as in doing so he would be speaking twice to the question.
– Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) took up the time of the House once more riding their hobby horses by speaking in much the same strain as they did during the Budget debate. This measur e essentially follows on from that debate. Most of the things which were said then by members of the Opposition have been repeated to-day.
In relation to the Treasurer’s estimated deficit, the Opposition has made great play of the fact that it was somewhat out because loan subscriptions were very much greater than had been anticipated. They also went on to say that the difference was made up largely by subscriptions to Government bonds by the trading banks. That is perfectly true. It may be said, in fact, that the Treasurer’s estimate was accurate and the deficit was financed from the trading banks instead of by treasury -bills. In essence, the Treasurer at the beginning of the year did, in fact, prove fairly correct if one looks behind the immediate financial factors involved.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) made great play of the fact that instead of the banks being permitted in this way to subscribe to bonds at 4i per cent, or 5 per cent., the operation should be carried out entirely by treasury-bills. But there is another very important side to this question, lt is that the profits of the banks have been extremely low. Admittedly, members of the Opposition are hostile to private banks which they feel should not get any profit at all. But on the other hand, the Government, by policy and by direct regulation does hold down the earnings of the trading banks and very much limits what they would otherwise have earned. Because of the large area of direct control by the Government over the trading banks, the Government must necessarily accept some responsibility for their level of profits. If, in fact, it forces the banks to operate in many directions, it is only reasonable that it should create facilities to enable them to recoup themselves and make alternative investments.
Once again the short-term money market was touched upon, and at least it can be said that over a period of time this should result in more money flowing into the Government coffers and should increase the diversity of demand for Government paper. In the long-term this is bound to be beneficial, and it also provides another convenient way in which the Commonwealth Bank can perform its central bank functions of preserving the financial security of the economy. However, I have no desire to detain the House unduly, because I do not wish to go through this again at 4 o’clock to-morrow morning.
I was intrigued by some of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and repeated by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who made some valid and useful points. The fact that we have to face is the limitation imposed by the Financial Agreement. If we are put to various rather peculiar financial devices to bring about the proper results it is largely because that limitation exists, and we have to operate within it.
As to the States being charged interest on loans from the Commonwealth while the Commonwealth is able to finance its capital works with money free of interest, this position, of course, arises fundamentally from the fact that, overall, the governments of Australia are trying to force up the rate of savings by obliging the people to save at a much higher rate than would be the case if they were left to their own devices. Generally speaking, it is quite impossible to raise, by voluntary means, the loans necessary to sustain the volume of public works required for development. This being the case, and as most of the capital works are conducted by the States, it is inevitable that the Commonwealth has had to step into the breach to provide out of revenue the balance which is not forthcoming from the loan market. It is true that in the process the Commonwealth has gained, in the narrow financial sense, by being able to finance its own works interest-free out of revenue. On the other hand, Sir, we must look at the reality of State-Commonwealth financial relations.
The Australian Loan Council is a loan council. Money provided by and through the medium of the Loan Council is spent by the States as they see fit. On the other hand, the record of other forms of Commonwealth grants to the States is that they are given with a tag. Even money for roads has its tag. The money supplied by the Commonwealth to the States in other ways is always subject to the temptation of the central authority to impose its own conditions on how it is to be spent, and to require it to be spent in certain directions pleasing to the Commonwealth. If, in fact, instead of using this mechanism of putting revenue into the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve, and then putting that into securities, and lending that money to the States, the money were granted direct to the States, it would undoubtedly, in the course of time, carry with it a number of tags. Those in the States who wish to preserve a maximum of State freedom should consider carefully whether it is not preferable that this money should come through the Loan Council and not direct in the form of financial grants. The real weakness of the system is not that the States are charged interest, which imposes on them a discipline to use it in proper directions and use proper accounting methods, but the fact that the Commonwealth escapes a similar liability. The Commonwealth finds it much easier to provide money for aircraft and things dear to the heart of the Commonwealth and Commonwealth public servants than the States do to find money for the basic requirements of education, roads, transport and so on. [Quorum formed.] Therefore, the matter should be looked at not from the direction of saving the States from rendering a proper financial accounting of capital funds for basic purposes, but from the direction of imposing a similar discipline on the Commonwealth. The weakness of the Loan Council in the present circumstances is that it is a loan council and not a works council. The real problem is to equate the various uses of capital within the country. The Opposition would be much better employed, if, instead of picking holes in the particular financial mechanism used, it addressed its mind to a proper revision of the present Financial Agreement, and concentrated on equating the use of capital between the Commonwealth and the States on a uniform basis.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money for defence purposes.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25th November (vide page 3075), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure before the House seeks to amend the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-59. In 1956 the Government introduced a measure in this House to set up an Export Payments Insurance Corporation, providing a guarantee of £500,000 for the corporation to commence operations. The purpose of creating this instrumentality was to enable exporters of primary and secondary products to obtain from a government institution a coverage against risks of loss incurred in respect of overseas transactions.
The instrumentality commenced operations in September, 1957, and has presented to Parliament two reports, one covering its operations to 30th June, 1958, and the other detailing further operations to 30th June, 1959. A perusal of the financial statement and reports of the corporation indicates that the organization has been successful in its work. To the end of June, 1958, £21,000,000 worth of business had been involved, while by the end of June, 1959, the amount had increased to £40,000,000. It is worthy of note that the Government increased the guarantee to the corporation quite recently by £500,000. It is likewise worthy of note that, up to date, as far as I can ascertain from the reports, no losses whatever have been sustained by the corporation. This is a very good performance. It might have been quite fortuitous, but I think we should give credit to the corporation and to the business people involved for apparently indulging in transactions of a very safe nature.
– There is a claim in for £100.
– That is not too bad. Of course these results may indicate, looking at it from the other point of view, that some exporters have not been as daring, or as venturesome, as they might have been expected to be by the Government and by many of the people of this country. It can be truly said that up to date the corporation, to all intents and purposes, has been a futility, but, of course, no one knows what the future holds.
– If you look at the figures you cannot say that the corporation has been a futility.
– The fact remains that up to the present time no risks have been involved, or no claims have been made. I merely say that this could indicate that some manufacturers or potential exporters were, perhaps, not as venturesome as they might have been. However, it is always wise to play safe.
The purpose of the amending legislation is, 1 understand, to broaden the extent of the coverage allowed under the principal act. The existing legislation provides that the exporter may obtain 85 per cent, cover, whether the transaction involved is a commercial transaction or the other type which has been called a political transaction. The Minister told us in his second-reading speech that a commercial loss is considered to be a loss caused by the insolvency and default of the buyer. A political risk involves such possibilities as exchange transfer blockage, wars, revolutions and so forth.
The bill provides that the coverage shall be increased, so that in the case of a preshipment of goods there shall be 90 per cent, cover, while in regard to postshipment of goods the cover shall be 95 per cent. There is a proviso that the distinction between pre- and post-shipment shall not apply to certain types of guarantees, such as the stock-holding overseas of goods held, perhaps, for processing. This covers a case in which a seller makes arrangements for his goods to be held in a store overseas, owned either by himself of by some one from whom he has obtained accommodation, the seller having decided, perhaps, to process the goods at a later stage before putting them on the market. In the case of such a transaction I understand that the 90 per cent, restriction does not apply.
Another special case in which a political risk is involved occurs when the buyer is a government or a semi-government instrumentality. If the buyer in such a case defaults, the corporation could hardly be expected to determine, so the Minister says - and I agree with him - whether the failure was deliberate or whether it was due to some genuinely unavoidable circumstance. In these circumstances, the cover is the same as that which I mentioned previously. Another provision is made for guarantees relating to technical services, contracting services and so on. Here 85 per cent, of the commercial risk and 95 per cent, of the political risk is covered. It is said that this also is on all fours with the policy of the United Kingdom Export Credits Guarantee Department.
As far as I can see, ‘the proposed expansion of the cover provided by the Export Payments Insurance Corporation is unexceptional. Perhaps a greater risk is involved in extending the cover, but the Government is justified in accepting this risk in the light of the experience of the past two years. However, the Government now deserves criticism similar to that offered by the Opposition when the legislation was originally introduced. On that occasion, the Minister stressed in his second-reading speech that the bill was designed to encourage the expansion of our overseas trade. The Opposition at that time took the view that the provisions of the bill were inadequate, in that, although a type of cover that was not available to exporters from commercial concerns was provided, no provision whatever was made to extend credit facilities. We realize that exporters of long standing, who are firmly established commercially, would have little difficulty in obtaining credit to cover their overseas transactions, pending payment in cash. On the other hand, however, a newly established manufacturer, with relatively small production and with his factory, land and equipment perhaps fairly heavily committed in order to obtain working capital and to pay wages and so on, may not be able to obtain credit although his product may have a desirable export potential. The Minister will recall that, when the original legislation was before the House, the Opposition moved an amendment to give the corporation authority to provide credit facilities for these people.
We thought that amendment was justified, and we thought that another amendment was also justified. The Government provides the money guaranteed to the corporation in cash. In the first instance, the amount was £500,000, and amending legislation raised it to £1,000,000. The Government does not say simply, “We guarantee this instrumentality “. In fact, cash is provided and, until it is used for the purpose for which it is provided, the corporation invests it and receives interest on it. In these circumstances, we considered that the corporation should be required to transact all its business with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and we moved accordingly. The Government rejected our amendment. Dealing with the type of in vestment that the corporation can make, the Minister, in his second-reading speech on this bill, said -
Under the act as it stands, the corporation already has certain powers for the investment of such moneys in that they may be placed on fixed deposit with the Commonwealth Bank or with any other bank-
We originally took exception to the words “ any other bank “ - approved by the Treasurer, or they may be invested in securities of the Commonwealth.
That is the existing provision; there is nothing wrong with it, except that the Opposition felt that the corporation’s right to place money on fixed deposit should be restricted to the Commonwealth Bank. But now we have this new development. The Minister went on -
It will often happen, however, that the corporation will have funds available for such short periods that it would not be possible to leave them on fixed deposit with a bank for the normal three months minimum period, or to obtain Commonwealth securities of the appropriate maturity.
This sounds like a bed-time story. It is suggested that a great corporation like this would not have funds available to be left on fixed deposit for three months. The Minister then made this suggestion -
Facilities of the desired type-
That is, for money that may be available for less than three months - are provided by the dealers on the recently established short-term money market. By lending funds to dealers in that market the corporation would be able to earn a reasonable rate of return on such funds.
The Minister has not mentioned one instance that has occurred since September, 1957, when the corporation was established, of the corporation’s having funds available for less than three months and being unable to obtain a reasonable return. We are met with the blunt statement that the corporation is now to be given power to lend funds to dealers in the short-term money market, so that it will be able to earn a reasonable rate of interest. The Minister continued -
The bill empowers the Treasurer to determine both the persons to whom the corporation may lend and also the conditions under which such loans may be made, provided always that the loans are made upon the security of securities of the Commonwealth.
So we have a double-header. It looks as it we are establishing a pawn shop. In addition you will back yourself by the security of securities of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer proposes, on the passage of this bill, to give approval for the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to lend to dealers on the short-term money market approved by the Commonwealth Bank, such loans to bc against Commonwealth securities with not more than three years to maturity.
I think it is pretty tough when on the one hand you have a great instrumentality like the Commonwealth Bank, the profits of which go into the National Debt Sinking Fund and into the bank’s reserves, as well cs another semi-governmental instrumentality provided with £1,000,000 of the people’s funds, operating on a non-profit basis and accepting the community’s big risks, and on the other hand you make available to dealers on the short-term money market the surplus funds of the corporation. I am not competent to deal with the intricacies of this short-term money problem, but I feel sure that my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), will be able to expose this scheme for what it is. He will show how immoral it is politically. I hope that honorable members other than members of the Opposition will protest and that the Government will see fit, even at this late stage in the dying hours of this session, to agree to leave things as they are and not to open the way for this type of transaction. The excuse is that the Government cannot avail itself of fixed deposits under three month’s duration so it must flit off to the short-term loan business. I do not think there are any government instrumentalities in the shortterm loan business.
– It is the people’s money.
– Is it the people’s money that you are going to play with and hand over to the dealers - the gamblers and punters - when you have the opportunity to utilize the great Commonwealth Bank? These things should be closely examined.
I think I should pay a tribute to the people who are managing the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. They are doing a good job. The corporation’s annual balance-sheets are excellently produced. It is apparent that the corporation’s business is transacted on a sound basis. Perhaps it has been lucky. The Minister has told us that there is only one claim for £100 against the corporation. Because I compliment the corporation, I may be charged with complimenting the very people who recommended investment in the short-term money market. Nevertheless, 1 still compliment the management of the corporation for the way it has transacted its business without at the same time necessarily approving its recommendations to the Government. I doubt very much whether it made any such recommendations. It must be recognized, of course, that associated with the corporation is a consultative council, eight members of which represent private industry. They are all competent men, and that might be the reason for the milk in the coconut, because there are only two Government representatives on the council. The eight private industry members of the council may be able to create interest in the short-term money market, and under those circumstances it would be perfectly natural for them to recommend that the corporation’s funds be invested in that way.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- My colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), has referred to the proposed amendment relating to the right of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to invest, in certain circumstances, in the short-term money market. I should like to mention what seem to me to be the perhaps unnoticed implications of this undertaking. It will be remembered that, in about March of this year, a measure was before the House increasing the capital of this corporation from £500,000 to £1,000,000, and doubling the guarantee which the Government, in certain events, would assume with regard to the business operations of the corporation. On that occasion we pointed out that it seemed to be strange that the Government was seeking a further £500,000 for the corporation when, in fact, nothing had been done with the original £500,000 capital other than to invest it in Commonwealth Government securities.
Reference to the balance-sheet which is attached to the third annual report of the corporation indicates that even after the doubling of the capital the position has remained unaltered. The assets side of the balance-sheet shows the item “ Investments - Commonwealth Securities (at cost) less Fluctuations Reserve, £1,053,158”. Reference to the statement of income and expenditure reveals that, under the heading “ Income “, apart from the amount of £85,561 representing premiums earned during the year, a further £33,464 was received, representing income from investments in Commonwealth Government securities. Those amounts, offset against the expenditure for the year of some £42,000, gave a net return of £76,000. Even without the income from the investments, the undertaking in the year concerned would have shown a profit.
We on this side of the House have directed attention to the results that will flow from the issue of seasonal treasurynotes, as we call them, in which this legislation permits the corporation to invest. Virtually they are securities on which the Government pays interest at the rate of 3 per cent. If this public corporation, this government undertaking, invests its surplus cash in these short-term securities which yield interest, this will be reflected on the income side of the balance-sheet. The capacity of the corporation to cover its costs is fixed by two factors, first, by its premium income, and secondly, by its investment income. In this case we seem to have a kind of concealed subsidy. The corporation, as a result of receiving some £20,000 or £30,000 a year from the Government in the form of interest on these short-term securities, is in a position to offer lower terms of premium to its insurers than would otherwise be the case. As I have said, this is a kind of concealed subsidy, and I am always anxious to see that these things are revealed for what they are.
Last year we pointed out that if it had not been for the interest that the corporation received on its investment in government securities, it would have run at a loss. Of course, last year was the first year of operation of the corporation and it was only beginning to get under way. I am at a loss to know the use to which it is intended to put this £1,000,000 which is lying idle in the corporation. If the undertaking cannot meet its obligations, the Government will stand behind it and guarantee it to the extent of £50,000,000. What was the need for the first £500,000 which was raised to £1,000,000? We did not receive an answer to this question on the last occasion on which we discussed this corporation, because I think that when the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) introduced the bill into the House he had either just returned from, or was just going, abroad. I am not questioning those circumstances, but I suggest that at a later stage in the debate he might indicate the corporation’s intention in relation to this £1,000,000 which is now lying idle in Commonwealth Government securities. To say the least, it seems a curious kind of capitalization for the Government, as the payer of interest, to pay money into this corporation which is a government undertaking. I think that it requires some explanation.
With these seasonal treasury-notes the Government is paying 3 per cent, interest when it need pay only 1 per cent. It is true that some of the benefit goes not so much into private hands as into a particular field of activity because it is in the form of lower premiums to those people who use the services of the corporation. But the Government’s action constitutes a kind of subsidy, and I think that it should be exposed as such. That is the first point which I wish to make.
The next point arises out of some words that are contained in the annual report of the corporation. Under the heading, “ Method of Operation “ the report states -
It is a condition of the Corporation accepting liability for any transaction involving raw materials and consumer goods that the contract of sale shall not stipulate terms of payment in excess of the maximum specified by the Corporation for the commodity and market concerned. Whilst it is one of the merits of the Corporation’s guarantees that they enable exporters to compete on equal terms of payment with their overseas competitors, no encouragement is given to break down established trade standards.
These observations are made, presumably, by the Commissioner, and it seems to me that, in a sense, they imply a kind of commitment on policy. I doubt whether this commission ought to be making this sort of commitment. These are the words that I think ought to be noted -
It is considered that any substantial development of a “ credit race “ in international trade would not favour Australian exporters, nor would it be beneficial to the national economy as a whole.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that this seems to indicate that there is a gap in the machinery for the financing of Australia’s overseas trade. Further on in the same report you will see reference to the things that the corporation really insures against. It cites, particularly, industrial firms in Australia producing capital goods for sale in the undeveloped countries, and it envisages that, in some instances, the final payment for those transactions may extend over a period of anything up to five years.
One of the things that can be insured against, apparently, is default in payment between the time at which the contract is entered into and the completion of the contract, which, as the report states, may be delayed for up to five years. This sort of thing may be all right for the kind of firm that is able to wait five years for payment, but there are no doubt many firms in Australia which would benefit by the presence of an intermediary. I admit that this may not be the precise role of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. 1 simply suggest to the Minister for Trade that this is the sort of thing that should be looked at. We should create in Australia some financial intermediary similar, perhaps, to the export-import Bank, in the United States of America, which would, as it were, take over the financial liability and allow the contractor who made the goods - let us say the transaction involved earthmoving equipment - to be paid off. The financial intermediary would assume responsibility for collecting the debt over a longer period. I suggest that if such an authority were created it might, in the long run, be beneficial to Australia’s trade. Apparently, there are at present some firms in Australia which, as a result of the activities of the corporation, have obtained overseas markets and which could afford to wait for two, three, four or five years for full payment. But there are no doubt many other equally worthy firms which, perhaps, are not so financially strong.
It seems to me that the report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation perhaps hints at a weakness in our trade structure with respect to long-term contracts involving capital transactions with some of the under-developed countries. I ask the Minister to note the words that I have quoted from the report. I ask him: Does he think that a body such as this should enunciate Australia’s policy in this matter? As I have indicated, the writer of the corporation’s report states that it is considered that any substantial development of a credit race in international trade would not favour Australian exporters and would not be beneficial to the national economy as a whole. It seems to me that the corporation is, to say the least, a little presumptuous in enunciating policy in these terms. Surely this is not a matter for a corporation of this kind. The corporation has a definite job to do, but it does not seem to me that the task suggested there comes within either the scope or the propriety of the corporation to reflect upon. I again ask the Minister, if he has read the report - and I am sure he has - whether he considers that this is a proposition of a kind that ought to have been enunciated in a report such as this.
As I have said, it is gratifying to the Opposition to see the amount of business that the Export Payments Insurance Corporation has done, lt indicates that there was previously a gap in our economy. But, as I have said, other gaps impliedly exist in our machinery with respect to the securing of overseas markets for goods of a kind that cannot be paid for in full immediately. I suggest that the Government, in the near future, consider establishing some other kind of organization to close these gaps. I do not even presume that this task would fall within the ambit of the existing corporation. However, this is a matter that ought to be considered.
I repeat my first request that the Minister indicate whether the corporation has any immediate ideas about what it intends to do with its £1,000,000 of capital. Is that money to be left lying about in government securities, or does the Government plan to use it for the construction of a headquarters building for the corporation, say, on the corner of Collins-street and Queenstreet, Melbourne, or somewhere else? I, for one, should be interested to know what is to be done with that money, and I trust that the Minister will make some reply on the matters that I have raised.
– in reply - Mr. Speaker, I shall try to deal with the points of substance that have been raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). Both honorable members asked why capital of £500,000, and, latterly, £1,000,000, which, clearly, as is indicated by the annual report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, still stands to the credit of the corporation, has not been drawn upon. The answer, of course, is very simple: This is a business institution. Business institutions have capital behind them with which to work. I know it could be said that, behind this body, there is a government guarantee which, originally, stood at £25,000,000, and which, more recently, has been increased to £50,000,000. It could, theoretically, be argued that an institution of this kind, so guaranteed by the Government, need not have any capital at all. That would be the alternative to the arrangements that have been made, and that would conform completely with the Douglas social credit doctrine, but not with the doctrines of normal business. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation is designed to do business with normal business institutions, and it would not be expected that an insurance company which, in the very nature of things, is liable to losses should have to have recourse to a government guarantee to make good the very first loss that it sustains. That, surely, would be a very odd arrangement, and it is a proposition of a kind that I do not know to exist anywhere in the world.
This corporation, which I have described as an insurance company, is designed, as the principal act provides, to operate on a non-profit, non-loss basis. That does not mean, of course, that it is never to make a profit and never to make a loss. It means that, over the long term, the corporation is not intended to incur losses and so be a liability on the government and the people. On the other hand, the corporation is not a profit-making institution and is not intended, over the long term, to show profits.
– The capital of the corporation could hardly be said to be a working fund.
– Oh, but it is. That is exactly what it is. It is a working fund for the corporation, which, happily, has not yet had to draw upon it in order to meet liabilities.
– It is a subsidy, in reality.
– It is not a subsidy When one goes into the business of insurance one can never be sure whether a house will be burned down next day or a loss will be incurred on a transaction.
– Why hold £1,000,000 when £100,000 would cover it?
– The corporation has covered risks to a total of £40,000,000 and has, as far as I can remember, outstanding contingent liabilities at present some £20,000,000.
– And they are growing all the time.
– Happily, they are growing all the time. That is what it was established for. To have merely £100,000 of capital would probably not show evidence of capacity to cover not one but maybe a dozen risks that are contingent at a particular time. I think this is an understandable explanation of the need for the corporation to have some capital in its own right. It is a real business institution. It is not a body composed of paper. That is the short answer.
Of course, if it has some capital, necessarily, as a business organization, it will want to put this capital to the best use. So, it lends the money back to the Government by investing in government securities which are realizable in the event of a loss, and which, in the meantime, earn interest. To that extent, it is business-like and the capacity of the organization to give the service that it was set up to give is increased. That is all that I have to say on that point.
First the honorable member for Lalor and later, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports raised the question of the corporation placing funds in its possession with the short-term money market. The honorable member for Lalor stressed that it ought to be restricted to placing its funds with the Commonwealth Bank or, alternatively, to investing them in government securities. The practice of the corporation is to do exactly as the honorable member for Lalor has suggested with any funds which are available for investment for a period of three months or longer. In such cases it will deposit the funds with the bank; it will invest in government securities. But if, as occurs in any big business organization handling great sums of money, the corporation has £10,000 or perhaps £70,000 clearly available for a period of say, 20, 30 or 40 days, but not clearly available beyond that term because of circumstances known to exist, it cannot deposit this money with the bank because the bank’s minimum term of fixed deposit is three months; and if the corporation invests in government securities for a few days, clearly there are the expenses inherent in that kind of investment It is very much better that it should be able to invest funds, as could be done for only 10, 20, 30 or 40 days, in the short-term money market.
– It could get an overdraft.
– I will return to the overdraft proposition in a minute.
– Why not let the corporation invest the money for three months and if it happened to run short it could get a temporary overdraft?
– I understand that proposition. I will come back to it because it is a proposition, although not a business proposition. It is better that the money should be lent. There is a word, “ dealers “ used. The honorable member for Lalor, like myself, is a farmer. We think of dealers as middle men and as speculative men. But here the word “ dealer “ indicates an authorized dealer in the short-term money market. Such a man is not a speculator. The word “ dealer “ is a proper description of an operator in the short-term money market.
The short-term money market was really created, if not by this Government, at least with the approbation and the assistance of this Government. Its whole purpose is to enable the business community at large to do what the proposed amendment will permit the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to do, that is, to invest funds available for very short terms with a body with which interest can be earned but in circumstances of absolute security. There is a service to the business community. The public interest comes into this matter. 1 remind the House that the short-term money market, at this stage of its existence, is gathering in these funds to lend them to the Government and at low rates of interest.
There you have a community of interest. The interest of the Government and of the people is served, also the interest of the business world, and of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. The business world is permitted to earn some interest where, otherwise, there is no facility to earn it, and the Government is permitted to have the advantage of the available money in the hands of the business community for short terms.
The honorable member for Lalor interjected earlier and said that the corporation could put money on deposit for three months and that if the contingent liability matured in the interregnum, the corporation could borrow on overdraft. That is completely right. But I venture to suggest that it is not very good business to invest for two months at 2 per cent, and to reborrow for one month at 5i per cent. It is not regarded as good business to do that kind of thing.
– But if you are not visualizing large amounts, the three months’ investment would give good returns.
– That may be so, and it would be practicable. But here is an experienced business organization with a highly experienced staff and a commissioner who has the benefit of the advice of a consultative council. If it proves to be in the best interests of the corporation to invest certain sums of money in the way that the honorable member has suggested, I have no doubt that it will be done. That we will leave to the business acumen of the commissioner and those who work with him or advise him.
Then there is the credit agency to lend to facilitate exports. This is a legitimate suggestion, but not one that is really pertinent to the bill before the House.
– It arises from it.
– I will turn to that in a moment. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports raised the question of the establishment in Australia of a specialized credit agency similar to the export-import bank of the United States of America. I do not brush that off. I say that it is a legitimate proposal, but not one within the circumstances of this bill.
– I agree with that. But the report gives us the opportunity to raise it in this debate.
– That is true. But one of the great advantages of this Export Payments Insurance Corporation is that it establishes a basis for credit for export sales where otherwise there would not be a business basis for an export transaction. Let me put it in this way: A business house has an opportunity to export something that it cannot finance itself. In the absence of having cover here, it may go to its bank and say, “I have this opportunity to do business. What about an overdraft to finance it? “ In many circumstances the bank is liable to say, “ What happens if you don’t get paid? What happens if the currency of the country depreciates? What happens if war occurs? What happens if the fellow goes insolvent? “ The bank is likely to say then, “ Sorry, we cannot do business with you. It is not a business proposition.” But now he is able to go along and say, “ I have this business opportunity, and I will be paid as much as 85 per cent, or 90 per cent, or 95 per cent.”, according to the various provisions made. He can say, “ I am assured that I will be paid “, and on that proposition he can ask the bank to accommodate him on overdraft. There, a real business proposition is immediately created. The whole concept of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation is consistent with the matter raised by the Opposition that there should be credit facilities to encourage and enable export to take place.
Finally, I think of the words that were read from the annual report of the corporation. They were -
It is considered that any substantial development of a “ credit race “ in international trade would not favour Australian exporters nor would it be beneficial to the national economy as a whole.
I think the Opposition raises this on two counts: Whether the comments are themselves valid, and whether they are appropriate to be made in this report. I would say that they are both valid and appropriate because they are completely consistent with declarations which I have made, with the authority of the Government, in this House. They have been made also by the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the former Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
The explanation is that if there is any encouragement to make international sales on credit then there will be competition to make sales on credit. In the case of the major items of wheat, meat, metals - the great agricultural and mining products - the bulk commodities - this country has much more wealthy competitors than we are ourselves. The words that are used here - that a “ credit race “ would not be in the interests of the Australian producers - are completely right. If transactions in wheat and lead are to be transformed from cash transactions to credit transactions, then Australia has competitors much wealthier than herself and would lose out in that competition.
For some years I have been consistently arguing in international circles that wealthy countries ought not to go beyond a commercial period of time in facilitating credit for export. A normal commercial period of credit could be 180 days for foodstuffs, or it may be six months for something else. There are understandings about these things. I have been arguing that in the case of a commodity, such as wheat, where we would perhaps give 120 days and Canada gives five years, that would be a class of competition we could not meet.
– Some countries are doing that now. You are suggesting that we should intensify what they are already doing?
– No. Some of them have done it, but to-day there is a fairly wide acceptance of the validity of the arguments which I have just been adducing, that this is a non-commercial form of competition in the credit race.
– But they deny that.
– It has been very much abated as a result of arguments adduced for and by Australia, and we have benefited as a result. On that point and on the second pai t of the observation, that it would not be beneficial to the national economy: Here is a country which has been suffering now for some six or seven years from a shortage of overseas funds. We have suffered all the rigours of import restrictions and all the maddening annoyances of import licensing because we have not been able, currently, to earn in cash as much in overseas currencies as we desire to spend. Of course, it is a contradiction of our interests to suggest that in respect of what we produce and sell overseas and what we can find markets for, we should say, “ Don’t bother to pay us now, pay us in six months or twelve months “. That would be a complete contradiction of the real interest we have at stake.
I am sure that honorable members accept the explanation that the commissioner is really embodying here declared Government policy. On that explanation I would ask the House to agree to the motion for the second reading of the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4 (Application of moneys).
.- I rise mainly to take this opportunity, because this clause is the financial centre of the amendments, to say quite clearly to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that the suggestion that the corporation ought to be able to operate on the strength of a government guarantee appears, in my opinion, to have no relation to Douglas Credit policy whatsoever. I frankly admit that, after many endeavours, I was never able to understand Douglas Credit, and to attempt to describe any of my arguments as Douglas Credit is altogether too extraordinary.
But I think it can still be argued that any instrumentality, backed in its operations by a government guarantee and which earns satisfactory revenue, might well engage in business. AH I am trying to point out is that the soundness of the argument of my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), holds good. The £1,000,000 is, in effect, a sort of subsidy. It brings to the cor poration a return of £40,000. It is, indeed, working capital, a handy amount of revenue which can be used for expenses until such time as the corporation earns sufficient revenue from its operations to cover all its outgoings. It is doing that now. But the fact that it can bring in £40,000 annually gives it the strength which, in the end result, must keep down the premiums of the exporters whom it is supporting financially.
As a matter of government policy, a subsidy donation is sound and we are not objecting to it; but the argument that the instrumentality cannot work without having £1,000,000 in cash does not hold water. I do not pose as a financial authority, but as long as I can remember I have been reading on the windows of the State Savings Bank of Victoria the words “ Guaranteed by the Government of Victoria “. But I do not think that bank has a threepenny bit in its till invested by the Government of Victoria. On the contrary, the Government of Victoria has, I suppose, 75 per cent, of that bank’s money being utilized in government operations.
The other illustration is that the Government of which the Minister is a distinguished member - we cannot rob him of that credit - has guaranteed Ansett-A.N.A. Proprietary Limited £4,000,000 or perhaps £6,000,000-1 have forgotten the actual figure. That is a notorious arrangement.
I do not think that even the Minister will contend that Ansett-A.N.A. got £6,000,000 from the Government, in cash. But on the strength of the guarantee of the Government Ansett-A.N.A. was able to go to the banking institutions or elsewhere for financial accommodation, using the guarantee as a proof of its own soundness. Similarly, it would be able to buy aircraft from the manufacturers on good terms. So when the Minister pooh-poohs our statements, I say to him that essentially this corporation is not actually getting from the Government a cash amount of £1,000,000 in order to enable it to operate. I believe that it can be worked on the other basis - that of a Government guarantee. I may be wrong, but I put that point of view to let people know that there is another story.
I contend again that the argument of my colleague is perfectly sound when he says that, in effect, this instrumentality is being provided with something in the nature of a subsidy, which will enable it to charge lower premiums to people doing business with it than would otherwise be the case. That fact ought to be stated frankly. We are not objecting to it, and I do not think that the Minister would contest the point we make.
– I will contest the last point because, while this is a non-profit, nonlosing organization, I am sure that time will reveal that its operations are conducted with the end result of making, overall, neither a profit nor a loss on its insurance transactions, but of earning an appropriate income on the investment of its funds. If the Government had told the organization - and the legislation would have revealed this - that it was not expected to make a profit or a loss, but could make a concealed loss so long as the loss did not exceed the interest from the capital, that would be giving it a subsidy or, if anybody likes to use the term, a “ concealed subsidy “. I would not argue on that point at all. That is not the policy, the practice or the intention upon which the organization is established, and on which it will proceed to conduct its business.
On the other hand, the analogy that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) tried to create between the possibility of this institution operating merely on a Government guarantee without capital and the fact that Ansett-A.N.A. has had its business facilitated by a Government guarantee, is not an analogy at all, because the two things are not really comparable. The essence of the difference, of course, is that AnsettA.N.A. has capital. It has millions of pounds worth of capital in its own right, and millions of pounds worth of assets in its own right. That of course, distinguishes the situation from what is envisaged.
I said when I spoke earlier that I had no doubt that it would be practicable to have a Government instrumentality operating without possession of capital but on the basis of a Government guarantee.
– That is Douglas Credit.
– I repeat that it would be practicable, but such a procedure would be in the field of Douglas Credit, and if that is offensive to the honorable member 1 did not intend to be offensive. Here is a business organization to which we are seeking to attract widespread business. I remind honorable members that business can be carried to the organization not merely by Australian business entities, but also by overseas business entities, which operate in Australia or which, while not operating in Australia in their corporate entities, may do transactions in Australia. We wish that they would regard the Australian Export Payments Insurance Corporation as a normal business organization with capital of its own built up so that it can meet its own losses, if any, and carry its own working expenses. On the general proposition I will do no more than agree to differ from my friends of the Opposition.
.- I suggest that the Minister and honorable members on this side of the House are at cross-purposes about this. I say that the capital aspect of this particular undertaking ought to be contrasted with something which was debated not very long ago in this House - the question of the payment of interest on some capital that is employed in the Post Office. My job is to show what is going on as we see it from this side. Here we have an undertaking given an initial amount of £500,000 and, subsequently, another £500,000. As I said to the Minister before, this £1,000,000 is not at the moment working capital at all. What has happened to that £1,000,000? It is not used in the undertaking. It has been put into Commonwealth Government securities, and the interest that is derived from those securities is brought into the income side of the undertaking. That is a very different proposition from what was argued by the Government here a few weeks ago. Such organizations should be considered as business undertakings. I do not think that the Minister will quibble when I say that this is a business undertaking.
– On the contrary, I have been arguing that it is.
– If it is a business undertaking it should secure some return on its capital, and not bring in an amount from outside and show it on the income side. 1 could understand this if the £1,000,000 had been advanced in the first place with, say, the idea of buying a property some time. That may be the intention. I do not know whether it is, but why all the secrecy about it? If it were used to buy a property at least the corporation would avoid paying rent, an item for which £7,000 is now provided, and there would be that much less expenditure m consequence. The £1,000,000 would be doing some work in those circumstances. But the £1,000,000 is not doing any work whatsoever.
The undertaking’s invested capital is bringing in an income of £40,000 - nothing whatever to do with the undertaking’s operations, but taken into account when computing the profits. I say about that what we have said about some other transactions by this Government - it is very crazy accounting.
.- It seems to me, having followed the debate so far, that there is still a lack of clarity about the real nature of this Export Payments Insurance Corporation. The Minister says that it is a business organization, and that is partly true. It is an organization which does business; but it is essentially a public corporation. It is not an ordinary business concern. It does business with business people out of which it might suffer losses or make profits in the course of the year. If at any particular time, because of difficulties in trade as a whole, or because of some special difficulties that have arisen in the course of some insurance business that it may have done, it makes substantial losses, it might have to draw on funds to meet these losses. So the Government, facing this possibility, has decided to make it a certain grant. Now, the Minister says that the corporation invests its funds and that it has chosen the best means of investment of its funds - government securities. But this legislation gives it a holding of £500,000 in the first place, and then £1,000,000 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It has not had to draw upon this money so far. It is a kind of reserve. In this respect the corporation is very different from a business organization.
Section 23 (1.) of the original act provided -
The Treasurer may pay to the Corporation, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly, sums not exceeding in all Five hundred thousand pounds.
That was the original provision. The money came from the Consolidated Revenue Fund and was derived from taxation. It was paid to the corporation, and in the balance sheet of that organization for 1957-58 we find an item on the liabilities side, “ Capital advanced by Treasurer £500,000”. That was the money that came from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The point of issue is when the money comes from Consolidated Revenue before or when it is needed.
The Government has come pretty close to adopting this procedure with a number of private business organizations, but it has never gone quite as far as this. It has given this corporation £500,000 in the first place, and later another £500,000, out of Consolidated Revenue Fund. This makes the corporation a very different proposition from an ordinary business organization, it is a public corporation. As the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) said by way of interjection, it is socialistic, and this is a very good thing for Australians. I know that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is seeking to interject, does not like to hear these words. Immediately upon hearing them, he seems to suffer from some kind of mental aberration. He cannot accept words like these.
– The Government wants to socialize its losses.
Order! The honorable member for Watson will cease interjecting.
– When the corporation gets this money from Consolidated Revenue Fund, the next step that it takes is to put it into Commonwealth securities, which it then, presumably, locks away in a safe. Some time in the future, if it gets into difficulties, it will be able to take a certain course of action with those securities. I think the Minister would have to point out the difference between this course of action and the alternative. He thinks the alternative is Douglas Credit, but let us examine the position. If the corporation has this £500,000 or £1,000,000 worth of Government securities in its safe, and it gets into difficulties, it will sell those securities, perhaps to members of the public, perhaps to the private banks or perhaps on the shortterm money market. It sells the securities and then it has the capacity to draw cheques or notes on some bank as a result. This would be the effect of the transaction.
If, on the other hand, the Government had not provided this £500,000 or £1,000,000, and the corporation had no securities locked away in its safe, what would it do in the case of an emergency? The Commonwealth Government would simply issue treasury-bills to the Commonwealth Bank, authorizing it to pay the required amount of money to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. This would involve a lower rate of interest, and perhaps less cost to the corporation, than would be the case if the corporation adopted the method I mentioned earlier and sold the Commonwealth securities that it had in its safe.
The difference between the two methods is not the difference between Douglas Credit and sound finance. It is the difference between conservative finance and finance that is not so conservative. In one case the corporation has some government securities locked away in its safe. If it ran into difficulties it would sell them as an ordinary business concern would do. I can understand the Minister and his supporters on the Government side wanting to make this organization work like an ordinary business concern, because that is the way they think, but it is not necessary to do so in financing this corporation, and it is quite possible to adopt the other method. I think that if the other method were adopted it would mean less cost to the community as a whole and more economical working of the corporation.
It might be said that if the corporation had to go to the Treasury or to the Commonwealth Bank, by means of the treasurybill process, this would have an inflationary effect. Conceivably it could. If the process brought into existence a fresh amount of money when the economy was at a high level of activity, it might have a net inflationary effect. But I have been doing my best recently to show that this is not necessarily the case. It is no more inflationary to follow this process by means of the Commonwealth Bank than by means of a private bank. The bringing of money into existence through a private bank is just as inflationary as bringing it into existence through the central Commonwealth Bank.
I think it is necessary for the committee to consider the financial mechanism that is involved and to understand that the difference between the two procedures is not the difference between Douglas Credit and something else. They are two different processes, both having a certain validity. In passing let me say that for a great many years Douglas Credit was a far more advanced and beneficial financial theory than the conservative theory that prevailed in early 1930’s and caused 500,000 or 600,000 people to become unemployed. I do not look askance at Douglas Credit in a consideration of that kind, because I believe it was more advanced than the theories put forward by economists and treasurers of 35 or 40 years ago.
.- When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. (Cairns) rose to speak he complained of lack of clarity. If anybody who followed his peroration can get any sense out of it, he is a better man than I am. The position was perfectly clear until the honorable member spoke. It was purely a matter of capital. This is a business corporation which can act on its own. There is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing to be concealed. It is certainly not socialistic. Just as a private firm gets capital from income, so the Government supplies capital from revenue. I saw nothing confusing about it at all until the honorable member from Yarra spoke.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has argued that because the £1,000,000 of capital that has been provided by the Government - which means, of course, this Parliament - has been invested by the corporation, it is not being used in the business. Those were his words. Let us examine the position. How can you use £1,000,000 in a business of this kind? Do you want to use this amount of capital to meet your expenses?
– I want to know why the corporation wants the £1,000,000 at all.
– I would like to be sure that you really want to know why the corporation needs it, and that you do not merely wish to conduct an argument about it. I take up the words of the honorable member again - to use the £1,000,000 in the business-
– To use it as working capital.
– The honorable member suggests that it should be used as working capital. This is an insurance organization. You do not want to use the capital to pay wages, surely?
– Very well, you would not want to do that. The corporation is, in structure and in numbers of staff employed, a small show. It has only a handful of people. Surely you do not want to invest the £1,000,000 in a building to house your dozen or twenty employees. The honorable member says, “ Use it in the business “. If you do not want to use it in the ways I have suggested, what is left? Lose it in the business - that is the only other way to use it, other than to have it invested as a reserve. You can either invest it and have it or you can lose it. If you lose it you are using it in the business, but surely that is not what we want to do. The other way is to invest it and to have it as a reserve against the contingent risks that an insurance outfit undertakes.
We have heard the classic arguments by honorable members opposite. They will not feel offended if I call them socialists. We heard the classic argument from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He said that with a government behind you you do not need money, that all you need is a guarantee by the government.
– That is what the Country Party says.
– The Country Party has never said that. That is what the socialists say, and, without wishing to give offence, I repeat that that is what Major Douglas said. It is just not sound business. When the government of which the honorable member for Lalor was a Minister established the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank, it provided capital for it.
– Of course it did.
– The honorable member for Melbourne, who was a Minister in that Government, says, “ Of course it did “’. But there was no need for it to do so. On the thesis put before the Parliament tonight by the socialist members opposite, it could have been done on a guarantee. The late Mr. Chifley was too sound a businessman to conduct these business operations on water or air or paper; he conducted them on money. When the banking legislation was before the Parliament, I clearly remember, honorable members opposite argued that the Trading Bank and the Development Bank were not being supplied with sufficient capital. That was the argument of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and of the honorable member for Lalor. But, on their thesis to-night, the banks do not need capital; they merely need a government guarantee. They are not really arguing to conviction to-night, 1 am sure, and I close on that note. I believe that they are putting up a political argument, and I will not proceed any further.
.- We have heard a tirade from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on what he has called an unsound financial principle, namely that this instrumentality could operate on a guarantee. I was a Minister in a government which for years signed a guarantee to pay the wheat-growers a specified price for their wheat. The Commonwealth Government did not find one penny piece of capital. The mere guarantee of the Government enabled the Australian Wheat Board to draw money on which to operate until it was paid for the wheat that it had sold. This Government has done the same thing since then.
– But the wheat is real; it is saleable.
– Yes, the wheat is real, and so is the capacity of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to draw premiums from the people who insure with it to cover their risks. I do not deny that the corporation would be strengthened by a guarantee of the Government to pay its losses; such a guarantee would be the same as the guarantee of the Government to pay the wheat-growers if their final return did not equal the guaranteed price. All this nonsense of the Minister, putting up his own dummies, having a shot at them and thinking he has knocked them over, docs not go for anything in this Parliament. The illustrations I have given cover both the Export Payments Insurance Corporation and the wheat-growers. I repeat that the corporation has the capacity to levy a premium that it expects will bring in sufficient capital to cover its obligations and its expenses. Realizing that this is an insurance proposition that no private company would undertake, the Government hands over £1,000,000 in cash. What is this £1,000,000 in cash for? That is what we are asking. The £1,000,000 in cash is to meet possible losses that will not be covered by the premiums. These losses may occur or they may not. We say that an alternative to furnishing £1,000,000 in cash would be a mere government guarantee to cover any losses sustained by the corporation.
My colleague has said that the amount could be raised, if necessary, by treasurybills. That means would be adopted only if, at the moment the money was required, Consolidated Revenue was short of cash and could not meet the obligation arising from the Government’s guarantee. The Minister is not going to bulldoze the Opposition with his hypothetical illustrations of what in his disordered mind is the unsound financial outlook of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
.- The Opposition would do well to pay some attention to the bill. The remarks of honorable members opposite have nothing to do with the bill. They are merely dragging a red herring across the trail. This bill does not conjure up £1,000,000. Opposition members are giving us a re-hash of the arguments advanced on the bill that was passed a long time ago. What do they want? Do they ask that the £1,000,000 be taken away from the corporation? What they are saying has no relation to the bill at all.
The bill does two things. First, it increases the percentage of loss that may be covered in certain instances. Secondly, it gives further lee-way to the corporation in the way in which it can use the money already given to it. It gives greater discretion to the managers of the corporation to invest sensibly, as seems wise from time to time. The measure has been criticized on ideological grounds, but most of the arguments of Opposition members are outside the scope of the bill. I suggest that it would be a very good idea for them to return to it. Apart from the one ideological objection, I take it that they are entirely in favour of the bill, because they have raised no objection to anything contained in it.
.- I want to go back to the point at which we started. Looking at the balance-sheet that is now before me, it would seem that all that has happened is that on one side is shown the capital advanced by the Treasurer, £1,000,000; on the other side is shown investments in Commonwealth securities, £1,000,000. The net difference to the trading position of the undertaking is merely that £50,000 of revenue has been received from these investments which, I repeat, have nothing whatever to do with the trading of the undertaking. If the £50,000 had not been there this year and in the previous year, the trading position of the undertaking would have been so much worse. Therefore, there is the great danger that those who use it are paying lower premiums than they should pay and in my opinion this amounts to the payment of a concealed subsidy.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
I thank the Opposition for its co-operation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the following resolution: -
That the operation of Standing Order No. 308 be suspended in relation to evidence taken by and documents presented to the Joint Committees on Constitutional Review prior to 26th November, 1959.
– I present the fourth report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - agreed to.
Statement taken as a whole.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, in 1957 the Statement of Expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer replaced what was previously known as the Supplementary Estimates. This action followed the thirty-first report of the Public Accounts Committee, which found that the practice of submitting to the Parliament a Supplementary Estimates measure was legally unnecessary as well as ineffective. The House then agreed with proposals put to it by the Public Accounts Committee that instead of the presentation of Supplementary Estimates and the introduction of supplementary appropriation bills, a statement prepared by the Treasurer should be presented to the House after the end of each financial year showing the heads of expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act. It was also agreed that these statements should be referred for the consideration of the committee of the whole House and that a resolution of the committee be reported to the House for its adoption.
As part of this procedure the Public Accounts Committee undertook to examine each statement of expenditure and present to the Parliament a report. The committee’s report on the 1958-59 statement was presented to the House last week as its forty-third report. The Public Accounts Committee has an arrangement with the Department of the Treasury whereby the Treasury obtains from each department concerned an explanation for every item appearing in the Statement of Expenditure. Those explanations are in turn forwarded by the Treasury to the committee for its consideration. The committee has examined all those explanations and pursued further inquiries in respect of some of them. These are reported upon in the forty-third report. In that report the committee has pointed out that as a result of its suggestions the statement itself is substantially smaller this year than in previous years, although the information contained in it has in no way been reduced. On page 7 of the report reasons are given for the under-estimating of the vote “ Refunds of Revenue “ for which just over £2,000,000 was provided from the Advance to the Treasurer.
In chapter III. under the general heading of “ Controlling Expenditure within the Limits of the Appropriation “ the committee has deal with a number of amounts met from the advance on behalf of three departments. Those items are included because in its follow-up investigations the committee found that two of the three departments lacked an effective control procedure, while the third did not conform with an important provision of the existing law. One of these departments was the Attorney-General’s Department, with whose financial procedures the committee found fault two years ago. The committee found that adequate steps had not been taken to remedy this situation. The committee therefore felt obliged to criticize the Attorney-General’s Department and also the Public Service Board for its failure to take proper steps to provide the necessary personnel qualified in finance matters to run that section of the department.
In Chapter V. of its report the committee considers the reasons why an amount of something more than £1,000,000 appears in the statement under Division 194, Item 2. This figure represents the reduction in the amount expected to be recovered from the United Kingdom caused by a substantial under-spending of the provision for buildings, &c, concerned with the United KingdomAustralian joint project in South Australia. The committee also gives the reasons for expenditure from the advance of £288,500 on concessional postage for servicemen and for an item of just over £1,000,000 appearing on page 42 of the statement.
In general terms the balance of expenditure remaining a charge to the advance - -£8,900,000- is little greater than last year when it was £8,600,000. This level is not unreasonably high. The committee did notice a tendency on the part of one department at least to make greater use of the Additional Estimates, a trend which accords with the general principles enunciated by the committee from time to time. Again, the total of the items in the statement - £8,900,000 - does not represent entirely increased expenditure. As explained in paragraph 7 of the committee’s report, quite substantial amounts did not represent an increase in overall spending.
I trust, Mr. Timson, that honorable members will be satisfied that the Public Accounts Committee has done a proper job on behalf of the Parliament and has discharged the functions entrusted to it by the Parliament.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) very properly reminds us of the debt which the committee of the House owes to the Public Accounts Committee for the job of work it has been doing in the Parliament over recent years. The honorable member points out that the present form in which the Treasurer’s Advance is now presented to the Parliament is a result of recommendations flowingfrom the consideration by that committee of this particular aspect of our governmental financial affairs. It may be that at times Ministers and departments feel that they are kept on their toes to an. almost uncomfortable extent by the activities of the Public Accounts Committee, but I am sure that we are all the better for that; and certainly the state of government financing and departmental expenditure is more likely to be in accordance with the will of the Parliament because of the activities of this committee.
Irrespective of our party allegiances, we would all, I am sure, wish to pay tribute to the agile, active, conscientious and devoted chairman of the committee, our colleague, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is ably supported by the equally conscientious and devoted deputy chairman, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), from the Labour side.
– Do not forget about the rank and file.
– The rank and file have made their contribution also. I can express myself in these somewhat benign and almost benevolent terms, because I think the committee appreciates the cooperation that it has received from the Treasury. Reference was made earlier to the Treasury minutes, which are submitted as reports from the committee itself. I do not want to abuse the goodwill of the committee by proceeding too long in this strain but I am sure that, in the spirit in which we have discussed this matter, it is appropriate to point out that not only has the size of the present statement been reduced substantially from 97 pages to 63 pages without any loss of clarity or detail, as was stated by the honorable member for Wentworth, but this has been accompanied by a substantial reduction in the cost of printing of each copy from £1 12s. lid. to £1 ls. 8d. I am sure that those are the kind of results which the committee likes to see. The expenditure is amongst the most rewarding of any which the Parliament authorizes in the course of the financial year.
I thank honorable members for the manner in which they have received the statement, and I am happy to place on public record our appreciation of the work of the Public Accounts Committee.
Statement agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That the committee agrees with the statement for the year 1958-59 of Heads of Expenditure and the Amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1957.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 19th November (vide page 2954), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which is known as the Airports (Business Concessions) Bill 1959, has been incorrectly titled. The name which has bea given to it is a misnomer, as I hope to prove as I proceed with my story. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who introduced this bill in another place, set out to prove that it is necessary to recoup a loss of about £7,000,000 a year which the Department of Civil Aviation is suffering because of its inability to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure.
According to the Minister, Commonwealth aerodromes and related facilities are valued at present at £52,000,000. I am glad that both the Minister for Civil Aviation and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), who represents him in this place, stressed this fact with equal emphasis. That money has been provided by the Australian people for the construction of aerodromes which are used by both the Government airline and such other private airlines as operate. Not only do the people of Australia provide the money for these facilities which are made available for government and private airlines, but the air in which airlines operate is a public domain. The cost of maintaining these airports, which includes the cost of providing safety appliances, is £9,000,000 a year. As against that, very little money is received. The air navigation charges, which are met in equal proportions by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A., approximate £500,000. The tax on aviation fuel returns £1,200,000, while rental for premises approximates £250,000 and business concessions return about £50,000.
In accordance with the speech which was made by the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place, the Minister for Defence stated that the purpose of the bill is to try to boost the revenue of airports so that by the end of 1960 we shall receive an additional £160,000 a year, and perhaps within a few more years we shall receive an additional £500,000. Even if we receive a total of £500,000 a year, the department still will have a deficit of £6,500,000 a year. I emphasize these facts to show that what the Government proposes in this bill is. not a very good money spinner, to use the vernacular, and the dangers inherent in certain sections of the bill are not commensurate with the revenue that will be received. The Government has suggested that experience overseas. especially in th»
United States of America, has shown that major airports become virtually selfsupporting if their business potential is properly developed. But it is obvious that under the provisions of this bill the Australian airports never will become self-supporting. They will remain £6,500,000 in the red, again using the vernacular, even after a few years have elapsed.
– And that does not take into consideration capital expenditure as well.
– Of course there will be increasing capital expenditure as more airports are developed, and this is a country which needs a greater number of airports. The Canberra and Darwin airports are defence airports which are being used for civil aviation purposes. I suppose that in some respects the Townsville airport can be regarded as a defence airport because it is in proximity to Garbutt. We have not at present very many modern airports. Very few can accommodate the latest jet aircraft and, as the development of jet aircraft proceeds, the cost of building airports to accommodate them will increase.
To date we have spent £52,000,000, but an increasing additional amount will be spent in the future. The Australian people have to provide the finance necessary to meet not only the redemption of the capital that was borrowed to construct those airfields, but also the interest on those borrowed funds. Another factor to be borne in mind is that maintenance charges are continually increasing.
The Government would have the House and the people believe that the bill will do a tremendous amount of good for the travelling public. We shall have a number of businesses at our airports, particularly those at which overseas visitors disembark. We shall have banks, barbers’ shops, beauty parlours, children’s nurseries, coffee shops, flower shops, gift shops, insurance machines, news stands, photographers, restaurants, service stations, snack bars, tobacconists’ kiosks, vending machines and then, not liquor bars but cocktail lounges.
People will not be required to drink standing up. They are to have their drinks sitting down.
The Government, in its first bill, set out to override all State laws. In respect of any of these undertakings, trading laws established by the State governments were to be ignored. Those who received the concessions or leases, or who rented the trading premises at airports were to be able to sell almost around the clock - whenever planes were coming in or going out. Some services depart at 6 a.m. and some arrive about midnight; so there was to be trading for at least eighteen hours of the day. That, of course, would conflict with a number of State laws. It would affect the businesses of quite a lot of people, and it would be of doubtful value to anybody, even to the travelling public.
What is the advantage of establishing flower shops at airports? People usually arrive at the airport just about the time their plane is departing, and they generally leave as quickly as they can after their plane arrives. They do not go about buying flowers. If they did, at this time of the year, they might contract hay fever. It would be a bad thing if the pilots, for example, bought flowers, developed hay fever and had to pilot their planes through the air in that condition. The various businesses which it is proposed to allow to be established are not of very great consequence to the travelling public. But, because these things are being done overseas, the Government says, “We must get up to date and provide similar facilities for the travelling public in Australia “. However, it is not the travelling public alone for whom these facilities are to be made available. They will be available to people who come to airports to see passengers off or to meet incoming passengers.
– Facilities of this kind are not provided at shipping terminals.
– That is so. I thank the honorable member for the interjection. I shall develop an argument about that point later.
The Government is so anxious to make money that it wants to encourage the 4,000 employees at Melbourne and the thousands at the other airports to buy flowers, drink coffee, patronize gift shops, and even attend beauty parlours.
– They could even take their children to the nurseries that are to be provided.
– As the honorable member suggests, they could take their children to the nurseries. Provided that they have anything left in these days of inflation, they might even visit the bank establishments to be opened at the airports, or patronize the vending machines.
I do not know why the Government wanted to bring in this bill at all, especially since it had hastily to withdraw its earlier measure because there was such an uproar when it was introduced in another place. The whole purpose of this bill is, not to provide opportunities for the travelling public or visitors to airports to buy the things that people ordinarily need, but to establish at airports liquor bars which are to be known as cocktail lounges. The Government hopes that quite a number of people will patronize these liquor bars. Had the Government defied public opinion, as it may well have done - ordinarily, it takes very little notice of public opinion - it could have gone ahead with its original proposal. Before the last general election, it did not tell the people that it intended to establish liquor bars at airports. As we have seen with respect to the various horror budgets and little budgets that it introduces from time to time, it carefully disguises its intentions before an election, and, when it has won, it ignores any protests against what it proposes to do.
– As it did in relation to the restoration of diplomatic relations with Russia. It kept its intentions in that matter well hidden until after the last general election.
– Of course it did.
– Order! The honorable gentleman ought to Relate his remarks to the bill.
– I am dealing with the liquor aspect of it. I think that is the essential part of the bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did, however, digress slightly on the question of diplomatic relations with red Russia, because I thought it was as well to emphasize the point that my friend, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), had made. The Government ignores public opinion after it has won an election.
The Minister for Defence has told us that the Seattle-Tacoma airport - some airport of which most honorable members have never heard before - has a traffic density comparable to that of the airports at Sydney and Melbourne, and that, in 1957, the revenue of this airport not only met all maintenance, operating and other costs, but returned a profit of 79,300 dollars. A similar result could be obtained in Australia only if the charges for landing rights, the taxes on aviation fuel, and everything else, were greatly increased.
– Does the honorable member deny the figures for the Seattle-Tacoma airport?
– I have to accept them. I do not think that any member of the Government, wrong-headed and all as Ministers may be in respect of lots of things, would deliberately mislead the House. I can only conclude that this airport makes a profit only because the charges for the facilities provided are proportionately higher than the charges made for similar facilities in Australia.
– Perhaps embarkation charges are imposed.
– That may be. We do not have such charges in Australia, though perhaps they will come. As Ansett-A.N.A. flounders more and more, financially, something will have to be done to keep that airline airborne, shall I say. In order to do that, all sorts of additional charges will have to be levied. I remind the House that when the last general election campaign was in progress, the Australian people were not consulted about the recent increases in air fares, the reduction of the standard of the meals provided and the imposition of a 5s. tax on bus journeys between airports and city terminals.
– What about smaller sick bags?
– Smaller sick bags would be a natural corollary of smaller meals.
– Surely the honorable member does not regard those matters as policy questions.
– I am just commenting on the existing situation.
There are good features of this bill. It provides that the Department of Civil Aviation shall have a determining say in the granting of leases at airports. It is right that this department, which is charged with the responsibility of guaranteeing the safety of passengers, should be able to restrain the Department of the Interior from granting leases on Crown lands either adjacent to or in conjunction with airports. There can be no objection to the Department of Civil Aviation having that power. We do not like the idea of 99-year leases, although it may be argued that such leases may be necessary because of the heavy capital expenditure involved in large structures. We have recently had experience, in Melbourne, of tenders being invited and a contract being negotiated for a 66-year lease, the successful contractor then being able to persuade the Melbourne City Council to extend the term of the lease by another 33 years without tenders being called again. I do not like the idea of 99-year leases, and I am sure that most other people will not like it either. The other leases granted under the act may not exceed 21 years. The Minister is also required to call for public tenders in every case except where the term of the lease, licence or authority does not exceed three years or where the grant is made in pursuance of an option of renewal.
The Minister for Defence was quite honest and frank when he said -
The most important clause in the bill is unquestionably clause 9.
That is the clause that sets up the business concession. He continued -
Sub-clause (1.) of clause 9 provides that the holder of an authority may act in accordance with the authority without obtaining or having any other authority, licence, permit or registration.
That means that the authority is being granted under Commonwealth law and, of course, Commonwealth law is paramount over State law.
As I said earlier, the Minister, in his first bill, intended to over-ride State laws completely in the matter of trading hours for businesses and for hotels that are established at airports. Now, he gives the authority to the person whom he choses to exercise the authority and that authority will still over-ride State laws. There is a provision that the State authority must be consulted. Lessees will have to try to operate within the limits of other State laws. But there is no provision that if local option laws obtain throughout the area surrounding an airport, those local option laws shall apply. As the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) knows, because he served this country with very great distinction in the United States as an ambassador for six years, and as other people who have travelled in the United States know also, a traveller can drink on a train in the State of New York until it crosses into Pennsylvania, when liquor is withdrawn until the train passes into the State of Maryland. But there is no provision in this legislation that any State law of any sort shall over-ride what has been done under federal law.
– Read clause 9, subclause (4.).
– I am dealing with sub-clause (1.) The honorable member for Mallee is always ahead of himself.
– I am ahead of you.
– But you are so far ahead of me that I cannot see where you are going or in what direction.
– You will know at the end of the 66-year lease.
– The Chairman of Committees ought to be the last member in this chamber to interject. He is setting a very bad example to his fellow-members in the Country Party. Sub-clause (3.) provides -
An authority under this Act to sell or supply intoxicating liquor shall contain terms and conditions under which the holder is subject to requirements, prohibitions and restrictions as to the days on which, and the times during which, such liquor may be sold or supplied corresponding to, and to other requirements, prohibitions and restrictions corresponding, as nearly as possible, to, those that apply, under the law of the State or Territory in which the airport is situated
That sounds meaningless when it is remembered that in Western Australia a law was enacted to permit the sale of liquor in that State before the departure of an aeroplane and after the arrival of the last aeroplane on any particular day. The Opposition thinks that this clause is completely unnecessary and, because of its insertion, we propose to vote against the bill. We also think that whatever safeguards are supposed to be included in the bill, they are not good enough. If the legislation is to be passed, they ought to be strengthened.
– In what respects would you strengthen them?
– I would make the sale of liquor entirely subject to State laws without qualification of any sort and I would surrender the Commonwealth’s right to determine anything concerned with the sale of liquor, even on Commonwealth property, in order that the intention of the State legislature could be given full effect.
– Would you give away Commonwealth sovereignty?
– Rather than be involved in the question at all, I would not sell liquor at airports. I do not think it is necessary. Pilots are not allowed to consume intoxicating liquor for a period of 24 hours before the commencement of a flight, but if this legislation is passed, any person engaged say on maintenance work at an airport, not only will be entitled to a drink, but will be encouraged to drink so that the Government can make money out of his drinking. If the maintenance worker at an airport becomes intoxicated he can be just as much a menace to the safety of passengers in flight as a pilot who disobeys his instructions. I have a very high regard and respect for the integrity and the sense of duty of all those engaged in the work of aviation, whether they are pilots or maintenance workers.
– Could they not get drink from a nearby hotel?
– It is possible for a worker, in the half-hour break, to travel a half a mile or a mile to the hotel nearest to an airport. But if the liquor is not provided readily for him he is certainly not likely to go after it.
The Opposition feels that every worker in Ansett-A.N.A. is a good citizen and is doing a good job, and that the same is true of those employed by Trans-Australia Airlines. Every pilot employed by AnsettA.N.A. and every hostess employed by that company is competent and helpful as are those who are working for TransAustralia Airlines. Our complaint is not against any of the people on the pay-roll of any of those companies. It is against the Government which is trying to get a few more pounds and which says, “ Let us get up to date with the rest of the world and provide drinking facilities not only for the people who travel, but also for those who come around airports for legitimate purposes, meeting people or seeing them off or for the people who work at the airports “.
The Labour Party wants to know who is going to get the benefit from these businesses. Obviously, the Department of Civil Aviation will not conduct the businesses because provision is made in the bill for the leasing of the undertakings to private enterprise. It may very well be that Mr. Ansett, who has a very bright mind where money can be made and who has not the slightest qualm of conscience in endeavouring to extinguish Trans-Australia Airlines as a public company, will be after the concessions and that they will help him to make more money. Perhaps a number of other entrepreneurs will want to take over these businesses and because they will be operating them at a profit and the profit motive will be predominant, they will push the sale of everything that they possibly can, regardless of whether it affects the public interest or not.
– Does that apply to all retail traders?
– It could apply to a number of retail traders at airports because those people will be competing against a number of similar businesses operating in the settled parts of city areas.
– They are able to come from the town and transact their business there.
– I do not think the honorable member for Hume understands what the bill is really driving at. He does not seem to understand what his Government is doing. As I have pointed out, this bill is a boiled down version of the first bill, but it is still a dangerous bill and still not acceptable to the Opposition.
– Are you going to vote against it?
– Yes, I have said we will. We have no objection to people drinking or to hotels being erected near airports or anything of that sort, but we do not believe that it is the duty or the right of the Government to encourage drinking or the use of airports for trading facilities merely for the purpose of trying to recoup a loss of £7,000,000. The primary object is not to provide service; it is to try to make a profit that will help to insure that the airports will not continue to run at a loss.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) is a former publican from Western Australia. He may think this is a good way in which to make money. All I have to say is that, after being a successful publican in Western Australia, he has turned out to be a ministerial failure in Canberra.
– Are you talking about the minister for liquor?
– I am talking about the Minister for Civil Aviation. He might well be called the Minister for Ansett. You could call him the minister for liquor if you liked; that would be an added portfolio. We have put our point of view very forcibly in the Senate. I point out to honorable members who seem to be sceptical about the dangers of liquor that there are people in the United States who are objecting to the sale of liquor in aeroplanes. There was a Congressional subcommittee hearing on interstate and foreign commerce and it was in relation to alcoholic beverages aboard aircraft. That committee held its hearings round about August, 1957. At the present time another Congressional sub-committee is inquiring into allegations in the United States that the safety of airlines is being endangered by the sale of too much liquor on planes.
We are not suggesting that liquor should be taken off planes, but if the Government is going to provide facilities at airports so that people can drink more and more before they board an aircraft then the danger which may be caused by overindulgence will be increased. In any case, airports are for the benefit of the travelling public, not for those who want drink. How much of the airport is to be given over to the cocktail lounge? Are women and children to be inconvenienced, either when they are travelling by plane or when they are attending at airports, by people who have imbibed too much? Every now and then we complain very much about the amount of liquor which Australian people consume per head annually.
– The average quantity is twelve gallons.
– That figure is said to be increasing all the time, even though this Government imposes a tremendous levy in the form of excise duty, amounting to 9s. 8d. a gallon on beer and a corresponding duty on whisky and the like. As the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) remarked a little while ago - and I come back to his interjection now - those who operate the shipping lines in this country are not allowed, under State laws, to open their bars until the ships are at sea; and they are obliged to close the bars when the ships come into port.
But the Government has a different attitude towards aeroplanes. Of course, dangers on ships are small and insignificant compared with dangers on aeroplanes. The conditions are different, and the safety factor is much greater in a ship than it is in an aeroplane. But the way the popularity of that splendid new vessel “ Princess of Tasmania “ is being interfered with on its journey between the ports of Melbourne and Devonport is not much of a commendation for the sale of liquor aboard her.
I am not a “ wowser “ and most members of this Parliament are far from being nondrinkers; all of them, to my knowledge, are moderate drinkers. When they drink they do so in moderation, and they know the limits beyond which they should not go.
– Some do not drink at all.
– That is so. The number of teetotallers in this Parliament is increasing over the years. I think there .s a public conscience on the question j.f drink, and this Parliament should not be encouraging the provision of more facilities at the very time when there is so much concern about accidents on the roads, and elsewhere. I hope - even though it is a vain hope - that the Government will withdraw the bill at this stage and abandon it altogether.
There is no demand for it now. The public have never demanded it at any time. What gallup poll was ever taken that showed the people wanted these facilities provided? Where did the public in any way express a view in support of what the Government is doing? The truth is that the Government decided to bring down the measure, and it is forcing it on the people. At some future time the whole position will have to be re-examined. I am sure that after a lapse of time, if the sale of liquor which the Government proposes to provide now at airports is withdrawn, then the patronage of our airlines will not fall by any noticeable percentage at all. 1 think that air line travel is very popular and is growing in popularity. But it has not yet reached the proportions where most people travel by aeroplane. It is said that this bill will meet a popular demand. Actually, the average Australian is not an airline traveller. Most of the ordinary people never travel by aeroplane more than twice or three times in a year. Those who travel in this way are members of Parliament, business executives, union officials and others engaged in trade, commerce, industry, politics or associated in some way with a work of public importance. The average person who travels by air does not do so more than two or three times a year. That person is not demanding this legislation; it is being forced upon him.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) referred to this bill once or twice during his speech, but I will endeavour to devote the whole of my time to it. His derogatory remarks about the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) were most unnecessary, because that Minister has earned the admiration of most Australians for the way in which he is handling his difficult and important portfolio.
Judging by the comments we have heard since this bill was first introduced, it seems to have acquired the nick-name of the “ Airports Liquor Bill “. That, of course, is not its title. The title is the “ Airports (Business Concessions) Bill 1959”. Those of us who have had the opportunity of travelling in other parts of the world and of seeing just what facilities a world standard airport can provide feel that it is essential that similar facilities should be provided in Australia at world standard. Although I, personally, am a non-drinker, I feel that if world standard facilities mean the provision of liquor facilities they should be provided at Australian airports. A point I wish to make at once is that the airline companies do take essential safeguards to ensure that air crews and maintenance personnel of the airlines shall have access to liquor facilities only at times when the use of them will not interfere with their normal duties.
Perth Airport is situated in the heart of my electorate, and I hope, as do many other Western Australians, that it will become one of the major airports in Australia in future years. Perth is the logical first port of call for all aircraft coming from Europe. It is expected that before the Empire Games take place in 1962 all the terminal facilities at Perth airport will be housed in one building. Whilst we will have there all the facilities envisaged by this bill, I point out that Western Australia already has liquor facilities at Perth airport. The bar is open before the arrival and departure of flights by most major airlines. That system is working well in Western Australia, and there is no reason to believe that it will not work equally well in other States.
The Minister said in his second-reading speech -
Under arrangements which this bill will facilitate, it is estimated on a conservative basis that revenue from business concessions on major airports will reach £160,000 by the end of 1960 and may exceed £500,000 within a few years.
These figures, of course, refer to annua! returns. Most honorable members are familiar with the kind of concession which is to operate at airports. I assess that about 100 concessions altogether operating at the six or seven airports will have a total return of £500,000 annually, the average return from each concession being therefore about £5,000. That is not a true average, of course, because the profits of concessions will vary according to the kind of service provided. However, I suggest that these figures indicate that the rates for leases of concessions may be much higher than some people expect.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has claimed that no gallup poll was taken in regard to the provision of these facilities at airports. For the honorable gentleman’s information, I point out that a market research survey was taken of public demand by the Department of Civil Aviation, and the survey showed that car-parking facilities had a big priority in public demand. At one major airport this concession is worth about £30,000 a “year and at another airport the figure is in the vicinity of £20,000 each year. The market survey shows that of the business that it is hoped to have at the airports news-stands have the highest popularity rating. People interviewed in the survey gave their preferences in the following order - quick service buffet, cocktail lounge - one proposed facility that seems to have upset the other side of the House - chemist shop, coffee lounge, restaurant, bank, hairdresser, children’s nursery and amusement centre for children. Well down on the priority list is a service station, and at the bottom, flower shops, one type of business to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a special reference.
– What about the hot dog stand?
– Perhaps the honorable member could sell prawns at an airport after he has ceased to be a member of this place. The goods and services provided by these business activities are desired by the public at airports, in contrast to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, and I hope that the various concessions envisaged by the bill are operating within the next few years.
Clause 6 and clause 8 deal with the granting of leases and licences in respect ot land within an airport, and also with the authority to trade. These leases and licences are to be granted on such terms and conditions, and subject to payment of such rent or other consideration, as the Minister thinks fit. Clause 6 also empower* the Minister to exercise any power or remedy of the Commonwealth in respect of any such lease or licence.
I take it that the Department of Civil Aviation will call tenders for these concessions. I personally do not agree with the system of calling tenders for concessions, because commercial practice in big cities has often, proved that the tender system does not always work out satisfactorily. 1 should like to cite a recent case in a major city in which a new arcade was built. Tenders were called for leases in the arcade, and one man tendered for a lease of every shop there, quoting a very extravagant rent in each case so as to squeeze out other applicants. The proprietors of the arcade granted him two leases, but the rents of leases granted to other applicants were based on the rents that this man had quoted in his applications. This meant that successful applicants for shop leases were committed to higher rents than they expected to have to pay. Most of them accepted the leases. Human nature being what it is they hoped that business would be forthcoming to help them to meet these exorbitant rents. The arcade had been open only a few months when some of the tenants began trying to get relief from their landlords, but business methods being what they are, this was not forthcoming. I hope a similar situation will not arise in the tendering for these airports concessions.
There is provision in the bill empowering the inspection of records and books and the sampling of goods sold by the various concessionaires, by the officers of the department. This will enable the department to work out exactly what rate of profit the concessionaire is working on and what the rent should be. It is possible for the Minister to have his officers calculate a fair rent based on space allotted. The reasonable capacity to pay of various types of business must be borne in mind. What I want to prevent is the creation, through high rents, of heavy overhead costs in the business operations of the airport concessionaires. If rents are too high concessionaires will have to over-charge or run their businesses with insufficient staff, resulting in a poorer standard of service. While I am mindful of economics and of the fact that the airports must operate on a profitable basis, we must realize our responsibility to provide satisfactory service to the travelling public. That should be one of our first considerations. I believe the profit from concessions at the Washington airport amount to 70,000 dollars. I feel that on the figures provided by the Department of Civil Aviation we will make more money than that out of airport concessions. We must always remember that we are providing facilities for the travelling public, and wc should see that these services are of the first quality and up to overseas standards.
Clause 6(l.)(b) provides that the Minister may exercise any power or remedy of the Commonwealth in respect to any lease or licence. That is, the Minister will have the remedy in case concessionaires default in any way in regard to overcharging and the provision of poor service. I should imagine that clause 6 gives the Minister power to incorporate provision in leases that certain standards of service will be provided and certain charges made. This is a critical provision, because it will prevent the takeitorleaveit attitude which comes when a concessionaire has a monopoly at an airport or elsewhere. We must remember that the nearest rival business establishment will be some distance away from a concessionaire’s premises at an airport.
Clauses 11 and 12 refer to the granting of leases and the saving of existing leases and licences. It is only fair that people who have airport concessions now should continue to have their rights in any major expansion of airport facilities. I should like to ask the Minister to consider, in the granting of new leases, the fact that there are quite a few people who have had businesses at airports for many years now - some of them from just after the war, before air travel had developed to its present level. They started the businesses and built them up. They have their ups and downs, and now they may find that all their work has gone more or less for nothing, because when a business starts up at the airport itself the people will take the opportunity to use the new facility. I believe that if leases for businesses are to be granted at airports preferential consideration should be given to persons who have similar businesses adjacent to the airports. I would not include those whose businesses are a mile or two away from the airports. I refer only to businesses that are, perhaps, just outside the gates of airports. I know of one or two instances in which these businesses are run by ex-servicemen who started them just after the war, and it would be a great pity if those businesses dwindled away to nothing and they lost their capital simply because the Government has decided to provide these facilities at airports.
The modernizing of our airports in the way envisaged, by the provision of these extra amenities, will prepare Australian airports for the tremendous increase in air travel that we can expect as the years go by, particularly with the introduction of supersonic commercial airliners. We will find that the numbers of people coming to Australia will be far greater than anything we can envisage at the present time. For these reasons I believe that this is good legislation. It will assist in the encouragement of tourists to visit Australia, and I commend the legislation to the House.
.- I support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who outlined the Labour Party’s attitude to this bill. We oppose the bill. We do not disagree with certain principles contained in it, but at this stage we feel that it is the right thing to oppose the bill. We did so in the Senate and we will do so in this House when the vote is taken to-night.
I would just like to mention two or three aspects of the legislation. I think the Minister was completely correct when he said in his second-reading speech -
I am also equally conscious of the growing demand of the travelling public for adequate facilities at Commonwealth airports.
But that is as far as I will go in agreeing with the Minister. I agree with the bare statement, but I do not agree that there is a great public demand for the facilities, especially liquor facilities, that the Government proposes to provide at airports under this grandiose scheme. Consider the various facilities that are provided at overseas airports. This will give an indication of what could happen here, and how grandiose this scheme could become. The businesses carried on at overseas airports include advertising agencies, baggage and locker rooms, barber shops, beauty parlours - they will not worry me - car parking lots, children’s nurseries, cocktail lounges, coffee shops, agencies for conducted tours - that is an interesting item - delivery services, drive-yourself car services, flower shops, gift shops, insurance machines, newsstands, photographers, restaurants, service stations, snack bars, tobacconists and vending machines. The only thing they have not included is the Myer Emporium. That is the kind of set-up that you find overseas. and I suggest we should not be so grandiose as to establish similar business concessions at airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth.
Some of these facilities are excellent and I do not oppose the inclusion of the more sensible ones at our airports. I agree that a remarkable range of facilities is available at overseas airports. I know what I am speaking about in this matter, because I have had the privilege of passing through eighteen international airports, including Hong Kong, Tokyo, Manila, Singapore, Djakarta, Paris, Geneva, London, Shannon, Gander in Newfoundland, Montreal, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Honolulu and Nandi in Fiji. That constitutes a fair range of overseas airports, and the facilities I have mentioned are provided at nearly all of them, hut I am opposed to the liquor facilities even at those airports.
I also wish to criticize the proposed method of tendering for these concessions. There is no doubt that the bill will go through. We have not the numbers, and we do not kid ourselves that we can defeat the measure. We realize that the bill will be passed, but this does not prevent us from protesting vigorously against legislation that we believe is detrimental to the interests of the public. What will happen when tenders are called for these concessions? The big firms of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth will have the financial backing to enable them to make high bids for the leases. Therefore, the little man, who has been gradually crushed out of existence in other fields by this monopolyminded Government, will be kept out of these airport businesses. The big fellows will be the only ones able to make high bids for the leases. I criticize the method of tendering for this reason. It will allow those gentlemen in who already have enough of the world’s goods, and I believe that the little man should be given encouragement and consideration.
I am also very much opposed to the provision in clause 9 of the bill which allows the holder of an authority under the act to sell liquor at airports. The liquor, we are told, will be sold in cocktail bars. This is a flash name that covers a multitude of sins. When you are talking about the selling of liquor it is amazing how many flowery names are used for grog shops and pig troughs in this country. Having been in so many countries overseas, I can say quite honestly that we in Australia do drink in very poor conditions compared with people in other countries. Though I am not a drinker, I am not narrow-minded enough to suggest that a person should not drink if he wishes to, but I am against providing extra facilities in this country for grog drinking, whether those facilities be cocktail bars or straight-out beer bars. The argument that we should do what other countries are doing is, I think, weak, and is put forward only by simple-minded persons. I, for one, would not like to see all aspects of the American way of living introduced into this country, but unfortunately we are being Americanized while we sleep. Our airlines are being Americanized, as I mentioned in a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House a week or two ago. I showed that because of the influence of Mr. Ansett the standard of our airlines is being lowered. Although there is supposed to be competition between Ansett-A.N.A. and TransAustralia Airlines, Ansett is being allowed to dominate the field and to lower the standard that we have been able to build up. American standards are being adopted in our airlines and now they are to be introduced to our airports.
One can obtain every conceivable thing in American airports to-day. An American airport is a little township on its own, a Myer Emporium on its own. People work around the clock at those airports day and night, year in year out. That is what will happen here as a result of the legislation before us.
Let me refer again to the matter of the supply of liquor at airports. I believe we should explain why we do not wish these new facilities to include the provision of liquor. I have a feeling that my party would have supported this measure had it not contained this vicious clause providing for the sale of liquor at airports. I personally cannot see much wrong with giving a modern touch to our airports by increasing the facilities available and by constructing nice modern buildings, which are sadly lacking at some airports. I am not against the facilities being improved, but the improvement of facilities may be an excuse to make liquor available at airports. After all, people coming and going by air spend only a short time at the airports, and because time will not be available to use other facilities, the liquor bar will have the greatest custom. People will not have time to have a hair cut. They may have time to buy a bunch of flowers, although, personally, I prefer to buy chocolates.
Some of the facilities that are proposed are quite sensible, but I feel that the time available to air travellers will not permit of their being used to any great extent. Beauty parlours are a case in point. Ladies are already well-dressed before they reach the airport, and they look very nice when they are going away. Children’s nurseries may be all right. We already have coffee shops available. A bank would be of help to some people. We already have driveyourself cars; indeed, the Avis cars are doing a good job. I do not see much use for insurance machines. We have news stands already. We get enough of photographers now. When a bill dealing with members’ salaries is before the Parliament, we find a crowd of photographers at the airport taking photographs of members who are robbing the country by increasing their salaries. Photographers haunt the country now. Restaurants are all right, and we already have snack bars. I agree with the provision of tobacconists’ shops. When these items are taken separately, we see that there is not much that would be of use to travellers, with our small population. But the liquor licence is another matter. In some States, it will cut right across State legislation. This would apply in Victoria, which has local option. Conceivably, in a local option area, the airport would be selling liquor day and night but hotels nearby close at 6 o’clock. I cannot see much advantage in that.
I shall give some of the reasons for my opposition to this measure. I received today from New Zealand an excellent pamphlet published by the New Zealand Alliance, the general superintendant of which is Mr. H. W. Milner. His letter concerned legislation that is to be brought down in New Zealand on this very point, and the New Zealand Government may be guided by what this Parliament does with this bill. That makes me feel concerned about the consequences that would flow if this bill became law. In his letter dated 2’ith November, Mr. Milner said -
In Canada we are informed that the Minister for Transport, Hon. George Hees, has told the press that the Government in Canada has no intention of establishing cocktail bars in the new international airports.
I say good luck to them; I am pleased that one country has some courage. The idea of providing liquor has become an obsession in Australia. Nothing can be done without it. A person cannot have his photograph taken at a social gathering without a glass in his hand, and this applies to teenagers as well. Liquor is available everywhere, and can be obtained almost at every street corner. The airports were a blind spot in the great network of liquor facilities. They were a no-man’s land. As members of Parliament, we travel a good deal to and from Canberra, and we believe that airports as they are now, without any liquor facilities, are a blessing and a peaceful place to relax in while waiting for an aeroplane. But what will they become when effect is given to this legislation? Mr. Milner sent me this pamphlet, which has just been published for distribution in New Zealand. It is called, “ To Whom It May Concern “. It gives a few potent reasons for opposing the sale of liquor at airports.
– Who is he?
– He is the general superintendant of the New Zealand Alliance. He is a teetotaller. The first reason given in the pamphlet is -
As a general rule the airport tearooms, lounges and waiting rooms all merge into one and it is the only space available for visitors, travellers, the general public, and families with teenagers and children of all ages.
Children will present a special problem at airports. They will be in an atmosphere that is very much like the local town with its two or three hotels; they will be right in the area where liquor is sold. The law recognizes in most States that a person under 21 years should not be on licensed premises. But these airports will be licensed premises and persons under 21 years, arriving at and leaving the airports, will be on the spot where liquor is sold, although just half a mile away they would not be permitted on licensed premises. At an airport, they will be brought right up against the temptation of drink. Another reason given in the pamphlet is -
This airport license would militate against the prohibition of sale of liquor to minors and if it followed the proposed Australian pattern of all hours service it would be a betrayal of the 75.5 per cent, of the voters who supported six o’clock closing ten years ago in New Zealand.
The same percentage of voters supported 6 o’clock closing, in Victoria. The pamphlet gives as another reason -
A licence … to serve people travelling or using the airport or having refreshment there, being so near to the city, would be impossible of control as far as liquor consumption by the general public is concerned.
This is a very important point. How will we control the use of airports by members of the general public who are not travelling by air? They could enter the buildings in the guise of travellers, and this presents difficulties of control. There are 4,000 employees at the Melbourne airport as well. A further reason given in the pamphlet is -
The airport is already a popular trip for families in private cars and a licence would create an intensified road hazard, particularly during the evenings.
This is very true of airports around the cities. I know from personal experience at Hobart, Launceston and Devonport that, particularly on Sundays, literally hundreds of cars with what we call “ week-end trippers “ pull up for an hour at the airport to watch the aeroplanes take off and land. These people coming to airports will have the opportunity to turn their trip into a period spent at the cocktail bar.
– Do they want to do that?
– They may want it, when the facilities are right there in front of them. Not all of them are as strong-willed as you are. Another point raised in the pamphlet is this -
To provide for and encourage passengers to consume liquor before flight militates against and undermines the two foregoing provisions.
This relates to the ability of a traveller to finish a trip in a proper state.
It is a well-known scientific fact that a person with alcohol in his blood who is stone sober on the ground, at a high altitude may become a nuisance and a danger to himself and others or may even go beserk.
Mr. C. N. Sayer, president of the International Airline Pilots’ Association, explained in evidence before the United States
Senate Committee that the effect of drink in flight when added to a reduced oxygen pressure and a strange environment may be the final step in causing a normal, welladjusted individual to become an uncontrollable hazard. Evidence given before that committee in August, 1957, detailed instances of emergencies occurring in at least 23 airlines in America in the preceding two years. Those emergencies are summarized in this way -
Four instances of drunken passengers forcing their way into the cockpit.
Eight cases where flight crew members had to abandon their cockpit duties to quell disturbances created by inebriated passengers.
Three unscheduled emergency landings to remove drunken passengers whose behaviour was threatening their plane’s safety.
Three intoxicated passengers inadvertently actuating or damaging windows, doors and pressurized devices in flight.
Five cases of drunken passengers creating fire hazards in Sight and refusal to comply with safety regulations.
Three instances of carrying arms and in one case a stewardess was threatened with a pointed revolver when asking for coffee.
Another case involved an assault on a stewardess by a gun-carrying drunk. The offender . told the passengers boastfully “not to worry if anything happened to the crew because he would and could fly the aircraft”.
There was one other case of a man who went berserk and the passengers had to hold him down and practically choke him before he could be pacified sufficiently to enable him to complete the trip. These are actual happenings in the United States in 1956 and 1957.
Pilots, as we know, abstain. A few years ago the secretary of the International Bureau against Alcoholism wrote to the principal aviation companies throughout the world seeking information with regard to the restriction placed on drinking by pilots. Replies were received from nine airlines in Africa, ten airlines in North America, nine airlines in Central and South America, thirteen airlines in Asia, eight airlines in Australasia and fifteen airlines in Europe. Of those 64 companies, 51 demanded that their personnel abstain from alcohol before duty. Of those 51 companies, eighteen demanded that their pilots abstain for at least 24 hours before flight; 21 companies specified twelve hours; two companies specified ten hours and ten companies specified eight hours. Six companies prohibited the drinking of alcohol during the service period and two companies would not divulge their regulations.
So pilots are careful to abstain and keep themselves 100 per cent, fit in order to handle fast-flying aircraft in all weathers. To their everlasting credit airline companies in Australia are on the top rung so far as safety is concerned. I would not support any bill that may in any way lower our present high safety standard. It is a sorry state of affairs when crew members must assist air hostesses to control inebriated passengers. If a passenger has to wait at an airport for, say, an hour or more because of some delay in the departure of his flight and he spends that time in the cocktail bar, what condition will he be in when he ultimately boards the aircraft? We are not dealing with some airy-fairy matter. This is a very important matter and deserves careful consideration. The pilots say that there is no way of knowing how a passenger will react during flight. One of the greatest fears of all pilots is fire in flight. The careless use of cigarettes or matches by an inebriated passenger could start a small fire which could create panic. There have been instances where it has been necessary for a pilot to leave the flight deck in order to subdue inebriated passengers. If such a pilot were injured the aircraft would be deprived of his services and an emergency would be created. So safety is of paramount importance.
Those points, which have been raised by the pilots themselves, are important. I want to mention another point. We have heard how a bill was recently squeezed through the House of Commons to permit liquor to be sold at international airports. The bill had been blocked for more than five years as a result of opposition by pilots and a large body of public opinion. It has only squeezed through the House of Commons after five years delay just as the bill we are debating to-night is being squeezed through after being withdrawn the first time it was presented because of the outcry against it from people in all walks of life in this country.
I think the shabbiest argument submitted by the Minister was that these proposals are to be put into effect in order to reduce the losses sustained by the Government in maintaining airports. That is sheer materialism. There is no high motive in such a reasoning. The Government says that it wants to reduce its deficit so it will provide these facilities no matter how many people may be introduced to drink for the first time. The Government does not care how many people get drunk before they board an aircraft. That is a sheer piece of materialism and cynicism that I did not expect to hear from a Minister introducing any bill in this Parliament.
I should like to mention one or two concluding points. We who travel a lot occasionally meet men who are inebriated when they board the aircraft. It will be a most agonizing experience for a passenger to be forced to sit next to such a person. We have all had that experience. It is an experience that one must go through in order to appreciate it fully. It would be like travelling on the “ Princess of Tasmania “ when a football team was aboard, as happened a few weeks ago. On that occasion passengers spent a restless night because the members of the football team spent the night banging doors and windows on board the vessel, causing chaos on that beautiful ship. That is what drink does whenever it is taken to excess. Take the case of a man who consumes a fair quantity of liquor at the cocktail bar at the airport before boarding the aircraft. In addition he may have had some liquor at his hotel before leaving for the airport. Suppose the trip is rough, as is very possible in the winter months in this country. That man may vomit during the trip. This is the kind of thing that actually happens. Consider how uncomfortable a passenger sitting next to such a man would feel. It is disgraceful to allow that sort of thing on an aircraft. The hostesses on that aircraft would have extra work to do cleaning up the mess, and we all know how hard hostesses work at present to provide meals for a full pay-load in the short time it takes to fly from Melbourne to Sydney, Mel.boure to Canberra, Launceston to Melbourne or Adelaide to Melbourne. Hostesses should not be exposed to extra work of that type.
For the reasons that I have enumerated, this clause should have been left out of the bill. If that had been done the bill would have been a reasonably good bill and would have had the approval of the Opposition. But we will not agree to provide more facilities for drink when at present there are so many facilities in Australia. The brewers control votes all over Australia. In some places there are one-armed bandits in clubs. The whole country is swamped with facilities for drink, and now this bill seeks to provide another facility at the one place where we thought we would not have to put up with it. I am sure that the brewers of Australia must be chuckling at the Government’s proposal and looking forward to selling many more thousands of gallons of beer and spirits in the next few years. They are the only people who will really profit by this measure.
.- I have been most disappointed at the speeches that have come from the Opposition on this measure. Never have I heard such a dreary lot of twaddle. The Deputy-Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), a man whom I like very much, started the ball rolling. I think that he must be suffering from the threatening burdens of leadership and that they have caused him to adopt this negative attitude. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) named the famous airports all over the world which he had visited and where he had been most impressed by the facilities that were provided for the convenience of travellers. This measure deals with the international airports of Australia. Surely we should have facilities at our international airports similar to, if not better than those which are provided overseas. Opposition members have stated the socialist doctrine that nobody has any rights; but we are human beings, not cyphers. The honorable member said that in all his travels he saw no pig-trough drinking. Where would he see it but in Australia? He has said as much himself, because he has not seen it overseas.
Nobody dislikes drinking to excess more than I do. I agree that inebriated persons travelling on any form of transport are dreadful people. Unfortunately, I have a fatal fascination for people who are drunk. But the fact that people drink to excess is the fault of the liquor laws. New South Wales has extended its drinking hours until 10 p.m. and drunkenness in that State is decreasing. In Victoria liquor may not be sold after 6 p.m., but I have not seen honorable members from Victoria call their colleagues from the members’ bar at 6 o’clock. They remain in the bar because they like the facilities which are provided there. Victoria, by its fatuous liquor laws, is creating a measure of drunkenness in that State.
Opposition members have decried the proposal that banks, barbers’ shops, beauty parlours and so on shall be provided at airports. From the look of some honorable members opposite, it would be to their advantage to avail themselves of some of those facilities. Why should women not have the opportunity to attend a beauty parlour during the course of their trip? Why should people be kept in the same groove? The Australian Labour Party wants to do this because it is comprised of socialists. Why cannot honorable members opposite live graciously? Do they suggest that the wife of the humble artisan does not like to be presented with a bouquet of flowers when she is travelling? Do they think that she is any different from a society beauty or a film star? Why should she not have a bouquet presented to her? The Labour Party claims to look after the workers, but it will not allow the workers’ wives to have their hair set or receive any similar beauty treatment while they are travelling. What a dreary outlook!
To a large extent the Labour Party encourages drunkenness by giving liquor the ugly name of “ grog “. Drink in moderation is a very good way in which to enjoy people’s society, or to farewell or welcome a friend. Once you start to call alcohol grog, you start to debase it.
The honorable member for Wilmot, whom I like very much although he may not think so, said that if these properties are leased to business people the big men such as Myers will obtain the leases and the small men will be squeezed out. But Myers is not one man; it is thousands of shareholders. To the Labour Party, anything which is big, except a trade union, is dreadful. Big businesses are made up of thousands of shareholders - people who have been thrifty and have saved their money by denying themselves various little luxuries so that they can invest in large undertakings. The Labour Party would deprive those people the facilities which the Government proposes to provide at international airports. If the honorable member had not travelled abroad I could have understood his remarks, but as he has travelled and he has seen the facilities that are provided overseas for the public. Why should the people not be given service? Are we to be treated as the Papuan head hunters are treated? If a man wants a drink, why can he not have it? If a girl wants to avail herself of the beauty parlour facilities, why should she not be able to do so? The Labour Party has a most dreary outlook. The honorable member for Melbourne has asked why these facilities should be provided at an airport. He has only to go to Wynyard railway station in Sydney and he will see bars, barber shops and various kinds of facilities.
As I have said, the Australian Labour Party claims to represent the workers. About 4,000 people are employed at Melbourne airport. Some of them necessarily work night shift. That means that they sleep when the shops are open. Are they not entitled to the same amenities as are provided for other people? Why can they not have a haircut, visit the beauty parlour or buy gifts or a bouquet in the area in which they work? We should adopt a very broad outlook on this matter and try to give tourists better facilities than they receive anywhere else in the world. The honorable member for Wilmot has said that the Government proposes to make a profit out of alcohol. That is not the point. We must consider the whole question of amenities that should be provided at international airports. What is so terrible about profits? Does the Opposition want us to lose money at our airports? Should we not rather give a good account of our stewardship by trying to bridge the gap that now exists between income and expenditure at our airports? The attitude of the Opposition certainly will keep it out of government during the lifetime of its supporters in this place. In any case, most of them are growing old and that is the reason why they cannot see things in a proper light.
I support this bill in its entirety. It is high time that we tried, not merely to match overseas standards but to surpass them. Drink in aircraft can be controlled very easily. A drunken person should not be allowed on a plane or a train. The Opposition has quoted the case of a drunken man who attacked several people in a theatre in Sydney. Does the Opposition suggest that a person who has had a drink should not be permitted to enter a theatre? The only fault that I can find with this measure is that it should have been introduced long ago. I did not see the earlier bill but, had I done so, I should have voted for it because I can see no reason why people in transit should not have all the facilities that are available to people who are not travelling by air when the shops normally are open for business.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has described the speeches made by honorable members on this side of the House in this debate as being the greatest twaddle that he has ever heard in his life. All I would say on that is that the honorable member has shown, by the speech that he has just made, that he is an expert on twaddle, and that he is at least entitled to deliver an opinion on that subject.
The honorable member for Hume asked, “ Why cannot we live graciously?”. He interpreted living graciously as meaning that we may have a drink when we want to, as though the two things were synonymous. The honorable member’s argument in favour of gracious living appeared to be an argument in favour of bigger and better liquor bars at more and more places, and in favour of having them open for longer periods of the day. The honorable member tried to confuse the Opposition’s arguments by suggesting that we are opposing the right of women to patronize beauty parlours or to have bouquets bought for them at airports. That, of course, is entirely beside the point. We are not advancing any such argument. We are opposing - and opposing strongly - the sale of liquor at airports and the establishment of liquor bars at airports. That is the case which the Opposition is making.
I think that, on that case, the matter which is important above all others is air safety. Is air safety promoted by the sale of liquor at airports, or is it promoted by the prohibition of liquor sales at airports.
On that question, we cannot have better evidence than that provided by representatives of the international airline pilots’ association. Surely the members of this association are in a position to speak on this matter impartially, and with experience, knowledge and judgment. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has already quoted from a very interesting document which I suggest that the honorable member for Hume, particularly, might profitably read - the report of hearings before the sub-committee of the United States Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, dealing with this question of the consumption of alcoholic beverages at airports and on aircraft.
Evidence given on behalf of the international airline pilots’ association was that the supply of liquor in these circumstances endangered the lives of those aboard aircraft. I think some of the instances quoted by the president of the association are worth repeating to the House. He recounted, among other occurrences, four instances of drunken passengers forcing the:r way into the cockpit, eight cases in which flight crew members had to abandon their cockpit duties to quell disturbances created by inebriated passengers, three unscheduled emergency landings to remove drunken passengers whose behaviour was threatening the safety of the aircraft, three cases’ of intoxicated passengers damaging windows, doors and pressurization devices in flight, five cases of drunken passengers creating fire hazards in flight, three instances of inebriated passengers carrying arms, one instance of a stewardess being threatened by a drunken passenger who pointed a revolver at her, and another case involving an assault on a stewardess by a gun-carrying drunken passenger who, as the honorable member for Wilmot has indicated, told the passengers boastfully not to worry about anything happening to the aircraft because he could and would fly it himself. There is the evidence of the men who have to take the responsibility of piloting the aircraft and keeping them safe.
– What is the number of these incidents for every 1,000,000 passengers.
– It is not many. I accept the honorable member’s argument.
He suggests that there are not many of these incidents for every 1,000,000 passengers. He says that there are millions of passengers, and his attitude is: What does it matter if a few planes crash and 30, 40, or 100 people are killed? He would rather have liquor served at aiports than have aircraft fly in safety. That may be the view of the honorable member for Hume, but I think it is shared by very few members of this House.
– Liquor is not served now.
– Liquor is served in flight now.
– But this bill deals with the serving of liquor at airports.
– That is so. We oppose the proposal to establish these new facilities for the sale of liquor at airports. We know that liquor is already sold at some airports.
– How long after the flights commenced did the incidents which the honorable member has mentioned occur? How long after the passengers had entered the aircraft?
– Obviously, I cannot give a direct answer to that question. The times would vary in different cases, from place to place and from flight to flight. The fact is that these incidents did occur, according to the sworn evidence given on behalf of the international airline pilots’ association. I agree that the pilots were opposing the sale of liquor not only at airports but also in flight, because they regard the serving of liquor in flight as a danger, also. The evidence given before the sub-committee of the United States Senate committee indicates to me that, in the United States of America, particularly, the sale of liquor in flight has not been nearly so carefully controlled as in Australia. I cannot, with my own limited experience, envisage any passenger in an aircraft in Australia having an opportunity to obtain enough liquor while an aircraft is in flight to become intoxicated. The sale of liquor aboard aircraft in flight is extremely carefully controlled. If the Department of Civil Aviation were itself to sell liquor at airports, I should not object to this proposal nearly so much.
– What about the man who does not buy his liquor at the airport, but arrives there drunk?
– There is nothing that we can do to stop a person from arriving at an airport drunk, but he can be prevented from getting aboard an aircraft. The condition of a person who has taken liquor, say, half an hour or an hour before the time of departure of a plane will probably be obvious by the time that he boards the aircraft. But the condition of a man who is induced to have a few more drinks at the airport than he would otherwise have had, or who drinks there because the departure of a plane has been delayed, may not be apparent when he boards the aircraft. He may have had the liquor too recently for its effects to become apparent. They may become apparent only after the plane is in flight, when danger to the crew and the passengers arises.
As I was saying, if the Department of Civil Aviation would take upon itself the function of selling liquor at airports, we all could be a good deal more complacent about this proposal. But the fact is that liquor will be sold by the holders of business concessions. Those who sell it will be selling for profit. Since the more they can sell the more profit they will make, their whole aim and interest will be to sell as much liquor as they can to as many passengers as possible as quickly as they can. Clause 9 of the bill, of course, purports to prevent the sale of goods to people who visit airports in order to buy outside the ordinary shopping hours. But what member of this House believes that there would be any way of policing such a provision? How could you tell whether a customer in a liquor bar who ordered a whisky, for example, was a passenger, a friend of a passenger, or some one who was at the airport for the particular purpose of indulging in alcoholic liquor during hours when he cannot buy it elsewhere?
As a matter of fact, is not it certain that, when you establish a liquor bar at an airport, scores - indeed, hundreds - of people who never went to the airport before will be attracted there by the opportunity to obtain a drink out of hours? They will go there in large numbers and they will be a considerable nuisance to women and children who are waiting to take their seats on aircraft. Airport premises will be converted into something which they were never intended to be - liquor bars. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Wilmot we take particular pains to ensure that people under the age of 21 years are not admitted to liquor bars. Yet the Government intends, by means of this measure, to establish liquor bars at airports, where people of all ages must go.
– Is not it a fact that the law relating to people under the age of 21 does not apply in Canberra?
– That has nothing to do with the matter.
– Frankly, I do not know whether such a law exists in Canberra. But I do not see how the question affects my argument. Throughout Australia, great pains are taken to prevent minors from entering liquor bars or being served with liquor.
– The fact that the law does not exist in Canberra - if it does not - has something to do with the matter.
– I accept the honorable members statement that there is no such law in Canberra. But there are such laws throughout the rest of Australia, and they have been regarded by legislators generally as being very wise laws. If we provide facilities for the sale of liquor at airports, where men, women and children alike go in large numbers when travelling, we shall be undoing the wise provision made by legislators throughout Australia.
We are told that alcoholic beverages are sold at airports all over the world and that Australia will be a laughing stock if we reject proposals to provide similar facilities in this country. I have not the least concern on that score. We in Australia have had the courage to pioneer many things and to take our own stand on the best course to take in the interests of the Australian people. Nor am I afraid of the accusation that those who oppose the sale of liquor at aerodromes are guilty of wowserism, whatever that may be. I do not profess to be a prohibitionist. For many reasons into which it is not pertinent to enter here, 1 a. i not a prohibitionist. I recognize the social value of a man being able to have a drink with his mates. But I am certainly not afraid of having the tag “ wowserism “ attached to me when I oppose vigorously, as I do, the increase in the facilities for the sale of liquor in Australia and, particularly, at aerodromes, because I truly believe that booze is the greatest enemy of social, political and economic progress in this country.
.- The object of this bill is to do something that is necessary for civil aviation in Australia. Unfortunately, in this debate it has been too closely associated with the sale of liquor at airports. As was pointed out during the second-reading speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), the bill does not cover only trading in liquor at airports. I believe that the concessions granted at any airport in Australia should only be granted in a certain field if there is not adequate coverage of that field by a local trader. I am reminded that our main aerodrome in Western Australia is in an area which is not highly built up. I think that most aerodromes in Australia are built on what were once wastelands or cheap lands, with no highly developed areas around them. If somebody is operating a business in such an area, I do not think that the Government should set up opposition to him with a State controlled business. This could be to the detriment of somebody who had battled for years to establish a business.
– Therefore you are opposing this bill?
– Will you vote with us?
– No. Wait until I have finished. If you listen carefully you will realize what I am saying. I think it is quite ridiculous for people to oppose the establishment of bars at airports if they have had no experience of such amenities. At our international airport in Western Australia, for the last few years, a bar has operated highly successfully. To those people who envisage ground staff visiting the bar to get intoxicated and endanger the lives of passengers I say that that is in insult to the ground staff of airline companies throughout Australia. This has not occurred in Western Australia which, of all States in Australia, has taken a fairly practical view of the licensing laws. There has been absolutely no abuse of the arrangement there. I visit that airport regularly as a traveller between the eastern States and Western Australia. Even on a Sunday in the middle of summer you will never see more than seven or eight people in the bar although you would expect it to be crowded.
The trouble with licensing laws in Australia has been that the people and politicians have been too frightened of a vocal minority in the community. If a man wants to get intoxicated he can get intoxicated, regardless of the licensing laws of any State. The only way to decrease the incidence of intoxication in the community is to liberalize the licensing laws. The best example of that is in Canberra. Here there is a strange law. compared with the laws of the other States. Clubs have a 24-hour franchise and any club manager in Canberra will tell you that there has been less intoxication in the community since the 24-hour franchise was introduced.
Except in the case of alcoholism, intoxication is an economic problem. Every man has a certain amount of money which he can spend on liquor. If the hours during which he can spend that money are extended the chances of his becoming intoxicated are reduced. This argument is based on sound reasoning. What other State would countenance the liquor laws applying in South Australia where even a person who has just come to reside in a hotel from somewhere else almost has to get a justice of the peace to witness his signature in order to get a glass of beer after hours? That is trying to turn the clock back. As I travel far moTe by air than any other member of this House I think I am entitled to express an opinion on what I think air travellers should be offered.
– You might travel more than other members, but you may not spend more time at airports.
– Most other members can fly home from Canberra in an hour or two but my trip takes 12 or 14 hours. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), once he reaches Melbourne airport, can proceed straight home. I am sometimes forced to stay for two hours at that aerodrome awaiting a connexion. I think that I should be entitled, if I wish, to spend that couple of hours sitting at a table in comfortable surroundings and enjoying a glass of ale with somebody else. I think it is up to the Government to improve the facilities at every airport in Australia. Everybody says that this wonderful country should be an attraction to tourists.
I think that the opposition to this bill has no sincerity at all. We talk about Australia attaining various stages of nationhood at certain dates in our history; but if we do not accept the sort of things that are accepted in other nations of the world we have no right to call ourselves a nation. Anybody who criticizes an attempt by the Government to bring our aerodrome facilities up to the level of those at overseas airports is not being sincere.
I support the bill wholeheartedly in the belief that the great majority of the Australian public have sufficient confidence in the people that conduct our airlines, the people that fly them, the people that service them and the people that use them, to realize that they face no danger as a result of the extension of facilities at airports which are already available at the airport of the city which 1 represent in this Parliament.
.- This bill is not the innocent measure that the Government and its supporters are trying to make the public believe it is. The bill will establish at each of various airports in the Commonwealth a business centre which will supply not only air travellers but anybody else who likes to go to an airport to buy goods that are not available elsewhere at certain hours of the day or night. It is quite evident that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) expects these facilities to be available at all hours of the day and night, because he instanced the 4,000 employees at Essendon airport who are required to do shiftwork. He said that some of them were on night work and unable to do their ordinary shopping, and so would find this proposed facility at airports a great assistance. The fact is that shops in our cities and towns are open at the proper trading hours, and that the people who work at Essendon have the same opportunities as workers elsewhere to do their shopping, or have it done for them by other members of their families, in those ordinary trading hours.
There is, however, one kind of purchase that employees at Essendon airport may not be able to obtain so readily as they will obtain it at the airport if this measure becomes law - liquor. I object strongly to any one of those 4,000 men at Essendon airport being able to indulge in the consumption of any beverage that is likely to weaken in any way the safe operation of aircraft operating to and from that aerodrome. My safety, and your safety is involved in this matter. I do not know why we should make available a special facility for the sale of liquor at airports, as well as on aircraft, when we know that the greatest danger that we have to contend with on the roads of this country is the result of liquor. Now the Government wants to put that danger on the sky-line.
The opportunity to buy liquor at airports at all hours will not be available to air travellers, but also to people who come to an airport to see travellers off, or welcome them. It will also be available to anybody else who care’s to go to the airport for the specific purpose of consuming liquor there. I say that it is objectionable to women and children air travellers to have to contend with people who are possibly over-proofed in regard to this kind of indulgence. My own feelings about the provision of liquor at airports may not correspond with those of some other honorable gentlemen. I certainly feel that liquor should not be dispensed on aircraft in flight. I do not know why we want to make glorified barmaids out of the beautiful young women who are specially selected as airline, hostesses. One of the most objectionable features of our air services that one could imagine is that part of the duty of airline hostesses is to serve liquor to passengers, some of whom may already have had more than is good for them. My respect for those girls is such that I feel there should not be imposed on them any conditions which would make their duties objectionable. There are no doubt honorable gentlemen who would not agree with me in that respect, but I can assure them, and other honorable members too, that the overwhelming majority of the people of this country would certainly support the view that I am expressing now.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) who immediately preceded me, told us that the Western Australian people apparently approve of the opportunity that they have to purchase liquor at Perth airport. Let me tell him that a more wholesome attitude is manifested by the people of South Australia than is to be found in many other places.
I feel, Mr. Speaker, that the time has come for us to challenge those who seek to impose this new feature on our Australian way of life - a feature which might imperil safe travel by air in this country, We should let it be fully known that the Australian community desires to keep Australia’s airlines as free from the dangers that arise from the over-indulgence in and over-supply of liquor as it is possible to do. Oversupply of liquor is already objectionable in many ways to people who travel.
– I am very glad that the Minister withdrew the first clause. Everybody knows that I am not a teetotaller. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
It follows, therefore, that State Governments retain substantial initiative, because in any case where a Commonwealth authority is issued it must contain conditions and restrictions especially those relating to the days on which and the times during which liquor may be sold, corresponding with the provisions of State law which would be applicable in the State in which the airport is situated.
– Clause 4 covers that.
Exactly. Therefore, I think that a lot of the sound and fury which has been raised by the Opposition is not necessary. It is not going to be a case of the Commonwealth giving a licence to sell liquor at an airport, and people rushing out to the airport to continue drinking when the ordinary licensed houses outside the airport are closed.
I have been considerably impressed with the evidence that was given to the United
States Senate Committee on behalf of the International Airlines Guild and certain owners of airlines in connexion with the serving of liquor on aircraft. Probably it is fairly easy to prevent somebody who is drunk from embarking on a plane as a passenger.
– This applies to domestic airlines, not international airlines.
– It does not make very much difference. You may have trouble on an airline with people who may have drunk too much. I must admit that I have never heard of any occasion where an Australian airline pilot has had trouble with a drunken passenger. It may be that we have a greater sense of responsibility than people in other parts of the world. When that sort of evidence is given, I think one has to sit up and take notice. If Opposition members are really concerned, from the point of view of safety, with the question whether you should serve liquor on the aircraft rather than before you board the aircraft, I suggest they have been arguing in contradiction to the evidence given to the Senate Select Committee.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has said that a bar for the sale of liquor has been in existence at the Perth airport for some considerable time, and he knows far better than I do that there has not been any trouble in connexion with it. Perhaps, therefore, many of the suggestions made by members of the Opposition have been unwarranted and unnecessary.
– It is under State law, too.
– All such facilities will be under State law. There are two things that I wish to mention in connexion with this bill. The Minister said that it would be quite wrong to suggest that the bill usurps State powers and functions in this regard since section 52 of the Constitution provides that Parliament shall have exclusive power to make laws relating to places acquired by the Commonwealth for public purposes. I hope that this bill, which 1 think will do a lot to improve facilities at our airports, quite apart from the question whether liquor should be sold, will not be taken as a precedent, and that the Commonwealth will not exercise similar freedom in legislating with respect to other Commonwealth property acquired for public purposes. There is a whole block in the centre of Melbourne which has been acquired for Commonwealth offices, and if the Commonwealth exercised the power that the Minister says it has - and I do not doubt that it has - it could make a complete farce of the Victorian Shops and Factories Act.
– It is a great problem so far as New South Wales is concerned, too.
– That could well be. 1 think all of us in this House should be careful how we use the powers that have been reposed in us under the Constitution. I directed attention previously to the way in which sections 94 and 96 of the Constitution could operate to bring about uniformity rather than a federal system, and I suggest that we should not use the power under section 52 of the Constitution to make a farce of State legislation with respect to shops and factories.
– Those considerations do not worry the States.
– Well, they do worry the States, as is seen by the fact that all of them objected to the bill that was originally introduced. When introducing this second bill the Minister paid particular attention to the objections that had been raised. I know that the people in Victoria do not oppose this attempt to improve our airports, but they are worried at this step-by-step usurpation of State powers by federal authorities.
I now turn to the second matter to which I wish to direct attention. The value of Commonwealth aerodromes and related facilitis is at present given as £52,000,000, while the annual cost of maintenance and operation exceeds £9,000,000. I think it was about two years ago that a Minister explained that because of these costs every passenger who steps on to a plane was subsidized by the Commonwealth Government to the extent of nearly £3 10s. This is a very heavy subsidy. I think it is justified in outback areas, but I do not think, and never have thought, that it is justified on inter-capital city routes, which take a good deal of traffic away from the State railways. Because we have the lowest air fares in the world, we deprive the railways of much of their business, and then we criticize the railways because they do not pay. They cannot pay when opposed to a competitor that is subsidized to the extent to which we are subsidizing air travel at the present time. This bill is not going to alter that position.
By all means let us have airports as attractive as possible, but my own experience is that most of the shops in most of the airports I have visited, in most of the countries of the world, are not large shops and do not do a great amount of trade. Consider the types of busineses mentioned by the Minister in his speech. He referred to advertising, and to baggage rooms and lockers. Those facilities exist at some of our airports now. Banks are situated mainly at international airports, so that people may be able to change their money quickly and have a supply of cash in the currency of the country in which they have arrived. I do not know about barber shops and beauty parlours, but we have car parking lots at present at our airports. We have coffee shops, delivery services, drive-yourself car services, gift shops and flower shops. A good deal more than 50 per cent, of the facilities mentioned by the Minister are now available at many of our airports.
– Vending machines cover many things.
– What do they amount to? Cigarette machines and chocolate machines are available at airports now. You can get an iced lemonade by putting sixpence in the slot. Vending machines are present at most of our airports. We will not, therefore, get such a tremendous amount of revenue from the provisions of this bill as many people seem to think. The Minister himself said that he did not expect increased revenue of more than £160,000 by the end of 1960, and that it might exceed £500,000 within a few years. Even if you add to this £500,000 the amount raised by the tax on aviation fuel and the landing fees, you still have to find £6,500,000 of the £9,000,000 required for maintenance each year. So this legislation will not be a tremendous revenue-producer in any case. Besides concerning ourselves with the improvement of our airports. I think we will have to consider the question of how long we can continue giving this very heavy subsidy on inter-capital city routes, when the airlines are seriously competing with our railways.
Sitting suspended from 11.28 to 12 midnight.
Friday, 27 November 1959
.I am convinced that this is nothing but a cunning device to create facilities at airports all over Australia that will be available for Ansett-A.N.A. when, eventually, as is the obvious intention of the Government, the whole of the civil aviation operations in Australia fall into its hands. Already this company has been granted equal rights with Trans-Australia Airlines in the carrying of Her Majesty’s mail and is benefitting under the rationalization agreement for the carrying of passengers. A government that will use every opportunity to sell out what was the finest nationally-owned airline in the world, will go to the limit and hand the whole show over to Ansett-A.N.A.
What could be more attractive to AnsettA.N.A. than these profit-making facilities, ready-made for it. Costs of airlines operations are always increasing, and profits from these facilities, provided by capital taken from the taxes paid by the masses of the people, most of whom, because of their numbers, are workers who never receive enough even to get near an airport, would help to meet these costs. That is the motive behind the bill. There cannot be a shadow of doubt about it. The secondreading speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) was well-padded. Look at it! It contains a long list of services that he suggests are required at overseas airports, including Melbourne. We are told that advertising, barber shops, beauty par.lours, car parking lots, children’s nurseries and many other services are needed, and the list includes cocktail lounges. Government supporters may laugh, but they must answer to the people of Australia who are proud of their national airline. Amongst these innocuous trading activities that are to be legalized by this bill are cocktail lounges. They are all right in their proper place, but this facility will not be restricted to cocktail lounges. Ordinary bars for the sale of liquor will also be provided. We see these bars in hotels all over Australia, and they are all right in their proper place. I misjudge my fellow Australian-
– Yes, you do!
– I misjudge my fellow Australian if I think he is any different from the honorable member for Mallee, who is a much travelled member of the Parliament. He goes to the airport at Melbourne and to the airport at Canberra. But I have never seen him with his tongue hanging out, looking for a cocktail lounge or a bar. Does he suggest that his fellow Australians need these facilities any more than he does? Of course he does not! I have never had a request from any person in my electorate that liquor facilities at airports should be provided for them as travellers. We have the best nationally owned civil airline in the world. As I have said, this is a cunning device to place in the hands of Ansett-A.N.A., ultimately, all the facilities that are here visualised for the drinking of intoxicating liquors at airports. We are now free of this, and I have not seen anybody at the Sydney airport or the Melbourne airport running around with his tongue hanging out, looking for a liquor trough. The position is rather to the contrary. Because of the facilities that are already available, most Australians want to get on to an aircraft as quickly as possible and, on arrival, to get to their home or hotel and there obtain the refreshments they need. There are exceptions. Some interstate travellers have to spend an hour or perhaps two hours at big airports; but in the main the time spent at airports is not very long. There has been no clamour from air travellers for these facilities. The clamour has come from one source, and one source only. If honorable members want proof of this, they need look only at the stress placed in the Minister’s secondreading speech on what has been done at Los Angeles. The profit on trading at the Los Angeles airport has reached £2,000,000 annually.
– You have the wrong figures.
– Very well, 2,000,000 dollars, if you want it that way. It does not materially affect the position, because the argument advanced is that 2,000,000 dollars-
– For leases.
– For business activities and leases, if you like. It does not matter what it is, but it includes liquor. The Minister also stressed that at the SeattleTacoma airport, the revenue is 79,300 dollars. The point that is made is that vast revenues will be obtained by granting these trading rights - and the sale of liquor is to some extent cunningly hidden. These revenues comprise 57.5 per cent, of the total revenue. This shows the reason for AnsettA.N.A.’s interest. Instead of having to increase air fares on its airlines when it cops the lot from this conservative Government, it hopes to derive 57.5 per cent, of its total revenue from trading activities, and thus be able to keep air fares down to a lower level. My electorate adjoins the Essendon airport. I know that in many instances people living in areas around airports have ordinary hotel facilities available to them. I have read the Minister’s second-reading speech. Sometimes, the Government does not show much nous ‘n preparing second-reading speeches. In his second-reading speech, the Minister said -
The scope for the development of these activities is indicated by the size of the ready-made market, for example, at Melbourne airport, where there are more than 4,000 employees whose hours of work and distance from established business centres deprive them of normal shopping facilities. . . .
Do those 4,000 men who work in the vicinity of the Melbourne airport shop for the ordinary household requirements of their wives, or is it intended to provide additional facilities for them to obtain liquor7 This Government prattles about the rights of private enterprise, but it proposes to spend the people’s money in providing costly and elaborate drinking facilities at all the big airports. To do that it will tax the people. The Government is not consistent. It has always been its case that private enterprise should be left to do these things. There are hotels in the vicinity of the Melbourne airport. Why interfere with them? Not that it matters to me, because if I had my way all liquor facilities would be run by the Government and there would be no inducement to encourage people to drink to excess.
– Would the honorable member for West Sydney agree with your policy about hotels?
– The Minister may apologize for himself to his electors. The honorable member for . West Sydney has indicated his support for the decision of the Australian Labour Party on this very vital issue. The Minister for Territories may square off for himself; never mind about the honorable member for West Sydney.
This bill was not necessary in order to provide facilities of a business character at airports. We already have newspaper facilities at airports. We can buy cups of tea or coffee, toothpaste, toilet requisites, lemonade and many other things at airports now.
– There are no hairdressers.
– Get your hair cut at home. The honorable member should cut his own hair; he would be more intelligent if he did. We have these facilities now. The fact that liquor facilities exist at overseas airports is no reason why they should be provided at airports in Australia. We should not slavishly follow practices of overseas countries. It is an unchallengeable fact that the Australian civil airlines, established by the Australian Labour Party - and let me pay a tribute to their founder, the late Arthur Drakeford - have a record that has not been equalled in any other country, notwithstanding their facilities. Is it merely a coincidence that that record of freedom from disaster has been associated with the fact that there are no liquor facilities at aerodromes in this country?
– Liquor is available on aircraft.
– The fact is not an argument for the provision of additional facilities for obtaining liquor. I travelled on a small plane not many years ago from Sydney to Tamworth. Sitting adjacent to the rear door of the plane was a drunken man. I was somewhat nearer to the pilot’s seat. That drunk was a menace. I could have done nothing if he had wanted to jump out of the plane. He was a menace and a nuisance to the passengers. No doubt when he boarded the plane he appeared sober, but after the plane was airborne he was a proper pest.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is interjecting. No doubt he supports the proposition that there should be additional facilities for people to get into that condition. In many countries sumptuous facilities have been provided for drinking liquor at airports; but Australia is a country that requires its capital for further developmental work. The Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service bear a grave responsibility in this Parliament, because at Williamstown British migrants are living in circumstances which no human being should be required to endure. If the Government were to build hostels of a decent type for migrants such hostels could be used later to house aged people. The Government would then do some good for the country. I have not been provocative to-night, but I have been well heckled by honorable members opposite. I condemn the bill and will vote against it.
.- I join with the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in opposing this bill. Although certain facilities at airports could well be improved, I have strong opposition to certain of the proposals in this bill. The trend to-day seems to be that you must be able to obtain liquor at an airport. Not many years ago a referendum on hotel closing hours was held in New South Wales. At that time I supported the argument for an extension of trading hours, but I feel that the extension that has taken place in trading hours in that State has not been in the best interests of the workers. If I had an opportunity again - and I think many people in New South Wales would support me - I would vote for a return to the former drinking hours in that State. It seems to me that in this chamber to-night some Government supporters have had one too many.
Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) mentioned earlier in the evening that drink was an economic condition. I am well aware that it is an economic condition, and in New South Wales it has been found that because of extended trading hours the family unit is obliged to go without certain essentials. Unfortunately, some men are weak and drink that extra quantity during the extended hours. There are many views for and against the extension of drinking facilities at airports. The travellers will not gain very much of an advantage because in most cases travellers want a drink only when they are fog-bound at some airport.
Let us discuss the position as it exists in New South Wales. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has said that if liquor is sold at airports it will be sold only within certain hours. Will that mean that on Sundays the bar will not be open to air travellers? Travellers overseas can get a drink on Sundays. Will the same position apply here? The honorable member for Perth has said that only six or seven persons were drinking at the Perth airport at the one time. If you go on a Sunday to any hotel outside the 20-mile limit from Sydney, you have to line up two or three deep to get to the bar.
– Are you a frequent visitor to those hotels? You seem to know all about them.
– The honorable member is a very smart and smug individual. I am not a drinker, but I have no objection to other people taking liquor if they wish to do so. At the recent referendum in New South Wales I voted for the extension of hotel trading hours. I now regret that I did so. I am very proud of the opposition that the Australian Labour Party has raised to this bill because I cannot see that the extension of drinking facilities at airports will be in the best interests of the people of Australia.
I think it was the honorable member for Chisholm who raised the issue of the Commonwealth’s powers in this matter. I should like the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) who is at the table to inform me what the trading hours will be.
– They will be exactly the same as in the respective States.
– The Minister will have plenty of opportunity to reply to me later. Clause 10 of the bill provides that businesses at airports will be covered by the State health regulations, but no mention is made of any restriction of trading hours. Recently shop trading hours in the Australian Capital Territory were extended and this has had a detrimental effect on the nearby town of Queanbeyan, which is in New South Wales. A great deal of chaos has been created by this law of the jungle - the more you get the more you want.
– There is no chaos. The people want extended shopping hours.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. I worked in the retail trade for many years in an executive capacity. I was employed by Woolworths at Lithgow, and for the four yea’s while I was there we worked a five-day week. The people had a certain amount of money to spend and they spent it during those five days and were quite happy about it. But when the extended drinking hours came into operation, less money started to flow into the shops and consequently they wanted extended trading hours.
– Order! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the bill.
– I shall come back to the bill. Certain business premises will be made available at airports. In the past you would not have been able to get anybody to go to the Kingsford-Smith airport, but in these modern days of trading with drivein supermarkets and so on, the people will be drawn there. It may be that some big business undertaking will obtain a lease at the airport and construct a supermarket on Commonwealth property. I am not talking of hotels now but of ordinary retail stores. Will they be bound to abide by the State laws? I am a member of the shop assistants’ union which is now engaged in a great struggle with certain elements in the community which want to extend trading hours. If big business undertakings are able to engage in trade at Kingsford-Smith airport, there will be a breaking-down of trade union principles by the extension of trading hours. Employers say that they will employ additional labour to cope with the extended hours, but they will not do so. All you can expect to see is perhaps an additional cashier. All the wrapping and arranging would be done beforehand and very little labour would be involved. I reiterate the warning that has been given by the honorable member for Chisholm and by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). Conditions have been broken down in Queanbeyan-
– But the public must want extended hours.
– The public wants nothing.
– Order! The honorable member for McMillan is out of his place and is out of order.
– It will be against the best interests of the people if the Government allows these big business undertakings to build supermarkets and to trade for extended hours at airports. I join with my colleagues in denouncing this bill. In his second-reading speech the Minister said that it is necessary to raise additional revenue because the Department of Civil Aviation is losing £7,000,000 a year.
The honorable member for Chisholm has pointed out that air travel - the rich man’s means of transport - is being subsidized by this Government while State railways which are losing money receive no assistance. If it is necessary to raise additional revenue, why not increase fares and landing charges? After all, we are subsidizing Ansett-A.N.A. to an increasing extent. But the Government is doing nothing to assist any of the State railways, whether they are administered by Liberal or Labour governments. The Opposition has exposed the weaknesses in this bill and I have great pleasure in opposing it.
– Mr. Speaker, I propose to speak very briefly. I think it is about time the debate on this bill was brought back into perspective. Opposition members have made a great deal out of a fairly small issue. The motives for their actions have been varied and colourful in their range. We have seen some Opposition members trying to paint the arrangements for the provision of modest refreshments at airport terminals as a sort of wild west saloon set-up. Others, apparently, have been using the debate on this measure as an opportunity for the expression of their policy on late trading hours for shops. And so it has gone on.
What is the point at issue in the bill, Sir? It is quite clear that most members of the Parliament - in fact, I would say the overwhelming majority of the members of both Houses of the Parliament - do not object to the ordinary trading which is contemplated under the terms of this bill. The one aspect of it to which exception has been taken is the provision of alcoholic refreshments at airports. It has been my privilege to travel much and often on behalf of the Government in the service of Australia, and I have been racking my mind in an endeavour to picture the sort of situation which honorable gentlemen opposite have been painting, and I cannot recollect having seen anything of the kind at any airport of consequence anywhere in the world. How childish and immature does Australia have to present itself to the rest of the world? Are we to say, in effect, “ You can come to one of our airports and have a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, a sarsaparilla drink or a Coca Cola, but if you have a beer or a whisky your soul will be utterly damned “.
– What an exaggeration.
– I listened to the honorable member’s speech with more patience than he is prepared to exercise in listening to mine.
So I say, Sir, that, wherever one travels about the world to-day, the tourist, the traveller or the visitor is able to enjoy these simple amenities. I have not seen any of these Bacchanalian orgies about which we have been told in this debate. I have not seen any drunks collapsing in an airport lounge; nor have I seen them on aircraft. In this debate, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has given us evidence that you do not have to provide these facilities in order to encounter the occasional character whose excesses have led him into this kind of trouble.
What we must bear in mind, Sir, is not only the normal amenities which have been found reasonable for travellers in other parts of the world and which might commend themselves, therefore, to an adult Australian population; we have also to consider what I believe to be a fundamental principle in any democracy - the principle that minorities as well as majorities have rights. It is not really a matter of concern for us that the great majority of Australians may never seek or desire to avail themselves of these facilities. Provided that the establishments which provide the amenities are satisfactorily conducted, it should be sufficient for us that there are some people, whether they are Australians or visitors to these shores, who would find it a convenience, and even a pleasure, to have these facilities available.
So, Sir, I suggest that the Opposition has made a mountain out of a molehill in this matter, and that we can line up with the rest of the civilized and developed world without any fear that the morals of the Australian community or the national fibre will be irretrievably weakened in the process. I think that, this bill having come to us from the House which is normally regarded as a House of review and a more conservatively minded chamber, we can with safety accept the measure.
.- I simply support the attitude which has been so well stated by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) - the attitude that minorities have a right to express their point of view. For it appears that, in this instance, I may be a member of the minority. Having heard the Treasurer’s most persuasive and compelling appeal, I am quite certain that it will not be long before, under the system that is being developed, we shall have spear-fishing facilities at airports in order to cater for all the requirements of travellers.
I think that the points at issue in the minds of Opposition members are quite clear. About 2,000,000 passengers a year use the airports throughout Australia. 1 oppose the bill for two principal reasons. First, I object to this particular pandering to air travellers - a very distinct group in the community. Secondly, I object to any pandering to the demand for alcohol. How conscientious is this belief that travellers must have opportunities to consume alcoholic drinks?
– What about the railways?
– If the Minister likes, I can develop the theme about the railways and this Government’s approach to them, particularly to the provision of funds for the reconstruction of the line between Townsville and Mr Isa, in Queensland.
– Order! The honorable member had better get back to the bill.
– I could develop that theme, just as the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) developed the theme of airport finance in his second-reading speech. However, I return to the two points I mentioned - pandering to air travellers and pandering to persons who wish to consume alcohol. These are important points. I shall take the second of them first. This morning, at question time, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) made a very compelling attack upon the evils of overindulgence in alcohol. I appreciated his attitude. The principle that he enunciated ought to be developed. We cannot, at question time in the morning, on one issue, adopt a well expressed moral principle and then abandon that principle about twelve hours later when we are considering the circumstances of a special group of people - air travellers. We must develop a national civilized consciousness in these matters. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) seems to equate civilization and the development of a true spirit of nationhood with the extension, on a large scale, of facilities for the consumtion of alcohol.
I am not particularly concerned with whether or not people drink alcoholic beverages. If they like, I shall hold their hands while they do it. There is no doubt that the questions posed by Opposition members about the trading facilities proposed in this measure need answering. It has been suggested, of course, that State laws are to be applied. The laws differ from State to State. Clause 9 of the bill provides that the conditions of trading shall be as nearly as possible those that apply under the laws of the State. What does the phrase “ as nearly as possible “ mean? Who is going to interpret it? Let us look at the position in Victoria. There are serious deficiencies in the law in that State, because the political outlook of many of its people is quite wrong. In Victoria, we have established a very comprehensive and very welldeveloped liquor licensing system, and a
Licensing Court of highly qualified members has been appointed to administer it. Is it proposed that, in Victoria, despite the highly complex system of licensing developed there, the Minister for Civil Aviation may decide the hours of trading in respect of the new facilities to be provided at Essendon airport?
– The conditions will be exactly the same as are those imposed under State law.
– The bill uses the words “ as nearly as possible “. What does that phrase mean?
– As always, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the audience participation. The Minister for Defence has just said that the conditions under which trading will take place will be the same as are the conditions imposed by the State law. Does that mean that the Minister for Civil Aviation will apply to the State Licensing Court to see whether the conditions that he envisages conform with the scheme that has been developed in Victoria? At Essendon, of course, there is the international terminal building, the TransAustralia Airlines terminal, and the AnsettA.N.A. terminal. Are we to have three different sets of conditions for three different bars at that airport? This is only a subsidiary consideration compared to the main reason for which I oppose the bill.
The Australian airways ought to be conducted under financial arrangements similar to those which prevail in other forms of transport. The suggestion that we should try to recoup some of our expenditure on airline facilities by this sort of measure beggars description. If necessary, fares should be raised to meet the commitments of the airlines. Air travellers are a special group in the community. I take this opportunity to make an especial appeal to the Government to rationalize the entire Australian transport system so that financial provisions similar to those which apply to the airways will apply also to the railways, to sea transport and to road transport. Our opposition to this bill is based on the principle of the Labour movement that there are some things that do not necessarily need government sponsorship. One of them is over-indulgence and the extension of liquor trading hours.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (The Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn Until this day at 11 oclock a.m.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to mention a query raised yesterday by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). He asked whether inquiries had been completed by the Commissioner of Taxation into some allegations he had made earlier in this sessional period. I have received a report from the Commissioner of Taxation on this matter. I remind honorable members that the honorable member for Wilmot launched his attack on what in his own words, he described as -
The Gestapo tactics of taxation officers who are touring country districts, especially in my State of Tasmania and interfering with what I regard as the sacred rights of the individual.
The honorable member alleged that the private affairs of taxpayers - again using his own words - were being “ pried into and examined in a completely contemptible way “. He instanced three cases which, he said, illustrated the objectionable questioning tactics of which he complained.
At the direction of the Commissioner of Taxation, two senior officers of the Taxation Head Office, Canberra, visited Hobart from 26th October to 28th October. The general instruction given to them was to make all such inquiries as seemed most likely to produce information relevant to the matters mentioned in the honorable member’s speech, so that I, as Treasurer, might be assured that his complaints and charges had been thoroughly investigated. They were concerned, therefore, to ascertain and to examine the procedure and tactics followed by the Hobart investigation staff in the discharge of their official duties, and to learn, by direct inquiry from people whom they thought best qualified to know and to judge, whether or not these people, or the public in general, shared the honorable member’s expressed views as to the alleged oppressive and objectionable nature of the inquiries made by the investigation staff. The administrative officers of the Hobart Taxation Office and the investigation officers themselves, were also interviewed, and were questioned at length as to their operations and as to their relations with the taxpaying public.
I think it desirable to say, at the outset, that the inquiries of the Commissioner’s officers produced no evidence whatsoever to support the honorable member’s charges of oppression and objectionable methods. On the contrary, and without exception, the people interviewed, and who may, I think, be correctly described as a representative cross-section of responsible people in tha Hobart community, dismissed the honorable member’s charges as extravagant and unwarranted. Again without exception, these people expressed the opinion that departmental investigations were conducted on a fair and reasonble basis, and that every assistance and courtesy were shown to them, and to their clients, by departmental officers. The staff of the Hobart Office are incensed at the honorable member’s charges, all of which they deny. When viewed in the light of the opinions of responsible members of the legal and accountancy professions in Hobart, these denials can, I believe, be accepted as representing the true and factual position.
The Commissioner’s officers thought that the general foundation for the honorable member’s charges would best be tested by inviting comment from some of the leading solicitors, accountants and tax agents in practice in Hobart. Whilst I am conscious that the honorable member referred to departmental actions as providing a “ racket “ for these professional men, I am convinced that, had there been this widespread serious departmental malpractice of which the honorable member complains, then these men would have had personal experience of it, or would have been told of it by the public, and I am equally convinced that men of their stature would not, in self-interest, have condoned it or concealed it. Time did not permit, nor did it seem necessary, that all Hobart practitioners be interviewed, but I am pleased that the officers were able to include in their list members of accountancy firms which have offices in the various country centres of Tasmania. They did not publicly invite members of the general public to call on them. Nevertheless, in a city of Hobart’s size, and bearing in mind the publication of parts of the honorable member’s speech in the Melbourne and Hobart press and the number of people they did in fact see, I have no doubt that their presence and purpose in Hobart were widely known. Had any taxpayer wished to complain, I am sure he would have sought them out, but none did so.
Without their prior consent, I think it would be improper to name the many professional men who were interviewed and who gave the Commissioner’s officers information and assistance in their inquiries. They chose to interview, in the professional field, men of long-standing experience and acknowledged competence, and men whom they knew had acted on many occasions for clients whose affairs had been, or currently were, the subject of departmental investigation. They did not, however, confine their inquiries to professional practitioners, but extended them to men holding responsible positions in the State and Commonwealth spheres, in Hobart public life. In every instance, they were well received, and from the general attitude of those interviewed it was apparent that the Hobart investigation staff was respected and the method of its operations not at all resented. It was said, of course, that the work of the investigators was, by its very nature, not welcomed by those being investigated, but not once was it said that the methods used were regarded as objectionable. One gentleman, the senior partner in probably the oldest and most prominent of the accountancy firms with branches in several parts of Tasmania, offered, quite without any request, to convey in a letter to the Commissioner his reaction to the honorable member’s speech. In his letter, this gentleman writes -
The Melbourne “ Herald “ recently published a statement made by Mr. Duthie, M.H.R., in the House of Representatives. The statement criticized the manner in which officers of your Department in this State carried out their duties, especially those associated with the Investigation Section.
My firm have, over many years, had considerable experience in dealing with taxpayers whose affairs have been the subject of investigation by your officers. We have never heard of any complaints as to the method they employed in carrying out their duties and certainly their behaviour has, from our experience, always been beyond reproach.
The remarks in this letter are typical of what was told to the Commissioner’s officers by all those whom they interviewed. At least one other gentleman offered to give a similar written opinion should the Commissioner desire it. It was said by some of those interviewed that it had often been found that the trouble in which some taxpayers found themselves had been due to poor quality work previously done for them by their agents. Several people said that they had had occasion to join issue with the department on the results disclosed by an investigation, and that they had always found the department ready to amend these results upon reasonable cause being shown. Among those interviewed was an exinvestigation officer who freely said that, due to a belief that he had been unfairly treated in the matter of departmental promotion, he had resigned as a dissatisfied officer. Despite this, he has no criticism to make of the methods or official conduct of the present investigation staff.
After examining investigation procedures and questioning the investigation officers in the Hobart office, the Commissioner’s officers are satisfied that the general procedure is patterned on what has been in use in all States for many years, and that the officers are at once diligent in their important and onerous task of safeguarding the revenue, and courteous and reasonable in the performance of this task. They discussed with the Supervisor (Investigations) and with individual investigation officers the particular allegations contained in the honorable member’s speech. The first case to which he refers was readily identifiable, and was one which was dealt with by way of an indoor examination. No inquiries of any kind were made by the outdoor investigation staff, and the only questions asked of the taxpayer were asked when, of his own volition he called at the taxation office.
I will not have time to go through all these cases in detail, but one example of the error of statement made by the honorable member was when he referred to an understatement of income charged against a taxpayer totalling £14,300. In fact, this figure was not, at any stage, higher than £4,291. I have other details of these matters which I would be willing to discuss with the honorable member. The information gained by the Commissioner’s officers on their visit to Tasmania may be summed up thus - (a)Registered tax agents and members of the legal and accountancy professions practising in Tasmania, with one exception, appear to have no complaint against the methods adopted by investigation officers nor against the conduct of these officers, nor have they fault to find with the administration authorities in the Hobart office. On the contrary these people speak well of the Hobart office.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.During this last week I have made in this House certain allegations concerning television and the right of Australian dramatists, actors, writers and entertainers generally to have some part in the television programmes transmitted in Australia. That is the normal procedure on this side of the House, and members on this side have from time to time joined me in raising in this House, by way of proposals, for debates on matters of urgent public importance, questions Which are relevant to this problem. Indeed, until thisproblem is settled in favour of the Australian actor, the Australian writer and the Australian entertainer, we intend to keep in hot pursuit of those people who hold television station licences for five years.
My earlier remarks on this matter were challenged by Sir Frank Packer, who did notwire me direct but used the good offices of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) to communicate with me. He sent the Postmaster-General a telegram the contents of which the Postmaster-General at the request of Sir Frank Packer, included in a letter to me. I shall read as quickly as possible the relevant part of the telegram, because I believe I have a complete answer in vindication of the fact that we as a nation, as a community, and as a Parliament, should have some cognisance of the debt we owe to the contributions to Australian culture made by Australian writers, dramatists, actors and dramatic performers generally. The telegram read -
Referring to statement made by Mr. Haylen in the House concerning television programme: there is no truth whatever in the suggestion that television stations will not put on Australian programmes ‘ and tell the advertisers that they must select American or English programmes.
Sir Frank Packer says that there is no truth in my statement, but on Tuesday next, or later if the House rises, I hope to be able to present to the House statutory declarations from Actors Equity supporting my statements. Mr. Alexander, the secretary of Actors Equity, will show me, and I hope to show the House, letters from national advertisers complaining that they have not been able to get Australian programmes put on television stations in a time slot to suit them. You can see the cunning half-truths told by the television stations. They say, “ We will give Australian programmes a go provided we can get them, and the price is right.” But they will put Australian programmes at 10 o’clock or 1 1 o’clock at night, or even at the witching hour of midnight. The time slots that are considered the best are between 6.30 p.m. and9.30 p.m., when most viewers are before their sets, but -these are not available to Australian works whether they be of drama or comedy. Only recently the Commonwealth Bank - and I have this on reliable authority - attempted to have the presentation time of one of its programmes changed and get it into a time slot when the best viewing audience is watching television. Toget that time slot it would hove had to supplant a dumped American canned programme. Instead of that canned rubbishfrom America the Australian viewers wouldhave seen the Commonwealth Bank’sprogramme of a festival of Australianmusic, a particularly suitable programme whenwe are nearing Christmas.
However, despite the fact that the Commonwealth Bank had spent many thousands of pounds on publicity on television it was unable to get a time slot in the much sought after viewing period between 6.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. because, the time slot it wanted was tied up with some American product. That completely refutes the suggestion that there is no evidence that Australian programmes are being frozen out.
If any further evidence is desired, I shall give it and quote my sources. When I first brought this matter before the House I depended for my evidence on a report in the magazine known as “ The Nation “ by a man signing himself “ Melbourne Spy “, who has written a very succinct report of his conclusions in relation to this matter. In all cases he quoted his authority as Actors Equity of Victoria which is worried, as we are in this House, about why the Australian programme cannot get an opportunity to be tested by public opinion. There are what are known as “ ratings “ - some sort of advertising gimmick which says this is a good show and this not a good show. But these shows are screened. The Australian shows that we are suggesting are good shows do not get an opportunity to be viewed by Australians in numbers. For that reason we are making this protest.
Actors Equity, the union concerned in this matter, made an investigation of 80 advertising organizations and advertising companies. In their telegrams both Sir Frank Packer and his general manager asked “Where are these people?” Actors Equity will put them in possession of the names of these people. Here are some of the statements, which I shall read if I have time, which support all the evidence that the Australian is being crammed out of his own television. Mr. T. G. Davis, director, Unilever Pty. Ltd., said, “ In the early days of television, of the four half-hour programmes which we sponsored or partsponsored, no less than three were, in fact, locally produced. We persevered with these shows until the television stations themselves approached us and said that they were no longer prepared to carry programmes whose lack of popularity was weakening their entire entertainment structure.”
The measure of the lack of popularity was three units of investigation known as ratings, taken by other advertising agencies, which is like taking in your own washing to decide which is and which is not a good show. Further evidence of the squeeze on Australian dramatists, writers and entertainers is given by Mr. H. Widdup, merchandizing manager of W. D. and H. O. Wills (Aust.) Ltd., the cigarette people, who said, “ I commend Equity’s campaign for Australian programmes, but the various television stations have made it clear that they would not telecast programmes unless they owned them - and the large percentage of these are American.”
The general manager of Four’n Twenty Pies Limited, of Melbourne, said, “We would like, in fact we would be very happy, to be sponsoring an Australian programme on television. Up until now none has been submitted to our agency for consideration. Our agency has, in fact, been told that television stations will only telecast programmes which they own or control”.
Therefore I say to the Minister that a clamp is on the Australian product, because it cannot get into the time slots when the Australian community is viewing television. Mr. Palmer, an advertising executive of Victa Consolidated Industries Limited, said, “ Television stations are most jealous of their right to select their own programmes “. He said that if his company wished to advertise on these stations it must take their programmes - and their programmes are, in 98 per cent, of cases, American programmes.
A city business man, Mr. N. Aboud. who is well known to many members of this House, said that he was tired of westerns and Yankee contributions to culture on the air. He said he would like to get an Australian programme but did not know where to get one. He added that if he did get one he could not get it in the time slots that would provide him with the publicity he desired and provide the entertainment for the people who buy his products.
For the information of the people who have written to me on this matter, and to refute the suggestion that what I have stated are not facts, let us look at the Crawford report on television and see what is happening to programmes. Here is a typical case: The best time slots are between 6.30 o’clock and 9.30 o’clock in the evening. In the week ended 29th June, 1959, according to the Crawford report, during those three hours, four stations in Sydney and Melbourne screened shows as follows: - Sydney, 67 imported half-hour shows and one Australian half-hour show. That Australian half-hour show was Bob Dyer’s “ Pick a Box “; Melbourne, 64 imported half-hour shows, and four Australian halfhour shows. The total for the week was 131 overseas programmes and five Australian programmes.
That is what the Crawford report has to say, and the Crawford organization is one of the best known in regard to the technicalities of, and research into, television.
I conclude with this final indictment of the canned amusement that is being screened on Australian television stations. No matter what the sponsors and the television companies may say, I shall show, by quoting the relevant figures, how this rolling amount of overseas film rubbish, this dumped material, is coming into this country in an ever-increasing flood. The total of overseas film screened on television in 1957 amounted to 6,826 separate films of all sorts - gangster films, “ Gunsmoke “ and what have you! In 1958, it was 10,654 separate films. The Australian content continues to slip. In 1959 there were 11,500 separate films. So, in 1957 4,500,000 feet of overseas junk was poured into this country, and in 1958 there were 8,000,000 feet of overseas material. To-day we find that 10,000,000 feet of material alien in outlook and intent are poured into this country. We on this side of the House will continue to bring figures to the Minister.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to reply briefly to the statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), giving the answer of the Commissioner of Taxation, Sir Patrick McGovern, to the protests that I voiced on the 21st October against the line of questioning followed by taxation investigators in Tasmania. On that occasion I cited examples of the questions that had been asked of certain farmers who had subsequently brought the matter to my notice. I appreciate the fact that the Commissioner’s reply to my allegations has been made available to-night before the session ends. But this is not the last that the Parliament will hear about the type of questioning that is being adopted by taxation officials, notwithstanding the lengthy statement made to-night by the Treasurer. I would like to make two or three comments about it. First, the reply has completely missed the target. It does not answer the specific allegations I made. There are five districts involved. I will not name them because that would give the taxation authorities in Tasmania an opportunity to track down these men who came to me. This matter has nothing to do with individuals in Launceston or Hobart. The districts concerned are farming districts, but the taxation officers interviewed solicitors in Hobart who would not know a bee from a bull’s foot about the matters that I raised in this Parliament. The people who came to me do not have tax agents in Hobart. They are people who have battled on their own. I feel, therefore, that the allegations I made have not been answered.
The reactions of the people who were interviewed in Hobart were interesting. Some of them adopted an attitude of righteous indignation that I should dare to make a statement in this Parliament on what I considered a wrong method of questioning. These people would have no idea of the specific cases that I raised in the Parliament, so how could they answer the taxation officers?
– This is all pretty cheap!
– It is not cheap at all. It is all very well for you. You do not have taxation investigators tracking you down as they have been tracking down these people in my State, and hounding them like a pack of wolves. I will come back to this Parliament in February and tell the House again some of the things that are still going on, and will continue to go on unless the Taxation Branch takes heed of the matters that I raise, and which I feel constitute infringements of the rights of individuals.
Taxation officers have no right to take papers or other records from a private home without the consent of the owner, whether he be a farmer, a businessman or any other kind of taxpayer. Yet they do so, without such consent. They have no right to go into a home and go through all the drawers asking, “Where did you get this? and What did you. pay for. it?” unless they have the consent of the owner. Yet they do so. These are the matters that I raised and which have not been answered in the reply given by Sir Patrick McGovern. This gentleman does not like criticism, but I suggest that this Parliament is above every taxation officer in the country. The Parliament has a sovereign right over Sir Patrick McGovern. He is our servant. We are not his servants. This Parliament is supreme in Australia over every one of its officers and departments. I have a perfect right, as have my colleagues and members on the Government side, to bring to the notice of the Parliament any sign of an overbearing attitude on the part of officers of any department in their dealings with Australian citizens.
I am not supporting or defending taxation evasion in any way. There are many men who try to trick the department by making faulty or inadequate, returns. All I am trying to do is to make sure that when these people are approached they are approached as human beings and not as criminals. Unfortunately, it is like Ceasar appealing to Caesar, and you will never get any results in that way.
I wish to apologize for one error. The gentleman at Lake Tiberias who was referred to in the reply of the Treasurer tonight, is an oldish man. This inquiry had been going on for nine months and he said in his letter to me that the charge against him was an apparent shortage of £14,300. I queried this figure with several of my colleagues because of the way it was written. There appeared to be- a figure 1 before the. figure 4, and my colleagues agreed that the figure looked like £14,300. I am sure- that the. Treasurer would have agreed with this interpretation. However, the- right honorable gentleman’s statement to-night gave the figure as £4,300, and I am glad that the point has been cleared up. I apologize for having made the mistake-.
Three or four farmers have been to me recently with similar complaints, about what they regarded as bullying tactics and inquisitiveness far beyond what would be expected of taxation officers in their efforts to get information. Fancy farmers having to think back five years and remember every little item of expenditure, even down to toilet paper! Fancy having to remember what their wives spent five years ago on clothing, hats and shoes. Fancy being asked, “ What did you pay for your children’s Christmas presents? What did you pay for your wife’s present on Mother’s Day? Where did you get that £6 to start your child’s bank account? “
– We have heard all this before.
– Well, you can hear it again, and get some idea of what is going on. I only hope that these investigators will not get on to you, because you will have to go through the same nasty experience that these people have had to put up with. I hope that Sir Patrick McGovern will read the speech that I am making so that he will understand my criticism of the methods of his officers.
I wrote to the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation on 27th October explaining that I cast no reflection on him whatsoever, but that I felt that some of the questions being asked by his officers were far beyond what could reasonably be expected. I explained exactly why I had raised the matter in the House, I thanked him for his courtesy during the years he has been in his position and I have been the member for Wilmot. But he did not have the courtesy to reply to my letter. He, too, was probably narked. If that is the attitude these men adopt when we- raise these questions, without casting any reflection on them, what hope have we of getting justice?
. -I would not raise a subject at this late hour unless it was very important, and I: will take only a few minutes to deal with this subject. I was rather apprehensive today at the answer given to a question by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). A question was directed to him regarding the future of rifle clubs and he said that he would make a statement shortly. I assumed that no definite decision had been made, because if it had, he could have made his statement to-day. I urge the Government and the Minister for the Army to do nothing that will restrict the activities of rifle clubs. They include some of the finest men in our community. They are fine sportsmen and their sport is essential to this country. In spite of nuclear and atomic bombs, the infantry man - the man who can use a rifle - is still necessary. High military authorities all over the world admit this claim to-day. We must remember that the long-range gun did not make the revolver obsolete. I urge the Government, therefore, at this late hour, not to bring anything before the Parliament or to contemplate any action that would stop the activities of rifle clubs.
Perhaps.303 ammunition will not be manufactured in the future because the FN rifle has been introduced. If that is so, I ask the Government to assist the rifle clubs to convert their rifles to the FN model by putting new barrels on them.
– You cannot do that.
– If new barrels cannot be put on them, the Government should subsidize the purchase of new rifles by the clubs. You can do that. The rifle clubs are of great importance to the country, and I believe that every honorable member on both sides of the House will support the advocacy that I make at this late hour.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.23 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
a asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
These figures exclude certain statutory offices such as the Commissioner of Taxation, the Commissioners of the Public Service Board, and the Commissioner for Repatriation. Both professional and administrative positions are included.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Friday, 25 December 1959
Saturday, 26th December, 1959.
Friday, 1st January, 1960. 3 and 4. See 1 and 2 above.
Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
y. - On 11th November, 1959, the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) asked the following question, without notice -
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that hostesses on Trans-Australian Airlines aircraft have been directed to canvass passengers for engagements for a private hire-car company operating at Kingsford-Smith Airport in Sydney? If so, does the Minister agree that this is an added duty imposed on the already overworked and under-paid hostesses, and will he take steps to see that this favourable treatment to this private hirecar company is discontinued? Is it also a fact that two-way radio from aircraft to terminal is used to complete the engagement of hire-cars by passengers, thus placing an additional strain on the radio operators? Will the Minister take steps to clean up this racket at Mascot and require private hire-cars to ply for hire on equal terms with taxi-cabs, which are operated mostly by exservicemen? Also, will the Minister take steps to see that the approaches to the terminal are kept clear for passengers and travellers and not cluttered up by private hire-cars?
The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following reply: -
The frequency with which the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith raises this particular issue is, of course, a matter of record as are my assurances with regard to the propriety of the actions of the Department of Civil Aviation in the matter. However, it seems that I must again attempt to convey to him the true situation with respect to the hire-car operations at the Sydney Airport.
Firstly, action by airline hostesses in endeavouring to satisfy the needs ot the travelling public for ground transportation, is in accordance with the best traditions of service of our Australian airline system.I would, however, correct the honorable member in his choice of terms and state that this type of personal service cannot justly be referred to as “ canvassing “. Any suggestion that air hostesses are required to channel business to the hire-car concession at Sydney Airport is entirely unfounded.
Further, I can assure the honorable member that in no instance is the two-way radio from aircraft to Air Traffic Control used in connexion with the hire-car service or for any other type of non-operational purpose. With regard to the mistaken belief that hire-cars are making inroads into taxi-cab business at Sydney Aiport may I say that, due to the spasmodic nature of business, it is extremely difficult to ensure that an adequate number of taxis are available on the airport at all times. In fact, it was with this difficulty in mind that steps were taken to place some form of ground transportation service, in this case a hirecar service, under firm contract at the airport to ensure the constant availability of cars to meet the needs of the travelling public. I can assure the honorable member that if the hire-car service were withdrawn from the airport the effect on the availability of taxi-cabs would be negligible, and the travelling public would be severely inconvenienced.
There is no question of inequality of treatment of hire-carsand taxis at the Sydney Airport, excepting perhaps that the hire-car operator is obliged to pay a concession fee for his facilities and the taxi operators do not.
Finally, I am not aware that approaches to the terminal buildings are being “cluttered up by hire-cars “. I do know that hire-cars and taxis are both allocated ranks on the opposite side of the road to the Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A. passenger terminals.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
On what occasions, by what percentages and for what reasons have Australian National Airways or Ansett-A.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines increased their passenger fares and freight rates in the last ten years?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
The following table sets out the increases which have been made in the last ten years. In all cases the rises were introduced to meet rising costs: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
a’ asked the Minister representing the Minister- for the. Navy, upon notice -
– -The Minister- for the Navy has supplied the following answers:-
Note. - The number of personnel shown for H.M.A.S. “Tarangau” includes 100 members of the Papua-New Guinea Division of the R.A.N, and 231 native workmen.
Note. - In the above answer, the types of motor transport vehicles included comprises cars, utilities, land-rovers, station wagons, buses, trucks, panel vans, ambulances, refuellers, water tankers, crash vehicles and motor cycles. Tractors, fork lift trucks, mobile cranes and trailers have not been included.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I have been advised by the Minister for Repatriation as follows: -
The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and the Assessment Appeal Tribunals have authority to summon witnesses if in their opinion it is necessary or desirable to do so. The tribunals are administrative tribunals and evidence before them is generally not taken on oath. It is therefore desirable that a tribunal should retain the discretion to decide when evidence should be taken verbally on oath. It would not be practicable to give appellants an unrestricted right to demand the attendance of witnesses for the purpose of cross-examination or any other purpose as to do so could unnecessarily prolong the proceedings without, it would appear, conferring any substantial benefit on appellants. If an appellant is dissatisfied with, or wishes to contradict, any evidence disclosed in the summary of evidence available to his advocate before the hearing of the appeal, it is open for him to do so by production of written or other evidence at the hearing of the appeal, or to the Commission beforehand. If the right to call and cross examine witnesses were granted to appellants it would logically require that he and his witnesses should also be made liable for cross-examination, a procedure which is not at all desirable. In these circumstances, I am of the opinion that the present provisions of the Act are adequate to secure a proper determination of appeals.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I have been advised by the Minister for Repatriation that statistics held by his department relating to payment of war pension to parents of deceased ex-servicemen do not differentiate between parents whose son died or was killed on active service and parents whose son died subsequently and whose death was accepted as due to war service. The answers to the questions asked by the honorable member are -
a asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the (a) number of depositors and (b) amount deposited with the Commonwealth Savings Bank during each of the financial years from and including the year 1949-50?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The number of active accounts and the amount of depositors’ balances with the Commonwealth Savings Bank as at 30th June each year from 1949 were as follows:-
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Commonwealth Bank who retired (a) prior to December, 1954, and (b) subsequent to that time?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Overseas Investments in Australia.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company Limited
Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited
Shaw Savill and Albion Company Limited
Alfred Holt and Company (Blue Funnel Line), and
New Zealand Shipping Company.
National Greek Australian Line Company Limited and
John S. Latsis Limited.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The General Assembly -
Suggests that the Committee (that is, the Ten-Nation Disarmament Committee recently established outside the framework of the U.N. and composed of 5 NATO and 5 Warsaw Pact countries) in the course of its deliberations should consider appropriate means whereby this danger (that is, the danger involved in any increase in the number of States manufacturing or having unfettered control over nuclear weapons) may be averted, includingthe feasibility of arriving at an international agreement, subject to inspection and control, whereby the powers producing nuclear weapons would refrain from handing over the control of such weapons to any nation not possessing them and whereby the powers not possessing such weapons would refrain from manufacturing them.
y asked the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister gave an assurance in his election speech that the Government would consider the possibility of augmenting resources for coal research. As a result of this a special Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee has been formed. The members of the Committee are - Mr. W. W. Pettingell (Chairman, Dr. R. S. Andrews, Professor J. P. Baxter, Mr. S. F. Cochran, Mr. J. R. A.
Glenn, Mr. F. L. McCay, Dr. F. W. G. White, Dr. H. K. Worner, Dr. R. K. Warner (Technical Secretary). The terms of reference of the Committee are - The Committee is to examine the work of the C.S.I.R.O. Coal Research Section and other Commonwealth institutions and will make recommendations to the Government at a later date. The answers to your specific questions are -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 November 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19591126_reps_23_hor25/>.