23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Interior. Will he amplify the statement he made recently in a letter to me, that the standard of construction and finish of a 20-years old government house in Canberra is superior to that found in more recently built government homes? Will he say in what way the modern homes are inferior? ls any one factor responsible? Do recently built government homes fail by comparison because of inferior design, inferior materials, inferior workmanship or a combination of all three?
– Without going into details at the moment, I think I can say that it is obvious to most people who use their powers of observation in Canberra that houses built some years ago were built on a more generous scale, largely because of differences in cost. That was the impression that 1 intended to convey to the honorable member in that letter.
– I address a question to the right honorable the Prime Minister. First, has Australia been advised that President Kennedy has sent his top military adviser to South Viet Nam to assess the real strength of the present Communist attack on that country? Secondly, does not this, together with the evidence of events in those regions over the past twelve months, imply that the danger to all South-East Asia is very real and very serious? Thirdly, if the statement of the Minister for the Army in his farewell to his troops last week was correct and they are to be stationed in “ one of the trouble spots of the world “, are we wise to continue to send wives and families with them, at the risk of repeating the tragic situation of Singapore in 1941-42, and at the same time blinding the Australian public to the facts of the international situation in South-East Asia? Fourthly, has there been any indication-
– Order! 1 think the honorable member’s question is somewhat long.
– That is the last question, Mr. Speaker, and it is consequential on the other three. Fourthly, has there been any indication from the Malayan Government as to when the Malayan, army is likely to be able to take over our present police tasks and release our only overseas units from their immobilization as part of a very incomplete strategic reserve of a mythical defence organization called Anzam
– The answer to the first question put by the honorable member about the dispatch of President. Kennedy’s representative is, “ Yes “. We are aware of that and will, 1 think, be kept closely in touch with the results of this mission by the representative of President Kennedy. The other questions raise matters which are constantly engaging our attention. They are very important. I do not at all underestimate their importance. The honorable member may be assured that the other aspects that he has referred to are constantly under our notice, and that if the time arises when [ can say something about them - usefully, and not just speculatively - I will be very happy to do so.
– 1 ask the PostmasterGeneral: Is it a fact that there is still a large number of applicants waiting for telephone, services in the Launceston district and throughout Tasmania generally? If this is the position will the Minister say why his department has decided to retrench Postal Department employees at a time when there is so much, work to be done? Will the Minister explain the reason for recent dismissals, as well as the reason for the decision to effect further heavy retrenchment before the end of the year?
– The honorable member referred, first, to the large number of outstanding applications for telephones in the Launceston district, and in Tasmania generally. I have already referred to the department’s, plans for reducing the number of outstanding applications, and the matter will probably come up again later today. The number has been steadily reduced over a period, and a great deal of money for capital expenditure by the Post Office has been voted to enable the department to deal with this very matter. A large proportion of the extra amounts that have been voted will be applied to the satisfying of outstanding telephone applications, with the result that we expect to reduce the number by at least 12,000 in this financial year. That, of course, will have its impact on the position in Tasmania. The honorable member then went on to try to connect the position in regard to outstanding applications with alleged plans for the retrenchment of workmen and Post Office employees in Tasmania. The actual facts of the matter are these: There are in one place seven men, and elsewhere a few more, who were employed on a temporary basis, and whose services will be terminated on notice of two or three weeks. Over a considerable period it has been the practice in the poSt Office and I presume in other departments, when special works are required to be carried out, to appoint men to temporary positions in connexion with those works, informing them that the positions are only temporary, and will be terminated when the work is finished. That is the position in Tasmania in respect of the matter raised by the honorable member. I know this to be so, because it came under my notice a week or two ago. Only a few persons have been affected by the application of this policy, of which they were fully aware, because when they were employed they were notified that their engagement could be of short duration only, and would end when the particular job was finished. In most cases the work continued for two or three weeks longer than was originally intended. There is no intention to effect any overall retrenchment in Tasmania.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that Egyptian authorities seized mail consigned from this country, in a British ship, to Israel. What justification, if any, has been advanced for this action?
– As soon as we heard the first reports of this matter we had inquiries put in hand, not only through our own representative in Cairo, but also through the representative of Egypt in Canberra. The shipping line concerned is also making its own inquiries. So far we are not in a position to say exactly what happened. The main thing that has been concentrated upon by the Post Office has been, naturally, to get the mail delivered. But if it turns out, as a result of the inquiries, that some improper action has occurred in relation to our mails, then we will take the usual steps, by way of protest after inquiry, to seek satisfaction in the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he is aware that operators of small aircraft flying between Sydney and Taree have no landing strips on which to land in case of emergency apart from a private strip at Pelican and an unserviceable strip at Rutherford, the Williamtown aerodrome being out of bounds to these aircraft. Does the Minister know that the country to which I refer is absolutely hostile to aircraft, and is known to pilots as “ tiger country “?’ Further, does the Minister realize that Pelican is being used extensively by business executives, tourists and the like, and that under certain conditions landing there represents a definite danger to all aircraft because of the hazard created by high tension wires running along the Pacific Highway near the end of the strip, these wires being invisible to pilots when they are coming in to land? In view of the fact that the Shortland County Council is aware of this, but has refused to lower the power lines, will the Minister confer with his colleague In another place in order to ascertain whether the Department of Civil Aviation has power to compel the electricity authorities to lower the lines to a reasonable height in the interests of public safety, and before a fatality occurs? I may say that two aircraft were compelled to land at Pelican last Sunday, on instructions from Air Traffic Control, because they could not proceed to Sydney, and were in distinct danger.
– I will be pleased to direct my colleague’s attention to the honorable member’s question and comments and see whether anything can be done
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. It refers to the possible entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market. Can the Minister tell us what took place at the meeting in Paris on 10th October of Ministers of the United Kingdom and of the European Economic Community countries?
– The meeting was arranged to enable Mr. Heath, the Lord Privy Seal of the United Kingdom, to give to representatives of the countries of the European Economic Community a full statement of the position of the British Government. Mr. Heath made it clear that the United Kingdom shared the objectives of the European Economic Community and wished to help in promoting, through that community, the widest possible measure of European unity. Mr. Heath said, however, that satisfactory solutions would have to be found of the problems of Commonwealth trade, of the problems of United Kingdom agriculture and of problems touching the European free trade association. He stressed the importance of Commonwealth trade links as one of the strongest elements in maintaining the Commonwealth association. He directed attention to the heavy dependence of certain Commonwealth countries upon their exports to the United Kingdom. The meeting did not get down to details. It was not intended to do so. In no sense were negotiations conducted. It was the first opportunity for the United Kingdom Government’s representative to state the position of the United Kingdom. The first meeting that might be regarded as being in the arena of preliminary negotiation is to take place, I understand, in Brussels on 8th November.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of the purchase by foreign interests of big parcels of shares in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the bids to take over Broken Hill South Limited and to secure control of mining industries in the Northern Territory, and in view of the general invasion of Australia by foreign capital, will the right honorable gentleman arrange for details of foreign investments in Australia to be presented to the Parliament before it rises in order that a discussion can take place on the measures of control or restraint that are necessary in the interests of the Australian economy?
– I am not aware of the transactions involving shares of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, with which my friend seems to be familiar. They do not fall within my jurisdiction. I am aware of what happened recently in connexion with Broken Hill South Limited, about which I had some discussions with the chairman of that company. I may say that I did not see any other person in connexion with that matter. All I had to say about it I said in this House, and I understand that the proposal concerning that company has been withdrawn.
The problem of overseas investment in Australia is much more complex than the honorable member makes it appear. Australia is a country short of capital. We need capital, and the inflow of private capital into Australia for developmental purposes has meant an enormous amount to us, particularly in recent years. I would not wish to see anything happen thai would lay a restraining hand on that inflow. That is because I believe the great value of overseas capital is in developing the resources of Australia, the employment of people in Australia and the general economic advantage of Australia. If the honorable member wants me to make a statement in which I set down a series of rules and regulations on this matter, I would say, first, that I do net propose to attempt such a task in the next ten days, and secondly, that I hope it will not be necessary at any stage to do so.
– Is the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs in a position to say whether Australia intends to recognize the new regime in Syria?
– When Syria reverted to its original national status - if those are the appropriate words - we kept in touch with events. We were not prepared to rush to a conclusion, but the fact is that Syria has, by common consent, resumed its seat in the United Nations as Syria, and the Government of the United Arab Republic in Cairo has no objection to the recognition that has been accorded. We, therefore, in line with other countries with which we are associated, propose to recognize the new government.
– I should like to address my question to the Treasurer. In view of the tremendous increase in foreign investment in Australia, now totalling £1,472.000,000, and in view of the grave dangers to our economy of unrestricted and uncontrolled capital investment such as Canada has experienced, will the Government consider setting up a joint parliamentary select committee to investigate the whole impact of foreign investment in Australia with a view to suggesting methods of eliminating its dangers and ultimate disturbance of the economy?
– The Prime Minister has just dealt in genera! terms with the matter raised by the honorable gentleman. The question of setting up a select committee of the Parliament is, of course, a matter of policy and it would not be appropriate to comment on it at question time. However, I suggest to the honorable gentleman that, before the Government should even examine this question, it may be desirable for the Australian Labour Party to develop some unity of thought on this subject. I recall that the Australian Labour Party has, through the Treasurer of the New South Wales Government, recently been actively canvassing in many parts of the world for additional capital for New South Wales. He has done this at the same time as honorable gentlemen Opposite have attacked the Government because of the flow of overseas capital into Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Scullin. Were the forthcoming federal elections included in the right honorable gentleman’s discussions with the chairman of Broken Hill South Limited, as has been claimed by the Leader of the Opposition, according to a newspaper report?
– There was no discussion whatever about elections. Indeed, this matter has nothing to do with elections.
– Ha, ha!
– Of course, from your point of view, everything has to do with elections. We hope to have risen a little bit above that low level of judgment. This had nothing to do with elections. The elections were not mentioned. If they had been mentioned, I am sure that on my side the conversation would have been extremely optimistic.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. Has he seen a statement by the barrister and solicitor who accompanied Mr. Ray Roberts at his interview with representatives of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Public Service Board last week, denying a comment made by the Minister when replying to my question on Tuesday last? On that occasion the Minister said -
His advisers made it quite plain at the start that they did not desire to pursue any allegation of victimization by the threatened use of the Crimes Act.
Is this a further example of the Minister’s being misled by his advisers, or did he misunderstand the report of the interview which was given to him? Further, has the Minister any statement to make on the alleged repairs to a private car in a garage of the Postmaster-General’s Department in Queensland, or does he again intend to dismiss the allegations as scurrilous charges which do a very great disservice to the instrumentality which he administers?
– The statement which I made, and to which the honorable member for Lang refers in the first part of his question, was based on information given to me, and which I accept as being correct. I have seen the statement in the press and have asked for a little further information on it, but I do not intend saying anything more about the matter at the present time. I accept as correct the information which I have received.
The honorable member asks whether I have any statement to make on the allegation that repairs were carried out on a private car in Brisbane. The honorable member must surely know two things. First, he must know that I made it plain that 1 am not concerned with investigations within the department dealing with discipline. That is not my function. The second thing he must know is that a writ has been issued in connexion with this matter, and that, therefore, in my opinion at any rate, it is sub judice, and any comment from me at this stage would be quite improper.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Repatriation by reminding him that some weeks ago, in answer to my colleague, the honorable member for Richmond, the Minister said that he would have available for honorable members and other interested people an up-to-date pamphlet relating to the various repatriation pensions. He then suggested that it might be available early in October. I ask the Minister whether the pamphlet is available now. If it is not, when may honorable members expect to receive copies of it?
– The up-to-date pamphlet to which the honorable member refers is being prepared now and should be available shortly. I cannot give the honorable member any exact date, but it will not be very much longer now.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the unemployment figures issued this morning, which disclose that some 109,000 people are unemployed in this country, he will inform the House whether the Government has any plans to absorb in employment the 160,000 youths who will be leaving school at the end of the year.
– I can direct my friend’s attention to the policies that have been announced in this Parliament. He does not want a new policy every week, does he? I thought he complained when we made a few changes in the past. Having regard to the fact that they include the people at Mount Isa and people laid off temporarily by certain enterprises, the unemployment figures were, I thought, remarkably encouraging, and I would have expected my friend from Gellibrand to have shared with me the satisfaction that we all should have in the steady reduction in unemployment which is, for the people involved in it, a very serious, important, human problem. I am surprised that he should succumb to the temptation to agree with one or two of his colleagues to whom the best thing politically that could happen in Australia would be more and more unemployment.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for External Affairs, I refer to the forthcoming talks between the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and Malaya concerning the proposed merger of Singapore with the Federation of Malaya. I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the Australian Government will be kept informed of the progress of these talks. Further, is there any suggestion for the inclusion of the Borneo territories in the Federation of Malaya?
– I can assure the honorable member that we are kept very well informed on the progress of these talks. I am myself repeatedly in personal communication with Mr. Macmillan about them. We also, of course, have taken the opportunity of exchanging views with the Tunku himself. So that I do not doubt that, whatever happens in London, we will be kept completely abreast of events. It is also quite clear that in further talks in London, reference will be made to Brunei, North Borneo and Sarawak because the incorporation of those territories in greater Malaysia is one of those things tli.it has been in the mind of the Tunku himself, and in the contemplation of other people from the beginning. I am able to say that these aspects of the matter will certainly be discussed in London, and therefore T expect to be kept well informed on ill of them.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs. In view of the insurmountable difficulties experienced by my colleague, the honorable member for Grayndler, in his vain attempt to secure a vise from the Russian diplomats in London or Paris to visit Russia except as a tourist on a limited itinerary, can he explain how it was that Lord Casey was given every facility by the Soviet authorities to see all he wanted to see during his ten days visit to Moscow, and that Senator Nancy Buttfield and the honorable member for Maribyrnong also received every facility from the Soviet authorities to see what they wanted to see during their visits to Russia? Could it be that the Leader of the Opposition has far less influence at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra than the Prime Minister was able to establish between himself and Mr. Khrushchev during the long and friendly discussions they had in London early this year?
– The last part of the question rather eludes me because I have never had any discussions with Mr. Khrushchev in London in my life. They might have been friendly, but they did not exist.
– I meant to say in New York.
– I can only answer the question as it is put to me. The honorable member seems to be a little exercised because some people regarded as non-Labour were given entry to the Soviet Union and the honorable member for Grayndler apparently was not. This, I admit, astonishes me, and I can speak in a detached way because I had nothing to do with any of them - nothing at all. All I can suppose is that the Soviet authorities had a little feeling that the Labour Party in Australia ought not publicly to be regarded as too closely associated with them for the obvious political advantages that were referred to a little earlier.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether the. Government has completed discussions on the fourth phase of television development? If so, can he say when he will be in a position to announce any decisions that have been made?
– I know that the honorable member for Barker and other honorable members have exhibited very close interest in this matter. My answer to him is that we have not quite completed our discussions on it. I believe I shall be in a position to make some announcement shortly.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. In view of the difficulty experienced by local government bodies in meeting the cost of ever-expanding services to the community, will the Minister assure all councils that ex gratia payments equal to rate charges will be paid on Commonwealth lands, properties and business undertakings in each local government area? Will the right honorable gentleman make this pronouncement as speedily as possible as the Local Government Association of New South Wales is to meet next week close to Canberra?
– I shall supply to the honorable gentleman the details of existing arrangements so that he can convey the information to the persons who are interested. To the extent that his question implied some change in current policy, such a change would have to be considered by the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I ask: In the present calendar year has there been a substantial increase in the amount of our overseas credit balances and, in the same period, has there been a reduction in Australia’s hire-purchase debt? If so, is this the result of the Government’s policy or is it merely a coincidence?
– It is a fact that the relevant figures have moved as has been intimated by the honorable gentleman. There have been visible trade surpluses, I think, in each of the last five months, and there has been a substantial increase in the level of our overseas reserves. Over recent months, there have been reductions in the outstanding debt of persons who have accepted hire-purchase obligations. Undoubtedly, these results have flowed, at least in part - I think a significant part - from the corrective measures taken by the Government at various times last year to meet the situation as it developed. I think that most thoughtful and objective observers agree that, at each of the points at which action was taken, the Australian economy is in a very much healthier state now, and has a very much more solid base for future expansion, than has been the case for many years. I am sure that if we in this Government have been able to contribute to that result, as I believe we have done, we shall get our due reward when the electors have an opportunity to declare themselves.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs. During the recent debate on Berlin, he said that Australia was committed to the Western position on the Berlin issue. The United Kingdom Foreign Secretary is reported to have stated last week that the Western powers would go to a war over Berlin. Is Australia committed to going to war over Berlin?
– I will await some official communication about what was said by the United Kingdom Foreign Minister. If, in the light of that, it becomes necessary to make a statement, I will make a considered one, not in answer to a question, but as a positive statement.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Is it a fact that amendments to the Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Act contained in the Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1961 provide for the amount payable in respect of the levy to be deducted as a separate charge from the account sales of the vendor? Prior to 14th October, 1960, was the levy payable by the owner of the cattle at the time of slaughter, and, if so, can the amount paid before that date now be collected from the person from whom the cattle were purchased?
– The honorable member’s statements about the provisions of the Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1961, which is now an act, are quite correct. However, the recent amendments made no provision for refunds for a period prior to 14th October, 1960; so the answer to the second part of the question is, “ No “.
– I wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Does a Commonwealth public servant commit an offence under the provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act if he reveals to any persons - including a representative of a newspaper and the public servant’s federal member - other than his superior officer, information regarding the misuse or misappropriation of public property, or the details of any incident which, if known, would constitute a public scandal?
– It is not for me to offer legal opinions in answer to questions, but let me say that I assume that the members of this House would agree that if a public servant revealed information which he had received in confidence in the course of his employment, his action would be reprehensible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Will he state the degree of sight deficiency accepted by the Department of Social Services as the standard for entitlement to a meanstestfree invalid pension in order that many people who still believe that total blindness is the requirement may know that this is not so?
– To qualify as permanently blind within the meaning of the Social Services Act, the applicant’s visual acuity, according to Snellen’s test types, after adequate correction by suitable glasses must be less than 6/60 in both eyes, provided there are no collateral defects.
– Will the Prime Minister examine the suggestion which was advanced recently by a Brisbane Apex club that technicians and skilled tradesmen from Asian countries should be invited to Australia to study the latest production techniques with a view to helping the economies of our Asian friends?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for his suggestion. 1 shall be very glad to look into it.
– 1 address my question to the Prime Minister. Has he seen the report relating to the way in which Australia voted in the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution concerning South Africa? ls he at all concerned that Australia remains one of the last, if not the last, country in the world to be associated with South Africa on these matters? Has he seen the report which indicated that one of the reasons for this was that Australia was touchy because of her own attitude to racial matters? Is there any truth in this report?
– Not having seen the second report to which the honorable member has referred I cannot comment on it. but I do take the opportunity to say thai the speeches made in the Genera) Assembly of the United Nations on behalf of Australia by Mr. Plimsoll, our ambassador to the United Nations, in my opinion were excellent in tone and completely accurate in substance.
– Completely out of touch with world affairs.
– It is not a matter of being out of touch. Let us get the record straight on this. Mr. Louw from South Africa made a speech, no doubt very severely expressed as those who know him would expect it to be, but no more severely expressed, and perhaps less severely expressed, than many other speeches that have been made in the General Assembly. In the middle of the debate some one rose to move that his speech be stricken from the record. This, of course, was a fantastic proposal because it meant that one side’s view would be on record and the other side’s would not. That would be a denial of the whole function of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Not being able to obtain instructions from here on a matter suddenly arising, Mr. Plimsoll, greatly to his credit, went to the rostrum and spoke against this proposal. He said that it was absurd that we should be seeking to strike from the record speeches which had been delivered. He went on to point out that those who were most opposed to the speech would find it a little difficult thereafter to answer a speech which, by their own vote, no longer existed. That was Mr. Plimsoll’s argument and I was proud of him. I thought it was an admirable attitude and an admirable speech on his part, particularly as he had had no opportunity to consult with us at all. The second motion which was put up - in the middle of the debate again - was that the representative of South Africa be censured for making his speech and our representative, very properly, got up and said what a few other people who abstained did not get up to say. He said that to have a motion of censure on a member for making a speech - on something that was not on the agenda and something that was perhaps brought up when the assembly had a very thin attendance - was in his view completely wrong as a matter of United Nations procedure, and he voted against it.
Honorable members opposite may have whatever joy they like out of the matter, but I want to say deliberately that in both of those matters Mr. Plimsoll represented this country with great dignity and immense common sense and courage. He made it quite clear on each occasion that Australia was not supporting the policy of apartheid - he had made that clear before in the General Assembly - but was defending the right of every member of the United Nations General Assembly to speak his own mind in his own way. If that right is abolished by a majority, one trembles for the future of the United Nations.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services. Is there a means test in regard to the remission of sales tax on the purchase of motor vehicles by incapacitated persons to be used by them for transport to their places of business, and if so what procedure should be adopted when applying for this concession? I understand that the Department of Social Services makes the recommendations in this matter.
– Applications by disabled people for the remission of sales tax paid on motor vehicles are determined on the degree of disability, and the degree of disability is determined on the medical evidence. It is quite simple for any person who believes he has a claim to make an application, and the application will be considered sympathetically consistent with those two points - the degree of disability and the medical evidence supporting it. There is no means test.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer.Is it a fact that we must export, on average, £250,000,000 worth of goods a year, or over £20,000,000 worth a month, in excess of imports in order to pay overseas shipping freights, and invisibles which include dividends on overseas investment in Australia?
– It is a fact that
Australia must have a certain trade surplus in order to finance these invisible expenditures, as they are called. Over recent years we have been assisting to finance those payments by loans from overseas, and also by the inflow of capital from overseas. The fact that Australia has been able to do this has, of course, greatly expanded the development that we have been able to carry out in this country, and it becomes important, therefore, that while concentrating as we have been, as a Government, on stimulating export income, we must maintain in Australia a climate favorable to the investment of overseas capital and the raising of overseas loans.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. Have the provisions of the last Japanese import budget improved the prospect of sales to Japan of Australian primary products and, specifically, how is the sale of our dried fruits affected by this import budget?
– I will secure the details of those items of the last Japanese socalled import budget, in which the honorable member will be particularly interested, especially those relating to dried fruits. But I am able to say that, consistent with the terms and the spirit of the Japanese Trade Treaty, our trade with Japan has constantly expanded without any damage at all to Australia’s export industries. Japan has become for the first time a quite useful buyer of Australian dried vine frui.s.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Cattle Slaughter Levy Collection Bill 1961.
Cattle Slaughter Levy (Suspension) Bill 1961.
Cattle and Beef Research Bill 1961.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, 1913-1960, 1 present the following report: -
Report relating to the proposed construction of a Weapons Workshop at H.M.A. Naval Dockyard, Garden Island, Sydney, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Changing conditions since the last war have led to periodic reviews of pensions payable under the Superannuation Act and this bill provides for further increases in certain pensions as a result of the review made by the Government when framing the 1961-62 Budget. Eligibility for superannuation pension is related to the salary of the contributor. As the salary increases so, too, doesthe entitlement to contribute for a greater number of units of pension, up to the limit of salary at which the maximum pension is reached. Thus thepost-war increase in prices has meant that those who retired many years ago, and whose pension entitlements were governed by the lower salaries of those times, have been more seriously affected than those who retired more recently on higher salaries. Progressive increases in the value of the unit from 10s. in 1922 to 17s. 6d. in 1954 provided some Telie’f to pensioners, but because of the lower salaries of earlier retirees, adjustments by this methoddo not providea satisfactory solution.. Flat increases in unit value also involve substantial increases in the future entitlement of current contributors despite the automatic adjustment of entitlements as salaries increase.
Recognizing the shortcomings in the earlier pattern of adjustments the Government, in 1957, introduced a sliding scale of increases for pensioners who retired before 1947 and who were therefore at a serious disadvantage compared with those who became entitled to take up additional units of pension as a result of the marginal increases in salaries in 1947. The scale provided higher rates of increase for earlier retirees and was designed to afford a similar measure of relief to all pensioners. This adjustment undoubtedly provided greater allround justice than the earlier flat increases in unit value, but some anomalies did result because certain small groups of pensioners, for different reasons, has not received the progressive adjustments of unit entitlement that were generally available.
A careful examination was made of the possibility of again applying a sliding scale of increases, with some further refinements, but it was clear that some serious anomalies could not be avoided if the same scale were applied to pensioners at all levels, because salary movements since 1947 have not been uniform for all classes of employees. The bill therefore provides for individual determination of each pension. The available funds will again be applied to relieve the position of earlier retirees, and the aim of the adjustment is to bring the consolidated revenue component of earlier pensions up to the level which would now apply if the pension had commenced in 1954.
Details of the adjustment will be explained at the committee stage, but the following is a broad outline of the manner in which the increases will be calculated. For each pensioner who retired at an earlier date a notional 1954 salary will be determined, having regard to general increases in salaries that occurred after the date of retirement, and prior to 1954. By reference to the scale of units contained in the 1954 act the number of units of pension applicable to that notional salary will be ascertained. The basic increase will be 12s. 6d. a week, the normal Consolidated Revenue component, in respect of each unit of pension by which the number of units applicable to the notional 1954 salary ex ceeds the number of units applicable to the retiring salary. The principal qualifications are: That those who did not avail themselves of all the units of pension to which their salaries entitled them will receive an appropriate proportion of the basic increase, as will those in receipt of actuarial equivalent pensions and partial invalidity pensions; that widows will receive five-eighths of the increase to which their husbands would have been entitled if they were still alive; and, that increases payable under the 1957 act will be absorbed in the current adjustment.
The increase has been designed to absorb the 1957 act adjustments in order to remove the few anomalies which resulted therefrom and to place all pre- 1954 pensions on a common basis. In no case yet examined will a pensioner who benefited in 1957 fail to receive some further increase under the bill, but in the event of a case arising in which the current increase is insufficient to absorb the earlier adjustment the bill has been drafted to ensure that the existing rate of pension will apply. In effect, the adjustment will equate the employer’s share of pension in respect of all earlier employees who rendered similar service, but at different times. It therefore represents the fairest form of adjustment yet devised, and at the same time it will remove a number of existing anomalies and should provide a sound basis for future considerations.
The bill also provides for new rates of pension in respect of certain former members of the defence forces who were retired befor the introduction of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act and were granted special pensions. These pensions have been adjusted from time to time when other pensions under the Superannuation Act have been increased, and the new rates set out in the schedule have been calculated by applying the principles contained in the bill. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill, which I have pleasure in introducing, provides for increases in the rates of pension payable under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act to certain retired members of the permanent defence forces. Pensions under this act are of two classes - those payable directly in respect of the number of units for which the member was contributing at retirement and those payable for the member’s rank and period of service, the amounts of which are governed by the member’s unit entitlement. Increases in pay subsequent to the introduction of the act in 1948 have increased the number of units for which members are eligible to contribute, so that those persons who retired in later years are receiving higher rates of pension than those who retired earlier. The earlier retiree has, therefore, been more seriously affected by the post-war increases in prices.
Some measure of relief has been granted to pensioners by increasing the value of a unit of pension from 12s. 6d. to 15s., and later to 17s. 6d., with consequent adjustment of pensions payable for rank and period of service. This method of adjustment is not altogether satisfactory because the earlier retiree, by reason of his smaller number of units, receives a lesser increase in pension, and because it involves a substantial increase in the future entitlement of current contributors who, in any case, receive higher pensions by reason of increased unit entitlement. The Government therefore decided that any method of adjustment now adopted should be such that the funds available from the 1961-62 Budget should be applied to relieve the position of those retired in the earlier years of operation of the scheme.
The method of adjustment now proposed by this bill will provide an increase in the pensions payable to those members who retired before 10th December, 1954. The amount of the increase is calculated by determining the number of units for which a member of the same rank would be eligible to contribute at 10th December, 1954, having regard to his pay at that time, and by granting an increase of the appropriate Consolidated Revenue component of each unit by which this number of units exceeds the number for which the pensioner was eligible to contribute at retirement. As an indication of the increases provided by the bill, I give the following examples for the information of honorable members. Privates, at present in receipt of pensions of £155 per annum, will receive an increase of £22 per annum; sergeants, in receipt of £205 per annum, will receive £30; majors, in receipt of £505 per annum, will receive £60; and colonels, in receipt of £855 per annum, will receive £110.
Certain modifications are necessary to cover the cases of members who were not contributing for the full number of units to which they were entitled on retirement and pensioners who have commuted portion of their pension to a capital sum. The bill provides in those cases that the pensioner will receive an appropriate proportion of the basic increase. Widows, who at present receive five-eighths of their husbands’ pension, will receive five-eighths of the increase to which their husbands would have been entitled under the bill if they were still alive.
The effect of the adjustment is to raise all earlier pensions by the Commonwealth share of the increase payable to those who retired after December, 1954. As such, it represents the most equitable method of adjustment and should form a basis for any future considerations. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
. -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the International Finance Corporation Act 1955 to take account of recent amendments to the articles of agreement of the International Finance Corporation, which have the effect of permitting it to invest in the common stock of firms it proposes to finance. The International Finance Corporation is an affiliate of the International Bank and operates, in close co-operation with the bank and the International Development Association, to promote economic development in its member countries, particularly in the less-developed areas, by encouraging the growth of productive private enterprise. It operates by financing selected enterprises in member countries, usually in association with private firms or individuals. The corporation was established in 1955 and Australia was one of the original members, subscribing an amount of 2,215,000 American dollars. By 30th June, 1961, the I.F.C. had made investments in 37 enterprises in seventeen countries. In its six years of operations, the corporation has had to evolve suitable operating procedures, investigate likely projects and steadily build up the scale of its operations on firm foundations. This has taken time and, at present, its operational investments amount to about one-third of its subscribed capital.
One difficulty confronting the I.F.C. has been the provision in the articles of agreement, Article III., Section 2, preventing it from making investments in the form of common stock, that is, equity investments. This restriction was inserted in the articles because common stock normally carries voting rights, and it was felt by some of the countries participating in the drafting of the charter that it would be inappropriate for an international institution to become involved in the managerial responsibilities of private firms, except, of course, where some action was required for the protection of its own interests. This restriction on the form of its investments was found by the corporation’s management to be a serious handicap to the growth of its operations. Being prohibited from making normal equity investments, the I.F.C. was forced to make use of forms or techniques of financing which sometimes appeared complicated and unusual. Its terms normally provided for unsecured loans at a moderate fixed interest rate, but also carrying some additional income related to profits on options on shares. Such conditions are unknown or unfamiliar to businessmen in many of the less-developed countries in which the I.F.C. operates.
At the 1960 annual meeting of the board of governors of the corporation, the managing director raised the proposition that the articles be amended to enable the I.F.C.
*q make equity investments, and this was favorably received. Subsequently the board of directors, who were instructed by the governors to consider what action might be taken, proposed that Section 2 of Article in. should be amended to read -
The Corporation may make investments of its funds in such forms as it may deem appropriate in the circumstances.
A further amendment was proposed to subsection (iv) of Section 3 of Article III., as follows: - the Corporation shall not assume responsibility for managing any enterprise in which it has invested and shall not exercise voting rights for such purpose or for any other purpose which, in its opinion, properly is within the scope of managerial control.
The latter amendment was suggested to make it quite clear that there was no intention that the I.F.C. take part in the management of private business except possibly where its investments were threatened. It has always been permitted, under Article III. Section 4, to take whatever action it deemed necessary to protect its own interests.
These proposals were submitted to the board of governors and, as the existing provisions appeared to be hampering the operations of the corporation, 1 voted in favour of the amendment in my capacity as governor for Australia. Affirmative votes were cast by all countries which voted, making up 94 per cent, of the total voting power, and the resolution was thus carried by an overwhelming majority. Votes were not received from seven countries. At the recent annua] meeting of the board of governors in Vienna, which I attended, it was considered desirable that the amendments enter into force as early as possible, and a resolution was passed to bring them into effect as from 21st September, 1961.
The International Finance Corporation Act 1955 approved Australian membership of the corporation as established under the original articles of agreement which were set out in the schedule to the act. While the I.F.C. is now empowered to make equity investments in Australia, I am advised that, unless the 1955 act is amended as proposed in the bill now before the House, regulations could not be issued under Section 6 of the original act to grant immunity to the I.F.C. from taxes and charges in respect of such investments as required by Article VI. of the articles of agreement. The International Finance Corporation has made investments totalling almost 1,000,000 dollars in Australian private firms and it is not unlikely that further investments could be made. It is therefore to our advantage to smooth the path for any further operations by passing this legislation. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The primary purpose of this bill is to give effect to income tax proposals outlined in my Budget speech for 1961-62. Among the proposals are two measures of interest to primary producers. The first of these relates to pipes that are to be placed underground and used to convey water required in a business of primary production. It is proposed that an income tax deduction for both the purchase price of the pipes and the cost of placing them underground be allowed in full in the year of income in which the expenditure is incurred. The second proposal will apply where live-stock owned by a primary producer is destroyed in order to control or eradicate disease. It will also have application if live-stock dies of a disease in relation to which the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory of the Commonwealth has passed a law relating to the compulsory destruction of livestock.
Compensation received by a primary producer as a consequence of the death or destruction of such live-stock, and the proceeds from the sale of the hides, &c. of the animals, are assessable income. Any excess of that income over the cost of the livestock, or over its taxation value at the beginning of the income year in which the stock dies or is destroyed, is, in effect, regarded by the income tax law as profit subject to tax in the year in which it is derived. A primary producer who has received compensation for the death or destruction of live-stock suffering from a disease may accordingly find that, after paying tax on the profit, he has insufficient funds left to finance the replacement of the live-stock.
Under the proposals contained in the bill a primary producer will be entitled to elect that only one-fifth of any profit arising on the death or destruction of the live-stock be taxed in the year in which the stock dies or is destroyed. The balance of the profit will then be included in equal instalments in the primary producer’s assessable income for each of the four succeeding income years. The right to adopt this basis will be available for the 1960-61 income year and succeeding years. It will accordingly have application in relation to stock destroyed in consequence of the recent outbreak of swine fever as well as to other stock that died or was destroyed during the 1960-61 income year.
I turn now to a proposal relating to calls paid to companies engaged principally in mining, prospecting or afforestation in Australia or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. As honorable members will be aware, the existing law authorizes an income tax deduction for one-third of the calls paid to such companies. If, however, a company subscribes capital to another company that, in turn, pays calls to a mining, prospecting or afforestation company, the deduction is not available to the company subscribing the capital, and may not result in an effective allowance to the interposed company. It is proposed to amend the. law so that the interposed company may forgo its deduction in favour of the company that subscribed the capital out of which the calls were paid. The new provisions will apply where the interposed company owns all the shares in the mining, prospecting or afforestation company and the shareholder company to which the deduction is transferred owns not less than one-half of the paid-up capital of the interposed company.
As announced in the Budget speech, it is proposed to remove from the law a provision limiting the deduction available for dental expenses to £30 in respect of a taxpayer and each of his dependants. The general limit of £150 for a taxpayer and each dependant placed upon the deduction for medical, including dental, expenses will not be disturbed.
A still further proposal foreshadowed in the Budget speech is that income tax deductions be allowed for gifts of £1 or more made to the Ian Clunies Ross Memorial Foundation.
The bill also provides for minor changes in provisions of the income tax law governthe allowance of credits to an Australian resident deriving income from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Under the present law, these taxpayers lodge separate income tax returns for Australian and Territory purposes. Separate payments of tax are made to the taxing authorities in Australia and the Territory, but double taxation is relieved by the allowance against Australian tax of a credit equal to the lesser of the Territory tax or the Australian tax on the Territory income.
Honorable members will recall that, when the Australian income tax law was amended last year in consequence of the introduction of Territory income tax, I informed the House that an examination would be made to see whether it would be practicable to relieve such taxpayers of the need to deal with two separate taxing authorities. The Government recognizes that it is inconvenient for taxpayers who have no direct connexion with the Territory - such as Australian shareholders in Territory companies - to have to make special arrangements simply because some small part of their income happens to have its source in the Territory.
It is now expected that it will be practicable to put into effect arrangements under which Australian residents, who are not also residents of the Territory, will no longer be required to lodge Territory income tax returns if their only Territory income consists of dividends, debenture interest or pensions on accounts of service with the Territory Administration. In these cases, the amount of Territory tax payable will be determined from information contained in the Australian income tax returns.
It is also proposed to amend the present law so that, in cases where the new procedures apply, the taxpayer will be able to make a single tax payment to the Commissioner of Taxation in Australia, part of which will be used to meet the Territory liability.
Under the existing law an Australian resident with income from Territory sources pays tax to the Territory Administration and is then entitled to claim against the Australian tax payable by him a credit for the Territory tax. The amendments now proposed will authorize the Commissioner of Taxation to calculate the credit before the Territory tax is paid and to apply the credit in extinguishing the taxpayer’s liability for Territory tax.
The arrangements contemplated will enable the taxpayers concerned to satisfy their taxation obligations in Australia and the Territory simply by lodging an Australian return of income and paying their Australian tax in full. The assessment and payment of Territory tax will be a matter of internal arrangements between the Commissioner of Taxation and the Chief Collector of Taxes in the Territory.
I do not propose at this stage to embark upon a detailed examination of the bill but a memorandum explaining its various clauses has been circulated for the information of honorable members. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
– (1.) That, in this Resolution, unless the contrary intention appears - “constituent document”, in relation to a company, mean the memorandum or articles of association, rules or other document constituting the company or governing its activities; “ co-operative company “ have the same meaning as in Division 9 of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “ friendly society dispensary “ mean a friendly society dispensary to which Division 9A of Part III. of the Assessment Act applies; “ investment income “ have the same meaning as in Division 9B of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “life assurance company” have the same meaning as in Division 8 of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “mutual income”, in relation to a life assurance company (other than a mutual life assurance company), mean -
so much of the part of the taxable income of the company that has been derived from its life assurance business as bears the same proportion to that part of the taxable income as the amount of the profits divided for the same year of income among the life assurance policy holders of the company bears to the total profits divided among those policy holders and the shareholders of the company in respect of the company’s life assurance business for the same year of income; or
where no profits in respect of the company’s life assurance business are divided for the year of income but, by virtue of the company’s constituent document, any profits to be divided among the life assurance policy holders of the company are required to be a certain proportion of the total profits to be divided - that proportion of the part of the taxable income of the company that has been derived from its life assurance business; “ mutual life assurance company “ have the same meaning as in Division 8 of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “non-profit company” mean -
a company that is not carried on for the purposes of profit or gain to its individual members and is, by the terms of the company’s constituent document, prohibited from making any distribution, whether in money, property or otherwise, to its members; or
a friendly society dispensary; “ private company “ have the same meaning as in Division 7 of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “ superannuation fund “ have the same meaning as in Division 9b of PartIII. of the Assessment Act; “ tax “ mean income tax and social services contribution referred to in sub-paragraph (1.) of paragraph three of this Resolution; “ the Assessment Act “ mean the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act1936-1961, as proposed to be amended by the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1961. (2.) That a reference in this Resolution to taxable income be read as a reference to taxable income of the year of income.
Imposition of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution.
– (1.) That a tax by the name of income tax and social services contribution be imposed at the rates declared in this Resolution. (2.) That income tax and social services contribution payable in accordance with section one hundred and twenty-eight b of the Assessment Act be not imposed by the Act passed to give effect to this Resolution and a reference in the succeeding provisions of this Resolution to tax be read as not including a reference to income tax and social services contribution so payable. (3.) That, notwithstanding anything contained in this Resolution, tax be not imposed upon a taxable income that does not exceed One hundred and four pounds derived by -
Rates of Tax Payable by Persons other than Companies.
Limitation of Tax Payable by Aged Persons.
– (1.) That this paragraph apply to a taxpayer who -
Rates of Tax Payable by a Company.
Elimination of Pence.
That, where the amount of tax that a person would be liable to pay under the preceding provisions of this Resolution, before deducting any rebate or credit to which he is entitled, is an amount of pounds, shillings and pence or shillings and pence -
Tax where Amount to be Collected or Refunded would not exceed Two Shillings.
– (1.) That, notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions of this Resolution, where a person has, in accordance with section two hundred and twenty-one h of the Assessment Act, forwarded to the Commissioner a tax stamps sheet or group certificate issued to him in respect of deductions made in a year from his salary or wages, and the difference between the available deductions and the tax that would, but for this sub-paragraph, be payable by that person in respect of the taxable income derived by him in that year is not more than Two shillings, the tax payable by that person in respect of that taxable income be an amount equal to the available deductions. (2.) That the last preceding sub-paragraph do not apply -
Levy of Tax.
Provisional Tax and Contribution.
General Rates of Tax Payable by Persons other than Companies.
The rate of tax for every £1 of each part of the taxable income specified in the first column of the following table is the rate set out in the second column of that table opposite to the reference to that part of the taxable income: -
Rates of Tax by Reference to an Average Income.
In the case of a taxpayer to whose income Division 16 of Part III. of the Assessment Act applies, the rates of tax are -
for every £1 of so much of the taxable income as does not exceed Four thousand pounds - (0 the rate ascertained by applying the rates set forth in the First Schedule to a taxable income equal to his average income and dividing the resultant amount by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that average income; or
for every £1 of the remainder of the taxable income, the rate ascertained by deducting the amount of One thousand one hundred and ninety-six pounds five shillings from the tax that would be payable if the rates set forth in the First Schedule were applied to the total taxable income and dividing the resultant amount by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that remainder.
Rate of Tax by Reference to a Notional Income.
For every £1 of the taxable income of a taxpayer deriving a notional income, as specified by section fifty-nine ab, section eighty-six or section one hundred and fifty-eight d of the Assessment Act, the rate of tax is the rate ascertained by dividing the tax that would be payable under the First Schedule upon a taxable income equal to his notional income by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that notional income.
Rate of Tax Payable by a Trustee other than a Trustee of a Superannuation Fund.
For every £1 of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee, not being a trustee of a superannuation fund, is liable, in pursuance of either section ninety-eight or section ninety-nine of the Assessment Act to be assessed and to pay tax, the rate of tax is the rate that would be payable under the First, Second or Third Schedule, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay tax on that taxable income.
Rates of Tax Payable by a Trustee of a Superannuation Fund.
In the case of a trustee of a superannuation fund, the rates of tax are -
Rates of Tax Payable by a Company other than a Company in the Capacity of a Trustee.
In the case of a company (not being a private company, a co-operative company, a non-profit company or a life assurance company) that is a resident, the rates of tax are -
In the case of a company (not being a private company, a co-operative company, a non-profit company or a life assurance company) that is a non-resident the rates of tax are -
In the case of a company that is a private company, the rates of tax are -
In the case of a company (not being a private company or a life assurance company) that is a co-operative company or a non-profit company other than a friendly society dispensary, the rates of tax are -
In the case of a company (not being a private company) that is a mutual life assurance company, the rates of tax are -
In the case of a company (not being a private company) that is a life assurance company other than a mutual life assurance company, the rates of tax are -
This resolution is submitted to the committee for the purpose of declaring the rates at which income tax and social services contribution will be payable for the current financial year 1961-62.
As foreshadowed in my Budget speech, the rates of tax that it is proposed to declare are those that were payable for the preceding year 1960-61. The resolution does, however, specify the rates of tax to be payable by trustees of superannuation funds deriving investment income on which tax is payable in accordance with legislation enacted earlier this year. These rates, which are the same as those payable on the mutual income of life assurance companies, are 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of investment income subject to tax and 7s. in the £1 on the balance of that investment income.
At present no tax is payable by an aged person residing in Australia whose net income does not exceed £442. The proposed new exemption point is £455. In the case of a married couple, both qualified by age, exemption is at present provided if their combined net income does not exceed £884. It is proposed to increase this exemption point to £910. The new exemption points accord with the recent increase in age pensions.
As in previous years, a measure of relief is proposed for persons of pensionable age whose net incomes are somewhat in excess of the new exemption levels. This relief will be authorized where the net income of a single aged person is not greater than £510. Corresponding relief will be authorized in the case of a married person contributing to the maintenance of his or her spouse, if the combined net income of the couple does not exceed £1,293. The income limits up to which these reliefs were formerly applied are £502 in the case of a single person and, for married couples, £1,236. The extensions of the age allowance are estimated to cost £385,000 in a full year and £230,000 in 1961-62.
Apart from the proposals I have discussed, the paragraphs of the resolution correspond, in substance, with those adopted by the Parliament last year, and accordingly do not require elaboration. 1 submit the resolution for the consideration of honorable members.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant Financial Assistance to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment in 1961-62 of special grants totalling £11,231,000 to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania. The payment of these grants has been recom mended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its twenty-eighth report, which has already been tabled.
The bill also authorizes the payment of advances to Western Australia and Tasmania in the early months of 1962-63, pending the report of the commission and the authorization by Parliament of the special grants for that year. This provision is similar to the one included in last year’s legislation and in the legislation for earlier years.
Under the procedures currently adopted by the commission, the special grants recommended each year are composed of two parts. One part is based on the commission’s estimate of a claimant State’s financial needs for the year in which the grant is to be paid, and is regarded by the commission as an advance payment subject to final adjustment two years later when the commission has completed its examination of the audited Budget results of the States for that year. The other part of the grant represents the final adjustment, positive or negative, of the special grant paid two years earlier.
The special grants which the commission has recommended for payment in 1961-62 and the special grants paid in 1960-61 are set out in the following table: -
In total, the special grants recommended for 1961-62 are £2,613,000 greater than those paid in 1960-61. In 1960-61, the increase in the grants recommended for Western Australia and Tasmania over those for the preceding year was £1,718,000.
The effect of adopting the commission’s recommendations would be to increase the total general revenue grants - that is, financial assistance grants plus special grants - payable to the two claimant States by about £5,595,000 this financial year, using for this purpose the preliminary estimates of the financial assistance grants which appear in the Budget papers. For Western Australia the increase would be approximately £3,968,000, and for Tasmania approximately £1,627,000. The precise amounts payable as financial assistance grants for 1961-62 remain to be determined by the Commonwealth Statistician before, at the latest, 31st December of this year. The estimated amounts of total general revenue grants payable to each State in 1961-62, and the amounts paid in 1960-61, are compared in a further table, as follows: -
It is of interest to note the percentage increase in total revenue grants this year, as compared with 1960-61. On the basis of the Statistician’s preliminary estimates of financial assistance grants payable the total general revenue grants - financial assistance grants plus, where applicable, special grants - would, if the commission’s recommendations are approved by the Parliament, rise by the following percentages this year: -
The average rise in the grants of nonclaimant States is 7.81 per cent., while that for Western Australia is 12.29 per cent. and that for Tasmania 9.99 per cent., both the latter being noticeably higher than for any individual non-claimant State.
It should be remembered that these comparisons are made by including, for the claimant States, the total special grants actually paid in 1960-61 and recommended for payment in 1961-62. Special grants paid in these years, of course, include the adjusting payments in respect of the financial years 1958-59 and 1959-60 respectively, and do not therefore strictly relate to the years in which they are paid. Since we will not know for some time the adjusting payments recommended for the years 1960-61 and 1961-62, a more strictly accurate comparison cannot be made. However, recent experience seems to show that variations in the adjusting payments are not of such magnitude as seriously to affect the conclusions 1 have just mentioned.
The more rapid rate of increase in the estimated total revenue grants payable to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania than in those payable to the other States is, of course, due primarily to the substantial increase recommended by the commission in the special grants for the claimant States. These grants as recommended for payment this year are over 30 per cent. greater than those paid in1960-61.
There is a particular question raised in the commission’s report to which I desire to refer. It is related to its decision this year to depart from its long-established practice, when comparing the financial results and standards of services and efforts of claimant States with those of non-claimant States, of basing these comparisons upon the experience of all non-claimant States.
Instead of using a four-State standard for these purposes, the commission has decided to adopt a two-State standard based on the experience of New South Wales and Victoria only. It has set out at length in the report its reasons for doing so. From what is said in paragraph 65 of its report the commission is apparently of the opinion that there is no reason to believe that grants recommended as a result of using this standard would be higher than those it would recommend if the standard were derived from the experience of all four nonclaimant States.
The Government is not persuaded that the adoption of a two-State standard is justified in principle and believes that this change in procedure of the commission should be examined closely. The commission itself has indicated that it considers the matter still open for further argument by those concerned and the Government therefore proposes to instruct the Treasury to place again before the commission at the proper time its views on the appropriate standard which should be adopted by the commission for the purposes of comparing the financial results and standards of services and efforts made by the claimant States.
For this year, however, the Government has decided to accept the commission’s recommendations on the special grants to be paid to Western Australia and Tasmania in 1961-62. I therefore commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Airlines Agreement Bill is to give effect to and obtain parliamentary approval for an agreement between the Commonwealth, the Australian National Airlines Commission, Ansett Transport Industries Limited and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The agreement has been executed by all the parties, including the commission, but does not come into force until it is approved by Parliament.
In addition to obtaining approval for the airlines agreement, the bill contains three substantive provisions which are necessary in order to give effect to the agreement. First, the Commonwealth is authorized to give the guarantees provided for in the agreement; secondly, the Australian National Airlines Commission is given necessary statutory authority to enable it to carry out the agreement; and finally, the Minister is required to continue to perform his existing functions under the Airlines Equipment Act 1958 relating to the control of aircraft capacity and acquisition of new aircraft for so long as the airlines agreements remain in force. In its present form the Airlines Equipment Act 1958 contemplates that these functions would lapse as soon as Ansett Transport Industries Limited repays the Electra loans authorized under that act which are due to be repaid in full in 1964.
The Civil Aviation Agreement of 1952 as supplemented more recently by the Airlines Equipment Act 1958 has been the cornerstone of the Government’s successful two airline .policy. However, the financial provisions of that agreement will become inoperative on 18th November, 1962, and as this date falls within the period during which both airlines will wish to place orders for turbo-jet aircraft for delivery in the latter part of 1964, the Government considered it appropriate to review completely the legislative framework of the two airline policy. The new airlines agreement and the Australian National Airlines Bill 1961, which I shall shortly introduce, are the direct outcome of this review.
Before considering these matters in detail, it will be appropriate to summarize briefly the major consequences of the new airlines agreement. First, in the recitals to the agreement the Commonwealth re-affirms its policy of maintaining and securing a situation in which there are two, and not more than two, operators of trunk route airline services, one being the commission, each capable of effective competition with the other. The substantive provisions of the new agreement extend the Civil Aviation Agreement 1952 for a further period of ten years and make detailed provision for the selection and introduction of turbo-jet aircraft for domestic air services. The provisions also authorize the Treasurer to guarantee the repayment of properly secured loans to Ansett Transport Industries not exceeding at any one time £6,000,000 for the purpose of purchasing turbo-jet aircraft comparable in size and performance to those authorized for purchase by the commission.
The new agreement includes undertakings by the Commonwealth not to increase air navigation charges by more than 10 per centum in any period of twelve months or to increase aviation fuel tax by a greater amount than the corresponding amount of increase in tax on motor fuel. The agreement also consolidates the existing rationalization procedures under the old 1952 and 1957 Civil Aviation Agreements and introduces a number of procedural changes which have been recognized as desirable or necessary in the light of past experience. j The Government’s two airline policy / requires a situation in which the airlines ( operate fleets which are comparable in quality and capacity. Secondly, the fleets must be operated under regulated competition which avoids overlapping of services and wasteful competition with due regard to the interests of the public and a proper relation between earnings and overall costs. Thirdly, the two airlines should, as far as practicable, enjoy comparable cost structures. ^
The importance of comparable equipment was fully recognized in 1952. Clause 3 of the Civil Aviation Agreement 1952 provided that the Commonwealth will facilitate the purchase by the company “ of an equal number of heavy aircraft comparable in type and size to those authorized for purchase by the commission “. It was contemplated that both airlines would obtain Viscount aircraft but at the last minute the old Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited sought and obtained approval to substitute DC.6 aircraft. Because of the greater passenger appeal of Viscount aircraft, this decision proved unfortunate for A.N.A. and was an important factor leading to its takeover by Ansett Transport Industries Limited in 1 957. The Government again recognized the fundamental importance of this aspect of its two airline policy in the Airlines Equipment Act 1958.
In addition to facilitating the purchase of new equipment by both airlines, this act introduced detailed provisions for rationalization of aircraft fleets which were designed to ensure that neither airline had excess capacity and that the acquisition of additional aircraft would be governed by principles which ensured that neither airline had a qualitative advantage over the other. In particular, neither airline can purchase, or otherwise obtain the use of, additional aircraft unless the Minister has issued a certificate under section 13 of the act certifying that the obtaining of the aircraft will not result in the airline to which the certificate is issued having excess capacity or, having regard to the type of aircraft operated by the other airline, be detrimental to the stability of the domestic air transport industry.
Ansett Transport Industries Limited gave an undertaking to comply with the obligations specified in Part IV. of the Airlines Equipment Act in consideration for the guarantees while T.A.A. is similarly bound by force of the act for so long as the company is bound by contract. Ansett Transport Industries Limited is, however, only bound by this undertaking for so long as any part of the relevant loans are not repaid. Clause 7 of the new airlines agreement ensures that Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A. are bound by these obligations during the entire period of the airlines agreement.
Since 1958, these provisions of the Airlines Equipment Act have been a decisive factor in controlling the overall capacity of the two aircraft fleets and of ensuring a continuous progress towards complete qualitative parity in fleets. The three-year agreement involving the cross charter of two DC.6B for three Viscount 700 aircraft which would have expired in February, 1963, flowed directly from an application of the principles of the act. Clause 15 of the new agreement extends the cross charter agreement subject to possible modification of its financial provisions until the introduction into operation of the first twoturbojet aircraft obtained by either the commission or the company. This agreement achieved substantial equipment parity on the most economical basis possible and brought to an immediate halt a threatened further phase of the expensive equipment race. The present status of the front-line competitive fleets of the two airlines is -
The numerical advantage of T.A.A. is in part offset by the fact that Ansett-A.N.A. has five Viscount 800 aircraft compared with the commission’s two and also five Convair aircraft, two of which have been offered for sale following the recent introduction of two F.27 aircraft. The Convairs are, however, normally operated on noncompetitive routes.
Unless the airlines are permitted to sustain disastrous capital losses by replacement of existing equipment before it is adequately obsolesced, we must plan on the present front-line turbine equipment remaining in operation for at least several more years. Accordingly, in the Government’s view, it would be quite wrong to think in terms of a complete switch to pure jet aircraft before that time. However, under normal conditions, the annual rate of traffic growth is at least 6 per cent, and this factor alone will require in due course additional heavy aircraft for each airline. It is, therefore, contemplated that the introduction of turbojets will be geared in the first instance not to large-scale disposal of existing fleets but to growth in traffic.
There are two other factors to be borne in mind. First, pure jet operations, even on a limited scale, involve important aerodrome and facility problems which must be solved in advance. Second, it appears probable that orders for turbo-jet aircraft suitable for domestic purposes will need to be placed at least eighteen months before delivery date. For these reasons, the department and the domestic airlines have for some time been giving careful consideration to the limited introduction of pure jet aircraft and there is now unanimous agreement that it will not be practicable to have such aircraft in operation before the middle of 1964 at the earliest. However, because of the planning involved, both on the departmental and airline side, and the period which elapses between placing of orders and delivery, it is also agreed that decisions on type of equipment and timing for its introduction must be taken, if practicable, before the end of 1962.
Technological development of pure jets over the last few years has been most rapid and aircraft are now being developed which manufacturers claim will have operating economics which compare most favorably with existing turbo-prop aircraft. Neither the department nor the airlines have completed the studies necessary to decide which aircraft is best suited to Australian conditions. The selected aircraft will have to meet the most stringent conditions concerning structural integrity, have acceptable and proven performance characteristics and superior, or at least comparable, operating economics to existing turbo-prop types.
I think that experience under our twoairline system suggests that it is axiomatic that the airlines must re-equip with jet aircraft comparable in size and performance although not necessarily of the same type. It is also essential that neither airline should be permitted to obtain an advantage in delivery dates. Section 13 of the Airlines Equipment Act 1958 is admirably designed to achieve these objectives and it is, therefore, proposed that all applications for turbo-jet aircraft shall be determined in accordance with the principles of that act. Clause 3 of the airlines agreement also contains important provisions designed to ensure common delivery dates of the first two turbo-jets obtained by each airline.
Ansett Transport Industries Limited is currently entitled to guarantees in respect of loans under clause 3 of the Civil Aviation Agreement 1952 and also under section 8 of the Airlines Equipment Act 1958 which at the peak point could have reached a ceiling of £9,000,000. Currently the loans guaranteed by the Commonwealth under these provisions and not repaid amount to only £3,484,000 and since 1957 a total of £4,445,000 has been repaid. The Commonwealth undertaking to give guarantees under the 1 952 agreement becomes inoperative on 18th November, 1962, and as the guarantees under the Airlines Equipment Act 1958 were for specific purposes, the company’s entitlement to further Commonwealth guarantees under either the agreement or the equipment act terminates on that date.
I believe it is unnecessary to re-state the reasons which have led the Government on two important occasions in the past to authorize guarantees for the repayment of aircraft loans. Suffice it to say that guarantees are vital if private enterprise is to re-equip with pure jets in competition with the government airline. A turbo-jet aircraft plus spares will cost, depending on the types selected between £1,200,000 and £2,000,000 and, having regard to minimum requirements over the ensuing ten years, the Government has decided that the £4,000,000 ceiling considered appropriate in 1952 should be replaced by similar arrangements authorizing guarantees for the repayment of loans not exceeding at any one time £6,000,000. This figure will, of course, enable the company to purchase significantly more than the two turbo-jet aircraft contemplated for 1964. However, the purchases will be geared to the purchases by the commission and will also be subject to the principles of the Airlines Equipment Act 1958. The figure of £6,000,000 is considered to be the minimum necessary to meet the company’s legitimate requirements over a ten-year period. lt has not been practicable to decide at this point what further arrangements, if any, will be necessary to ensure that the Australian National Airlines Commission is in a position to purchase any turbo-jet aircraft in respect of which it has been issued with a certificate. However, ii is the Government’s intention to take whatever steps are reasonably necessary to ensure that the commission is in a position to purchase all turbo-jet aircraft for which a certificate is issued. It seems probable that the commission will be able to finance at least the first two turbo-jets from its own resources but, in any event, appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that it is not prejudiced in playing its role in the twoairline policy because of lack of capita! or limitations on its borrowing powers.
It is also proposed, under clause 6 of the agreement, that the authority under section 8 of the Airlines Equipment Act 1958 to guarantee the repayment of £2,000,000 loans for six Fokker aircraft, which have not been taken up by Ansett Transport Industries Limited, to be formally withdrawn. On this basis, it is interesting to note that the new proposals will not involve any increase in the total guarantees available to the company but on the contrary will involve a reduction since the £6,000,000 will, in due course, be in substitution for the £4,000,000 under the Civil Aviation Agreement 1952 and the £5,000,000 for Electra and Fokker 27 aircraft under the equipment act.
Finally, I invite attention to clause 16 of the airlines agreement of 1961 which ensures that the Commonwealth has complete access to the company’s accounts for so long as any part 6f a loan in respect of which the Commonwealth is guarantor remains unpaid, lt will be noted that this access is substantially wider than that granted to the Commonwealth under clause 13 of the 1952 agreement.
The importance of rationalization also was fully recognized in 1952 but the machinery for this purpose proved inadequate and tended to lapse into disuse. The 1957 Civil Aviation Agreement, therefore, established a Rationalization Committee constituted by a chairman, nominated by the Minister and known as the coordinator, and two members nominated by the company and the commission respectively. The airlines agreed to review and keep under review air routes, time-tables, fares and freights and other related matters so as to avoid unnecessary overlapping of services with due regard to the interests of the public and to bring earnings into a proper relation to overall costs. If the airlines are unable to agree, either airline may refer the matter in issue to the committee.
Three main types of problem are referred to the committee. These are -
the development of route patterns by extending competition or adding new points;
Contrary to a popular misconception, the committee has rarely been involved in the details of day-to-day operation of air services. For example, questions relating to time-tables, passenger amenities, ground transport, catering and suspension of flights, are almost invariably resolved by the airlines without coming before the committee. The effect of the more important: decisions has been to maintain rather than suppress the competition which is a, primary justification for the twoairlinepolicy. The annual report made to theParliament by the Minister for Civil; Aviation (Senator Paltridge) under section- 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1920-1960’ will include details of each of the decisions.
The Australian domestic airlines earn only 2 per cent, to 3 per cent, profit on revenue and. although this figure compares , quite-.- favorably with that of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and overseas airlines, it indicates the very marginal nature of the industry and its great sensitivity to traffic recessions and uneconomical competition. Because of this- fact, the rationalization machinery, particularly during the current traffic recession, has proved an essential part of the two-airline policy. The proposed ten-year extension of the Civil Aviation Agreement will, in the absence of contrary provisions, automatically achieve continuance of this machinery.
The opportunity has been taken in clauses 9 to 13 of the Airlines Agreement to consolidate the existing rationalization machinery and to include express provisions to meet problems which have arisen in administering the corresponding clauses of the 1952 and 1957 agreements. The aspects of airline operations which are to be the subject of rationalization are set out in detail in clause 10 of the new agreement.
The Rationalization Committee established under the 1957 agreement is reconstituted under the new agreement and given continuity in respect of membership and records while past decisions and agreements continue to be binding. The right of appeal to an independent chairman or arbitrator, as he will now be described, is preserved. On this aspect, I invite attention to one change in substance. Under clause 14 of the 1952 agreement, the chairman is appointed by agreement or, in default of agreement, is a retired justice of the High Court of Australia, or of a Supreme Court, appointed by the Minister. Under clause 13 of the new airlines agreement, the chairman is a person appointed by agreement or, in default of agreement, is a justice of a federal court other than the High Court made available by arrangements made by the AttorneyGeneral. It will be recalled that Parliament was recently informed that Sir John Latham, who held this position from 1952, had submitted his resignation. I take this opportunity to place on record the Government’s and the airlines’ great appreciation of the services of Sir John Latham during the last decade.
The 1952 agreement required a certificate of the independent chairman before either the commission or the company obtained the use of an aircraft from the Commonwealth or a corporation in which the Commonwealth had an interest - at that time, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, Tasman Empire Airways Limited and Qantas Empire Airways Limited, but now only Qantas - and established principles which ensured that such aircraft were available for acquisition by either airline on a non-discriminatory basis. The original object of this was to cover heavy aircraft such as the DC6 aircraft operated by B.C.P.A., but the language clearly extends to all aircraft irrespective of size. This has proved inconvenient in practice and as both airlines desired that the clause should apply only to heavy aircraft in excess of 50,000 lb. all-up weight, the agreement has been amended accordingly. The only aircraft which might conceivably in future be affected by this provision are the four Qantas Electra aircraft, although I should emphasize that Qantas has no current plans to dispose of any of these.
It will be noted that, under clause 8 of the new airlines agreement, the Commonwealth undertakes to limit increases in air navigation charges, so that in any period of twelve months the increase in charges will not exceed 10 per cent. Similarly, the Commonwealth undertakes not to increase, in any period of twelve months, taxes on aviation fuel by a greater amount than any corresponding increase in tax on motor fuel. We have estimated that, with increases in charges of this order, reasonable traffic growth will continue, so that a combination of gradually increasing rates of air navigation charges, with growing intensity of use of facilities should achieve full recovery of properly attributable costs within the foreseeable future.
This bill proposes that Parliament approve the new airlines agreement, which is designed to consolidate all of the arrangements and principles currently in force for maintaining and securing our highly efficient competitive system of airline operations and to provide for the introduction of turbo-jet aircraft on Australian domestic routes. All of the proposals, it will be noted, have the approval of both the Australian National Airlines Commission and Ansett Transport Industries Limited, and will create an atmosphere in which planned competition on the major routes can continue with consequent benefit to the operators, to the travelling public and to the nation. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill deals with two matters, namely, the
Betting of a profit target for the Australian National Airlines Commission and selfinsurance of major aviation risks by the commission. The differences in the cost structure of the commission and the company, insofar as these differences arise from the fact that one is a government instrumentality and the other a private enterprise organization, have assumed increasing importance. The commission did not pay a dividend prior to 1950, but since 1957 it has maintained a steady rate of 5 per cent. In each of the. last two years, despite vigorous competition from the private enterprise airline, the commission has made record profits and it is probable that for the financial year just completed it will be able to pay its highest dividend to date. In contrast, in order to meet reasonable private enterprise standards, Ansett Transport Industries Limited must have a target of the order of 10 per cent, after tax and a reasonable allocation to reserves. It will be readily apparent that disparity in cost structure could destroy the ability of the airline with the higher cost structure to compete with the other.
The bill, therefore, prescribes a financial policy for the commission and permits the Minister for Civil Aviation, after consultation with the commission, to set the commission a target of achieving a reasonable return to the Commonwealth in relation to its capital after taking into account all relevant factors. These factors are specified in the act. On the one hand, the commission obtains substantial advantage because in the past it has obtained loans from the Commonwealth at interest rates less than current commercial rates, and also because moneys representing provision made by the commission for staff superannuation amounting to more than £3.000,000 are used by the commission in the conduct of its business. On the other hand, the commission is at a disadvantage because of the greater spread of overheads of its principal competitor resulting from its more diversified activities and greater share of non-competitive air transport operations. Detailed provisions for setting the commission a dividend target are contained in a new section 32 of the Australian National Airlines Act which is inserted by clause 4 of the bill. Apart from expressly authorizing the Minister to specify the dividend target of the commission one month before the commencement of each financial year, this section merely places on a statutory basis the existing budgetary practices of the commission.
This measure will in no way impair TransAustralia Airlines’ progress and development or its profit earning capacity. From time to time when civil aviation legislation has been before the House, honorable members opposite have claimed that the Government was shackling T.A.A. with the object of making it impossible for that airline to survive. Nothing could be further from the truth as a brief look at the record will clearly show. This Government, since it assumed office, has readily made available to T.A.A. substantial additional capital and has facilitated loan advances to enable it to meet the demand for modern aircraft. T.A.A. was the first Australian airline to operate turbo-jet aircraft. In respect of the year ended 30th June, 1961, its dividend will exceed slightly the highest yet paid to the Commonwealth while, in addition, a substantial amount in excess of £100,000 is being transferred to general reserves to further strengthen the finances of the commission. Passengers, freight and mail carried all show spectacular increases over the period 1949, when this Government assumed office, to 1961. Staff employed has risen during that period from 3,393 to 4,848. During three years’ operations under a previous administration, T.A.A. incurred accumulated losses of £903,000. This contrasts with an average dividend payment to the Commonwealth in each of the last ten years of £142,000. In the last two years this dividend payment has been of the order of £300,000 and, as previously indicated, will be a record amount in respect of 1960-61. These figures reveal such a dramatic story of progress during the past twelve years of Liberal administration that, with the concurrence of honorable members, I shall incorporate the relevant statistics in “ Hansard “. They are-
From time to time the Government has authorized the commission to act as a selfinsurer in respect of a wide range of risks. With the introduction of Electra aircraft costing more than £1,000,000, the commission concluded that it would not be prudent to act as a self-insurer in respect of such risks unless the Commonwealth, in effect, guaranteed the liquidity of its insurance provisions. As a result, in 1959 the commission was assured by the Commonwealth that in the event of its insurance provisions proving inadequate, the Commonwealth would advance special loans to meet any deficiency.
As the commission’s borrowing powers under section 31 of the act are currently limited to £3,000,000, it is desirable to authorize the commission by legislation to act as a self-insurer of major aviation risks and to amend the act so that in appropriate circumstances, the present £3,000,000 limitation of the commission’s borrowing powers may, if necessary, be exceeded. Clause 5, therefore, inserts a new section 37a in the act, the effect of which will be to give the commission the right to elect to insure the risks in question on the commercial market or to act as a self-insurer. In general terms, the risks in question are defined as loss or damage to aircraft and aircraft equipment, death of or injury to passengers and damage to third parties on the surface caused by the commission’s aircraft.
Again, in general terms, if the commission elects to act as a self-insurer, it is required to credit to its insurance account, described in the bill as the “ prescribed account “, amounts equivalent to the current commercial premiums that would be payable by the commission for insurance and to keep those provisions invested in Commonwealth securities. By requiring investment in Commonwealth securities, the provisions cannot be used in the business of the commission but will be readily available to cover any loss to which the section applies which is not fully covered by insurance. Unfortunately, to date the Australian insurance market has not been able to absorb major aviation risks without re-insurance on overseas markets which reflect the high premiums based on world wide accident experience. Should the Australian insurance market establish its ability to absorb these risks locally at premiums based on Australian accident experience, the Government will immediately review its policy on this question. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization - I.C.A.O. - which held its thirteenth extraordinary session at Montreal between 19th and 21st June, 1961, adopted unanimously a protocol amending the existing Article 50 (a) of the Chicago Convention by increasing the number of members of the I.C.A.O. Council from 21 to 27. The amendment requires ratification by 56 contracting States before it comes into force. The purpose of this bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for Australia to ratify the protocol.
Parliament approved the ratification of the Chicago Convention by the Air Navigation Act 1947 and authorized the making of regulations for carrying out and giving effect to the convention. It will be recalled that in 1960 Parliament also enacted the Air Navigation Act 1960 which sets out the text of the Chicago Convention, together with two other protocols which Australia has ratified as schedules to the act. The bill seeking approval for Australia to ratify the latest protocol continues this practice and inserts the protocol as the Fifth Schedule to the Air Navigation Act 1920-1961.
The council, which is the permanent governing body of I.C.A.O., provides the continuing direction of the organization’s work. One of its major functions is to adopt international standards and recommended practices for civil aviation and to incorporate these as annexes to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. This council, of which Australia has been a member since its inception in 1947, has contributed in a very significant fashion to the development of standards which, in themselves, go a considerable distance towards making air travel a safe and reliable means of transport.
The Australian delegation to the extraordinary session of the assembly in June, 1961, supported the increase in the number of members of the council for three major reasons. First, it was obviously the wish of the great majority of member states that there should be an increase of six members on the council. Secondly, such an increase could not be considered unreasonable in the light of the fact that the total membership of the organization had grown from approximately 50 in 1948 to 86 members in 1.961. Finally, an increase has occurred in the size of the executive bodies of other specialized agencies of the United Nations.
The Australian Government welcomes the participation of an increased number of members in the executive work of I.C.A.O.. particularly as this increase, being limited to a total of six new members, may be expected to improve the functioning of the council without impairing its efficiency by making it too large and cumbersome and. therefore, slow in reaching decisions on important problems affecting international civil aviation for which it is responsible. It is to be hoped that among the members represented on the slightly larger council will be representatives of a number of newly independent countries. Almost all the new members of I.C.A.O. only recently have achieved independent nationhood, and face extraordinarily difficult problems of communications. Aerial services are playing a vital part for these countries in providing communication links which otherwise would be unavailable to them. Participation in the work of the council by representatives of such countries should assist them in the essential development of their air transport services.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 11th October (vide page 1957).
Proposed Vote, £5,037,000.
Proposed Vote, £113,510,000.
Proposed Vote, £12,921,000.
.- 1 address myself to- the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department. At once I desire to acknowledge the faithful service of the great number of people engaged by the Postmaster-General’s Department in its numerous activities - postmasters, nonofficial postmasters, mailmen, linesmen, technicians and telephonists. Those and many other employees of the department deserve the gratitude of the whole community because the personal service that they give is subject to the close scrutiny of the general public, in addition to that of their superior officers. They win approval by honesty and integrity.
I have said these things because 1 believe the political direction of this department calls for an immediate overhaul. The most urgent need in the government of Australia is a new Postmaster-General. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has surrendered the economic policy of this great service organization to the Treasury. Like most other people the PostmasterGeneral is subject to the masters of the Treasury. With the new Treasury look the Postal Department is making record profits from record charges to the public. The Postmaster-General has deserted the public. No longer is his department a service organization. It is a revenue-producer for the Government and its rates and charges are a burden on all who use the services. Rural communities bear an even greater burden than others. When people in a country village require telephones or postal facilities they have to bear the consequences of the folly of the present administration and the present Postmaster-General. They are told the number of miles of line and the number of poles they will have to provide and, of course, the number of people who will have to share the line.
The rural service from this Country Party Minister has been a most unhappy experience for people in the country. The problems I have referred to are well known, yet this is happening under a Country Party Postmaster-General! I think you will agree, Sir, that in the whole field the Postmaster-General has failed the people. There has been the fiasco in respect of stage three television licences. Mysteriously, the
Australian Broadcasting Control Board held all its inquiries in Melbourne - no decentralization, no- going out into the country areas to find out what local requirements were and no endeavour to give immediate service to country people. Nothing of the kind! Now we have the sad story of the long wait that people in many country centres will have before television is available to them. All this indicates the type of man who to-day is occupying the position of Postmaster-General. In a number of matters this attitude is most clearly manifest.
To-day I want especially to deal with a matter which will indicate the vacillation of the present Postmaster-General in regard to promises by him and by his predecessor regarding the erection of a telephone exchange and a carrier building in the City of Bathurst. Those promises have not been kept. It is little wonder that one of the principal newspapers in Bathurst had an editorial headed “ This day, some day, never “. There is bewilderment in Bathurst because of the Minister’s failure to act. Why has the Minister shifted his ground? Last September he wrote to me to say that the building would be constructed this year and that modern automatic exchange equipment would be provided. If the need for the building existed then it exists to-day and there is no reason for a change in the Minister’s attitude. A precis of the letters dealing with the long-promised telephone exchange and carrier building for Bathurst tells of firm promises made, evasion, and. political partisanship by the Postmaster-General, who has surrendered all dignity by his refusal to honour promises. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) will perhaps join me in speaking for the people of Bathurst, because the telephone service of that city is undoubtedly of value to people in the electorate of Hume who live close to Bathurst.
I have here the drawings of a telephone exchange and carrier building which were to be erected. I have also the minutes of evidence taken by the Public Works Committee on this project and the names of the members of that committee. The late Senator George Rankin was chairman and the members included Senator O’Byrne, Senator Annabelle Rankin, Mr. Bowden, Mr. Cramer - now Minister for the Army - Mr. McDonald, Mr. O’Connor, who sits in front of me in this House, and Mr. Watkins, the former member for Newcastle. This committee gave considerable time to a study of all aspects of the proposal and presented a report which, stated clearly that this building was required and that the cost would be £344,635. In letters to the then honorable member for Macquarie the former Postmaster-General made it quite clear that the work was to go on. These letters clearly satisfied even the doubting Thomases when the promises were made, but the obligations have not been honoured by the PostmasterGeneral. I am not concerned with his departmental advisers, but with the political direction of the Postmaster-General’s Department. If somebody in that department is pulling the Minister’s leg and giving him false information it is up to him to try to get the line straight and get clear-cut answers in regard to these matters. According to the report I have referred to, it was estimated in 1958 that the number of subscribers would be 2,100, whereas in fact to-day there are 2,248 subscribers. Yet this building has not been provided.
Let me run through, for the benefit of honorable members, a precis of the correspondence with the various Ministers concerned, which will tell its own story. On 11th January, 1951, the then PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Anthony - a man of honour and integrity who, I believe, would have kept his word - wrote to the then member for Macquarie as follows: -
On 14th March, 1951, there was released the report of the Public Works Committee to which I have referred, which gave the estimated cost of the project as £175,000. On 8th November, 1951, the former PostmasterGeneral wrote to me as follows - . . it is intended to implement the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works as early as practicable.
The letter went on -
The letter continues -
Then, on to 4th June, 1952, the former Postmaster-General wrote me a letter which stated - . . The Bathurst City Council may be assured that every effort will be made to commence the erection of the permanent automatic exchange building as soon as possible and that the installation of the temporary exchange in the prefabricated building will in no way influence the provision of the permanent structure.
In a letter to me dated 15th July, 1952, the former Postmaster-General said - . . From the time the new telephone exchange building was first proposed it has remained a work of the highest priority so far as the Postal Department is concerned and no other permanent building of commensurate dimensions has been commenced in New South Wales for the Post Office since that date . . . The Department is most anxious to secure this building at the earliest possible date and everything that is practicable will be done to facilitate its completion …
In a letter dated 17th November, 1953, the former Postmaster-General told me - . . The Bathurst City Council may be assured that as previously intimated, the prefabricated exchange building is being provided to meet the telephone requirements of the residents of Bathurst until such time as it will be possible to proceed with the erection of the proposed new permanent exchange building. Detailed planning of the permanent building is being undertaken by the Department of Works and due to the magnitude of the project some little time must elapse before the stage is reached where tenders may be invited . . .
Then, in a letter dated 10th February, 1954, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) wrote to me -
On 18th May, 1956, the then Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works wrote to me as follows: -
May, 1956, the Town Clerk was fully advised by the Director, Posts and Telegraphs, N.S.W., of the circumstances . . .
On 21st May, 1957, the present PostmasterGeneral said in a letter to me -
It is now expected that construction of the permanent building will commence during the 1958-59 financial year, subject to the necessary resources being available . . .
That is not the excuse to-day. In a letter dated 1st October, 1958, he also said - the project was being examined in the light of the local and trunk line development of Bathurst so as to ensure that the future building would include all the necessary features of a modern telecommunication building. Since the original plans were drawn up new operating aids and techniques have been developed; . . .
The letter went on - it is therefore necessary to redesign the building to take account of developments in the telecommunication art. Preliminary planning of the project is expected to be completed during the current financial year . . .
In a letter dated10th September, 1959, he said -
I shall be pleased to make enquiries . . .
And in a letter dated 16th October, 1959, he said - my enquiries are not yet complete.
On 1st December, 1959, he wrote -
On 4th February, 1960, he wrote -
As you know, the proposal to erect a telecommunications building of two floors at the rear of a site in Howick-street, at an estimated cost of£132,635 was endorsed in 1951 by the Standing Committee on Public Works. The proposed accommodation was based on a survey of potential subscribers and an estimate of trunk line traffic needs which appeared reasonable at that time . . .
That letter goes on to say -
However, to enable the installation of automatic equipment to be effected by the time the existing exchange has reached its full capacity it will be necessary to have the new building completed some twelve months before that date and arrangements are therefore being made to have it included in the 1961-62 programme. . . .
By letter dated 6th September, 1960, he said -
On 6th February, 1961, he wrote - . . The Postal Department’s preliminary planning for this project has now been completed and as intimated in previous correspondence details have been forwarded to the Department of Works for the preparation of the necessary drawings and contract documents.
On 28th June, 1961, he wrote -
In a letter dated 5th October, 1961, he states, in effect, that the new building will not be erected for another four years because the needs of Bathurst district do not call for a building of these specifications and size. After all these letters containing promises to me, none of which made any mention of the excuse being used to-day, and after the inquiry by the Public Works Committee, we now have the present excuse being given in a shameful way to me, to the city council, the chamber of commerce and the citizens of Bathurst, to the Labour Party and everybody else interested in the matter. I am disgusted and saddened to think that a Minister would so betray the confidence of former Ministers and the people I represent-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has just made a fierce speech in which he has impugned and attacked the personal reputation of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson). The PostmasterGeneral is perfectly able to answer that sort of attack, which is becoming quite characteristic, if I may say so, of the honorable member for Macquarie. One thing that occurred to me during the honorable member’s diatribe was that he mentioned every other explanation for the fact that this building had not been erected at Bathurst except his own incapacity as the local member. I should think that that probably had a fair bit to do with it, and no doubt the Postmaster-General will tell us about that aspect.
The statement which the honorable member for Macquarie made before he introduced the subject of Bathurst - that this Government and the Postmaster-General had done little or nothing to develop the services provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in rural areas - is known by every member of this House, and every member of the community who makes an objective assessment, to be absolute nonsense. In fact, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I can reinforce my argument by comparing the standard of Postal Department services in rural areas in the days of the Labour Government with the standard of to-day. The honorable member specifically mentioned the cost to a rural subscriber of obtaining a telephone service. I leave out of account the fact that when the Labour Government was in office a rural subscriber just could not get a telephone, however much he was prepared to pay for it. I leave aside also the fact that the rural subscriber had to use antiquated telephone exchanges and old and obsolete post offices. I merely point out one of the great reforms introduced by this Government soon after it came to office. It very much increased - in fact, I think, doubled - the amount that could be spent in providing a service for an individual subscriber in the country.
I can point to the change in the situation in my own electorate within only the last five years, during which I have had the honour to represent the people of that electorate. I believe that the improvements that have been made in my electorate are characteristic of those in rural areas throughout Australia. In the Barker electorate alone, in the last five years, no fewer than five new, large post offices have been built. Three are at present under construction. Two large automatic exchanges to provide for towns of considerable size have been built, together with a substantial telecommunications building of the kind that the honorable member for Macquarie has been so unsuccessful in obtaining for Bathurst. So many rural automatic exchanges have been provided that I have lost count of them. Australia’s biggest complex in one area of rural automatic exchanges has been installed around the town of McLaren Vale, about 30 miles from Adelaide, with the aid of a coaxial cable running from Adelaide. A national radio station has been established in the southeast of South Australia, and the power of the national stations in Adelaide, 5CL and 5AN, have been increased so that every person in my electorate can now enjoy a good national radio service.
These are just a few of the improvements that have been made in only one electorate, and I believe they are characteristic of improvements in other areas all over Australia. In the light of these facts I just cannot understand how the honorable member for Macquarie can stand in his place and say that this Government has not lived up to its responsibilities in providing Postal Department services. Or can I understand it? Is he just playing politics? All of the honorable member’s constituents enjoy far better Postal Department facilities than they did when the last Labour Government was in office. They have the advantage of automatic working. They no longer are inconvenienced by long delays when making telephone calls. They can lift a telephone and be connected instantaneously with a subscriber 20, 30 or 200 miles away. These services are available in the electorate of Macquarie, just as they are in all other country electorates. Yet the honorable member has the hide to come into this committee and say that the Government has done nothing towards the development of the services provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in country areas. The Government has made these improvements because it believes that remote country areas can be developed, and genuine decentralization can be achieved, only if such country areas enjoy services as good as or better than those provided in the metropolitan areas.
I wish now to say a few words about practically the only service for which the Postmaster-General’s Department is responsible that has not been provided in my area. I speak of television. First, let me congratulate the Government on the way in which television has been smoothly introduced up to the present time. It has been carefully planned and there has been very little economic dislocation as a result of its introduction. That is quite remarkable in a country of our size. To-day, a little over four years after the first services were planned, more than 80 per cent, of the Australian population enjoy this facility, or will enjoy it when the third phase is completed. We are now moving on to the fourth phase, and the Government is currently examining the position prior to introducing that phase. I believe there is no longer any reason, from the point of view of possible economic dislocation, to continue developing television in Australia by phases. I hope that the fourth phase will take care of all the areas in Australia still to receive the benefit of television, or at least all those areas where it is practicable to provide the amenity. 1 have already reminded the committee of the Government’s magnificent record in providing other Postal Department services in rural areas, and I feel it is hardly necessary for me to point out that, although 80 per cent, of the Australian population will shortly be enjoying television services, the remaining 20 per cent, will comprise those who need these services most. They are the ones who live in the less densely populated areas where amenities that can be enjoyed in the metropolitan areas are not available. My remarks should not be construed as a complaint about the policy of providing television in the thickly populated areas first. I believe this had to be done to place television development in Australia on a sound economic footing and to ensure proper control of it. While not making a complaint, however, I am giving a reason for proceeding with the next phase of television development with the greatest possible speed.
There are other reasons why this should be done. In the last year or so, particularly since the announcement of the third phase of television development, there has been, as honorable members familiar with country areas will agree, a quickening of interest in television in those areas. As more and more people from the country visit the cities and have contact with the television medium, they become more conscious of its advantages and feel a very real sense of deprivation in not being able to enjoy it. They are also becoming increasingly conscious of another result of their lack of television services. As television becomes more and more a part of everyday life it is being found that people will not live and work in areas where the service is not avail- able. I know of many businessmen and others in country centres who have not been able to attract employees because people have grown, used to television and will not go to a place where they cannot enjoy it. In other words, country communities struggling to expand and build up their populations find an additional obstacle in the absence of television.
My own area in the south-east of South Australia is a good example, lt is a rapidly developing area, with towns like Mount Gambier with a population of 15,000, Naracoorte with 6,000, Millicent with 4,000, and others, all within a radius of 60 miles and all expanding rapidly as a result of developments in the timber industry and other rural industries. This area is making a determined effort to increase its population an’” to expand faster and faster, but it is hindered by the lack of a television service. All this adds up to the fact that in country areas there is now a very real and insistent demand for a television service. The speed with which these demands are satisfied depends perhaps much more on the Government now than it did in previous phases. Some areas have a sufficient population to support independent commercial stations, such as were provided in the third phase of television development, but others will depend to a greater or lesser extent, as they did with radio, on the Government. If they are to have a television service, it will have to come from the Australian Broadcasting Commission or from a governmentprovided relay service from existing commercial stations.
My plea is that the Government should get on with this job immediately. 1 cannot see why it should wait for the completion of investigations into the applicants for commercial licences in the fourth phase before it goes ahead with plans to provide a television service in those areas which can be served only by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There is plenty of money in the kitty. As I understand the position, the excess of receipts over expenditure in the Postmaster-General’s Department for this year will be about £3,000,000. The money is available for this job. By the time commercial duplication becomes necessary, the service provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be making good headway. I raise this matter in the committee this afternoon because I feel confident that, with the Government’s record of expanding the services of the Postmaster-General’s Department in country areas, it will heed this request of mine.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like to refer to the control of radio and television services by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson). In view of the strictures and the charges of lack of good faith made by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), I am rather surprised that the Postmaster-General is not present in the chamber to answer any question we may ask. If Ministers are not present when estimates affecting their departments are being debated, the long and sometimes tedious discussion of the Estimates becomes a farce. If we want answers, we should get them from the Ministers. Does the Postmaster-General now intend to read the depositions, the minutes or “ Hansard “ and come along with a prepared statement?
I wish to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the lack of good faith in the development of television and the re-adjustment of radio services to meet the challenge of television. I remind the Minister, or his satellite or cohort the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), who is now at the table pinchhitting for him, that he stands condemned under section 114 of the Broadcasting and Television Act, relative to the employment of Australian artists in television and radio. If the Minister does not observe this provision in the act, he is breaking the law and not doing the job he has sworn to do. The act provides -
The commission and licensees shall, as far as possible, use the services of Australians in the production and presentation of broadcasting and television programmes.
That, of course, has not been done. Whether supporters of the Government belong to that peculiar brand of Australians who have a fear that their own countrymen cannot put it over - whether in the writing of a play or the performing in one, the singing of a song or the composing of one - the Government stands still and is indicted because it has not given Australian performers, artists and script writers a chance. What has happened as a result of the Government’s attitude? This is what has happened: Australians who formerly had a very high level of employment in radio and television are now unemployed, and unemployment in this field is higher than that in any other field in Australia. While the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) prates of seasonal increases in unemployment, he should have a look at the position in radio, and if I get another chance to speak on these estimates, I will deal with television.
Radio met a sharp challenge from television, but how did it adjust itself? It adjusted itself by throwing aside all the features and direct entertainment, and going bald-headed for the playing of records. Turn on any radio programme anywhere in Australia to-day and most consistently it will be found that the programmes are recorded - and they are mostly records of popular tunes. In addition, we have some news, weather information and a rather weak attempt at essential services. Honorable members should remember that radio is not a poor relation of television any more. By dumping the Australian performer - by saying “ The devil take the hindmost” and making the hindmost in this country the Australian artist, author and playright - radio stations are making money out of a bad situation.
I shall give honorable members some information from this miserable little document which is the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. This is the weakest report I have read in years. From it we find that in 1949-50 the profits of all radio stations was £429,766. But the profits have increased in the last ten years. The last recorded figures show that the profits in 1959-60 were £2,594,348. How do the radio stations do it? They do it by giving a cheap performance from records all day, by providing a mediocre service and by eliminating the wage bill for Australian performers.
I point out to honorable members, as a serious matter, that actors and actresses engaged in this profession must of necessity have work in both radio and television. Television performances must remain fresh to viewers and the faces of the performers must not become too familiar. The employment force must be deplored. If radio dramas are eliminated and Australian actors and actresses are not used even to perform in imported dramas that are re-processed in Australia, a very serious unemployment situation is created for the television artist and the radio artist. They must of necessity have the two jobs to survive. Well-known names have dropped from’ radio performances and the artists also have difficulty in obtaining continuous employment in television. I am informed by Actors Equity that the artists are in a parlous position. Formerly, the well-known performers earned £3,000 or £4,000 a year and their names were well known nationally and sometimes internationally. Now, if they have any jobs at all, they can earn only £600 or £700 a year.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission is somewhat mealy-mouthed about the provision that as far as possible the services of Australians will be used in the production and presentation of broadcasting and television programmes. Something is wrong with the way this provision is enforced. If the Government does not intend to have a national content in these programmes and has not the courage to ensure that the Australian way of life is reflected in our entertainment, there is not much hope for Australia. If the Government intends to view these matters with a colonial mind or an imported mind or some sort of snob mind that believes Australians cannot produce good programmes, what is the good of the Australian people putting their hands in their pockets and paying for the preliminary stages of television?
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board says that it would like to stop this indiscriminate playing of records but that it will not make a decision because this trend has been arrested. Nothing of the sort! This trend has not been arrested; it is worse than ever! In the last few months, one Sydney radio station - if I had the time, I would give the definite proportions of dramas that have been dropped - has saved £700 a week in wages by not employing Australian performers. The Postmaster-General, if he realized the problems of unemployment in the industry, would be on to trends of this sort like a shot. He should do something to ensure that employment is provided for the acting profession in this industry.
That is the tragic story of radio at the moment. Radio is not an ancillary of television. At the moment, radio programmes are nothing more than a host of records played continually, interpolated occasionally with a news flash, some weather information and a little bit of news. Some people might like it that way, but since all Australians contribute towards the cost of television and radio by way of viewing and listening licences the authorities should be forced to see to it that the Australian content of programmes is preserved, and the Australian actors and artists given the opportunity to live.
When we mention these matters, the general cry is that the Australian people do not like Australian artists and Australian drama. That is not true, as was proved by a survey or median rating taken recently by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. That survey covered the breakfast session, the midday session, and the night session. It disclosed that the majority of the people prefer drama for the night session. They do not necessarily ask for Australian drama, but they prefer drama, and we should have a proportion of Australian drama in our programmes. The survey which is a lower figure ratio disclosed that 2.6 of the people preferred hit tunes in the evening session, 1.0 expressed a preference for other music, 6.4 favoured drama and 4.1 of the people favoured other programmes. At the peak hour of the night, we do get some Australian vaudeville and some Australian plays, and I am very pleased at that because my first concern is employment and my second quality. The survey disclosed that after 7.30 p.m. 1.4 of the people preferred hit tunes, 1.7 favoured other music while 4.5 expressed a desire for drama, and I repeat that this is what they want at the best listening time of the night. We must have Australian drama. The figures here are low as in a median survey but the figures are significant.
I come now to television. What do we get from television for the Australian actor? What is the use of Packers making £400,000 profit out of television stations, what is the use of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in Sydney and other stations in Melbourne and other capital cities making huge profits if they deny Australians the right to work in an artistic medium? These companies should be stood up for their actions, and if ever there is a Labour government - I know there will be one after 9th December - the people can rest assured that those who break the law in connexion with giving employment to Australian artists wi!l be made to observe it.
Discussion of this matter has to be curtailed in the short time at my disposal, but there are strong arguments, supported by statistics, why more Australian artists and actors should be employed in these programmes. There is ample proof that radio has been subverted to the needs of television, with the result that many Australians have been thrown out of employment. One may ask, “What do we need if we are to give employment to Australians in the product ion of programmes? “ I have a few suggestions to offer. First, I suggest that we should have some prohibitions. For instance, overseas films produced over five years ago ought never to be televised. They should be banned. If we must have overseas films, then let them be first-class films of fairly recent making. Again, there should be a ban on the boring replays of films or features. Time and time again we sit before our television sets and continually see these old friends. It is disgusting that such a thing should happen without protest from the Minister at this lack of cultivation of Australian artists.
The cultivation of Australian artists should be the paramount consideration. The point I make is that if we are compelled to rely upon imported films and imported featurettes time and time again for filling in our programmes, it is a clear indication that there is a shortage of this type of material, and that here is a splendid opportunity for the employment of Australians. Of course, we know that the reason why Australians are not employed is that the television companies are able to obtain cheap, nasty stuff from some dumper in the United States of America, and they prefer that to paying reasonable award wages to Australians to make a film or play.
Here, if he were not so indifferent, the Minister has an excellent opportunity to do something for Australian performers. We need television and radio, but we need much better programmes than we are getting to-day.
The use of excessive advertising is objectionable, but as my time is short I should like to tell the committee just what the Australian Council of Trade Unions thinks about these matters. What the Australian Council of Trade Unions suggests is the Labour Party’s policy and, for the Minister’s benefit, I point out that the Australian Council of Trade Unions says that it is essential that more money be made available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to allow that body to produce more Australian television programmes, that further funds should be made available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to permit of the establishment by that body of a national film-making industry and that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s charter should be amended accordingly. What a splendid idea! Its suggestion is that money be made available, through a government instrumentality, for the making of films to encourage the exhibition of more Australian television programmes and to ensure that Australian film-making becomes part of a national industry fostered by the Government through television and radio work.
I have time to deal with only two suggestions by the A.C.T.U. The second is that the Government should institute measures to ensure that the large number of lowstandard imported films depicting brutal crime and violence shown over television channels, particularly those of the commercial stations, be banned completely from television exhibition. I am very proud of the suggestion by the congress of trade unions that the Government should enliven the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that it should make more money available to that body for the purpose of encouraging and training actors and actresses and for the production of Australian films. If that were done, an excellent opportunity would be provided for the Australian actors and actresses. Already we have produced “ The Outcast “ and other brilliant films, and who is to say that, with more funds available to it, the Australian Broadcasting
Commission will not rank with the best in the world in the production of programmes? But what we need from the Minister is a little encouragement and a little more thought for those people who have chosen radio and television for their profession. We want something more than this wishywashy report in which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board apologizes for everything, including being alive.
As I have said before, 1 am proud thai the Australian Council of Trade Unions has considered this matter, and has made the sensible suggestion that the Government should subsidize the employment of Australian artists and players in the production of Australian films by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and its ancillary organizations. Television is increasing rapidly, and there is a crying need for better programmes. Surely we can do better than run through the same programmes three or four times, surely we can do better than televise four or five times over the same 20-year old film. Recently, I saw one film, every actor in which has since died, as has the theme. Surely we can do better than that. 1 should like to galvanize the Minister into some awareness of this problem, and 1 shall be pleased to give him the recommendations of the Australian Council of Trade Unions as to how we may obtain better radio and television programmes.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is becoming an annual event now for the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to spend the whole of his fifteen minutes in dealing with radio and television programmes. Next year he will be doing it again, and from the same old place. But we must give him full credit for his efforts to see that more Australian artists are employed. 1 remember the occasion two years ago when the honorable member for Parkes organized a march on Parliament House by a number of Australian artists. I remember how they carried banners, how they came into King’s Hall and how everybody had a quite enjoyable time. I also remember that two weeks after that occasion, when I was travelling back to the west by air, I met, in the lounge at the back of the aircraft, three of those who took part in the march. When I asked whether they had taken part in it they said: “Yes, we do not know what it was all about, but we had a marvellous time. It was a good picnic. We saw the national capital and all went home happy.” I wonder how many more of those who took part in the march felt the same way about it?
The honorable member for Parkes forgets that the sole judge of what should or should not be included in television programmes is not the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) who, incidentally, was attending a cabinet meeting when the honorable member for Parkes was criticizing him for his absence from the chamber. Surely the Australian public should have some say in what should be included in the programmes. I venture the opinion that a perusal of the results of any type of poll taken of viewers and listeners will disclose that the vast majority of the people watch commercial television stations, and listen to commercial broadcasting stations. The reason for this is that they choose the programmes they want to see or hear, and those are the ones to which they tune in. The way to solve the problem is not to regiment an organization like the Australian Broadcasting Commission and force it to maintain great drama schools or employ Australian artists. I suggest that the solution is in the hands of the Australian artists themselves. Once they achieve the quality that the people expect, the viewers will want to see them or hear them. There will not be any doubt about it then; they will fill the television screens when they can produce the goods. That must be expected.
– People can also be attracted to very brief bikinis.
– The honorable member for Barton probably sits with his eyes glued on “ Gunsmoke “, and if somebody told him there was an Australian production on another channel he would not change over to watch it. He would probably say, “ Go away and let me see the end of my blood and thunder serial! “ That is true of most of the critics. I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Parkes. I think there is a certain amount of sincerity in his desire ;o get Australian artists on the programmes; jut many viewers watch the imported programmes and would not change stations if in Australian production were shown on mother channel. If these critics were honest enough, they would admit that.
– You think the Australian artist is inferior to the overseas artist anyhow
– There is a standard in all things. An artist is an artist and we should not clutter up the television screens with third-rate artists whether they are Australian, British or American. The same might be said about old films. The honor.able member for Parkes said there should be a law against old films. On the odd occasions that I have an opportunity to watch television, I have found some of the jest entertainment in some of the old films :hat have been reproduced. Some of these films which are a little aged were produced n days when there was more competition md were more skilfully directed than some of the modern films that you might see at a theatre 1 think it is time that the Government or ±e Postmaster-General’s Department gave consideration to a combined licence for radio and television, and that is the matter to which I wish to direct attention particularly. Television was started in Australia in 1956. Licences were issued about the end of 1956 and came into operation in January, 1957. The “ Financial and Statistical Bulletin “ of the Postmaster-General’s Department for 30th June, 1960, shows that :he number of ordinary radio listeners’ licences has grown from 1,127,423 in 1939 ;o 2,015,488 at 30th June, 1960; but although the number of broadcast listeners’ licences did not reach 2,000,000 until 1959, there was an increase of only approximately 3,000 licences in the financial year 1959-60 compared with an increase of 100,000 a /ear in the 1940’s. Radio listening increased rapidly in those days but the expansion is now static.
There is a natural increase in the population and young married people probably buy a radio set, but even the number of licences issued to those groups is probably offset by those who give up radio licences. On the other hand, the number of tele vision viewers’ licences has increased phenomenally since television was introduced. At the end of I960, there were 954,995 television viewers’ licences and that represents a tremendous growth in the number of television viewers in five years. It seems to me that it would be quite a simple matter for the Postmaster-General’s Department to amalgamate the licences. At present, a person who is licensed pays £5 for a television licence and £2 15s. for a radio licence. They fall due at different times.
– What about those who cannot afford a television set?
– That is different. If they cannot afford a television set, they have no problem with a licence. I am talking of those who have both a television and a radio set. For those people, there should be a combined licence and instead of paying £7 15s. they should get one licence at a cheaper rate. It is obvious that nobody who has a television set makes use of a radio set now except for the purpose of ascertaining the correct time in the morning. Perhaps a few housewives will listen to a serial occasionally, and incidental! these serials are produced in Australia with Australian artists. They seem to go “ on for episode after episode and it takes 42 years for a girl to get married. I do not see what the honorable member for Parkes has to complain about in that respect. However, I think consideration should be given to those who hold two licences.
The only other point I want to make is this: The radio licence which costs £2 15s. is given to a pensioner for 10s. and a television licence which costs £5 is granted to a pensioner for £1 5s. I do not think anybody quarrels with those concessions. Recently the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) was asked a question by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) who requested that some consideration be given to reducing the telephone rental charge for age pensioners. The Minister said that the Government had looked at this proposition, but in future it would be considered by the Department of Social Services. I believe it should be considered by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The concession on a television viewer’s licence might be given to somebody who has never paid a television licence fee because the pensioner might have reached pensionable age before the introduction of television, but he is still given the benefit of a reduction in the charge from £5 to £1 5s.
Actually, there is a stronger case for giving a concession to a person who has had a telephone for many years. As the honorable member for Warringah has said - and I agree with him - the telephone is important to an aged couple. Sometimes it is their only means of communication with the outside world, including their own familes. I would like to see the department consider a concession according to the number of years that a person has had a telephone. A telephone is something that you live with. If a person has paid telephone rental for 40 or 50 years, he or she has contributed considerably to the revenue of the Postal Department. I believe it costs on an average £500 to install a telephone, and at present rentals, a subscriber would not be paying interest on that amount at the rental of £13 a year which is charged in the capital cities. But the telephone itself costs £10 or £12 from the manufacturer. If that is taken into consideration, the higher charge will pay for it many times over, if a person has a telephone for twenty years. At the same time, there are call charges and surely there is some profit in those if the “ Financial and Statistical Bulletin “ of the Postmaster-General’s Department is accepted. A person who has had a telephone for 30 years might be given some concession and one who has had a telephone for twenty years might get a lesser concession. There need not necessarily be a concession for a person who has been waiting for years to get a telephone connexion. However, I think the proposal is worthy of consideration.
The statistics show that although there were 2,015,488 broadcast listeners’ licences in force at 30th June, 1960, the number of licences on which pensioners paid reduced fees was only 258,874 so the proportion is not very great. Consideration should be given to telephone rentals concessions particularly in areas where the telephone has been part of the lives of the people for many years. I notice that in the annual report of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the general provisions for depreciation charges on telephone, telegraph and mail handling plant has been split up. Last year there was provision of £9,780,000 foi depreciation on telephone plant. I do noi know whether these telephones were installed in houses but if that is so, it seem? that after a few years the cost has been completely covered and depreciation ha; been deducted. No charge would be needed to provide a concession for aged persons so that they could maintain a telephone as their only means of communication with the outside world.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall relate my remarks to broadcasting and television services, with particular reference to the quality of both radio and television programmes. Since the advent of television and its almost universal support by the public, there has been a marked deterioration in the quality of radio programmes. Nobody can say truthfully that this is due to a lack of revenue on the part of radio stations. Their profits were never higher than they are now. I should just like to give to the committee some figures which appear at page 9 of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June, 1961. This matter has already been mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), but I should like to take it a little further. At the beginning of the financial year 1956-57, there were 108 radio stations. At the end of the financial year 1959-60, the number was still 108. The profits of the 108 radio stations totalled £1,498,525 in 1956-57, and £2,594,348, or over £1,000,000 more, in 1959-60. One need not be a genius to understand how the radio stations have been able to increase their profits by more than £1,000,000 in four years. The rubbishy quality of the programmes has permitted this.
As the honorable member for Parkes pointed out, there have been wholesale dismissals of Australian actors and actresses and increasing use of recordings made by overseas artists. All this has helped the radio stations to increase their profits by more than £1,000,000 a year. I suggest that there will be a further decline in public support for radio, because the people certainly will not stand for the tripe that they are expected to listen to now in such quantity. Hit tunes seem to crowd the air to-day. Whichever station one tunes in, one gets pop tunes. These tunes may appeal to young adults and teenagers, but those who are middle-aged or older, like myself, receive no thought. Their likes and dislikes are not considered by the radio stations. It is idle to turn from one station to another, because these hit tunes are heard on all stations. It is of no use for somebody to say, “ If you do not like the tunes, turn to another station “. At any hour of the day or night in Melbourne, regardless of the station to which one switches, one hears only hit tunes. 1 should like to know when the radio stations intend to consider the likes and the convenience of those who are no longer young.
I have received frequent complaints about radio programmes, and I have asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) about this matter on a number of occasions. But evidently he has no power in the matter and the radio stations can do as they like. Apparently, all they want to do is to fill their programmes with the kind of American trash that 1 have mentioned. This explains why they are making £1,000,000 a year more in profits than they were making four years ago. I am not the only one who takes this view of current radio programmes. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board takes a similar view, because it realizes that the public are discontented about the programmes that are transmitted. The board states, at paragraph 51, on page 21 of its report for the year ended 30th June, 1961 -
Comparison of Tables A and B indicates that notwithstanding the relatively high median ratings for drama at most times of day in all three years, stations have scheduled more of the less highly rated programmes, presumably because they are less expensive to provide.
Of course they are less expensive to provide, and, therefore, the stations are able to make additional profits of more than £1,000,000 a year. The report continues -
However, credit must be given to many of the stations for considerable expenditure in the pro duction of programmes included in “ other “, a number of which have no little merit. While the Board does not believe that ratings are an infallible guide to what the public wants-
Nor do I, because nobody has ever asked me what I think about a programme - it cannot overlook the strong suggestion of the figures in Table B that the public desires a greater proportion of drama in broadcasting programmes.
To-day, nobody can get the kind of radio drama that we used to hear in the good old days before television. In those days, splendid dramas were broadcast by all radio stations. Those programmes were based on high-class acting by Australian actors and actresses and they were a real pleasure to listen to. Unfortunately, programmes of this kind seem to have disappeared altogether now, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, of course, is very much concerned - and rightly so - about the decline of Australian radio programmes. 1. also, am very much concerned about it. But, unfortunately, the board apparently can do nothing about it under the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act. I have never seen a board with so little power to implement a government’s policies. The radio stations have an open go and can do as they like. Evidently, the only time when the Minister can exercise any power is when the licences of the stations come up for renewal. At least, that is what he intimated to me in answer to a question that I asked on 5th October last. I shall read part of that answer to the committee in a moment. The rest of the time, the radio stations are free to do as they like and the public can like it or lump it.
Dealing with the employment of Australians at page 24 of its report, the board stated -
Further representations were made to the Board during the year by the Actors’ and Announcers’ Equity Association of Australia, which expressed concern at the reduced output of programme production houses, and the cessation of operation of several of them, which had seriously affected the employment of their members . . . The Board does not propose to determine arbitrary proportions for various types of programme matter, although if stations revert to the trend, now apparently arrested, of abandoning all forms of programmes except music and essential services, it may be necessary to reconsider this.
This bears out what I said a few moments ago. Apparently, the board is talking of taking some action, but, according to the
Postmaster-General, it has no power to act except by revoking a licence when it comes up for renewal. I am thoroughly dissatisfied with the standard of radio programmes at present. In paragraph 63, at the same page of the report, the board added -
However the figures given in Table B . . . suggest that further consideration might be given by broadcasting stations to restoring to a greater extent the radio drama for which Australian actors and producers were so creditably known. The Board is continuing its investigations into all aspects of this matter.
It merely suggests that the radio stations consider restoring Australian radio drama. Why not tell them that they have to do so and that if they do not their licences will be revoked when they are next due to be renewed? But no! Surely the Australian public have some rights in the matter. The Government, apparently, could not care less.
I turn now to television programmes, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I should like to deal first with the increasing proportion of time devoted to advertising on commercial television stations. When one tunes to a commercial station in Melbourne, one has hardly settled in a chair before an advertisement appears. It will be followed, two or three minutes later, by another. So it goes on ad infinitum. Indeed, it is safe to say that as much time is devoted to advertising as to programmes. I raise this matter with the Minister on behalf of numerous constituents. Wherever I go, whenever the talk turns to television, this matter inevitably comes up. I ask the Minister: When are we to have less advertising on television?
– The programmes interrupt the advertising!
– I think that that epitomizes the situation in one clear, concise sentence. On 5th October, I asked the Minister a question about the long duration of television advertisements. The Minister, in his reply, referred to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and said -
The board has authority to revoke or suspend a licence if the offence warrants such action or, alternatively, when the licence becomes due for renewal each year, the board may renew it only on the undertaking that the stipulated provisions will be adhered to. I have no doubt that the board will continue to watch the matter.
Apparently there is no statutory power for the board to insist. It has no mandatory authority. The act ought to be amended to give the board power to insist. There was terrific competition for licences for television stations, and large sums were spent on legal representation at hearings conducted before licences were allocated. I have no doubt that tens of thousands of pounds were paid in legal fees, but the companies knew, that a fortune was to be made in television. The report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board makes it clear that fortunes are being made. Yet the people are told, “ If you do not like a programme, turn to another station “. But if one turns to another commercial station, one gets just the same thing - mainly advertising. 1 know that the commercial stations depend on advertising for their income, but I think that the Minister ought to call a halt to what is happening at present and insist that advertising is restricted to reasonable limits. Apparently, at present, the Minister has no power to enforce standards. I suggest that he ought, first, to make inquiries and see how the act ca-i be amended in order to give him the necessary power.
Television programmes, in general, leave much to be desired. The honorable member for Parkes has already referred to repeat programmes. I have been caught by repeat programmes on a number of occasions. It should be compulsory for television stations, when publicizing their programmes or films, to indicate in large black type that a programme or film which it is proposed to show is a repeat so that viewers will not waste their time by turning on that programme.
The employment of Australians on television is a very vexed and contentious question. It is debated at length each year when we discuss the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in relation to broadcasting and television services. The board’s report indicates that, in percentage terms, the Australian content in programmes is increasing. Previous reports included a graph which continued to show a downward trend, but this year the graph is missing. However, according to the report, at long last Australian actors anc! actresses are enjoying a reasonable allocation of television time. But the figures indicate a grave exaggeration of the true position because any television viewer knows that the increased Australian content is on frivolous and frothy matter which plays no part in raising Australian standards of culture. An examination of the dissection of the Australian content in programmes to which the report refers reveals why the percentage is so high. Page 47 of the report makes clear that a great deal of the Australian content in programmes- is of such a nature that it would not matter whether it was telecast or not because it does nothing to improve Australian cultural standards.
Table 11, on page 41 of the report, sets out the percentage of time occupied by types of programme matter. A great proportion of the Australian content is devoted to the family. All honorable members know that the main viewing time is after 6.30 p.m. That is when one would expect to see a reasonable amount of Australian content, but, apart from a regulation issued by the Minister to the effect that Australian programmes must occupy at least one hour telecasting time between 7.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. each week, one would look in vain for any Australian content during the main viewing period. The content about which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is so happy is telecast in the morning and afternoon periods when, relatively speaking, there are very few viewers.
– A dead period.
– As the honorable member for Parkes has interjected so correctly, the Australian content is telecast during the dead period. When hundreds of thousands of Australians are viewing, the Australian content in programmes is very low. I believe that the Government is genuine in its objective of a larger Australian content in programmes, but it is time tint the Government woke up to the fact that it will not achieve its objective by appealing to the television stations to act of their own accord. A quota must be set. In England not more than 14 per cent, of programmes telecast in a day may be imported material. Canada has a high quota of local programmes. In the early days of television the Government imposed a ceiling limit on imported films, but to-day the sky is the limit. When the Government lifted import controls, £2,000,000 worth of television programmes flooded the country. I know that there is an insidious campaign against Austraiian television programmes.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to speak on the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Opposition speakers who have participated in the debate over recent weeks apparently believe that there should be an increased expenditure by all departments. However, honorable members on the Government side have been advancing arguments to the contrary. I agree with this latter view although I believe that there could be a more even and better distribution of funds from Consolidated Revenue.
I compliment the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and his department on the introduction of the extended local service area system which has proved so effective. When the system was first introduced it received a good deal of criticism. Naturally anomalies will arise in such a scheme, but these now have been removed chiefly as a result of the Minister’s co-operation and the department’s efficiency. A number of zones and districts have been changed which, in most cases, favour the subscribers.
The problems I want to mention are comparatively minor ones. The first relates to the shortage of trunk lines in the less populated areas. 1 appreciate that these are being increased at a fairly rapid rate, but it is unfortunate that in the comparatively smaller centres the trunk lines are overloaded whilst the bigger parent exchanges have no such difficulties. The next problem relates to the shortage of rural automatic exchanges and the anomalies which have arisen in their erection. I do not like to make comparisons, but one cannot help comparing the cost of installing automatic telephones in rural and metropolitan areas. From inquiries I made some time ago I learned that the cost of installing a telephone in a country area, including the cost of the exchange, is very little more than that in the metropolitan areas.
The third point 1 wish to raise is that revenue received from telephones in rural areas is not as high as the revenue received in metropolitan areas. Where there is a really good automatic or semi-automatic service the people complain about their large telephone accounts. This proves that there is a good service and that the people are using it. Naturally, a poor service is not used to the same extent. If we could improve the service generally revenue would increase proportionately.
Rural automatic exchanges are being installed rather spasmodically. Work commenced in a particular area is not completed before work is commenced in another area. This creates many problems particularly for those people who are not connected in the initial stages. The present system is not good enough. Apparently the department prepares plans for the installation of a number of rural automatic exchanges in a particular area, but because one section of that area may be regarded as having a high priority, that section naturally receives the first exchange. This upsets what is known as the old party line system. It creates terrific inconvenience and means that in many cases telephone lines have to be re-adjusted, and so on. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that consideration be given to completing the work in certain areas and turning them into fully automatic service areas in order to overcome this problem. We appreciate that the problem to-day is a temporary one, but I believe that, at the rate at which rural automatic exchanges are being installed, it will be many years before the trouble is cleaned up. I urge that a bigger proportion of the money that is allotted to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department be spent on this work.
Another angle that I wish to stress relates to the actual erection of the rural automatic exchanges. It is a domestic problem, but is nonetheless important to the subscribers because of the uneven spread of costs. The position is not as it is in metropolitan areas where an initial telephone installation fee of £10 is all that is requested. When these automatic exchanges are being erected the department allocates certain funds for them, but those funds are not sufficient to give the rural dweller a telephone service without some additional cost to him.
The principle at present followed by the department is that it erects only portion of the line. If a subscriber lives some distance beyond the departmental line he has to beat the whole cost of the installation of thai extra line which, in some cases, may be some miles long. On the other hand, i subscriber who is fortunate enough to live alongside the departmental line receives hh telephone virtually free of additional cost While on that point I would like to refer to what, to my way of thinking, is a very bad system. If a subscriber is within 4C chains of a departmental line, the department will erect the extension to the property. The subscriber may have to supply the poles but the department does the rest However, if the subscriber lives 41 chain; from the main line he is responsible for the whole cost of erecting the 41 chains oi line. To me this seems to be a rather severe anomaly. The department decides that it will put a R.A.X. in a particular spot and the fortunate subscribers who live close by get their telephones for the normal fee, while less fortunate people living some miles away really have to pay through the nose, as it were. It seems to me to be wrong that this should be determined by an arbitrary departmental decision.
I recently had a case in which the local subscribers decided to pool their resources and that each would pay the same amount towards the cost of a line. However, because the department had no control over this arrangement I understand that first of all one subscriber refused to undertake to pay his share. This meant that the overall cost to the remaining subscribers was increased. That, in turn, put another man out and so the thing snowballed. Ultimately, at a special meeting called for the purpose, all the intending subscribers, who were originally very much in favour of installing an R.A.X. , carried a resolution scrapping the whole idea. It was not long before the department heard about this and had officers on the scene. Eventually the whole thing was sorted out. I mention that because I believe that the department should adopt a system similar to that of the State Electricity Commission in Victoria. The commission goes into an area and ascertains who wants electricity. It then works out the cost and tells the subscribers exactly how much it will cost them, so that they can then decide whether they will go on with the scheme or not. I can see no reason why a similar system should not be used by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Another matter that I wish to bring to the notice of the Postmaster-General is the future of small country post offices. No doubt he is well aware of the problems faced by the department in this regard. 1 will not go into a lot of detail, but on travelling around my electorate 1 find that there are a number of offices, both official and unofficial, the future of which is very much in doubt. In some cases that doubt has arisen because the installation of automatic telephones is taking away some of the income of the person in charge of the office, or it may be that some repatriation pensions are now being paid by cheque. All in all, the income of the person in charge is reduced to such an extent that no young and active person will take over the control of such an office. I can see that some day we will find ourselves in a position where we will have official and unofficial post offices scattered throughout the rural areas, but with nobody to man them.
– Why not pay them a certain minimum wage?
– The honorable member for Wilmot suggests that a certain minimum wage should be paid to these people. That suggestion may need some consideration - I do not know. However, it is a suggestion. I urge the Postmaster-General to look very closely at this angle, because we certainly do not want these small post offices to be closed down. Many country centres, owing to the lack of decentralization, already have sufficient problems without new ones such as this being added. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to look at the suggestions 1 have put forward, with a view to trying to iron out some of the anomalies that exist.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– The evidence that Australia is moving steadily towards being a police state is contained in the charges of intimidation and threats against the Brisbane Postal Department driver, Mr. Roberts; in the misuse of the provisions of the Crimes Act; in the attitude which the Government has taken towards those serious charges; and in the evidence that the Postmaster-General (Mr.
Davidson) has very gravely misled the House in his statements to it on this matter, and in the fact that the Postmaster-General himself may have been equally gravely misled by his department.
I think it worth while to recall some of the charges made by Mr. Roberts, and signed by him, and the statements given by the PostmasterGeneral in the House on Tuesday of last week. It will be recalled that Mr. Roberts, in signed and published statements, said that on 7th August he was questioned by security officer Dick Lee, to whom he had admitted that he had given the Brisbane “ Truth “ newspaper information about the use of a Postal Department car. Roberts states that he was then taken to Chief Security Officer Manley. Manley stressed - I am now quoting what Mr. Roberts said - that what Roberts had done was a serious breach of the security regulations. Roberts’s statement continues -
He (Manley) produced a little booklet and read over to me section 70 of the Crimes Act and warned me of its implications. He read this section over to me several times.
Interpolating, I remind the House that section 70 provides a penalty of imprisonment for two years for a Commonwealth officer who communicates to unauthorized persons any fact which comes to his knowledge by virtue of his office, and which it is his duty not to disclose. Roberts’s statement continues that the security officers then asked him to make a written admission, but, as he was so upset that he could not write, security officer Ford wrote out a three-page statement which Roberts signed. I think that I should make it clear that this is not the Commonwealth security service that is involved, but the Postal Department’s security service, whatever its correct title may be. Roberts adds -
They made it seem so serious that I thought I had better resign, but Manley told me he didn’t think this was necessary, for so long as a man told the truth he had nothing to fear.
Next day, after doing his normal shift, Roberts was again interviewed by Manley who told him that the boss, Mr. Brown - that is, the Queensland Director of Postal Services, since suspended - had taken a very serious view of Roberts’s allegation, and that without doubt his appointment would be cancelled. According to Roberts Manley then again opened the book at section 70 of the Crimes Act and said: “ This could be used against you. I am not saying that it will be used, but it could.” Manley then told Roberts that to prevent any stigma he would give him the opportunity of resigning. Of this Roberts says: -
I realized the position I was in and I was afraid they would prosecute me under the Crimes Act under which I was liable to two years’ gaol.
Manley then gave him some papers, and he resigned immediately. On the Friday, when he went to pick up his pay, says Roberts, he was told that Manley again wanted to see him. While he was waiting to see Manley, security officer Ford once again produced the regulations booklet and pointed to the provisions of section 70 of the Crimes Act. Manley then entered and said that he had heard it alleged that Roberts had been “ grilled “ for three hours on the previous Monday night. Manley said that both he and Mr. Brown were very disturbed about the allegation. Roberts then signed a statement that at no time had he been browbeaten, stood over or in any way ill-treated.
Up to that stage Roberts’s statements contained two substantial charges - first, that by misuse of the provisions of the Crimes Act, and by threats and intimidation, he was forced to submit a resignation which, it was pretended, was voluntarily given, and that, again by the misuse of section 70, he was frightened into giving a statement that at no time had he been browbeaten, stood over or in any way ill-treated. Mr. Roberts’s statement continues that Manley then emphasized that Roberts was mistaken in thinking that the Commonwealth car with the NKV 885 plates was being used for anything snide. Roberts says -
Manley told me in fact that he had personally arranged for the plates. Manley added-
This is the important thing -
It is a good thing the matter has been cleared up, now other drivers will not get a false impression of what is going on.
These statements, signed and published by Roberts, are surely serious enough to demand the fullest investigation, and 1 would think it is a primary obligation upon the Government to investigate any charges of that kind which, if correct, indicate very serious interference with the rights of the individual, and a very serious misuse of powers under this particularly powerful
Crimes Act. The Opposition warned the Government last year of that possibility, but Government spokesmen gave the firmest assurance to Parliament and to the nation that the act would not be misused. As this intimidation and misuse of the Crimes Act was the reason given by Roberts for his resignation, why was not this investigated when the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs and a representative of the Commonwealth Public Service Board met Mr. Roberts in Brisbane on Monday? Why did they not then seek to investigate the allegations - the very serious allegations - which had been made by Mr. Roberts? You would think that at that conference - the first time that the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs had had an opportunity of meeting Roberts, and the first time that the representative of the Public Service Board had had an opportunity of meeting Roberts - the thing that would be disturbing them, the matter that they would want to clear up immediately, would be the truth or falsehood of these widely published allegations signed by Roberts. I think that it is of the utmost importance to discover why the Government did not at that stage seek to have an investigation made into these charges.
The Postmaster-General was asked a question on this matter in the House a week ago. Giving the reason why the charges were not investigated, he said -
Roberts’s advisers made it quite plain at the start that they did not desire to pursue any allegation of victimization by the threatened use of th? Crimes Act.
That was the Postmaster-General’s statement to the House. Of course, if you accept it in good faith it is conclusive. If Roberts is not prepared to stand up and back his allegations - if he declares he does not wish any further investigation into what he said - then it becomes very difficult indeed for the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs and for the representative of the Public Service Board to investigate these allegations. Of course, there still rests on them an obligation to question the security officers involved, and the Postmaster-General informs us that that has been met. If Parliament accepted, as it had a right to do, the assurance of the Postmaster-General it could say, “ Well, the Government has done all that is reasonably possible in the circumstances “.
I am informed that the facts of the matter are the direct opposite of what the Postmaster-General told the Parliament a week ago. The Postmaster-General is a responsible Minister. It is his obligation to ensure, as far as possible, that the information he gives to this Parliament is correct. The Parliament has a right to expect the Postmaster-General to take the utmost care in providing information. I must assume that the Postmaster-General fulfilled his obligation in this respect. If he did, either what he said was correct or he was misled by the officers of his own department. If he was so misled, and if he subsequently discovered that he had been misled by the officers of his department, then in carrying out his duty as PostmasterGeneral, and in carrying out his duty to this Parliament, it was obligatory on him to have taken, before now, immediate steps to discover how and why he had been misinformed on this vital matter.
I was prepared to raise this matter in the Parliament last Thursday night, but unfortunately the Government gagged the debate. I was authorized then, and I am still authorized, to tell the Parliament, in the names of Mr. Roberts’s legal advisers, who were present at the conference with the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs and with the representative of the Public Service Board, that the statement of the Postmaster-General that I have read is entirely incorrect. They say that if Mr. Davidson made this statement, he has been completely misinformed as to what occurred at the meeting. I am informed that at the very outset of the meeting the DirectorGeneral, Mr. O’Grady, stated that all he was interested in was discussing ways and means of re-employing Roberts and that he was not interested in pursuing the question of the interrogation of Roberts. That is completely opposite to the statement made to the Parliament by the PostmasterGeneral a week ago. The statement by Roberts’s legal advisers says -
At the very commencement of the conference it was made plain that the vacancy created by Mr. Roberts’s resignation had not been filled, and Mr. Roberts would be re-employed if he so desired. Mr. Roberts intimated that he desired to resume work. When this stage had been reached-
And I direct the attention of the committee particularly to this passage - counsel appearing on behalf of Mr. Roberts said he wished it to be made perfectly plain that
Mr. Roberts’s desire was re.employment, but that Mr. Roberts was perfectly willing to recount the whole circumstances concerning his resignation if governmental representatives wished him to do so.
The statement of Mr. Roberts’s legal advisers proceeds -
It was made obvious that it was not the desire of the Minister’s representatives to re-open the circumstances concerning Mr. Roberts’s resignation, nor was he questioned or asked to give any information concerning the circumstances of such resignation.
If the statement by Mr. Roberts’s legal advisers is accepted - and they are gentlemen of repute in their profession in Brisbane - then the Postmaster-General has been very seriously misled. But, more than that, the Government of this country, having the opportunity to investigate most serious allegations of intimidation and threats against an individual, has simply shut the door on any investigation whatever.
– You do not think the Government would investigate the operation of the Crimes Act, do you?
– Apparently it will not. The opportunity presented itself for an investigation and the Government has completely refused to take advantage of it. In the history of this Parliament I cannot recall anything to parallel these circumstances, and I should think every member of the Parliament ought to be seriously disturbed about the matter. If the statement made by Mr. Roberts’s legal advisers is correct, then I believe we can reach no other conclusion than that Australia is moving steadily towards the condition of a police state, and that this Government, far from endeavouring to prevent that happening, is complacently allowing it to happen, or is actually encouraging such a happening.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) is a curious advocate. He spent a great deal of time last week and the week before sponsoring the case of a certain person who sought to come to Australia.
– And I will spend more.
– No doubt the honorable member will spend more time on it, as he says, and, no doubt, equally as inefficiently as he has put his case to-night. This is the curiousness of his advocacy: To-night he has been unable to lean on any fact at all which stems from some source in which there is any knowledge of such a fact. The source relied on by the honorable member is some allegation made, or allegedly made, by Roberts’s solicitors. The only fact that we have is a statement by Roberts that he was not intimidated. This is the only fact that is before the Parliament or the public. Controverting this fact by fiction is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. This is what makes him a curious advocate. Before setting out on his task of advocacy he looks around for something which he hopes will support a predetermined plaint. He does not try to find out what the true facts are. He can make allegations and allege that they are based on facts.
If we must test anybody in this matter, let us test the honorable member for EdenMonaro. Let us apply a test to section 70 of the Crimes Act to which he has referred, and his claim that the Opposition last year warned the Parliament that the Crimes Act would be misused, and that the Government gave an assurance that it would not be misused. One could only assume from the statement made by the honorable member that the amendments made to the Crimes Act last year introduced section 70 into the act as a fresh provision. The truth of the matter is that section 70 has been in the act since 1911.
– Every one knows that.
– Everybody knows it, and I am grateful to the honorable member for pointing out that fact. This emphasizes the curiousness of his advocacy. Everybody knows that the provision has been in the act for many years, yet the honorable member suggested that it was a new section, and that its provisions have now been availed of to intimidate Roberts. That could be the only inference one could draw from the honorable member’s statements. The truth of the matter is that Roberts has said he was not intimidated. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro says there should be an investigation, or that there should be something else. I am not quite sure what he wants, but I do know this: The honorable member is seeking some straw, however thin, to clutch at, because the time is rapidly approaching 9th December. I am afraid he cannot find one in fact and he is forced to try to fabricate one from fiction.
This matter, I think, is better put aside, so that the committee may be able to consider other matters that should appropriately be considered under the heading of business undertakings of the Postmaster-General. We have seen in Australia in recent years tremendous growth. We have become increasingly aware of the need for the provision of telephones. We have become increasingly conscious of the fact that the telephone represents a most important public utility. I think it is true to say that the Postmaster-General’s Department is the biggest single provider of public services in Australia. We are aware of the tasks that confront it. We know that almost everybody to-day wants and, indeed, needs a telephone. But we must not forget that people who want telephones want them now. We know that there has been a tremendous increase in the number of telephone installations. In 1950, for instance, there were 784,000 telephones in Australia, whilst in the current year the number is 1,550,000. The number has just about doubled. These are statistics of which the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department are proud and of which they have every justification to be proud.
The telephone is a public service. It is just as much a service to the public as are roads, sewerage, light and gas. It is very difficult to look at these public services and decide which is the more important. Certainly it is true that in deciding which is the more important the individual will take the subjective and not the objective view. In taking the subjective view, he is most concerned with whether he can communicate with those people with whom at the moment it is urgent and necessary for him to communicate, or whether he can make even a social call. Communication is probably the most important factor in his mind in assessing the need for a public service. Communication, of course, is probably the greatest manifestation of social advance, of the development of increased living standards and so on.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) finds himself confronted with a tremendous demand for the connexion of telephones and perhaps no person has made more requests to him than I have. That is why this subject is so dominant in my mind. I am aware that the Postmaster-General has tried to meet the demands made on him from all over Australia and I regret that the demands have not been more fully met. I am more especially concerned that they have not been more fully met in the areas of Blackburn, Mulgrave, Glen Waverley, Mount Waverley, Notting Hill, Dandenong, and indeed in all the area that has the title of electorate of Bruce.
It is difficult to differentiate in importance between a telephone for private use and a telephone for business use. I believe that it is the Postmaster-General’s policy to assign a greater priority to business use than to residential use. It follows, because of this greater priority, that in the planning stage an area which has a greater demand for business telephones is more likely to have the work done that will enable telephone connections to be made than is an area where residential demand predominates. But, of course, if that priority is followed, and I know that it is followed, it often defeats higher priorities such as medical priorities. The medical priority would be found in a residential area which may have been put aside so that telephones could be provided in a business area. There is also, of course, in the residential area the businessman at home, the man whose livelihood depends on communication in the evenings or the week-ends. Although in a residential area and not a business area, the telephone is essential to him in earning his livelihood. The reality of the situation is the need to provide telephones for all as they are required. We have the startling growth of population. In fifteen years, the population has increased by 50 per cent., but the demand for telephones has increased by no less than 100 per cent. The increase in demand has probably been even greater because actual telephone connexions have increased by 100 per cent., but the demand is, I think, greater now proportionately than it was fifteen years ago.
Another problem that confronts the Postmaster-General seriously is the difficulty to know whether he should provide the engineering works which will result in the connexion of the greatest number of telephone services or whether engineering works should be undertaken to provide telephone services for those who have waited the longest. It becomes really a matter of massed protest from many people in one area or isolated protests from people who have waited longer.
There are, of course, fields with great claims upon the department. I have in mind television, radio and overseas and interstate telephone links. But it is little consolation for a person waiting for a telephone in order to have communication within the metropolitan area to know that when he does get a telephone he will be able to get a trunk call to Sydney more quickly. This is yet another problem that faces the Postmaster-General.
– We want a new Minister.
– No, on the contrary, no Minister could have done better than the present Minister has. I say that sincerely and I mean it. I am pointing out the problems which confront him. 1 have now reached the point at which I should make some attempt to resolve the problems. I think we must look to the responsible planning authorities in the metropolitan areas. When a plan for a subdivision comes before an authority, the authority looks at it in terms of availability of light, gas and transport before it is prepared to approve the plan of subdivision. As far as I am aware, there is never an inquiry by the planning authority as to whether telephone services could be provided. The planning authorities, being under the influence of the States, are generally unconcerned with whether a telephone service can be provided or how soon it can be provided. Of course, a person should have the right to select the area in which he will live, but there is a growing and real tendency for people to buy houses on land as complete units. So the problem goes back to the planning authorities who have approved the subdivision and to those developing the subdivision. Many of these problems would be eased by a better control of subdivisions. We have the situation in which fully developed subdivisions cannot be provided with telephones because of the need for very extensive engineering programmes.
There are, therefore, three points. First there is the need for much greater effort by the Postmaster-General’s Department to overcome the lack of telephone services. Then there is an additional need to draw the attention of the planning authorities to this very real and important problem. There is also the third point, which devolves upon individuals, and that is the necessity for individual prior consultation with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department before engaging in the construction of a factory or a business enterprise, or the development of a site for a great many houses. Another point concerns co-operation between the constructing authorities. The Country Roads Board, for example, may want to put a road through at some time in the future as a substitute for a smaller existing road. The Postmaster-General is reluctant to put his channels down, in case they are cut up in subsequent road construction. This is a real problem and one which I met recently in Notting Hill. I am glad to say that it was resolved by the good sense of both parties. This problem can be met by co-operation.
We would expect more money to be spent on the provision of telephone services in Victoria than in other States because Victoria is the State that has grown most and therefore has a greater need for the more rapid installation of these services. This applies not only to Victoria but particularly to the electorate of Bruce, which has grown faster than has any other area in Australia. It is here, I hope, that a lot more money will be spent very soon to achieve the results that are desired.
.- I want briefly to re-assert some of the submissions made a few moments ago by the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I do this because it is quite apparent that neither the Opposition nor any one else can tolerate the implication that the Government, through one of its speakers, desires to brush off thi? matter of the important incident in Bris bane as lightly as the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) wants to brush it off. The honorable member for Bruce says that there is only one fact in this situation - the fact that Roberts denied he was threatened with action under the Crimes Act.
– Denied that he was intimidated.
– Intimidated, if you like - or threatened with action under the Crimes Act. The honorable member for Bruce says that that is the only fact and therefore what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) had to say can be brushed aside. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro produced evidence which established some other very important facts. He said first of all that, after the incident of the denial to the security officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, a further statement was signed by Mr. Roberts, and published. That statement has been published widely throughout the Commonwealth, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro read extracts from it. So we have established another fact - that there was a statement signed by Mr. Roberts, and published. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro read from that statement. One of the things Mr. Roberts says in it is that he was intimidated by the security officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department with action under the Crimes Act, and that as a result of that intimidation he signed a statement in which he said that he had not been intimidated. The statement from which the honorable member for EdenMonaro read is fairly lengthy, and if it is wrong, it would have been a perfectly simple matter to test it at the inquiry conducted by Mr. O’Grady. But no attention whatever was given to it.
– Are they going to do it now?
– That is what we are all asking. Are they going to do it now, or are they going to leave unanswered the long statement which was published, and which was signed by this man Roberts, who was good enough to be re-employed in the Postmaster-General’s Department? So far. that statement has been ignored and untested. There is no need for me to read that statement at length, because the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has already done so, but in it Roberts says that the matter - . . seemed so serious that I thought 1 had better resign, but Manley said he didn’t think that was necessary, for so long as a man told the truth he had nothing to fear.
That is the first stage. They did put into this man’s mind the thought about resigning. The next day, after doing his normal shift, Roberts was again interviewed by Mr. Manley, who told him -
The boss -
That is Mr. Brown, who is now himself the subject of an inquiry - had taken a very serious view of his admission-
I bet he had - and that without doubt his appointment would be cancelled.
Manley then again opened the book at section 70. He threw the book at him, as they say on the job, and said -
This could be used against you.
I should think that the honorable member for Bruce has been in courts often enough - on the right side so far - to know that that has the ring of truth in it.
– My only fear for the future is that if you become the government I might be on the wrong side of it.
– Our fear is that if you people remain in government a great many Australians will be in court on the wrong side under the Crimes Act. I want to point out to the Government that honorable members on this side are continually trying to force back this police state system which the Government is trying to create. One undertaking I will give is that if there is a change of government there will be a considerable reduction in the pressure of this police state.
The next point the honorable member for Eden-Monaro made was - and this is also a fact - that there is a third statement - one from the legal advisers to Mr. Roberts. They made a considered statement that there was no attempt by Mr. O’Grady, or anybody else, to inquire into the circumstances of the resignation of Mr. Roberts. In answer to that statement, the Postmaster-
General (Mr. Davidson) said last week that Mr. Roberts and his advisers did not desire an investigation to be made into the circumstances of Mr. Roberts’s resignation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro produced another fact as disclosed by the statement made by the legal advisers to Mr. Roberts, who said that it was not the desire of the Minister’s representative to re-open the circumstances surrounding Mr. Roberts’s resignation, nor was he questioned or asked to give any information concerning the circumstances of his resignation. And this, despite the fact that his legal advisers had pointed out that although he was concerned first about getting his job back, Mr. Roberts was ready to have an investigation made into the circumstances surrounding his resignation, and would cooperate in the carrying out of an investigation. And why shouldn’t he? One of the first things he would want would be to have the position clarified. So the second fact established by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is that either the Minister has been misled by his own representatives or he has misinterpreted what he has been told, and honorable members are entitled to an explanation from the Minister on those points. The Opposition is not content to have an honorable member from the back benches on the Government side trying to brush aside the whole matter. It is the Minister’s responsibility to answer these points, and we are awaiting his answer.
– Having listened to-night, and also on previous occasions, to references by the Opposition to this matter, I must confess that I am left with the unavoidable conclusion that Opposition members desire to magnify the matter - which I believe has been handled, so far as Roberts is concerned, by the investigating officers, by the department and by me with tolerance and consideration - to a degree which is not in accordance with facts, and which, unfortunately, if they continue on that basis, can react against the interests of the man they profess to be assisting.
– More threats!
– That is not a threat. It is a statement of fact.
– It certainly sounds like a threat to me.
– I am stating facts. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) based his statements to this committee on what he admitted were statements published by a certain section of the press, and statements which he said had been signed by Roberts. I base my attitude, and the department based its investigations, on statements made by responsible officers and responsible members of the community. I think it is a matter for some attention by honorable members generally that it should be put up that the statement made by Roberts to the effect that he was brow-beaten, or something of the sort, at one stage, or that he was threatened with action under the Crimes Act, must be accepted without reservation, while Roberts’s own statement that he was not placed under any intimidation at all or brow-beaten must not be believed. In other words, honorable members opposite argue that the statement which is suitable for their purposes must be accepted, and anything which is not suitable to their case must be ignored. That is completely illogical.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro stated that, on the facts that have been elicited, there was a primary obligation on the department, and indeed, on the Government, to investigate the matter. It must be obvious to every one not only in this chamber but outside also that that obligation has been properly undertaken and properly carried out. Of course it was investigated. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has said that no attention was paid to the various charges that the Crimes Act had been used. That is not true. It has been perfectly obvious that attention has been given to this particular matter.
– Was it used?
– I will make my own speech. Reference has been made to a misuse of the Crimes Act. I say definitely that there has been no misuse of the Crimes Act. It is proper for me to say that in this chamber, and I think I might claim possibly to have a greater degree of national responsibility than those who have stated otherwise. At this stage, I think it is apt to point out that there is a Public Service Act and that certain sections of it relate to matters of this sort. The Crimes Act, as all reasonable persons know, was not designed to deal with matters of this sort at all but with matters of major subversion against the security of Australia.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has said that 1 made some statement last Tuesday. I did have reports and made a statement regarding the use of the car. As a result of the investigations which followed that, a certain investigating officer made inquiries. In that connexion, I am glad that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro made the point that when we are talking about the use of a security investigation, we are not talking about the Australian Security Intelligence Organization but of the normal security provisions which each department has within itself to ensure that it can investigate any offences against its own regulations. That is the only service that has been used in this matter. The gentleman who was carrying out this investigation was Mr. Manley. During the investigations, Mr. Manley informed Mr. Roberts of the provisions of the Public Service Act. He informed Mr. Roberts that under a section of the Public Service Act - I think from memory it is section 55, but I am open to correction - it is an offence for any officer of a department to convey information regarding his activities or the activities of his department to the press. There was a case not so very long ago in which that section of the Public Service Act was used to deal with an offence much more serious than this one.
Reference has been made to the fact that on two occasions Mr. Roberts was threatened by Mr. Manley with the Crimes Act. The facts that I have, and which I accept, are that after Roberts became aware of the fact that the Crimes Act also had some bearing on this, Roberts himself on two occasions asked to be shown the provisions in the Crimes Act which might have a bearing on his case. The first time he went into the board office to make this inquiry, Mr. Manley was not present but was in another room. So Roberts asked a young officer - one below Mr. Manley - whether he could see the Crimes Act that he had heard about. He was shown it. Manley came into the room and said, “ What are you talking about? “ Again Roberts asked to be shown the sections in the Crimes Act. At no time was this held over him nor was he threatened. I have had a pretty considerable experience in assessing men’s qualities - far more than some honorable members on the other side of the chamber - and I can tell honorable members that Mr. Manley is not a man who would stand over or browbeat a man or do anything like that. He is a capable officer and I completely accept his word that he was asked by this man if he could see the Crimes Act. Roberts was shown the Crimes Act and there was no browbeating or incrimination whatever. Again I refer to the statement Roberts made that he had not been browbeaten and had not been frightened or anything of that sort. I repeat that if that statement is to be denied, how can honorable members claim to place any reliance on other statements of a different sort from this man? The fact of the matter is that he was rather misled possibly by some people who were attempting to make capital out of this matter for their own ends and did not hesitate to use him and lead him into statements that he was not able to stand up to.
Following this, Mr. Roberts wrote to me personally. Do not forget that he resigned; he was not sacked. He wrote to me asking me whether his resignation could be reconsidered and whether he could be reappointed. In that letter, he said that he had resigned because his position had become untenable as a result of his doing - he did not use the word “ offence “ - something that was not correct in that he had given information to the press on this matter. Honorable members opposite were talking a little while ago about threats. If one wanted to make threats, it would have been easy to have said that here w is evidence on which Roberts could be charged under the Public Service Act because he had admitted that he had given information on this matter to the press. Roberts asked for reinstatement. As I informed the House just after that, I had decided, after a conference with some of my colleagues, that he would be given the opportunity of reinstatement if he so desired. Therefore, I sent his letter to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs for his attention and wrote back to Roberts stating that he would be given the opportunity. He was given that opportunity.
– I thought you did not interfere?
– I can inform the honorable member that I had already said in this chamber that I had received this letter and sent it to the Director-General for his attention, which is quite proper. This conference took place and here we come to a further clash of statements. I reiterate that Roberts asked whether he could be attended by certain legal advisers and he was told that he might do so. He was also told that if he wished to have union representation he could have that as well. My information - and I believe it - is to the effect that, at the start, it was made plain that Roberts did not want to pursue the charge that he had been threatened with the Crimes Act. He might have made some reference to the fact that he had seen it, but he did not want to pursue that charge. What he wanted - and it has been borne out by what he said - was reinstatement.
The departmental officers were concerned as to whether, in the circumstances he could be reinstated. Three questions had to be determined. The first was his eligibility. The second was whether there was still a vacancy. The third was Roberts’s medical condition. Those three factors were considered, and finally he was told that he would be re-appointed. Representatives of the press were outside the office waiting, and then they came into the office for a press conference. The investigating officers asked whether Roberts and his representatives would care to remain, and they were asked to remain. They said they would and a statement was “.iven to the press on what had transpired and what the decision was. One of the pressmen asked at the time, “ What happened about the Crimes Act? “ My information is that the legal advisers said, “ We do not want to pursue that “. Those are the facts.
The only other point to which I wEn to reply is why was not this investigated. I have already said that it was. The discussion with Mr. Roberts did not complete the Director-General’s task. He had also to follow up the question whether there had been any intimidation. Consequently, he did question the investigating officers as to what had transpired, lt is as a result of that investigation that I am able to tell this committee all the facts of the case and to give it the information that although the Crimes Act has been mentioned, it was mentioned at the request of Roberts and there was no intimidation whatsoever. This man has been re-appointed. He has beer given an opportunity to take up his employment again, and he started work with the department again last Monday. 1 say again, as I said at the outset, that if the Opposition does not wish to use this matter politically it ought to give Roberts a chance to reinstate himself without all this sort of thing going on.
– Mr. Chairman, perhaps the most serious aspect of this whole matter to date is the statement made by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) at the commencement of his remarks a few minutes ago when he issued a warning to the Opposition that if we continued to press this matter we would endanger Roberts’s continued employment in the Post Office. I did not take a note of the Minister’s exact words, but that is my clear recollection- of the sense of what he said, and it is the clear recollection of other honorable members on this side of the chamber. The Minister was asked, “ Is that a threat? “ He replied: “ It is not a threat. It is a fact “. None of us in this chamber has any desire to injure Mr. Roberts or to alter the course of his future employment.
– Why do you not give him a go, then?
– The Parliament would be placed in an impossible position if it could be prevented from ventilating a public abuse for fear that the Government would reap vengeance on a private individual.
– The Postmaster-General did not suggest that.
– He did suggest it. He attempted to intimidate the Opposition into being silent on this matter. No Parliament and no Opposition can be placed in that position. I am concerned for Mr. Roberts, but I am more concerned, I say frankly, for the rights of this Parliament and of the Australian people. That is why 1 am pursuing the course that I am pursuing. The Minister quoted from Roberts’s letter to him. 1 do not think that the quoting of that letter helped the Minister’s case at all. lt is regrettable that the Minister did not see fit, when he quoted from the letter, to produce it or to read it all. I would have been very interested indeed to see the letter. I do not know why the Minister suppressed it and merely made mention of it.
– I did mention that I had sent a letter to the Director-General. I also have a good memory.
-The Minister used Roberts’s own letter with the statement that it would have enabled the Minister to charge Roberts under the Public Service Act. Of course, he was not charged under the Public Service Act, and we know why. This Government is in a serious enough position over this matter already. Can you imagine the public fury and reaction throughout Australia if a man were to be charged under the Public Service Act for taking action which had led to the exposure of a grave abuse in the department administered by the Postmaster-General? Let the Minister not pretend to take any credit for his failure to charge Mr. Roberts under the Public Service Act. That course obviously was impossible for this Government to take.
The Postmaster-General then made a most extraordinary statement. He said, “ I decided that Roberts should be given the opportunity of reinstatement “. This is in complete contradiction of what the Minister had previously told the Parliament was his function and his duty in this matter. He had previously said that he would not interfere with the administration of the department, but he has told the committee this evening that it was his personal decision that Mr. Roberts was to be reinstated. What, then, was the object of the inquiry in Brisbane last Monday week, if the PostmasterGeneral had already decided?
– He had not decided. The honorable member knows that.
– He has told us this evening. “ I decided that Roberts should have the opportunity of reinstatement, and I sent the papers on to the DirectorGeneral.” That was the Postmaster-
General’s own decision. If that was so, why was the conference held in Brisbane last Monday week.
I asked the Minister, “ Why have the charges by Roberts not been investigated? “ He replied, “ They have been investigated.” Then he told the committee the nature of the investigation. It has been conducted solely with the Post Office security officers and no inquiries have been made of Roberts. Not one question has been directed towards him. What kind of an inquiry can it be when serious charges are levelled against people, and the judge, without hearing any of the evidence of those who levelled the charges, accepts the statements of those against whom the charges are made and says: “ I have now investigated the matter. I am perfectly satisfied. Here are the facts. There is no basis whatever for the charges “ ? In this instance, there has been no investigation whatever of the charges that have been made by Mr. Roberts.
The Postmaster-General, apparently, is completely unconcerned about the fact that eminent members of the legal profession in Brisbane who were present at the conference last Monday week have completely contradicted the statement which he made to honorable members. I quote it again: “ Roberts’s advisers made it quite plain at the start that they did not desire to pursue any allegation of victimization by the threatened use of the Crimes Act.” The legal advisers to Mr. Roberts, in a statement which I have been authorized to read to the committee, and which I have already read to the committee, said that that statement by the Postmaster-General is completely incorrect. Is the Minister so unconcerned about this matter as to have no doubts even now, when eminent members of the legal profession in Brisbane who were present at the conference give a completely different version of what occurred there? Has he so little sense of the importance of his position or of his responsibility to this Parliament as not to be prepared to investigate charges and statements made even by men who are as eminent and of as high repute as are the two members of the legal progession in question? The Minister knows the names of both, and there is no need for me to name them.
Not only this evening, but also previously, the Postmaster-General has issued a threat to the Opposition and warned it against pursuing this matter lest Roberts suffer further. I quote now from “Hansard” of Tuesday, 10th October, in which the Minister is reported as having said -
I think it might be a good idea, if you really want to help Roberts, not to pursue such matters.
That is exactly in line with the statement made by the Minister to-night.
– That was kindly advice, not a threat.
– “Kindly advice “, says the honorable member! lt could be kindly advice, but what it means is plain enough. It can convey only one meaning to those who hear it: “ If you do not keep quiet, we will injure Roberts in his employment.” That statement will bear no other meaning. Let us look to-morrow morning at the statement made by the PostmasterGeneral and see what implication other than that it could possibly have. The Minister has claimed that 1 have insisted that the signed statement made by Mr. Roberts is to be accepted as the fact and that nothing else is to be accepted as the fact. I suggest nothing of the sort. The Postmaster-General is brushing aside completely the statements made by Mr. Roberts and is relying solely on the statements made by the security officers. He is the one who is taking this one-sided attitude. All that we on the Opposition side of the chamber are pressing for is an investigation of Roberts’s charges, for the offer made by Mr. Roberts’s legal advisers to be accepted and for the PostmasterGeneral now to explain to this Parliament why he misled it a week ago.
I make this final observation: If the Postmaster-General really believed that all the statements made by Mr. Roberts were false - that he had made false accusations against fellow officers of the Postal Department - why did the Minister, without a word, re-employ Mr. Roberts? If Mr. Roberts, an officer of the Postal Department, has made false, signed allegations which have been published throughout Australia and which have defamed and injured other officers of the postal service - and that is what the Minister, in effect, says that Mr. Roberts has done - why has the Minister, without a word and without one question, agreed to reinstate Mr. Roberts?
– Answer that one!
– There is no answer to it. I should like to hear an answer to it. This matter has reached a stage at which, in my opinion, it cannot possibly be allowed to remain. The PostmasterGeneral is under an obligation to do a number of things. First, he should arrange for a thorough investigation to be conducted now by an impartial tribunal - that is the only kind in which the people of Australia now could have confidence - into the question of whether the Crimes Act was used to threaten and intimidate Mr. Roberts. Secondly, inquiry should be made as to whether he was misled in the information which he gave to the Parliament last week, or whether the senior legal men in Brisbane are inventing the statement which 1 have read on their behalf to-night. Finally, if an offer of an investigation was made by Mr. Roberts’s advisers, he should tell us why it was not accepted. I repeat that on the evidence and the statements made to date by the Postmaster-General there can be no other conclusion but that this Government is complacent to and is encouraging the establishment of a police state in Australia.
.- It is not surprising that the Opposition should engage in a long discussion on a matter of this kind simply for its own party political ends. It can bring forward no evidence whatever to refute what the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has told us already about this unfortunate incident. I am surprised that the incident could have been magnified to the extent that it has, as evidenced particularly by the final suggestion of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) that this incident indicates that the Government is prepared to condone the establishment of a police state in Australia. No honorable member and no member of the public listening to the broadcast of these proceedings could for one minute take that statement seriously. It is the most ridiculous thing that I have heard in this place for some time.
The Postmaster-General’s Department, which is said to be the largest commercial undertaking in the Southern Hemisphere - a department seeking, by the vote to-night, £113,000,000 for its organization; a department which has expanded to a colossal extent in the post-war years despite its previous very fine record - is now under attack on a matter involving an individual in its employ who, according to the evidence before the Parliament, appears to be perfectly satisfied with the way he has been treated. But Opposition members are trying to make something out of it for their own party political ends. No other reason is apparent to honorable members on the Government side. Honorable members opposite talk about the right of Parliament to investigate abuses in public affairs. They have had, and have used, the opportunity to highlight this matter during several debates on the motion to adjourn the House, but they have brought it forward again to-night because the proceedings are being broadcast hoping to ventilate the suggestions, mostly of an imaginative kind, which they have advanced. The Parliament and the people of Australia have considerably more than that in this tremendous undertaking in which to interest themselves because it is of such advantage to them.
The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) already has directed attention to the colossal increase which has taken place in the number of telephone lines from 1950 to 1960. He pointed out that the number has doubled in that period of ten years. In addition, the number of telephone instruments connected to those lines has increased from about 1,100,000 to 2,100,000, again almost a 100 per cent, increase. Further, the number of trunk lines has increased from 8,150 at the end of June, 1950, to 19,288 at the end of June, 1960. The incumbent of the office of Postmaster-General, who has been the subject of a bitter attack to-night, is now at the table, and while he is in the chamber I should like to remind honorable members that the increase which has taken place in the number of telephone lines, telephone instruments and trunk lines during his occupancy of office, represents between 40 per cent, and 50 per cent, on the number which existed when he was appointed. This is a very high tribute not only to the PostmasterGeneral but also to the officers c his department.
In addition, improvements have been made to the general telephone system, particularly in country areas. People in the electorate “of Lawson have welcomed the introduction of the extended local service area system which has operated most satisfactorily. The system was introduced on trial and over the last eighteen months has proved its worth. Admittedly, some representations have been made seeking alterations in the zones which were laid down originally, but the remarkable thing is that although 1,561,968 telephone lines were in existence at the end of June, 1960 - that is the latest figure available but probably the number has increased since then - only 685 subscribers made representations to have zones altered. This represents 7.8 for each 100 of the 8,840 exchanges. It is only a drop in the ocean. Of the 685 subscribers to whom I have referred, 513 sought call access at local rates. This was granted in 302 cases. Of the 172 applications for reduced trunk and other general charges, 75 were granted and 21 remain to be finalized. This is a very high tribute to the new system. But there are still some weaknesses which are being investigated. Again I pay tribute to the officers of the department who have been prepared at all times to talk over these matters with the subscribers and try to iron out their difficulties.
One suggestion which has been made and, I understand, will be accepted related to an alteration to the telephone directory to bring the index, which at present is placed just ahead of the pink pages, to the. front of the directory where it can be located more easily than is the case at present. I suggest that another improvement can be made in relation to the maps which are at the head of each telephone district in the directory. It is difficult to locate them at present and it would be of great advantage if the pages on which the maps are printed were coloured slightly so that they would stand out, thus enabling one to turn from section to section quickly without the trouble which is being experienced now.
I should like to raise the matter of rural automatic exchanges which are coming into operation very rapidly and are of particular value to country people. My colleague, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King, when referring to this matter before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, mentioned the difference in cost of connexion of telephone services to the rural automatic exchanges which are established. I refer now to new telephone exchanges of the rural automatic type, not to exchanges which already are in existence. When a new rural automatic exchange is established the people living close to it will be connected at no cost because the department will provide the lines and the poles, but as distance from the exchange increases so the cost of connexion will increase. Some people have complained to me that it may cost them £300 or £400 to connect to the new service. I know that the Postmaster-General and his officers are aware of this disability. I know that they feel that if the selection of a site creates disability for the subscriber something should be done about it, though it is very hard to say what should be done. I believe there should be. some equalization of the cost to subscribers. This aspect has arisen now when the installation of rural automatic exchanges is not very far advanced, and it will become increasingly worse as time, goes on. Unquestionably some subscribers are being treated unfairly.
In the short time remaining at my disposal I should like to refer to the priority of country exchanges, particularly those in remote parts of the country, in rural automatic exchange services. For instance, in parts of my electorate there are small exchanges located 20 or 30 miles from a town which cater for perhaps 20 or 30 subscribers. In the old days before there were picture shows when families stayed at home and did not go about so much, the children were content to stay on thefarm over the week-ends and look after the telephone. Those days are gone and now we find that many exchanges are looked after by old people who, through sickness or something of that sort, decidethat they must give up the job of looking after the telephone exchange. If theexchange is on private property it is almost impossible to get any one to take it over and consequently people connected with> that exchange are immediately cut off and lose their telephone service entirely.
I have had several cases of this sort in my electorate. One cropped up recently. An exchange was closed down for want of some one to run the telephone office and all the subscribers on that exchange - there were not very many of them - were transferred to another exchange. About twelve months later the second exchange was closed and services were again suspended. I do not think they have been restored yet. Because of the time and labour involved, no matter what the department does to restore a service, the closing of an exchange means that the subscribers are without a telephone service at all for a while.
The obvious conclusion is that those telephone exchanges should be given No. 1 priority in the provision of rural automatic services and I hope the Postmaster-General and his officers will see it in that light, because for a rural dweller there is nothing more drastic - or tragic in some cases - than to be deprived suddenly of a telephone service. I hope that while country residents who find themselves in this position are awaiting the connexion to another exchange, the department will remit their telephone rental as, I understand it will do with Canberra subscribers who lost their exchange by fire.
I do not wish to deal at length with television, although we are eagerly looking forward to the day when the next phase of television is not merely approved but is a reality so that country people may enjoy the benefits of this medium which is so much appreciated by city people. Unfortunately, in the meantime, rural dwellers are not getting the radio service to which they are entitled, lt is clear that some of the remoter country centres will not have television for many years. In a large part of my electorate there is only one Australian Broadcasting Commission service available. For instance, the words I am speaking here to-night are not going out into the regional channels and so will not be heard by country people unless they are close enough to the city to listen to the direct broadcast, which in New South Wales comes from station 2BL. An Opposition member says they are lucky. Perhaps they are very unlucky because there may be many words of wisdom spoken here which they would be glad to hear. At least, if they could hear me, they would know that I am asking that a better service be given to people in the far out country areas, who for many years will not have the benefit of television, and who, in the meantime, have a very clear claim to a better radio service than they have had for many years. I am speaking with years of experience in the radio industry. It has always been a great shame that the second channel has not been available to country listeners. We talk of decentralization. I think that to help towards decentralization we should give to people in the country the better service which is enjoyed by their cousins in the city.
– I do not intend to make other than a passing reference to the Roberts case, which has already been referred to in some detail. I have the clearest recollection that when this matter was raised with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) a few weeks ago. following upon revelations in the Queensland press, he accused the Opposition of engaging in some kind of political mischievousness. Now that the matter has been ventilated and it has been seen that there was in fact the kind of misuse of public property that had been alleged, the Minister, and more particularly his political colleagues, are trying to say that the Opposition, which is carrying out its duty in ventilating this matter in the Parliament, is merely engaging in some kind of political propaganda. Of course, the matter has now gone beyond the mere misuse of public money. The other aspect, which has become at least as important, is the attempt to stifle the revelations made by the employee, Mr. Roberts, in making this matter known.
Another matter which I wish to mention affects practically every citizen in Australia - certainly every person who uses a postage stamp or makes a telephone call and I suppose that takes in the vast majority of Australian citizens.0 I refer to the extortionate increases in postal, telephone and telegraph charges. That these increases were extortionate is revealed by the tremendous profits that have been made by the department. The White Paper on
National Income and Expenditure for 1960- 61 indicates that the department made a profit of not less than £23,000,000. In the year before, which carried only a part of the increases, the department made a profit of £11,000,000. To get over this problem and to try to conceal the fact that these extortionate charges have been placed upon the Australian people, the Government has devised a new technique of accountancy for the Postal Department. Instead of allowing this profit to be called a profit - clearly it is a profit on the commercial activities of the Post Office - the department is now charging interest at commercial rales on all the moneys loaned to the Post Office over the years.
The Auditor-General’s report indicates that last year, when this system was introduced, and the department made a profit of £15,775,259, the Government decided to charge interest of £15,300,000 on the moneys that had been made available for capital works within the Post Office in past years. In other words, the Government hit upon a new means of gathering taxes over and above the already record direct and indirect taxes. This is purely a taxing device, because the money which has been loaned to the Post Office for its capital works programme has come not from borrowings from the public but out of revenue contributed by the Australian public. In other words, the Australian citizen to-day is being asked to pay further taxation to pay for the loan of money raised from him by taxation! In other words, increased charges for postal, telephone and telegraph services have yielded such a huge profit that the department strives to conceal the true position by charging the users of those services - the general public - interest on their own money which was taken from them by taxation. I am amazed that there has not been an even greater public outcry than there has been about this pernicious business. The Government estimates that in this year, 1961- 62, revenue will be £28,700,000 over and above the commercial requirements of the Post Office for running its services. In 1957-58 - just a few years ago - there was a deficit of £200,000 in the Post Office accounts.
Now, because of the harsh burden placed on all citizens alike, the post and telegraph services, instead of merely balancing their budget, are making a profit of nearly £29,000,000 a year. That is £29,000,000 in extra taxes laid on the people who use those services. I put it to this committee that the Government has qualms of conscience about this extra taxation, because it is not revealing the figures in the usual place in the Budget papers. It is with the greatest difficulty that one can find the relevant figures. The Government has discontinued the practice which obtained until 1959-60, of showing what interest is charged to the Post Office. The figures show that in 1959-60 nearly £750,000 was charged in interest. Suddenly, with the introduction of the new policy, instead of about £750,000, no less than £15,000,000 was charged last year. I cannot find anywhere in the Budget papers just how much interest is being charged against the Post Office this year.
I think that this charge is something that ought to get a lot of people worried. Probably people do not realize what is happening. It is at the Christmas season that the people in general feel hostility about having to pay 5d. to send a Christmas card to their friends or relatives. It is now that we start to see the letters in the newspapers from pensioners’ organizations and other people with not very much wherewithal begging the Postmaster-General to return to the good old days when people could send their Christmas cards at a reduced cost. To-day the price of sending many Christmas cards with postage at 5d. each is beyond a lot of poor people.
That is a small aspect of the matter. But this Government is always telling us about the increasing costs of production. I wonder just what contribution to the increasing costs of production is made by the present high charges for postal and telegraphic services. We were told a year or two ago that the basic wage had to be frozen in order to keep costs down, yet here is the Commonwealth Government itself loading costs with an extra £28,000,000 or £29,000,000 in postal and telegraphic charges. Businesses which have to pay these extra charges pass them on right down the line. Every letter, every account sent out by business houses, every telephone call they make, every telegram they send, all bearing these burdensome excessive charges, adds to the cost of production. All these charges work their way down the line to the consumer, who pays for them in the price of goods and services. All the business journals circulating in the community have to bear the excessive costs.
The effect on the cost of production does not stay even at the £29,000,000 in excess charges, but snowballs and adds to the inflationary spiral which the country is now asked to put up with, along with other burdens like the credit squeeze. The fact is that this is another form of that kind of taxation for which this Government is notorious. It is indirect taxation, and all citizens, from pensioners to the wealthiest people in the community, pay alike. They all bear this burden of increased postage charges, increased telephone call charges and exorbitant telephone rentals. Ot course, the wealthy person might make more telephone calls and send more letters than the ordinary person, but in the long run this is a regressive form of taxation, hitting all sorts of people alike. Above all, it is burdensome because it increases the cost of production, and thereby inhibits our ability to compete with overseas businesses. I think it is time that this kind of protest was made.
I want now to refer to the heart-rending appeal frequently made to the PostmasterGeneral and the Government on behalf of blind citizens. Year after year, in plaintive voice, and with remarkable moderation, they plead for this Parliament to hear them. They point out that to the blind person a telephone is a pair of eyes in the home, lt gives them a measure of independence. They point out that to them a telephone is not just a convenience, but supplies the means of contact for those Who have no other means of maintaining contact. Last year, I got the impression that the Minister was sympathetic to these requests, and that having regard to the affluent state of the Post Office the request of the blind people would be conceded. The blind people point out that they are not asking for something for nothing. They merely ask that telephone services be put within their reach by allowing them free rental, with reduced installation fees. All calls would be paid for. That seems to be an extremely moderate request, and
I join with others in asking the Minister to exercise some human sympathy in regard to it. Last year, when this matter was discussed I got the impression that it would not need to be raised again in this chamber. I ask the Minister sitting at the table to give a little further consideration to this request. I am sure that granting the request will not make a very big dint in the huge profit that the Post Office is making. It may well be that another government will grant this request if this Government is not prepared to do so.
Lack of time will prevent me from referring to some matters that I wished to raise in relation to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but I should like to support the people who have directed attention to the deterioration of radio programmes and to the number of pop tunes now played over our radio stations. Not only members of Parliament, but also people outside, have complained about this. One does not have to be a high-brow to be nauseated by the rubbishy sort of stuff that continually comes over the air, particularly from the commercial stations. Some of them are not even abiding by the law in this matter. They are not even giving us Australian pop tunes. They are not even giving us the five per cent, of Australian material that is required of them, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission directs attention to this.
If only the people who run these stations would recognize that the Australian people have better taste than they think! Not all Australians who watch television have a morbid taste for the crime and the gangsterism and so on portrayed in most television dramas nowadays. The vast majority of Australian people would appreciate a good programme of decent light music - not necessarily high-brow classical music, although plenty of people appreciate that - but light orchestral music, ballad music and good dance music. Somehow or other our radio stations do not seem to be able to understand that fact.
Do not let us forget that radio stations have a privileged position in the community. Not any organization can establish a radio station. It is necessary to get a licence to establish one, and the proprietors of radio stations, like the proprietors of television stations, are therefore in a special position. For that reason they should give a lead in the development of taste and culture. They should also give an opportunity to Australian artists to work for television and radio.
I should like also to protest about the tremendous amount of advertising that comes over radio and television - more particularly television. I am astonished that the regulations permit television stations to give four consecutive advertisements in a programme. They can even get away with another group of advertisements if they put something else in between.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat-
– Sat down!
– Very well, the honorable member who has just sat down - that is better - referred to the large profits that he said had been made by the Post Office, and also to the adoption by the department of a new method of presenting the commercial accounts. When the honorable member starts talking about large profits I suggest to him that he is, quite properly, treating the Post Office as a business enterprise. I agree that the affairs of the Post Office should be treated as the affairs of a business enterprise, because the Post Office must be run as efficiently as any other business in Australia. But if the honorable member treats the department as a business enterprise he must apply business principles in his consideration. In applying business principles to a discussion of the results of any enterprise one does not, when speaking of tariffs, rates and dividends, talk glibly in terms of gross profits. When the honorable member talks about £16,000,000 or £18.000,000 or £20,000,000 profit, he is talking in terms simply of the gross excess of revenue over ordinary expenditure and taking no account whatsoever of the other charges that must be properly offset against that gross profit before the true position of the department as a business enterprise can be properly determined.
Let me point out another aspect of this matter. If you are going to deal with the cash position, which is what the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) was doing, then you have to take the whole of the cash position into account, and not just some particular part of it. What is the cash position as regards the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Consolidated Revenue Fund in this year that we are now embarking upon? The position is that we will have revenue estimated at £142,200,000. That is what we will be paying into the fund from which we draw all the money that we need to carry on the business. Against that we will draw, for our ordinary services vote, £113,500,000, and also a total of £45,000,000, which has been voted for the works we will have to carry out in the development of the Post Office. In other words, payments into the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be £142,200,000, and drawings out of that fund will be £158,500,000, leaving a difference of £16,300,000.
– You are talking of capital works.
– They have to be paid for; they represent a recurring annual expenditure. If you follow those figures back you will find that in the ten years up to June, 1960, revenue paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund from the Post Office has amounted to about £800,500,000, whilst the total drawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund has been £1,128,000,000. In other words, net cash drawings have exceeded payments into the fund over that period by £327,500,000. Let these facts speak for themselves. I hope honorable members will keep them in mind when they hear people talking about exorbitant profits.
I would like to point out also that the adoption of this system of commercial accounts is not something that has been thought of in the last year or two. About 1910 a royal commission recommended that an effective and uniform system of keeping expenditure accounts be instituted and that annual balance-sheets be prepared. On 1st July, 1912, the commercial accounts were commenced. Then, over a period of years, before I took over the portfolio, there was a good deal of debate as to the form in which these commercial accounts should be presented, because it was contended by many people, and quite rightly, that they did not present, as they were supposed to present, a true picture of the commercial operations of the department. The first Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts referred to this matter, the chairman of the committee being our colleague, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). One of the members was the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who not so long ago made some criticism of the adoption by the Post Office of this commercial accounts system. Going quickly over some of the more relevant points contained in a summary of the conclusions of the Public Accounts Committee, we find these statements -
The importance of comprehensive commercial accounts cannot be over-emphasized.
The commercial accounts are important in the consideration of Commonwealth finance and should record all the revenue and all the expenditure accruing for the year.
The form of the commercial accounts could be improved.
The Auditor-General should undertake the audit of the commercial accounts.
The system of depreciation of assets followed by the Postmaster-General’s Department should have been reviewed long since.
The amount of the liability for the Commonwealth proportion of superannuation for present employees accruing in the year should be included in the commercial accounts.
The additional Commonwealth liability for superannuation for its employees arising from more liberal superannuation conditions should be included in the commercial accounts.
The amount of capital to be included in the accounts should be determined without delay.
The present basis for charges of interest on capital has long been anomalous; a proposed review by the Post Office Audit, Office and Treasury should proceed expeditiously.
The method of apportionment of charges for interest between the various Branches should be discussed by the Department with the Audit Office and the Treasury.
Following a number of further discussions in following years, it was decided by this Government that the only way to clear the matter up was to appoint a top-level impartial committee, the members of which should be drawn, in the main, from outside the department, for the purpose of going into the whole question. As a result of this decision we finally received the report of the Fitzgerald committee, on which the Government acted. That committee went into all these relevant matters and made recommendations which, in the eyes of all having business acumen, appeared sound, and have, therefore, been adopted. The result is that the accounts of the Post Office are now presented in a manner which conforms to established business and accountancy practice. This system provides also within the department - and this is important - a better means of checking overall costs and returns in the various divisions. This tends towards greater efficiency throughout the department. It is also worth noting that last year for the first time the accounts were presented in such a condition that the Auditor-General was glad to attach his certificate to the accounts and asked that that fact be stated.
It has also been suggested that as a result of the new system tariffs can be adversely affected. I point out that what we have been speaking of is a matter concerning the commercial accounts of the Post Office. The determination of the level of tariffs is not in any way affected by these commercial accounts, because tariffs still remain a matter for determination, along policy lines, by the Government. Such determination is made having regard to all other relevant factors, quite apart from the commercial accounts, which could have a bearing on the decision. It does not follow, therefore, that the adoption of this system will result in a variation of tariffs that would not otherwise have taken place. 1 have taken up quite a deal of time in explaining these matters. Several points were made earlier in the debate to which I would like to reply. Some of them concerned matters of detail and others covered certain suggestions, and these I shall reply to, as 1 normally do, by letter. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to the use of Australian artists in radio and television. As another speaker said, we have heard these remarks from the honorable member on a number of occasions. However, I appreciate his sincerity, and I shall just point out a few facts, giving comparisons of the number of actors, musicians and speakers engaged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in live programmes in the last two years. Taking the field of radio first, 14,946 Australians were so engaged in 1959- 60. That number increased by only eighteen in 1960-61, to 14,964. In television, there was an increase from 4,676 in 1959-60 to 5,598 in 1960-61. In the two mediums there was an increase of 940 Australian artists, musicians and so on in the year. I do not think this can he said to establish any charge that the matter is not being given proper attention by the radio and television instrumentalities.
The honorable member also referred to the fact that certain resolutions had been passed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I do not know whether he is aware of this, but I am glad to be able to tell honorable members that the A.C.T.U. asked me to receive a deputation on this subject and I have arranged to meet such a deputation on Monday next. I shall be quite happy to listen to any proposals that are put and to see whether there is any merit in them. I am just as keen as any one in this chamber is to build up steadily the use of Australian talent in both radio and television. Though we may differ in the way in which we would do this, there is no lack of keenness.
I want to refer to a statement made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). He more or less dealt with, the same subject and referred to the programmes of the various commercial stations. He said that in his opinion the Minister should have power to direct broadcasting stations as to the programmes they should use and as to the amount of Australian talent in them. I can understand his making this assertion because that is the policy of nationalization in regard to these media of the Australian Labour Party, and has been for very many years. Its policy is to give the Minister power to dictate to the stations, and that amounts to nothing less than complete government control of radio.
Let us give some credit where it is due. I refer particularly to the Australian Broadcasting Commission which has been steadily building up Australian programmes. It has produced such programmes as “ The Outcast “ and “ Stormy Petrel “. It is also using Shirley Abicair and other Australians in its programmes. These programmes are steadily establishing a market overseas as well as in Australia. The commission has established a writers’ workshop to encourage
Australian writers in the writing of radio and television scripts. This has been operating for at least a year. Television programmes produced in Australia have been shown on the C.B.S. network in the United States of America. That is an achievement and shows how we are beginning to build up a market for our programmes. I leave the work of the commission and mention that Artransa Proprietary Limited has sold “ Whiplash “, which it produced, in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. There is a steady demand for Australian productions and Australian programmes.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) made, I thought, a very apt reference when he said that future development of Australian programmes depends on the building up of high quality in Australian production and Australian artists. Though we must encourage artists of high standard, at the same time it would be a mistake to establish a state of affairs in which third-rate quality also was encouraged. This would reduce the overall level of quality in our productions.
The honorable member for Perth suggested that there should be a combined radio and television licence. This has been examined and provision has been made to enable a person owning both a radio set and a television set to bring the dates of the two licences into harmony. When he takes out his television licence he may pay the amount of the radio licence or vice versa, and so have the one due date for both licences. This is equivalent to a combined licence. I know that the honorable member also suggested that a combined licence should be issued at a reduced fee, but I cannot agree with him. Although a person may pay for both licences on the one date, we have found that many people do not want this. They prefer to spread their payments over the year.
Other honorable members referred to matters which affect their electorates. 1 have listened to them with attention and will furnish appropriate replies. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) referred again to the Bathurst telephone exchange building. It is only this month that I wrote to the honorable member outlining the position. Although certain undertakings have been given from time to time about this matter, nevertheless a recent survey shows that the anticipated increase in business in the exchange has not occurred. Some of the figures given by the honorable member were not correct. It was expected that by this year, 1961, connexions would be close to 2,400. In actual fact, there were only 2,200. This is 200 short of the expected figure. The anticipated increase has not taken place. The survey shows that the present building will give efficient service at least until 1966. Under present conditions, with all the demands on available capital for new post offices and telephone exchanges, we would not be justified in spending £90,000, which is the estimate, on a building that will give good service for the next five years. I will reply to the other matters that have been raised by letter.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £735,657,000 for the services of the year 1961-62, viz.: -
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year 1961-62, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £459,687,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir Garfield Barwick and Dr. Donald Cameron do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Garfield Barwick, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
That the Estimates - Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure 1961-62 - be considered as a whole.
Proposed Vote, £146,238,000.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to Her Majesty a sum not exceeding £146,238,000 for the services of the year 1961-62 for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, viz.: -
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the services of the year 1961-62, for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £91,250,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir Garfield Barwick and Mr. Adermann do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Garfield Barwick, and read a first and second time.
.- I rise to direct attention to the urgent need to improve the aerodrome and airport buildings at Western Junction near Launceston. This property comes under the direction of the Department of Civil Aviation. Western Junction airport is the northern gateway to Tasmania, but it is probably the Cinderella of all major airports in Australia. Travellers from the mainland visiting Tasmania for the first time must be horrified at the backwardness of the airport and the buildings. We have been fighting for a long time to have them modernized and brought up to the standard of other major airports of Australia.
Western Junction expanded during and after the Second World War. The airport has consisted of a conglomeration of small, unrelated buildings. It is a hotch potch of disjointed arrangements and must amaze travellers who are accustomed to better airports. There is not enough room for the heavy air traffic. There are not adequate facilities for passengers, who cannot obtain a meal there. The whole set-up is antediluvian by modern standards. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) has promised us a modern airport but we do not know for certain when that promise will be fulfilled. A hideous hangar near the passenger lounges has been moved. Aircraft approaching the lounges had to go around it and it was an eyesore. This building is now in another position out of the way of approaching aircraft, and storerooms have been added. This is an improvement, but the passenger lounges of T.A.A. and Ansett Transport Industries Limited are inadequate. They should be combined in one big lounge as will be done in the international airport in Melbourne. Other buildings at Western Junction should be removed.
One good feature of the Western Junction airport is the gardens, but very few travellers see them. They are a credit to the gardeners who are employed by the Department of Civil Aviation and present a magnificent sight all the year round. Recently there has been a slight change in the bus entrance and exit, and passengers pass by a portion of the gardens on their way to the road, but the main portion of the gardens cannot be seen by anybody except airport employees. That is a serious oversight. I think a new approach should be made to the passenger lounges through these beautiful gardens. I do not wish to take up too much of the committee’s time, but I speak on behalf of thousands of passengers who use Western Junction. I speak also on behalf of the Tasmanian people. We urge the Minister for Civil Aviation to expedite expenditure on this airport in accordance with his promise. After the airports at Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, the airport at Western Junction is an eyesore.
It is time the Commonwealth Government spent some federal money in Tasmania. The aluminium works at Bell Bay have been sold and about £9,000,000 that has been expended there by the Commonwealth is to be put back into Consolidated Revenue. It is years since there was any large Commonwealth expenditure in Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government could well spend some money now on Western Junction, lt is our right to have this airport improved to modern standards, not only for the benefit of the travelling public but also in the interests of the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation who are forced to work there day by day. Improvements at the airport would also help to beautify the front door to the northern part of our island.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16th August (vide page 109), on motion by Dr. Donald Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak very briefly on this measure. Clause 4 will amend section 70 of the act by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following subsection: - (1.) A quarantine officer may board any vessel that is in a port or place in Australia and -
My only reason for speaking on this measure is to direct the attention of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to the administration of animal quarantine in Australia. I am not at the moment concerned with the quarantine of humans. With respect to the quarantine of animals, I ask: Are we strict enough in Australia in administering our quarantine laws? When the Foot and Mouth Disease Bill 1961 was before the House some weeks ago, a number of honorable members alleged that there was insufficient scrutiny in the conduct of the duties of quarantine. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) complained of the introduction of swine fever. I realize that it is most difficult to prevent the introduction of diseases of this sort. We all know that we have coming into this country many new Australians who tend to carry with them sausages, cheeses and other foodstuffs which could very easily introduce into this country a disease an outbreak of which could have extremely serious consequences. Air travel has undoubtedly added to the possibility of the introduction of various diseases into Australia. I think that, for this reason, we ought to be particularly careful that we do not, through laxity in quarantine measures, allow diseases to be introduced.
We in Australia are particularly fortunate in having been relatively free from serious animal diseases. There are a number of serious diseases that I should like to mention. Foot and mouth disease is one which we are particularly fortunate to have avoided almost completely. It was introduced in the 1870’s and immediately stamped out. We are very fortunate to have avoided blue-tongue disease, also. This could have caused a catastrophe in Australia. When it was introduced into South Africa and America, it was discovered to be not quite as catastrophic as had been expected. But there have been losses of up to 30 per cent, of sheep where blue tongue has broken out. Another scourge is the screw-worm fly, which causes one of the most catastrophic diseases of animals known anywhere in the world. The Americans have done some remarkable work in stamping out the screw-worm fly. Honorable members will, I think, have read of the discovery of the fact that the female screw-worm fly mates only once in her life. In Hawaii, millions of male flies were treated to make them sterile and the released to mate with almost all the female screw-worm flies. As a result, almost all the screw-worm flies have been eliminated from Hawaii. This has been one of the most remarkable factors in the scientific prevention of animal diseases. Were an outbreak of this fly to occur in Australia, we would undoubtedly be confronted with a tremendous problem.
Therefore, I ask: Are we strict enough in our animal quarantine? I should like the Minister to answer this question. Furthermore, should quarantine be administered by the public health authorities? I certainly agree that quarantine for humans ought to be under the control of those authorities, but surely animal quarantine should not. It should not be under the direction of a medical doctor. It should be under the direction of a veterinary doctor, and it should be associated with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and primary industry. This is what we have to consider.
I recently received a letter from a veterinary friend of mine who stated -
The requirements of quarantine animals are not being met, because the (medical) Director has other axes to grind and says, “ No money has been available for that, or that or that”. When asked on one occasion why such and such a requirement had not been met, the same answer was given - “ No money was provided in the estimates “.
Some one asked -
Was it ever put on the estimates?
This was a rather awkward question, and the answer was “ No “. My friend asks -
So what chance have we?
I think that this is a very serious matter that the Minister should look into. Since the Second World War, we have introduced into this country, in one way and another, some of the very serious diseases of animals. We have introduced bovine encephalo.myletis. This is a high-mortality disease. We have introduced virus epidemic diarrhoea of cattle, virus mucosal disease of cattle and More Johne’s disease. We have introduced swine fever, as my honorable member from Mitchell realizes. All these are diseases from which Australia was formerly free and which have been introduced just during the last few years. We have introduced, also, infectious rhinitis of swine, scrapie of sheep, eperythzoonosis of sheep - any one who can get his tongue around that one is better than I am - and equine infectious anaemia. In dispute at present is a new tick fever in cattle, theileria dispar. My friend goes on -
What an appalling list, and there could be one or two others, such as ovine brucellosis. I have heard that screw worm fly - the worst external parasite it is possible to imagine - may be present along the New Guinea coast. There would be no future for the Queensland cattle industry if (or when) it comes in. What measures are being taken to guard against such a calamity? How much money is allocated each year towards protecting us?
I merely quote those extracts from my friend’s letter because I have had no opportunity or time yet to check with other members of the veterinary profession in order to ascertain whether this is an overstatement or whether it puts the position correctly. I ask the Minister to look into the matter very closely. My friend ought to be in a position to know. He is a fully qualified veterinary doctor who has been practising for very many years. I ask the Minister whether he can assure the House that our quarantine measures are really effective in keeping out of Australia these diseases which could make such a tremendous difference to our primary production.
– I am glad to have caught YOU. eye now, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) was seated at the table and you did not see me rise earlier. I now take the opportunity to inform you that the Opposition has no objection to the passage of this bill which merely validates the existing practice by which the crew and passengers of an aircraft are inspected in the vicinity of the aircraft instead of inside it, as was provided for by the wording of the original law which was framed, I imagine, long before aeroplanes were invented.
– in replyMay I begin by pointing out to my honorable friend from Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) that this bill has nothing to do with animal quarantine. However, as you allowed him to make a speech on that subject, Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may reply very briefly to some of his questions. The bill is concerned, first, with a reference to ship’s papers - it seeks to clarify that term - and secondly, with a re-wording of section 72 of the Quarantine Act to ensure that there is adequate power to examine in a satisfactory manner passengers disembarking from aeroplanes. When referring to animal quarantine, I understood the honorable gentleman to advance the thesis that doctors trained in human medicine were inadequate for this service, but that veterinary scientists were completely satisfactory. To set his mind at rest, may I inform him that animal quarantine is carried out by a section of the department headed by a veterinary scientist, and that all the officers who deal with it are veterinarians.
With regard to the efficacy of animal quarantine, I think we can say that the results speak for themselves. The honorable gentleman read a list of diseases mentioned in a letter which he said he has not had the time to study properly. If he sends the letter to me I shall have a detailedreply to it prepared for him. But I think that the answer lies in the fact that the really serious and major diseases of stock have been effectively prevented from entering Australia. I refer to diseases such as foot and mouth disease. It is true, of course, that some diseases such as swine fever, infectious rhinitis and others have found their way into Australia, but it would be remarkable if quarantine in this field was so enormously efficient that no disease ever entered the country. It must be remembered that many of these diseases were not recognized and thoroughly described until fairly recent years. I think it can be taken for granted that diseases of stock in the world have been prevented from entering Australia, completely in the case of some of the major diseases, and very largely in the case of others, by our quarantine measures. I am satisfied that the Australian quarantine system is extremely efficient.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4th October (vide page 1616), on motion by Mr. Davidson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. -This bill seeks to remove a provision, which has been in the law for some 60 years, requiring the performance of mail contracts by white labour. By the way in which it has operated, the law has excluded persons of predominantly aboriginal blood from being employed in the performance of mail contracts. The Opposition approves the removal of this provision. Indeed my colleague in another place, Senator Willesee, has been pressing for an amendment of this kind for several years, and the notice-paper of the Senate is evidence of his persistent efforts to achieve this result.
Although it may appear to some outsiders that this provision was written into the law to provide a measure of racial discrimination, I agree with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) who, when moving the second reading of the bill, stated that that apparently was never the intention. Reference to the debates when this provision was written into the law shows that those who sponsored it were anxious to safeguard the economic rights of those engaged in ships trading around the Australian coast and to ensure that mails were carried only by ships which employed white labour and paid wages appropriate to white labour. Apparently in those days mail contracts of the kind of which there are now some 6,000 or 7,000 in the Commonwealth were not contemplated. The provision is out of date and we approve its removal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.29 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
South Wales, Wacol, Queensland, and Woodside, South Australia. This figure includes persons awaiting initial employment, those who have returned from seasonal and other employment and are awaiting further placement, and persons for whom employment has been arranged but who have not yet moved from the centres to this employment.
a asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
z asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Have there been any recent developments in the research work being conducted in Australia into new uses for coal or coal by-products?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
The Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee, which has been set up by the Commonwealth Government, is nearing the end of its review of research into coal utilization, whether done in recent years, currently in progress, or proposed. The committee can be expected to assess and place in the correct perspective any useful developments arising out of coal research in Australia and overseas. I feel I should await receipt of the committee’s final report before offering any comment on developments in research.
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information: -
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Will he expedite a reply to the question addressed to him which I placed on the noticepaper on 10th May last?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The information requested in the above question was given to the honorable member on 10th October, 1961.
d asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the. honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– Information relating to the financial position of people of pensionable age who are not receiving pensions is not available. The number of people who may be eligible for age pensions under the means test but who are ineligible under the nationality and/ or residential provisions is not known.
son asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19611017_reps_23_hor33/>.