25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has seen a Press report quoting Sir Thomas Playford, the Premier of South Australia, as saying that the Senate election may be held on different dates in different States this year or next year, presumably depending in the case of South Australia, on the date selected by the Government of South Australia. Has the Prime Minister had discussions with Sir Thomas on the question of a date for the Senate election? If he has not, does he intend to? If he intends to have discussions with Sir Thomas, will he inform the Parliament of the result of the discussions? From the Prime Minister’s experience and from ours I think he will agree that Sir Thomas does not treat discussions with the Commonwealth Government as being confidential.
– Order! The honorable member is going too far in what is intended to be a question.
– I should like the right honorable gentleman to say what discussions he has had.
– I have not read the newspaper report; I have not had any discussions with Sir Thomas.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the serious lack of, and overall decline in, apprenticeship training, can the Minister say when the proposed Government supplementary training plan will be put into operation? As certain industries are not carrying out their full responsibility in apprenticeship training, is there some way in which the Government can encourage them to do so?
– If I may, I shall answer the last part of the question first. lt is undoubtedly true that in some areas there are mild problems, and with some employers, responsibilities are not being accepted. However, if the honorable member looks at the figures he will see that today there are far greater numbers of vacancies for apprentices and for skilled people than there are people to put into them. This leads to the conclusion that the decline in apprenticeship training is not due solely to the failure of employers to provide the opportunities. It is because we have not enough young people to place in the jobs.
– Five months for three boys to get jobs in Newcastle.
– Newcastle is one of the problem areas. The position there is not as bad as the honorable member would have us believe. Employers cannot be blamed for the failure to train the required number of apprentices. Notwithstanding that, however, there have been considerable improvements since the Government took action to create a public awareness of the need for increased skills.
As to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question, we have had discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions about the trade union attitude, and before long there will be further discussions to see what can be done to supplement - I repeat that word, because it has been misunderstood - to supplement the system of apprenticeships so that we can get the required numbers of desired skills in this country.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honorable gentleman will have learned that notice was given in another place yesterday of the introduction of four bills for referendums on amendments of the Constitution in those sections dealing with the terms of office and rotation of senators, the respective numbers in the two Houses, disagreements between the Houses and the distribution of seats in this House, all sections of the Bills being in terms drafted by the Parliamentary Draftsman, recommended by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and tabled in both Houses nearly five years ago. Bearing in mind that a proposal to amend the
Constitution must be submitted at a referendum not less than two or more than six months after the Bill containing it has passed through both Houses, will the right honorable gentleman arrange for the Bills to be debated in both Houses in sufficient time for the proposals to be presented, if the Bills are passed, at a referendum concurrently with any election for the other House that is held before the end of this year, thus saving the expense of any separate referendums and avoiding the cost of separate elections for both Houses at any time in the future?
– 1 hope the honorable gentleman does nol think he is placing a tempting bait before mc, because 1 am bound to say that all my experience indicates that one thing you ought never to do is mix up a referendum with an election. Therefore J hold out little prospect of my agreeing to what he is proposing.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen a report of a lecture presented by the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority, in which that gentleman stated that there was tremendous scope for the development of resources, particularly water resources, in the north of Australia? Is the Government taking steps to assess these resources and see that they are fully developed and used?
– I did see this address given by Sir William Hudson and, in fact, read it very fully, because I have a very high opinion of his views. 1 think all of us in this House can agree that there are vast natural resources in the north awaiting development but I think we can also agree that there are vast resources throughout the whole of Australia and throughout the whole of the world that need development. I used to think that Victoria was probably the most fully developed State in Australia but I see that, recently, a Develop Victoria Committee has been set up. What we should realise is, not only that there arc resources awaiting development in the north but also that a tremendous amount has been done in connection with this development in recent times. I made a very extensive tour of the north shortly before the House met and I was amazed to see how much had been achieved in that area. There arc about five major factors which have Icd io this development of the north. The first is the beef roads scheme, under which the Commonwealth Government has made available some £17 mililon for the development of these roads. Then there has been the development of pastures in the north by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and State and Territory agricultural authorities. These newly developed grasses are doing for the north what clover and rye grass arc doing for the south. There have been many finds of extensive deposits of minerals in the north, such as bauxite, iron ore, gold, copper, manganese and almost any other mineral one likes to name. The Commonwealth Government has expended vast amounts of money on the Ord River scheme, on the clearance of brigalow lands and on civil aviation facilities in the north. As to the last portion of the honorable member’s question, I can say that the Northern Division of the Department of National Development has been established within the last 10 weeks and is assessing these resources.
– J am sorry that I must rise a second time. I wish to direct two questions to the Prime Minister. I trust that 1 will have your forbearance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I should breach the Standing Orders in any technical sense. The importance of my question to honorable members and to the general public warrants this request. A year ago f wrote to the Prime Minister, and later asked a question in this chamber, suggesting that the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act should bc amended because at those times it possessed, and still possesses, a large surplus due to the maintenance over the years of an earning rate much greater than the one calculated by the Commonwealth Actuary as being likely when the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund was established. f ask the Prime Minister: Now that the payments from this soundly based fund have fallen seriously behind payments from similar State Parliament funds, will he have prepared and made available to honorable members a table showing the superannuation provisions currently applying in the Commonwealth Parliament and in each of the six State Parliaments? I interpolate here that the Commonwealth Fund is financed by honorable members themselves by weekly contributions of £5. Will he also give consideration to the introduction of amending legislation, based if necessary on an increased contribution by members, to produce a more adequate superannuation scale and to deal equitably with the position of former members of this Parliament and dependants of former members who are currently pensioners under the scheme?
My second question, which is divided into two parts, concerns parliamentary allowances. This is a matter that I had not intended to raise at this stage, but after the Press had published joint statements by the Premier and Opposition leaders in New South Wales that an investigation of parliamentary allowances in their State would take place soon, and after reading that a move in the same direction was contemplated in Victoria, on Thursday of last week I was requested by members representing both sides of this Parliament to mention the matter on their behalf. Members of the Government parties are interjecting. But what I have said is true; I was so requested. I now ask: As the last adjustment to parliamentary and electorate allowances took place five years ago, and as the salaries and allowances of judges, conciliation commissioners and public servants have all been increased since then, with further increases in contemplation during the current sittings of this Parliament, will the Prime Minister supply to honorable members information showing the movements in such salaries over the intervening period? Most importantly, will his Government take suitable action to adjust parliamentary and electorate allowances in such appropriate fashion and at such time as it deems desirable in the light of movements in the directions that I have just instanced?
– I agree with what is expressed in the honorable member’s questions, namely that a great deal of information on this matter ought to be collated and made public, because I can remember occasions when there was no adequate supply of information. Therefore, I would be perfectly willing to have prepared and tabled in the House two statements covering the two aspects of the matter to which the honorable member has referred. I myself do not know the answers to the questions at the present time, but I will know them when I, in common with others, see the tabled information. We will then give consideration to the suggestion made by the honorable member, although at this stage, of course, I cannot anticipate .the reply.
– Has the Minister for the Interior seen a Press report suggesting that Lakes Entrance professional fishermen, because of their day-to-day experiences with the weather, could assist the Commonwealth Bureau of Meterology in its endeavour to provide accurate weather forecasts? Because the vessels of these fishermen are equipped with off-shore to base radio, will the Minister inquire whether there is any practical way of making use of their valuable knowledge?
– I am aware that certain suggestions have been made by fishermen from Lakes Entrance. In Melbourne this week the Bureau of Meteorology is conducting a productivity conference. The idea of the conference is to invite all parties interested in the services of the Bureau of Meteorology to make criticisms and suggestions on how its services might be improved. The conference is being attended by some 40 representatives from various organisations and interests - from industry, from the pastoralists, from the dried fruits organisations, from the Royal Australian Air Force, from search and rescue organisations and from Woomera, and no doubt the fishermen are represented too. If the fishermen suggest ways of improving the forecasting services these suggestions will be looked at, and I hope we will be able to co-operate to improve the service.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman had the opportunity to consider the rapidly increasing need for a new system of transport in Australia in the form of pipelines for the carriage of natural gas and oil fuel? Will he give attention to the proposition that a Federal authority be set up to inquire into and report to the Parliament as a matter of urgency on the development and the need for this new form of transport in Australia, such an authority to be clothed with power to recommend a form of control and ownership of pipeline development in Australia? In the light of the heavy impact of transport costs upon the national Budget and in the knowledge of the rapid changes that have taken place and will continue to lake place in transport in Australia over the next 10 years, will he now, before it is too late, set up an interstate transport commission to regulate objectively transport charges and developments in the national interest?
– Quite clearly, the question opens up very large matters of policy and I would not propose to answer them offhand. J will try to find out from my colleagues whether anything has occurred in this area. I am not familiar with the problem, but I will try to obtain information and advise the honorable member.
– [ wish to address a question to the Minister for National Development. Can he inform the House of the extent of overseas ownership of our petroleum resources, both in terms of companies and the current ownership of share capital? Because of the possibility that even our most successful Australian companies could be purchased comparatively cheaply by knowledgeable overseas interests, does the Minister foresee any possibility of the several governments concerned taking action to safeguard at least a stated minimum Australian equity, either by a method of incentives or penalties or both?
– The question asked by the honorable member raises large matters of policy, and of course questions on policy are out of order. However, I will have a look at the question and see what authority the Government has to move along the lines suggested by the honorable member. The honorable member may be interested to know that the percentage of Australian capital used in the search for oil in Australia has increased quite spectacularly in the last two or three years. In 3960-61 only 34 per cent, of the capital used in the search for oil in Australia was of Australian origin, but the proportion rose in 1962-63 to 57 per cent.. 1 have not the figure for 1963-64, but I think that it will show an even greater increase. It is interesting to realise that Australians are investing more and more in the search for oil in Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. Has the Naval Board yet completed its inquiry following the finalisation of the “ Voyager “ inquiry? Has the Government received a report? If it has not, can the Minister say when the House will be given the opportunity to debate this matter?
– I am nol in a position to say when the House will be given the opportunity to debate this subject, because it is normally the function of the Leader of the House or whoever is acting in that capacity to arrange the business of the House. This matter has taken a I iti le longer than I thought it would, but I am quite certain that when the Parliament resumes it will be placed before the House and will bc considered subject to normal arrangements.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It concerns tobacco growers in South Queensland at Inglewood who are facing a depression in their industry. Statements have been made which suggest that the Commonwealth Government does not give adequate advice to growers and prospective growers. Does the Minister consider these statements correct? If they are correct, will he assure growers, and future growers, that advice regarding the use of marginal land and the problems of curing Australian leaf will be forthcoming when requested?
– I do not know from where the suggestion emanated but there is no truth whatever in the statement. Growers and manufacturers, together with representatives of Government departments, meet regularly every year to determine policy and to assess what the industry requires. This is done by virtue of the meetings of the Central Tobacco Advisory Committee of which the head of my department is chairman. Honorable members must know that repeatedly during the year Ministers of this Government - generally three of us. the Minister for Customs and Excise, the
Minister for Trade and Industry and myself - meet tobacco growers and tobacco manufacturers as the occasion requires. In 1962 the Australian Agricultural Council met growers in Adelaide and discussed future policy. Later we met manufacturers. It was agreed that there should be a stabilising period of three or four years in order to try to contain production. This was not to be done under duress in any sense but both sides of the industry recognise that they have a responsibility to contain production at a reasonable level until the industry stabilises itself. In recent days, of course, there have been many discussions concerning a stabilisation proposal which we hope will eventually succeed.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs, lt concerns the Australian civil mission which arrived in Saigon three months ago and began to prepare its report a month later. Members of the mission returned four weeks ago. I ask why the Minister has still no.’ announced one step to aid the economy of South Vietnam? Is it correct that the South Vietnam and United States of America authorities have asked Australia, in common with several other Pacific nations, for a surgical team to care for victims of the insurrections and disorders in South Vietnam, that Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan and other nations have already landed big medical teams in South Vietnam and that Australia has not yet made an official reply to the request? Moreover, is it true that although three months have elapsed since the Government’s statement announcing civil aid and increased training forces for South Vietnam, the expansion of those forces has not yet been completed and the only civil aid sent so far is an expert on insects?
– I am always at a loss to know why the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tries to disparage anything that Australia does in the international scene. The matters under notice are under the administration, as to detail, of my colleague, the Minister for Defence, who is another place. The members of the civil mission returned to Australia and prepared a report for the Government. That report was considered Some contributions in the form of material aid and the services of experts have been given to South Vietnam. Hie nature of this aid and the timing is something that has to be worked out in concert with the Government of South Vietnam, which is the requesting party. What we are doing is done in response to the arrangements that the Government of South Vietnam makes for receiving this aid. I think it would serve the long term interests of Australia to a far greater extent if honorable members opposite would-
– Why don’t you tell the Australian public and members of Parliament about it?
– Announcements have been made about the aid that has been given. We believe that this aid is of significant value to the Government of South Vietnam in its resistance to subversion and aggression.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has consideration been given to the formation of a Commonwealth education service to supply teachers to all Australian Territories, including the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea?
– Not that I know of; but it may very well be that my colleague, Senator Gorton, who looks after educational matters for me, may have had some proposal of this kind before him. [ will find out and advise the honorable member.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that expenditure of £600,000 was incurred by the Commonwealth last financial year on Press, radio and television advertising in the recruitment campaign for the Army, the Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force? Is he aware also that a further sum of £750,000 has been appropriated for a similar purpose for the financial year 1964-65?
– This question should be addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence.
– To justify this expenditure, and in view of the lag in recruiting and the lack of response to the campaign, will the Prime Minister intervene and give active personal leadership in the recruitment campaign for the Services?
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member direct his question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. The matters referred to are not under the control of the Prime Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the unemployment figure of 5i million in the United States of America and to the interesting suggestion made recently that companies with American affiliations sponsor skilled tradesmen who wish to come to Australia as migrants. I ask: Is it a fact that no provision has been made for the technical recognition of American workers under the Tradesmen’s Right Regulation Act? Will the Minister investigate what steps may be taken to clear the way for the possible attraction of such workers who are required by Australian industry?
– The suggestion that United States firms with affiliations in Australia should encourage their own skilled tradesmen to come here is well worth further consideration by the Department of Labour and National Service, and I shall ensure that it is thoroughly considered. I was not aware that the provisions of the Tradesmen’s Right Regulation Act did not apply to skilled workers from the United States of America. I shall have this matter investigated. I give the honorable member my assurance that, if it is considered desirable to take up the matter with the trade union movement, action will be taken.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Have the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. and the University of Melbourne discovered a process which is claimed to prevent dental caries and tooth erosion and which is non-toxic to human beings, easily applied at no cost to local government authorities or other government instrumentalities, requires no costly machinery or installations and is more effective than fluoride? If the Minister is unaware of the experiments with this process, will he inquire and advise all authorities considering the installation of costly fluoride apparatus that this more effective and acceptable method is in the offing?
– This matter, of course, is of great importance to the sugar industry. I know that some investigations and soma research in this field have been conducted. However, I have no up to date information on the progress made. I shall obtain the latest information for the honorable member and advise him.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence a question relating to the current advertising campaign designed to attract volunteers to our armed Services. These advertisements usually stress the undoubted advantages which accrue from enlistment in the Services; that is, they appeal to the selfish motive. Will the Minister consider including advertisements in the campaign which stress developments to our near north and the pressing need of our country for young people to enlist in the Services; that is, an appeal to the patriotic motive?
– I can undertake only to attract the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Defence, to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport tell the House when the Government intends to make a start on the construction of a Commonwealth line of steamers for overseas service? Is it a fact that total freight charges for carrying exports and imports from and to our shores in 1963 reach the colossal sum of £434 million? Did not the Deputy Prime Minister say some time ago that it would cost £150 million to build sufficient ships to serve Australia’s overseas trade? In view of the figures that I have mentioned does not the Minister think that it would be good business to make a start on the construction of a Commonwealth line of steamers?
– The honorable gentleman has raised a very large matter of policy. I suggest that we debate it at some other time.
– The Minister for Immigration will recall that some little time ago he announced that there was to be an extension of the categories under which migrants would be brought to Australia. Axe these extended categories now operating? Will he clarify the various relationship categories which can now be considered for entry to Australia?
– The honorable member’s question covers a considerable amount of territory. He will know that for a time the spouses, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and parents of immigrants were allowed to enter Australia. After a recent review the categories were extended to include nephews and nieces and, in the case of some northern European countries, cousins as well. The Department of Immigration has this matter under constant review.
– My question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport relates to the recent request of King Island residents, which was supported by the Tasmanian Government through the presence in Canberra of the Premier, Mr. Reece, at the time of the deputation, for the Commonwealth Government to take over the King Island shipping services by using the Australian National Line or to provide a subsidy to counter rising freight costs and other serious difficulties affecting the islanders. Has a decision yet been made? If investigations arc necessary, will the Minister arrange for these to be carried out with all possible speed in view of the need to arrive at a solution to this very pressing problem?
– As the honorable member has said, a deputation was received by the Treasurer and myself at which the shipping services to King Island were discussed. The Treasurer undertook to have a further investigation made into this problem.
We recognise that there is a problem. Investigations arc continuing at this moment. They have not yet been completed.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Owing to the high incidence of theft of letters posted by the Taxation Branch which contain income tax refund cheques, thereby causing hardship to the addressees, will the Prime Minister confer wilh the Commissioner of Taxation with a view to having refund cheques forwarded in plain envelopes?
– I will bc very happy to convey this suggestion to the taxation authorities.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Will the Treasurer press for an increase in the price of gold when he attends the meeting of the International Monetary Fund? If so, is any particular price lo be recommended to the Fund? Should the Treasurer fail to win sufficient support to carry his recommendation, will he move for the deletion or amendment of those terms of the agreement which restrict the amount of assistance that can be given to the gold mining industry by Fund member countries? If not, is this because the Government favours the retention of the restrictions? If so, why?
– 1 have not clearly followed the second part of the question but 1 will see it in “ Hansard “ and have an answer prepared. As to the price of gold, I assure the honorable member that from time to time the Government has endeavoured to have it increased. Whenever 1 have attended a conference in which this matter was at all relevant I have strongly supported any move to increase the price of gold. Unfortunately from our point of view, this endeavour does not secure any support in the relevant quarters. Moves to increase the price of gold have been very strongly opposed, as the honorable member knows, by the United States of America, for reasons which seem good to it. I have no doubt that once more the Treasurer will raise this matter, because we are convinced that an increase in the price of gold would do more to rectify certain international disabilities than most other things. However, 1 do not hold out a great prospect of success.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. As the President of Indonesia is now proceeding, step by step, with the same tactics against Malaysia as he employed against West Irian - I might add successfully, and without much objection by Australia - does the Government propose to make any protest through diplomatic channels or to discuss with Malaysia the desirability of reporting to the United Nations these, in effect, declarations of war on Malaysia? Further, as each offensive raid by Indonesia increases the danger to the security of South East Asia and Australia, when will the Government be able to announce the further overhaul of our defence programme as forecast recently by the Treasurer and the Minister for Defence?
– In the first place, I do not want to be regarded as admitting the soft impeachment, contained in the first part of the honorable member’s question, about our attitude in relation to West New Guinea. I do not think that is right. As to the other matter, there can be no question but that recent developments in the campaign against Malaysia are disturbing. They make it increasingly clear that the whole campaign is one of aggression without any pretence at justification. We will be discussing this matter within the next few hours in the appropriate Cabinet body. As to our approach to the matter of defence, this does not fluctuate from day to day according to events. As the honorable member knows, we have the situation under very close examination at all times. In introducing the Budget, the Treasurer indicated a flexible mind on the subject of defence. He indicated that as investigations were made in the Service Departments and in the Defence Department as a whole, and as recommendations came forward, we would not regard ourselves as necessarily bound by the Budget figures. That is what it amounts to. I assure .he honorable member that whenever a Service Minister, through the Minister for Defence, has proposals to make, those proposals receive very prompt consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Territories a question. Last Tuesday, in answer to a question, the Minister said -
From time to time there will be opportunities for Australians to take up land in Papua and New Guinea and 1 think it is essential that Australians should set the pace - set the example as it were - for efficient agricultural production.
Because of the shortage of land for the indigenous people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, whose well-being is based on land use, I ask the Minister from whom he proposes to get the land for Australian farmers and in what area of the Territory it is to be made available. Finally, will the Minister turn his attention to a more ambitious, progressive and enlightened policy for farm development in Northern Australia?
– I would point out first to the honorable member for Macquarie that there is no shortage of land in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. There are shortages in certain areas, but, overall, there is much land available. I believe, as I said before, that in order to achieve the highest possible rate of progress, we must see that agricultural development goes ahead in the Territory, with indigenous people as well as Australians setting the pace.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has seen a Press report in which the Chairman of the Australian Wool Board has had to refute allegations by members of this Parliament that he has been opposed to a referendum on wool marketing. Will the Minister request the Prime Minister to refer members of this Parliament back to him as the Minister responsible for primary industries in this House, so that such alleged unfortunate statements will not be made, thus preventing further confusion in the wool industry?
– I have not seen any Press statement attributed to Sir William Gunn in which he has refuted statements alleged to have been made by him. Let me say quite clearly that I think that the Press has done much to add to the confusion over the proposed wool marketing scheme which, by the way, has not yet been adopted by Cabinet. Recommendations have been made to me by the Wool Industry Conference on behalf of the wool industry and at the moment I am endeavouring to complete a submission to Cabinet for discussion. I emphasise that Cabinet has at no time stated its attitude on this matter. When Cabinet has determined its approach to this proposal, wc will decide whether a referendum is necessary. But let me make it clear, once and for all, that the Government’s policy is that if there is to be a major change, a referendum should be held. I may add that in all my discussions with Sir William Gunn or any of the delegates of the Wool Industry Conference there has never been any suggestion put to me that there should not be a referendum. In all his talks with me, Sir William Gunn has been strongly in favour of holding a referendum.
” BASS TRADER “.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the cause of the fire that broke out on the “ Bass Trader “ on 30th August has yet been firmly established. Is this fire attributed to paint loaded on a semi-trailer? Did the paint contain highly inflammable solvents, the ingniting of which presented a grave danger to life and property? Are proper precautions taken in relation to the shipping of such cargoes as paint, chemicals or other inflammable products, the fumes from which, in the case of fire, could be highly dangerous and injurious to passengers?
– I am not sure whether the cause of the fire has been firmly established, and I cannot say definitely whether any large quantity of paint was being carried. Two semi-trailers on the “ Bass Trader “ were damaged by fire. At the time when I inspected this damage myself, it was thought that the fire had probably been caused by friction resulting from the outside spindle of a refrigerator motor rubbing against the canvas cover of a semi-trailer - one of those accidents that cannot always be foreseen. Fortunately, the damage caused was relatively slight, and it was done to mixed cargoes, not wholly cargoes of paint - if any paint was present. There were mixed cargoes on both semi-trailers, and both cargoes were damaged. There was no damage done to the ship, which sailed the same day for Tasmania, and all fire precautions were perfect.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 15th September, at 2.30 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Roberton, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is the second occasion during the current year, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Government has decided to introduce amending legislation to improve the position of social service beneficiaries. Only a few months ago we saw some important and far reaching changes in the child endowment provisions of the principal Act, resulting in higher rales of endowment for families with three or more children under 16 years of age, for children under 16 in institutions and in the introduction of a totally new type of endowment for full time student children between the ages of 1 6 and 21 years. After so recently securing the passage of these valuable measures for the immediate benefit of some 900,000 children under 16 years in over 500,000 Australian families and a further 120,000 student children, the Government has once again turned its attention to the steadily increasing section of our community receiving age, invalid and widows’ pensions. The Bill before the House provides for a general increase in the rates payable to all three types of pensioners.
Almost exactly twelve months ago I had the privilege of introducing into this House legislation providing for important structural changes in age and invalid pensions and the pensions payable to widows wilh children. Other liberalisations were also provided for at that time. Honorable members will recall that on that occasion a new standard rate was introduced for single, widowed and divorced age and invalid pensioners and for married pensioners whose spouses were not in receipt of a pension, a wife’s allowance, a tuberculosis allowance or an unemployment, sickness or special benefit. By adding 10s. a week to their pensions, we provided a new standard rate of £5 15s. a week for these pensioners who represent no less than 61 per cent, of all age and invalid pensioners.
The new standard rate also applied to widow pensioners with one or more children who also received a further £2 a week by way of a mother’s allowance together with an allowance of 15s. a week for the eldest or only child. All these widows thus received an increase of £3 a week, the total pension payments for a widow with one child becoming £8 10s. a week; this amount was increased by 15s. a week for each child after the first, in addition to the normal child endowment payments. An increase of 10s. a week was also granted at that time to widows without children, bringing their pension to £5 2s. 6d. a week. The conditions under which supplementary assistance was payable were not varied; so that pensioners receiving the supplementary payment also received the increases I have just described. Moreover, invalids with dependants were not overlooked. The wife’s allowance payable to the wife of an invalid or permanently incapacitated age pensioner was increased by 12s. 6d. to £3 a week. The additional pension for each child, after the first, of these pensioners was also raised from 10s. to 15s. a week.
Prior to 1963 additional payments for the children of invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners and of widow pensioners ceased when the child turned 16. This was changed by providing that these payments shall continue until the end of the year in which the child turns 18, provided he or she is dependent on the pensioner and is receiving full time education. The costs for this financial year of the liberalisations effected in 1963 and earlier this year will be about £35 million, approximately half of which will be for child endowment. In addition, expenditure for 1964-65 will include what, for want of a better term, may be referred to as the natural growth in social services expenditure due to higher numbers of beneficiaries reflecting, inter alia, the increase in our population. There will also be the part year COS:S of the pension increases for which this Bill provides.
The significance of these costs, is not apparent at first sight from a comparison of actual expenditure on benefits payable under the Social Services Act in 1963-64 - £320,795,000- with estimated expenditure of £336,936,000 for 1964-65. This arises from the fact that expenditure in 1963-64 included additional amounts of over £9 million for extra child endowment and widows’ pension paydays which fell in the year. Furthermore, outlay on unemployment benefit in 1963-64 was over £2 million more than is estimated for 1964-65.
The level of our expenditure on social services is certainly such that additional commitments cannot be undertaken lightly, much as we would like to be able to accede to the many and varied requests we receive for further expansions and concessions in favour of particular groups. May I be permitted to interpolate here that the cost of increasing age, invalid and widows’ pensions by ls. a week is more than £2 million per annum, and the cost of increasing child endowment by a like amount, ls. a week, would exceed £9 million. So that an increase of 5s. a week must involve expenditure in excess of £10 million and £45 million respectively.
Social services and similar benefits effect a redistribution of income and their cost must be met from current revenue, from the taxes paid by the man - and also, indeed, the woman - in the street. In 1948- 49, the last full year for which the Chifley Government was in office, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund was £80.8 million, or 40 per cent, of the combined yield of £199.5 million from the then separate social services contribution and the income tax paid by individuals. It is significant that in 1964-65 it is expected that expenditure from the National Welfare Fund will reach £452.1 million. This will represent 60 per cent, of the estimated yield of £745.6 million from income tax and social services contribution payable by individuals. While variations in both the expenditure from the National Welfare Fund and the amount of income tax and social services contribution paid by individuals will affect the proportion of the former to the latter, that proportion is, and will remain, formidable.
In order to increase our expenditure from the National Welfare Fund to the extent necessary to meet all requests for liberalisations we must either increase taxation - ‘and there are obvious limits to this - or invite inflation, with, of course, pensioners and people on fixed incomes being the first to suffer. Excessive taxation reduces productivity and defeats its own purpose. A responsible Government must always aim to strike a balance and this, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, the present Government can justifiably claim to have done during its fifteen years of office. As a result, the many advances that have been made in Australian social services during those years have been substantial and real advances, with benefit, not only to the recipients, but to the country as a whole.
It would, perhaps, not bc inappropriate at this juncture to mention that representations are frequently made by superannuitants and other interested persons and organisations for the abolition of what is called the “ means test “ on pensions or, at least, a liberalisation of the present provisions. The Government has, of course, done a great deal to liberalise the means test already. Progressive liberalisations have been made over the years, culminating in the merged means test in 1961. Complete abolition of the age pensions means test would, at the rates 1 am about to describe, add some £150 to £160 million to our expenditure from the National Welfare Fund, which is already expected to reach £452.1 million for the current financial year. Having regard to what I have said, it should be abundantly clear that such huge additional expenditure is out of the question at the present time. Furthermore, it must be emphasised in the clearest possible terms that the abolition of the means test would give an advantage to those pensioners who, due to their more favorable circumstances, are now paid at reduced rates - some 10 per cent, of the total. It would also extend eligibility for the first time to some 500,000 people of pensionable age whose means - in excess of £494 a year in the case of a single person or £936 in the case of a married couple - now exclude them from pension. But it would not improve by a single hair’s breadth the circumstances of the 90 per cent, of our existing pensioners who receive full pensions because their income and property are within the limits allowed, and they, of course, are in the greatest need. These include a number of pensioners who have no other means and depend entirely on their pensions and, in many cases, on supplementary assistance also.
After carefully considering the available resources, our existing commitments in social services and other fields and the many competing claims for improvements in social services, the Government has felt that the priority should be extended on this occasion to those who have the greatest need. The Bill which is now before the House accordingly gives effect to the Government’s decision, as announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget Speech, to increase all age, invalid and widows’ pensions by 5s. a week.
Under this bill, the rate of age and invalid pension for single and widowed pensioners and for married persons who are qualified to receive the standard rate will be increased by 5s. a week to raise their maximum rate from £5 15s. to £6 a week. Those in this group who receive supplementary assistance of 10s. a week, by virtue of the fact that they pay rent for their accommodation and are entirely dependent, or deemed to be entirely dependent, on their pensions, will continue to receive this payment in addition to the increased pension, bringing their total payments to £6 10s. a week. The married rate will also be increased by 5s. a week to bring it from £5 5s. to £5 10s. a week. In the case of a married couple who are both in receipt of an age or invalid pension, the total pension income of the couple will accordingly be increased by 10s. a week from £10 10s. to £11.
It is interesting to note that, using the consumer price index as a yardstick, the value of the new standard rate of £6 a week payable to single age and invalid pensioners will be £1 15s. 8d. a week higher than when the present Government first assumed office in December, 1949. Similarly, the value of the new married rate of £5 10s. a week will be £1 5s. 8d. higher than the 1949 rate. And, of course, it is worth remembering that supplementary assistance and the pensioner medical service were unheard of in 1949. It is unnecessary for me to remind honorable members that the pensioner medical service, since its introduction by the present Government in 1951, has been of tremendous help to eligible pensioners - some 87 per cent, of the total - by relieving them of the financial worry previously associated with sickness or ill-health in all its forms. Legislative authority for this service is, of course, provided under the National Health Act, which is administered by my colleague, the Minister for Health (Senator Wade).
It seems appropriate at this juncture to mention briefly other Commonwealth benefits in the health field. For example, pensioners enrolled in the pensioner medical service, and their dependants, are generally entitled to in-patient treatment, free of charge, in the public wards of public hospitals. This is provided automatically under arrangements made by the Commonwealth under the National Health Act. The Commonwealth also provides nursing home benefits, a benefit of 20s. a day being paid direct to approved nursing homes for all patients, including pensioners and their dependants, in State and private convalescent and rest homes and in the infirmary sections of benevolent homes and homes for the aged that are approved as nursing homes under the National Health Act. It is not necessary for the patient to join a hospital insurance fund to receive this benefit which is deducted from his account by the institution. In addition, of course, Commonwealth hospital and medical benefits are available on a generous scale to all members of the community who care to subscribe to the various hospital and medical benefit funds.
Finally in this connection, let me say a word about Commonwealth pharmaceutical benefits. Medicines prescribed by a doctor are supplied, free of charge, to pensioners enrolled in the pensioner medical service and their dependants. Other patients pay a fee of 5s. per prescription, the remainder of the cost being met by the Commonwealth. All these provisions have been, and are, of intrinsic value in meeting medical and hospital costs, including those associated with the birth of children and the consequential payment of maternity allowances.
There are people who claim that the rate of pension should be linked with the basic wage. While not accepting the validity of such a comparison, it may be worth reminding honorable members opposite that when the Government first took office in December 1949 the rate of age and invalid pension was 33 per cent, of the Commonwealth male basic wage (six capital cities). The new standard rate pension of £6 a week will be almost 39 per cent, of the present basic wage, which rose this year to £15 8s. a week, and the new married rate pension of £5 10s. a week will be 35.7 per cent. A married couple, both pensioners, will thus be able to receive pensions equivalent to over 70 per cent, of the basic wage. In addition to the pension, pensioners may, of course, have other income and/ or property so that the overall income of married pensioners may approach or even exceed the basic wage.
Single pensioners who pay rent and are considered to depend entirely on the pension receive supplementary assistance of 10s. a week in addition to the full standard rate pension. Their overall pension payments of £6 10s. a week will represent 42 per cent, of the basic wage compared with 33 per cent, in 1949. Honorable members will be aware that any general increase in pensions automatically extends the amount of means which a person may have before his entitlement to pension is eliminated under the means test. Thanks to the merged means test introduced by this Government in 1961, this now applies not only in respect of income, as formerly, but in respect of property, or property and income combined, for under the merged means test property and income are interchangeable.
Thus, as the result of the general increase provided for in this Bill, a single or widowed person without children whose property is valued at less than £210 will remain entitled to some amount of age or invalid pension until his income reaches £9 10s. a week, instead of £9 5s. a week as at present. Where he has no income, other than income from property - which is exempt - his entitlement to pension will not be completely eliminated until the value of his property reaches £5,140, which represents an increase of £130 over the present limit of £5,010. Property for these purposes does not, of course, include the person’s home, of any value, furniture, personal effects or certain other exempt assets.
In the case of a married couple who are both pensioners the disqualifying limit of income where there is no affecting property will be automatically lifted from £17 10s. to £18 a week - which is considerably more than the basic wage - and the disqualifying property limit where there is no affecting income will be lifted from £9,500 to £9,760. For a married couple where one partner is not qualified for a pension, wife’s allowance or unemployment or sickness benefit, the upper limit of combined income, where there is no affecting property which would exclude the other partner from some pension, will be raised from £18 10s. to £19 a week. In such cases the disqualifying property limit where there is no affecting income will be lifted from £10,020 to £10,280.
Moreover, as previously, a single or widowed person without children whose property is valued at less than £210 will receive the full standard rate pension provided his income does not exceed £3 10s. a week; where he has no income, other than income from property - which is exempt - he will receive the full standard rate pension unless the value of his property exceeds £2,020. The income and property levels I have mentioned as permitting the payment of full pensions are, of course, doubled in the case of married persons to £7 and £4,040 respectively. I hope that honorable members and others will bear in mind the figures I have quoted for the levels of income and property which permit payment of a full pension or just extinguish eligibility for a part pension. It is, unfortunately, true that many who urge liberalisation or abolition of the means test are either unaware of, or overlook, these most impressive figures.
Moreover, so far as income is concerned, the figures I have cited refer only to pensioners with children. In the case of invalid pensioners and permanently incapacitated age pensioners who have the custody, care and control of children under 16 years of age, the maximum rate of pension is, of course, increased by 15s. a week for each child other than the first. Income taken into account for pension purposes is, moreover, reduced by 10s. a week for each dependent child under 16 years of age. Furthermore, as the result of last year’s amending legislation, a child who is a full time student and dependent on the pensioner is deemed to be under the age of 16 years up till the end of the year in which he attains the age of 18 years. 1 will now turn to widows’ pensions. Honorable members will recall that last year’s amending Bill provided that the standard rate applying to single age and invalid pensioners should also become the basic maximum rate of the Class A widow’s pension, which was further increased by the mother’s allowance of £2 a week and an allowance of 15s. a week for her first or only child. It will be seen, therefore, that the increase of 5s. a week in the standard rate of age and invalid pensions for which this Bill provides will automatically increase the basic maximum rate of Class A widow’s pension from £5 15s. to £6 a week, and that a Class A widow with one child will have her total pension payments increased from £8 10s. to £8 15s. a week. Additional pension of 15s. a week will remain payable for each child after the first, and a student child, of course, counts as a child under 16 years of age on the same basis as for age and invalid pensions. Child endowment is also payable for each child, and many widows are now receiving the benefit of the higher rate for third and subsequent children and of the new student endowment. The maximum rate of pension payable to a Class B widow - that is, to widows over 50 years of age who have no dependent children - will be increased under the Bill from £5 2s. 6d. to £5 7s. 6d. a week. This will also apply to a Class C widow - that is, a widow under 50 years of age with no dependent children but who is in necessitous circumstances immediately following her husband’s death.
It is perhaps unnecessary to remind honorable members that widow pensioners now receiving supplementary assistance will continue to receive that allowance in addition to the pension increase. As in the case of age and invalid pensions, the increases for widows in Classes A and B* will extend the amount of means which such widows may have before their entitlement to pension disappears. The means test is being liberalised with every upward movement in the rates of pensions. A Class A widow who has one child and whose property, apart from her home, furniture and personal effects, does not exceed £2,250 in value may at present have income from outside sources of up to £11 15s. a week before her entitlement to pension disappears. This disqualifying limit will now rise automatically to £12 a week. It should not, of course, be inferred from this that her total receipts by way of pension and other income will be limited to £12 a week. The allowance of 15s. a week for the first or only child is not reduced by the means test and with this and her child endowment she will be able to receive pension and other income of up to £13 a week, or, if her child is a student child attracting student endowment, £13 10s. a week. In addition she may receive income from her property, such income being entirely exempt. In the case of widows with two or more children the disqualifying limit of income rises by 25s. a week for each of the additional children. This does not take into account endowment which is payable for the children.
Now let me describe the position of the Class A widow who has no income, other than income from property, which is exempt, but who has property, apart from home, furniture and personal effects, valued at more than £2,250. Such a widow may at present have property valued at up to £6,S50 before her entitlement to pension cuts out. The increase in the basic rate of pension resulting from this Bill will automatically raise this disqualifying limit by £130 to bring it to £6,980.
With regard to the provisions of the Bill relating to inmates of benevolent homes, I should explain that under the existing legislation a pensioner who is an inmate of a benevolent home does not receive more than 40s. a week of his pension if a standard rale age or invalid pensioner, more than 37s. a week if a married rate age or invalid pensioner or more than 36s. 6d. a week if a Class B widow pensioner. The balance of the pension is in each case payable to the authorities controlling the home. In applying the general increase of 5s. a week to these cases the rate of pension payable to pensioner inmates will be increased by 2s. to 42s., 39s. and 38s. 6d. a week respectively, and the other 3s. a week of the increase will be added to the amount already payable to the authorities of the home. That is consistent with a traditional formula.
The Bill provides for the increased rates of pensions to become payable on the first appropriate pay-day after it receives the Royal Assent and becomes law. It will benefit nearly 800,000 pensioners, or 7 per cent. of the present total population of the Commonwealth. The estimated cost of the increases will be £10,430,000 in a full year and £7,825,000 in 1964-65. The latter amount will, as 1 have already mentioned, bring estimated expenditure on benefits under the Social Services Act in 1964-65 to £336,936,000. The cost of these benefits, together wilh the cost of health and other benefits payable from the National Welfare Fund, will lift expenditure from the Fund to the record level of £452.1 million in 1964-65. In addition, expenditures under the Aged Persons Homes Act and the Disabled Persons Accommodation Act are expected to reach £3,700,000 and £150,000 respectively. But the Government’s record in this general area, or in the field of social services in particular, cannot and should not be measured in terms of cash expenditure alone. Rather the Government should be judged on the basis of the liberalisations, extensions and improvements it has made over the years since it assumed office in 1949, and they have been greater by far in the last 15 years than in the preceding 40 years which followed the introduction of Commonwealth pensions in 1908. In the field of social services and related benefits the major changes can be briefly summarised as follows -
Pensions: Rates of pensions and allowances increased; supplementary assistance introduced; additional amounts paid for dependent children, including students from 16 to 18 years, of invalid and permanently incapacitated age pensioners and Class A widow pensions - separate income and property tests liberalised and combined in merged means test in 1961 - parents circumstances disregarded entirely in determining eligibility for invalid pension of persons under 21 - residence qualifications liberalised - means test abolished for age and invalid pensions for the blind.
Child endowment: Endowment for first or only child under 16 introduced and rates for third and subsequent children under 16 in families and children under 16 in institutions increased - endowment introduced for student children aged between 16-21 years.
Unemployment and sickness benefits: Rates of benefit increased - means test liberalised.
Rehabilitation: Rates of allowances increased - groups eligible for free rehabilitation extended to include people receiving tuberculosis allowances and certain young people aged between 14 and 15 years - provision made for people ineligible for free rehabilitation to receive treatment and training on payment of the cost.
Other improvements are: Eligibility for social services extended to all Australian citizens, regardless of their ethnic origin, with the single exception of those who are nomadic - reciprocal social service arrangements introduced with Britain - Aged Persons Homes Act enacted - Disabled Persons Accommodation Act enacted - pensioner medical service introduced.
All these improvements have reflected the Government’s realistic and enlightened policy of extending benefits consistent with the capacity and willingness of the community to pay for them’ - that is, the capacity and willingness of the taxpayers. This Bill has been introduced in pursuance of that established and well proven policy. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18th August (vide page 306), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- It is not my intention to travel the roads travelled by other speakers who preceded me in this debate, but I think that some of the remarks made by them require some attention. During this debate members on the Government side have made such remarks as, for instance, “the time is ripe for a thorough survey of the road problem of Australia “. One could read into such remarks that the numerous surveys made in the past have not been thorough and that in fact they are worthless. In view of the inadequacy, or supposed inadequacy, of previous surveys and reports one would suppose that the Government would set up a bureau that would supersede all other organisations. Indeed, one would expect that the efficiency of the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will be such that all other road authorities in Australia will fade into insignificance. Taken literally, that was the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) when he spoke on this Bill.
I want to make myself perfectly clear at the outset by saying that if this Bureau does assume any significance, it will do so only through the information it will be compelled to seek from those very efficient authorities already operating in Australia. Those authorities have given splendid and valued service in relation to the road problem of Australia. For years they have been trying to awaken this Government from its roadside slumber. At last they have prodded it out of its years of lethargy. If we are to take the remarks of Government speakers seriously - and I think we can - those authorities will find in the future that the Government will claim all the credit for being the first to initiate action to overcome the road problem that besets this country now.
The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said that we did not want the road transport system of Australia to be handled by an “ immense, bureaucratic, centralised, monolithic authority “ - he was quoting the words of another honorable member - an authority with full power to make decisions and exercise complete control over the work done on roads throughout Australia. If the honorable member for Macarthur does not want an authority with authority, what sort of an authority does he want? In effect, the honorable member wants what the Opposition claims this Bill will establish - a toothless, nebulous, voiceless, non-productive instrumentality of no account. The honorable member for Isaacs differs from the honorable member for Macarthur although he said this at the beginning of his speech on this Bill-
I agree with what the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said early in the debate last week . . . that we do not want the road transport system in this country to be handled by an immense bureaucratic centralised authority - an authority with full power to make decisions and to exercise complete control over the work done on roads throughout Australia.
Let us go further. Having said this he continued -
I am not suggesting that we supplant the Slate road authorities, dismantle them or do away with them, but I invite honorable members to consider the facts. The State road authorities have been at pains to show that Australia has a great backlog in road construction. Uley can show that our road needs in the immediate future will be immense. Up to that point I believe they are quite right. Bin it is no use for them to say: “ Give the Suites £X million and all the roads needed will bc built.” Money is nol man power, or organisation, or resources, and there are occasions when it is not even the means of buying them. What we need now is a crash programme to build, a programme that takes into account organisation, man power and resources. This is what the Snowy Mountains scheme has tackled. It is to be hoped, therefore, that in setting up the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads the Government will create an agency with energy, imagination and the means to act. None of the road problems will be solved by limited measures, and nothing will be gained with our present potential. If we are to get a national roads system in the full sense of the word we must have a huge addition to our capacity, and I believe this can come only from overseas.
In making that statement the honorable member for Isaacs contradicts his former statement that he agrees with the honorable member for Macarthur. The honorable member for Isaacs says money is not man power and the like but I remind him that ii is the principal ingredient in any road construction scheme. The honorable member said -
None of the road problems will be solved by limited measures.
I ask honorable members: What factor limits the measures? We must come back to money in answering that question. The honorable member for Isaacs said -
If we arc to get a national roads system in the full sense of the word we must have a huge addition to our capacity, and I believe this can come only from overseas.
Again, I respectfully ask: How are wc to obtain the huge addition to our capacity if wc are not to spend money? Are we to use peanuts or are we to use the advisory body? The honorable member for Isaacs said also that what we need now is a crash programme to build, a programme that will take into account organisation, manpower and resources. Money is the basts of all this, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. This statement by the honorable member, when further analysed, highlights the thinking of the Government on this issue. Virtually, he has said: “ Never mind about plans. All that we need is a crash programme to solve the road problems, of Australia. “ On the one hand, one Government member wants an authority with no authority. On the other hand, one of his colleagues at first agrees with him and later disagrees and says -
It is to be hoped, therefore, that in selling up the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads the Government will create an agency with energy, imagination and the means to act.
That statement envisages an agency like the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. In view of the apparent bewilderment of these two Government supporters, I think it is reasonable to ask: What do they want? Do they know what they want? If this sort of thinking is indicative of what wc can expect from the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, we shall not get far away from the present mud and muddle in which the Government has floundered in respect of the road problems of this nation over the years.
In milder tone, Sir, 1 think it is true to say that the matters raised in this debate have been raised in this House over and over again. Indeed, investigation reveals that some of these matters have been raised since as far back as 1926. Probably the most salient point that arises from all the discussion that has taken place is that, in this jet age, the thinking of the Government is still in the T model Ford days. As I said before, it is not my intention to reiterate the statements made by previous speakers in this debate. However, 1 think it is timely to look at what has been done over many years by (he road authorities in this country in their endeavours to have our road problems dealt with on a national basis. I think we should look at these endeavours before we set out to do what the Government and its supporters apparently want - to discard the State authorities and other road organisations throughout Australia.
In February 1926, a conference was convened in Melbourne to discuss Federal aid road proposals. The Federal Government was represented by the Minister for Works and Railways of that time and each of the States was represented by a Minister. A draft agreement presented to the conference provided for the expenditure of £20 million over 20 years by the Commonwealth for road purposes. In 1926, planning looked 20 years ahead. This draft agreement was fully discussed and was then adopted by the conference, and it was later ratified by the Commonwealth and the States. In that agreement was a clause in the following terms -
The Commonwealth will establish a Board to be known as the Federal Aid Roads Board consisting of the Minister and a Minister representing each of the different States to which any money is made available in pursuance of the hereinbefore recited proposal of the Commonwealth. The said Board shall meet in the month of April in each year and at such other times as the Minister considers necessary for the purpose of discussing any matters in connection with the carrying out of the works.
Therefore, one can say that the need for co-ordinated discussions and co-ordinated planning was recognised as far back as 1926. The Federal Aid Roads Board held meetings in 1927, 1928 and 1929. At the end of 1929, the Commonwealth Government decided to terminate the existence of the Board and its final meeting was held in February 1930. As a result of the abolition of the Board, an authority known as the Conference of State Road Authorities came into being in 1933. The formation of this Conference emphasises the fact that as long ago as 1933 the road authorities, realising the problems of the present and the future, saw the absolute need to continue their efforts and discussions. The first’ meeting of the Conference was held in 1934. Apart from the years of the Second World War, it has met every year since, though it is now known as the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities. The work of the Association has been of great benefit’ to the community. It has at all times demanded a national blueprint for the roads of Australia.
The authorities represented on the Association are ail the main roads boards and departments of the States, local government authorities, the Commonwealth Department of Territories and the Commonwealth Department of Works. The Association has a number of standing committees. These are the Technical Committee, the Material Research Committee, the Bridge Design Committee, the Plant and Equipment Committee and the Traffic Engineering Committee. I suggest that the members of these committees represent the best brains that could be assembled in this or any other country to advise on and discuss road problems and the construction of highways and all their adjuncts. In terms of the human factor, the members of these Committees represent material that is absolutely indispensible.
In effect, the Conference of State Road Authorities, or the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities, as it has now become, has been functioning for 30 years. Its discussions have led it to the firm resolve that the roads of one State are the concern of all States and that all States must adopt a national approach to road problems. The authorities that comprise the Association also agree that this approach must be free from any parochialism based on State boundaries. It is interesting to note that the Conference of State Road Authorities was affiliated with the Permanent International Association of Road Congresses, which had been established in 1908. The Commonwealth is now represented on that body in place of the Conference. Furthermore, the Commonwealth is represented on N.A.A.S.R.A. by an officer of the Department of Works. So why is there need for a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads?
This Government now proposes to establish an authority that would not be even a shadow of the Federal Aid Roads Board established in 1926. The Administration now intends to throw to the winds all the experience gained over the years by the Conference of State Road Authorities, and its successor, and by other authorities that are well versed in all the problems associated with the siting, construction and maintenance of roads and bridges, and to establish a Bureau whose functions and authority will be so nebulous as to render its efforts futile and to relegate it virtually to the status of a rubber stamp. Indeed, so great will be the inadequacies of the proposed Bureau that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), in his second reading speech, at once set out to apologise for and protect the so-called Bureau by stating -
The Bureau will report to the Government on its investigations but it will be for the Government to decide whether or not such reports will be published.
The Bureau will be an investigating and advisory body only. I say that it will be just another voice crying in the wilderness of mud and muddle that has always characterised this Government’s approach to problems of national planning. The Minister made it perfectly clear that, if and when the Bureau reports to the Government, any report that is not entirely favorable to the Administration will be suppressed. That is virtually what he told us in his second reading speech.
Never before in the history of this country has there been a time when a master plan for a national road system has been so urgently needed. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), on 11th August, told us in his Budget Speech that the Government intends this financial year to spend £330 million on defence. Later, we conducted a debate about international events to the north of us. All speakers in that debate showed great concern at happenings in the countries to our north. No-one knows what the outcome of these troubles will be for Australia. Suffice it to say, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that events in Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia present us with an urgent need for an intelligent national plan to develop the northern parts of our continent. Yet, with the knowledge of these foreboding events to the north, of the lack of defence roads, of the congestion of our existing roads and of the complete inadequacy of our road system to meet the needs of the country should international conflict confront us, the only action taken by the Government, apart from the allocation of £330 million this financial year for expenditure on defence, is to propose the establishment of a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and otherwise to neglect one of the most crying needs in Australia. The proposed Bureau will play a mute part. Most probably, like the Committee of Transport Economic Research and other committees of a like nature, it will, at the whim and discretion of the Government, fade into the limbo of the lost. Such is the vagueness of the enterprise that it would almost appear that the whole thing is designed for the prime purpose of giving someone a job or for the purpose of making someone a glorified liaison officer between the Commonwealth and the States, a function that already is being undertaken by an officer of the Department of Shipping and Transport.
The background of Australian development which has taken place in the last decade, and which must continue to take place in the decades ahead, and the troublesome events to the north of us call for, in my view, an approach much more realistic and vital than the approach shown in this measure. In fact, the growing pains of development and expansion need an outlook of a national character far greater than this Bureau can exercise. Perhaps the most one cay say of this Bill, after taking into consideration the Government’s attitude to a national roads authority, is that we can be thankful for small mercies.
In August 1956 Sir John Latham stated that there were two anomalies in the Constitution that should be rectified. He said -
One is the constitution of the Senate, created as a protector of State rights, which has become a House of no importance; the other is the famous section 92 which has wrecked our road system in the name of interstate free trade.
I would say that the greatest anomaly that exists in relation to our road needs is the apathy that this Government has shown to national road planning. First class roads are a national investment. Without them our development is restricted and hampered and our security endangered. At the expense of repetition, it is worthwhile to say that good roads do not cost - they pay. Australia is in an era when our defensive and productive strength require the best that we can obtain. The timidity of this measure leaves us far short of meeting the needs of this atomic age and the tremendous mechanised revolution that is evident not only in Australia but throughout the world.
There is no dispute about the need for a national roads plan. The States recognise it and desire it. They know that their planning is being badly retarded by the absence of national planning. So why the delay? Further, it is agreed by all who recognise and understand the situation that the ‘lack of a national plan is a sheer national loss. So I say again that although we on this side of the House do not oppose the Bill we are of the opinion that it falls woefully short of requirements.
It can be said again and again that the question of roads in this country has become a national one. It can also be emphasised that related to roads are our defence needs, our industrial and manufacturing needs, the needs of our primary industries and the needs of the man in the street. Most of all, roads are related to the needs of those who pay the taxes which provide the money for these facilities. I cannot imagine anyone anywhere in this country or in any other country who does not benefit when roads are adequate, nor oan I imagine anyone anywhere in this country or in any other country who docs not suffer vast economic losses when roads are inadequate. Without doubt, the economic losses that Australia is suffering in this regard are immense.
For the Minister to inform us that this Bureau will be only an advisory body and that no guarantee will be given that its reports will be presented to the Parliament does not give one any feeling of jubilation as to the part that this Bureau of faceless men will play in the major national problem of roads in Australia. If our industrial needs, our manufacturing needs, our defence needs, the needs of our primary industries and the needs of the man in the street are not subject matters for discussion by this Parliament then I am at a loss to know what matters we are to discuss in relation to roads. I say this, because no argument can deny that there are no realistic grounds for divorcing the interests of one group of highway users or the interests of one State from the interests of another. All must progress so that each can progress, and the failure of any to progress is a road block in the way of others. The Government’s failure to face up to this question creates the greatest road block of all to the urgent development of our country on a national scale, development which only a national roads plan can give. It has been apparent over the years that only the coordinated efforts of the Commonwealth and the States can meet our requirements. Apparent over the years, too, has been the fact that our transport needs must be co-ordinated.
Knowing that transport costs are about 25 per cent, of our gross national product, and knowing the great improvement needed to bring our roads system to the level of meeting our requirements, I find it very hard to justify the Government’s attitude on this question. I know that this is a man-made problem that goes back many years, and I know that without doubt this is the inevitable result of inadequately planned development, planning of a kind that is costing this country millions of pounds annually. Only a co-ordinated plan to which the whole nation is pledged, a plan reconciling the conflicting interests of the Commonwealth and State Governments, can give us the results we desire. Certain as I am of that, I am just as certain that a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads cannot measure up to meeting these needs. The Minister’s own statement substantiates this and serves only to verify the fact that the Government’s past policy of time wasting and ineptitude in the matter of road planning will continue.
The time has come - in fact it has long since passed - to take stock of the position. The problem is clearly outlined and has been with us for years. The requirements of fuel and power, water supply, irrigation and primary and secondary industries are all dependent on roads. These are the demands of development. These are the demands of an expanding economy. These are the respective responsibilities of Commonwealth and State Governments. Our objective should be co-operation. We should not reject it, as this measure will.
A national roads plan embracing all these features is a must if we are to sustain our expansion. It is timely to ask: How can we make the best of the opportunities ahead for this nation without a national roads plan? A former President of the United States of America, Dwight Eisenhower, said -
Next to the manufacture of the most modern implements of war as a guarantee of peace through, strength, a network of modern roads is as necessary to defence as it is to our national economy and safety.
Looked at in the light of Eisenhower’s thinking, this Commonwealth Bureau of Roads falls far short of meeting the nation’s needs and the task that we have before us. I can remember a man saying that the launching of a national roads plan seemed to be as distant as a trip to the moon. I am sorry to say that we have been beaten even in this regard.
The proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will be effective only if it has authority. Irrespective of what action may be taken, our roads problem can be overcome only by national planning and financing and co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States. A larger proportion of general revenue will have to bc allocated to this project. I believe, and 1 agree to some extent with the honorable member for Isaacs, that if the finance is not available here it should be obtained overseas.
The percentage of funds spent on rural roads should be reduced and a greater percentage than at present should be allocated to roads that bear the major burden of catering for the needs of the heavy transports of the present day and age. To those who argue that the main roads system of this country is not a national responsibility, 1 say that if the saving of millions of pounds in freight costs and damage to vehicles and the saving of hundreds of lives are not a national responsibility I do not know where a national responsibility begins and ends.
The construction of a national roads system represents one of the greatest challenges to all governments, Commonwealth and State. Indeed, the challenge is so great and so urgent that any organisation that is set up must have authority to direct, construct and plan and, above all, it must have the most essential constituent to any road construction scheme or project - finance. A classic example of what can be done by authority financing an organisation of this kind is the Snowy Mountains project.
.- The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill is a very important piece of legislation for Australia. Quite apart from the fact that the Commonwealth Government plans to spend some £375 million, which is only about onethird of the funds to be spent in a five year programme, and also to make additional funds available for work in the north, it is important at this stage of our development that we have a look at our roads system which is the only, shall we say, flexible system in Australia today. Forward planning and research are important in all phases of development, not only in Australia but in all parts of the world. We are moving in a different era, especially in relation to transport. Events have moved rapidly in the field of transport. If we make changes in the mode of our transport we must make changes in the facilities provided to enable that transport to operate. All this affects our system of roads in this country.
It is important that the proposed Bureau be comprised of members representing, not a particular section of the community, but Australia as a whole and having a knowledge of the entire transport system within Australia. Our road transport system is the only completely flexible system of transport that we have. We have coastal shipping services and railway systems but to some extent those systems rely on road transport. They could not operate without road transport. Road transport feeds the railways to a large extent, just as it feeds the coastal shipping services.
Responsibility for the construction of roads rests mainly on the State Governments and the shires and 1 believe this situation should continue. The shires are very close to the problem of roads. They know what is required. The shires and the States have, over the years, done a wonderful job in road construction. But we as a Commonwealth should, at this stage of our development, take a greater interest in Australia’s system of roads. Australia is a country of 3 million square miles. Admittedly, it is not necessary, at the moment, to cover all of that territory with a system of roads but very large areas of this country are being opened up. This development requires roads, because no other form of transport is available.
Our railway system is quite good in some parts of Australia, but we know that it relics largely on road transport to feed it. For example, road transport is used to take the wheat crop to the railways. Similarly, road transport delivers the superphosphate, which is being used in ever increasing quantities, to and from the railways. This means that in country areas roads other than main roads bear the brunt of the traffic. Wool is another commodity that must be taken on the byways and smaller roads in this country and fed into the railway and shipping systems.
Road transport, particularly interstate road transport, has developed at a very fast rate in the last few years. Today very large trucks - “ semi-trailers “, as we call them - operate on our roads. We have the system of door-to-door deliveries under which goods are picked up at the factory and delivered to the warehouse or other place of dispatch. These developments have had a very beneficial effect on the cost factor in transportation. In the last year or two the coastal shipping services have tried to compete with road transport by introducing a system of transporting goods in containers. The transport companies arc doing a magnificent job. I hope that they will continue to do so. Not too many years ago ports in this country relied almost to the extent of 100 per cent, on railway services to deliver goods to and from ships but today the percentage of general cargo has been reduced to less than 10 per cent. In other words, more than 90 per cent, of the cargo moved in and out of our ports is carried by road transport. This situation has created some problems. It emphasises the kind of extra pressure that is brought to bear on our roads system, particularly when we realise the type of trucks that are being used on our roads today.
Special problems exist in Western Australia. The construction of a wide gauge railway from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana has been undertaken. This is an excellent project, but it will present some major problems for Western Australia in the future. It is obvious that we cannot continue to operate a dual railway system, lt would not be adequate or wise to do so. Western Australia will have to plan a new system of vide gauge railways. This will mean that road transport will play an important part in feeding the Kalgoorlie to Kwinana line as well as future lines. All these circumstances will have to be considered by the proposed Bureau.
Tremendous areas of Western Australia arc being opened up. There are no railway lines in these areas. Road transport is the only form of transport to carry the produce of these areas and to take in their requirements. We must plan our road construction ahead to ensure that our roads will be able to accommodate the larger vehicles that will bc using them. To some extent, this is being done in Western Australia and no doubt in other parts of the continent, but it is a matter that must be looked at very closely. I. think this is one of the most important aspects of the whole problem of roads. When planning future ro.nl construction in this country we must take into account the type of vehicle our roads are expected to carry. We know that in the past we have built roads that were adequate for 10 or 15 years and which may still be adequate for certain types of transport but which have not proved suitable for the heavy transport that we seen on our roads today. If we are to spend large sums of money on road construction - expenditure will increase over the years - we must pay careful attention to this matter. We must work in co-operation with the truck manufacturers and see that we build roads capable of carrying the vehicles that are likely to use them. We do this kind of thing in other forms of transport. We do it with our railways. We do not build a railway line without making sure that it will be able to carry the traffic thai wil] require to use it.
Honorable members have referred in this House quite recently 10 the expenditure of large sums of money on roads in northern Australia, built to transport beef cattle. These roads are an excellent project, but they must be built properly in the first place. Due regard must be paid to the types of vehicles that will use the roads, to the terrain through which the roads will pass and to weather conditions in the area. Taking all these factors into consideration, we must build roads that will last because it would be more expensive to have to go back at some future time and rebuild the road. Other important factors must bc considered, including the life of the vehicles, the speed at which they travel and the time allowed to get their perishable cargoes, such as beef, to their destinations, lt must travel under certain conditions. For instance, it must travel at night for, if it travels for long periods on trucks in the heat of th day there is a certain amount of waste. The important point is that if the roads arc not satisfactory the whole project cannot function and any benefits that might otherwise accrue are lost completely. It is essential to move perishable goods rapidly. This is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind when we are planning roads. It is not just a matter of deciding that we need a road from point A to point B or from one State to another. Let us keep in mind at all times the type of road that we need. Take, for instance, the vast amount of transport moving from eastern Australia to Western Australia across the Nullarbor Plain at the present time. Many consignors feci that it is more economical to make use of the railway pick-a-back system because the road is not sound enough to carry the heavy vehicles. In my view, they are right because the damage that can be done not only to the trucks but also to the cargoes they carry on roads such as that across the Nullarbor Plain is tremendous.
For these reasons, I feel that one of the first things the new Bureau should do is look at the road problem on an overall basis. It should arrive at a plan to cater for the main sections of transport between capital cities, or wherever else road transport may be needed, such as in the north, or to the ports in Western Australia that I mentioned, where at the moment there are no roads at all. It is essential that we have good strong roads for heavy transport because in the north only heavy transport is economical. I suggest that the Bureau should engage in research into the type of road, the width of road, and the depth of road necessary not only to carry this heavy traffic but to carry it without undue deterioration.
At the moment we are confronted with a big problem with the deterioration of the edges of roads throughout Western Australia. Because they are required to carry wider trucks with bigger tyres and heavier loads, the sides of the roads are just disappearing. Probably the roads were not strong enough in the first place. It is tremendously expensive to rebuild them.
It is most important that we investigate thoroughly the need for roads in the north of Australia. We all know that sometimes, if an ore deposit is being developed a special railway is built to the project but, from the point of view of the general development of the north, we must look to road transport. Although I speak mainly of the north of Western Australia what I have to say applies equally to the Northern Territory and to parts of north Queensland. Over the years we have seen the tremendous losses that have occurred in those areas when stock has had to be walked out, as is the practice when stock is fit enough and at the right age. These losses are being overcome now, but the handicaps to which I refer apply not only to the beef industry in the far north but to other industries in other parts of Australia. For instance, in some sheep areas in Western Australia, because of lack of roads and proper facilities for getting stock out, the sheep are just left on the properties if a dry season should happen to overtake the country and the loss is tragic.
One of the main problems in stocking the north at the moment is to maintain a reasonable stocking rate at all times. This cannot be done if we have not adequate roads to enable stock to be moved in and out as necessary. As honorable members know, we have fluctuations of seasons. We will continue to ‘have those fluctuations and these problems will continue to arise; but if the station owners had the opportunity to move stock in and out when climatic conditions, or other factors made this desirable, many difficulties would disappear.
We all know of the tremendous costs involved in transporting stock in the north. These costs will be reduced to some extent when the petrol price equalisation legislation is introduced, and I hope that this will be done in the very near future. But the important thing is to lay the proper foundation and that foundation is a good road system. Perhaps this Government could render assistance if the cost is found to be too great, but good roads, and the right types of roads, are essential. The cost of transporting stock in Australia is getting higher and higher, and our stock is a most valuable asset. Thousands of head of stock are being moved from east to west every week in an effort to keep up with the tremendous developmental programme which we have embarked upon in Western Australia. The development of one million acres a year is quite a programme in itself, and to stock all that country is another considerable programme.
It is most important that facilities be provided for getting stock out of the north in a reasonable condition. Admittedly, there are always such problems as water to be considered, but at the moment good roads and good trans-fort facilities are just not available in the north. We cannot look to any other form of transport up there. There are no railways in the north of Western Australia, and main roads - solid roads that will stand up to the very heavy loads that will be transported over them - are essential. If we have such roads, then our production will improve and many
O-f our other problems will be overcome. Increased production is what we must have.
We have been looking at world beef supplies recently and have found that there are many markets available to us, if wc can only go ahead and not only produce the goods but also transport them to market. At the moment, there is a tremendous waste of good quality stock between the point of production and the point of sale. The Bureau proposed by this Bill can do a tremendous amount of good not only in advising the Government on these matters but in giving the Government an opportunity to plan ahead and to budget ahead in order to overcome the problems that now confront us. As I see it, the money that is to be spent will not be just an ordinary expenditure; it will be a very good investment, and we must go forward. L have much pleasure in supporting the Bill. Sit. iii)> suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
.- -The debate on the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Bill is drawing to a close. 1 feel that the Government has been quite generous in allowing the debate to proceed for so long. In doing so it has displayed better judgment than it did last night when we were debating a most important bill. That debate was not allowed to run ils course. However, 1 give credit where it is duc, and this important Bill has been given a fair go.
I congratulate the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hallett) and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) on their contribution to the debate. The honorable member for Canning spoke about the co-ordination of transport and said how important it was that shipping should be co-ordinated for the good of all. I will have something to say on that subject later. The honorable member for Gellibrand said that so far as roads are concerned, everyone must share equally. He said that it would not bc right for people who live in the country to have greater benefits than those who live in the city. He was not having a shot at country people when he said that. Honorable members who represent country electorates must understand that a great transformation has taken place in our system of transportation. At one time most produce from country districts was carried to the city by rail. That situation has now changed and most goods are carried to the cities and to the ports for shipment overseas by road transport. The cities must have good roads; otherwise the goods could not be carried to the wharves because the city roads would be congested. I will refer later to the chaos that now exists in city areas.
The House is well aware that I succeeded the late Mr. Alan Bird in the seat of Batman. Mr. Bird was one of the best informed speakers in this House on the subject of roads. From his early days in Parliament, Mr. Bird advocated a bill of the nature of the one we are now debating. Just as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) can rightly be termed the architect of our present immigration scheme, I think in fairness the same could be said of Mr. Bird with regard to roads. He was always advocating the need for good roads in Australia.
I support the Bill and I hope (hat the Government will accept the amendments to be proposed by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). The Labour Party has pleaded with the Government for a long time on this subject, but it has taken the Government about 14 years to start moving. This is amazing, because some of our proposals are accepted within about 12 months and some are accepted within a few months. But this most important Bill now comes along after almost 14 years of clamouring. When I say that some of our recommendations arc accepted within a short time, honorable members will recall that during the last election we advocated certain defence proposals. We said that pay received by members of the Citizen Military Forces should be tax free. That proposal was part of our propaganda. Now we find that the Government has adopted what we had the courage to suggest. We do not mind that, because it is good for the public. I used that illustration merely to show that we play quite a big part in these matters.
The Government has obviously forgotten the lessons of history on the importance of roads. The Romans were quick to make good roads when they invaded Britain, and in recent years Hitler readily grasped the need for good roads when he built the auto.bahns for defence purposes all over Germany. These roads were of great importance to Hitler, for with these roads he was able to use his blitzkrieg methods that the whole world knows about. The Government has been slow to understand this. Last year, for instance, when we pointed out the need for good roads, a former Postmaster-General and senior Cabinet Minister added more confusion to the Government’s thinking when replying to Mr. Les Haylen, the then honorable member for Parkes. On 3rd April 1963 Mr. Davidson said as recorded at page 336 of “Hansard “-
IE you want to provide a really good communications system of railways and roads for our enemies to get right to our heart, that is the best thing you can do. As a man who has had some experience in these matters, I can think of nothing more dangerous than to provide an efficient transport system for our enemy to use to get to our heart without having a proper defence force to ensure that we can use that transport system.
Those remarks were made by a prominent member of the Country Party, a Cabinet Minister. Yet the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that we should not forget about the country when talking about roads. What does he want done? His own senior Ministers do not believe in him. This is evidenced by the statement made by Mr. Davidson, a statement which surely is amazing. The Government has been in power for 14 years and it is now approaching its 15th year in office, but it still has not an adequate defence force, as Mr. Davidson said. In effect he said that we must have good roads and a good defence system. At present we have neither.
– What do you mean by “ adequate “7
– I will come back to that and tell you about it later. The Bill shows a certain amount of good thinking, although it has taken the Government so long to begin moving. This muddled thinking it bad for defence. I implore the Government to do something while there is yet time.
Those who served in the Pacific alongside the Americans remember the importance that they placed on good roads. Those who took part in amphibious operations will remember that bulldozers and beach matting had first priority. As soon as the vehicles were put into the water and reached the beachhead the Americans started to build good roads. Some of those roads still stand in New Guinea, as I saw when I was there not very long ago. With several other people, I thought at the time the roads were made that they would soon be overgrown. Many are now overgrown, but many still stand. That shows how important it is to ensure when you build a road that you build a good road.
If we are to build for the future steps must be taken immediately to relieve congestion. Last year in Australia 400,000 new vehicles were registered. The growth rate in the number of vehicles in Melbourne is 7 per cent., which means that the number of vehicles doubles each 10 years. From that honorable members can imagine what the scene will be in 10 years time if something is not done immediately. We on this side of the House want the reports of the proposed Bureau to come to Parliament and not, as the Bill states, that the members from time to time shall report to the Minister. This is too much of a luxury. Surely no Minister is entitled to so much. If it is good enough to form such a Bureau, the whole Parliament should know what it is doing and the information should be passed on to the people of Australia. Roger Bacon said 700 years ago -
There be three things that make a nation great and prosperous, a fertile soil, busy workshops and easy conveyance of men and goods from place to place.
Those words are just as true now as they were when they were first uttered. One worker in five in Australia is engaged in the transport industry and its associated industrial activities. One quarter of the gross national product goes into the great transport complex. Eleven per cent, of the total work force is engaged directly in moving freight and people. These figures show how necessary it is that our national transport system should be as efficient as it is possible to make it.
Today we are in the jet age, but airlines carry only one fortieth of the total passenger traffic and only one thousandth of the total freight. Eighty per cent, of all traffic goes by road and practically all the remainder by rail. Since the advent of the present Government, the Australian coastal passenger trade has practically disappeared. Last year some 25,000 people were carried in overseas ships around the coast. They paid about £550,000 in fares. The new sea road between Sydney and Hobart, on which will travel the “ Empress of Australia “, will bc of benefit, but at the present time Australia needs at least another four Empresses of Australia, and they should be used between Melbourne and Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, Sydney and Brisbane, and Brisbane and Cairns.
Sca road ferries could be the means of relieving congestion on our interstate roads, especially those roads on which heavy transport vehicles are used. The ferries should be much faster than the “ Empress of Australia”. A speed of 18 knots is not fast enough. A service speed of 25 knots is what is required. This is equivalent to a land speed of about 30 miles per hour. A ferry capable of a speed of 25 knots could leave Sydney at midnight and arrive at Brisbane the following midnight. Operating to this schedule would allow the use of road vehicles in city and suburban areas when traffic is at its lowest chb. Transportation of this kind would be much cheaper than road transport over the 500-odd miles involved. There would be a great saving in tyres, fuel and wear on roads. I trust that the Bureau will, when formed, give this question urgent consideration.
The Bureau will have many things to look into. One matter that it could well investigate is the part played by local government authorities in the building and repairing of roads. I am critical of the proposal mentioned by the Minister in his second reading speech in these terms -
The Bureau will report to the Government on its investigation”! and it will be tor the Government to decide whether or not such reports will be published. 1 believe that the reports of the Bureau should be laid on the table of the House for the benefit of the nation and only those matters dealing with defence and security should be treated as confidential. The Stevens report deals with New South Wales only but provides a good guide for the rest of Australia as to the burden and responsibility carried by local government in the building and maintenance of roads. Unfortunately, the report covers only the period from 1946 to 1956. lt shows that the construction and repairing of roads is the chief cause of the steady increase of rates which is a very serious matter for all property owners. As you know, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, rates seem to go up year by year, and this heavy drain on the resources of ratepayers must bc reduced to the greatest extent possible. Referring again to the Stevens report, we find that contributions by councils to the New South Wales Department of Main Roads out of rate revenues increased from £519 million in 1946 to £1,986 million in 1956. If the graph remained constant the rate of contribution would now be increasing by £163 million a year - and that is in one State only.
Road construction costs in Australia are now financed to the extent of 40.6 per cent, from rates while in Canada the ratepayers pay only 25.5 per cent, and in the U.S.A. they pay only 23.8 per cent. This heavy burden on local government must be cased. Surely when motorists are taxed the taxes they pay should go towards improving their lot. Petrol tax collections should be given to the States, and all of this money should bc used in the building of new roads and the upkeep of old ones. Roads must be widened and new freeways built. The South Eastern Freeway in Melbourne provides a good example of the way in which money can be saved for the community. It is estimated that in its first year of operation this freeway resulted in a saving of £350,000. There were no fatalities on the road and this alone has been estimated as effecting a saving of £80,000. In addition, £270,000 was saved because of reduced delays and lower operating costs. lt has been said on numerous occasions that Australia gives an interesting example of private prosperity and public penury. Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in our highway system. If Australia is to avoid traffic jams and a general slow down, those responsible for making the necessary laws and those responsible for carrying out the necessary construction must act now. No-one seems to turn a hair or lose any sleep at the thought of the huge traffic jams, lasting not for minutes but for hours, that we will experience within the next five years even if we start right now to put our affairs in order.
It is possible to estimate quite accurately the capacity of a given street to carry traffic. Such estimates have been made by various councils and traffic authorities. This capacity, which is measured in numbers of vehicles per hour, depends mainly on the intersections that occur along the given stretch of road. There is a definite limit to the number of vehicles a street can carry in a peak hour. If more than the limit attempt to use the street, the number that may be carried in a given time must fall and actually does fall. Then if more vehicles come in and try to use the road, there is a complete jam and all vehicles stop. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works made the cold facts pretty clear in a recent review in which it gave the present capacity and the estimated peak capacity in 1970 of various areas in the following figures which represent vehicles per hour -
In these areas, the present peak flows are bordering on capacity. By 1970 chaos will be complete and for many hours a day traffic will be at a complete standstill. The existing system must be remodelled and, to achieve this, many workers will have to be channelled to public transport while the existing system is modernised. I think everybody should read the leader in today’s Melbourne “ Age “. Under the heading “ Fair Sharing of Road Funds “, it states -
Melbourne has one of the world’s finest road networks ….
That sounds pretty good; but then there is a dash. It reads -
Melbourne has one of the world’s finest road networks - on paper. In fact, it probably has the worst highway system of any city of comparable size and standard of living. In 1953 the authors of Melbourne’s Master Plan, looking 25 years ahead, designed an impressive pattern of freeways and ring roads for an expected two million people and 540,000 motor vehicles. These figures have already been surpassed, in less than 10 years. In another five years the city will have the 750,000 vehicles not foreseen until the year 2000.
That backs up what I said, and I had prepared my notes before this newspaper was published.
– That leading article goes on to make some recommendations.
– I have not time to read the whole article. I have only eight minutes left. All I am trying to do is make a constructive contribution to this debate. If we can do something about this problem, I think we will have achieved something.
I direct the attention of the House to the January 1964 report of the Victorian Country Roads Board. The Board backs up my arguments. At page 8 of the report it makes some recommendations which should be coupled with the recommendations made by the “ Age “. In fact, the “Age” may have taken them from this report. The report states -
With the current revenues the Board is not able to carry out a sufficient volume of road and bridge construction, reconstruction and maintenance to keep pace with the growth of traffic in all regions of the State. It has been estimated that in the next decade the present total of approximately 1,000,000 motor vehicles registered in Victoria will be nearly doubled.
Commercial vehicles are becoming larger and heavier.
Roads which were adequate for lower volumes of lighter traffic urgently require strengthening and widening ….
I will not read the whole of that report. I know that when this Bureau is formed the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) will have all the evidence collected. I also know that the people who will constitute the Bureau will derive much benefit from this debate. Honorable members from both sides of the House have gone to a lot of trouble because they want to see something done for the benefit of Australia in the provision of good roads.
However, it is no good having good roads unless we have certain regulations and standards to be observed by the people using them. I quote the following extract from a report by the Victorian Police Surgeon -
On the 6.3.61, from 2.00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. at the Kilmore Weighbridge I watched four Transport Regulation Board Inspectors, with the help ofone Police Checker, check some 70 transport Drivers.
I read this because it is very important that people should know what happens on our roads. The report continues -
One admitted driving for 20 hours; several had two Log Books, two drivers were so tired that their speech was slurred.
One Driver had the previous page missing from his Log Book,he admitted 17 hours continuous driving;
I do not know whether the Minister has seen a report of an address given by Professor A. J. Francis, head of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Melbourne, to the Australian Road Federation on 22nd June 1964. It was a very long address, but this passage is worth quoting -
There is an odd thing about transportation in the educational field. Not only here but overseas as well, there seems to be a conspiracy among all concerned to play down its importance. About the same number of workers are engaged in transport and communications (i.e. in actually moving people and goods about) as in the building and construction industry; but the attention given to the transport system in Australian Universities is negligible compared with that given to building and construction. The ratio of the staff concerned in each case would be of the order of 1 to 10. In Engineering Faculties only the University of N.S.W. has Departments devoted to transport, and in their case the focus is specifically on roads. In the other universities at present I do not believe there is a single member of teaching staff concerned fulltime with transportation engineering; whereas in building and construction, including architecture, about 100 staff members are fully engaged. The came applies in the economic field; very little attention is given in Departments of Economics to the transport system, and the number of active research workers in the field can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I have been trying for years to obtain permission to appoint a Senior Lecturer in Transportation Engineering, without success so far.
I stress that because our amendments contain a proposal along those lines. I hope the Minister will realise the importance of this matter. I know that he has many transport matters on his plate. Many things have to be done. I am sure that, when all of this evidence is collected and sorted out, Australia will be taking a step towards having better roads. We have to act, and act quickly. People who have made studies of this subject have told us that cities arc gradually grinding to a stop. All the drivers of motor vehicles surely must know this. Ten years ago it was possible to drive from the city to a suburban home without much delay, but the traffic now is slowing down month by month. We must start with a will and improve conditions as quickly as possible.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson), as usual, made a fairly reasoned speech. However, I find myself in disagreement with him on one or two points. He contended that the findings of the Bureau, when it is formed, should come before the Parliament and should not be referred only to the Minister. If the findings of the Bureau came before the Parliament and were treated as we would expect them to be treated by the Opposition, the members of the Bureau would soon start to curtail their criticisms of the road systems. The Minister, after all, is answerable to the people for the construction of roads and for the implementation of the recommendations of the Bureau. The honorable member for Batman also said that primary producers send most of their products to the metropolitan markets by road. I do not know what happens in all States, but if the honorable member carries his investigations a little further he will find that many State Governments impose quite heavy restrictions on road transport. In Victoria, primary producers are not able to make the best use of roads. They can carry fresh produce to the city markets but they cannot carry a load of iron, fertiliser or similar goods back to the farm.
The purpose of the Bill is to form the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. This follows the promise made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech at the last election. The membership of the Bureau is restricted to three, one full time member and two part time members. Obviously, we do not want the Bureau to be overloaded and to suffer from Parkinson’s law. The functions of the Bureau are set out in clause 14 of the Bill. They are as follows -
The functions of the Bureau are -
to investigate, and from time to time to report to the Minister on, matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connexion with roads or road transport; and
to investigate, and report to the Minister on, any matter referred to the Bureau under the next succeeding section.
Clause 15 provides that the Minister may refer any matter relating to roads or road transport to the Bureau for investigation and report.
It is vital that the Commonwealth Government have first hand knowledge of road construction problems and general transport needs throughout Australia. It is also necessary that the Government be able to obtain unbiased and completely impartial information. After all, the States have sovereign rights in these matters. They are the road constructing authorities, and that is as it should be. The Commonwealth cannot come into the matter too deeply without cutting across the provisions of the Constitution. Nonetheless, it still has a profound interest in the construction of roads. Because of the constitutional restrictions, the membership of the Bureau is limited and its functions appear to be restricted. This has led to the Opposition asserting that the Bureau is toothless. Of course, the Opposition believes in bureaucratic control. It would like to have a great central authority, though the authority might suffer from Parkinson’s law, somewhere here in Canberra rather than our present very efficient system of road. construction by the local authorities. As a supporter of the Federal system I believe that we should maintain the present system, at the same time keeping in mind the need for a national network of highways.
The adoption by the Commonwealth of the role of Father Christmas in the provision of money to the States for road construction has always worried me a little. The State Premiers and Treasurers seem to be a little irresponsible. They do not have the same sense of responsibility as the Commonwealth has and very often allege that the Commonwealth is miserly. Of course, the State Governments must look after the interests of the electors in the States; that is their job. But they should also look at the overall situation and be statesmen. When the Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill was before the Parliament last April, many comments were made about it. I was rather disappointed to read a statement made by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. I think he is a very progressive lord mayor. He and the previous Lord Mayor, Sir Maurice Nathan, have done more for Melbourne than others have done for many years. Under Sir Maurice Nathan’s jurisdiction Melbourne progressed far more rapidly than it had for many years.
When he was Lord Mayor, Sir Maurice Nathan said that he did not want to take away from the country areas any of the 40 per cent, of the funds allocated by the Commonwealth, that he would rather see the Commonwealth make a special grant for the cities. I think that the cities need a special grant, and we have never said anything different from this. However, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Councillor Curtis, seems to think that members of the Australian Country Party have said something else. The “Age” of Saturday, 14th March 1964, carried the following report -
The Lord Mayor (Cr. Curtis) yesterday charged the Country Party with bringing strong pressure to bear on the Federal Government to reject the capital cities’ request for special road funds.
I dispute this. I do not think that any member of the Country Party at any time has said that the cities should not have special funds. I think the Lord Mayor has been misled; somebody has given him the wrong information.
Unfortunately, the Premier of Victoria, who is also a redoubtable fighter for that State, seems to have been playing political cuties with the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. He said something about being outmanoeuvred and outgunned. If he was outmanoeuvred he was outmanoeuvred by
Mr. David Brand of Western Australia, Sir Thomas Playford of South Australia, Mr. Frank Nicklin of Queensland and the other Premiers. If he was outmanoeuvred he must lack some political ability.
– He is honest.
– I agree with that; he is honest. He said that he was disappointed that there would be no more freeways for Melbourne. I hope I am quoting him correctly when I say that he said that he had no hope of having the 40 per cent, provision removed. I will read another passage from the article in the “Age” to which I have already referred. I trust that this report is accurate; the “ Age “ is a reliable newspaper. It reported as follows -
No move was made to alter the Commonwealth proviso that 40 per cent, of each Stale’s grant must be spent on country roads, other than highways and main roads.
This is rather enlightening. I am disappointed in the statements of the Premier and the Lord Mayor. Somebody is misinforming somebody. Of course, the newspapers take this up and blame the Australian Country Party. Everybody knows that the members of the Australian Country Party are statesmen. We do not take a parochial view of these matters; we look at them in the light of national needs. As rural areas comprise 98 per cent, of the land mass of Australia what can we do but plead with the Commonwealth Government to make special allocations for the rural areas and so protect them?
– Of course they are protected.
– That is right. The Commonwealth Government has a very heavy responsibility to protect all sectors of the community, and its responsibility extends to the construction of roads. The Commonwealth is the tax collecting authority. It has responsibility for the nation’s defence policy as the honorable member for Batman said, and it also takes a great interest in national development. It has recognised that transport costs are a major item and, as transport is a national problem, the Commonwealth Government must take an interest in it.
The Bureau is being set up to study all (he suggestions made by the various rep- resentatives of organisations and pressure groups. That is a nasty expression, but it is true that pressure groups come to the Commonwealth and ask for money for this or for that purpose. The Bureau will be free of the various pressures that are normally associated with legislation that provides money for roads purposes. Members of the Bureau will be able to make recommendations to the Minister with a bold and clear view. 1 was amazed at some figures given to the House by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). I hope they are correct. He said that 25 per cent, of our national income is spent on transport costs. This is a very large amount. He said that transport costs in Canada were 9 per cent, of the national income and in the United States of America they were 10 per cent.
High transport costs are a limiting factor in the growth and development of Australia. When I visited the Ord River district some two years ago, one of the potential young farmers there told me that a spare part for a plough, costing £8 in Melbourne, which he wanted urgently because he was half-way through ploughing, had cost him about £40. He needed it so urgently that he had to have it air freighted, and that was the landed cost. If we wish to develop the northern part of Australia we certainly have to face this problem of transport costs. Of course, the Commonwealth Government is taking action on the price of fuel in country areas and, in the near future, country people will have to pay no more than 4d. per gallon for fuel above the price paid by people living in our coastal cities.
When this high transport cost is added to articles such as spare parts it makes a big difference. During a visit to the Northern Territory, I saw an area where landholders could grow peanuts very easily but unfortunately the freight cost makes it uneconomic and they cannot compete with the very efficient area at Kingaroy, represented in this Parliament by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann).
While I was in Darwin, I was struck by another peculiarity in freight costs. I visited Darwin as a member of the Public Accounts Committee. We were interviewing officers of the Department of Works and they were explaining why building costs were so high there. I was given certain information and when I returned to my home town, Orbost, I rang a hardware retailer. Orbost is about 250 miles from Melbourne. To my amazement I found that building materials, in the main, cost within a Id. of what they were in Darwin. This shows that freight costs are not so bad close to the seaboard. No doubt the committee investigating transport costs in the north will look at all these problems and sort out the anomalies.
The proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will have a limited membership - one full-time member and two part-time members. Clause 6 (1.) of the Bill reads -
The Bureau shall consist of a Chairman and two other members.
I have received letters from shire councils in all parts of my electorate. They are quite concerned about this Bill because they have the idea in their minds that the Bureau may not understand their peculiar and particular problems. They are concerned that members of it may not understand the reason why the Commonwealth Government has seen fit to give 40 per cent, of the total allocation of money for roads to these rural shires in the past. I would like to explain to honorable members just what happens to money provided by the Commonwealth.
I will explain what happens in Victoria, that being my own State. The money received from the Commonwealth is paid into what is called the C.R.B. No. 3 Account. Victoria is divided into 10 divisions of the Country Roads Board, which is an excellent constructing authority. It is at this level that the grant ratio for the shires is decided and the maximum ratio is ten to one when Commonwealth aid roads money is concerned. The grant ratio for a road running through two shires can bc 10 to 1 in one area and 4 to 1 in the next because the Country Roads Board uses the criterion of ability to pay when deciding what the ratio will be when applying these Commonwealth moneys. In other words, through the C.R.B., the State Government can keep pressure on the shires and keep them straining at their budgets in order to keep rate charges high. People generally do not understand this. Certain members in this House certainly do not understand it.
They feel that country municipalities and shires are having a good time with this money when in actual fact they are getting it at the grant ratio decided by the State Government or the C.R.B.
I wrote to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) directing his attention to the letters I bad received dealing with this matter. I had received letters from councils representing the Cities of Sale and Traralgon and the Shires of Mirboo, Orbost, Rosedale and Woorayl, Avon, Omeo, Bairnsdale, Alberton, Tambo, Morwell and South Gippsland. My electorate is a large one and covers a number of shires. AH of them have written to me about this matter and have asked that there should be at least one person on this Bureau with the knowledge and experience to interpret correctly the needs of municipalities and to ensure that these needs are given full and fair emphasis in any recommendations made.
This is not a parochial wish. The fact is that rural shires comprise 98 per cent, of the land in the States of Australia. They have the problem of providing all sorts of services from libraries to sewerage - all the normal conveniences that are accepted automatically by people in the cities. I ask the Minister to consider all these matters. If he intends to reply to this debate, 1 hope he will assure me that favorable consideration will be given to the appointment to this Bureau of at least one member who has the knowledge and experience to look after the interests of shire councils;
.- I have listened to the numerous speeches hade on this Bill and have tried to sort out the many points made by honorable members regarding the road system in Australia. I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have been very tolerant in permitting members to roam over the whole of the roads system of Australia during this debate and to intrude into the affairs of other Parliaments.
I propose to confine my remarks to the purposes of the Bill which, I think, is quite a good one in parts. As was made clear by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) who led for the Opposition in this debate, the Australian Labour Party, being a broad, national, progressive party, docs not propose to offer any opposition to the
Bill. I intend to make a few observations, however, which I hope will meet with the Approval of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). I hope I will be able to draw the Minister’s attention to some of the requirements of local authorities which could be affected by this Bill. The functions of the proposed Bureau are set out in Part III of the Bill, and clause 14 states-
The functions of the Bureau are -
to investigate, and from time to time to report to the Minister, on matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connection with roads or road transport; and
to investigate, and report to the Minister on, any matter referred to the Bureau under the next succeeding section.
The principal reason for introducing this Bill is found in the first part of clause 14. One of the Bureau’s functions will be to report from time to time on matters relating to roads or road transport and to assist the Commonwealth Government in determining grants of financial assistance to the States in connection with roads or road transport. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), in his second reading speech, made the matter very clear when he said that, for the most part, such references will relate to special requests by the States for Commonwealth financial assistance for particular road projects.
I gather from the Minister’s remarks and from the provisions contained in clause 14 of the Bill that one function of the Bureau will be to consider special matters referred to the Minister by the States outside the scope of grants totalling £375 million to be made by this Parliament to the States for road construction during the next five years. This, I think, is very good. We know that the principal problems relating to road transport occur, not in rural areas, but in the cities. Statistics show that 40 per cent, of Australia’s population is to be found in Melbourne and Sydney and that 54 per cent, of the Australian people live in the six State capital cities. Since the proportion of cars and other motor vehicles compared to population is something like one to every three persons, wc see that the greatest concentration of motor vehicles occurs in the cities. The real problems of roads and road transport occur where the greatest concentrations of vehicles exist. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) pointed out a little while ago in a considered and well prepared speech, the problem of traffic accidents is greatest where the heaviest demands are imposed on the roads. I hope that the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will have an opportunity - by direction of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, of course - to consider the great transport problems that exist in the various State capitals.
I propose to speak primarily of Brisbane, the capital city of the State from which I come, where enormous traffic problems exist. The Brisbane River causes great traffic problems in that city. As the Minister has pointed out, and as the Bill states, one of the functions of the proposed Bureau will be to consider the problems of roads and road transport. I interpret the expression “ road transport “ to include, among other things, the movement of cars and road transport generally in both country and city areas. In Brisbane, traffic is slowly grinding to a halt because of the enormous difficulties that have arisen. Some time ago the Minister received a deputation representing the Lord Mayors of the State capital cities which pointed out the very great difficulties to which those cities are subject. City councils find that their own revenues are inadequate to meet the cost of solving these very great problems.
Just on 50 per cent, of Queensland’s population is concentrated in Brisbane. This means that the roads bill for 50 per cent, of the motor vehicles in that State must be met by the Brisbane City Council. Contributions made by the Queensland Government are so infinitesimal as to be almost negligible. Indeed, quite a controversy has been raging between the Lord Mayor of Brisbane and the Premier and the Treasurer of the State over the funds provided by the Queensland Government for road construction in the city area. I accept the figures given by the Lord Mayor, who has stated that, last financial year, the State Government contributed the enormous sum of £71,000 to the City Council for the construction of roads within the city. Several other sums were contributed for the construction of a bridge across a railway and a bridge across a creek. But, in the main, the Queensland Government may be said to have allocated to the Brisbane City Council for road construction last year only £71,000 out of the enormous grants that it received from the Commonwealth Government. I think all reasonable members of this House will acknowledge that to ask the citizens of the city of Brisbane to bear virtually the entire cost of the roads that are used by 50 per cent, of the vehicles in the State is to be absolutely unreasonable.
I hope that the proposed Bureau will examine very closely many of the problems of road congestion in the cities, which contributes largely to transport costs. As has been pointed out by honorable members on both sides of the House, 25 per cent, of our national income is absorbed in transport costs. From time to time, we have been told that one of the most important and most pressing problems facing this country is that of reducing costs. In my view, one of the urgent tasks to which this Parliament and the Government should apply themselves is the reduction of transport costs. If these costs were reduced, a major contribution would be made towards the reduction of costs as a whole.
Many of the problems facing local authorities, and particularly the Brisbane City Council, are almost insuperable for these bodies if they have to meet the cost out of their own resources. I refer particularly to a pressing need in Brisbane today for the construction of a tunnel under the Brisbane River. Another river crossing is essential, but a bridge is unsuitable because of the importance of shipping traffic on the river. So the only solution is to construct a tunnel under the river. Mr. Hiley, the Queensland Treasurer, has said: “ We shall have a tunnel in 100 years’ time”. That is a most unstatesmanlike utterance.
– What did he say last week?
– He said the same thing: “We shall have a tunnel in 100 years’ time “. I take it that that is only a politician’s way of disposing of problems. His attitude is: Leave it to somebody else. I am sure that Mr. Hiley will not be Treasurer of Queens land in 100 years’ time. These problems that I have outlined, however, have to be dealt with immediately, because traffic congestion is already of extremely serious proportions. This and other road problems are with us now and are already raising our costs. We have to meet .these higher costs. Costs are rising steadily because traffic congestion is increasing, and we are sinking further into the bog of high transport costs.
According to the Bureau of Census and Statistics, by the end of this financial year there will be 500,000 vehicles in Queensland, and about one-half of them will be in the City of Brisbane. It is completely unfair and unreasonable to ask the local authority in that city to meet the total cost of constructing roads to provide for those vehicles.
I admit that this Parliament has been most generous in the legislation that it has passed in relation to roads. The Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill, which was approved some little time ago, provides a grant lo the States of £375 million over the next five years for road construction. The only restriction placed on the States by the Parliament is that 40 per cent, of the grant shall be spent on rural roads. The Commonwealth Parliament has not imposed its will on the States as to the expenditure of funds in the cities to relieve the traffic problem there or to solve some of the great problems that confront city authorities That obligation is on the State Governments. The Queensland Government has shown no willingness or desire to handle this important problem. The Commonwealth Government’s action in introducing the Bill now before us shows a way out. I hope that the Minister will give a lead in solving these most pressing problems which are confronting local government authorities, particularly those in the capital cities, by referring these matters to the Bureau with the idea of obtaining a speedy report so that the Government will be able to frame a policy by which local authorities, particularly in the capital cities, will receive increased financial assistance which will go a long way towards solving their problems.
The Brisbane City Council is very concerned about the financial position that it has to face in trying to solve its road problems. In the last three years more has been done in that city than in any comparable period towards solving them, but it is most unfair that citizens who own land should be the only ones asked to bear the burden of the cost of solving the problems that exist. I hope that the Commonwealth Government, which receives so much revenue in the form of taxes levied on motor vehicles and on our extremely profitable motor industry will make more funds available.
A pleasing feature of the Bill is that it authorises the Minister to call for a report from the Bureau on special problems confronting the States - which, of course, concern the cities in the States - and to recommend to the Government the provision of assistance. I see this as the dawn of a new age, and I hope that nothing but good will come out of the proposition that we are now debating.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 13 - by leave - taken together.
Mr. SNEDDEN (Bruce- Attorney-
General). - by leave - Between 25th and 30th October of this year a Congress, said to be for International Co-operation and Disarmament, is to be held in Sydney. The purpose of my statement today is to make clear the relationship of the organisation and aims of this Congress to the Communist Party and the World Peace Council.
A brochure authorised by the Chairman of the Provisional Committee of the Congress has been issued inviting public support. This brochure states -
In 1959 there was held in Melbourne the Australian and New Zealand Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament. Following this Congress, State continuing committees were formed to carry on its work. In February 1964 representatives of these committees decided to convene a panel of citizens to form a Provisional Sponsoring Committee to begin preliminary planning for a national Congress in October 1964.
Thus the Congress to be held next month is the direct successor of the one held in Melbourne in 1959. On 10th November 1959, in answer to a question in this House, my predecessor stated the Government’s view about the Melbourne Congress as follows -
The Government’s concern in connexion with the Congress is to see that those who were minded to associate themselves with it, particularly in the capacity of Sponsor, should be aware of its relationship to the Communist Party and in particular the World Peace Council, the Stockholm Congress, Sweden, and the Australian Peace Council.
Attention had previously been drawn to the well-known Communist tactic of obtaining a broad sponsorship of well-known people who, unaware of the real purposes of the activity, are persuaded to lend their names to what, on the face of it, might appear a worthy cause. They were thus able to make a judgment as to whether to sponsor or participate, clearly knowing the circumstances, and it will be recalled that, in the event, there were some very significant withdrawals.
I wish to reiterate the salient points, recorded fully in “Hansard “ at page 2524 et seq of 10th November 1959 -
The Melbourne Congress was held with the full support of the World Peace Council. My predecessor said that the indications were that the Communist Party of Australia would support the Congress strongly. The degree of control which the Communist Party exercised over the Congress is indicated by the fact that it succeeded in defeating all resolutions which did not conform with the party line. Resolutions so defeated included -
Among the officers of this 1959 Congress were: Chairman, the Rev. Alfred Dickie; Vice Chairman, the Rev. Frank Hartley; Organising Secretary, Samuel Goldbloom.
The 1959 Congress was retained as a permanent body with continuing State Committees in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. These Committees have been preparing for the Sydney Congress next month. In February 1964 a joint meeting of the continuing State Committees decided - to initiate the convening of a representative panel of citizens to form a Provisional Sponsoring Committee for the preparatory planning of an Australian Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament to be held in Sydney this year.
The Rev. Alfred Dickie, the Rev. Frank Hartley and Geoffrey Anderson were again among those elected to the Provisional Sponsoring Committee. World Peace Council members on this Committee were the Rev. Alfred Dickie, the Rev. Frank Hartley and Mrs. Edna Hutchesson.
A National Sponsoring Committee was “ elected “ in July to direct and organise the Congress. Geoffrey Anderson, who has a long association with Communist peace movements is Joint Secretary. Samuel Goldbloom is a Joint Treasurer. The Rev. Alfred Dickie is Chairman of the Stale Sponsoring Committee in Victoria. A member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia, William Parkinson, is on the Committee. A member of the World Peace Council, the Rev. Allan Brand, is one of the Vice-chairmen.
During the past year there has been continuous contact between Australia and the World Peace Council in Europe. Various meetings of this Council have been attended by the Rev. Alfred Dickie, the Rev. Frank Hartley and Geoffrey Anderson and by members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Australia, namely William Eric Gollan and Freda Yelta Brown.
The importance of the coming Congress to World Peace Council plans has been stressed in the May 1964 issue of the “ Bulletin of the World Council of Peace “. In referring to a World Peace Congress scheduled to be held in 1965, the Presidential Committee urged National Peace Committees to step up their preparatory activities by holding National Congresses or Conferences. Professor Bernal, Chairman of the Presidential Committee of the World Peace Council, emphasised the importance of co-ordinated or synchronised action in southern Latin America and in Australasia.
The Communist Party of Australia is taking an equally great interest in the coming Australian Congress. In the Communist Party of Australia’s journal “ Communist Review “ of June 1964, W. J. Brown, Secretary of the Sydney District Committee of the Party and a member of its Central Committee said -
While avoiding sectarian intrusion of the issue, we Communists make no secret of the fact that we will certainly play an active part in helping make this Congress a powerful success just as we play on active part in any genuine movement for peace.
Further, Central Committee member Alec Robertson said in the “ Communist Review “ of December 1963 - . . our policy and practical mass experience in Australia are a powerful basis for the possibility of an important contribution by our Party and people to the winning of world disarmament and peace through such concrete partial goals in particular, the struggles against French nuclear tests in the South Pacific, against U.S. bases in Australia, and for a nuclear-free Southern Hemisphere, arc among the most important.
The Communist Party of Australia, in its “ Draft Resolution of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of Australia “, has said of the “peace” movement -
The Communists play an active part in this movement … By patient and painstaking work, the Communists have already helped to broaden the peace movement in Australia.
Communists put forward their own views that Imperialism is the cause of war, that U.S. imperialism is the main threat to peace, that Socialism is the only way permanently to abolish war . . . Communists work for commonly agreed aims in the conviction that experience along with explanation on the fundamental Communist views on war and peace, will finally bring peace lovers of other views to the same conclusions.
Another Communist Party of Australia spokesman, Central Committee member W. E. Gollan, has been very frank in describing that Party’s “ peace “ policy and its tactics in guiding the Australian “peace” movement. Writing in the international Communist journal “Peace, Freedom and Socialism “ - previously the “ World Marxist Review” - in the issue for July 1963 on “The Peace Movement in Australia”, he set out the Party’s policy and tactics, with particular reference to the way it organises the genuine peace organisations in Australia to co-operate with the Peace Committees in “. . . developing the mass movement in religious and intellectual circles “, and so to . help to arm the peace movement ideologically and to strengthen! it against the vacillations and uncertainties that flow from its character as an association of diverse social forces “. This ideological armament is designed to turn the peace movement into a mechanism concerned only to disseminate the foreign policy of the government of the Soviet Union under cover of the specific aims of “. . . preventing world war and of safeguarding world peace “.
The proposed Australian Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament is the latest national “ peace “ function organised by the Communist influenced “peace” movement in Australia. As the creature of the World Peace Movement, the Congress will be concerned, not with true peace, but with the furtherance of - and I quote from “ Peace, Freedom and Socialism “ of July 1963- the actual policy sought by the Socialist States ever since the Soviet Union made its first proposals on general disarmament.
The brochure seeking support for the Congress lists rather more than 100 sponsors. Twenty persons known to be sponsors from this brochure and otherwise have been identified as members of the Communist Party and five as members of the Party’s Central Committee. The objective of achieving a broader basis is indicated by a document described as a supplement to the Australian Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament brochure which has been issued and which I have just seen. This purports to show the number of sponsors as at 20th August 1964, listing rather more than 500 names. This emphasises the need to make public .the matters contained in this statement I now make.
The organisers of the forthcoming Congress have stated in Congress publications that “ … the cost of the Congress is estimated at over £20,000, including hospitality for international guests “. Each State will be allotted a quota which the various State sponsoring committees will endeavour to raise. Indications are that they will call on and work with the existing network of “ peace “ organisations in each State in order to raise funds by means such as donations and interest-free loans from individuals and organisations, and by the sale of Congress badges, literature and other kinds of propaganda material. Further, sponsors and delegates themselves will be used to raise funds, either individually or through organisations they represent or are active in, such as trade unions, churches, the Communist Party of Australia, and other interested bodies. In this regard, committees of trade unionists are already being organised to to whip up interest and support for the Congress, while the Australian Communist Party’s various front organisations, including the Union of Australian Women and the Eureka Youth League, are active for the same purpose.
In relation to overseas guests invited to attend the Congress, the Provisional Sponsoring Committee will “… endeavour to enlist an International team embracing the countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, East and West Europe, United States of America, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands “. It may be that for financial reasons only one guest will be invited from each country, and the Committee has expressed the hope that “… national peace movements from some of the African, Asian, Latin American and Socialist countries would be prepared to lend financial assistance for international guests of our choosing to come from their respective countries “.
The Melbourne Congress was called the Australian and New Zealand Congress, but the Sydney Congress excludes the words “ New Zealand “. This reflects the split between China and the Soviet Union which has occurred in the intervening years. The New Zealand Communist Party supports China and its “ peace “ programme against that of the Soviet Union. It, together with the pro-China “ Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) “ which broke away from the Moscow-oriented Communist Party of Australia, are not supporting the Sydney Congress.
Honorable members will appreciate that it is necessary for the Government to ensure that all those who are invited to participate in, or to sponsor the Congress, should be aware of the true position. I present the following paper -
Australian Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament - Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Whitlam) adjourned.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. When 1 was speaking yesterday I quoted certain extracts from “Hansard” for 1949. On referring to page 850 of yesterday’s “ Hansard “, I find that while I was reading those extracts the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) is reported as having said -
Read what you said about the R.S.L. being a pressure group.
Of course, I could not read that because I did not say it; no such statement by me appears anywhere in “ Hansard “. On no occasion have I referred to the R.S.L. as a pressure group.
Consideration resumed (vide page 969).
Clauses 1 to 13 agreed to.
The functions of the Bureau are -
.- I move-
In paragraph (b), after “Minister” insert “or either House of the Parliament as the case may be”.
We want the reports of all investigations made by this Bureau to be made available to the Parliament instead of only to the Minister himself. I draw attention to the fact that during his second reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) said -
I emphasize that the Bureau will be an investigating and advisory body only.
That clearly indicates that the Minister, unless he decides otherwise, will be the only person to see the reports on any investigations that the Bureau may make; whether honorable members of this House see them will depend upon the Minister. I want to know why reports on investigations made by this body should be submittedto the Minister only. Why should they not be made available to members of this Parliament? All members of the Opposition, and I am sure at least some members on the Government side, want the right to peruse those reports, to analyse them, and, if we deem it necessary, to use the forms of the House to ensure that they are heeded.
Other bodies, too, would be very interested to see the reports of investigations made by this Bureau. For example, no doubt the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities will be making information available to the Bureau. The Bureau is bound to have discussions with the various State road authorities, which will be advising it on the road needs of the States. Why should the State road authorities not see the reports of investigations made by the Bureau? Why should they not see the recommendations submitted by the Bureau to the Minister? I think that N.A.A.S.R.A. has done a very good job over the years. In the absence of a central authority, this Association has provided a means of pooling technical and administrative experience, of co-ordinating and rationalising road research projects, of harmonising and co-ordinating road standards in the various States and of ascertaining and publishing the facts about roads as it saw them. It has also helped this Government with advice in connection with the financing of road projects. It seems that now, despite the work that the Association has been doing over the years, it is not to be given the opportunity of seeing the reports and recommendations that may be submitted by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
Of what value will these reports be if they are just to be pigeonholed? We on this side have criticised the Bill because of its inadequacies. We all recall that, in his policy speech, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) envisaged a national roads authority. The Bureau proposed by this Bill cannot be called a national roads authority because it will have no authority whatsoever to act. All it will be able to do is to investigate and report to the Minister, who will in his turn decide whether or not the Bureau’s reports shall see the light of day. As honorable members know, it is hard enough now to get action taken on reports that are tabled in this Parliament. Why, only yesterday, in an answer to a question by me about the report of the Constitutional Review Committee, which was printed in 1959, the Prime Minister said that the report was still under consideration and that be could not indicate what action was being taken. How much more difficult will it be for the Opposition to get any information relating to the work of this proposed Bureau if the reports are not made available to us?
The Bureau will have no authority whatsoever, lt will not even have the right to have its reports considered by this Parliament - the very body that established it. Therefore, in my opinion, it will not be of much use. The failure to provide that the Bureau’s reports must be placed before the Parliament is an insult to those who will be appointed to the Bureau, and to the Parliament itself. If our amendments are approved - the one I have just moved is related to others that we propose to move - then at least some teeth will be given to this Bureau. Although it will not have the authority that wc of the Opposition would like to sec it have, if our proposed amendments are accepted it will be a much more effective body than it can possibly be if its reports are not to be made available to us. We may want the Bureau to refer to the Parliament reports on such matters as road safety or traffic delays. I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that authorities have estimated that the cost of traffic delays in Australia is between £200 million and £400 million per annum. If the Parliament wants a report on these matters why should it not have power to have the proposed Bureau investigate them?
The state of the roads and its effect on road safety is revealed by the number of road deaths and accidents. Although Australia is fourth in the world in the use of motor vehicles we have the worst safety record of the first four countries. In New Zealand each year there are 4.93 deaths per 10,000 vehicles; in the United States there are five deaths per 10,000 vehicles; Canada has 6.95 deaths per 10,000 vehicles; but Australia has 8.78 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.
In each of the other three countries the use of motor vehicles is greater than in Australia. In the United States there are 2.53 persons per motor vehicle; in New Zealand, 3.18 persons; in Canada 3.53; and in Australia 3.84. Although the United States, Canada and New Zealand have a greater density of vehicles on their roads, they have a fatal accident rate lower than Australia’s.
It is clear that the state of the roads must have some bearing on our high ratio of road deaths. In Australia there is a tragic waste of human lives, which is important not only to the relatives of people directly concerned but important also to the nation. If this Parliament decided to refer to the Bureau a question such as road safety it should have the power to do so. The Senate Select Committee on Road Safety said that in 19S7-S8 the cost to Australia of road traffic accidents was almost £70 million. Since then the accident rate has jumped by 6 per cent. I remind the honorable members that even in the United States, which has a much better safety record than ours, the authorities are not satisfied with the safety record. They have been trying to improve the record and they estimate that as a result of what they are doing in respect of their highways 8,000 lives will be saved annually. They say also that a study by their bureau revealed that an additional 2,000 lives might be saved each year because of a reduction in the fatality rate on older highways as they are relieved of traffic by the opening of new highways.
– That has nothing to do with clause 14.
– It has a lot to do with the amendment that we have proposed, because we want the right to have such matters referred to this body.
– It has nothing to do with it.
– Be quiet. You may answer the matters I raise if you want to, but later. We have had criticisms about documents not being tabled in this Parliament, but I have not time to deal with that at this point.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The Opposition has moved the first of a series of amendments which are designed to bring before the Parliament the reports of the proposed Bureau of Roads and, to some extent, to submit the Bureau directly to the control of Parliament rather than indirectly through the Government. This would alter to a very great degree the character of the proposed Bureau. The Government had in mind, as I thought I had made clear, that this was to be a body set up to assist the
Government in determining policy. It was to be a body which was to report factually to the Government from time to time on such matters as the Government had referred to it and on which the Government sought assistance because there was no other body in the Commonwealth which would be in a position to give the Government completely objective and disinterested advice. For that reason the Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition.
It is quite true that there are statutory bodies set up by this Government and by other governments which have a statutory obligation to report to Parliament either annually or from time to time. The nearest body that I can think of which is a parallel to the proposed Bureau is the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The great distinction between the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and this body is that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is not based on statute; it is an adjunct to a department. The proposed Bureau of Roads is to be based on statute. Virtually, the work of the two bodies will run along parallel lines. I do not think anyone would argue that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics does not do a first class job. It does exactly what it is designed to do, which is exactly what the proposed body will do in regard to roads.
The distinction that the proposed body is based on statute and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is set up within a department as part of the departmental structure is to some extent accidental. This arises from our desire to give evidence to the public of the fulfilment of a specific undertaking that we gave during the last election - to discuss with the States the setting up of some such body as this and of making some examination of the problems of Australian roads. For the various reasons that I have set out the Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the Opposition. This new body may well be the beginning of something which will grow, but our present intention is to have this expert body providing advice to the Government, which in turn will be responsible to this Parliament and to the nation for the policies that we enunciate from time to time in relation to roads and road expenditures.
.- The Opposition is not very happy with the reply given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), but we know that he cannot do any better because of the very nature of the Bill. After all, we cannot talk about a bill with teeth when the Bill has no teeth. We on this side of the chamber believe that this Bill is a toothless wonder. We will see how correct we are in that assessment as time goes on. As I said during the second-reading debate, this Bill is barely a start in the right direction, but because it is a start there is nevertheless some movement in the right direction. However, one would need a microscope to see that movement. The Opposition would like this Bill to have teeth. We believe that in its present form it is just a lot of words.
It is proposed that one man should be in charge of the Bureau and that he should be a part time officer. He is to have two assistants who are to be part time officers. They will be overworked. I wonder what their salaries will be. I think it is a hopeless situation when we are to have part time bosses for the Bureau. Honorable members have heard of the book “Power Without Glory”; I believe that this Bureau is to be a case of glory without power. It will be like a body without blood; an eye without a cornea; a car without spark plugs.
– Like the Labour Party Whip.
– That is only a matter of opinion. It is like a house with light globes but without power. These are just a few analogies to show what the Opposition thinks of this Bill. The fact that the Bureau will have power to report only to the Minister is very cosy. The Minister alone will know what is going on. The Chairman of the Bureau will pop in to see the Minister one day and have a chat with him. He will say to the Minister: “ Let’s have a meeting; we haven’t had one for six months “. The Chairman will perhaps say to the Minister: “ Wc have just had a meeting. We do not want to be overbearing, but we feel that wc would like a survey to be made of such and such a section of road “, or “ We want to look at the archives to find out what happened a few years ago “ or this Minister says to him: “ What does Tasmania need for road building this year?” They will have a little chat over a cup of tea, and then the part lime boss of the Bureau will go away -
– I think you ought to read the Bill. It is a full time job.
– I know all about the Bill. It provides for little more than a tete-a-tete conference between you and the Chairman of the Bureau. It is a cosy little set up. This is a limited, confined, fenced in, restricted measure. You have only to read clause 14 to realise this. It reads -
The functions of the Bureau are -
to investigate, and from time to time to report to the Minister on, matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connexion with roads or road transport; and
to investigate, and report to the Minister on, any matter referred to the Bureau under the next succeeding section.
Then the next succeeding section provides that the Minister may give the Chairman of the Bureau a programme of work. The Minister will request the Bureau to investigate this or that. The Bureau will be very confined and very limited in its functions. In fact it will be able to operate only to the extent that the Minister allows it to operate. If the Minister has nothing for it the Bureau may go into cold storage for, perhaps, six months. In fact, the Bureau will have so little to do that I believe any information that may be obtained from it could just as easily be obtained by ringing up one or two of the roads organisations that are in existence at present. One wonders why the Bill was ever brought down.
We want the Bureau to present its reports to the Parliament. After all, the Parliament is the voice of the people. It may bc an irate voice at times, a quiet voice at other times and, sometimes, even a disjointed voice, but at least it is the voice of the people. We believe the new Bureau should be afforded the honour of presenting its reports to the Parliament through the Minister. This is a pretty reasonable request. All our amendment seeks is the insertion, after the word “ Minister “, of the words “ or either House of the Parliament as the case may be “. If this amendment is agreed to, we will all know what is going on. We are all interested in this roads problem. We do not want a secret organisation established with the Minister as its head, or as its guide, philosopher and friend.
We want to know what is going on in what we are told will be an important Bureau. As the Bill stands, the work of the Bureau can be reported to the Minister and that is where it will end. I do not think this is good enough, with eli due respect to the Minister. It is not good enough for this Parliament or for the people of this nation that these matters should begin and end with the Minister.
The Bill provides also that the Bureau will assist the Minister in connection with -
When there is money to be spent through this Bureau it will have to be provided by this Parliament. We must have a say then - but only then. Everything else will be simply between the Bureau and the Minister. As I have said, it is a cosy, tete-a-tete arrangement. That is why we sincerely propose this amendment. It springs from a democratic understanding of the processes of Parliament and of the function of Ministers in relation to the Parliament. We would like to know also what the Minister’s ideas are about roadwork and road investigations in Australia. Of course, as my colleague, the honorable ‘ member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) has said in this debate, and as I and my colleagues have also said in our speeches, the Labour Party wants a Bureau similar to the one that operates in the United States of America. When the Labour Party forms a Government that is the kind of Bureau that we will organise so that we will be financing, perhaps, the main highways of Australia, with the States doing the work. Then the councils will have more money to spend on farmers’ roads. I cannot understand for the life of me why the Country Party is not backing this proposition to the hilt.
We have several amendments to propose along lines similar to this first one. They are all aimed at having the Bureau’s reports tabled in the Parliament as well as being presented to the Minister. That is the theme of all our amendments.
.- Spokesmen for the Australian Labour Party have said that they believe the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads should have power to plan, finance and build roads. If the Bureau had such power 1 would support the remarks of the honorable member for
Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). But of course this is not so. The Bureau is to act in only an advisory capacity. It will advise the Government through the Minister for Shipping and Transport. If the Bureau were to have power to plan the roads and finance them, then I would agree that its reports should come before the House. But the Minister is charged with the responsibility of bringing down legislation which may or may not be approved by the Parliament, and the Bureau is being established so that the Minister will have the best possible advice on the subject. What the Bureau says in its advisory capacity will have nothing to do with the Parliament except insofar as its advice is accepted by the Government. The Government will be handling the job. If the Government, after considering th; advice of the Bureau, decides to embody certain of its recommendations in legislation, then that legislation will come before the House. That is how simple the whole question is.
I have looked at the amendments proposed by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), and if there is such a practice as amending an amendment I would suggest that he consider doing just that. Perhaps the Parliament would not allow him to do so, but I would. He has suggested in his first amendment that the Bureau report to the Minister “ or either House of the Parliament as the case may be “. He proposes to put forward a further amendment to provide that a’ function of the Bureau will be “ to prepare and furnish to the Minister as soon as possible - “. Why does he not use the same phraseology in this amendment and say “ to prepare and furnish to the Minister or either House of the Parliament as the case may be “? I suggest he should amend his amendment. Otherwise the second amc.dment will not embody the intention of the first and other amendments. He might care to consider that matter and perhaps ask for leave to change his amendment as I have suggested.
– You are a bush lawyer.
– I may be, and some bush lawyers are very reliable.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) for several reasons, but principally beo-.ii.se 1 believe that the Parliament should be informed of all decisions or recommendations made by committees, bureaus or other bodies of the kind with which we are dealing at the moment. In recent months v e have heard in this chamber the honorable members for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), La Trobe (Mr. Jess), Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), Moreton (Mr. Killen) and Indi (Mr. Holten), to mention only a few Government supporters, continually complaining of Executive control and Executive domination of this Parliament. But will those honorable members rise in their places and vote against proposals before the Committee at the moment? Or will those honorable members who continuously have protested against executive control of the affairs of the nation, support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Stirling?
I ask the Minister: What is wrong with the Parliament being fully advised on the Bureau’s inquiries, investigations and findings, in relation to the Australian roads system? Is there anything wrong with that, or is the Minister the only one who is entitled to know what is going on? Will he pass on to the Parliament only the portions of reports that he thinks the Parliament should have? I believe that one of the functions of this Bureau will be to advise the Minister on Commonwealth aid roads grants legislation. How can we sensibly and reasonably debate the proposals contained in such legislation, unless we are as fully advised as the Minister is? I ask the Minister, in his reply, to tell me how we will be advised on these matters.
I am not asking for something new. To some extent, this Bureau will be closely aligned with the United States Federal Bureau of Public Roads which is required to report to Congress.
– No; the American Bureau is a construction authority.
– Yes, it is a construction authority. According to an American publication which I have before me, it is responsible for planning the construction of American roads on a federal or national basis; not on a State, intrastate, city or municipal basis. It is also responsible for carrying out the necessary research on highways, for the introduction of new safety methods for the well being of American motorists, and for the development of the American roads system as a whole.
Surely this Australian Bureau will be required to report to the Minister on those items. Surely the Minister will require the Bureau to report to him on future plans for the development of roads, including where they should be built, how they should be built and how better road safety can be achieved. So what is the difference between what the Minister intends this Bureau to do> and the responsibilities of the American Federal Bureau of Public Roads? If the American Bureau is required to present an annual report to Congress, surely this Parliament is entitled to receive from the Australian Bureau an annual report on its findings and recommendations to the Minister on the various matters referred to it by the Minister.
Are we to continue to allow Executive control and domination of this Parliament? Recently a writer described the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) as a benevolent dictator or a benevolent despot. If we think back to pre-war days - to 1938, 1 think - we can recall the present Prime Minister, who was then the Attorney-General, returning from overseas and advocating support for the system of government then being promoted by Hitler in Nazi Germany. I believe that the provisions of this Bill will make the Minister for Shipping and Transport what the Prime Minister is, namely a dictator. It gives additional power to the Cabinet and extends Executive control of the Parliament. The Parliament should be the master. The Bureau should report to the Parliament so that every member of it will be acquainted with the Bureau’s advice on happenings in connection with roads.
No-one, least of all the Minister, can deny that the transport system is one of the major factors which add to the cost of production in this country. This morning the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. Eli Harrison asked a very good question about pipelines, which are another form of transport which has to be considered. Transport is one of the major factors in our cost structure. Therefore, we, as members of this Parliament and representatives of the people, should be acquainted with the decisions of this Bureau. It should not be left to the discretion of the Minister to decide what we will be told. If that is not a form of dictatorship, I do not know what is. I ask the Committee to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Stirling in an endeavour to break Executive control of the Parliament and to give the elected representatives of the people the democratic right to be advised on what is happening.
.- I believe that the Opposition is thoroughly mixed up on what this Bill - and this clause in particular - is meant to do. After hearing the remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), I am more convinced than ever that that is so. Several members of the Opposition have referred to the United States Federal Bureau of Public Roads. They have likened the proposed Australian Bureau to it. They have directed the attention of the Committee to the fact that ‘ the American Bureau must report to Congress. There is no comparison whatever between the two bodies. The American Bureau is a planning authority, a constructing authority, an advising authority and a financing authority. Because it is all of those things - but particularly because it is a financing authority and is handling .taxpayers’ money - naturally it must report to Congress. The proposed Australian Bureau is not a financing authority or a constructing authority; it is purely an advisory body.
In Australia we have never had a proper advisory body on roads. We have had a body called the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities which, as everybody knows, consists of the heads of the State road authorities. Those authorities are responsible for less than 20 per cent, of all of the roads in Australia. That body has collated statistics and advised on main rural roads. Each of the State road authorities represented on N.A.A.S.R.A. has followed the policy of its State Government. I consider that the various State Governments have had a rather peculiar attitude to national roads.
This matter was referred to in the leading article in this morning’s Melbourne “ Age “. I think that article summed up the position very well. It referred only to Victoria, but the position is much the same in every State of the Commonwealth. The Committee will remember that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) referred to this article in the second reading debate and, by interjection, I suggested to him that he should read the whole of the article. I believe that it is very important for the Committee to know exactly the thinking of the State Governments on roads. The article stated, in part -
Whenever there is too little money for vital and urgent public works, the State Government is tempted to point an accusing finger at the seemingly rich and miserly Commonwealth. Applied to roads, this complaint has a measure of validity. But this is not the whole story. Over the allocation of 60 per cent, of the Federal grant for roads and over the whole of the State motor taxes, meagre as all these funds might be, the State Government has complete control.
Not a penny of these funds, amounting to some £30 million a year, goes to the Metropolitan Board, which has been given the statutory responsibility for planning, building and maintaining metropolitan freeways, highways and bridges. The whole of the money goes to the Country Roads Board, which spends 82 per cent, of it in the country. The little the C.R.B. does spare for the city is mainly used to improve highways on the fringes of the metropolis and to subsidise local councils to patch up secondary roads.
That is the attitude of Victoria. In some respects it is the attitude towards roads of almost every State. The State Governments send to N.A.A.S.R.A. representatives who think along these lines.
The Government has now said that it wants a proper advisory body which will not be affected by any pressure groups either from the States, private enterprise or other sectors. It wants a properly equipped body to advise it on the roads situation throughout the whole of the Commonwealth. I think that is a very good idea. It is wise for the Government to have a proper survey made of the whole position of roads throughout the Commonwealth before it does anything. The Government would then be able to base its actions on the results of the survey. It does not want to have an advisory body that would be influenced by a pressure group, whether the group came from the State Governments, the councils or any other sector. With proper advice, the Government will be able to form a proper opinion and will be able to adopt a proper plan. I think it would be unwise for the clause to be amended in any way; it should be put into operation immediately.
.- I support the amendment to clause 14 moved by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr.
Webb). This is an attempt to bring the Parliamant into closer association with the administration of the Bureau. I was not really impressed by the reply given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth). He compared the Bureau proposed to be set up by the Bill with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. As he said, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is a bureau or committee within a Department, but the Bureau proposed by the Bill will be a separate body appointed in the terms of the legislation. The Parliament has an obligation to this Bureau. It is fathering the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, but the Bureau of Agricultural Economics was merely fathered within the Department. Parliament is actually responsible for setting up the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. Therefore, the Parliament should be the authority to which the Bureau will make its reports. We know that it is customary for many of the boards established by statutory or parliamentary authority to make reports to the Parliament from time to time. In this way, honorable members are fully informed of the functioning of the boards.
One important reason for requiring the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to report to the Parliament is that this would tend to keep the operations of the Bureau free of political influence. It would tend to remove any bias or favouritism from its recommendations and from the findings of the Minister, which would be based on the recommendations of the Bureau. If the Bureau’s recommendations are made to the Parliament instead of being made secretly to the Minister, the public will be informed, the Parliament will be completely in the picture and we will all know what is happening and where we are going. Let me give an illustration of what I mean by the political bias that can develop in the allocation of funds for specific road purposes. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) travelled around the continent on the eve of the last Federal election. I suppose it is customary for political leaders to give undertakings and promises in various places to carry out certain works. When the Prime Minister visited Tasmania, he gave an undertaking, plucked out of the blue, to make £2 million available for the construction of a road along the Gordon River Valley. This obviously was a grant of a political nature designed to effect the return to the Parliament of one Government member whose seat was in very grave danger. The offer of £2 million was a most successful bait; the member was returned.
If the amendment moved by the honorable member for Stirling is adopted, the Bureau will report to the Parliament and each member will be aware of the findings of the Bureau on the various propositions that have been referred to it for investigation by the Minister. This will preserve the rights of the Parliament and of parliamentarians. In the past, all parliamentarians have complained that the powers of the Parliament have been whittled away and have been vested in non-elected boards, bureaus and committees. This Bill would vest power in the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The amendment would not alter the intention to vest entirely in the hands of the Bureau the job of investigating and reporting on road projects. What we are asking is that the findings of the Bureau be made available to the Parliament.
There is no reason for these findings to be kept secret. If, for example, the Minister referred to the Bureau a proposition to construct a tunnel under the Brisbane River and asked for a report, there is no reason why the findings of the Bureau should be kept secret. It would be desirable to make the information available to the Parliament and, consequently to the public. There is no reason to hide these matters and I think that the public would consider that the Government’s intentions in this Bill were more honest if the Minister accepted the amendment moved by the honorable member for Stirling and agreed that the reports should be made to the Parliament. After all, the spotlight of public opinion and knowledge should rest on all the findings of the various Government boards, bureaus and committees. Nothing can be lost by making the information available to the public. The adoption of the amendment would be in the best interests of the Parliament.
__ I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). I want to say a few words that will apply to all the amendments that are proposed to clauses 14, 15 and 17 of the Bill. I think Opposition members who have already spoken have made the intention of the amendment quite clear and I would like to relate what they have said to the attitudes of the main parties to matters of this kind. The Australian Labour Party has proposed an amendment to clause 14, which provides -
The functions of the Bureau are -
to investigate, and from time to time to report to the Minister on, matters relating to roads or road transport for the purpose of assisting the Government of the Commonwealth in the consideration by the Government of the grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to the States in connection with roads or road transport; and
to investigate, and report to the Minister on, any matter referred to the Bureau . . .
At this point the Australian Labour Party proposes to insert the words - or either House of the Parliament as the case may be.
This amendment underlines a very important difference between the Government parties and the Australian Labour Party. Honorable members will recall that this difference has arisen in the past two years when the Parliament was considering other legislation - the Meat Industry Bill, for example. The Government wants to set up expert committees, bureaux and so forth and to have the Public Service behind it in such a way that it can take advantage of the information, knowledge and evidence presented by these committees, bureaux and the Public Service for its own benefit. It desires this so that it can select, from the wide range of information provided by its experts, the kind of advice which suits its own policies and its own purposes. This is bureaucracy of the worst kind.
Over the last 10 or 15 years, the Government of this Commonwealth has proceeded rapidly along the road of bureaucratic administration. This Bill is a further example. I anticipate the Government will refuse to accept this amendment and this will be, clearly enough, another act, another mile along this road of bureaucratic administration.
From time to time Ministers come into this House pretending to have some special knowledge or information, as one Minister did not very long ago. This Minister pretended to have some special knowledge conveyed to him by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Ministers use such pretended knowledge or information purely for political reasons to suit their own party in the political contest that takes place in Australia. Similarly, sooner or later, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will be used in this way. The Bureau will make reports. It will have certain things to say about the condition of roads in various parts of the country. It will have something to say about what should be done here or there in the building of roads. It will deal with the amount of money to be provided to the States to do these things and under what conditions it should be provided.
This will allow the Government in office at the time to select from the advice given to it by the Bureau the type of advice which will best suit its own purposes. If the Government wants to see development take place in certain parts of the country for political reasons to ensure the results of elections in particular electorates, or for some other reason, it will be able to select the kind of advice it needs. If there is advice in the Bureau’s report which is inconsistent with those political needs, the Government will be able to ignore it.
This issue has arisen several times in the last couple of years; and the A.L.P. has taken the stand that it opposes this situation. This, of course, is most important in relation to the position of ‘the two main political parties in Australia. On the one hand we have a Government which pretends to be Liberal and calls itself Liberal, having adopted that title in the best piece of political sleight of hand that has occurred in this country since before the Second World War. Actually, this Government is a Tory Government. It is a Government of bureaucracy. It is a Government which attempts, by this type of legislation, to exclude open discussion in this Parliament of the contents of reports such as those which will bc given to it by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
The Australian Labour Party suffers to some extent as a result of this piece of political sleight of hand. It is alleged that we are a Socialist party and that therefore we are a party of bureaucracy - a party of central administration. The truth is just about the opposite. People do not realise that Socialism really means democratic or collective action. They do not realise that we want discussion and knowledge and that we act consistently with this purpose. Therefore, we in Opposition say that we should amend this Bill. We say that the Parliament should pass this amendment which would permit the reports of the proposed Bureau to be brought to the Parliament so that they could be discussed here. If this were done, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), if they were interested, would be able to find out what was proposed about roads in the Gippsland and Mallee areas. I sometimes wonder if they are interested. I sometimes wonder if they are not content to see this bureaucratic machine go on in this way, performing its job but without any sense, as democratic members of this Parliament, that they themselves will have an opportunity to examine what is recommended.
Government supporters do not want this to occur because they are essentially conservative people; they are Tory people. They do not want to have discussion on important matters concerning the development of roads in this country or any other matters. They want to talk about superficial things that have no importance but which divert the attention of the people of Australia from the things that are really of importance. It appears they do not want a provision in this Bill to permit the report of the Bureau to be brought into the Parliament so that they can share in examining it, in supporting it or in criticising it.
Of course, in this way Government supporters are taking a position which they ought m to take because their real interest is not to” have these things probed. Their real aim is to have these things decided by the back room boys and by their own Ministers so that the decisions can be made in relative secrecy to suit this political interest or that political interest. They are political managers. They are Tories. They are not Democrats at all. They do not believe in the process of public discussion and open public examination. The amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, once more shows just where we stand. We stand on the side of open discussion and open examination. We stand on the side of Parliament and welcome discussion on any matters that are brought before the Parliament. For example, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who is interjecting, might care to tell us more about Nauru. The Opposition would like to know a lot more about the resettlement of the Nauruans that the Minister is prepared to tell us. He wants this to be a back room job, too. He is not prepared to give us the facts on those negotiations but of course we have other ways of finding out.
This is true of almost every Minister. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) was involved in a typical situation of this kind today. All these things that we have in mind are important and the decisions should be made by experts, whether they be in a Ministry or elsewhere. This underlines an important and vast difference between the two main parties in this Parliament. It is important that the people of Australia should know and understand this difference when they are casting their votes. Let the people examine the actions of the opposing political parties in this House. This Bill, and this amendment, provide illustrations of the way they behave and their attitudes.
In conclusion, I should like to sum up the attitudes of the main parties so that those who are interested can make a comparison. The Australian Labour Party has proposed an amendment to the Bill. The amendment would provide that when a report was prepared by the Bureau of Roads following an investigation, it would be available to the Parliament. A report would not merely go to the Minister.
If the Government has its way, the Minister will be able to deal with a report as he likes. He will be able to pigeonhole it or produce the whole or any part of it. He will be able to make a decision according to what suits him and his own political interests or those of the Government, his party or any section of it. That is where the Government stands. It is ready to give the Minister complete control over the reports and therefore complete control over the Bureau.
But the Australian Labour Party takes a different view. We want to amend the bill in such a way that when a report of the Bureau became available after an investigation, it would be produced for examination in this Parliament. The information would be available for all concerned. The decision as to whether this or that was to be done could be made in open Parliament. We believe such decisions are decisions for the people.
– Order! The honorable member’s lime has expired.
, - Mr. Temporary Chairman, the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), I thought, either spoke with some synthetic passion in support of the Australian Labour Party’s amendment or else showed a most lamentable lack of real comprehension of the functions of the Executive and this Parliament respectively. Other Opposition members suggested that the provisions of this clause illustrated the growing power of the Executive. I can understand honorable members opposite wanting to know in detail every move by the Government, what advice is tendered to it by public servants and the matters on which it seeks advice from departmental officers. But what government in any democratic country makes such information public? All that the Government is saying is that it wishes one man, two men or half a dozen men simply to give it expert advice on the things that it wants to know about roads. This is no different from a Minister sending to an officer of a department a minute or a request for information. Do Opposition members really suggest that advice by a public servant on a matter about which a Minister has sent him a specific request for information should be made public and that failure to make that advice public indicates that we are in the grip of a growing bureaucracy? I have never heard of anything so ridiculous.
As 1 pointed out earlier, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which has been established as a kind of small expert secretariat within the Department of Primary Industry, discharges almost exactly the same kind of functions that will be discharged by the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The Government is still responsible to the Parliament on matters such as these and in respect of them the Minister involved will still have to answer to the Parliament. Opposition members say: “What has the Government to fear? Why should not the spotlight of public knowledge be directed at these matters?” If that argument were taken to its logical conclusion, the Parliament would be entitled to look into every paper and file available to all Ministers. If that is the kind of administration for which honorable members opposite are looking, they will have a very sorry time if they ever take office and try to govern under such conditions.
We have to remember that this is a question not only of what is reported to a Minister by a public servant or in this instance, by the Bureau of Roads. To some extent, this is a question of what the Minister wants to refer to the Bureau. If he is to feel the hot breath of the Opposition on the back of his neck, with the Opposition looking over his shoulder, as it were, at the particulars of every request by him for advice, he may well hesitate in certain circumstances to ask for advice.
I suggest the matter now before us is very simple. The Government has merely honoured its obligations to the electorate by providing for the establishment, within the official administration, but as a separate entity, of a small expert secretariat to advise it on matters on which it seeks advice. The Bureau, as a corporate entity, will have no function vastly different from the functions of any agency of the Public Service. It will merely advise the responsible Minister and the Government on the matters on which its advice is sought.
– Would not the Government like to have a Tariff Board like that?
– The Tariff Board has other functions altogether.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall not detain the Committee very long, but I should like to reply to one or two observations that have been made. In doing so, I shall support the remarks made by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). I consider that the Minister is stretching matters somewhat by saying that the Parliament would like to examine the details of every file available to him. That is a ridiculous statement. We are merely asking for reports giving the results of investigations to be made available to the Parliament. Our proposition does not go so far as the Minister would have the Committee think.
The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) stated that the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will be purely an advisory body. One of our objections to the Government’s proposals is that the Bureau will be only an advisory body.
However, there is no reason why the recommendations made by an advisory body should not be made available to this Parliament. We have access to reports made by other bodies that act in an advisory capacity. For instance, if the Parliament appoints a joint parliamentary committee for a specific purpose, that committee is an advisory body and any report that it makes is available to the Parliament.
– But that would be a parliamentary committee.
– I know. The proposed Bureau, similarly, will act in an advisory capacity. A parliamentary committee merely advises the Parliament about a particular matter referred to it. I sincerely hope that the Committee will agree to the amendment. Our purpose is to ensure that the Parliament will know the results of particular investigations made by the Bureau. The honorable member for Isaacs behaves like an ostrich. He would bide his head in the sand and ignore what goes on behind his back.
The Minister directed attention to certain reports that he said are not made available to this Parliament. He mentioned specifically reports made by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. By doing so, he left himself wide open. This is a matter that I had intended, before he mentioned it, to raise when I had an opportunity. One of the things that we object to is the fact that valuable reports made by this Bureau have not been made available to the Parliament. For instance, a report on the economics of road transport of beef cattle in Western Australian pastoral areas, which was made in 1958, was not available to this Parliament. I doubt whether half a dozen members of the Parliament have seen that report. I happen to have obtained a copy of it, as well as copies of other reports, because I am Chairman of the Australian Labour Party’s Transport Committee. A wealth of information that is of concern to all honorable members is to be found in reports such as this, and they should be available to us.
In 1959, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics presented a report on the economics of the road transport of beef cattle in the Northern Territory and the Queensland Channel country. That is another report that I suppose not many honorable members have had an opportunity to study. Reports such as these are available only to the Minister for Primary Industry as the ministerial head of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The Bureau presented also a report on the development of water transport for beef cattle in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Cape York Peninsula area. All these reports that I have just mentioned deal with transport of some sort or other. Other reports on similar matters have been presented but have not been available to members of the Parliament. The twenty-eighth annual report of the Australian Meat Board, which relates to the financial year 1962-63, and which, of course, is available to the Parliament, is an important document. At several places, it deals with road transport and its relation to the meat industry.
One of our basic arguments is that many valuable reports are not available to members of this Parliament. Had such reports been available to honorable members, the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Mortimer) may not have needed to ask the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) a question on notice about beef roads that was answered several days .ago. The question and the answer appear at page 830 of “ Hansard “ of last Tuesday, 1st September. The honorable member asked -
The Prime Minister replied -
Since 1962 the South Australian Government has made several requests for Commonwealth financial assistance for the construction of beef roads. Other States have also made similar requests. The whole question of the further development of beef roads within Australia and the associated question of Commonwealth assistance towards this work is at present being carefully examined by the Government.
These matters have been under examination by the Government for many years now. One of our basic complaints is that we have had no opportunity to examine the various reports of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics on these subjects. This is a fundamental issue that we raise in this debate. It emphasises the need for reports by instrumentalities such as the proposed
Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to be made available to the Parliament. I may have something more to say on this point when other clauses are before the Committee.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Webb’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J.Failes.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
At the end of the clause add the following paragraph: - “ (c) to prepare and furnish to the Minister, as soon as possible after the thirtieth day of June in each year, a report on the operations of the Bureau during the year ending on that date.”.
This proposed amendment differs from the first inasmuch as it provides for the Bureau to furnish annual reports whereas (he other related to reports on matters that might be referred to the Bureau from time to time by the Minister.
The proposed Bureau is to be a statutory body. Why should not its annual reports be tabled and published? How is the Parliament to know how the Bureau is doing its job if these reports are not published? I direct attention to the fact - I hesitate to repeat myself - that a similar department in Canada produces an annual report. I have here that department’s annual report for the fiscal year ended on 31st March 1961. I have also “Highway Progress”, which is the annual report of the United States Bureau of Public Roads, for the fiscal year 1962. These reports contain a wealth of information. The American report is published by the United States Department of Commerce. It contains 109 pages and it is interesting to note some of the matters with which the report deals. It contains a review of the year’s activities and information relating to the development of the Federal aid programme, to new Federal aid legislation, to how the national system of interstate highways and defence highways are progressing and to the Federal aid primary and secondary systems. This report deals with administration and management of the Bureau and with highway and transport planning. It deals also with national planning activities, urban planning activities, defence planning activities and current planning activities. Surely a Bureau of the kind envisaged by this legislation will take into account similar matters and will report on matters referred to it by the Parliament or by the Minister. At least it should report on matters such as highway safety, research and development, highway improvements and supervision of public roads. The American report to which 1 have referred deals with matters such as the repair of roads damaged by natural disaster; highway needs for national defence; emergency planning, mobilisation and readiness; defence access; and replacement and manoeuvre roads. All of these matters are referred to in the annual report of the United States Bureau of Public Roads. We on this side of the chamber think that a similar report should be presented to the Parliament by the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
I direct the attention of honorable members to a report made to the Parliament earlier this year by a joint select committee. The report dealt with Parliamentary and Government publications. This is a very important report. It is well produced and contains a lot of information and advice not only relating to the preparation of reports but dealing with the value of those reports to the Parliament. Paragraph 15 of that report, under the heading “ The Importance of Official Publications “ states -
Their importance is unquestioned. The publications of the Commonwealth form an important part of the national record, providing information on the machinery and activities of government,” as well as reflecting, in many ways, the life and work and aspirations of the Australian people.
Paragraph 1 6 reads -
They are of interest ind value to all sections of the community - to the research worker as well as to the casual reader.
Paragraph 17 reads -
They are a basic part of government machinery, being used to report, to explain, to inform, to promote, to instruct, and to persuade. Foi some departments and agencies, the publication of material is their “ lifeblood “. The Secretary of the C.S.I.R.O., for instance, told your Committee “publication is a duty as well as a necessity, so far as we are concerned … all our work is publishable and in fact, to be of any value or use, it must be published and disseminated”. For other departments and agencies, the publication of documents is an incidental function to their main work.
So, too, should details of the work of the Bureau of Roads be published and disseminated so that people may be able to examine them. Not only this Parliament, but many other bodies may want to examine the reports of this Bureau. I have in mind bodies such as the State roads authorities to which I have referred, the Australian Automobile Association and, perhaps, schools and universities. In paragraph 20 of its report the Joint Select Committee on
Parliamentary and Government Publications reported -
It seems inevitable that the influence and responsibilities of the Commonwealth will continue to grow in the years ahead. As this occurs, so too will the Commonwealth’s role as a publisher of material increase and broaden.
Paragraph 22 reads -
Your Committee has no doubt that this growth - a growth which is the common experience of most departments and agencies - will continue.
Paragraph 23 reads -
Linked wilh the trends just mentioned is the statement of one department that “ the type of people who are interested in our publications is broadening as the days go on “.
Is it not obvious that the people who are interested in reports of that nature would like to be able to see the reports of the Bureau? I have no doubt that many people other than members of Parliament would be interested in reports of the Bureau.
The report of the Parliamentary and Government Publications Committee gives some idea of the various types of reports that are now presented to the Parliament and published. There are 17 reports dealing with finance and banking. There are 22 annual reports of departments. There are 32 reports of statutory authorities and instrumentalities. Of those 32, some deal with transport matters, such as the reports of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, the Australian National Airlines Commission, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and Qantas Empire Airways Limited. Each year reports are presented to the Parliament by five parliamentary committees which are more or less advisory committees on matters referred to them by the Parliament. Many other reports are presented to the Parliament. For example, each year eight reports dealing with defence matters are presented. Numerous Tariff Board reports come before the Parliament. Nine reports dealing with Commonwealth Territories are presented to the Parliament. Twelve reports of a miscellaneous nature are presented each year.
Ample evidence is available to show that the proposed Bureau of Roads should present to the Parliament an annual report. If the Bureau is not prepared to report on individual items, surely there can be no objection to publishing an annual report so that the Parliament may see what the
Bureau is doing. Why should the Bureau’s work be pigeon-holed and only matters considered by the Ministers to be suitable for the Parliament presented to it?
As the Minister would know, we on this side of the chamber take a lot of interest in transport matters. We have a very active transport committee. The information that could be supplied by the Bureau as a result of its work would be of immense value to our transport committee. As a committee we have been able to put before the Parliament matters that have been of value to the Parliament. Ours was the first committee, for instance, to bring forward a report on rail standardisation. Subsquently the Government adopted recommendations along the lines submitted by our committee. The Opposition’s report was put before the Parliament before the Wentworth report. Honorable members opposite violently disagree with that statement but if they had any intelligence they would realise that this is so. Our report contained recommendations similar to those contained in the Wentworth report. Because the Wentworth committee was a Government appointed committee its recommendations were accepted by the Government, but our committee had done the work and had presented its report to the Parliament before the report of the Wentworth committee was presented. I cannot see any reason why the annual report dealing with the activities of the Bureau of Roads should not be presented to the Parliament, unless the Government has something to hide.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– For the 1 very good reasons I stated earlier, the Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I would point out, however, that this does not mean necessarily that the Parliament or the public generally will be deprived of a great deal of valuable informative material which we hope will become available from the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) was able to wave dramatically some documents from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. We would hope to be able to release a great deal of informative material from the
Bureau of Roads in the same way but we do not see that a small body such as the proposed Bureau which is set up particularly to advise the Government should be compelled to table an annual report and to disclose in it all the matters which may be referred to it or on which it may advise the Government. I traversed the field of our objections in discussions on the earlier amendment. I do not propose to go over that field again. I think it follows - I know that this is not quite the same situation as applied to the other amendment - that if you do not want this body to report on each item that is referred to it the same reasons hold good for not wanting it to make each year a compendious report on all items.
.- The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) has quoted as justification for this hole-and-corner legislation the fact that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) mentioned roads in his policy speech. I have a copy of the right honorable gentleman’s 1963 policy speech, with a picture of the great white father on the front of it. When I turn to page 17, I find that it deals with roads, but I fail to see how the Minister can associate this Bill with what the Prime Minister said on that occasion at a holeandcorner meeting in Melbourne, to which only selected persons were invited so that no intruders could attend and interject. If this Bill represents the pattern of thinking of the Liberal Party and of those in the rabbit warren on its right, all I can say is that the methods of Government supporters are in keeping with the hole-and-corner manner in which the policy speech was delivered.
Hie TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. -
– Let me read what the Prime Minister said about roads. First of all he mentioned the Commonwealth’s contributions to the States for roads out of moneys collected by way of the petrol tax. But he failed to make any mention of the amount which the Government had retained out of that petrol tax revenue. He did not mention that the Government had failed to pass on to the States the whole of the petrol tax revenue. He said -
We are working on a new scheme to take the place of the existing legislation which expires in the middle of 1964. Proposals will be put before the Stares early next year. Under the current legislation, a total of £2’50M. has been granted to the States for roads over a five-year period. We intend that over the next five years our contribution will not be less than £350M.
One might be led to believe, on reading that statement, that the Government really proposed to give the States some Commonwealth money to spend on roads, whereas in reality all that it intends to do is to return to the States all the money, except about £45 million, collected by way of petrol tax. This money is to be returned to the States for the development of roads, in conformity with the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
I refer again to the relevant paragraph in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. Where is this new far-reaching system that was to be introduced after consultation with the States when the agreement expired on 30th June 1964? Where is this revolutionary agreement between the States and the Commonwealth?
Order! I think the honorable member is getting very wide of the clause. The Committee is discussing clause 14, which deals with the functions of the Bureau. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to that’ subject.
– I base my remarks on the fact that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has told the Parliament that this legislation is in conformity with the announcement made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech of 12th November last year, on which the election was contested. I am trying to point out to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that what the Minister has said is not in accordance with fact; the Bill is completely different from what the Prime Minister promised on 12th November when he spoke about far-reaching legislation on roads. I feel that I must point out to the Minister that his statement is not factual and I can do that by quoting from the Prime Minister’s policy speech of 12th November 1963. In the third paragraph of the section relating to roads, on page 17 of that speech, the following appears -
Many people and organisations have advocated the establishment-
– Order.’ I again remind the honorable member that the Committee is dealing with clause 14 which relates to the functions of the Bureau, and to which the honorable member for Stirling has moved an amendment.
– That is correct. I am fully aware that we are dealing with clause 14 and with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Stirling. After all, the functions of the Bureau are the most important part of this legislation, and one should be able to comment on what is involved in this clause. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has stated that the Government has introduced this legislation in conformity with the Prime Minister’s announcement in his policy speech. The Minister said that to try to justify the fact that Parliament will be advised only of those things about which the Minister wants it to have information, and will be able to refer to the proposed Bureau only those matters which the Minister thinks ought to be referred to the Bureau. That brings me to the point that on page 17 of his policy speech, the Prime Minister said -
Many people and organisations-
– Order! The Chair will not allow the honorable member to proceed elong those lines.
– Give us a go, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
The honorable member for Newcastle will deal with clause 14.
– I am dealing with clause 14, as I have tried to point out. If you will only listen to what the Prime Minister had to say-
– Order! If the honorable member will not obey the Chair, he will resume his seat.
– I am endeavouring to obey the Chair. If you know what appears on pages 17 and 18 of the policy speech, I think you will agree that it is germane to the clause before the Committee. How else can anyone present an argument in support of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Stirling? Have I your permission to quote from the Prime Minister’s policy speech?
– The Chair has already ruled that the honorable member must deal with clause 14. The Prime Minister’s policy speech is not relevant to that clause.
– My word it is. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister made reference to what the Government proposed to do about setting up a bureau of roads.
– Order! The honorable member knows very well that general discussion takes place when a bill is before the House, not when it is in Committee. He knows that specific clauses are dealt with in Committee. Clause 14 is under discussion now. If the honorable member is not prepared to abide by the ruling of the Chair, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– Clause 14 deals with the functions of the Bureau. Is that correct?
Order! The honorable member for Newcastle will resume his seat. The question now is -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Newcastle be further heard.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Newcastle be further heard.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The honorable member for Grayndler is not in order in moving that motion.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Newcastle be further heard.
The honorable member is out of order. The question is -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– I rise to order. I understand that under the Standing Orders, an honorable member may, at any stage of the debate, move that an honorable member be heard.
– Order! The only honorable member who is entitled to move such a motion is the honorable member who has been ordered to resume his seat.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, after you gave your ruling, I moved -
That the honorable member for Newcastle bo further heard.
– In that case I now put the question -
That the honorable member for Newcastle ba further heard.
Those of that opinion say “ Aye “, to the contrary “ No “; I think the “ Noes “ have it.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. The honorable member for Newcastle may take his second period.
.- The Minister for Shipping and Transport has stated that the legislation is in conformity with the policy announced by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) at the 1963 elections. Part HI of the Bill, which includes this clause, makes no provision for the Parliament to refer anything to the Bureau. Part III deals with the functions of the Bureau, but it does not in any way refer to what the Prime Minister said in his policy speech. At page 17 of the report of that speech, the following passage appears -
Many people and organisations have advocated the establishment of a national roads authority to provide a focal point for the planning and development of a comprehensive system and to help in co-ordinating the activities of Commonwealth and State Governments in the roads field. Our own study suggests that this is desirable. We will helpfully discuss with the States the desirability of establishing such an authority.
The nation would benefit from a thoroughgoing survey and appraisal of the existing roads system and of foreseeable road requirements.
According to the statement of the functions of the Bureau, the promises of the Prime Minister have not been written into this Bill. The amendment proposes that the Bureau shall furnish to the Minister as soon as possible after the 30th day of June in each year a report on the operations of the Bureau during the year ended on that date. The position now is that there is no provision in the Bill directing the Bureau to furnish a report to the Minister. The Opposition believes that a report on the operations of the Bureau should bc placed in the hands of the Parliament. At present over 100 committees, boards and bureaus arc functioning within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Parliament, and these various bodies report from time to time to the Parliament. Reports are regularly tabled here. I mention, for instance, reports from the Australian Apple and Pear Board and the Australian Egg Board. 1 believe that this Bureau should also submit reports to the Parliament so that members can be acquainted with what is taking place with regard to roads. If that is not required, the Minister must accept responsibility for the Bureau being constituted undemocratically and for it not bringing to the Parliament all the facts it discovers as a result of its inquiries.
For too long the Federal Parliament has been subject to the direction and the whims of the States in this matter of roads. It is time this Parliament indicated how it believes the programming and planning of our roads should be carried out, and how it wants the nation to be developed. Action by this Parliament could perhaps overcome State bigotry and put an end to the present situation of the States insisting that everything should be concentrated in the capital cities, irrespective of whether that is in the best interests of the nation. Obviously, if it cannot get reports from the Bureau the Parliament cannot be acquainted with what is going on. The only person who would be familiar with what was happening would be the Minister, and it would be left to his discretion whether he passed information on to the Parliament. If the amendment is accepted, the Parliament will be acquainted with what is happening.
.- I support the amendment, and I also support the remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), lt is amazing to me that the Government wants’ to introduce this scheme, and then keep the Bureau’s recommendations to itself, lt is up to the Government to explain why this is necessary. As the honorable member for Newcastle has pointed out, many reports are tabled in this chamber. Members from both sides obtain copies of the reports, take them away to study them, and later speak at length on the subject matters of the reports. We say that this Bureau’s reports should be tabled so that we can consider them as we consider other reports. I do not know why the Government does not want to take the people of Australia into its confidence. We want the people to know what is going on so far as roads are concerned. The people are vitally interested in roads, but the motorists, who contribute millions of pounds, will be ignored.
It is important that the reports of this Bureau should be tabled, because the future of the country is lied up with road development. The Government’s attitude in this matter amazes me. I hope that the Minister, as he did with regard to the previous amendment, which he did not accept, will say that he will give the subject further thought. We know that he will not accept the amendment now, but he should indicate that he will consider it further and, at some future time let us debate it again.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15. (1.) The Minister may, for or in connection with any purpose of the Commonwealth, refer any matter relating to roads or road transport to the Bureau for investigation and report. (2.) Where the Minister refers a matter to the Bureau under the last preceding sub-section, the Bureau shall, as soon as is practicable, investigate the matter and furnish to the Minister a report in respect of the investigation. (3.) In this section, “purpose of the Commonwealth “ means any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws, and includes -
.- With the incurrence of honorable members, I shall move three amendments together. I move -
In sub-clause (1.), after “Minister” insert “or other House of the Parliament “.
In sub-clause (2.), after “Minister” first occurring insert “ or either House of the Parliament “.
In sub-clause (2.), after “Minister” second occurring insert “or that House, as the case may e,”.
These amendments deal with a subject that we were dealing with on the previous clause, namely, the right of this Parliament to refer matters for investigation to the Bureau and, after the matters have been investigated, to have the results of the investigations brought back to the Parliament for consideration. We consider that the Parliament should have that authority. For instance, the Parliament might consider that the completion of the highway from Alice Springs to Port Augusta was essential in the interests of Australia’s defence and development, and in order to go more thoroughly into the details it might want to refer the project to the Bureau for consideration. Surely that would be a Reasonable proposition. Surely after the Bureau had investigated these matters it would be reasonable for its report to be sent to this Parliament and debated, depending on what information the Bureau was able to supply. Why should the Minister of his own accord refer a matter to this Bureau and he alone see the result of an investigation by the Bureau, except in Instances where he wants to bring the matter before Parliament?
There might be many matters that Parliament would want to refer to the Bureau. I have already mentioned road safety and its importance. Why should not the Parliament have the right to refer to the Bureau, for investigation and report, a matter such as that? I do not think anybody would deny that the condition of our roads must have an effect on road safety, considering that of the four countries that have the greatest proportion of motor vehicle users Australia has considerably more deaths per 10,000 vehicles than the United States, Canada or New Zealand. The Parliament might want to refer to the Bureau a matter concerning interstate transport, which is something on which a great many decisions have been given. We might want to refer to the Bureau the role of roads in Australia’s defence and development, or might want an investigation of pur highways. Why should not the Bureau have the right to investigate these matters and, having investigated them, send its reports to tin’s House for consideration?
The bureau that operates in the United States has a wide authority to deal with all these matters. Its duties are partly concerned with national planning activities, urban planning activities, defence planning activities and current planning activities. It is concerned with route allocation and right acquisition. It deals with highway safety and makes reports on roads. It has a department that deals with research and development, repair of roads, damage by natural disasters, such as flood, and matters of that type. The U.S. Bureau deals also with highway needs for national defence, emergency planning, mobilisation readiness, defence access and replacement and manoeuvre roads.
I am sorry that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is not in the chamber. He said that he proposed to move an amendment to this clause so that the relation of road transport to other forms of transport would be considered. The Opposition would have supported that amendment. We have said all along that this legislation has no teeth. If we can at least ensure that reports from this Bureau are sent to Parliament after an investigation has been conducted we will have given the legislation some teeth. The insertion of that provision would not take the Bill so far as we would wish because, as honorable members know, we want also a coordinating authority so that each form of transport can be investigated and dovetailed into the other forms in a national plan, whether the transport concerned be shipping, rail or road. We want each form of transport to be supplementary to the others and not necessarily competing with them. That would be the ideal transport system, and that is what is aimed at in the United States. *
In reply to a statement by a Country Party member the Minister claimed, if I heard him correctly, that transport costs in Australia do not involve 25 per cent, of the national income. I do not know whether that is what he meant to say, but I can say that some reports issued by advisory departments within the Government contain that figure. They show that transport costs arc 25 per cent of the national income.
– I did not say that they were not 25 per cent.; I said that a comparison between the figures for Canada and for Australia was a comparison of two different things.
– How else can we compare them? Information from Canada shows that transport costs represent 9 per cent, of the national income, and in the United States they arc 10 per cent, of the national income. The Minister admits that our transport costs are 25 per cent, of the national income. What other basis of comparison have we in regard to these matters?
– You are taking into account different matters.
– I agree that there is a difference in that although Australia and the United States are almost equal in area our population is much smaller than the population of the United States. In Australia we have just over 1 1 million people, whereas the United States has more than 188 million. Consequently, transport costs in Australia must bc higher a head of population than they are in the United States. However, I expect that the disparity between 25 per cent, and 10 per cent, could be reduced considerably. If we do something to bring our transport system to a more efficient standard by having an authority to coordinate transport, that disparity could be reduced. There is no need for such a huge disparity. As everyone knows, transport costs arc a serious handicap to our manufacturing industries and other industries. Australia is the tenth largest trading nation and costs arc important to us. Consequenly, we should bc concerned about them and we should be doing more about them than the Government has indicated that it is prepared to do. 1 appeal to the Minister to agree to our amendment. If he does not agree to it then 1 ask the Committee to support it, because its effect will be to allow Parliament to refer matters to the Bureau for investigation. It will also empower the Bureau, after investigating a matter, to report to the Parliament so that we can see the results of the investigation, ls there anything wrong with that? ls it unreasonable? I do not think so. If the Minister does not agree to that pro posal it is, in my view, because he docs not want the Parliament to have the voice that it should have on matters that are of such great weight in our economy. In view of our transport costs, I hope mat even now the Minister will see his way clear to approve of the amendment and that the Committee will support it.
– For the reasons that I stated previously the Government cannot accept this amendment. The Opposition is still trying to sell the idea that this body which the Government has proposed to set up is something different from what it really is. It is still trying to make comparisons with the Bureau of Public Roads in the United States. That body in the United States, as has already been pointed out, has a wide range of functions to perform. It is a constructing authority and a planning authority. Tt also expends public moneys. Therefore, it has a far different responsibility to Congress than our proposed Bureau could have to this Parliament.
The amendment proposed by the Opposition seeks to have matters referred to the Bureau by Parliament, in addition to having the Bureau report to Parliament. Only in that sense does the amendment differ from the previous amendments which the Government has rejected. However, I should like to point out to the Committee that the Parliament is still the master of the Minister in this respect. Even though these amendments are rejected because they do not conform with the pattern of the Bill or to the Government’s idea of the function of the Bureau, the Parliament has the appropriate procedures open to it to direct the Minister, to request the Minister, or to do anything else it likes to the Minister. I suggest that to accept the proposed amendment at this stage would throw the Bill out of its pattern. We cannot accept it, for the same reasons I have stated for rejection of the previous amendments.
I also wish to reply to a point made by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). It is not stricly relevant to the clause under discussion but deals with the correction of figures quoted by the honorable member. He said that Australia’s transport costs amounted to 25 per cent, of our national income, whereas in the United States of America and Canada they amounted to between 9 per cent. and 10 per cent. of the national income. By way of interjection, which the honorable member acknowledged, I said that the figures referred to different things.
I think we should get the record straight. When you refer to United States and Canadian transport costs as being 9 per cent. and 10 per cent. of the national income, you are referring only to the costs incurred by transport undertakings engaged in “ hire and reward “ activities; that is, the costs of commercial carriers. When you refer to Australia’s transport costs as being 25 per cent. of the national income, involved in the calculation are all the private operators who transport their own goods, including such businesses as David Jones and Myers. Also included are all the farmers who carry their own goods and all the costs of manufacture, distribution and servicing of motor vehicles, including the provision of spare parts. The costs of refining and distribution of fuel are also included in calculating the figure of 25 per cent.
If a comparison is made on a similar basis, Australia’s transport costs by “ hire and reward “ undertakings - that is commercial carriers - are about 8 per cent. to 10 per cent. of our national income. In other words, our transport costs are about the same percentage of the national income as are those in the United States and Canada. I hope that I have once and for all disposed of the untrue proposition that transport undertakings, by and large, are very much less efficient in Australia than they are in other parts of the world.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). The honorable member referred to road safety and I think that this topic is of such prime importance that it should be referred to an organisation like the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. The subject of safety is very dear to me. In relation to sea transport there is the Sea Carriage of Goods Act and I would like to see in Australia a similar act related to the carriage of goods by road. I once had a very unhappy experience. The driver of a truck laden with steel rods applied the brakes. The rods were thrown from the truck and a little girl was speared and killed. I do not wish to play on the sadness of the occurrence, but if the load had been properly secured the rods would not have been thrown from the truck and the accident would not have occurred. Most honorable members have seen goods scattered over the roads because they have not been secured properly to vehicles. There should be drawn up by an organisation such as that proposed a common code dealing with the safety of goods carried by road.
I once saw a bale of wool roll onto the bonnet of a brand new car and almost ruin it. If the bale had been secured properly it would not have happened. That illustrates the purpose of the clause under discussion. I hope that the Committee will consider the reference of such subjects to the proposed organisation. I have conducted some research into these matters, as have other honorable members. I was very pleased with the contribution of the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). As I said before, I found it a very thoughtful and carefully compiled speech. We all have trouble in getting information on transport matters. If we could get it from the proposed Bureau we would be making progress. In my research I ascertained the relationship between Loan Council borrowings and expenditure on roads.
Mr.Freeth. - I do not wish to raise a point of order, but I think the honorable member should relate his remarks to the clause under discussion.
– I will not quote the figures. I am trying to make the point that such information should be in the hands of the proposed Bureau so that we would not find it necessary to go to a great deal of trouble to obtain information on roads in the various States. At present, the information is much too jumbled.
Question put -
That the amendments (Mr. Webb’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Hon. W. C. Haworth.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Except with the approval of the Minister, the Bureau, or a member (including an acting member) of the Bureau, shall not make public -
.- The amendment that I had proposed to put forward in relation to this clause was more orless consequential upon the other amendments that we had submitted. Once again we request the Minister to give further consideration to the right of this Parliament to investigate matters, in addition to having those matters investigated by the Minister. We suggest that the Parliament should have the right to refer matters to the Bureau for investigation, and that after the investigations have been carried out a report be made to the Parliament for its consideration. The omission of this clause would help in that direction. I have already directed attention to various documents, such as the documents in connection with the beef roads, which were most important and were not presented to this Parliament, as a result of which the Parliament was not given the benefit of some valuable information. An examination of those documents would have been of value to the various committees of the Parliament. I propose to move that the clause be omitted.
– I think the honorable member would achieve his purpose simply by voting against the clause.
.- I had intended to rise to oppose the amendment which the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) intended to move, because I think it is part of the whole attitude that the Opposition has adopted to the Bill. I make my remarks at this stage because I want to draw an important distinction for the purpose of something I wish to say at a later hour tonight. I believe it is right that the Parliament should be informed on matters coming before it, and should be in a position to be constructively critical because of having a wider knowledge of the facts than it usually has. I want to say something about the Parliament informing itself through committees. It is important at this stage that I draw a distinction between the committees to which I shall be referring later and the Bureau that is proposed under this Bill.
As I see it, there is a clear distinction between the functions of the Executive and the Legislature in these matters. The proposed Bureau is intended to advise the Minister, and although the question of road safety may be dealt with in part of the advice that is tendered, it is quite clear from the Bill that the Bureau will be advising the Minister on matters involving the expenditure of large amounts of money, and particularly the provision of financial
I assistance by the Commonwealth to the States in relation to roads. For this purpose the Bureau, although technically it is set p as such, is to be nothing more than a umber of people who are expert advisers f the Government on expenditure that the Government may have in mind to incur,
But until the Government is advised and knows what is involved in the proposed expenditure it cannot make up its mind. After the Government has had advice from its expert advisers about a matter involving the expenditure of money the Opposition wants to interpose the Parliament. It wants jo interpose the Parliament at a point between the tendering of that advice and Hie opportunity that the Government should nave to consider whether it should agree to or modify the recommendations that have been made to it. This clearly, to my mind, is the function of the Executive. It should not have its elbow jogged, as it were, by advice that it might later feel it cannot accept. Nobody really would suggest that, if these particular officers were Simply officers in a department, their advice to the Government should be laid on the table of the House before the Government had had the opportunity of considering it. Surely the Government, having received advice on a confidential basis, having made up its mind, and having invited us to accept legislation that involves the expenditure of money -
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Bradfield that clause 17 refers to the affairs of the Bureau not being made public. I would like the honorable member to direct his attention to that point.
– Apparently I have not made myself clear. I thought that I was addressing myself entirely to this clause. When the Government has made up its mind and has come forward with a proposal for expenditure, that is the point of time at which the legislature comes into the picture. If the Government wishes to inform its mind through a select committee or otherwise as to the facts and as to whether it ought to agree to that expenditure, this is the time, if it chooses, for a report from a select committee. For these reasons, I oppose the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 27 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 28.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be added to tha Bill:- “28. The reports referred to in section fourteen of this Act shall be laid before each House of the
The reports referred to are those mentioned in clause 14 which, at the moment, might be intended only for the perusal of the Minister. If the amendments previously proposed by the Opposition had been carried, the tabling of these reports in the House would have been already provided for. I have already put to the Committee the position in regard to the reports which are made available to it. I do not want to weary honorable members by citing all of those reports again. These are documents which concern this Parliament itself. I have a volume here entitled “ Parliamentary and Government Publications”. It contains dozens of documents that have been tabled in the Parliament. They consist of advisory documents, annual reports and other reports. I have also drawn the attention of the Committee to the question of the beef road reports which would have been available to honorable members had they been presented to the House. They concern transport matters. I have also emphasised to the Committee that in other countries where there are similar bureaux, the reports go before the Parliament. For instance, the annual reports of the United States Bureau of Roads go before the United States Congress. I ask therefore that, even at this late stage, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) will give further consideration to agreeing to this amendment, and whether he agrees to it or not, I ask that the Parliament agree to it.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) - by leave - proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I was unaware that the Committee was going to by-pass clause 6. I should like to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) whether he will give consideration to the matter I raised in my second-reading speech.
– in reply - I give the honorable member for Gippsland the assurance he seeks. I will give consideration to the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Proposed expenditure, £1,482,000.
.- I address my comments tonight to the estimates of expenditure for the House of Representatives. The total appropriation for this year is £150,700 a decrease of about £7,000 on last year’s appropriation. The appropriation for administrative expenses is £80,700, compared with the expenditure of £89,935 last year - a reduction of about £9,000. The appropriation for salaries and payments in the nature of salary is £70,000, compared with the expenditure of £62,542 last year - an increase of about £8,000. Tonight 1 propose to show that some of that expenditure is wasted and the private members of this Parliament, particularly members of the Opposition, could be given much greater facilities by a wiser expenditure of this appropriation and a greater appreciation of the requirements of a democracy and the needs of private members of the Parliament.
For instance, I do not think members of the public realise the wide difference between a Minister of the Crown and a back bench member of the Parliament or a member of the Opposition who is not in a position of leadership. I do not criticise what is given to Ministers of the Crown; rather do I make a comparison. A Minister of the Crown receives a salary which is roughly two and one-half times that of a private member. In addition, he is provided with a skilled and effective staff, including secretarial assistants, a Press secretary and research officers. He has ‘the full administrative capacity of bis department behind him to advise him on aspects of policy associated with his department. He is also entitled to liberal travelling expenses, transport facilities and certain electorate benefits in respect of travel. All in all, he is placed in a position - I suppose rightly so - to give full and effective value to the people in the administration of his department, to be fully informed and also to be able to represent his department. He also has certain telephone facilities. These benefits are also given to the Leader of the Opposition.
I do not quibble with that. The point on which I differ with the Government is the consideration that is given, under this allocation of expenditure, to the needs of private members, particularly members of the Opposition. For instance, when a Minister comes into this chamber to make a speech, because he has all the knowledge that comes from his departmental officials he is able to put before honorable members factual evidence in support of legislative proposals. We members of the Opposition are called upon to answer that speech and to put the Opposition’s point of view. A private member has to use his own facilities, apart from the library. I do not say this because I happen to be a member of the executive of the Opposition, but we members of the executive are called upon to answer fully, effectively and factually the case submitted by the Government. On behalf of a very representative body - the Opposition represents about half the population of the Commonwealth - we are expected to present an effective and constructive answer to the case presented by the Government.
What facilities are given to members of the executive of the Opposition, or to back benchers? We have no secretarial assistance in the compilation of the speeches and criticisms that we make. Our sole secretarial assistance is the one or two typists who are provided for the purpose of typing for members of the Opposition letters which they cannot have typed in their electorates. I do not quibble about that or criticise those secretaries. They are fully occupied in just typing letters. When one has to answer a proposal put forward by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman), for instance, is it not reasonable to expect that some secretarial assistance should be available to enable the person who is charged with the responsibility of answering that proposal to dictate the facts of the situation for presentation to the Parliament? Things such as that might well be considered by the Government. Some consideration should be given to the members of the executive of the Opposition who have to answer proposals presented by the Government of the day. The answer may not necessarily appeal to the people, but it must be factual, must not be just idle criticism and must not show a lack of research.
Taking the matter a step further, what research facilities are given to the Opposition, which represents between 45 and 50 per cent, of the population? Under the vote for the Parliament, why should not the Opposition be given a number of research officers who are departmental officials and who are able to present facts, and do research which only skilled people can do? This criticism probably applied just as much to the Labour Government of which I was a supporter as it does to the present Government. When we are in Government we rarely think that we will be on the other side of the fence. But when we get on the other side we realise the things that should have been done for the Opposition in order that it might be effective, put which were not done by the Government of the day. I should like to see more consideration given to the Opposition of the day in the directions I have mentioned, under the vote for the Parliament.
Wherever members of the Opposition who are engaged on very important party and Committee matters go, they go entirely at their own expense. As a member of the executive of the Opposition, one is called upon, in parliamentary recesses, to attend meetings in various States to discuss foreign affairs and other important matters. Although the present Government has been in office for 15 years, the full financial responsibility for travelling and other expenses incurred in presenting the other point 0f view to the people falls on those who happen to be in Opposition at the time. I say these things in a critical way, and my remarks are intended to be constructive. They are made in the hope that the people responsible for this allocation of expenditure will consider them. Although I am referring particularly to members of the Opposition, I think what I am saying applies to a number of back benchers on the Government side of the chamber who have to do their own research. All in all, almost an aristocracy has grown up at the ministerial level as against the rank and file members of the Parliament. I hope some honorable members on the Government side will realise the shortcomings of the present system and the need for a levelling off in order that we all - on both the Government side and the opposition side - might be effective voices for the people whom we represent, irrespective of our political point of view.
Let me go a step further and consider the accommodation in this Parliament House. The late Archie Cameron was a great advocate of this point; this is one of the few parliaments in the world in which the members of the Executive have offices within the confines of the Parliament building. Under the vote for the Parliament, provision is being made for the staffs of Ministers and others within the confines of this Parliament House. I will not debate that question at this stage, but I make this point and I think it is predominant: Apart from the right of each member to be here and have an office in this building, the people most entitled to have offices in it are the leaders of our respective parties and their staffs. No-one can quibble if consideration is given to them. But what do we find today? For instance, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) is confined in a room which is almost a dog box. He sits in a small office with his staff crowded around him, and he is expected to come into this chamber and debate great national issues with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and other Ministers, although he has not the facilities to enable him to present his case. Members of the present Government parties may quibble about that, but some of them might well be in that position in the future. Then they will realise the shortcomings of the present system.
Again, the Leader of the Opposition should have offices stretching along the length of the corridor outside this chamber, instead of the small offices that he has at present. I believe that first priority for offices should be given to the people who are in positions of leadership in this Parliament, instead of to members of the Administration. I hope that what I am saying will be taken into consideration because I think it is very important in this democracy.
Then, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I go a step further. I think that this Parliament wastes a lot. of money every year. I wonder whether the people outside appreciate members of this House sitting until 2 o’clock in the morning, keeping officials such as the Clerk of the House and others, awake half the night although they have to do a full day’s work next day. Nothing is sillier in a democracy than debating legislation at that hour of the morning. I say that it is downright waste of money for Parliament to sit in the middle of the night. I have been 20 years in this Parliament and if I had my way the House would never sit later than 10 o’clock at night, no matter what the issue might be.
If honorable members continue the present practice they will find that not only are they wasting money but, also that as the years pass, these late nights will destroy their health. I do not think there is a worker in Sydney who would work until 2 o’clock in the morning without treble time - and good luck to him - yet in this Parliament, where honorable members have not had their salaries raised for five years, they sit up all night and think they are wise. If the public thinks members of parliament are silly, they ought to have a look at us at 2 o’clock in the morning when we are trying to deliberate on great national issues.
If private members, particularly Government supporters, are prepared to put up with these things, they cannot blame the Government for continuing such practices. I do not wish to be personal, but many members of the Ministry hardly know what it is like to be a private member. Some members came into this Parliament and went straight into ministerial positions. They do not know what it is like to be down the line endeavouring to put up a case to the Government. Certainly they do not know what it is like to be in Opposition, faced by a ministry which is able to call upon the best brains in the various departments. Opposition members have few facilities to assist them.
I submit, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the estimates for the Parliament could well provide for increased secretarial assistance and more adequate research facilities for back-benchers, particularly members of the Opposition who have not even the facilities that are available to Government supporters. I hope too that the Government will consider fixing an hour at which this Parliament will rise at night instead of wasting money on late sittings at which very few members are fit to do their work. I sincerely trust that everybody in this Parliament who believes in democracy and in the free and honest presentation of a case will join with me in what I am saying tonight. Regardless of our political affiliations we should all join in seeking justice for private members.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to say these few words. I sincerely trust that they have fallen on receptive ears and that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman), who is at the table, and other Ministers, will convey to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) what I consider to be the need for a complete overhaul of the whole machinery of this Parliament, particularly the behind-the-scenes machinery, in order that we may better serve our electors.
.- This is really quite an historic moment. For the first time in the 12 long years that I have been a member of this Parliament I find myself in general agreement, if not in particular agreement, with the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I feel that he and I might say, because we feel the pain in the same way -
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry.
But I will try to be a little more articulate. We both feel the same pain. We are looking for the remedy. I shall try to find one. There is no gainsaying the fact that Parliament is not functioning as it should. The public thinks that Parliament is not functioning as it should, just as most honorable members do, including the honorable member for Grayndler and myself. This is partly due, of course, to party discipline. The honorable gentleman is subject to the decisions of caucus, or maybe of an echelon behind caucus. The attitude having been determined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), honorable members opposite, as if following a ballerina, try to execute with more or less grace the same movements.
Something of the same sort of thing - I must confess - happens on this side of the chamber, and the public becomes rather bored to find member after member saying the same thing. People think that it is not fair dinkum. There is tyranny of caucus on one side of the chamber and, to be entirely fair to my friend from Grayndler, I must say that we do much the same thing, although for a slightly different reason. It is true, of course, that there are many ambitious people on this side, and this has been a very good thing. Some are in the Ministry and some would like to be in the Ministry. As a result of the patronage exercised by the Prime Minister - I am being entirely factual about this - there is a certain degree of conformity on the Government side. Nevertheless, there are some members who, either because they have achieved their ambition or because they have abandoned it, have reasonably independent minds.
These are, of course, troublesome people. But the surprising thing is that despite all this, one gets very little independent expression of opinion in the House. Why then is the public dissatisfied? Why are we dissatisfied. Why do the honorable member for Grayndler and I both cry out in pain? Another feature to which the honorable member has drawn attention is that, in effect, most members now are regarded as unskilled social workers. I suppose that three-quarters of perhaps nine-tenths of the time of some unhappy members who are not as fortunate as I am in Bradfield is spent in looking after the individual affairs of constituents. Members have become in many ways, small-time propagandists. When they are in this chamber, they hope that the public is listening to them over the air - they are frequently disappointed, of course. Perhaps they hope that there are some members listening in the House to them or even some people in the gallery. Perhaps somebody sometimes reads “Hansard “, or it could be that a few cryptic or elliptic reports appear in the Press. In the hope that these fragments will reach some people and influence them, members, talk as small-time propagandists.
Out in their electorates, they address people who would rather be doing something else or listening to something else - it may be at a show or it could be in the street. They have become small-time propagandists spending nine-tenths of their time attending to the individual affairs of their constituents - very worthy people as we all find. But because members accept this situation they are not regarded as highly as they might be. If there is a suggestion, for example, that their salaries are inadequate, the public may tend to think that they are overpaid as it is. This may well be so if they are spending nine-tenths of their time attending to trivial affairs as unskilled social workers.
However, there is other evidence of this lack of appreciation of the function of members. There is talk of an ombudsman. Why would people talk about an ombudsman if they were perfectly satisfied with the services of the members of Parliament? I do not want to go into what an ombudsman is or what he would do and whether he would do it better than members of the Parliament can. I merely speak about the ombudsman because talk about such an official suggests that people are not entirely satisfied with the heroic efforts and the unremitting time and toil that the members devote to the affairs of their constituents.
There are, in some cases, other ways of safeguarding the interests of the citizens than through members of the Parliament making representations on their behalf. I refer to an article by Sir Garfield Barwick, a former member of this House and now the occupant of a very exalted judicial position, in the Federal Law Review of June 1964. He said that even under Commonwealth law a citizen is far from being left, for opportunities of judicial review, wholly to the prerogative writs. He pointed out that under a number of statutes, which he listed, a remedy is provided for the citizen in special tribunals set up to safeguard his interests. He said - I emphasise this -
Australia has lagged behind both Britain and the United States in making some general and systematic revision by judicial review of administrative decisions.
This is a limited field in which the citizen can be protected better than he can be protected by members of the Parliament, and we should -look at it. Unfortunately, there is not time to go into it at the moment.
We have party meetings or caucus meetings and members may sometimes influence the Government or ‘their leaders in these meetings. Sometimes, of course, they cannot. There are party committees of members on the Government side and on the Opposition side. They sometimes, too, can influence decisions. But I want to point to two of the inadequacies of the party committees. The first is that they meet in secret. Perhaps I could hardly say that the party meetings are secret, but the committees generally met in some degree of secrecy. The public, therefore, does not know of the work that they do. The work they do for constituents in this way is not seen by the public and therefore is not appreciated. Secondly, they do not have the advantage of secretarial assistance. This is a point that the honorable member for Grayndler made. To that extent they are less effective than parliamentary committees. They are not armed with the information that they need to have.
I have been trying to say so far that we are not exactly fulfiling our functions as the public would like us to fulfil them, and I have referred to some of the reasons for this. What is the real function of the Parliament? Surely the real function is thai it should be a check on the Executive. The Executive means not only the Ministers but also, I would say, the Ministers cum the officials. The Ministers are not themselves, I believe, a sufficient check on their own officers. These knights of the new order are very powerful. Our position in this country is very different from the position of those in, say, the United States, where Congress has its own rights and is separate from the Executive. Because the Executive is in the Parliament here, the Parliament more and more tends to become a rubber stamp.
With this remark I come back to some of the comments of the honorable member for Grayndler. He referred to the fact that the Ministers have officers and experts at their beck and call to assist them in the making of decisions and the making of speeches. This is true. If honorable members turn over the pages of the Estimates they will see research officers and the like in department after department. 1 choose at random the Department of National Development as an example and there we see senior project officers, project officers, chief investigation officer, economist, principal research officer, senior research officers, research officers and so on. Look through the estimates for the Parliament and we find a few assistant librarians, and that is all. The honorable member is perfectly right When he says that there can be no constructive criticism of the Executive if members are not armed with factual information. This is true and the Parliament should do something about it.
A Minister gets up to deliver a magnificent second reading speech. True, the style leaves something to be desired from a literary point of view, but nevertheless the facts have been assembled by research officers and senior research officers and have been processed by other officers. Finally, the assembled material is put before the Minister, who then speaks as one having authority. Contrast this with the position of the private member of the Parliament. As the honorable member said, the private member has a secretary, who is busy attending to the affairs of the constituents. Having just obtained a telephone for somebody, if he is lucky, having applied for a Commonwealth credential from the Prime Minister and having obtained tickets for the gallery for some constituents who arrived five minutes before the House met, the member rushes into the chamber, scarcely having had time to look at a newspaper, and asks a question about ladies’ stockings. This is a hopeless state of affairs.
I am afraid that my time is going and I cannot ask for an extension. Therefore, 1 must use the remaining three minutes to give the answer. The answer is that the Parliament should make far more use of standing and select committees. I know that my friend, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), intends to say something about this subject. He can say it with more detail and more authority and much better than I can. Parliament has been remiss in two respects. First, it has not made use of standing committees and select committees as it should have done, though we have had many opportunities here. I know that some of my /friends opposite are wondering how they can spread the net for me straight away. The second point is that we need a comprehensive research service in the Library. Many honorable members have been to Washington and have seen there the Library of Congress. This on a modest scale is the kind of thing we ought to have here not onlyfor the service of Opposition members, as the honorable member for Grayndler said, or the occupants of the front bench on the Opposition side, but also for the service of all honorable members. We should have the factual information that would enable us to criticise the Executive constructively and so perform the real, the ultimate and the important function of the Parliament as critics of the Government and of the Government’s policies. 1 finish on this note: One would not expect the Ministers to assist back bench members on the Opposition side or even back bench members on this side to make life a little more difficult for them, because we all like an easy life. Therefore, if members are to ensure that they get the factual information they need they must take their courage in both hands. I see that my time is almost exhausted.I hope that I shall be able to say more on these matters as time goes on, but at the moment I have been able to adumbrate only a few ideas. I close with some words from Shakespeare -
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
I apologise, Mr. Temporary Chairman, for referring to you as “ dear Brutus “.
.- The Parliament is the final expression of the Australian democracy. For that reason, I am pleased to join with the honorable members for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and Bradfield (Mr. Turner) in making a plea for a greater appreciation of the Parliament and of its importance to the nation. It is in essence the hope of the people of this nation. Around the Parliament has grown a great city, a city that is growing in strength and in beauty and has already won the admiration of the Australian people and of many visitors from abroad. But we want the Parliament to be a living expression of the Australian people, their thoughts, hopes and aspirations. This means that the thoughts of the people must be expressed in direct terms by their elected representatives in the Parliament so that on the great national issues the will of the people will prevail.
At the outset, I shouldlike to pay a tribute to the officers of the Parliament, te those engaged in making the Parliament work. I pay a tribute to the Clerks, to the “ Hansard “ staff and to the other officers who attend to the requirements of both Ministers and private members. 1 agree with the honorable member for Grayndler. It is a bad thing for our democracy that the Parliament should sit until 2 a.m. - as it did today to conclude yesterday’s sitting - so that business could not be debated in the fashion that the bill under discussion warranted. It is not for me to canvass what happened yesterday or early this morning, but it is fitting to direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that one of the officers of the Parliament, the transport officer, had to be taken away last evening for medical attention. What happened to him can happen to others.
The important thing, from my point of view, is that the Parliament should work effectively on behalf of the people of this country. What is necessary is a programme of regular sessions of the Parliament. I agree with the honorable member for Grayndler that a sitting day should not last beyond 10 p.m. To carry the Parliament through until 2 a.m. as we did yesterday, debating a vital matter - the wellbeing of ex-service men and women - is not good for the ex-service personnel, it is not good for us and it is not conducive to making the type of law that the people of this country expect us to make.
In looking over the estimates for the Parliament I find that on this occasion the vote has not increased greatly. The House of Representatives vote for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries was £63,000 last year and it is £70,000 this year. When one takes into consideration the increases in salaries and allowances, this enlarged amount makes no provision whatever for an increase in staff to keep the Parliament working. This is the national Parliament. As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is the centre around which this city has been built. It is the institution upon which this nation depends for judgment on the great national issues. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) in the eary hours of this morning referred to an important international issue. No consideration could be given to it.
A sum of £205,000 is provided this year for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries in respect of the maintenance of Ministers’ and members’ rooms-
– They are lumped together.
– That is so. The expenditure on this was £175,780 last year. More important than the actual vote of money is what the honorable member for Bradfield has referred to, the tightening of the grip of the Executive. The Executive’s grip on the Parliament is such that members today come here, they may ask questions, they may make speeches, but the Ministers go blithely about their business. Whether a member speaks from the right side of the Speaker or from the left is immaterial. The Ministers are unmoved by anything that might be said.
In passing, 1 would like to remind the Committee that only last evening members of the Opposition presented to the House an opportunity to appoint a committee to deal with a fundamental matter, yet no action was taken. I refer to this more in sorrow than in anger. I believe in the committee system. The committee suggested was to be an all-party committee. Long ago when 1 came to this Parliament I advocated the establishment of a committee for defence expenditure and preparedness. Such a committee could have been of inestimable value to this Parliament and the people by supervising, and seeing that value was obtained for, the great expenditure of public funds on defence, and also by seeing that we were prepared defensively. After all the years that non-Labour governments have been in office we are still suffering from lack of preparedness. A defence expenditure and preparedness committee would be a valuable committee. It would be one way of making the Parliament work, and by making the Parliament work the people could get value for their money and they could get the kind of security that they require.
The honorable member for Grayndler dealt with a variety of matters, but before proceeding I want to say that we all have a duty to behave ourselves in such a fashion that we will bring credit to the Parliament. It is a deplorable thing - I regret it, but 1 am disgusted at times by the buffoonery that can go on in the Parliament, when members launch vicious attacks upon one another. It could be just plain tomfoolery, but it can reduce the prestige and the value of Parliament. It is not good for Parliament and it is not good for us. It plays into the hands of the enemies of democracy, and the sooner we all appreciate that, the better it will be for all concerned. I hope that we can have our vigorous debates. We come here from various electorates representing different types of people. We come from electorates representing the industrial areas, from the type of electorate represented by the honorable member for Bradfield, containing people in the commercial world, from electorates with rural interests and electorates representing all the diverse interests of our country. We all come with different backgrounds from different environments. We have a duty to act with strength of character and with faith in the things that we believe to be right and in the form of economic policy our party believes to be right. We have a responsibility to state our views in Parliament with candour and strength and without fear or malice. I can only hope that this Parliament will be able to follow that sort of procedure.
The question of staff is an all-important matter. For my part, I am one of those people who practise decentralisation. My secretary is located in my electorate. Although I am a member of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Executive, when I wanted secretarial assistance some time ago when my secretary was on holiday I was told that someone could go to Bathurst, if I could find someone to do so, but no one could come here to Canberra, to the seat of government, to be my secretary. What a farce. What an absurdity that is. We need research officers, we need staff, we need assistance. We should be able to come here with our own background and wide knowledge and experience and have the technical help to enable us to say the things that ought to be said.
In this regard I would like to pay a tribute to the Library. Those of us who have had the privilege of using the services of the Library must say “ Thank you “ to the Librarian and to those associated with the work of the Library. It renders an outstanding service to all members. I know that we all join in saying “ Thank you “. There is a great eagerness, and enthusiasm to serve, among the staff of the Library, and a willingness on all occasions to try in a cheerful way to meet the requirements of members who go there in search of literature, notes, and background information. 1 say a sincere “ Thank you “ for the great assistance that they have been to me over the years.
I want to refer to the turnover of staff in the Library. On almost every occasion when I return for a new sessional period I see new faces in the Library. That is not good. The wages and conditions are not good enough. Merely to dismiss the matter by saying that assistants get married and leave does not help at all. It is true that some of the ladies there do get married in the course of the years and are missing when we return for a new sessional period, but there are other problems there. I think that the Parliament should look into the question of the staff of the Library in an endeavour to overcome the difficulties that exist. It should try to find people who will give the Library their fulltime service. Parliament should upgrade the Library, put it on the same basis as all the other departments, so that people can make a permanent and full career there. We should seek more male attendants for the Library - people who will stay there and continue to work in this most important field.
It is a regrettable thing that in Australia libraries have not received the attention, support and consideration that they warrant. There is an attitude that anybody can go into a library and do the work required; but honorable members know that it is a specialist field. The sooner we can get that message over to the Executive, the better it will be for the Parliament and the nation. I say “ Thank you “ to the Library staff and to the transport staff. I thank those engaged in the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings who get our message across to the people, with all the weakness and all the strength, and with all the errors - grammatical and otherwise - of the raw material that we make available to “ Hansard “. By means of broadcasting the people know what is taking place in the
Parliament. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who render that service. I hope the suggestions made this evening by the honorable members for Grayndler and Bradfield fall on fertile ground.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) said that it was necessary for the Parliament to work effectively. I propose to say something about that matter and in doing so I will perhaps cover some of the ground covered by previous speakers, although I think my remarks will in the main follow another course. We are considering appropriation for the institution of which we are members. It is part of the larger appropriation which we are asked to approve. This exercise which we are commencing tonight represents the second part of one of the fundamental reasons for the existence of a Parliament - ‘the right to grant or to refuse to grant money for expenditure on the ordinary annual services of the Government. We performed the first part of our task either by enacting earlier legislation or by supporting the Budget proposals.
In these documents we are concerned with the expenditure of money to achieve certain purposes, the principles of which have already been authorised by this Parliament. The task before us, in theory at least, is not to re-examine principles and policies but rather to examine the items of expenditure listed in this document to ensure that the expenditure of the money results in efficient administration and due economy. This is a right which our ancestors took some hundreds of years to achieve. It was a real right for a while but over the years it has become purely nominal. This debate will go on for some time, but I suggest that it has little relation to reality. There are four reasons for that statement. First, as I understand it, if a government is defeated on a financial or money measure it resigns. Secondly, in this document there are 144 pages, covering roughly 3,000 items - I have not counted them - and if we are to discharge our responsibilities we are required to examine each one of them. Thirdly, I know from previous experience that something like 90 per cent, of the time of these debates is taken up with discussion of matters of principle, or in rehashing matters of principle or policy that have in fact been decided. Perhaps 10 per cent, of our time is spent on the task we should be doing. Lastly - and on this point I agree with previous speakers to some extent - we just have not got the information to carry out our task, that is, if we decide to do it.
I want to give one or two practical examples to illustrate my views. Attached to this document we have a schedule of salaries and allowances covering more than 80 pages. On other occasions I have pointed out that these figures have little relationship to reality and that the only purpose they serve is to make this document look a little more impressive. I want to refer to the Library. I think each previous speaker has’ done so, either directly or indirectly, and has urged that further research facilities should be made available. Let us examine the situation in the Library. The establishment of the Library is set out in this document and the approved salaries amount to £26,830. At the end - and this is a common form which appears in all divisions of the Estimates - is the note: “ Less amount estimated to remain unexpended, £4,560. “ Therefore, 17 per cent, of the amount for salaries and allowances is expected to remain unspent. All honorable members pay tribute to the work of the Library staff. These figures illustrate one of the unrealities that have persisted in these documents for very many years.
I want to refer honorable members to something even more striking. I refer to the figures for the Joint House Department - the Department concerned with running this place. The total salaries approved for that Department amount to £68,658 and of that sum the amount estimated to remain unspent is £33,241. So almost 50 per cent, of the amount for approved salaries and allowances for this Department will not be spent. This is the kind of peculiar situation that wc, as members of the Parliament - not the Executive or anyone else - ‘have allowed to grow over the years. I realise there is a need for some flexibility in this schedule but a flexibility of 50 per cent, seems untoward. It is something that we all have countenanced. If there is guilt in this we all are equally guilty. I do not think any honorable member will dispute the validity of the illustrations I have given.
Since it is idle to indulge only in destructive criticism I will now suggest a solution which might enable us to do the job we are supposed to do. I go along with the suggestion of the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) that we should have an Estimates committee. I think I have advocated this suggestion before. The main task of the committee should be to sift these 3,000 items and to direct attention to those which should be examined. Time is a factor, but I think this could be done. The Treasurer usually delivers his Budget Speech on a Tuesday night. The general practice is for the debate to be adjourned for a week, and when resumed it runs for two or three weeks. If the attitude of the House to standing committees of the Parliament were altered, and if an Estimates committee were formed and it were empowered to sit while the House was in session, it should be possible for that committee, on a nonparty basis, to turn up enough items for consideration. That would save a lot of time. The committee could direct attention to where it was needed.
If that is not practicable - I have been told that it is not - we should consider using the computers that are now in the service of a number of government departments. I am sure my friend from Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) will not quarrel about this proposal. We have enough competence in this chamber for us to be able to appoint a committee to draw up rules and instructions which could be fed into a computer which in turn could throw up from the mass of items in the Budget Papers matters which vary from the general standard. It should be possible to do that.
We have heard comments about late sittings. I believe we could cut the Budget debate quite substantially by merely reviewing the Standing Orders in an intelligent and enlightened manner. Furthermore, we could reduce the length of question time by supporting Mr. Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, to enforce the present Standing Orders as they relate to the asking of questions.
In addition, all departments which submit reports to the Parliament should be required to present those reports before the Estimates are presented. I can see no practical difficulty in doing this. 1 admit that there might be some machinery difficulties, but they could be overcome just as the AuditorGeneral overcomes difficulties which confront him. Finally, as this is the crux of the problem which confronts a democratic parliament, we could well allow more time for discussion of the Estimates provided that discussion was confined to the items set out in the Estimates instead of its consisting of a scries of second reading speeches.
I hope that these suggestions and criticisms are not too revolutionary. 1 know, as a reasonable person, that it is very easy to say that the Executive has grasped power. It is not quite so easy but it is a lot more factual to say that, if power has moved from the Parliament to the Executive,’ it has been because of the inertia of the Parliament. It has not been because of a lack of capacity but because of a lack of procedures or machinery that would enable the Parliament to discharge its responsibilities more effectively. The task which confronts any government nowadays is difficult and complex. What I have said is not intended or designed to be an attack on this Government or any other Government. It is designed to ask this institution of which we all are part to face up to the realities of the situation and, by improving our procedures and methods of dealing wilh things, to make a more effective contribution - to use the words of my friend from Macquarie - to the National Parliament and to the people whom we represent.
.- In speaking to the estimates for the Parliament, I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) when he spoke about the excellent service that we receive in this place. Doubtless we all agree that we are very fortunate to have the services of the Clerk and his assistants, the Serjeant-at-Arms, the “ Hansard “ staff, and the many attendants who care for our needs. However, I should like to criticise the accommodation that is provided for visitors. About three weeks before the presentation of the current Budget I telephoned from Sydney to make seat reservations for two young friends of mine from the University of Sydney who were very interested in the prospect of listening to a Budget Speech tor the first time. I asked for two seats in the Speaker’s gallery.
I was told that my friends were entitled to the seats and that everything would be all right. On the night of the presentation of the Budget I was informed that unfortunately they would have to go up to the upstairs gallery as there was no room in the Speaker’s gallery. Fortunately, they obtained a couple of good seats and did not quarrel about having to go upstairs. Then two people from my electorate came unexpectedly on the same night. They obtained standing room only upstairs.
Some honorable members might recall that on that night eight seats in the Speaker’s gallery were vacant for the whole time that the Treasurer delivered his Speech. Obviously those seats had been engaged for people who did not attend. 1 suggest that in future if, on such nights, people do not arrive by five minutes past eight to occupy seats which have been reserved for them in the Speaker’s gallery, the attendants should be allowed to go upstairs and invite visitors who are standing to occupy the vacant seats. After all, if one is to listen to a miserable Budget Speech, it is more pleasant to do so while seated than while standing. 1 should also like to direct some remarks to the electorate allowances. As we all know, these allowances are placed into two categories - metropolitan and extrametropolitan. The metropolitan allowance is £850 and the extra-metropolitan allowance, which is paid in rural areas, is £1,050. This money is allocated to members to enable them to pay for the cost of transport, telephone services, postage and social activities. There are many anomalies in the payment of these allowances. Ministers get the same allowances as private members, but they are provided with unlimited transport, unlimited postage and a free telephone service. Is it not anomalous that they should receive the same electorate allowances as do private members?
I know that there are many wealthy members in the ranks of the Australian Country Party. I have no brief for them, but nonetheless it is ridiculous that a Country Party member who has a huge area to cover should get only £1,050 compared with the sum of £850 that is paid to a metropolitan member. I repeat that there are many wealthy members in the Country Party; there are probably three such in the chamber at the present time. Nevertheless, they arc more than entitled to this allowance. In regard to social activities, we all are presidents, vice presidents or patrons of every little club in our electorates. Believe me, it takes a lot of money. I am the vice president of a budgerigar club, a baseball club, numerous football clubs, cricket clubs and many other kinds of clubs. Each honorable member has to take office as vice president or patron of various organisations in his electorate and subscribe to their funds. If he does not subscribe to these organisations, behind his back he is called a lousy so-and-so. This is the sort of thing that every honorable member must face. I believe that the electorate allowance of £850 for a member representing a metropolitian constituency is not enough. It should be substantially increased. Furthermore, country members should receive much larger allowances than they are given at the present time.
In conclusion, I should like to mention a matter relating to the Parliamentary Refreshment Room. I believe that the service we receive there is excellent. The food is very good indeed. I am especially happy to see that we are now provided free with dried vine fruits such as sultanas and raisins. I compliment the person responsible for this innovation. But I have one complaint, Mr. Temporary Chairman: I have noticed that some Government supporters put quantities of these fruits in their pockets when they leave the tables. I suggest that the fruits should be eaten only at the tables and should not be taken away. Perhaps some honorable members opposite even taken a portion of the fruit home. The important point is that, if some honorable members abuse this privilege, it will surely be withdrawn from all of us.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, my Opposition friend, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), has made considerable play on some of the appointments that come the way of a member of this place. By way of contrast to his experience, I should like to mention that, some years ago, I received the unusual call to become patron of a group of lads who were known as the Skid Kids. On investigation, I found that this was a group of boys who engaged in bicycle races. They had good adult leadership and had virtually been taken off the roads. They had been equipped with old push bikes and a ground had been prepared on which they could conduct races. At their contests, they wore uniforms. This was a very sound youth group. These youngsters met at the weekends and raced to their hearts’ content around the track, thereby learning the value of competition. I regret to say that this group, like so many worthy things of this nature, did not last long enough. But I believe that my experience as patron of the Skid Kids has been even more valuable than the association of the honorable member for Watson with a budgerigar club.
The discussion of the estimates for the Parliament reminds us of the supremacy of the Parliament, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Several of my colleagues on this side of the chamber have held our attention, not only earlier this evening in this debate, but also in recent days during the Budget debate, as they have expressed their conviction that the control that should be exercised by the Parliament is being usurped more and more by the Executive. The other day, my friend, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), made a very constructive speech, as he always does on this subject. I look again at some of the words that he used. He said that he believed that, in many ways, the procedures and practices of this place were outmoded. He said that it is apparent that authority is slipping from the hands of the Parliament and being gathered into the hands of the Executive. This evening, this Committee is reminded that, as he said, control of the Parliament is our responsibility, for the elected members of the Parliament ought to control its destinies.
Since we are considering the estimates for the Parliament itself, I suggest that the very headings of expenditure contained in these estimates indicate the controls that we should be exercising. I should like my colleagues who have raised the criticisms that I have mentioned to tell me - if not now, then at a more appropriate time - whether they really mean that control of the Parliament is being usurped by the Executive or whether their view is rather that the rights of the private member within the party room are being usurped by the Executive Government.
I direct attention to the fact that the Standing Orders of this chamber become the very basis on which the destiny of this place is determined. These Standing Orders should be modernised. I am pleased to be able to remind honorable members and all others who are interested that, very recently, the Standing Orders of this chamber were very efficiently overhauled. Many of us have mentioned this to parliamentary colleagues in other Parliaments where standing orders have not necessarily been overhauled in this fashion. We pay tribute to the officers of the House of Representatives for their dedicated and sacrificial approach to the task of reviewing the Standing Orders. That is a very detailed task indeed. A well merited tribute has been paid to the Clerk and those associated with him for the work done not so long ago on the revision of the Standing Orders.
But that is not where the matter finishes. Even at the time of the adoption of the amended Standing Orders, it was apparent to some members of this place that some difficulties had not been attended to. So we have been given an assurance that at least once a year the Standing Orders Committee will sift through suggestions for improvement of the Standing Orders, prepare the required amendments and present them to us for the necessary action. So my first point is that the Standing Orders virtually dictate the manner in which this chamber shall control its business.
Some of my colleagues have mentioned standing committees this evening. Here, I make the passing comment that surely it is not good enough for us to be content to allow the traditional procedures of the past to remain for ever and a day. Just as Standing Orders fall into disuse, so the traditional procedure of a standing committee is not necessarily good enough to stand for all time. This Parliament must give its attention to modifications of standing committee procedures.
Now, what about the appointment of select committees? I believe that the Parliament should influence the appointment of more and more select committees when, on both sides of the Parliament, concern over major matters becomes apparent. We should let any select committee appointed for a particular purpose perform its task efficiently and report back to the Parliament. If basic soundness is apparent in a report, we may then hope that appropriate action will be taken quickly. This leads me to pay tribute to those members of the Parliament who. for twelve months or more, were associated in the splendid work of the Parliamentary and Government Publications Committee which, earlier this year, presented an excellent report in which I find 67 worthwhile recommendations. My perusal of the Committee’s report convinces me that it is very sound and that the action recommended is long overdue. Members of the Committee from both sides of the Parliament have served as members of the Printing Committee in years past and, I understand, in that capacity, have frequently said: “ What are we doing? What is our responsibility? Is this Committee a rubber stamp? “ We now have a report by a Committee that went into the whole of this important field of parliamentary and government printing - a field possibly involving the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. I believe that the Parliament would be justified in saying: “ This is a good report and we hope that not many more months will elapse before we are asked to approve action based on its recommendations “. 1 pay tribute to the Chairman of the Parliamentary and Government Publications Committee and all those associated wilh him in the work of that Select Committee.
The estimates for the Parliament provide funds for the representation of this Parliament at parliamentary conferences by members from both sides. 1 believe that it is becoming more and more apparent, in this era in which we live, that members of Parliament, if they are to be worth their salt and are to contribute something of value to the parliamentary scene, must not be content to live in their own backyards. Australia is a vast country, and several years may pass before a new member of this Parliament is able to cover the whole country, see something of our far flung outposts and assess what is being accomplished in the development of northern Australia. How foolish it is for the Parliament to expect a member to make, purely on the basis of his own intelligent reading, a sound contribution in the important sphere of foreign affairs - in which any of us may well feel impelled to raise his voice? He must travel, and Australia will not have the outstanding representatives it should unless members are given an opportunity to travel to many of the trouble spots around the world as we sec it today. Those of us who have been given or who are immediately facing the opportunity to travel express our thanks for the provision by the Parliament of funds to make this possible. We are strong in our recommendations to the leaders of both Government and Opposition parties that stress should bc placed on more and more travel - not just a holiday jaunt, for in a busy life most of us have not time to go for a junket around the world. We have a task to do. We find that our days and our weeks flit by so quickly that if we do travel it is primarily for the purpose of seeing how other people are living and what the world’s problems are, and to make out our own valuation of the action that should be taken.
There is also in parliamentary life provision for the operation of very valuable joint standing committees. I refer to the work done by the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. In relation to the latter there are several points which I should like to make. Honorable members will recall that the Committee reports direct to the Parliament. It is therefore a Parliamentary Committee, not subservient to anyone else. I remind this Committee that the Public Accounts Committee having reported, its reports do not go into any pigeonhole and therefore die. Over the years that Committee has had the co-operation of the Government and the Treasury. A Treasury minute is eventually presented to this chamber; in effect reporting upon the value of the report previously received, and indicating the action which it has been found possible to take to implement the recomendations.
Departmental inquiries are provided for in the programme of this joint Committee. I remind honorable members that when we read what the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth said in this connection back in 1952, we were impressed with the emphasis with which he stated that all departments of the Commonwealth should be investigated or brought before the Public Accounts Committee by way of an inquiry at least once in every three years. Of course, with the development of our departmental structure this is becoming virtually impos sible. But I underline the value of a parliamentary committee calling senior officers of a department before it for public investigation of the procedures that are adopted.
I make the point that so valuable is this work that it has caught the eye of these who so regularly criticise Government expenditure - organisations like taxpayers’ associations, accountancy institutes, and institutes of management, throughout the country. They believe that this particular Committee is so worthwhile in its reporting to the Parliament that we should be provided at all times with adequate staff, sufficient research personnel and appropriate accommodation. It seems to me and to other members of the Committee to be quite incongruous to call representatives of departments before us in public inquiry and to criticise their departmental procedures, their office layout, and the surplus workload which would appear to be falling upon some of their key personnel, if our own Committee has not put its own house in order, because our accommodation is inadequate and our staff is overloaded. This does not seem at all logical to us. Therefore we make a plea to the Parliament. The Public Accounts Committee, being a joint parliamentary committee, it is the responsibility of this House and the other House to ensure that the correct facilities are made available for the Committee, as well as for all other committees of a similar nature.
In the few remaining moments, I want to refer to the fact that in the United Kingdom Parliament there is yet another committee of extreme value; - a committee of a kind which we have not yet brought into operation in the Australian Parliament. That is the Estimates Committee of the House of Commons. I am afraid that time will not permit me to expound my thoughts on this subject. Perhaps if other speakers are not quick to rise to their feet I shall be able to continue, because I believe that here we have some fundamental points which should interest us in the future. The charter given to that Committee permits it to examine such of the Estimates presented to the House of Commons as it considers should be examined, and to report on how, if at all, the activities provided for those Estimates may be carried out more economically. Honorable members should bear in mind that at some future date adoption and application of the principle of an Estimates committee might enable us to bc better informed in debates such as that in which we are now engaged.
.- I consider that I should not allow the proposed vote for the Parliament to be approved until 1 have expressed what I feel about the Parliament of this country. My belief is that the costs of the Australian Parliament will compare favorably with those of the parliament of any other country. Members generally are closer to the people. They are of the people rather than above the people. That is a development of democracy in Australia which has resulted largely from the infiltration of the Parliament by members of the Australian Labour Party movement and the trade union movement. There was a time when members of the parliaments of this country were representative only of the affluent and the privileged. In 1901 life was comparatively simple. The gentlemen - some of them statesmen, certainly - who occupied seats in the Commonwealth Parliament in the early days had a substantial amount of time at their disposal. They had ample time to study the affairs of the Commonwealth, to make fancy speeches and to become orators. But over the past 63 years since this Commonwealth Parliament was established life has become more complex. We have seen the development of electricity, electronics, airways, and a wide range of mechanical apparatus which mankind now operates for his comfort and benefit. Notwithstanding all these changes this Parliament still functions in what I believe is a reasonably efficient manner. Its members carry out their work and their duties as legislators and as representatives of constituencies as best they can. 1 represent 100,000 electors. The quota for a division under the Electoral Act is about 45,000. I find that there is a belief amongst people generally that members of Parliament attend at Canberra for three days a week and then go home to rest. The plain fact is - and the public ought to know - that the member of this Parliament who attends to his work conscientiously, irrespective of the side of the chamber on which he sits, is on call seven days a week. Over the period that he is in this Parliament - I have been here 27 years - he suffers a substantial loss of family life. The best, most effective and most useful service that a member of this Parliament can render the community is not necessarily through his legislative contribution. That is important, of course, but the plain fact is that his most useful contribution and, as 1 see it, his most valued contribution, is the contact which he makes with his electors, along the lines of what the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) somewhat contemptuously referred to as an unpaid social worker.
– He did not say unpaid; he said unskilled.
– Well, as an unpaid and unskilled social worker. Let me tell the honorable member for Bradfield that early in my parliamentary life I found that if you want to learn how to help to govern a country the best thing that you can do is to make yourself busy on every occasion that offers and learn as much as it is humanly possible to learn not only about how the person lives who wants social justice but also about how people of every vocation in your constituency live and work. Learn their needs. You cannot learn those things by sitting on your tail in an office reading a book, practising law or practising anything else for that matter. They are the facts. If you want to bring a useful voice to this Parliament and to raise that voice in fulfilling the prime function of a member of Parliament - to ensure that the products of human effort are distributed more equitably and in a Christian manner - you must know how the people live. Those who sneer about members of Parliament becoming unpaid social workers-
– Those who sneer about members of Parliament becoming unskilled and unpaid social workers are not worth considering. That statement was not worthy of the honorable member for Bradfield. People ring me at all hours of the day and night with all kinds of problems. Sometimes you feel like telling them to put their complaints in writing. Then you think that you will have a look for yourself, and when you do have a look the impression you gain is different from the impression you would have gained from a letter. If you get to know the people, you also get to know what should be done in the way of legislative enactments in this Parliament.
I had the good fortune once to be a member of a Cabinet. When that Cabinet was dissolved, a certain officer said that it had been his privilege to be associated with Cabinets over many years but - you can exclude me from this - never had he worked with or been associated with a body of men who knew so much about so many facets of human life as that Cabinet. How did the members of that Cabinet know so much? The answer is that they were, in the main, nien drawn from the ranks of the unskilled social workers, who knew more about the people than many others did. I make that assertion because I resent what has been said. I do not dispute that there are people who do not want to have contact with the great masses. Perhaps on occasions they have-
– He did not say that.
– Let him apologise for himself.
– He did not say that, and you know it.
– He said that members were in the nature of unskilled social workers. You know :hat. Do not quibble about it. You are ashamed of it.
– You arc deliberately misrepresenting the intention of the statement.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor will address the Chair.
– I am enjoying myself, noticing the discomfiture of honorable gentlemen on the other side of the chamber.
During the course of this very interesting discussion one honorable member complained that the power of the Parliament was seeping into the hands of the Executive. No wonder! Honorable members opposite have a Prime Minister who rules their parties with a rod of iron. Of course their power and their independence are seeping into the hands of the Executive. But they could stop it overnight. What are they grizzling about? They have only to line up in the party room and discipline the
Prime Minister, or move for a spill. Spill the whole Cabinet and appoint a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet; then, hey presto, no longer will there be a seeping of the power of the Parliament into the hands of the Executive.
– Even you fellows are not game to have a spill, and look at the leader you have.
– We appoint our leader and our executive members, who form the shadow Cabinet, by a democratic process, but your Prime Minister has you all under his thumb. He picks his men. He says: “ I will have you, you, you and you “.
– He picks them with a pin.
– That is right. He picks them with a pin. Having all of you under his thumb and having picked his Ministers carefully, the Cabinet then is able to do anything it likes with the rank and file. No wonder you complain about the power of the Parliament seeping into the hands of the Executive. You can remedy that overnight. What are you grizzling about?
In some of the complaints uttered tonight certain honorable members have shown that they consider they are not sufficiently recompensed for the services that they render to their country. There is a good deal of truth in that. After all, members of this Parliament, who have a wide knowledge of the various facets of human activity, are poorly cared for in comparison with the directors of large public companies and the directors of all kinds of concerns. They are poorly cared for in comparison with members of the Public Service in relation to a number of matters. I will mention one.
I understand chat the higher executive officers of the Public Service draw an expense allowance of £4 or £6 a day from the moment they leave their front doorsteps to travel on their department’s business. Rightly so. A member of Parliament receives a lump sum of £1,000 to cover his expenses. With rare exceptions, no member of Parliament can work his constituency today without a motor car. A car is essential. Some people think that because we get free rail and air travel - we used to have a gold pass - that fixes everything. A constituent who wants to discuss a matter with you may ring and ask your office hours. In most cases the constituent would have to lose a day’s work if he came to see you, so you ask him where he lives and go to see him. A car is essential, for country members as well as for those representing city electorates, but insufficient recognition is given to this aspect. I do not criticise members of the Public Service who receive a car allowance if they travel one mile or ten miles. That is as it should be. But the aspect that I have raised should receive attention.
Many of us here are perhaps better off than we would have been had we not entered Parliament. Many of us might have been better off had we remained outside. But there is an attraction about the work. At least you know that on occasions you have had some part in enacting legislation that has brought comfort, assistance and economic emancipation to less fortunate mcn and women. That is something that brings great contentment to the soul. It is greater even than monetary rewards.
– Let us have a jolly good cry.
– I am not crying. T have always been of a very cheerful disposition, even in the midst of adversity. Like the honorable member, I lived through the shocking economic depression of the 1930’s, which people of his political kidney were responsible for creating.
– He was under the heel of the boss in the bank.
– That is right. He was under the heel of the boss in the bank on that particular occasion, and if you raised your voice in favour of banking reform at that time and you happened to have a bit of an overdraft at the bank you were promptly notified that you had to pay up or else.
– No, that is not right. You should go to where I come from and find out.
– What bank did you work for?
– The Wales; I bank on the Wales.
Order! Honorable members must cease interjecting.
– I hope my remarks will be taken in good part by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). His viewpoint on the matter regarding which I criticised him is different from mine. I hope the Parliament will continue to operate even more efficiently in the future than it has in the past. As I said before, Parliament is a great institution and, for all our faults, the only alternative to Parliament is a dictatorship.
.- I will not delay the Committee for more than a few minutes. What 1 want to say is chiefly in reply to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). I think almost every honorable member will agree that we do not relish the late evening sittings that we have in Parliament. 1 do not think it is conducive to the best efforts of honorable members to be kept here late at night - particularly when we commence our sitting early in the morning and work until late at night or else, if we arc not in the chamber, we are working on committees. In order to put the record straight in regard to yesterday and this morning, I feel that if you complain about something to which you have been a party you do not deserve any sympathy. I do not blame the Opposition for using all the forms of the House, because it is the duty of honorable members opposite to oppose.
I would like to pay tribute to honorable members for the keenness of their concern about the Repatriation Bill. Such concern was exhibited on both sides of the chamber, but the difference between the two sides is that almost every honorable member opposite spoke twice. Honorable members opposite used up their time on the Estimates, as they are privileged to do, and nobody objects to that. That is legitimate and in accordance with the forms of the Committee. But many of them were requested by their party to speak in an endeavour to force the Government to gag the debate at an earlier stage than it was ultimately called upon to do in order that the Bill could go to the Senate. A most important factor was the question of time in relation to the passing of the measure so that payments under the legislation to the recipients of repatriation benefits would not be delayed. So the Government was forced to get the Bill through, because it must be remembered that we are again going into recess for a week. I do not complain of the attitude of the Opposition in this regard. I just want to put the record straight.
– Well, you have not.
– The honorable member says I have not. I would not expect anything from my friend, because he was probably the greatest offender in keeping honorable members up late. If you look at “ Hansard “ you can see the honorable member’s objections to rulings by the Chair and his personal castigations of other honorable members. Clearly, when he complains about late night sittings he is really squealing - in the Australian parlance - like a stuck pig, because if anyone was responsible for our being here late last night it was the honorable member for Grayndler. While I do not object to honorable members opposite using every form of the House to debate any bill at any time, if they want to use those forms they have lo be prepared for honorable members on this side to answer them and make contributions to the debate. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that nearly every member of the Opposition had contributed to the debate. 1 do not object to that, but we on this side of the chamber had to put up fewer speakers than did the Opposition in that debate. We had the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) at the table to sum up and answer in respect of the amendments moved and the queries put forward by the Opposition.
We put up far fewer speakers in the debate, but of course we did not bore the Committee with needless repetition time after time and amendment after amendment dealing with matters dealt with at the second reading stage and again at the Committee stage. I look forward to the cooperation of the Opposition. I am sure that we, on the Government side, will cooperate with honorable members opposite in endeavouring to avoid late sittings of the Parliament. If honorable members opposite want to complain and say: “ We are concerned about the staff “, or: “ We are concerned about the cost of the electricity “, and so on, we are quite happy to accommodate them. But for goodness’ sake, they should not complain when they themselves have been among the main offenders.
I will conclude on this note: It is the duty of an elected representative in this Parliament to be in the chamber - to make his contribution to the debate and to be present to support whichever side he favours. We on this side of the chamber are more greatly affected by late night sittings - as far as numbers are concerned - than is the Opposition, and so the greater burden of longer hours falls on us. If we agree that it is the duty of a member of Parliament to be here and play his part and exhibit keenness by speaking during almost 12 hours of debate on a measure, I believe it is his duty to be here to vote. While talking about late night sittings I want to draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that only 36 out of 32 honorable members opposite were here to vote last night on the Repatriation Bill, which they held up and about which they made such great play from the beginning of Wednesday’s sitting until the early hours of this morning. I would not have risen during this debate had it not been for the fact that those who were responsible for delaying the House last night were the first to complain.
.- The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) said that Parliament was kept sitting until 2 o’clock this morning because the Repatriation Bill, which was then being debated, had to be passed so that it could go to the Senate in order that the increased benefits provided by the measure would be payable without delay to returned soldiers in the community. The Bill has gone to the Senate. The Senate adjourned at 5 o’clock tonight. The Bill has not yet been passed and will not be passed until the Senate meets again after a recess of more than, a week. Have you ever heard such humbug and absurd statements as the remarks of the honorable member for Phillip? Of course, he is not the only member opposite who tonight has spoken with his tongue in his cheek. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said that Parliament does not function properly. He said that his friend the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) is more aware than he of the manner in which Parliament does not function properly. He said that the honorable member for Deakin would elaborate on his remarks. The honorable member for Deakin did elaborate on the remarks of the honorable member for Bradfield. He said that Parliament does not function properly. He was followed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) who said that Parliament docs not function properly.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) pointed out clearly that if Parliament does not function properly the fault lies with the Government of this country. The Government at present has absolute control over this Parliament. Members of the Liberal Party and Country Party in this place determine Australia’s destiny. They determine every aspect of the administration of this Parliament, and if the Parliament functions inadequately, inefficiently or improperly it is their responsibility. I know that governments go to the country and present their policies to the people. Having been returned to the treasury bench their object is to implement those policies. Their object is not to give the fullest opportunity for debate. They do not permit the fullest debate possible. They gag the debates at every opportunity. In the 14 years that I have been in this Parliament I have seen executioners on the front bench cut short speech after speech. Some of the best speeches I have ever known of were never delivered in this Parliament. I am the only person who knows the contents of those speeches.
We should not indulge in humbug. We should not pretend that the Government will provide the Opposition with the facilities to make better speeches and with the implements and weapons with which to attack the Government’s policy. We cannot expect that; the Government would not do it. Why do honorable members opposite talk such humbug as though the Government wanted to provide an opportunity for the fullest debate? All that the Government wants is to get its measures through the Parliament as rapidly as it can. It has to permit the Opposition certain opportunities for debate. But why did the Government yesterday prolong the debate into the early hours of this morning? It was not done to enable the particular legislation to be passed rapidly in this place and to be sent to the Senate, there to bc passed and put into effect as rapidly as possible. The Government prolonged the debate until the early hours of this morning to deny Opposition members an opportunity to make the fullest possible speeches on the Bill. The Government knew, as the honorable member for Phillip knows, that its legislation was weak. It knew that it was vulnerable on the subject of repatriation. It knew that it was open to attack by the Opposition. So it decided to extend the debate well into the night and to limit speakers on its side of the chamber to one. The honorable member for Phillip, for example, could have spoken in the debate last night, but he did not. He and his friends were conspicuous by their absence from the chamber. They left the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) to say a few words. Mostly, he said - I move that the question be now put.
That was the Minister’s contribution to tha important subject of repatriation.
Honorable members have suggested tonight that the Government wants Parliament to be the democratic heart of the community where the fullest discussion takes place and where the most informed views may be ventilated. If our views are to be informed we must have at our disposal expert librarians, expert economists and experts in other fields who will supply us with the information to destroy the propositions put forward by the Government and to frustrate the Government’s efforts to implement the policies that have been framed in the party room.
Let me deal with a subject in respect of which there is some unity in the Parliament. Let us be brothers together on the matter of accommodation. Here in this Parliament, Ministers and their staffs - those staffs are getting bigger and bigger - occupy most of the accommodation available. Ministers should be in charge of their departments, but their departments never see them. The Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) probably does not know where the Department of Defence is in Canberra. Similar observations apply to a number of Ministers.
– Anyhow, the Government has no defences.
– That may be why the Government relies on a number of defences. It has defences in the Pentagon and in rooms in the rear portion of Parliament House, where the Minister for Defence has his sanctum. The Minister has with him in this place a number of staff. That staff has offices. Everybody knows that once you have a Minister he needs an office. Having got the office he starts to get together a staff and then the staff starts to get together another staff. The result is that the Minister, his staff and his staffs staff require offices. And they get them. The result is that I and five or six of my colleagues are jammed into one room, sitting almost on top of each other. Everybody knows how loquacious a member of Parliament can be, and perhaps members of the Opposition are more loquacious than are honorable members opposite, although our efforts arc perhaps better directed than are those of honorable members opposite. With all the noise in the room it is impossible to write to a constituent or to conduct satisfactorily a telephone conversation with an officer of a department. If the Government wanted to alter the position it could do so. It could put some of the ministerial staff back into the departments. Some of the Ministers could occasionally visit their departments and make available to members some of the rooms that they now occupy in Parliament House. But if the Government will not do that it should at least provide more adequate accommodation for the rank and file of members. One of my colleagues suggests that when the new wing is built on to Parliament House the Government will probably appoint additional Ministers to occupy it. When I first entered this Parliament there were not nearly as many Ministers as there arc now. More Ministers were appointed, then still more were appointed and, as I told honorable members before, this meant an accretion of staffs. When we get the additional accommodation, somebody probably will say: “’ There is a great system operating in the Parliament in England, and the Parliament of the United States of America, under which they have under secretaries. We will have under secretaries, too. We will pass an act to provide that each Minister shall have an under secretary, that each Minister shall have a staff, and that each under secretary shall have a staff “. Then, all the additional accommodation that is being built in order to provide more facilities for the ordinary members of Parliament will be taken up by this accumulation of Ministers, with their under secretaries and staffs. That is what has been happening in this Parliament all along.
There is no ill at all from which this parliamentary institution suffers that the Government could not cure if it wanted to do so, but in reality the Government simply says: “ Let them talk. Let the members on our side pretend that this is a fully democratic institution and that the Prime Minister desires to give all possible facilities to Mr. Calwell so that he may make more brilliant speeches than the Leader of the Government, and more brilliant speeches than all the members of the Ministry.” Why, if I had the benefit of all the expert assistance which the occupants of the ministerial benches now enjoy, even I. might make a speech that would in some ways -
– Startle the world.
– Not exactly that, but it might make as great an impact as do the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). But Governments do not give assistance to the Opposition to destroy, frustrate, impede or delay the legislation which they introduce.
.- 1 have listened very carefully to this debate and I think that I can agree with more of the things that have been said by the Opposition tonight than I have been able to do for a very long time. Let me say first that ] join with all those honorable members who have paid tribute to the officers of the House and every member of the staff of Parliament. During the many years I have been here I have never on any occasion been able to fault them. I do not propose to name anyone in particular. Not once in my term of over 181 years in this Parliament have I had any reason to complain of the way in which members of the staff in this building, both men and women, have treated me.
I agree, too, with what has been said about late nights. 1 have been fighting against late sittings ever since I have been here.
– You have not made much impact.
– No, I have not made much impact at all, but I remind the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that he was a member of this Parliament before I was elected to it. I was elected at the first by-election after the war, on 9th February 1946, and a Labour Government was in office at that time. I want to be quite fair about this. There are two classes of members in this place - those who were here when Labour was in office and those who have been elected since the present Government has been in office.’ They have different views of the proceedings, or of what happens in Parliament. I repeat that I want to be quite fair. We must not think for one moment that this Government is the only one that has late sittings. As a matter of fact, I appreciated the late sittings which we had when Labour was in office because it was between the hours of 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock in the morning, when millions of pounds were being spent, that I got my best opportunities to speak. As a new member, I had not much chance of getting the call often before that time; but we all know what happens at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. The honorable member for Lalor says that he wakes up at about midnight, that at about that time he gets really enthusiastic. I find that by 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock I am very sleepy, but by 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning I am all right again, although I feel the effects next day.
When the Labour Government was in office - the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) will confirm what I say now - 1 can remember leaving this House after a late sitting and entering the precincts of that fine establishment, the Hotel Kurrajong, just as the bell rang for breakfast. That was 7.30 in the morning. So all the blame for late sittings does not rest with any one Government. This Government may have fairly late sittings, but wc have not been sitting really late. I say that 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock at night is late enough for anybody, but surely some arrangement can be made so that the Parliament can do its work at reasonable hours when members have their wits about them and are able to submit cases on behalf of the people they represent, and for the good of Australia, in the best possible way.”
One thing I do appreciate is the practice introduced by this Government of sitting for three weeks or a month and then adjourning for a week in order to allow members to go into their electorates, meet their constituents and do certain work that is necessary. I do not appreciate it when I go into my electorate, either when the House has risen for a week, or even for three months, and someone says to me: “ Oh, you are on your holidays “.
– What do you say?
– I say that, provided we do not sit too late at night, the member of Parliament has an easier time when the House is sitting than he has when it is not sitting. If every member who represents a Victorian electorate had to cover the same area as I have to cover in my electorate, there would be only five Victorian members of the Federal Parliament instead of 33 as at present. 1 think the area of the State of Victoria is 88,000 square miles.
– Where is your electorate?
– For the benefit of those who are interjecting I represent the electorate of Mallee-
– 1 asked: “ Where is your electorate? “
– lt covers the whole of the north-western part of Victoria and has an area of 18,500 square miles. I appreciate very much the statement by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) that although he represents a city constituency he realises the distances that Country Party members have to cover in the rural areas of this great country. I can give some concrete evidence of the distances we have to cover. If any one doubts it, he has only to look at the speedometer on my car. I bought my present car at the end of last November. It is now September, and the speedometer shows that I have travelled just on 19,000 miles since I bought the car.
I ask honorable members to remember that when I am in Canberra during the autumn sittings of the Parliament, and while I am here during the Budget session, I am not driving around my electorate. Therefore, between last November and now - three months short of one year - I have travelled 19,000 miles, which is a fairly long distance to cover. If I had travelled another 1,000 miles, it would have made a total of 20,000 miles which, at ls. a mile, would represent a cost of £1,000. No man can cover the cost of running and replacing a car for ls. a mile. With perhaps the exception of doctors, members of Parliament have more need than most people of an efficient car. If a member of Parliament is booked to attend a meeting at 8 o’clock and does not arrive on time, he gets no sympathy if the reason for his being late is that his car has broken down. Nowadays we sit for three weeks, have a week off, and then return to work, but I can remember When the Australian Labour Party was in power sitting in this House for 14 weeks without a break.
The late Mr. Chifley was accommodated on the same floor as myself at the Hotel Kurrajong and we often walked to the House together. One thing we agreed upon was our attitude to the Parliament. He said to me once: “ I cannot understand some of my members “ - and I cannot understand some of ours - “ who want to get away from the House to attend some small show. They seem to think that to go to some show “ - awl it may be a budgerigar show - “ is more important than being here “. I have said to people in my electorate, and I say to honorable members, that when a person is elected to the Commonwealth Parliament he is elected to come here and represent the people. When the House is sitting he should not be elsewhere. When some members receive an invitation they say: “ Oh, I could not refuse an invitation. 1 cannot refuse an invitation to go to a show.” What more valid reason is there, when a member gets an invitation, than that the Parliament will be sitting on that day and therefore the invitation cannot be accepted. 1 have referred to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) several limes tonight because he usually interjects and tries to frustrate some of the speeches I make, but tonight he has been very tranquil. He referred to dried fruits, and everybody should know that 80 per cent, of Australia’s dried fruit is produced in the Mallee electorate. Just before the Parliament rose for the winter recesss an article in the Press contained the line, “ The Mystery of the Missing Dried Fruit”, referring to the parliamentary dining room. On the very day that we passed legislation to provide for the stabilisation of the dried fruits industry, for some unknown reason the dried fruits disappeared from the tables in the dining room. Today the honorable member for Watson said that when we came back after the winter recess the dried fruits were on the tables again.
– And you are as windy as ever.
– Order! Honorable members must be quiet.
– A member has just made a most unparliamentary remark about me personally. However, from what 1 can see, it could apply to all members. Nevertheless, let us return to the subject. The member for Watson referred to the presence of dried fruits on the tables of the dining room again. I can assure you that they are greatly appreciated by all members. It is a good thing that they are, because, as I said some time ago, members can advertise this great product in every possible way.
Order! 1 think the honorable member might direct his remarks to the proposed expenditure for the Parliament.
– Accommodation in this House has been mentioned. Someone might say: “ You have an office “. So I have, but I cannot help that. One thing about which 1 am concerned is that there has been much talk in this chamber about a new Parliament House. If a new Parliament House is to be built, why not go ahead and build it now instead of adding more rooms to this Parliament House? Why not get on with the job? Why spend a lot of money adding rooms and offices to this building if in a few years time we are going to build a new Parliament House?
– Where are we going to build it?
– I would leave that to the Parliament or to experts or you could make a suggestion.
– What about on Capital Hill?
– All right- Capital Hill or somewhere - but build it in the most appropriate place. If this Parliament House becomes a great big place with rooms added on here and there it will be very hard to know what do with it when the new Parliament House is built and we have moved out from this one. By interjection it was asked on one occasion what we would do with the old Parliament House when the new one was built. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) said: “Turn it into a pub”. I was not upset by that remark, but I was upset when “ Hansard “ came out and it showed me as having made the interjection. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said that I have never had a drink in my life. But let us get away from this frivolity and get down to solid facts. If the Government intends to build a new Parliament House in the not too far distant future, it should hurry the job. Build it now. Do not add to this Parliament House but get the new one completed. Otherwise the shortage of accommodation could go on indefinitely and nothing will happen to give us a new Parliament House unless some definite move is made. This has been a very pleasant evening. In case any honorable member misunderstands me, I should say that everything is comparative and tonight has been very pleasant compared with last night.
.- I feci impelled to make my contribution to this debate. I am one of the new members in this chamber, but I am not lacking in parliamentary experience.
– Have you tried the dried fruits?
– I have listened to your levity for long enough. You may well be ashamed of yourself for the way that you have behaved here tonight. This is the National Parliament and here Australia is on display. Its representations, its aspiration, its plans for the future and those who represent Australia are all on display tonight. I came here to speak for my people.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I think the honorable member is out of his place.
There is no substance in the point of order.
– I have come here to speak with dignity, to speak with sincerity, to enjoy proper levity and wit, but also to enjoy the display of proper parliamentary talents. Tonight, as is customary, the proceedings of Parliament are being broadcast throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I wonder just what the people of Australia are thinking of us tonight, collectively and individually. Each of us speaks according to his lights, according to his own experience and according to his principles. I speak as a member of the Australian Labour Party, a party which has commanded the support of 47 per cent, of the people of Australia and which, but for the cussedness of a group of people who hide away from us on certain matters of political principle, would constitute the Government today.
At the last general election, 2i per cent, of the people of Australia changed their political allegiance - one in every forty. That indicates the slender thread by which the present Government clings to office. We are the alternative National Government and we speak as the largest single group or single political party in this Commonwealth. Parliament is the great assize of the nation - the great forum of public opinion. It is here that the dialectics and the conflict of opinions of the various sections of the community are to be heard. Here, first and foremost, we act in a judicial capacity because this is the high court of Parliament. It makes its own laws. It has a court record. It has the power to commit and to punish for contempt. I say shame on some members here tonight for the way in which they have behaved. Wit and levity have their place. We are the representatives of the people, elected at great expense and given great privileges and responsibilities. We are the servants of the people and we should be accordingly humble. We have sovereign powers and powers of life and death. We have the power to legislate and we have also the opportunity to behave, if we want to, like buffoons.
But I am here to speak for my constituents and for my Party. I am one of 50 men who bear the standard of Labour in this Parliament. I am ashamed, I writhe with discomfort, at some of the things I have heard here tonight. It is encouraging to see the people fill the galleries. They come to look at us, their representatives, to see their
National Parliament on display as it legislates, deliberately acting in the best interests of the people. Jokes are cracked, if need bc. Cross shafts of wit have a proper place in parliamentary procedure, but our paramount duty is to implement the principles by which wc live and for the upholding of which we were elected. 1 had the honour, the privilege and the obligation to serve for 13 years in the New South Wales Parliament. I share that record with a number of other members of this chamber including, I think, three on the Opposition benches. It is my most vivid recollection of that period of service that of the 94 men elected to the State Parliament in 1 950 only 44 are alive today; fifty of them have been killed in the service of their constituents, by mental stress and fatigue, and by nervous deterioration because, unremittingly, in season and out, they attempted to do their best for their people.
Parliament has a great tradition, lt is part of our blood and our being. My constituency probably has a greater number of, shall we say, new Australians - migrants - than any other similar area in Australia. It has warmed my heart to attend over 50 naturalisation ceremonies and see the people, perhaps in halting English but with great sincerity and with great pride, renounce their allegiance to a foreign power or potentate. I have been thrilled to see them proudly accept the Bible and swear allegiance to our Sovereign Majesty the Queen.
In Sydney we have, wilh due dignity and solemnity, assembled members of the National and State Parliaments, as well as local government representatives, to introduce our new citizens to the methods of government which prevail in Australia - the methods of government of which I am proud as an Australian of the fifth generation. 1 have always emphasised lo these people that when the verdict of history is written the English speaking peoples will be famous for two achievements: First, the evolution of the English language and, secondly, our capacity for self government. In any English speaking Parliament you will see representatives of three distinct groups of people. I refer to the Nordics, with their capacity and instinct for political democracy and for the right of public meeting; Englishmen, wilh their phlegm, balance and tenacity; and Celts, whether English, Irish, Welsh or Scottish, wilh their brilliance of speech, their dedication, their fire and their fervour.
In this National Parliament we should behave at all times with a proper sense of dignity and a proper sense of our responsibility. Above all, we should be proud at all times to carry the banners of our parties and to uphold the principles for which we stand. We have achieved very much through parliamentary government. My experience enables me to strip off the anachronisms and the surplusage, the antique traditions which do not matter very much but which are, perhaps, intended to overawe the political neophyte. But I understand fully the value of the fundamental principles by which Parliament operates. For every one of these fundamental principles and fundamental traditions blood has been shed, Kings have lost their heads, monarchs have been deposed from thrones, so that we may sit here tonight and debate the business before us.
I do not wish to prolong the debate unduly. 1 think we have gone beyond proper sitting hours. I thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and I hope my outburst may have some influence on the future behaviour of this Parliament.
.- I rise to join with honorable members who have expressed their concern at the apparent decline of the Parliament and the increasing authority of the Executive. I have been here for some time, and at this time every year this is a matter which comes up for debate. I must say that the Parliament has continued steadily to decline during the 18 years in which I have been a member of it. One of the saddest developments in this country is the apparent decline of the prestige and authority of the Parliament. However, before I deal with that matter I should like to say something about the presentation of the Budget Papers.
No-one can claim that when this Parliament comes to discuss the Budget honorable members find that the Budget has been presented in a simple form. It is quite involved and a good deal of experience and some research are necessary to discover the information that one is seeking. In many cases the information sought is not contained in the Budget Papers at all. Repeated complaints have been made at the method of presentation, and the time is long overdue when those in authority should try to revise the method of presentation and produce a form which will allow members of the Parliament to obtain more information than they can get from the Budget Papers at the present time.
Oddly enough, the Budget presented to this House is not a Budget for the following 12 months. It is a Budget that will cover only nine months. Consequently in looking through the Budget Papers you find frequently that estimates are given of the expected result after only nine months instead of a full year. If we are going to budget on an annual basis, the Budget should be brought into this House in time for that to be done. Instead, it is brought here about three months after the recognised commencement of the financial year. Consequently it is not really a forecast of results for the ensuing year, as many people are led to believe, but only a forecast of what will happen during the following nine months. This is another aspect that merits consideration.
It is obvious that facilities for ordinary members are quite inadequate. Overcrowding is not the least of our difficulties. Members have quite a lot of other disabilities to contend with. The proposition of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that certain research facilities should be made available for members of the Opposition has much to commend it. Those honorable members who engage in research for the preparation of speeches know perfectly well just how much work is involved. Research takes a considerable amount of the time that is available for a day’s work. We are all indebted to the members of the Library staff for the very remarkable assistance that we receive in our research. I think it can be said that the employees of the Library are overworked, that the Library is understaffed. But notwithstanding the extraordinary circumstances in which the Library staff has to work, I believe every member of this Parliament is forever grateful for the never ending courtesies and assistance that we receive from it. What can be said of the members of the Library staff can also be said of everyone who is involved in the working of this Parliament. Irrespective of the places that these people occupy in this particular sphere, I should like to place on record my appreciation of the great assistance I receive from time to time.
I believe that we have reached the stage in this country when we should have a look at developments in the Commonwealth Public Service. We should examine the effect and influence that it is having upon the economy and life of this country. In the past I have suggested that it would be appropriate for the Government to set up a royal commission to examine the activities of the Commonwealth Public Service. I am not saying that with any derogatory intent. I am not attempting to rubbish the Public Service itself. But honorable members know the extraordinary situation in this country, that when anything happens in the Public Service it is immediately referred to the Public Service itself for examination and report. I do not think it is satisfactory to have a system that permits of appeal from Caesar to Caesar.
There is nothing extraordinary or unorthodox in the suggestion that we look at the operations of the Public Service with the objective of improving the efficiency of that body. For the benefit of those who may look askance at this suggestion I remind the House that about fifteen years ago the Government of the United Kingdom set up a commission to inquire into the Public Service there. That commission accordingly reported upon it. To my knowledge, nobody has ever suggested or appointed a royal commission to examine the scope and the influence, to say nothing of the efficiency, of our Public Service. In view of the part that the Public Service is acknowledged to play in this country today, it would not be out of place for such a commission to investigate and report on it. Honorable members would be appalled if they knew the influence that Treasury officials have upon the making of decisions by this Government or any other government. I can say, from eighteen years’ experience in this Parliament, that the Treasury officials of this country have and exert an influence on the deliberations of the Government quite out of all proportion to their position. Of course, the Government cannot escape responsibility in this matter, because if it is prepared to accept without question the advice of its advisers then, in the final analysis, it must accept responsibility for any situation that develops.
There have been quite a number of instances in recent years which have made apparent the influence that the Treasury has been using to hold up matters of great moment and great importance in this country. I bring to the notice of honorable members what happened in Darwin some years ago. The Public Works Committee at that time recommended that we should instal air conditioning in the high school that was to be built at Darwin. The Treasury would not agree to finance the proposal. The air conditioning of the Darwin High School was to cost £120,000. When we members of the Public Works Committee examined the proposal, we thought that, because Northern Territory Administration buildings and courts in Darwin were air conditioned and because of the importance of education, it was quite proper that a school should be air conditioned. We recommended that the money required should be forthcoming.
The Treasury would not agree to accept our recommendation which was to cost £120,000. lt came up with an alternative proposal which was to cost £60,000. We knew perfectly well that the alternative proposal was doomed to failure and we would not recommend it. However, the Treasury’s view prevailed ultimately. It was responsible for having installed in the Darwin High School a system of free air ventilation which never worked. So £60,000 went down the drain just because of the attitude of the Treasury on that issue. I could give the Committee many instances in which the influence of the Treasury was exerted in determinations made in this Parliament. Members of the Ministry must accept responsibility for these things because eventually they accept the recommendations. Those are some of the reasons why this is not an inopportune time for us to consider some of the ramifications and operations of the Public Service.
I conclude by referring to a matter that has been mentioned by various honorable members - namely parliamentary allowances and pensions. I want to deal with some aspects of the Richardson report. It is disgraceful that nothing has been done in this matter. The Richardson report is five years old. When it was brought before the Parliament, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was informed that there was a disparity in the payment of pensions. Members of the House of Representatives who had been defeated at the elections in November 1958 retired on a pension of £12 a week. Senators who were defeated at the same election but did not retire until the end of their term on 30th June 1959 retired on a pension of £18 a week.
The Treasurer gave the House an undertaking that this matter was being discussed and that he would remedy the disparity. However, that has never been done. The position still is that there is a disparity in the pensions received by two sets of people who were defeated at the same election. The Richardson report gave plenty to the top people in the Parliament and completely ignored the backbenchers. I have no doubt that the benefits received by the top echelon of the Parliament under that report are responsible for the Government’s reluctance to move in this matter.
The Richardson report suggested, amongst other things, that parliamentary salaries and allowances should be reviewed annually. The Treasurer stated that that would be done. However, it is now five years since that report was dealt with and the undertaking to review parliamentary salaries and allowances every year has fallen into discard. It is quite reasonable for the position to be reviewed at least once a year. If that was done, we would not be in the extraordinary position in which we find ourselves today. Nobody in the Parliament could have the slightest objection to having his position reviewed once a year or once every two years at the outside. The failure of the Government to act in this matter is responsible for the contradictory situation in which we find ourselves today.
.- I should like to speak for a few minutes on the subject which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) dealt with in the last part of his speech, and which has been referred to also by other members on both sides of the House. It is the matter of allowances for members of the House of
Representatives and senators. Members of the Australian Country Party appreciate the remarks made by various members, particularly Opposition members, about the extra expenses that a country member has to meet compared with his city colleagues. 1 do not intend to debate that point at all. I have only to refer to remarks which have been made very generously by honorable members, particularly by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) regarding the situation of country members.
I do not think that the discussion should be confined to the position of country members; I think it applies to every member of this House. The honorable member for Dalley made some very good points in the concluding stages of his remarks with which I agree entirely. He stated quite factually that it is five years since there was any change in the remuneration paid to members of this House. He referred also to several anomalies in the superannuation field. These are most important, not only to members who have given long and valued service in this Parliament and are still members of the Parliament, but also to members who have retired after giving long and valued assistance and service in this House to Australia. Some of them at present are receiving a miserly superannuation payment of about £9 a week. The situation is just ridiculous, particularly in view of the state of the superannuation fund which has a credit balance of about half a million pounds.
– lt is more than that; it is £560,000.
– I thank the honorable member for Watson for bringing me up to date. I was not sure of the exact figure. The fund is more than half a million pounds in credit. No one can question the suggestion that this money should be used, particularly in the interests of members who have retired and are trying to get along on this miserly sum of £9 a week. lt must be remembered, and I believe it is right to remind any members of the public who are listening, that this is a contributory scheme which up to the present time has not cost the people of Australia a penny, In fact, the fund is well in credit from payments made by members of
Parliament themselves. I join with honorable members who have spoken on this matter tonight in urging the Government to undertake promptly a review of parliamentary superannuation payments. It is suggested by some that we must always consider the question of timing, but it seems that it is never the right time to alter the salaries of members of Parliament. I do not think we need to kid ourselves that anything we do in this regard will be popular with the average person.
– The States get away with it.
– As my friend the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) says, the States seem to get away with it, but in the Commonwealth Parliament we are supposed to be above this idea of getting paid. I leave myself out of those in that particular category.
As well as dealing with parliamentary superannuation members on both the Opposition and Government sides have mentioned the need for a general review of the salaries and electorate allowances of members of the Parliament. 1 have no doubt that a good case can be made for an increase in the salary of members of the Parliament. Comparisons are odious, I know, but 1 would like to refer to a comparison that could be made. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in a very balanced and dignified manner, suggested to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in a question this morning that we could examine the situation of people who hold positions of public responsibility and the changes that have occurred in their salary rates over the past five years or so. I do not intend to make any comparisons at all, because I do not think the position of a member of the Parliament could be placed in any specific category. Perhaps it is not the hardest job in the world but it is not the easiest either. lt is difficult to align our position with that of a member of the Public Service and say that our work is about the same as his and therefore we should receive the same salary as he does. However, if the base salaries of officers in the Second Division and Third Division of the Public Service and the salaries of other people were examined, we should surely be able to arrive at the salary that should be paid to members of the Parliament.
There is no shadow of doubt that the allowance paid to us whilst we are away from home - whilst we arc here in Canberra - should be reviewed. We receive £4 a day but members of commodity boards, of immigration planning councils and of other Government instrumentalities receive £8 10s. a day.
– Private enterprise also pays a higher allowance than we receive.
– That is right. The members of the various boards are paid an amount that the Government has fixed. If this allowance of £8 10s. a day is appropriate for Government employees who travel away from their homes, I cannot understand why it should not be paid to members of the Parliament.
– The members of the New Guinea Parliament are paid £5 5s. a day.
-That is right. The new members of the New Guinea Parliament receive £5 5s. a day. I think that, on a factual basis, we have a strong case for a review of this allowance. The electorate allowance should also be reviewed. As the honorable member for Watson said, country members have a good deal of travelling to do. As I said at the commencement of my speech, I do not intend to say that country members work harder than city members do, because I have not a grasp of the work of the city members. In his report, Sir Frank Richardson said -
A Country Member’s car expenses are considerably higher than those of a City Member, by reason of the far greater distances he has to cover, the far heavier wear and tear caused by bad roads, and the more rapid depreciation due to both those factors.
I put this statement by Sir Frank Richardson be for: the Committee for its consideration. The electoral duties of members have grown considerably over the past five years. More and more of our constituents come to the House and we are receiving more requests to help worthy causes, as we should be. But this all adds up to a good deal of expense. If I may say so, judging by past performances we will have to take the next five years into consideration, too, because five years have gone past since the last review was made.
Mention has been made of the prestige of members of the Parliament and of the Parliament itself. I am rather cynical about this. I think that for hundreds of years people have regarded members of the Parliament in varying lights - most of them in not very bright lights. I, do not think that our efforts to raise our prestige in the eyes of the public will succeed. Perhaps if we were paid more money we would be able to raise our prestige in the eyes of the public. We would have sufficient money to enable us to uphold the heavy responsibility of this position.
There is one aspect of electoral allowances which I think is most important if the Parliament is to attract young men like the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), and the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess). That is the expense of employing baby-sitters. Sir Frank Richardson did not mention this. We cannot expect young Parliamentarians to get on with the job of populating Australia if their attention to their duties is to be restricted because of high baby-sitting fees. I have pleasure in supporting the remarks made by some honorable members during this debate on the estimates for the Parliament.
.- This has been a really remarkable night - I think one of the most remarkable nights in my 18 years in this place. Although I agree with all that the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) said in a serious vein, I think he was a bit hard. I think that a sense of humour is so important that if you do not have one you should pray for one. A member of Parliament who has no sense of humour is a lonely and forlorn individual, both in the House and outside it. Tonight we have heard such a wide variety of views and such genuine expressions of opinion on so many subjects that if one reads the “ Hansard “ report of this debate one will find practically everything that Danny Kaye is ever likely to put over, and more besides. But he gets about £5,000 for an appearance, and we get only a few pounds for our appearance.
This debate tonight has been democracy, really and truly in action. The British Parliamentary system, of which we are a vital part, is the most wonderful institution in the world. It is a most precious institution. Regardless of our party affiliations, we are all proud to belong to it.I do not think that any honorable member disgraced himself tonight. I think there was some sound and splendid humour amongst the serious tones. 1 do want to correct the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston). He and I are in the Whips’ union.
– You should expel him.
– I would expel him for what he said tonight. I was very surprised that the honorable member for Phillip mentioned the voting on the Repatriation Bill in the early hours of this morning. He gave the distinct impression that the Opposition’s vote was down to 36 on proposed amendments to the Bill and that the Government’s vote was up. Let us look at the facts. There are 72 members on the Government side - far too many; there are 52 members on our side - not enough. That 52 members includes the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), who cannot vote on a matter such as the Repatriation Bill. Last night, in nearly all the divisions except the last, the Government had 60 to 61 supporters voting out of a strength of 72. The Opposition had 40 to 41 voters out of 50. Admittedly, on the last division we only had 36, but the Government had only 57. The reduction in strength was about the same on both sides. Therefore the honorable member for Phillip gave a completely haywire and screwy version of what happened in the early hours of this morning.
– There were nine pairs in the last division.
– Exactly. I must mention that a number of members from the Government side and from the Opposition side are overseas on important parliamentary conferences. I hope that the Whips’ union will have a little more solidarity from now on.
I refer now to the need for a new Parliament House. A lot has been said tonight about accommodation problems. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr.
Daly) raised this matter at the beginning of the debate. An all-party committee met last year and investigated this matter for about two months. It was headed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), who is now the Minister for Housing. The three parties were represented on that committee and it made some very important recommendations about accommodation. As a result of the committee’s report, the Government has agreed to extend this building by adding a new wing on the south side. This addition is very necessary because honorable members know, on good authority, that this Government - which is a vacillating Government, if ever there was one, when it comes down to real business - will not build a new parliament house for goodness knows how long. The Government has not even given the National Capital Development Commission the green light to go ahead with estimates. What the Commission has done in that respect has been done of its own accord.
The all-party committee discussed the matter with the Commission and decided that that something had to be done about the present building because we shall have to wait so long for a new Parliament House. A new building might not be ready for occupation for about 10 years, even if it was started now. By that time this building will be 47 years old. If a new building is constructed, this present building will, of course, be used for conferences and offices, not as a pub, as the member for the Australian Capital Territory may have said in a joking manner. We are pleased that the Government has decided to extend this building. We regret that it has to be done, but the reason for the extension is that the Government will not make up its mind about providing a new Parliament house.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I want to bring to the notice of the House a matter of great seriousness which, I believe, is causing a great deal of concern to honorable members. I regret to say that, judging by performances and the statements made by Government supporters so far, the Government has not yet pricked its conscience about this matter. I refer to the desperate situation in which India, a fellow Commonwealth country, finds itself. Many weeks ago it became known to the world that this great Asian democracy, which is faced with fantastic problems in normal times, was experiencing a critical food shortage. The worst famine for 25 years, which resulted from crop failures in some areas and flood damage in others, had created a desperate situation.
The United States of America is lending a hand. Even Pakistan has temporarily set aside her differences with India. For the time being she has forgotten that the two countries are bitter enemies. My purpose tonight is to ask the Australian Government to examine its conscience. What help have we in Australia given to India in this time of crisis? What action have we taken to lend a hand? We have taken advantage of the opportunity to sell her 75,000 tons of wheat on commercial terms. In the words of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), we have promised to use our good offices in an attempt to divert vessels carrying cargoes of wheat to Britain and Europe.
I and other honorable members heard the news of this impending crisis approximately five weeks ago. I sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) -
Greatly disturbed at news of critical food shortage in India. Earnestly request you offer substantial assistance to Indian Government. In addition to great suffering food crisis must greatly affect standing of democratic government in India and Asia. Surely economic aid now is preferable to military aid later.
Yesterday, or on the day before, I received a reply from the Prime Minister. It is too long to read tonight, but it said, in effect, that India had not asked for aid. I ask: Does he want the Indians to beg for aid? Millions of people are facing starvation. Surely Australia as a major producer of foodstuffs, as a fellow Commonwealth country and as a well-to-do nation has a moral obligation to lend a hand.
India has a massive population and massive problems. To govern this country of approximately 460 million people the Indian Government has available an income which is less than that of the City of New York. I repeat that the problems which confront the Indian Government are tremendous. Between now and 1976 India must build 40 million houses to overcome the accommodation shortage at a cost estimated by a study group which was appointed by the Indian Government to be approximately £15,500 million. The Indian Government knows quite well that it will not be able to raise one-fifth of that amount. There is a great and urgent need for increased productivity from India’s farmlands. Better and modern methods must replace the age-old customs and methods which have been employed by Indian farmers. Through the United Nations, with aid from the United States and, in a very minor way, through the Colombo Plan Indian farmers are gradually being educated to the proper use of soils and food technology. Approximately 80 per cent, of India’s population is illiterate, and there are strong divisions of caste and religion in the community. Before the tasks which the Indian Government faces our problems pale into insignificance. India’s problems are essentially long term problems, but the famine is a crisis which is at hand now.
I am ashamed to say that Australia has not emerged, as a generous fellow member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. According to information given to the House, our Government has reacted to the crisis by offering 75,000 tons of wheat for sale on commercial terms. That is a very magnanimous gesture indeed. No mention has been made of a gift to this sorely troubled nation. We have offered to India in her hour of need wheat at a price. Surely we as a comparatively prosperous industrial nation which is blessed with the necessary climate, conditions and skilled farming community to produce in abundance foodstuffs that are needed by these starving millions should offer substantial help in this hour of need. The starvation and suffering are of immediate concern.
But the situation in India is much more complex than this. The very standing of democracy in Asia is at stake. Democratic government in India is on trial. Its failure to overcome these gigantic problems that confront it would inevitably lead to a great loss of face throughout Asia. If it fails, democracy will have failed, and the uncommitted peoples in Asia and Africa will recognise that fact. And what of the people of India? When will their patience come to an end? When will they take matters into their own hands? When will they start to look towards another ideology that may offer at least the hope of material betterment? I refer, of course, to Communism. As I see it, the war between the two major ideologies is largely an economic war. The 460 million people of India and their Government stand between the two on the brink of disaster. They stand uncertain, struggling to make democracy work and to survive economically. Indeed, millions of them are struggling to stay alive. Men, women and children are starving.
And what have we done? The Prime Minister is ever ready to use high and mighty words about the Commonwealth of Nations. But, when the biggest and probably the poorest member of the Commonwealth finds itself in dire trouble, does our Government support in material terms the Prime Minister’s flowery phrases about Commonwealth solidarity? Has this Government offered spontaneously a free and untrammelled gift of wheat to India? No. Our Government has grasped the opportunity to sell for a pot of rupees 75,000 tons of wheat.
This crisis may seem to honorable members in this House to be very remote. I want to bring to their attention a brief report that appeared in one of today’s newspapers. It is in these terms -
A spokesman for the Indian High Commission in London said tonight: “ Our needs are immediate. People may die - they are dying - before our own harvest is gathered in six weeks “.
I do not think that further words of mine are needed. I rose this evening, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to express my disgust at the Government’s failure to offer aid to India and to give succour to the starving. Our Government has performed very miserably indeed. I. have waited expectantly for action over the past five weeks. I ask for action now. Let us be generous to a friend in need. I ask honorable members, and particularly the Prime Minister, to recall some words that he uttered on 11 th August, the first day on which this House met during the current sessional period, when we recorded our regret at the passing of Pandit Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister. Our Prime Minister than said - 1 am taking the unusual course of moving this resolution because I think it should bc made clear to the Government and people of India that there is an understanding in Australia of their problems, a profound sympathy for them in their tremendous loss and a resolution to cultivate a spirit of friendship and encouragement.
I have no doubt that the people of Australia will support to the full any action that the Prime Minister may take. These were fine words from a fine orator. I ask him and the Government to translate these words into action. The Cabinet is probably meeting at this moment, and I make a plea to the Government to take some action to help this friend in need.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, yesterday the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) asked me a question about Press reports attributing certain remarks about racial discrimination to Dr. Nabavi and Mr. Natwar-Singh, two members of a United Nations mission who were invited by the Government to visit the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It was alleged, also, that these gentlemen had refused to attend a meeting of indigenous people at Rabaul and had cut short their visit to the Territory. Both these gentlemen have now informed me as follows -
We have been made aware of a question that was put to you in the House of Representatives on the 2nd September regarding our recent visit to New Guinea.
We wish to inform you that at no lime have we mentioned racial discrimination. In addition, wherever we could, including in our A. B.C. broadcast in Papua and New Guinea, we emphasised that the future of the Territory was the subject of the people’s wishes and that the United Nations had stressed this point in different United Nations bodies. As for cutting short our visit, this became unavoidable because of some upset in the plane connections which involved the loss of a day and a half and as a consequence of that ibc programme had already to be cut short.
We would have greatly enjoyed talking to native political leaders of Rabaul and in fact had made a point of speaking to as many native leaders as possible while we were in the Territory.
I might also add that I received a telephone call from the Head Chief of Nauru,
Hammer de Roburt, concerning allegations of bullying by the Australian Government. He was most distressed at this press report and said that there were no suggestions in this regard in his remarks to the Press.
– He was sorry that he spoke to the Press.
– He is a very magnanimous individual.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) made an emotional appeal concerning assistance to India. He took this matter up with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). He was totally unfair in not reading the Prime Minister’s reply. There are always two sides to a question. Nobody denies the needs of India, but India had planned her shipments from America and from Australia. Apparently her planned supplies did not include a shipment in August, which was available. She chose not to take it because she did not require it at that stage. A strike at Houston, Texas, delayed a shipment from America, so it was because of some strikers that India was put in her present position. Had the honorable member read the Prime Minister’s reply, he would have had the whole story about Australia’s arranging supplies in August and September and India’s advising us that she did not need to take the August shipment but that shipments would be required in September and October. She was then caught in this way.
The Indian authorities made a request to the British Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We got to hear of it and, through the Australian Wheat Board, offered every co-operation by way of diverting ships. India has her own line of ships. If she sent them here, we would immediately fill them with wheat and ensure that she got supplies. We have not been asked for any assistance.
– If we had had ships of our own we could have done the same.
– The Indian authorities have not asked us for any assistance. The assistance that is given by Australia is decided on priorities determined by India under the Colombo Plan. Requests are met in every instance on the priorities laid down. So the honorable member for Bendigo was totally unfair. He was one-sided when he refused to read the Prime Minister’s reply.
.- I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes, but I think I should say that the Opposition is shocked at the delay of the Government in respect of aid to India. Australia, through the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), is repeatedly pledging support in the fight against Communism throughout South East Asia. It is prepared to send troops and to give arms, not waiting for nations to beg. But in this instance, when we have an opportunity to assist a fellow Commonwealth nation, a proud member of the Commonwealth, the Government says: “ We will wait for India to beg before we will offer her any wheat “. When India was savagely attacked by Communist Chinese forces some time ago I suggested in this House that the Government should offer medical and other aid to India. Almost the same reply was given at that time: India has not asked for help. Finally there was a response.
Our attitude is very hard to understand. Do we, in this prosperous country of ours, say to India: “ Get down on your knees and beg, and then we will give you wheat to help stop starvation in your nation”? If the Government is sincere in its fight against Communism it will not wait for a nation like India to beg. It will go out of its way to help, because if we do not fill those empty stomachs the people of India will turn elsewhere for food. This is the test. If the Commonwealth of Nations means anything, if brotherhood means anything, we will not ask our brothers to beg. We will offer and give greatly and readily.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to say a few words concerning the reply given by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) in relation to the honorable member’s submissions on the urgent necessity to give immediate assistance to India in the form of wheat, not on commercial terms but by way of a gift. 1 thought the honorable member for Bendigo, without emotion, put very fairly and very reasonably to the House a most important matter and one that I would not like to see left in abeyance without something being done while this House goes into recess for a week. The Minister chose to say that the honorable member for Bendigo had been totally unfair in not reading the Prime Minister’s reply. I will now read the Prime Minister’s reply. Far from being totally unfair to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) by not reading the reply, 1 thought the honorable member for Bendigo was more than fair to him by not reading it and by merely summarising it.
The first point that I want to bring to the attention of the House is that the honorable member for Bendigo sent a telegram to the Prime Minister over four weeks ago asking that something be done to assist India in this present emergency. The Prime Minister allowed a full four weeks to pass before he went to the trouble of having a letter typed in reply to that telegram. The letter is dated 31st August. The telegram had been sent to the Prime Minister over four weeks previously, on 29th July. How can the honorable member for Bendigo have been unfair in not stressing that point? I think that, in allowing that point to pass without undue stress, the honorable member was more than fair to the Prime Minister. 1 would like the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) or the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) - who is not noted for any great imagination or generosity - to explain the four weeks’ delay by the Leader of the Government in answering this telegram from the honorable member for Bendigo. In that answer the Prime Minister said -
I refer to your recent telegram-
Recent telegram! It was sent four weeks earlier - suggesting that the Government provide aid to India to help alleviate that country’s present food problems.
The right honorable gentleman recognises that the honorable member for Bendigo is talking about present food problems in his telegram, but does he answer in terms of present food problems? No. He says -
Australia has in the past provided wheal to ‘ India free of charge under the Colombo Plan. However, in recent years, the Indian Government has informed Australia that its requirements for wheat are being met by the United States Surplus Disposal Programme and that it would prefer other aid from Australia. <
In recent years, that is; over a long period of time, and not in respect of this present emergency when, owing to drought and crop failures, the famine in India is the worst for 25 years. This is a matter 6* only a few months duration, not a matter of recent years. The Prime Minister avoids altogether the proposition put to him in the telegram by the honorable member for Bendigo, by referring to the “ recent years “ situation.
The second point is that the Prime Minister did not say anything about recent shipments over a period of months, as the Minister for Primary Industry suggested that the right honorable gentleman had said in reply. He made no mention of those things anywhere in his letter. He made no mention of some mysterious strike inHouston, Texas, which interfered with the situation. There is no mention of that in his letter. Far from being unfair to the right honorable gentleman, the honorable member for Bendigo was more than fair to him. I do not accept this answer from the Minister for Primary Industry, who tried to avoid the whole issue by standing up here and, in a few words, accusing the honorable member for Bendigo of being totally unfair. It was a totally improper and unjustified answer. The Prime Minister’s letter did not contain what the Minister for Primary Industry suggested a few minutes ago was in it. The Prime Minister’s reply continued -
As my colleague the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) explained in the Parliament last week, the Government has had a close look at all aspects of this matter. In doing so we have, of course, borne in mind the past attitude of the Indian Government and the fact that there has been no current approach to us to supply further aid. Inquiries were received, however, from India about the availability of Australian wheat on commercial terms and you will no doubt have heard that the Australian Wheat Board will be supplying India with 75,000 tons of wheat over the next couple of months on the terms of credit sought by the Indian Government.
We are not talking about a commercial proposition. We are not asking the Government to sell wheat commercially to India, and to reply as the Prime Minister has done, and as the Minister for Primary Industry has done, by saying that the Australian Government is selling wheat to India on commercial terms, is no answer at all to this submission. It is likewise no answer to say that there has been some series of events in recent shipments and that ships are not available, or something of that sort. We are asking this Government to take seriously our request that something be done about giving wheat free to India to meet the present emergency. We arc asking the Government not to wait for some request from India. We know of the emergency; what about taking the initiative? The Minister for Primary Industry says that if India sends some ships to Australia we will fill them with wheat. What about sending India a cable tonight or tomorrow suggesting that India send a ship to Australia and that we will fill it with wheat? That would have the complete approval not only of the Opposition but, I am sure, also of honorable members opposite and of the public of Australia.
How about this Government showing some initiative. We hear so often the cliche about having a close look at the situation. We hear much about requirements ‘ being mct by arrangements that have been made in relation to United States disposals or under the Colombo Plan. Requirements are not being met in these ways. If the Government has had a close look at the situation, it knows that the circumstances in India are urgent. India apparently has ships to send to Australia for our wheat if we suggest that it should send them. It is something of a disgrace that we in Australia do not have ships in which to send our wheat to India in the present circumstances, but let us put that aside as one of the long term failures of the Government. We are concerned at the moment only with the Government’s immediate failures.
On behalf of every honorable member on this side of the chamber and, 1 hope, on behalf of every honorable member on the other side, I seriously and sincerely request the Ministers now in the House, within the next few hours, and without any beating about the bush or further delay, to take the request of this Parliament to the Cabinet and have a message sent to India intimating that Australia will send a gift of wheat to the Indian people to help them in their present emergency.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.16 p.m. until Tuesday, 15th September 1964.
The following answers to questions were circulated -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What have been the (a) total enlistments in and the total discharges from and (b) totals of expenditure on the citizen sections of each of the armed services during each of the past ten years?
– The Minister for Defence have provided the following answer -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answers -
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
r asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Long Service Leave. (Question No. 438.)
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
What was the (a) number and (b) tonnage of ships registered in Australia during each of the last 20 years?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has supplied the following information -
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice) -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows-
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has supplied the following information -
d asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Mr.Freeth. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Facilities available in Australia for the training of engineers and deck officers for the merchant navy are - (0 Technical Colleges,
Technical colleges conducting courses for engineers’ and deck officers’ certificates of competency are located at Melbourne. Sydney and Newcastle. Privately conducted training courses for engineers are available in Fremantle. Basic training for engineers is provided through numerous’ approved workshops located in all States. A number of shipping companies provide opportunities for training through apprenticeship schemes. A large majority of officers who obtain their certificates in Australia have made use of the facilities set out above. The number of apprentices who served at sea during the three years ending June 1964 was as follows -
As some students may study at technical colleges for only some of the subjects required for their certificates and as others would study for certificates issued by the States’ authorities no reliable estimate could be given of the number trained during the past three years. However, itis estimated that over 300 engineers certificates issued by the Commonwealth in this time and over 240 deck officer certificates issued during the same period were issued to persons who received most, or all, of their training in Australia.
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply -
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies -
– On 1st September, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir. Wilfred Kent Hughes) asked me whether a request had been received from the Indian Government to divert to India four ships carrying wheat to Great Britain. I am informed that no request has been received from India directly, but the British authorities at the instance of the Indian Government approached our High Commissioner in London and are in touch with the London representatives of the Australian Wheat Board. The Government and the Wheat Board will give any assistance practicable but the ships concerned and the wheat are subject to existing charters and contracts of sale.
Religious Teaching in Schools.
– On 1st September, the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) asked me a question about the new syllabus on general religious teaching in primary schools which was introduced recently in New South Wales and which has since been suspended pending review. The honorable member asked whether the Commonwealth intended to put any views to the New South Wales Government on this matter in its relationship to Government schools in the Australian Capital Territory, which are staffed and conducted by the New South Wales Department of Education. I have since consulted my colleague, the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, and inform the honorable member that the Commonwealth’s position remains as indicated by my colleague when he last spoke on this matter in another place on 19th August. Nevertheless, we are watching with interest the action being taken by the Government of New South Wales.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 September 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640903_reps_25_hor43/>.