23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I am sure the House would wish me to inform honorable members that I have requested His Excellency the Governor-General to forward the following message to Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret and to Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones: -
On behalf of the Government and the people of Australia, I offer sincere good wishes on the happy occasion of your marriage.
I am sure the House will join with me in that expression of good wishes. I also desire to inform the House that the Prime Minister has presented an antique silver punch bowl to Princess Margaret as Australia’s wedding gift.
– I should like to associate the Opposition with the message which the Acting Prime Minister has asked the Governor-General to forward to Princess Margaret and Mr. ArmstrongJones. Very cordially and loyally we join in this expression of good wishes.
Princess Margaret’s personality has always had a great appeal to the people of Australia. She is one of the members of the Australian Royal Family in whom the Australian people take the closest interest. We wish her very much happiness in her married life, and we are sure that she will value the momento of the affection in which the Australian people hold her.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Can he explain how the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is able to determine the basic wage which Australian industry can afford to pay to its workers without at the same time deciding the scale of profit to be received by shareholders, seeing that both of these groups share the proceeds of industry?
– The two parts of the question amount to a perfect non sequitur. I should state first that the function of the commission is to decide what the basic wage shall be. It is not a function of the commission to decide what profits shall be. The commission does not make an examination to determine what profits ought to be, nor has it jurisdiction to do so. It examines all the available evidence so that it can make up its mind as to what variation should be made in the basic wage, keeping in mind at all times the capacity of industry to pay. Amongst other things, it considers evidence relating to the total amount of profits made in Australian industry. In the last basic wage case there was a lengthy discussion of this question, on which a considerable amount of evidence was submitted on behalf of the trade union movement. I think it appropriate that such evidence should be analysed. It is most helpful to the commission in deciding the amount by which the basic wage should be increased.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. So that Queensland users of postal services may have a sounder appreciation of the department’s enormous development projects and their cost, will the Postmaster-General make early arrangements for the technological display at present in King’s Hall to be shown in the Brisbane City Hall and other large country centres throughout Queensland?
– I have already had a number of requests from honorable members and senators similar to that now made by the honorable member for Griffith. They have asked that as wide a coverage as possible be given to this display. It is obviously much appreciated by members of the Parliament. I shall be very happy indeed to see what can be done to show it much more widely. In fact, I had a preliminary discussion yesterday with the DirectorGeneral with the object of working out an itinerary for this display, and I may say that one point that I made with him was that the itinerary should provide for country centres as well as for capital cities.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services. Did the Prime Minister, during the debate on the Budget last year, promise the Parliament that a comprehensive review would be made of the means test as it applies to age, invalid and widows’ pensions before the Budget is presented this year? Did he also express the opinion that a matter of this kind was better dealt with apart from the Budget? Can the Minister say whether the promised legislation will be brought down before the current session ends in a few weeks?
– The honorable member for Barton, although a comparatively new member, should know that questions concerning statements made by the Prime Minister should be addressed to the Prime Minister. However, I believe that the Prime Minister did say that a comprehensive survey would be made of the means test and its application to age and invalid pensions; and a comprehensive survey has in fact been made. I have said from time to time in reply to questions that every aspect of social services is constantly under review, and in the fullness of time the Government’s decisions will be made known.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it expected that the continued dry conditions in many grain-growing areas in all States will cause a fall in the sowing of wheat for the coming season? Is there still a large carry-over of wheat in storage in Australia from last season’s crop?
– I have not yet received any estimate from the Australian Wheat Board of the sowing for the season. It is too early to say what areas are likely to be affected by seasonal conditions, because I am quite sure that wheat can be sown as late as June and possibly July in Queensland. At the end of the last wheat season on 30th November of last year, the carry-over was 65,000,000 bushels. The intake for the last crop reached 178,000,000 bushels. According to sales to date, it is estimated that if sales continue in the same proportions for the balance of this year up to 30th November next, we may have a carry-over of about 70,000,000 bushels at that date.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether the roads which have been built in the Queensland Channel country under the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act 1949 were paid for from funds actually provided by the Commonwealth for this purpose, or whether they were financed from moneys provided by the United Kingdom Government either under the provisions of the long-term meat agreement or otherwise?
– I can answer quite briefly the question asked by the honorable member for McPherson. I know that there is an impression widely held in Queensland, particularly in the Channel country, that certain roads which have been built with funds provided by the Commonwealth were in fact constructed by arrangement with the United Kingdom and were paid for by the United Kingdom Government. That is a completely erroneous understanding. The Chifley Government decided that certain roads would be built for the encouragement of beef production in the Channel country, and that policy was continued and expanded by the present Government. I think that, in total, £1,400,000 has been spent by the Commonwealth - a little of it on the improvement of stock routes, but most of it on the actual construction of roads in the Channel country. Almost £1,000,000 has been spent for the same purpose in Western Australia. The whole of that money was provided by the Commonwealth Government, which has not been reimbursed by the United Kingdom.
I may say that the honorable member for Maranoa has been constantly pressing the Government for the extension of this road construction work, and my recent visit to the Channel country was a direct result of representations made by him. I have no doubt that these roads will be constructed with the finances which the Commonwealth is providing for the Queensland Government, and I have given the honorable member for Maranoa and the pastoralists of the Channel country an undertaking that the Commonwealth would sympathetically consider a request by the Queensland Government for further Commonwealth assistance if that Government feels that it has a case to put to the Commonwealth.
– I ask an exploratory question of the Treasurer. Has the right honorable gentleman or the Department of the Treasury considered the operations of land trusts and land unit trusts? Does the Minister consider that an immense volume of investment is daily going into these trusts and that this immense investment of liquid funds in this fashion will create an imbalance in the community by drawing off funds which, we were formerly led to believe, went to banks and to swell investment in other enterprises at a lower percentage of profit? Is there any machinery by which these investments could be controlled if they are considered to be dangerous to the community? Has the right honorable gentleman any comments to make about the enormous amount of spending money readily obtained by these trusts from the Australian people being used to buy part of the Northern Territory, as was announced yesterday, and to buy huge undertakings in the field of private commerce on a scale which staggers the imagination?
– The honorable member for Parkes has asked me what he calls an exploratory question and I am not in a position to give him a definitive answer; but no aspect of these transactions, so far as I am aware, has yet come under critical scrutiny by officers in the Treasury. Now that the honorable gentleman has put his question in these terms, I shall pursue some inquiries into the matter inside the Treasury. However, far from deposits with the banking system having been reduced, the position is, according to the last figures I saw, that deposits have increased quite considerably over recent times.
There have been over recent years, Mr. Speaker, several developments inside Australia’s financial and monetary structure. To some extent, I believe these developments are evidence of a greater degree of sophistication or maturity in our economic system. Most of them, I think, are welcome innovations. We might have less enthusiastic reactions to one or two others. It is certainly true that a good deal of the lending which, in the past, had been the function of our banking system has been, in these times, if not taken over, at least encroached upon by financial institutions of a quasi-banking description. The general question is being studied by the appropriate officers in the Treasury, but there has been no policy decision on the matter that I could announce to the House at this time.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the Bretton Woods Agreement was entered into by Australia in the light of conditions prevailing at the time, and now no longer prevailing? When does the agreement expire? Does the Government consider that the clauses in the agreement which relate to the closed marketing of gold are to Australia’s presentday advantage in view of the cost of production as compared with the price of gold?
– When the Government of the day entered into these arrangements in 1947, the prime purpose of the financial institutions that were set up - notably the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank - were to promote greater international monetary cooperation and the development of the lessdeveloped areas of the world. It cannot be said that the need for such services has ceased to exist. The need for international monetary co-operation and the encouragement of international trade and development of this kind exists no less strongly to-day than it did then and, indeed, what has been done since was designed to improve our means of reaching the objectives which were then in view. There is no time limit set on the operations of these financial institutions, but provision does exist for any particular government which seeks to withdraw from them to do so on the conditions that are prescribed. However, the experience has been that, far from any government wishing to withdraw, additional governments have sought entry to the institution; so at the present time, some 68 member governments are members. They include most of the governments of what we call the free world.
As to the price of gold, there is provision in the articles of the International
Monetary Fund for the price of gold to be considered. From time to time, discussion has developed at the meetings of the fund, particularly at the instance of South Africa which is, of course, very strongly interested in this matter as one of the world’s leading gold producers. Australia has always given strong support to the case made out by South Africa for an increase in the price of gold. We shall continue our efforts in that direction but an increase can only be brought about with the agreement of the fund and in this matter the United States has a really decisive influence. Up to the present time it has not shown itself willing to approve an increase.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question concerning statements made recently by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Minister for Social Services and other Ministers regarding the campaign to employ the physically disabled. Has the Cabinet considered the Boyer report on Commonwealth Public Service recruitment? Is it intended to implement the recommendations concerning the employment of the physically handicapped which, if adopted, would open the way for the Commonwealth to employ those physically handicapped people who are trained for employment by the Rehabilitation Centre of the Department of Social Services? Does the Minister not consider that it would further encourage private industry to offer employment to these people if the Government showed its readiness to do likewise?
– The Cabinet has considered the Boyer report. The particular aspect to which the honorable gentleman referred - the further employment by the Commonwealth of disabled people - is, as I indicated yesterday in the House in reply to a question, at present under examination. The Cabinet has appointed a committee of appropriate senior officers to make a further and more detailed examination, and that group will report back to Cabinet in due course.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Social Services a question which is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Barton. Is it a fact that the means test in Australia tends to favour superannuated persons as against private persons who have saved? ls it a fact that the effect of this is that some private citizens either divest themselves of their savings in permissible ways or refrain from saving at all? If so, is the savings rate in Australia not suffering as a consequence, although savings are of immense importance? Is the savings rate in Australia only about half of, or very much lower than, that of the United Kingdom?
– It is my opinion that the application of the means test, either with respect to property or income, does not affect the saving rate of the people in our community. The rate of pension appropriate to a superannuated person who has no property is calculated after the application of the income test. The rate of pension appropriate to an applicant who has property is determined after the application of the property test. But income from property is now excluded and by that very device every encouragement is given (o people to save. The exclusion of income from property was designed to avoid prejudice, and that purpose has been achieved.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Is it a fact that under the social services legislation an aged pensioner entering a benevolent hospital or a chronic hospital is permitted to keep a proportion of the pension for his own use whilst the pension of a person who is admitted to a mental hospital ceases forthwith? In view of the enlightened and sympathetic public attitude now existing towards mental illness, will the Minister consider removing this unfair discrimination against an unfortunate section of the community?
– The question addressed to me by the honorable member has been canvassed from time to time by honorable members on both sides of the House, but it has been the traditional custom to accept the situation that the States accept exclusive responsibility for the mentally sick in a community, and, because of that, it is laid down in the Social Services Act that if and when a person enters a mental hospital the social service benefit that he has been receiving shall cease until such time as he is discharged from that hospital. When he is discharged the social service benefit is immediately restored and is made retrospective for a period of four weeks of hospitalization.
– What action has the Minister for Primary Industry taken at the request of the Australian Wheat Growers Federal Council for money to be made available through the Commonwealth Bank for the construction of bulk storage of surplus wheat?
– The Australian Wheat Board approached me concerning the policy of the Commonwealth Government with respect to finance for the storage of wheat. The Government has considered this matter and has reaffirmed its stand that this is essentially a matter for the State governments because, after all, they have a monopoly of the receivals through the bulk handling authorities which now exist; and it is considered by the Government that to be consistent and to prevent dual ownership and control of storage we should maintain the position in which the State governments are responsible for storage.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Can he now tell the House whether telephone subscribers in Tasmania, whose services have to be restored after the recent floods, will have to pay again the normal £10 installation fee?
– The question asked by the honorable member for Bass is nearly identical with that asked last Tuesday by the honorable member for Franklin and directed to the Acting Prime Minister in my absence. I have therefore had opportunity to obtain the latest information on the matter. I am glad to be able to advise those honorable members that in a case like this, where there has been loss or damage to departmental equipment as the result of an act of God, subscribers are not required to pay the cost of replacement or repair. The departmental policy is that in other circumstances, if such equipment is covered by insurance or is damaged as the result of carelessness, the subscriber is expected to pay. We regret very much the extent of the damage in Tasmania. The reports I have received show that from 80 to 150 telephones were either lost or damaged beyond repair and that two PABX units were lost. These will be replaced without cost to subscribers. Those who have inquired in the Hobart area regarding the position have been officially advised to that effect by the department.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, and is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for East Sydney. I ask the Minister whether industrial commissions have fixed the basic wage without regard to the inflationary effect of an increase, and the consequent decline of living standards thereby forced on people living - or subsisting - on fixed or relatively fixed incomes. Is it to be presumed that the honorable member for East Sydney, acting as unofficial Leader of the Opposition, regards these people as negligible? Is that also the attitude of the Government? Secondly, I ask whether it is not a fact that profits are pretty drastically dealt with under the taxation system, and are also distributed in the form of social services to the workers.
– As to the last part of the question, profits are dealt with under the taxation mechanism of this country; both private individuals and companies have to pay the rate of tax fixed by this House. As to the second part of the question, if my colleague does not mind I will let him battle that out with the honorable member for East Sydney, perhaps in a debate on a matter of urgency or when the motion for the adjournment is made to-night. As to the remainder of the question, I know that there is some misunderstanding, particularly because of a statement made some years ago by one of the members of the industrial tribunal, but I can assure him that the court does consider the possible inflationary effect of increases of margins or of the basic wage before making an award.
– My question is without notice and is directed to the Minister for Social Services. By way of preface I remind the Minister of a question I asked concerning the payment of social service benefits to aborigines in mission stations and on government reserves. The Minister said on that occasion, when I complained about the practice followed by the South Australian Government of taking all but 15s. of the amount of pension and keeping it in trust and deciding how much the pensioner should spend on food, &c, that it was something over which he had little control because it was a State government matter. I should now like to ask the Minister whether he is free, under the Social Services Act, to pay age and invalid pensions direct to aboriginal pensioners living on government reserves. If he is free to pay the pension direct to the pensioner in such cases will he do so and cease paying pensions direct to the South Australian Government, so that aboriginal pensioners may have the same control over the spending of their pensions as is enjoyed by other pensioners, and thus put an end to the present practice of the South Australian Government of appropriating all but 15s. of the £4 15s. a week to which aboriginal pensioners are now legally entitled under the Social Services Act?
– May I say that for 52 years successive Commonwealth governments found it impossible to eliminate the discrimination levelled against the aboriginal natives of our country on the question of their eligibility for full social service benefits - for two reasons, and for two reasons only. One was the great difficulty in getting unanimity among the States, which have the primary responsibility in respect of the welfare of aborigines. The other was the carping criticism that was likely to be encountered if and when unanimity was reached, over the physical difficulties of paying social service benefits to aboriginal natives in remote localities. This Government, Mr. Speaker, with infinite courage, explored the possibilities, and well knowing the difficulties that could arise, tackled the problem. After many conferences unanimity was reached among the States and Territories, and systems were devised for the payment of social service benefits to qualifying aboriginal natives on precisely the same terms as those on which they are paid to other people in the terms of the Social Services Act. Wherever practicable, that is done. Wherever it is not practicable, in the interests of the aboriginal natives themselves, arrangements are entered into between my department and the native welfare departments of the various States under which the missions in the States function. I have some satisfaction in saying that up to this point all our purposes and intentions have been fulfilled, and that there have been no major difficulties. I would ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and any other honorable member who has the welfare of the aboriginal natives at heart, to exercise some patience in the criticisms that are levelled against this major development in the lives of our native people.
– My question to the Postmaster-General relates to the International Telecommunications Conference which was held last December in Geneva. Was any agreement or convention entered into on behalf of Australia, or was anything done which was in any way binding on Australia? If so, will the Minister, before we go into recess, lay on the table of the Library for the information of honorable members a copy of the undertakings which were given?
– Certain determinations were made by delegates to the Geneva conference, and those determinations were noted. But there has been no ratification by this Government of any of the decisions which were arrived at. Yesterday 1 received a summary of that part of the overall report which deals with amateur radio operators, ft is my intention shortly to submit thai summary to Cabinet for consideration and determination as to what further action should be taken. When such determination is made, it is my intention to make a statement on the matter to the House.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services is supplemenatry to the question which was asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
What physical difficulties would there be in the Department of Social Services paying social service benefits directly to the aborigines residing in the two South Australian Government reservations of Point McLeay and Point Pearce, where, I believe, there are post offices and which are within 100 miles of Adelaide?
– Social service payments are made to qualified aboriginal natives in missions in the States in the way that is considered can best serve the interests of the aborigines. It is done after consultation with the people concerned and with the State native welfare authorities, if the honorable member is interested in any particular mission, I shall provide him with the precise details of the payments as they are made. But I repeat that they are made in the best interests of the aboriginal natives receiving them, and in accordance with arrangements which have been entered into by my department. We are always conscious of our responsibilities to the recipients of social service benefits.
– As the great majority of Australians have a live interest in the question of inflation, will the Treasurer issue a White Paper dealing with the causes of inflation and discuss productivity, national growth, wages, costs and other factors and the expected effect of the steps taken by the Government?
– 1 appreciate the interest which the honorable member and, indeed, other members of this House and so many members of the public have in the matters covered by the question which he has just put to me. From time to time I have taken the opportunity available to try to give facts and an analysis of our economic situation as it is seen from my own standpoint as Treasurer of the Commonwealth. The honorable member will possibly be aware that there are two periods in the year when a far more comprehensive statement is made on behalf of the Government. I say “ more comprehensive “ because already, earlier this year, the Prime Minister set out measures which the Government is using to meet the inflationary pressure which had developed at that point. The two periods to which I referred are, first, Budget time, when it is customary not only for a thorough survey to be made by the Treasurer but also for a good deal of documentation to be produced covering most if not all the points which the honorable member has mentioned; and secondly, in recent years, during the life of this Government, we have published about this time of the year an economic survey which itself is a very thorough document and a very informative one. This is at present in an advanced stage of preparation and I should hope to have it available for honorable members very shortly.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the Postal Department has at long last decided to replace the tin shed abutting the Elizabeth-street Post Office in Melbourne with a more suitable edifice. If it has, when will the work start, and to what purpose will the edifice be devoted?
– I had some discussion about this matter some months ago while I was in Melbourne, but I confess that my mind is not quite clear on it as a whole and on the forward planning. Therefore, I will obtain an answer for the honorable member and forward it to him as soon as possible.
– My question to the Minister for Primary Industry refers to the act recently passed by this Parliament authorizing the appointment of a second member from Queensland to the Australian Wheat Board. Can the Minister say when this act will be proclaimed, and will he announce the name of the new appointee shortly afterwards?
– With regard to the recent amendment to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1 958 providing for an extra member on the Australian Wheat Board from Queensland, I expect that the measure will be proclaimed very shortly; and T hope to be in a position as soon as that is done to announce the name of the individual to be appointed to the board.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister.
Does the Government concur in the statement of the Minister for National Development that unless there is an appreciable improvement in port facilities at Newcastle and Port Kembla our future export trade may be jeopardized? If the Government shares the Minister’s view in that regard, do not the same conditions jeopardize the defence of these two ports, from which it would be impossible to move shipping to sea quickly in the event of hit-run raids by an enemy, or other such catastrophes? In view of the fact that trade and defence are both the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, will the Acting Prime Minister consider making special funds available from trade and defence votes for the purpose of bringing both harbours up to satisfactory standards consistent with trade and defence requirements?
– My colleague the Minister for National Development has displayed such a great and continuous interest in the export coal trade and, indeed, in coal-mining in Australia, that I am very sure he would speak with knowledge and with authority in expressing the view he has put forward. I would say that if the Commonwealth Government on an issue of defence had ever been proffered advice by its advisers which pointed in the direction of the question asked by the honorable member, such advice would have been taken into consideration long before now. But as I comprehend the matter, an extensive coal trr.de may involve the use of vessels of draft greater than those which are normally used in the Australian coastal trade. However, I have every confidence in the view expressed by my colleague the Minister for National Development.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Defence by stating that over a period of years honorable members have heard reports of inspections of the jungle warfare training school at Canungra in Queensland being carried out by representatives of the United States armed forces, but nothing seems to have arisen from those repeated inspections. The last report indicates that an officer of the United States Army is at present going through the course there as a student. I ask the Minister for
Defence: Has the United States asked that its forces be allowed to use this school for the training of officers and non-commissioned officers? If there has been such an approach, has the Australian Government felt inclined to accept a proposal along those lines? Alternatively, has the Australian Government made such a proposal to the United States? If so, what is the cause of the delay in taking action to enable American forces to use this jungle warfare training school?
– I think the question posed by the honorable member could be answered in detail better by the Minister for the Army. I know that approaches on this subject have been made by the United States Government, and that its representatives have been out here. They are fully aware of the jungle warfare training facilities available at Canungra. As the honorable member for Lilley says, at least one American officer is taking the course at Canungra now, and I understand that more will come in the near future. I am sorry that I cannot give the honorable member exact details. The Minister for the Army is not well and is away at present, but I shall see him when he returns and get a detailed reply for the honorable member.
– by leave - The Government has reached a number of conclusions upon the future of the National Library, about which I should like to inform the House. As honorable members will know, the National Library has grown directly from the Library of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Parliamentary Library Committee, under the leadership of the President of the Senate and the Spaker, has been the main source of advice in the Parliamentary and National libraries, and I should like to acknowlege the value of its work over the years. The advice of the present committee and of its chairman, Sir Alister McMullin, has been most helpful to the Government in considering the future of the National Library.
It has been clear for some time that the National Library has outgrown the scope of the Parliamentary Library and has become a research and reference institution with nation-wide responsibilities. It is generally recognized that a different form of control has become desirable. In 1956, therefore, the Government set up a committee with Sir George Paton, the ViceChancellor of the University of Melbourne, as chairman to study the matter. The committee included three members of the Parliament, representing all parties and both Houses. The report of the committee was tabled in Parliament and we are all greatly indebted to the committee for its work.
Last year the Government set up an interdepartmental committee to advise on the detailed measures which were necessary to make effective the main recommendations of the Paton Committee. This committee worked last year in the closest association with the Presiding Officers and the Parliamentary Library Committee. The Government’s conclusions can be summarized as follows: -
The Government intends that there should be the closest co-operation between the Parliamentary Library and the National Library in order to avoid overlapping wherever possible and to ensure economies in administration. This co-operation, will, of course, be especially close in the early stages because we do not have, as yet, a building to house the National Library adequately. The Government has agreed that design and planning work for a new National Library building should begin. Naturally, the timing of construction will have to be considered in relation to requirements for other public works.
The Parliamentary Library will have its own stock of books, periodicals, newspapers and so on for the use of members of Parliament. It will have access to the resources of the National Library by arrangement between the Parliamentary Library Committee and the Council of the National Library - an arrangement which will strengthen the reference and reading services available to Parliament itself.
The Government has given special attention to the future of government archives, and has reached the conclusion that government archives should be under government control as they are essentially a collection of the Government’s own confidential papers, records and files, many of which for a number of reasons should not be made public at least until a certain period of time has elapsed. This is the normal practice in countries overseas.
The Government proposes to take early action to give effect to the conclusions it has reached. The first step will be to appoint the National Library Council and its chairman on an interim basis.
I should perhaps emphasize that we are not in essence establishing new institutions, but rather are introducing new methods of control and divisions of responsibilities which are more suitable for the present needs and which are similar to those operating in many countries in the British Commonwealth and elsewhere. I am confident that the Government’s legislation, which, it is hoped, will be brought down in the next session of Parliament, will command a large measure of support, both in this Parliament and the Australian community. I lay on the table the following paper: -
National Library - Ministerial Statement.
– by leave - I move -
That the paper be printed.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - On Tuesday last, the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies) asked me whether 1 had any information concerning 2,000 sacks of potatoes that were left at Burnie on 23rd April, and I advised him then that the incident had not been brought to my notice. I have since made inquiries and have ascertained the position, which I now outline for his information. “ Wanaka “ was to load potatoes at Burnie on 21st and 22nd April. On those days, extremely heavy rain fell at Burnie and this affected the loading of the cargo. At 10 a.m. on Friday, when an improvement in the weather appeared to be in sight, the cargo on the wharf was estimated to require a further 54 gang-hours to load. During the remainder of Friday, including the evening shift, 60 gang-hours would have been available to the company under normal weather conditions and all cargo would have been loaded with time to spare on the Friday night. However, the stevedore, considering that further rain delay was possible, endeavoured to protect the position by requisitioning two gangs for work during Saturday morning. This was a form of insurance against the possibility of further rain on Friday and, if there had been no rain on Friday, would have cost the shipowner £165 for labour for which he would have had no use. It was necessary to place a firm requisition for Saturday labour not later than 11 a.m. on Friday. In all stevedoring operations, as will be readily understood, the effect of rain delays cannot be accurately foreseen, and whilst stevedores endeavour to engage labour for all likely contingencies, occasions must inevitably occur on which in- sufficient labour is ordered to make up for an unexpectedly lengthy delay. On the other hand, extra labour can be ordered for which the shipowner would have no use if the weather clears.
After the completion of negotiations for necessary labour, which could not be supplemented subsequently, further rain fell during Friday afternoon and all labour was dismissed at 3 p.m. In addition, further showers occurred during the evening and only two hours were worked instead of the full evening shift. During this period, the stevedoring company kept close liaison with the shippers of all cargo, including the produce merchants, as to the effect of the delay and, since the following Monday was Anzac Day and no work would be performed, it was considered best in the over-all interest to sail “ Wanaka “ at 1.30 p.m. on Saturday and maintain her schedule. The produce shippers, who, as I have said, were kept fully informed, intimated that they were satisfied with the position, as they expected an increase in the Sydney market price because of the carry-over of 3,500 sacks from “ Wanaka “. These sacks were placed aside for loading in the vessel “ Kootara “, which was in position concurrently with “ Wanaka “ and also proceeding to Sydney during the following week. In fact, “ Kootara “ lifted all cargo available at Burnie, including produce, and sailed on 30th April.
I feel sure that the honorable member for Braddon will agree that the shipowners were in no way at fault in leaving behind the part of the cargo which could not be loaded on “ Wanaka “ because of rain, especially as a second vessel was already in position to lift, and in fact did lift, the cargo left behind by “ Wanaka “ because of the weather conditions.
The honorable member also referred in his question to representations he has made to me previously about the use of an “ E “ class vessel for produce shipments. I assume that when he raised this matter in the House he had not received the letter which I sent to him on this subject on 2nd May. I would point out that the Australian National Line is given considerable operational freedom in the management of its vessels and is charged with the responsibility to use them in the most economic manner. So. while I am quite willing to pass on to the management representations of the kind made to me by the honorable member. I believe that the ultimate decision as to the manner in which the line’s vessels are to be employed must rest with the management, if the line is to function properly and economically. The honorable member has been in personal contact with the general manager of the line on this question, and I suggest that he continue to maintain his close contact with the management. If I can help on any occasion, I am quite happy to do so.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Colonial Light Dues Legislation Repeal Bill 1960.
Pollution of the Sea by Oil Bill 1960.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to prohibit the interception of telephonic communications except where specially authorized in the interests of the security of the Commonwealth.
Local Government Finance - Broadcasting - Social Service Benefits - Business Concessions at Airports - National Disaster Fund - The Parliament - Australian Development - Hotel for Qantas Empire Airways Limited.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
.- I shall direct my comments to the plight of local government bodies throughout Australia. The state has now been reached, as far as finance is concerned, when it is impossible for local government to continue on its usual high and efficient plane without some regular government aid. By this I mean assistance given by this Parliament, which is the only Parliament with sufficient finance to be of any practical assistance. For the past ten years at least, the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, a strictly non-party organization comprising representatives of local government associations in each of the States, has been very active in an effort to preserve the framework of local government. It has advanced a number of suggestions that have had as their object the preservation of local government in every sense so that the efficient service given to the community may be continued.
The council has advocated that a conference be held of the three arms of government - that is, the Commonwealth Government, the State governments and the local government bodies - to determine the obligations of each and the resources available for fulfilling these obligations. This conference would be on the lines proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1950 when he opened the conference of local government associations in South Melbourne. So, the suggestion came in the first place from the Prime Minister, but, as is customary, he made a speech and promptly forgot all that was contained in it. As a result, nothing has been done to call the various governments together in a conference. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations held its conference in Canberra last year. The conference was attended by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and myself. We were told quite emphatically that the council intended to press its proposals, and a few days later a deputation waited on the Prime Minister.
The deputation asked that an inquiry be held into the plight of local government bodies, so that assistance could be given to them. The suggestion was made that the various duties and responsibilities be clearly divided between the three fields and that responsibility for finance be determined. Obviously, such an inquiry would take some time, and the suggestion was made that, meanwhile, an annual contribution of £10,000,000 be made by the Commonwealth Government to assist local government bodies. On the constitutional aspect, the question might be asked: What has the Commonwealth to do with contributions to local government? The Australian Council of Local Government Associations has received legal advice, at the highest possible level, that the Commonwealth can make grants to the States so that the money can be distributed amongst the various municipal bodies in the States.
I do not think it will be argued by anybody that local government authorities have not rendered wonderful service throughout Australia’s history. Over very many years, they have played their part in the development of Australia, and they have done it on a shoe-string budget. Unfortunately, in the changing circumstances of the community’s needs, local authorities cannot continue to function successfully unless they receive adequate finance. For example, there has been a revolution in transport which has necessitated the reconstruction of almost every road that was laid down 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Roads to-day are many more times expensive than they used to be, because the great volume of heavy motor transport and the increased number of cars require roads of much stronger construction - of much more lasting construction - than was the case 20, 30 or 40 years ago. In addition, new duties and responsibilities of an administrative nature are continually being imposed on local government bodies by the demands of the public, who naturally want to keep up with world-wide developments in various public facilities and services.
Unfortunately, local authorities have only one main method of obtaining finance, and that is rating. It is true that, in a few instances, they are engaged in trading activities such as the conduct of electric power undertakings and that they receive profit from those activities. But, in the main, the principal source of revenue is rates, and rates alone. This one source of funds does not enable local authorities to satisfy the ever-increasing demand for services required by the people. Some one may say, “ Why do local authorities not put up the rates? “ But there is a limit beyond which rates cannot be increased. I should like to point out that, whereas the general price level has increased over the past ten years by 145 per cent., the average increase in rates throughout Australia has been 361 per cent., because local authorities have had to keep up with the ever-increasing demands made on them by the people. Therefore, to-day, we have a situation in which the ratepayer is called upon to pay, in terms of real money value, after allowing for depreciation of the £1, twice as much as he paid ten years ago.
The Commonwealth Government could have helped local government bodies more in the past. It, like the State governments, does very little to assist councils by paying rates on government properties. Let us take the position in the City of Melbourne, where the Commonwealth owns 60 buildings with a net annual ratable value of £668,660. I emphasize that that is only the ratable value. We should have to multiply it by twenty in order to get the actual value. At the present rate of 2s. lid. in the £1 which operates in the City of Melbourne, these properties would yield in rates just on £100,000. The Commonwealth has acquired land in the vicinity of Spring-street and Latrobe-street, in Melbourne, for the construction of Commonwealth buildings. When that property passed from private hands to the Commonwealth, rates were no longer paid on it and the loss to the City of Melbourne in that respect alone is about £25,000 a year, because that amount would have been paid had the property remained in the hands of private enterprise. So, the City of Melbourne actually loses about £125,000 a year on Commonwealth Government properties. Although the city council loses this amount, the Commonwealth instrumentalities which occupy these properties receive the benefit of municipal services such as street lighting, roads and footpaths, traffic control and street cleaning, to say nothing of all the other municipal services that abound there.
It is considered that councils in the State capitals are losing approximately £650,000 as a result of the Commonwealth’s refusal to pay rates on properties, although it does pay rates on properties in respect of which it engages in commercial enterprises in competition with private enterprise. With that one exception, and the possible exception of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which makes ex gratia payments on its bank properties, and which is a semi-indirect public instrumentality and does not come directly under the Commonwealth Government’s control, the Commonwealth pays practically nothing in rates.
I should like to point out, also, that the Commonwealth Government’s migration policy has greatly increased the responsibilities of local authorities. Private property-owners have had to shoulder the burden of these increased responsibilities by providing the additional finance necessary to discharge the increased responsibilities attendant on the Commonwealth’s migration policy. The State governments come into this, too, but 1 do not propose to discuss them, for that is a matter for State parliamentarians. The Commonwealth shelters behind an obsolete contention that the Sovereign’s representative shall not be charged rates. But local government bodies discharge functions that are the responsibility of the entire community when it comes to financing them. All that we are doing under the present system is asking property-owners to bear the whole cost of functions which should be financed by the entire community, whether property-owners or not. For instance, to-day, councils provide community centres, recreation facilities, welfare services, kindergartens, libraries, traffic control and many other services the demand for which is increasing with the passage of the years.
As the Australian Council of Local Government Associations has stated, local authorities do not desire to shed their powers or abdicate their responsibilities. What they want is a more equitable adjustment of the burden of local government finance in order to spread it more evenly through the community generally, consistent with the benefits enjoyed and the services given. Councils say it is unfair that their ratepayers are called on to pay the cost of services which benefit all sections of the community.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, twelve months ago, the subject of the availability of frequency reservations to amateur radio operators in this country was a matter of hot concern in both Houses of this Parliament and on both sides of the Parliament. In the light of known proposals for the reduction of the frequency channels which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department proposed to send on for consideration at the International Telecommunications Union conference, in Geneva, last year, that was a reasonable thing. But I think it is timely and necessary to raise the question again, because, presumably, in the near future, the Government will have before it a submission from the department dealing with the results of the Geneva conference and moving for some form of ratification, as may be required. Therefore, because a good deal of discontent over the outcome of the Geneva conference still lingers, I consider that there are some important matters which ought to be brought to the attention of the Government, and, perhaps, to the notice of the people of Australia, Sir. These matters are not confined only to amateur radio, and what has happened in this field gives rise to wider considerations.
I do not want to say much about the value of the amateur radio operator in peace and war - I think that is well understood - or, indeed, about the fact that amateur radio represents a training ground for electronic technicians in this country which is particularly valuable in view of the few opportunities available for obtaining experience of that sort. I propose also to pass lightly over the recognition given to radio .amateurs, because it is well known that they are regarded as an international group, and that reservations have been made for them on an international basis by the International Telecommunications Union.
In the United States of America and the United Kingdom, amateur operators are considered of such value that the delegations sent to the Geneva conference by those countries fought hard, and, I am happy to say, retained for their amateurs the whole field of reservations for amateur operation. In the United Kingdom, amateur radio is encouraged as a source of operators for signals branches of the defence services, even to the degree that the Government provides equipment and pays something towards the cost of its maintenance. In Australia, in recent years, the president of the Wireless Institute of Australia - the organization of amateur operators - was awarded an O.B.E. - the award of admission as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire - in recognition of the splendid service given by the amateurs of this country during floods and bush fires on many occasions when the communication facilities provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department had been disrupted for some reason.
For years past, the Australian amateur has had available to him fewer frequency channels than are available to amateur operators in other English-speaking countries. In this connexion, I wish to direct attention to a statement made on 7th May, 1959, by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). He said -
That statement is demonstrably untrue, Sir, and it can readily be tested. 1 have done that. The useful bands available to Australian amateur operators represent only 85 per cent, of those available to the American operators. On the channels best suited to international communication, which is the very life-blood of amateur radio, they are restricted to 56 per cent, of those available to the Americans. If the Geneva conference decision is to be put into operation, including a restriction, applicable to Australia only, to which I shall refer presently, we shall be down to something like 50 per cent, of the space available to the Americans. Nor does that tell all the story, because the Australian amateur suffers disadvantages in respect of power and other matters as a result of conditions imposed on them by the Postal Department.
The point to which I wish to direct attention, and which I should like the PostmasterGeneral to note, is that when this matter was one of hot concern twelve months ago, honorable members on both sides of the House were given an undertaking, which I must accept as coming from the Minister’s own department, that the Australian amateur would lose nothing further by way of frequency reservations unless such restrictions were demanded by the International Telecommunications Conference at Geneva.
Let me illustrate by taking one point - the band of frequencies available to amateurs on 80 metres. The Australian delegation took forward a proposal to reduce the Australian allocation from 300 kilocycles to 200 kilocycles. They put it before the conference, and we had no objection, but the conference rejected the Australian proposal. One would assume that that would be the end of that, but no, the Australian delegates then included what is called in convention parlance a “ footnote “. The footnote interposed into the articles of the convention the Australian restriction down to 200 kilocycle band widths. The inclusion of this footnote in the proceedings of the Geneva conference was, as I see it and as many other members of this Parliament will see it, a repudiation of the undertaking given to the Parliament.
I hope that this does not indicate a state of mind in which this Parliament is to be held in contempt by a government depart ment. I should like to hear what the PostmasterGeneral has to say about this. For my part, I cannot see that this was other than a premeditated act of bad faith on the part of the administration. As such, I find it completely intolerable.
Various reasons have been put forward why Australian amateur reservations must be reduced. We have been told that there is a rising demand for frequency channels for other communication services. Of course, that is perfectly true. Quoting the Postmaster-General’s own figures in relation to the aeronautical field, the applications have risen from 59 to 172; but in this field, the United States of America manages to operate 81,000 transmitters. Some of our members were concerned that if the amateur bands were not reduced, there would be no room available for the operation of bush fire radio equipment; but in the closest counterpart of this service that I could find in the American table, I find the Americans can operate no fewer than 92,000 transmitters.
This takes me out of the field of amateur frequencies altogether, and it brings up a wider question as to what is happening in frequency allocations in Australia. In times past, I have made the point that we should have a counterpart in Australia of the American Federal Communications Commission. I know that the PostmasterGeneral has indicated that quite shortly we are to have another committee in Australia to examine the broad question of frequencies. I want to put to the Minister two propositions: One is that we should consider the establishment of an administrative body similar to the American Federal Communications Commission, and towards that end it might not be a bad thing for the Government to invite to Australia one of the American commissioners, and to seek his advice as to how this problem should be tackled. 1 put this seriously to the House and the people that, in Australia, one of our most valuable public possessions will be the ownership and availability of channels or communication in a big country; yet what have been given as the reasons for doing the things to which I have referred? We find that we, in Australia, have virtually exhausted the availability of communication channels with something under 50.000 transmitters, yet in a country of the same physical size, and having access to widths of frequencies identical with ours, the American administration is able to operate something like 1,400,000 transmitters. 1 say again that this is a vital matter, because I am not at all convinced that this question of frequency allocation is being administered in the public interest. When one sees a comparison of that kind - that we can operate only 40,000 transmitters in an area which can accommodate almost 1.500,000 in America - we are seriously invited to consider the efficiency of our handling of this particular problem.
But, Sir. if I may get back to the question of amateur radio, there is no sustainable reason why the amateurs of Australia should suffer further reductions in their wave bands. On the contrary, there is good reason why a reasonable administration should restore some space that has been withheld or withdrawn without justification. Sir, I should like to have the Postmaster-General devote his attention to this matter and give me some advice as to how far we are committed by the Geneva agreement in its present form, what facilities there are for amendment or change in the conditions involved in it, and also whether the Government will look at this matter again with a view to giving some relief.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- To-day is known as Grievance Day or Private Members’ Day, but the period covered by those terms ends at 12.45 p.m. I wish to protest against the action of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) in coming into this House on this day and taking up the time of honorable members by making statements that were not very important after all. They could have been made in government time and not in the time of honorable members. There will be opportunity for no more than seven honorable members to speak to-day although there are about 100 private members in this House who should have more opportunities to put private members’ viewpoints.
I wish to support the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall). I think that the point of view he has put to the House has the support of all honorable members. I support his protests because I believe there should be ample channels available for radio amateurs, to whom we owe quite a lot. They pioneered the radio industry in Australia and they deserve our support.I oppose the restrictions that have been suggested by the Geneva conference. 1 wish to bring to the attention of the Government now matters affecting social services and pensions generally, including the means test. Some of the social service payments have not been amended or increased for ten years. Others have not been altered for twenty years, yet we know that their value has been reduced considerably by inflation. I refer particularly to child endowment, the pensioners’ funeral benefit and the maternity allowance, which has not been altered for fifteen years. The Government has failed to implement the promises it made concerning the abolition of the means test. I wish to speak particularly on behalf of pensioner couples who are receiving the full rate of pension. After all, the full rate of pension for a couple is still £5 under the basic wage. If such a couple have a spare room or can partition off part of the house and let either to a tenant, they suffer a reduction of their pension.
I know of an instance in which an old couple were getting £3 just for storing furniture, and because of that their pension was reduced. I think that that is completely wrong. The social services legislation permits these people to earn £7 a week between them in other ways, and I believe that if they can earn up to £7 a week in any way, even by letting a portion of their house, the means test should be amended to allow them todo so.
Then we have the effect of the means test on widows who are age pensioners. Some of these people are continuing to pay off homes purchased before their husbands died. I know of an old lady who is paying £2 15s. per week off a mortgage. That leaves her with £2 a week to buy food and clothing and also to pay the rates and insurances that accrue on the house. I believe that such a person should be permitted the supplementary allowance of 10s. that is made for rent. The weekly amount paid by a pensioner in repayment of a mortgage should be treated as equivalent to rent. These are cases to which the Government rarely gives attention. I believe that the Government is too far removed from this kind of thing. It is not acquainted with what is going on, nor with the hardships that occur in such cases.
I also wish to bring to the notice of the Government again the amount paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner, which is still £1 15s. a week. It has not been increased for a long time. Very often, the wife, because of her husband’s invalidity is unable to go out to work. She must remain in the home as a nurse and is unable to augment the husband’s small pension of £4 15s. I believe that, in a case in which such circumstances are proved, the wife’s allowance should be increased and that she should be treated as a full-rate pensioner.
The funeral allowance which is paid in respect of pensioners was first introduced by the Labour Government in 1943 when it had some value, but it has remained at the same figure ever since. The cost of dying has gone up, just as the cost of living has gone up. As a matter of fact, I think that the cost of funerals has increased more than the cost of living. It is impossible to get any kind of coffin for less than £30 or £40, and such a coffin would not have any sacred adornments on it. I understand that the repatriation benefit in respect of the funerals of soldiers still stands at £25. That is completely inadequate. Representatives of returned servicemen’s bodies told me recently that it only provides a box without any adornment. They said that they are very glad that a soldier is permitted to cover up the coffin with the Australian flag because it hides the bareness of the coffin. The amount allowed in respect of pensioners will not cover the cost of funerals to-day. I think that the simplest or poorest of funerals would cost up to £60 or £70. These allowances are out of date, and it is time that the Government gave some attention to them.
Last night, I mentioned the subjects of the pensioner medical service and hospital treatment, but we have to keep repeating these things in order to drive home the point to the Government. If a single pensioner has an income, apart from the pension, in excess of £2 a week, he is debarred from receiving hospital and medical benefits. He can get them only by contributing for them, the same as any other person. A single pensioner with an independent income of £2 and a pension of £4 15s. a week has a total income of £6 15s. a week. It is impossible for him to contribute for medical and hospital benefits from that meagre income. This provision of the legislation, which was introduced in 1955, is out of date. The cost of living has increased considerably since then; the basic wage has been increased on two or three occasions, and we have recently had an adjustment of margins. I think that about 58,000 people are affected by these provisions and it is time that they were brought up to date.
I should like to refer briefly to the property means test. I will not have time to touch on other aspects of social services. As I mentioned last night, there are some people who, in their working years, acquired their own home and another property which they intended to rent in order to sustain them in their time of retirement. Today, if a single person owns such property valued at £2,250, or if a couple owns such property valued at £4,500, they would be completely disqualified from receiving pension.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Grievance Day gives me an opportunity to refer to a matter which is, perhaps, not vital in the national sense but which is important because principles are involved. I refer to the operation of business concessions at Australian airports. In speaking on the Airports (Business Concessions) Bill on 26th November, 1959, I said -
We must always remember that we are providing facilities for the travelling public, and we should see that these services are of the first quality and up to overseas standards.
Let me refer to the services that I have experienced at three airports in Australia - Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. I was at Sydney airport last year, with a number of other members of this Parliament who had the misfortune to be on an aircraft which had been delayed for one and a half hours in transit to Canberra from Adelaide. It was necessary for the airline to provide us with a lunch. We were advised to go to the restaurant at the airport where we were handed a menu. When it was discovered that we were air passengers in transit this menu, which was rather a good one, was quickly changed for another. We had to wait a considerable time before we received any attention from the waitress. Finally, the meal that we had ordered did not arrive until a minute or two prior to our last call to board the aircraft. As a result, seven or eight of us went without a meal at this airport. I have no doubt that the restaurant has some arrangement with the airline whereby a blanket payment is made for the number of passengers on an aircraft who are entitled to partake of a meal. 1 imagine, therefore, that because seven or eight gentlemen were unable to have a meal on this occasion, that represented clear profit to the restaurant.
After leaving Sydney and going to Melbourne recently on my way back to Perth I took the opportunity at Essendon to visit a sweets counter which is well known to Victorian members. There I purchased an item of confectionery which is well known in Australia, and which retails for approximately 7s. anywhere in this country except, apparently, in Trans-Australia Airlines airport buildings. The young lady charged me 9s. 6d. Having a considerable knowledge of the confectionery trade, I queried the price and the young lady said that that was the price. I paid the price asked, in order to save any argument, but decided to bring the matter up in this House at a later date, because that represented an overcharge of 2s. 6d. From Melbourne I went to Adelaide, and when returning home recently I purchased some chocolates at the airport. Any one who is familiar with the Adelaide airport will know that people there are very confectionery-minded. A large showcase there containing a large amount of confectionery was continually in the direct rays of the sun. On arriving home I found that the chocolates I had purchased were unsuitable for consumption, having been affected by the heat of the sun. On passing through Adelaide again the following week I queried the matter with the girl on the confectionery counter and she said, “ We draw the shades and the sun is only on that showcase occa sionally “. So I bought another block of chocolate and opened it in the presence of the girl. It, also, was unsuitable for consumption, having been considerably affected by the sun. I mention this, Sir, because in that showcase there was a large quantity of chocolate presented in all sorts of attractive boxes; and I have no doubt that many people at the airport take the opportunity to buy a suitable gift for some one who is going away. There can be nothing worse than for a young lady who has been presented with a box of chocolates - or perhaps someone’s mother or sister - to discover on opening the box later in the aircraft, or perhaps at the end of the journey, that the contents are unfit to eat.
In the debate on the Airports (Business Concessions) Bill, at page 3255 of “Hansard”, of 26th November, 1959, when speaking to clause 6 (1.) (b) I said -
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 take-it-or-leave-it 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.
These three cases of unsatisfactory service occurred at three widely separated airports, and I have wondered whether there are not many more such instances occurring throughout the Commonwealth which do not come to the notice of the Department of Civil Aviation or become lost in the department’s files. Again referring to my speech of last year, I said -
Clauses 1 1 and 12 refer to the granting of leases and the saving of existing leases and licences. Ti is only fair that people who have airport concessions now should continue to have their rights in any major expansion of airport facilities.
I still hold that view, but qualify that statement by saying that it is only fair to acknowledge such rights, provided the lessees concerned have shown themselves to be satisfactory operators in their service to the travelling public. The travelling public must be protected and adequate service must be provided for them. Any one of these three events could be an isolated event as far as the concessionaire involved was concerned; but my experience has shown that these things can and do occur and I ask the Minister to re-examine the leases of tenants under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation to ensure that in future leases of concessions provision is made for cancellation if the concessionaire defaults by consistent overcharges or failure to prove satisfactory service.
In the last minute remaining to me I would like to express a wish that the final result of the pre-Budget examination by the Government of the means test and social services generally will be made known at the earliest opportunity in the interests of the public generally.
.- I want to bring before the Parliament to-day the question of Commonwealth assistance to the States in cases of national disaster. I understand that the Commonwealth Government has assisted in national disasters, first, on a £1 for £1 basis with the State for personal hardship, and, secondly, on a £1 for £1 basis with the State for loss of public assets, such as roads and bridges. In one instance the State authorities assessed flood damage at £500,000 and the State was prepared to advance £200,000 which the Commonwealth matched with £200,000 whilst the municipal authorities contributed £100,000. The definition of personal hardship has been a tricky question, but the Commonwealth does not match the State in the replacement of privately owned assets like homes, furniture and clothing, as it regards these items as insurable. Personal hardship, therefore, according to the Commonwealth, in time of disaster involves more or less immediate assistance to the homeless with food, shelter and emergency clothing.
It is obvious that for the smooth working of relief in national disasters the States should have a permanent organization set up. At present New South Wales and South Australia are the only two States that have tackled this question. The New South Wales scheme is probably the more comprehensive. It provides for a permanent State relief committee consisting of high-ranking public servants connected with the Social Services Department, the Treasury and the Premier’s Department. Included also is the police inspector of the district that has been ravaged and the member or members of Parliament whose electorates are involved. That committee moves into action immediately after a disaster occurs. It assesses the damage in every instance, makes a report and estimates the cost, and the Premier then passes the information to the Prime Minister’s Department with a statement as to how much the State is able to contribute. Then the Commonwealth, without further inquiry, accepts that figure and matches it £1 for £1. In South Australia, Judge Payne has been appointed by the State Government to administer the disbursement of the funds under that State’s scheme. This angle, I believe, is the most difficult of all - far more difficult than assessing the damage. The real difficulty occurs in the distribution of the funds available to the people affected. This brings the relief right down to the individual, and humanity has to be tempered with justice in order to see that all who have suffered receive a just contribution from the relief funds.
Every State should set up a permanent relief committee along the lines of that in New South Wales, because in that way men become expert in assessing damage and distributing moneys to the sufferers. I would like again to stress the urgency of the establishment of a national disaster fund by the Commonwealth in much the same manner as the National Welfare Fund was set up by Labour years ago. I believe that each State, together with the Commonwealth, should pay an annual contribution from Consolidated Revenue into such a fund, which should be so placed that interest could be earned on it year by year, the interest to become a part of the fund for distribution. Each State’s contribution could be worked out on a pro rata basis. When disaster strikes in any State the relief committee of that State should go into action and assess the damage, and then the total grant could be made from the fund by the Commonwealth to that State and the State relief committee would handle the distribution.
The whole matter of the setting up of a national disaster fund should be discussed at either the next Premiers’ Conference, or, preferably, at the next Australian Loan Council meeting, because obviously all the
States as well as the Commonwealth must be prepared to agree to it. The principle behind a national disaster fund is that the strong help the weak and the rich help the poor. Some States may not suffer as frequently from disasters as other States do. This principle is well established in the income tax contributions from which age, invalid, widows’ and repatriation pensions are paid. Thousands of people who pay income tax for this purpose will never receive pensions, but it is a case of every one contributing to the relief of the needy minority. The whole basis of the National Welfare Fund is an illustration of what I mean. I strongly believe that the Federal Government could add to the relief funds by also matching public contributions which at present are paid to a central authority set up by the State concerned after each disaster.
The public are magnificent in time of such suffering. In every instance of national disaster where public appeals are made, people and organizations respond generously and freely. In Tasmania £65,000 has been contributed in eleven days to the flood relief appeal. This is amazing. Victoria opened a fund which has reached nearly £10,000, for assistance to the Tasmanian flood sufferers. For this we are very grateful. The total amount of such contributions never reaches astronomical figures, and surely it would not be beyond the Commonwealth’s means to match such contributions. This would certainly ensure greater relief to individuals on the personal hardship basis and provide that little extra for the restoration of public utilities that have been destroyed. One difficulty in assessing losses of public assets is the costing of roads and bridges damage. The Commonwealth insists that in the estimate of replacements of bridges and roads the estimate should not be made on the basis of what the new bridge will cost but on the value of the bridge when it was destroyed. Obviously, there must be a vast difference between those two figures, and it entails great difficulty on the part of the relief committee or those estimating the losses to strike an acceptable figure. We have the municipal valuation to guide us in regard to the loss of homes, but there is no such easy guide for estimating the value of a bridge. We lost 35 bridges in the recent
Tasmanian floods, and 60 were damaged. Some of the bridges lost were 50 years old. lt is obvious that no accurate guide is available for assessing the value, at the time of its destruction, of a bridge that was built 50, 40, 30 or 20 years ago. But the Commonwealth payment is made on the basis of valuation. The Commonwealth will not contribute in accordance with the full cost of building a new bridge.
Another aspect of relief which has not been discussed yet, or mentioned by the Acting Prime Minister in respect to Tasmania, is the loss to primary production. In the Derwent valley, which is in my electorate, there have been heavy losses of hopfields, which were situated on the rich soil in the bends of the Derwent River.
– The farmers had just harvested their crops.
– Yes, about six weeks before. That was fortunate. Five main areas have been affected - the valley of the Lachlan River near New Norfolk, the Plenty district of the Derwent valley, the Hayes district, Bushy Park and Glenora. The force of the water was so great that poles and wires as well as the poplar trees which are used as windbreaks, were, if not washed away, reduced to a tangled mess. Worse still, hundreds of tons of choice top soil were washed right away, leaving the individual hop plants, or sets, protruding 9 inches to a foot above the ground with all their roots showing. Some of these plants are 70 to 100 years old. Top soil cannot be replaced, and in these instances there is a total loss of the hopfield.
Accompanied by my wife, I examined some of these damaged hopfields last Tuesday week in a day tour of the stricken areas. Mr. John Shoobridge’s property at Glenora was the worst hit. There, 54 acres out of 75 acres have been almost totally destroyed. Of seven hop grounds or paddocks only one was left undamaged. Beautiful poplar trees up to 30 feet high have been flattened as though they were match sticks. Mr. Shoobridge had put £1,000 worth of superphosphate on his fields only a few weeks before. It takes three years to get new hop plants to the production stage; to grow poplar trees to the height necessary for protection would take eight to ten years. It would require about 6,000 poles to re-stock the fields, apart from the wire. Mr. Shoobridge also had over 150 sheep drowned. Twenty-nine people are employed on this property, and there are 55 children. Including the wives of the employees and their children there are 118 people depending on Mr. Shoobridge for their livelihood. He is faced with the difficulty of deciding whether or not he can keep all his employees on the property and whether or not he can rehabilitate any of his lost fields. He may be forced to turn these once rich river flats into pastures.
Mr. Bill Terry, of Bushy Park, whose beautiful home suffered greatly from flood water, also lost nearly £2,000 worth of home furnishings. The flood also washed away six homes that he had provided for employees. Twenty acres of hopfields were destroyed. One thousand five hundred cases of apples packed for Britain are now fit only to go to a processing factory at 2s. 6d. a case, whereas overseas they would have fetched 25s. a case. This involves a loss of £1,755 on the fruit alone. A stockpile of 7,000 poles, which had been chemically treated in his own plant, was washed away. At 7s. 6d. a pole this represents a loss of £2,625. He also lost five drums of tanilith, a chemical for impregnation of the poles, this involving a loss of £325. He has 25 employees, and, including wives and children, 105 people are dependent on him.
So, in these two properties the material loss has been terrific, and there are 223 people dependent on the profitable operation of the properties. The Kentdale estate at Bushy Park had its hopfields flooded, and twelve hutments used for hopworkers were washed away. In Arundel Estate there are 50 acres of hop fields, and 20 acres have been crippled.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to make a plea to-day regarding the institution of Parliament. We know that the parliamentary institution as we know it has come down to us through a process of progressive reform over the ages. We members are the contemporary actors in Parliament, but our continuing task is the preservation of Parliament, which is a wonderful institution. It is the only institution which guarantees the freedom of men.
In the British Commonwealth there are probably 30 or 40 parliaments. We have seen how, in some parts of the world where the British parliamentary system has been introduced, failures are occurring. It is because the actors in the parliaments there, the contemporary people, are not sufficiently aware of the methods of working parliament to ensure the preservation of the system.
This Parliament has been given to us, and it is our responsibility to protect it as an institution. We know how it works. I will not bother the House with a dissertation on the machinery of Parliament and the method of election of members. Through the ages it has been found that the only practical way in which a parliament can work is through the Cabinet system. As it has evolved, this system, in order to be successful, must work in secrecy. Any attempt to run the country with all the members of one parliamentary party trying to take part in the government of the country would lead to chaos. To use the old expression, it would be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. To avoid this, the parliamentary system has devised the Cabinet system.
Cabinet secrecy is of the essence of the parliamentary system. If Cabinet proceedings are not secret, the various Ministers who have to direct their attention to, and make decisions on, controversial matters are liable to be subjected to coercion. When Cabinet sponsors a measure it does so with the concurrence of all Ministers. Every Minister must be prepared to stand by a measure. In all the parliaments in the British Commonwealth which have been successfully performing their functions, that system has been preserved because the members realize the immense importance of Cabinet secrecy to the institution of parliament.
I am very concerned as to why, when every other parliament in the British Commonwealth of Nations has been working successfully, we have, in the State of New South Wales, a government which does not accept the principle of Cabinet secrecy. Recently, a decision was made by the New
South Wales Cabinet on an appointment to an important post in the judiciary. The way in which the fourteen members of the New South Wales Cabinet voted on that matter was published in the press. The newspapers published the fact that seven members of the Cabinet were for the appointment of the person who was eventually appointed, and seven were against it, and the names of the members of the opposing sides in the Cabinet were published.
– What party is in office in New South Wales now?
– I am not concerned with party politics. I am concerned with the preservation of Parliament. The newspapers published the fact that seven members of the New South Wales Cabinet were against the appointment of a certain person and that seven were for it, and their reports of the Cabinet line-up on the matter were never denied. I say that once the secrecy of Cabinet is broken the parliamentary system itself is in danger of destruction.
Our parliamentary system is based on the existence of two, or three, parliamentary parties, lt is the job of the contemporary members of a parliament to preserve the parliamentary institution. That institution is the heritage of free men. I am a member of the National Parliament, but I am also a New South Welshman, and I direct the attention of the House to this dereliction of duty on the part of members of a parliament who should be intent on keeping the parliamentary institution and the cabinet system as sacrosanct.
This is not the only criticism I have of the New South Wales legislature. Under the New South Wales Constitution the election of members of the upper House is by a ballot taken in both Houses. On an occasion when one person had to be elected to the Legislative Council the party in government nominated eight persons for the position. That was quite in order constitutionally, but why did it nominate eight persons? The reason was that every member of that party was provided with a voting ticket showing how he had to vote. The sequence of voting enabled party managers to ascertain whether anybody voted against the party decision as shown on the ticket. This is again a negation of the freedom of parliament. It destroys the system. Not only does it discredit the present politicians concerned, but it affects the parliament as an institution, because it gives further ground for the attacks made on the institution of parliament through the medium of attacks made on politicians. One of the strongest forms of attack used against the parliamentary institution is the attack on the cynical way in which politicians sometimes act. This can destroy not only the respect of the public for politicians, but can also destroy their respect for parliament as an institution, and in that way could destroy the parliament, which is the one institution which keeps us free men.
The method of voting used for election to the upper House in New South Wales is similar, in my opinion, and is as sinister to me as the thought control that existed in pre-war Japan. I do not want to introduce party politics, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I must remind the House that every Labour member of a parliament is obliged to vote in a certain way. Thought control goes right through the Labour Party’s system. These are degrading things to say of an institution which has been won for us by our forebears over hundreds of years of public spiritedness and service. It is something which we should cherish and protect. I do not want to attack the party concerned, but I am sure that so long as there is a lack of principle or morality in its politics, it will not be fit to govern a magnificent country like Australia. We all have failings, but at least we should try to live up to the idea that Parliament is the one institution which guarantees our freedom.
The second matter I wish to mention is more parochial, but my remarks apply with equal force to all States. I refer to the tremendous growth of the metropolitan areas of the States. The Lord Mayor of Sydney was reported recently as having said that he proposed to develop Sydney into a great city and to increase the building density by the expenditure of £400,000,000 over ten years. In this greatest period of Australian expansion, probably unequalled anywhere in the world, you can travel to every country town in New South Wales and you will find no improvements except a little face-lifting by removing verandah posts and by painting a few shop fronts. There is not a single sign of the great development which Australia is enjoying. Everything is being done in the cities. In Sydney the authorities are talking about building new bridges because the traffic is choking the city. Every month in New South Wales 12,000 new cars are registered, and probably 8,000 of that number are being used in the city. Month after month more cars will continue to congest this monstrosity where all of the State’s secondary industries are located. This is a grave danger to our defence system. Not only that, but large sums of money which could be used to develop the country are being spent in the city.
If our population reaches 14,000,000 or 15,000,000 in a few years, as has been predicted, how will we feed it? How can we produce sufficient overseas funds to enable our secondary industries to support this increased population? How can we do it unless every penny of available capital is expended where it will be most productive? There has been talk about new expressways. Not only that: Although the Government of New South Wales has spent a tremendous fortune on the Warragamba Dam to provide water for Sydney, it is now talking about building a new dam on the Shoalhaven River to supply more water for that city. Increasing numbers of people are drifting to the city.
If the Labour Government of New South Wales told its Commissioner for Railways, Mr. McCusker, to produce a plan within three months to decentralize industry, I am convinced that that gentleman, who is a very able administrator, could produce a workable plan to encourage movement of secondary industries to the rural areas. This would improve the opportunities of young men and women to get jobs in their own districts. This lack of concern for decentralization is not confined to a Labour government. I believe the same thing is happening in Victoria.
– Order! The honorable member’s ~time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) commenced his speech by supporting the great principles of Parliament; but, in fact, he was merely advocating that the status quo of the capitalist system be maintained. As honorable members know, I have great respect for my former comrade with whom I shared many experiences, but as a parliamentarian he is one of the greatest reactionaries in this House. He has advocated the maintenance of the status quo of capitalism. I want to advocate the introduction of socialism with a greater redistribution of the wealth of this country. That statement seems to disturb Government supporters. The honorable member advocated secrecy of Cabinet discussions and he referred to press speculations about what happens in the New South Wales Government Cabinet room. When the Richardson report was presented to the Parliament, he attacked the capitalist press for expressing the views of some of the people. He condemned the press for publishing what he said were only fabrications and not the views of the people. On that occasion it suited his argument to say that the press was not very honest. But when referring to press speculations about happenings in the New South Wales Labour Cabinet, he assumes that the reports are true.
I am. not in very good voice to-day and, as I have only a few minutes in which to express my views, I shall direct my remarks to the actions of this Government in selling out to capitalism, not only on the local front but also overseas. Some time ago I mentioned in this House the proposal by Qantas Empire Airways Limited to construct in Sydney a modern hotel of international standard to cost between £3,500,000 and £4,000,000 to cater for the great influx of overseas travellers which will result from the introduction of the Boeing 707 airliners on the run to Australia. The proposed hotel will have 400 rooms. As honorable members know, Qantas is one of the most efficient airlines in the world. It is owned by the people of Australia. It is a great socialist undertaking. It does not matter how Government members may squirm, it is a great socialist undertaking. Private enterprise cannot cater for overseas travellers, so Qantas wants to extend its service by making suitable hotel accommodation available for its clients.
For this reason, some time ago Qantas acquired a 56 per cent, interest in the Wentworth Hotel, Sydney. Since then the hotel has been run so successfully that for each of the last two financial years it has shown a profit of £43,000. In the twentyfifth annual report of Qantas Empire Airways Limited the following statement appears: -
The popularity of the hotel has been well maintained and requests for accommodation were far in excess of the rooms available - a very high occupancy factor of 98.6 per cent, being attained for the year. Rooms were provided for 15,300 international passengers travelling by Qantas and associated airlines. This shortage of rooms is indicative of a world-wide problem which is becoming more acute with the introduction of jet travel. Travel experts are unanimously of the opinion that additional accommodation, in keeping with the standard of international air travel, is essential to cater for the increasing and specialized requirements of tourists.
On 3rd September last year I directed a question to the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen). I asked when Cabinet would make a decision on the request of Qantas for permission to construct the proposed new hotel. The Acting Prime Minister stalled. On the return of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from overseas, 1 asked him the same question. He shifted ground. As honorable members will see by reference to “ Hansard “, I have asked not less than half a dozen questions of the Prime Minister on this subject. On each occasion he tried to shift ground and make excuses, but the truth of the matter is that Government members on the back benches are putting pressure on it not to give Qantas permission to build this hotel. We know that some private hotel interests are also putting pressure on the Government not to allow this hotel to be constructed in Sydney. Only recently Chevron, which had big private hotel interests, sold its controlling interests to Hilton’s, a company financed by overseas capital, mostly American.
We have to be honest and frank on this issue. One of the great problems in Australia is that of capita] outlay. I do not want to go into the question of foreign capital, but T strongly urge that we should try to use our own capital and construct with our own labour and materials enterprises such as Qantas. We have this wonderfully successful undertaking which now wants to build a hotel. But only yesterday, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) directed a question to the Act ing Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) containing a suggestion to take from Qantas land which it holds in the heart of Sydney and which is an ideal site for an international standard hotel. The honorable member implied in his question that the value of this land represented dead money and that it should be sold to private enterprise so that the Treasury might be able to rake in a few more shillings. But that is a very short-sighted policy.
The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) has sniped on several occasions and has openly opposed the Opposition when it has suggested that government instrumentalities should provide this service instead of private enterprise. If this Government believes in competition what has it to fear in granting permission to Qantas Empire Airways to construct this hotel? It would be a building of which we could be proud, and its business would be run efficiently.
– And we would own it ourselves.
– It has been proved that Qantas can run hotels as well as its air services successfully. The trouble is that the Government has no faith in competing with private enterprise. That is because it really represents big business. Qantas is an example that socialism can function successfully. We have other great national undertakings which are controlled and owned by the people. I think of TransAustralia Airlines which has been a great success, and the Commonwealth Railways which have shown a great profit. The Commonwealth Bank, which the Government has been sniping at, was also a complete success, and also the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories which only recently the Government looked like selling out. But for the Labour Party, supported by the Australian Country Party, that might have happened. The Government has sold many of the people’s assets.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Normally, on Grievance Day, it is not the practice for Ministers to take up any of the time of the debate. Honorable members greet that statement with noisy interjections, but if they will allow me to make a few remarks they will find that I have risen, first because I want to make a few comments in reply to the speech of the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall), and secondly, because the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) also asked me to make some comments on that matter and was good enough to offer me his time in this debate so that I might do so. I appreciate that action of the honorable member.
As only a few minutes remain of the time allotted for this debate, I shall not attempt to reply to all the points made by the honorable member for Paterson. He has discussed with me on many occasions the matters he has raised to-day. Therefore I have an understanding of his point of view, and he understands my attitude. There are some things on which we differ and some on which we agree. I differ with him in respect of the charges he has made of repudiation and bad faith and his criticism of the attitude of departmental officers. Certainly the departmental officers have not agreed with all the proposals which have been put forward by the representatives of the amateur institute, but I think it must be conceded that a good deal of cooperation and consideration has been given by the department in the matters put forward by those representatives in discussions at both Canberra and Melbourne, and also by the appointment on behalf of the institute of an observer to travel with the delegation which went to Geneva. I should also like to point out - and this point has been raised by me before - that prior to the delegation leaving, I submitted a proposal to Cabinet outlining the attitude that would be adopted by the delegation. Therefore, if there is any comment or criticism in that respect it should be directed not at the departmental officers but at myself.
I particularly want to refer, in the next two or three minutes, to the present position and to our future planning. I think that is particularly what the honorable member for Paterson wants me to do. I have just received a summary of the portion of the report of the delegation to the Geneva talks which deals with frequencies allotted to amateur radio operators. It is my intention, very shortly, to submit this report to Cabinet for its consideration, and I can assure the
House and the honorable member that any decision taken will be one of policy. I cannot anticipate what that will be. But before anything further is done, I shall recommend that a committee be set up to inquire into the matters referred to by the honorable member for Paterson. 1 propose proceeding with that on a very wide basis. There need be no fear, first of all, that any action which the amateurs might consider would hurt them will be taken immediately or without further opportunity being given for discussion. Secondly, any committee appointed to inquire into the whole range of frequencies in Australia will have a very wide constitution so that all the interests involved in the operation of frequencies will have an opportunity to present their cases. When I say that I mean, for example, that the amateur institute will have actual representation on the committee and not merely be invited to send an observer.
The honorable member for Paterson has suggested that this investigation should be wider and that we should set out to develop something in Australia of the nature of the Federal Communications Commission which operates in the United States of America. I am not very much attracted to that proposal at present; but I would be quite prepared to have a look at it, and if necessary, discuss it with Cabinet to see whether it thinks that a committee of that nature should be established. For the present,I fancy an ad hoc committee, which would not be appointed as a permanent body, would be the best means to deal with this matter with reasonable celerity.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Sir Garfield Barwick, and read a first time.
– by leave -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to prohibit any interception of telephonic messages in their passage over the telephone system of the Commonwealth except in circumstances coming within extremely narrow categories. Mr. Speaker, may I be emphatic at this point in saying that this bill is not initiating telephone interception. As will appear from what I have to say, that has been authorized in the past both by the last Labour Government and by this Government. This bill controls telephone interception in a manner not heretofore applied and it does so by prohibiting it under a very heavy penalty and specifying the excepted cases. The prohibition is wide and’ comprehensive; it binds everybody, including the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and, indeed, Ministers of the Crown. None may intercept except within and in accordance with the authority of the statute which this bill proposes. The exceptions, which, as I have said, are very narrow, are explicit in the bill and are expressed in considered and, I think, clear language.
Allow me at the outset to state in broad terms what are the exceptions from the otherwise complete prohibition on interception which the bill imposes. The exceptions are, in substance, two in number. The first relates to the interception of communications by officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department on those occasions on which in the course of their duties as such officers they have need to listen in, in the case of the installation, operation or maintenance of a telephone line or in connexion with the enforcement of the Post and Telegraph Act and regulations, as, for example, on a subscriber’s complaint that some person is using the phone to use abusive or indecent expressions.
The second exception relates to the interception of communications by the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or persons specially authorized by him, on occasions when a Minister of the Crown - the AttorneyGeneral - is satisfied upon facts placed before him that the telephone service, in respect of which the interception takes place, is being used or is likely to be used for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth and that the interception would be likely to assist in the per formance by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization of its statutory function of obtaining intelligence relevant to the security of the Commonwealth. In short, Mr. Speaker, this second exception is related to those occasions when the listening would be likely to assist in the protection of this country against espionage, sabotage or subversion.
Mr. Speaker, eavesdropping is abhorrent to us as a people. Not one of us, I am sure, would fail to recoil from the thought that a citizen’s privacy could lightly be invaded. Indeed, many citizens no doubt feel that far too many intrusions into our privacy are permitted to be made in these times with complete impunity. Many things which might fairly be regarded as personal and of no public consequence appear in print without the citizen’s permission and without his encouragement; but in particular all of us, I think, dislike the feeling that we may be overheard and that what we wish to say may reach ears tor which we did not intend the expression of our thoughts. Much of our normal life depends on the confidence we can repose in those to whom we lay bare our sentiments and opinions, with and through whom we wish to communicate.
This Government has always been alive to these natural and proper reactions of our people. It has approached this question of permitting the interception of telephonic messages from that point of view. It has done so from its first assumption of office in 1949. More recently, it has considered most searchingly the justification for permitting the interception of telephonic communications. It has decided, Mr. Speaker, that the security of this Commonwealth is paramount and that it affords good and sufficient reason on appropriate occasions to justify interception. I feel sure that no member of this House, or of the great Australian public beyond, would wish to controvert that proposition. The Government, whilst appreciating the reluctance of every one of us to authorize an intrusion into privacy, has felt that where the security of the Commonwealth is involved, the safety of us all must overbear that desire for individual privacy which we would otherwise wish to accord to everybody. It has decided that the extent to which the invasion may take place ought to be set forth clearly and unequivocally in a statute of this Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, with the development and increasing complexity of this country, with its increasing importance in world affairs, and particularly in the affairs of Asia, and more particularly of South-East Asia, the need for protecting that security has not declined but, on the contrary, has increased.
Foolish would he be who asserted that there were none in Australia who would be pleased to see our forms of government subverted, our way of life destroyed and our capacity and our will to defend ourselves weakened. Such undoubtedly there are, and they work to achieve prejudice to the security of this Commonwealth. The Government is conscious of the constant need to protect that security and to ensure that we are neither weakened nor destroyed by the breach of it.
That there is need for a security service such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, devoted to the gathering of security intelligence, is surely not a matter for debate between the parties represented in this House, for, Mr. Speaker, the late Mr. Chifley, when Prime Minister of this country, realized the need to establish such a security service at a time when we were not engaged in armed conflict. His Government set up the Australian Security Intelligence Organization on 16th March, 1949. This Government carried on what the late Mr. Chifley commenced because it shared his belief in its necessity. Indeed, this Government felt that it was proper that such an organization should be placed on a statutory basis and that this Parliament should determine precisely what were its functions. Its functions are now to be found in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1956. By that act, the Parliament defined “ security “ as meaning in that act -
The protection of the Commonwealth and the Territories of the Commonwealth from acts of espionage, sabotage or subversion whether directed from or intended to be committed within the Commonwealth or not.
This Parliament defined a principal function of the organization as being “ to obtain, correlate and evaluate intelligence relevant to security “.
Mr. Speaker, just as the need for a security service has been recognized by all the parties in this House and is a matter which I would expect to be beyond debate, so also the need to authorize interception of telephonic messages where the security of the Commonwealth is involved has been recognized by all the parties in this House. The late Mr. Chifley, when Prime Minister, authorized telephonic interception, or, to use the now current and somewhat colourful but perhaps inaccurate phrase “ telephone tapping “. About three months after he had initiated the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, Mr. Chifley gave his express approval to the then DirectorGeneral of Security, authorizing the interception of telephone messages. Subsequently, Mr. Speaker, when this Government came into office the Prime Minister thought that the basis of an approval of such far-reaching consequence as an approval of telephonic interception ought to be rendered certain and hedged around with some safeguards. Accordingly, at the end of 1950, the Prime Minister gave directions to the Director-General of Security with respect to telephone interception. As I am moving the second reading of a bill to regulate closely and to control this matter. I feel I can briefly speak of the substance of the Prime Minister’s directions.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister required that authority for interception should be given by the Director-General of Security only when, on examining a specific case, he was personally satisfied that the telephone service to be intercepted could reasonably be suspected of being or being likely to be used for espionage, sabotage or subversive activities and that he should restrict his use of the power to an absolute minimum reserving for the Prime Minister’s approval cases involving political figures and senior public servants.
Any telephonic interception by the DirectorGeneral that has taken place since this Government has come into power has conformed to these limits. Some attempt has been made both in this House and in the press over recent times to create the impression that there has been widespread or even indiscriminate telephonic interception. Let me say unequivocally that this is not so. Ordinarily I would be content to rely on such an assurance, but, in the light of these persistent endeavours I feel, Mr. Speaker, that I should inform the House that since the first authorization given by the late Mr. Chifley to this very day, the total number of telephone intercepts in the Commonwealth is 182; that is to say, that in the space of approximately eleven years the number of telephone intercepts would average no more than seventeen a year. Further, no intercept has taken place of the telephone service of any member of Parliament, whether of this or any other House, or of any senior public servant. I have felt that on this occasion I could properly disclose these figures; but I would like to make it clear that I do not favour or intend any practice of periodic disclosure of a like kind. That would not be in the best interests of security.
In October, 1957, a committee of Privy Councillors reported to the Prime Minister of Great Britain on the interception of communications. The Privy Councillors were three persons of great distinction - the Right Honorable Lord Birkett, the Right Honorable Viscount Monckton, and the Right Honorable Mr. Gordon Walker. They heard evidence and examined the whole matter and thereafter they expressed in their report these significant conclusions -
Espionage is carried out by highly trained people who take extreme precautions. Communications are the weakest link in their organization, and, without penetration of these communications, it would often be impossible to detect major espionage at all.
All the authorities that use methods of interception are firmly convinced that the effect on their operations would be greatly, if not calamitously, reduced if they were to be deprived of the power to intercept communications.
And with reference to espionage and subversive activities they said this -
The weakest link in this highly skilled and trained chain of espionage and subversion is communication between the agents and persons concerned.
Methods of interception are highly effective; they are often the only effective method of countering espionage and subversion and of safeguarding the vital secrets of the State. We received a great deal of direct evidence of the success achieved solely by the interception of communications.
These conclusions and expressions of opinion are in truth no more than what any one who thinks about this matter would expect. But they strongly reinforce the evident views both of the last Labour Government and of this Government.
The Government has felt that the time has arrived when the use of telephonic interception should no longer rest on ministerial directions, though in them there is nothing improper. Indeed, telephone interception rests on that basis in the United Kingdom. The Government has decided, however, that it should be regulated by a statute of this Parliament which sets out quite unequivocally what are the limits within which and the purposes for which it will not be prohibited. This bill is designed to fulfil that purpose and to make the people of this country comfortable in the knowledge that there will not be any intrusion on their privacy unless there are facts which afford just ground for thinking that their telephone facilities are being used or have become likely to be used to the detriment of the security of this country. It will surely be rare for such facts to exist without some knowledge of, if not actual complicity in, them on the part of the person whose telephone service is so used. But, of course, innocence in that respect is quite possible.
I should now turn to describe the broad pattern of this bill and the way in which it will achieve the close regulation of telephonic interception. First of all, Mr. Speaker, I should describe what is included in the expression “ interception “ for the purposes of this bill. This is expressed in clause 4. Many technical considerations both of an engineering and of a legal kind have gone into the production of an appropriate description of the interception which this bill prohibits with the exceptions I have described and will yet further describe. The bill describes “ interception “ as listening to or recording any communication in its passage over the telephone system. The bill does not limit the manner by which the forbidden listening or recording may take place. Any listening by any means or any recording by any means of a communication in its passage over the telephone system constitutes an interception for the purpose of this bill. Provision is made in the bill to ensure that the accidental overhearing of a conversation due to a crossed line or other technical defect and the use of an extension or of a switch properly provided on a telephone service within a house or establishment to overhear telephonic communications passing over that service will not constitute interception for the purposes of this bill; nor will listening on a party line. Honorable members will find these qualifications covered by sub-clauses (2.) and (3.) of clause 4.
Having described what is “ interception “, I pass to the portion of the bill which prohibits in emphatic terms and under a heavy penalty any interception whatever. Let me read the provision, if I may. It is clause 5, which provides - (1.) A person shall not -
Penalty: Five hundred pounds or imprisonment for two years.
Mr. Speaker, the exceptions to this prohibition of which I spoke are found in this bill in sub-clause (2.) of clause 5. This sub-clause prevents the application of the prohibition to certain activities. If I may, I would read the sub-clause, and I shall read it slowly. It refers to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and provides that the prohibition of interception does not apply to or in relation to -
an act or thing done by an officer of the Department in the course of his duties for or in connexion with -
the interception of a communication in pursuance of a warrant.
The first part of the sub-clause means, Mr. Speaker, that the offence of interception is not committed by an officer of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department who, in the course of his duties, has to listen in, whether it be in the course of installation, operation or maintenance of the telephone system or in the course of tracing the origin of a call, where, for example, a subscriber complains that some person is ringing on his phone using indecent, abusive or threatening language, or is otherwise con travening the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act or of the Telephone Regulations. The second part of this sub-clause means that the prohibition does not apply to the interception of a communication in pursuance of a warrant.
It is therefore appropriate that at this point I describe how a warrant is obtained, and what are its effects. A warrant authorizes interception of telephonic communications passing over a described telephone service. There are two procedures, and only two procedures, by which a warrant authorizing interception can be obtained. The first and principal procedure, and that which I assume will be the usual procedure, I will first describe. The steps are these - and they will be found in clause 6 of the bill. The Director-General of Security may make a request to the AttorneyGeneral seeking a warrant to authorize the interception of communications passing over a specific telephone service. His request, which must be reduced to writing, must contain a description of the particular telephone service, and the name, address and occupation of the subscriber, if any, and the number, if any, allotted to that service. It must also, in the precise words of clause 6 (2.) (b) of the bill- specify the facts and other grounds on which the Director-General of Security considers it necessary that the warrant should be issued and, where relevant, the grounds on which the DirectorGeneral of Security suspects a person of being engaged in, or of being likely to engage in, activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth.
On receipt of such a request the AttorneyGeneral is empowered to grant a warrant in respect of the described telephone service if, but only if, he is satisfied - and I quote from clause 6 (1.) - that-
the telephone service is being or is likely to be -
the interception by the Organization of communications passing to, from or over the telephone service will, or is likely to, assist the Organization in carrying out its function of obtaining intelligence relevant to the security of the Commonwealth.
These provisions mean - if I may express the substance of the matter - that if the Attorney-General is satisfied that a telephone service is used or is likely to be used in the course of activities or for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth and that the interception of communications passing over that service will or is likely to assist the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in carrying out its function of obtaining security intelligence, he may issue his warrant to authorize the interception for which the request is made. Mr. Speaker, the expression “ the security of the Commonwealth “ is defined in this bill in like manner to the way “ security “ is described in the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1956, to which definition I have already referred; that is to say, it means both in the bill and in that act the protection of the Commonwealth and its Territories from acts of espionage, sabotage or subversion whether or not directed from or intended to be committed within the Commonwealth. When he issues his warrant, the Attorney-General is to inform the Director-General of Security and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs of its issue, forward the warrant itself to the Director-General of Security, and send a copy to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. The warrant must specify the period for which it is to remain in force, but that period cannot exceed six months. The Attorney-General may revoke the warrant within the period specified in it, and the bill requires the Director-General of Security to terminate the interception which the warrant authorizes even before the expiry of the warrant where the grounds on which it was issued have ceased to exist. Clause 9 of the bill secures the latter result.
The bill, by clause 11 (2.), provides that the Attorney-General shall endorse, on the request which he has received, his decision, be it for the grant of a warrant, or for the refusal of a warrant. All warrants, requests, instruments of revocation and the like must be preserved in the records of the organization. That is secured by subclause (4.) of clause 11.
Mr. Speaker, may I now turn to the other procedure for the issue of a warrant authorizing telephonic interception. It needs little imagination to realize that there may arise an occasion where the need of interception is so urgent that to wait until these processes which I have just described have been completed would be to defeat the purpose for which the interception is urgently needed. It has therefore been necessary to provide some mechanism by which a warrant can be issued with great promptitude and to do so in a manner which will not lend itself to abuse. The bill therefore provides a second method of obtaining a warrant, a method which will be in reserve against the urgent occasion.
Clause 7 of the bill deals with this second procedure, which I now describe. Where the Director-General has made a request to the Attorney-General containing the particulars and facts which I have already described, and he is satisfied that the facts of the case would justify the issue of a warrant by the Attorney-General, and that, if interception does not commence before a warrant can be issued and made available by the Attorney-General, the security of the Commonwealth will be or is likely to be seriously prejudiced, he, the DirectorGeneral of Security, may issue a warrant to authorize interception of communications passing over a specified telephone service. But there are a number of qualifications to the exercise of this power which it is important that I bring to the notice of honorable members. The first is that a request for the Attorney-General’s warrant in respect of the particular service must have been forwarded or made to the Attorney-General. Secondly, the AttorneyGeneral must not have made a decision on that request. Thirdly, the AttorneyGeneral must not, within the preceding three months, have refused a warrant in respect of that telephone service. Fourthly, the Director-General of Security must not himself have issued a warrant in respect of that service during the preceding three months. As in the case of a warrant issued by the Attorney-General, the warrant issued by the Director-General of Security must specify a period for which it is to remain in force; but in the case of the warrant issued by the Director-General of Security, that period must not exceed 48 hours.
Having issued the warrant, the DirectorGeneral of Security will inform the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs of its issue, and furnish him with a certified copy of it. He will furnish the AttorneyGeneral with a copy of the warrant which he has issued and a statement of the grounds on which he is satisfied that serious prejudice would or would be likely to result to the security of the Commonwealth unless the interception took place before a warrant could be issued or made available by the Attorney-General. The bill provides that the Attorney-General may revoke the warrant of the Director-General of Security before the expiry of the period for which it was to be operative; the period, which honorable members will remember, was not to exceed 48 hours.
I have troubled, Mr. Speaker, to go into this particularity because I feel it is owed to this House and to the people of this country that they should understand clearly what is proposed. As I have said, part of the Government’s purpose in bringing forward this bill is to ensure that the Australian public knows with certainty what may and may not lawfully be done in this field. The sum total of the provisions of the bill with respect to the power of the Director-General of Security, as distinct from that of the Attorney-General to issue a warrant, is that the Director-General of Security may issue a warrant, and that for no longer than 48 hours, only where the matter is urgent; where he has not been refused a warrant within the preceding three months by the Attorney-General, and where he himself has not issued a warrant within the preceding three months. He must be satisfied that the facts would support a warrant by the Attorney-General.
A request for a warrant must have been sent to the Attorney-General who will, in any event, decide upon it and who is bound to endorse on it his decision. Thus, if the Director-General of Security were to issue a warrant and on receipt of the DirectorGeneral of Security’s request for a warrant the Attorney-General was not satisfied that it was proper to issue a warrant, the AttorneyGeneral would endorse his refusal on the request. If the Director-General of Security’s warrant was still current, the Attorney-General would straightaway revoke it. The record of the Attorney-
General’s refusal and of the revocation would be kept, as I have already mentioned. If the Attorney-General was convinced that the request was justified he would issue his warrant for such period as he determined up to six months.
These provisions, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, are sensible. They will not leave the door open for any undetected abuse of the Director-General of Security’s power to issue what I might call an emergency warrant and on the other hand, they will not unduly restrict the Australian Security Intelligence Organization on any proper occasion which calls for urgent action.
I ought at this point, Mr. Speaker, to indicate that the authority to intercept telephone communications which one of these warrants, whether issued by the AttorneyGeneral or the Director-General of Security, gives, can only be exercised by the DirectorGeneral of Security or such person as he approves for the purpose of that warrant.
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned a little earlier that the Attorney-General’s warrant must specify a period during which it would continue in operation, and that that period was set by the bill as being not more than six months. Of course, there may be cases where it is appropriate to continue the interception for a longer period than six months. If there is such a case, the bill allows the Attorney-General to issue a further warrant or warrants, but only if the procedure which I have described in relation to him is gone through again. There must be a new request, the facts must be set out and therefore must be up to date, and the AttorneyGeneral must be satisfied of the likely benefit to security as a result of the interception. Sub-clause 5 of clause 6 produces this result.
But the case is different where the warrant is issued by the Director-General of Security. The Director-General of Security may not repeat his warrant in respect of the same telephone service until more than three months has elapsed from the issue by him of a warrant in respect of that telephone service. Thus, there could not be successive warrants each for successive periods of 48 hours. Three months at least must intervene between warrants by the Director-General of Security in respect of any particular telephone service.
So that the Attorney-General of the day will know whether or not warrants are being too freely sought, the bill provides that the Director-General of Security must inform the Attorney-General of the result of the interception in pursuance of each warrant. This does not mean that the DirectorGeneral of Security is required to burden the Attorney-General with the detailed information learnt by the interception but it does mean that the Attorney-General is to be informed as to whether results were obtained or not obtained by the interception. With this information the Attorney-General should be able the better to evaluate the requests of the Director-General of Security for warrants.
Mr. Speaker, I have now described how a warrant may be obtained and the circumstances which will govern its issue. The Government has felt that it is important that no communication which is intercepted should be divulged to any person except in the course of the duties of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization or otherwise for the security of the Commonwealth or in the course of the duties of an officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
The bill by sub-clause (3.) of clause 5 makes it an offence for any person to divulge or communicate to another person any information obtained by telephonic interception and provides a substantial penalty of £500 or imprisonment for two years. This prohibition against divulging an intercepted communication is universal and has only the exceptions which I have just described. The exceptions will allow the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to perform its functions and will allow the officers of the Postmaster-General to perform theirs.
The Government has realized that some material without any security significance may be recorded in the course of a telephone interception. The Government has felt that it is right that the record of such material should not be kept, but should be destroyed. To give effect to this view, and as an aid to the prohibition against disclosure to which I have just referred, the bill provides, in clause 10, that the Director-General of Security shall destroy any record of an intercepted communication which will not, or is not likely, to assist the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in the performance of its functions; that is to say, Mr. Speaker, that - if I could put it shortly - the record of a communication which has no security significance shall be destroyed.
I have now described to the House the general scheme of this bill. Let me repeat, it is a bill to prohibit all telephonic interception as described except for strictly security purposes and for post and telegraph purposes - purposes which themselves are regulated by the Post and Telegraph Act and the Telephone Regulations. It also prohibits the disclosure of an intercepted communication except for the same purposes and it requires the destruction of a record of any intercepted communication which has no security significance.
I want now to refer very briefly, Mr. Speaker, to an aspect of this matter which has given the Government some concern and with respect to which the Government, in its discussions, has examined several views. Honorable members will have observed that there is no group in the community whose telephone services are exempt from the operation of this bill. In particular, no exception is made in this case of members of Parliament. It might be thought at first blush that a member of Parliament might be the less frank in his communications over the telephone in the performance of his duties as a member if, at the back of his mind, he carried a consciousness of the possibility that his telephone service might be under surveillance and it might be thought that this hesitancy on his part might in some circumstances reduce the effectiveness of his representation as a member of the House. The Government does not believe that these are valid considerations. It is not without significance that the Privy Councillors, to whose report I earlier referred, addressed themselves to this very question and expressed their conclusion as follows: -
So far as we can determine a Member ot Parliament is in exactly the same position as any private citizen in regard to the interception of his communications unless those communications were held to be in connection with a proceeding in Parliament.
– That was not a recommendation, though.
– That was their finding.
– They stated what the situation is, not what it should be.
– No step has been taken by the House of Commons since the receipt of this report in 1957 towards preventing the interception of a member’s telephonic communications. But there are, it seems to me, Mr. Speaker, far more cogent reasons for not exempting members of Parliament, whether of this Parliament or of any other, from the operation of this bill. I remind the House that, before an interception can take place, first the Director-General of Security must be satisfied either that the telephone service is or is likely to be used by a person who is or is likely to be engaged in activities prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth or that the telephone service is being used for purposes prejudicial to the security of the Commonwealth and that by interception of communications passing over that service information is likely to be obtained which would assist the Australian Security Intelligence Organization in carrying out its security function. The Attorney-General must be personally satisfied on the facts that those conclusions are right.
To convert this to the case of a telephone service of a member of Parliament, it means that, on the known facts, the AttorneyGeneral and the Director-General of Security must be satisfied that the member’s telephone service is used or is likely to be used in aid of what I shortly call subversive activities and that interception under a warrant might yield significant security material, and here I condense greatly the relevant provisions of the bill, without, however, distorting them. What reason como mere be in those circumstances for treating that telephone service any differently from any other telephone service? [Extension of time granted.] What reason could there be in these circumstances - and they are the only circumstances in which the question can arise - for treating the member of Parliament any differently from any other member of the public? I must confess that careful deliberation has not led me to see any, and the Go vernment after due deliberation feels that there is none. Accordingly this bill makes no exception.
I would like, before I conclude, to make one final observation. The Privy Councillors to whose report I have already twice referred found that the use of interception for police purposes was justified and profitable. It made a like finding with respect to interception for customs purposes. The Government has weighed up the pros and cons of this matter for itself and it has determined that there should be no use of telephonic interception either for police or for customs purposes. It has taken its stand quite definitely and limited the issue of a warrant to security purposes only and the Government feels that this will meet the approval of this House. I do not think it is necessary for me to pursue the reasons which have led to this decision. If circumstances change in these fields, and any change is wanted hereafter, it will have to be done by an amendment of this bill. The House will then consider any suggested extension in the light of the case for it that those who propose it then make.
I opened this speech, Mr. Speaker, by emphasizing that this bill was not initiating telephonic interception. Let me close my speech which is already, I feel, too long by pointing out how this bill changes the scene. Since the late Mr. Chifley first authorized telephonic interception, such interception as has taken place has had to be at the Prime Minister’s direction. The decision to make an interception has rested with the Director-General of Security - within, it is true, the bounds of the directions - and with him alone except in special instances. Neither I nor any of my colleagues in Government have any reason to criticize either the directions themselves or the manner in which the directors-general - he who was Director-General under Mr. Chifley and the present Director-General - have carried on under them.
This bill does not in any sense arise out of a desire to alter the system, engendered by any dissatisfaction with it, its working or its results. I think I have made clear the considerations which have led the Government to prefer at this time to place the system on a statutory basis. But it is right to observe that in sharp contrast to the present position - a position which Mr. Chifley was content with- under this bill a Minister of the Crown, responsible to the Parliament, must take the responsibility for each and every telephone interception by the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. The criteria which the Minister is required to observe in issuing warrants, and the procedures to be observed, are clearly set out in some detail. But although the Minister must take the resonsibilitv for the issue of a warrant for interception, he has no initiative in the matter. He must await a request by the Director-General of Security.
Mr. Speaker, I have finished my description of the policy and of the general scheme of this bill. I have tried to convey to this House and to the listening public the precise limits of its operation. I have, I think, demonstrated that the prescription which must be fulfilled before an interception is possible is a singularly stiff one. In short, I have shown that the only exceptions from a very stringent prohibition on telephonic interception concern first, the performance of normal duties in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and secondly, the protection of this Commonwealth and its Territories from acts of espionage, sabotage or subversion whether directed from or intended to be committed within the Commonwealth or not.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that Australians will not gladly concede the propriety of a power to intrude on the privacy of persons whose telephone services may justly be suspected of being or of being likely to be used for or to facilitate acts of espionage, sabotage or subversion. This bill does no more than authorize that.
– Yes, it does.
– Order! If the honorable member for East Sydney does not restrain himself, I will be compelled to name him.
– This bill does no more than what I have just described. This is but an instance of the maxim, salus populi est suprema lex, applied to peoples long since of great strength. After all, we all count in this country above any single one of us. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3rd May (vide page 1315), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– On Tuesday evening, when this measure was before the House, I indicated, on behalf of the Opposition, our ire at the way in which it had been introduced, in that we had not been given sufficient time in which to examine it as a party. In consequence, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was good enough to suggest that I might continue my remarks at a later date after my party had had a chance to look at the bill. I am sure he will be pleased to know that after mature consideration at our party meeting we decided that the bill and the two cognate measures ought not to be opposed. As I indicated last Tuesday, they are mainly of a machinery kind and have been necessitated by the recent introduction in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea of a separate income tax. It is no longer just that the people of the Territory who still, according to the income tax laws of Australia, were residents of Australia for taxing purpose, should have to pay both the Australian tax and the Territory tax. That is one reason why these measures are necessary. Secondly, there are people in Australia with economic activities in the Territory who now will be liable to the Territory tax and they, too, may be entitled to some kind of abatement of their Australian tax by reason of the imposition of the Territory tax. Conversely, there were people in the Territory who, because they originally came from the mainland of Australia, retained economic interests in Australia returning them income. It is necessary also to have some kind of provision governing that position. In addition, it is necessary to make machinery alterations to certain sections of the income tax legislation because of the new definition.
What is thought may happen is this: Prior to this legislation any person residing in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was taxed as a resident of Australia. But there was a kind of individual - mainly companies - who could be regarded as nonresident in terms of the Australian taxing laws; that is, they could be foreign operators, British or American companies, operating in the Territory, and they, of course, now become liable to the Territory tax in respect of their economic activity in the Territory. But as the result of this legislation the non-resident group of people will no longer pay any Australian tax at all. I am not sufficiently familiar with economic development in the Territory to know whether there are very many concerns of that kind, and I hope that the Treasurer may later be able to give us some indication as to the number of people in that category.
As the Territory tax is roughly only half of the Australian tax, such people will, as a consequence, pay less now than they did before, when it is taken into account that, in terms of economic reality, far more money goes from Australia, from Consolidated Revenue, to the Territory than is returned to it. In a sense, all economic activity in Papua and New Guinea is subsidized to an extent by the Australian taxpayer, and therefore it may not be altogether equitable that a non-resident Territory taxpayer - formerly an Australian taxpayer - should have this reduction in taxation. That is one small instance of where there can be a lessening of taxation to people trading in New Guinea and Papua.
There is a second feature which can arise in any structure where we have people from one country carrying on economic activity in another. In essence that is what now happens with regard to Australia and New Guinea. They are severed so far as taxation is concerned, and questions of residence and domicile may arise in the future. It is quite possible that companies at present operating in Australia, but whose interests are mainly in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, will find it a more payable proposition to register as New Guinea companies rather than as Australian companies. These are theoretical rather than practical questions at the moment, but they ought to be taken into account when legislation like this is contemplated.
An interesting field has been opened up by reason of the fact that people in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea now pay income tax at a lower rate than that which operates in Australia. This, no doubt, is designed to encourage development. However, there are other parts of Australia which are in much the same category as Papua and New Guinea, parts in which, by reason of the lack of amenities or the lack of economic development, people are at some disadvantage compared with people elsewhere in Australia; yet, under the law, they pay taxes at the same rates as every one else, with the very minor exception of the zone allowances which apply to personal income tax. I have in mind people living, for instance, in northern Queensland or the north-western part of Australia, who at the moment pay exactly the same rate of income tax as do people in the metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney, yet who, to some extent, live under great disabilities. So there is perhaps a case for a sympathetic review by the Treasurer of the position of such taxpayers. As my colleague from the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has so often said here, people living in the Alice Springs area have the disadvantage that goods brought to Alice Springs from Adelaide have the freight added to the price that must be paid by the consumer, and so are dearer than comparable goods sold in Melbourne or Sydney. Yet a taxpayer in Alice Springs pays exactly the same rate of income tax as a taxpayer anywhere else in Australia, except insofar as the zone allowance applies, although his costs are greater and his real income is therefore very much less than that of his fellow citizen in another part of Australia. That, in a sense, is a barrier to economic development in such areas. At least it has been recognized that concerns operating in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are perhaps aiding the economic development of that Territory. They are certainly aiding themselves at the same time, but they will be taxed at a lower rate than Australian companies deriving the same total income.
I suggest that also involved here is a problem that has perhaps not been considered - that is, that after all Papua and New Guinea are trust territories, that primarily their development should not be undertaken on the basis of profit to plantation owners and commercial undertakings, but should be undertaken in the interests of the indigenous people. To some degree this kind of law may cut across that consideration, because if you make it more profitable for commercial and plantation undertakings to continue to operate there is a possibility that they will get an economic advantage at the expense of the people of the Territory itself.
I suggest that there are one or two of these socio-political aspects of the problem which may not have been considered by the Government when this legislation was in preparation. As I have indicated, basically the matters with which the measures are concerned arise from the duality of economic activity, and also from the fact that people have gone from the mainland to the Territory and may have left some of their economic activity behind them. There must be some machinery for adjudicating in these circumstances, and the double taxation provisions inserted here cover that. There is also a need to tidy up the various sections of the act that apply to such undertakings.
With those few remarks, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I state that the Opposition supports the measures.
.- I am very pleased that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) announced to the House that the Labour Party had decided not to oppose these bills. In making this decision honorable members opposite have taken the only commonsense course that was open to them. Had they pursued the course which was foreshadowed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports when he spoke on 3rd May they would have found themselves opposing legislation which was brought in, as the honorable gentleman himself said, as a matter of necessity. It will be recalled that on 3rd May the honorable gentleman said -
Although we believe that there is really nothing unjust in these bills as such, we feel so keenly about the matter that we intend to oppose them as an indication of our resentment of the manner in which legislation is treated in this House.
As I have said, had the Opposition followed that course it would have found itself opposing legislation about which the honorable gentleman himself said in his next sentence -
These three measures are necessary because of fundamental alterations recently made in the taxation structure of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
The members of the Labour Party, together with many Government supporters, agreed with the introduction of the new taxation principles operating in the Territory. It therefore would have been ridiculous to oppose the legislation now before us to implement those principles. But, Sir, when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports commenced his speech he said -
These bills cannot have any effect except in relation to income tax returns that will not be lodged until after 1st July, 1960.
That, of course, is true; but the fact that these income tax returns have to be lodged after 1st July, 1960, means that people and companies must, in the course of the last few months, have been considering their future plans for their own operations in the Territory - whether they would continue them, increase them, decrease them or, in some cases, cease them.
I believe that these three bills are long overdue. After all, the House was refused permission to discuss the legislation which was placed before the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, on the grounds that it had nothing whatever to do with this Parliament, and that had this Parliament discussed these matters it would have been usurping the functions of the Legislative Council. I believe that when that statement was made to us it should have been pointed out that what was going to happen was that the Legislative Council of the Territory intended to bring in legislation which would force this National Parliament to alter existing Commonwealth law - and that, of course, is exactly what has happened. It has been said that the full responsibility for the previous legislation had been laid at the door of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has made it perfectly clear that that was not the case, and that it was Cabinet’s responsibility. That is rather intriguing, because I do not believe that the legislation, as it was introduced into the Legislative Council of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea last year, was ever considered by the full Cabinet of this Government - certainly not during the life of this Parliament although the legislation was introduced during the life of this Parliament.
The bills which were to be introduced into the Legislative Council of the Territory were printed as early as February last year. At that time, work should have commenced on some of the amendments which are contained in the three bills now before us. It is quite understandable that these bills could not have been completed in detail until we had seen what happened in the Legislative Council in the Territory, although I believe that we should have been informed of some of the major implications.
When we look back to that period we realize again the full support which the Labour Party gave to the measures which were introduced into the Territory Council. At one stage, the Public Service Association in New Guinea passed a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Territories. That motion subsequently was rescinded by an executive meeting of the association at the request of the Labour Party in Australia. That is rather interesting. Some people think that there are no politics in New Guinea, but it is perfectly obvious that politics are becoming increasingly evident in the Territory.
– Can you expand that point a little? You say that it was done at the request of the Labour Party?
– Yes, at the request of the Labour Party in Australia.
– What have you to substantiate that statement?
– I have every reason in the world to believe that statement to be true. If you would like to inquire from the executive of the Public Service Association in Port Moresby why the no confidence motion was rescinded, you probably will receive a more detailed explanation than was given to the members of the association because the minute book contains no reference whatever to the resolution which was passed. You probably are in a much better position than I to find out all about it. I was in New Guinea in May last year when these matters were being discussed. I was very concerned about the feelings in the Territory and about what appeared to me to be the very poor form in which the legislation had been introduced. On 19th May, 1959, I wrote to the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) in these terms -
I am convinced that unless the Government defers the proposed legislation pending a thorough investigation as to its anomalies and effect in practice, the Government will find itself in a position of ridicule for two reasons, (a) such extensive amendment will be required that it will be obvious that the bill has been produced without necessary thought and inquiry, and (b) a number of proposals in the bill will be found to be impracticable and unenforceable.
That statement turned out to be accurate. There were more than 100 amendments, made up of 75 or 76 substantial amendments and 24 or 25 machinery ones. These amendments had to be made before the bill could be passed by the Legislative Council. It is obvious that the bills which are now before us have entailed a tremendous amount of work. It is obvious also that they are very complicated. The following definition appears on page three of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill - “ The adjusted net Territory income “, in relation to a taxpayer, means the net Territory income of the taxpayer reduced by the amount that bears to the apportionable deductions allowed or allowable from the taxpayer’s assessable income of the year of income the same proportion as the net Territory income of the taxpayer of the year of income bears to the sum of the taxpayer’s taxable income of the year of income and these apportionable deductions.
It is not surprising that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was not able to give us as clear and lucid an explanation of provisions such as this as the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) gave of other legislation this afternoon. These bills are most complicated and difficult to understand. There are 31 pages of explanatory notes to cover some thirteen pages of the bill, and even the explanatory notes require some comprehension. 1 sympathized with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) when he claimed that he did not have sufficient time to study the bills, even though I believe that his claim back-fired on him to a certain extent.
These bills can only be looked at in conjunction with the recent legislation of the Territory, and one cannot help wondering what effect they will have in the immediate future on this tremendously important Territory. We must have regard to the kind of people whom we need in the Territory if its development is to follow the lines which have been indicated by Government policy - development mainly in the interests of the indigenous population until the Territory is capable of selfgovernment. The majority of members on this side of the House accept that to be the Government’s probable intention in this matter. If the Territory is to receive the right of self-government, it will need men who are highly qualified in various technical subjects and in the fields of agriculture, health and education, to mention only a few. In my letter of 19th May to the Acting Prime Minister, to which I have referred previously, I stated -
The present supposed advantages of the Territory obviously do not attract as many good type qualified or able people as are required, both from the point of view of administration and business. Any reduction in incentive will, therefore, lead not only to an increased inability to attract the right type of man but will, I am certain within the course of the next two years, be the direct cause of many of those presently in the Territory leaving there at the end of their period of engagement.
During the last twelve months there have been 181 resignations from the Public Service in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. When I say that, I should add that at present the Public Service work force is 250 greater than it was at the same period in the previous year, even including the 181 who resigned. According to a statement made by the Administrator, it is quite difficult to lay down a clear pattern for those resignations. Only eight of the 181 gave as their reason for resignation the introduction of income tax into the Territory. Another 30, 1 assume, were women who resigned to get married. The others resigned for a number of reasons. Quite a number went into private enterprise.
But the thing that concerned me, and I think concerned many people in the Territory, was that a considerable number of those resignations were from people who were quite senior in the Territory services. That fact is important and it brings me back to the question I asked a moment ago: What type of people do we want there? I know it is difficult to make a general and very broad analysis of the people who are there, but I would say - some people might give me a raspberry for doing so - that there would not be more than 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, of people in the Territory who are there because they have a love for the Territory and have the good of the
Territory at heart and would like to spend the remainder of their lives there. I believe that 15 per cent, would be a generous estimate. Others are there because they like the adventurous type of life which the Territory can give them. There are many good and loyal people there because they are working at jobs which they believe are important, not necessarily to the Territory. There are others there because they are earning more money than, with their abilities, they could earn in Australia. A considerable number of people are living there not necessarily at an overall higher standard but a more comfortable life, in some ways, than they would be living in Australia. That might sound peculiar, but it is not if honorable members take the trouble to analyse my statement.
The good man who loves the Territory and has its good at heart, and the man who has the technical knowledge, will find, after they have been there some time that they will be required to carry out the educational programme which we must provide if we are to fulfil our duty as the present guardians of the native population. Men of this kind must be encouraged to go there, and the only way in which this encouragement can be provided is by financial inducement. A while ago the honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggested that there were parts of Australia where people are living in equally difficult if not worse conditions than those experienced in the Territory. But there is this big difference: We have in the Territory a population of some millions of native inhabitants who are our responsibility. No matter what may come, until such time as they have reached a standard in both their economy and education where the Territory can stand on its own feet, they must remain our responsibility. I believe, in fact I know, that many people go to the Territory under Australia’s wing in order, primarily, to serve their own interests. It is true that changes have taken place within a comparatively few years, but whilst we have the responsibility of carrying out the education of these people we must be prepared to give inducement which will bring into this Territory people not only with qualifications for the job but also in the numbers necessary to carry out that job as quickly as can be reasonably expected.
I mentioned that after my visit to the Territory last year I wrote to the Acting Prime Minister, and among other things I said this -
Whilst in the Territory in an official capacity representing the Foreign Affairs Committee, I refrained from comment on the discussions which were going on in Canberra.
They were discussions about the lack of information being given to the House about the proposed introduction of taxation into the Territory. I went on -
I feel that the majority of Members of Parliament who were rightly incensed at the way in which this matter has been handled in Canberra, expressed their views without any knowledge of the effect that this legislation might have on the Territory. I believe that the Parliament should be well informed of feelings and opinions held in the Territory and for this reason I suggest that in the event of the debate being proceeded with on the 22nd June in the Legislative Council, there should be an official delegation of observers from the Commonwealth Parliament to listen in on the debate.
I believe that wherever there are debates in Legislative Councils which are highly contentious it would be a very sensible thing if one or two members from this Parliament, by invitation, sat in at such meetings. Similarly, I believe that when contentious debates take place in this chamber concerning our Territories, it would be an excellent thing if some members of the Legislative Councils of the Territories concerned were invited here to listen to such debates.
In the annual report on the Territory of New Guinea for 1958-59, at page 48, the following statement appears: -
The investment of outside capital in the Territory is encouraged subject to suitable safeguards which ensure that the interests of the indigenous inhabitants are fully protected. In an underdeveloped country such a policy is essential if its resources are to be adequately developed. Moreover, economic expansion in which management and technical knowledge are provided by nonindigenous private industry and the bulk of the labour by the indigenous inhabitants can have an important influence in training the latter to play an increasing part in the development of their country.
That is where I believe the bills now under discussion are possibly considerably late in being brought before the Parliament. The individuals and the companies directly affected by this legislation have not yet had an opportunity to study it in detail to enable them to plan their futures in the Territory.
One thing gives me considerable cause for concern and I hope it will be overcome. I realize that there may be considerable difficulties, but I hope that the Treasurer will be able to throw some light on the matter. I refer to the question of whether residents in Australia who have interests in New Guinea will have to submit two taxation returns and pay two lots of taxes, eventually claiming rebate. That is an important point. I sincerely hope that some way can be worked out in which, if not one assessment only is required, then at least only one lot of tax will be payable. No taxpayer should be obliged to pay tax for last year here and also tax for last year in the Territory, or to pay provisional tax here and provisional tax in the Territory, both in the same year and hope that at some time in the not distant future he will get some of the money back. If we are to heed the statement which I just read from the annual report for the Territory for 1958-59, we should be encouraging people to put money into the Territory, so long as the investment will not hinder the progress of the native population. I am perfectly convinced that there is room for encouragement of that nature, and I hope that something along the lines I have mentioned will be worked out.
In conclusion, I should like to quote further from the letter which I wrote to the Acting Prime Minister on 19th May of last year and which I think is as important now as it was when I wrote it. Tn the second last paragraph, I said -
I further suggest that as long as there is an official majority in the Legislative Council there should be some process whereby there is the possibility of a more direct approach by the Territories to the Commonwealth Parliament than through the Department and the Minister.
.- As has been pointed out, the Opposition does not oppose this measure, but we do have some concern for the indigenous population and those dedicated public servants who are assisting the Department of Territories in developing and administering the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Some time ago, the Legislative Council for Papua and New Guinea introduced legislation for the collection of income tax in that Territory for the first time. We discussed the matter in this Parliament when debating a report on the subject by the Minister for Territories (Mr.
Hasluck). During that discussion, we supported the Government’s action, but pointed out that we felt that in some ways it could tend towards adding to the cost burden already imposed on the indigenous population. lt will be remembered that at that time we criticized the introduction of the poll tax and said that we were not happy about the abolition of the export tax. We felt that the abolition of the export tax really afforded no relief to the indigenous population, because the retention of the import tax automatically added to the cost structure in Papua and in New Guinea. We pointed out also that the imposition of a tax of between 4s. and 4s. 6d. in the £1 on companies was, in effect, an addition to the indirect taxes paid there and would, therefore, increase still further the cost of goods in the Territory. Both the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) and the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) were very critical of the Minister for Territories at that time, and I should think that there may have been some grounds for that criticism, because the imposition of company tax would increase the cost of goods in the Territory. Some of the problems seem to have been solved since then. We of the Opposition have no desire to criticize or to suggest that we have the solutions to all these problems. This matter is really in the teething stages and the Government is to be commended for the introduction of what we consider to be a more equitable tax.
It is a great pity that the poll tax is being retained. I think it would have been better had this tax been abolished, because any flat tax is inequitable and not in the best interests of the Territory in this instance. Statistics show that last year the Government subsidized the Territory of Papua and New Guinea to the extent of £13,142,000, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has mentioned certain aspects relating to the population of Papua which are not quite clear to us. On the whole, we hope that the measure under consideration will bring at least some assistance to the Territory.
We offer these points of criticism in the hope *.hat the Government will look carefully at the desirability of stemming the rising costs of goods in the Territory. We hope that it will give close consideration to the possibility that the imposition of company tax will tend to increase costs still further. I repeat that perhaps it would have been better if the Government had decided to reduce the import tax and retain the export tax. As I have stated already, our basic concern is for the indigenous population and the dedicated public servants.
Much has been said in favour of the investment in these Territories of outside or foreign capital by speculators, if we may describe them in that way. It must be remembered that, generally speaking, investments by these speculators are made, not in the interests of the indigenous population, but with a view to bleeding from the Territory as much profit as possible. I emphasize the need for keeping a very close watch on investment in the Territory by outside interests.
– in reply - During the course of the debate, one or two points were raised which it might be convenient for me to deal with now. I am glad to find that support for this measure has come from all sections of the House. Speaking for the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) asked whether I could give him an idea of the number of overseas residents deriving income from sources in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. These persons will be liable to territorial tax on that income. The bill proposes to remove the existing tax where overseas residents derive income from Papua. Australian tax will not then be payable if the income of overseas residents has its source in the Territory of New Guinea.
This bill removes discrimination as between parts of the Territory. I gather that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was interested to know whether there were any substantial beneficiaries as a result of this variation in policy. Inquiries I have made of our officers in the brief time that has been available to me indicate that available statistics do not enable an estimate to be made of the number of overseas residents who derive income from Papua. It would run into some hundreds, including shareholders with holdings in Papuan companies. In the past, these persons have accounted for both Australian and Papuan income in one return, and a detailed examination of thousands of returns would be necessary to ascertain the information sought by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. In fact, I should think that thousands probably would be an under-estimate.
So far as I have been able to gather, we do not know of any large income recipients for whom benefit under this measure would be in the nature of a fairly substantial windfall. If that had been in our minds, I assure the /honorable gentleman that I would have let him know, but it would appear that the holdings are comparatively small. The persons to be exempted from Australian tax on Papuan income will generally, perhaps invariably, be taxed in the country in which they reside. The exemption now proposed will avoid double taxation on the Papuan income; it will not limit the total tax to the relatively small amount of territorial tax payable. I do not know whether that answers the query of the honorable gentleman.
– Yes. I had in mind the person who formerly was a non-resident because his activity was in Papua. He will be a beneficiary.
– He will be a beneficiary, but it was intended to avoid a discrimination which existed between the income derived in the two adjacent Territories. As I say, the office of the Commissioner of Taxation is not aware of any large beneficiaries as a result of this action.
The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), who has personally made a study of the problems of New Guinea, and who has, I know, given a good deal of thought in particular to this taxation issue in the broad, raised a matter that I would like to deal with immediately. I regret that the answer I shall give him will not perhaps be satisfying from his point of view, but I want him to know that the point he has raised has not been overlooked. The answer I now give is not necessarily to be taken as a final answer, but I shall refer to the stage that we have reached in the consideration that has been given to the matter in the office of the Commissioner of Taxation. I will go into the matter in some detail, because this will be of interest to people both in the Territory and out side it who may have to furnish two sets of taxation returns.
In the course of preparing this legislation, the Government gave some consideration to the possibility of avoiding the need for taxpayers to deal with two separate taxing authorities when they derive income that is subject to both Australian and territorial tax. As I mentioned in my second-reading speech, the amendments now proposed will have the broad effect, as regards Australian residents who derive income from sources in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, of reducing the combined liability for Australian and territorial tax to the amount that would have been payable in Australian tax if there were no liability for territorial tax.
This result is to be achieved by allowing, against the Australian tax liability, a credit equal to the lesser of the Australian tax that relates to income from sources in the Territory and the territorial tax paid on that income. Pending payment of the territorial tax, the Commissioner of Taxation would no doubt grant an extension of time for payment of that part of the Australian liability that is likely to be offset by a credit. The Territory ordinance makes similar provision to relieve the double taxation that would otherwise be imposed on Territory residents who derive income from Australia. In this way, an equitable adjustment will be made in the overall liability imposed on such persons. The present legislation does not, however, dispense with the need for these people to lodge separate returns in Australia and in the Territory and to make separate payments of tax under each system.
The Government realizes that it would be more convenient if these persons could make their returns and pay their taxes to one authority only - if, for example, the Commissioner of Taxation were empowered to assess and collect the territorial tax payable by Australian residents and if the Territory taxation administration were given similar powers with regard to the Australian tax liability of Territory residents. When Cabinet looked at this matter it was an element in our decision that, if practicable, there should be the one taxation form. However, arrangements of the nature that I have mentioned, it has been discovered, would involve legal and administrative difficulties and, having regard to the relatively small number of taxpayers likely to be involved, it is far from clear, at this stage, that the advantages to the taxpayers concerned would be sufficient to justify the complexities likely to be introduced into both systems. There are substantial differences between the Australian and the Territory tax laws and a return that could serve the requirements of both systems might be more complicated for a taxpayer to deal with than would two separate returns. In any event, honorable members will realize that there is far more to this problem than simply providing in the law for the lodging of a single return to serve the requirements of both systems.
Further problems would arise within the Taxation Branch in relation to the assessment of joint returns, the conduct of appeals against assessments, the collection of unpaid taxes and the launching of prosecutions for breaches of the taxing laws. Numerous amendments of the Australian laws would be necessary and new powers would have to be vested in the Commissioner of Taxation. Furthermore, the administrative structure of the Taxation Branch is geared to the mass assessment of vast numbers of returns at relatively low cost. The increased costs resulting from joint assessment of Australian and Territory taxes may prove to be out of all proportion to the advantages of the scheme. No doubt, there would be similar difficulties if the Territory taxing authority were empowered to collect the Australian taxes payable by Territory residents.
The absence of any provision in the bill for joint assessment of returns should not be taken as an indication that the Government has finally decided against an arrangement of this nature. The advantages and disadvantages of a system of joint assessment are being closely examined and, if a practicable system can be devised, legislation may be introduced at a later date. In the meantime, I have no doubt that the present system will operate reasonably satisfactorily. [Quorum formed.] The experience gained with its operation in the next few months will place us in a better position to judge whether the major changes that would be necessary to implement a system of joint assessment and collection of tax would really be warranted.
I am sure that if the honorable member for Bowman studies some of the points that I have raised, he will realize the complexity of the arrangements and see something of the difficulties. However, we will keep the possibility that he has raised in mind. In the meantime, experience will no doubt enable us in the future to evolve through to legislation which will work smoothly and satisfactorily for both the Australian governments and the taxpayers, resident or not, in these territories in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the law relating to income tax.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th April (vide page 1128), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, it was agreed that the three measures involved in the one proposal would be treated as one. Therefore, the Opposition offers no new argument at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 27th April (vide page 1128), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is the final member of the trio, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and we allow it also to pass without further comment at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28th April (vide page 1217), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), in his second-reading speech on this measure, said -
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to a decision of the Government to increase the salaries of the holders of the statutory offices included in the schedule to the bill, the salaries of which are provided by special appropriation.
The right honorable gentleman’s speech covered almost exactly one column of “ Hansard “. In the entire speech, he did not mention the amounts of the salaries already received by the holders of these offices or the amounts to which these salaries are to be increased. In order that the House may clearly understand what this bill will do,I point out that the schedule indicates the amount of the present and the proposed salaries. The Auditor-General for the Commonwealth at present receives a salary of £5,000 per annum. He is to receive £5,900 a year - an increase of £900. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner receives £5,000 a year, and he also will receive £5,900 per annum. The Senior Commissioner of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission receives £3,500 and is to receive £4,400 a year. Commissioners at present receive £3,000 and will in future receive £3,875 per annum. Conciliators now receive £2,750 a year and their salaries are to be increased to £3,465 per annum. The Chairman of the Public Service Board, who already receives £6,000 a year, is to be paid a salary of £6,900 a year. Members of the Public Service Board at present receive £5,000, and they are to be paid £5,900 a year. The Public Service Arbitrator, who is now paid a salary of £5,000 a year, is to receive £5.900 per annum. The Commissioner of Taxation at present receives £6,000 a year, and he is to be paid £6,900 per annum. The Second Commissioner of Taxation, whose salary is at present £5,000 a year, will be paid £5,900 per annum.
In reality, this bill will increase by about £18 a week the salaries of persons who are receiving £100 or £120 a week. I believe in high salaries and in high wages. I believe, too, that there should be payment for skill; but I think it comes ill from this Government, fresh from its appearance in the Arbitration Court where it opposed an increase of the basic wage, to grant to the individuals I have mentioned what I call an immense rise in salaries. What is the justification? According to honorable members on the Government side, the justification is that the court made an award under which artisans received increments in their margins of 28 per cent. That increase meant that artisans received a rise in wages of anything from £1 to £3 a week. Very few received as much as £3 a week. That increase in margins–
– Order! The honorable member must restrict his remarks to the bill before the House. He may go outside it for a brief reference to other matters if that helps him to make a point, but he cannot make the whole of his speech on extraneous matters.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The bill proposes that certain officers of the Public Service shall receive increases in salary. Is an honorable member not entitled to contrast the Government’s attitude in respect of this proposal with its attitude in the basic wage case and in relation to margins?
– Order! The honorable member is not permitted to go outside the bill. Did I hear the Leader of the Opposition mention the word “ Hitler “?
– In an aside to the Minister at the table, I said that the Minister’s attitude was Hitlerite.
– I was under the impression that you were referring to me.
– No, Sir, I would not mention you in that connexion.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a fact that the measure before the House provides for certain increases in salary to members of statutory bodies, and that this proposal in turn is related to the decision of the Arbitration Court in the margins case? If this legislation arises from such a decision, would you not regard it as a relevant argument if the honorable member for Scullin refers to the margins case and the increases in wages granted to lower-paid workers?
– I have already told the honorable member for Scullin that he may refer to these things if they are slightly relevant in order to clarify a point he wishes to make, but he may not make his whole speech on that reference.
– I desire to point out to honorable members on the Government side why this legislation was brought down. I have this bill in my hand now because the Arbitration Court some time ago increased the wages of artisans by amounts ranging from £1 to £3 a week. That increase was not sufficient to cover the rise in the cost of living; but because the artisans received that amount, persons who are already receiving up to £120 a week will get an increase of £18 a week on the basis that an increase in wages was granted to the artisans. The result is that the artisans lose, and other members of the community gain by £14 a week or more.
I object to that on the fundamental basis that I object to the approach of this Government to the whole question of the haves and the have-nots. In 1953, the present Government reduced taxes. As a result, a person receiving less than £1,000 a year benefited by an increase in his income of about £15 a year, or a few shillings a week. A man who was in receipt of £5,000 a year in 1952 benefited to the extent of £999 reduction in his income tax, or an increase of almost £20 a week in his income. In 1954, the same group of persons again benefited by a reduction of income tax. This time, they received £556 a year. The man on £20 a week benefited to the extent of a few shillings a week. The effect was that the discrepancy between those on the lower standard of living and those on the higher levels became greater. The inequalities of the social system were made more distinct.
There was a similar sequel to the margins increases when the artisans received an increase of about £1 a week and the remuneration of those on £5,000 or £6,000 a year rose by £18 a week. This treatment of a social problem is contrary to the principles of the Australian Labour Party. I know that supporters of the Government will probably say that I am opposed to rises in salaries. I am not opposed to rises in salaries. I am not opposed even to the increases that I have referred to; or I would not have been if the Government had not previously appeared in the Arbitration Court to oppose an increase of the basic wage. I would not be opposed to these increases if the Government of the day said, “ We will do our best to see that the margins of artisans and other sections of the community are increased considerably “. But that is not the Government’s attitude. The Government says, in effect, “ If you give 5s. a week to the man on the basic wage, or £1 a week to the age pensioner, you create a spiral of inflation which will destroy the economy “.
– Who said that?
– Every action of the Government says it. and all who run may read.
– The Prime Minister told the Arbitration Commission to adopt the same course.
– Our leader is a Daniel.
– And I, too, have come to judgment.
– Quite right. The Prime Minister sent his representatives into the Arbitration Commission.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. This is a very narrow bill. Standing Order No. 82 states -
No member shall digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion.
It has been the practice of the Chair to permit the debate on the second reading of a bill to include reasonable references to matters relevant to the bill such as, for instance, the necessity for the proposals in the bill, or arguments supporting alternatives to its provisions or opposing its progress. However, discussion of those related matters cannot be permitted to supersede debate on the bill. As honorable members will see, the subject-matter of this bill is restricted, as is stated in the title, to increasing the salaries payable to the holders of certain statutory offices which are set out in the bill. I ask honorable members to keep their remarks to the subject-matter before the Chair.
– I have not the slightest doubt, Mr. Speaker, that you are steeped in the study of Einstein’s theory of relativity. All things are relative. In reality, I cannot justify or condemn the increases granted in this bill to one section of the community without referring to what is done to other sections of the community. I could not castigate the Government for giving £15 a day travelling allowance to Ministers if it were to give the same travelling allowance to age pensioners, artisans and other similar sections of the community. If the Government had instructed its representatives before the Arbitration Commission to support a rise in the general wages of the community, I could not condemn it for applying proportionate increases to a certain section of the community. As you, Mr. Speaker, and I well know, and as I am sure Einstein would agree, we must pay regard to these things in a relative manner.
– And in a passing manner.
– And in a passing manner. But I do not want to take up a considerable length of time. I think I have made very clear the illogicality of the attitude of the Government. I have shown that legislation of this description highlights the Government’s sins of omission and commission in regard to social services, including child endowment and pensions, and in regard to the wages of the ordinary working-class members of the community.
.- I, too, desire to make a few comments on the bill before the House.
– Do not go too far.
– I hope to get a little farther than the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) was able to go. Almost complete effect has now been given to the recent 28 per cent. increase in margins granted on the application of a number of unions to the Arbitration Commission. This bill provides for proportionate increases to a number of office holders whose remuneration can only be determined by this Parliament. The honorable member for Scullin made what honorable members opposite apparently regard as obnoxious references to the manner in which the Government sent its representatives to the Arbitration Commission to oppose the unions’ claim for a higher basic wage. I share the honorable member’s opinion that there is some connexion between the Government’s action in that case and its action in relation to this bill.
It can be seen that every position mentioned in this bill is an extremely important one, but it is difficult to determine the order of importance. In the second column of the first schedule to the bill, the position of Chairman of the Public Service Board is listed. It is proposed that his salary shall be raised from £6,000 to £6,900 a year. That represents a very handsome increase of £900. Above the position “ Chairman of the Public Service Board “ appears the position of “Conciliator salary of which is to be increased from £2,750 to £3,465. So, there is a wide difference between the amounts to be awarded to the conciliator and to the Chairman of the Public Service Board.
It might be argued that it is very difficult to assess the relative importance of positions listed in the schedule, but I think that on occasions a successful conciliator could be worth far more to the country than even the Chairman of the Public Service Board. Indeed, I know of such occasions. Sometimes, a dispute occurs in industry which requires a conciliator possessing the wisdom of Solomon and a number of other qualities which are not always to be found, necessarily, in judges or, perhaps, in the Chairman of the Public Service Board. Conciliators need to have the wisdom of Solomon and the persuasiveness of a super-salesman. They have to be extremely diplomatic and they need an understanding of human nature and a knowledge of the industry with which they are dealing.
Perhaps the only way to find out what any position is worth is to do the job ourselves. I can remember that when I was watching a bricklayer at work I gained the impression, because of the facile manner in which he performed his work, that his was a very simple occupation. A couple of hours work in my own place building a humble incinerator soon disproved this conception. I repeat that the only way to discover what any position is worth is to do it yourself.
Parliament now finds itself in the position of an arbitration commissioner, determining wages for positions about which it has made no inquiry and knows but little. The Government has applied a formula which was devised by the Arbitration. Commission itself, but which was intended for application to workers in industry whose feet are placed on the lower rungs of fortune’s ladder. Consequently, I strongly doubt whether a formula intended to apply to people in the lower income brackets can be successfully applied to the positions set out in the first schedule.
I recall once reading in a book by Rudyard Kipling the Latin phrase, “ Quis custodiet ipros custodis? “ which can be interpreted as, “Who shall watch the watchers? “ I think that it could also be interpreted to mean that gentlemen, who watch over the interests of others have no power to look after themselves. Honorable members of this House often become targets for immoderate and even violent criticism, no matter what method they employ for the purpose of fixing their own remuneration. I am sure that we all have a lot of very unpleasant memories of last year in that connexion. The gentlemen in the positions named in the bill are fortunate in that the Government assumes responsibility for them and in so doing has resorted to a formula based upon something which has very little, if any, connexion with these office holders. If I have any quarrel with the amount of the rises, I base it on the Government’s action last year in giving a flat 5 per cent, reduction in income tax to all taxpayers. Through that action those who got the most received the most and those who got the least received the least. It is now proposed that those who get the most are again to receive the most. It is easy to see where this principle is taking us. By the inflexible laws of mathematics, as this process is repeated those who are in the top salary brackets will tend to move as far from those in the lower salary brackets as the gods are from the earth. No attempt is made to include in the bill the members of the various boards which carry out Commonwealth functions; and there are quite a number of them. We do not know what the Government’s intentions are in regard to those people; but I suppose it will find some formula to apply to them. In common justice, the same principle ought to be applied to them.
– I do not like having to talk on a measure of this kind, but I cannot allow it to pass without expressing certain views about what it seeks to do. On reading the bill and the Minister’s speech, it seems to me that these increases have been based on the fact that the Public Service Board decided that as an increase in margins had been given to skilled workers it must follow that lead and grant increases in margins to all public servants; and the board proceeded to do that. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read in the press that officers on £5,000 or £6,000 a year in the Public Service were to get an increase of up to £900 a year. I did not think it possible that any one could contemplate giving a rise such as that simply because engineers and other skilled workers had received rises of from £50 to £100 a year. I am glad to hear one Country Party member say, “ Hear, hear! “ to my protest.
The basing of such rises on the fact that the Arbitration Court increased the margins of men in industry is something which I cannot quite follow. When these officers were given a salary of £6,000 a year it was not considered on the basis of a margin, and that aspect was not taken into consideration by any body which inquired into what the duties of those positions were or should be. The salaries of certain heads of departments were raised tremendously not long ago, but at that time no marginal increase was given to those on the lower salary scales. Those large increases were made by the Government on the basis of what it thought the positions were worth. In the concluding paragraph of the Minister’s speech he said -
In assessing the salaries appropriate to these several offices, the Government has considered not only the general increase in salaries within the Commonwealth Service; it has considered also the general trend of salaries for high executive positions as well as the responsibilities and complex duties of the positions concerned.
I say definitely that if the 28 per cent, increase in margins had not been given these other increases would not have been thought of; no £900 a year increase would have been given to highly paid officers. I do not want to decry any officer or say that he is not worth £7,000 a year, or that the man receiving £5,000 a year should not go to £5,900; but it was not happy reading at all to me when I read what the Minister had to say in connexion with this matter. I believe these large increases to highly paid officers have been based on the increases that were given by the Public Service Board, and I do not think the Minister will deny that. When that was done, the Government said to these people, “ We will give you an increase in accordance with what you have given to some- body else “.
It seems to me these officers felt fairly confident that if they gave substantial rises to members of the Public Service over whom they had control, the natural corollary would be that they themselves would get a big fat rise. I do not think I am far wrong in that regard. I am giving my reasons for my objection to these salary rises. I object to them because I feel that this country is not in an economic position to innate salaries of such a character in this way when we are not able to help those on the bottom salary rungs. I do not want to quote any one in particular at the bottom, but we know that the Government expressed its opinion in this connexion and presented it to the appropriate authority, saying that it felt that the country was not in a position to stand big increases in salaries which would only increase inflation.
If that was the opinion of the Government, 1 cannot reconcile it with the figures which we have before us to-day.
With regard to the salaries with which we are now dealing, we cannot, in decency, say to the men concerned, “ You will not get the increases; we will vote against them “, when other men have received the same type of increase and they are covered not by statute but by people outside who were able to grant the rises under what I believe to be Government direction, or, at any rate, Government acquiescence. My interpretation of what I read in the newspapers after that 28 per cent, increase was given was that if the Government did not say so straight out the meaning of its statement was that that process was going to be carried right through the Public Service. That is where the £900 increase first came in - in a statement in the press as to what the figure would be. That fact convinces me that these increases have been based on the 28 per cent, increase in margins. The proposed increase in salary from £5,000 to £5,900 is an increase not of 28 per cent., but 18 per cent. I appreciate that fact. However, I recall speaking at a public meeting about the 28 per cent, increase, which did not appear to me to be a fair thing. I referred to the baker getting 22s. 6d., and I said, “ I do not know what the labourer is getting “, and some one interjected and said, “ 2s. 9d.” I said then that I was not agreeable to even the basis on which that 28 per cent, increase was arrived at.
Margins are said to be given for skill. I remember that a few years ago, when a margins case was before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the Prime Minister said in this House, in effect, “We are prepared to support in the court an increase in margins for the really skilled, but we are not prepared to support an increase of margins for men who are not really skilled “.
– The second part of that is not correct. He said that the Government was prepared to support an increase in margins for skill, but I do not think that he made a statement about not supporting an increase in margins for men not really skilled.
– He said that the Government was prepared only to support marginal increases for skill and was not prepared to support in the court an increase for people not skilled or to make any statement to influence the court in that direction. I remember that he mentioned in his speech engineers, fitters and turners, besides other classes of skilled workers that I cannot remember now. I think he also mentioned legal men and other skilled men in his speech as highly skilled men who should receive increases.
My objection to this measure relates mostly to the way in which action is being taken. Although I am speaking immediately to the bill my remarks are really directed more to the position of public servants generally. Can the Minister show me that the salaries to be increased by this measure were ever based on the principle of providing a margin over and above the basic wage? I do not think that such a thing was ever intended. I think that the Minister will agree that the men affected by this measure should be paid each according to the position he holds, and should not be paid in accordance with some margin above what is paid to somebody else. They should be paid the salaries that it is fair and proper for them to receive.
We know that competition comes from private enterprise for the services of top public servants, and that therefore the salaries paid to these men must be such as to induce them not leave the Public Service for positions outside. Nobody would suggest that a man should be asked to work in the Public Service for half the salary he could command in a similar position outside. I know that sometimes private employers offer salaries which attract high public servants to positions outside. Years ago, something similar happened as between a State Public Service and the Commonwealth Public Service because the Commonwealth was able to offer higher salaries than the State could. Quite a large number of good officers in the South Australian Public Service transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service, where the rewards were greater, and no one can blame them for doing so. Similarly, the South Australian Government cannot be blamed for not being able to match the salaries offered to these men by the Commonwealth. I say that men at the top of the Commonwealth Public Service should be paid salaries commensurate with the positions they hold and the duties they perform, so that we may be able to retain their services. However, admitting all that, I say that the high salaries in the Commonwealth Public Service - those from slightly below £4,000 per annum to £6,000 per annum - were not fixed on the basis of providing a margin above the wages paid to a man working in industry, but were fixed entirely in accordance with the positions held by the recipients and by the salary levels in comparable positions outside the Public Service. They were not fixed in accordance with any award or agreement on margins.
How can it reasonably be said that suddenly the men whose salaries the bill seeks to increase became entitled to much higher salaries than other people outside, when the payment of margins is something which is intended to affect only the people near the bottom of the employment ladder? 1 think that the highest marginal increase received by any of the workers in industry generally, to whom the principle of paying margins is really intended to apply, will not be more than £100 a year. Yet here, as a result of a margins decision intended to apply to such people, the Government is proposing to increase salaries of top public servants by large amounts, in some cases by £900 a year.
I shall not vote against the bill, because I do not think that to do so would be fair to the men concerned. However, I must take this opportunity to say that this bill should not establish as a principle increases in high public service salaries to be made on a percentage basis in accordance with increases in margins awarded to industrial workers. We should not increase these high salaries holus bolus just because the workers in industry receive marginal increases in order to provide them with a better standard of living.
On Friday of last week, and on Monday and Tuesday of this week, the Public Accounts Committee has been examining the manner in which increases of Public Service salaries have been paid prior to statutory authority having been given for them to be paid. The question that arose was whether approved increases should be paid forthwith or whether it was necessary to wait for the required statutory processes to be gone through before the increases were paid. At a public inquiry the committee examined the practice that is being followed. I must admit that a person given a salary increase would have something to complain about if he had to wait a long time after the Government had approved of the increase before he received it. We have to deal with such a position in a practical way and not on any hypothetical basis. I have expressed my thoughts on this matter, but the decision is in the hands of the Government. However, I am satisfied that if the people affected by this measure were having a claim heard by an industrial authority they would not be granted these percentage increases in such a holus bolus way as they are now being granted them as a result of a decision by the Government.
– I wish to protest as vigorously as I can against the contemptuous manner in which the Government has presented this bill for our consideration. The Minister’s second-reading speech consisted of one sheet of foolscap containing seven paragraphs, the last of which reads, in full -
I commend the bill to the House.
Every one of the other six paragraphs of this so-called speech is about as informative as the last one which I have quoted. There is a growing practice in this Parliament of Ministers treating the Parliament with contempt.
– What has this to do with the bill.
– It is my protest against the manner in which the bill has been presented. No real information is contained in the Minister’s speech, and the Minister is obviously merely a rubber stamp for the people outside-
– I take exception, Mr. Speaker, to the reference to me as a rubber stamp. I have been with this right from its inception, and I feel that I know the provisions-
– How long are you going to take?
– I object, Mr. Speaker, to the words “ rubber stamp “.
– I do not think the term is offensive.
– If the honorable gentleman had not rudely interrupted he would not have received the retort to which he has objected.
– I think the Minister would serve a better purpose if he restrained himself.
– I was interested to read recently a press report of an observation which was made outside the House by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). The report, which appeared in the press of 21st April this year, quoted the honorable member as having said that -
Democracy had been defeated and bureaucracy was triumphant. Parliament had lost power in relation to Cabinet, Cabinet had lost power in relation to the Executive and the Executive had lost power in relation to all activities of government. Parliament was becoming less and less important because it was losing power to the public service on one hand and to the Executive on the other. The form of the Budget was dictated by the needs of the various departments, not by what was said in Parliament.
This bill is the product of the bureaucracy. The officers who advise the Government decide that the Parliament shall be supplied with a minimum of information - even with no information at all - concerning the contents of the legislation which we are asked to pass. There is not one fact in the Minister’s second-reading speech which was not known to members of Parliament before the bill was presented. No effort has been made to indicate in any way the effect of the salary increases which have been determined by the Public Service Board, or what the increases really amount to. We do not know how many officers were affected; we do not know what the average increase was, nor do we know the total amount of the increases.
I asked the Public Service Board for some information on this matter and, in reply, I received about one dozen typewritten sheets, each about 24 inches long by about 20 inches wide. I was expected to work out from that whatever facts I wanted to learn. I was given no assistance at all in respect of the details of the various proposals. A copy of a long memorandum dealing with marginal increases, which had been forwarded to all departments, was sent to me. The typed sheets contained information concerning the annual salaries of officers in the second and third divisions, but no total figure was given. No assistance at all was forthcoming from the Public Service Board. Like every other honorable member, I am expected to discuss this bill, as it were, in the dark.
I should like to know the number of statutory officers to-day as compared with the number in 1949. Under the control of every statutory officer there are several assistant secretaries and I should like to know how the number of offices has increased over the last ten years. I have a suspicion that Parkinson’s law has been operating. Whereas in the days of the Chifley Government the number of senior officers was kept to that required for the discharge of public duties, there has been a big increase since then in the number of officers in the top brackets. When the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) was the Minister for Munitions, and when I was, first, Minister for Information, and then Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration, there was in the Prime Minister’s Department one secretary and two assistant secretaries. To-day there is a secretary and four or five assistant secretaries. In other days, the secretary of the department would record the Cabinet minutes. To-day, a big secretariat has been built up. The public has to pay for all this. But if members of Parliament want information they have the utmost difficulty in getting any information about anything. That is my first protest.
My second protest is that the increases which will be granted by this legislation are not, at any rate in my view, commensurate with the duties which are being performed. I remember the uproar which was created last year when parliamentary salaries were increased, and I know for how long that campaign was sustained. But some people who are performing duties of a less important nature than are members of Parliament will be paid a much higher salary than are honorable members if this legislation is passed. But there will be no protest about that. Apparently not one member on the Government side, other than the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table, is even interested in this legislation.
– Not one of them has spoken to it yet.
– Exactly. Honorable members on the Government side show their disinterest by refusing to speak on this measure. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had doubts about the introduction of this legislation because, after the Public Service Board had applied the margins increase to Public Service salaries, he was reported in the press of 12th February this year in this way -
I think I should emphasize the fact that these changes in salary, together with those previously announced, have been made unavoidable because of the new doctrine which appears to have been adopted that the salary, even of a highly paid executive, should be divided into the basic wage plus a margin and that that margin should vary just as does the margin of a skilled tradesman such as a fitter and turner.
Then he added these significant words -
We know of no other country in the world in which such a strange and indeed dangerous conception applies. Should it become accepted as a settled doctrine there may well be damaging consequences in Australia.
If those were the Prime Minister’s views - I believe he held them honestly - this legislation should not have been placed before us in the belief that nobody should ask the Prime Minister to examine the position further and rectify what is considered to be a wrong situation, or to take appropriate action to meet the present situation. The Public Service Board, or the Public Service Arbitrator, was either right or wrong.
It is significant that the Government did not send counsel before the Public Service Arbitrator to argue against the increases awarded by that authority, but it did send counsel before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to argue against an increase in the basic wage. It seems that some people are more favoured than are others. Once the Public Service Arbitrator had handed down his judgment, the Prime Minister said, in effect, that the Government could do nothing except abdicate its responsibilities and accept something which had been decided upon by the Public Service Arbitrator. The Government allowed the position so created to stand. It merely protested after the event.
We are not doing justice to the mass of the people merely by passing legislation of this kind. Members of Parliament certainly received an increase last year, but the basic wage earners will get nothing now. Of course, there was the 15s. increase in the basic wage last year and the 28 per cent, increase in margins this year. Large increases have been given to public servants generally, and increases of up to £900 a year are to be paid to holders of statutory offices, but no consideration is to be given to many other people who also are entitled to receive something from the money which is appropriated by the Parliament.
In passing only, I might mention that age and invalid pensioners and mothers of young children are to get nothing at this particular time. The only other passing reference I wish to make is that the claims of retired Commonwealth public servants living on superannuation, and indeed of all people living on fixed incomes, have been ignored. As the Scriptures say - and I quote from the Vulgate, not being so wellversed in the Authorized Version -
To him that hath shall be given and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
– That had nothing to do with money.
– Now, the Chairman of Committees should not interrupt. The scriptural position is being verified in the present set-up in this country. It is a situation that should not be allowed to continue. I want to finish now by quoting–
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and his colleague the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) are always glad when I finish because they cannot answer the logic of my arguments. Mr. Eggleston, Q.C., who appeared for the Government earlier this year when the Government was arguing against the increase in the basic wage said -
The Commonwealth maintains that above all our economy needs and ought to have a respite from further wage increases.
That is the rule for the basic wage worker. When the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) was arguing this position, the Minister, by interjection, said that it was only the basic wage worker who was not to be considered, in the Govern ment’s view. It is the basic wage worker and the salary earner and the farming community who produce the wealth of the nation and if the prosperity which the Government claims to exist is then a real prosperity, the little people are as much entitled to share in it as are those in receipt of the highest incomes in the Public Service of Australia.
Having said that, I just wish to pay my tribute to the work of the officers covered by the legislation. My criticism is directed against the Government and not at the holders of these statutory offices, all of whom hold highly responsible offices and discharge their duties faithfully and well. My criticism of the bureaucracy is directed at the Government, too, because it should not allow the bureaucrats to rule it in the way that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) says they are doing. The sooner that situation is brought to an end, too, and real democracy is restored in this Parliament, the better.
When the Government brings down further legislation, no matter on what subject, let the Parliament be fully informed. Let us get back to the practices of other days. We can do that by curbing the growing tendency of slapping a bill down in the Parliament and then asking honorable members to pass it through the chamber within a week, with a minimum of information and a minimum of courtesy.
.- I listened with attention to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who taunted certain members on the Government side with not being interested in the legislation.
– You are the first one to speak on it from the Government side.
– The honorable member says that I am the first one from the Government side to speak on it. Perhaps I would have not spoken on it but for certain remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition. But that would not have meant that we were not interested in it. I have been most interested, and have listened to the whole debate, and probably when the bill comes to a vote I will do exactly the same as the Leader of the Opposition will do, in spite of the speech he has made. I will certainly do exactly the same as the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has stated he will do. lt appears that members on both sides of the House have made up their minds how they will vote on this bill.
So often one hears members of the Opposition taunting members of the Australian Country Party or the Liberal Party with speaking on bills on which they have said how they will vote, especially if it is a bill dealing with wheat, wool or some other primary product in which they want to enlarge on the provisions of certain clauses. But if we have decided to vote for a measure, why waste time talking about it? Now the situation is reversed. The Leader of the Opposition has taunted us with not speaking on a bill for which I believe he will vote. If he is so much against this measure, will he vote for it? Will the other members of the Labour Party vote for or against it? He has quoted the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as not being satisfied with it. I read what the Prime Minister said, and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister’s statement indicated that he was not satisfied with the rises in prices and wages in this country. But the fact of the matter is that objection to these things has come far too late.
– It is the first time we have had an opportunity to speak about it.
– I am not talking about the rises being given to these gentlemen, but about the rises in costs generally throughout the country which have added so much to the inflationary trend. Although I do not like to quote myself, which is not a very good thing to do, I know that members will not take the trouble to refer to “ Hansard “ of 1958 to a speech in which [ said that inflation was then starting to move and that something should be done to stop the rise in prices and wages and the cost of various commodities in the community. But a certain rise, which I will not specify, took place, from £1,000 to £1,500; and it is on record that, following that rise, I said that if a man was receiving £8 a week, he was entitled to seek a rise to £12 a week. The same thing has happened and wages have gone up. Now these few public servants on fixed salaries are to receive a rise in accordance with the
Arbitration Commission award of an increased margin. That is the whole story.
If we support the Arbitration Commission, we have to support its findings and, of course, that is what is happening. It is too late now for honorable members opposite to say that they will not support this bill because it applies to only a small number of officers who will receive this increase, lt does not matter whether they are bureaucrats or anything else; others have already received an increase in salary. There must be a fair deal all round and under the system everybody must receive the rise. That is the story I wanted to tell. I do not want to take up the time of the House dealing with these few men specifically when so many others in Australia have received salary rises of a similar amount or more. This measure is in line with the findings of the Arbitration Commission on the margins and gives effect to those findings.
Some comment was made by the Leader of the Opposition on the brevity of the second-reading speech and also the final statement of the Minister, “ I commend the bill to the House “. That statement appears at the end of every ministerial secondreading speech. If a Minister introducing a bill was not prepared to commend it to the House, it would be a rather strange and tragic proceeding in the Parliament. Often we hear members opposite complaining that the second-reading speech has been so long and complicated that it is hard to follow it, page by page. Yet, as in this case, when the speech consists of a few concise sentences the Opposition finds fault. I suppose that is one conception which the present Opposition has of its functions.
What the Leader of the Opposition has said to-day does not amount to much. When the vote is taken we shall see where he stands. Of course, he will not actually vote because he is paired; but we will see how his followers vote. If they all vote against the bill I will be wrong in my forecast. Of course, it will not be the first time I have been wrong; and it will not be the last time. A man who is not wrong sometimes is never right on vital matters. So we will watch with interest to see what happens when the vote is taken. Until that time comes I will still be here listening with interest to the speeches of the Opposition. I deny once again the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that members on this side of the House are not interested in the legislation. I have been most interested in it in every particular, not only in the actual measure now before the House, but also in all the circumstances which have led up to its introduction.
– I wish to reply briefly to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) who taunted the Opposition about its attitude to this legislation
– I am not taunting you.
– You are. You said that members of the Opposition will not vote against the measure although they say they oppose it. All members on the Opposition side who have spoken this afternoon have indicated that they do not propose to vote against this legislation. Although they do not propose to oppose the measure, they have taken the opportunity to comment upon and criticize the system under which such a stupid situation has developed in connexion with salary increases for the tall poppies of the community. We propose to support the bill only because we want to be fair to these tall poppies and give them what other sections of the community have received already. However, we condemn a system which gives rise to a situation such as that with which this legislation seeks to deal.
Let me now deal with the proposed increases and the circumstances under which they become necessary. First, they become necessary because of an application made by the metal trades unions for marginal increases for workers covered by the metal trades award. Whenever an application is made by unions - by the metal trades unions in particular - the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission has always made it clear that it must move cautiously because its decision will be reflected throughout the wage structure of the Commonwealth. The metal trades award has always been accepted and recognized as the basis upon which the rates paid under other awards shall be set. The metal trades employees would like to get away from that position. They would like to obtain a marginal increase commensurate with their skill and the important part they play in industry However, the granting of margins increases to all the other classifica tions springs from the decision in the metal trades case.
Let me consider the increases from the point of view of tradesmen and the lowerpaid employees in industry. In 1939, the margin paid to tradesmen was approximately 42 per cent, of the basic wage. It might have varied by .1 per cent., .2 per cent, or .3 per cent, one way or the other, but, generally speaking, it was 42 per cent. In 1947, the award was amended and the margin increased to 47 per cent, or 48 per cent, of the basic wage. The recent margins decision reduced that margin to only 35 per cent, of the basic wage. In the opinion of the tribunal, the value of a tradesman’s skill deteriorated by almost 25 per cent, between 1947 and 1959, but that is not in accord with the facts. We all know that the tradesman in industry needs to have greater skill to-day than he did in years gone by, but the commission is not prepared to recognize that. In the recent case, it gave him a marginal increase of only 28 per cent, or a mere £54 a year. Second-class machinists received an increase of only £36 a year, and process workers and labourers received only £15 a year. They will not receive as much in a year, by way of this increase, as some of the officers whom we are now considering will receive in a week.
The system of basing the salaries of the tall poppies on the rates paid to tradesmen is stupid and ridiculous. I do not think it was ever intended that marginal increases granted to tradesmen such as engineers, fitters, boilermakers, sheet-metal workers and so on should be used as a basis for automatically granting marginal increases to persons in receipt of £5,000 or £6,000 a year. Are such people as the Auditor-General, who receives a salary of £5,900 a year, or the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, who receives a like amount, or even an officer who receives £6,900 a year, to be automatically granted a marginal increase of 28 per cent, the next time an increase of 28 per cent, is granted in the margins for tradesmen? Are these people to receive the same percentage increase as the tradesman who receives only approximately £988 a year? The system is too stupid for words.
Take the case of the pensioner. In its last Budget, the Government granted the pensioner an increase of 7s. 6d. a week, or the magnificent sum of £9 10s. a year. As against that, the Auditor-General is to receive an increase of £900 a year, or £17 6s. a week - an increase of 21 per cent. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is to receive £900 a year, or £17 6s. a week. His increase is also 21 per cent. The senior Conciliation Commissioner receives an increase of £900 a year, or £17 a week - a 33 per cent, increase. He has been given a greater percentage increase than he was prepared to award to the tradesman - the man who started the wage spiral. A commissioner is to receive £875, or £17 a week. In his case, it is a 38 per cent, increase. A conciliator is to receive £715 a year, or £13 15s. a week - an increase of 35.4 per cent. The Chairman of the Public Service Board is to receive an increase of 17 per cent., which represents £900 a year or £17 6s. a week. A member of the Public Service Board will enjoy an increase of 28 per cent., which represents £900 a year or £17 6s. a week. The Public Service Arbitrator is to enjoy an increase of £900 a year or £17 6s. a week. In his case, too, that represents an increase of 21 per cent. The same applies to the Commissioner of Taxation. ‘His increase is £900 a year or £17 6s. a week. His increase amounts to 17 per cent. The Second Commissioner will receive an increase of 21 per cent., which amounts to £900 a year or £17 6s. a week.
The only conclusion to which one can come after examining those figures is that arrived at by the Opposition - that the system of assessing the remuneration of the tall poppies in the community is completely out of line with the thinking of the people in general. I appeal to the Minister and to the Government to examine the question and to consider where we are going with this system of granting to the tall poppies in the community the same percentage increase in margins as is granted to tradesmen.
As I have said, the Opposition does not oppose the measure. For the reasons I have given, we feel that it is high time that the system was reviewed, with a view to bringing sanity into the wage structure and with a view to giving some equity and a decent marginal increase to the tradesman. I make a personal appeal for workers in the lower income group. I ask that they be given a reasonable marginal increase - an increase commensurate with the skill they possess - instead of a paltry 28 per cent., which does not even bring them up to what was the recognized standard in 1947 or even 1939. I ask the Government to review the wage structure system with a view to giving some benefit and relief to the people in the lower income groups.
.- The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) and other Opposition members have stated Labour’s attitude to the bill. Although the Opposition does not intend to vote against it, it is important to point out the inequalities and injustices that have occurred in granting these increases, particularly when the treatment accorded to other sections of the community is kept in mind. Although we do not oppose the bill, the Opposition is far from happy with the methods adopted in granting these increases.
The honorable member for Newcastle mentioned the amounts of the marginal increases and showed that in some cases they exceed the marginal increase of a skilled tradesman. The maximum increase granted by the bill is £900 per annum and other increases are granted on a sliding scale coming down to £150. The amount of £900 a year is almost £18 a week and that is about £5 a week more than the average basic wage. It is impossible to explain to a man who has to maintain his wife and family on the average basic wage of about £14 a week why those in receipt of £5,000 or £6,000 should be given an increase which in itself is almost £5 more than the basic wage. The Government’s attitude to these increases is quite different from its attitude in the recent basic wage case.
The Auditor-General, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the Senior Arbitration Commissioner, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, the members of the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, the Commissioner of Taxation and the second Commissioner of Taxation are to all receive an increase of £900 a year. Some of them will now receive £133 a week. The Commissioner of Taxation is in this category. He is no doubt a very able man and may be worth that amount; but whichever way one looks at it, one could hardly say that men on £133 a week are battling. It seems most unjust to increase the salaries of these men to £133 a week when only a miserly 7s. 6d. was given to the pensioner and nothing at all was given to the basic wage earner in the recent case before the Arbitration Commission. The person on the lower income who cannot get any increase, cannot understand why these large increases should now be granted. 1 am not against any person getting a reasonable return for the responsibility he accepts and for the skill he displays. At no stage do I oppose an increase being given to a person who shows that his abilities warrant the payment of a higher salary. But the desire of the Opposition is to increase the income and improve the standard of living of the more unfortunate sections of the community. We do not oppose this bill for the reasons that have been given. In fact, such a course would be unjust to the few persons concerned, in view of what has already happened as a result of the commission’s decision on margins in other cases. But I think the Government could well consider keeping these increases more in line with the increases that are given to those on the lower incomes.
It is interesting to note that the persons covered by this bill are, because of their income, in a very privileged section of the Australian community. 1 conferred with my colleague, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), on this question and he was good enough to supply me with figures showing the number of taxpayers in the various categories. I shall give the figures to show that those in receipt of £6,000 or £7,000 a year are members of a very privileged section of the community. The figures, taken from the statistics foi 1956-57, are as follows: -
So the officers provided for in this measure are in a category which includes less than 2 per cent, of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. It is idle, therefore, to say that they are not in a very privileged section of the community. We are making them even more privileged by giving them increases ranging up to £20 a week. We should see that the incomes of those less favorably placed are increased before giving these very large increases to people much more secure and already in receipt of adequate incomes. No one can convince me that a man receiving £113 a week needs another £20 a week to meet his commitments. In addition, the people to whom this legislation relates have concessions that are not available to the average person. For instance, most of them are provided with free motor transport. Those honorable members who have motor cars know that this means a saving of £10, £12 or £15 a week. These persons also receive certain other expenses, all of which should be taken into consideration when we are debating this matter. It could be said, therefore, that in addition to increases of £18 a week, the officers concerned here have hidden emoluments probably amounting to another £1,000 a year. They are no doubt justly entitled to them, but that is not the point
The attitude of the Government in granting these increases is in striking contrast to the attitude adopted towards those on the lower incomes, particularly the basic wage earner. The Government should be ashamed of its conduct in granting these increases and other marginal increases when it appeared before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to oppose the application for a miserable increase for the basic wage earner. When we look at the amount of these increases for top public servants, it is difficult to understand how the commission could find that the economy of the nation could not afford an increase in the basic wage. The Government apparently believes that the economy can afford these increases of £18 to £20 a week for this privileged section of the community but not for the workers.
I am not one of those who seek to amass millions before they pass on. 1 think all the average person wants is security and reasonable independence. He does not mind increases of this nature if he himself receives justice from the court and from the Government. The Government has not increased child endowment since 1950, presumably because it believes the nation cannot afford to do so or because it believes that such an increase is not necessary. But it seems scandalous that those who depend on child endowment to educate their children must do without an increase while those receiving £6,000 a year or £113 a week receive an increase of £18 to £20 a week. That is scandalous in the extreme, and it cannot be justified by any stretch of imagination.
– The tall poppies were also given £20,000,000 in tax concessions.
– As the honorable member has so ably pointed out, in addition to these increases, the Government gave the wealthy people tax concessions totalling £20,000,000 in the last Budget. The point I make - and I feel that it cannot be made too often - is that this Government, as exemplified by the increases to be made under the terms of this bill, and by previous increases to people on high salaries, is more concerned about protecting the interests of those in this country who are in what we may term the upper crust than it is about looking after the wage-earners and others in the lower income groups. There is no denying that.
Government supporters have offered no criticism of this measure. Only one honorable member on the Government side of the House, so far as I can recall, has bothered even to attempt to defend this bill. And he had little knowledge of the subject and only tried to be facetious at the expense of the Opposition. The attitude of Government supporters towards this measure is greatly different from their attitude towards the recent application for a basic wage increase and to other hearings in which workers and those in the lower income groups have sought and been refused pay increases. I suggest to Government supporters that, instead of contenting themselves with cheap gibes at what I believe has been constructive criticism from this side of the House in respect of these enormous salary increases, they would do well to see whether they could, in their own way, spread justice in respect of wage increases among those sections of our society that really need more money to-day.
In this country, there are at present 2,650,000 taxpayers earning less than £1,000 per annum. Sixty-nine per cent., or approximately seven in every ten, of the taxpayers earn less than £20 a week, and many of them have heavy responsibilities, especially for the education of children. When we consider this, we can well understand why Opposition members, although they do not oppose this bill, which will prevent injustice to the few individuals concerned, cannot pass it over without placing on record a case for the 2,650,000 taxpayers who are fully entitled to an increase in the basic wage - an increase which this Government denied them by approaching the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Con. mission and asking it to refuse an increase.
I do not intend to speak at great length on this measure, Mr. Speaker, but I felt that it would be worth-while to state this constructive approach to the problems involved. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is now trying to interject, is always opposed to the interests of the average person and of the people whom he should be representing in this Parliament. Once again, he butts in. I should not expect to see him doing anything else but interjecting in his attempts to protect the interests of people with incomes of £130 a week, completely regardless of the needs of the pensioners and wage-earners, who cannot get even one word of praise from him or any support from the Government for their claims for increased pensions and wages. Therefore, I do not worry about interjections of the kind made by the honorable member. We recall, too, that he represents wealthy and vested interests in this Parliament, and we know why he constantly expresses their point of view.
I do not wish it to be thought that I am being critical of people in high positions in the Public Service, Mr. Speaker. Most of them - all of them for that matter - are very able, and they discharge their duties with a great deal of capacity and ability. But it should be remembered that they are becoming a very privileged section of society, as is exemplified by recent salary increases, and particularly those given to people in the very high income groups in the Public Service. I should like to quote for the benefit of honorable members a question which was asked of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) by my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). At page 1614 of volume 21 of “ Hansard “ of this House, of 24th September, 1958, the following appears: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the names of officers of the Public Service and the Parliament, showing their official designations and annual salary, who are in receipt of (a) £6,000 a year or more, (b) £5,000 to £5,999, (c) £4,000 to £4,999, and (d) £3,000 to £3,999?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Even in my most optimistic moments, I could not think that the Government would allow me to incorporate the answer in “Hansard”. It takes up most of page 1614, all of pages 1615, 1616, 1617, 1618, 1619 and 1620, and part of page 1621. If the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who is now at the table, would like to have all this material for his records - the figures are very valuable - I shall be quite prepared, with his permission, to incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
– Read it out.
– I have no desire to read it, Mr. Speaker, but I suggest to the Minister that on some future occasion he may meet with a response similar to the response with which I have just met.
I just mention this matter in order to show the inequitable approach by the Government to salary increases and in order to point out the anomalies that exist. The Government raises still higher the salaries of people who already are on a very high standard of living and are well able to meet out of their present incomes all the commitments that they have. I sincerely trust, as does the honorable member for Newcastle, that when an increase of the basic wage is sought once more, when skilled workers in industry seek increases in margins, and when increases in pensions, child endowment and the wide range of social service benefits are under consideration again - such increases are in most instances long overdue - Government supporters will adopt the same approach as they now adopt towards salary increases for people who, when all is said and done, do not really need higher salaries.
.- Mr. Speaker, I shall not detain the House unduly long. The purpose of this bill is to increase the salaries of the holders of certain statutory offices by varying amounts. We have heard from the Opposition side of the chamber a continuous reiteration of the themes of the old class war - the division of people into different ranks. Opposition members are socialists, and they believe in payment according to one’s needs. That is the philosophy of Lenin. However, we know that in Soviet Russia, which has had 40 years of socialist rule, there is a much greater demarcation between the tall poppies at the top and the people at the bottom of the scale than there is in any capitalist country.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), whose seemingly incessant voice has tired the members of this National Parliament for hours on end over the last three days, always tries to misrepresent a case. He says that it is ridiculous to increase the salaries of senior public servants by £900 a year. These men are in highly responsible positions and their capabilities are such as to enable them to attract offers of excellent jobs outside the Commonwealth service. We are paying for quality here. The honorable member said that we now propose to give these people a further £18 to £20 a week on top of what they get at present. The actual increase amounts to £17 6s. a week, but he says it is £18 or £20 a week - just a little difference, but it sounds more. The honorable member for Grayndler says also that it represents twice the basic wage. That is another of his inaccuracies. He makes all sorts of comparisons of that kind, but is that an honest way of describing what is being done? Does the House think that the honorable member has ever said an honest word in this Parliament? I say that he has not.
An increase of £900 a year to people on the scale of income involved in this instance does not represent a net increase of £18 a week - or £17 10s. a week, to be exact. The honorable member, however, spoke of it as £20 a week, simply because that sounds more. He does not allow the statement of something that is not the truth to interfere with his arguments. What does £900 a year represent in terms of net increase when it is added to a salary of £5,000 a year? In any event, it does not represent a salary increase of £20 a week, and no one knows that better than does the honorable member for Grayndler. However, the honorable member was not really addressing the House. He was addressing the people outside this House. One of the reasons why I dislike the system of parliamentary broadcasts is that it permits this. The honorable member was talking to all the rabble, and he is notorious for that sort of demagoguery. What does an increase of £900 a year on a salary of £5,000 or £6,000 a year represent in terms of net increase? The honorable member for Grayndler knows that it represents only about £350 a year - a little more than £6 a week.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker! I direct your attention to the fact that the honorable member for Hume has just insulted the people of Australia by describing them as a rabble.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).No point of order is involved.
– I repeat that the honorable member for Grayndler directed his remarks to the rabble in the Australian community. I did not say that the Australian public were a rabble. The honor able member is completely dishonest in all his statements. The House has heard a great deal from him recently. But, when we examine what he says, we see how often he misrepresents the facts and misdirects the House. The honorable member is notorious for this sort of thing. Indeed, his demagoguery is unequalled in this or any other Parliament in Australia. The honorable member knows that he is dishonest when he says that important public officers are being given salary increases of £18 or £20 a week, plus a car and plus £1,000 for something else. One should at least try to tell the truth in the National Parliament. A man who receives about £9,000 a year is taxed at the rate of about 12s. in the £1. These highly paid officers also have to pay higher superannuation contributions. The managing director of General Motors Corporation in the United States of America is paid 675,000 dollars a year, equivalent to about £300,000 Australian because he has tremendous responsibilities. That is the sort of salary any one would look at twice, but what does it represent in real remuneration? He is taxed more than 500,000 dollars a year. When taxation is so high, increases of salary in the higher ranges are not comparable with those on the lower incomes, because to get an effective increase a £4 a week a man might have to get an increase of £8 a week.
The honorable member for Grayndler is well aware of these things, and any one who reads his speeches would do well to consider whether they are honest speeches. If we want to attract civil servants of quality to the Public Service, it is important that we should be able to compete with outside interests. In the Commonwealth Public Service we have probably one of the finest bodies of civil servants in the world and the country is reaping the benefit. If you want quality, you must pay for it.
.- I feel very unhappy about the legislation that is now before the House. It should not be allowed to pass without some very severe comment on the inequitable way in which the wealth of Australia is being distributed through government agencies. While the persons concerned in this legislation may be high and responsible officers in theCommonwealth Public Service performing important duties, they receive a very high emolument. No doubt they also receive expense allowances and other financial concessions which place them in a very favoured position. The Government proposes to add to their emoluments and advantages without doing something of corresponding value for those who are in a more difficult situation, and who have to contend with the same economic conditions as those in the higher-paid brackets. That is unfair and unwarranted.
No examination of the increases proposed in the bill has been made to ascertain whether the increases are justified. The Cabinet is the body which determines in the first place the justification for these increases and the equity of the proposals contained in the bill. If the Public Accounts Committee, which frequently examines public expenditure by the Commonwealth Government, has not the power to examine proposals of this description, provision should be made for it or a similar body to do so before the Cabinet finally makes a decision. We would then know that the public finances had been fully safeguarded.
As it is, those who are close to the Cabinet are able to have these proposals implemented by special legislation, and they are in a favoured class compared to almost every other section of the Public Service. Certainly they are more favoured than the wider section of the community which is dependent upon the Government for social service and other payments from the Commonwealth purse. In the circumstances, I believe that the Opposition is justified in protesting against the way in which the Government seeks to give an advantage to those who are already in a favoured position, while denying to many others the consideration that is their due.
Many people who are less fortunately placed have been denied the social and economic justice that is due to them. I refer to the basic wage earners, those who are dependent on social services and those who have not had a proper adjustment of their wage standards and allowances to enable them to meet ever-rising living costs. Yet they find that large increases are to be given to supplement the very substantial salaries of officers who are in a favoured position, and who can speak with effect to those who have to determine these matters because they are so closely associated with Ministers and the Cabinet. These circumstances justify an earnest protest.
The Government should have given the House some more substantial justification for its action in introducing this legislation at this time, for only a few weeks ago the Government intervened in the Arbitration Court with a view to denying an adjustment of wages to those who need assistance to enable them to meet living costs. That being so, 1 do not feel at all happy to know that there is a privileged section in our community which can secure, so readily, an adjustment of its salaries while all kinds of impediments, handicaps and disqualifications are suffered by those in receipt of lower incomes.
The Government must accept full responsibility for this legislation. No section of the community should be without a proper adjustment of its wages and salaries to meet increasing costs and charges; but such an adjustment should not be confined to only one group - and a highly paid group at that. All those who have had to struggle against the vicissitudes that high living costs have imposed on them should benefit. I refer particularly to pensioners and recipients of other social services, and to basic wage earners.
While offering my earnest protest at the action of the Government, I say that it must take full responsibility for legislation of this description. I am sure that many people, particularly those in receipt of lower incomes will be shocked to find the Government so anxious and willing to serve those in the higher paid positions and to deny to those on lower incomes the social and economic justice which they rightly claim from this nation.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- The bill before the House appears, on the surface at any rate, to be one of a relatively minor nature, but there is contained in it a principle that could in future years cause a lot of controversy. Therefore it is appropriate at this stage that members should take the opportunity of saying something about the issues at stake. The bill seeks to increase the salaries payable to the holders of certain statutory offices which are set out in the schedule. It will be seen that the officers concerned play a very important part in the Public Service. They are the Auditor-General, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the Senior Commissioner, commissioners and conciliators under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the chairman of the Public Service Board and members of the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, the Commissioner of Taxation and the Second Commissioners of Taxation. With the exception of two of those whom I have mentioned, those persons enumerated in the schedule will receive an increase of £900 a year - something like £17 10s. a week - whilst of the other two one will receive £875 and the other £715.
Whilst all the bill does is to increase the emoluments of certain public servants, the Labour Party considers that it involves a principle that could possibly cause a lot of discussion in the future because of certain things that could happen if this policy is to run wild in the years ahead. The Government, in giving its reasons for the bill, says the proposed increases conform with those granted by members of the Public Service Board to members of the Public Service. I can understand the Government saying that as everybody else in the Public Service has received an increase there is no reason why the top officers in certain departments, who do not come under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board, should be deprived of what the Government considers is a fair increase. Tt is reasonable to say that the bill is the natural consequence of the large-scale increases which have taken place in Public Service salaries, particularly in the upper brackets. Nevertheless this Parliament should seize the opportunity to express an opinion on what is transpiring as the result of the historic margins case last year. We all recollect that the margins case was based upon the claims of members of the metal trades unions. The advocates for the employers concerned made submissions to the Arbitration Court that the wages should not be increased because the relative value of steel had diminished in accordance with the depreciation of the £1. I would like to ask whether the margins case decision of last year will be a precedent, like the famous Harvester Award of 1907, particularly as far as the upper wage brackets of the Public Service are concerned.
The bill is evidence of a trend which I think should be very closely examined, because in view of the state of the economy of this country, with inflation still continuing - not rapidly but steadily, year by year - with an inexorable 3 per cent, annual increase in the cost of living, it is possible that next year or the year after there will be another margins case, and once again a favorable verdict may be given. All the evidence points to the fact that this trend which is being perpetuated by the Government in this bill should be very closely examined before the measure is accepted as a precedent for the future. There are several implications inherent in the bill which, at the moment, will not do much harm to the economy. The expenditure involved when spread over the community will not mean much; but if the Government is to accept this as a precedent for the future many things which might not be in its mind to-day could happen.
As a layman, I find it hard to believe that the percentage increase granted to the metal trades should be given to all other recipients of salaries. I did not for one moment think - and I do not think the. great bulk of the people in the community thought - that because the metal trades employees got a 28 per cent, marginal increase - about £1 ls. a week - we would’ find the same percentage increase being granted throughout the whole range of employees in the community up to the top levels. I agree that additional skill and1 responsibility must be adequately recompensed, but there must be a limit to the amount. One of the greatest advances in the last couple of decades has been the trend to a more equitable distribution of wealth. In the old days that was the panacea advocated bv all those who possessed the socialist philosophy, lt has always been the objective of the Labour Party; and all our moves have been calculated towards attaining that desirable state of affairs. Our objective is not absolute equality, because some men must have additional responsibility after long periods of acquiring skill and must receive more remuneration than a man who is not prepared or who does not have the opportunity to prepare himself for a skilled occupation. But over the last decade or so in this country and elsewhere in the Western world the objective has always been to close the gulf between the various wage levels - not completely, but to restore the wage relativity that existed 20, 30 or even 50 years ago.
I do not advocate absolute equality; J say that the point which should be striven for in the interests of social justice is a closing of the gap to which I have referred. I am one who hopes that never at any time will communism spread in this country, but I realize that perpetuation of the principle enunciated in this legislation could in the long’ run cause the Communist Party in Australia to get more adherents, because it widens the gulf between those on the lower levels and those on the higher levels of remuneration. The Government should carefully examine that aspect of the matter. After all, communism will not make great strides in this country if it has not fertile ground on which to work. If it is to be the accepted policy of the National Parliament in the future that every time there is a margins case there will be a widening of the gulf between those on the basic wage and those receiving £5,000 or £6,000 a year, I am afraid that those who hope to see a diminution of communism in this country will be doomed to disappointment.
Very few people visualized, when the Public Service Board looked into these cases, that the increases granted would be so large. Wherever I went in my electorate, which is a working class electorate, I was struck by the astonishment of the people who expressed amazement to me that whereas they got a rise of 21s. or 22s. a week, men who were receiving very much more received weekly increases of £10, £12 or £15. I would say that the public were shocked, because this result was the direct antithesis of what most people had expected. It was generally expected in the margins case that the people on the lower rates of remuneration would have justice meted out to them by the court, and I do not think that anybody at any time envisaged that those marginal increases would be extended to the upper wage levels in the proportions made apparent over the last few months. People who are finding it extremely difficult to live get the least, while others in far more favorable circumstances receive large increases. I might be doing them an injustice in saying so, but I am fairly sure that many of these people in the upper brackets were positively astonished to receive the increases they received, because they had never expected them.
How can the Government justify its attitude in giving increases of salary to an already well-paid group of high public servants, in view of its opposition to an increase of the basic wage, when it intervened recently in the basic wage hearing? I find its attitude in this instance irreconcilable with the attitude it took up during the basic wage hearing. Our economy is in the throes of creeping inflation, which moves at the rate of 3 per cent, a year. As a result of the margins increase and the last basic wage increase, prices have started to climb fairly steeply, in some cases more steeply than others. Nevertheless, everybody in the community honestly and genuinely believes that there should be an increase of the basic wage. After all, wages paid to certain people in accordance with the quarterly cost-of-living adjustments in Victoria, at any rate, are 9s. higher than the basic wage. So we have one favoured section of the community getting 9s. more than other sections. That is why the majority of the people, in Victoria at least, quite rightly expected that the basic wage would be increased by 9s. or 10s. What are these people to think when they learn that although they are expected to be satisfied with the 1 5s. increase in the basic wage last year and the average increase of 21s. a week in margins, the high public servants with whom this bill deals are to receive increases of £17 10s. a week? The people who will receive this increase of £17 10s. a week are already receiving £,6000 a year. I suggest that such a state of affairs is not going to be received with very much favor by the average worker.
What will the recipients of social services benefits think of these increases of salary for men already earning high salaries? I speak, I think, of the great majority of members of the House, irrespective of party, when I say that the present age and invalid pension rate of £4 15s. a week is inadequate. It fails to measure up to what a person to-day requires in order to lead even a very ordinary existence. Suffice it to say that social service recipients will have to wait until October or November for an increase in their pensions, and then it will probably be only a meagre 5s. a week. I hope it will be much more than that, but knowing the form of this Government, I do not think these people can expect any greater increase at this time.
I submit that it should be the objective of all those who are inculcated with “the idea of having a stronger and better Australia, to strive at all times for a fairer system of wages justice. The Government, therefore, should heed the lessons of the last margins case, because in this era of inflation there will be more margins cases. In the future the workers will seek, and expect to receive, increased compensation to offset the depreciated return they receive for the employment of their skills. I suggest that the rule in future should be based on a proper sense of proportion. There is no proper proportion in a situation in which persons earning £16, £17 or £18 a week receive margins increases of from 14s. to 21s. a week, whilst other persons on very high salaries, who have expense accounts, permanent jobs, and no fear of retrenchment, and who will receive adequate pensions at the age of 65, are to get substantial increases - in the present case, increases of £17 10s. a week. Increases of wages and salaries must be on an equitable basis. There will have to be further increases in margins, and they too should be on an equitable basis. If that does not happen, the gulf between various sections of the community will become larger and larger, and we shall have a reversion to the bad old days when we had one great section of the community receiving just enough to live on, and a favoured section receiving salaries out of all proportion to the wages being received by the majority.
I hope the Government will not take the view that, because in 1960 it decided to apply the marginal increase of 28 per cent, to all the officers under its control, irrespective of their present salaries, it should observe this as a principle for the remainder of its term of office - which I hope will not continue much longer. I hope that the Government will not accept any proposition that what it has done in May, 1960, is a precedent to be followed in all the circumstances in the future.
I have no reflection to make on the officers listed in the schedule to this bill. My remarks have been directed entirely to the principle of this matter which I think is not calculated to improve feelings between people in the various wages and salary groups in the community. I also suggest that what is happening now will provide ammunition for the Communists. I think that the Communist Party will undoubtedly launch an intensive campaign on the lines of, “ What can you expect under the present system?” I repeat that I am making no personal reflection on the officers concerned. When they see everybody else in the Public Service getting an increase of salary they may well feel entitled to their meed also. Nevertheless, I suggest to the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is now at the table, and to the Government that the principle inherent in the recent margins increase, which this bill is carrying right through to the top-level salaries in the Public Service, must be reviewed in order to ensure that all sections of the community will receive even-handed justice. I think it is inevitable that further increases of margins will be given. Otherwise there will be an increase in the discontent and frustration felt to-day by every decent person in every section of the community.
.- I wish to say just a few words in the concluding stages of the debate. This bill deals with a privileged and very responsible group of public servants. I should like to point to one or two features of the bill which have not received attention, and to emphasize a few others which have. I am the tenth Opposition member to speak on the measure, and so far there have been only two speakers on the Government side.
Under the law of the land the salaries of these high public servants must be approved by the Commonwealth Parliament. These officers, therefore, belong to a select category, because there are only a few people in Australia whose salaries are decided by the Parliament. But although these huge salary increases will be approved by this Parliament, Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasize to this House and to the nation that neither the salaries nor the increases are fixed by this Parliament. There is a very important distinction there.
I want to ask the Minister: Who decided the size and range of these increases we are debating to-night? Was it one group of men within the Public Service? Was it a group within the Cabinet? Where did the decision originate? I do not know, and I do not think any one of my colleagues knows. I do not think that the back-benchers on the Government side know. I want the Minister to answer these questions to-night when he replies to the debate. Did these men go before an independent tribunal and disclose their personal financial affairs to it? After all, that is what the workers have to do. Before the basic wage earners can obtain an increase, they must present a case to the Arbitration Commission and that is a costly business. Before the recent increase in margins was granted, the Australian Council of Trade Unions had to appear before the commission, and the fight that that organization put up is now history. Even we as members of Parliament had to appear before an independent tribunal. More than 50 members of this Parliament - I was one of them - laid bare their personal affairs, even disclosing their bank accounts. Did that happen with these top public servants? On what basis were these proposed increases worked out? The public servants concerned include the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the Senior Commissioner of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, commissioners of the Arbitration Commission, conciliators, the Chairman of the Public Service Board, one of the top-class men in Australia.
– He is the king of the ring.
– He is the real boss of all the employees in the Commonwealth Public Service. He is the czar of the Commonwealth Public Service. Then there are the members of the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, the Commissioner of Taxation - he is our real boss - and the Second Commissioners of Taxation. Eight of the ten will receive increases to the tune of £900 a year, which is about £18 a week and the total income of these gentlemen will be about £132 a week. Taxation, of course will cut this down considerably. Others will receive an increase of £875 a year, or £715 a year.
– Are you opposing the increases?
– Not by actual vote, but definitely in spirit. We are exposing the Government in this instance. We want to know how the increases originated. If the recipients did not appear before a tribunal or a committee of the Cabinet; if they did not appear before a public service committee - in which case they would have fixed their own salary increases, and the results would have been interesting - before whom did they appear?
– Santa Claus.
– Obviously. Only Santa Claus could have given such gifts. Nine hundred pounds a year is about the best gift that Santa Claus could bring. I should like the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table, to reply to the questions that I have raised. In my view there was no personal contact with these men. They were not asked to state their affairs before any committee. These figures were drawn out of the air without consideration being given to their relationship to the recent increase in margins. That was a 28 per cent, increase. This is an 18 per cent, increase, so obviously it was not based on the decision in the margins case. If these officers had received a 28 per cent, increase, it would have been fabulous. On what were the increases based? Why should these top men receive such large increases when the skilled men - the real brains and muscle of this country - received a much smaller amount? The tradesmen create the wealth; these men distribute it while one - the Commissioner of Taxation - takes it from us. And we are about to give him an increase of £900 a year to do that!
These are things which concern the Opposition. Although we as a party shall not vote against the measure, we feel that many questions require answers. When the proposal to award these large increases first appeared in the press, the Premier of Tasmania strongly attacked the increases. He even got into a fight with the Hobart Trades Hall Council because the council misinterpreted his remarks. He faced the council at the Labour conference in March and gave a remarkable and an excellent answer to the questions which were asked of him. He said that he, like most people in Australia, was shocked at the range of these increases when compared with the recent increase in margins. Even though a 28 per cent, margin increase had been awarded, the amount involved, when compared with these proposed increases, was relatively infinitesimal. The Premier of Tasmania was the first parliamentarian in Australia to attack these proposed increases. But even the Prime Minister was moved later to remark upon them. What part did he play in the proposal? Did he participate in the negotiations? If he did not, his criticism, which appeared in the press, is understandable. But if he did, he was acting in a rather hypocritical way because after having more or less approved the increases before an announcement was made in the press, he later stated that awarding such increases was not good for the economy of the country.
– He probably criticised his own decision.
– Yes, as the honorable member for Watson has said, the Prime Minister probably criticised his own decision. We want to know the full story. After all, what happened to us in 1959 - a very critical year - is known to everybody in the country, but the procedings in relation to these men, important, necessary and responsible as they are, have been hidden under a cloak of secrecy. Why should that be? Why should the top public servants be treated differently from the rank and file workers of Australia? The wage earners, and even members of Parliament, have their affairs placed before the public in detail before they are awarded an increase.
The Public Service is becoming a bigger and bigger incubus on the body politic. Some people would even call it a barnacle on the body politic, but I am not prepared to go that far because the Public Service is necessary. Over the years it has grown in power, and it has now reached the stage at which it is above the Government.
– Have you ever considered how big it would be under a socialist government?
– It would not be any bigger than it is now.
– It would be running everything.
– If we were the government, the Parliament would be the boss. To-day, the Public Service is the boss. This Government is channeling the resources of the country into fewer hands. This proposal is a good illustration of that.
I do not wish to say much more about this bill because it will be passed in any case. I merely wish to say that this bill, more than any other which I have known in the fourteen years that I have been in this Parliament, will widen the gulf between the top men and the rank and file. There is nothing worse than financial separation between one group and another. That encourages class distinction. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) who is interjecting, is a strange individual. Although he is a nice chap outside the House, he goes beserk inside. He is a complete tory, the biggest tory in Australia, but I must give him credit for being consistent in his toryism. He is anti-union, anti-worker, anti-socialist and anti a lot of other things. As I have said, these increases will widen the gulf between the rank and file wage earners and the top men in Australia. That is a very bad thing in a democratic country and, if it continues, will make us almost as bad as Russia with its huge difference in financial status.
– in reply - In replying in this debate, I hope to confine myself exclusively to questions that have been raised by members of the Opposition. I do not intend to introduce any novel or new features. Before I actually touch on the subject of the debate, perhaps I should state to the House the exact problem we are talking about - what we are debating. The simple fact is that we are debating an increase in the salaries of perhaps twelve or fourteen senior public servants, and some half dozen people who occupy senior government offices. We are discussing a mere handful of people.
The reason that we are talking about their increases in salaries is not that the Government of its own initiative decided that there should be an increase, but simply because there was an increase in margins in the metal trades case followed by an increase in Public Service salaries which was agreed to by the Public Service Board and subsequent to which it became necessary that we, as a Government, should consider increases in the salaries of the senior public servants and the senior officers of some of what might be called government authorities. I want to make it clear that we are talking about a mere handful of people and about a consequence of something that was initiated by the industrial commission and not by the Government.
I think it wise that we should know something about the sequence of events and that we should be aware that we are dealing with what happened or was initiated in 1959. This becomes important because I think one or two honorable members, for example the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), said they would agree with the increases covered by this bill were it not for the fact that in 1960 there has been no increase in the basic wage. What I want to point out is that these increases relate not to 1960 but to the increases in margins and Public Service salaries that took place in 1959. Unless those years are kept separate and there is an identity of time periods, we are likely to suffer the great difficulty of not clearly understanding what we are talking about. The time sequence was something like this: In 1 959 there was, first of all, a basic wage rise of 15s. I want to state that so far as that rise was concerned the Government indicated before the commission that it was not opposed to the basic wage rise provided only that it could be proved that the country had the capacity to pay. I should emphasize that point because it makes it abundantly clear that whenever the country can afford to pay we are in favour of basic wage increases. Personally, I have no regrets about what happened.
Then followed the margins case in which the commission granted an increase of 28 per cent, to the ritter. Again I should like to point out that when my colleague, the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), handled the last margins increase he pointed out to the then industrial court that he felt that some increase in the margin ot that time was justified, again making it clear that the Government stands for fairness and justice for the skilled worker.
Opposition Members. - Oh!
– Without interjecting, I heard all the garrulous tripe that came from the Opposition, and I expected that I would be allowed to make my speech without interruption.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that the expression “ garrulous tripe “ is unparliamentary. It is offensive to members of the Opposition, and 1 ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order! The expression was rather unfortunate, and 1 think the Minister ought to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. I wanted to point out that the present Treasurer made the attitude of the Government clear when the 1955 margins case was before the court. What has happened since and is the foundation of this bill - and I think this should be made clear - is that the commission itself when giving its decision on the margins case in 1959 said -
Because c-f the necessarily different constitution of the bench and for other reasons the Commonwealth Public Service cases cannot be heard in the near future. But it may be that the Board, having knowledge of our present decisions and the reasons for them, may be able to act in the exercise of its powers in such a way as to lessen or avoid further litigation.
In other words, the commission itself gave what could only be regarded as a virtual invitation to the Public Service Board to adjust the salaries of the fourth, third and second divisions of the Public Service. This was not a case of the Commonwealth Government taking the initiative and increasing the Public Service salaries. This was an invitation from the commission to the board - not to the Government, but to the board - to increase the salaries of these fourth division and other highly placed civil servants.
That was the chain of events. Once that was done it became necessary for the Public Service Board, of course, acting upon this invitation as it were, to increase the salaries of the second, third and fourth division officers. Once that was done it became necessary that the Government should exercise its power with regard to first division officers and the small group of senior officers to whom I have referred. They could not be discriminated against. To say that there was something peculiar about the increases covered by this bill makes nonsense of the whole system of industrial arbitration, lt is important, Sir, to point out that some members of the Opposition would agree to this bill without any reservations if it had not been for the intervention by the “Government in the 1960 basic wage case. From what I have said, it should be clear that what is being done now is a consequence of what happened in the 1959 margins award and has nothing whatsoever to do with what happened in the 1960 basic wage case.
Sir, I hope that this explanation will in some way ease the mind of the honorable member for Port Adelaide. I do want to emphasize that this Government, the Menzies Government, does stand for the worker and does believe in wage justice. It believes also in margins increases, provided1 only that it can be proved that it is within the capacity of the community to pay for them and that effective margins are given for skill. So far as the 1960 basic wage case is concerned, the intervention by the Government was on two grounds. The first was that last year there had been considerable increases in both the basic wage and the margins and it was thought that time should be given for these large increases to be digested. Secondly, it was felt that there were inflationary forces within the community which should not receive a boost at this time. I hope that I have covered the events which have led up to this particular bill and that I have made clear the Government’s approach to the basic wage and the margins increases.
Now may I move to some of the other arguments which have been put up by the Opposition. First of all, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who should have known better, made a statement that this increase which we are now considering could be put down to the fact that the bureaucrats control the Cabinet. But I think that what I have said about the initiative being taken by the commission itself and its invitation to the Public Service Board to increase the salaries of the second, third and fourth division officers, and consequently the necessity for the Government to increase the salaries of the first division officers, completely disposes of that argument. Sir, this was initiated by the commission, and the Government, with respect to the first division, I think wisely, followed the lead of the Public Service Board and of the commission itself.
The next point relates to the argument put by the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) that the increase of something like 28 per cent, in the margins barely covers the increase in the cost of living. I think most of us will know that this idea that the increase in the cost of living can be arrived at by the application of a mathematical formula is a fallacy, but if he cares to argue - and I take it that this is what he did argue - that the margins increase does not equal what the worker would have received if there had been quarterly cost of living adjustments based upon the C series index, the answer is a clear and simple one. The increase in margins awarded to the fitters and other skilled men was of the order of 28 per cent. If those tradesmen had been given an increase based solely upon the movement in the C series index, they would have received an increase of only 16 per cent. If I am any sort of a mathematician at all - if I am not a mathematician, Sir, I hope you will have the temerity to correct me - a marginal increase of 12 per cent, has been given to the skilled worker for the increase in the productivity and prosperity of this country. We have, first of all, a basic wage increase of 15s. and then this additional margin of 12 per cent., based upon the increased productivity and prosperity of the country. As the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) made perfectly clear last night, those are good increases, and I am certain that the average tradesman believes that they are fair increases under present conditions.
The only other point that I feel has been brought out in the debate to-night is that mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). My personal view is that he emphasized the main issue which has exercised the mind of the average member of the public in recent months. When he said that it seemed extraordinary that an increase of 28 per cent, in margins should have such a pervasive effect and should have spread throughout the economy. He said that he was attacking, not the increase, but the system which permitted an increase given to skilled men to apply also to top-ranking public servants.
I cannot say too much about this, but, as I have said, my personal view is that he has highlighted an issue which has been the subject of great public discussion, and which 1 am certain has exercised the minds of most thoughtful people. I shall not go any further than to say that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself has taken exactly the same point, and that only to-day counsel for the Commonwealth, in completing his argument to the Arbitration Commission in the margins case, also made the point. It is a matter for the commission to deal with it now.
Other members of the Opposition, although they did not have the courage to state clearly what they meant, have made an attack upon the salary increases that have been granted to senior public servants. They have said, “We do not object to these increases, provided you do something else “. They have talked about tall poppies and about our favouring a picked group. No matter how honorable members opposite have hedged about their argument, the simple fact which emerges is that they resent that senior members of the Public Service have received substantial pay increases. I have stated already that they are looking at two different time periods, or two different years.
I want to make it quite clear that the Commonwealth Public Service Board has the power and jurisdiction to determine what increases shall be granted to second and third division officers. Acting within those powers, after examining the work that was done and giving due consideration to comparative justice in relation to other members of the community doing similar work, the Public Service Board decided, in its wisdom, upon salary increases ranging from 28 per cent, in the case of the skilled worker down to 18 per cent, in the case of top public servants in the second division. In those circumstances, it cannot be argued that a mathematical formula has been applied in connexion with these increases and that every one in the second and third divisions of the Public Service has received an increase of 28 per cent. The truth of the matter, as I have pointed out, is that at the top the increase is something of the order of 18 per cent. An analysis of the figures will disclose that there could have been a dramatic difference if a mathematical formula had been applied. If the man who was previously receiving £6,000 a year had been given an increase of 28 per cent., his increase would have amounted, not to £900, but very nearly to £1,500 a year. I mention that to illustrate the way in which the Public Service Board has approached this problem. It did not award an all-round increase of 28 per cent. - the percentage increase given to the skilled men working under the metal trades award.
– A mere £60 a year!
– You did not object to the salaries increase when you personally were involved. You grabbed it, and you stuck it in your pocket.
– You will admit it was a salaries grab.
– You took every penny of it.
– But it was a salaries grab, was it not? You admitted it yourself.
– I did not need it.
– Order! I must ask the House to come to order.
– I sum up by making two points. The first is that the Opposition’s argument that the 28 per cent, increase has been applied indiscriminately to senior members of the Public Service is inaccurate. An increase was granted to a career service, and it was applied on a graduated scale. I emphasize that it must be borne in mind that the differential between the lower-paid working man and the senior public servant has become compounded. It has narrowed. The same thing happened in 1954, and the compounding effect has been multiplied. In other words, the basic wage earner has been lifted up and his position relative to the senior public servant has improved continually since 1954. If I may, parenthetically, make the point here that these margins changes occur only once in each five years, in those circumstances the increase given does appear to be fairly large.
I have tried to explain the position with relation to the second and third division public servants. What the Government is attempting to do by this bill is to apply to the first division officers, and to the official office-bearers - some of whom, the conciliation commissioners, happen to be in my own particular crew, or my own mob, if I may put it in the vernacular - much the same provisions as the Commonwealth Public Service Board applied to senior officers in the second and third divisions of the Public Service. The only differences apply to the members of the Taxation Boards of Review and to the senior commissioner, the commissioners and the conciliators under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I am very glad to know that the senior commissioner will receive an increase of £250 on his present salary, the commissioners £250 and the conciliators £150 in addition to the normal adjustments of £650, £625 and £565 respectively. This is an illustration of comparative wage justice to a deserving section of Commonwealth authorities.
I hope that I have made the point that this bill is a consequence of what was done by the Arbitration Commission and then by the Public Service Board. So, the allegation of many Opposition members that the Government is pandering to the tall poppies, is completely false. Therefore, there can be one and only one other argument: Is the Opposition prepared to say that the top civil servants will, under this bill, now be paid too much? 1 believe that some honorable members opposite think that way and hint at what they think, but they will not come out into the open and say it because they know that they may lose a vote or two if they do so. 1 do not want to enter further into this argument, except to say that the Public Service Board, which is pretty well independent and knows what is involved, has looked at the problem of the second division officers and has given them an increase of a maximum of £775 a year at the top. Now we are looking at the problem of first division men and the occupants of positions equivalent to first division positions, such as that of Senior
Conciliation Commissioner. These senior officers are men with great responsibilities. They advise the Ministers and in truth are an essential element of the government of this country. For the most part they are highly intelligent and highly responsible. I do not follow the argument that they should receive exactly the same amount as the skilled man - the fitter and turner - and I do not think that the community would accept that argument.
I emphasize the point that these salary increases go to the top civil servants and to other Commonwealth officials. The increases are justified. They are in line with what was done by the Public Service Board with second division officers. They are the normal consequence of the margins increases granted by the Arbitration Commission. The increases given by the Public Service Board have made it necessary for the Government to give increases to the top civil servants equivalent to those granted to other sections of the Public Service.
Sir, I conclude on this note: The Opposition may say that these officers do not deserve these increases. I am certain that the Australian people would make this judgment - if you do the work you are entitled to the pay. These civil servants do the work, and I would be inclined to leave it to the judgment of the public as to whether these increases are justified.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), when replying to the second-reading debate, did not answer me directly. However, he answered me indirectly and, whether he meant to do so or not, he emphasized that the Public Service Board fixed its own increases. He cannot deny that that is the purport of his remarks to-night. In my speech earlier to-night, I asked the Minister whether this was so. We have now been told, in effect, that the Public Service Board sat around a table and decided upon these increases for its members. These are the rates which were approved by Cabinet and which the Parliament is now asked to approve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 3rd May (vide page 1296), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the hill be now read a second time.
– This bill authorizes the payment to South Australia of £1,027,000, representing a final adjustment of the special grant to be received by that State for 1958-59. The payment of the grant, according to the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), has been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in a special report which has been tabled in this House. It appears that the Premier of South Australia, at the Premiers’ Conference in 1959, undertook that unless special circumstances arose, South Australia would not apply for a special grant during the currency of new revenue grant arrangements, and it was in accordance with this undertaking that South Australia withdrew the claim that it had previously lodged for a special grant for 1959-60.
The Opposition does not oppose the bill. It is merely the machinery provision following an agreement already reached between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia at the Premiers’ Conference, and there is nothing that we on this side of the House can do to alter the agreement. However, I cannot let the occasion pass without expressing my regret that the Premier of South Australia, apparently because of nothing less than sheer vanity, has decided no longer to present South Australia as a claimant State. He has, therefore, forfeited the right that he otherwise would have had under section 96 of the Constitution to an adjustment of revenue wherever it could be shown that special disabilities existed in South Australia as compared with the larger States. Oddly enough, this decision that South Australia should no longer be a claimant State came at a time when the South Australian Government was anticipating a budget deficit of not less than £790,000. I am reliably informed that had South Australia remained for just one year longer within the framework of the Commonwealth Grants Commission machinery under section 96 of the Constitution it would have received £400,000 more than it will receive in the current financial year. Therefore, one is entitled - and I think that I and other South Australians especially are entitled - to ask: What was the motive, if it was not vanity, that moved the South Australian Premier to withdraw from the favorable position that South Australia previously occupied?
We find that, as a direct consequence of the financial difficulty into which the Premier of South Australia has waded on this issue, the South Australian Government is now charging patients in public wards of the Royal Adelaide Hospital £3 a day for hospital treatment. The worst feature of it - I am indebted to my friend, the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), for this information - is that the South Australian Government is not content to compel people to pay £3 a day, which some can afford and which others cannot really afford. It has now decided that 10s. a day shall be the minimum amount to be paid for public ward treatment in the Royal Adelaide Hospital by pensioners who have no income or property whatever.
– And who have medical entitlement cards.
– That is so. How pensioners without any income and without any possible means of meeting this commitment can pay this charge is beyond my imagination. Such a charge is certainly beyond the means of pensioners.
– Is there a Liberal government in South Australia?
– We have in South Australia, unfortunately, a Liberal and Country League Government which is maintained in office purely by a crooked electoral system under which the boundaries of the various electoral districts are rigged so as to favour the Government. As a result of the way in which they are rigged, the 26 country seats which in the main are held by Liberals, have an average of 7,000 voters, and thirteen city seats, in which the electors are, in the main, Labour supporters, have an average of 25,000 voters each. So we have an odd situation in which 38 per cent. of the population elect 26 of the 39 members of the House of Assembly and 62 per cent. of the population, in the metropolitan area of Adelaide, elect thirteen members. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) suggests to me that this is as bad as the situation under Syngman Rhee, in Korea, and many a true word is spoken in jest. There is very little difference between the elections in South Australia and those conducted by Syngman Rhee in Korea. The situation in South Australia is almost as great a farce as could be found in any part of the non-democratic world where this sort of system exists.
Before leaving the question of hospitals, I should like to compare the position in South Australia with that in Queensland and New South Wales. I choose Queensland and New South Wales because they are the only two States in Australia in which Labour has ever governed in its own right with a majority in both Houses of Parliament. Until the present Country Party Government took office in Queensland, anybody could go into a public hospital in that State and receive the very best possible hospital treatment without any charge whatsoever, regardless of his means. But the situation has altered since the advent of the Nicklin Country Party Government there.
– I do not think that the honorable member knows what he is talking about. That is quite wrong.
– It is not quite wrong. We know that a charge is now made in Queensland.
– Not in public hospitals.
– I have said that a charge is now made in Queensland for hospital treatment which at one time was completely free. In New South Wales - another State that is controlled by a
Labour government - pensioners, 1 am pleased to say, are treated in public hospital wards absolutely free of charge, whereas a charge of £3 a day with a minimum of 10s. a day is made in South Australia. I point out, too, that, in South Australia, if pensioners belong to medical schemes they are compelled to pay, not 10s. a day, but £3 a day. The minimum charge is 10s. a day and all pensioners, regardless of means, must pay at least that amount it) South Australia.
I shall also mention social services provided by the South Australian Government, because the Commonwealth Grants Commission always has taken into account State social services in assessing the amount of the grant to which the State was entitled. The commission took what to it, at any rate, seemed to be a logical view. It said that South Australia should not call upon the non-claimant States of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to make up the deficit in the South Australian budget if South Australia were lavishing upon its people social services out of all proportion to those which were provided in the three non-claimant States. But the South Australian Government could never be accused of lavishing social services on the people who are in need of financial assistance. The one thing that you cannot accuse Tom Playford of having done is having lavished social service assistance on pensioners or other people in need of assistance.
Let us compare the situation in South Australia with that in other States. In South Australia, pensioners may receive the benefit of concessional fares if they have to travel for hospital treatment. But, in New South Wales, pensioners are entitled to concessional fares on trams, government ferries and the railway system to enable them to go anywhere they like, locally, as often as they like. Indicative of the humane approach of the New South Wales Labour Government by contrast with the attitude of the South Australian Liberal and Country League Government is the New South Wales provision that permits pensioners, twice a year, to travel on the railways to any part of the State for a holiday at concessional fares which represent half normal rates. What a wonderful thing this is for old people, whose children are perhaps scattered throughout the State, to know that, twice a year, they may travel to any part of the State on the government railway system at half fares. This is something that we shall probably never see in South Australia while the present government is in control, although it is a concession that should have been given long ago just as it has been given in New South Wales.
Take dentures. In New South Wales, a pensioner in difficult circumstances may obtain dentures free. I see that the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Jack) is nodding approval in order to signify his great admiration for the New South Wales Labour Government, which extends this treatment to pensioners. In South Australia, on the other hand, a pensioner may have to pay up to £40 for dentures, and he receives no assistance. How on earth can a pensioner who depends on a miserable pittance of £4 15s. a week pay such a high charge?
I mention spectacles, also. In New South Wales, they are provided for pensioners free of charge where the pensioner is in dire circumstances, but the pensioners in South Australia receive no such benefit.
– The South Australian Government does not see eye to eye with the pensioners.
– As the honorable member says, the South Australian Government does not see eye to eye with the pensioners.
I should now like to mention another important matter that causes a great deal of hardship to the pensioners of South Australia. I refer to the obligation to pay full municipal council rates. Although attempts have been made in South Australia, in isolated instances, to allow pensioners to pay municipal rates on a lower scale than is paid by other ratepayers, the South Australian Government has done absolutely nothing to assist the municipalities of the State to extend this concession to pensioners who own property. Indeed, it has made it impossible for them to do it, I believe, by legislation. I notice that my friend, the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), agrees that the South Australian Parliament has actually by legislation prevented the municipalities from differentiating in favour of the pensioners against some other ratepayers.
By contrast, the New South Wales Government adopts a completely different attitude towards the pensioners. The New South Wales State legislature has made it possible for the municipalities to give a rebate in municipal rates to pensioners. Moreover, it has encouraged that practice by giving in the past a rebate of 331/3 per cent. to the municipalities for whatever reduction they make in favour of the pensioners. The honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) informs me that the rebate has recently been increased to 50 per cent. That was done by the late Mr. J. J. Cahill when he was Premier. I merely mention these matters to indicate the great difference between the attitude adopted by a Labour government, quoting New South Wales as an example, and the attitude of the Liberal-Country League Government in South Australia which says it cannot be done. I am proving that it can be done. It has been done and should be done in all States.
When the Commonwealth Liberal Government in 1956 cancelled the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which provided for rebates to the State governments in cases where they made houses available for such people as pensioners and others who were not able to pay the normal rent, the South Australian Government simply threw its hands in the air and said, “ There is nothing we can do. From now on, those people who could have derived some benefit from the agreement by way of rebate will have to whistle for it. We cannot do anything about it.” But that was not the attitude of the Cahill Labour Government in New South Wales. It tackled the problem at once by allocating the £250,000 a year revenue it obtained from taxing poker machines, for building pensioners’ homes at specially reduced rental rates. It is to the eternal credit of the Labour Government of New South Wales that it shines like a beacon in this dark and bleak country insofar as the general attitude to pensioners is concerned. It provided thousands of neat, natty and clean homes for single pensioners at a rental of £1 a week and equally good homes for married pensioners at a rental of not more than 30s. a week. That was a wonderful achievement.
I turn now to another very important matter in relation to age pensioners who have reached senility. It is not generally known that in South Australia there is not a single home in the whole State where old gentlemen or old ladies who are no longer able to care for themselves can be looked after properly.
– Have they no children?
– Some of them have children and some have not. The honorable member for Hume has shown by his interjection that he has not yet come up against the problem that some people have to face. Take the case of an old gentleman 70 years of age who has become incontinent. Perhaps he lives with a son-in-law or a daughter-in-law.
– Order! The honorable gentleman should relate his remarks to the bill more clearly. I ask him to remember Mr. Speaker’s ruling to-day under Standing Order No. 82.
– With great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I feel that I am not trespassing very greatly or drifting far from the bill. This is a bill to provide a grant for the assistance of South Australia in lieu of the former annual reimbursement through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. When that commission decided to make a reimbursement, it always examined the social services supplied by the State governments. It was only when a State government went beyond what the commission regarded as a reasonable level of social services that the commission would refuse to take that expenditure into account. Speaking in the debate on the State Budget in South Australia in October, 1959, the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, made this statement when he reported to the South Australian Parliament -
Members are aware that the standards of social services deemed reasonable for claimant States are based on the standards enjoyed by the nonclaimant States.
So you will see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Sir Thomas Playford was making a very strong point in explaining this matter of social services provided by the States when addressing the South Australian Parliament. I am still dealing with that point, because it is germane to the argument and must be debated so that honorable members can understand fully all the implications of the move by the South Australian Government to withdraw itself from the financial assistance it would have been entitled to under section 96 of the act. I want to explain this particular point about homes for the aged persons who have reached senility.
– Does South Australia get enough for that purpose?
– It gets enough money, but it is more concerned with spending its revenue on bolstering up industries in the metropolitan area to the detriment of the old people such as age pensioners who have been completely neglected.
– Provision is made for them in New South Wales.
– I thank the honorable member for the information. It coincides with what I have been told about the situation in that State. I was saying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when the shock was too great for you to stand, that there is no home in South Australia for old people who have reached senility and can no longer look after themselves. What does the South Australian Government do with these people? I ask honorable members to have a guess.
– Is it a Liberal government in South Australia?
– Order! The honorable member should address the Chair.
– Well, Sir, what do you think the South Australian Government does with senile old people? It sends them to a mental asylum. The only place in South Australia where they can get protection and care is at the Parkside mental asylum or the Enfield mental asylum. The superintendent at Parkside, Dr. H. M. Birch, has reported time and time again that people have been sent to Parkside mental asylum for no other reason than that they are old, and not because they are insane. That casts a stigma on them and their families and everybody associated with them, when there is nothing wrong with the old people except that they are old; and that is something that will overtake us all. In New South Wales, special homes are provided for old gentlemen and old ladies so that they can be kept properly and be cared for to the end of their days.
– There is similar provision for them in Victoria.
– I am glad the honorable member for Ballaarat interjected because he has reminded me that in Ballarat there is a wonderful example in the Queen Elizabeth Home for Aged Persons. There is nothing like it in South Australia.
I want to turn now to the housekeeper service for old people. To a South Australian, these services seem to be too good to be true. In New South Wales the State Government provides housekeeping services for elderly couples who are not able to look after themselves, but who are not so bad as to have to be sent to hospital. Is it not far better to send a housekeeper into a home to do a few hours’ work a day than to fill the hospitals with these old people? Of course it is. “ Meals-on-wheels “ is another example. The New South Wales Government gives tremendous financial assistance to “ Mealsonwheels “. But what happens in South Australia? If it were not for the charitable nature of the South Australian people who give freely and generously to this service, “ Meals-on-wheels “ would not even have been established, much less maintained.
One of the things that we lack most in South Australia is proper hospital buildings and facilities - I am not now speaking of hospital treatment. It seems to me that instead of aiding a solution of this problem, the decision of the South Australian Government to withdraw from the benefits of section 96 of the Constitution will make it even more difficult than ever for us to get decent hospital facilities in South Australia.
– Unless there is a change of government.
– Yes - unless there is a change of government.
– You should come to Queensland. You would be happy there.
– I have been to Queensland and I was happy there because there was still a Labour government in office at the time. I had the pleasure of comparing the housing settlements set up by the Labour Government of Queensland with those of the South Australian Government. In South Australia the roads for a housing trust settlement are constructed about ten years after the houses are built, and sewerage is provided about another five years after that. In Queensland I noticed that the Government first established good streets, footpaths, water supply, electricity supply and sewerage, and1 that the houses came afterwards - a proper and sensible approach. This does not happen in South Australia.
Everybody who has travelled interstate by road knows that the roads are worse in South Australia than in any other State. That is the position in this wonderful go-ahead State which is now so foolish and naive as to believe that it can become a non-claimant State!
One of the things that the South Australian Government could do to meet its financial difficulties is to impose a heavier tax on the unimproved value of land that is now being bought up by land speculators. In South Australia, as in all other States, thousands of acres of land have been bought by land speculators, cut up into blocks, and sold to unsuspecting people for up to £500 or £600 a block. These speculators adopt the atttitude that people can either pay their price or go without.’ They know full well that they can hold the land until they get their price, without having to pay heavy taxes to the Government on it. For the Premier of South Australia to claim, as he did, in his Budget speech, that South Australia has been penalized by the Commonwealth Grants Commission because of its heavy taxation on unimproved land values, was absurd.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) in whose district this area is situated, will know that all the way from Goolwa up to Victor Harbour, every inch of the land has been bought up by land speculators, sub-divided, and sold for up to £300 a ‘block. The whole thing is ridiculous. None pf the blocks have been built on. There are 80,000 vacant building blocks in areas which already have sewerage, footpaths, water and electricity. The owners are holding on to them and refuse to sell.
People who want to build have to obtain land where there is no sewerage, electricity, footpaths, roads or water. This problem could be overcome by the South Australian Government. Instead of feeling timid about the present level of the unimproved land tax, the State Government should increase this tax so that those who are engaged in land speculation would have to pay more for the right to keep the blocks out of use. If the South Australia Government would grapple with the problem it could bring in revenue amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds which, among other’ things, could be used to relieve pensioners of the necessity to pay for public ward treatment in hospitals.
We support the bill. The Commonwealth Parliament cannot be blamed for the fact that Sir Thomas Playford made this foolish deal which nobody seems to be able to explain. We have to accept the bill because if we do not vote for it the South Australian Government will be deprived of over £1,000,000 which is badly needed, as I have already indicated.
When this matter was first mentioned, the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian House of Assembly, Mr. M. R. O’Halloran, forecast that the time would come when the South Australian Government would rue the day that it decided that South Australia should become a nonclaimant State. He probably did not think that his forecast would come true so soon. The important point is that, had South Australia remained under the old arrangement, it would have been £400,000 better off in this current year alone, So, we have had to wait only nine months for Mr. O’Halloran’s forecast to come true. I repeat that the Opposition supports the bill, but we wonder what so overcame the Premier of South Australia that he made this foolish, naive and apparently vain gesture.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I and, I am sure, other honorable members are delighted to have the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) back, participating in the debates of this House after having spent months in pursuing his own private vendetta against the commissars of the union which nurtured him. Having satisfactorily disposed of that matter-
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Could you inform me on what part of the bill the honorable member is at present speaking?
– I do not think that that is a point of order. It is customary for a member to introduce his speech with a reference to the previous speaker.
– I was just going to say that I am delighted and I am sure the House is delighted to have the honorable gentleman again able to take part in the activities for which he has been elected by the constituents of Hindmarsh. At least, presumably, he will not join with (he honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is sitting behind him, in the trenchant criticism he made in this House yesterday of the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, despite his absence from this place pursuing his private affairs, has not lost his touch. He was to-night in his usual form to which this House has become accustomed. We are accustomed to hear from the honorable member loose statements which distort the facts, and he was certainly in wonderful form in that respect to-night. I am not going to answer all the points that he made, but I might answer one oi two of them to prove my point that as usual he was completely and absolutely wide of the mark.
For the honorable member to suggest that the South Australian Government has done nothing to provide accommodation and homes for pensioners is one of the worst distortions of the truth which I have heard since I have been in this House. Within the last four years the Commonwealth Government made a supplementary grant of £5,000,000 to the States, of which South Australia received its normal share; and every penny of that grant made available to South Australia was used to provide low rental homes for pensioners. The honorable member talked about rentals of 30s. for pensioners in New South Wales, but my understanding of the South Australian scheme is that the rental charged to pensioners is 10 per cent, of their income or £1, whichever is the less. In other words, whilst the honorable gentleman described pensioners’ homes in New South Wales as “natty”, pensioners in South Australia are living in beautiful homes at a rental of £1 a week and1 not 30s., as is charged in the socialistic State of New South Wales. The honorable gentleman is perfectly aware, as 1 and other South Australian members in this House are aware, that for years the South Australian Housing Trust has been building houses especially for pensioners in that State, and they are a credit to the trust and the Government which supports it.
– The honorable member has been telling fibs.
– Yes, a procession of fibs. Unlike a stronger term, that word is parliamentary.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh even saw fit to criticize the South Australian Government for what it has done in the sphere of roads. He said that every visitor to that State - presumably he meant visitors by road - could see that South Australia was miles behind every other State in the matter of roads. I would like everybody to compare the road from the South AustralianVictorian border, to Adelaide with the road on the Victorian side of the border. The former road, which runs through my electorate, is one of the best roads in the Commonwealth. Yet the honorable member praised the roads in New South Wales where there is a socialist administration. He referred to the Hume Highway, but very very few members - not even my New South Wales colleagues - would disagree with me when I say that it is one of the worst roads in Australia. The honorable gentleman could not have picked a worse example in his attempt to pin on the South Australian Government a charge of maladministration in its roads programme.
With regard to the honorable member’s comment about land tax, I made one interjection on that point when he was speaking, and I will leave it to rest at that. But I hope the electors of South Australia take due note that the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and presumably his party in South Australia, are strong advocates of an increase in land tax. I would have thought they would have come into the House tonight and paid a tribute - it is the last occasion on which a bill to provide a grant for South Australia as a claimant State will be made, except in very special circumstances - to the South Australian Government. I would have thought that even a person as biased and as addicted to playing party politics as the honorable member for Hindmarsh is, would have felt that this was an occasion upon which he could for once drop his attempts to make party political capital and join with other South Australian members in paying tribute to what is really a remarkable achievement and one which I believe is unique in the history of this Commonwealth.
About twenty years ago South Australia was a claimant State and had been a claimant State for many years. When the honorable gentleman’s late leader, Mr. Chifley, was Treasurer during the period of the Curtin Government, on one occasion when the Premier of South Australia expressed gratitude because the Commonwealth Government of the day had met that State’s wishes, Mr. Chifley said to Sir Thomas Playford, “ That is all right, Tom. We know that South Australia will always be a mendicant State “. That was typical of the general thinking of the time. There would have been few people who would have disagreed with Mr. Chifley on that occasion no matter what their party persuasion happened to be. They would not have disagreed with him because it then looked as if that was precisely the position. That was not South Australia’s fault because, like the other claimant States, it suffered peculiar disabilities not of its own making. South Australia is large in area, sparsely populated and with very few natural resources such as exist in the non-claimant States. Those are inherent disadvantages which led us in this country to institute the States grants system. Because of disadvantages, completely outside the control of the areas concerned, some States were unable out of their own resources to maintain standards equal to those maintained in the nonclaimant States.
That was the situation in South Australia. Mr. Chifley said that South Australia would always be a mendicant state and, as I said before, it appeared at that time as if that would be the case. Now we are, as it were, witnessing the last act of a drama which has proved that judgment untrue. From the passing of this bill. South Australia will no longer be a mendicant State.
What does South Australia’s graduation from that status mean? It means, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that South Australia, as a result of the efforts of its Government and people, has overcome the natural disabilities from which it suffered. To fill the gap that resulted from its lack of natural advantages, South Australia has used man-made things. In addition, there has been a long period of stable and extremely competent government in that State. These man-made things have produced a situation in which the statement made by a former leader of the party to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh belongs, and whom the Opposition so often - and, I believe, rightly - praises as a man of exceptional judgment, has been proved to be wrong. Not only has South Australia overcome its natural disadvantages, but in many ways it has forged ahead of States which have natural advantages very much greater than such natural advantages as South Australia has.
I could not help thinking of the position that has been reached by South Australia when the honorable member for Hindmarsh, against his own State, was lauding to the skies the situation in New South Wales. I want to mention a number of indicators which prove my point that not only has South Australia got out of the claimant State class, but also has forged ahead of many of the other States which are better off than it is. I believe that the proof of this statement, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is shown by the fact that South Australia has a remarkably low unemployment rate. It has been consistently lower than the rate in any other State. This is the State which, I remind you, the honorable member for Hindmarsh compared unfavorably with New South Wales. This is the State in which the number of motor cars per capita is higher than it is in any other State. This is the State in which savings bank deposits per head of population are much higher than in any other State. This is the State in which the rapid increase in population far exceeds, pro rata, the population increase in other States.
People from this desirable State of New South Wales, this paradise about which the honorable member for Hindmarsh speaks, have been flocking by their hundreds and their thousands to enjoy the difficult conditions which the honorable member says exist in South Australia. I produce that only as a sign of a remarkable achievement, which is a remarkable tribute to the government which has been in office in South Australia for well over twenty years. I should have thought that the honorable gentleman from Hindmarsh could, for once, have dropped his attempts to make party political capital and joined with the other South Australian members of this House in paying tribute to that really remarkable achievement.
I do not want to give all the credit for this achievement to either the South Australian Government or the people of South Australia, although most of the credit must go to them. We must remember that the present state of affairs, in which South Australia ceases to be a claimant State, was made possible by the extremely generous and ingenious financial arrangements made for the next six years by this Commonwealth Government. The honorable gentleman from Hindmarsh says that South Australia would have been £400,000 better off if she had remained a claimant State. That is just not true. South Australia, quite apart from the increased grant - which she probably would not otherwise have received - got an additional amount of £1,000,000, which she certainly would not have got if she had remained a claimant State. So, even on that basis, and excluding the whole financial arrangement made by the Commonwealth Government for the next six years in relation to tax reimbursements to South Australia, the South Australian Government is £600,000 better off.
There is one further thing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which I wish to say. Although South Australia has done something which is unique in Australia, it is well for the House to remember and for the Government to remember that South Australia, in achieving this position by substituting manmade works, in a much greater proportion than other States have had to do, for the natural advantages she lacks, has taken a risk. The inherent natural disadvantages about which I have spoken are still there. South Australia has achieved her present position by negativing those disadvantages by means of man-made works.
In achieving its present position South Australia has shown a large measure of self-help. If she had not shown a large measure of helf-help, she certainly would not have received the whole of this final grant which the House is asked to approve to-night. That is shown by a portion or the Grants Commission’s report in which the commission said that South Australia has had what the commission calls “ a net favorable adjustment “ far in excess of the other States. A net favorable adjustment is denned as the amount judged by the commission to be the measure of a claimant State’s special efforts to meet its own financial needs. This judgment is mainly based on comparisons with the nonclaimant States in such things as the level of State taxation, charges for State services, expenditure on social services, and so on. My point is that over the years South Australia has reached its present position, and achieved a very fine reputation with the Grants Commission, because she has demonstrated a very special capacity for self-help.
The point I want to make to the Commonwealth Government is that the step that South Australia has taken in cutting loose from the Grants Commission and ceasing to be a claimant State is a very big one indeed, lt certainly is one which involved an element of risk, particularly as she has reached that position by superimposing, on her natural disadvantages, manmade works in a proportion very much greater than has been done in other States. It behoves the Commonwealth Government to remember that; to remember South Australia’s remarkable achievement; to remember that she achieved it by self-help, wise administration and, to some extent, selfdenial, and to remember that South Australia has taken a risk. If the Commonwealth Government bears those things in mind, it will, as in this case when it proposes making available immediately the full grant covered by this legislation, turn a sympathetic and friendly eye to projects for which the State Government asks for assistance from the Commonwealth Government.
In conclusion, I should like to make special reference to a project which is still in its formative stages. I refer to the proposal to build a large water storage dam on the upper Murray River to assure South Australia’s future water supplies. The Government of that State, subject to expert engineering examination of the project, has asked the Commonwealth Government for assistance. This project is an exact illustration of the point that I have been making.
In examining the proposal, the Commonwealth should bear in mind what South Australia has done for herself in the past, and the risk that she has taken in cutting loose from her claimant status and becoming a non-claimant State. The Commonwealth Government also should take notice of the fact that South Australia has been able to reach her present position only because of works such as the proposed new storage dam on the upper Murray River.
The whole future development of the State from which 1 come will depend, after a year or two, on adequate water supplies. No State of the Commonwealth is as short of natural water courses and water supplies as is South Australia. However, no State of the Commonwealth has, as a result of the activities of its government, provided a greater proportion of its population with water. But almost every drop of that water comes from the Murray River. On this unique and almost historic occasion on which, for the first time, a State has ceased to be a claimant State - and largely by its own efforts - we should remember the circumstances which have prompted South Australia to take this step and, when considering projects which are proposed by the Government of that State in future, we should remember the disabilities which South Australia has overcome to reach that position. I support the bill.
.- I sincerely hope that the storage dam on the upper Murray River which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) has told us will soon become a reality will not meet the same fate that has befallen the deep sea port which Playford has been promising South Australia year after year, election after election and even by-election after byelection. The honorable member for Barker has gone to great pains to try to get back into the favour of the Premier of South Australia who, time and time again, has chided him for the foolish statements that he has made. To-night we have heard the honorable member spend much of his time trying to tell us what a great man the Premier of South Australia is.
– I hardly mentioned him.
– Well, the Government of South Australia. This bill seeks to authorize the payment of a special grant to South Australia. Like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), I do not object to the money going to that State, but I think we are entitled to point out that the Government of South Australia has failed in its duty to look after the poor, the sick, the needy and the other less fortunate members of the community. Its hospital charges are far in excess of those in other States, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh has pointed out. The Government of South Australia is even slugging the pensioner. If he is unfortunate enough to be in a public hospital, he is presented with a bill for £3 a day. Then he has to show cause why, because of his circumstances, the charge should be reduced. Finally, if he is lucky, it may be reduced to 10s. a day, but that minimum charge is insisted upon by the Playford Government.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh was correct in his comparison of South Australia with New South Wales in relation to medical and hospital benefits. On education, too, we in South Australia spend less per head of population than does any other State. We fail to provide for our school children facilities equal to those in other States. We spend less than they do on the general health of the community, on hospitals and on charitable work.
– That is because it is such a healthy State.
– I invite any honorable member on the Government side to come with me at any time to the Royal Adelaide Hospital to see the overcrowded wards where the beds are lined up side by side and facilities for the doctors and the nurses are inadequate. The Government of South Australia cares little for the sick and is not prepared to spend as much money on health as even Tasmania does. It is interesting to note that New South Wales spends on health 109s. 2d. annually per head of population, Victoria 123s. lid., Queensland 140s., Western Australia 134s. 4d., Tasmania 122s. and South Australia 103s. 6d. Due in some measure to the comparatively small amount which is spent in South Australia, the average for Australia is brought down to the low figure of 1 19s. 7d. Yet South Australia spends only 103s. 6d.! On hospitals, New South Wales spends 83s. lid., Victoria 80s. 4d., Queensland 107s. 7d., Western Australia 106s. 3d., Tasmania 94s. 3d. and South Australia 78s. 7d. As a result of the small amount which is spent in South Australia, the average for six States is only 87s. 10d., but South Australia itself spends only 78s. 7d.! The sick, the poor and the needy are neglected by the Playford Government.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to homes and institutions, and the honorable member for Barker went to some length to tell us what the State Government has done in this regard. But you cannot get away from the statistics which show that South Australia is lagging behind the other States in its care of the aged, in the provision of institutions and in its child welfare activities. New South Wales spends 17s. 8d. per head of population on these items, Victoria 15s. 5d., Queensland 16s. Id., Western Australia 20s. 10d., Tasmania 23s. lid. and South Australia 13s. 8d. The average for the six States is again reduced by the very small amount of money that South Australia is prepared to pay for the care of the aged and the sick. Whereas the average expenditure for all States is 16s. lOd. per head, the average for South Australia is only 13s. 8d. On the other hand it is amazing how anxious Playford is that his State compares favorably in other respects with the other States.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh pointed out that South Australian people pay more in hospital charges than people in other States. The Premier of South Australia, as I have said, is anxious to show that under other headings South Australia expends as much per head as other States. To-day 1 took a book out of the Library entitled “ If the Gown Fits “ written by a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, Mr. Rowe. In it he describes how he found the great formula to reach the South Australian Premier’s heart. He had some discussion with him in the hope of getting financial assistance to improve the university and to meet the needs of the staff. He wrote -
Many members of the public told me of their astonishment that the Premier had approved aid on a scale which then seemed so great.
That is, after he had succeeded in obtaining money. He went on -
The Premier was not much interested in the university. Indeed, it was to be eight years before I persuaded him to visit a university laboratory. Not once during my decade in Adelaide did I succeed in capturing his heart and it was an accident that in 1948 I stumbled upon the royal road to the treasury chest. All that was needed was to convince the Premier that we were falling behind the standard of universities in other Slates. Possessing a state-consciousness almost frightening in one of the leaders of a small nation on the borders of Asia, it was this that to him was unthinkable.
It is a pity that the Premier of South Australia was not as much concerned in keeping up his Government’s standard of assistance to the sick and needy as he has been in providing money for the university so that it might compare with the universities of other States. Although this money may be voted to South Australia, members on this side of the House sometimes doubt whether it will be spent as wisely as it should be. The former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide pointed out further -
As far as university affairs were concerned, and I suspect in much else besides, the government of South Australia consisted of its Premier, who had been in power continuously for twenty years. He no doubt impressed visiting industrialists and others who were concerned with matters which interested him but, with one exception, dealing with the Premier on university matters was an experience which many might find incredible. The exception concerned his ready approval of annual budgets which provided for the maintenance of standards prevailing in the universities of the other States.
That is what he mentioned earlier. He continued -
It was indeed fortunate that he found it an intolerable thought that any other State should in any way get ahead of his own.
But he was not concerned about hospitals and education. The writer continued -
Even in financial matters, however, the Premier often embarrassed me by announcing publicly that he had never refused the university anything, from which some members of staff naively concluded that I had only to ask and the university would receive. What happened was that the Premier’s economic adviser and I annually reached an agreement which was a compromise between what I wanted and what the Treasury would give.
The Premier of South Australia hoodwinked the people of that State into believing that whatever the university asked for he would see that it was made available. I hope that in some way we can touch his heart, and that he will see that expenditure on behalf of the sick, the poor, the needy and the children in South Australia is increased to a level comparable with such expenditure in other States. I hope that he will look after the claims of that section of the community as adequately as he finances the claims of the University of Adelaide. It is a mystery that although he is quick to deny assistance to the sick and the needy - to go to the court and oppose an increase in the basic wage for the workers, just as this Commonwealth Government did - and to refuse to bring down a decent and adequate workmen’s compensation measure for the workers of South Australia - his Government wastes money in so many ways. I cite the payment of the fees to counsel to oppose the increase in the basic wage. The South Australian Government will not amend its industrial code to provide decent wages for rural workers in that State who are not covered by a federal award. Yet, as in the case of the briefing of counsel by the Commonwealth Government to appear before the Commonwealth Industrial Commission to intervene in the basic wage hearing, the South Australian Government spends money on things that do not count.
Perhaps the most scandalous expenditure has been the yet to be assessed thousands of pounds spent on prosecuting - or persecuting - the editor of the Adelaide “ News “ and News Limited in connexion with recent royal commission proceedings in Adelaide. The editor of that newspaper had the audacity to criticize the Premier and Cabinet of South Australia. The Premier - dictator Playford as he is widely known - had enjoyed the support and protection of the press for so many years that he just could not believe any newspaper would dare to attack him. Momentarily he lost his shrewd political judgment that stood to him over the years and he went into a complete panic. He threatened that if the press continued their news articles he would prosecute them when the case was completed. However, such intimidation had no effect on the press. I have no love for the press, and this party in this House has no love for the newspapers of Australia or their editors. As an attempt has been made to victimize and practically blackmail a newspaper, if I thought that some of the money being provided in this grant would be used by the Playford Government to attack a person in South Australia and victimize him, I should have to vote against this measure.
I hope that the Playford Government has been taught a lesson by the decision of the jury to throw out the eight charges levelled against the editor of the Adelaide “ News “ and News Limited, a decision which every fair-minded Australian would support. Of course, he wanted not only a victory at that time but also to be assured that later, in the House–
– I rise to order. Is my honorable friend in order in making an attack on the Premier of South Australia in respect of a prosecution launched against a newspaper in that State when this Parliament is discussing a financial measure?
– Order! The honorable member is not in order, and the point of order is upheld.
– Untold thousands of pounds have been spent and may be spent again out of the sort of grant that we are making to-night. Surely I am allowed to utter some protest about the allocation of the money that we are asked to vote or suggest how it should be spent. I ask your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on whether I am allowed to talk in that way.
– On the point of order: The bill concerns allocations of Commonwealth grants pursuant to recommendations by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The honorable member has already been dealing with the way that Commonwealth grants are spent for social services in his State, South Australia. Every annual report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission analyses and compares the expenditure by all States in three categories of social service - education, health and hospitals, and law and order. The honorable gentleman has already dealt with the first two categories. I submit that he is entitled to deal with the matter that he has just raised under the heading of law and order.
– I am sorry to disagree with the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition. The Chair considers that the honorable member is not entitled to continue in that way.
– Very well! Unfortunately, the people of South Australia are denied electoral justice. Democracy does not exist there. The voice of the majority of the people of South Australia is denied. I object strongly to the fact that money voted by this Parliament is used to deny justice to them. The Government of that State has stayed in office by the gerrymander, despite a majority vote against it. It attempted to intimidate a newspaper because it feared that that newspaper would campaign against it at a later stage. The Government wanted to silence that newspaper because it hoped that by doing so the newspaper might fear to criticize it at election time. It is for these reasons that I suggest that we are entitled to ask that the Playford Government, which denies aid to the sick, the poor and the needy, which uses the money voted to it by this Parliament to persecute or prosecute people who criticize it and which denies democratic rights to a majority of South Australians, should be required to give an assurance that it will spend the money now to be voted to ensure that these people in South Australia are given proper care and justice.
The Australian people have no warm feelings for newspapers or their writers, just as this Labour Party has no such feeling. At the same time, the people of South Australia were horrified when their Premier - dictator Playford - attempted to stand over a newspaper and intimidate it into supporting his Government. The jury’s decision in the case was applauded by the majority of the people in South Australia. The day is coming when, in spite of the gerrymander and the shrewd manipulating of the Premier, the Playford Government will be defeated. On that day the needs of the sick, the poor, and the school children of South Australia will be catered for by a Labour government. It was the fear of defeat that made the Premier attempt to stand over, persecute and prosecute the Adelaide newspaper that dared to criticize his government’s action and dared to say that the Premier was wrong! You know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Premier of South Australia for many years has been able to hoodwink the people - to kid to them - and he had the press on side all along the line. However, over the last twelve months he has realized that he has made many mistakes and that at long last the people are not going to tolerate his dictatorial attitude any longer. He became so rattled and so incensed at this newspaper that he took the action that he did. By doing so he lost the confidence of many Liberal members of the community who had been his supporters - those fair-minded people in the community who believe in a fair go, just as a jury in South Australia decided that a newspaper editor, a worker in industry or anybody else in the community had the right to criticize the government. Just as Playford was defeated in that case so, because of his very niggardly attitude towards the people of South Australia he will be defeated when the opportunity comes at election time. All the humbug-
– I still ask the honorable member whether he thinks that this debate is solely an attack on the Premier of South Australia?
– No, not at all. I question whether the South Australian Government will wisely spend the money that we are voting it to-night. Will it look after the poor in the community? Or does the South Australian Government intend to waste it extravagantly in persecuting and prosecuting people? That is all I am concerned about. I want to see the sick looked after. I want to see the South Australian Government spend as much money per head of population in providing homes for the aged, mental and general hospitals, and all those things that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) pointed out, as do the other States. If the South Australian Government is not prepared to accept this responsibility and to ensure that its people are provided for I do not know whether we are doing the right thing in voting it any money.
I sincerely hope that just as the former vice-chancellor of the Adelaide University discovered, al] of a sudden, that the Premier of South Australia did not want it to be said that his State was not spending as much money on education as other States were spending, the people who are in need - the pensioners of South Australia - will learn quickly that they are to be treated by their Government as are the pensioners in any other State. How would you feel, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you were a pensioner and were placed in a public ward of a hospital in Adelaide, and were dependent solely on your pension? How would you feel if at the end of the week a bill for £21 was put in your hands and you were told that you had to pay it? How would you feel if you knew that if you did not pay the bill you would probably be put out? Anyhow, that is the position in that State. It is not a very good situation for a sick pensioner to find himself in. If he cannot pay the bill he has to fill out a long form and answer questions in the hope that the Premier, in his generosity, will decide to charge him only £3 10s. a week. For a married couple receiving a pension of £4 15s. a week each, there is not much left to continue paying rent for the home, which has to be paid, and for electricity and so on.
All we ask is that at last the Premier of South Australia will face up to his obligations. We ask that he stop this makebelieve attitude which he displayed when dealing with the former vice-chancellor of the Adelaide University, to whom he promised money and then bargained with him on how much money he would really give the university. We ask sincerely for an assurance that never again will people who criticize the South Australian Government be persecuted and prosecuted. We hope that Sir Thomas Playford has learned his lesson and that he will treat the poor, the needy and the sick in the manner that they should be treated.
– The situation in South Australia, referred to by the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin), has arisen because the Premier has agreed that South Australia should cease to be a claimant State. Last year, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) mentioned the prophecy of the South Australian Leader of the Opposition, Mr. O’Halloran. “Hansard” for last year will show that, when we were told that South Australia would no longer be a claimant State, I pointed out that special circumstances warranting financial assistance might arise very quickly. I pointed to the fact that lambs and. sheep were being sold in the markets for a few pence and that drought conditions had caused great difficulties for South Australia. Those things have happened. I do not agree with the comments of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), because the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his second-reading speech said-
South Australia submitted a claim for an adjusting payment of £1,027,000 in respect of 19S8-S9, this being the amount of its budget deficit for that year.
To understand this, we must appreciate the grounds on which grants are made. The arrangement is that, if the claimant States charge for the services that they render an amount approximating that charged for the same services by nonclaimant eastern States, the budget deficits of the claimant States will be made good by the Commonwealth. Considerably more detail is involved, but that is broadly the arrangement. The Commonwealth Grants Commission under this arrangement examined the budget prepared for South Australia for 1958-59 and recommended the grant that we approved last year. However, as honorable members know, the Commonwealth Grants Commission examines the position of a claimant State after the year has ended. If it finds that the deficit was not as great as had been expected and an over-payment has been made, the amount of the overpayment is deducted for the following year. If an under-payment has been made, that amount is added to the expected deficit for the following year and a grant equal to the increased amount is made. The grant that we are considering in this bill is not related to the coming year but is intended to reimburse the State for an additional deficit of more than £1,000,000 incurred last year and now accepted by the commission. By agreeing to become a non-claimant State, South Australia has lost all the benefits that would accrue to it if it had a budget deficit.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh mentioned what has happened with the hospitals in South Australia. This is an example of what Mr. Playford has done to the poorer people. I am always concerned with what is happening to the man at the bottom. I like the man at the top to get a fair deal, but throughout my political career my main concern has been with those at the bottom who are not able to look after themselves. What happened with the hospitals was this: Until recently, the Commonwealth paid 12s. a day for every pensioner in the public wards of a hospital and no charge was made to the pensioners by the State. That information was given to me by the Hospitals Department. A pensioner with a medical card, which indicated that he did not have an income of more than £2 a week or capital of more than £200, was not charged for hospital treatment unless he was a member of a hospital fund. If he was a member of a fund, the amount paid by the fund was credited to his account. That position obtained until the end of January of this year.
On 1st February, the Premier introduced regulations under which every patient in a hospital, pensioner with a medical card oi not. would be charged £3 a day. The department made very clear to me only two or three weeks ago that the instruction was that every occupant of a bed in a public ward was to be charged £3 a day. A note at the bottom of the account suggested that if the patient was not able to pay the account, he should take up the matter with the department. However, I was told by an official that the instruction does not permit of a reduction below 10s. a day, and this amount is charged only where a pensioner has no income other than his pension and no money in the bank.
– That is the great national health scheme!
– No, this is not the national health scheme; this has been done by the State Government. This situation has been created because, if the South Australian Government is faced with a deficit now, it cannot go to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for assistance. It now has to live on its share of the taxes collected by the Commonwealth. Mr. Playford said that the Government was prepared to run the State on the tax reimbursements it received from the Commonwealth, without any help. He made the reservation that in extreme circumstances an approach would be made to the Commonwealth for a special grant. But what is he doing to obtain additional finance? Pensioners with no income who formerly were not charged for hospital’ attention and for whom an amount of 12s. a day was collected from the Commonwealth, now must pay at least the absolute minimum of 10s. a day.
Recently, a son put before me the circumstances of his father. I knew that his father was a good worker, a good Labour supporter and a good worker tor the Labour Party. He is a very honest man. He had been working for the Government, but retired and receives superannuation of £5 10s. a fortnight - £2 15s. a week. In answer to my query, the son told me that his father did not have any money in the bank. He said that his father had a stroke some fifteen months ago and that his mother had looked after him for twelve months. She is a pensioner and, at the end of the twelve months, found that she could not look after him any more. A doctor managed to get him into a hospital and he remained there for approximately three months. At the end of that time, he was sent to another hospital and was given a bill. The bill was not given to him each week but at the end of the period.
I saw the bill that was sent by the department. From 27th January to 1st February, he was charged 12s. a day, but this amount was paid by the Commonwealth. I am not sure of the number of days, but for a period of roughly 80 days after 1st February, he was charged £3 a day less the 12s. a day paid by the Commonwealth. He was in fact charged £2 8s. a day for the time that he was in hospital. The son approached the authorities and asked that they reduce the charge to 10s. a day. The calculation is shown on the back of the account. The amount was reduced to 28s. a day. The hospital has already received 12s. a day from the Commonwealth but now wants another 28s. a day. The son asked me to do what I could. I pointed out to him that this was a matter for the State Government and that he should ask his State member to look into it. The son paid £25 and was then asked to pay the balance at the rate of 28s. a day.
Let us see what the position is at present. A man and his wife, both of whom are pensioners, get 4 15s. a week each, or £9 10s. a week in all. Let us leave the wife out for the moment and consider this pensioner, who was receiving £4 15s. in pension and £2 15s. in superannuation, making a total of £7 10s. a week. He was told that he had to pay £9 16s. a week off the arrears. He said to me, “ Do you think that is a fair deal? “ I advised him to see his State member and ask him to take it up with the State Government. I am mentioning these cases and giving details to demonstrate my point that if South Australia had not decided to cease being a claimant State there would have been no need to treat these people in this fashion.
Let us see what is happening in South Australia in the employment field. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) accompanied me recently when I made an inspection to see what the State Government departments were doing. We visited an area where the Harbours Board had been clearing sandhills and resuming land on which the State Housing Trust could build homes. The Harbours Board chief was with us, and he told us that they had had to stop carting the sand away because the Government did not have enough money to carry on with the project. In other words, because the State had to live within its income this year, it had to start putting men off and closing down works that were in progress.
This is the kind of thing that is happening throughout the State, yet the Premier takes pride in claiming that South Australia is on its feet and can carry on without any Commonwealth assistance. It has to make this extra charge on pensioners. Recently I wrote letters to pensioners’ associations and individuals, saying that according to information I had received from the Department of Social Services, if a person had a pensioner’s card and was not in a hospital benefits fund, he would not be charged while in hospital. I now have to undergo the humiliating experience of writing again and saying that what I told them a few months ago is no longer correct. Until 31st January of this year that was the situation, but since 1st February these new charges have been imposed.
Just consider the position of a pensioner who goes into a hospital, while his wife remains at home. Out of the £4 15s. a week pension that he gets, the minimum that the Government will accept is £3 10s. a week, leaving him with £1 5s. a week. I have already mentioned the case of the man who was receiving £2 15s. a week in superannuation. His son told me of the difficulties that he was experiencing. He told me of all the extra pyjamas that he had to provide while the father was in hospital for three months. He said he had to provide many amenities for his father, and he had to make it possible for his mother to make visits to the hospital.
When one hears of cases such as this, one ii impelled to take the opportunity to show the House and the public generally the depths to which the State Government authorities have sunk with regard to hospital treatment for poorer people. I asked a question of the Minister recently, and I think he spoke in all good faith when he said that there was no statutory agreement, but that there had’ been a gentleman’s’ agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, to the effect that if the Commonwealth paid 12s. a day towards the hospital fees the pensioner would not be required to pay anything. 1 would point out that under the legislation the Commonwealth need pay no more than 8s. a day, but it had agreed to pay 12s. Before the Chifley Government introduced its first hospital benefits scheme, similar trouble was experienced in South Australia. Wages at that time were low, and pensioners or persons in public wards were charged only 10s. a week. But if such persons had no money the bills would be sent to their children, and the charge then would be 10s. a day. When the Chifley Government legislated for hospital assistance it was provided that persons in public wards would not be charged anything, the 6s. a day covering the cost.
– There was no hospital benefits scheme at that time.
– The honorable member refers to a hospital benefits scheme, and I quite acknowledge the value of such schemes. But I am repeating the information I was given by the Minister, that when the Commonwealth agreed to pay 12s. a day, although it was legally required to pay no more than 8s. a day, the gentleman’s agreement was that pensioners with no other income would not have to pay anything at all. I know that pensioners are told, “ Join a hospital benefits fund and you can get 36s. a day “. They have to wait eight weeks before they can get it. Some pensioners did not join hospital benefits funds because they knew they could get free hospital treatment, the Commonwealth paying 12s. a day, but now the State Government is making a substantial charge for treatment and forcing them to contribute to the hospital benefits funds.
We are told that this measure will be the last piece of legislation under which special financial assistance will be granted to South Australia. I very much regret this fact. I regret South Australia’s decision to cease being a claimant State, although some honorable members pat themselves on the back because they like this development.
Mention has been made of pensioners’ cottages. We have been told that pensioners are paying only £1 a week for these cottages. I do not know whether the honorable member who made that statement knows what the State Government has done. I can tell him that for the latest pensioner’s cottages that have been built the rental is either 35s. or 37s. 6d. a week.
Let me mention another way in which the State Government has tried to replenish its dwindling finances. In this case I refer to the pensioners’ special rent, allowance of 10s. a week. I know of many cases in which deserted women with children are getting the widows’ pension, and are also receiving a payment from the State Welfare Department. As soon as the 10s. supplementary rent allowance was provided for, many of these people said that the grant from the Welfare Department was reduced by 10s. a week to make up for the extra amount received by way of pension.
– The same thing happened in New South Wales.
– I am speaking of what is being done in South Australia. I do not know what the position is in New South Wales. The Premier of South Australia says that his State is now in a position to get along without any Commonwealth grants. Previously he could prepare his budget on the basis of hospital and other charges on a similar scale to those operating in the eastern States because he knew that any deficit would be made up with a grant from the Commonwealth Grants Commission. He could provide conditions similar to those operating in the other States and justify his action when applying for a Commonwealth grant. Now he cannot do this, and who is. to. pay the piper? It is the people, of South Australia who will pay.
I have spoken previously in this House on the matter of Commonwealth grants. I have said on many occasions that before South Australia received those grants it was not in a position to pay its public servants salaries commensurate with those being paid in Victoria and New South Wales. On one occasion the State Government of the day was forced to reduce by 5 per cent, the rates provided in an arbitration court award for employees of the Department of Education. That was what was done then because the government of the day - a Liberal Government - said that it did not have the money to carry on. I know the position that South Australia was in at that time. The government of the day was dominated by a hostile Legislative Council in which there were sixteen Conservative members and four Labour members; they were a pretty conservative sixteen members, too! Even with a Labour Government in office, the Legislative Council insisted on cutting down expenditure and would not vote the money necessary to place South Australia on an even footing with the Eastern States. When the Commonwealth Grants Commission came into being, the government of the day adopted the attitude that, as a State of Australia, South Australia should pay its public servants and provide hospital treatment at the standard observed in the eastern States; that if it did not have enough money for these purposes, Australia as a whole should make it financially possible for South Australia to do these things.
That is not the position to-day. Not now! South Australia cannot claim that, as a State of Australia, if it is unable from the revenue it collects to maintain services at the standard of those in the other States without incurring a deficit, the adoption of a recommendation by the Commonwealth Grants Commission will place the State on an equal footing with the others. I always felt pleased that grants to the less populous States - South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania - on the basis of the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s recommendations enabled each of those States to provide approximately equal services for their people. I feel that under the arrange ment that will; obtain in the future, those States, will cOme to grief. I said, last year, when, speaking on this matter, that I felt it was quite possible that the South Australian Government would have to make an earlier appeal. What was the position years ago before the Commonwealth Grants Commission was established? Year after year, South Australia had a deficit, which had to be funded. The State had to obtain loan money in order to fund the deficit in its general revenue. If the Government of South Australia is not very careful and things do not go well in that State, the position I have described may come about again. 1 give credit for what has been done. A lot of things that have been done in South Australia have been pleasing to me, but a lot of things that should have been done have not been done. Many difficulties confront the pensioners in the State and I doubt whether the government can help them without Commonwealth aid. For many years, the primary producers in the south-eastern portion of South Australia had to send their produce to the markets over an old, worn-out 3-ft. 6-in. railway. I give credit to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who, when Minister for Transport in the Labour Government, rectified that state of affairs. The necessary work was carried out, not wholly with South Australian money, but with the aid of Commonwealth money. If South Australia had had to do the job with its own money, the people of that State would still have been bumping along on the old, worn-out 3-ft. 6-in. gauge railway. By the Commonwealth contributing about 70 per cent, of the cost, the State was able to replacethe 3-ft. 6-in. railway by a broader gaugerailway, and this has helped the primaryproducer. He can now transport his lambs- to Adelaide in about half a day compared’ with about two and a half days previously. Likewise, the potato growers and otherprimary producers have benefited from theprovision of the broader gauge railway, because trans-shipment is not necessary. But that improved service was not provided by the State without outside aid. It was made possible only when the rest of Australia came to South Australia’s assistance.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier of South Australia will have to bear responsibility for the undertaking he gave at the Premiers’ Conference in 1959 to the effect that his State would not apply for a special grant during the currency of the new revenue grant arrangements - and he may be quite prepared to take it! Nevertheless, the people at the bottom of the social scale are the ones who have to pay the piper. Water rates and almost all other charges have been increased, and the people are complaining about continual increases. In the past, provided the charges in South Australia were commensurate with those in the eastern States, any assistance needed was provided by Commonwealth grants as recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Now, however, the additional financial requirements will have to be met by the people of South Australia.
Sir, this is the last occasion on which this House will have an opportunity to discuss a Commonwealth grant to South Australia on a recommendation by the Grants Commission. I am pleased that my colleagues, the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Kingston have contributed to this debate. They have compared what is being done to South. Australia with the position in the other States and they have shown how the difficulties of South Australia may be intensified rather than relieved by the new arrangement. 1 shall support the bill, but I want to make another observation before concluding my speech. It is evident from the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that the Commonwealth Grants Commission wanted to hurry up this matter so that the special grant would be received by South Australia before the end of this financial year. If the normal procedure had been followed, the matter would not have been dealt with until the next financial year. I do not know how Sir Thomas Playford, the Premier of South Australia, would have been able to carry on without this special grant of £1,027,000. The money will assist him to overcome his difficulties, but he alone is responsible for the decision that South Australia will cease to be a claimant State. South Australia will not receive in future all the help that it has received from the Commonwealth in the past. I regret that South Australia’s association with the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been severed. Of course, I do not want South Australia to be a mendicant State for an indefinite period. The honorable member for Barker attributed to the late -Mr. Chifley a statement to Tom Playford, as he called him, to the effect that he could not see South Australia being any other than a mendicant State for many years. I had the same opinion. However, Sir Thomas seems to have taken this hurdle in his stride and I am indeed sorry that a lot of my own old friends - the ones at the bottom of the social scale - will be hit hard through the action he has taken.
– Mr. Speaker, when I entered the House this evening, I did not intend to speak in this debate. I shall not delay the House unduly before the debate is adjourned, but I do not want to let the occasion pass without making some general observations on some of the things which I was very distressed to hear my friend, the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) who, I am glad to see, is back here, say about the Government of South Australia. Indeed, Sir, I am amazed that honorable members opposite should take advantage of what one would have thought would have been a non-contentious bill to make an all-out assault, sometimes in personal terms, against a man who, although you might not like everything about him politically, will go down in history as a farsighted and a distinguished statesman.
My object in rising to-night for a very few minutes is to try to say something in rather general terms to put the record straight rather than allow this debate to be recorded in perpetuity as a mass of carping and pettifogging criticisms - criticisms which it is possible to find against any administration irrespective of whether it has had the good fortune, not only for itself, but much more for the people of South Australia, to be in office for over 21 years.
– Because the boundaries were gerrymandered?
– My honorable friend from East Sydney makes some aside about electorates being rigged. I make no comment on that, Mr. Speaker, except to say that Sir Thomas Playford’s record does not require any sort of gerrymander.
There has been some criticism, Sir, from the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) about South Australia ceasing to be a claimant State and I think it ties in very well with some of the comments that my friend from Kingston said. Looking at this bill and the circumstances that have arisen concerning it, I should think that .there is no more eloquent tribute to the Playford Government than the fact that Sir Thomas himself has been able to announce that henceforth South Australia will not be a claimant State. You could not get anything more definite or more advantageous to his record of administration than precisely that.
The detailed observations that have been made by honorable members opposite tonight have been surprisingly shallow and poor. It is incontestable, whether you agree with the policy of the Premier of South Australia or not, that during his term of office he has converted South Australia’s economy from a grossly lopsided economy to a remarkably balanced one. Everybody knows that one of the notable advances in South Australia in the last twenty years has been the enormous growth of new industries, especially of manufactures. It has become one of the big manufacturing centres of Australia. Side by side with this, the South Australian Government has been imaginatively progressive in the development of what meagre natural resources the State possesses.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) made complaints about the alleged neglect of the small people whose interests, I must concede, the honorable gentleman has genuinely tried to advance ever since I have been sitting in this chamber. But who can deny that the wageearners and small salary-earners in South Australia have never been so well off as they are now? There has never been such a high record of employment and there has never been such general prosperity in South Australia as at present. Of course, as every impartial person knows and as honorable members opposite know perfectly well in their hearts, this State, whose Government has been so feloniously attacked to-night, is the envy of its neighbours. It is a State of the most spectacular achievement. As soon as you cross the border you can see that you are entering a State in which the administration is of a very high order. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who laughs knows that perfectly well.
With all this personal animadversion on the distinguished Premier of South Australia, none can deny the practical patriotism of the man. None can deny that he leads, in effect, a middle-of-the-road government. I am absolutely astonished as I am sure you must have been, Mr. Speaker, that these criticisms should have come from Opposition members when they know deep down in their hearts, and often proclaim publicly, that Tom Playford is the best Labour Premier that Australia has known. Just for the purpose of carping party advantage, they come forward with statements such as they have made to-night. The fact remains that Sir Thomas Playford is often one of our severest critics in Commonwealth matters but, nonetheless, he is a statesman with an unparalleled record in South Australia. It ill behoves honorable members to take advantage of a measure such as this which, in itself, is a testimony to the success of his own financial policy and administration, to criticize him in a way which is so undignified and so unworthy of the cause that they represent.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This morning, I asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) a question in relation to the treatment meted out to patients in mental hospitals who, prior to entering the hospitals, were age pensioners. I mentioned that a pensioner in a hospital or benevolent institution receives a certain amount of money, which is proportionate to his pension, with which to provide a little of the comfort that is so necessary in an organization of that kind. But immediately that person, if he becomes mentally unbalanced, is shifted from a benevolent institution to a mental institution that small portion of the pension ceases to be paid to him.
I asked the Minister whether he could see fit, in accordance with the changing public attitude to this problem, to give the same treatment to the pensioner inmates of mental institutions as is given to the inmates of benevolent institutions and public hospitals. He replied, in his usual fashion, that he would not do this because no government, Labour or Liberal, has ever done it in the past. That is his theme song when any improvement in social services legislation is suggested by members on this side of the House and I must protest against the attitude of the Government in this respect. I do not care if the Chifley Government and the Curtin Government did not do it. That is no reason why the proposal should not be adopted to-day. We should not live in the past. After all, this Parliament is here because the people of Australia do not want to live in the past. If we do not change our conception of things, why meet? We meet because we wish to change existing legislation or to put forward legislation that no past Parliament has implemented.
It is high time that Ministers and members on the opposite side of the House ceased to say, in respect of Opposition suggestions, that the Chifley Government or the Curtin Government did not do it and therefore that we should not have the impertinence to suggest it now. Times and circumstances change. The heresy of yesterday is the accepted idea of to-day. This statement can be fully applied to the attitude of the community to the unfortunate victim of mental illness. In recent years we have all become more enlightened concerning these unfortunate people. Associations have been formed in the States to help them. Mental hospitals have auxiliaries. The various State governments have increased the number of full-time doctors at mental hospitals and have placed them on mental hygiene boards to improve the lot of mental patients. But the Commonwealth Government has not kept pace with improvements that have been made by State governments in the circumstances of these unfortunate people.
A pensioner in a mental institution does not receive one penny of spending money. Pensioners in ordinary hospitals do receive spending money. Consequently, as soon as a pensioner enters a mental institution the great Commonwealth Government is absolved from any financial responsibility, despite the fact that the care of the aged is a statutory responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. This discrimination is obviously unjust. I ask honorable members opposite to keep in mind the fact that it cannot be justified on the ground that the Curtin and Chifley Governments did nothing about it. Ideas and men change in the Labour Party, as in the Liberal Party. This discrimination can have a very distressing effect on people whose self-respect should be strengthened, not shattered, by the attitude of the Government.
What is the position? Pensioners in this plight in mental institutions must depend on the charity of others to buy their tobacco, sweets, or minor toilet requirements. Surely the Government should recognize that it has some obligation to these people. As soon as they go into a mental institution the Commonwealth Government is absolved from paying them any pension. In other words, the Government makes a profit of £4 15s. a week as soon as an age pensioner enters a mental institution. What is the position at the week-end? Their relations offer to take them home but that does not mean that they get a proportion of the pension. The relations have to pay the cost of transport to and from the mental institution.
Possibly the wife or husband of the inmate of the mental institution is also a pensioner, and out of a meagre pension of £4 15s. the expenses of the week-end at home must be found as well as the cost of travelling to and from the institution. The reason for this anomaly is found in the tangle of Commonwealth and State relations and in the unenlightened attitude adopted years ago towards mentally ill people. The Minister’s attitude in respect of the mentally ill is that this matter is one for the States and that the Commonwealh already provides financial assistance to the various mental hospitals. When examined the weakness of the Minister’s argument becomes glaringly apparent. The Commonwealth does not apply this principle to the receipt of social service benefits by patients in hospitals and other State institutions.
The Commonwealth makes grants to the States only for capital expenditure on mental institutions and not towards their maintenance. After all, if the Commonwealth were to make grants for mental patients and apportion part of the grants to the patients as petty cash to buy the little luxuries that they need, paying the remainder of the pensions to the States, the cost would not exceed £2,000,000 a year. If the Government is not prepared to pay the remainder of the pensions to the States, surely it could take the modest step of paying the old person in a mental hospital the same amount as he would receive if he were an inmate of a benevolent home. There are people in benevolent homes to-day who receive this small amount from the Government who, because of their increasing old age, are becoming mentally deficient. As their condition deteriorates they are transferred to a mental institution. As soon as that happens they cease to receive the small amount that they received while in the benevolent institution. The effect of that deprivation is harmful to their mental condition.
The Government should remove from the mentally ill any feeling of inferiority. The Government is exercising a lingering prejudice against mental illness and is guilty of a discrimination that is exceedingly unjust and out of keeping with modern times. Scientific and medical advances have greatly changed our whole approach to mental illness. However, the Government is exercising a continuing and unreasonable bias against individual patients who are eligible for a pension. Until the legacy of past misguided thinking is eradicated from the statute-book the victims of mental illness who are of pensionable age will continue to harbour a feeling of inferiority. I appeal to the Government to review its present policy and to extend this benefit to this most unfortunate section of the community. The Government should completely disregard precedents and policies that were established in the past by governments of all political colours. We frequently assure ourselves in this Parliament, and outside, that we are members of a progressive community. We point to the great improvements we have made in social welfare and we delight in recounting the improvements that we have made over the years in every field of human endeavour, but our conception of what constitutes just treatment of our mental pensioners is completely outmoded and is a disgrace to all members of this Parliament. I hope to see the anomaly corrected in the next Budget. I trust that the Government will recognize that the injustice of the past should be discontinued. If it decides to give these unfortunate people some semblance of justice it can be assured of wholehearted support from this side of the House.
.- Mr. Speaker, in the Parliament this morning a subject of public interest, and of specific interest to me, was raised in the form of a question asked by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The honorable member’s question related to the outcome of an important international conference held at Geneva, to which Australia sent delegates, to deal with the broad subject of radio communications. The conference continued for three or four months. At the end of that time it produced a document setting out conclusions and recommendations, to which the leaders of the delegations appended their signatures.
The honorable member for Mackellar asked that that document be placed on the Library table for the perusal of honorable members who have displayed considerable interest in the subjects covered by it, but the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) did not reply to that part of the honorable gentleman’s question. I am concerned to know whether the PostmasterGeneral has a copy of this document - I should be surprised if he does not have a copy - or whether he is unwilling to make it available.
I appreciate the fact that in his reply the Postmaster-General may have misunderstood the purport of the honorable member’s question. In view of the importance of this matter, I ask the Minister to place the document on the Library table before Parliament rises for the winter recess. I regret that the Postmaster-General is not in the chamber at the moment, and I trust that one of his ministerial colleagues will convey my observations on this matter to him.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a matter pertaining to the future employment of 91 men employed at the explosives factory at Mulwala. First I should like to read the notice that has been issued to those 91 men concerning their future employment in the industry. The notice is on official paper headed - “ Commonwealth Department of Supply Explosives Factory - Mulwala “, and is dated 29th April, 1960. It reads -
In view of the Government’s decision to terminate commercial production associated with the operation of the Ammonia Resinol Synthesis Plant at this factory, a reduction of employees is unavoidable.
The employees who are to be retrenched will be determined in accordance with the prescribed order of discharge of employees.
One week’s notice of termination will be given to those affected according to work requirements.
It is with regret that you are advised that your tenure of employment is limited and that on, or subsequent to, Friday, 27th May, 1960, action will be taken to issue you with the formal one week’s notice of termination.
Every assistance will be given to employees who are being retrenched in obtaining alternative employment. There may be opportunities for some employees who are being retrenched to be given employment at the Munitions Filling Factory, St. Mary’s, New South Wales, or at the Explosives Factory, Albion, Victoria.
I should like honorable members to bear in mind where the alternative employment is to be found - at St. Mary’s in New South Wales and at Albion in Victoria. The notice continues -
The District Employment Officer of the Commonwealth Employment Service will visit this factory again next week in order to interview all those desiring assistance in obtaining alternative employment.
Those applicants who are selected as suitable for employment at the Munitions Filling Factory, St. Mary’s, or at the Explosives Factory, Albion, will be assisted with travelling expenses and if married with removal expenses to St. Mary’s or Melbourne, provided they are employees of the department at the time of removal from the Mulwala district of household furniture and effects takes place.
I sympathize with these people. The two river towns - Mulwala and Yarrawonga - have very limited populations and rumours are strong in the district that the proposal to reduce the number of employees at the explosives factory from 300 to 200 is only a start. The people of the district believe that additional retrenchments will be made and that eventually some 200 employees will be displaced. I sympathize with these people because what is happening to them may be compared with what would happen to workers elsewhere if the Broken Hill Proprietory Company Limited closed its works in Newcastle or Australian Iron and Steel Limited closed its works at Port Kembla. This is one of the very few factories that have been established in the Riverina. And that is associated with that industry. This is something that has been in existence for a considerable time and these people are greatly concerned that this factory, with 300 employees and a wages bill of a minimum of £2,000 a week, will be slowly but surely lost. I wish to make certain references to this notice in view of the fact that this Government and the Department of Supply are closing the factory down. In the first paragraph the notice says -
In view of the Government’s decision to terminate commercial production associated with the operation of the Ammonia Resinol Synthesis Plant at this factory, a reduction of employees is unavoidable.
One of the questions being asked in that district is what part Imperial Chemical Industries played in this matter, because at present that organization leases a portion of the factory and its employees are included in the total of 300. Every one is asking from what source ammonia resinol will be drawn in future. Is it to be imported from overseas at a cheaper rate than that at which it can be produced in this factory, or from some other I.C.I, factory which will result in the displacement of employees in this isolated area where no alternative employment is available? If it was a case of closing down an industry in one of the larger cities, such as Melbourne or Sydney, the employees concerned could be absorbed in other industries; but this is a case of people in a country area having no alternative means of employment if they are thrown on the labour market. The Country Party is most affected in this matter, and I am sorry that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) is not in the House at the moment to deal with this question, because his electorate is one of those concerned, Yarrawonga being situated in it. And the honorable member representing the other electorate concerned is absent at the moment.
This concerns the policy of decentralization which the Country Party professes to advocate. What is the Acting Prime Minister doing to maintain an industry in a country district in his own electorate and maintain the employment of people in an industry other than normal rural pursuits? I ask Country Party members: Where is your policy of decentralization which you claim to advocate when you, like members of the Liberal Party, merely talk about it? This development is in conformity with the overall policy of the Government under which oil companies are setting up lubricating oil factories in city areas, with the help of subsidies, when the Government should insist that before a subsidy is given to an industry it shall be established in a country district which has the necessary facilities. There are hundreds of places in the Commonwealth which could provide facilities for the establishment of new industries if the Government would make that a condition of the grant of a subsidy or protection.
I am completely disappointed in the Acting Prime Minister for permitting the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) to close this factory and throw 91 people out of employment. This letter says -
It is with regret that you are advised that your tenure of employment is limited and that on, or subsequent to, Friday, 27th May, 1960, action will be taken to issue you with the formal one week’s notice of termination.
That is in conformity with the Country Party’s policy of decentralization of industry - to close an industry and do nothing about it because the employees concerned might be labour voters who would vote against the Government. The final part of the letter says -
Those applicants who are selected as suitable for employment at the Munitions Filling Factory, St. Mary’s, or at the Explosives Factory, Albion, will be assisted with travelling expenses, and, if married, with removal expenses.
That is most generous. But who is going to buy the homes of these people in Yarrawonga if they are moved elsewhere? The position will be similar to that which was brought about some time ago when the layoff in the coal industry was particularly heavy before the Labour Government gave assistance through the provision of public works. At that time one leading footballer in the Cessnock team was offered a coaching job with a country team, but when he found what it would cost him to buy a home in the new area after selling his own home, he realized he would be playing football that season for less than he would receive if he stopped at home - that was after buying a home of a standard comparable to that in which he was living. That is the position these people would be in - if not in an even worse position - because there are no local associated industries the employees in which would be interested in buying their homes. I appeal to the Minister for Supply, and the Acting Prime Minister, who is vitally affected, because most of these people reside in his electorate, to do something to keep this industry going. I believe that even if industries in country districts are not 100 per cent. successful financially, in the interests of decentralization some subsidy should be given to them in order to keep them in operation.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to bring before the House some very interesting facts concerning the election which took place last week for the executive officers of the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council. This council consists of 22 union delegates representing about 4,000 members. It exists under charter from the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and can only make recommendations. But it has a moral leadership in the area and acts as a co-ordinating body for the unions there. A total of about 104 delegates are entitled to attend its meetings, although we find that the average attendance is only about 50. The executive consists of a president, two vice-presidents, a secretary, an assistant secretary, a treasurer and six other committee members.
Each year, for some time now, the Communists have tried to gain control of this council, by various methods of attack, and in the last two years they have done so by running a straight-out unity ticket. This year they have adopted a new method which might be best described as the three-card trick. How successful they were is shown by figures which quite clearly indicate that Australian Labour Party members and Communists combined in a unity ticket technique to elect the executive officers of the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council on 26th April last. The figures given by the returning officer are as follows: President, Mr. H. Hodgkins, A.L.P., 48; Mr. D. Campbell, retiring president, 44; vice-president, Mr. H. Gardener, Communist, 48; Mr. P. Akers A.L.P., 47; - there is a discrepancy there which I have not time to explain - Mr. D. Devlin, 44; Mr. B. Kelly, 44; secretary, C. Wragg, A.L.P., 48; Mr, J. Orr, 44; assistant secretary, Mr. R. Shaw, A.L.P., 48; Mr. J. Hughes, 44; treasurer. Mr. F. Johnson, 48 and Mr. D. Buckley, 44. Despite the claim of Mr. J. V. Stout that he could find no evidence that a unity ticket had been issued, it is notable that somehow or other Mr H. Gardener, a well-known member of the Communist Party in the area, received the full bloc A.L.P.-Communist vote of 48. Many members of the House will recall the words of Mr. Richard Dixon, the general president of the Communist Party in 1948 when he stated -
The key to all Communists plans - particularly in the event of war - is to control the trade unions and the Labour Council at Yallourn. From there we can turn out every light. We would have real power and we would use it.
That was said by Mr. Richard Dixon, and that key source of power is now in the possession of the Communists. To those of us who are watching events down there the pattern that is developing in this recent dispute is only too apparent. To try to prevent it, Mr. J. Orr, the secretary of the Trades and Labour Council, wrote to the leader of the A.L.P. in the person of the Leader of the Opposition, asking him to take action to end this A.L.P.-Communist collaboration in time to prevent the power supplies of Victoria from falling into red hands. I emphasize that 75 per cent, of Victoria’s power supplies is centred in the Yallourn-Morwell area. The Leader of the Opposition did not even answer the letter.
Since February last, there has been a round-the-clock activity by the Communist Party and the Melbourne left-wing union officials, directed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. They have had a full-time organizer down there - a man bv the name of Little - together with builders labourers’ organizers Gallagher and McEwan - both Communists - and Sam Armstrong, &e Latrobe Valley district secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, who himself says that he is a Communist and is proud of it. They have coordinated their activities in a flat-out drive to bring about the position that their federal boss, R. Dixon, laid down as “ the key to all party plans “ - that is the control of the unions and the Labour Council at Yallourn. Their efforts, of course, would have been completely futile without the complete support of the left-wing unions and their officials.
On 17th March, the Melbourne Trades Hall officials, led by Stout and Brebner, who are both federal executive members of the A.L.P., visited Yallourn to investigate the conduct of the local trades and labour council. This was all part of the planned attack for this year’s elections. They held a secret meeting - a meeting of Communists and A.L.P. members - in a room at the R.S.L. club at Yallourn, the purpose being to reach agreement on this new technique. It is interesting to note that the A.L.P. members who attended this meeting would, according to the rules of the party, automatically have expelled themselves, but it is much more interesting to know that three of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council officials who came to investigate the trades and labour council on that day - Mr. McNolty, the president of the A.L.P.; Mr. Lyttleton, the president of the Trades Hall Council; and another man named Brown, about whom I do not know much, except that his initials are not J. J. - arrived in the company of Tom Wright, who, as well as being the federal president of the Sheet Metal Workers Union and its New South Wales secretary, is probably the top Communist in Australia’s trade union affairs and the principal leader of the Communist faction at trade union conferences such as the congress of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. When asked why Wright accompanied them on1 this trip, they replied that he had just come for the ride.
Let us look at this three-way ticket. Every one knows that the heat is on unity tickets. They had to get over this very quickly, so they printed a ticket which had the numbers only against the Australian Labour Party candidates, and they also printed a ticket which had no numbers on it. When it came to the night of the voting, they filled in this latter ticket in pencil and handed it out. That is why the election worked out as it did. Those who were given these pencilled tickets voted for the 48 candidates in the correct order right throughout the piece.
Now let us consider how the Communist Party will control the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour Council in accordance with Dixon’s plan. The vice-president, H. Gardner, is a Communist. The president, H. Hodgkin, the secretary, G. Wragg, and the assistant secretary, R. Shaw, whilst they are members of trie A.L.P., are all representatives of the Amalgamated Engineering Unions. Sam Armstrong, the Communist district secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, calls the tune. These three members are directed to act in accordance with their union’s instructions. In fact, I understand that Hodgkin and Shaw have already admitted that they voted for Gardner the Communist on A.E.U. executive direction. Control will be exercised in this way: The Central Committee of the Communist Party, directing Armstrong, is able to transmit through him the Communist Party’s policy and directives to the local branch of the A.E.U., which then binds these three trades and labour council executives - if it is necessary to bind them, which we do not believe. So we have the position that four of the top six executive jobs in this important trades and labour council are now under Communist domination. The Communists will redouble their efforts to develop “ on the job “ shop committee structures to carry out trades and labour council decisions, and so the Communist Party control will be complete.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. -Buchanan) has, in effect, read from a letter written by the defeated Democratic Labour Party candidate for the secretaryship of the Central Gippsland Trades and Labour council. It was sent to us all. He should have left us to read the letter ourselves, instead of wasting the time of the Parliament to-night.
I wish to talk about the aboriginal inmates, if one can call them that, of the Government mission stations at Point
Macleay and Point Pearce. For a long time now we have been trying to get from the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) a clear statement as to the arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government in relation to the payment of age and invalid pensions to aborigines living in mission stations and on Government reserves. Each time the question is raised the Minister begins his reply by stating the fact that for 52 years no government did anything about the .aborigines. That is perfectly true, and it is not to the credit of any of the governments concerned that they did nothing in this important matter.
Now that something is being done, I hoped that it would be done in a way that would give to the aborigines - for whose benefit, one would imagine, the action has been taken - the maximum benefit. One would have thought that in this day and age, when we talk so much about Sharpeville, about atrocities in South Africa and about the apartheid policy there, that we would be giving an example to the world by showing that we are not .prepared to have a colour bar against our own native people. But that, unfortunately, is precisely what the Minister for Social Services is doing in connexion with a.ge and invalid pension payments.
The Minister sought to extricate himself from His predicament by saying that there are physical difficulties in paying pensions direct to aboriginal pensioners. One would imagine that we were talking about tribalized natives running around with boomerangs and spears on the Nullarbor Plain and the Musgrave Ranges, and not about the aborigines who are living on Government reserves and in mission stations throughout Australia. The two stations in South Australia that I am speaking about - those at Point Macleay and Point Pearce - are within 100 miles of Adelaide. The people who live there are in many cases half-castes. They are civilized, educated and able to read and write. They pay taxes - or they did pay taxes while they were fit enough or young enough to work.
There is absolutely no excuse for this Government in failing to treat those people in the same “way as white pensioners are treated. Instead, the pension cheque is paid direct to the South Australian Government which deducts from the £4 15s., to which the pensioner is entitled by law, the sum of £4, and the pensioner is given the balance of 15s. I am glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who is at the table and who is a senior Cabinet Minister, is listening to what I am saying with obvious interest, because I should like to see him trounce this Minister for Social Services at the next appropriate meeting of the Cabinet and also report what I have said to his fellow senior Ministers. I am certain that the Government does not know what is going on in regard to the payment of social service benefits to aborigines.
As I have said, the South Australian Government deducts £4. Of this amount, it farms out to the person concerned an unspecified sum for clothing and unspecified amounts for meat, bread and groceries. The balance - again, an unspecified amount - is kept in trust, it is said, to be used by the pensioner when he requires it. This matter was raised in the South Australian Parliament. The member for Norwood, Mr. Don Dunstan, asked Mr. Pearson, who i° the Minister in charge of the matter, whether the money held in trust was the property of the pensioner, and Mr. Dunstan replied that, legally, it probably was the property of the pensioner, but that in any event the Government intended to carry on with the practice. All that I am asking the Commonwealth Government to do - and as I say, T am glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service, a senior Minister, is here to-night and is listening to my remarks - is simply to request that the money which it is making available for this purpose be paid direct to the aborigines concerned, as social service benefits are paid to white pensioners in Australia
The only other matter I want to mention is one that was referred to by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in reply to a question asked in the House yesterday. The right honorable gentleman suggested that the trade unions ought to begin hire-purchase arrangements of their own. I am glad that he made that statement. He probably was not aware that in South Australia two years ago 22 trade unions established a trade union co-operative hire-purchase company, which was registered, and which com- menced operations immediately after registration. In to-day’s Adelaide “ Advertiser “ appears the report of Mr. Noller, the secretary of the hire-purchase co-operative, who was at one time the South Australian manager of the hire-purchase department of the Commonwealth Bank. The report states that the hire-purchase co-operative being run by the trade union movement in Adelaide, for the year just ended, showed a 5 per cent, profit on capital, that it was able to reduce hire-purchase charges from 5 per cent, to 4 per cent, and that, in addition, people who borrowed money from the co-operative and were able to repay it within one year were entitled to have the whole of their interest refunded to them. lt may be asked: How can the cooperative do that? The answer is that, under all hire-purchase arrangements, hire purchase companies, in addition to receiving interest, also receive a discount allowance for cash purchases. On some items, such as electrical equipment, they receive as much as 20 per cent, discount. The cooperative hire purchase company being run by the trade union movement says, “ The 20 per cent, discount which we receive for paying cash will be saved to meet any interest commitments that you have to pay us, provided that you give us our money back within a year”. The point I am coming to, and1 which I should like to be carefully considered, is that in my view the Government ought to make money available, through the Commonwealth Bank, to cooperative hire-purchase companies of this kind, which are approved by the bank as being properly conducted in every way and which makes hire-purchase finance available to the community at low rates of interest. The four per cent, charged by the trade union co-operative hire-purchase company is less than half the ordinary rate. If it is good enough to direct the Commonwealth Bank to make millions of pounds available to Ansett-A.N.A. in order to allow it to buy additional aircraft, surely to goodness approved co-operative hire-purchase companies ought to receive the same facility.
.- I rise in support of my colleague, the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan). The honorable member stated that recently there was an instance of a rigged unity ticket at Yallourn, as we know only too well. We have seen what has happened in countries in which Communist-inspired revolutions have taken place. The Communists have never had the numbers. They have not the numbers to-day, but nevertheless they hold key positions. If the ballot to which the honorable member for McMillan has referred was not the subject of a unity ticket, why was it necessary to have two tickets printed, one with numbers to show the lily-white side, and the other without numbers, made out in pencil? That was the ticket that was handed1 out by the Australian Labour Party. It is the A.L.P. “ how-to-vote “ card.
Last year, when the well-known Australian Communist, Mr. Lance Sharkey, returned from overseas he made certain public statements. He said “ From now on, nation-wide strikes are out. They are unpopular. We will press on with the holding of sporadic strikes, hit and run rolling strikes, and go-slow tactics “. A few months later, we saw those very things happening in Victoria. Shortly after Sharkey returned to this country from the Peking conference we saw J. J. Brown once more voted to office in his union and ordering a regulation strike campaign, starting with the railways union in Victoria. The campaign spread from there to the wharfs. We have seen how the Communists have been assisted in their efforts by holding key positions in unions. We know that transport is essential to the Australian economy. One-third of the cost of the clothes that the Australian people wear and of the food they eat is attributable to transport costs. Therefore, goslow tactics which interfere with transport add to costs generally and harm our economy. The Communists are achieving what they set out to achieve. By means of go-slow tactics and regulation strikes, they have attempted to gain greater influence in transport unions, but fortunately without success in road transport unions. We know of the profound statements made by Mr. Sharkey when he returned from overseas. He said that it was also the future policy of the Australian Communist Party to destroy our present arbitration system. Have we not heard that echoing across this chamber in the last few weeks, Mr. Speaker, from the Opposition. Destroy our present arbitration system and get the power back into the hands of the rank and file! That is what Mr. Sharkey said.
I firmly believe, Mr. Speaker, that the mass of the Australian people are good, right-thinking people who will not follow this Communist line once they realize that it is a Communist line. 1 should like now to quote a remark that was made recently by the Reverend Hedley Button, a Congregational minister. After having spent four years in mainland China, he said -
In our desire to be fair and objective about communism and to live in peace with our neighbours in the world we must not be blind to the unchanging determination of Communist leaders to hoodwink us, to divide us and so to conquer. The answer to all this is not anti-communism, but that does not mean being unreal about communism itself. We need to recognize that it is basically opposed to freedom, morality, the life of the spirit and all that Christianity stands for, but that does not mean being unreal about communists and others who sincerely believe it is the only way to bring social and economic justice to the world. We need to realize that Asia and the world is nearer to being taken over by this ideology than ever before and that we must find the answer in time.
We on this side of the House say that it is important that we do find the answer in time. We have been hearing for years from some of the rank and file of the Opposition, “ We are waiting to get rid of Evatt. When Calwell takes over, he will root out the Communists.” So I ask the Leader of the Opposition: What is he doing about rooting out the Communists? This man who is always making profound statements about rooting out the Communists and about being a great Australian - what is he doing about these un-Australian activities?
.- I do not propose to keep the House for very long, but I wish to take this early opportunity to correct a statement which I made in the House about a week ago and which I now find to be substantially inaccurate. The error which I made on that occasion, however, was not attributable to me. I was foolish enough to base the remarks I made in this House regarding Security Units Proprietary Limited, of Sydney, on a letter written to me by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). Of course, I should have had more sense. I plead guilty to having been misled by this letter from the Minister.
The Minister said in his letter to me, dated 22nd April last, that it was quite in order for a person who found he had a certain amount of money which prevented him from receiving either a part-pension or the full rate of pension to arrange to take out an annuity. The Minister went on to state that of course each case must be dealt with on its merits. He said that if a person directly or indirectly deprived himself of property, he automatically lost his eligibility for a pension. But what the Minister failed to tell me was that the statement which he made regarding the activities of Security Units Proprietary Limited was based on what the company now advises me is a very old document that was issued by that firm. The Minister said that this firm, Security Units Proprietary Limited, for the payment of a sum of £2,000 at the age of 65 years, would pay an annuity of £2 10s. a week, and that this same annuity could be secured from a private insurance company for an investment of about £1,400. The Minister went on to say that two cases had been brought to notice where the benefit of the doubt had been given to the applicant - that is, the benefit of the doubt that the applicants in these cases had directly or indirectly deprived themselves of property. He said, however, that the department had had to take into account the £600 - the difference between the £2,000 and the £1,400 that I have mentioned - in assessing the rate of pension to which these people were entitled.
When the report of my speech appeared in the daily press the manager of this organization, Security Units Proprietary Limited, made contact with me and admitted quite frankly that he did not blame me for the statement that I had made in the Parliament, but placed the full responsibility on the Minister, because he said the Minister was in a position to know exactly what activities the company was engaged in. In order to put the matter right, I propose to read extracts from the letter written to me by the manager of the organization. The letter stated -
Firstly the intending Annuitant does not buy an Annuity from this company, but from a Grantor of his or her own choosing and to whom, upon the Annuitant’s death, the capital sum of the Annuity passes.
The Minister in his letter deliberately, in my opinion, made it appear that what this company was doing was to take £2,000 from a person for a benefit which that person could obtain from an insurance company for £1,400, and that when the annuitant died the capital was taken by the company itself. Now we find that that is not the case, because the letter goes on to say -
To protect this capital during the Annuitant’s lifetime and ensure the Annuity being paid a Trustee is appointed, also of the Annuitant’s choice.
This company enters the scheme only as the investing medium and in this capacity has an unblemished fourteen years of Unit Trust management.
The normal service charge as applies to any Unit Trust investment is made on the Annuity capital sum but no additional charge whatsoever is made for the preparation or execution of the several copies of the Deed of Annuity needed for each case.
Secondly, the Circular upon which the Honorable Minister-
That is, the Minister for Social Services - based his reply to you is an out-of-date piece of literature that has been replaced for some considerable time and also by a book setting out the plan in complete detail of which three copies were requested by and supplied to the Department of Social Services in Sydney.
With regard to the variation claimed by the Honorable Minister between the amount of capital required to buy an Annuity under our plan as against purchase from a Life office, this did occur in two early cases. However, our attention was drawn to this fact by the Department of Social Services - Sydney, since which time Annuity income has been based on Life company tables.
A considerable number of Annuities have been written on this basis, all of which have been submitted to the Department by intending pensioners and all of which have been acceptable to the Department.
So the Minister must have known that all these arrangements had, in effect, been brought to the notice of the department and had met with the approval of his officers. The letter continues -
A further safeguard for the pensioner in this regard is that all Deeds when presented to the Stamp Office must show (at the request of the Commissioner) the birthdate of the Annuitant. The reason for this is that should the capital sum be in excess of that required to buy a similar Annuity from a Life office then the difference would be regarded by the Commissioner as a gift and thus be subject to gift tax. In no case has this occurred.
To summarise, (i) With Security Units’ plan an Annuity is bought not from this company, but from a grantor selected by the Annuitant, and to whom the capital passes on the Annuitant’s death, (ii) The cost of an Annuity on this basis is comparable with assurance company rates, (iii) The Hon. Minister in replying to your letter relied upon out-of-date literature, rather than seek up-to-date and reliable information either from his Deputy Director in Sydney or from this office which would at any time welcome the closest departmental scrutiny.
Some time ago when the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was, in his own State, advising people how to go about securing annuities while obtaining the maximum-rate pension, by making an arrangement with a son, daughter, or some other member of the family, or a friend, the Minister realized that this would make it possible for many people who up to that time had been denied a pension, to obtain a pension. What did he do? He would not accept these arrangements because, he said, this was only an arrangement of convenience without the actual payment of any sum of money at all by the applicant for the pension. He decided that the only annuities that would be recognized for pension purposes would be those that were arranged through private insurance companies. As a result, private insurance companies had this business channelled into their hands.
Under this organization’s scheme, the annuitant nominates a member of his family, this firm acts merely as trustee, and the moneys received by it are invested, with the proceeds going to the annuitant during his lifetime. When he died the capital asset goes to the nominated member of his family to whom he would normally have been expected to will it. The Minister objects to arrangements of this type because he knows that this is a much better scheme than that which is provided by private insurance companies. In my opinion, he definitely misrepresented the activities of this company. If I played any part in this matter, it was only because I was misinformed by the Minister. I regret it and I hope that by speaking to-night I put the position right.
.- I shall not detain the House for very long at this hour of the night, but I do feel that the charges that have been made in relation to Labour and Communist candidates being joined in unity tickets are too serious for Labour members to laugh the matter off. Two members of the parliamentary executive of the Australian Labour Party have had an opportunity to reply and to refute the statements made by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) and the honor able member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin). But in an airy-fairy manner they went on their way discussing some other subject without a word to say in reply to these charges. It is also of interest that during this debate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) walked out of the House. I am glad to see the Deputy Leader, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) here.
We have not as yet heard from the Labour Party its view on unity tickets in the recent trade union ballot in Victoria. I am waiting, and I have no doubt that the people of Australia are waiting, to hear Labour’s policy on unity tickets.
– Read the policy.
– We have heard a lot of talk about what Labour is going to do. Instructions have been issued from time to time. The Leader of the Opposition said that he would get on to the Victorian executive, but this is an executive without a rank and file. The Leader of the Opposition is going to endeavour to unseat these people. He makes great play of his sincerity in this matter. The people of Australia are beginning to doubt the sincerity of the Australian Labour Party. They are beginning to wonder whether it really means what it says about unity tickets. Repeatedly last year we heard the former Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, in this House denouncing unity tickets, but what action has ever been taken in relation to them? The Leader of the Opposition may point to the clock. I know that it is late, but he does not like to hear this. I challenge him to reply and state just where he stands on this question of unity tickets, because T believe that there is so much insincerity about the Australian Labour Party’s actions in regard to unity tickets that it should be disclosed. The honorable member for Werriwa, who has been fence-sitting in relation to this matter for some time, should declare himself and say where he stands. Do the Leader and the Deputy Leader support the stand taken in another place yesterday during a debate on this matter when a prominent senator from Western Australia said he would sooner support the Communists than the Democratic Labour Party candidates.
– He did not say that.
– Where do they stand on this matter? I want to know whether the
Leader or the Deputy Leader support the senator who made that statement in the Senate yesterday.
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in referring to a debate in another place.
– I am sorry. I should have said “ in another place “. Let me quote from the record of the debate that occurred in another place when this matter was being discussed yesterday. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate airily-
– I meant to say “in another place “.
– Order! The honorable member is disobeying the Chair.
– I am sorry. It was just a slip of the tongue made in my enthusiasm. In the other place-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. It is contrary to Standing Orders to make any reference to a debate that occurred in another place. On three occasions I warned the honorable member, but he persisted in disobeying the Chair. I call the honorable member for St. George.
– I raise a point of order. An honorable member of the Opposition interjected that this statement had not been made by a member of another place. That interjection having been made, I think it is pertinent and right to put in evidence the “ Hansard “ record of that place wherein Senator Cant is shown to have said just that.
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar also knows that he does wrong in referring to a debate in another place.
– But Senator Cant did say that.
– Order! The honorable member was warned that he should not refer to a debate in another place.
– My explanation is that I understood I was being told that I must refer to the Senate as “ another place “. I did not understand that I could not refer to the debate. I apologize if I have transgressed.
– Very well. The honorable member may proceed.
– I can understand the touchiness and lack of enthusiasm of the Opposition when listening to these home truths. If the Leader of the Opposition is sincere, I ask him to assure this House that instead of talking of the issuing of instructions and directives to these Communist-controlled unions and members of the executive of the Australian Labour Party in Victoria, he will take some positive action against the transgressors of the stated A.L.P. policy, which the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) was so kind as to invite me to read. If the policy provides that there shall not be any unity tickets, the policy has not been implemented. Surely it is the duty of the Opposition, as the alternative government of this country, to implement its policy. Are Opposition members afraid of Communist support? Are they afraid to make some effort to rid us of this white-anting of and scrounging on the great trade union movement of Australia for political gain? The people of Australia want to know where we stand on this matter and they want to know where the Opposition stands. I again ask the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to let us know exactly what they intend to do to implement the policy of the Australian Labour Party - the party which is falling into disrepute and disgrace because of its co-operation with the Communists in their efforts to paralyse the Australian work force.
I know that allegations have been made from time to time about unity tickets, but here we have conclusive proof that a unity ticket was used at this election in Victoria - the State from which the Leader of the Opposition comes and in which he anticipates standing for election to the executive. Surely the leader of the alternative government of Australia should tell the loyal and industrious workers of this country that he will not have unity tickets with the Communists and will take positive action to stamp them out! We want to know what the Labour Party intends to do about it. We do not want mere verbal garbage from Labour spokesmen because it means nothing to the Communists. They are ruthless. They know that their supporters in the Labour Party, who are growing in strength, can disregard the instructions that come from the executive. Every member of the
Parliamentary Labour Party stands condemned for not taking the positive action that is necessary to rid ourselves of this damnation which is endeavouring to paralize this country.
The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) referred to the statement that was made by Dixon in 1948. The honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) referred to the statement that was made by Mr. Sharkey. Yet honorable members opposite tolerate these people, standing side by side with them on unity tickets which are not only bringing the Labour Party into disrepute, but also are enabling the Communists to white-ant the great trade union movement in this country. This will bring chaos, not only to the Australian Labour Party, because it is sowing the seeds of its own destruction, but also to industry.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.No doubt it will be conceded that the subject on which I wish to say a few words is of far greater importance than something which was said in another place and which has received so much prominence in the last few minutes. I wish to refer to the ham radio operators, v/ho have been mentioned earlier. This morning the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) in reply to a question, indicated that in the near future he would make a statement on the subject of frequency allocations to Australian amateur radio operators, but he gave not the slightest indication of his own thoughts on this matter. His brief answer to the question merely intimated that Cabinet would discuss the matter and he would then make a statement to the House.
We are left to presume that when Cabinet opens its meeting there will be at least several items on the agenda, probably directly affecting a far greater number of people than the 3,000 amateur radio operators in Australia. These people represent an average of about 24 to each federal electorate so, as a pressure group they are of small consequence to a government such as this with its enormous majority.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is the honorable gentleman in order in speaking from a place other than his own?
– The honorable member is in order.
– 1 believe that Cabinet will give this matter a most cursory examination and will rely upon reports from the Postmaster-General’s own officers. And we know how they spoke and voted at the International Telecommunications Conference which was held in Geneva last year. I am not, and do not profess to be, possessed of much technical knowledge upon this subject of wireless telegraphy, but we do not require technical knowledge to remember the value of the ham radio operators in times of great national emergency. Much has been written and much has been said about how these people have come to the rescue of Australia in times of war, flood and fire. They have accomplished over and over again near miracles in communications when all other forms of communication have broken down.
The Postmaster-General is as aware of these things as any other honorable member. Why does he not make up his own mind and tell this House and the amateur radio operators now that they can cease worrying, because the wonderful services which they have rendered have not been forgotten? Why does he not tell them that he stands four-square on their side and that he will not let them down? These people have a fair and reasonable case. Their space upon the air has been cut severely previously, and all they ask now is that they be left with the little that they have.
In Geneva the Government’s representatives did their utmost to take away the rights of the amateurs. They were the only English-speaking country representatives to act in this way, and it arouses wonder as to why they did so because Australia, with its sparse population and its wide spaces, should have more room and a greater need for the services of the amateur radio operators. We can only hope that common sense will triumph over officialdom and that the rights of amateurs will be protected.
There is no doubt that we on this side of the House stand now, as always, for the rights of the weak against the strong. We do not know who is waiting to take over the radio bands which are now being used by the amateurs, but there is certainly something peculiar afoot. I appeal to the
Minister to bear in mind that Australia may again need the services of these amateur radio operators. Let him preserve them, not destroy them.
.- I rise to give some comfort, if I can, to the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) and .the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin). I wish to speak about their potential unemployment. I notice that they have been stung into some sort of odd parliamentary activity because of the unemployment which is facing them as a result of the recent by-election in La Trobe. The honorable members to whom I have referred are among those who will be removed from this place, so I should have expected them to have had some sympathy with the people who were mentioned by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones).
We have another example of the ideological fantasy which the Government has raised in its political philosophy - the disposal of public assets on the ground that this is part of its policy. There is no other reason for it. Public assets such as the whaling station and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited have gone. Then there was the threat to the Bell Bay aluminium plant. Another quite small concern has now come under notice. I refer to the Mulwala factory on the Murray River, which is associated very closely with the welfare and the livelihood of the people of the towns of Mulwala and Yarrawonga. No one one word has been said from members on the Government side about the threatened removal of the livelihood of the people in this area, despite the appeal which has been made by the Premier of Victoria. Mr. Bolte sent a telegram to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) asking that the men employed in the factory at Mulwala be given an additional two months’ notice of dismissal. I do not suppose it cost him very much to send the telegram, but it was completely ineffective. This is an example of the general policy of this Government which disregards completely the rights of individuals and proceeds upon ideological grounds to dispose of public assets. Its actions are insupportable and indefensible. It acted along similar lines with the Com monwealth aircraft factory in Melbourne. lt has a completely indefensible approach to the effect of its actions on the employment of the ordinary working man. As the honorable member for Newcastle pointed out, what are the people to do with their homes? What are they to do about their future livelihood? It is all right for the Government to offer them transport to Albion in Melbourne or to St. Mary’s in Sydney, but what about the disruption of community and family life?
The thing that really concerns me is that the members of the Liberal Party who represent the electorates in which the people are affected, one in New South Wales and one in Victoria, are unconcerned. Even the Acting Prime Minister is unconcerned. As far as I can ascertain, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), whose duty it is to ensure that the Commonwealth Employment Service applies itself full-time to the task of finding jobs for people, has done nothing about it. All the experience of the past has shown that, where a person’s job or his future employment is concerned, the Government is completely heartless. I appeal to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Employment Service at least to direct his department’s activities to the question of full employment for everybody and the placement of people who have been displaced as a result of government action.
Several points arise as a result of this decision. Production at the factory will cease, although as far as we can tell the factory is commercially profitable and certainly productive of a material which is needed by the community generally. Another point at issue is the matter of decentralization which was raised by my friend from Newcastle. Where this factory is located on the river Murray, water, power and transport are available. That seems to be the ideal set-up. We have not unlimited resources of this nature in the community, and as part of our national development policy we should use the resources we have. The resources in the Mulwala and Yarrawonga area are important to our national development.
But this is only part of the pattern which has been going on for the last ten years. Only twelve months ago the factory at Echuca was saved by public outcry from being disposed of to overseas interests.
Members on this side of the House continually find that they have to defend national assets. The questions that have been raised by the three members on the Government side this evening are completely irrelevant to anything that really matters. Those honorable members do not know what they are talking about. Although the honorable member for Ballaarat and the honorable member for McMillan are personally and vitally concerned as representatives of their constituents in the protection of provincial industries in Australia, they said not one word about this matter. Appeals have been made to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and to the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, but not one word has been received in reply. This matter has had to be raised by my friend from Newcastle, a city far removed from the location of this factory and, in the second instance, by myself as a representative of the workers in a distant industrial constituency.
The Liberal Party is completely ignoring its national responsibilities. We have heard to-night several statements from Government supporters about our views. I think it would be a good idea if the Liberal Party in Australia and its members in this House turned their attention to what their own party is doing. This evening the Liberal Party came under stringent criticism from this side of the House in relation to the Premier of South Australia. Of course, nobody could answer effectively for him. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has handed me an extract from a letter which was written by the vice-president of the South Arncliffe branch of the Liberal Party to the “ Daily Telegraph “ on 14th October, 1959. It reads as follows: -
The New South Wales Liberal Party Convention is a meeting place for a lot of old people, women predominantly, the display window for present and aspiring politicians, the haunt of those who love to play politics and the mecca of pressure groups.
The Liberal Party needs a shot in the arm of a drug known as honesty, mixed with national service.
The Liberal Party has abandoned the national service training scheme which it created. Yet members of that party stand up in this House and talk about honesty and national service. It is the party which is involved in floggings and hangings, in the gerrymandering of electorates and the sale of the people’s assets. How members of the Liberal Party can come in here and: face up to these national questions and talk continually as they do with tongue in cheek, is beyond me. I thought that most honorable members on the Government side of the House were fairly decent people.
– Break that down!
– As my friend from Scullin has been associated with this Parliament for six years longer than I have, he has a more extensive knowledge of members on the Government side, and I am prepared to bow to his superior judgment. But my attitude has been a tolerant one. I am inclined to think that the honorable member for Ballaarat does not know what he is talking about. I can only tell my friend from McMillan that he can take comfort from the fact that the people in the La Trobe area, especially the trade unionists down there, will be interested to hear of his concern for their welfare. They will also have some concern for his future.
I have a special appeal to make to the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is at the table, to bend all his efforts to see that the Commonwealth Employment Service tries to counter the unemployment that is occurring in the community. This has been caused by the Commonwealth Government disposing of Commonwealth industries. Secondly, I make a personal plea on behalf of the honorable members for Ballaarat, McMillan and Philip because they will certainly need the help of the Commonwealth Employment Service as from December of next year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.16 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The following information is furnished in reply to the honorable member’s questions: -
As stated by the United Kingdom Minister for Defence in the House of Commons on 13th April, the United Kingdom authorities have concluded that they should not continue to develop as u military weapon a missile which can be launched only from a fixed site. Woomera is a testing and proving range for guided weapons and not an operational site; thus, the question of its vulnerability does not influence its location, the selection of which was made because of its unique geographical position.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The existence of the Range at Woomera does not depend on the development of Blue Streak as a ballistic missile or as a satellite launcher. As T advised in reply to a question in the House on 27th April, Blue Streak is not the only project under development at Woomera. While it is true that the Blue Streak project is of a major character, there are under way many other important guided weapons research and development projects.
z asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. It should be made clear that the practical prosecution of this research has been and remains in the hands of the Queensland Department of Public Lands. The Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organization contributed financially to the exploratory work in Mexico and to the testing work in Hawaii, but Queensland officers carried out the actual investigations. The Commonwealth Scientic and Industrial Research Organization has been concerned in the scientific discussions that have taken place on the mailer from time to time and shared with the Queensland Department the important responsibility for any recommendations that plant-eating insects be introduced or liberated for the control of this weed. As a result of this work, it has been recommended that two insect species be liberated in Australia and the Queensland Department of Public Lands has implemented this decision. Some 50,000 specimens of one of the insects (Catabena esula) were liberated in a number of locations in southern Queensland between late 1957 and early 1959. Liberation of this species has now ceased and no further breeding stock are held. This species has not yet been recovered from the field. However, in Hawaii where it is now established, it was not recovered for some eighteen months after liberation. Liberations of considerable numbers of the second of the two insects (Syngamia haemorrhoidalis) commenced about sixteen months ago and are still continuing. Liberation points have ranged from Mossman, north Queensland, to the New South Wales border. This insect is already well established in the Innisfail district, near Rockhampton, and in a few small pockets in southern Queensland.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 May 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600505_reps_23_hor27/>.