24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. In view of the fact that millions of pounds have been provided by the Government to encourage the search for oil in Australia, will it give immediate financial assistance to the search for gold? Is it a fact that in the past large amounts of gold have been won from the Snowy Mountains and Tumut areas, in which the present huge hydro-electric and irrigation projects are being constructed, and that during the process of the development of these works indications of gold-bearing deposits have been found? In order to provide employment in the areas mentioned when the Snowy Mountains project is completed, will the Government investigate the possibility of re-establishing the gold-mining industry in this area?
– I realize that there are some old gold-mines in the honorable member’s electorate. In fact, I think the town of Adelong was at one time quite a prosperous gold-mining town. I realize that there are possibilities for the discovery of further deposits of gold in the area. I will refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for National Development in another place and get a reply as soon as I can.
– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister. On 15th November, in reply to the honorable member for Evans and myself, the right honorable gentleman said that the Commonwealth was a defendant in a case between the State of New South Wales and Ansett-A.N.A. and that, as a defendant, it bad the case actively in hand. He added that the Commonwealth’s defence was in the hands of counsel for statement and that he expected it to be delivered in a few days. As it is now 28th November, I ask the right honorable gentle man whether the pleas in defence have now been made available to the court.
– I hope my friend will excuse me from the responsibility of following the detailed steps of litigation. Putting in a defence on behalf of the Commonwealth is a highly technical matter. It is dealt with by the law authorities and I will refer the honorable gentleman’s inquiry to them.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question. In view of the continuing need to bring as many migrants as possible to this country, will the Minister agree that automatic consent should be given to applications for the admission of people to Australia as permanent settlers if they are sponsored and nominated by an Australian citizen; if the nominator will guarantee that the cost of transportation has been provided, without government participation; if the nominator guarantees that the intending migrant will be provided with accommodation and employment for at least two years; and always provided that such migrant can satisfy the department’s requirements, particularly in regard to health and security?
– The honorable gentleman has asked categorically a number of questions which, I think, can fairly be said to relate to policy. However, I will say that the rate of applications from intending migrants in various countries, particularly the United Kingdom, at the present time is such that there need be no cause for anxiety at all about the immigration programme in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, I have every hope, as I have said already, that the target set for this year will at least be fulfilled. Possibly we shall be able to do even better.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, by stating that meat inspectors employed by the Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board in Adelaide are concerned about their proposed transfer from the State board to the Department of Primary Industry. Can the Minister say whether the terms of employment after transfer of these inspectors will be no less advantageous than they are under State employment?
– There have been some negotiations between the South Australian Government and the Commonwealth with a view to avoiding overlapping in meat inspection. The matter discussed was whether the Commonwealth could also inspect meat for home consumption. Progress has been made and the Commonwealth is now in a position to discuss the conditions under which it may take over the inspection of meat for domestic consumption. I think I can assure the honorable member that any decisions arrived at will certainly take into account the service given by State inspectors. Should any final decision result in their transfer to the Commonwealth, they will be fully protected.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. As several Australian companies, notably Humes Limited and Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, have established production units in Malaya, I ask the Minister whether he has any knowledge of any other Australian companies venturing into this field. Has he encouraged Australian manufacturers to adopt the view that the best way to protect their interests in South-East Asia is to initiate manufacturing operations there?
– I have some knowledge of other companies which are considering the possibility of going into Singapore and Malaya and other countries in South-East Asia. I know that the honorable member does not expect me to reveal the names of any companies of whose plans I have knowledge. I have also had personal discussions with the appropriate Ministers in some of the South-East Asian countries in respect of this matter. We would like to sell Australian products wherever we can, so as to receive payment for Australian materials and for the Australian labour component in the costs of those products. In any case in which the circumstances justify it, we would like to see Australian technical knowledge and marketing arrangements availed of by the establishment of
Australian industry in the countries overseas. To achieve this result we would like to establish co-operation with the governments of those countries and with those who control capital resources in those countries. We would like to see Australian know-how sold overseas, so that Australian capital may earn dividends. There may well be what might be called a tide mark for Australian components and raw materials. All these things are being kept in mind, and these objectives are being pursued.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I understand that some time ago tenders were called for the construction of two new lighthouse ships, and that the time for submission of those tenders expired about a month ago. Before leaving Sydney this week I was told that an announcement concerning the successful tenderer would be made this week. Can the Minister tell us who was the successful tenderer?
– The honorable member is correct in saying that the tenders have been received and are being scrutinized by the Australian Shipbuilding Board. There were quite a number of them and they require a good deal of checking. I do not want to demand that a decision be made at such-and-such a time, because I want the tenders to be looked at closely. I have been told that the name of the successful tenderer will be announced probably next week.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. It has been stated that the Commonwealth Government will provide the New South Wales Government’s share, as well as its own, of finance for the Chowilla dam project. In view of this statement, will the Prime Minister clarify the financial commitments of the signatories to the agreement?
– I am happy to say that at the last conference we had, about a week ago, we agreed upon the financial conditions under which the all-important Chowilla dam project should proceed. This dam is of immense importance and will, I hope, when completed solve the urgent problem of water supply in South Australia for a long time to come. The original proposal was that the cost of the dam, which is at present estimated at £14,000,000, should be met in four equal shares, by the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, this being the normal basis of distribution of the cost of works done under the River Murray Waters Agreement. This proposal was accepted by South Australia and by Victoria. I suppose one might say that it was accepted in principle by New South Wales, but the Government of that State said it could not find the money during the time of construction of the dam. It said that it had large water supply undertakings which would have priority over the Chowilla dam project in the New South Wales works programme, and that the Chowilla project would not be brought to the top of the priority list very soon. It was, therefore, important from a practical point of view, if the Chowilla project were to begin quite quickly, that the Commonwealth should make some financial arrangement with the State of New South Wales. South Australia and Victoria agreed that we should do so, without any criticism on their part. They attach great importance to the work.
We then thrashed out the possible lines of agreement with the Government of New South Wales, and we came to the conclusion, which was accepted by that State, that the share of the cost attributable to New South Wales should be met in the first instance by the Commonwealth. It was agreed that, year by year, the Commonwealth would find the £1,000,000, £1,500,000, or whatever was necessary to have the work concluded; that, as from the time of each advance, interest should be payable by New South Wales on that advance at the long-term bond rate applicable at the time when the advance was made; that this should go on for a period of ten years from the beginning of each advance; and that, thereafter, the capital sum of each advance should be repaid by New South Wales at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum so that the debt would be extinguished at the end of ten years. Of course, in the meantime, interest at the long-term bond rate would continue to be paid on all outstanding balances. That sounds rather complicated to state, but it was thrashed out and was agreed to by the State of New South Wales. The proposal that we should enter into that special agreement was then approved by Victoria and South Australia, which will find their share of the cost of the project in the ordinary course out of their own resources.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. In reply to a question recently the Postmaster-General informed me that there is a lag of 87,000 applications for telephone services in Australia and that this lag has existed since the war ended seventeen years ago. Is it the plan of his department to have a pool of waiting telephone applicants in the same way as the Government has a plan for a permanent pool of unemployed persons?
– I have pointed out to this House, from time to time, and particularly to the honorable member for Banks, that although there is a lag in the provision of telephone services, over a period of years that has been steadily reduced. There have been more and more installations each year as a result of the fact that this Government has made more and more capital available for such installations. I have already pointed out that because of the prosperity of this country under the rule of this Government, the annual increase in applications creates a record each time. Consequently, although we are steadily reducing the total number of unsatisfied applications, both deferred and outstanding, it is nevertheless very difficult to eliminate them entirely. The fact that each year almost 200,000 new services are connected and that we are slowly reducing the overall lag indicates that this Government is doing all it possibly can, and far more than any other government ever did, to deal with this difficult situation.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Because of the value to honorable members of first hand knowledge of trade development outside Australia and in view of the debates on trade matters which will undoubtedly occur in this House, will the right honorable gentleman consider the inclusion of parliamentary representatives with prominent businessmen, banking and research specialists in future trade missions sent overseas?
– Yes, I will consider it - and, of course, discuss it with my colleagues. Having said that, I make the point that in my judgment, for what that judgment is worth, I have been most anxious to ensure that when Australians go abroad on a trade mission there should be no misapprehension as to their standing; they should be regarded as a trade mission, not as a government mission or a political device. All members of such missions except, perhaps, one or two officers of the Department of Trade, pay their own expenses. They do not go on a jaunt. They go to do business. That explains why no political representative has been invited to participate in a trade mission of this kind.
– I ask the
Prime Minister whether it is true, as reported in some quarters, that the Premier of South Australia is not now pressing his claim upon the Commonwealth for money to complete the standardization of the railway system of South Australia. If this is not true, will the Prime Minister state what the Government intends to do to meet the urgent demand for the standardization of the South Australian railways in order that South Australian manufacturers, in particular, might be in a position to compete fairly with manufacturers on the eastern seaboard?
– I am not familiar with the honorable member’s sources of information. Nor, indeed, have I ever found my distinguished colleague, the Premier of South Australia, incapable of putting his own views - and quite strongly, too. When we had the very successful conference about Chowilla, to which I referred in answer to an earlier question, I asked him what his thoughts were on the subject of railways, which have been the matter of some argument. He then told me - and I think I am right to say it - that a parliamentary standing committee of some kind had been investigating one big aspect of this matter and that he expected to get a report from that committee, I think he said, in December-
– He told me that you were holding it up.
– I am answering the question to the best of my ability. I cannot answer for your sources of information. I can only speak for myself. The Premier told me that this report would be available to him, I think, some time in December. I said that if he would send me a few copies of the report I should be very happy to study it.
– What did he say to you?
– We parted on the most amiable terms.
– Has the Minister for Trade noted a speech made in Paris by Mr. Freeman, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, in which he stated that his country intended to use the new Trade Expansion Act to promote more liberal trade policies for agricultural commodities? Can the Minister say whether this statement is of significance in the move towards more favorable terms for exporters of primary commodities?
– Yes, I have studied the speech made by Mr. Freeman. I should have been proud to have made such a speech myself. Mr. Freeman, speaking for his Government, made clear that it was the policy of the United States Administration that the new tariff negotiating authority which the President now possessed was designed to be used to produce freer trading relationships. I am sure that that statement reflected the need and desire of the United States to improve its overseas earning position. I am sure that it equally reflected a genuine desire on the part of the United States to produce freer international trading conditions. We subscribe to both those objectives. There have been discussions in the United States. In these, the Prime Minister took part, I on occasion took part and Dr. Westerman, the official speaking for Australia, took part, and none of this comes as a surprise to us. I allow myself to hope that the Australian Government, to an extent, influenced this trend. At the same time, Mr. Freeman made it clear that his Government was to devote itself to an endeavour to achieve international commodity arrangements designed to improve the opportunity for earning overseas exchange of those countries which so much depend on the export of bulk commodities. This is welcome news to all Australians, I am sure, because it is an objective which we have propounded for years.
– I direct a question to the Deputy Prime Minister. I ask: Does be support the principle of Cabinet solidarity? If so, what is the difference between the expression of his published views on the electoral boundaries redistribution proposals and the expression of the views of the former Minister for Air on the European Common Market, a Minister whose resignation from the Ministry is reported to have been demanded by the Deputy Prime Minister? Furthermore, will the right honorable gentleman say whether the stated intention of the Australian Country Party to oppose the redistribution proposals indicates that the honeymoon is over, that his party has broken its marriage vows to the Liberal Party of Australia and that the unhappy shotgun marriage is about to end?
– If this represents fun for the honorable member, be has bad his fun. I am not simple enough to be drawn in by a simple-minded fellow like him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. I state: Rifle clubs have been advised that there is to be an increase in the price of certain ammunition supplied to them. I ask: Has the Department of the Army in any way contributed to this proposed increase in cost?
– The answer is, “ No “. There has been no increase in the price of ammunition purchased by rifle clubs from the Department of the Army. I understand that there has been some increase in the price charged to the clubs by the association, but there has been no increase in the price charged by the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. Can he tell us why and when black was chosen as the distinguishing colour for ministerial cars? Is a black-coloured surface exposed to sunlight more absorptive of heat from the sun than is a surface of any other colour? Would it be conducive to the safety and well-being of drivers of Commonwealth cars and of their passengers, whether Minis.sters of State, members of Parliament or public servants, if the temperature in the interior of the car during the hot Australian summer could be lowered simply by changing from black, the most heat-absorbent colour, to a light, heat-radiating colour?
– This problem does not come entirely within the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. Ministerial cars are provided in Canberra by that department and, in the various States, by the Department of Supply. This is a technical question. I shall consult with my colleague, the Minister for Supply, and shall see whether I can obtain an answer for the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. I ask: Can the right honorable gentleman say whether British Ministers, in their negotiations with The Six, have been able to secure any safeguard for any commodity exported by any Commonwealth country to the United Kingdom? Further, has the Minister’s attention been directed to a statement by Dr. Mansholt, one of the vice-presidents of the European Economic Community Commission, that Australian wheat-growers will have to suffer? If the Minister’s attention has been directed to Dr. Mansholt’s statement, can he say what steps are being taken by the Government to meet that eventuality if by chance it happens?
– I cannot recount from memory any particular arrangement conclusively negotiated by the British Ministers with the countries of the European Common Market that I could describe as protecting Australian trade. But, having said that, I think it is fair to say that from the outset it has been agreed that any arrangements made shall be regarded as tentative. I cannot recall even a tentative arrangement that would protect Australian trade. Very little progress has been made in these negotiations in relation to items which are critical, important or interesting to Australian trade.
I am familiar with the speech reported to have been made by Dr. Mansholt, who is one of the vice-presidents of the European Economic Community Commission. On inquiry I am satisfied that what was publicly reported was a fair representation of what he said. The purport of the statement was that the European Economic Community would not need the type of wheat which Australian principally exports and that we would lose our market. This is what I have said in the House all along - that the type of wheat which we export is of fair average quality, technically spoken of as soft wheat; that Europe already produces vastly more than we produce of this kind of wheat and that under a policy of price incentive, Europe is capable of producing sufficient not only to meet her entire requirements of soft wheat but also to provide a surplus which could be exported to third countries in competition with our wheat. This is part of the picture of danger which I see for Australia in certain contingencies should the United Kingdom, our biggest market for wheat, join the Common Market.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Department of Health yet made a decision regarding uniform action to be taken to restrict the sale of certain drugs which are having ill effects on those who use them? Has the Government given further consideration to the question of compensating those parents who were unfortunate enough to have deformed babies as a result of the mothers taking the drug thalidomide? How many of these deformed babies are in Australia? I point out to the Minister that this question has been asked previously and it was indicated that the information sought would be given at some later stage.
– I have not the information available at the moment. I shall obtain it and furnish a reply to the honorable member.
– My question to the Treasurer is supplementary to the question which I asked yesterday regarding a review of the National Fitness Act. Is the increased grant of £100,000 an indication of new and vigorous leadership by the Commonwealth in the interests of the country’s youth? Is it intended that the grant will be further increased as the programme extends?
– The increase to which the honorable gentleman has referred is from £72,500 a year to £100,000 a year. The increase for the national fitness councils themselves is rather more, proportionately, than the figures might suggest because at present the total grant is applied both to the councils and in aid of improving methods of imparting physical education techniques. There are university degree courses and diploma courses in this subject. The total increase of £27,500 will be added to the £36,000 which at present is made available to the national fitness councils; so in effect there has been an increase of approximately 75 per cent, in the annual grant.
I think that the amount involved really is not the significant feature although it will be very valuable to the councils. I know that the honorable gentleman is an enthusiastic supporter of this cause, as I am, and he will be aware that the essence of this movement is that it is the product of effort by a great number of voluntary organizations and voluntary helpers. I cannot say offhand what the numbers are in his own State of Western Australia, but I know that in New South Wales more than 30 people are serving on the State council and more than 30 organizations are affiliated with it. As to actual affiliation, the numbers in Western Australia are even greater when you take into account the youth and sporting bodies. Our objective in making this increased grant is to indicate that the Commonwealth wishes to encourage this very laudable movement; that it values the improvement of physical standards, particularly amongst our young people; that it wishes to encourage healthy sport and competitive activity; and that it feels that with enthusiasm and vigour applied through these voluntary organizations a great contribution can be made towards a healthier and a better Australia.
I conclude by saying that I am delighted to be able to assure the House that the present Minister for Health and his recently appointed Director-General of Health are most impressed by what they have seen of the voluntary contribution to national fitness being made in the various States. It was their strong recommendation to Cabinet that the Government should give this additional encouragement.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that many motor cars in the Commonwealth fleet located in Canberra and in other places are fitted with tires imported from overseas. Is it true that these imported tires are obtained at substantially greater cost than the locally made product? Is the Minister aware that many drivers of Commonwealth cars are far from satisfied with the safety of the imported tires and that they have established a practice of inflating the tires to pressures well above those recommended so as to increase their safety margin when cornering? Finally, in the circumstances why are Australianmade tires not preferred and used by Commonwealth departments?
– First, I must tell the honorable gentleman that most of the official cars operating in the Australian Capital Territory are under the control of the Department of the Interior. As to the other matters to which the honorable gentleman referred, I have heard no complaints about the safety of tires used on Commonwealth vehicles. The tires have been obtained as a result of tenders called in the open market. I will look into the matter raised by the honorable gentleman and provide him with a detailed answer.
– I direct a question to the
Postmaster-General. In answer to a question that I asked in the House some weeks ago the Postmaster-General said that he was concerned and anxious to find a solution to the problem of the remuneration paid to certain non-official telephone operators in view of the introduction of the extended local service area system. As I am continually receiving representations from these people, is the Minister in a position to give me any further information on this very important subject?
– I regret that I am not yet in a position to give the honorable member any information additional to that which I have already given to him on this matter, which he has raised by way of questions in this House and also in personal discussions with me, and which is of great interest to him and to a great many other honorable members who have spoken to me about it from time to time. I shall try to obtain further information for the honorable member as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Is it true that the National Capital Development Commission provided a considerable sum of money to the Department of Works for the preparation of plans and designs for a new building for the Bureau of Mineral Resources? Were plans and designs completed and were tenders about to be called? Have the plans now been rejected and has a decision been made not to proceed to tender? Has this decision been made because the plans did not please Sir William Holford when they were shown to him as consultant? Is it true that Sir William Holford and his company are now engaged in the preparation of new plans?
– The honorable member has dealt with many aspects of this matter, which indicates that he may have more information about it than I have. I will make some inquiries and let him have an answer.
Mr.NIXON. - I direct a question to the Treasurer. Despite the fact that the Treasurer has made statements concerning the volume of finance made available for rural industries, there is strong criticism from the farming sector of the community on the availability of finance for, and the banking policy generally applied to, the rural sector. Can he give any information on the trends of the banks in this matter?
– Mr. Speaker, I have told this House on many occasions that the Commonwealth Government has made clear its general attitude to this matter. That has been conveyed to the Reserve Bank of Australia and to the trading banks and I know that the Governor of the Reserve Bank in his consultations with the trading banks has also emphasized the desire of the Government that preferential treatment be accorded, not only in terms of interest rates but also in the availability of finance, to rural and other producers of export income. The honorable member says he is receiving strong criticism in this regard. I must say that I am not experiencing that criticism in the correspondence that reaches me. As the banking system is in a relatively liquid position at the present time I would be surprised if the tendency was not for advances to rural borrowers to be increasing. I will see whether I can get the latest statistical information for the honorable member, but there can be no doubt about where we stand in our desire that the rural industries should have adequate finance in order to promote their production.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the right honorable gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition together comprise a unity ticket in the sense that both are patrons of the Freedom from Hunger Appeal? Has the right honorable gentleman’s enthusiasm for this appeal developed to the point where he has been able to arrange for a government contribution to the appeal? If so, how much has been allocated in support of the appeal and, if the allocation has not yet been made, will the right honorable gentleman agree to give consideration to it?
Mr.MENZIES. - I am not technical on the subject of unity tickets.
– Has he one with you?
– I am at no risk of having one with you. At least, I think not. The Freedom from Hunger campaign has certainly had a cash contribution from the Government, although I do not carry in my mind what it was. In addition to that, of course, the Government provided that donations to the appeal should be tax free and this, as the honorable member will at once realize, represents a very substantial contribution by the Commonwealth Treasury.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. Is it the aim of his department to make the Australian telephone trunk line service fully automatic? If so, when is it expected that the stage will be reached when all cities and important towns will have automatic telephonic communication?
- Mr. Speaker, it is the forward policy of the Postmaster-General’s Department to provide, eventually, completely automatic telephone services throughout Australia. I am sure it will be readily realized that, because of the great distances to be serviced, it will take a considerable time to achieve that ultimate goal. I am not going to attempt to put an actual time limit on that achievement, because that would be rather foolish, but it will be some years before the goal will be reached.
In the meantime, however, we are steadily moving forward, again as the result of the capital funds made available to us by the Government. As I mentioned in reply to a question, these funds total about £42,500,000 this year. We are moving steadily towards the extension of the automatic service from the capital cities out into country areas, paying particular regard to the need for installing rural automatic and country automatic exchanges in those areas where, as a result of the breakdown of the present manual system because operators are leaving, there is danger of the service being lost. I can assure the honorable member that we shall continue to drive, as fast as we possibly can, towards the goal I have mentioned.
Debate resumed from 6th November (vide page 2054), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the following paper: -
Cuban Crisis - Ministerial Statement, 6th November, 1962 - be printed.
.- Mr. Speaker, at last the House is about to debate the ministerial statement on the Cuban crisis which, on my motion, was placed on the notice-paper three weeks ago. Probably nobody will be more surprised that the debate on the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) is being debated than the Minister himself, because never during the two weeks while the House was sitting after he made the statement did he suggest that it should come on for debate. At no time during those two weeks did the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), suggest that it should come on for debate. Even now we are only having the debate in order to humour the Senate. A fortnight ago the Ministers in the Senate, for want of work on their agenda, decided that their chamber would debate this statement.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) put it to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that it was quite improper that a matter of importance upon which the Opposition’s opinion should be stated should be first debated in the other place; that it should be first debated in the House of Representatives, where the Leader is; that it should be first debated in the House of Representatives because that is where the Minister made the statement; and that this House had control of the matter and this is the place where the attitude of the Labour Party should be first put. The Prime Minister conceded that proposition and the Ministers in the Senate were told to get on with their own business and not to usurp the business of this House.
Last night the same Ministers in the other place told our leaders there that this debate was to come on to-day; so I saw the Prime Minister yesterday at 10.30 p.m. - he was then first able to see me - and he said he no longer felt inclined to call off the Senate debate.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The honorable gentleman is misrepresenting the position.
– I am not misrepresenting the position - nothing of the sort!
– Order! 1 think we will get on much better if we have no interjections.
– The right honorable gentleman is getting overwrought in the matter.
– Order! 1 hope the honorable gentleman is not referring to the Chair.
– No, I said the right honorable gentleman. I would like to see you in the Privy Council, and the sooner the better, Sir, but I was not referring to you.
The Prime Minister said that he would not call off the Senate debate on this occasion, but at least he would concede the initial part of a debate by the Opposition in this place. We are in favour of this debate going on and keeping on. It is a pity it was not brought on when the Minister for External Affairs was here. It is a pity it was not brought on while the crisis was still a crisis. As it is, we are now being asked to hold a post mortem.
– Are you sorry-
– Certainly not. I would hope that the honorable member for Wentworth would be given the opportunity to debate this matter instead of having to content himself with interjections.
– I have made no interjections.
– I beg your pardon. It is 22 hours to the minute since the honorable member for Wentworth was last awakened. I meant the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth).
I hope that the House will be permitted to proceed with this debate and that I shall not be the only person allowed to debate it this afternoon. If, as I apprehend, the Treasurer moves that the House revert to matters on the notice-paper in the order in which they are listed instead of proceeding with this matter, No. 19 on the noticepaper, the Opposition will oppose the motion and I hope that the honorable member for Mackellar and other honorable members who realize that there are important issues still to be determined flowing from this crisis will vote with us in favour of the debate continuing.
Five weeks ago, the world was closer to the brink of disaster than it had been for fourteen years - closer than at any time since the Berlin blockade. The crisis in the military sense is now over. The missiles have been repatriated. The bombers have flown off. The quarantine is over. The armada has been dispersed. So now there is no longer a military crisis over Cuba aud we can look at this matter for what we can learn for the future, not only in Cuba but in similar places around the world, of which there are all too many.
Let me recall to the House the statements that have been made by or on behalf of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party on the subject of Cuba last year and this. This matter first came to critical proportions at the time of the invasion at the Bay of Pigs early last year. On that occasion, the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party passed the following resolution: -
That in all cases of civil war coming before the United Nations in respect of countries, which, like Cuba, have a long tradition of dictatorship established by military force, Australian policy should be directed to the following United Nations action: - (0 The establishment by the United Nations of a condition of cease fire.
The conduct and supervision by the United Nations of free elections on universal suffrage. Pending the holding of these elections the United Nations to administer the country in question. (Hi) After the election of a Government by popular consent a period of military support by the United Nations forces of the freely elected government, ensuring the disarmament of dissident factions.
United Nations withdrawal.
One would hope that this matter of policy would not call for implementation in the future, but we all know that it well may. I believe that the Australian Labour Party’s attitude on this matter is the attitude that any Australian government should follow when such matters do become critical in the future. I do not believe that any member of this House would now support the action taken at the Bay of Pigs. He is no friend of America who would support the action that the Kennedy Administration inherited from its predecessor on that occasion. Nor, I believe, would anybody in this House now support the action that Britain took in regard to Suez. Few Britons and few Americans support the action taken by their governments, on those occasions. It is just as well for us in Australia, who have been proved to be staunch allies and friends of these great English-speaking powers -
America and Britain - to recognize the mistakes that have been made in the past, and to help these powers to obviate such mistakes in the future.
Now I come to the immediate crisis of the last five weeks and two days. On the day that President Kennedy made his televised broadcast, the Prime Minister at the end of question time made a statement to the House. He was immediately followed by the Leader of the Opposition, who said -
Events have happened so quickly since President Kennedy made his broadcast only a few hours ago that there has been no opportunity for me or any other member of the Opposition - or, I presume, for any member on the Government side of the House - to read the full text of the broadcast. Indeed, it was only ten minutes ago that the Prime Minister was able to give me a copy of the statement he has just made. I should like to add some remarks of my own to what the Prime Minister has said.
President Kennedy’s nation-wide broadcast to the American people announcing a naval blockade of Cuba to prevent the landing in that island of certain war materials, and of other steps designed to prevent the construction of nuclear missile sites and air bases which he believes is proceeding, and which could threaten disaster to many cities on the American continent, was couched in language that cannot be misunderstood. The world anxiously awaits the next developments, and prays that peace will be preserved.
The President lays the blame for the sudden crisis on Russia’s intrusion into the western hemisphere. The world watches the situation which has developed with horror. The people of the world want peace and are opposed to war, not only because of the wastefulness of war, but also because of the vast amount of human suffering involved and because of its uselessness in settling any issue. No sensible person would wish to see the extension of nuclear bases anywhere. We of the Labour Party are opposed to such extensions whether in Cuba or anywhere else. For my part, I think the Australian people hope this present crisis will not end in armed conflict, but will be resolved peacefully through the United Nations, the seventeenth anniversary of whose birthday occurs to-day.
Two days later, after the Acting SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations had taken his providential and beneficial initiative in this matter, the Leader of the Opposition wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. Later the same day, he issued the following press statement: -
The Federal Parliamentary Labour Party welcomes the intervention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, in the Cuban crisis so momentous for humanity. We believe that every possible step should be taken to obtain acceptance of his appeal because this may help to avert the holocaust of a third world wai.
Accordingly I have to-night on behalf of the Labour Party asked the Australian Government to use its best endeavours to persuade the United States, Russia and Cuba to accept U Thant’s proposals for a ‘ cooling-off ‘ period to enable the United Nations to mediate and bring about a settlement. We believe that if the Government will do this it will be giving effect to the heartfelt wish of the Australian people as a whole. Unless a bait is called now it may be too late to prevent a disaster for mankind; no influence which might help to bring about that halt should go unused.
I am informed that the Prime Minister gave no answer to, or even acknowledgment of, the letter from the Leader of the Opposition. It is, therefore, right for us to acknowledge that thanks are due to the United Nations more than any other agency for the fact that we have managed to avert this holocaust. It is only because of the existence of the United Nations, and of such agencies as it has, or will contrive, that we have any hope of reducing political, military, social and economic tensions in the world which can produce such crises again.
I am not proposing to recount the history of this matter in any detail. I have not the time to do so. However, I wish to make a few observations on what may be the future of Cuba in particular and of such areas of tension in general. The Cuban situation illustrates the difficulty that any democratic country, such as Australia, faces in devising an alternative to dictatorship. There are very many countries in the world with which Australia is allied, with which Australia has friendly relations, historical relations, which are in fact ruled by dictators. There are many of our allies, many of our closest friends, which have governments of which we, as elected members of this Parliament, cannot approve. But when considering those regimes we have to ask ourselves what is the alternative.
I do not suppose there is anybody in this place who would have supported the previous regime in Cuba, the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. But that country has gone from one extreme to another extreme. There was a wholesome and active sympathy in many parts of the world, certainly the democratic parts of the world, when Castro ousted Batista, but it has to be conceded that under Castro the revolution in his country has been perverted. I am not going to say that his government is bloodier than Batista’s was but, at the same time, one cannot condone ‘ or approve the drumhead trials that have taken place in Cuba, nor can one approve the fact that no provision for a popular vote exists in that country. But the situation in Cuba merely illustrates the political position which ss endemic in vast areas of the world, and certainly in Latin America.
There is no democratic tradition in that part of the world. Spain has made very great cultural contributions to her colonies, certainly as great as England ever made to hers, but she has not made the political contribution to her colonies that England made to every one of hers. There has been, unfortunately, a military tradition throughout Latin America, or, should I say, Spanish America, central and southern and Caribbean America. Spain’s last colony in the Americas was Cuba, and Cuba is no exception in its tradition. For many years Cuba was directly under American tutelage, but, unfortunately from the democratic point of view, that tutelage did not continue for long enough. It certainly was not as successful as was American tutelage in the Philippine Islands - not that it was entirely successful there, but the Philippines are more inclined to democracy than most countries in Asia, than most of our allies, than most of our near friends.
Again, Cuba illustrates very clearly the position that can arise in any country which is economically dominated by another country. I imagine that no country had so many of its industries and even its utilities owned by interests outside its own shores than Cuba had until a few years ago. The United States dominated Cuba economically.
The political and economic history of Cuba may reveal extreme situations, but they are reproduced, different in degree only and not in kind, in many parts of the world. We in our part of the world, as close associates of very great powers which are involved, politically and economically, in some of these trouble spots, have to consider how we can avoid the excesses of political and economic domination in such countries and the inevitable reaction.
The other comment I wanted to make about Cuba in particular is that that country finally forfeited the support of the other countries in Latin America when it accepted nuclear weapons, or at least tha methods of delivering nuclear weapons. The United States had found it difficult to persuade the Latin American countries, and in particular the most democratic of them, such as Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico and Uruguay, to join in her plans to boycott Cuba economically and diplomatically, but the United States had no such difficulty once Cuba accepted the means of despatching nuclear weapons to these countries and to the United States. Cuba had already been expelled from the Organization of American States.
It is significant that within a week of President Kennedy’s broadcast the Brazilians brought their proposal before the General Assembly of the United Nations for a nuclear-free Latin America, and that that proposal was supported, within a matter of days, by Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia. It seems likely that the United States will not oppose that proposal. Two years ago all the nuclear powers joined in a declaration making the southern third of our hemisphere a nuclear-free zone. Last year the United Nations resolved that Africa should be a nuclear-free zone. I imagine that before this year is out the United Nations will again endorse the declaration making Africa a nuclear-free zone, and will also resolve to make Latin America a nuclear-free zone. Next year Indonesia will sponsor a proposal in the United Nations for a nuclear-free Pacific area. [Extension of time granted.]
I thank honorable members. I hope to reciprocate for any of them who speak on this subject this afternoon. Australasia is the only part of the southern hemisphere in which no governmental initiative has been taken or promised to prevent nuclear weapons entering this hemisphere. The point I make is that it was as a result of Cuba taking these weapons from outside and thus provoking all her neighbours and former allies in the Organization of American States that momentum was given to this proposal for a nuclear-free zone in Latin America.
– What protection would you provide?
– Order! The honorable member is out of his place and he is out of order in interjecting.
– I will listen in silence to the honorable member for Moreton if he speaks on this subject later. We might as well acknowledge also that Cuba has received one benefit from the crisis of the last few weeks. President Kennedy, in writing to Mr. Khrushchev, agreed -
Upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments, to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and to give assurances against the invasion of Cuba.
It is clear now that the United States has entered into an undertaking not to invade Cuba, an undertaking, incidentally, which the United States declined to give a week earlier when it was sought in the United Nations General Assembly by the President of Cuba.
I cannot understand why the Minister for External Affairs omitted from his speech, as it was delivered in this House and reported in “ Hansard “, the following sentence that appeared in the copy of the speech that was circulated to honorable members by the Minister: -
The United Nations has made it clear that neither it nor its regional allies will invade Cuba.
There is no point in indulging in gamesmanship in this situation. Both Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Kennedy have scrupulously avoided crowing over each other or seeking to claim victories in relation to what has occurred. The Minister for External Affairs praised the restraint exercised by both leaders.
Above all, the fact that we did not have a war over this matter was due to the existence of United Nations machinery. One has only to consider the situation in 1914 when mobilization achieved such momentum that war became inevitable. The book, “August, 1914”, by Mrs. Barbara Tuckman, is said to have been made required reading for all his Cabinet by President Kennedy. There is no question that President Kennedy and all Americans in a position to determine these matters were aware of the fatal momentum which can come from mobilization, and which did come in August, 1914. If there had been United Nations machinery at that time we would have been spared the First World War.
President Kennedy, in his original broadcast, said he was bringing the Cuban issue before the Security Council, and at every subsequent stage he and Mr. Khrushchev courteously, promptly and co-operatively fitted in with all arrangements suggested by the United Nations Acting SecretaryGeneral, replied to his correspondence. Australia is a foundation member and an active member of the United Nations, and I believe that the present Minister for External Affairs pays more genuine tribute to it than did any of his three predecessors. It is quite plain that the United Nations in future, as on this occasion, is the great hope for countries of our size to ensure that the colossi do not become embroiled with each other and involve all the rest of us with them.
There is one other continuing and significant problem, the economic tension in this area and similar areas. There is still a diplomatic and economic boycott of Cuba. It is fruitless to ask why there has been this boycott, and it is not our job to apportion praise or blame, but it is quite clear, as the Minister for External Affairs said, that even if the threat of Soviet offensive weapons is removed this will not necessarily mean the end of difficulty and trouble with Cuba. How are we to get rid of the difficulty and trouble with Cuba? I suggest that here again it is only through the United Nations that we can resolve such matters. We have to accept the fact that there will be countries in the world with different political systems, and that some such countries will be living next door to each other and will have different political systems through the foreseeable future. But we must try to see that they live at least in peace and respect one with the other. It is not right that we should worry about another country’s different regime only when it becomes a rival to us. We must try to ensure that all regimes understand each other and respect each other, and are encouraged through international agencies, if possible, to improve their administrations.
The difficulty in Cuba is reproduced, differently in degree, but not in kind, throughout Latin America. There are three areas of the world which are conspicuously sub-standard in their economic and social living conditions. They are the southern part of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Latin America is living right beside the richest country in the world, and the most generous country in the world, too. Only France spends more per head on overseas assistance than America spends. But, despite American generosity, despite the great goodwill of Democratic administrations in particular in America, the position remains that there is a continuing tension, and it unfortunately appears to be a growing tension, in Latin America on economic and social grounds. We must all wish that the United States of America and its neighbours should learn to live with less tension between them, but, at least until Castro received nuclear delivery systems, there was a degree of sympathy throughout Latin America with the Castro regime. Fidelism has spread very greatly in those countries. It is quite clear that one cannot, merely by military means or by political alliances, curb or quell revolutionary trends in Latin America or in any other part of the world. The best one can hope to do is to guide them. The Alliance for Progress devised at Punta del Este last year is a most hopeful concept, but one must concede that it has not prospered as well as many of the other external policies of the Kennedy Administration. The rich countries of the world, including southern Australia, have to appreciate that wealth and poverty produce tension, and that in the great urge to overcome their poverty some countries may adopt political and economic systems different from our own. We have, through United Nations machinery more than anything else, survived and surmounted successfully the political and military aspects of the Cuban crisis, but the Cuban crisis illustrates a continuing economic and social problem which can also best be met through using and expanding the machinery of the United Nations.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in reference to the part I have played in the arrangements for this debate now before the House.
– Do you claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) opened what he had to say on this matter with some sneering and flippant references to the delay, as he put it, in bringing this matter before the House for discussion. . 1 think I owe it to myself and to the Government to put the facts before the House so that it can judge for itself whether that was a fair statement from the honorable gentleman or a smart alec and dishonest attempt to misrepresent-
- Sir, I desire that remark to be withdrawn.
-I ask the right honorable the Treasurer to withdraw his remark reflecting on the honesty of an honorable member.
– I say a smart alec attempt-
– Order! I must ask the right honorable gentleman to withdraw the remark completely.
– Does the honorable member object to the term “ smart alec “ ?
– Yes, even from one.
– Let us turn-
Opposition Members. - Withdraw!
-Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will withdraw that remark.
– I do not object to it, Sir, it is better to be a dull wit than a half wit at any time. Let us turn now to the facts. The Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) made a statement on this matter to the House on 6th November. No request from the Opposition for a debate on that statement reached me.
– I rise to order. As the Minister does not intend to let any one else debate this issue I take the point of order that he must be restricted to a personal explanation, stating in what respect he has been misrepresented and explaining the position on that matter alone.
– The Treasurer is making a personal explanation in relation to his leadership of the House. I think he should keep within the limits of that subject and that he should not enter into the debate.
– I do not intend to enter into the debate, Sir. I shall state the facts, I hope without interruption. I say, merely in passing, that the reference made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) is not in accordance with the facts, as I shall proceed to demonstate. I repeat that at no time did I have a request from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) or his deputy, who normally negotiates these matters with me, immediately following the speech of the Minister for External Affairs, nor, indeed, in the following week.
The matter arose for discussion between us in this way: In the week following the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs it became known to the Leader of the Opposition that the Government was proposing to conduct the debate on the Cuban situation in the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition then raised an objection with me on these grounds: He said that, on a matter of this consequence, it was proper for the viewpoint of the. Australian Labour Party to be stated by the leader of the party before other members of the party were called upon to debate it. I agreed that that was a reasonable attitude to take and I discussed the matter with the Leader of the Government in the Senate who, I confess, somewhat reluctantly, because his members were anxious to debate the matter, agreed to defer the debate at that time. So, Sir, that dismisses, first of all, the implication clearly made by the honorable gentleman that we were dilatory in bringing this matter before the Parliament.
First, the Opposition, which had the opportunity to request a debate on this subject, made no such request. I can assure honorable members that, on a matter of this consequence, an Opposition request for time to be made available for a debate and a statement of the Labour
Party’s attitude would most certainly have been granted. Secondly, the Government was desirous of proceeding with some discussion in the Senate. At the request of the Leader of the Opposition, the debate in the Senate was deferred. The Parliament then went into recess for a week and we met again this week. The Senate, having delayed its debate for that length of time, had decided to go on with some discussion in that place to-day. This, again, came to the notice of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and in the absence of his leader he put it to me that the debate should not proceed. I pointed out what we had done previously. I said that we could not expect the Senate to hold up discussion on this matter indefinitely. It is a little ironical that we should now be twitted with not bringing the matter forward when we had been anxious to do so and had been pressed not to go ahead with it in the Senate to-day. I said that it was unfortunate, for reasons that we can all understand, that the Leader of the Opposition could not be here at this time but that if the Labour Party would make its attitude known through its leadership I would interrupt the business of the House to provide an opportunity for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to speak on this subject. That is how this item, which was well down on the notice-paper, was lifted to its present position and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition given the opportunity to make his contribution to the debate. The honorable member for EdenMonaro has said that we are not proposing to allow any further discussion on the matter. That is not so, Sir. I had previously told the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that, while we wished, for the remainder of the day, to go ahead with the business of the House as set down on the notice-paper, I should be agreeable, if his members so desired, to bring this matter on to-morrow morning when the debate could be continued.
– Mr. Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented. The order of business in this House is determined by the Government. This matter is listed as No. 19 on the notice-paper. This matter is on the notice-paper because I moved that the debate on it be adjourned. The adjournment of the debate is shown in my name on the notice-paper.
– Why did you not do something about it?
– I did. There would not have been a debate on this matter at all, even by one speaker, but for my initiative last night. As for the offer to continue this debate in place of the usual Grievance Day debate, that is rejected. We want the debate to proceed now.
Motion (by Mr. Chaney) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker- Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . .1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 27th November (vide page 2612), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, in the first place, I should like to join with other honorable members on both sides of the House in congratulating the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and the Australian National Lin; on the success of their operations in the last few years. Those operations have met with mounting success and with increasing profits and have been characterized, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) noted, by reduced average freight rates. Unfortunately, of course, the reduced average freight rates are in large part due to the fact that general cargo has been decreasing, with a relative increase in bulk cargoes on which the freight for each ton carried, naturally, is much lower.
The Australian National Line is a splendid example of what can be done under management of the privateenterprise type when large government financial resources can be tapped. This combination of large capital and government financial backing, on the one hand, and private enterprise methods, on the other hand, has played a notable part in the success of this line. Under the provisions of the bill now before us, the authority of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to borrow on overdraft is to be extended from a limit of £1,000,000 to a limit of £5,000,000, mainly, apparently, for the purpose of building or acquiring ships. This increase in the overdraft limit will make a notable contribution to the efficiency of the Australian National Line. The idea of raising an overdraft limit from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000 for this kind of purpose would be just a wonderful dream for any undertaking in the private-enterprise sector of the economy. The situation of the national line contrasts markedly with the difficulty that shipping companies have in raising capital for the construction of ships. The increase in the overdraft limit will confer on the national line very great privileges and advantages. In view of the excellent job which the line has done, we all support the proposal.
Without in any way tempering our praise for the achievements of the Australian National Line, we have to recognize, if we look at the matter honestly, that these achievements have occurred virtually under monopoly conditions, because the only competition has come from private-enterprise lines which, unfortunately, and of necessity, lack the financial resources required for a scale of operations like that of the national line. However, there is no doubt that the management of the line has been first class. The vitality of ideas and the thrust given to shipping operations by Mr. Williams, Mr. Mercovich and the other members of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and of the management of the Australian National Line have meant a great step forward in Australian transport.
Last evening, a number of references to the building of ships in Australia were made. I should like to outline to the House some interesting factors in shipbuilding, but, before I do so, I should like to digress for a moment to say that sources of information were called into question last evening and Opposition members suggested, I believe quite wrongly, that in some way Government supporters enjoyed privileged sources of information on this subject which were not available to others. I can only say, Sir, that representatives of the Australian National Line, private shipping companies or any other organizations in the shipping business - and there are many different authorities and bodies concerned with shipping - all have been extremely helpful whenever I have talked to them. The basic facts underlying our shipping situation are quite readily obtained from the persons concerned. All talk freely. I should like to mention that the particulars of shipbuilding which I am about to give come from an international expert on the subject who is now in Australia and who has been studying shipbuilding here. His general outline of the position is of considerable interest.
It is stated that shipbuilding in Australia is retarded by our wages, which are said to be high compared to wages in overseas shipyards. This is not necessarily so. Some of the cheapest ships in the world are built in Sweden. Yet wages in Swedish shipyards, I am informed, are about 30 per cent, higher than those paid in Australian yards. Unfortunately, Australian performance in the construction of ships is very poor at present and compares unfavorably with performance in other countries. One of the standards which can be applied in determining performance in the construction of ships, with particular relation to hulls, is the number of man-hours required for each ton of steel fabricated. Average performance in Australia ranges between 150 and 200 man-hours for each ton of steel fabricated. In good yards overseas, 70 manhours are taken and, in the best overseas yards, the figure is now down to 50 manhours a ton of steel fabricated. So our problem is that our performance in the fabrication of steel in the construction of hulls is in fact three times worse than the best performance overseas. Our performance must be improved. In our circumstances, the situation could be remedied. It depends to only a lesser degree on wage rates, because, as I have just said, in Sweden, where some of the cheapest ships are built, wages are 30 per cent, higher than wages in Australian shipyards.
The remedy depends mainly on the use of modern plant and handling equipment, the correct lay-out of yards, up-to-date techniques of management control - these techniques are particularly important - the elimination of many of the rather archaic trade union demarcation rules and, above all, a generally thrusting and enlightening attitude on the part of all those engaged in the industry. New equipment has been installed in one Australian yard already and new equipment has been designed for another. But our wit and will, not wages, are the obstacle. We should be able to produce ships at a cost comparable to the cost of ships built in overseas yards. We have the cheapest shipbuilding steel in the world. The advantage in this respect, and our weather, would go far to counter the fact that one-half the cost of a ship is in the engine and the other fittings which are dearer in Australia than they are overseas. This is a highly complex problem which, I understand, is receiving inquiry at present. But it is the skill, the aptitude, the desire and the volume of work in Australian yards which eventually will decide at what price ships can be built in Australia. There is no reason for us to feel despondent because we cannot build ships in Australia as cheaply as they can be built overseas and that forever we will be required to pay the 33i per cent, subsidy to keep our yards operating.
I should like to commend to the Minister the need to foster the skills that are essential for successful shipbuilding. Like every other industry, shipbuilding depends vitally on the quality of the people engaged in the industry, their skills and techniques and the spirit with which they approach their task. First-class naval architects are at the root of every achievement in shipbuilding. We are lucky to have one or two very good naval architects in Australia but very largely they come from overseas. We have only one really full-time course in naval architecture, and that is at the University of New South Wales. It is a seven-year course. It would not cost a great deal to train the people who will be required in this field in future years. I suggest to the Minister that he discuss with the Australian Shipbuilding Board the possibility of doing a little more in this regard because at present the matter is left largely to the initiative of private people, and private people, especially shipbuilding people, are not inclined to enter an industry in which the prospects are not particularly bright. Not only must we make better arrangements for training naval architects in Australia but we must be prepared as well to send them abroad to spend some time in the best overseas yards.
Returning now to the question of shipping as distinct from shipbuilding, may I say that there is no difference of opinion between the two sides of this House on the subject of coastal shipping. We all believe that coastal shipping should be preserved for Australian ships and that as far as possible we should promote efficient and cheap shipping services. As to overseas shipping, on which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made such play last night, surely this is not a problem to which we on this side of the House, or any one else, should ever turn a blind eye. We live in a changing world with fast changing trade patterns and we should be prepared from time to time to re-examine the basis upon which policy is formed.
If things could be done reasonably, I think that most people in this House would have a bias in favour of having Australian ships sailing the seas and carrying our goods. It is certainly not true, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said last night, that this is entirely a matter of timid economics or some deficiency in patriotism. We must consider the facts as they are and not endeavour to twist them. Many facts and figures about the cost of voyages and freights from various ports were mentioned last night. In this realm it is always possible to pick a number of isolated cases and from them to build up a general picture which can be entirely false. One such instance was mentioned last night by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson), who referred to our steel exports to the Far East. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, either wittingly or unwittingly, was misled into making a statement on the general position which just does not accord with the facts.
One of our greatest problems at the moment is to find new markets for our exports but you cannot cultivate new overseas markets unless you have shipping. On the other hand, if there are not goods to carry no one will provide the ships, so this process must be built up. It is very difficult sometimes to break the circle of events. If you have a shipping line trade may follow, but it is fairly obvious to any one who examines world trade that where goods are offering for carriage the shipping lines of the world are not very slow to make themselves available. At present shipping is a drug on the market. Large tonnages are laid up, and if any profitable lines are offering the world’s shipping companies certainly will take advantage of them.
We should note the efforts which the Department of Trade has been making to encourage shipping companies to start new services to ports where Australia has good prospects of obtaining markets. Any one who moves in shipping circles in Sydney must become conscious quickly that these efforts are very persistent and in a large part, successful. It is untrue to paint the picture that we are entirely dependent on the conference lines.
– It is not very far from the truth.
– We are not bound to them. A large part of our trade is not carried by the conference lines. We have the right to make a choice. About one-half of our trade goes to the United Kingdom and to Europe. The shippers must decide whether they want a regular line calling at a definite time each month to take their goods. On that basis the exporters are liable to pay more for a particular shipment than would be the case if they chartered a vessel occasionally. It is always open to any group of exporters in Australia to go outside the conference lines, charter a vessel on the Baltic and transport their goods for less than the charge made by the conference lines. But they cannot have it both ways.
Last night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition also gave the impression that we were entirely dependent on British shipping - all roads lead to London and that kind of thing. This is untrue. Nothing is more international than is shipping. In fact, there are 22 lines in the European conference. Outside the conference the world’s shipping stands open to charter. We have no brief for the conference lines but it is necessary to get the facts straight particularly if you are considering establishing an Australian overseas line. Costs are one of the justifications upon which you go forward. It is true that recently conference rates to Europe were increased by an average of 5 per cent. But it must be remembered that that increase was over a period of five years. Over a five-year period ending 1963-64 there will have been an increase of only 5 per cent, in freight rates at a time when there have been very large increases in operation and maintenance costs. This is not due fundamentally to any particular generosity on the part of shipping companies but it does reflect the current surplus of world shipping. The general position, as far as traffic to Europe is concerned, is that New Zealand enjoys some advantage on apples and frozen meat and that South American ports enjoy the lowest wool rates to London. But except for wool the conference rates applying between Australia and Europe are about average or below average. It is necessary to get those facts in perspective because so many wild charges are laid that cannot be substantiated.
When you advocate the establishment of an Australian-owned overseas shipping line you must pay regard to the likely cost of such a line. Freight rates depend on many factors - whether a back loading is available and whether a ship is empty between certain ports. All kinds of complex factors enter into the calculation of shipping costs. It may be generally agreed that Australian shipping costs for bulk cargoes are, on the whole, about 20 per cent, higher than world rates and for general cargo they are about 35 per cent, to 40 per cent, higher. Some honorable members opposite have been quite honest about this matter and have agreed that if Australia were to establish an overseas line, that line would have to be subsidized. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) freely acknowledged that an Australianowned line would have to be subsidized. He referred to other Australian industries that are subsidized. We should not have a closed mind on the subject, but it is well to bear in mind that if we are to carry goods overseas in Australian-owned bottoms, we will have to subsidize them quite heavily or charge extra freights to our exporters and importers.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition advanced the argument that if we had an overseas line it would be a useful lever to use in bargaining with the conference and other lines. I would not dismiss that argument completely; a lot depends on the scale on which you wish to operate. Unfortunately we on this side of the chamber are at a grave disadvantage in answering the Opposition’s argument because Labour’s policy is not specific. Just to say that Australia should have an overseas shipping line is not sufficient. If the Opposition states firmly how many ships we should have and the nature of its operations, its policy may be judged, but there is some difference of opinion between honorable members oppo site. The honorable member for Newcastle said -
Nevertheless, I am convinced that we can and must work out a system whereby at least SO per cent, of our exports and SO per cent, of our imports are transported in Australian-owned and controlled ships. That is the only way in which we can operate an Australian-owned and controlled shipping line.
The honorable member is interested in shipping. He is clearly one of the Opposition’s authorities on these matters. He produced quite a lot of interesting information and facts, but he was greatly at variance with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who said - the Australian Labour Party does not envisage a large and spectacular expansion of our overseas shipping operations, but a steady increase as opportunities present themselves and as needs arise.
That statement, related to specific proposals, is very different from the claim that half of our trade should be carried in Australian bottoms. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition continued - the Labour Party does not envisage an unlimited or excessive shipyard programme, but a sufficient programme to maintain our shipyards at their most efficient level of production.
The Opposition’s two spokesmen on shipping matters are at variance with each other. The proposal put forward by the honorable member for Newcastle is of fantastic dimensions. It would mean providing half of 500 or 600 ships. We would have to find £500,000,000 to £600,000,000 to finance his scheme.
– Who is talking about 500 ships?
– That would be the total. The honorable member for Newcastle wanted about half that number. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was not specific in his proposal. If the Labour Party wants to pursue this matter seriously it should make specific proposals because the great limiting factor in an exercise of this kind, apart from substantial temporary losses, is the huge amount of capital involved. One of the basic things to realize is that if we use our capital for ships we cannot use it for other things. The Government has just announced a scheme of airport extensions to cost £30,000,000. That scheme no doubt is justified. Instead of spending £30,000,000 on airport extensions we could build, say, six 40,000-ton tankers, which was roughly what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wanted to build. That is your alternative. Suppose you are building first-class roads at a cost of £25,000 a mile. As another alternative to extending airports you could build 1,200 miles of roadway. But it is silly to imagine that you can have the lot. If we establish a huge overseas shipping line we must be prepared, in view of the capital involved, to do without something else. In the last six months the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has trundled out a long list of projects - projects for the development of the north and countless other projects - for all of which he has pledged the support of the Labour Party. Somebody should tot up the cost of all those projects and ask for more specific information about them. It is too easy to go around with the popular cry that we should have more ships, more of this and more of that. If we choose to have an overseas shipping line we will have to cut down on some other very important things.
Unfortunately, one of the big disabilities associated with Australian shipping is labour relations. In the Seamen’s Union and on the waterfront generally there is a legacy of bitterness at the moment. The bitterness of ancient fights with shipowners has been carried over into the present and that legacy of bitterness has left its mark in the industry, making good relations extremely difficult. Whatever the shipowners may have done in the past, that cannot be held against the National Line in the last few years, for it encountered much the same trouble and difficulties in handling the situation well. In fact our own hope, if we are to establish Australian shipping successfully, is for a new generation to grow up in the industry, with a new attitude and a new outlook. In the meantime it is quite useless to overlook the fact that the Seamen’s Union is under the control of Communists - the people who sabotaged our war effort against Hitler and who made it very difficult to get supplies to our troops when the Korean war broke out. These people still occupy prominent positions in the industry and while they are there it is going to be extremely difficult to reap the kind of benefits which might be reaped with modern ships and highly trained people and an enlightened attitude all around.
I suggest that the policy that is being pursued is the best one - that the National Line stands ready to take overseas trade when the opportunity offers. It has picked up some valuable cargoes in the last year or two and, as and when they offer, it could be ready to participate. But for the most part this is not a proposition unless the line is heavily subsidized. This issue evidently comes down to whether we go on as we are or go now into this overseas shipping line, which would mean an added burden on our exporters or on the taxpayers. I look forward to measures which, over a period of time, will take away these disabilities, and I am ready to support legislation designed to achieve that end.
.- -Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) painted a very gloomy picture of our proposition for an overseas shipping line. I will not deal with it in its entirety at the beginning of my speech, but will come back to it more specifically during the course of my remarks. I would like to put three points to the honorable member. The Australian Labour Party has no extravagant ideas at all about an overseas shipping line. Fancy putting up the suggestion that we want 250 ships! One fantastic suggestion was that we wanted 500 ships. It is absolutely crazy to put up that sort of aunt sally just to knock it over again.
– It is what the honorable member for Newcastle said.
– I think you must have misunderstood what the honorable member said. I did not hear him speak, but it is not our policy to build ships on that great scale at all. Our idea is to build two or three ships a year and to allocate finance accordingly. This idea of having to decide between spending £30,000,000 on airports or on ships in one year does not arise at all. Our plan is a continuing process which is not designed to be started and finished in one year.
The second point I wish to put to the honorable member is that the money we intend to spend on an overseas shipping line will be spent over a number of years, at the rate of perhaps £10,000,000 or some such figure each year. That is perfectly within the financial capacity of this nation. The third point I want to mention is that this is no new idea at all. The establishment of an overseas shipping line has been the Australian Labour Party’s policy for twenty years.
In 1949, before the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) ever thought of politics, the then Labour Government had legislation practically completed for presentation to this Parliament to create an Australian shipping line, including overseas freighters. But we were defeated before the measure could be passed. When this Government came into office it scrapped the whole plan, which never got out of the blue print stage. So it is no new idea to us to talk about and advocate an overseas shipping line.
Last night the honorable member for Fawkner criticized a section of the speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and I will correct what he said before I go any further. He said the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had not obtained up-to-date figures but was relying on information that was more than one year old. The truth is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had gone to the trouble of ascertaining whether there had been changes in the rates since he last quoted them. The information which he quoted last night was based on figures received from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited only last month.
The honorable member for Fawkner said that the cost of transporting steel from Great Britain to Singapore is 145s. sterling per ton and not 145s. Australian. According to our information the honorable member was wrong again because the figure is 145s. Australian. The honorable member also said that freight on steel from Australia to Hong Kong is 110s. Australian per ton, whereas freight on steel from Great Britain to Hong Kong is 181s. Australian per ton. In view of the fact that the United Kingdom and Europe are more than twice as far from Hong Kong as Australia is, this difference is bad enough. What the honorable member did not point out was that the rate of 110s. Australian per ton is a special rate, which does not apply to shipments of less than 500 tons and does not apply when loading takes place at the town berth at Newcastle, the outer harbour at Port Kembla, Sydney, or Kwinana, in Western Australia. The bulk of the Broken Hill company’s orders from Hong Kong need to be supplied from the Western Australian port, Kwinana, and so the special freight rate of 110s. Australian per ton is of very doubtful value. The honorable member should be more accurate in presenting material to this House.
The Australian Coastal Shipping Coramission is undoubtedly the most exciting and successful socialist enterprise ever created by a Liberal government. The Government, in the years since the creation of the commission, has probably felt that it was put in a very awkward position, being a private enterprise government and having to set up a socialist enterprise. That takes us to the purpose of the whole matter. When we left office in 1949 there were something like 40 overseas ships owned by the old Australian Shipping Board and the question was what was the Government going to do with them. The ships were an embarrassment to this Government, which tried, for about five years, to sell them. From time to time in this Parliament - I spoke on the question every time it was raised - we prophesied that the ships would be sold and that that would be the end of the matter; but the Government could not find a buyer. With all those ships on its hands the Government could not just forget about them. They cost money and had to be constantly operated or be tied up and allowed to deteriorate. So the Government, with its tongue in its cheek, brought down legislation creating the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. I am sure the Government must have been most unhappy about having to bring in such a socialist piece of legislation. That is the background story of why the commission was formed in 1956. The report of the commission, now before us, as usual is an excellent document, beautifully illustrated and a credit indeed to the body which designed it. I must pay tribute to the commission. Right through the document we find some very interesting facts which prove the outstanding success of this socialist enterprise operating in Liberal territory, in this Commonwealth, in a Liberal atmosphere and in a very rough Liberal sea. It is a remarkable performance indeed that, in spite of the restrictions placed on this line in the 1956 legislation, it can still make the progress that it has made.
Here is the business story of it. It had to run as a business enterprise, and it would have done so had Labour been in office. There was hardly any difference in the actual composition of this line.
In four years, the profits after paying tax - the payment of tax was one of the conditions imposed on the commission - amounted to £6,264,066. This has been a very interesting story and shows how efficiently the Australian National Line is run. I want to pay a tribute to the men responsible for the line. I refer not only to the men who build the ships and who man the ships, but also to the chairman, John P. Williams, the vice-chairman, Herbert Philip Weymouth, the general manager, F. J. Mercovich, the secretary, D. Mackay, and the commissioners, Dudley Williams, Andrew Thomson, who is a Tasmanian, and David Bell. The success of this line is a tribute to public enterprise, to determination and to honesty of purpose in carrying out the terms and conditions of the charter. It is one of the most exciting success stories we have in Australian history, in my opinion, and I have been behind the work of the commission right from the beginning.
Tasmania has been very well served by the commission. It has revolutionized transport between the mainland and Tasmania. On page 5 of its report, we read -
The vehicular deck vessels, “Princess of Tasmania “ and “ Bass Trader “-
That is a roll-on, roll-off vessel - supported by the container ship, “South Esk”, have maintained the regular “‘Searoad “ surface across Bass Strait to Bell Bay, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie and Stanley.
The degree to which “ Searoad “ has been welcomed by the merchant community is evidenced by the large quantity of commercial cargo, amounting to 485,385 tons, carried by these vessels.
Freight rates between Melbourne and Tasmania have been reduced in several ways. In fact, the reduction of freight on the “Bass Trader” made it possible for an industry in my electorate to survive about eighteen months ago. I refer to the Goliath Portland Cement Company Limited. The manager of this company told me that had it not been for the reduction of freight rates on the “Bass Trader” the company could not have carried on in competition with cement produced on the mainland. The Australian National Line has probably saved this Tasmanian industry, and it is a very big industry at Railton in my electorate. That is an illustration of what a socialist enterprise can do.
– I hope it does not become a monopoly.
– Do you mean the commission?
– Yes, the Australian National Line.
– You hope it does not?
– Honorable members opposite talk about the efficiency of private enterprise until they are blue in the face. They try to convince the Opposition that nothing in the world is finer or more efficient than private enterprise. It is now up to private enterprise to compete with this efficiently run government enterprise. The Australian National Line is run on business lines. It pays taxes and dividends of 6 per cent., just as private enterprise is expected to do, and it can reduce freights. How can this mean that private enterprise will be forced out of business? Evidently private enterprise is so wedded to profits that it cannot see beyond a certain level of profits. Private enterprise would not welcome the small reduction in profits that reduced freights would mean, but private enterprise will just have to stand up to competition from this government enter-, prise . in the years to come. We do not favour a government monopoly.
The commission’s report also contains the following statement at page 8 -
Passenger and passenger-car bookings on the “Princess of Tasmania” have continued at a satisfactory level, and only at the peak of tha tourist season has there been any unsatisfied demand. For example, 88,003 passengers were carried during the year by comparison with 83,293 as recorded for the previous twelve months, figures which, inter alia, illustrate the contribution mads towards the encouragement of tourism between the mainland and Tasmania. As a matter of interest, as will be seen from the statistics given below, passenger fares, as well as charges made for the transport of passengers’ cars, are considerably lower than those prevailing on similar routes m. overseas countries.
The report then contains a list which shows that the charges for passenger cars between Melbourne and Tasmania are the cheapest in the world.
– That is a success story.
– Yes, it is. Such a story as that is a tribute to the men concerned and we congratulate the commission on the magnificent work it is doing. I, as a Tasmanian, say it is contributing immensely to Tasmania’s prosperity and is fostering the tourist trade in Tasmania.
My criticism of the bill before the House is that it does not do enough. It raises the overdraft limit by £4,000,000, from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000. The commission is expected to operate in all respects on a commercial basis and must be conceded the normal facility of access to funds to meet temporary peak demands. After all, there is ample security, as the assets of the commission at the end of June of this year were valued at £23,148,015. As I said before, serious limitations were imposed on the commission by the Government in the 1956 legislation, and it is to the everlasting credit of the commission that these limitations have been overcome in such a way as to produce a first-class shipping service around the Australian coastline - a shipping service that is an example to the rest of the world. This shipping service has arisen not because of the Government’s activities but in spite of them.
Let me deal with the commission’s overseas operations. At page 7 of the commission’s report, the following passage appears: -
Throughout the twelve months, every possible effort has been made to obtain overseas business for ships of the fleet, with the result that 25 voyages were undertaken to various parts of the world, representing the carriage of 184,688 tons as compared to 44,283 tons during the preceding years.
This was an increase of 140,405 tons of cargo. The commission ventured into overseas trade partly to avoid having ships laid up for want of cargo and partly to provide the maximum employment for Australian seamen. Overall, the overseas operations meant a loss, but the commission points out that this loss was less than the loss that would have resulted if the ships had been laid up.
– That is good business.
– It is very good business, as the honorable member for Batman has said. Of course, the commission was competing with the conference line of ships, which handles 99 per cent, of Australia’s overseas trade. This is the Achilles’ heel of Australia’s overseas trading operations. We are completely at the mercy of the conference line, which contains approximately 22 overseas shipping companies, operating non-competitively as far as freight rates are concerned. The rates are decided in conference and apply equally to all shipping lines that form part of the conference line of ships. In total, over £300,000,000 a year goes out of Australia in freights to pay overseas shipping companies for the transportation of our goods to and from Australia. In view of this, it is incomprehensible that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) should regard the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line as a disastrous development.
The startling fact is that Australia has been forced to pay more for the transportation of its products to our closest foreign ports than have all other nations whose goods travel over much greater distances. I will give a few examples of this amazing anomaly, which I cannot understand and which I am sure no one else can understand. In 1955 it cost 12s. to ship a case of fresh fruit from Australia to Singapore, while it cost only 8s. 2d. a case to send fruit from South Africa to Singapore. The freight rate for canned fruit from Australia to Singapore is £9 17s. 6d. a ton, whereas from South Africa to Singapore it is only £4 13s. 9d. a ton. To send a ton of machinery to Singapore from Australia in 1955 cost £9 17s., from South Africa £5 12s. 6d. and from Great Britain £8 8s. 9d. This relative difference has been maintained until the present time. It is obvious that other nations are receiving more favorable treatment from overseas lines in the matter of freight rates than Australia is getting. Butter is carried from New Zealand to Great Britain at a rate which is about £1 a ton less than the rate from Australia to Great Britain. In respect of this commodity New Zealand is obviously more favorably treated than Australia by overseas shipping companies.
The Australian Meat Board in 1959 reported that the freight rate on lamb chipped from Australia to Britain was 3.59d. per lb., whereas New Zealand could send lamb to the same market for 3.14d. per lb. South America was even more favorably treated, because it could send lamb to Great Britain for 1.89d. per lb. Our meat producers are faced with this terrific freight burden all the time in their efforts to compete with other countries in the British market.
Another amazing anomaly can be seen when we consider our trade with our own Territories. It costs less to import a Volkswagen car direct from Germany into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea than it does to send a similar car from Sydney to Melbourne. The difference in freight costs is £80. When the vast difference in the distance travelled is taken into consideration, this anomaly is a vivid illustration of the crazy pattern of shipping freight charges.
Australia is the only great trading nation in the world that does not have its own overseas shipping line. For years we on this side of the Parliament have maintained that Australia should establish its own overseas shipping line. We stated the proposition again in our policy speech before the last election, and we will continue to state it until the situation is corrected. With the challenge of the European Common Market and the consequent necessity for us to find new markets, it will be vitally necessary for us to have our own ships. In the race for markets other nations have established their own shipping lines, but not Australia. Norway, for instance, which has a population of only 3,000,000, has the third largest merchant shipping fleet in the world. What is even more amazing is the fact that Switzerland and Czechoslovakia, both of which are completely land-locked, own ships which berth in ports of other countries. We are the eighth trading nation of the world, and here in 1962 we are still completely at the mercy of overseas shipping companies.
A further indictment of the Government is to be seen in the fact that it charters three Danish ships to take our people to Australian territory in Antarctica. We have not the ships to do the job, and so we have to bring them from Denmark.
Let us remember that £300,000,000 a year goes out of Australia in freight charges paid to shipping companies of other nations. If we had our own shipping fleet we could save ourselves a good deal of this expenditure, probably enough to finance the building of one or more ships each year. Every gallon of petrol consumed in industry or for domestic purposes has to be shipped in foreign-owned tankers, and we know that not a single car, plane, tank or ship can move without petrol or petroleum products. Besides the freight charges that we have to pay to foreign shipping companies for bringing our imports of crude oil, the crude oil itself costs Australia £160,000,000 a year. The serious aspect of the situation is that in a dire international crisis these transportation arrangements could be brought to a standstill.
There is another serious aspect of our dependence on overseas shipping. We are not getting our apple and pear crop to overseas markets regularly or under the best possible conditions. A fortnight ago I brought this matter to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). I asked him whether he had received the report of an Australian Apple and Pear Board mission sent to investigate marketing conditions overseas. At that time he had not received it, but next day he kindly handed me a copy of the report. The mission consisted of Messrs. C. E. Critchley, R. M. Carter, D. G. Jones and R. J. Tully. It was overseas in May, June and July of this year. Throughout this report, which I have read, there are constant references to inadequate shipping. The board has stated that without some radical alterations to the present shipping system Australia will continue to lose the custom of importers all over Europe. In Sweden, Australia’s share of the apple market has dropped in the last four years from 680,000 boxes to 550,000. Our exports of pears to Sweden declined from 250,000 boxes to 140,000. The main reason for this serious decline was the lack of shipping information and shipping facilities available, compared with the information and facilities available in the case of Argentina. In fact, Australia’s £16,000,000 apple and pear crop is sold almost entirely in Britain, West Germany and Sweden, and importers in those countries have complained to the board about the conditions under which the fruit is shipped.
The tragic fact is that we are losing much of our trade to Argentina. In the four-year period I have mentioned, from 1938 to 1962, Argentina increased its exports of apples to Sweden from just over 100,000 boxes to nearly 1,000,000 boxes. The report states -
It is obvious from what has been said by importers that fruit must be delivered at regular intervals, if it is to be sold economically . . .
The uncertainty which seems inherent in shipping arrangements from Australia, compared to those of other countries, is a major obstacle to the trade. Some exporters were too casual about fulfilling their obligations, and although they often short-shipped fruit they rarely advised their clients of the fact until it was too late to make up their requirements from alternative sources.
Dutch importers told members of the mission that they were prepared to increase their business with Australia, provided that shipping schedules and other transport arrangements were at least as favorable as those obtaining in the case of other countries. Wholesalers in Britain were critical of the fact that the names and schedules of ships carrying fruit were being received far too late, and also of the fact that even after a programme was received it was altered so frequently that the eventual arrival dates bore no resemblance to the originally estimated times. All this is serious, and the Australian Apple and Pear Board is planning to correct some of these mistakes and introduce improvements for the next fruit season. Unfortunately, however, we are at the mercy of overseas shipping lines in respect of the carriage of our perishable cargoes. If we had ships of our own we would be able to give top priority to Australia’s overseas requirements. It is not possible to instruct overseas shipping lines to carry out programmes completely favorable at all times to Australian exporters of our fruit crop. With our own ships operating we could give top priority to our own needs.
Let me now refer to the possibility of the purchase of overseas ships by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Such purchases could be made to tide us over the period during which we were building the first four or five of our own ships. As the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) will say later, ships are available for purchase at reasonable cost. I mention this possibility of purchase only for the purpose of showing that we could get our overseas line started almost immediately. We would not have to wait the year or two that it might take to get our own new ships on the water. In the meantime we could carry on with ships purchased overseas. It would not be necessary to embark on an extensive building programme at the beginning, but, as I said earlier, there would have to be a definite building plan over a specific period, say five years. The important point is that we should make a decisive start as soon as possible in the establishment of our overseas shipping line. As I said earlier, we were in the process of establishing this shipping line in 1949. The plans had been blueprinted and the legislation had already passed through this house. I was here at the time and I remember that that is what happened. Then the Labour Government was defeated and the whole project was shelved. That bill is now in the archives of this Parliament. When we again become the Government, we intend to investigate fully and immediately the possibility of setting up an overseas shipping line, even if we start off, as we did with the first line in 1916, in a humble way. If a shipping line could be established in 1916, then we can do it now. That shipping line, until it was sold out by the Bruce-Page Government, had saved the primary producers of Australia £7,000,000 in freight charges. Whatever the losses may have been, the actual saving to our primary producers in freight rates was £7,000,000. That is what could happen with a new shipping line run by a Labour government; we could again provide our primary producers with savings in freight rates and give competition to the present lines.
The Opposition opposes particularly the clauses of this bill by which the Government proposes to hand over the financial affairs of the commission to the Reserve Bank. The reference to the Commonwealth Bank, appearing in section 30 of the principal act, is to be removed. That section states -
The Commission may borrow money for temporary purposes on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia . . .
Clause 3 of the bill will delete the reference to the Commonwealth Bank and insert the words “ approved bank “, which, according to clause 2, will mean - the Reserve Bank of Australia or another bank approved by the Treasurer for the purposes of the provision in which the expression occurs.
It is our intention to oppose that amendment by voting against it later to-day.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, there has been so much extraordinary argument from the other side of the chamber that one does not really know where to start to answer it. Perhaps it is necessary only to pick a few points made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) to demonstrate how little reliance can be placed on anything he says on this subject. He said, for instance, that we are at the mercy of overseas shipping monopolies, and he then went on to say that each year we spend £300,000,000 on freights. He said that this is a very terrible thing and that we need our own fleet so that we can make considerable savings on these payments. Then he said, and this is really quite laughable, that what we would save in this way would finance the purchase of at least one ship every year. Surely the honorable member for Wilmot knows that if we are to lift even 5 per cent, of our cargo, we will need 28 ships. If we procure one ship each year it will take 28 years to reach a stage where we can lift 5 per cent, of our cargo, and of course the lifetime of a ship is not even 28 years.
– What is the cost of a ship?
– The cost of 28 ships would be about £100,000,000. So these magnificent savings proposed by the honorable member for Wilmot-
– That is £100,000,000 over 28 years?
– The honorable member for Wilmot suggests that we should have one ship each year, and I am sure he will agree that if we are to have 28 ships at the rate of one ship each year it will take 28 years. Then, if the life expectancy of a ship is less than 28 years, obviously we will not get anywhere. Five per cent, of our cargo is not a great amount, but even for 5 per cent, we would require 28 ships. For the honorable member for Wilmot to stand up and say that we could make considerable savings and from those savings could finance one ship a year is to be completely foolhardy.
– I never said-
– Order! The honorable member for Wilmot has spoken and was heard in silence.
– The honorable member for Wilmot then said that the provision of an overseas shipping line was something’ that we could not rush into; it would take two or three years to build a ship, so what we would do in the meantime was to buy a few existing ships. Honorable members know what sort of ships we will be able to buy.
– What sort?
– The sort of ships that are no longer useful to their previous owners.
– That is not right.
– The ships we would buy would be those that the owners regarded as inefficient, and an overseas line would be in the very difficult position of trying to match inefficient ships against efficient ships. To be fair to the honorable member for Wilmot he did say that this was not something that you would rush into; what we needed was a five-year plan. So, first of all he said we would get one ship a year, but then he said we must have a five-year plan. Let us assume that his five-year plan was designed only to lift 5 per cent, of the cargo. Five per cent, of the cargo would require 28 ships, costing a total of about £90,000,000 or £100,000,000. But I understand that he would not stop at 5 per cent, of our cargo; he would not be satisfied with lifting anything. less than 50 per cent. So, the cost has to be multiplied by ten. Instead of £90,000,000 the cost would then be £900,000,000 over five years. This is not a bad five-year plan! My mathematics do not allow me to make the calculation accurately and quickly, but I think it would involve something like £140,000,000 a year for ships. If the honorable member for Wilmot thinks he can sell that idea to the
Australian population he should go ahead and try. I will not make any attempt to do so. We have so many urgent developmental projects in Australia that we could not consider spending £140,000,000 a year in this way.
– It would be £180,000,000 a year.
– I am corrected by a member of the Public Accounts Committee whose figure, would, of course, be accurate. He puts the cost at £180,000,000 a year.
– It is all in your imagination.
– Look at your “ Hansard “ proofs and if it is not there I will apologize to you. When you speak you should think of the consequences of what you say and not just stand up and hope that your arguments will be attractive to listeners.
– Order! The honorable member for Bruce will address the Chair.
– The honorable member for Wilmot said at the very outset that this Australian National Line is a wonderfully successful shipping line. Then in his peroration he described it as a socialist enterprise operating in a liberal atmosphere. I suggest that the honorable member should march down and talk to these people whom he is complimenting - the chairman, the deputy chairman and the general manager - and ask them if they are running a socialist enterprise. He would soon find himself sitting on his backside out in the street. They are men who regard themselves as having a job to do, and they are getting on with the job. They want to build up the line. They see this line as an entity. They are not concerned with who owns it. To them running the line is an important job that they have to do, and that is precisely what they are doing. If there is one way in which this line is not being run _ it is as a socialist enterprise. That is the “ very thing that members of the Opposition will seek to do to it. The graph of the profits and efficiency of the line is gradually moving upwards. If the Opposition took control of the line the graph would soon be like that of the unsuccessful businessman as shown in the cartoons. The worst thing that could happen to it would be to have the honorable member for Wilmot as the responsible Minister. I think we would need to have a divine crystal ball to know what would happen to it in those circumstances. So far as I am concerned, Mr. Deputy Speaker, forever save the line from such a fate.
The honorable member for Wilmot said that this was a magnificent report. I cannot even agree with him on that because I thought that the report was the one thing about which the line could be criticized. I thought it was far too flamboyant. While it is a very beautiful and graphic report I thought that it was not, after all, the sort of report necessary to publicize the most successful achievements of a most successful line. A little more conservatism in it would have pleased me better. I do not know who painted the magnificent pictures in the report. I should like to know how much it cost to have them painted. Perhaps the seamen who paint the forecastle as they cruise around the coast painted them and presented them to the Australian National Line.
I should not speak so much on what the honorable member for Wilmot said but I shall mention this: He said that a monopoly ran the shipping conference. This is a most curious monopoly, if it can be described as a monopoly. The representatives of the 22 lines which are members of the United Kingdom-Europe conference negotiate with the committee set up under a piece of legislation in Australia and work out costs according to a formula which is contained in the legislation. On this basis, they decide what their freight rates will be. The Australian committee has its own professional chartered accountants. It is true that they are in London. The members of the conference line have their chartered accountants, also in London, and they apply the formula to work out what their rates will be. This terrible, big bogy monopoly which fixes its freight rates in this extraordinary fashion by a legislative formula, combined with negotiations between the two contracting parties, has done something in the exercise of its monopolistic power about which the honorable member could not guess. It has increased the freight rate by 5 per cent, this year when, under the formula, it would have increased it by 9 per cent. On the basis of actual costs of operation, the rate should have gone up by over 6 per cent. This so-called monopoly, using its monopolistic power, has acted in this fashion. Furthermore, it has agreed to allow the rate to remain unaltered for two years so that, as far as Australia is concerned, there will be no increase in freight charges by the conference line other than the 5 per cent, increase which came into force this year for a five-year period. To suggest that we are held to ransom by a monopoly is just to play with the truth of the situation. The members of the Australian Labour Party on a number of issues - and I think particularly on this issue - are misleading themselves because they are getting caught up with sentiment. They are rushing into sentimental issues without really considering the realities of the situation.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson), last night, and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), this afternoon, put before the House facts which I have no wish to repeat and upon which I do not wish to enlarge. I accept the information as given by the honorable member for Fawkner and the honorable member for Wentworth because I know it to be true, just as I know that the alleged facts put by the Opposition are not facts at all and therefore cannot be relied upon. Opposition members are pursuing a sentimental role which is reminiscent of the members of a socialist government in the United Kingdom some years ago who, out of sentiment, said, “ What we need is ground nuts in Africa “. That is a curious thing to get sentimental about, I know. But they did. They said, “ What we need is ground nuts in Africa “. And ground nuts in Africa they had, and the venture cost the British taxpayers so many millions of pounds that they lost count when they ran out of millions. This is the sort of thing which is activating the Labour Party to-day on so many issues and, most specifically to-day, on this issue of an Australian-owned shipping line.
I think this is true - and I am sure it could be proved - that the Australian National Line sees its role as a line trading around the Australian coast and, where possible, going overseas on specific indi vidual charters. I am certain that the line itself does not want to become an overseas line. What the Opposition fails to understand is that, in considering this matter, we must realize the difference between a shipping line, as such, trading overseas and a shipping line trading around the Australian coast and taking whatever opportunities present themselves to engage in occasional charters. The latter, of course, is precisely what the Australian line is doing to-day and has been doing for some years. It has been looking for occasional charters whenever the opportunity arises and when a profit can be made simply and quickly. I am sure that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission does not want the Australian National Line to become a line in the sense in which the Opposition uses the word. The Opposition fails to make this distinction. I agree that in many respects it is very desirable that the commission should send its ships overseas and seek these occasional charters and make a profit wherever it can. I should like to see Australian ships, flying Australian flags, going overseas, and especially into the Asian waters to our north.
– You do not sound very enthusiastic about it.
– I do. But it is on an occasional charter basis that the line can very adequately operate and make profits. Instead of tying a ship up in Australia it could send it overseas to seek business. This leads me to the point that, over the years, the Australian National Line has sent ships overseas on charter voyages. I suggest to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) that it is time that the line gave very serious consideration to going to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and seeking a separate award for seamen employed on overseas voyages. The present seamen’s award in Australia relates to seamen engaged on ships around the coast. Whether the seamen who have been on a ship around the coast go with it overseas or whether a different crew is engaged is immaterialthe Australian rates of pay apply on the overseas voyage. This is, of course, a burden which has been well pointed out by the honorable member for Fawkner and the honorable member for Wentworth, who referred to the wages differential. If seamen are prepared, as so many of them are prepared, to go on overseas voyages, they ought to look for parity in wage conditions to their colleagues on ships which are also overseas traders. They should look, for instance, for parity with English and Scandinavian rates of pay.
– Australian rates of pay are lower than the Scandinavian rates.
– No. The Scandinavian rates are much lower than Australian rates. The honorable member says that they are not, but they are. He forgets those special conditions which apply to ships trading on the Australian coast, such as the provision that a seaman shall have a cabin to himself. He forgets such things as the manning tables for Australian ships, which carry about a third more crew than a Scandinavian ship. The honorable member does not really forget those things, I know, but, for the purposes of his argument, he conveniently puts them aside. However, he achieves nothing by hiding those facts. An Australian crew costs very much more than a Scandinavian crew costs.
Under the seamen’s award - indeed, under the terms of the Navigation Act itself - all seamen on the Australian coast are required to be paid at Australian rates. The seamen’s award which governs the rates of pay, conditions and so on of our seamen is geared to the rates of pay and conditions of workers in a whole host of different activities on the Australian mainland. But, when you consider seamen on overseas duty, it is quite inappropriate to continue to look at rates of pay and conditions on the Australian mainland. One must look to the area of reasonable comparison - in that instance, the rates of pay, conditions and1 so on of seamen employed by competing lines. I believe that the time has certainly arrived when the Australian Coastal Snipping Commission should seriously consider approaching the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for what might be described as a No. 2 seamen’s award for Australian seamen on overseas duty.
The final matter which I want to mention, Mr. Speaker, was brought up by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) by way of interjection when the honorable member for Wilmot was addressing the
House. The honorable member for Wilmot did not realize how serious the honorable member for Warringah was. This matter concerns the very great misfortune which will befall Australia generally if the Australian National Line becomes a monopoly on the Australian coast. This could happen. There are on the Australian coast, as the honorable member for Wentworth pointed out, private-enterprise shipping lines which have not the financial backing and the depth of financial support which the national line has. As a consequence, those private lines may disappear from the Australian coast. I think that this would be very unfortunate. In this situation, I find some parallel to the airline situation. I am sure that everybody in this House, whether on this side or on the other side, will conclude that the system of two major airlines which we have on our trunk routes in Australia is very desirable.
– Who said so?
– I would have thought that the honorable member would be prepared to agree with that proposition, but, apparently, I am wrong.
– We do not agree with the honorable member on that.
– All right. Let us accept that as established. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that it would be a great mistake if Australia fell into a situation in which there was a monopoly in any aspect of its major transport, and especially the two major aspects of transport by air and sea. After all, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, Australia is an island. It has, I think, a longer shore line than any other country has. We are one of the few countries which rely exclusively on shipping for external trade. We have an enormous coastline for normal trade by ship between the States, and I think it would be a great tragedy if we had a monopoly in either airlines or shipping. I would not like to see a monopoly developed by the Australian National Airlines Commission, which operates Trans-Australia Airlines, the government-owned airline, and, likewise, I would not like to see a monopoly developed by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which operates the Australian National Line.
I suggest to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, with respect, that this is a thorny problem. I hope that he will seriously consider ways in which the Government can ensure, as a matter of policy, that the private enterprise shipping lines or airline, as the case may be, will continue in operation. The point I make is that there should be an alternative to a monopoly of shipping on the Australian coast by a governmentowned line.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– Yes, very much. The honorable member for Bruce, at the beginning of his speech, spent twelve minutes trying to answer my arguments. However, he failed completely to do so, Mr. Speaker. But, in trying to answer my arguments, he misinterpreted my remarks very greatly when he said that I had stated that we ought to build one ship a year. What I said was that by having our own overseas shipping line and no longer paying freights to overseas shipping companies, we could save enough on freights to enable us to build one ship a year. I said, also, that we should adopt a five-year plan for the construction of a certain number of ships every year for five years. The honorable member for Bruce conveyed the impression that I was advocating the ridiculous idea of building one ship a year - a programme which would never be the answer to our shipping problems. I wish to correct the misrepresentation by the honorable member on the very vital point of the number of ships which should be built each year.
.- Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) and other Government sup. porters have been very pleased to place their own interpretations on Labour’s policy, not only for shipping on the Australian coast but also for the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line. We on this side of the House do not share the fear of the honorable member for Bruce over the possible disappearance of the private shipping companies from the Australian coastal trade. When he said that he would not like to see the day when a monopoly developed in any of the methods of transport in Australia, he very conveniently forgot the government-owned railway system. I am sure that the honorable member must have spent many sleepless nights considering how private enterprise could take over the Postal Department and obtain a share of the profits made by it.
This bill proposes amendments to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act for the purpose of increasing the existing overdraft limit of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000 and also for the purpose of removing provisions which restricted the borrowing of money on overdraft by the commission to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman), in his secondreading speech, said that the increased borrowing power was sought primarily because of the heavy capital expenditure which will be incurred by the commission on a programme for the construction of new tonnage over the next two or three years.
According to the notes on the estimates of revenue and expenditure of the Department of Shipping and Transport for 1962-63, circulated during the consideration of the Estimates, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has on order two bulk carriers of 21,400 tons each which are under construction at the Whyalla shipyard and one passenger and vehicular ferry of 9,850 tons gross for the Sydney to Hobart service. The same document also noted the increased volume of passenger and cargo traffic by sea to Tasmania since the introduction of the “ Princess of Tasmania “ and the “ Bass Trader “ on the Bass Strait service.
The fifteenth edition of “Australian Shipping and Shipbuilding Statistics “, published by the Department of Shipping and Transport, gives details of merchant vessels under contruction in Australian shipyards at 30th June, 1962. It lists as being under construction at Whyalla one tanker - which has since been completed - two bulk carriers and two roll-on, roll-off vessels. Under construction at the State Dockyard at Newcastle, New South Wales, are one seatainer vessel of 5,400 tons and two lighthouse service vessels. The naval dockyard at Williamstown, in Victoria, of course, has not engaged in the construction of trading vessels. At the shipyard of Evans Deakin and Company Proprietary Limited, at Brisbane, there are under construction a passenger and cargo vessel of 2,500 tons and a general-purpose bulk vessel of 7,500 tons. No ships are under construction at the yard of Walkers Limited, at Maryborough. Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited is engaged on the construction of the passenger ferry for the Sydney to Hobart service. There is no record of any vessel under construction at the yard of the Phoenix Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited, In Tasmania, or at the Birkenhead yard of Adelaide Ship Construction Limited, which builds small vessels.
One of the problems facing the shipbuilding industry - I think that the Minister is very much aware of this - is the need for continuity of orders. Some honorable members have mentioned delay in the construction of vessels. Indeed, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) stated in this House that the construction of vessels in Australian shipyards by Australian workmen was very slow, that there was long delay in the handingover of vessels, particularly naval ships, and that this was the reason for the ordering in the United States of America of two Charles F. Adams class destroyers. I take it that also was the reason why six minesweepers were purchased in the United Kingdom.
One of the greatest problems confronting the Australian shipbuilding industry is the need for orders so that it can give its men some continuity of employment and thus be able to maintain the skilled staff which it has acquired over the years, particularly since the last war when the shipbuilding industry enjoyed a revival. A continuity of orders would ensure also that the skilled staff in the industry would be able to keep in touch with modern methods of ship construction. In this regard I pay a tribute to the State dockyard at Newcastle which on many occasions has sent officials overseas to study modern methods of ship construction with a view to reducing costs in Australia to a more competitive level.
At present the Government pays a subsidy of 33i per cent, on vessels of 500 tons gross or over. When the Tariff Board inquired into the shipbuilding industry and shipping generally in 1959 representatives of the industry stressed the need for the subsidy to be extended to vessels of 200 tons and over. I point out that the subsidy does not apply to tugs, dredges and vessels of that nature. On a number of occasions the industry, through members of this House, has stated its case for the subsidy to be extended to vessels of 200 tons and over. There is a market for vessels of this kind in the north of Australia and on our coastal services. My colleagues on this side of the House have mentioned that we have overseas vessels, particularly Danish vessels, operating on the Australian coastline. We have employed Danish ships and Danish seamen to carry supplies, replacements and men to research stations in the Antarctic. A Danish ship was selected for an overseas trade mission. I have nothing against the Danes - my grandfather was a Dane - but why should overseas vessels be used? With the aid of a subsidy from the Queensland Government a Danish vessel of the Clausen line operates around the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York Peninsula transporting beef to the Queira meat works. It is to be replaced next season by another overseas vessel. I have asked the Minister on a number of ocasions why this vessel should be allowed to operate on our coast and he has informed me that because it is engaged in intra-state trade he has no jurisdiction over it. I accept his explanation but it is wrong that an overseas vessel should be trading on our coast when a similar vessel could have been built in Australia.
It is worth mentioning that one of the leading men who is engaged at present promoting the sale of Australian wool overseas - I refer to Sir William Gunn, chairman of the Australian Wool Board - is associated with this overseas shipping line and has acted as spokesman for it on a number of occasions. He stated on various occasions that the replacement vessel was being built in Yugoslavia, in Czechoslovakia, and in Denmark. Neither I nor the Minister has been able to learn where the vessel was built, but we find this unAustralian attitude. When the company was looking for a vessel to replace the “ Wewak “ which was lost it made inquiries from two Queensland shipyards through the Australian Shipbuilding Board and asked for the estimated cost of construction of a replacement vessel. When the shipyards asked for plans so that they could give a quotation and an estimated date of delivery they received no reply from the company. The next thing they knew was that the vessel had arrived from overseas and was operating.
The Government is to be commended for paying the 33i per cent, subsidy because the Australian shipbuilding industry needs a subsidy. But other countries which in no sense of the word could be called socialist countries also subsidize shipbuilding. I refer to the United States of America, France, Italy, and India. In Japan the Government assists indirectly by subsidizing the steel used in the construction of vessels. Operational subsidies have applied for many years in the United States of America and, to a lesser degree, in Canada, Italy, Japan and other countries. This is one reason why freight rates for the carriage of steel from Japan are offering severe competition to the Australian steel industry on the New Zealand market. Long-term government loans are being widely used by the United States of America, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, India and Germany as a form of granting financial assistance to ship owners at low interest rates to enable them to purchase ships built locally. This is an instance of private enterprise being assisted by the government. Taxation and other concessions on new vessels purchased from local shipbuilders are granted in some countries, and special depreciation allowances operate in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Argentina and the United Kingdom. An investment allowance also operates in the United Kingdom.
The United States of America Maritime Commission frequently pays a trade-in allowance considerably in excess of world market value for an obsolete vessel to assist the shipowner to replace it with new tonnage built in the United States. The United States of America, Japan, Canada and Australia restrict coastal trade to national vessels. This has not always applied in Australia, but the restriction of the coastal trade to locally built vessels has been adhered to by the other countries I have mentioned. Various other subsidies such as for the carriage of mails, and exchange equalization subsidies, as well as bounties on shipbuilding, are paid. While we acknowledge the assistance which the present 33J per cent, subsidy gives to the industry I, for my part, would like to see it extended to include vessels of 200 tons and over. If the full subsidy could not be paid on such vessels then at least a reduced subsidy should be considered.
It is generally conceded that when a ship reaches twenty years of age it is obsolete and uneconomical. At present we have 24 vessels operating on the Australian coast in interstate and intra-state trade which have been in service for over 22 years. In the next four years a further sixteen vessels will have over twenty years service. If they are to be replaced now is the time to consider the replacements, which should be modern and should meet local requirements because by the time plans are completed, tenders are called and accepted and the ships launched the four years will have elapsed. In fact, I believe it will take four years to have the tenders approved if our present rate of progress is any indication. The 1962 report of the Australian National Line shows that in the year under review ships of the line made 25 voyages to various parts of the world. They carried 184,688 tons of goods in the year compared with 44,283 tons carried in the preceding year. The report indicates also that since the close of the year cargoes offering for overseas have diminished. We find that vessels of the “ River “ class are tied up in Sydney Harbour and no use is being made of them.
In the report on Australian Shipping and Shipbuilding Statistics the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) states -
Prior to the progressive development of a largescale oil refining industry which has taken place since 19S3, there were only small quantities of petroleum products carried by sea between Australian ports; In 1952-53, ironstone which was then the largest individual item of coastal cargo, accounted for 23% of cargoes carried coastwise by sea and petroleum products less than 1%. By 1960-61, ironstone represented 22.4% of total cargoes and petroleum products 24%. At the same time total cargoes lifted on the coast rose by 6.7 million tons or 51.7%, petroleum products accounting for 4.6 million tons, or 68.9% of this increase.
The report indicates that eleven foreignowned tankers are carrying petroleum products along our coast. Those tankers have been granted permission by the Minister to engage in coastal trade. The Minister has stated that he is prepared to give permission to an Australian tanker to engage in this trade if an Australian tanker is available. Unfortunately, private enterprise apparently is not interested in this trade or is frightened by the oil monopolies. So the question arises: Is the Australian National Line interested in this trade? An increased tonnage of petroleum products is being carried on our coast. Is the Australian National Line prepared to enter this lucrative field? A Japanese tanker - the “ Shotuku Maru “ - has been granted permission to carry bulk molasses from Queensland ports. That is a small tanker and it is manned by a Japanese crew. It has been given permission to carry molasses for eighteen months from Queensland sugar ports to southern Australian ports and New Zealand ports. The Minister agrees that there is an opening on the Australian coastline for an Australianowned tanker and we of the Opposition hope that in seeking further business the Australian National Line will consider constructing in Australia a tanker to operate on our coast.
– Is the Japanese tanker operating full-time on our coast?
– I understand that it is operating most of the time.
– You must remember that this is a specialty trade and that no other ship is available for this trade.
– There is another ship - the “ Santa Rita Terza “. I do not know whether it is a Spanish or Italian ship. It is owned by a company called The Botany Bay Shipping Company. I do not know whether that is an Australian company or whether it is a foreign company with an Australian name, like the Boomerang Line. If a Japanese tanker has been given preference over an Australian company, the matter should be investigated by the Minister.
Some reference has been made to relations between workers in the maritime industry and Australian-owned shipping companies. In its 1957 report the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission acknowledged the equable relations that existed between it and the maritime unions. It stated that when organizing overseas voyages the management received much assistance from the leaders of the unions principally involved. In its second report in 1958 the commission again stated that equable relations with the maritime unions were maintained. In 1959 the commission reported that harmonious relations with the various maritime unions prevailed throughout the year. Those reports are an answer to Government supporters who would decry the efforts of maritime workers. The men employed in the industry work under arduous conditions. The conditions under which they work would not be found in the normal eight-to-five job. In many cases, because of the casual nature of the work, harmonious conditions cannot always prevail. That this is so is not always the fault of the workers. In its 1960 and 1961 reports the commission does not refer to relations with the maritime unions. I do not know why the commission has not reported on this matter in later years because I do not know of any change in relations between the maritime unions and the shipowners.
The Australian Labour Party has pointed out to the Government the benefits that would accrue from an Australian-owned overseas shipping line. Australian exporters and primary producers would obtain great benefits from an Australian-owned overseas line. Government supporters have stated that ships have been laid up because of lack of business, but that has not led to a reduction in freights. On the contrary, freights have increased. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) referred to the 5 per cent, increase in freights and said that the shipowners had done a wonderful thing in accepting only a 5 per cent, increase because they felt that they could prove their entitlement to a 9 per cent, increase. The honorable member should go a little further and acknowledge that the workers of Australia do a wonderful thing each year in accepting the increase in the basic wage granted by the court despite the fact that they feel that they have proved their entitlement to a greater increase.
The 1926-27 report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the Commonwealth Government Shipping Activities, including Cockatoo Island Dockyard, shows that the overseas shipping companies made repeated approaches to the chairman of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board. The report states - . . during November, 1925, it was proposed that some outward rates from United Kingdom should be increased by approximately 10 per cent. The Directors in Sydney replied that they could not agree to any increase as they considered present rates were sufficiently remunerative to British owners. . . . Further, in August, 1926, The Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board was instrumental in bringing about a general reduction of approximately 10 per cent, on freight rates on commodities exported from Australia to the United Kingdom and the continent.
It was generally accepted at that time that the losses incurred by the Australian Commonwealth Line as a result of the overseas shipping companies being forced to reduce their rates were far outweighed by the advantages which accrued to primary producers and exporters. It is shown here that the reduction of 10s. a ton which was brought about by Mr. Larkin early in 1923 resulted in a saving of over £2,000,000 a year in Australian freight charges.
When members of the Australian Labour Party propose the setting up of an overseas shipping line to carry our cargoes, we are not advocating that all Australian produce exported should be carried in Australianowned ships. We are only advocating that Australia should have an overseas fleet to offer competition to the monopolistic group of shipping companies. We believe that an Australian overseas line would offer competition to those shipowners. It would prevent them from fixing their own rates and working their books to show that they need increases in freights. Only a small fleet would be required to enter into competition with the overseas interests and prove to them that we are capable of carrying our own goods and are not entirely dependent upon them. By means of competition we could force down and hold down overseas freight rates.
The “Hansard” records of 1923 show that the capital cost of vessels, which was £10,706,976, had, by 1923, been written down to £3,265,157. In order to assist exporters the Commonwealth line dropped freight rates. On 30th May, 1921, it dropped the freight on sheepskins from Hd. to lid. per lb. and the freight on frozen rabbits from 168s. a ton to 140s. In January, 1923, the line reduced freights on all frozen cargoes. The freight on frozen beef and mutton was reduced by id. per lb. The freight on frozen rabbits was reduced by 10s. a ton. The freight on fruit was reduced by ls. a case, and that on butter by 6d. a box, while the reduction on general cargo was 10s. a ton. These reductions resulted in a saving in freights to Australia for that year amounting to £2,000,000.
The main argument put forward by members of the Government against the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line is that the cost would be prohibitive because Australian seamen on those vessels would want the same wages as their counterparts in the Australian coastal trade would receive. If they did receive those wages they would be paying the appropriate taxes to the Australian Government and in that way would be contributing towards the upkeep of this House and perhaps helping to finance the erection of a new Parliament House. This argument about the need for cheap labour has been advanced by members of the present Government and by its predecessors over the years. We still find supporters of the Government putting forward the argument that without cheap labour we cannot compete with other countries. The argument was used against Wilberforce when he advocated the abolition of slavery. It was used against the White Australia Policy, when it was said that we could not develop this country without cheap coolie or Kanaka labour, or cheap labour from other sources, which Australian unionists fortunately have been able to eradicate.
Supporters of private enterprise, in the period during which the Commonwealth overseas shipping line was operating, spared no effort to discredit the line. The records of “ Hansard “ show that vessels with a capital value of £10,706,976 had, by 1923, been written down to a value of £3,265,157. Honorable members will recall that in 1926 our ships were sold to Lord Kyslant’s White Star Line, for £1,900,000, a large part of which has not yet been paid.
I conclude by saying that while the Australian Labour Party welcomes the extension of the overdraft limit of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000 I feel that greater action is necessary to encourage Australian shipbuilding by the establishment and operation of an Australian-owned overseas fleet.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– The bill we are discussing proposes to increase the overdraft limit of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000, with the object of giving the commission more flexibility in its operations. During the debate on the bill, we have travelled a pretty wide course. I was rather surprised at the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) this afternoon. After all, he has had some overseas experience of finance. In discussing this measure he said that the Seamen’s Union was controlled by Communists. In referring to an Australian line of ships, he wanted to know what ships we would obtain and what routes they would work upon.
That is not the approach that we should find in a national Parliament. After all, this Parliament at Canberra represents a country that is largely dependent on the sale of its commodities overseas and on the import of goods to meet its national requirements. That situation may well change. We may well have found oil in commercial quantities in Queensland, and this could open a new era for Australia. It would then be all the more important for men like the honorable member for Wentworth to adjust their attitudes. After all, he is an ex-Cabinet Minister. We should all be thinking of what contribution we can make that will convince the Government that it should change its approach.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) approached this problem from quite a different angle. In the course of his contribution, he read a paragraph from the London “ Times “ of 30th July last, which referred to the need to correlate transport systems. He directed his remarks to Opposition members, but he should have directed them to the Minister and to the Cabinet. In recent times, we have made considerable progress towards the co-ordination of the nation’s internal transport systems and in the air we have also done much with our external transport system. I refer to Qantas, which has set a standard in world aviation that captures the imagination of the traveller right across the face of the earth. Internally, Trans-Australia Airlines, a government airline, has set a standard that makes it the equal of any in the world and better than most other airlines. Our rail and road transport systems are now going through a coordinating period.
The honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) spoke about advantages in our transport systems. The report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission refers to the type of overseas trade that it has been able to pick up. With this in mind, I wonder whether the honorable member for Fawkner was not really addressing his remarks to the Government rather than to the Opposition. We know what is being spent on Qantas and on our railways where the conversion to standard gauge of a railway line in Western Australia will cost £40,000,000. Yet with our shipping, all we can do is to introduce a bill such as this. This comparison should stop us in our tracks. The honorable member for Fawkner spoke about the need for automation, but he should have gone further and not merely concluded that automation in this or any other industry is opposed by us. The Australian Labour Party and the trade union movement welcome automation on all levels. Nobody knows better than we do that our living standards depend on the rate of production of our industries. Our fight with the Government and with our political opponents is always on the question of the distribution of the wealth that flows from industry. Our fight is not on the question of automation.
Recently, I read an article about a Japanese ship which, by adopting automation, had reduced the crew from 37 to 26. No engine-room crew was required. The engineer sat in a very nice room with a bunch of flowers on the desk and pressed a button. I say to Government supporters that automation is all to the good. Who wants to go down a stinking stokehold if instead the same result can be achieved by pressing a button? Nobody! No one with sanity would oppose automation if automation results in added production and improved working conditions for those engaged in industry. That is fundamental.
I say to the honorable member for Fawkner and to the Government that, with the advent of automation, we should use every ounce of strength to build for ourselves the last link in our transport system to make this continent secure. Automation gives us the opportunity to do this. If Japan can build a ship which incorporates automation and put it on the Australian run, we should build a similar ship, perhaps with further improvements, and put it on the Japanese run. The position is that we are either displaying cowardice in our approach to Australia’s future development, or we are doing the very opposite of what should be done to safeguard our future. Automation opens the door to a new era in shipping. If honorable members read the reports of the commission, they will find that in every one of them a tribute is paid to the efficiency of those engaged in the industry.
It is almost unbelievable that a country that has depended for so many years mainly on the sale of its wool to preserve its overseas balances still has no overseas shipping fleet. Once our wool reaches the waterfront, its handling from that point onward is out of our control. No other country would tolerate such a situation. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson), whose remarks honorable members opposite have carefully avoided dealing with, pointed out that India has its own national fleet, and that even little Nigeria has its own fleet. These countries are not dependent on the sale of wool as we are, although India in particular is concerned with the purchase of wool from Australia. We have provided other forms of internal transport facilities to carry our products, but once they reach the waterfront they are out of our hands. For instance, we are providing a railway to carry ore to the waterfront, but having delivered it to the waterfront we must then depend on ships carrying foreign flags to take it overseas. We depend on those ships almost for our very existence.
– Would not you use Nigerian ships?
– You use whatever you can get. I heard the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) talking about the costs of operating ships manned by Australian crews working under Australian conditions. Does the honorable member want Australian seamen to accept the conditions that obtain under the flag of Panama? Is that what he wants?
Let me refer to a report that the Minister has had prepared and which he has supplied to me. In the British fleet at the present time there are 27 ships, of a total gross tonnage of 216,000 tons, and 25 tankers, totalling 224,000 tons, that are unwanted.
– Are these official figures?
– They are official figures. When we know that there are 25 tankers in the British fleet that are unused and unwanted, how can we justify issuing eleven licences for foreign tankers to operate full-time around our coastline? These British tankers are lying idle and they could be used by us if this Government had the courage to do the right thing.
At the present time the shipping industry throughout the world is in a state of flux. There are two reasons for this. First, all governments with the national welfare of their countries at heart have provided their own merchant fleets, and at the end of July this year 3 per cent, of the world’s tanker fleet was lying idle. In all, 304 vessels were tied up because no tramp work was available and these included 151 tankers.
In addition to that, let me point out that merchant ships throughout the world can be divided into three main categories. There are ships belonging to countries like the United States of America, which are receiving substantial government assistance. Then there are ships belonging to companies that have other interests, and, thirdly, there are what might be called freelancers. The shipping industry throughout the world is now in such a state that if this Government cared to take the trouble to do so it could obtain from these freelance operators, within twelve months, and at a fraction of the cost that was talked about last night by the honorable member for Fawkner, a highly competitive fleet, which could look after a large proportion of our Australian trade. I do not suggest that we would have a fleet capable of coping with all our trade, as the honorable member for Fawkner stupidly contended was our proposition, but we would have a fleet which would sharpen the competition that the Government so frequently professes to foster.
Honorable members opposite have frequently told us of their desire to encourage competition. I think the honorable member for Bruce said, in almost the last words of his speech, that he hoped there would never be a monopoly of Australian coastal shipping. If he is really sincere in that hope, why does he tolerate a virtual monopoly in the carrying of our goods to overseas markets? If he believes in decent competition in our internal air transport, and if he believes in decent competition in our coastal shipping, why does he not go all the way and insist on decent competition in the transport overseas of our wool, wheat and other products? That, of course, is quite a different matter, because the encouragement of competition in that direction would be something worth while for the country. Until such time as the Government fully implements its policy in all directions, it is idle for the honorable member for Fawkner to tell us about the London “ Times “ and about co-related transport.
Australia is a country uniquely situated. It is isolated from the rest of the world, and it is our duty to the Australian people to see that they have a first-class mercantile shipping fleet, irrespective of the consequences from the financial point of view. This country could be isolated to-morrow.
– By the Seamen’s Union!
– If the honorable member must be so thickheaded as to make such a remark, I invite him to read the reports of the commission. He obviously has not read them, or he would not be making such a stupid interjection. In every one of these reports there are comments about the efficiency of those engaged in the industry. Listen to these remarks from the latest report -
It should also be remembered that the Line enjoys no trading advantage because it is financed by public monies, and must pay company and other taxes. The Line must also accept the same depreciation allowance, and in every way face the same problems as beset any Australian public company engaged in the business of ship owning.
Even in those circumstances the line is able to carry on and pay back large amounts of money to the Government. Honorable members can check these figures. Since this commission was created in 1956 it has paid more than £5,700,000 in company tax, and in dividends calculated at 6 per cent, it has paid £5,340,000 to the Government. In other words, in the short period of its existence, the Australian National Line has been required by this Government to pay a 6 per cent, dividend and in addition it has had to pay the normal company tax that would apply to a commercial undertaking. All this information is in the reports for any one to see. During the first three years of the commission’s operation, the Government took £2,700,000 in company tax and £2,394,000 in dividends, and over the six years it has taken the amount I mentioned, which is well over £11,000,000. Yet honorable members stand up in this chamber and talk about wanting trade along our coastline to be competitive.
Last night the honorable member for Batman quoted from Lloyd’s register and referred to United States ships being registered in Liberia and other similar places. The United States, like every other worthwhile nation, has its own fleet. Even Poland, a country with no coastline at all, has its own shipping line. Australia is entirely dependent upon shipping to take every bag of wheat and every bale of wool out of this country, but it provides no competitive shipping through a government shipping line. I am surprised at the attitude of Country Party members on this matter. Unlike the honorable member for Bruce, who was so critical of the way in which the report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission was prepared. I pay tribute to the commission for this. The only reason why the honorable member for Bruce was so critical is that this is a socialist industry that is paying dividends back to the State. After all, that is the purpose of socialism - that the benefits derived from the operation of public enterprises shall be paid back to the State. The only difference between a socialized industry and a capitalist one is that benefits from the industry go back to the people instead of into the pockets of the rich. Honorable members opposite should make no mistake about that.
– Do you like competition?
– I like competition that is beneficial to the nation in which I live, but by denying Australia an overseas shipping line of its own this Government is depriving us of that sort of competition. We do not want such a shipping line to face competition such as that faced by Trans-Australia Airlines. We hate to see a government enterprise shackled to an iron peg while its competitor is let loose to run round it, and that is something that we will correct when the opportunity presents itself.
But what I am talking about to-night is much bigger than Trans-Australia Airlines. It is our national lifeline and our mainstay in time of crisis. There are 10,000,000 people in this country who, some day, will curse the governments, whatever their political colour, that left Australia without a commercial shipping fleet of its own. I do not know along what lines some honorable members opposite must think. This is the only chance we have to do something to bring about the very type of competition that the honorable member for Fawkner would have us believe he favours, but it is proposed merely to increase from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000 the amount that may be borrowed by the commission.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), when speaking on another matter, mentioned the disputes that might arise from automation. In this period of automation the ball is at our feet. We have an opportunity now to bring our shipyards up to date. We should re-equip them immediately to enable them to produce, as they will under a Labour government, the finest automated ships that sail the seas. Ships can be built in Australia. Australian railways have been able to reduce haulage costs to figures which are unequalled in the world. In the air, Qantas can compete with any airline and I say that under a Labour government we will have a third link - the sea link. We will not be satisfied to stand aside and merely increase the dole as has been suggested by the honorable members for Bruce, Wentworth and Fawkner. We are not afraid of automation; in fact we welcome it. The trade union movement in this country is not against automation, and it should not be accused of standing in the way of automation. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is just as worried as is the Australian Labour Party about the lack of a complete nationally owned transport system. The Australian
Council of Trade Unions has devoted special attention to this problem because it knows full well that Australia must have a shipping line of its own if the Australian growers of wool and wheat are to receive the full reward for their work. So far, we have only been on the fringe of world monopolies. Honorable members know as well as I do that shipping companies are linked from one side of the world to the other. But they have not yet consolidated because there has been the freelance group of which I spoke earlier. This group is ready to sell out now to the highest bidder some of the most modern ships on the sea, and the group will sell at a figure which is less than the capital value of the ships when launched.
That is the position on the shipping front to-day. But this Government will not heed the danger. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is in possession of the facts and wants to assist in whatever action is necessary to see that we have that third link in our transport system, not only along the Australian coast but also across the world, with ships equal to those operated by any other country.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act provides that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission may borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or such other bank as the Treasurer approves. The aggregate of the amount borrowed and not repaid is not to exceed £1,000,000. The Opposition agrees that the limit of £1,000,000 imposed by the act is too restrictive. This bill seeks to increase that amount to £5,000,000 which, in our opinion, also is restrictive. The limit is set at too low a figure. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) said that the commission’s capital expenditure on new tonnage between now and 30th June, 1964, is estimated to be £6,758,500. He also pointed out that the figure does not include provision for expenditure on further orders which it may be assumed the commission is likely to place within the next three or four years. So it can be seen that the overdraft limit of £5,000,000 is little enough. According to the views of the Labour Opposition it is too little because we believe that the
Australian ‘ Coastal Shipping Commission should be engaged in the business of overseas trade. This could be done under the present act although the controlling authority is known as the “Australian Coastal Shipping Commission “. Section 15 of the act concerning the functions, powers and duties of the commission in paragraph (a) (iv) uses the following words: -
Between a place in the Commonwealth and a place in another country;
The effect of that section is that the commission can have its ships carry cargo to other countries. So it is clear that under the existing act we could operate an overseas shipping line. Only if we have such a line can Australia stop its exporters from being plundered by overseas shipping interests. Australia is one of the largest trading nations in the world but we are the only important trading nation that has no ships engaged in overseas trade except, of course, for occasional chartered voyages for ships owned by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. Consequently, we are at the mercy of the overseas shipping combine. The formula on which freights are charged is based on a cost-plus system. Accordingly, the shipowners cannot lose in the long run. In June, for instance, they increased freights to 5 per cent, without giving any convincing reason for the increase. The Australian Associated Chambers of Commerce has asked for an inquiry into costs and one of the items that it has listed is freight. I quote from the “ West Australian “ of 6th April, 1962, as follows: -
The Australian Associated Chambers of Commerce urged the Federal Government to establish a royal commission to inquire into the Australian cost structure.
Lower down, the article mentions freights among the items that the association wants to have considered. Previously, the same association raised the matter of shipping charges on commodities going to Asian markets. An article in the “Age” of 6th September, 1961, headed “Inquiry into freight charges to Asia “, reads as follows: -
Allegations of excessive shipping charges on commodities going to Asian markets were made to-day at the annual conference of the Australian Chambers of Commerce Export Council. The council formed a special committee to investigate the freight rates.
The question of freight rates to Asia should have a big bearing on our exports to markets in that area, particularly as we have to find alternative markets because of the certain entry of Great Britain into the European Common Market. We have to look at this matter from that angle. The remedy that is so desperately needed, as has been mentioned by other speakers on this side of the House, and which should be accepted by every thinking Australian who has the welfare of this country at heart, is the establishment of a fleet which will engage in competition with the overseas shipping conference line. We should plan a shipbuilding programme. We should expand our present shipbuilding yards and construct new ones. We should buy suitable ships which may be offering at reasonable prices. We should charter suitable vessels which may be available to commence competition with overseas shipping interests. There are vessels available at the present time from those countries that are engaged in shipping on a big scale. Many independent nations are building their own fleets and conducting their own shipping lines. This viewpoint fits in with Labour’s policy as expressed at the last general election and it will be implemented by a Labour government when it comes to office, which we hope will be in the near future.
Section 16 of the principal act, which gives certain powers to the commission to implement that policy, empowers the commission -
So the requisite power is already vested in the Commission. It does not need an amendment to the act to do what we are suggesting should be done. It only needs a government with initiative and the interests of Australia at heart to implement such a policy. We cannot afford to leave our trade in the bands of British and other overseas interests. The only time at which we were not plundered by these interests was when we had our own Commonwealth line of ships. During the general election of 1914, as a part of its policy, the Labour Party promised to fight the shipping companies. When the Hughes Labour Government assumed office and we were at war something was done about this. The patriotism of the shipping companies was revealed when they raised their freights from Australia to England, during the war, from £2 7s. 6d. to £5 5s. per ton although the United Kingdom Government at that time carried the war risk insurance on ships. Freight on wheat rose alarmingly during that period from a pre-war rate of £1 10s. to £15 per ton. That indicates what was done by the so-called patriotic shipping lines when Australia was fighting for its very existence. The shipping monopolies dictated fares and freights. In 1916 Mr. Hughes bought a fleet of fifteen cargo vessels for just over £2,000,000. The Austral line was augmented by another 21 ex-enemy vessels. They were then combined into what was known as the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which made a profit of nearly £6,000,000. That is an answer to the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes), who, last night wanted to know whether or not these ships had made a profit. With the introduction of that shipping line freights were reduced by approximately 50 per cent., compared with freights charged by other ships.
Government ownership of the national fleet stimulated the Australian shipbuilding industry so that, in 1919, ships of Australian construction started to join the Commonwealth fleet. Government construction costs per ton were lower than elsewhere. The shipping combine fought strenuously to destroy the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Although he had left the Labour Party, Mr. Hughes fought against the interests of monopoly. These were his words - and they bear repeating - to those people who were trying to destroy the Commonwealth line of ships -
Except for the Commonwealth line there is no way to the markets of the world save at the price the great combine lines determine.
That is as true to-day as it was at that time when the cost-plus system operated in determining freights. In 1923, when the BrucePage Government came into office, it was the beginning of the end for the Commonwealth line. The Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923 placed the fleet and the dockyards in the hands of a board of three members who had power to sell subject to the approval of the Treasurer. The then Treasurer, of course, was Mr. S. M. Bruce, and we know his views on that matter. That move made the fate of the. shipping line certain. Bruce taxed the fleet while he continued to subsidize its rival. That gives some idea of how a government of the same political colour as the present Government was out to destroy the Commonwealth line of ships. The Bruce-Page Government began to sell the ships of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers at bargain prices. Eleven of the line’s ships were sold at half their market value. By 1927, only seven of the 54 vessels of the Commonwealth fleet were left. Finally, the Dale class and Bay class ships were sold. The ships of the line had cost Australia more than £7,500,000 to acquire or build, and they were sold to the shipping combine for £1,900,000, the purchase price to be paid by instalments.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question upon notice about the sale of these ships some weeks ago. The answer was given on 17 th October last. The honorable member asked -
The Minister for Shipping and Transport replied - 1, 2 and 3. The Commonwealth owned an aggregate of 54 trading vessels at the peak of operations . . . The price received for the 47 vessels, less commissions, was £1,103,172. The remaining seven vessels were sold to the White Star Line Limited, in 1928, for £1,900,000, the terms of the sale providing for a cash deposit of £250,000, the balance of the purchase price, £1,650,000, to be paid in equal annual instalments over a period of ten years, with interest at the rate of 5i per cent, payable on deferred instalments. In 1932, the White Star Line Limited went into liquidation and it was not until 1948 that the final dividend in respect of the liquidation was paid, the loss sustained by the Commonwealth over the sale being £279,302.
– Lord Kylsant was involved in that deal.
– Lord Kylsant conveniently went bankrupt after the ships were sold to his combine, and we were not paid for them. The important point is that the Minister, in his reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Wilmot, said that we lost £279,302. That figure is determined on the basis of the sale for £1,900,000 and not on the basis of the actual cost of the fleet, which totalled more than £7,500,000. So the real loss was more like £6,000,000. This gives honorable members some idea of what people on the same side of politics as honorable members opposite will do. They sacrificed a fleet of ships that was really doing a good job for Australia. I am disappointed to know that members of the Australian Country Party, who claim to have the interests of country people at heart, do not support our policy for the establishment of an overseas shipping fleet.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) gave some very interesting figures when he took up the debate on this bill on behalf of the Opposition. He pointed out that Australia produces the cheapest steel in the world and that the countries adjacent to Australia have to pay more for steel in other countries than they pay for steel in Australia. However, the freight from Australia to those adjacent countries is so high as to price our steel out of the markets available there, despite the fact that we are so close to those markets. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has pointed out that freight for the transport of steel from Europe to Singapore is 130s. Australian a ton compared with between 140s. and 145s. a ton for the carriage of steel between Australia and Singapore, only about one-third of the distance between Europe and Singapore. Why do members of the Australian Country Party, who, as I have said, claim to have the interests of country people at heart, support such high freights? The Australian Meat Board, in a recent report, stated that freight on canned meat shipped from Australia to the United Kingdom was 224s. 8d. a ton compared with 162s. 6d. a ton between New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The freight on the Australian product over much the same distance is about 50 per cent, higher. The fact is, of course, that New Zealand has its own overseas shipping line. It is of no use for any one to say that conditions imposed by the seamen’s award affect the situation, because the award conditions of New Zealand seamen are just as high as, or even higher than, those of Australian seamen.
I emphasize that our own fleet, in competition with the overseas shipping combines, would be able to force freights down and protect the interests of our people. Ever since we lost our Commonwealth overseas shipping line, freights have been increased at the whim of the overseas shipping combines. The harm that has been done to Australia’s cost structure as a result of this must be clear to all. Surely, when we realize that our trade is in jeopardy from Britain’s almost certain entry into the European Common Market, we can see that now is the time for us to establish our own Commonwealth line of ships to trade overseas. How can this Government justify our being left at the mercy of the overseas shipping interests?
Let us look at the matter from the defence aspect, among other things. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) mentioned last evening, it is surely most important for us, from the defence stand-point, to have our own overseas shipping line. All other trading countries, as he mentioned, have their own shipping fleets, although some of them are much smaller trading nations than is Australia. The honorable member pointed out that India has a fleet of 69 vessels, 53 of which trade overseas, and Nigeria has 22 ships, nine of which trade overseas. Most of these other countries subsidize their merchant fleets. There is no reason why we should not subsidize a fleet of our own to some extent. I think that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) said that, on the basis of some figures that had been given, a subsidy would cost about £3,500,000 per annum. That is not such a large amount when one considers the other subsidies that are paid. As the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) mentioned, we subsidize the butter industry by some £13,500,000, the wheat industry by approximately £12,000,000 and gold-mining by about £1,000,000 annually. These are only some of the industries that we subsidize. Why should we not, if it were absolutely necessary, subsidize our own shipping fleet to enable it to compete with the overseas shipping interests and so force down freights in the interests of Australia’s trade?
Legislation in the United States of America provides that 50 per cent, of overseas trade must be undertaken by ships owned in the United States. The annual report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission for 1962 shows that, over the last five years, the Australian National Line has made profits totalling approximately £7,000,000. Surely this indicates to honorable members opposite, who are critical of the idea of our owning our own overseas shipping line, that profits are to be made on shipping lines. As was pointed out last evening, Qantas Empire Airways Limited makes profits. It is one of the few airlines that does, and it does so despite award conditions for employees that possibly are better than are those of the employees of its competitors. There is no reason why a shipping line, similarly, should not make profits and at the same time force the other shipping interests to reduce their freights. How can this Government justify its failure to take action when shipping freights play such an important part in our overseas trade and our balance of payments? The importance of shipping freights to our balance of payments was mentioned in a report by the director of the Australian Industries Development Association in May, 1962. That report stated -
Current invisible transactions are always a big debit to the balance of payments.
The major current invisible item is freight on imports and exports, which are both carried on overseas ships as Australia has no overseas shipping line. In the last 10 years debits for freights have varied from £69m. in 1953-54 to £150m. in 1960-61. Naturally these vary according to the quantity and composition of goods and also according to freight rates. In the past 10 years (according to calculations of the Bank of New South Wales “Review”) cost of freight and insurance has varied between 12% and 17.5% of the f.o.b. value of imports. It seems unlikely that, in the near future, freight costs would be much below £150m. a year.
Surely that is a sufficient reason why we should be doing something to enable the Australian National Line to get into the overseas shipping business. The statement I have just read justifies the expansion of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission so that it can compete with overseas shipping interests and break the monopoly which is strangling our overseas trade. We cannot afford to leave our trade in the hands of British and European interests. The situation is just as serious to-day as it was in 1914 when Hughes decided that the only way to break the overseas shipping combine was for Australia to have its own line of ships. All we want is a leader who is prepared to do something about this matter. The Labour Party’s policy provides for an Australian line of ships. That was done by the Hughes Labour Government in 1914 and will be done by the Calwell Labour Government just as soon as we can turn out of office these people of the Liberal Party who are mismanaging Australia’s affairs, some leading members of which have interests in some of the shipping combines I have mentioned.
– in reply - I remind the House that this bill seeks to raise the permissible overdraft of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission from £1,000,000 to £5,000,000. Before adverting to the details which have arisen during the course of this debate let me bring the debate back to its fundamental purpose. The Opposition seems to think that the £1,000,000 overdraft which was permitted in 1957 has caused some restriction on the operations of the Australian National Line. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has stated that the Opposition pointed out in 1956 that the overdraft of £1,000,000 was inadequate. Opposition members have mentioned how efficient and profitable is the Australian National Line. By doing so they have supplied their own evidence that the overdraft was sufficient.
Since 1957 payments have been made for new ships which have come on the line. The “Princess of Tasmania” was the first of the two ships of the year which has been paid for. We have also bought bulk ships and in 1958, as I mentioned in my second-reading speech, by permission of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) there was a deferment in the payment of profits so that the line could meet its commitments. That was excellent business. It was using cash to the best advantage. Now we are building new ships and have ships on order. To some extent that is an answer to the Opposition’s claim that no ships are being built and that our shipyards are falling away.
The Government now asks the Parliament to raise the permissible overdraft to £5,000,000 to meet the payments which will be due in the future for ships such as the 7,500-ton bulk carrier which is under construction, the SydneyHobart passenger vessel and the 21,000- ton bulk carrier. These payments will be falling due within the next four years.
After these commitments have been met we will be in credit once again. On this occasion it is necessary for the overdraft to be £5,000,000. On the previous occasion it was necessary for the overdraft to be £1,000,000. That £1,000,000 was used wisely and well. As I have said, the prime purpose of this bill is to obtain the Parliament’s permission to raise the overdraft to £5,000,000.
This bill now has been made the vehicle for a debate which has ranged overseas. It is a kind of roll on, roll off vehicle - the Opposition rolled on all kinds of details and submissions and rolled them off the other end as the debate progressed. Opposition members have fallen from this idea of a tremendous overseas shipping fleet with which they started and which they enumerated before the last election, and have now finished with the idea of just a few ships. To indicate the variance of opinion among the Opposition, one or two honorable members opposite have clung to the original idea. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) actually went abroad and bought some cheap ships. This is at complete variance with the shipbuilding programme which his colleagues want to have implemented. In fact, the Opposition does not know where it stands. It has lost sight of the original purpose of the bill. Its proposals have been theoretical, not practical. My colleagues, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) and the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), have noted this. If you read their speeches you will find that they directed attention to the diminishing enthusiasm of the Opposition for this cause of overseas shipping. There is a very good reason for that diminishing enthusiasm.
They have advanced a nice theory about having a great fleet of Australian ships sailing abroad and sweeping the conference line before it with its low costs and efficient working, all the time basing their argument on the coastal shipping which has been efficient but which, let us face it, has been protected. If you use the argument that these ships can go overseas and meet competition on the open waters, just as logically you can say that we can allow overseas ships to enter our coastal trade and that our ships will be able to compete with them. You know jolly well that cannot be done. Because of the high wages and excellent conditions of the maritime unions - we are not discussing that aspect at this stage - our coastal ships could not compete with the overseas lines. That is why the enthusiasm of the Opposition for this great fleet of ships and for the expenditure of this tremendous amount of money to provide those ships - money which would have to be taken out of revenue and diverted from other avenues - has diminished. The money could be better used in other ways. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has conveyed this image of a great fleet of ships as he has travelled round Australia. I have read with interest the statements he has made. He has spread very cleverly this image of a great armada setting out from Australia, going overseas and taking trade from the conference lines. In the “ Daily Telegraph” of 21st June, 1960, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is reported in this way -
Labour believed Australia should set up an overseas shipping line to compete wilh the conference lines of Western Europe and provide services to South-East Asia.
The honorable member may claim that he was misreported. At a later date he continued to spread the image which I have mentioned. Under a Brisbane dateline the following report appears in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 7th August, 1961 -
A government-owned fleet of ships to carry Australian goods to new markets in Asia and also to help in the battle for European trade was urged in Brisbane to-day by the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, Mr. Whitlam. Mr. Whitlam said that Australia was the “ odd man out “ because it did not operate a single overseas ship.
A fleet of ships! When you talk about a fleet you mean a large number of ships, not the three, four, five or even six to which the Opposition has reduced its request during this debate. The Opposition has now given us a diminishing fleet, the fleet which they would be prepared to accept after making a realistic appraisal of the position. As I have said, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has created this image of a tremendous Australian fleet of overseas ships. I reiterate that the contributions which have been made by honorable members on this side of the House have dissipated that image completely. But we still have the old guard, some who have not noticed the trend which the debate has taken. They have not caught up with it. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) has stated that 50 per cent, of imports and exports should be transported in Australian-built ships. He is not talking in terms of one or two ships, he wants a fleet of ships to show the conference lines that freight can be carried at cheap rates and thus influence them to reduce their charges. His claim is directly opposed to the statement in this House by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the Opposition would not go after this trade in a big way.
– I said that 50 per cent, was the ideal for any maritime country.
– I shall use your own words. You said -
I want to make it clear, as I said in answer to the interjections of the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes), that the Australian Labour Party does not envisage a large and spectacular expansion of overseas shipping operations, but a steady increase as opportunities present themselves.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be out of this Parliament before he achieves his objective of Australian ownership of 50 per cent, of the ships travelling to and from this country because at present 500 ships are operating on the Australian run. The honorable gentleman stated that he did not want a spectacular rise in Australian ownership. If 50 per cent. Australian ownership is not a spectacular rise, I do not know the meaning of the word. The Labour Party should reach a firm decision as to where it stands in this matter. On the one hand some honorable members opposite say that for a start they want only half a dozen Australianowned ships, but on the other hand other honorable members opposite say that they want 50 per cent, of ships on the Australian run to be Australian owned.
– Where do you stand?
– I am happy to be looking after the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. If you want evidence of how difficult it is to break into the overseas shipping business you should pay regard to what has been done already by the Australian National Line. It has had ships laid up from time to time, incurring wharf age fees. Even a good merchandiser, as the Australian National Line is admitted to be - knowing overseas freights, knowing the shipping industry and seeking to engage in overseas trade - has not been able to obtain overseas cargoes for more than 25 ships in the last year. If that is the position with regard to ships that are not incurring any great capital overhead because they have been tied up, imagine the difficulty involved if you had to build ships, incurring capital expenditure and liability for the payment of interest on the money involved. You would not be in the race, and you know it. The Opposition’s suggestion is not an economic proposition. The Opposition would bankrupt the country in trying to put its proposition into effect.
– Why do you always run Australia down?
– That is the very reverse of what I am doing. The Opposition has retreated from its original stand in relation to the operation of an overseas shipping line. Arguments put forward by correspondence have been interesting. Government supporters have been reproached by honorable members opposite for referring to the Seamen’s Union as a Communist-controlled union. We know that the union is Communist controlled. We on this side of the chamber should not be reproached for stating that fact. This is something that we must face up to when discussing shipping. I have had correspondence from the Seamen’s Union concerning overseas lines. I have received deputations from the union. Emphasis has been placed on the financial burden that will be removed from the primary producer and the taxpayer by getting this fleet of ships to go overseas. That sounds all right, but during the debate we found that honorable members opposite, faced with the realization that it would cost a lot of money to engage in overseas shipping, advocated that an overseas shipping line should be subsidized by the government. The Labour Party supports the idea of subsidizing an overseas shipping line. How will the provision of a subsidy for an overseas shipping line remove a burden from the primary producer and the public of Australia? The economics of the Opposition’s proposals will not stand investigation. During the debate honorable members have said how many ships will have to be built and how much they will cost. Now it is suggested that subsidies be paid to the shipbuilders and in respect of the operation of the ships. Faced with the realization that it would be necessary to subsidize the operation of an overseas shipping line, the Opposition’s argument lapsed to such an extent that finally it had no consistent propositions at all to put forward.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) referred to the permission that had been granted to a foreign-owned ship to carry molasses on the Australian coast. The ship that normally handled this cargo was damaged in a storm. As it was essential to an Australian industry that this cargo should be carried and as no other ship was available, the foreign ship was given a permit. Permits to trade on the Australian coast are not issued lightly. They are issued to foreign vessels only when it is not possible for an Australian ship to engage in the particular trade.
Reference has been made to the tanker trade. Honorable members opposite have suggested that the Australian National Line should engage in the tanker trade. One reason why the Australian National Line is an efficient enterprise is that it is allowed to make its own decisions in respect of matters about which it has some knowledge, namely shipping matters. I have no doubt that the commission has considered the tanker trade. I have heard about the profits that can be made from the tanker trade. If private enterprise wishes to build tankers and engage in the tanker trade on the Australian coast, it will get work.
– At foreign rates?
– If private enterprise builds tankers it will trade on the Australian coast at our rates. I am sure that the Australian National Line has decided not to engage in the tanker trade only after the most careful consideration.
Australia’s development is bound up with overseas trade. This is a matter that the Government obviously cannot ignore. It is a matter, however, more for the attention of the Department of Trade. The Australian National Line is efficient and operates at a profit because it has devoted itself to the job in hand. It is not a monopoly. The Government does not wish it to become a monopoly. It trades along fair and competitive lines. Since 1956 private enterprise shipping lines have put into commission or have on order 24 ships of more than 150,000 deadweight tons for the Australian coastal trade.
– Where have they been built?
– In Australian shipyards. The private enterprise lines and the Australian National Line have engaged in shipping in an efficient and modern manner. The activities of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission have justified the increase in its overdraft to £5,000,000. In the past the overdraft has been used efficiently as has been admitted by the Opposition. I assure the House that when the overdraft is increased to £5,000,000 it will continue to be used as efficiently as it has been used in the past.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to. ‘’
Clause 2 (Definitions).
.- Mr. Chairman, the Opposition opposes clause 2, which inserts in the principal act the following definition: - “ ‘ approved bank ‘ means the Reserve Bank of Australia or another bank approved by the Treasurer for the purposes of the provision in which the expression occurs; “
The bill proceeds, in clauses 4 and 5, to substitute new sub-sections in which the words “ approved bank “ occur. Clause 4 amends section 31 of the principal act. Sub-section (1.) of section 31 provides - (1.) The Commission shall open and maintain an account or accounts with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and may open and maintain an account or accounts with such other bank or banks as the Treasurer approves.
Clause 4 substitutes the following subsection: - (1.) The Commission may open an account or accounts with an approved bank or approved banks and shall maintain at all times at least one such account.
Clause 5 amends section 32 of the principal act. Sub-section (2.) of section 32 provides - (2.) Moneys of the Commission notimmediately required for the purposes of the Commission may be invested on fixed deposit with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or with any other bank approved by the Treasurer, or in securities of the Commonwealth.
Clause 5 substitutes the following new subsection: - (2.) Moneys of the Commission not immediately required for the purposes of the Commission may be invested on fixed deposit with an approved bank or in securities of the Commonwealth.
The committee will observe that clause 2, the insertion of which we oppose, is basic to clauses 4 and 5 of the bill.
The result of the amendments contained in clauses 2, 4 and 5 would be to remove from the act the reference to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The only reason which has been given for this amendment is contained in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) -
Other matters dealt with in the bill are, as I have previously stated, of a minor nature. In the main they bring the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act into line with the practice adopted since 19S7 whereby sections of legislation relating to the bank accounts of statutory authorities are prepared or amended in a form that requires the authority to maintain its account with the Reserve Bank of Australia or other banks approved by the Treasurer.
This is not a bill to amend any legislation introduced by a Labour government or by any preceding government. It is a bill to amend legislation introduced by the Menzies Government in 1956. There is no reason given for expunging the reference to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. It is not even as though by leaving the act as it is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or its successors in title is given a monopoly of the commission’s business because, as will appear from sections 31 and 32 - from which I have already read the relevant subsections - the banking business of the commission is not exclusively given to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. That business can, as the act stands, also be given to such other bank or banks as the Treasurer approves.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) - as the Minister said in his second-reading speech - did in fact, in February, 1959, approve the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the reason being, clearly, that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia no longer exists. There is the Reserve Bank of Australia, by title and by function, and the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, which is the Commonwealth-owned trading bank. So the Treasurer can already spread the banking business of this commission.
In speaking against this clause on behalf of the Opposition I am not asserting that the banking business of the commission should reside solely with the Commonwealth Bank. I am not seeking to repeal the present sections. All that is being done by the bill is to expunge all reference to the Commonwealth Bank and to leave it to the Treasurer to approve any bank or banks. It seems pretty invidious to change your bank unless you have some cause for complaint about it. It seems humiliating and insulting to do it when you have no reason at all. And there has been no reason shown on this occasion why the Government is repealing its own legislation and is amending, at this stage, legislation which it promoted six years ago and which at present gives it all the liberty of action that it wants to have. This amendment is just a pettifogging niggling one and the Government ought to be ashamed of it. We are opposing the clause and, if it is removed, we shall oppose the two consequent clauses. By calling for a vote we will expose the Minister’s absence of reason or good faith in persevering with his amendment.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Patents Bill 1962.
Loan Bill (No. 2) 1962.
Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund (Disposal) Bill 1962.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 14th November (vide page 2416).
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Reference of certain matters to the Board by Minister).
.- The Opposition supports this clause as it goes some of the way towards achievement of the policy of the Australian Labour Party. However, the Opposition believes that the clauses and the legislation do not go far enough. We believe that in the ultimate imports must be limited on a quantitative basis and that that is the only effective method by which Australian industry and Australia’s overseas reserves can be protected.
The Government, sooner or later, will find itself faced with the necessity to make one of two decisions. The time will come, possibly within the next twelve months, when a situation will exist similar to that in November, 1960, when there was a serious decline in our balance of payments. The Government had to decide then whether it would reverse its decision of February, 1960, when it released controls over the major portion of imports, or introduced credit restrictions - the credit squeeze, as it was known - as a means of reducing the demand for imports. It chose to reduce the buying power of the public and so reduce demand, and that was the basic reason for the credit squeeze then.
The day will come again when the Government will have to decide between one of those two alternatives. It will have to decide whether to introduce quantitative import restrictions so as to reduce imports, not only to protect Australian industry but also to protect Australia’s reserves, or whether to impose another credit squeeze with widespread unemployment and disastrous results for the growth and health of the economy. This is the decision that it will have to make. We believe that quantitative import restrictions represent the cleanest knife and the most suitable one for the health of the Australian economy.
There is quite a good example of the need for quantitative import restrictions in my own electorate. I received a complaint as recently as yesterday from the General
Secretary of the Vegetable Growers’ Association of New South Wales, Mr. Bolton. He complained about large-scale imports of frozen peas. It so happens that within the last couple of months I placed a question on the notice-paper of this Parliament asking for details of the value and volume of fresh frozen peas introduced into this country for the years 1959-60, 1960-61 and 1961-62. The value of fresh frozen peas imported in 1959-60 was £94.498, while in 1960- 61 the figure rose to £805,506 and in 1961- 62 to £833,658. Over the same period the volume increased from 824,066 lbs. to 9,798,195 lbs. Obviously there has been an extraordinary increase in the importation of frozen peas. The amount increased about nine times from 1959-60 to 1961-62.
– What percentage of the Australian market?
– It represented an increase of 900 per cent. I had hoped that the members of the Country Party would join with me in making this plea. I realize that, by and large, they always oppose protection of Australian industry if it means assisting the building up of Australia’s industrial power, but that they always agree to protection if it is to be extended to a rural industry. In this case my appeal is for the protection of a rural industry. I forwarded correspondence to the Minister on this subject only to-day. Mr. Bolton said in his letter to me -
We feel that the Federal Government can assist in two ways -
take appropriate action to make the importing of frozen vegetables unprofitable (the subject of imports of frozen peas has repeatedly been raised before the Government).
That is correct; many a time this matter has been raised in the House. Mr. Bolton went on -
The fantastic imports of frozen peas last year is now causing processors to reject up to 20 per cent. of the Tasmanian pea crop.
This is quite a serious problem for the industry, and I believe that a problem such as this can, in the final analysis, be solved only by quantitative import restrictions, because there is a tendency for other countries to dump goods of this kind in Australia. I make an appeal to the Minister, therefore, to look very carefully at this matter. He is the leader of the Country
Party, and I feel that he should try to find some means of protecting the vegetable industry. I frankly admit that this industry is a very important one in my electorate, because the farms in the electorate supply a large proportion of the vegetables consumed in the metropolitan area of Sydney. Accordingly, this is a matter of great concern to people in the area around Windsor and Richmond.
The Opposition supports this clause, but we feel that it does not go far enough towards the achievement of our objective. We believe that the Government must eventually acknowledge the need for quantitative restrictions of imports generally, for the protection of industry, which, of course, is the main purpose of this legislation, and also for the protection of the Australian economy generally. The next time a balance of payments crisis arises a decision will have to be made whether to impose quantitative restrictions or to use the blunt instrument of the credit squeeze that was used in November, 1960, which reduced the demand for imports. That is a blunt instrument, and it is one that does nothing to assist the Australian economy. It creates unemployment, it courts disaster for the individual and it has a very detrimental effect on the balanced development of the economy as a whole.
.- I have listened very carefully to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage). He can be assured that the Australian Country Party is always eager to deal with imports that might have a damaging effect on efficient primary and other Australian industries. I would like to ask the honorable member, although I realize he cannot answer me now, whether application has been made by the people for whom he spoke to the Special Advisory Authority.
– I understand so.
– Our experience shows that if application is made to the Special Advisory Authority it is not very long before a recommendation is made. If an industry is suffering hardship and is efficient, the Special Advisory Authority, in my experience, invariably makes a very satisfactory recommendation.
The honorable member says that a lot of small vegetable growers are involved. I think such people should be given the utmost consideration. I represent a large number of vegetable growers in the Sunraysia area and I would not like to think that they were being harassed by the importation of large volumes of frozen vegetables, resulting in their finding it difficult to sell their products on markets In Melbourne and perhaps in Sydney and elsewhere. I think I can say on behalf of the Australian Country Party that we are sympathetic with vegetable growers, and that they should consider making an application to the Special Advisory Authority.
When the Minister for Trade established this machinery he envisaged the possibility of certain primary and secondary industries being embarrassed by imports. He knew that the Tariff Board takes about twelve months to complete an inquiry after an application is made to it, and he realized that in that time an industry could suffer irrevocable loss. For these reasons he established the Special Advisory Authority. In the case we are now considering, the main question is, of course: Have these people made application? The honorable member has said, by way of interjection, “ I understand so “. He should make sure that they have, because if they have done so they will receive justice. I believe that they will receive treatment with which they will be quite satisfied. The Special Advisory Authority is very efficient and effective.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.
Proposed new clause.
. Mr. Chairman, I move -
That the following new clause be added to the bill:- “ 10. After section thirty-five of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 35a. - (1.) Where, in consequence of a report of the Board or of an authority, action has been taken under a law of the Commonwealth to prohibit the importation of a class of goods except in accordance with a licence granted under that law, the Minister shall, at reasonable intervals, cause to be published in the “ Gazette “ notices, in accordance with this section, in respect of the licences so granted. (2.) Each notice under this section shall specify -
the class of goods to which the notice relates;
the names and places of business of the persons to whom licences in respect of goods of that class were granted during the period to which the notice relates; and
the total value of all the goods covered by the licences to which the notice relates. (3.) The first notice under this section in relation to a class of goods shall relate to a period commencing on the date on which the prohibition of the importation of those goods took effect, and each subsequent notice in relation to that class of goods shall relate to a period commencing at the expiration of the period to which the last preceding notice related.’.”.
My reasons for moving it are fairly simple, and I will state them to the committee. The setting up of quantitative restrictions is, in my view, necessary within limits. I believe that in Australia we should have a policy of reasonable protection, and I believe that there are occasions when that reasonable protection can be assured only by the use of quantitative restrictions. Nevertheless, quantitative restrictions do bring with them certain dangers and the committee should realize that we are not now setting up an ad hoc system but are putting something permanent into the Australian tariff and near-tariff structure.
In those circumstances we should have machinery to safeguard the issue of licences to certain importers when quantitative restrictions are in force. If quantitative) restrictions are imposed some people will bo allowed to import and some will not. In the past the Government has had to wrestle with these problems and I think the committee can say that the Government has wrestled very successfully. There is inherent in this system, not because of any defect in the Government or because of any defect in our civil service, but because of the nature of the case and because of human nature itself, a tendency for corruption to creep in. I think it was a miracle, if I may say so, that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), while administering quantitative restrictions in the past, managed to do so successfully. But still there is always the tendency for something to go wrong. It therefore seems to me that we should go some way towards publishing in the “ Gazette “ the names of the people who are awarded licences to import while quantitative restrictions are in force.
This afternoon I circulated to members a proposed amendment. Subsequently I had conversations with the Minister and he indicated to me that although he could not go the whole way with me, he would go a very considerable way. He also very courteously made available the skilled officers of his department for the drafting of the necessary amendment. Therefore, the amendment I have moved is slightly different from that previously circulated. The effect of the amendment is that when licences are in force notices shall be periodically issued in the “ Gazette “ specifying the classes of goods to which the notice relates, the names and places of business of the persons to whom the licences in respect of goods of that class were granted during the period under review, and the total value of the goods covered by the licences to which the notice relates.
I do not intend to take up the time of the committee in going through the details of the proposed amendment; I am satisfied with the drafting, which was done by skilled officers, and I move the amendment accordingly.
– As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has said, he had circulated earlier to-day an amendment designed for the desirable purpose that he has outlined, that is, to ensure that when a government is issuing licences to certain persons to import certain quantities of goods there should be a minimum of secrecy. The honorable member proposed that the legislation should provide that when licences were issued the names of the persons or companies to whom the licences were issued should be published and that the value of the goods which could be imported in accordance with the licences so issued should also be stated. I quite comprehend the objective of the honorable member. The Government has only one problem in mind in this regard, and that is the need to adhere to the very wellestablished principle and practice that when a government is in possession of particulars of the business of individuals or companies, it should regard this knowledge as private property and not reveal it.
The amendment now moved by the honorable member is designed to ensure that when licences are issued there shall be published the names of the persons and companies to whom such licences are issued and the total value of the goods covered by the licences issued, but in such a manner as not to reveal details of the business of those persons or companies. On behalf of the Government I am glad to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Mackellar.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) must think that this committee is very naive. In the first instance it is revealed that there was, in effect, a difference of opinion between the Minister and the honorable member over the first draft of the amendment. Subsequently, after a get-together - get togethers are very desirable when there is a difference of opinion, and I do not quarrel with that - the draft, which the Minister apparently thought was not suitable, was amended. I do not know exactly to what extent it was amended, but I point out to the committee that the proposed new section will be quite innocuous if the Minister does not want to play ball, and indeed, could be quite futile. The proposed new section states -
Where, in consequence of a report of the Board or of an authority, action has been taken under a law of the Commonwealth to prohibit the importation of a class of goods except in accordance with a licence granted under that law, the Minister shall, at reasonable intervals, cause to be published in the “ Gazette “ notices, in accordance with this section, in respect of the licences so granted.
Then follow the particulars that are to be published. But what is meant by “ at reasonable intervals “? What will be the interpretation of that phrase by somebody who is concerned more about protecting a company or an individual than about protecting people who could be fleeced when licences are exclusive to a certain number of individuals or a certain number of businesses? In those circumstances the Minister may, either carelessly or deliberately, determine what is a reasonable period. It might be three months after the licence was granted. It might be six months after the licence was granted. The particular purpose which the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has in mind would then be completely negatived. I think the honorable member will see the point. He is a trained lawyer, and he may say-
– I do not think he is well trained.
– I do not think he is well trained either, but I am not a lawyer. I can see how easily a Minister who was so inclined could defeat the very purpose for which this amendment has been drafted. The wording used is - the Minister shall, at reasonable intervals, cause to be published . . .
What is a reasonable interval? I would say that a reasonable time for this Parliament to adjourn to-night would be 10 o’clock. The Minister for Trade, if he had a lot of business that he wanted to get through, might say that a reasonable time would be 12 o’clock. Somebody else, less reasonable, might say that it would be 6 o’clock tomorrow morning. The interpretation of the term “ reasonable intervals “ could vary according to the moods, inclinations, desires or interests of the Minister concerned. What sort of laxity is that? If the act is to be amended effectively to cope with the situation in which the honorable member for Mackellar is interested, it should state that the particulars that have been enumerated shall be published in the “ Gazette “ within seven days, fourteen days, one month, or whatever time may be appropriate for enabling the public to know, before the goods are disposed of, who has them and what quantities they have. Thereby, some knowledge would be available of the protection that the public is enjoying.
If the Minister cannot agree to the amendment of the bill in that way in this place, I ask him to agree to a more suitable provision being inserted in the bill when it reaches another place. If he will not’ agree to that, I am prepared to stonewall the bill and organize a team to speak on it until 12 o’clock, which would be, to my mind, a reasonable period in which to discuss this matter.
– I shall comment on that when I rise to speak.
– I suggest that the Minister give favorable consideration to giving an undertaking that when the bill goes to another place provision will be made to amend this proposal in such a way that “ reasonable intervals “ will become intervals which are really effective for the protection of the public.
– And which are also reasonable.
– Yes. I ask that the bill specify a particular period of time. This request will enable us to know whether the Minister is dinkum and whether the honorable member for Mackellar is dinkum. Is not that a fair enough proposition? Let us hear what the Minister is prepared to do.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I think I can allay his fears. I can give an assurance that the details intended to be published in accordance with the bill will be published with no more delay than is required by the administrative circumstances of the department or the publication of the “ Gazette “. There will be no considerable delay. As I have stated, this Government has long practised a policy, as Labour governments have done, of not disclosing publicly the details of business affairs, knowledge of which comes into the possession of the Government. The words “ at reasonable intervals “ mean no more than that the particulars concerned will not be published one by one, which would have the effect of disclosing information concerning particular firms. Short only of not being published one by one, the particulars will be published with no avoidable delay.
This does not call for any amendment in another place. The honorable member for Lalor should be satisfied with this explanation. I do not imagine that the honorable member really wants the publication of individual business particulars of those to whom licences are issued. If the Labour Party wants to publish details of the businesses of persons to whom the Government has issued licences, I have no doubt that the Labour Government would have done that when it administered the Department of Customs and issued import licences. The Labour Government did not do it then, and I do not think that the Labour Opposition would want to do it now. We had the rather horrifying experience of operating import licensing for the purpose of protecting our balance of payments. We operated that system for years until quite recently, but no one from the Labour side of the chamber ever suggested that the details of individual licences and names of licensees should be published.
I understand the functions of an Opposition. The honorable member for Lalor performs those functions very well indeed. He makes an issue of this matter, but I do not think he really wants these details to be published one by one. I am sure he will accept my assurance that publication in the terms of the amendment will be carried out with no more delay, as I have said, than the ordinary administrative processes of a department and of the Government Printing Office require.
.- The explanation and the assurances of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) do not satisfy me at all. The honorable gentleman has given an assurance that there will be no considerable delay. What is his interpretation of a “ considerable delay “? He referred back to something which a Labour Government had not done and which he is sure Labour will not do in future. These are evasive tactics. All we want is that the things that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has specified shall be done. New section 35a, sub-section (2.), proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar, reads as follows: -
Each notice under this section shall specify -
the class of goods to which the notice relates;
That is fair enough. It goes on -
All we want is an assurance in legislative form, to be inserted in another place, that the notice giving these details will be published after a specified time from the issue of the licence. It is a matter of indifference what Labour did or might not do. All I am asking is that the information which the honorable member for Mackellar says should be published shall be published in time to make it effective for the purposes that the honorable member indicated. It is not a question of prying into people’s businesses, competitive advantages or anything else. All we are dealing with is the particulars which the honorable member has specified. The legislation should state a particular period. There should be no reservation in the shape of the term “ reasonable intervals “.
– I thank the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for his support, although I am a little embarrassed by his vehemence. I do not think he has entirely understood the point at issue. I am quite satisfied with the explanation of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen).
– You are only a sham fighter.
– I am quite satisfied. Whilst I am grateful for the Labour Party’s support, I still say that I am satisfied with the Minister’s proposal as to a reasonable time. If it becomes apparent that there is any unreasonable delay, that is a matter that can be taken up in this chamber. I have every confidence in the Minister and I have not the slightest hesitation in accepting his assurance on this point.
I am, as I have said, grateful for the support which the Australian Labour Party members in this chamber have given me in this regard. However, I ask them not to overdo it. After all, they were prepared to let the bill go through without any safeguards whatsoever. This bit of the attitude of an exaggerated purist that I find in the honorable member for Lalor is something of a shock to me.
.- Mr. Chairman, I support the recommendations made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I suppose that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is quite capable of interpreting the word “ reasonable “. He is reasonably fond of his wife and probably he is reasonably fond of his children. Probably, he is reasonably fond of his beer, and so on. But that does not leave him with very much conviction one way or the other. I suggest to the honorable member for Mackellar that he consider the suggestion made by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who said that he would permit no more delay than was required by the ramifications of the necessary routine work, but that he could not agree to a time being specified. I believe that matters can be worked out quite successfully in that way. The proposed amendment suggests something worth while, but I believe that nevertheless matters could be stonewalled for ever and a day if any Minister so desired. If that were done, the object of the proposed amendment would be defeated. Apart from that aspect of the matter, 1 support the amendment in its entirety. I leave the subject there, Mr. Chairman.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee: I
Statement taken as a whole.
.- Mr. Chairman, the statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer comes to the Parliament annually for consideration. This procedure arises from the fact that, properly, no money is spent for the services of the Government of this country until specific appropriation for the expenditure has been made. But inevitably, in running a government of the size and scope of that which this country now has, one cannot foresee exactly, at the time of framing a budget, every detail of expenditure for the twelve months ahead. That fact is recognized in the Estimates by an appropriation for the Department of the Treasury each year under Division No. 209 for the Advance to the Treasurer. That appropriation is described in these words -
To enable the Treasurer to make advances which will be recovered within the financial year; and to make moneys available to meet expenditure, particulars of which will afterwards be submitted to Parliament, or, pending the issue of a warrant of the Governor-General specifically applicable to the expenditure.
We have in the statement before us this evening particulars of amounts that have been expended from the Advance to the Treasurer. The appropriation made annually in the Estimates is £16,000,000, but all of that, of course, is not necessarily expended. The appropriation is made large enough to meet payments which experience has shown may be required, and for several years now the amount has been set at £16,000,000. The heads of expenditure dealt with in the statement now before us relate to the financial year 1961-62 and total £4,889,648, that being the amount expended out of the Advance to the Treasurer for that financial year. This expenditure could not be foreseen at the time when the Budget for 1961-62 was prepared.
Under Capital Works and Services, I note an item of £500,000 for the Department of Health. This represents additional capital provided for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission. We on this side of the chamber offer no objection to the expansion of the work of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. In fact, we think that those laboratories should be engaged in much wider activities than at present in competition with other manufacturers of drugs, in a sense, to beat down the prices of some of the drugs that are sold by commercial drug houses in this country. There is tremendous profit in the drug business, and it would be a good thing for the Australian community if the resources of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories were used much more extensively than they are and much more in competition with the commercial drug houses. At any rate, the provision of an additional £500,000 of capital was apparently thought necessary to expand the activities of the laboratories. Perhaps the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), who is now at the table, can throw a little light on the specific purposes for which that £500,000 of capital was sought. In what way were the activities of the organization expanded during the financial year 1961-62? This item of expenditure appears at page 50 of the statement of heads of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, which is now before us. It appears under Capital
Works and Services for the Department of Health, as follows: -
Division No. 881.
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission - Additional capital, £500,000.
If the Minister has not the explanation now perhaps he will furnish it later because at least it will indicate more broadly why the additional amount was sought. We offer no objection to the proposal to increase the capital of this organization but at least it would be interesting to know in what specific direction the expansion is being sought.
As I have said, this is an inevitable piece of machinery. The measure comes within the well-accepted principle that no money ought to be expended unless the Parliament knows specifically in what avenue the money is being spent. Obviously it is not always possible to forecast at the beginning of the financial year some of the things which may eventuate during the year. For instance the sum of £20,000 was used to give freight concessions in the Northern Territory because of drought conditions there. No one wants droughts and no one can foresee that droughts will occur but at least when they do occur it is appropriate that some relief should be given to the people who are affected by them. We use the term “ an act of God “ for such happenings. The economic fortunes of the people can change very quickly as a result of drought, flood or many of the other misfortunes which occur from time to time throughout our vast land. We cannot anticipate what will happen, but when these things do happen it is fitting that there should be some subvention from revenue to assist the people who have been disadvantaged economically. I have mentioned only a couple of the items which have been listed.
The Opposition offers no objection to the acceptance of this statement.
.- As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has stated, the purpose of this statement is to inform the Parliament of expenditure which was not provided for in either the ordinary Estimates or the Additional Estimates. To meet that expenditure amounts were taken from the Treasurer’s Advance of £16,000,000. In round figures the amount involved in 1961-62 was £4,900,000. While there are features in this statement which make it informative, its value is far greater from another aspect. The Sixtieth Report of the Public Accounts Committee relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for the year 1961-62 has been presented to us. On page 11 the committee states -
There is little real significance in the total expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer - the reasons for, and the nature of, the particular expenditures involved being the only matters of real importance.
I could not agree more wholeheartedly with what the Public Accounts Committee has stated. It is the reasons for and the nature of the expenditure which count. In assessing this statement we must look at the ordinary Estimates and the Additional Estimates to ascertain the reasons for and the nature of the expenditure. One of the things which will” inform honorable members about this is the extent to which estimates in the past year have been reasonably accurate. It is tremendously important that estimating should be reasonably accurate. Unforeseen expenditure following droughts and floods, as mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, is permissible but careless estimating can wreak havoc with the economy of any country. Overestimating and under-estimating are unforgivable sins. It is absolutely essential that departments should estimate as accurately as possible.
We can judge from the statement the extent to which departmental estimating has been reasonably accurate. I am surprised to learn from the committee’s report the degree of inaccurate estimating that continues. I concede that the individual amounts involved are not large, but taken as a whole they represent a very substantial sum. I claim that such a substantial sum can have a marked effect on the country’s economy and upon the taxpayers. Because of over-estimating and under-expenditure taxpayers could be called upon to contribute a substantially larger amount by way of taxation than is required to conduct the country’s affairs. This Parliament, the protector of the taxpayers, needs to be very careful in this regard. The matter of estimating is of vital importance, and the
Parliament has the - task of - seeing that departmental estimates are reasonably accurate.
Although the report of the Public Accounts Committee shows reasonable acceptance of explanations by departments of discrepancies in estimating, I believe that such a degree of inaccurate estimating is cause for alarm. The inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee on this occasion was the most comprehensive it has ever undertaken. I doubt whether such a thorough investigation has ever been made before. I know that no such investigation was made during the years in which I was a member of the committee. The committee indicates in its report that it does not propose again to make such an exhaustive inquiry but the very nature of the inquiry which was made on this occasion indicates the necessity for a more intense concentration by departmental accounting officers and by the Treasurer himself to ensure that the estimates which are presented to the Parliament can reasonably be expected to remain unchanged during the year and that they are not merely an assessment of the hopes of the departmental officers.
If a department estimates that a certain sum of money will be spent during the year and then finds that because of some circumstance - generally because the “guesstimation” has been a little too generous - the whole of the amount will not be spent, there is a human tendency on the part of the officers concerned to seek to spend that money in some direction so that they may retain their reputation as reasonably accurate estimators. The result is that they say to the Treasurer, “We did not estimate for this item but we over-estimated on that one so we will save the money in one direction and spend it in another”. Somehow the Treasury itself has got into the habit of approving this so-called saving. In paragraph 481 of its report, the Public Accounts Committee states -
From time to time Your Committee include in our Reports quotations from departmental explanations or evidence which refer to “savings”. We endeavour to specify that this is a form of jargon by using inverted commas. Whilst the practice might be considered to be unobjectionable used inter-departmentally, the term underexpenditure is more often appropriate.
That is- so. These are not savings. They are merely examples of under-expenditure as a result of over-estimating.
I am rather alarmed to find from the report that one of the most grievous offenders in connexion with incorrect estimating is the Department of the Navy. That department was a grievous offender years ago when I was a member of the committee, and apparently it has not mended its ways. When I was a member of the committee the Department of the Navy had a peculiar attitude which one can describe only as a disregard for the procedures required by the Audit Act and by the Treasury.
The Public Accounts Committee states that its report deals with the horse after it is out of the stable. It deals with matters in retrospect. In paragraph 485 the committee reports -
However it is not practicable for the Parliament generally to investigate the various Items in the detailed manner in which Your Committee discuss them at our public hearings with representatives of departments. The situation is common to most Parliaments and some have attempted to meet this very real problem by establishing various forms of Committees.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to take up much of the committee’s time, but I think honorable members should be aware why this statement is before us. Until a few years ago we used to have what were termed Supplementary Estimates. Any money spent by a department, and which had not been appropriated in the general Estimates, had to be accounted for in the Supplementary Estimates. The legal authorities decided that it was not necessary to have Supplementary Estimates for money that was spent out of the Treasurer’s Advance because, in their view, the money had been appropriated and there was no need for a second appropriation. The Public Accounts Committee carefully considered this matter and agreed that, in the place of the Supplementary Estimates, the Treasurer should present a statement setting out what had been done, that honorable members should be given an opportunity to discuss the statement and, if necessary, carry a resolution approving of what had been done.
This year the Public Accounts Committee found that departments had made a big improvement in their estimating. The extra £500,000 capital referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) is a matter that would come up at any time in any parliament when something special had to be done and no appropriation had been made. Under the previous arrangements tor the Treasurer’s Advance, the Treasurer could make an advance without the Parliament having any say in the matter at all. This statement comes before us now so that we may criticize what has been done. We cannot stop the spending of the money but we can say whether we approve or disapprove of the expenditure. It does not matter whether we disapprove, because the money has been spent by the Treasurer in accordance with the power conferred on him.
The Public Accounts Committee carefully examined all aspects of the Treasurer’s Advance, as well as other matters. The results of the committee’s investigations are set out in its sixtieth report presented to the Parliament yesterday. The everpresent danger associated with expenditures from the Treasurer’s Advance is that the Treasurer may make a sum available to a department in excess of what was granted to that department in the general Estimates and the Additional Estimates. The Parliament should be prepared to consider this aspect. The usual procedure is for the general Estimates to be presented to the Parliament. Then in about April of each year the Government presents Additional Estimates. The Additional Estimates give departments an opportunity to seek approval for the appropriation of more money than was originally granted under the general Estimates. The appropriations under the Additional Estimates are designed to tide the departments over until 30th June. The Public Accounts Committee has felt that the various departments should know, generally speaking, by the end of April what they will require up to the end of June and that there should not be such deficiencies in the amounts granted under the Additional Estimates as to necessitate considerable payments from the Treasurer’s Advance. If, within two or three months of the presentation of the general Estimates, the Treasurer found that it was desirable to make amounts of money available out of the Treasurer’s Advance, he could make an advance of £12,000,000 or £14,000,000. Then when the Additional Estimates were approved by the Parliament, those amounts would be reimbursed to the Treasurer’s Advance. The only amounts that should be outstanding in the Treasurer’s Advance at the end of the year should be in respect of those things that were not foreseen in time to be able to provide for them in the Additional Estimates.
As I have said, generally speaking departmental estimating has improved considerably. The Public Accounts Committee hopes that it will continue to improve, so that we may know before the end of the year what money has been spent and whether the expenditure has been approved by the Parliament. If, under the Treasurer’s Advance, the Treasurer had advanced a considerable sum to a department, when the Additional Estimates came before the Parliament we could, if we so desired, express our disapproval and vote against that additional estimate. I do not know what would be the position then because the Treasurer would have legally paid over the money. However, the Parliament would have some control over the way the money was spent, although it could not stop the spending of the money. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports said, occasions will arise under any government when it is necessary to provide departments with money and if it were not for the Treasurer’s Advance many departments would be forced to discontinue their operations because they had spent the money that had been appropriated for them and they were unable to carry on. The Treasurer’s Advance makes more money available to departments to enable them to carry on.
I did not intend to speak on this matter to-night but as I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee since it was reconstituted ten or eleven years ago I felt that it was perhaps desirable to express some views in order to give honorable members a better understanding of the position. It would pay honorable members, if they are interested in public finance and in the expenditure by different departments, to go carefully through the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which was presented to Parliament yesterday. The document will give them an insight into the different departments. In that report there is quoted a lot of the evidence given by departmental officers. In the course of investigating expenditure by departments the committee found that a department might estimate expenditure at £20,000 and in fact expend only £6,000. The committee wanted to know why that occurred and the explanation appears in the report. As an instance, I mention that a big department was shifted from Melbourne to Canberra. The department concerned estimated the cost of transporting furniture and effects and the officers and their families from their residences in Melbourne to Canberra. The estimate came to a certain sum, but only about half of it has been spent and the committee wanted to know the reason. The committee also found that money has been provided for additional positions in the Public Service. Some of the officers were to be brought out from England to fill them, but they have not arrived and the money has not been spent. I was interested, during a recent debate in this chamber, in what was said about shortages of staff for the Department of Trade and the Tariff Board. We find, also, that a lot of money is provided in the Estimates for the salaries of officers to fill permanent positions in the Public Service, but the required officers are not available and the money is not spent.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman’, I wish to complete the point I was making when my time expired and to make one further point. Before I do so, I desire to say that I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) - more than any other member of this chamber - say that if honorable members are interested in public accounts and public finance they should read the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. I would have expected the honorable member, with his knowledge and wisdom and years of service as a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, to say that it is the responsibility of members of this chamber to be interested in public accounts and public finance. That is the purpose for which this chamber exists. That is its major task. I hope the honorable member for Port Adelaide will not again transgress by using the permissive “ if “ in relation to such a matter.
In its report the Joint Committee of Public Accounts mentions other committees, established by other parliaments. For example, it mentions that the House of Commons has an estimates committee which conducts a limited investigation each year into expenditure proposed by a number of departments in the financial year. It gives members of the House of Commons the opportunity to discuss those estimates before they are dealt with by Parliament and offer criticism on public finance before the event. It gives an opportunity to correct anomalies and bring to notice things that are required to be done. I believe that we are faced with a position where we will have to have a committee of that kind, and the sooner it is appointed the better. Undoubtedly the Joint Committee of Public Accounts is doing a great job.
– You are aware of the distinguished service of the honorable member on that committee?
– I know that. I served on the committee with the honorable member for Port Adelaide.
– Then pay him tribute.
– I paid him tribute. I mentioned his knowledge and experience. Do you want me to castigate him again? You are trying to get him into a hole. Paragraph 486 of the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts states -
The Report we now present is one which records a somewhat similar investigation but it covers most instead of a few departments. However, as is unavoidable, it refers to a limited number of Items and has been carried out after, and not before, the events. Despite this apparent disadvantage
I agree it is - your Committee consider that our enquiries are probably as effective and, at least, serve a very similar and useful purpose.
It does serve a useful and similar purpose to that of the estimates committee of the House of Commons, but I would not for one moment agree that it is as effective. It is time members in this place agitated for the appointment of an estimates committee on lines similar to that of the House of Commons. Items of the estimates to be examined by that estimates committee are selected by the Opposition and the committee submits its report to the Parliament after it has examined the items agreed upon. If we had a similar committee here we would see a change brought about in our administration. Instead of the administrative costs and expenditure of departments increasing every year some reductions in costs would be brought about. That would be a fascinating occurrence in this country and something which has not happened since federation. It seems to be the desire of departments to grow and grow and to increase their expenditure every year. I have looked through the Estimates year after year and have seen a tremendous amount of money voted for the provision of office furniture and equipment. I wonder how many office tables and chairs belonging to the Commonwealth exist in Australia. There must be enough to serve not only all members of the Public Service but also the members of their families. I do not know where they put them. Do not tell me that tables and chairs wear out so quickly that offices have to be refurnished every two or three years. Somehow the numbers of tables and chairs seem to increase.
I am happy to notice that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts reports that there is an improvement in the accuracy of departmental estimating. If honorable members look through the figures supplied in the report of the committee I think they will agree, if they have a sense of responsibility to their electors, that there is room for further improvement. I commend the various departments for attempting to meet the onerous demands of correct estimating, but after the years of experience they have had they should be able to estimate to a reasonably correct figure or, where they do not estimate accurately, they should be able to give a reasonable account of why the unforeseen discrepancy has occurred.
At this point I may be digressing from the subject matter before the Chair, but I do not think the method of introducing the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts is satisfactory. It is merely brought in and a motion moved that it be printed and honorable members do not know anything about it before voting on that motion. There is no opportunity afterwards to discuss the report. The powers-that-be should devise a scheme by means of which the report could be brought in and members supplied with copies of it so that they could study and discuss it. At present we have no opportunity to discuss the report unless an occasion presents itself during a debate such as the one now in progress.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to make a couple of brief comments on the debate. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) referred to the change that has taken place in the system through the introduction of the statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer. That change was approved by Parliament in 1957 and has worked satisfactorily ever since.
The other matter I want to refer to is the reference to the statement in the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. The committee investigated the statement very carefully and in its report there is no adverse criticism whatsoever of the statement.
The only other point I wish to deal with was raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who asked for some information regarding the capital expenditure of £500,000 by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission. Unfortunately I have not the detailed information available, but I will obtain it from my colleague in another place and make a statement to the House.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) agreed to -
That the committee agrees with the statement for the year 1961-62 of Heads of Expenditure and the Amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1961.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
United States Naval Communications Station - Cuba - Trade Unions - The Parliament - Nuclear-free Zones.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I want to refer for a few moments to the actions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in relation to the base at Exmouth Gulf. Before I make any general reference to this subject, I think I must say that the House deserves better treatment than it has received from the Prime Minister. He has observed an unusual silence on this matter. There was an old Australian play, written many years ago, called “The Silence of Dean Maitland “. I think a man by the name of Holt - Bland Holt - at one stage performed meritoriously in this famous Australian classic. But I would say that the silence of Dean Maitland has nothing on the silence of Bob Menzies in relation to one of the greatest issues we have faced in this country. I refer to the question of bases of all kinds. A silence enshrouds what is happening in the north-west of Western Australia.
So that there will be no doubt about the attitude of the Australian Labour Party on this matter, let me read a decision of the federal executive, made at a meeting in October, 1962. It is in these terms -
The Australian Labour Party is opposed to any base being built in Australia that could be used for the manufacture, firing or control of any nuclear missiles or vehicles capable of carrying nuclear missiles.
Our script is entirely clear. There is no division in the Labour Party on this matter and there never has been any suggestion of division.
– When was this resolution carried?
– In October, 1962. I am sure you must have it.
We believe that the nation, as well as the Parliament, has been treated very cavalierly by the Prime Minister. Let us reconstruct what has happened. First, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) asked a most moderate question. I was in his office when we phrased this request in the form of a question. He asked whether the Prime Minister would give us some information about what was happening in Western Australia and whether there would be any motion or debate by the Parliament on this matter. He also asked whether the Parliament and the people would have an opportunity to decide this most vital question, whatever type of base it may be- a radio base, a tracking station and so on. But this matter is veiled in darkness and aU the Government’s intentions are completely unclear. The Prime Minister’s reply was a windy piece of repartee in which he gave no definite answer. He said, from memory, that this was not strictly within his department. He was not then Acting Minister for External Affairs, as he is on occasions, and he begged off the question.
Earlier in this year - in March, I think - the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) asked a series of probing questions on this subject and he continues to seek, when opportunity permits at question time or during an adjournment debate, to ascertain what is happening. He has not asked for any declaration of policy; he has asked only for some information on this matter. He wants to know what really is happening. People outside the House are also anxious to know what is happening. It is the Prime Minister’s own fault if many rumours have spread about this subject. Some of these rumours are strange, some grotesque and some seem to have a basis of truth.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) also addressed himself to this question in the House recently. He said that the Prime Minister was in the process of making great decisions of international importance in the dark. The Prime Minister, probably infected with the test virus, has batted all the answers down the pitch. He has refused to give concrete, deliberate and considered answers to what we believe are most important questions. He has refused to answer any questions. In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Reid on 17th March, he said, “If I said it then, it must have been dead right “. Whilst he may think he is dead right, many people think he is dead wrong. This is a serious matter and there is now a belief-
– You said March, did you not? The statement was made in May.
– The statement of the Prime Minister was made on 17th May and subsequently the honorable member for Reid asked probing questions.
– Yes. You said March.
– I am sorry, I meant 17th May. Ever since then the evasion has continued and the conviction is growing iri the Labour Party, and certainly outside. that something will happen after the House adjourns next week. One of the allegations made in a Melbourne newsletter is that a contract is to be signed, tenders are to be called and there will be co-operation between the Americans, who will ultimately build the base, and the Commonwealth Government. The allegation is that everything will be signed, sealed and delivered before Parliament resumes for the next session. The view of the correspondent of this newsletter is that something is being done in the dark without any approach being made to the Parliament.
We on this side of the House want to know why there is need for this dark secrecy. This is a most important matter. We have a solid party declaration on it and we want to know what is now intended. There have been stories about what is happening at Exmouth Gulf and there are rumours about a further station at Albany and about something else happening at Pearce. Questions asked in the Senate are treated with the same lack of respect that is shown to questions asked in the House of Representatives. These questions are not answered; but this is too big a subject to be batted down the pitch by the Prime Minister or by any one else in authority when replying to questions.
We have a legitimate grievance. The Leader of the Opposition has been refused a considered answer. Questions asked by honorable members have not been answered. In view of the Prime Minister’s evasiveness, is it any wonder that all sorts of dark hints are being made? The curious point is that some unofficial mouthpiece of the Government occasionally makes statements, also in the dark, which later prove to be right. Recently, a correspondent of the Melbourne “ Herald “ made an open prophecy that everything was settled, that there would be a nuclear base at Exmouth Gulf and that everything was cut and dried. The inference to be drawn was that the base would be built without any reference to Parliament and without any debate. 1 ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to give us some information on this subject. 1 make the point that there has been too much silence and too much evasion. There has not been any sincerity on this great political issue.
Matters of great importance are being clouded in the Parliament. The debate on Cuba in this House to-day was a disgrace. In this great issue, the world was brought to the edge of nuclear war, but only two honorable members were allowed to speak on it. Most of the time the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was speaking, the Treasurer was interjecting. Did he have something on his mind? Did he have something to hide? What was he concerned with?
Then we have the spectacle of the Senate, a chamber of review, debating at the same time as this House the question of Cuba. The Senate, under the leadership of Senator Spooner, has become a laughing stock in this country, because Senator Spooner is pushing the Senate ahead of this House. He created one of the most amusing situations in the history of constitutional government by discussing the Budget before we had discussed it here. We had the picture of a chamber of review reviewing something that we had not voted upon. Now a debate is going on in the Senate at this moment on Cuba, when a similar debate was gagged in this House earlier in the day.
There are two very serious aspects of foreign affairs involved here about which we want some answers. The first one concerns the mystery that shrouds the establishment of a base in Western Australia. What is the Government afraid of? Is it trying to pull a fast one? Does it know, what our great allies are doing? Is it lurking in stubborn, dogged silence until the matter is resolved outside the Parliament so that when we come back here we will be faced with a fait accompli, and the people of Australia will find that they have another set-up? We warn the Government that such tactics will not go uncontested, and that if they are adopted there Will be serious trouble. Before this House adjourns we should be given a full statement on what is being done, and why. Nothing else will satisfy the Australian people or the members of the Opposition.
The other matter that needs attention Is the necessity for a full-dress debate on Cuba. I have heard people saying that the Cuban situation is finished. Certainly one situation has passed, but all the things that remain in relation to Cuba and the storm & the Caribbean are by no means finished. There is a whole new situation there and
Its implications to be discussed. I ask the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), who is now at the table, to give some attention to this matter. Returning to my first question I point out that the Leader of the Opposition and half a dozen honorable members as well as I, have asked questions about this base from time to time, but we have been given no satisfaction. We are not asking these questions simply to kill time. I am not speaking about this matter, after a tiring day, simply for the purpose of wasting the time of the House. We want some answers.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We have just listened to an extraordinary statement by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). He claims to be speaking on behalf of the Opposition, but I am quite certain he has not consulted the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), judging by what we have heard from him to-night.
First, let me put the facts before the House. The honorable member says that the Government has been silent on this matter of the establishment by representatives of the United States of America of a base on the north-west coast of Western Australia. I remind him - and, indeed, he made a reference to the fact himself - that a statement was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on 17th May. On that date the right honorable gentleman made a formal statement telling the House what was intended. He referred to the fact that the United States naval authorities had been investigating possible sites and studying the feasibility of establishing a naval communications establishment in Western Australia. He said that the United States Government has formally requested permission to establish and operate such a station at Northwest Cape, and that the Commonwealth Government had granted that request.
He went on to give details of the purpose of the station. He gave some technical description of what would be constructed there - a complex antenna system, with high-powered transmitting and receiving equipment and administrative and support- ing facilities to provide radio communications for United States and allied ships over a wide area of the Indian ocean and the western Pacific. I shall not go into the details of his statement. Any honorable member who wishes to do so can read it.
– That was made in May. This is December.
– The honorable member says that the statement was made in May. It was a clear and precise statement. The honorable member talked about the silence of Dean Maitland. The silence of Arthur Calwell is the more remarkable aspect of this matter, because at no time since the Prime Minister delivered his statement has the Opposition stated, through either its leader or its deputy leader, just where it stands in regard to this matter. The honorable member for Parkes says that a long time has elapsed. He has told us about the policy of the Labour Party, which he read to us. I regret that I was unable to comprehend all the details of his statement, but I shall study it very carefully in “ Hansard “. He said that this policy was decided, and that he was in the office of the Leader of the Opposition when it was being drafted, in October of this year. Between May and October the Labour Party was evidently trying to decide its policy in relation to this matter and the Leader of the Labour Party has not yet told this Parliament what the party’s policy is.
– You are wrong as to the sequence.
– The honorable member says I am wrong as to the sequence. I have been waiting rather impatiently to learn just where the Labour Party stands on this matter, because, knowing the very deep divisions that exist on the Opposition side in respect of matters of foreign policy that come before us, I was intrigued to know how the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy would line up their views with those of the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) and perhaps other honorable members.
– The federal executive of the party has its view.
– The honorable member says that the federal executive has a view on this matter. I repeat that it would be intriguing to ascertain just how they all come together, with the highest common denominator of agreement, on this matter which is of vital importance. It is most necessary that the people of Australia should be told where the Labour Party stands.
The Prime Minister has already spoken in very critical terms of the Labour Party’s attitude in respect of one aspect of defence, and we, and, I am sure, the Australian people, are eager to know where the Labour Party stands on another matter of defence. Here we have a proposal for a great naval communications station, capable of servicing the needs of the one power that can give us effective protection in this part of the world. It is a station that the United States has said will be available for our own use and for the use of other allied powers in this area. We find this matter of major policy brought forward at this time, without any prior notification given to us so that the appropriate Minister, or the Prime Minister, could have been here to deal with it. The matter is brought forward not by the official spokesman of the Opposition in the person of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but by the honorable member for Parkes, who is, admittedly, a senior member of the Labour Party.
– I was within my rights in raising it.
– He was within his rights, of course, but does he speak for the Opposition as a whole? Does he speak for the Labour Party on this matter? I think we are entitled to know these things.
I said a little earlier that the honorable member could not have discussed this matter with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because he expressed criticism of the fact that we were limiting debate on the Cuban situation. I said in the course of proceedings to-day that the Government wished to get on with the business on the notice-paper, but that I would be willing to have the debate continued to-morrow. After the adjournment of the debate I went to my office and prepared a letter which was despatched to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, telling him that I proposed to bring forward this Cuban matter as the first item of business to-morrow morning. As soon as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition received this document from me, he sent a notification to me - and this was the first time I had received it; in fact I have not yet had the text of the matter to be proposed for discussion - to the effect that the Labour Party would be bringing forward a matter of urgent public importance for discussion to-morrow morning. This move was clearly designed to keep out of range any discussions on this very Cuban matter. Yet we find the honorable member for Parkes attacking us for not bringing the matter before the House.
I do not need to take up any more of the time of the House. We would welcome a full-dress statement from the Opposition, preferably from the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition, setting out just where the Labour Party stands on this matter. I am quite sure the United States of America would be interested to know what the alternative government of this country thinks about its proposal. When we have received such an official statement from the Opposition the appropriate Minister will deal with it in the detail that its importance demands.
.- Mr. Speaker, I will have the opportunity to deal with only some of the misapprehensions and misrepresentations to which the right honorable the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has just given voice. It is true that I received a letter from him. I received word from him over the table a couple of hours ago, or perhaps one and three-quarter hours ago, that he proposed to suspend Grievance Day to-morrow and to resume the debate on the Cuban crisis. He asked whether I had received his note to that effect and I said that I had not. So I set inquiries in train and a half-hour later I found that the letter for me was still in the Treasurer’s office. Nevertheless, I then had conveyed to him, because he had gone to one of those almost continuous meetings of Liberal Ministers that have taken place in these precincts since the Leader of the Country Party (Mr. McEwen) made his open-
– The meetings are on Cabinet business.
– This was a broader meeting than the one that kept you from seeing me last night for three hours. Last night the meeting was for Liberal Ministers only, but apparently it was a peace rally of another sort to-night - full Cabinet or as many as could be persuaded to smoke the pipe together. I then sent a message to the Leader of the House, as soon as I had seen his letter, stating that we would choose a matter of our own decision for discussion if we were not to have Grievance Day, and I informed him of the general tenor of this matter.
We decided at our party meeting this morning that, if Grievance Day were to be suspended, we would propose for discussion a matter of urgency of which we then approved. This was before we had been advised that Grievance Day would be displaced.
-What is it?
– The honorable member never speaks, except on the adjournment. I told the press conference following our party meeting this morning that approval had been given to propose a matter for discussion if we were deprived of Grievance Day to-morrow. So, if the Government intended to deprive us of this, what we were to do was well prepared in advance. I can give the honorable gentleman the text of the proposed discussion, which has just been handed to me. It is -
The need demonstrated by the iniquitous practices of some private companies for the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to enter fully into the hire-purchase field at all levels to enable people to obtain such finance on reasonable terms and conditions.
This is a matter within the right honorable gentleman’s own province and that of his predecessor. It was his predecessor who in 1953 fettered the Commonwealth Bank in the hire-purchase field and gave free rein to every other bank in that field. It is the right honorable gentleman who, in the last four years, has continued and promoted this discrimination.
I have not time to go into the more substantial matters of foreign affairs here. Our contention has been that this House should debate first any matter upon which the Opposition’s view is to be put. That was, by token, admitted this afternoon when on behalf of the Opposition I was given the opportunity to speak on this matter, and the Opposition asserted by its vote that the debate on this matter should proceed uninterrupted. But the right honorable gentleman whipped his forces into line to see that the debate was interrupted and postponed. The right honorable gentleman does not want a debate on the Cuban crisis because, if there is a proper debate on this, his proposed time-table which aims at a rising at the end of next week cannot be fulfilled. All along he has not intended to have a debate on the Cuban crisis in this place at all, and none of us would have been able to speak on this matter if it had not been for my initiative last night. It was no thanks to him, his advocacy, or his initiative, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had to come in and say, in effect, “ At least there will be one speech on this subject in this House. The Opposition’s view will be expressed in the House of Representatives before the Senate resumes its debate or usurps our role in this matter.”
– What about Northwest Cape?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), whose name the right honorable gentleman took in this matter, asked a question on this subject on 15th November, and the Prime Minister replied -
I am not able to answer these questions, offhand. If I may treat them as being on the notice-paper I shall have an answer prepared and forward it to the honorable member.
The Prime Minister has not yet prepared this answer, although he has had six months’ notice. People want to know what are the facts and what are the administrative or legislative steps that have to be taken. If there are misapprehensions about Northwest Cape, and I believe there are some misapprehensions, it is due to the secrecy and, maybe, the deception of the Government. If the Government were open, frank and prompt in this matter, there would be no misconception and everybody would be able to say where he stood.
But then the right honorable gentleman referred in passing to another aspect of defence policy, to wit, the Australian Labour Party’s proposal that a conference should be called to discuss the creation of a nuclear free southern hemisphere. The Prime Minister, it is true, has done his level best to mis-state our proposals, to re-phrase them and edit them to his liking, and then to condemn them. It is significant that the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) in delivering the Roy Milne Memorial Lecture last July at the Adelaide University did not make this analysis that the Prime Minister has recently indulged in. He did not make the analysis because he knew, as a lawyer, that it could not honestly be made. He knew also that the respectable and academic gathering that he was addressing would not tolerate such misrepresentation or special pleading, but the Prime Minister, before his captive audience at the federal conference of the Liberal Party in Canberra a couple of weeks ago, misinterpreted our policy and then, of course, condemned it.
Our policy on this subject was very clearly put a fortnight ago by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Our view is that a conference should be called to discuss this proposal. The Labour Party says that the Australian Government should make the offer at that conference to participate in such a nuclear ban. The plain fact is, as I said in the only speech which was permitted on foreign affairs this afternoon, that Australasia - Australia and New Zealand - under conservative governments is the only part of the southern hemisphere in which no governmental initiative has yet been taken or promised to prevent nuclear weapons entering this hemisphere. Two years ago all the nuclear powers joined in a declaration making the southern third of the southern hemisphere a nuclear-free zone. Last year the United Nations resolved that Africa should be a nuclear-free zone. This month, or next month, the United Nations will reiterate that in regard to Africa and will resolve to make Latin America a nuclear-free zone. Indonesia has announced that at the United Nations General Assembly next year she will sponsor a proposal for a nuclear-free zone in Asia and the Pacific. So, almost every country except Australia is promoting this, and America is not opposing it.
A contemptible feature of the Prime Minister’s speeches on this subject has been his claim that the United States would be damaged or displeased by the Labour Party’s proposal. America’s defence would not be affected by it since America has never used or based nuclear weapons in the southern hemisphere and has never offered nuclear weapons or sought nuclear bases in it. America can use her present bases and submarines to cover every possible target in China and the Soviet Union. I have learned this from the top Defence Department and State Department authorities in the United States within the last four months.
America is a party to the nuclear ban in Antarctica. She did not resent the support given for a nuclear-free Africa by her Scandinavian allies in Nato, her Asian allies in Seato and some of her Latin American allies in the Organization of American States. She does not resent her Latin American allies’ proposal to make Latin America a nuclear-free zone. The Prime Minister will not even ask America if she will attend a conference to consider a nuclear-free southern hemisphere.
No country in the southern hemisphere has nuclear weapons at this stage and Australia’s defence is not affected by a proposal to ban them. If, however, our neighbours were to acquire them, then probably Australia would have to match them. If, moreover, Australia were to acquire them, probably our neighbours would have to match them.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not want to be ungenerous to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), but when I hear him speaking about a debate on Cuba I am irresistibly reminded of the Russian delegates to the United Nations in a debate on disarmament. They are enthusiastically in favour of disarmament, but when any practical suggestion is made to help to bring it about they invent some excuse why they should not do it. This is exactly the attitude of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He wants a debate on Cuba. This is tremendously important. It is of paramount importance. But when time is made available, there is something else that has to come in. His attitude is exactly like the Russian attitude on disarmament.
It is all very well for him to say that Labour has a clear and definite policy. I seem to remember that on 17th May, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made the statement that has been referred to, the only twitter from the Australian Labour Party came, I think, from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), whose views on this matter showed, as usual, a remarkable parallel with the views of the Communist Party. I should say in justice that, if I remember correctly, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) saw fit to rebuke the honorable member for Reid on that occasion. This does not make it very plain to us on this side of the House or, indeed, to the public where the Opposition stands on some of these matters.
I rose to speak on a matter that I raised in this House shortly before we rose for last week’s recess. That was the events surrounding the election of members of the executive of the Tramways Union. It will be recalled that at the federal election of the union, the Australian Labour Party candidates were, by and large, supported except in Victoria, where a unity ticket between the Australian Labour Party and Communists was somewhat blatantly run. It will be recalled that a Mr. Coulthart who, I understand, is a member of the Australian Labour Party executive in New South Wales, very properly drew attention to the existence of this unity ticket. On that unity ticket, which was being run in Victoria and by Australian Labour Party members in Victoria, the Communist nominee for federal president was a man by the name of O’Shea. I have here some statutory declarations which I propose to read to the House. They are from a Mr. Thompson. He said -
Being a candidate in the recent Tramway Elections I did hear Mr. J. Edwards a member of the Australian Labor Party at a meeting of tramway track workers at Grantham St., Brunswick on Wednesday the 7th November, 1962, at about 12.25 p.m. solicit votes for Mr. C. O’Shea a Communist opposing Mr. P. Boyd a member of the Australian Labor Party for the position of Federal President of the Tramways Union.
At a meeting at the Essendon tram depot on Friday the 9th November 1962 at approximately 10.30 a.m. I heard Mr. G. Grace a member of the Australian Labor Party speak for and urge members to vote for Mr. C. O’Shea. Further at a meeting at the Brunswick tram depot on Monday the 12th November 1962 at about 10.15 a.m. I challenged Mr. E. Pooley a self-confessed member of the Australian Labor Party and he said he would support Mr. C. O’Shea in preference to Mr. P. Boyd.
In another statutory declaration, Mr. Thompson said -
On Tramway election day Thursday 15th November, 1962, between 10 a.m. and 11.30 p.m. at the Malvern tram depot I did observe Mr. F. Dye a member of the Australian Labor Party distributing how to vote cards which advised members to vote for Mr. C. O’Shea a Communist in preference to Mr. P. Boyd a member of the Australian Labor Party.
These statements are contained in statutory declarations which are now available to be placed on the table of the House. I am not saying this as an attack on the Australian Labour Party in general. Indeed, Sir, I am saying it in support of an action which was taken by some members of the Australian Labour Party - and taken very properly - to expose this dastardly unity ticket which existed between the Australian Labour Party and Communists in one State.
I believe, Sir, that if honorable members opposite are honest they will support me in my view that these matters which are the subject of these statutory declarations should be fully and publicly investigated so that the Communists who have infiltrated certain sections of the Labour Party can be removed from the Labour Party. If they are honest, they will support me in this contention. I do not ask that there should be an answer on these matters of detail to-night. That would be an unreasonable request. I ask that these matters be investigated and that disciplinary action be taken if the facts alleged in these statutory declarations which I now lay on the table of the House should prove to be correct. I hope, Sir, that the Opposition will be able to take advantage of these declarations and use them to cleanse its ranks of some of the Communist infection which has crept into them in certain places.
.- The powderpuff fighter from Mackellar seems to want to roll out the old red bogy again. In reply to his remarks concerning the internal affairs of the Australian Labour Party, I point out that that party has its own ways of solving this problem. We have the rules of the Labour Party, and the State branches are in control of these matters. I do not think they need any advice from the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). I challenge the honorable member to start attacking his own Government and try to have it do something to wipe from the face of Australia the scar which is represented by 70,000 or 80,000 unemployed. Let the Government put its own house in order instead of throwing bricks at others.
I rose to-night to support the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I did not hear all of his speech, but I heard the latter part and I heard the criticism levelled by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). I want to quote from “ Hansard “ a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on 15th November. It reads as follows: -
On 17th May the Prime Minister, by leave, made a statement to this House in which he said that the United States Government had formally requested permission to establish and operate a naval communications station in Western Australia covering an area of 28 square miles, and that the Commonwealth Government had approved the request. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is necessary for this Parliament to pass legislation to ratify any agreement that the Government has made or is likely to make in connexion with this project. If so, when is the legislation likely to be introduced? Finally, is it proposed that the United States shall have a lease of the area from either the Commonwealth Government or the Government of Western Australia and, if so, for how long?
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) replied -
I am not able to answer these questions, offhand. If I may treat them as being on the noticepaper I shall have an answer prepared and forward it to the honorable member.
Up to the present date, no answer has been forwarded. All that the honorable member for Parkes asked was: “ Why the secrecy? Why do you not bring the matter out in the open? What is happening at North West Cape? What are you guilty of? What are you frightened to tell the Australian people? “
Yesterday morning, I asked the Prime Minister this question -
I direct my question to the Prime Minister. On 17th May, he said that the United States was to build a radio station in Western Australia. On 28th August, in reply to a question I asked, he said that he would give the House full details, as soon as possible, in a manner that would permit debate. Is the Prime Minister aware that there are numerous reports, from people who have actually been on the spot, that work has already started? In view of these circumstances, can he say why he was not in a position to supply the House with any information on 15th November when he replied to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Opposition? . . .
I now ask: Can the Prime Minister now say whether the construction of this radio station has been commenced? When will he be able to inform the House of any details? Will the House be given an opportunity to debate this matter? If so, when?
The Prime Minister replied -
As the honorable member knows, I do not administer the department that is concerned in this matter. But I will find out what the present position is and if there is an opportunity for exposing the subject to debate, I will be delighted to do so.
That is a further evasive answer. If one goes back through the records, one will find that we have continually been given evasive answers. An evasive answer was given to the question that I asked on 28th August. The whole time, we have been subjected to evasion. The truth is that the Government is trying to hide something from the Australian people. There have been numerous newspaper reports of the work that has been undertaken. On 18th November, 1962, the Sydney “ Sun-Herald “ published an article written by a Mr. Gavin Handley, who went to North West Cape and inspected the installations there. This newspaper article is even accompanied by a photograph of a mess and kitchen hut used by the men stationed at the site.
Why cannot the Government be frank about the matter? Why cannot it come out in the open and say honestly what is happening? On 17th May last, the Prime Minister declared that the Government had already agreed to make available to the United States of America 28 square miles of our sovereign soil for a communications station. Newspaper articles state that this radio station will be in direct communication with submarines carrying Polaris missiles. If this is a fact, the policy of the Australian Labour Party will be infringed. That policy is designed to ensure a southern hemisphere free of nuclear weapons. The Australian Labour Party, I may say, has made a decision in accordance with this policy. The federal executive of the Australian Labour Party, at a recent meeting, stated where Labour stands on this issue and laid down the Labour Party’s policy in these words -
The Federal Executive resolved unanimously that it would oppose the building of bases in Australia which could be used for the manufacture, firing or control of any nuclear missile or vehicle capable of carrying a nuclear war-head.
The Federal Executive also resolved that Australia should not cede its sovereignty to any foreign power of any part of its territory.
I say quite frankly that the Government is trying to be evasive on this issue. The Leader of the Opposition has asked questions about it and many questions have been asked by me and by other honorable members on this side of the House. But, always, we are given evasive answers. The honorable member for Parkes tried to draw out something this evening, but still the Treasurer was evasive. We in the Australian Labour Party have seen over the last few years the making of many treaties between Australia and the United States. These have been for peaceful purposes, and wi on this side of the House applaud and support any treaty that may be entered into with the United States or any other country as long as that treaty is designed for peaceful purposes. But we on this side of the chamber say that we will not cede Australian territory to any power for the purposes of war.
– Do you all say that?
– Let the honorable member be frank on this issue and let him put pressure on the Government that he supports. What has the Government to hide in this matter?
I remind the House, Mr. Speaker, that I first asked a question about this subject on 16th March, 1961. As reported at page 285 of “Hansard” of that date, I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) whether a radio station was to be established in northern Australia by the United States of America. The Minister replied -
There has been no request from the United States Government to this Government for any station of any sort in the north of Australia.
I remind the House that I asked that question fourteen months before the Prime Minister announced1 that territory was to be ceded to the United States for the establishment of the radio station, and that I was told then that the Government knew nothing about a proposal to establish such a radio station. Under questioning, eventually, the Government stated that negotiations were going on. Then, on 17th
May of this year, the Prime Minister made his statement announcing that the radio communications station would be built in Western Australia. If it is to be used for peaceful purposes, let the Government come out in the open and give us the facts. If the station is to be used for peaceful purposes, we of the Australian Labour Party will support the Government’s action. But, if the radio station is to be used for the purposes of war, we of the Labour Party are opposed to its establishment. We say that we should not give away Australian sovereign soil for such purposes.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I gave the Clerk the originals of the statutory declarations, and I understood that he was to receive them. I now understand that I have to go through the technical formality of asking the House for leave to table the originals of the statutory declarations. Accordingly, I ask for leave to do that.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is refused.
– I see. Opposition members do not want the evidence.
Mr. KILLEN (Moreton) [11.281- Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the House has been intensely interested in the three speeches that have just been made by Opposition members in this debate. First, we heard the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and then the Deputy Leader of of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). The speech that has just fallen from the lips of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren), of course, is a gem, and, I suppose, will be put in a glass case, looked at and guarded with great jealousy. However, I want to come back to where this discussion began - to the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes. As you, Sir, know, a newspaper named the “ Century “ comes into the Parliamentary Library and is read by people who wish to get some laughs occasionally. I can almost see a paragraph that will appear in next week’s issue. It will run like this -
The dullness of Canberra was relieved last week by Les Haylen. In a hard-hitting, forceful, witty speech - Les at his best - he directed attention to Ming’s doings. Some one should tell Goof to keep quiet. He came into the fray trying to steal Les’s thunder. But not even the glamour boy from Werriwa could remove the lasting impression that Parkes’s powerful representative made.
Can you not see it, Sir, written with this 61an-
– Who wrote that?
– It will be written, I suppose, by the honorable member for Parkes. This will appear, no doubt, in next week’s issue of the “ Century “.
The honorable member for Parkes began by directing the attention of the House to what he regarded as being, in effect, some dastardly-
– Why does not the honorable member go off to bed? He looks tired.
The honorable member for Parkes directed the attention of the House to what he regarded as some dastardly capitalist plot. This is nothing new. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), quite accurately, reminded the House of a speech made by my friend, the honorable member for Reid, on 17th May of this year. On the day that he made that speech his leader rebuked him. The honorable member shakes his head but the fact remains that the Leader of the Opposition rebuked the honorable member for Reid for his intemperate speech.
What solace does the Labour Party genuinely draw from this slogan that it is now adopting - “ A nuclear-free zone in the southern hemisphere “? I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the slogan is completely meaningless and should give no cause for comfort. I assume that the equator is the line marking the southern hemisphere. It runs through half of Indonesian territory so presumably some nuclear-powered submarine could fire a Polaris-style missile just north of the equator, lob it on Australian territory and we would have no right to retaliate. The slogan carries with it the argument that the “ intercontinental ballistic missile is completely useless.
I put it to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who at least pretends to command a great measure of intelligence that his argument does not stand analysis. He is always making what I would call prime ministerial speeches. He looks like a prime minister, he acts like a prime minister, he tries to behave like a prime minister, but the one thing that is wrong is that he is not a prime minister.
– And never will be.
– And never will be, I hope, as long as this is a free country. His is a philosophy of decay and the philosophy of a despondent party.
Turning now to the honorable member for Reid let me read to the House some questions which he posed on 17th May, 1962, and repeated, in effect, to-night. He said -
I should like to know why there is a need for this foreign base to be established in Australia. What are we preparing against? Whom are Australians defending themselves against? I should like members of the Government to answer those questions.
Does the honorable gentleman take the view that India’s engagement with Communist China to-day does not represent a serious threat to the people of India? Am I to understand from the honorable gentleman that Mao Tse-tung’s millions do not represent any threat to this country? The honorable member shakes his head. Is he prepared to say that they represent no threat to the people of India?
– I said no threat to Australia.
– The honorable member wants five bob each way and his horse is not even a starter. The fact remains that the threat which is poised against this and every country in this part of the world comes from Communist China which has at its disposal a standing army of approximately 3,000,000 men and a semimilitarized militia of 200,000,000 men. If this force is let loose against us how will we defend ourselves? If we adopt the philosophy espoused by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will we put the honorable member for Reid into the front line to soften the opposition and to take the sharpness off the attack? The only way in which this country could defend itself against such a massive conventional force would be to resort to these terrible weapons. No one in his right senses wants to see these weapons used. We must have not merely a nuclearfree zone in the southern hemisphere; our aim plainly must be a nuclear-free world, in the military sense, but that end will never be achieved until the basic causes of the world’s distress have been resolved. That aspect was ignored by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and it was ignored in a wilful way, I thought, by the honorable member for Reid.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. The arrangement of spare parts agreements, not only withGeneral Motors, but with all the major automotive companies, has been a long standing practice of this department. The original agreements were negotiated early in World War II. and re-negotiated in 1947 and subject to periodical review are still operating. This practice has clearly proved to be the most practical and economic method of obtaining supplies of spare parts as they are required. Apart from any other considerations, this form of agreement allows departments throughout Australia to order spare parts “ off the shelf “ and in consequence there is a considerable saving in store keeping and the risk of obsolescence is not present. Only genuine General Motors parts are acceptable and the company guarantees their performance. I might add that purchase of other than genuine General Motors parts would effect the warranty given by General Motors-Holden’s on their vehicles. The alternative to these arrangements is to invite tenders for hundreds of parts and hold them in stock and the cost of this would be prohibitive as compared with the present arrangement.
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The Department of Shipping and Transport has recorded the following details of vessels chartered during the financial year 1961-62 by the Commonwealth Government.
s asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Will he furnish the following financial details in respect of the Commonwealth Railways for each year from 1949-50 to 1961-62 inclusive:- (a) Amount of loans outstanding at end of year; (b) sums borrowed; (c) repayments of principal of loans; (d) interest paid on loans; (e) revenue; (f) expenditure; and (g) surplus or deficit for year?
– The information requested regarding Commonwealth Railways operations for the years 1949-50 to 1961-62 is shown in the following table. Some details in respect of the year 1961-62 are not yet available.
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Sixteen obtained in 1952.
Seven obtained in 1956.
Six obtained in1960.
Two (lounge cars) obtained in 1917 and reconditioned and air-conditioned in 1937- 38.
One (sleeping car) obtained in 1944 and reconditioned and air-conditioned in 1953.
One (dining car) obtained in 1926 and renovated in 1954.
The following cars are used as necessary to meet exceptional demand such as during holiday and Christmas-New Year periods: -
Two obtained in 1915, renovated in 1958.
Five obtained in 1917, renovated in 1949-59.
Two obtained in 1920, renovated in 1955-59.
Two obtained in 1928, renovated in 1949-59.
One obtained in 1941, renovated in 1955.
Two (dining cars) obtained in 1917, reconditioned and air-conditioned 1937-39.
One (dining car) obtained in 1930, reconditioned and air-conditioned 1937-39.
Answers to Questions.
Four second-class sleeping cars.
One or alternatively two first-class lounge cars.
One dining car.
Four coach cars.
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 to 4. Negotiations for a new Australia/Italy Assisted Passage Agreement to replace the present agreement, which expires on the 1st January, 1963, are now being conducted between representatives of the two Governments. As these negotiations are of a confidential nature I am unable to say more about them at this juncture, than that Australian tradesmen’s standards will be fully safeguarded.
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Can a citizen who has been granted naturalization be deported from Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The deportation powers contained in the Migration Act 1938 relate only to persons who are aliens or immigrants. A person who is an Australian citizen by naturalization is not an alien. Some very few persons who have been naturalized after less than the normal period of five years residence may technically be immigrants but there has never been a case in which such a person has been deported. For all practical purposes, therefore, the answer is in the negative.
n asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice-
– The answers to the honor1 able member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Geraldton will be determined in the light of experience with the stations which have already been approved.
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
This is information of a kind, whether the answer be affirmative or negative, which has not been the practice of this Government, or of its predecessors in office, to furnish.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19621128_reps_24_hor37/>.