23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As honorable members may be aware, the Standing Orders of the House are at present under review by the Standing Orders Committee. At its meeting last week, the matter of questions without notice was discussed and it was agreed that, as there appeared to be considerable misunderstanding of the scope of questions without notice and the answers thereto, I should, with the full support of the committee, explain the major rules to the House.
Before doing so, T invite the attention of the House to the rules which are contained in Standing Orders Nos. 142 to 151 and which are set out on the back of the notice of question form. Other relevant references are given in pages 353-363 of the 16th edition of May.
Questions to a Minister can relate only to public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the House, or to a matter of administration for which he is responsible. Questions to a member who is not a Minister can only relate to a bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business of the House of which that member has charge.
The purpose of a question is to obtain information or to press for action, and it should not be in effect a short speech, or limited to giving information, or framed so as to suggest its own answer or convey a particular point of view. Questions of excessive length are not permitted. The facts on which a question is based may be stated briefly provided the member asking the question makes himself responsible for their accuracy. Subject to this condition, a member may direct attention to a statement but may not ask whether the statement is true and may not quote extracts. Statements not strictly necessary to render a question intelligible should not be included.
Questions may not contain arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets, ironical expressions or hypothetical matter, and may not ask - and I particularly stress this - for an expression of opinion, for legal opinion, or a statement of government policy. This last, however, does not prevent a member from seeking an explanation regarding the intentions of the Government or asking whether a Minister’s statement represents Government policy.
Lengthy questions seeking detailed answers or which call for the quotation of figures should be placed on the noticepaper. Questions of this type can obviously not be answered without notice.
A Minister cannot be required to answer a question and, within reasonable limits, is entitled to answer a question in such a way as he thinks fit. However, an answer should be relevant to the question and should not develop into a statement. If it is necessary for a long answer to be given, the proper procedure is for the Minister to indicate that at the end of question time he will seek leave to make a statement.
There has, I regret, been an increasing tendency to ask questions without notice which are contrary to the rules and, in particular, questions which are unnecessarily long and detailed. This is also true of answers. I would therefore ask for the co-operation of members in framing their questions in such a way that they are acceptable, and for the co-operation of Ministers in answering questions in as concise a form as is practicable. Honorable members will appreciate that to the degree that questions and answers are short, the greater will be the number .of questions which may be asked each day.
– In the spirit of the new interpretation of the Standing Orders, I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice, which I preface by stating that I have just been advised that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Nash, intends to attend the current meeting of the United Nations Organization in New York. Has the Prime Minister decided whether he will attend those sittings? At a later stage in the session - not too late - will he make a statement or table a paper advising honorable members of the position obtaining in the United Nations on the questions that are at present under consideration?
– The answer to the first part of the question is, “ No “. I am admirably represented at the United Nations. To the second part, the answer is, “ Yes “. I think it a useful idea.
– I ask the Minister for Trade: What has been the result of the investigation by the advisory authority on the Japanese Trade Agreement in regard to the effect of that agreement on the Australian woven labels industry?
– The report of the advisory authority is now in my possession and is under examination. I can assure the honorable member that a decision will be made in the very near future.
– 1 ask the PostmasterGeneral: When will he announce the names of the successful applicants for television licences covering the country districts of New South Wales? Is he aware of a feeling of resentment at the delay in providing television services to people who live in country areas? Will he see to it that the rights of people on the tablelands and slopes to satisfactory programmes will be safeguarded?
– I have already informed the House that I have received from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board a report on the investigations recently carried out by that board in connexion with television licences in country areas. That report has been under study by me and my officers for the last two or three weeks, and I expect that it will be considered by the Cabinet within the next week or fortnight. As the report has not yet been considered by the Cabinet, it will be obvious that I am not in a position to give any information to the honorable member along the lines of that sought in his question, but I assure him that there will be no undue delay and that the interests to which he refers will be given due consideration.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. As there are probably many people who do not realize the full extent of Russia’s hypocrisy in regard to her recent actions in the Congo, who do not know how blatantly Russia has worked to thwart the United Nations in its efforts to restore order, and who are not aware that Russia’s obvious intent is to create a base for communism in Africa-
-Order! I think the honorable member is stretching it a little.
– Would the Prime Minister consider having a statement made that would give wider publicity to Russia’s actions?
– Yes, I will be very glad to do that.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether, with the application of the new merged means test, those people who do not now receive a full pension because of the amount of property that they own will be required to submit a fresh application for a pension, or will their cases be dealt with automatically by the department? If the latter be the case, will they be notified of the position when the bill comes into effect?
– I have pleasure in informing the honorable member that a pension assessment is constantly under review once a person has qualified for a pension or a part-pension. From time to time these payments are measured against the changing circumstances of the recipient. If and when there is cause for an adjustment, that adjustment is made. This practice will continue during the period prior to the introduction of the new merged means test and it is not necessary for a person in receipt of a part pension to make a new application.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the recent attack which was made by the Leader of the Opposition on our
United Nations representative, the AttorneyGeneral? ls he aware also that such an attack undermines the prestige of our representative at this crucial meeting which vitally concerns the future not only of Australia, but also of the Western world?
– Order! The honorable member should ask his question. He is adding a little argument to it at present.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the action of the Leader of the Opposition illustrates the inherent danger to Australia of Labour leadership?
– This question asks for an opinion.
– Order! To-day we shall be a little tolerant; to-morrow all honorable members will be required to comply with Standing Orders.
-lt is not a matter of opinion but a well-known fact that each week-end the Leader of the Opposition permits himself a few playful remarks, I gather, over the air. No one takes them seriously, least of all the Leader of the Opposition. The tenor of any rude remarks that he makes about the AttorneyGeneral can be judged by people in this House who know that the AttorneyGeneral, so far from being ineffectual, is a very distinguished Minister, a great asset to this Parliament and, I am happy to say. a great asset to Australia at the United Nations. I can only imagine the amount of synthetic passion which might have emerged from the Leader of the Opposition had I gone to the United Nations Assembly myself.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the stated comprehensive report of the government-appointed committee to inquire into the problems of the dairying industry, will the Minister give an undertaking to make the report available to Parliament and the public before the close of this sessional period?
– This report is now under consideration. As soon as the Government makes up its mind on the matter, T shall reply further to the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry say whether Cabinet has yet made a decision on the request of the Australian Wool-growers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation that the Government institute an inquiry into the wool-selling system?
– As I have already indicated to the House, the two main organizations associated with the wool industry, which for a long period had not been able to agree on an approach to this matter, did agree to request the Government to appoint an independent committee of inquiry. I immediately acted on that request and put the matter to Cabinet and Cabinet, in turn; appointed a sub-committee of Cabinet which will investigate the proposals that have been made by the organizations and study their implications, and will then report back to Cabinet.
– My question is directed to the right honorable the Minister for External Affairs. 1 ask the right honorable gentleman whether there are proposals to list the three usual questions concerning South Africa - its incorporation of Southwest Africa, its treatment of people of Indian and Pakistani origin and its policy on apartheid - on the agenda at the present sessions of the United Nations General Assembly and its committees. Has the Government decided, as in the past, to vote with the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Portugal against these items being put on the agenda, or does it now propose to aline itself with the United States, Canada, New Zealand, India and the remaining members of Seato, and indeed most of the countries of the world, in debating and deploring these policies, or will it boldly abstain?
– T have no official word yet as to whether any one of these matters is to be set down as a matter of resolution or debate. If and when any one of them is so set down the Government will determine what attitude it will take in relation to it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. Can he inform me what instructions, if any, have been given to the trading banks by either the Treasury or the Reserve Bank concerning restrictions of credit so as to halt inflation? If any instructions have been given, will credit restrictions be used selectively so that they will not bear heavily on those least able to bear them, particularly certain sections of primary producers?
– I am sure the honorable member would wish me to get a precise answer on those matters, if possible in the terms of any instruction. I will endeavour to do so.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider visiting my electorate to inspect the post office at Footscray and the conditions existing therein? I make this request because of the concern that is expressed by the Footscray City Council about that out-moded post office. The council requests that a new post office be provided to replace the old building that is almost a century old. If a new building cannot be proceeded with, can the Postmaster-General inform me when the alterations which he promised would be made to this post office will be made?
– I am sorry that I cannot give the honorable member for Gellibrand a firm promise that I will shortly visit his electorate to look at the Footscray post office. The honorable member, I am sure, will realize that one receives lots of requests like this and that it is not physically possible to accede to all of them. However, I assure him that if at some time in the future the possibility does arise I shall bear his request in mind. In the meantime, I assure the honorable member that the need to meet development in his area is fully realized by the department. 1 shall ask my officers to give me the latest information about the Footscray post office so that I may pass it on to the honorable member. To the best of my knowledge this work is not included in the present year’s plans for the building of new post offices. I shall find out what the position is in respect of the proposed alterations.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer. Has his attention been directed to the deposit rates which are being offered by Lombard (Australia) Limited? Is it not a fact that the private trading banks of Australia are being squeezed by the proper control policy of the Reserve Bank of Australia on the one hand and by the uncontrolled activities of financial corporations on the other hand? Has the Commonwealth constitutional power to rectify this position, which is increasing the dangerous inflationary tendency in Australia?
– Mr. Speaker, the problem referred to by the honorable member was also referred to, you may recall, in the recent report by the governor of the central bank, because the problem is a very real one. It involves not only questions of policy, but also questions of power. That problem in its various aspects - one of which has been touched on by the honorable member - is under active discussion and consideration at the present time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that medical benefits funds make benefits available for optical services in cases where the patient is referred to an ophthalmologist by a general medical practitioner, but that the same benefits are not available when the patient is referred by an optometrist? Will the Minister concede that optometrists, by virtue of their specialized training at diploma or graduate status, are likely to be at least as competent to refer patients as are general practitioners? Will he consider removing this discrimination, which affects not only the optometrists, but also the 70 per cent, of people needing optical treatment who consult optometrists rather than general practitioners of medicine?
– The practice of benefit organizations varies in this regard. Some make benefits payable only in the case of spectacles prescribed by medicai practitioners, some make them available when spectacles are provided by optometrists. In neither case is any Commonwealth benefit payable, and the circumstances in which fund benefits are payable are a matter for determination by the funds themselves.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House whether servicemen are still being charged1 by the Darwin canteens the old rates for beer bottled in Darwin, making the beer as dear as beer bottled in Melbourne which, in the opinion of connoisseurs, is not of any superior quality?
– As I understand the position in Darwin - and I am speaking from memory - there are two breweries there which both brew beer that is sold in Darwin. Western Australian beer is sold in the canteens at 4s. a bottle and Victorian beer at 4s. 3d. a bottle, so there is that little difference in the price. However, whether one beer is superior to another, I would not know. I commend the honorable member for his championship of Western Australian beer, of which he is always a great advocate, but I warn him against letting sentiment interfere with his judgment.
– I direct to the Prime Minister, as Acting Treasurer, the following questions: Are the published figures correct which show that our overseas funds are now at £376,000,000 after a fall of £65,000,000 in the last twelve weeks? Does this mean that our overseas funds will certainly decrease by the end of the financial year by another £200,000,000, and will then be half of what they were in March, 1952, when the right honorable gentleman declared that Australia faced international insolvency? Does it also mean that even if we borrow from the International Monetary Fund or elsewhere abroad our overseas funds will still be dangerously low at 30th June, 1961?
– Order! I think the honorable member is giving information now instead of asking a question.
– Does it also mean that a few months later Australia will face international insolvency?
– The honorable member will be delighted to know that we are not facing insolvency. There has been a substantial fall in our overseas funds in the last three months. That was entirely to be expected. These are normally the months when the drain on our funds is greatest as they are the months when our income from exports is comparatively low. I do not accept the proposition that our overseas funds will diminish by £200,000,000. They will diminish by a substantial amount by the end of the financial year. That was in contemplation when we made our announcements of policy in relation to import licensing. The fact that our funds diminish is not a determining matter. The questions then will be, first, are they still adequate? Secondly, is there a tendency for them to fall still further so that corrective action becomes necessary? The honorable member, who is interested in these matters, will have in mind, of course, not only what the balances are but the fact that in the last twelve months we have considerably increased, as a second line of defence for our overseas funds, our drawing rights on the International Monetary Fund. This is a very important second line of defence. I deprecate any suggestions of panic or insolvency. On the contrary, 1 believe that our position, internationally, is extremely sound.
– I ask the Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer whether the savings bank deposits of the Australian workers have now passed £1,500,000,000. If this is true, does it constitute an all-time record?
– Savings bank deposits in Australia, as the honorable member points out, are at a record level. They have increased remarkably in the last year and, indeed, in recent years. This is a matter of satisfaction, not only to the depositor - because this does represent a great body of saving - but also to the Government because it affects government finance, particularly through loan raisings. This is because the savings banks have been and are substantial contributors to public loans, and that means that they are substantial contributors to the development of the nation through great public enterprises.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Mr. Frank Green, a former Clerk of the House of Representatives, of whose ability, service and integrity the Prime Minister spoke in the most glowing terms upon his retirement, advised the Prime Minister, prior to the gaoling of Messrs. Browne and Fitzpatrick for a breach of parliamentary privilege, that no such offence had been committed by the accused. If so, will the Prime Minister state why he rejected that advice and permitted the Parliament to sit in judgment in this matter without giving its members the benefit of the advice which had been tendered to him by this most experienced and knowledgable officer? Finally, when does the Prime Minister intend to fulfil his promise, made at that time, to provide an opportunity for the Parliament to consider and define parliamentary privilege?
– I am not able to say whether the former Clerk of the House advised me. I know that he did tender some advice to the Committee of Privileges of this House. With knowledge of that advice, the Committee of Privileges made its recommendation to this House. I was, as Prime Minister, charged with the responsibility of submitting to this House resolutions arising from the report. They received the overwhelming support of this Parliament. Why the honorable member, wilh his passion for exhuming things, wants to exhume this one, except in the interests of his new friend, I do not know.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral advise me what progress has been made in the laying of a coaxial cable between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne and when it is expected that the additional speech and other channels that the cable will provide will be available, particularly in relation to improved services in the Hume electorate?
– I am glad to be able to advise the honorable member for Hume and the House that very good progress indeed is being made with the laying of the six-tube coaxial cable, which is designed to provide ultimately a very much improved trunk service between Sydney and Melbourne through Canberra. The plan provides for two sections of this work. The first will link Sydney and Canberra with a coaxial cable. The cable being used on that section is supplied by the firm of Felten and Guilleaume, which was the successful tenderer for the supply of about one-third of the total length of cable required. The remainder of the cable, to be used between Canberra and Melbourne, is being manufactured by an Australian firm, Olympic Cables Proprietary Limited. That firm has already produced about 60 miles of cable.
I understand that the work of excavating the trench and laying the cable between Sydney and C:;;:j3r:u is well on the way to completion, and that the excavation has been carried out to a point quite close to Canberra. The repeater stations, which are provided every six miles for the purpose of building up the volume of the signal, have been completed between Sydney and Albury. In short, the project is well up to schedule, and it is expected that the service will be available between Sydney and Canberra before the planned date in June of next year. I should also remind the House that the work of trenching and laying the cable is being carried out by Post Office workmen at a much lower cost than would have been the case if a contract for it had been let.
The honorable member also asked what effect this project would have on his own electorate. I would have expected him to ask that question, because he has been pursuing the subject with me for some time. The completion of the Sydney-Canberra section will mean that subscribers in the honorable member’s electorate will have available to them indirectly a considerable improvement, in that very many more channels will be available between Sydney and Canberra, and consequently the load on existing channels will be lightened. As a result the service available to subscribers in the honorable member’s electorate and in other districts will be considerably improved. When the second section, between Canberra and Melbourne, is completed, the service in the honorable member’s electorate and in others along the route will be directly improved. It is expected that the complete service between
Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne will be available some time early in 1962.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the opinion of the professor of constitutional law at the Australian National University that several parts of the amending Crimes Bill are dangerous or objectionable, and that the bill should be referred to a parliamentary select committee? Will the right honorable gentleman tell the House the attitude of the Government on this matter? Is its mind completely closed to the possibility of amendments, or does the Prime Minister think that members of the Opposition and persons outside this House may have opinions which should be taken into account?
– I am not aware of any views expressed by the professor of law to whom the honorable member referred. I remind the House that when the AttorneyGeneral moved the second reading of this bill he indicated that it would remain on the stocks, so to speak, for some weeks, for the very purpose of enabling people to examine it and to comment upon it. I thought he made it perfectly clear that if amendments were suggested they would certainly be considered by the Government on their merits.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the postal regulation which prohibits the printing of advertising matter on the covers of telephone directories. Now that only departmental advertising appears on the cover of the directory, has the regulation which I mentioned lost its real value? Will the Minister consider lifting the embargo on advertising so that the essential but rather uninspiring directories at present issued may be brightened up with a variety of colorful and typically Australian covers, which would also have considerable publicity value?
– I point out. to the honorable member for Swan that on past occasions the departmental practice has been to permit advertisements to appear on the front pages of telephone directories. In recent years, that practice has been departed from, particularly since the introduction of the extended local service area scheme. The front pages of directories, in the capital cities at any rate, have been used to indicate the scope of the Elsa scheme and the areas which have been brought into the local call system. I think that is a very good idea, but it does not mean that we will continue this practice indefinitely. Our policy from time to time will be determined by particular demands. If at any time it is found desirable to revert to the previous practice, we will have no hesitation in doing so. For the present, however, I think the present use of the front pages of directories is best.
– Mr. Speaker, before you call on another honorable member for his question, may I add a sentence to an answer that I gave to an earlier question relating to the Browne-Fitzpatrick privilege case? I said my recollection was that the vote accepting the report of the Privileges Committee was carried by a large majority. I now find that it was carried without a division.
– It was not carried without dissent.
– Everybody except the honorable member for East Sydney will remember that it was carried on the voices, no division being called for.
– I was outside.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– What remark?
– That offensive remark.
– I did not say anything offensive.
– The honorable member will withdraw it.
– I am completely unaware of the way in which I have offended, but I will withdraw it. I said I was outside.
– All he said was that he was outside.
– I thought he said, “ That is a lie “. I will just ask the honorable member to restrain himself, though that will be unusual.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I suggest when you are admonishing the House, you might ask others to restrain themselves as well.
– Order! The honorable member will not reflect on the Chair.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he has seen reports expressing the concern of residents in the Northern Territory at the high incidence of leprosy there? Will the Minister comment on these reports, stating what his department is doing about the control and eradication of the disease? Will he give an undertaking that special efforts will be made to stamp out this disease, which responds to treatment if detected in its early stages? Will he also comment on criticism as to the suitability of the site and facilities of the present leprosarium at Darwin, particularly in respect of the segregation from the rest of the community of patients undergoing treatment?
– The position in regard to leprosy in the Northern Territory is, I think, very well understood by the medical personnel in charge of medical services there. I have visited the leprosarium myself on quite a number of occasions, and I am satisfied that it is well sited and well controlled. Leprosy is not a highly infectious disease, but as a result of constant vigilance several cases have been discovered lately. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that every possible effort is being made not only to treat those cases that are discovered, but also to prevent the spread of the disease. The inhabitants of the Territory have absolutely no cause for alarm.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether he has given further consideration to the plight of those unfortunate telephone subscribers, particularly primary producers, who, as a result of their proximity to capital cities, have had their rentals increased from the lowest to the highest rate in one fell swoop - in some instances by 300 per cent. - following the introduction of the extended local service area system?
– Under the Elsa scheme, about 3 per cent, of the total telephone subscribers in Australia had their rentals increased by about 100 per cent. - in some cases more, and in some cases less. I believe the honorable member for Barker is referring to some of his own constituents concerning whom he has made submissions to me. If I remember correctly, within the last week or so I gave him a reply pointing out just what the position is in his area and how the system operates. If that is correct, I have nothing to add to the information I have already given him.
It must be realized, of course, Mr. Speaker, that the Postal Department does not raise rates simply for the fun of doing so. It is regretted if, in the general improvement of the services we offer to the public, some people are penalized slightly; but I point out that this plan is conferring a very great advantage on the majority of telephone subscribers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. Will the Minister consider consulting with his colleague, the Minister for Territories, with a view to arranging for a visit to the National Capital and the seat of government by a party of representative members of the native community of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea so that those representatives of a primitive people might explain to the people of Canberra what steps must necessarily be taken to persuade this Government to grant a form of selfgovernment within a Commonwealth Territory?
– If I were to do what the honorable member has suggested - and I would gladly undertake to do it - the position might arise where the natives of Papua and New Guinea would go back and seek to abandon any form of self-government in return for the many benefits that the people of Canberra enjoy.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. Has the Department of Trade taken any action to bring to the notice of Australian manufacturers and exporters the greatly increased opportunities offered for trade with France because of the wide relaxation last year of that country’s import licensing restrictions? If so, what was the response?
– The Department of Trade is active in directing the attention of Australian exporters or potential exporters to the opportunities for trade with France. The department has been very active over the last couple of years in seeking to inform French business houses and commercial interests of their opportunities to export to Australia and to buy more goods from Australia. The cold truth of the matter is that until fairly recently France has had a balance of payments problem, which has resulted in restriction of credits with which to purchase from overseas. As a result there have been very few purchases, I believe, from Australia other than of wool, sheepskins and the metal ore products which are bought not only to produce profit and employment in France, but also because they are the basis of re-export from France. Since the revaluation of the French franc and the adoption of new policies in France, new opportunities have been opened up. Our trade commissioner service in Paris has been particularly vigorous. We are now publishing a special magazine in France in the French language named “ Australie “. It contains a great deal of information that is likely to bring about increased purchases of Australian products by France, and I am sure it is tending to have that result already.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that Professor Gluckman, a British subject, was recently refused for undisclosed reasons a vis6 to visit the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, will the right honorable gentleman say whether or not a Russian scientist, Professor A. A. Federov, was granted a vis6 to enter the Trust Territory of New Guinea at Goroka on 15th September? If such a vise1 was granted, how does the right honorable gentleman explain the favorable discriminatory treatment accorded the Russian professor?
– The Russian professor was granted a vise1 as part of a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization exercise, and Unesco, as honorable members know, is one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations. It would be extremely difficult for a member nation of the United Nations to exclude any member of any section of a United Nations agency from its territories. For example, suppose we had sitting on the Trusteeship Council a member of a Communist country - as we have, of course - and it was proposed by the Trusteeship Council to send him and others to have a look at a trust territory. 1 think it would be extremely difficult for Australia in those circumstances to say “ No “, because we are an active, subscribing member of the United Nations. We have a trust territory. That means that such a case is entirely distinct from the case of a private citizen who wishes to go there for affairs that have no relation to the official obligations of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Will the honorable gentleman tell the House the purpose of the industrial delegation headed by Mr. Bland which is shortly to go, or is already on its way, to New Guinea? Can we take this to indicate that the Government is willing to invite the Department of Labour and National Service to assist it with its industrial problems?
– -The party which is going to the Territory consists of two representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, two representatives of the employers and the secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service. The proposal to send this party originated with an advisory committee of the Department of Labour and National Service. The purpose is to enable representatives of industrial organizations in Australia and representatives of employers’ organizations to inform themselves about conditions in the Territory so that if any matters affecting the Territory should come before their respective organizations, they will be in a position to consider them against the background of some knowledge. The part taken by the Department of Territories has been to welcome and facilitate that visit. It certainly does not represent any extension of the activities of the Department of Labour and National Service into the Territory. The Department of Labour and National Service is part of the Commonwealth Public Service and confines its activities to the mainland of Australia. Industrial matters in the Territory are dealt with by the Territory Administration.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade by saying that I had a few hours to spare in Sydney recently and noticed there, as I did in Melbourne, that there were no woollen ties on display in any shop windows. A similar comment applies also to a lesser extent to the display of woollen clothing both in Melbourne and Sydney. An increasing number of imported suits and Australian-made suits of synthetic material are on display. I ask the Minister: Is this situation due to an inadequate tariff on synthetics or is it due to the removal of import licensing?
– I am sure the situation that the honorable member has mentioned - and I do not dispute it - is not due to any inadequacy of the tariff on synthetics I am equally sure that it is not due to the removal of import licensing which, by the way, has not been removed in respect of a big range of textile products, particularly of the kind to which the honorable member has referred. The honorable member and I do not see eye to eye on many things, but we agree on one point, and that is that the great Australian rural industries are best left in control of their own affairs to the maximum extent possible. The Government has left to the wool industry fuller control of its product than it has allowed in the case of any other industry. This seems to me to be a matter that one might bring to the attention of the Australian Wool Bureau.
Debate resumed from 21st September (vide page 1 175). on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In addressing itself to this bill, the Opposition once again directs the attention of the Government and the Parliament to some rather grave anomalies which have persisted through the years to the disadvantage of those servicemen who served in the Navy during the war, and who, in my opinion, are the victims of bad draftsmanship on the one hand and of the stubbornness of the two Ministers concerned on the other.
This is a perennial subject. It has been brought up on no fewer than half a dozen occasions to my memory. On each occasion we have pointed out that the Repatriation Act contains manifest advantages over the provision made for sailors, or mariners, as the act calls them in the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. We have never been able to understand why the two acts, which ran parallel for a certain course, suddenly deviated to the disadvantage of the sailor or mariner. From time to time, we have asked that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) get together and arrive at some uniform standard for the two types of servicemen. Surely, in this day and age, or at any time, no Australian would differentiate between the services of a mariner, or sailor on a warship and those of a serviceman in New Guinea, for instance. Each in his own way, and to the limits of his capacity, contributed equally to the war effort. Under this hotchpotch measure - it is part of an old English act, part of a social security measure and part of the Repatriation Act - grave anomalies are created for the mariner. In the past, we have merely directed attention to these anomalies and let it go at that; but because, according to the Government, this is an age of prosperity, an age when we have never had it better, we feel that it is time something was done for those sailors who have become the victims of these anomalies not only in their daily lives, but also in their commercial avocations. I make these references in passing to indicate how public conscience has been aroused on behalf of the war-time sailor.
When this bill was before the Senate, the Opposition in the Senate moved an amendment which we intend to press here. A copy of the proposed amendment is now in the hands of the Clerk of the House, and we shall later test the House on the issue. 1 notice that when one honorable senator on the Labour side of the Senate raised this same question with the Minister for Repatriation there, the Minister just brushed it aside. He said that although there might be some inequalities despite the equality of service, sacrifice, courage and performance of duty, nothing could be done under this measure because, when dealing with a measure such as this, we were dealing with a measure quite different from the Repatriation Act. We know that, and we are protesting against it and urging that something be done. The Minister for Repatriation said that he had had a conference with the Minister for Social Services, who agreed that nothing could be done. With all due respect to them, is not that typical of both Ministers? Here we are confronted by a solid bureaucratic front of repatriation plus the pawky Scotch approach to money when it comes to social services, especially when we suggest some increase. But we are not asking for an increase; we are asking for the correction of an anomaly that has been pointed out by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), who will deal with it later. For a short period, we intend to direct attention to-day to these serious and grievous anomalies. These bills are usually pushed through by default, as it were, with a few conciliatory remarks, and we think it is time to test the House on the anomalies to which 1 shall now refer.
The first anomaly is that which exists in connexion with the widow of a sailor. Under the Repatriation Act, the widow of a serviceman enjoys an allowance. If she remarries, the allowance ceases, but if she is again widowed her allowance is restored. Not so with the seaman’s widow. Why is that so? Why this differentiation? Can any ex-serviceman, or any honorable member on the Government side who is interested in this problem, tell me? The mere statement by the Minister that the two acts are not the same is no justification for the differentiation. Let us make the same provision for both widows. It could be done quickly by the adoption of a simple amendment which I shall move shortly. These anomalies have been in existence for a long time now. They have become what might be termed a standard grievance in this House, and they could be corrected quickly by the adoption of the simple amendment which I shall move shortly. I repeat that the widow of a soldier who remarries and is widowed for the second time may have her allowance restored whereas the widow of a sailor may not. Where is the justice in that? Where is the difference between the two widows, and why this differentiation in their treatment? Echo answers, “ Why? “ The reason is bureaucratic draftsmanship. The Minister says that the seaman’s widow cannot have this privilege because this is «t different measure from the Repatriation Act. How utterly stupid! No Minister should rely on such an excuse. Parliament is outmoded enough; it is certainly fusty in its processes, as we are all aware, but surely we should be able, by a quick decision, to do what is no more than common justice in this case.
Our second point is also a good one. lt relates to the pension for aged parents of seamen. Normally, the dependent parent of a solder who is killed in action is paid a pension. In addition, by a beneficient regulation, of which I have been reminded by the honorable member for Newcastle, to whom I am indebted for that reminder, when the dependent parent reaches the age of 65 in the case of the father or 60 in the case of the mother, he or she becomes entitled to the age pension whereas the dependent parent of a deceased sailor enjoys no such privilege. The provision relating to the dependent parent of a deceased serviceman is a sensible, charitable law, for which I congratulate those who promulgated that regulation under the Repatriation Act. But here again we have the same anomalous position, the same disgraceful passing over of the aged dependent parent of the sailor. Because the son was killed in action on a warship or elsewhere while serving in the Navy, the parent is deprived of an allowance which goes automatically to the dependent parent of a serviceman. We say again that the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Repatriation should get their collective heads together - it would be a sight indeed - and, with their departmental officers and draftsmen, reduce the anomaly to a basis of equity and justice. How can the Government allow these anomalies to continue when it has been made aware of them? I admit that it takes a long time to wake any government up, but, to my knowledge, these anomalies have existed for at least ten years now and during the whole of that period the Opposition has referred to them. The Australian Labour Party says that it wants a showdown because these things have been allowed to go on for too long. They have now become a deep grievance with sailors, and the Government has done nothing about them. They have the bad effect - a kind of side-swipe against their service - of making them feel that they are not as acceptable to the national conscience as are those who served in the land forces. This, of course, is nonsense.
The other point which can be dealt with by regulation concerns the eligibility of those men who served in warships offshore during the time when our strategic reserves were operating in Malaya. This matter has been discussed previously. Both the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) and the Minister for Social Services, who represents him in this House, are aware of it. I do not make a great case of it now; I allow it to rest quietly with honorable members in the hope that they will view it from the stand-point of equity, decency and doing the right thing. This has been left too long.
I commend to the Government the situation which I mentioned before of the widow of a serviceman in the land forces who receives an allowance from the Army. If she remarries and is again widowed her allowance is continued. But this is not so in the case of the widow of a sailor. We ask the Government to correct this anomaly. Then there is the case of the aged parent or parents or dependants of a serviceman who served in the land forces. Irrespective of whether they were actually dependent upon the deceased soldier, they receive a pension. This position does not apply to the dependants of a sailor. This anomaly should not be allowed to continue, and it will not continue if we in this place act as we should.
I ask the Government to debate this matter. Although the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) who is now at the table does not represent the Minister for Repatriation in this House, he may be aware of the existing position. We want the Government to reply to our representations so that we can face the returned servicemen’s organizations which have raised this matter from time to time. I am sure that both sides of the House can approach this problem in a non-controversial way. So that we may dispose of this matter, I urge the Government to consider the anomalous position which now exists because it reacts adversely to the rights of the men who served in the Navy and the ancillary services. This is the opportunity for us to clean up what is a silly little mess. Let us do it forthwith. Without further ado I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for an appropriate allowance (a) to a remarried widow of an Australian mariner whose death has been accepted for purposes of section 12 of the act who is again widowed, and (b) to the parent or parents of such an Australian mariner”.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden).
Order! Is there a seconder?
– It is seconded by the honorable member for Lalor by signature.
.- I support the amendment which has been proposed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who indicated a number of anomalies which have crept into the act. The proposed amendment is an attempt on our part to rectify those anomalies. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who is at the table, to accept our proposal in the manner in which it has been advanced.
A case was directed to my attention recently of the widow of an Australian mariner who after remarrying had become a widow again. She knew that women in similar circumstances to herself received a small pension from the Repatriation Department, so she asked me why she could not obtain this pension. She could not see any difference between her own case and that of the widow of a soldier. This lady’s husband had lost his life when “ Iron Knight “ was sunk off the Australian coast. Quite frankly, the matter takes a bit of explaining. I made inquiries of the Repatriation Department through the necessary channels. None of the officers to whom I spoke was aware of the anomalous position that exists. I obtained a form for the lady to complete, she completed it and I had all the facts and figures ready to assist her in her application. I even questioned the officers as to why the form they had given me did not make provision for the widow of a merchant seaman. They told me that where the form required information as to the rank of the deceased soldier the widow was to indicate that here husband had been a seaman, give the name of the ship on which he served and everything would be all right. After the form had been completed and sent to the department some one realized that it could not be processed in the normal way, and this woman was informed that she was not eligible to receive the small pension of £2 8s. a fortnight. I then took up the matter with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper). I have received his reply to-day after some considerable delay.
In his second-reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport stated -
Pensions payable under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act have always been maintained at the same level as the corresponding class of pension payable under the Repatriation Act.
Regulation 176 lays down the conditions under which widows of servicemen who remarry and are again widowed are eligible to receive the additional pension of £2 8s. a fortnight. I shall not read the regulation to the House. I am sure that every honorable member is aware of its provisions because it has been mentioned in another place and also by the honorable member for Parkes. The position is that provided a woman who becomes eligible for a widow’s pension complies with the provisions of the act and of regulation 176 - that she is the widow of a serviceman, has remarried and once again becomes widowed - she is eligible for the additional allowance of £2 8s. a fortnight. The Minister said that the object of this bill was to bring the act into line with the Repatriation Act. I do not think that many people would be involved if the amendment were accepted.
When the existing anomalous position was brought to my notice I went to officers of the various maritime unions to find out how the widows in question fared. None of the officers to whom I spoke was aware that the widows of sailors were not eligible for the allowance. The Government has advanced the explanation - or the excuse - for this anomaly that this act is a collection of the provisions of a number of acts including the Social Services Act, the Repatriation Act and an act of the United Kingdom Parliament. It would be no great task to straighten out these small anomalies and bring justice and peace of mind to those people who are affected. It is not too much to ask that the Government extend the £2 8s. allowance to any woman who has been twice widowed in the circumstances to which I have referred, provided that she is eligible for the ordinary widow’s pension.
I support the amendment and ask the Government to accept it.
.- I think it is important to remember the class of person to whom this piece of legislation applies. It is not the attested serviceman, hut the merchant seaman, and whether merchant seamen are eligible or not for Commonwealth repatriation pensions is decided by whether they were actually injured or killed, in the course of their war service, by enemy action. I propose shortly to read the definition in the principal act to show that this category of persons sustained everything that an attested serviceman could have sustained. Consequently it should be remembered that in the period of the war Australian merchant seamen were required to stay at that post, and it was not held at any time during the war that any particular advantage to the nation would have accrued from their transference from the merchant marine to any branch of the armed services. For instance, the war injury is actually the operative experience that determined whether these men were eligible for the equivalent of a repatriation pension. The act says - “ war injury “ means a personal injury -
the discharge of any missile, liquid or gas; (,ii> the use of any weapon, explo sive or other noxious thing; or
The Government has acknowledged that fact over the years, and therefore this piece of amending legislation, the Government says, is intended to apply to warinjured merchant seamen, or their survivors, the same repatriation benefits as apply to the serviceman. But the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has pointed out an anomaly in that this is not so, and has asked that that anomaly be rectified by the Government. If the Government does intend that men engaged in war zones in the service of supply should be treated in the same way as people engaged in war zones as attested members of the services, then there seems to be no reason whatever for rejecting the request of the honorable member for Parkes.
.- I wish to support the point of view put forward from this side of the House and to express my personal concern at the continuance of anomalies of this nature in acts of this Parliament. Parliament is primarily a lawmaking body and it ought not to allow to pass laws which contain anomalies. It seems to me to be a simple enough request that this be done. There is no doubt whatever that in the last world war, as in the first, the participation of merchant seamen was as essential as that of men in the firing line. I do not know what the statistics are, but I would assume that casualties among seamen in merchant ships were as high as those in some combat units, and therefore there is no justification for treating merchant seamen differently from any one else in this regard. I hope that the Minister, when replying, will give this question close attention. 1 understand that this act is under his jurisdiction, and it is therefore with pleasure that we see him in the House, dealing with a matter which is the equivalent of repatriation. Unfortunately, in repatriation matters we are a little helpless; the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) is not at hand, and we have to refer questions on repatriation to him in another place. On this occasion we have the relevant Minister with us in this chamber.
I find in my work in my constituency that it is anomalies which turn up like this anomaly that give people a greater sense of injustice than other things that are more apparent. When someone finds oneself the odd person out - as does the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner who was not on the list before 1955 and finds some one else down the road entitled to medical benefits - the sense of injustice is greater. In this case it is the widow - the remote case, as I suppose it happens to only very few - who re-marries and is widowed again. And then there are the cases, more frequent, as pointed out by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), of parents of seamen who were lost and who, if their sons had been attested members of the forces, would have been receiving repatriation benefits. I hope the Minister will give an undertaking to remove these anomalies. They cannot be allowed to persist, because they cause great injustice; and if there is only one person affected it is the responsibility of this Parliament to remove the anomaly. I deplore the attitude expressed by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) this afternoon when he spoke of only 3 per cent. of telephone subscribers being adversely affected by the introduction of Elsa. Honorable members as a whole believe that any individual is worthy of attention. Whether one person or 1,000,000 persons be affected, there must be no injustice or anomaly perpetrated by the Parliament.
.- I do not think the cases raised by honorable members opposite really involve an amendment of the act. Such matters are covered by regulation, and in this instance the regulations provide that a war widow who remarries and is widowed again, although having married a non-serviceman on the second occasion, is eligible for a pension: but a very severe means test is applied. L think it is provided that she must be in indigent circumstances. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) says it does not matter whether one or 1,000 people be affected. I would imagine that only one or two cases of this kind would arise. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out, the seaman had to meet with injury or be killed in actual war conditions and had to be a member of the Australian Merchant Marine. Those conditions would limit the number of cases considerably. Everybody realizes what the merchant marine did in the Second World War, but I am not certain whether its actual combat operations were very extensive. Of course there were Australian merchant seamen who: may have been attached to American or British merchant ships.
One honorable member says that about twenty ships were sunk off our coast. In war-time figures that is not a great number, although it is a tragic number to those concerned; but if we take the total affected, the number of widows who remarried and were widowed again would cut down the original number considerably. So if, as the honorable member for Wills said, the original number might be 1,000, these circumstances would probably apply to only two or three. This question does not require an amendment of the act; I believe it is covered by regulations under the Repatriation Act. There has been an argument for as long as 1 can remember - 1 am not talking now about the widows particularly, but the merchant seamen themselves - that you cannot expect the same set of conditions for merchant mariners as for naval seamen who have been attested under the normal rules of war. For one thing, every merchant seaman had a different rate of pay from that of the naval seaman. No merchant seaman received 5s. or 8s. a day; he received certain rates, plus danger money and loadings on his income, which put him in a different class. This argument has been used for a long time. I would not be prepared to use that same argument. The case of the woman widowed as the result of actual service conditions, as pointed out by the honorable member for Fremantle, could perhaps be dealt with by reframing a regulation.
.- 1 wish to support strongly the principle behind the Opposition’s amendment, and I do so whether or not the amendment is accepted by the Government. That principle is very important even though it may affect only 1 per cent., or even less, of the widows of ex-servicemen.
The case on which we founded our amendment was originally brought forward to our private meeting by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has said, there would be very few cases of women unlucky enough to lose a second husband.
– But they must be in indigent circumstances too.
– Yes, that is true. Whether or not the Government accepts the amendment is besides the point, because the point is: Will the Government use its regulations to tidy up this particular anomaly? If the Minister is prepared to assure us that he will do that, without accepting our amendment - which might be a comely way of doing what we want done - and having in mind the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member for Perth, we would be quite happy, and so would the widows concerned.
When I arrived here from Tasmania before lunch, an officer of the department mentioned; to me that regulations exist whereby this kind of anomaly could bc corrected. 1 hope that the Minister will assure the Parliament that that will be done.
– At least he will assure us that he will have a look at the matter.
– All right, so long as he has a look at it. The fact that this is a matter which continually comes forward shows that we are not just telling an airyfairy story, but that the facts that we have given are of something that actually happens. If the Minister can assure us that he will have a look at the matter sympathetically - and, we hope, that he will grant the widows concerned what they justly deserve - we will be happy about it.
To say that merchant seamen did not risk their lives during the war is surely a fairy story. More than 3,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic, and many lost their lives around our own coasts.
– Many of them were sailing on undefended ships.
– That is quite true. My brother-in-law spent eight years as a merchant seaman round the Australian coast. During the war he was a merchant seaman around our coast, and he was paid the danger money which was referred to by the honorable member for Perth. These men risked their lives as naval seamen did. Perhaps the naval men, in accordance with their job, went looking for trouble, but the merchant seamen plodding along behind with the supplies got their trouble without looking for it, in the form of attacks from hidden submarines and even in the form of long-distance air attacks from bases in this part of the world. So we hope that this anomaly, which we discovered, will have sympathetic consideration from the Minister and his department, and will be corrected so that down through the years these women will be looked after as we expect the widows of ex-servicemen to be looked after.
– First, may I say that the whole House extends to you its congratulations, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your return to active service after your illness. We are all very pleased to see you here.
In opening the debate on behalf of the Opposition, and in moving the amendment, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was, I say with all due respect to him, just a little confused about the pensions paid and the categories involved. He first mentioned men who served in the Navy during the war, and later he talked about seamen who served on warships. Perhaps it was just a slip of the tongue, but it is just as well to make it clear that this measure does not concern naval personnel who were serving on warships.
– Yes, I confused that a bit.
– The honorable member mentioned the matter of sacrifices during the war. I think if we get down to it we can say that there is no equality of sacrifice where war is concerned. We certainly try to make our allocations of benefits as close as possible to equality, but we know that in war all sorts of things happen to people, and that all sorts of things occur in people’s lives after the war as a result of war service, and that there is actually no equality of sacrifice, although we try to deal with matters as though there were.
I should like to take the honorable member -for Parkes up on one particular point. He said that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) brusquely pushed representations aside. I think that the fact that these provisions have stayed as they are after various debates over a period of ten years is an indication that the position has been watched very carefully, and has been analysed very thoroughly. There must be very good and valid reasons for the fact that the law in this regard has not been altered.
– The Minister for Repatriation got it over in three lines in the Senate, and 1 think that that was brusque enough. You could not do better than that even on a bike.
– We are on a different pathway now - the legislative pathway. Those who know the Ministers concerned know that they give this kind of matter full attention. That is true of the legislation covering social services and repatriation and other such matters that have been brought before the House. The honorable member for Parkes, with the astuteness in debate for which he is quite famed, has given only one-half of the story about these so-called anomalies. I think that other honorable members, too, have stressed one side of the matter without giving due regard to the other. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) did that when he directed attention to the variation in the rates of pay. There was not equality at that particular time so far as returned servicemen were concerned. The soldier and the sailor who served under service conditions were paid in accordance with an adjusted rate of pay, but that was not the case in the merchant marine. We should not let ourselves be affected by allegations that the man serving in the mercantile marine, the man serving in the Army and the man serving in the Navy had different outlooks or different reactions in situations that called for courage. That kind of argument should not be used here, but undoubtedly, any one serving in the mercantile marine enjoyed better rates of pay than were received by men serving in the Army or the Navy.
– But they were continuing a pre-war vocation.
-It may have been that way, but attention has been directed to the fact that these men were risking their lives. Undoubtedly, the men in the merchant marine enjoyed better rates of pay than did men in the Army and the Navy, and attention has been given to that f act in drawing up the pension rates. Undoubtedly, the Repatriation Act was used as a guide in fixing pension rates for merchant seamen and their dependants; but there are substantial differences in both the reasons behind the legislation and in the nature of the benefits for mariners and their dependants. Those benefits are not, in the final analysis, really based on the Repatriation Act. They are based - andI want to emphasize this - on comprehensive calculations on war risk, and on injuries and deaths that were sustained in the merchant service during war time. I refer to the United Kingdom and to other Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand. They have also been influenced by the provisionsof the old Seamen’s Compensation Act which provided for the payment of lump sums. Another influence has been a consideration of the class of persons that can be regarded as dependants. Whereas, under the Repatriation Act, there are children, widows and parents and, generally speaking, the scope is much wider, this legislation covers a narrower field.
– These are seamen’s widows and mothers.
– That is appreciated. The point that I want to bring to your notice is that in order to enable prompt payment to the persons who will benefit under this legislation, this bill must be passed and have assent by Thursday. It would not be possible, in the intervening time, if the amendment were accepted, to redraft the bill. The assurance that I have been asked to give in relation to the case put forward by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) is that consideration will be given to it. I give him that assurance readily, although I cannot give any promise as to what action will be taken. However, I shall consult the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Repatriation whom 1 know, despite what has been said by the honorable member for Parkes, will readily discuss the matter with me.
The honorable member for Parkes has made certain submissions concerning the amendment that he moved. I assure him that, in view of the fact that he considers that anomalies exist, we shall have another look at this matter. Again, I do not give any assurance as to what action will be taken. At this stage, the Government cannot accept any amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Haylen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2a.
.- The Opposition feels that an anomaly exists at present with relation to this legislation, and that it can be removed only by the insertion of a new clause.I therefore move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- “ 2a. Section fifty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (g) the following paragraph: - (ga) medical benefits for the wives of Australian mariners who have suffered war injuries, being benefits similar to those for which they would be eligible if they were the wives of pensioners eligible for medical benefits under the Pensioner Medical Service;
Just to give a bit of retrospective information, and to put the matter in the form of a legal amendment, I may say that we are asking for medical benefits for wives of Australian mariners in receipt of the special rate of pension under the Second Schedule to the Repatriation Act 1920-1960.
The point we make is this: There was a considerable battle waged on both sides of the Parliament concerning the eligibility of wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen for medical benefits. This has rather a sordid and rather a dramatic history. At one time the
T.P.I.’s and their wives all enjoyed this privilege, but after amendments to the National Health Act many of the wives lost it. Under earlier legislation the T.P.I.’s and their wives were eligible to enjoy these medical benefits, but on 19th November, 1955, another decision was arrived at, and the people involved were advised that they should declare their position within twelve days. So the privilege was won on 19th November, 1955, and it was lost on 30th November.
We bring this proposal forward in the same way as we brought a similar proposal during the debate on the Repatriation Bill. It seems a fair thing that the wives of T.P.I.’s should have this medical benefit. Not one honorable member opposite would disagree with that proposition, unless, of course, he is one of those who are caught up in the entanglements of the bureaucracy and who say, “ We cannot let you have this amendment because it would put our whole social services out of balance “. When Sir Earle Page, who was then Minister for Health, introduced the new provisions in 1955 they had many repercussions. All we ask is that the arguments put forward on behalf of the wife of the ex-serviceman during the debate on the Repatriation Bill should be applied in the case of the wives of mariners who are totally and permanently incapacitated. Section 50 of the act says -
The Governor-General may make regulations . . .
It then sets out the matters in respect of which he may make regulations, and subsection (g) says - medical benefits for widows, children, widowed mothers, separated widows and de facto wives of Australian mariners who have died as a result of war injuries.
If the old man dies the widow is all right; she gets the benefits. But if the T.P.I, mariner lives on as a sick man, requiring all the care that it is necessary to give to T.P.I.’s under the Repatriation Act, he gets the benefit of medical services, but his wife is excluded. This is a shrieking anomaly, as I think the Minister must agree, and if we are doing any tidying up of the legislation we should have a look at this.
We fought for a similar proposal during the debate on the Repatriation Bill, and we repeat our proposition in case the position has not been fully understood. We think that arguments to the effect that it is impossible to accept our suggestion because social service benefits could not be paid on the next pension day are nonsense. We feel it our duty to fight for any measure which has for its purpose the granting of increased payments or extra benefits to ex-servicemen and mariners, and we will not be suborned by arguments that delay is involved. We believe that this can be done and done expeditiously. It is all very well for the Government to make intimidatory statements to the effect that if we do not hurry the legislation through people will not get their pension increases. I repeat that this is nonsense. What we suggest can be done in a minute, and the sooner we streamline our procedures to enable these things to be done more expeditiously the better for all.
I doubt, however, that the Government is prepared to accept our proposal, because it has obviously put its head down and adopted a dogged approach to our pleas, as was evident in the debate on the Repatriation Bill. We press this amendment and ask that the wives involved should get these medical services. Surely it is not necessary for me to stress the humanitarian aspects of the proposal. Surely I do not have to stress the plain common sense of it. When the Government is tidying up other aspects of the legislation we are now considering, and also the Repatriation Act, both of which are bristling with stupid and rather futile anomalies, it is up to it to have another look at the situation and repair the damage that has been done in the case of mariners’ wives by agreeing to our amendment. 1 have presented the amendment and 1 ask that it be considered on its merits, not on any basis of the Opposition vis-a-vis the Government, but on the just demands of the tired and sometimes sick and always devoted wives of the T.P.I. ‘s. What a job it is to nurse a sick man who is not always hospitalized but who is totally and permanently incapacitated! We all know what is involved in the way of sleepless nights and other discomforts. The Opposition pays a tribute to the courage of these women and to their “ stick-at-it-iveness “, if I may coin a word. They deserve all our praise for nursing and caring for their sick husbands, while they themselves get no medical benefits when they become ill. The situation is too anomalous and too cruel for me to say very much about it. Surely the fact must sink into the minds and hearts of members of the Government that this is a matter that should be corrected at once, and I repeat that it can be corrected very quickly by a vote taken at this time. I repeat the view of the Opposition, that if a mariner is totally and permanently incapacitated and receives the benefit of the medical service, that benefit should also apply to this patient and courageous wife. We leave it at that and hope that the Government will this time be able to give us something other than a continuation of the string of negatives that have greeted every other amendment we have suggested.
.- I am not too sure of what is in the minds of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and other members of the Opposition in regard to this amendment. The amendment reads -
That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- 2a. Section fifty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (g) the following paragraph: - (ga) medical benefits for the wives of Australian mariners who have suffered war injuries, being benefits similar to those for which they would be eligible if they were the wives of pensioners eligible for medical benefits under the Pensioner Medical Service; ‘. “.
In the debate on the Repatriation Bill an amendment was moved by the Opposition, but defeated by the Government, to the effect that wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen pensioners should be put in the position they occupied before November, 1955, when they were entitled to the benefits of the pensioner medical service. If the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes means that the Opposition is asking for the wives of mariners who are totally and permanently incapacitated to be given the benefits of the pensioner medical service, which are denied to the wives of T.P.I, ex-servicemen. then I could not agree. In actual fact, 1 think there are only two T.P.I, pensioners under this act. However, it seems to mc wrong in principle, after the defeat of the amendment to the Repatriation Bill, to say that the wives of T.P.I, mariners should receive these benefits. Immediately effect is given to that suggestion, the way is opened for the re-introduction of the amendment to the Repatriation Bill.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) is a persistent student of the repatriation system.
– What is the word you used?
– I said “ persistent “ arid “ student “.
– He is an apologist.
– No, I do not intend to be rough or rugged with him on this occasion. He is at least paying us the courtesy of responding to our approaches, and that is more than others on his side of the committee are doing. The first point raised is that there are only two persons affected.
– Two at the moment.
– Yes, at the moment; but whether it is two, 2,000 or 2,000,000 is of no import when dealing with human beings. The position taken by the Opposition and by most ex-servicemen’s organizations is that this is another anomaly in the repatriation system. Some persons qualified for a total and permanent incapacity pension have special benefits for their wives and some do not. An arbitrary and capricious decision was made in October, 1955, or thereabouts, which brought down the curtain between them. Those who were in the system before that date receive benefits and those who came into the system after that date do not receive benefits. That is the position with those who come directly under the Repatriation Act. The same kind of provision obtains for those who receive similar benefits in other ways. Seamen and their wives, the widows of seamen and others are covered by a similar provision. There is no argument at all that some error made by someone or a decision taken some years ago to follow Treasury doctrine should be persisted with. We say that the fact that a few acts of Parliament would need to be amended to broaden their scope does not matter. The Government continually speaks with pride of the way in which it has broadened other provisions, such as the extension of medical and hospital treatment to service pensioners. But why wait until next year to broaden these provisions still further?
The amendment advocated here provides that the act extend medical benefits to the wives of mariners. This is a simple, straightforward suggestion. The original act was pretty liberal, lt provided medical benefits for widows, children, widowed mothers, separated widows and the de facto wives of Australian mariners who died as a result of war injuries. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) pointed out, once a mariner is dead, his widow is in the system; while the mariner is alive, his wife is not. This seems to us to be an inhuman approach. If a wife is nursing a T.P.I, serviceman or mariner, she is saving the country a good deal of money. Treatment in a repatriation hospital these days costs the best part of £40 a week. Medical benefits for a wife would, in the long run, probably cost not much more than £20 a year, as an average. I do not know the figures offhand. The fact that a man has a wife who can care for him at home, although he is almost bed-ridden, saves the country hundreds of pounds a year. The wife of a T.P.I, pensioner is a valuable investment for the country. Therefore, we believe that the Government should remove the anomaly which provides medical benefits to a de facto widow or a widow, but denies them to the wife, who is the living testimony of the marriage and the person in actual need.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) is at the table. He is a liberal Minister and a man who may well approach this problem with a new attitude and not be fobbed off with arguments about amendments to other acts or the excuse that the Minister for Social Services had not thought of this first or the Minister for Repatriation had been sleeping on it for five or six years. Now is the time for action and who is more capable of taking action than the man who in my boyhood was one of my heroes?
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen),
The amendment gives the Government the opportunity to make amends for the confidence trick perpetrated five years ago on returned servicemen and Australian mariners, who were totally and permanently incapacitated because of their service in armed forces or the merchant marine during the war. The position has been for many years that a T.P.I, soldier or mariner is entitled to medical treatment for his own disabilities, whether they were due to war service or other causes.
– That is fair enough.
– Precisely. For many years, the widow of such a person has also been entitled to medical treatment of any nature, after she becomes a widow. That applies whether there had ever been a marriage or whether the marriage was still on foot. Separated widows or de facto wives of deceased T.P.I, persons were entitled to free medical treatment under the Repatriation Act and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. If they moved quickly enough in the course of twelve days in 1955, the wives of T.P.I. soldiers and mariners were entitled to the benefits of the pensioner medical service, and by this amendment we propose that the wives of mariners once again be given medical benefits under this act.
It is true that an amendment we moved lo the Repatriation Bill last week to provide that the wives of T.P.I, pensioners receive the benefits of the pensioner medical service, was defeated. It was defeated, presumably, on the only reasons given against it - those given by the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron). He pointed out that the pensioner medical service was provided under the National Health Act, not under the Repatriation Act, and that we should, therefore, seek to amend the National Health Act, not the Repatriation Act. Of course, he was not correct, because the pensioner medical service is provided by an arrangement which the Minister for Health makes with the British Medical Association and which is never presented to the Parliament for ratification or repudiation. You cannot affect the pensioner medical service by an amendment to the National Health Act; it is done purely by this arrangement between the Minister and the British Medical Association. How ever, that objection cannot be taken to the present amendment, because the present amendment is an addition to the very section of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowance Act which provides medical benefits for certain people. Section 59 of the principal act lists the various things which may be provided by regulation. They extend from (a) to (n) and (g) provides medical benefits for various widows and so on. We are moving that provision should be made for medical benefits for the wives of T.P.I, persons.
Whatever may be said about the fabulous incomes of seamen during the war, this amendment will provide medical benefits only for the wives of mariners who were permanently incapacitated because of their war service. It is surely begging the question to. say that there are only a few T.P.I, pensioners under this act; there may, unfortunately, be more. The list of T.P.I, pensioners under the Repatriation Act aud the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act is not closed. More people may be added to it. The fewer there are, the less the cost. Why should not the wives be entitled to medical benefits during the period that they are living with, and very often caring for, the T.P.I, mariners, when they will get these benefits once their husband dies? This applies even though they were not living with him when he was still alive.
– Their income drops when he dies.
– And their responsibilities to him die also. Under the present act, a woman can get medical benefits if she was married to a T.P.I, mariner. She need not have been getting any income from him during his lifetime, but once he is dead she gets medical benefits. How much stronger is the case that she should get medical benefits while he is alive and she has to look after him. Let us recall what happened in October, 1955. In that year the Parliament repealed sections 23 and 33 of the Social Services Act which had placed ceiling limits on the total amount which might be received by way of age or invalid pensions in addition to a war pension or a pension under this act. In consequence, a T.P.I, pensioner and his wife were able to receive part age or invalid pensions to bring their combined incomes up to the maximum income that age or invalid pensioners were permitted to receive from their pensions and other sources. At the same time, by becoming age or invalid pensioners, they came under the pensioner medical service. These amendments came into force on 19th October, 1955. A week later the Minister for Health announced in this House -
The Government has decided and the British Medical Association has agreed that all pensioners shall be entitled to receive free concessional medical treatment so long as they have been received into the pensioner medical service by the 31st October, 1955 … All new pensioners, after the 31st October, 1955, will be subject to satisfying the means test as it was in December, 1953, insofar as the pensioner medical service is concerned … In the case of married couples . . where both are pensioners, the permissible income that they may have between them, in addition to their full pensions, would be £4 a week . . . Where only one is a pensioner, the permissible income that they may have between them, in addition to the one full pension, would be £5 a week.
Now, Sir, automatically the income of T.P.I, pensioners and their wives put them beyond the limits which entitled them to participation in the pensioner medical service, unless they were fortunate enough to receive their part age or invalid pensions between 19th and 31st October, 1955 - a space of twelve days. The means test was applied by an agreement between the Minister for Health and the British Medical Association under Section 32 of the National Health Act. The Minister decided and the B.M.A. agreed, according to the Minister’s own words. It was not imposed by an act of this Parliament at all. We are now giving the Government an opportunity to remedy the injustice that resulted from the confidence trick it perpetrated in 1955. We are not saying it has to do it. All we propose is an amendment of the act to permit the Governor-General to make regulations on this subject. The Government then could demonstrate its good faith by making the regulations in the same way as it demon.trated its lack of good faith by making a new agreement in October, 1955, just after the ceiling had been removed. This was not a B.M.A. decision. The Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Soldiers Association of Australia conferred with Dr. Hunter, the secretary of the B.M.A., on this matter and he said that the doctors had no objection to rendering free treatment to them at a reduced cost to the Commonwealth. The B.M.A. might have had an objection to doing it in respect of invalid or age pensioners with other sources of income, but had no such objection in the case of invalid or age pensioners whose other source of income was the T.P.I, pension. The Government decided this. The B.M.A. did not decide it and the B.M.A. would be willing to alter the arrangement as regards the T.P.I, pensioners now.
The Government has not done it. The Government could do it by an amended arrangement under section 32 of the National Health Act; but we will permit the Government to do it in another way under the very act which this bill is amending. This amendment would permit the Government to give the same justice to women who are married to and living with Australian T.P.I, mariners as it gives to any woman, even if she is not married but has been living with a T.P.I, mariner, once he is dead. This is a suitable amendment which will enable the Government to do the right thing by a deserving section of our community and do if under the very measure we are now discussing. The Government cannot claim that the amendment is irrelevant to the legislation. It comes within the scope of the act, and it will be interesting to see the arguments that are used against incorporating in this act something which should have been done long since and would have been in operation but for the amendment which the former Minister for Health forced on the B.M.A. so clandestinely five years ago.
– I should like to comment on a statement which has been made in the course of this debate to the effect that the Government has been hide-bound in its attitude towards repatriation and social services. A study of the relevant provisions in the Budget will show that the Government has been most sympathetic in respect to both matters. Social services, repatriation and pensions for seamen have been studied carefully and those concerned have been given every consideration. Despite what has been said by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) the amendment cannot be accepted by the Government. As in the case of other matters that have been submitted, I can give an assurance that this matter will be given every consideration in the preparation of the next Budget, but with all due respect to the Opposition and all that has been said by honorable members, the amendment is not acceptable at this stage.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Haylen’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the negative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 20th September (vide page 1092).
Department of the Interior.
Proposed Vote, £5,779,000.
Proposed Vote, £4,289,000.
– I wish to speak to the Estimates for the Department of the Interior. With malice towards none, with great gratitude to the head-quarters of the Returned Servicemen’s League for their interest and initial action, I desire to plead a very special case for the survivors of what is rapidly becoming a forgotten legion. Even during World War I., the Australian Lighthorse was often referred to as the Last Tribe of Israel still wandering in Sinai. Nevertheless, I had never, till recently, realized how forgotten we really are, even in R.S.L. halls.
Once upon a time - long, long ago - the last great cavalry corps in history rode from the Suez Canal across the Sinai Desert to Aleppo, through Beersheba, Jerusalem, Jericho, Nazareth, Tibaris and Damascus, driving the enemy, who later became an ally in the Second World War, before them. First, as the Desert Mounted Column, and later as the Desert Mounted Corps, they rode across the Sinai Desert commanded by General Chauvel, the senior general of the First A.J.F., who seems to have been forgotten, and the greatest cavalry commander since Genghis Khan. The Desert Mounted Corps was composed of the Anzac Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division. In the latter were some Indian cavalry and other units, a French Foreign Legion cavalry unit, the Spahis, and some British units, but in the main they were the Australian and New Zealand units. The Anzacs in the Desert Mounted Corps, which consisted of fourteen regiments, including the Camel Corps, of Australian Light Horse, three regiments of New Zealand Mounted Rifles and associated field lines of communication and base units and the Australian Flying Corps, desired, towards the end of the war, to erect a memorial to their comrades and to mark the campaign.
As a result, everybody, including the ancillary and base units put in a day’s pay, contributing £5,400 to the cost of this statuary to which was later added the Australian Government’s contribution of £9,000 and the New Zealand Government’s contribution of £2,000. In other words, the members of the Desert Mounted Corps themselves contributed one-third of the total amount. The fact that the governments contributed the other two-thirds did not make them any more the owners of that statuary than their contribution of £2 for every £1 towards homes for the aged makes them owners of those homes. Therefore, the original owners still are the living members of the Desert Mounted Corps. This memorial was a magnificent piece of statuary which was erected on the west bank of the Suez Canal just near Port Said, almost in Port Said, and inscribed thereon was the legent -
Erected by their comrades and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand in memory of the members of the Australian Light Horse, the New Zealand Mounted Regiment, the Imperial Camel Corps and Australian Flying Corps who lost their lives in Egypt, Palestine and Syria, 1916-1918.
In 1956, as a result of the Suez crisis, the memorial was wrecked. Whether you believe the decision of the Prime Minister and the Government was right, or, as I do, that it was wrong, is immaterial. The memorial was wrecked as the result of the decision of the Government, not by any action of the owners, the Desert Mounted Corps. The Government has really acknowledged this in its very commendable action in acceding to the request of R.S.L. head-quarters to pay the cost of bringing the remains of the memorial back from the banks of the Suez Canal.
Up to that stage every one was in agreement, but unfortunately most of us missed the press announcement in October, 1959, regarding the memorial’s new location.
The Governments of Australia and New Zealand very rightly inquired from R.S.L. head-quarters and the New Zealand
Returned Servicemen’s Association their views as to where the statue should be re-located. I think, in the first place, the suggestion was made by the Albany subbranch of the R.S.L. that it should be erected just below the summit of Mount Clarence near King George’s Sound from where the first A.I.F. convoy and the New Zealanders took off in 1914.
– The suggestion was madeby a Light Horseman.
– The suggestion may have been made by a Light Horseman in that branch, and I do not blame the branch for wanting to acquire the finest piece of equestrian statuary in the world.
– In whose electorate is it?
– Never mind about that. I am not getting down to carping criticism of that nature. I am speaking for a majority of members of the Light Horse, the Imperial Camel Corps and the Australian Flying Corps in Australia. I tried to contact the New Zealanders and was told in a letter from the Prime Minister dated 25th July that the New Zealand authorities would not agree to any site other than Albury. The arrival of the statue on 19th March of this year received considerably more publicity than did the original statement regarding the site. As a result, I received letters from various ex-servicemen’s organizations representing the Desert Mounted Corps. I have here letters from associations representing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 14th and 15th Light Horse Regiments, the 6th Light Horse in Queensland, the Imperial Camel Corps, the Royal Armoured Corps Association, New South Wales, and the Royal New South Wales Lancers as well as from the Air Force Association Federal Council which represents the Australian Flying Corps. All of those associations have asked that the decision be reconsidered and that, if possible, the statuary be placed in the Australian War Memorial at Canberra, l do not think that the New Zealanders want that, but I am sure that no one would object if it were placed on Sydney Heads where people on ships entering and leaving the harbour, including New Zealanders who come to Australia, would be able to see it.
I assure my friend, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), that I am not trying to steal the memorial from Western Australia, but if it is to be placed in that State, put it in Kings Park where people will see it, not at Albany. It does not commemorate the departure of the first Australian convoy. I was in that convoy. I was not a Light Horseman then; I was a member of the infantry, but I know that the statue was originated by the Desert Mounted Corps as a memorial to its fallen members. I know that already the base or plinth is in course of erection. I do not care about that. It will take two years for the statuary to be remodelled, returned to firstclass condition and recast. The plinth could be used for another statue to mark the point of departure of the first convoy?
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was absent from Australia I wrote to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who was :then the Acting Prime Minister. When the Prime Minister returned I wrote to him and received a reply to the effect that he agreed that the views of those who had contributed to the memorial should be fully considered, but that the contribution of the Australian Government for the removal, remodelling and re-erection of the statue ultimately would be of the order of £50,000. It is unfortunate that the Suez crisis arose and was the cause of the damage, but the people who might be regarded as the owners of the statue are entitled to be consulted. I point out to the honorable member for Perth that I have not asked the 10th Light Horse Regiment for its views because to do so would embarrass it - it was one of my old brigade regiments. But surely in view of the vast weight of opinion which is represented in the files that I have, the Government should reconsider its decision.
The R.S.L. seems to have forgotten that the members of the units to- which I have referred contributed one day’s pay towards the cost of the memorial. We were not approached. Instead, the R.S.L. consulted the New Zealand R.S.A. I tried to obtain some information from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles through the New Zealand R.S.A., but I did not receive a reply to my inquiry. Instead, I was told that the New Zealand authorities would not have the statuary anywhere but at Albany. I then contacted a friend of mine in New Zealand who made certain inquiries. He informed me that the New Zealand Government felt that because the Australian Government was meeting the cost of the work on the memorial, this was a matter which the Australian Government should decide. The New Zealand authorities suggested that 1 adopt the normal practice in a matter of this kind and ask that the file be tabled in the House. Apparently, that is the normal practice in parliaments other than this. The Minister did not seem very pleased when I asked for the file. After some time I received a reply only this morning to the effect that he had given this matter consideration but was sorry that he could not accede to my request to lay the file on the table of the House. However, he stated that if I called to see him he would give me any information that I desired. To date I have not had the opportunity to do so.
I also rang the R.S.L. head-quarters, and the people there seemed to be a little peeved that I should be objecting to the location of the statuary. They told me that the New Zealanders make a pilgrimage to Perth every two years. I thought it was to Albany, but, according to the annual report of the R.S.L., it is to Perth. If pilgrims from New Zealand go to Perth they will not see the memorial.
– They always visit Albany.
– Well, if they always go to Albany they will see it, but I again remind honorable members that the units which are part owner of this statuary - the New Zealand Mounted Rifles - do not appear to have been consulted.
I have had many letters from various organizations, and I am on very sound ground in saying that the vast majority of the owners of this statuary wish it to be erected on a site where the largest number of people will see it. The Government is not brushing me off by refusing to consider the proposals that have been advanced; it is ignoring the vast majority of the members of the Desert Mounted Corps who originated the proposal and raised the subscription for this statue. I am only speaking on their behalf at their request. There is no inter-state jealousy, and I am not trying to take the statue from Western Australia. But if it is to be located in that State, at least put it in Kings Park, and not in Albany. People on ships will not see it in passing because they go miles south of the site. Further, the statue has practically nothing to do with the departure of the first convoy, and certainly does not represent the departure point. If the Government refuses to reconsider its decision and to take into account the views of the owners of the statuary, apparently Vera Brittain was right in what she said in her book “Testament of Youth”, which was published in 1933. Her concluding verses could well be taken as the epitaph of the Desert Mounted Corps. If the Government refuses to alter its decision it should inscribe on the plinth of the statue these words -
We. whom the storm-winds battered, come again
Like strangers to the places we have known,
Who sought men’s understanding all in vain
For hardened hearts to grief’s dark image grown;
So passing through the careless crowd alone,
Ghosts of a time no future can restore
We desolately roam for evermore
An empty shore.
In our thoughts will be enshrined the next verse, which reads -
For us they live till life itself shall end
The frailties and the follies of those years.
Their strength which only pride of loss could lend,
Their vanished hopes, their sorrows and their tears;
But slowly towards the verge the dim sky clears, For nobler men may yet redeem our clay When we and war together, one fine day, Have passed away.
.- I am wondering why the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) is not in the House, sitting at the table, during the debate on the estimates of his departments. We on this side of the House are tired of such treatment. How can we place before the appropriate Minister matters of importance from our electorates or matters of national importance, if he is not here to hear them? I appreciate the fact that the ministerial chair at the table is not vacant, but the honorable gentleman sitting there is a long way removed from the Minister for the Interior, both in personality and background and in his ministerial occupation.
So, I make this protest immediately. It is. an insult to the Parliament that these estimates should be discussed without the Minister concerned being present. I do not think any excuse could justify his absence. After all, what are we providing in respect of his departments? We are asked to agreeto estimates of £5,779,000 for the Department of the Interior, and £4,289,000 for the Department of Works, or just over £10,000,000 in all.
The first matter I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister, on his return, is Division No. 233, Bureau of Meteorology, for which the estimate is £1,168,000, with especial reference to the country weathermen, the men who watch the weather night and day to safeguard Australia’s air travellers and for other purposes. These men are scattered throughout the Commonwealth, pinpointing the weather pattern, principally for the Department of Civil Aviation, but also for record and for statistical purposes. They are a remarkable body of men. Some of them are in isolated places, and others in towns and villages throughout the Commonwealth. We owe them a great debt of gratitude for what they are doing to ensure safety in the air. Before any flight out of any capital city in Australia is undertaken, the captain of the aircraft goes across to the weatherman attached to the Department of Civil Aviation and gets the weather pattern for his trip. How is that information collected? It is not written up on a board, or snatched out of the air, but is compiled by men watching the weather along the route, as part of their job. Most of them have other jobs to do and their work as weathermen is an additional labour for them.
The men of whom 1 am thinking are paid approximately £450 per year; and I want now to deal briefly with some of their duties. They have to be on tap, guarding their posts and watching the weather, for 365 days in the year. They are on the job all the time and cannot afford to leave their posts even for a short period. They have to report on the weather at unearthly hours every morning when the rest of us are or should be sound asleep. They have to get out of their warm beds in their pyjamas in winter or summer and creep outside into the backyard at 3 a.m. and at 6 a.m.: and at 9 a.m. and 12 noon the same procedure is followed. Any man who has to get up at 3 a.m. to watch and check the weather deserves adequate payment.
– What about the dairy farmers?
– No dairy farmer has to be up at 3 a.m. in these modern times; otherwise he should be medically examined. These weathermen have to take the barometric pressure, the outside temperature and the direction and strength of the wind at the times I have mentioned, as well as the cloud formation and any other factors that are relevant. I have seen the books that these men keep. Their observations are recorded in a great ledger every three hours and every bit of relevant information is put down at the times to which I have referred. After the weatherman has taken all these tests of the weather pattern, they are forwarded, in my State, to Launceston, where they are correlated and sent to Melbourne, and from there to the airport at Essendon.
When the first aircraft captain takes the first plane off the tarmac in the early morning he is able to get a weather pattern for any part of the Commonwealth. That is a wonderful thing, but not many of us who travel by air ever give a thought to these men who work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in a part-time job to give us this weather pattern. These men have been receiving a payment of approximately £450 per annum since 1953, and this afternoon I make a plea to the Department of Civil Aviation or the Public Service Board to examine their remuneration to see whether it is possible to give them an increase, in consideration of the tremendous work they are doing for Australia in assessing the weather pattern at 3 a.m., 6 a.m., 9 a.m., and 12 noon.
– What about the men in remote areas?
– Some of them are in very isolated places, as the honorable member mentions. As I have already said, most of them also do other work and this is only a part-time job, but it is so important that I believe they should receive proper remuneration for it. Practically every one else in the community has received an increase in remuneration since 1953, and these men also should receive an increase. I have taken this matter up with the Minister by letter, as the courteous thing to do, and he has replied that it is under consideration at present; but I thought the Parliament might like to hear about these isolated men - some of them postmasters, some farmers and some businessmen - who are doing this extra work for the country and for the Department of Civil Aviation in particular.
The next subject I want to mention relates to radios in Commonwealth cars. For over twenty years it has been the custom of the Department of the Interior to provide wireless sets in Commonwealth cars. I understand that about fifteen of the newer cars have not been fitted with wireless sets, and it is not known whether they will be installed. I cannot understand this change of policy, if that is what it is. When one considers the fleet of Commonwealth cars and the job it does for departmental heads and for secretaries who ride in them in glorious isolation while honorable members walk, I believe that the cars should be equipped with this modern convenience. My reasons are that the drivers of Commonwealth cars are required to take Ministers long distances, on occasions, and at all hours of the day and night. If a Minister wants to keep in touch with the world and with Australia on a long trip he has to hear the news while travelling, and without a wireless in the car he is deprived of the means of doing so. It is obvious that the Minister or departmental head concerned would want to keep in touch with things by means of a wireless in the car. The second reason why there should be a wireless in every Commonwealth car is to meet the convenience of the driver himself. If there are men in a particular job for whom we should have sympathy, they are drivers of Commonwealth cars, who perform a wonderful service for Australia. They are unsung employees. Any one who ever speaks about them here, or writes about them in the press, seems to criticize them, for some reason or other. I will have been a member of this Parliament fourteen years by to-morrow, and in all that time I have not heard a commendatory word said about Commonwealth car drivers, this group of men who handle the Commonwealth fleet of cars all over Australia and do a wonderful job carrying public servants to their work at various places and carrying Ministers and members to their jobs.
The second reason why there should be wireless sets in these fifteen new cars is that surely we should consider the comfort of the drivers, who have to sit still in their cars for perhaps half an hour, or even as long as two hours, outside business premises or offices waiting for the passenger to return. I think it is only right that these men should have a wireless set when they have to wait in these circumstances.
– Why not a television set?
– When the honorable member can invent a television set that can be operated in a motor car I will support that proposal, too.
– There are plenty of them.
– I did not know that. If it is possible to have television reception in motor cars why should not the Minister consider giving the drivers that up-to-date facility in their cars too? I make this plea on behalf of the drivers and on behalf of the men and women who travel in these cars in the course of their work.
It is a long time since we have heard anything here about the new Parliament building which is to be erected some day. It is easy to be parochial about parliamentary duties. We know that our electorates keep us going flat out. We spend a lot of time in our electorates, and perhaps not enough time in Canberra. I have certain ideas in my mind regarding a new Parliament building. Perhaps some day in the dim distant future a new regime will alter the present emphasis somewhat. I think our duty as members of the Commonwealth Parliament is to know what is going on in Canberra and to take an interest in this city. I am proud of Canberra. I speak about it in my electorate. I have made films of Canberra and I show these films to people in my electorate, giving a running commentary, sitting down, about this wonderful capital of ours. Americans never stop talking about Washington, and the vocal Indians never stop talking about New Delhi. People in other countries never stop talking about their capitals. We should do all we can to make Canberra the pride and joy of the Australians, and in this regard the Parliament House looms very large.
Not all of us have made up our minds about a new Parliament building, but I have made my mind up. I think that the present building is completely inadequate, absolutely cramped and completely unable to cope with modern demands on it. It was not built to accommodate a Parliament so big as the present Parliament. Many of my colleagues, and many members on the other side, are accommodated in cramped offices, three or four members to an office. That is in sharp contrast to the position in Washington, where each congressman or senator has three rooms and three secretaries. If honorable members saw the conditions under which members of the American Congress work they would realize that members of this place are probably working in the most cramped conditions of any parliamentarians in the western democracies, except for members of the British House of Commons.
It would take three years to draw up proper plans for a new Parliament House, and five years to build the sort of building that we should have, that is, eight years before it would be finished. That building would cost £15,000,000, but this would be only £3,000,000 a year to be spent over the time of construction, and this expenditure would give us a Parliament building which would last for the remainder of this century and well into the next century and would be in keeping with the status of Australia. The Government should put planning for a new Parliament building under way. If the case for a new building were put up fairly and squarely to the people in the electorates, and if some of them came here and saw all the maintenance work needed to keep the present building in operation, it would be generally realized how necessary a new building is. Maintenance cost £60,000 last year. This building is cramped in every way. Ministers, members, the press and the dining room and other staffs of the House are cramped into this inadequate building.
– What would you do with this building?
– It would become offices, and would be a very good place for them, and this chamber could become a conference room. The people who look after this building say that its life is definitely limited, and that there are grave weaknesses in its structure. They say that before very long the building will require a maintenance expenditure far above the present expenditure. Even in the last couple of years a fantastic amount of maintenance work has had to be done in order to keep water out of the building.
– What about the rats?
– The rats also got in at one time. I am very serious about this matter, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and I hope it will have the Minister’s consideration.
.- 1 think it is time to direct the attention of the House to the somewhat misleading position that has grown up, through oversight over a long period, in regard to reports of the Public Works Committee. The House will be aware that the method of dealing with a report of the Public Works Committee is to present the report to the House and move for the printing of the paper. This does not permit debate on the subject-matter of the report itself. I do not think that this is a bad thing, because if a debate were initiated it would have to be adjourned until honorable members generally had obtained a copy of the report and familiarized themselves with its contents. The opportunity for debate comes when the Minister for Works submits a motion, which is worded roughly as follows: -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act (1930-1953) it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee reported to this House the result of its investigations, . . .
The fact that there has been so little debate on the presentation of those reports is, I think, a touching indication to the confidence which the House has in the Public Works Committee.
– Hear, hear!
– Thank you very much. It is generally supposed throughout the House that the Public Works Committee is indeed the watchdog of the Parliament over government expenditure on public works. The point I want to make is that, without a more detailed description of the work which is to be done, and therefore the work which is covered by the Minister’s motion of expediency, it is not possible to decide what sort of structure is going to be built. Therefore, in the past the House, in effect, has been giving the Minister almost a blank cheque. I should like to illustrate this by a couple of cases. In the first case the committee reported on the proposal to erect a technical high school in Darwin. In his explanatory comment the Minister said -
In addition, the committee has recommended the re-introduction into the trades block of appropriate ablution facilities and inclusion in the proposal of a complete assembly hall to accommodate 1,000 children, which is intended also to serve a future academic high school on the same site;
The committee gave a good deal of attention to the provision of an assembly hall. It seems to me that that was one of the more important matters contained in the committee’s report. Yet the Minister was able to say -
These two items can be reconsidered by the Government when final designs and estimates are prepared.
Then, again, there was what happened in relation to the Canberra nurses’ home. The committee reported on this, and recommended that the proposal made to it of constructing the nurses’ home in two stages be converted, and that the building be produced in one continuous project. Making an explanatory statement on behalf of the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) said that that matter would be considered later. The White Paper on the civil works programme for the current year listed the following item: -
Canberra Community Hospital - Erection of nurses’ home (Stage 1)- estimated amount required £750,000.
This, of course, was interpreted as indicating that the Government had. rejected the report of the Public Works Committee that this project ought to be finished in one piece,
Referring again to the “ Main Hospital Block, Canberra, A.C.T. “, the recommendation of the committee included the following: -
The erection of the new main hospital block should be proceeded with and completed in one stage.
Once again, the reference to the Public Works Committee had been in terms of an earlier reference to an earlier committee that the project should be divided into two stages. For what the committee thought was good and sufficient reason, based on an analysis of fairly wide evidence of costs, inconvenience and matters of that kind, the committee recommended that the hospital should be constructed as one unit. Once again, although the Minister stated that the estimated cost of the overall proposal was in keeping with that recommended by the Public Works Committee, the proposal was only to erect the first stage. So, once again, the report of the Public Works Committee has not been accepted by the Government.
I hasten to point out that I am well aware that no report of the Public Works Committee can be held to bind the Government. When the Public Works Committee was first set up in 1913, there was a good deal of debate on this point and the House agreed at that time that if the Government were to be obliged to accept, and act on, the recommendations of the Public Works Committee, this could be interpreted as an infringement of the responsibilities of the Executive. Therefore, I am well aware that the report of the Public Works Committee is purely an advisory document I am a little in doubt as to whether that position is well understood by honorable members.
When the Minister comes into the House and recommends that it is expedient to do a work which has been referred to, and reported on, by the Public Works Committee, and the House is willing to pass the relevant motion the Minister, in fact, has carte blanche because he does not, in general terms, describe to the House the project which it is proposed to carry out and for which he is asking for the approval of the House. Therefore, through this oversight, although the House believes that it is supporting the recommendations of the Public Works Committee, the
Minister, once his motion is passed, cun construct almost anything he likes. I do not say that there is anything irregular about this situation. Nor am 1 criticizing this position, because it is a practice which has grown up in the House over long years through oversight and, perhaps, because members, over that period, have persuaded themselves to believe that the committee is a fit and proper body to accept its responsibilities and that the duty of the House is properly discharged when it endorses a report of the committee. That is not, in fact, the case.
All this adds up to an appeal to the Minister for Works that when he submits these motions of expediency to the House in future he will be prepared to give a much more detailed explanation of the project and, if he thinks it desirable, as I for one would, to point out to the House where he is departing from the recommendations of the Public Works Committee. It is on those points which will be covered in evidence in the report and covered by reasons for the committee’s recommendations that the members of this chamber might feel disposed to debate the wisdom of carrying out a particular project in the particular manner proposed.
I shall move on to two other matters on which I would ask the advice of the Minister: Honorable members will recall that quite recently there was an amendment to the Public Works Committee Act making it obligatory to refer to the committee for report projects the estimated expenditure on which was to exceed £250,000. On 22nd September there was a press report which stated -
A £336,000 project to remodel the Army’s ammunition depot at Bogan Gate, 250 miles west of Sydney, was announced today by the Minister for the Army.
Under the project modern brick buildings would completely replace temporary wartime-built structures bv the end of 1962.
I raise the question of whether this might not have been a project that ought to have been referred to the Public Works Committee. Honorable members will be aware, of course, that purely defence works can be withheld from the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee for good and sufficient security reasons. It seem to me that this is a borderline case. But it may not be quite so border-line as a second project which was recently announced as follows: -
The Federal Government is to spend £500,000 on a building programme for the R.A.A.F. School of Technical Training at Wagga, which will make it one of the most modern training establishments in Australia. To be completed by 1962, it includes the erection of a science block with an American style layout costing £100,000, four new sleeping blocks for airmen, each to accommodate 74 men and two sleeping blocks for sergeants, an Olympic swimming pool, and a modern catering school. Work on the scheme will start before the end of the year.
The last remark may mean - and I hope this is right - that this project was already in the tendering stage and, perhaps, in the construction stage before the more recent amendment to the Public Works Committee Act. But there may well be a tendency, for reasons which I am sure honorable members will understand very well, for projects of this nature, on the basis of defence security, not to be exposed to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. Or, there may he a tendency to divide such works into sections so that the amount of money relating to one stage of a project will not reach the figure beyond which there is a statutory obligation to refer it to the Public Works Committee. I point out that I am making no great complaint about these matters. But I believe that for the future conduct of the public works programme and for the benefit of the House itself as well as of the Public Works Committee, there ought to be some further clarification of the status of the reports of that committee. I would like the Minister, at an appropriate time, to let us have his views on the subject.
.- In this discussion, we are invited to deal with departments that are to spend approximately £10,000,000. I am glad that the Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) has now come into the chamber. I hope that he will give due respect to the submissions that I will make about our electoral system. 1 know that this matter has been raised on a number of previous occasions. A lot of people have indicated that something should be done about the electoral system but, up to this point, nothing effective has been done. I want to refer, first of all, to the positions of names on ballot-papers.
– You say, “Ah!” You have a vested interest. If my name started with an “A” I would say, “Ah!” Perhaps I, too, have a vested interest in this matter, because I remember that my opponent’s name began with an “ A “. I suggest it is about time that we had a little more democracy in this whole business. A candidate’s chances of being preselected by his party or of being elected to this Parliament ought not to depend on the kind of electoral procedure adopted. That should be about the last consideration to determine whether a person is to be selected out of all the people who offer themselves as candidates, either to their party or to the people at large, at a general election. I do not see how this matter can be completely rectified but we should do all that we can to ensure that the electoral procedure is the last factor to determine whether a candidate is elected or not.
If we cannot eliminate altogether the problem associated with the position on the ballot-paper, then, I suggest, it is reasonable and just that the positions should be balloted for, so that all those involved will have an equal chance of securing the best position.
– What about the four A’s?
– The Government was quick to remedy the situation when the four A’s were candidates in the Senate election. That merely highlights the unsatisfactory position in respect of the House of Representatives. Positions were balloted for in the case of the Senate election, and I suggest that they should be balloted for in elections for the House of Representatives.
I should like to say, Mr. Chairman, with the indulgence of the rowdy members opposite, that this is not a matter that concerns only me and my party. It concerns many other people. I have before me a newspaper report on the pre-selection of the Country Party candidate for the Lismore electorate at the next State election in New South Wales. Mr. Blair opposed Mr. Easter for the selection, and one of his claims was that he had a better chance than Mr. Easter of regaining the seat, because his name would appear on the ballot-paper ahead of that of Mr. Compton, the sitting
Labour member. I do not know to what extent this influenced the deliberations of the meeting, but the fact is that Mr. Blair was selected as the Country Party’s candidate for Lismore at the next election. It appeared to be a pretty vital point because, according to the newspaper report, mention was made of the fact that the Country Party’s stocks were low, and apparently it was decided to consider every possible advantage that could be gained. The meeting evidently decided to select Mr. Blair because his name would occupy the very important first place on the ballot-paper.
The present position is highly unsatisfactory, as I think most people would agree, because it has been calculated that a favourable position on the ballot-paper can be worth up to three per cent, of the total vote. In ah electorate of 45,000 people this would represent about 1,300 votes. Presumably the candidate with the better position on the ballot-paper would gain to the extent of 1,300 votes, and his opponent would lose by the same amount. The difference involved, therefore, would be 2,600. Think it over in terms of the electoral history of this Parliament or of other parliaments using the same system, and you will realize that the position of a person’s name on the ballot-paper could determine the fate of quite a number of seats, and could possibly determine which party was victorious in an election. I say that with a fair amount of confidence.
– I am suggesting that it is quite possible. You say dogmatically that it is not, but I remind the committee that the Government of New South Wales a few years ago had a majority of only one, and that majority could quite easily have been determined according to the position of a candidate’s name on the ballot-paper. I suggest that the whole procedure is undemocratic. I do not think it can be gainsaid that position on the ballot-paper is taken into consideration in selecting candidates, and not only in the particular instance that I have mentioned. I do not suggest that it is invariably the determining factor, but I believe that if two prospective candidates are nearly comparable in ability, then a possible advantage of 2,000-odd votes is a weighty consideration in determining who the candidate should be.
An honorable member opposite has suggested, by way of interjection, that it works both ways. I know that there are members on this side of the House also who have an alphabetical advantage in the matter of position on a ballot-paper, but this does nothing to demolish my argument. In fact, I would suggest that it probably endorses it. As I said earlier, the procedure in respect of Senate elections was changed, and I think the affair of the four A’s probably had something to do with .it. I cannot see any logical reason why the procedure with regard to elections for the House of Representatives should not be similarly changed. If there is any such reason I shall be interested to hear it. An analysis was made of the extent to which votes were cast at the last Senate election for candidates belonging to the Communist Party and the Democratic Labour Party, in States where those candidates occupied the first position on the ballot-paper and in States where they occupied the second or a subsequent position. The people at large are quite well aware that the vote for those two highly disciplined parties went up substantially in States where their candidates occupied first position on the ballot-paper. Honorable members opposite have admitted in this Parliament that in some cases in which a Liberal candidate or a Liberal block of candidates appeared second on the ballotpaper to Communist Party candidates, an automatic process resulted in the Liberal candidates receiving second preferences. Liberal members of this Parliament will not accept any suggestion that those second preferences were given deliberately. A similar automatic process occurred in cases in which the Liberal Party candidates followed the candidates of the Democratic Labour Party on the ballot-paper.
There are many people who are concerned about the present position, and I am suggesting that we should do something similar to what was done in the case of the Senate. If we cannot remove the problem, and if we must face the fact that the position of a name on the ballot-paper will influence the number of votes cast, then we should try to give every candidate an equal chance by balloting for the most valuable position on the ballot-paper. 1 might also say that I have yet to hear any valid objection to showing the party allegiance of a candidate alongside his name on the ballot-paper. I am reminded by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that this is done in the United States of America. After all, people do realize that candidates belong to parties. I believe that as much relevant information as can be provided, within the limitations of a ballot-paper, should be made available to the person who is making his democratic choice. People will take into consideration not only the personality, integrity and general character of the individual; they will also give careful consideration to his party allegiance. I do not think it can be gainsaid that a vote for the individual is substantially a vote for the party. I say that this is substantially so; I do not suggest that it is an invariable rule.
I also feel that if we decided to adopt the practice of showing a party label alongside the name of a candidate we might help to cut down the very high proportion of informal votes that are cast. At the 1958 general election, 5,073,000 formal votes were cast in the case of the Senate election, while 507,412 informal votes were cast. In other words, more than 500,000 people voted informally. We cannot talk about the merits of democracy if we allow a state of affairs to continue in which 10 per cent, of the people who undertake to elect representatives to the Parliament vote informally. It cannot be suggested that all those informal votes were cast deliberately. In the case of such a vast number of informal votes I suggest that most of them would have resulted from confusion. It is up to us in this Parliament to do something about the position and to try to reduce the numbers of informal votes.
The third matter to which I wish to refer is that of preferential voting. I cannot bring myself to believe - and there is no vested interest involved here - that a person should have the right to vote for more than one candidate, with equal force being given to his vote for each of such candidates. I do not care whether it happens to suit my party or the Government parties; that is quite irrelevant. It will work against both sides at some time and for both sides at some time. But I do not think that it is fair or just that a person should be able, deliberately, to vote for a party, quite often insincerely, merely to preserve it for its nuisance value. 1 am not necessarily talking about the current situation; I am referring to a vote cast to preserve a party or a candidate merely for their nuisance value rather than cast as an expression of a sincere wish lo see that candidate or party in the Parliament. A system that promotes this is bad and is not fair to the elector who has a solid loyalty to a candidate or a party. A sincere elector should not be required to endure a position in which another elector may be able to vote for two or three parties or candidates, with the full value of the vote retained and passed down to each candidate.
As a rough and ready method, I suggest that it would be fairer to give second preferences half the value of the primary vote. Third preferences should have a third of the value, and so on down the line. I think that is a much more reasonable and just proposition than the present procedure which enables an elector to vote for two, three or four candidates. It is like backing all the horses in a race and getting the same price for all of them. However, I leave it at that. I have mentioned three points that I would like the Government to consider. I understand that some consideration is being given to this important matter now. It is often said that the public is losing respect for the Parliament and that people have less faith in the parliamentary system. However, their faith will not be restored if these unjust methods are used and if an individual has an enhanced opportunity of being elected to Parliament merely because his surname begins with a certain letter.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak on the provision in the estimates for the Department of Works of an amount of money for the re-erection of the Anzac Memorial, which was formerly erected at Port Said. I join with the plea of the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) to have this memorial erected in a more appropriate place than Albany. I was one of the men who made a contribution of one day’s pay towards the cost of this memorial. I did not see Albany until after the war, and there were thousands of light horsemen who did not see it. We should not forget that this memorial was erected to the memory of the fallen comrades of the Australian Light Horse, the Imperial Camel Corps and the Australian Flying Corps. Thousands of men left these shores, fought with the Light Horse and contributed towards the cost of the memorial, but very few of the original convoy were left to return through Albany at the conclusion of the war.
I belong to a Light Horse Association in Queensland - the old Fifth Light Horse Association - and I have discussed this matter with other members of the association. They agree that the obvious place to put this memorial is in Canberra. I am indebted to the honorable member for Chisholm for allowing me to peruse his file on this matter and to read the letters that he has received from various associations. The majority favour putting this memorial in its rightful place alongside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. I fought shoulder to shoulder with light horsemen from Western Australia in the Desert Mounted Corps, and I can understand their wish to have this memorial in Western Australia. However, without casting any reflection on any body, I say that most of the light horsemen who fought in World War I. were recruited in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. We had one regiment from Western Australia, the 10th, and it provided a mighty force in the Desert Mounted Corps.
– You also had a regiment from South Australia.
– That is so. However, most of the light horsemen came from the three eastern States. I am concerned with the opinions expressed by light horsemen themselves, not by returned servicemen’s organizations. I do not suppose that many light horsemen from World War I. now serve on the executives of returned servicemen’s organizations. 1 do, but most have handed over to the returned men from World War II. I venture to say that not many light horsemen were asked for their views.
– The federal president of the Returned Servicemen’s League was on Gallipoli, you know.
– Yes, but I suggest that this memorial was erected for light horsemen. I know that this statement has been made -
Being the point of departure of the original Anzac contingent, Albany has a significance to the people of the two countries. Both the Australian and New Zealand returned servicemen’s organizations were strongly in favour of the site chosen.
But the light horsemen in the eastern States, leaving Western Australia out of it, are unanimous in saying that the memorial should be erected in its rightful place here in Canberra alongside the Australian War Memorial. I might argue from a parochial point of view that it should be erected in Queensland. But this is our national capital and I believe that most of the light horsemen favour i*S erection here. We are sometimes called the “ Lost Horsemen “ and that was the name given to us during World War I. We were practically forgotten then for a long time because we were in the western desert and nobody knew we were there, until the war took another turn.
– How much was a day’s pay in those times?
– We will not argue about that, but whether we held the rank of an officer or a private, we gave a day’s pay, and gladly gave it. This matter should be given further thought. I appreciate that all the crates containing the pieces of the memorial are now in Albany and I understand that the foundations for the memorial have been laid. But it is not too late. Although the Commonwealth is contributing £50,000 to the erection of the. memorial, I point out that it is not the property of the Commonwealth; it is the property of the Diggers who made a contribution for a memorial to their fallen comrades left overseas in Egypt and Syria. I do not want to get into an argument with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who is interjecting. I fought with these people from Western Australia and I know what they did. I believe that they are bighearted enough to agree with the view that, as the majority of their comrades live on this side of the continent and in New Zealand, the memorial should be erected in Canberra.
.- When the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) spoke about the position of candidates on the ballot-paper, there were rather sceptical reactions from certain parts of the chamber. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), when he was the Liberal candidate for Fremantle and the Liberal candidate for Perth, put to me the best suggestion that I have ever heard on this matter of the position of candidates on the ballot-paper. He suggested, for instance, that if there were three candidates - 1 invent the names Andrews, Brown and Charles - for one-third of the ballot-papers, the sequence of names should be Andrews, Brown and Charles; for one-third Brown, Charles and Andrews; and for the other third Charles, Andrews and Brown. I cannot see any objection to the suggestion that the honorable member for Bruce then put forward.
– It would muck up the howtovote cards.
– I think the honorable member for Barton answered that one. If the party allegiance of the candidates were placed on the ballot-papers at the candidate’s request, there would be no need for howtovote cards. Personally, I think it would be a good thing if such cards and the organization associated with them outside the polling booths disappeared.
– You cannot get patent rights for a party name.
– They do not seem to have any problem about that in the United States of America. The names of the parties are shown there.
– They have not a Labour Party in America.
– I do not know that that statement is correct. If the honorable member were to look at the history of the United States presidential elections, he would see that there has frequently been a Labour Party candidate.
– I did not refer to the past. I said they have no” Labour Party now.
– I do not know that even that statement is correct. Anyhow, it has no bearing on this discussion. Another matter which needs attention is the federal law on what are popularly called by the party organizers “ sick votes “ but what are called by the law “ postal votes “. If I study the returns for the parliamentary seat that is held by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) who is at the table, I find that he won the seat of Forrest against the Labour candidate roughly in the ratio of nineteen to fourteen. If you look at the absent votes, a field where the party organization cannot intrude, you will find that the returns fall roughly into that ratio. But if you look at the postal votes, you will find that the Minister won his seat by nearly two to one. In the case of the seat of Higgins held by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the figures show that he won against the Labour candidate by almost three to one - more than 24,000 to roughly 9,000 votes - but the postal vote was almost in the ratio of seven to one.
– Is that why the Labour Party in New South Wales has cut out the postal vote and so disenfranchised thousands?
– That may be so. I am not concerned necessarily about the motive of a party in changing the electoral law if the change is a just one. It may be that it suits them; it may be that it does not. But even, if it suited a particular party to make an amendment, we should still consider whether that was right or not. I believe the superior efficiency of a party in persuading the electorate is obviously the very core of an election. But the efficiency of a party should have nothing whatever to do with collecting votes. The whole of our electoral law is designed to keep party fingers off ballot-papers. During election campaigns, I have gone, for instance, to the Trades Hall in Fremantle, and have got out of the room as quickly as I could because there has been a pile of sick votes collected from hospitals and they have been taken on their way to wherever they are put. The position is that I, as a candidate, could have put my hands on them. That is totally wrong, and it is totally wrong also that votes are collected in hospitals by persons who have an interest in the result.
Our whole aim under the electoral law is to get the mechanics of the ballot, as distinct from the art of persuasion in an election, into absolutely neutral hands. There seems to me to be no reason why a Commonwealth Electoral Officer cannot be deputed to go to the hospitals and collect the sick votes. That seems to me to be an entirely desirable amendment of the law.
– Are you talking about application forms or ballot-papers?
– 1 am talking about the collection of ballot-papers. In regard to application forms, whether a sick person gets a vote should not depend on whether some organizer is interested enough to go and ask the sick person whether he wants a vote or not. The Commonwealth Electoral Office knows of the existence of great organizations like hospitals. It has lists of them since the Commonwealth has dealings with these things under the Commonwealth health schemes, and there is no reason why the responsibility for asking a person who is sick in hospital whether he wishes to apply for a “ sick vote “ should not be put on the Commonwealth Electoral Office. That meets the point that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) was raising.
I wish to direct my attention now to Division No. 236 and the item relating to film production. I am glad to be able to speak about this matter because honorable members who frequent the showing of films in Parliament House on Wednesday and Thursday evenings will have to cast their minds back only to the last two showings to understand what I am speaking about. At the showing preceding the last one, two colour films were exhibited. One was produced by the Port of London Authority, and the other, which concerned Western Australia, was produced by the Department of the Interior. The film on Western Australia produced by the Department of the Interior had a form of colour that was painful to look at. The film by the Port of London Authority had a beautiful natural colour.
I am not going into the superior quality of the commentary in the British film. It was much more mature than the Australian film, which drove at the audience like an inferior commercial. The poor quality of the Australian colour film was indefensible when we consider the superior lighting for photography in Australia. The blues were violent electric blues and the skies were shown in unreal colours hurtful to the eyes. It was an inferior film. The same sort of thing was evinced again in the last showing of a colour film on Canberra. Again there was a sort of commercial plugging characteristic in the commentary which was immature; but, leaving that aside, the very first shot of Parliament House showed the sky in an absurd, violent blue. The rest of the colours were in a similar category and were very inferior.
I cannot understand why this should be. I grant that if the Department of the Interior is actually conducting the film publicity for Australia abroad, then the £65,000 provision for the making of these films is entirely inadequate. I do not know whether the producers are trying to make a wide range of films and therefore are using an inferior film to keep within the limits of that grant, but I do think it rather tragic that in films dealing with Western Australia and with our National Capital, such poor quality film was used. This matter is worth investigation by the Department of the Interior.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- 1 wish to address myself to that part of the estimates for the Department of the Interior which relates to civil defence. Many people feel most concerned about the present situation in Australia in regard to our civil defence preparedness. I should like briefly to call to the attention of the committee the sequence of events which have transpired with respect to civil defence.
Honorable members will remember that after many years of hesitancy on the part of the Government, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) took the opportunity in September last year to make a statement about civil defence when replying to the debate in Parliament on the estimates for the Department of the Interior. That was the first occasion that I can recall on which the Government had recognized that civil defence was a problem which had to be coped wilh in Australia. Although I and many other honorable members were not exactly satisfied with that statement, we felt that at least it represented a step towards adequate civil defence preparedness in this country.
– I rise to order. 1 suggest that the question of civil defence does not come under the estimates for the Department of the Interior. I submit that it comes under defence services, as set out on page 94 of the Estimates.
– Order! The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is correct. The honorable member for Barker will understand that civil defence does not come under the estimates for the Department of the Interior.
– My understanding of the position is that it is included in the defence estimates, but that over it is the note, “ or under control of Department of the Interior “. I understood that it was possible to discuss this item either when dealing with the estimates for the Department of the Interior, which is the responsible department, or when dealing with the estimates for the Defence Department.
– Order! The matter would be better discussed when dealing with the Defence estimates.
– I desire to refer to a matter which concerns the Department of Works, and I am glad the Minister is in the chamber. Twelve months ago, when the estimates for the Department of Works were before the committee, I brought to the notice of the Minister the question of a contract that had been let for work at Woomera when the department accepted a tender which was nearly £1,000 above the lowest tender. The Minister explained to me later that he thought the lowest tender was rejected because the tenderer was not capable of carrying out the work, despite the fact that the particular contractor concerned was adequately meeting the needs of the State government in doing work of a similar kind.
I wish now to bring to the attention of the committee another contract. 1 have had some correspondence with the Minister about this matter. It concerns a contract that was let for the supply of fruit and vegetables to Woomera West. I have before me a copy of Specification No. W.H.60/297 embodied in the tender form for the supply of food and vegetables, f.o.r. Woomera West, for the period 1st June, 1960, to 30th June, 1961. The usual contractors submitted their tenders for the contract. 1 might say in passing that, by usage and custom over the years, the term “ f.o.r.” in the Department of Works and other government departments in Adelaide has been taken to mean “ free on rail “ whatever the destination.
In this instance, all but one of the contractors submitted tenders in terms of the specification laid down in the tender form, only to discover later, when seeking the reason for refusal of their tender, that the successful tenderer was a person who had arranged to transport the goods by road. This came as a surprise to all these contractors, especially as the specification laid it down that the price was to be f.o.r. at Woomera West. It may be that the reason why supplies were carried by rail was that the Commonwealth Railways would benefit financially from such an arrangement. I say that because the gentleman who held the contract for the previous year had paid the Commonwealth Railways £4,000 in freight on the goods delivered. Now that these goods aTe to be delivered by road, the Commonwealth Railways will lose that business.
In my original letter to the Minister, I stated that the amount paid was £5,000. The Minister denied this. On making a check I found that £4.000 was involved and, in any case, the transport of the goods by road means a considerable loss of revenue to the Commonwealth Railways.
I am not concerned with who got the contract, but I do want to know why it was not let in accordance with the specification embodied in the tender form. It was suggested to me in Adelaide - facetiously I thought - that “ f.o.r.” might mean “ free on road “ as well as “ free on rail **. I submit that usage and custom have made it clear that it means only “ free on rail “. I want to know who decided to let the contract to this man when it was known that all the other tenderers had assumed that the goods were to be transported by rail. Why were they not given an equal break? I should like the Minister to tell me why it was that the usual custom was departed from. 1 should like to know why it was decided to ignore the specification set out in the tender form. I have had a look at the tender forms for several other departments and, when delivery is not stipulated by rail, as it was in this instance, the forms provided, “ delivery to be made at Elizabeth “ or Woodside or Woomera. They did not state how the goods were to be transported. The matter of transportation was left entirely to the person submitting the tender. In this case the specification stipulated “ f .o.r. Woomera West “ but that requirement was ignored completely when the contract was let.
There may be some good reason for this, and I think we should be told what it is. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that the contract has been let to this new tenderer because he has handled other fruit and vegetables at Woomera for the Department of Supply. The Minister has an obligation to say why this man was informed, or how he came to know, that he could make out his contract to provide for delivery of the goods by road while the same information was not conveyed to the other tenderers, particularly as the contract that was let meant a loss of £4,000 to the Commonwealth Railways. I know that the Minister can shrug his shoulders and say that the Commonwealth Railways are no concern of his, but the revenue of the Commonwealth Railways is the concern of this Parliament and of the taxpayers of Australia. If goods are to be delivered at Woomera and if we can use our own transport, it is common sense to use it, particularly as the Commonwealth Railways laid special lines and provided special trucks to supply goods to Woomera and to ensure that those goods arrived in the best condition.
About twelve months ago this department accepted a tender price for a job which was much higher than the lowest price that was submitted. Probably the same officers in Adelaide have again shown very favor able treatment to one tenderer to the detriment of others. More importantly, by letting the contract to the person in question, the departmental officers ignored completely the financial benefit that would have accrued to the Commonwealth Railways. This is evidence either of complete inefficiency on the part of departmental officers or of some one receiving favorable treatment. Perhaps the Minister is not very much concerned, but I should like to know something about it.
I brought this matter to the notice of the Minister for Works on 27th June, 1960, and, because my letter mentioned the Commonwealth Railways, I had the courtesy to for’.. -;-:! p. copy cf th; letter to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) who acknowledged it. When replying, the Minister for Works did not do me the courtesy of setting out the answers to my questions. All that he could do was to send me a copy of the letter that he had forwarded to the Minister for Shipping and Transport who had written to him following on my representations. I shall not be satisfied, and the people concerned in South Australia will not be satisfied, until the Minister explains why all tenderers were not put on an equal footing in relation to the specifications. I hope that the Minister will afford me that explanation.
I should like to make some brief reference to what I believe to be the Cinderella branch in the Department of Interior. I refer to the Commonwealth Electoral Office. Generally speaking, the buildings which the officers of this organization occupy are completely out of keeping with the responsibility of their duties. In South Australia the electoral officer’s premises in Currie-street are quite inadequate. He has a capable staff, but his offices are overcrowded with material. Other departments seem to be well catered for. High rents are paid to give them adequate accommodation and facilities, but the poor old electoral officer, whether he be the chief electoral officer for the State or the humble electoral officer for a division, is pushed away in some corner in conditions which clerks itv other departments would not tolerate for one minute. I should like the Minister to have a look at some of these offices, particularly the Kingston electoral office, to see whether something cannot be done to put them on a comparable level with those in which other staffs are engaged.
Finally, 1 wish to refer to the films that are made by the News and Information Bureau. I should like the Minister to tell me the arrangements that have been made with the various theatre organizations to show these films. I have noticed on numerous occasions in the capital cities that one feature film is shown with two or more News and Information Bureau films in the supporting programme. Top admission prices are charged. I do not say that these films are not worth the prices that the theatre proprietors charge, but I should like to know what they pay for them and whether they are engaging in a racket by buying only a feature film and building up the programme with these short films, thus avoiding the necessity to pay the film companies the comparatively high rental charges for films. Np doubt they obtain the films from the News and Information Bureau at a very nominal charge. These films are very educational, and I agree that they should be shown as widely as possible, particularly overseas, but if the theatre proprietors are receiving the films at a low price they should not be allowed to charge exorbitant admission fees to the people who go to the theatre for an evening’s entertainment.
Reverting to the matter of contracts, I should like the Minister to explain to me in detail why the contract in question was let otherwise than in accordance with the specifications.
.- I hope that the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) will not allow the debate on the estimates for his departments to conclude without replying to the very serious allegations which were made a week ago by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) concerning the projected Commonwealth buildings in Sydney. You will remember, Mr. Chairman, that these buildings are to cost £5,500,000, and were due to be completed within two years. The honorable member for Shortland put some searching questions about them on the notice-paper and received answers from the Minister on 27th April last. Subsequent information seems to show that the honorable member was not given a full reply to his questions and that there are now circumstances which must cause very grave disquiet.
Together, the buildings in question are probably the largest that the Commonwealth has undertaken. They are certainly needed and a great deal of planning, both State and municipal, turns on their completion. It appears that a sub-contract was let for the supply of structural steel. A large number of sub-contractors was listed in the Minister’s reply to the honorable member who had asked for their names. The subcontract for the supply of structural steel was not listed. It now transpires that the sub-contractor secured steel from the only manufacturer in Australia, and that he now refuses to deliver it to the head contractor for the project. Further, the only steel manufacturer in Australia will not now supply steel to any alternative sub-contractor or to the head contractor. A rigid timetable was imposed on the whole contract. It now appears that the Commonwealth may have to meet penalty payments because steel cannot be provided to enable the contract to be completed in time. The contractor would have been liable for the penalty payments if he had not done his job in time, but now the Commonwealth looks as if it will be liable for penalty payments, because it cannot perform its part. There has been a great deal in the press about this matter since the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) asked his questions and I hope the Minister will not let this occasion pass without explaining several unusual features in connexion with this contract - the way tenders were called for, the way some of the tenderers were interviewed personally, the way assurances were sought from some tenderers and not from others and the way other specialists were called in to report on the prospects of carrying out the contract in time and in accordance with the specifications. I hope the Minister will say how much the project will now cost, when it will be completed, who will be fulfilling the sub-contracts and what additional expenditure the Commonwealth or the contractors will have to undertake. This is not the first time on which questions have been asked about this department and on which less than full replies have been given. I remember the Minister’s predecessor’s replies to questions I asked him about the hangar at Mascot which collapsed, and about the hangar at the Richmond Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome, which had to be shored up for fear that it also would collapse; and we have never been told who footed the bill in those two projects. This is a much larger project. A week has now passed, and the Minister had this afternoon to deal with these matters, but has not done so. I therefore hope he will take the occasion to deal with them this evening.
– I would be glad to have a chance to say something about them.
– I am happy to have that assurance.
I pass now to the estimates for the Department of the Interior. Last year, during the debate on the estimates for this department, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) pointed out that the first position on the ballot-paper for the House of Representatives was worth not less than 4 per cent, of the formal votes. He analysed the figures for New South Wales in the House of Representatives election in 1958 and showed that in the fifteen electorates where D.L.P. candidates were placed first on the ballot-paper they averaged 9 per cent, of the votes, whilst in the other 25 electorates which they contested D.L.P. candidates averaged 4.8’ per cent, of the votes. The honorable member also pointed out that in three electorates where Communist candidates were first on the ballot-paper they secured 6.9 per cent. of the formal votes and in the other four seats they contested they polled 3.5 per cent. He instanced the position in the electorate of Banks where the same Communist candidate opposed the sitting Labour member in both 1955 and 1958. In 1955, when the Communist candidate was at the top of the ballot-paper, he secured & per cent, of the votes, and three years- later, when he was not at the top of the ballot-paper, he received, only 3.4 per cent.
Since the honorable member for Watson spoke on this subject last year, the Chief Electoral Officer has published the figures for all the States, and I would like to proceed with this analysis in a few other cases in Victoria, and New South Wales where one can secure an adequate statistical cover age. In New South Wales in 1958, Liberal candidates were placed first on the ballotpaper in seventeen House of Representatives electorates and secured 43.8 per cent, of the votes in those electorates; in twenty other electorates, where they were not first on the ballot-paper, they secured 39.3 per cent, of the formal votes. In Victoria in thirteen electorates the Labour candidates were placed first on the ballot-paper and secured an average of 45 per cent, of the formal votes; in the other twenty seats the average Labour vote was 36.1 per cent. The D.L.P. candidates secured first position on the ballot-paper in twelve Victorian electorates, and polled an average of 16.9 per cent, in those electorates whilst in the 21 other electorates they secured an average of 1 3.3- per cent, of the formal votes.
A similar advantage is also seen quite clearly in respect of the Senate elections in 1958. In Victoria and Queensland the Labour candidates secured the first position or group on the Senate ballot-paper. In the twenty seats where the Labour candidate was not first on the House of Representatives ballot-paper in Victoria, the A.L.P. secured 40.9 per cent, of the votes for the Senate and 36.1 per cent, of the votes for the House of Representatives. In Queensland the A.L.P. candidates were also first on the Senate ballot-papers. In fifteen seats where the A.L.P. candidates were not first on the House of Representatives ballotpaper, the Senate candidate secured 41.3 per cent, of the votes and the House of Representatives candidates 37.3 per cent. In Tasmania the D.L.P. Senate candidates were first on their ballot-paper but in four seats the D.L.P. candidates were not first on the House of Representatives ballotpaper.. In those four seats that I referred to they secured 17.9 per cent, of the votes for the Senate and only 7.9 per cent, of the votes for the House of Representatives
Looking around the chamber one can see that in those electorates which changed their party allegiance on the last occasion by a very narrow vote, in each case the alphabetical factor was the determining one. In the electorate of St. George, Clay .beat Graham. In Braddon, Davies beat Luck; in Kalgoorlie, Browne beat Collard; in Stirling, Cash beat Webb and in Griffith, Chresby beat Coutts. There were two other scats which changed their party allegiance from the Liberal Party to the Country Party, and one which changed from Country Party to Liberal Party, but that was rather because the A.L.P. determined, by its preferences, that a change on that occasion was desirable, just as it will undoubtedly decide that a reversion to the former tenure will be desirable on the next occasion. There was only one ot her seat which changed party allegiance in 1958 and that was Herbert, where there were unusual circumstances applying, and the Country Party candidate joined the Liberal Party on being sworn in.
In the other place there are 30 senators down to Senator McKenna and 30 others down from Senator McManus. In the Senate, position on the ballot-paper is determined by lot and the number of senators now is evenly divided alphabetically; but in this House there are now 94 out of 123 members whose surnames range from “ A “ to “ M “ alphabetically. It is therefore about time that we decided the position on the ballot paper of candidates for the House of Representatives in the same way that we have determined it, over the last 22 years, in the Senate - that is, by lot, by taking the names out of a hat - because it is quite clear that an advantage of at least 4 per cent. of the formal votes is gained by the person at the top of the ballot-paper.
The other proposal which I want to make concerns the numbering of the Senate ballot papers. The number of informal votes rises with the increase in the number of candidates. The average number of informal votes at a Senate election is 10 per cent. In some seats the informal vote almost secures a quota for election to the Senate, whereas in the House of Representatives the average number of informal votes is 3 per cent. or less. The increase in the number of informal votes with the increase in the number of candidates or groups of candidates can be seen in comparing the 1955 and 1958 elections in New South Wales and Queensland. In 1955, there were three groups of candidates in New South Wales and the informal votes amounted to 9 per cent. In 1958, there were five groups and the informal votes rose to 12 per cent. In Queensland, in 1955, there were also three groups, and informal votes totalled 4 per cent. In 1958 there were five groups, and the informal votes totalled 7 per cent. I should point out that there were fewer candidates on each occasion in ‘Queensland, although there was the same number of groups there as in New South Wales. In the other States there were the same numbers of groups and candidates on each occasion, so one can draw no lesson from them.
In the general election for the House of Representatives in 1958, in electorates for which there were two candidates the percentage of informal votes was 2.9. Where there were three candidates the informal vote was 2.5 per cent.-I do not know why the drop in percentage - where there were four candidates it was 3.5, and where there were five candidates, 4.2.
Wemight achieve a more rational and formal Senate vote if we were to take two steps. The first is to provide that an elector may cast a formal vote without numbering every square, or every square but one, which is the present practice, and to introduce the practice which applies very often in municipal elections in Australia, under which the elector numbers twice as many squares, or twice as many squares plus one, as there are vacancies to be filled. That, for all purposes, would procure a proper proportional result. The other suggestion is that we should denote the party allegiance beside each Senate group on the ballotpaper, at least if the Senate candidates who ask to be grouped are willing to have their party allegiance disclosed. This is a procedure which is applied in the United States and many other countries which are familiar with the ballot system.
I suggest then, Sir, that when next amending the Electoral Act we should provide, first, that the position of candidates in House of Representatives elections should be determined by lot, as is the case in Senate elections; secondly, that a Senate ballot-paper should be regarded as formally filled in if twice the number of squares are numbered consecutively as there are vacancies to be filled; thirdly, that the party affiliation of candidates, at least in Senate elections, should be revealed on the ballotpaper.
.- I want to make a few remarks about the operations of the Department of Works. This department emerged from the war as a very important department. It is probably one of the most important Commonwealth departments. If one were seeking criteria on which to measure its importance one could choose, for example, the number of people it employs. It has some 3,000 permanent and temporary officers and some 10,000 or more day-labour workers. Or its importance can be measured by its expenditure. The Estimates show that this year the expenditure of the department will be between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. Its importance can also be measured by its activities. In this case it has the responsibility for construction works which are estimated to cost £40,732,000. Maintenance and repairs will cost £13,542,000. This makes it one of the biggest spending departments, and what it does has an effect on the entire financial economy of the Commonwealth.
The Department of Works operates throughout the whole Commonwealth. Its head office is in Melbourne and it has offices in all the other capital cities. It also has offices in big country towns and in the Territories. It has offices in Darwin and in Papua and New Guinea. Such a farflung organization presents a challenge in economic and efficient administration. The Director-General of Works, Dr. Loder, has been one of the severest critics of his own department. When the Public Accounts Committee was investigating the Department of Works, the Director-General said that one of the greatest difficulties he had was to get his engineers and architects to think in terms of costs. I shall quote later a sentence from the Director-General’s statement to the committee. The difficulty has been, therefore, to develop an organization which can work efficiently and economically.
As a result of the criticisms of the Public Accounts Committee in a report brought down on behalf of the committee in 1953, the department established a training school. Every year the Director-General brings from 20 to 30 of his senior officers and executives to Melbourne to meet trained people from outside - distinguished architects, distinguished engineers and distin guished administrators - who address them and in that way it is trying to catch up with the problem which confronted it after the war. That was the problem: How to ensure that the organization was conscious of the work it was doing and of the need for maintaining economic practices. That is the work of this training school to which I have referred. In passing, I may say that that sort of arrangement has been developed now for other departments and some of us have been interested in talking to the groups of officers who have been gathered throughout the Commonwealth to hear lectures on scientific managements.
One other problem touching the Department of Works is its collaboration with other government departments. The department does most of the construction works for other government departments, and therefore must work in very close collaboration with them. When the Public Accounts Committee was investigating the department we found that one of the difficulties was that other departments did not collaborate with the Department of Works sufficiently to enable it to organize its activities as well as they could be organized. For example, departments told the Department of Works that they wanted suchandsuch a thing done. The project might be a big job like the extension of the aerodrome at Essendon. When the Department of Works had taken the trouble to prepare plans and specifications and had even prepared detailed drawings, it found that the client department was either not ready to go ahead or had changed its mind. In consequence there arose an entirely wasteful situation in which client departments were quite indifferent to the responsibilities they owed to the Department of Works, whilst the Department of Works faced the difficulty that it was not able to allocate work among its various sections with any degree of accuracy.
Paragraph 150 of the committee’s report on the department states -
It is evident to the Committee that in many instances . . . the technical expert did not pay sufficient regard to the accounting and costing aspects of the organization. These things bear out the remarks of the Director-General in another connexion that we need to get an attitude of mind that will reject the idea that we can get things without regard to cost. 1 remind honorable members that the Director-General said that he had the greatest difficulty in making his architects and engineers cost-conscious. He tried to develop cost consciousness throughout the organization, and study groups are among the methods that he adopted in order to ensure that there would be cost consciousness. The committee also said -
Client departments should not call for the preparation of sketches and plans, until there is a reasonable prospect of the projects concerned being carried out without undue delay.
Client departments should define their requirements clearly before they approach the Department of Works.
A constant review should be maintained of the arrangements between the design staffs of the Department of Works and other departments.
There is more to that effect. Honorable members can find these recommendations in the fifth report of the Public Accounts Committee published in 1953. What we had to say then has, I think, just as much application now.
One of the difficulties that confront the Department of Works is that which confronts private construction firms - the shortage of man-power, both on the professional side and in the day-labour ranks. The Auditor-General had something to say about that in his report for 1959-60. He directs attention to the shortage of workers. In his report for 1959-60 he drew attention to the shortage of architects. In particular, he dealt with the National Capital Development Commission and said -
Because of the shortage of professional staff, the Department of Works has not been able to cope with the necessary design work for some of the commission’s projects, consequently the commission has contracted for some major works without reference to that department. This has a direct bearing on the lower figure for 1959-60 (£8.5 million) as compared with 1958-59 (£9.7 million).
So, even in matters of the importance of the work of the National Capital Development Commission, the Department of Works has not been able to do the job required of it because of the lack of staff. When the Public Accounts Committee was looking at these matters in 1953, we were concerned with the attitude of the department towards day labour. We were not able to go into the merits and demerits of day labour as against contract labour beyond examining the problem superficially, but we did suggest that it should be looked at more carefully. The Auditor-General, in his report for the year ended 30th June, 1960, discussed this question of day labour. The matter is still under consideration and no final conclusion has been reached as to what should be done. The Auditor-General has said in his report -
A larger proportion of departmental work was carried out by private contractors, and during the year the day labour work force was further reduced in most regions. Expenditure on day labour wages for 1959-60 totalled £8,367,010 compared with £7,809,077 in 1958-59 and £8,049,637 in 1957-58. The departmental day labour force was employed mainly on repairs and maintenance of buildings, and the construction of roads and runways. For some time past some departments have arranged for the execution of minor works without reference to the Department of Works. To enable the department to concentrate on its major functions from 1st July 1959, other Commonwealth departments assumed responsibility for their minor works up to £25 in each case.
We felt that the activities of the Department of Works should be decentralized. There are three ways in which that can be done. The various departments can be allowed to carry out minor works. Whilst these may not be very large individually, they can become very large in terms of aggregate expenditure. The adoption of this procedure has meant that the Department of Works has been able to free itself from small operations for the various departments and this has been, I gather, an entirely satisfactory development.
Another method of decentralization would be to expand the system under which the department is engaging private architects and private engineers, and the third way in which the work might be decentralized is by having resort to the assistance of local government bodies - shires and municipalities - throughout the Commonwealth. It may not be possible for these bodies everywhere in the Commonwealth to undertake such work, but it should be possible in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. I believe that, in South Australia also, it would be possible for the Department of Works to hand over to the various local government bodies construction and maintenance work associated with such undertakings as post offices, schools and hospitals. If a policy were adopted of handing out work to local government authorities and of paying them a commission for doing it, I am sure there would be a closer association between the Department of Works and country towns, and that those towns would gain in stability.
I was interested in what the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) said about the implementation of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee. I suggest to the honorable member, who is chairman of that committee, that he might consider the practice pursued by the Public Accounts Committee. All the reports of the Public Accounts Committee, besides going to the other departments that they might affect, go to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who is required to inform the committee what he proposes to do about the committee’s recommendations. These proposals are then presented to the Parliament by the committee, and at that stage there can be a debate as to the desirability of taking one course or another. 1 feel that it ought to be incumbent upon the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) to let the Public Works Committee know what he has decided to do in respect of its recommendations. Then those recommendations could be presented by the Public Works Committee to the Parliament and debated, when honorable members could assess the relative merits of the proposal put forward by the Public Works Committee and that which the Minister was authorizing. Problems of this kind interest me because they are administrative and I think that the adoption of some of these proposals, at any rate, would be worthwhile from the point of view of obtaining efficiency and economy.
– Mr. Chairman, I would like to follow up for a moment or two, what the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has said in connexion with the Public Works Committee. He has given us quite a lot of information. The procedure that he has outlined to honorable members has been found beneficial by the Public Accounts Committee.
The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, has inquired extensively into the expenditure of moneys voted by the Parliament. In the early days of our work - not so much recently - we found that client departments very often did not work in dose enough collaboration with the De partment of Works which was undertaking work for them. I felt, at times, that the Department of Works was very much to blame in some of the matters, but as the years have gone on I have found that the department has not always been given a real opportunity to do the work in the manner in which it should have been done. As the honorable member for Warringah has pointed out, sometimes after the Department of Works has proceeded some way with work of preparing plans and specifications for a client department, the client department has then decided to change its requirements. That has resulted in the waste of a lot of Commonwealth money. During the years in which the Public Accounts Committee has dealt with this matter we have been able to make the different departments realize how they can work together more closely. Even so, one department arranged with a private firm of architects to prepare plans for a building and, when plans were received, sent them back to the architect saying that the nine-story building provided for in the plans was not required. The architects then had to start all over again. We all realize that a good deal of money is spent in drawing up plans, and that if those plans are not used much money can be wasted. The Public Accounts Committees tries at all times to prevent such things from happening and to conserve Commonwealth money. I say, therefore, that I agree with much of what the honorable member for Warringah said.
I would like to refer also to the procedures that are followed under our electoral system, with particular reference to the methods adopted for deciding the positions of names on ballot-papers. In this connexion I would like to refer to a Senate election, which was held some years ago, in which two men from Sydney stood as candidates for South Australian seats. They represented themselves as members of some protestant association, the name of which I have forgotten. They did not come to South Australia. They did not issue a howtovote card. They did not put an advertisement in a newspaper. They simply submitted their names for inclusion on the ballot-paper and when lots were drawn to decide positions on the paper, their names were grouped on the left on the paper.
I felt that this gave an opportunity of finding out the real value of the position on the left on the ballotpaper. They had no one in South Australia working for them. Nobody in that State knew anything about them. But when the vote was taken it was found that this group of two men had polled sufficiently well to remain in the count until it was almost completed. In fact it was ascertained that by having his name in the No. 1 position on the ballot-paper a candidate could increase his total of votes by li per cent, of the electorate. In other words, it was found that of every 200 people who voted, three did so with no other purpose in view than to fill in the ballot-paper. There was no reason whatsoever for any South Australian voter to cast a vote in favour of those two persons. They had not put any policy before the public, and had merely placed their names on the ballot-papers. The result of the poll gave a clear indication of the number of people who cast their votes for candidates in order of the appearance of names on the ballot-paper.
In the case of Senate elections we have endeavoured to solve the problem by drawing lots for positions on the ballot-paper. Honorable members will recall that in earlier years, when names were placed on the ballot-paper from top to bottom, the positions were decided according to an alphabetical systems If there were three names in a particular group, each name starting with the letter “ A “, that group was given three points. If the name of each of the candidates started with the twentieth letter in the alphabet, the group would be given 60 points, and they would find themselves near the bottom of the paper. The result was that certain persons were elected simply because their names happened to start with letters which occur early in the alphabet. It was realized that a position at the top of the ballot-paper represented a big advantage. 1 cannot understand why it has been found desirable to ballot for positions on the Senate ballot-paper but undesirable to ballot for positions in respect of elections for the House of Representatives. As a party official in South Australia for a number of years I acted as returning officer in connexion with our ballots for selection of candidates- and also elections for various party positions. Almost twenty years ago I recommended that lots should be drawn for positions of names on ballot-papers, and said that the alphabetical system was undesirable. I pointed out the distinct advantage to be gained from a position high on the ballot-paper, especially under the system of preferential voting. Under the old system, when the voter simply placed a cross alongside the name of his fancied candidate, the position on the paper did not matter so much, although even then there was an advantage to be gained from a position at the top of the ballot-paper. If the Government intends, to make alterations to our electoral system or to our voting procedure, then I suggest that it should consider drawing lots for the positions of names on ballot-papers.
Tt might be suggested that I have a personal interest in changing the present practice, because my name starts with “ T “, and is nearly always at the bottom of the ballotpaper. At the same time, however, I have been able to do very well, because only one member has to be elected in my district, and I have found that if a member does his job properly the people will get to know him, and his name will not be just one of a series of names on a ballot-paper. I cannot complain, therefore, that I have suffered unduly through having my name at the bottom of the ballot-papers. But if I represented a swinging electorate, and could command only a small majority, I would always feel the disadvantage of having an unfavorable position on a ballot-paper.
– You can always change your name by deed poll.
– 1 nearly changed it to Avie-Thompson, to try to get near the top of the ballot-paper; but I thought such a move would be rather a joke and would not fool anybody. I do, however, realize the advantage to be gained from having one’s name at the top of the ballot-paper. If honorable members had any long experience in the counting of votes in elections they would agree with me that the nearer to the top of the ballot-paper you have your name, the greater is your chance of success, whether the election ‘be for a party position, a municipal office or a pre-selection. If your name is near the top you can. frequently score those few extra votes that are required for success.
I believe the Government should give my suggestion careful consideration. There is nothing novel about it. If it had never been done before, the Government might reply, “ We have always followed this practice and we think we should carry it on “. We have, however, decided against the old procedure in the case of Senate elections. In elections for the Legislative Council in South Australia names used to be placed on the ballot.paper in alphabetical order. Now, however, when only two members are to be elected for each district, the candidates can ask for their names to be placed on the ballot-paper in whatever order they desire. Under the procedure adopted by the Labour Party in that State, the candidate who polls the most votes in preselection gets No. 1 position in the group, and the names of other candidates follow according to the number of votes polled by them. We think that this is a satisfactory procedure. If it is good enough in South Australia, where we have had an anti-Labour Government for the past 27 years, then it should be good enough to be at least considered by this Government in connexion with elections for the House of Representatives.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) suggested that it should be sufficient for an elector to cast votes preferentially for only double the number of persons to be elected plus one. I am not by any means in favour of that system. Under the present system that is followed in connexion with Senate elections, in which a large number of informal votes is cast, the total number of formal votes is divided by the number of persons to be elected, plus one, in order to arrive at what is called the quota. But if we provide that an elector need vote for only eleven candidates out of a total of, say, eighteen standing, then a number of ballot-papers will become ineffective, and a fresh calculation would have to be made to decide the quota.
– Tt will not make a bit of difference, according to all the experts.
– We have experts here on all sorts of subjects, and when you say that it will make no difference. T am of opinion that it will not make much dif ference as far as informal votes are concerned. When the Liberal Party decided not to oppose me in the election for the Port Adelaide seat in this House. I was left with only a Communist Party opponent. When we came to count the votes we found that there was a tremendous number of informal votes, even though there were only two candidates. Supporters of the Liberal Party had no candidate for whom to vote. They would not vote for me and they would not vote for the Communist. But the remarkable thing is that in the areas of the electorate where the Liberals were strongest - where a Liberal candidate would poll more votes than I would - the Communist oi this occasion received ten times as many votes as he did when a Liberal candidate stood. I am sure that he did not receive Labour votes.
I would say that an analysis of the informal votes would show that many people deliberately vote informal rather than vote for the candidates standing at an election. This is not so likely to occur where there is a full party ticket. However, the system of proportional representation introduced by my party was an improvement on the previous system for the election of senators. My colleagues know very well that I am no lover of the proportional representation system. 1 would like some other method adopted, and 1 would like some of our experts to consider what can be done. I think I have an idea which may provide a solution, but I will not put it forward tonight. We must see that everything possible is done at Senate elections to provide a fair representation of the States. Under the system of proportional representation we have been able to ensure that the States are fairly represented in the Senate, but we do have the difficulty of a deadlock.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make some comments about the Bureau of Meteorology. This year, we will spend about £1,750,000 on providing weather forecasts. The bureau is doing a very good job in this respect and is providing much help for our aviation and navigational services, but I have a little criticism to offer about the inconsistency of the forecasts. In my area, which is on the Queensland border, there is an overlapping of forecasts from Queensland and New South Wales. Quite often, we find that these forecasts are almost completely different, and this causes us to wonder sometimes whether there is much co-ordination between the various meteorological centres. 1 do not want to be unfair in my criticism because I know that the bureau has a most difficult job in trying to forecast the weather. However, farmers in a district that is suffering semi-drought conditions pay quite a lot of attention to weather forecasts. They are disappointed when scattered showers and rain that are forecast do not eventuate.
To show the irregularity of some weather forecasting, T took three weather maps from the papers last week. I took one from the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ representing the position at 3 p.m. on 20th September, one from the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ and one from the Melbourne “ Age “. The three weather maps are somewhat different. 1 also took the three maps for Monday last, and again they were different. They are not radically different, but they are certainly not the same. I do not know whether it is impossible to provide the same weather map after consultation over the telephone; I do not know what the mechanism is for drawing weather maps. But these maps are certainly not the same. To-day, people are becoming more aware of weather maps and the weather services on television are teaching them how to read weather maps. In these circumstances, the weather maps should be more accurate than they have been in the past. In my area, where we have an overlapping of forecasts from Queensland and New South Wales, we do not know what to think. Farmers are becoming more and more dependent on weather forecasts in carrying out their farming activities, and I think it is vital that they have more accurate information.
.- I wish to deal with the money expended, under these estimates, on the Rathmines air base. This base was built at the commencement of World War II. and is situated on the edge of my electorate. It is really in the electorate of Robertson. I understand that the Government intends either to close the base or to hand it over to the Army for use in training personnel in the use of amphibious vehicles. But I want to speak about the cost of maintenance of the air base and the fears of a certain section of the community in the area. I understand that the cost of maintaining Rathmines air base by the Department of the Interior is in the vicinity of £49,000.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr. Chairman. Surely your previous ruling that the honorable member for Barker could not discuss a matter appearing under another heading in the Estimates though under the administration of the department, applies in this instance.
– Order! The honorable member for Hunter is in order.
– With respect, Mr. Chairman, 1 consulted an authority in this Parliament last week and asked whether I could speak about the money expended on Rathmines air base by the Department of the Interior, and I was told that I could.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. I do not want to stop the honorable member from speaking, but I point out that he will have his opportunity when another of the Estimates is before the committee. The fact is that the Rathmines air base is still within the control of the Department of Air. It does not come within the ken of the Department of the Interior until it is declared surplus by the Department of Air, and then the question of its disposal comes under the consideration of the Department of the Interior. Up to the present, it is still under the control of the Department of Air. Any money expended on it comes out of the vote of the Department of Air.
– I understand, Sir, with respect, that there is a large number of men employed by the Department of Works, paid out of the vote for the Department of the Interior. I know many of them personally. It was for that reason that I consulted an authority in this Parliament - he is present now - and he told me that 1 could speak along the lines that I have indicated. May I have your ruling, Mr. Chairman, whether I can proceed with this matter?
– I think it would be more appropriate to discuss it when the estimates for the Department of Air are before us. Are you merely speaking about *he officers employed at the base?
– 1 am speaking about the money expended by the Department of the Interior in the maintenance and painting of the buildings.
– Speaking to the point of o-der, Mr. Chairman, I point out that the honorable member is referring not to men paid by the Department of the Interior but to men employed by the Department of Works who carry out maintenance work at the request of the Department of Air, and this work is paid for by the Department of Air. Unless he wants to refer to the actual carrying out of work by the Department of Works, the honorable member is quite out of order. If he wishes to refer to the base itself, then that clearly comes under the Department of Air. If he wishes to refer simply to work being done by the Department of Works then he may have a case, but as this is being paid for by the Department of Air, it can more properly be discussed under the estimates for that department.
– 1 want to make a submission to the committee, and 1 consider it would bc in the interests of the community. lt relates to the future of the air base. Do 1 have to refrain from speaking on this matter until the estimates for the Department of Air are under discussion? What is your ruling, Mr. Chairman?
– I wish to guide the honorable member and also to give him an opportunity to speak. I suggest that he discuss this matter on the estimates for the Department of Air.
– Very well, Sir.
.- I wish to support the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) who spoke on the meteorological services with particular reference to the needs of Queensland. I have no doubt that the present method of forecasting weather is adequate in the southern States where the weather pattern is more regular, but Queensland has a different problem because tropical factors among others make the weather pattern very irregular indeed. I do not intend to criticize the officers of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology in any way because we all agree that they provide a service equal to any in the world. My complaint concerns the means of disseminating information.
The forecasts which are supplied in Queensland are based on observations taken probably twelve hours earlier. A lot can happen in that twelve hours because of the erratic behaviour of depressions and other weather factors. Farmers to-day use many machines. A farmer starting work early in the morning plans his day’s work on weather reports that he receives at 6.30 a.m. They are based on reports taken the previous evening. In the meantime, weather conditions can change completely; a depression which appeared to be going south might change direction. A farmer might have hundreds of tons of hay wasted if rain falls. 1 know that it takes time to correlate information taken from various centres in the State, but if only wind directions and rainfall at key centres in the State were broadcast every four hours, that would be a valuable guide to primary producers, most of whom are well versed in the science of meteorology.
– I wish to refer to several matters which come under the administration of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works. 1 was intrigued to hear some reference made in the debate to the electoral advantage to be gained from having names beginning with a particular letter of the alphabet. I have found that of 124 members in the House of Representatives, no fewer than 94 have surnames commencing with letters in the first half of the alphabet. That is a percentage of 75.8.
– It is the same percentage in the telephone directory.
– No, it is rather higher in this House. In my usual careful manner, I have checked this. In the Sydney telephone directory, the percentage of names with letters in the first half of the alphabet is 64.5. It may be different in Melbourne. I was interested to find that of the five names of honorable members commencing with A, four are in the Australian
Country Party. I was surprised to find, however, that there are fifteen B’s in the House, and I was even more surprised to discover that there are only four in the Country Party.
I wish to refer now to a matter affecting the Department of the Interior under its administrative vote as contained in Division No. 231. This matter touches on the need for advice to the Minister for the Interior from officers of his department on matters of road safety, and the need for improved street lighting in Canberra. I am not referring now to the actual expenditure on street lighting which is contained in other estimates but to the need for a policy and advice from departmental officers, and for the adoption of a policy by this Government which will effect an improvement leading to safer driving in the national capital. I think it is true to say that we have no actual street lighting in Canberra except in one or two principal areas. What we have generally is footpath lighting and it is such that strangers and visitors coming to Canberra, and even persons who have resided here for many years, find that driving at night is hazardous and a peril to travellers and pedestrians alike.
Recently, in New South Wales, plans have been made for heavy expenditure to improve street lighting in cities and towns throughout the State. Figures have been collected to show the effect of poor street lighting on traffic accidents. It was reported that 52 per cent, of all fatal traffic accidents occurred at night. The volume of traffic at night was only 25 to 27 per cent, of the total volume of traffic in the 24 hours. Street lighting generally was insufficient. In many instances, street lights were incorrectly located. The benefits which would flow from improved street lighting were such that a policy was put forward to the Minister for Local Government in New South Wales by senior officers of his department and were accepted by the Minister as a matter of policy. It was reported that better street lighting would improve traffic services, give increased protection against crime and more comfort and prestige. It would result in a marked reduction in road accidents at night. Theerfore, I suggest to the Minister for the Interior that, as a matter of policy, he should consult with the senior officers of his department whose salaries and payments in the nature of salary come under Division No. 231.
I believe the Minister himself and every honorable member who has travelled through Canberra at night realize the hazards of travel in these streets. These hazards arise from the planned nature of the city, the wide avenue-type of thoroughfares and the extensive planting of trees which diffuse and hide the lighting which is on the footpath alinement rather than on the streets themselves. The president of the Road Safety Council in the Australian Capital Territory, within the last few days, referred to the difficulty of providing adequate street lighting in Canberra and gave figures concerning the cost involved in improving the street lighting. He quoted a figure of £1,000 to light one intersection.
I suggest to the Minister that this matter rises above the question of cost. When it is a matter of saving life and protecting life, he may well consider it worth while to confer with the officers of his department who are experienced in this matter and adopt a policy and a plan which will lead to vastly improved street lighting throughout Canberra, and to a reduction in the high accident rate involving vehicles and persons.
I referred to the Minister, by way of question in the House earlier this week, a matter which relates to the Department of Works. It has to do with contracts let by the Department of Works for Government construction projects in this city. In my question to the Minister, I sought some form of protection for employees who remain unpaid and for suppliers of materials who remain unpaid when, for one reason or another, a building contractor or subcontractor fails financially and leaves those commitments unmet. Certainly the question was without notice and the Minister was replying off the cuff, but he did say in his reply that, generally speaking, it was not regarded as advisable to interfere too much with the terms of contracts and that as far as possible the Government ensured that suppliers to contractors had their accounts paid.
I should like to stress that I am not referring to any particular contractor in connexion with this matter. But there have been numbers of cases in which contractors or sub-contractors engaged on Government projects have failed financially and have not met their commitments for either wages or goods supplied for the projects on which they were engaged. I suggest to the Minister that there are two forms of protection which might be applied. One is to legislate along the lines of the Liens Act which operates in Queensland and which provides the safeguard that, in the case of a failure of this kind, the Government may satisfy demands for wages or for payment for materials from the progress payments which are due to the contractor.
In the Australian Capital Territory there is a tremendous development of subcontracting and piece-work. I do not agree with those policies, nor does the Trades and Labour Council of the Territory. We believe in the day-labour system of work on these construction jobs. I was pleased to hear the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) pay tribute to-day to the work force of his department when he said that the day-labour men of the primary working divisions were carrying out the construction work for the laying of the new coaxial cable between Sydney and Melbourne much more quickly and more cheaply than it could be done by contract. On the same point, I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) refer to-night to the question of the day-labour system versus the contract system. I suggest that the Minister have a further look at this matter, because it has shown that the day-labour system is cheaper, quicker and better than the contract system for house construction in the Australian Capital Territory. I refer the Minister to his own departmental machinery pool and transport section, where very expensive equipment is maintained, but where, in the main, the repair work is sent out to contractors.
Let me revert to the question of contractors and sub-contractors who fail financially and do not meet their obligations to employees and suppliers of material. The point I want to make is that although the employees and the suppliers of the material which goes into the construction are left unpaid, the head contractor is eventually paid in full by the Government. I suggest that the Minister consider some means of inserting in the contracts a clause making payment for labour and for materials supplied a first charge against the head contractor.
Lest the Minister should feel that these are isolated cases, I point out to him that I have details of a number of cases - I can show them to him if he is interested - in which such failures have occurred and suppliers of materials have been left unpaid. Upon making representations to the authorities concerned, the suppliers have been told that it is a private matter of business between the supplier and the sub-contractor. If that is to be so and if these failures continue, many of the small firms operating here for the supply of plaster sheeting, for instance, and other materials which go into the construction or lining of buildings, will not be able to carry on their work and there will be a loss of their contribution as well as a loss of employment for the men concerned. It is fortunate that not many contractors or sub-contractors have failed to meet their obligations to pay wages. I believe that the Department of Works has exercised very great care to ensure that commitments of that kind are met, but I suggest that there is a need for safeguards in relation to payment of wages for work which has gone into a project and to payment for materials which have been incorporated in a building or construction for which the head contractor is paid in full with the taxpayers’ money. The head contractor get every penny that is due for all the materials that have gone into the building and for all the labour that has gone into the project, and in those circumstances I suggest that the Government should provide protection for the man who gives his labour and for the supplier of goods. I suggest that the Government should ensure that these people are paid from the moneys paid by the Government to the head contractor. I suggest that the Minister could either incorporate some condition in the contracts let by his department or consider the wisdom of introducing legislation along the lines I have suggested in order to give the protection which I can assure him is really needed in the Australian Capital Territory.
.- I desire to take a little further a question that I asked of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) on 7th September. On that occasion, 1 asked him - ls it a fact that when a redistribution of electorates is taking place a quota is set and that it is permissible under the Electoral Act for the number of electors in each electorate to be varied to the extent of 20 per cent, above or 20 per cent, below the quota?
I also asked - and this is the important point -
What authority determines the extent of the variation?
I went on to ask -
Will the Minister consider the advisability of applying the principle of 20 per cent, above the quota in metropolitan electorates and 20 per cent, below the quota in country electorates?
The Minister gave this reply -
The Electoral Act at present provides for various matters to be taken into consideration in determining the boundaries of electorates. When a redistribution is decided upon, those boundaries are determined by commissions which are set up in each State. The commissions take into account many factors as directed by the act, other than the mere existence of a rural or a metropolitan flavour to an electorate. I do not think that it would be wise to restrict the various State commissions to any greater degree than they are restricted now because many factors other than the quota influence their judgment in regard to electoral boundaries.
– Are you quoting from this year’s “ Hansard “.
– 1 am.
– You are out of order.
– I am not. I emphasize that I do not seek to restrict the various State commissioners in any way. 1 advocate that they be more liberal in their interpretation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– More conservative.
– In a few minutes 1 shall give the reason why the Leader of the Opposition is interjecting. This subject is a hardy annual, and I have spoken on it on previous occasions. I have advocated that certain things in the act be implemented and, in doing so, I have always had the complete attention of the Leader of the Opposition. He is very interested in this subject, as are most members of the Labour Party, I have found in the Commonwealth Electoral Act the Minister’s reply to any question that would have been raised on this matter. So that my speech will be completely factual, I shall read from the act. The Minister said that certain things were taken into consideration. That is so. Section 19 in Part III. of the act states - in making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration to (a) community or diversity of interest, (b) means of communication, (c) physical features, (d) existing boundaries of Divisions and Subdivisions, (e) State Electoral boundaries.
The Minister said exactly that in other words. But he could have gone a little further. That is why I speak on this subject to-night. Section 19 continues - and subject thereto the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
Let me speak of Victoria because I know that State best. The act means that if there is a quota of 40,000 electors the commissioners have the right to make an electorate of 48,000 or 32,000 voters. Who determines this? The answer to that question may be found in the act. I shall not read it all because I am sure that all honorable members know it as well as I do. The fact is that the Governor-General appoints three distribution commissioners and may appoint one of them as chairman. They hold office during the pleasure of the GovernorGeneral. But the point that I want to make is illustrated bv section 1 7 in Part III. of the act which states -
At all meetings of the Distribution Commissioners the Chairman, if present, shall preside, and in his absence the Distribution Commissioners present shall appoint one of their number to preside, and at all such meetings two Commissioners shall be a quorum and shall have full power to act, and in the event of an equality of votes the Chairman or presiding Commissioner shall have a casting vote in addition to his original vote.
Therefore one man may make the decision. That is the information which I sought from the Minister when I asked him what authority determined the extent of the variation. Does any honorable member know the names of two out of the three commissioners who decided on the divisions at the last redistribution?
– The honorable member for Scullin states that he can name two commissioners. I should like to hear him do so. With due respect to the honorable member, I do not think that he can. Neither can any one else. Generally speaking, the men who perform this most important function are not well known to the public, yet one of their number can be the deciding force in determining the electorates in the different States of the Commonwealth!
The people are said to desire decentralization. Labour men, Country Party men and Liberal men say they want decentralization. This is not a party matter; it is a great national problem. We must have decentralization. The Victorian Government has set up a committee which is taking evidence on the distribution of the population. Recently a special train was run to Melbourne to enable young people in Warrnambool, Colac and other towns enroute to see where they would find employment in the future. Political representation must be decentralized.
I shall now reveal the interest that the Leader of the Opposition has in this subject. Of the 33 Victorian seats in this House, he represents a seat which has the second lowest number of voters. The smallest number of voters is in the electorate of the other honorable member who has interjected, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters). He represents a metropolitan electorate of 36,995 voters. The Leader of the Opposition represents 37,903 electors. No wonder he was apprehensive when I rose to speak on this subject. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) represents 39,008, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) represents 39,320, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), that genial person who is now smiling and waving, represents 39,451. The five honorable members to whom I have referred each represent fewer than 40,000 electors. However, members of the Country Party have not one electorate which has fewer than that number of electors despite the vast area that is covered.
– What about the Lalor electorate?
– The honorable member for Lalor has mentioned his electorate. The electorates of Bruce, Darebin, Deakin,
Higinbotham and Lalor have large numbers of voters. The Opposition did not object when a formula based on population and area was used for the distribution of the petrol tax.
– But these seats-
– I know that the position of the honorable member for Fremantle is a little dangerous too. The Commonwealth Electoral Act states quite clearly that the commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance “ to be used whenever necessary “. Why is it necessary now to allow a margin? That is a fair question. The answer is to be found in the fact that we have a very unhealthy massing of the population in our metropolitan areas. Surely the people who framed the act had in mind that it might be necessary to attract people to the country. Let us consider Victoria again. There are 33 Victorian members in this place and 22 of them represent metropolitan electorates. It does not matter on which side of the House you may sit, if you represent a metropolitan electorate you must represent it properly. The amenities are to be found in the cities, and votes are important.
On Thursday last, 22nd September, 1 asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) whether he would preserve the Williamstown rifle range and he stated that he would. The Melbourne papers have had articles about it on several occasions since.
– It is not in your electorate.
– 1 know, but it is in my argument. The people in Melbourne wanted to know where Williamstown could spread if the rifle range were not used.
– It could spread to the Mallee.
– I do not have the parochial instincts that some other people have. I am not speaking of the Mallee now. Let Melbourne spread further afield than at present. I have told the story before of the man in Melbourne who could not get a job a couple of years ago when things were not going as smoothly as they are now. Another man approached him and said that he had a good job in the other man’s trade at a wage of £2 a week in excess of what he was receiving previously, and that a house was available at a very low rental. The unemployed man said that that was the best news he had heard in years. He asked where the job was, and he was told that it was at Wangaratta. He said, “ I would not go there “. Why would he not go there? Simply because city amenities are not available in that district. The people in Wangaratta are represented very ably by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), but as I have said, of the 33 Victorian seats in this place, 22 are in the metropolitan area. Therefore let honorable members, in a great national effort, forget their tales of party strife and pocket handkerchief electorates where one can fire a shot-gun across them or cross them in a tram for about ls. fare. Let us forget these things and look at the national position. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is interjecting.
– What do you want?
– You do not want us to disturb your geographically small electorates in the city of Melbourne; and a similar position exists in New South Wales. Lel us look at this matter as national representatives. This is the only way we can decentralize the population. What is the use of sending the population from Sydney and Melbourne to places where there are fewer amenities? People go to the cities in search of amenities. And what happens then? There are then more people in the cities and they get other amenities, better education and so on, and when a redistribution of seats comes along the number of seats in the metropolitan areas is increased, and so the whole thing snowballs. With more people in the metropolitan areas and more amenities there the process goes or. until the country electorates become larger and return fewer members compared with the city electorates. Any practical man or any one with a knowledge of this great country must admit that, if atomic bombs were dropped on our metropolitan areas, the whole community would be disrupted. Therefore, from the point of view of national security, can any honorable member in this Parliament speak against what I am suggesting or put forward any practical suggestion that will compare with what I am proposing? 1 have looked into this matter closely, and what I propose is the only means of decentralizing the population. It is the only means by which we can remain in peaceful occupancy of this great Commonwealth.
– As is usual in the debate on the votes connected with my departments, a very wide variety of matters has been raised, and I feel that it would be appropriate at this stage to touch on some of them.
– Deal with skeleton weed first.
– At the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell; I will take a few minutes to deal with matters raised by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). It is quite true that the electoral population of the electorates in Victoria is becoming a little bit out of balance, but that was adjusted in the last re-distribution of seats and will be adjusted again in the next re-distribution to conform to the statutory quotas. In my experience, the electoral commissioners in general in all the States have paid very careful heed to the need foi having a rather smaller number of electors in country electorates than in metropolitan electorates, but they cannot accurately forecast movements of population between re-distributions and that is the sole explanation of the maldistribution which exists at present in the State of Victoria.
In addition to the matters raised by the honorable member for Mallee - community of interest, means of communication, existing boundaries, physical features and the like - where electoral boundaries are fixed by three commissioners or, as the honorable member suggested, where there is the possibility of one of them having undue weight, the act makes generous provision for objections to the plans of the commissioners. The plans have to be displayed in public for a considerable period and the commissioners have to report to the Government all the objections that are raised to their plans. Therefore it would seem that, at least at the time of the last redistribution, the honorable member for Mallee would have been satisfied. The act also provides that when a certain number of electorates get out of balance the Governor-General may order a redistribution in one State. The electorates in Victoria have only just reached that condition, or are shortly likely to reach that condition; but we are so near a general census which will finally establish the populations and quotas that it would not be worth while at this stage ordering a re-distribution in Victoria, when it is like;y that after the next census there will be a re-distribution throughout Australia. I think that fairly disposes of the matter raised by the honorable member for Mallee, but 1 assure him that, in general, the electoral commissioners do load the city electorates with more electors compared with the country electorates, having regard to the means of communications and physical features of the electorate.
– Do you expect the impending census to affect boundaries at the next election?
– I do not think it is possible, physically, to have a census and a re-distribution before the next election. I think the time-table would defeat that suggestion, and it does not require a skilled calculator to work that out.
– What about the one man exercising so much authority?
– I repeat that there is generous provision for objections to be made to the proposals of the commissioners. 1 do not want to take up too much of the time of the committee discussing these comparatively minor matters, because some very weighty matters have been raised. I will turn to the beginning of the list and deal wilh some of the points raised by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) in his first gallop over this particular course. He stressed the need for municipal government in the Australian Capital Territory and referred to various reports that have been made from time to time. I find that as in so many of these cases the honorable member and 1 think along very similar lines up to a certain point. Our point of departure usually turns on the simple but very hard and practical question of £ s. d. The question of cash and financial arrangements is the major stumbling block to organizing effectively some form of municipal government for Canberra. 1 say unhesitatingly that I would be delighted if a satisfactory constitutional arrangement could be organized to give some financially sound municipal authority to this City of Canberra. The honorable member was fair enough to suggest that citizens of this city should be rated at a rate comparable to that of other capital cities of Australia, but at the same time there are immense difficulties.
– A rate comparable to that in the provincial cities.
– Yes, the provincial cities. At the same time there are immense problems here with the enormous rate of growth that we are experiencing, and until that pattern stabilizes itself I cannot hold out any early prospect of being able to provide a satisfactory plan for municipal organization in this city. I make these simple comments: First of all, in such things as water rates, there is involved a remarkable change of tune from the honorable member whose protests were very loud when the rates were first imposed at practically half the average rate which exists in most provincial towns in Australia.
On the question of lighting, he suggested in the second half of his speech that cost should not be counted. Again, if this became a municipal matter, as most street lighting is, it would be the citizens of Canberra who would have to be in favour of saying that cost did not count in this regard. Although we try to make Canberra an outstanding city, the Treasury has not unlimited resources at its disposal, and those resources must be fairly spread over the whole of the Commonwealth. However, I assure the honorable member that this matter is receiving fairly constant attention. One of the interesting features is that neither he in this chamber, nor I, would have half as much to say on many subjects if that kind of municipal organization could be evolved.
The next matter was a hardy annual, which was raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). He referred to rates which he thought should be paid by Commonwealth departments which have offices or buildings occupying land in municipalities which would normally be rated. This matter is frequently raised in this chamber. The Government’s policy on the matter is well settled. The Government makes ex gratia payments when the land is occupied by a Commonwealth instrumentality. It also makes ex gratia payments when the land is used for domestic purposes, such as a residence for a postmaster, and in the various other circumstances which the honorable member for Batman clearly set out. But payment is not made in cases where the Commonwealth, in the exercise of its functions, provides an administrative service to the people of a particular area. Besides being citizens of the municipality, these people arc also citizens of the Commonwealth and citizens of the State in which the municipality is situated. One never hears the suggestion that State governments which have regional offices in municipalities should pay rates to the local government authorities concerned. Those local government authorities are their own creations.
– The State Governments do not charge the municipalities pay-roll tax either.
– That is an entirely extraneous matter. People are not simply citizens of a municipality. They are citizens of the municipality, citizens of a State and citizens of the Commonwealth. Where the Commonwealth is providing them with a service, there does not seem to be much sense in it paying rates to the municipality and taxing people to pay these rates.
The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) both raised matters to which I shall reply. The honorable member for Shortland spoke in a very serious vein about the Commonwealth offices in Sydney. I was rather surprised at the tone he adopted. He made some very serious allegations. Had those allegations been substantiated in any form, they would have been sufficiently serious to call for a public inquiry into the matter. He referred to the tendering for the Commonwealth offices as “ crook “, but he was wise enough to say that there were only rumours floating round about it. He said that there was something radically wrong, and he used the term “ scandal “. But never at any stage did he give any evidence in any form to back up his allegations.
The honorable gentleman related some of his remarks to a contract for the Newcastle West post office building. He felt somehow aggrieved that the contract for that post office building was let at £15,000 to other than the lowest tenderer. I find that there may be some reason for the honorable member’s grievance, in that the lowest tenderer was, in fact, a relative of his. On many occasions the Commonwealth does not let contracts to the lowest tenderers. There are many good reasons why it should not do so. For instance, the lowest tenderer might be engaged on other work, and the Government might be satisfied that he had not the resources to take on two jobs at once. The lowest tender might be so far below what the experience and knowledge of the Department of Works in regard to the prices of materials showed to be a rational tender, that the department would be quite satisfied that the man would go broke doing the job. There could also be a case in which a man submitted a tender for a kind of work in which he had no experience. All these considerations have to be taken into account when contracts are let.
So much for the Newcastle West post office. I turn now to the much more important subject of the Commonwealth offices in Sydney. The contract for the first stage of these offices was let to a firm called Clementson and Watts, for just over £3,000,000. Prior to the letting of that contract, and while the detailed plans were being prepared, it became quite apparent to the Department of Works that there was going to be a shortage of steel. Very wisely, the department decided that, since it was working to a fairly tight timetable, it would enter into a contract for the supply of steel so that steel would be available to the contractor to whom the contract was let. The department also foresaw that the price of steel would rise. In order to preserve the normal relations between contractors and sub-contractors, it provided in the contract that was entered into for the supply of steel - a contract directly between the Commonwealth and the steel contractor - that when the final contract for the building was let, the steel contract would be assigned to the contractor, and that the supplier of steel would become a subcontractor to the main contractor. The steel contract was for a sum in the vicinity of £270,000. It was at a very favorable price indeed, as the figures I shall give later will show.
Eleven contractors submitted tenders for the Commonwealth offices and the lowest tenderer, Clementson and Watts, was successful. I mention at this stage another matter raised by the honorable member for Shortland. He said that there was something improper in the Commonwealth Government consulting some of the tenderers as to timetables and the like before tenders were called for, or at least before tenders were closed. In the case of many major works the common practice is to get people who are interested in submitting tenders to register with the Department of Works, so that discussions can be held with them, so that inquiries can be made as to their financial standing and ability to carry out the work, and so that the department may be satisfied that contractors will know what they will be letting themselves in for. This practice was followed. It is a practice which is almost universally followed in all major contracts for the Commonwealth.
Clementson and Watts received the contract for the construction of the building, but, for some reason which is not apparent, the suppliers of steel decided that the Commonwealth could not assign the contract v.i:h them to Clementson and Watts.
– Who are the suppliers of the steel?
– -Arcos Limited. There is no secret about the name. Arcos decided that it did not want its contract assigned, and it held to its contract with the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, held to what it regarded as the terms of the contract, and said that the firm of Arcos was a sub-contractor to the main contractor.
– Were there any other tenderers for the supply of steel?
– Yes, but A rcos was by far the lowest tenderer.
– You did not tell me that before.
– I will come to that if you will be patient. At this time the legal situation was a little obscure. There is no concealment of that. Arcos maintained that the Commonwealth had assigned the contract without permission and, therefore, that there was no valid contract with Clementson and Watts. We maintained that there was. Arcos preferred to have a contract with the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth argued that Clementson and Watts were the main contractors and that Arcos was the sub-contractor. This involved a great deal of legal argument and at that stage the Commonwealth and Clementson and Watts decided that, in exercise of the rights of the main contractor under this alleged contract with Arcos, if Arcos refused to supply the steel, to protect themselves- they should terminate the contract and possibly claim the necessary damages from Arcos
I cannot gives the exact dates concerned, but this is all a comparatively recent happening. At this stage, when we did not know whether there was a valid contract for steel or not, the answer to the honorable gentleman’s question was given, and that is the only reason why that particular firm was omitted from the list of sub-contractors that was supplied to the honorable member. Subsequently, the Department of Works approached two of the other tenderers on the original steel contracts in order to find out at what price they could obtain steel if it decided to call for new tenders. The quotations given to the department were in the vicinity of £470,000 or £475,000- in other words, £200,000 more than the original price quoted by Arcos. Negotiations had been going on with Arcos and a new contract has now been concluded under which Arcos will supply the steel at the price originally quoted - in the vicinity of £275,000 - with certain minor variations as to times of payments by Clementson and Watts. In all other respects, as far as I am able to ascertain, the original arrangement will be satisfied.
The only dificulty is that Clementson and Watts have been held up for approximately three months by the delay in the supply of steel. That delay will involve the Commonwealth in some sort of penalty payment. Negotiations are going on with Clementson and Watts to fix that at a certain sum at this point. But as the honorable member will readily appreciate there is a considerable amount of argument as to what the precise figure will be. I am reliably informed that it should not be in excess of £40,000. So, all told, by renewing this contract the Commonwealth Government has effected a considerable saving on what it would have paid for steel if it had, in the first place, delayed calling for tenders until the principal tender had been let or, in the second place, scrapped the contract entirely when the argument first started.
A great tribute must be paid to the patience of the Director of Works in Sydney in his negotiations to bring this matter lo a satisfactory conclusion. I feel, in short, that the honorable member for Shortland quite unnecessarily made all these suggestions about scandal and something being radically wrong. These suggestions were quite without any foundation in fact. The Department of Works has acted with the highest motives throughout and with the object of saving the Commonwealth expenditure. It has done so in a very satisfactory way.
– It is costing £40,000 more.
– Would’ the honorable member for Shortland kindly explain what would have been the alternative if we had not called for tenders for steel and entered into a contract direct with Arcos at the early stage? The only answer is that we should have had to accept a price £200,000 higher at that stage or at some later stage.
– Why did you not buy direct from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the manufacturers?
– You have not the slightest idea of the intricacies of prefabricated steel and you do not want to hear about it so I will not waste time on you.
The next honorable member who spoke was the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). He raised a point that was also raised by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) in connexion with what is known as the Light Horse memorial which has been removed from the Suez Canal area and is being re-erected at Albany in Western Australia. The Light Horse memorial, it is true, was subscribed for, in part, by members of the Light Horse and others who served in Egypt and Palestine in the First
World War. They subscribed, in total, some £5,000 towards the memorial which cost in excess of £17,500. That memorial was perfectly correctly sited at the Suez Canal until the time of the Suez Canal trouble a couple of years ago. Members will remember that it was torn down, broken and defaced by the Egyptians. At that time, suggestions were made in this chamber, which I can well recall were applauded by the honorable member for Chisholm, that that memorial, should be removed to Australia and should be erected at Albany.
– In whose electorate is that?
– It is in the electorate ot Forrest - and a very good electorate, too. The suggestion for the return of this memorial was enthusiastically acepted by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia which took the trouble to negotiate with its counterpart organization in New Zealand and. obtain its approval. The Government considered that the league represented all types of exservicemen including light horsemen, and I know that certain light horsemen in Western Australia took an active part in promoting this proposal through the league. Negotiations went on for some years. First of all, we had to wait for the time when we could establish some sort of diplomatic contact with the Egyptian Government in order to obtain access to the memorial. After that, we had to obtain from the NewZealand Government and New Zealand ex-servicemen approval for the return of the statuary to Australia and its re-erection at Albany. The New Zealand Government, very generously, consented to pay half the cost of dismantling the memorial and its base and shipping it to Australia for reerection at Albany. The New Zealand exservicemen’s association has agreed that that is the proper place for it to be erected. The agreement is now part-performed. The base of the memorial is in course of being constructed, and the bill for half the freight has been sent to the New Zealand Government. I agree that it would be quite possible to consider consulting the light horsemen on this subject if the action were not so far advanced. The Commonwealth Government accepted the representations of the Returned Servicemen’s League on this matter in perfectly good faith and I think that the matter is now too far advanced to do anything more about it.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) raised the question of a new Parliament House. That, of course, is a very long-term project. There is no doubt that the time is coming when we must consider having slightly larger premises built on a more modern style to provide for the more efficient functioning of this Parliament. The National Capital Development Commission has this matter well in hand. As the first part of its thinking on this project, it has persuaded the Government to accept Sir William Holford’s suggestion that the new Parliament House be built on the lake-side at the top of the rise between this building and the Australian War Memorial. The first job is to get the lake constructed. While that is being done, thought will be given to the kind of building we require. I have no doubt that fairly detailed plans will have to be prepared. Possibly some kind of worldwide competition will have to be conducted, or at least a very extensive world-wide investigation will have to be made of the general plan of the building and the style of architecture that is desirable. All these things will take many years and much money. At the present stage this is a matter which is in the mind of the commission, although nothing final or concrete has evolved
The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) referred to the Public Works Committee. 1 must say that I have some sympathy with the point of view that he expressed. He said that the committee and the Parliament do not know, when the motion for the adoption or rejection of the committee’s report on a certain project is submitted, whether the report is being adopted in toto by the Government, or whether the Government intends merely to carry out the proposed work without accepting all the committee’s suggestions. I do not think any amendment to the act is required in this instance. All that is involved is a change in procedure, and I am quite willing to give an assurance that when I move for the adoption of a report of the Public Works Committee I shall give the House the information suggested by the honorable member, so that the House will know to what extent the committee’s proposals are to be adopted or rejected.
The honorable member also raised the question of some works which were on the defence programme but which in total are costing more than £250,000. These Works are being undertaken at Wagga. In fact different contracts were let, some before the bill changing the status of the Public Works Committee was passed and some after. In no single case does the cost of one of these projects exceed the amount which would make necessary an investigation by the Public Works Committee, or a decision of the Governor-General-in-Council to make such an investigation unnecessary.
Many honorable members raised the question of reform of the electoral system. The first point mentioned was that of the position of names on a ballot-paper. I do not agree with all that has been said about the luck of the draw, whether in reference to luck in having a name beginning with a letter occurring early in the alphabet, or in reference to drawing a good position on the ballot-paper by lot. Much argument can centre around this matter. I think it is a gross reflection on the intelligence of the electorate generally to say that this is the most important single factor determining the fate of governments. If there is a task for us in connexion with this matter it is a task of educating the people so that they will not simply start to mark the ballot-paper at the top and work their way down. Surely it is axiomatic that in a sound working democracy you do not depend on luck in such important matters, whether it be the luck of alphabetical order or the luck of the draw. Instead, you try to impress upon the people the importance of voting according to a reasoned judgment. I believe that would be the opinion of all honorable members in this House.
The suggestion has been made that the practice of balloting for positions has been followed in relation to Senate elections. That is perfectly true, but it must be remembered that in Senate elections there are far larger numbers of candidates whose names are arranged in groups and who have far less personal contact with individual electors than do candidates for particular constituencies. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) made one statement which rather intrigued me. He referred to the relative efficiency of the various parties at collecting postal votes. I was rather amazed to hear him describe the situation he found at, I think, the Trades Hall in Fremantle, where he was confronted with a pile of postal votes and he withdrew in horror. He was quite right in doing so, because section 94 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides: -
Any person to whom … an envelope containing or purporting to contain a postal ballotpaper is entrusted by a voter for the purpose of posting or delivering to a Divisional Returning Officer . . . and who fails to forthwith post or deliver the . . . envelope shall be guilty of an offence. Penalty. Fifty pounds, or imprisonment for one month.
The honorable member for Fremantle naturally would not want his own supporters to have such a penalty inflicted on them, and I hope he will adjure them at the next election to follow the proper procedure with respect to postal votes entrusted to them for delivery. 1 he honorable member raised another matter in connexion with films produced by the News and Information Bureau. I have seen both the films he referred to and I must admit that I am not nearly as critical of them as he was. I was rather struck by the attractiveness of those films. Apparently other authorities in different parts of the world agree with me, because the News and Information Bureau stands very high in world esteem for the quality of its films. It has, in fact, taken many awards in open competition in various parts of the world.
– They are anaemic.
– The honorable member for Wilmot evidently disagrees with the honorable member for Fremantle, whose quarrel with the films was that the colours were far too bright and harsh. The honorable member should get together with his colleague on this subject, and let the News and Information Bureau carry on in its rather expert way.
The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) raised a comparatively minor matter concerning a contract for the supply of fruit and vegetables to Woomera. I do not think there was any misunderstanding in the mind’s of the persons who tendered for that contract, but it is quite possible that they may have been under the impression that the goods had to be supplied by rail. The general understanding in the department, however, was that all that was required was that the contract price should cover delivery at Woomera. In fact, many persons supplying goods to Woomera have used either the Commonwealth Railways or the road transport of the Department of Supply. The successful tenderer in this instance had used both means of delivering goods.
– What does f.o.r. mean?
– That is a technical term that is used in contracts. I assure the honorable member that in order to remove all doubts there will be a clear indication in future contracts of exactly what is implied or required. I can tell him that in this case there was no intention to mislead, and that misunderstandings will be eliminated in the future.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) set out very clearly some of the problems that beset the Department of Works, first in estimating costs accurately at quite considerable periods of time ahead of the letting of contracts. This is especially difficult in times when costs are fluctuating considerably, when the position of the labour market is uncertain, when the supply of materials is variable, and when other such considerations are difficult to forecast. The honorable member mentioned problems involved in preparing plans and details for a client department, and the delays that occur between the time when the client department decides that it wants the work done and the time when it finds it convenient, having in mind its arrangements with the Treasury, to get the work done. I am happy to tell the honorable member that during the last few years there has been a distinct improvement in the design list procedures evolved between the Department of Works and the Treasury for keeping these delays down to the shortest possible limits. He also raised the question of the relative merits of day labour and contract work. This has been under constant scrutiny by the Department of Works, and during the past five years the day labour force employed by the department over the whole of the Commonwealth has been halved. We believe that the efficiency of the work done has increased. I was interested in his suggestion that local authorities might carry out some of the minor maintenance as agents for the Department of Works. That is an idea that would certainly be worthy of examination.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) repeated some of the suggestions concerning positions on the ballotpaper. Hearing him raise this point once again, my only thought was that no member so far had mentioned the desirability, in many instances, of being in the middle position of the ballot-paper when preferences were to be distributed. Another point not mentioned was whether candidates would be asked to choose the position they would prefer, if their name were drawn first in a ballot. That, of course, is another problem.
I turn to a different aspect of the department’s activities, and this relates to the Bureau of Meteorology. This matter was raised first by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and then in a slightly different form by the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes).
– I also raised the question.
– That is so. It is very true that the Bureau of Meteorology is conscious of its obligations to the rural community. We realize how greatly farming depends upon the weather. Unfortunately, we still cannot guarantee to provide the weather farmers want. We can only say in general terms what the tendencies of the weather are; we cannot guarantee what it will be. The time factor mentioned by the honorable member for McPherson is a very real one. The officers of the department are generally working pretty much against the clock to collate the reports from all the sections, to draw their maps and to supply them to the disseminators of the information - that is, the newspapers and the radio. Once again, one must remember that these bodies themselves have their own deadline for publication of these matters, and all in all I think that they do provide a reasonably good service. However, they are always trying to speed it up.
The honorable member for Richmond dealt with the difference between weather maps supplied in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. That is the kind of thing that one would normally expect. The weather map published in the daily paper is a very small map indeed, and the bureau in each capital city puts in the map only the movements of air masses, fronts ar.d the like which affect mainly that particular area. If all the sections put in all the details of all the air masses, movements, pressures and the like all over Australia, there would be a terrific amount of detail which would render the maps even more unintelligible to the average layman. So there will be variations between the maps in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. The maps emphasize local conditions and show what is likely to happen and the probable movements of air affecting that zone. I think that is all that can reasonably be expected.
I think I have occupied the time of the committee long enough. I hope 1 have dealt adequately with the many points that have been raised. ° Mr. COURTNAY (Darebin) [10.25].- The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser)-
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed Vote, £12,401,000.
Proposed Vote, £1,306,000.
– I desire to deal with certain aspects of the administration of the Department of Shipping and Transport, particularly as they relate to roads. The highlight of the department’s administration has been the failure of the Australian Transport Advisory Council to tackle adequately problems relating to our roads to-day. It is true that from time to time the council issues the results of surveys of various aspects of road problems. Only recently, it issued a statement dealing with proposals for the principal national highways. It was useful as an academic study, but it offered no solution and no practical observations.
The plain, incontrovertible fact is that the Australian road system is slowly but steadily declining. The reason for this is a lack of planned national effort, and this will prove very costly in the future. We have loose unco-ordinated efforts in the various
States, and there is no recognition of the immensity of the road problem. The real effort of the Australian Transport Advisory Council should be to co-ordinate in a practical and tangible way the efforts of the States. However, except for a more or less biassed expression of principle from time to time, nothing of any tangible benefit has been done so far. The position in other countries is shown in a United Nations’ survey of roads. This shows that the average expenditure on highways by member nations is increasing at a rate of between 10 per cent, and 15 per cent, per annum. This rate is chosen deliberately, but in Australia no provision exists for expenditure in any way approaching the figure shown in the United Nations’ survey.
What is the nature of the problem? It is only being tinkered with and 1 use that expression deliberately and advisedly. If the Government imagines that the passing of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill last year was a practical approach to the problem, it is still living in a state of fantasy. Australia has 500,000 miles of roads. Of these roads, 49 per cent, are cleared only, 18 per cent, are formed, 24 per cent, are paved and 9 per cent, are constructed of concrete or bitumen. In our principal network of 71,000 miles of roads, 26,000 miles, or 36 per cent., are sealed. The remainder consist of gravel or are unformed. What is the position with vehicles that use the roads? It is certainly most important that the Government should be cognizant of the immensity of the problem that will confront the road authorities in the next few years because of the large increase in the number of vehicles using the roads. To-day there are 2,500,000 motor vehicles in Australia. There were only 500,000 30 years ago. But the increase in that period is nothing to the increase that will take place in the foreseeable future. Research shows that the trend is for motor vehicle travel to increase at more than 6 per cent, compounded annually. Because of that. I believe the Government has to concentrate much more intensively on this problem than it has done in the past, and a lead must be given by the Australian Transport Advisory Council. In the past, we have looked to it in vain.
What is the outlook for the next twenty years? In 1980, the population will have increased by 50 per cent, to 16,000,000. The number of vehicles registered will be increased by two and a half times to 6,250,000. Highway usage will be three times as heavy as it is to-day. Despite this prospect, the Government has done nothing except pass the insipid roads legislation last year; it is only tinkering at the problem. The Government seems to be unaware of the magnitude of the difficulties that confront the nation. In the next four years, it will do nothing except increase the grants to the States by a couple of million pounds a year. That is a mere bagatelle. It is an incontrovertible fact that when highway facilities are not available, the economic demand is stifled and expansion is hampered, but the Government is dodging its responsibilities.
I know what the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) will say. He will claim that the Government will be giving £100,000,000 more in the next five years than it gave in the past five years. It would have given that amount in any case because of the higher petrol tax revenue derived from the increased number of vehicles on the roads. So it is useless for the Government to preen itself on that account. The same amount of money would have been available for roads under the old legislation with the exception of the matching amount of £30,000,000 which must be met £1 for £1 by the States over the next five years. The other 220,000,000 would have been provided under the old legislation. So, the Government is handing the States practically nothing more except the £30,000,000 which must be matched before the States can use it.
The road problem in Australia can be epitomized under three headings. First, traffic has outgrown road capacity in weight, speed and density. Extreme congestion in city and urban areas is an every-day occurrence. Tn Melbourne, it is a veritable nightmare to travel through the peak traffic. Secondly, there is no national concept of a strategic highway system as part of national security measures. The Opposition has frequently advocated the expenditure of part of the money provided for defence upon the national highways that have a strategic value, but the Government has remained oblivious to this need. Thirdly, the gigantic needs of the next decade or two have been barely estimated, let alone planned. Other countries have far greater recognition of road requirements for the next twenty years than we have. That is evident from road transport journals which I have sent to me. These contain reports accompanied by photographs and statistics which illustrate what other countries are doing. After reading those journals, I am definitely of the opinion that other countries are far ahead of us in their preparations for the future.
The attitude of this Government can best be described as one of tolerant condescension towards the States. The Commonwealth Government seeks to imply that it is extremely munificent. The plain fact is that most of the money that is needed for roads is collected through the petrol tax, and the Slates have no power to collect taxation on petrol. In 1923-24, when the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia passed legislation to impose a tax on petrol on a State basis, they were challenged in the High Court by the Commonwealth Government. A compromise was reached and it was agreed that the Commonwealth Government would levy taxation under the Customs Act, but would hand it to the States for road purposes, lt is useless for the Commonwealth Government to claim that it is acting as Father Christmas to the States when it has taken over, by agreement, taxation that the States tried to levy but constitutionally had no power to collect.
What is happening in the various States? Let us take New South Wales as an example. In 1959-60, New South Wales spent £44,000,000 on roads. Commonwealth grants totalled £11,000,000 or 25 per cent, of the expenditure by New South Wales. The State Government found £1 1 ,500,000 or 26 per cent., and local government authorities, which have the least resources, spent £21,500,000 or 49 per cent. These figures apply roughly in every State. Local government authorities have to find practically half the amount that is spent on roads. In the United States of America, which is an example to every other country in relation to road transport, local government authorities find only 22 per cent, of the expenditure. The Com monwealth Government actually expects local government authorities with their meagre resources to meet the brunt of the burden.
The States are not in a position to increase their contributions. The only avenues for collecting money that are available to them are mo lor registrations, drivers’ licences and a tax on the basis of road tonnage imposed on certain commercial vehicles. They cannot increase motor registration charges much more because that is an unfair way of imposing taxation for roads. In that way, motorists pay taxes whether they use the roads or not. The petrol tax is imposed according to road usage just as consumers pay for electricity or water. Therefore, the petrol tax is by far the fairest method of raising money for roads.
The present legislation is in force until 1963 and provides for a basic grant of £44,000,000 a year with supplementary grants. The history of the incidence of petrol tax makes a sorry study for those whose objective is a better road system. For every £1 that has been collected since the inception of the petrol tax by the Commonwealth, about Ils. has been disbursed in aid for roads and 9s. has gone into general revenue. The Commonwealth has not done the fair thing by the States, and it has not acted fairly in relation to motor cars owned and run by the Commonwealth Government. At the end of 1959, there were 25,562 Commonwealthowned motor vehicles registered in Australia excluding those of the defence services. Although they used the roads and services, they were not subject to sales tax, registration fees or petrol tax, so they deprived the States of money that should be rightly theirs.
Whatever way we look at it, the present situation is unsatisfactory. There must be an era of re-thinking so that our present outmoded approach will be discarded. The nation looks to the Australian Transport Advisory Council to give a practical lead. The Government has shown only an academic interest in the problem. The Transport Advisory Council must mobilize State opinion and a new set of principles must be devised. First, more public money must be expended on roads, and in this connexion the Commonwealth Government must play a major role. Secondly, road authorities must never be forced into the position of using money intended for new construction to keep up with maintenance. That is the position to-day. The Main Roads Board in New South Wales and the Victorian Country Roads Board spend on maintaining old roads money that should be used for new roads. Thirdly, roads which are an ever-increasing national asset must not be used as a means of raising revenue for other purposes. That is what is being done to-day because only twothirds of the revenue from the petrol tax is being given back to the States for the purpose of constructing and maintaining roads. The roads are being used in this way to provide general Commonwealth revenue, but the roads are in a disgraceful condition.I suggest to the Minister for Shipping and Transport that as the new holder of the portfolio he has an apportunity to make a name for himself by ensuring, when he attends the meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, that a national road plan is given the highest priority. The present position is such that the States cannot handle the situation because they have not the money, and the municipalities are being called uponto pay far more than their share.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The Government believes that arbitration tribunals are the proper medium for the resolution of important industrial questions. The salary claims of Commonwealth public servants, in the hearing of which the Commonwealth intervened, have long since been determined by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In that case the Commonwealth made submissions on questions of principle involved as to the appropriate approach by the commission. It did not argue questions as to what salary rates were appropriate.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he make available for the information of honorable members the contents of the letter which he received earlier this year from Mr. Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier, on the question of world disarmament, and the full text of his reply?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In a letter addressed to me dated 2nd June, 1960, the Soviet Premier, Mr. Khrushchev, outlined Soviet proposals for world disarmament.
These Soviet proposals received wide publicity at the time and were publicly introduced by Mr. Khrushchev at a press conference in Moscow on 3rd June, 1960, and were tabled by the Soviet representative for discussion in the Ten Nation Disarmament Committee when it resumed its meetings on 7th June in Geneva.
After three weeks of questioning by Western delegations to clarify ambiguous and obscure points in the Soviet proposals, the Soviet bloc delegates, who had been told that the West was about to give their considered comments on the Soviet proposals and to introduce new compromise Western proposals, walked out of the Disarmament Committee in a body on 27th June.
The following is the text of my reply to Mr. Khrushchev: -
Dear Mr. Chairman,
I have received your letter of 2nd June,1960, and the proposals for disarmament forwarded with it. These are being given the most careful study by us, particularly as they might affect the situation in the area in which Australia is placed.
I deeply regret, however, that the five Eastern European countries represented at the ten-nation Disarmament Committee, led by the Soviet Union, have seen fit to walk out of the Committee’s meetings without waiting even to hear, let alone discuss, the Western Powers’ considered views of your proposals and the new proposals of their own. which it was known were being prepared for early submission to the Committee. I cannot see that the delegates’ action will help to further the general cause of disarmament.
I regret the latest development all the more becauseI had been glad to note your assurance that your new proposals had taken into consideration some of the views of other Governments participating in the Disarmament Committee’s work. It had been our hope that careful study in the Disarmament Committee would have justified the expectations raised by news of your approach. We had hoped particularly that the proposals would be followed by the elaboration of concrete measures for control related to each stage of the disarmament programme and effective from the very beginning of the disarmament process, so that disarmament and its control would proceed hand-in-hand. All these hopes have now been dashed. lt was with concern that I noted in your letter the statement that the Soviet Government doubts whether the Western Powers represented in the Disarmament Committee really want disarmament; and I see that similar statements have been made even more forcibly recently by the Soviet delegate in Geneva. The policies followed by the Western Powers since 1946, including their record in the many disarmament conferences held over that period, are however, sufficient to dispel any such doubts. For my own part, I am convinced from my experience and contact with Western Leaders over the years that these doubts are entirely misplaced. I am certain that the Western Powers, no less than Australia, stand ready to work out measures leading towards general and complete disarmament under effective international control, which was the aim of the unanimous resolution of the United Nations General Assembly last year.
Yours sincerely, (Sgd.) R. G. Menzies.
m asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honor- able member’s questions are as follows: -
In the year ended 31st July, 1960 - 1. (a) County Courts, 110; (b) High Court of Australia, 6. 2. (a) Of the appeals to the County Courts(i) 43 were upheld, (ii) Two were struck out, the Commonwealth to pay the costs, (iii) 39 were dismissed, (iv) 23 were struck out, (v) Two were struck out, the appellant to pay the costs, and (vi) One was withdrawn, the appellant to pay the costs. (b) Of the six appeals to the High Court of Australia, one was determined in favour of the claimant and five in favour of the Commonwealth. 3. (a) 21. (b) So far costs have been paid in full in three cases and in part in one.
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
A company is not entitled to an income tax deduction for a loss incurred by another company. However, there is not in the law as it stands anything to prevent the recoupment of past losses by a public company from subsequent trading profits made by that company even though the ownership of the share capital may have changed.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Are moneys received by a beneficiary as an annuity in accordance with the terms of a will taxable?
s. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
An annuity received by a beneficiary under a will is taxable except to the extent that it is paid out of exempt income derived by the estate, for example, an exempt dividend paid by a gold-mining company.
m asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
What weight is attributed to each of the items in the Consumer Price Index as at the June quarter, 1960?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The first statistical bulletin on the Consumer Price Index, published on 12th August, 1960, foreshadowed the publication of a more comprehensive descriptive bulletin later in the year. I am advised that the Acting Commonwealth Statistician proposes to give detailed information on the weighting pattern of the index in that later bulletin. In the meantime, because of the large amount of detail involved in the honorable member’s question, I have asked the Statistician to forward a reply to him personally by letter.
m asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
I refer the honorable gentleman to the answer I gave to a similar question of his on 8th September recorded in “ Hansard “ of that date.
n asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Australian equals £Stg.lOO was adopted on 2nd December, 1931. At that date the pound sterling was equivalent to $U.S.3.40.
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers: -
m asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Which diplomatic posts in Asia (a) have and (b) do not have an officer who speaks the principal local language?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
India - Australian High Commission, New Delhi.
Indonesia - Australian Embassy, Djakarta. Japan - Australian Embassy, Tokyo.
Burma - Australian Embassy, Rangoon.
Cambodia - Australian Embassy, Phnom Penh. Ceylon - Australian High Commission, Colombo.
Laos - Australian Legation, Vientiane.
Malaya - Australian High Commission, Kuala Lumpur.
Pakistan - Australian High Commission, Karachi.
Philippines - Australian Embassy, Manila.
Singapore - Australian Commission, Singapore.
Thailand - Australian Embassy, Bangkok.
Viet Nam - Australian Embassy, Saigon.
However, at the above-mentioned posts, official business with the Government is conducted satisfactorily either in English (Burma, Ceylon, Malaya, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) or in French (Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam). In Cambodia three Australia-based External Affairs officers speak French. In Laos three Australiabased External Affairs Officers and the Services Attache speak French. In Viet Nam four Australiabased officers and the Services Attache speak French. In addition, officers qualified in Chinese are stationed in Malaya and Thailand in both of which countries the language qualification is useful. I would further add that in all these posts locally engaged staff are available for both translation and interpretation as required.
Few other foreign services in the area have foreign service staff there able to use the local languages. Normally this is attempted only by the larger services having the staff resources to cope with long absences of officers on language training.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I have been advised by the Minister for Repatriation that the answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s. - On 18th August the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked the Treasurer a question in which he referred to the effect on wool prices in Australia of an increase in interest rates in the United Kingdom and suggested that the Reserve Bank should take action to provide short-term finance to overseas wool buyers.
I have had the opportunity of discussing this subject with the Reserve Bank and I furnish the following additional information: -
The position is that, at least up to the time of auction, most of the finance for Australian wool is provided by the Australian banking system. The Australian trading banks also provide very considerable short-term finance for exports of wool for periods of up to six months after shipment. Longer-term finance for the holding of stocks abroad is usually arranged by the importer in his own country.
Although the increase in interest rates in the United Kingdom this year could have had some effect on wool purchases, it has been only one among many influences operating in the wool market.
The Australian trading banks are continuing to provide substantial short-term credit for wool exports before and after shipment, and there is no evidence that any special measures of the kind suggested by the honorable member are necessary.
n. - On 21st September, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked the following question, upon notice -
To what countries has Australia appointed Trade Commissioners?
It is regretted that the answer was incomplete. I now furnish the following additional information: -
The number of countries to which Trade Commissioners have been appointed is 24 - not 23 as shown in “Hansard”. The additional location is: -
Pakistan - Karachi.
Territories also under the control of this post are: Persian Gulf Area, Iraq and Iran.
d asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600927_reps_23_hor28/>.