25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Honorable members will all be aware of the unhappy fact that Senator Seddon Vincent of Western Australia died last night. He was very warmly regarded, I think, by all members of both Houses of the Parliament. The news of his death, therefore, comes as a very great shock, although it must be said that in the last week or so reports of his condition of health were rather disturbing. Victor Seddon Vincent was born in Western Australia in 1908. He entered the Commonwealth Parliament as a Liberal senator for Western Australia in the general election of 1949, which meant that he took his place in the Senate in July 1950. He was re-elected to the Senate at the subsequent general elections of 1951, 1955 and 1961.
Senator Vincent was a member of the Senate Standing Orders Committee from June 1951. He was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinance from September 1953 to November 1955. He was a member of the Senate Select Committee on the Development of Canberra in 1954-55. Later he was a member of a corresponding committee. He was a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs from October 1956 until August 1959 and later from August 1962 up to the present time. He was a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory from April 1957, and he was Chairman of the Commitee from August 1962. He was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Payments to Maritime Unions in 1958. He was a member of the Australian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Warsaw in 1959. He was Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television from November 1962 until October of last year, when the Committee’s report was presented. Before he came into the Parliament, and perhaps before he thought of doing so, he was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force for five and a half years from September 1940. He rose to the rank of wing commander.
That is a very bald narrative of tha events in his political life. But one thing emerges from it and it is one thing that we all know about Seddon Vincent: He had the most tremendous catholicity of interest. He was not confined to what in the orthodox way we would call political problems. He was interested in the development of the arts, the development of theatre and the development of television. In short, he had very wide intellectual and cultural interests. In all these matters he was greatly assisted by his wife, who shared his enthusiasm in a most remarkable way. We think of her as we think of him. These men do not come every day. I think it will be agreed by everybody that Seddon Vincent made a unique and special and individual contribution to public affairs in Australia. For that we shall always be grateful, as I have no doubt the people will be. Sir, I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at tha death of Victor Seddon Vincent, a senator from the State of Western Australia, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow in her bereavement.
– The Opposition joins with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and supporters of the Government parties in this House in deploring the untimely death of Senator Seddon Vincent, who was only 56 when he died. He had lived a full life and had given of his talents to many worthy causes. He came from a very distinguished family that had made its contribution to the law and in the Services. With this background and by his own right he established himself in the affection of many members of this Parliament, where so many of us live lives of such absorption that even over a period of 15 or 16 years we really do not get to know each other. In the time that Senator Vincent was a member of the Parliament I did not have many conversations with him, but he always impressed me as being an earnest man, anxious to do the things that he thought ought to be done. As the Prime Minister said, he had a catholicity of interests, and everything he touched he adorned.
Senator Seddon Vincent did his best for his own State and he did his best for Australia. We mourn his loss and regret his passing. He was a man who, in the course of his duties as a senator, helped very unobtrusively and always sincerely in causes In which he became interested. A recitation of the committees of the Senate and the joint committees of the Parliament on which he served is impressive. He was the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. I saw him when he appeared on television. At that time he knew full well that his days were numbered, but he defended his Committee’s recommendation and answered criticisms with great ability, all the time hiding the fact that he was mortally ill. He was a man who faced death very gamely, very courageously. As I saw him on television on that occasion I said to myself that I hoped that if I had to die of the disease from which he has died I would be able to face death with the same fortitude as he exhibited.
On behalf of the Opposition I subscribe to the resolution moved by the Prime Minister in which we express our sympathy to his devoted wife of yesterday and his bereaved widow of today.
– I wish to associate the members of the Australian Country Party with the resolution proposed to the House by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). Senator Vincent, as we knew him, was a typical Australian of a kind that I think everyone would admire. He was a really good Australian type who served his State and his country well. He served in the Senate with great distinction, and at every opportunity to participate, at whatever level and in whatever committees, Senator Vincent was there. He took a leading part as Chairman in the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. For this he will be long remembered. He had a great interest in the theatre, but his service ranged over a wider field.
I had the privilege on one occasion during a Senate election of travelling quite widely about Western Australia with the late senator and I came to learn of the breadth of his interests. He served with the Royal Australian Air Force and gained the rank of wing commander. This is a quite high rank and, I think, one of the highest to be gained by those who joined the R.A.A.F. after the outbreak of war. So his service with that branch of the forces was quite distinguished. I know that Senator Vincent - this is characteristic of Western Australians - had a tremendous interest in Western Australian wild flowers. This was one of his great hobbies, and in his spare time he engaged actively in it. He had been chairman of the Kalgoorlie Chamber of Commerce, and I know that, as a man from Kalgoorlie, he had a great interest in goldmining, the industry that is so vital to Western Australia. He was an untiring protagonist of all that served the interests of the industry, and he unceasingly advocated an increase in the price of gold. To this extent, he worked for the advancement of his own State and of the Australian economy generally. We all regret the passing of Senator Vincent and we all join in extending the deepest sympathy to his widow.
– Mr. Speaker, I should like to mention the work of Senator Vincent on the Joint Committee for the Australian Capital Territory. As the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has said, the senator was a member of this Committee from its inception in 1957. He was its chairman for, I think, 16 or 17 months during the life of the Twenty-fourth Parliament. He participated in the work of the Committee over the years and gave very valuable assistance in inquiries that were conducted under the chairmanship of his predecessor in that office. He brought to the work of the Committee not only a keen and inquiring mind but also tremendous enthusiasm for the development of the National Capital. That enthusiasm was backed by wide experience and deep knowledge. Senator Vincent was determined that what was done in the development of the National Capital by the present generation would be worthy of the generations yet to come. He had strong views about the value of the Committee itself and about the scope that it should be permitted in the conduct of its inquiries. He put those views forcefully on behalf of the Committee. His work has been extremely valuable to the Committee and I know that his service on it has been appreciated by all who served with him.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– Sir, may I suggest that, as a mark of respect, the sittings be suspended until 4 p.m.?
-I am sure that the suggestion made by the Prime Minister meets with the concurrence of the House. As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased senator, the sitting will now be suspended.
Sitting suspended from 2.44 to 4 p.m.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that more than ISO conciliation and arbitration claims await hearing before the Public Service Arbitrator, that some of these claims are three years old and that most of them are more than 12 months old? The High Council of Public Service Associations and the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia, the two organisations that cover all the public service unions and associations, are perturbed at the slowness of the hearing of the claims, because this is irritating and frustrating to all officers and members-
– Order! 1 think the honorable member is now making a comment.
– This is the point I wish to make to the Prime Minister: The unions feel that the only way to overcome the problem is to appoint a second arbitrator; and I would be pleased, as would the unions, if the Prime Minister would look into this urgent matter and see whether he can find a way to speed up the hearing of these long outstanding claims.
– I do not profess to be familiar with these facts. I understand the honorable member’s continued interest in matters of this kind and I ask that he give me an opportunity to find out what the position is and what can be done about it.
“EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
Has his attention been directed to recent Press reports which suggest that delays are occurring in the building of the “ Empress of Australia “? Will the “ Empress of Australia “ be delivered in sufficient time to enable her to make her scheduled maiden voyage on 5 th December?
– Unfortunately, the rumours mentioned by the honorable member have some substance. The vessel was originally scheduled to be delivered on 30th November to enable it to undergo normal sea tests and to make its initial voyage on 5th December. However, delays have occurred, mainly because this is the largest passenger vessel ever built in Australia and also because it incorporates a deal of new and complex mechanism and other technical features. One of the features that has caused some delay is the fitting of the vehicle deck door. This is a large piece of mechanism, weighing about 14 tons, and there has been some trouble in adjusting it. The Cockatoo dockyard authorities have made very strenuous efforts to keep the construction of the vessel up to schedule. They have engaged sub-contractors and have paid a considerable amount in overtime, but it seems that the vessel will not be finished in time for the first one or two scheduled voyages at least. The Australian National Line is now trying to get a firm date for the completion of the vessel and as soon as something definite is known it will make an announcement. All the people who have booked passages on the initial voyages that may have to be cancelled, will be notified individually by the Australian National Line and a public announcement will be made. I need hardly add that the Line is making every effort to have the vessel operating as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Housing a question. I have a large pile of telegrams and letters that I have received from people throughout Australia concerning credit unions. The following telegram is typical of those that I have received -
Members of this credit union exhort you endeavour bring amendment to Homes Savings Grant Act to allow credit unions be classed as eligible savings organisations after 31st December 1964. Present Act will not retard growth of credit union movement but will deny young people in credit unions the benefit of the grant.
Has the Minister given any consideration to a request from the New South Wales Credit Union League Co-operative Ltd., contained in a letter addressed to him by the president of the League on 29th October 1964? Will he take urgent steps before the end df the present parliamentary session to have credit unions treated as accredited savings institutions after 31st December 1964 for the purposes of the Homes Savings Grant Act?
– I think the House will recognise that one of the big problems which faces us is that of obtaining sufficient long term finance at reasonable rates of interest to meet the housing requirements of our growing population and the increasing rate of family formation. The Homes Savings Grant Act is designed -to increase the flow of long term funds into housing and to assist young people to acquire homes. The scheme entails a reward for saving for a home. There are, broadly, three ways in which these savings can be made - first, by opening a home savings account in a bank, particularly a savings bank; secondly, by investing in land on which a home is to be built; and thirdly, by putting funds into a housing society or a building society. These societies, of course, provide long term finance, in addition to helping young people to acquire homes.
Credit unions do not provide a means for saving for long term finance for housing. I think the maximum loan that is made in New South Wales is £1,000. In other States it is rather less. The main purposes for which the credit unions make loans, which are of a relatively short term character, are ‘the kinds of purposes for which their members, without this mutual assistance, normally would have to go to hire purchase organisations or finance companies of various kinds. The credit unions lend a certain portion of their funds for second mortgages. It is open to members of credit unions who wish to promote savings for homes to form a housing society of their own, in which case their savings would attract the grant. Alternatively, since this is a relatively new movement, they might perhaps seek changes in State laws to provide for them investing a sizable portion of their funds in long term housing mortgages.
The possible inclusion of credit unions as authorised savings institutions under the scheme was examined carefully by Cabi net when the legislation was being prepared. The main reasons which governed Cabinet’s decision at that time are set out on page 2095 of “ Hansard “ of 19th May 1964. The Leader of the Opposition referred to a pile of telegrams that he has received. By comparison with the telegrams that I have received, his pile appears very small. Many members on both sides of the House have also had the treatment. Credit unions are not alone in making representations that savings deposited with them should count in this scheme. I have had representations from superannuation funds, various savings institutions and other bodies all over the country. These, of course, will be examined sympathetically, and from the angle of whether they will provide additional long term housing funds.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Industry say how the 15 per cent, charge on imports which has been imposed by Great Britain will affect her position in relation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? In view of the possible trading repercussions, can we expect greater efforts by industrial countries in Europe to sell more of their goods in Australia? Are we in a prepared position to detect any attempts to dump in Australia excess stocks which could result from this recent imposition by Great Britain?
– It has always been contemplated that any country shall be free to take action to protect its overseas balances of currency. This country, of course, has on an earlier occasion employed the device of quantitative restriction of imports. Indeed, that is the normal device contemplated under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The British’ Government has elected to employ the device, if I may use the term, of applying a surcharge against manufactured goods on the assumption, I take it, that it does not wish to add to the cost of imported foodstuffs or imported raw materials. This description is, perhaps a very crude classification of the less essential things. The surcharge does disrupt the trade of traditional suppliers of the United Kingdom market. It is not explicitly provided for under the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade and I understand that at the present time in Geneva an examination is being made by a committee of G.A.T.T. to reach a conclusive view as to whether what the British Government is doing is acceptable to G.A.T.T. I cannot anticipate the conclusion that may come from that examination.
I come now to the latter part of the honorable member’s question. It may well be that countries which have less easy access for their goods to the United Kingdom than other countries may seek other markets. Of course, very seldom are goods sent to a country; they are generally imported on the initiative of merchants within the country. To the extent that increasing quantities of goods may tend to be diverted to this country in such a volume or at such a level of prices as to bc damaging, or thought to be seriously damaging, to Australian industry, then the quite adequate apparatus that the Australian Government has established - either the Tariff Board or the Special Advisory Authority - could be invoked to protect Australian industry, if that should be necessary.
– 1 address my question to the Prime Minister. It concerns defence establishments in the Trust Territory of New Guinea. I ask: Should Australia decide to build permanent defence establishments in the Trust Territory of New Guinea would it be necessary first to obtain the permission of the United Nations? If this is not necessary, and if Australia builds defence establishments there, is Australia bound to inform the United Nations and to explain in detail the nature of such defence establishments and where they have been positioned?
– I will be very glad to find out what the technical position is, but I can assure the honorable member that I will be dealing with the substantial position tonight.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. Has the period of qualifying service for the award of the Efficiency Decoration to Citizen Military Forces officers been reduced from 20 years to 12 years? If so, what is the reason which prompted the reduction? Is it correct that whereas the Efficiency Decoration and Efficiency Medal may be awarded to officers and other ranks respectively in the C.M.F., and the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal may be awarded to other ranks in the Regular Army, there is no appropriate award outside of the Queen’s Honours Lists which can be made to officers of the Regular Army for long and meritorious service to the Commonwealth? Will the Minister look at this matter with a view to re-assessing awards available.
– It is correct that the period of service to qualify for the Efficiency Decoration has been reduced from 20 years to 12 years. This was done at the request of the C.M.F. itself so as to ensure greater availability of the award to serving members of the C.M.F. It is also true that there is no long service award for officers in the Regular Army. This matter has been examined from time to time, but such an award has not been thought appropriate, primarily on the ground that officers of the Regular Army make a lifetime career of Army service. It is thought more appropriate to make specific awards for specific acts. However, I shall be only too glad to examine the question anew now that the honorable member has raised it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister will remember having stated in answer to a question that filled milk was not on sale in Australia either as an imported or a locally manufactured item. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the fact that filled milk is now on sale to the public, two examples being infant food and ice cream? Will the Minister take steps to see that this item is not marketed in any unlawful manner?
– I know nothing of filled milk being marketed in Australia. At my instigation the Australian Agricultural Council decided - all States agreeing - to ban the manufacture of any form of filled milk in Australia. The importation of filled milk is prohibited also. If the honorable member has some information which suggests that filled milk is being sold in Australia and if he acquaints me with the details I will certainly have investigations made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister seen an article in the Press today stating that unemployment in Tasmania is now running at about 2.5 per cent, of the work force while the national average is about 9 per cent.? Does the Minister regard Tasmania’s lack of development as being connected in any way with 30 years of political mismanagement by the State Labour Government?
– I did read the article to which the honorable gentleman has referred and noted with interest some of the criticisms made of the Government of Tasmania.
– What has it to do with the Minister?
– What has it to do with the honorable member for Grayndler?
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The question has nothing to do with the administration of the Minister for Labour and National Service. It refers to a sovereign State and the Government of that State.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– There is no substance in the reply either.
– Order! We will get along much better if honorable members remain silent while the Minister answers the question.
– I read the article with a great deal of interest. I have no persona] comment to make about the article, but I direct attention to the fact that it was critical of certain aspects of government administration in Tasmania.
The article stated that because of the failure to increase training for skill, in other words the failure to train the skilled component of the labour element, there would be a restriction on the capacity of Tasmania to develop. All those who have the political interest of Tasmania at heart would be well advised to read this article, because it points to ways and means to which the Government of Tasmania could well apply itself so as to help the development of that State.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation. Has the Minister seen a letter written by Mr. Stan Davey, the General Secretary of the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement, referring to repatriation benefits which are denied at present to Torres Strait Islanders? I placed a question on this matter on the notice paper some time ago. Is the Minister now able to reply to my question?
– I know that a question by the honorable member has been on the notice paper for some time. I have deliberately delayed replying to it because of certain actions which are pending. However, I hope to be in a position in the very near future to give him a full reply to the question. I did see the letter which was published above the name of Mr. Davey. I know that he is most sincere in his efforts to further the interests of the Torres Strait Islanders. Unfortunately some of the information in his letter is not quite factual or not quite fair. Two years ago the Government took action to increase the pensions paid to Torres Strait Islanders from one-third the rate paid to Australian ex-servicemen to the full rate. Also, last year we introduced service pensions for the time. These people have not been neglected. Last year, in company with the honorable member for Leichhardt, the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission and representatives of the Australian Legion of Ex-servicemen and the Returned Servicemen’s League, I visited the Torres Strait Islands for about one week. When I left the islands a senior officer of my Department remained for a further four weeks and toured the islands. Early this year, I arranged for the same officer to return to the islands, where he spent about seven weeks touring the islands and explaining the repatriation situation to the Islanders. As a result, the amount of benefits provided under the Repatriation Act for the Islanders is now about eight times greater than was provided three years ago. So I feel that we have done something to advance the interests of these people. The other minor items in respect of which benefits are not on the same scale as apply to other Australian ex-servicemen, are under consideration and I hope to be able to give information about them in the near future.
– I ask a question of the Acting Minister for Health. Do some vitamins deteriorate after a certain period of storage? If so, will the Minister say whether such goods sold in a deteriorated condition are harmful if taken? To prevent deteriorated goods being sold to the public, with consequent risk, will the Minister induce suppliers to print on the container in which the product is marketed the date on which the vitamin ceases to be effective?
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry seen a report of a statement made by a member of the Victorian Parliament alleging that Australian factories are falling down on their contracts to supply skim milk powder to India? Will the Minister say whether the statement is correct?
– I think I recall answering a similar question asked by a member of another place. I have seen the statement referred to by the honorable member and I have made investigations into the matter. I assure the honorable member that no Australian contractor has fallen down on his contract and failed to deliver what he has contracted to deliver.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Will the honorable gentleman inform the House of the progress made by the Commonwealth and the States towards uniform censorship laws and practices?
– About the end of September, I think, I answered a question in which J gave details of the progress to that date. I noted at the time that the last conference of Commonwealth and State officers on this matter was held in April this year. The matter referred to by the honorable member was then under consideration. I have recently checked with the Minister for Customs and Excise and although further work has been done on the subject, there are no specific developments to report.
– It is true that some vitamin preparations tend to become unstable if exposed to light and air. Under the Therapeutic Standards Act we use as books of standard reference the British Pharmacopoeia and the British Pharmaceutical Codex. These lay down standards prescribing that vitamin preparations must be packed in airtight containers and that the containers must be made of amber coloured glass. These precautions prevent exposure of the contents to air or light. Those standards have been adhered to in Australia, but, of course, there has been no requirement under them for an expiry date to be placed on the label. However, special standards committees have been set up under the Act, and the situation is being examined at the present time. A number of experiments have already been carried out and certain additional tests have to be made. Resulting from those experiments, advice will be given as to whether or not it is thought necessary in the future to include on labels expiry dates for these preparations. The only other point I wish to make is that vitamin preparations which are included on the pharmaceutical benefits list are subject to regular tests and examination by the National Biological Standards Laboratory.
– Is the Minister for the Army in a position to indicate to the House whether there has been any evidence of a significant number of resignations from the Citizen Military Forces as a result of the requirement that C.M.F. members should sign on for service overseas?
– There has been no evidence whatsoever that a substantial number of members of the Citizen Military Forces are exercising the option, that they are entitled to exercise, to resign from the C.M.F. within 30 days of the enactment of the Defence Bill 1964.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. The honorable gentleman will remember that over six months ago he told the House that the present Broadcasting and Television Act imposes no limit on the number or percentage of shares which may be held by any individual or company in any number of television companies so long as the shares carry no more than 15 per cent, of the voting rights in any but two of the television companies. He went on to say that he hoped that before very long we would have before us an amendment which would help to clarify situations such as this. I now ask the honorable gentleman: As we have already had, since the introduction of the Budget, two bills amending the Broadcasting and Television Act in other respects, does he still hope to bring in further amendments to clarify this situation? When docs he hope to do so?
– I am sure the House will appreciate that this is a matter of considerable complexity. Unfortunately, I will not be able to do anything about it prior to the House rising. Perhaps, in the next session of the Parliament, we may be able to have a look at the matter.
– As the Minister for Primary Industry is aware, the found cost of production of wheat and the amount of the first advance payment for deliveries from the coming harvest have in the past been announced in this House in late November. I now ask the Minister: Will he be able this year to make the announcement before Parliament goes into recess?
– No, it will not be possible for me to make an announcement before the House rises. The procedure is that the index committee, which includes a representative of the growers, generally meets after the Bureau of Agricultural
Economics has finalised the statistics and facts pertaining to the price of this com? modity. That meeting will not be held, I understand, until Friday of this week. I shall make the announcement as soon as possible after that meeting.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the latest population figures which were published last week, revealed that in a population exceeding 11 million, there are 400,000 more males than females in Australia? I think the honorable gentleman will agree that some bachelors are already experiencing difficulty in finding wives, due to the shortage of females. Will he take steps to correct this imbalance in the future migrant intake?
– That question has been raised in this House from time to time. We take all necessary steps to bring out those migrants who are willing and eligible to come to this country, but I am afraid that the balancing of the proportion of males and females is a proposition which is beyond the Immigration Department. The Department can bring out only those migrants who are willing to come here. If young ladies who measure up to our immigration standards wish to come to Australia, we are quite prepared to extend to them the benefits of our immigration policy.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. As there are now only six weeks to Christmas, and bearing in mind recent events indicating a more prosperous community, will the Minister now consider making this year’s pension increases retrospective to 11th August? Could this payment be made before Christmas to ensure that the 1964 Christmas greetings of good cheer will not have a hollow ring in the ears of these pensioners?
– The honorable member will know that the legislation and appropriations relating to the alterations in the rates of social service benefits have already been approved and passed by this Parliament. It is not within my power to vary them in any way. The dates on which payment will be made adjacent to the Christmas and New Year periods will be examined. If any gainful purpose will be served, the Department will endeavour to make payments appropriate to those dates.
– By way of preface to a question addressed to the Treasurer, 1 refer to a question I asked him on 13th October last with relation to the Government’s attitude to the possibility of introducing the metric system of weights and measures to this country. The Treasurer indicated in his reply that as this was not a matter for his Department he would make some inquiries of the Department responsible for such introduction and let me know. Has the right honorable gentleman any further information on the subject?
– I did obtain some information on this matter and found that there had been talks about it, but I am afraid that the honorable member catches me without the full story in my mind. I 6hall give him a full written reply on it. I did follow up his query and found that there had been some discussion. I think this took place in the Prime Minister’s Department, but again I would like to be clear on the matter. I shall supply the honorable member with a written reply.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The honorable gentleman will recall that about two or three months ago an announcement was made that an order for the construction of a 19,000 ton tanker for British Petroleum Australia Limited had been placed with the State Dockyard in Newcastle and that an order for a further tanker was yet to be placed. Has the Minister any information as to when the second order will be placed and as to whether it will be placed with the State Dockyard?
– I understand that this matter is currently under examination. I cannot give the honorable member a definite answer as to when the order will be placed, or if it will be placed at all. All that depends largely on whether the company wishes to take advantage of the concessional price for two tankers, whether the Treasurer is prepared to grant a subsidy with respect to two ships, and many other factors which are currently being considered.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. It is stated that 303 rifles now in use by Australian rifle clubs can be converted to use FN ammunition by a changeover to FN rifle barrels. Does the Minister know whether this is correct? If it is correct, would FN rifle barrels for this purpose be available within the next three years? Further, what is the prospect of FN ammunition being made available to rifle clubs on the same terms as those on which .303 ammunition was supplied previously?
– The honorable member for Mallee has asked some rather curly questions. I think it would be possible to remachine the barrel of a .303 rifle to enable it to take 7.62 mm. ammunition. On the other hand, the FN barrel would not immediately be interchangeable with the .303 barrel. I think the honorable member ought to let me have a second look at his question about the availability of ammunition.
– ls it fair to say that the Prime Minister is not exactly thrilled with the way in which the Minister for External Territories is administering his portfolio?
– Let us be accurate at all costs. He is the Minister for Territories. I am delighted with him.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. By way of explanation, may I mention that 1 understand that most members received in their mail this morning a piece of propaganda that ostensibly emanated from the Soviet Embassy in New Zealand and which contained highly critical remarks about the present Government of South Vietnam. In view of the impossibility of Western propaganda being circulated within countries under Soviet influence, will the right honorable gentleman consider suggesting to the Soviet Embassy in Canberra that it might be more ethical or appropriate for this sort of thing to cease within Australia?
– I think I should first obtain the material to which the honorable gentleman referred and of which I was unaware until he asked his question. I could then make up my mind as to what steps, if any, I should take.
– I address the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: By what remarkable process does the Government arrange constant reviews and decisions in regard to its defence programmes? Would it be only a coincidence that the most important and most disastrous announcement was made on the eve of the last Federal election and that another shattering programme for the defence of Australia is to be announced on the eve of a Senate election and a by-election for the House of Representatives? Does the Minister believe that in the circumstances the public is entitled to interpret the Government’s announcements on defence, particularly at election time and judged on results, to be more in keeping with a need to win votes to ensure the return of the Government than with the adequate defence of Australia?
– I shall answer this question. The honorable member in his enthusiasm has rather cast adrift from the facts. The last major review was announced in May 1963. That was not just before the last election. That election was held in December of last year. The programme that I intend to announce tonight, and which I thought was being clamoured for by honorable members opposite, began with a review that went into operation four or five months ago. Are honorable members opposite, suggesting that, the Government having made this examination and having come to conclusions, I should conceal the results until after the Senate election? That is not our idea of how these things ought to be handled.
– Does the Minister for Shipping and Transport recall that during my speech on the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill-
– Order! The honorable member must not make any comments on that Bill.
– I am just putting the matter in chronological order. The Minister actually remained awake while I made my speech.
– Does the Minister recall that I suggested that the Australian National Line should give a ship like the 4,800-ton “Yarrunga” a roving commission between Tasmania and the mainland for the purpose of moving timber left in ports by ships of other organisations? Will the Minister discuss this suggestion with the management of the Australian National Line, having in mind that something must be done to keep our timber moving to mainland buyers on time and in the quantities ordered, and especially in view of the fact that Tasmanian timber exporters have no alternative to sea transport to get their timber to the mainland?
– I remember the honorable gentleman making some such suggestion. It struck me at the time as being quite a fanciful and impractical suggestion, but I will examine it further.
– Has the Minister for Territories seen a Press report suggesting that scenes of drunken depravity have become almost nightly occurrences in Alice Springs since Aborigines have been given the right to drink liquor? Will the Minister say whether this report is truthful or merely an example of irresponsible journalistic sensationalism? Will he also say whether the new legislation in the Northern Territory is proving a success?
– I am afraid that the Press statement referred to by the honorable member was very unfair to the Aborigines. I was concerned when I saw a photograph depicting what was alleged to be a drunken brawl outside a hotel at Alice Springs, and I initiated inquiries. Apparently a certain person with a camera was looking for something that he could photograph and describe as a sensational incident concerning Aborigines drinking in Alice Springs. Apparently the published photograph was the result of a whole week’s effort to secure a picture. The position wim regard to Aborigines drinking in the Northern Terirtory since the introduction of the new legislation has been very satisfactory. In fact there is evidence of far less drinking now than was previously the case. As to Alice Springs, there appears to be a section of the community in that centre the members of which are habitual offenders in this direction. But to suggest that all members of the Aboriginal community drink to excess is a definite insult to these people. I would say, from my experience of occasional trips through Australian cities, that if one set out to look for discreditable incidents outside hotels one would find far more of them in our other cities than in Alice Springs.
– I ask the Minister for Supply a question. Is the failure rate of ammunition supplied by the Department of Supply to the Department of the Army as high as 124- per cent.? What is the estimated value of all faulty ammunition provided by the Department of Supply to the three Services? Why is the wastage rate so high and what steps are being taken to minimise it?
– The honorable member appears to presume that the wastage rate is indeed high. The fact of the matter is that ammunition produced by the Department of Supply would be tested and inspected before acceptance by the Department of the Army. To that extent one can say that the Army does not accept defective ammunition. The rate of rejection of ammunition produced by the Department of Supply certainly does not run as high as 124 per cent. I cannot give the actual figure for rejections in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but I shall ascertain it. The honorable member will be agreeably surprised at how low the figure really is.
– I take this opportunity of amplifying a reply I gave earlier to the honorable member for Warringah. I had not the information with me at the time, but I have since refreshed my memory as to the details that I secured following the honorable member’s earlier inquiry into the possibility of introducing a metric system of weights and measures. The Prime Minister’s Department is responsible for matters affecting weights and measures. I understand that questions in regard to the use of the metric system of weights and measures are kept under constant notice and were discussed at length at the annual formal conference of national standards commissioners and State weights and measures officers held in November 1963. Proposals emanating from that conference are on the agenda of a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers concerned with weights and measures. This conference will be held in Canberra early in December.
– I present the following paper -
Academic Salaries - Report of the Inquiry (by Mr. Justice R. M. Eggleston), dated 30th October 1964.
I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honorable members will recall that the inquiry by Mr. Justice Eggleston was established by the Government in May of this year. The Government has accepted all of the recommendations and suggestions in the report dealing with the levels of salaries which the Commonwealth should adopt for grant purposes. This decision applies both to the State universities and to the Australian National University. The report is the basis for amending legislation which I propose to introduce tomorrow. In introducing it I will provide a detailed statement on the Government’s decision. I think that for the present it is sufficient for me to add that we are very grateful to the judge and to those who assisted him for having carried out this assignment. I may also say that I have taken the usual steps to inform the State Governments of the contents of the report.
– by leave - In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, 1913- 1960, I present the report relating to the following proposed work -
Erection of four accommodation blocks for ratings at H.M.A.S. “Cerberus”, Victoria.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.
– 1 move -
That Standing Order No. 103-1 1 o’clock rulebe suspended until the end of this week.
This motion is normally proposed by the Government in the closing stages of a sessional period, as was the practice of governments from the other side of the House in their time. I think I have shown in my own arrangement of the business of the House in earlier sessional periods that every consideration possible is given to the comfort and convenience of honorable members in these matters, but the accumulation of business which inevitably develops towards the end of a sessional period-
– That is the right honorable gentleman’s fault.
– Can the honorable member tell me of any Parliament in the world where-
– Never mind the world. Why does the Treasurer not do something decent here?
– As members of the Opposition did, when they were in office? Honorable gentlemen opposite go through this sort of Kabuki play performance that they are staging now whenever this motion is moved, but they know, as well as honorable members on this side of the chamber know, that because none of us likes late hours of sitting, as far as practicable late sittings are avoided. The motion is necessary under the Standing Orders in the event of there being new business to introduce which it is found desirable to deal with in order to complete the programme with as much good grace and order as we can muster. It is desirable to have this motion before us and passed so that this action can be taken.
I hope that the honorable gentleman opposite will not delay the House unreasonably in commenting on this motion. The arguments which have been advanced in this connection in the past have been worn threadbare. The Opposition knows as well as we do that if they were sitting on this side of the House they would have to move such a motion as this as a necessary adjunct to the concluding stages of the session. I ‘ have tried - and I think with conspicuous success, if I may say so - to bring a good deal of order into programming the legislation of this Parliament. It might interest honorable gentlemen to know that by the time we conclude this session we shall have broken all previous records in the history of Federation for the volume of legislation with which Parliament has dealt in a year. That fact itself is a symptom of the weight and pace of government in these swiftly moving times, with the nation growing and developing at its present pace. I would hope that we could look for the co-operation of the honorable gentlemen opposite in trying to carry through the business with a minimum of dislocation from now on.
– I am sorry to have to dash the hopes of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) for the speedy passage of his legislation. There are 21 Bills on the notice paper or forecast to be dealt with this week. Most of those Bills could have been introduced at any time since Parliament resumed. There is a tendency on the part of this Government, more so than on the part of any other Government I have known here, to delay the introduction of very important measures until the last moment. The Government tells us that the draftsmen cannot do the job. But it is not the draftsmen who cannot do the work. It is the Government which cannot tell the draftsmen what it wants done. How can a draftsman prepare legislation when the Government cannot make up its mind? The Government has made up its mind only this week on very important legislation, some of which was not forecast in the Governor-General’s Speech or in the Budget speech and some of it comes to us as a complete surprise. According to the blue sheet which has been circulated to honorable members the Minister proposes - and he wants our co-operation in order to do this - that two important measures, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill and the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, shall be disposed of in one hour tonight. The Minister does not state the time but he does say-
– That was never suggested.
– It is suggested on this sheet. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) tonight will make a most important speech on defence preparedness. The right honorable gentleman has already told me that it will be a 6,000 word document and that means that it will take over an hour to read. After that is completed we are to discuss these two Bills. The Opposition has about 22 amendments that we wish to move and they are important amendments. We might cut down the number of our amendments but every one we move will deal with the rights of some person on the Commonwealth payroll - somebody in some Commonwealth instrumentality who happens to be injured in the course of his employment. Why can we not have adequate time to discuss a measure of that type? Why have the second reading debate and all the Committee stages to be completed in about an hour?
– Would the honorable member like us to leave it till the autumn?
– No. We would not. We want the Government to give us adequate time to deal with these measures, particularly as the Treasurer has set out on his sheet that the four television Bills are to be discussed and dealt with tonight. AH of those Bills are very important, all will engender a lot of discussion, and all will invite amendment. Then, with that pious simplicity for which he is so notorious, the Treasurer suggests, as the Leader of the House, that other orders of the day may be taken as time permits. What time? At 5 o’clock tomorrow morning or when?
It is all nonsense to ask honorable members to agree to this motion to enable the Government to bring on new business after 11 o’clock. We have no assurance from the Government that it will not abuse the authority of the House if the resolution is passed. The Opposition is always prepared to co-operate with the Government. The Minister never found me difficult to cooperate with when I was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and represented the Australian Labour Party in any negotiations that I had with him. I do not think he has found the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) very difficult. I will pay the Minister this tribute - and not a grudging one either, particularly when he pats himself on the back - that he is a vast improvement on his predecessor. But still, the Opposition wants co-operation both ways. We do not want the Minister to say: “Well, you cooperate with us and everything will be all right”. We want the Government to give us adequate facilities to debate these measures which affect the wellbeing of quite a number of Australian citizens. That is a fair request and the Government should accede to it.
The Minister says: “ Labour Governments did certain things”. Of course all governments offend more or less but this Government is offending more than any other government.
– We have been here longer.
– You have been here longer but the Australian Labour Party was in power in more difficult and dangerous days during the war period and I cannot remember telling Parliament: “ Well, you pass this great volume of legislation in order that the House might dissolve for a Senate election and then for a recess.” Those were very difficult days and at least we had the justification of impending disaster on which to rely for any course which we took. We are supposed to be living in prosperous and leisurely days now. Why should not the Government give Parliament time to debate the legislation before it? We must not reduce this Parliament to the level of a farce. None of us must want to rush home and net debate every measure adequately. I have never been one to leave Parliament in a hurry. I am always anxious to get back to Parliament because here we express the views which we think are held by large sections of the community. It is in the course of debate, from one side to the other, that we hope we make some progress for the good of this country.
I oppose the resolution and I ask the Treasurer at least to make a reasonable arrangement with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, if he is going to bludgeon his motion through with his abject, subject majority, so that no legislation will come on late at night, either tonight or any other night. We have until Friday to discuss the business of the nation. That is too short a time in any case but at least honorable members will be better fitted to make decisions if they do not have to wear themselves out with lengthy sittings because the Government has other engagements or wants to do other things.
.- I have always opposed late sittings. I do not think they are in the best interests of legislation or of the nation. However, I fully realise that late sittings are not peculiar to this Parliament or this Government because I have been a member of this House when the Australian Labour Party was in office. I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and he said: “Do you expect us to come and stay here until 5 o’clock in the morning to debate these subjects? “ That is the very thing he did when the Australian Labour Party was in office. When I first came to this Parliament I got my best opportunities of speaking between 2 o’clock and 6 o’clock in the morning. Of course, in those days the present Leader of the Opposition was a Minister of the Government.
– And I was a good one too.
– I agree with you. I am not trying to find fault with Ministers, but with their inconsistencies. The Leader of the Opposition said that he had never been in a hurry to leave the Parliament. Why did he put up with late sittings when Labour was in office? As I have said so often la this Parliament on similar occasions when speeches of the kind we have just heard have been made, when I first entered the Parliament the breakfast bell at the Hotel Kurrajong used to ring at 7.30 in the morning. Before I reached the Hotel Kurrajong, after coming from a late sitting, I heard the breakfast bell ringing. That is how things happened in the past, when a Labour government was in office. Honorable members opposite say that there was a war on. There was not a war on then. I came into this Parliament after I returned from overseas after the war. The Leader of the Opposition said that in those days we were facing impending disaster. The only impending disaster Labour was facing was the 1949 election.
I do not think we should have late sittings and I make the suggestion to the Treasurer that we sit on Friday of this week and, if necessary, on Saturday as well. Anyone who is listening to the debate this afternoon might think that this Government was having very late sittings and that when Labour was in office there were no late sittings at all. That is completely wrong, lt is only right that the people should know the facts. There are many members of the Parliament who were not here when Labour was in office. I suggest that they peruse “ Hansard “ and see how Labour conducted the Parliament. If we are to vote on this motion today I ask honorable members to keep that in mind when they aTe casting their votes.
.- The Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) has moved his twice-yearly motion to suspend what is known as the 1 1 o’clock rule. 1 must grant that he did so more shamefacedly this afternoon than is usually the case. There are 21 bills to be considered. These are not bills for which we have been waiting for some months, such as the Home Mortgage Insurance Bill, or for some years, such as the Restrictive Trade Practices Bill. Some of these bills were introduced on the Thursday and Friday before we rose last week, some were introduced yesterday, and some will come in today. In other words, these 21 bills are the product of the last three sitting days and of today.
We have today, tomorrow, Thursday, and if necessary, Friday, on which to sit.
Is there any necessity in the circumstances for the Government to bring in bills for debate for the first time after 1 1 o’clock at night? The public is inclined to think that to suspend the 11 o’clock rule is merely to allow the Parliament to sit after 11 o’clock at night, but the Parliament usually sits after 11 o’clock at night. Since the Treasurer introduced his Budget three months ago the Parliament has sat on 22 days, and on 15 of those days it has sat after 11 o’clock at night. It is not necessary to suspend the 11 o’clock rule in order to permit the Parliament to debate matters after 11 o’clock. We usually do that even with this rule in operation.
On two of the seven occasions when Parliament rose before 11 o’clock, one was the afternoon when Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, was to attend a reception at night, and the other was on a Friday. That means that on the ordinary sitting days the Parliament has in fact sat after 11 o’clock on 15 out of 20 days. All that we do by suspending the 11 o’clock rule is to permit the Government to bring in new business for initial debate after 11 o’clock at night. That is no way to deal with legislation. We were sufficiently rushed at our party meetings this morning in dealing with 21 new bills. It is not fair to expect honorable members to commence to deal with complex legislation after 11 o’clock. We did so a couple of months ago with the Repatriation Bills and we did so with the Repatriation Bills last year. It was a disgrace. Only a supine body such as the Returned Servicemen’s League would stand for such a practice. The amendments that were sought to be introduced into the legislation were all moved by the Labour Party in this Parliament, and they were all debated after 11 o’clock at night.
Tonight it is proposed, after 11 o’clock, to bring in amendments to the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, which deals with all public servants, and with all serving soldiers. The hundreds of thousands of people concerned will have their rights debated in this House - for the first time since the last amendments were brought in by the Government five years ago - after 11 o’clock at night, and after Parliament is off the air.
– I rise to a point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the Returned Servicemen’s League as a supine body. That is personally distasteful to me and I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– Everybody knows that the R.S.L. does not stand up to its protestations when legislation in this Parliament is involved. This year and last year the R.S.L. did not squeak when the amendments it sought in its national pension plan were railroaded unanimously by the Government Parties after midnight. The League had waited for two years, but it did not protest. In my State the branch of the R.S.L. has a journal called “ Reveille “ which means “ wake up “. I have never known a journal which lives up to its title so little. The journal never reports the debates in Parliament. Fortified by this experience, the Government thinks that public servants will stand for legislation, dealing with employee’s compensation, being railroaded through the Parliament in the small hours of tomorrow morning. The Government may be right, but I still hope that the public servants will stand up for their rights. The Opposition will certainly express itself on their behalf in this House.
It is true, as the Treasurer says, that more bills are going through the Parliament. The way to cater for this situation is not to sit later each day, but to sit on more days. We may have to sit longer, but that does not mean that we have to sit later. All legislatures are sitting for more hours, but our legislature is getting into the habit of sitting later. It is true that the House of Commons at Westminster and the House of Representatives in Washington both are sitting for more hours in the year, but they are sitting for more weeks in the year, and sometimes for more days in the week. We must reconcile ourselves to this procedure.
It is very proper that legislation should be debated in the Parliament instead of being left to delegated legislation, but Parliament ought to do this by sitting at proper hours. The way to go about this is not to suspend the 1 1 o’clock rule. If any of the remaining 21 bills were introduced at half a minute to 1 1 o’clock the debate on the Bill could proceed without suspending the 11 o’clock rule. All that the suspension of the rule does is to permit the debate to commence after J 1 o’clock. The Parliament ought to sit for more days in the week and for more weeks in the year. We do not want an increase in delegated legislation. We all know that there will be an increase in national legislation. This Parliament ought to devote longer hours, but proper hours, to debating it.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) who is Leader of the House was a member of the Opposition when I first entered this Parliament. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was also a member of the Opposition. I remember quite vividly that we complained bitterly about sitting until the early hours of the morning.
– Why does not the honorable member complain now?
– Be quiet. I am now complaining bitterly about this situation, because we complained about it when we were in opposition and there is no excuse for us now. I suggest to the Treasurer, in his capacity of Leader of the House, that if it is necessary for the Parliament to sit for one more day, I do not think any member of the Parliament will object to that. 1 do not think legislation by exhaustion is any kind of legislation.
.- I wish to take the time of the House to reply in much the same tone to the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), which he makes constantly in debates on motions similar to the one now before us. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) have stated, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has moved that the 11 o’clock rule be suspended. I agree with the sentiments expressed by them and by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), who said that members of the present Government were consistent objectors to anything of this nature in days gone by. For instance, as the honorable member for Franklin said, the Treasurer was very vehement on these matters. I can still remember his speeches. Of course, I will never forget the speeches made by the honorable member for Mallee because he has made the same speech, word for word, regularly every year, from both sides of the Parliament.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, 21 bills are before the House. In addition, a defence statement is to come down tonight and the Government has indicated that one or two other measures are to be introduced. Among the measures that are to be discussed tonight, as the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, are the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill, the Seamen’s Compensation Bill and four bills dealing with television and broadcasting stations. All of those measures would require weeks of normal debate. Yet they are expected to go through tonight like sausages going through a machine. I will guess that the members of the Government parties have been told that they must not speak on those measures because if they do the business of the Parliament will be delayed. I believe that that has been done because, if they were to exercise their rights, unlimited time would be required. But evidently they will sit silently by, as they did in the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, while members of the Opposition are accused of holding up the business of the Parliament. The most important legislation to the people, such as repatriation measures and the measures that will be discussed tonight, is brought down in the dead of night.
For instance, the statement on defence which is to be made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) tonight will require consideration. We can rest assured that at 11 or 12 o’clock at night or in the early hours of the morning matters which will be mentioned in that statement and which we are told are of great moment will have to be discussed. I cannot see that the apologetic speech made by the Treasurer justifies in any way what has been done by the Government. I will go so far as to say that the reason why so many measures are before us today is that at no earlier stage has the Government had them ready. It is true that the Treasurer is a very good negotiator on the business of the House. He moves the business through speedily - sometimes too speedily, because he is an expert negotiator. But there is no denying the fact that many of the measures that we will be discussing tonight have not been ready in time for proper consideration.
The honorable member for Mallee always tells us that when he was in opposition he protested against what the government of the day did. Do his principles and ethics change just because he changes his seat in the Parliament? If something was wrong when we were in office and he said from time to time that it was wrong, why does he now sit silently or rise apologetically and refuse to support speeches such as those he used to make in the interests of democracy. Let me quote from a speech made by the honorable member on a motion similar to the one now before us. My memory is still reasonably good. As he was speaking today, I almost remembered the exact words that he used at that time. As reported at page 1429 of “Hansard” of 13th October 1949, he said -
I, too, place on record my objection to the proposal to limit the discussion . . . My objection is based on the fact that although the time proposed to be allotted is extremely limited, honorable members on this side of the House will not bc Allowed a fair share of the allotted time. Only one and a half hours are allotted . . .
My point is that Ministers will be given unlimited scope and may well occupy almost the whole of the time allotted. The Government will thus be placed in a distinctly advantageous position.
In other words, the limitation of time helps the Government; but today the honorable member for Mallee is prepared to give the Government that advantageous position, particularly on repatriation and television matters on which the Government is vulnerable. The honorable member continued -
Apart, perhaps, from the initial speaker honorable members on this side of the House-
That was the Opposition side - . . will be given little or no opportunity to voice their objections or otherwise to the proposals placed before them. Honorable members opposite smile at such a suggestion!
He was talking about members on the government side at that time. He went on to say -
They regard the move to limit the discussion as smart political tactics.
These are the words of the honorable member who spoke in such a high vein a moment ago. He continued -
Honorable members on both sides of the House should be given equal opportunities to present their case.
That will be done from about 10 or 11 o’clock tonight until 5 o’clock tomorrow morning, and the honorable member for Mallee supports that. He went on to say -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is normally a fair-minded man.
That was a reasonable part of his speech. He said -
I used the qualifying word “ normally “. On this occasion the right honorable gentleman is acting abnormally. I object to the motion because it will give to Ministers opportunities that will be denied to Opposition members.
Will the honorable member rise in his place when I have finished my speech and tell us why in 1949 he stood for justice and democracy in this Parliament whereas now, simply because he is on the other side of the chamber, he thinks that it is right for the Government to do anything at all? In other words, when he gets on to the Government side we have the law of the jungle or the rule of numbers, although servicemen are suffering, television is becoming a public scandal, seamen require increased pensions and great defence issues are to be discussed by the Prime Minister tonight in a 6,000 word statement. Those are matters on which the honorable member changes bis principles and supports the Government’s refusal to give adequate and proper time for discussion.
The Government will compel us to sit late at night to discuss these issues. Why should not we discuss defence and other important matters in the day time or shortly after dinner, when the people can listen to the debates? Why should not the people of this country, who are paying for the broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament, be entitled to listen to our deliberations instead of being dependent on the capitalist Press which will not print criticisms from the Opposition side of the Parliament of the proposals that are brought down by the Government? Now we see the sinister implications behind the move to suspend the 11 o’clock rule. A Senate election and a House of Representatives byelection are coming up, and the great issues that are to be discussed under the legislation that will be before us tonight will make first class propaganda against the Government.
So what is the thing to do? The thing *o do is to get a member such as the honorable member for Mallee to stand up and talk about justice and to get the Treasurer to make a statement about how good he is. He is like Cassilis Clay when he proclaims: “I am the greatest. I arrange things. Look what I have done. Look at the legislation that has been passed “. But behind that facade, the Government presents to the Parliament legislation which it does not want the people to know much about. I suggest to the honorable members that, no matter on what side of the Parliament they sit, they have a responsibility to ensure that we do not have to discuss in the dead of night legislation which should be available for all to study and the discussion of which all should be able to hear.
The legislation which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) will handle for the Opposition deals with compensation matters and is one of the most complicated measures to come before the Parliament. The Opposition proposes to move 22 amendments. If anyone wanders into this chamber at about 2 o’clock tomorrow morning, he will see hardly one honorable member on the Government side awake. I would not blame them if they were not awake because not only have they been told nothing about the legislation but they have been instructed not to discuss it because the tired and worn out old Ministers want to get to bed early. That is the real situation. The Ministers will not let other members of the Government parties talk because the Ministers are tired. The fact of the matter is that things are being put over the Australian people. There is no reason why the Parliament should not have sat more during the year. There is no reason why sitting an extra day or two in the weeks gone by would not have solved many of the problems. No matter how urgent the demand may be and no matter what may be pending, there is no reason at all for stifling discussion by members of the Opposition of issues that are of vital importance. 1 congratulate the honorable member for Franklin on presenting to the Parliament the point of view which he presented in a few words, but very effectively, on what ought to be done. I believe that the Parliament should never sit after 11 o’clock at night, even if it means extended sittings of the Parliament. I pay the Treasurer this compliment: He is a pretty intelligent fellow, but at 3 o’clock in the morning he is not worth listening to, even on matters of high finance. The faculties of the best and the worst of us - I do not place him in the worst category - do not function as they ought to function at that hour of the morning. Yet the Government expects us to know all about great issues and to deliberate on them at all hours of the day and night, including the early hours of the morning, when we know full well that we cannot do justice to the legislation before us or to the people who sent us here. I place on record my disgust at the attitude of the Government in this matter, and I support my colleagues in asking the Government to consider the suggestion made by the honorable member for Franklin. As I have said, the Treasurer believes that he is like Cassilis Clay, the greatest of them all. Let him ensure that legislation is brought into the Parliament in time to give us adequate opportunities to discuss it. He should not rush legislation in at the end of a session, as he is doing now. 1 am not at all influenced by the honorable member for Mallee asking what the Labour Government did. Let me tell him that when the Labour Government was in office, it was dealing with great post-war problems. It was demobilising men and women from the Services and placing them back in employment. A great programme of post-war reconstruction had to be put into operation. In those days we were dealing with legislation that was urgent and demanding because of the need to put men and women back into industry. We are now living in what the Government tells us is an affluent society, in days when all is well with the world, but the Government will not give the Parliament time lo discuss legislation.
The period from 1945 to 1949, to which the honorable member for Mallee has referred, was a time when great deeds were being done. Even though we sat at night only between 8 o’clock and 1 1 o’clock we inaugurated the great Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme and the great immigration scheme. Those are projects which this Government has adopted. I excuse the honorable member for Mallee because he has a false sense of loyalty to the Government. He believes that he must say anything the Government wants him to say, no matter what principle might be involved. “ Hansard “ is studded with speeches made by the Treasurer, by other members of the present Ministry and by the honorable member for Mallee to the effect that new legislation should not be introduced after 11 p.m.
I record my opposition to this motion. I have a record of the occasions when the Treasurer has kept this House sitting until the dead of night, not even putting on a supper for members, in an endeavour to starve and tire them out and make it impossible for them to do their jobs properly. The Treasurer’s idea is that if supper is not put on, members will become tired and go home comparatively early. This is part of a sinister plot to prevent us from discussing legislation which will be political dynamite in the forthcoming Senate election. The Government is trying to conceal from the public the full facts of its disastrous policies on defence, television, repatriation and other matters. For our part, we make our protest against the motion. We believe that the actions of the Treasurer in this respect do little credit to him or to the Government.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been challenged to reply to what was said by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly).
– The honorable member would be out of order in doing that.
– Can I not do that under the Standing Orders?
– No, the honorable member would be out of order.
– I told the Parliament that we were in for a play, and I am sure that those who have sat in this chamber, whether as members of the Parliament or as observers, will not have been disappointed. I congratulate the Opposition on a rather better performance than usual. I think that if we had to give awards, we would give an Oscar to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) for his hammish performance, and an Emmy to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) for the comic relief that he provided to entertain and enliven us. One of the most comic passages in the speech of the honorable member for Grayndler was that in which he told us of the great things that the Government of which he was a supporter, but not a member other than in the capacity of Whip, was trying to do in the years immediately after the war. Unfortunately, he did not add the final chapter. When the people were able to express an opinion of the results of that Government’s labours, they put the Labour Party out of office. They have kept it out of office for the last IS years.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was rather more temperate. He was a member of the Labour Government of that time and he has some awareness of the problems of a government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who spoke blithely about sitting more weeks in a year and more days in a week, has not yet had the privilege and the responsibility of being a member of a Cabinet. I want him to know that I work 80 hours a week and have done so consistently for many years. If he can tell me how Cabinet Ministers can fit more hours of work into a week and maintain their sanity and their health, I would be glad to have the formula. Time will tell. Perhaps the honorable member will learn about these things.
I think the House will agree that throughout the year, despite the fact that we have put through a record programme of legislation, the business has been conducted in an orderly fashion and no honorable member has been unduly inconvenienced as a result of the arrangements that have been made. I acknowledge the co-operation that we have received from the Opposition. I think that the Parliament is maturing and is developing more practical good sense in these matters. The days have gone when parties would obstruct the passage of legislation merely for the sake of obstruction. The House of Commons has had to develop its own conventions for the conduct of its business because of the large representation there. With an enlarged Parliament, we have to adjust our arrangements to meet our situation I hope that during the remainder of this session - whether it ends on one day or another - we shall conduct the business in an orderly way.
Stress was placed on the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill which is to be introduced into the Parliament. Much was made of the fact that 22 amendments are to be moved to the Bill by the Opposition. I am prepared to hazard the comment that those amendments will be the same as those we were asked to accept from the Opposition five years ago. If there is novelty in them, we will be very interested to study the novelty. To go ahead with a wearisome repetition of issues which were well canvassed, not only on that occasion but on earlier occasions, merely for the sake of rehashing them, is an abuse of the processes of the Parliament.
We on this side were confirmed in office at the election which was held in December of last year. In the course of one year we have been able to give legislative effect to almost the entire programme that we put before the electors at that time. There are a couple of significant measures which have yet to come before the Parliament and which, while they have not been introduced in this session-
– Why bring them in at the very last moment?
– With very great respect, we have been proceeding steadily with legislation throughout the life of this Parliament. Do not forget that this is the Budget session - the session in which the Parliament, very properly, requires most of the early part of the sittings for a general debate on the Budget as a whole. It then moves to a discussion of the Estimates. It is not surprising that in a year in which the Government has tried valiantly and with as much energy as it can bring to the task to give effect to undertakings which it gave at election time, there should be the largest legislative programme in the history of the country. Some of the proposed legislation could have been left until the autumn session. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill is one matter that could have been left, but to do so would have been to deny monetary benefits to those who will be affected by the legislation. I think they would prefer that we suffer a little personal inconvenience, if that is the price to be paid for carrying through the legislation which could be of such benefit to them. What has been said about that Bill applies to most of the remaining Bills.
I do not want to take up the time of the House further on this matter. The position is well understood by honorable members, even if it has not been represented entirely fairly to the public by honorable members opposite. I believe that with reasonable co-operation between the spokesmen for the Opposition and ourselves we will get through this programme with a minimum of inconvenience. I interrupt myself as the thought comes back into my mind just to reject, in the most vehement terms, the suggestion that we have requested our own members in the Government parties to refrain from speaking to the legislation. It is open to any honorable member on the Government side to speak as he chooses on these matters. No attempt has been made to dissuade him from doing so.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr. Harold Holt’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Fairbairn, and read a first time.
– 1 move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill concerns financial grants to the States over this and the succeeding two financial years to accelerate the measurement of the flow of rivers and the investigation and measurement of underground water resources. The Government’s decision in this matter was announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his recent Budget Speech. The Treasurer also said that it was expected that legislation would be introduced during the current parliamentary session and that provision had been made for payments to the States of £402,000 in the 1964-65 Budget. The importance of this measure will be readily recognised by the Parliament. Our decision to assist the States with water resources measurements is consistent with our policy of assessing and making available the basic information on Australia’s natural resources required for the planning of projects based on their development.
It is becoming increasingly recognised that the work being undertaken by my Department through the Division of National Mapping and the Bureau of Mineral Resources and by other Commonwealth agencies such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is essential to forward development planning. The value of sound comprehensive basic data can often not be set down on paper in quantitative terms; but we do not need a benefit/ cost analysis in pounds, shillings and pence to appreciate and accept that the value of reliable basic information usually far outweighs the cost of obtaining it. In each State and in the Northern Territory there is one principal authority concerned with the measurement of stream flow, although several agencies may carry out stream gauging for special purposes or in special areas. There is also generally one authority in each State which undertakes the investigation and assessment of underground water resources. However, because water is used for many purposes ranging from municipal and industrial use to irrigation and the generation of hydro-electricity there are many agencies and individuals vitally interested in records of river flow and underground resources. The diversity of use of water, a common interest in the accumulation of data and the relatively small water resources of the Australian continent have given rise over the years to ideas about collaboration between the States and between the States and the Commonwealth in water resources matters.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) announced in bis policy speech in November 1961 that he intended to take up with the Premiers and with the territorial authorities the idea of establishing a Water Resources Council so that the highest level of basic information could be secured and made available. The result of this undertaking was that the Prime Minister announced in November 1962 that all governments had agreed to the formation of an Australian Water Resources Council comprising the Minister for National Development as Chairman, the Minister for Territories and the Minister in charge of water supplies for each State with provision to co-opt Ministers responsible for closely related activities when problems of particular concern to them are under discussion. The Council was to be assisted by a standing committee of Commonwealth and State officers.
I have referred briefly to the way in which the Australian Water Resources Council was formed and its quite short period of existence - it is just two years old - because the Council has been instrumental, first, in bringing together all water resources interests throughout Australia to assess the need for water resources measurements and, secondly, in formulating recommendations to governments which have provided the basis for this Bill. 1 do not propose to elaborate on the objectives and functions of the Council, but I mention the principal objective because it indicates the basic manner in which all Australian Governments are approaching water resources assessments. The principal objective is -
The provision of a comprehensive assessment on a continuing basis of Australia’s water resources and the extension of measurement and research so that future planning may be carried out on a sound and scientific basis.
The first official assessment of Australia’s water resources will be published by the Council in the next few months. It will show that the average annual discharge of Australia’s rivers is about 280 million acre feet, of which about 38 million acre feet arc in Tasmania. The average water depth, if spread over the area of the mainland, would be only 1.6 inches compared with 9 inches for the United States of America with a similar area of land.
The Commonwealth Government’s policy in the matter of the Council and its objectives is indicated by what the Prime Minister had to say in his policy speech last November. He said -
The Water Resources Council, which in our 1961 policy speech we undertook to establish, is now functioning and has taken for its first task the measurement and assessment of Australia’s water resources. We will support the Council vigorously, financially and otherwise.
The result of all this has been, as I have said, that the Water Resources Council has made recommendations on surface water measurements and on underground water investigations. I am gratified to be able to say that the Commonwealth has substantially accepted the recommendations of the
Council and has agreed to make available the considerable finance on a long terra basis which is provided for by this Bill.
I should not leave the subject of the Water Resources Council without paying tribute to my predecessor, Sir William Spooner, who was the Council’s first Chairman. The most difficult time with most organisations is in the formative period and I am sure that the Bill before us now is a testimony to the success of this new organisation, and to Sir William’s hard work and to his belief in the policy of finding out more and more about our natural resources. I pay tribute also to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) and to the State Government Ministers for the great amount of co-operation which has prevailed in these vital water resources matters and for the vigorous way in which they have been tackling the problem. The very existence of this Council and its quiet but practical progress instils in me, as its very new Chairman, considerable confidence that we have the machinery to ensure an understanding of our water resources and an understanding of where we are going in their conservation and development. I do not overlook by any means the officers who, at all levels, have assisted the Council. Of particular note are the six Commonwealth and six State members of the Standing Committee which, under the chairmanship of Sir Harold Raggatt, bring together the knowledge and experience of the State and Commonwealth water conservation authorities.
Something should be said about the physical side of water resources measurements before outlining the provisions of the Bill. Water storages for municipal and industrial supplies or for irrigation and hydro-electric schemes depend for their dimensions and their cost and reliability on studies of samples of stream flow records, precipitation records and evaporation measurements. Stream flow measurements, particularly those covering periods of drought, are most important. For flood mitigation works and the design of bridges and culverts similar measurements are necessary with the accent on periods of high stream flow. Measurements of a different type, but also aimed at assessing quantity, variability and cost, must be made to assess the artesian and sub-artesian water supplies used over a large area of Australia for domestic, industrial and stock-watering purposes.
A long period of stream flow measurement is desirable if the chances of catastrophic water shortages or costly, overdesigned structures are to be avoided. In south eastern Australia the 18 year period since 1946 has been relatively wet, whereas the 10 years prior to 1946 covered a period of severe drought. The last 18 years would therefore provide a misleading sample of stream flow - a sample in fact which, taken on its own, would make insufficient allowance for drought conditions. The advantages of a long sample of measurements, preferably 50 years and moTe, taken at key positions on representative streams, will be almost self-evident to those at all familiar with the vagaries of Australian rainfall and run-off. The investigation of underground water is quite different and more complex. Underground water moves extremely slowly and there are enormous areas of land to be investigated. Here again the earlier the investigation starts the sooner will a proper knowledge of the resource be available for developmental purposes. Stream flow is measured by gauging stations which usually record automatically on a chart the variation in water level. Gauging sites often need to be specially prepared by building concrete weirs and installing permanent cableways and recording houses. There are about 1 ,300 stream gauging stations in Australia at present and it is proposed through this legislation to commence a programme to increase these by 1,500 and provide a basic stream gauging network within the next ten years.
The recording of water levels is the first but most important step. Other procedures and equipment are required to calculate the relationship between water levels and river discharge at gauging sites and to convert the water levels to usable form. The Bill will provide for the necessary equipment to be purchased and for staff to be employed to carry out these procedures and to record and publish results. Underground water investigations involve geological and geophysical exploration, the drilling of bores and the recording of water levels, yields and water qualities. These procedures and the determination of the rate of recharge and the reliability of an underground resource often require considerable resources of staff, funds and time. The provisions of this Bill make separate reference to the measurements of the discharge of rivers and to the measurement and investigation of underground water resources. The current legislation does not, of course, cover the Northern Territory. The acceleration of the measurement of river discharges and underground water resources in the Northern Territory has been taken up by my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), and an expedited programme paralleling that in the States is to be undertaken. The Government has accepted that there should be a 10 year accelerated programme of stream gauging throughout Australia and this legislation is to ratify the provision of finance for the first three years.
I want to say that the Commonwealth, in adopting in principle the recommendations of the Australian Water Resources Council concerning finance for water resources measurements, has endeavoured to ensure a fair Australia-wide allocation of funds based on the needs for stream gauging as assessed by each State. In the more complex case of underground water investigations an overall amount has been arrived at and this has been allocated between the States on a uniform basis using area and population as the yardsticks. The Premier of South Australia is not completely satisfied with the allocation among the States of the funds made available for underground water. While five States have agreed to the proposals as they stand in the Bill, South Australia would like to see undertaken a review of the distribution of underground water assistance for the second and third years. The Water Resources Council of Commonwealth and State Ministers is scheduled to meet in Hobart on 22nd January next and I intend to have this matter discussed and reviewed by the Council, after which I would be in a position to refer the matter to the Government again if that is called for.
Each State has submitted its estimates of the capital cost of establishing within 10 years a basic network of stream gauging sites fully equipped and with all the associated equipment, facilities and staff required to operate the stations and compute and record the discharge of streams. Each State has also provided estimates of the annual cost of operating and maintaining the network. The upper limit to the Commonwealth financial assistance grants has been determined from these State estimates of annual operational and capital expenditure requirements. Provision for grants in respect of expenditure by the States on stream gauging is contained in clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill. Clause 4 provides for capital expenditure and clause 5 for operational expenditure. Commonwealth grants will be provided, in accordance with the details specified in the First and Second Schedules, to assist the States to attain the programme of expenditure necessary for the establishment of the basic network of gauging stations. In respect of each State, the Commonwealth grant will be the amount by which the expenditure by the State, up to the ceiling of the agreed programme of expenditure, exceeds the base year figure. The grant, however, will be limited to 50 per cent, of the total expenditure. These provisions for the measurement of river discharges could involve the Commonwealth in a contribution of £767,476 over the three year period.
Financial assistance for underground water investigations and measurements is provided for in clause 6 of the Bill. In this case capital and operational expenditure are aggregated and there is payable a Commonwealth grant of £2 for each £1 of expenditure by a State over and above the base year figure. The total Commonwealth grants for underground water investigations available to the States in respect of each year’s expenditure by the States are as follows: 1964-65, £240,000; 1965-66, £195,000; and 1966-67, £175,000. The Commonwealth totals have been allocated between the States on the basis of the States’ respective areas and populations, equally weighted. The percentages applicable to each State are the following -
The States’ shares derived from these percentages are set out in the Third Schedule to the Bill. The Bill also contains a number of machinery provisions of the kind normally incorporated in measures providing for financial assistance to the States. These include provision for approval by the Minister of programmes of works, provision for the making of advance payments to the States, and provision for the submission of progress reports. I have much pleasure in commending the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Barnes and read a first time.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1963 to make provision for the office of a senior puisne judge on the Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea. It is considered desirable, having regard to the special conditions of the Territory and possible future developments in its judicial system, to provide in the Act for the appointment of one judge, who is clearly distinguished by rank and appointment, to act as Chief Justice where necessary. The Supreme Court Bench at present consists of the Chief Justice and three judges. The Chief Justice and the judges are on circuit for a considerable part of each year and it is the practice of the Court to sit without the usual recesses for law vacations. Judges receive the usual leave entitlements for Territory service so that the occasions on which the Chief Justice is absent from duty are more frequent than we might expect in the Australian courts which sit during regular law terms, at the end of which members of the judiciary normally take their vacations.
The second consideration in the proposal for a senior puisne judge is that it would facilitate the establishment of a Full Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea if provision were made for appeals to be heard in the Territory in the first instance. This would be a logical development in a courts system designed to meet the requirements of a Territory which is being advanced with a view to eventual self government or independence. A system of appeals from the decision of a judge to the Full Supreme Court of the Territory would mean that decisions of the Chief Justice could be subject to appeal. An alternative chairman to the Chief Justice would therefore have to be available to sit on these appeals and other appeals where the Chief Justice is unable to sit.
I refer briefly to the provisions of the Bill. Honorable members will note that the only amendment proposed is contained in clause 3, which provides for the insertion of a new subsection in section 58 to provide that the Governor-General may appoint a puisne judge to be the senior puisne judge, with seniority next after the Chief Justice. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Leave granted for the debate to continue.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Bill provides for a complete and self-contained judical system in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. It is a step towards the hearing of appeals within the Territory by the judges appointed to the Supreme Court of the Territory. The judges in the Territory adjudicate without the assistance of a legal profession with numerous members. They are required to adjudicate on matters which are quite novel and in circumstances in which Australia’s judicial system is, more than usually, under the scrutiny of other countries and in which, more than usually, it will form a model for the future. The Opposition appreciates the reasons for the introduction of this measure and supports it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to bc moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Barnes) read a third dme.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - For some months the Department of Defence and the Service and Supply Departments, in close collaboration with the Chiefs of Staff Com mittee, have been making a complete reassessment of our defence needs and programme. Their labours have been conducted against the background of affairs overseas, and particularly in and around South East Asia. The Government has exhaustively studied the reports placed before it, and has consulted closely with its professional military advisers. In the result, we have formed certain views about our strategic position and about our defence requirements which I will now proceed to state as clearly as I can.
I refer, first, to our strategic position. This requires an examination of our position in relation to our neighbours and our international associates. Since the Second World War and increasingly in the last decade, the struggle against aggressive Communism coupled with other developments in Asia has forced us to recognise that we are in a new situation. General or global war - that is, unrestricted conflict between the major world powers - has receded in probability because of the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons, and we continue to believe that it is unlikely except as a result of miscalculation. But armed conflicts short of general war could develop at any time in areas of tension throughout the world. Communist powers will continue to press their aims through all the varied cold war techniques of subversion and insurgency and other threats to the integrity of States which they wish to bring under their domination.
At present, important questions arise which require frank answers. They will, I regret to say, indicate that there has been a deterioration in our strategic position since the review which I presented to Parliament last year. The range of likely military situations we must be prepared to face has increased as a result of recent Indonesian policies and actions and the growth of Communist influence and armed activity in Laos and South Vietnam. If these countries collapsed, there would be a grave threat to Thailand and the whole of South East Asia would be put at risk. The effectiveness of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation as a guarantee of mutual security would be seriously jeopardised.
In particular, in South Vietnam the continued instability of government has made the task of resistance more difficult and to some extent frustrates the massive efforts of the United States and our own necessarily small contributions. The aggressive attitude of North Vietnam towards South Vietnam is demonstrated by continued political and ideological support given to the military insurgents, and the infiltration of thousands of trained men. There was the Tonkin Gulf attack on United States warships; Communist China has ignored the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. These are sinister and significant developments.
In Malaysia, to which we have given the specific assurances which I announced in this House, Australian troops have for the first time been in combat with Indonesian forces. True, in international opinion, Malaysia has been strengthened by the vote in the Security Council, the meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London, and the relative failure of President Sukarno to gather support at the Cairo conference of unaligned nations. But, though it is now clear that, for all practical purposes, no impartial person doubts that Indonesia is carrying on active and entirely unjustified armed aggression against her neighbour, the fact is that Indonesia still goes on her unlawful way, seeking to undermine Malaysian morale, to cause the disintegration of Malaysia, and no doubt to dominate the Borneo territories if and when they can be detached from Malaysia.
If Indonesian attacks continue, Malaysia may find it intolerable to confine defensive measures to the guarding of Malaysia’s shores and jungles against Indonesian intrusion. These Indonesian attacks may create a real risk of war. a war so hopelessly unprofitable to Indonesia that it is hard to understand how any leader concerned with the well-being of the ordinary men and women of his country could seriously be prepared to provoke it. Indeed we must prepare for all eventualities including the control and, if necessary, defence of the frontier between West New Guinea and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Meanwhile, by his cultivation of the Communist powers, President Sukarno is exercising an influence in South East Asia which could weaken resistance to Communism.
It must be conceded, therefore, that the risks of our situation in this corner of the world have increased. This does not mean that we suffer from fatalism or defeatism there is not the slightest occasion for either. But it docs mean that we must do more, and pay more, as our contribution to our national security. This is, of course, to be done having in mind, and indeed never fogetting, that in the South West Pacific Australia and New Zealand have allies, including Great Britain and the United States, who are rich in power and goodwill. Without thom. Australia’s task in defending so vast a territory with so few people would be a fearful one.
But Australian defence cannot be considered in isolation, any more than the forces we possess should be regarded as garrison forces. Placed as we are, our defence, if it is to be successful, must be beyond our shores, and in depth. Hence S.E.A.T.O., and A.N.Z.U.S. We are in S.E.A.T.O. not only because we have a goodwill towards the nations concerned and would wish to help to protect them against Communist aggression, but also because the further Communist powers are kept away from us, the more secure we will feel. Thus, in S.E.A.T.O. a high common interest is rendered stronger, not weaker, by the individual national interest each of us has.
Again, we are with Malaysia for several good reasons. Malaysia is a well governed and friendly Commonwealth country, and as such is entitled to our support. Malaysia is a non-Communist nation, and is willing at all times to resist the Reds; it is monstrous that she should be the subject of unprovoked aggression from the south. But again, we in Australia also want Malaysia preserved because we want the Communist powers as far away as possible. It should not be forgotten that one of the aims of what Indonesia calls its “ confrontation “ of Malaysia is the removal of the Commonwealth presence, including the bases. We are advised that so long as the bases are available and Commonwealth forces support Malaysia, there is little prospect of a defeat of Malaysia by Indonesian military action. In short, Malaysia and Australia have a common interest and an individual interest, and Chey coincide.
In the same way, it is tremendously important for us that Indonesia should not become Communist, but retain its independence under a Government serving only the good of the Indonesian people. It is very much to be feared that if Indonesia provoked a war, the only people in Indonesia who would get advantage from it would be the Communists, ever ready to thrive on disorder and defeat. Thus, Indonesia and Australia have vital interests in common. The recent actions of the Indonesian Government are therefore all the more deplorable. It is a misfortune to have to join in a defence of Malaysia against a nation with which we have no other quarrel, and so much in common. Yet it is a misfortune which we must be prepared to face, to the utmost of our power.
Now, this has been a brief account of some of the developments which have led us to the conclusion that there has been, since my review of 1963, a deterioration in our strategic position. What new defence provision should be made, in the light of this conclusion? True, we are not and cannot be the sole guarantors of our defence. But we must be able to say with truth that we are making a contribution to it which is commensurate with our capacity and our national self-respect.
The 1963 review itself added very considerably to the defence programmes and votes. Since then, substantial additions have been made. It will be of interest if I remind the House that until very recent years our defence vote was, and had been for some time, of the order of £200 million a year. The order of financial magnitude involved in our present review can be briefly stated at this stage. The review of May 1963 raised the programme for 1965-6, 1966-7 and 1967-8 by about £40 million a year to a total of £816 million. In other words before that review only 18 months ago the total figure for these years had been of the order of the £700 million and it was raised to £816 million. This present review raises that total to £1,220 million that is,a further increase of £404 million. I will return to the figures before I conclude.
I now turn to the concrete decisions which have led to these financial conclusions. Because of the central importance of manpower to the whole of our defence preparations I shall deal first with this question.
At present the regular forces number just over 52,000 including 22,750 in the Regular Army, 16,600 in the Air Force and 12,900 in the Navy. In addition, there are approximately 1,000 Pacific Islanders in the Pacific Islands Regiment. In the Citizen Military Forces we have 27,630, in the Citizen Naval Forces 5,115, and in the Citizen Air Forces 868.
Over the programme period to mid-1968 the Navy and Air Force will require a considerable increase in manpower to correspond with the planned expansion of these forces including the progressive introduction of new equipment. By June 1968, the Navy will have a requirement for approximately 16,700 and the Air Force for 21,000 men. The Government and its naval and Air Force advisers are confident that a satisfactory progressive build up of manpower towards these levels can be achieved by existing means of recruitment.
The question of Army manpower is more difficult. The numbers are larger; the whole strength and organisation of the Army arc involved. We have given close attention to this problem which has before now given rise to great controversy. After an examination of all the factors, and in full consultation with our military advisers, we have reached the conclusion that the Regular Army should be built up as rapidly as possible from the present 22,750 to an effective strength of 33,000 men, which means a total force of 37,500. A peace-time Army of this size would be adequate to meet our immediately foreseeable operational requirements and form a basis for rapid expansion in war.
The training effort required to .achieve any reasonably quick build up of a much larger Army than the one we now contemplate would be such that the Regular Army would cease to be an effective fighting force and become for some considerable time simply a training organisation. This has been one of the limiting factors in this. Let me remind honorable members that we have through successive programmes built up the capacity of the Regular Army as an effective and readily available fighting force, and it is essential in present circumstances that this capacity and quality be retained to the greatest possible extent.
The Government has given the most careful consideration to the means by which the Army’s manpower requirements may be achieved. It seems clear, on our military advice and our own carefully formed judgment, that we cannot expect by voluntary means to achieve a build up in the Army’s strength of the order we require and to the timing which is necessary. We are living in a period of unsurpassed prosperity and more than full employment; the attractions of civilian employment are very great indeed.
The Government has therefore decided that there is no alternative to the introduction of selective compulsory service. We know that this presents difficult personal, social, economic, and perhaps political problems. Our decision has been taken only because of the paramount needs of defence and, in the difficult circumstances 1 have described, the preservation of our security.
May I return at this point to the observations I made earlier in reference to the demands of our deteriorating strategic situation? We expect a continuing requirement to make forces available for cold war and anti-insurgency tasks. We must have forces ready as an immediate contribution should wider hostilities occur. We must at all times retain adequate forces against any more direct threat which might develop to our own security. Because of our geographic position we have the most compelling reasons to take those steps which will put us in a position to meet these various demands. The necessary units cannot be provided with a lesser effective strength than 33,000, yet this number cannot in present circumstances and in proper time be obtained by voluntary means.
It follows also that, to enable the Regular Army to achieve the required degree of operational readiness, selective servicemen must serve in regular units on a full time basis. If the scheme is to be effective, those called up must therefore be under an obligation to serve overseas as necessary and must be available to go with the regular unit in which they are serving.
In assessing the length of service required, an average of six months must be allowed for recruit and corps training. Provision must also be made for leave, movement and acclimatisation should the national servicemen be sent to an overseas theatre. In order to permit a period of at least twelve months effective service in a unit a total period of two years full-time duty is required and this will be the basis of the Government’s scheme. This will be followed by a period of three years on the Reserve.
Briefly, we have decided that young men will be required to register in the calendar year in which they reach the age of 20 years. The first actual call-up will take place about the middle of next year. During the second half of 1965 a total of about 4,200 will be required. Thereafter 1 there will be annual call-ups of about 6,900. This will, by December 1966, give an Army of a total strength of about 37,500- this is the Regular Army - which will mean an effective force of 33,000. Detailed consideration is being given to the conditions of service and the question of exemptions and deferments to meet particular circumstances. Civil employment rights of those called up will be appropriately protected.
I hasten to say that the introduction of selective compulsory service does not in any way detract from the importance of volunteers for the Regular Army, the Emergency Reserve or the Citizen Military Forces. On the contrary, we would wish the volunteer spirit, which has meant so much to Australia in the past, to continue. Both the Government and the nation would urge that as high a percentage as possible of those in our armed services should be those who, of their own choice, and in the spirit of a great national tradition, have joined one or other of those Services.
– I know one who dodged it in 1914.
– You do not. You must not repeat other people’s lies.
– Well, 1915.
– That is a very bad habit, Clyde, and I advise you against it. Indeed, so far as the Regular Army is concerned, volunteers will continue to be of fundamental importance to the effectiveness of the force. Volunteers on longer terms of engagement will reach the highest standards of training and will give greater flexibility in the organisation and deployment of our forces. A selective service scheme does not give sufficient time to train highly qualified specialists and technicians and we must continue to look to volunteers to provide these. The Government has already reviewed and improved conditions pf service to make a career in the Permanent Forces as attractive as possible. With this in mind and in the light of the strategic situation which I have outlined, we would ask the young men and women of Australia to consider carefully a permanent career in the armed forces.
The new Emergency Reserve, for which enrolment will be commencing almost immediately, will provide a ready means of supplementing field force units, increasing our cold war military capability and providing reinforcements in the initial stages of hostilities. It has a most important place in the full concept of our defence forces. The role of the Citizen Military Forces - to provide in war or defence emergency the follow-up forces and the expansion of our military effort - ‘remains unchanged, and indeed assumes even greater importance following the passage of the legislation to make these forces available in a defence emergency. I seek the co-operation not only of our young men, but also of their employers and others to ensure that the Citizen Military Forces target of 35,000 is achieved over the period of the new defence programme.
The detailed organisation of the Army will be further reviewed to provide for an expansion in the field force with particular emphasis on a substantial increase in the combat element and high priority logistic units. Two additional battalions will be raised making a total of six including the two battalions in our first two battle groups and the battalion already deployed in Malaysia. In addition, the organisation will provide adequate backing, not only to maintain and support the expanded field force, C.M.F. and cadets,, but also to provide a sound basis for further expansion and mobilisation.
There is, for a variety of good reasons, some concentration of military provision and organisation in the south-eastern areas of the continent. We feel, however, that, in the overall interests of rapid mobility, this should not be carried too far. We have, therefore, after careful consideration, decided that a new battle group will be established in north Queensland, probably in the Townsville area. The Special Air Service Regiment already established at Perth will be more than doubled in size to provide a head-quarters squadron and four squadrons. The Government has decided on a substantial change in the organisation of the Citizen Military Forces designed to create additional battalions, give greater flexibility and increased opportunities for service, particularly in country areas. The target strength for the cadets is being increased from 40,000 to 45,000.
In the 1963 Defence Review, I announced that it was intended to double as soon as possible the strength of the Pacific Islands
Regiment, which at that time was of the order of 700, and I also indicated that further developments in relation to the force were under consideration. Recruitment to the P.I.R. has increased steadily, and the target strength we envisaged in our previous plans will be attained earlier than we had expected. In the present strategic situation the Government continues to attach high priority to the strengthening of the P.I.R. The detailed investigations have now been completed, and the Government will proceed with the plan to increase the force to three battalions and supporting units with a total strength approaching 3,500 by June 1968. Tenders closing on 30th November this year have been called for necessary Army works for Papua and New Guinea which could cost about £12 million. An honorable member opposite asked me today whether there was any difficulty about this, having regard to the fact that it was a Trust Territory. Part of the answer is that there is not. These include additional barrack buildings, workshops and engineering services, and housing for native married members of the force.
The provision of equipment for the Army must match the improvements in the strength and availability of units. In the Defence Review 6f May 1963, expenditure on Army equipment was raised from the rate of £10 million per annum to the much higher level of £17.5 million.
In the light of the deterioration of our strategic position there is a need to accelerate the rate of progress towards achievement of the approved objective of providing modern equipment for one division. Provision is also required for the expanded forces in Papua-New Guinea. Provision must be made for the replacement of out-moded equipment as new items become available from research and development for introduction into service. Sufficient additional equipment must be provided to ensure that C.M.F. training is realistic and effective.
For all these purposes, and in line with the expansion in other elements of our defence preparations, the Government has approved a major acceleration in Army equipment purchases. Expenditure will be increased to £20 million in 1965-66 - the first year of the new defence programme - to £25 million in the following year, and to £30 million in 1967-68. The equipment to be purchased will include the whole range of modern conventional weapons, ammunition, vehicles, light aircraft, engineering and signals stores and so on. Items of new equipment which the Army is investigating include low level anti-aircraft weapons, air-portable armoured fighting vehicles, new artillery weapons, combat surveillance equipment and various other items. Emphasis will continue to be placed on air-portable equipment and those items which will improve Army mobility. The general effect of this approval is that as me strength of our forces is built up the weapons and equipment which they require, and of the most modern types, will be available to them. The increase in the Army strength from under 23,000 to some 37,500 by the end of 1966 means that accommodation for an additional 15,000 men has to be provided. This is additional to the large works programme for the Pacific Islands Regiment which I have already mentioned. This will mean a greatly increased Army works programme which will be carried out with the highest priority.
I turn now to our proposals for an expanded Navy and Air Force as part of an overall programme for strengthening the Australian military effort. Before the defence review undertaken by Cabinet last week, the Naval programme provided for a Fleet comprising the following main units: One aircraft carrier, operating anti-submarine helicopters and also fixed wing aircraft for their remaining service life; two Daring class destroyers; three Charles F. Adams destroyers - D.D.G.’s; six type-12 frigates; four Oberon class submarines; six “Ton” class minesweepers; one escort maintenance ship - being constructed in Australia; one fast transport; one fleet tanker; and one Battle class destroyer for use as a training ship.
This programme involves the construction of tcn new ships, including three Charles F. Adams destroyers which rank among the world’s finest guided missile ships; four Oberon class submarines; and two type-12 anti-submarine frigates and an escort maintenance ship being constructed in our own shipyards in Australia. These additions in themselves would provide a significant increase in the capability of the R.A.N. to fulfil its increasing operational commitments.
Careful consideration has been given to the future of the Fleet Air Arm which is a complex field of defence and could involve very large expenditures. H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ was converted to the antisubmarine role with the acquisition of 27 modern Wessex helicopters in 1963, and a number of Gannet and Sea Venom aircraft were also retained. A number of possibilities as to the continued operation of the “Melbourne” have been considered, having regard to the remaining life of the ship, the general cost of naval aviation, and other defence considerations.
The Government has now made two important decisions -
First, as the Gannet and Sea Venom aircraft are approaching the end of their service life and becoming difficult and uneconomical to maintain, it has been decided to replace these aircraft with 14 S2E Tracker anti-submarine aircraft. This aircraft, which is in service with the United States Navy - as members of the House who visited recently the U.S.S. “ Enterprise “ will recall - is a twin piston-engined aircraft with good endurance and well equipped for all-weather operations. The anti-submarine equipment it carries includes the latest electronic devices, and it also has the capacity for carrying a good weapon load. Its inclusion in the “ Melbourne’s “ equipment will improve considerably the ship’s anti-submarine capability. If I remember accurately, the cost of this item is about £16 million or £17 million.
Secondly, the Government has also approved an extensive modernisation of the “ Melbourne “ going much beyond that approved in the 1963 review. This modernisation will cost nearly £10 million. The main functions in which modernisation is required are the operation of antisubmarine aircraft in all weather by day and night; long range detection and height finding radar; improved close range air defence by mounting Seacat missile systems; and improved habitability.
Those proposals will add substantially to the anti-submarine capability of the Royal Australian Navy. In the 1963 review the Government authorised modernisation of our Daring class destroyers directed mainly towards improving their anti-submarine capability. This plan has been reviewed in the light of the Navy’s tactical requirements and the needs of our strategic situation. It has now been decided to modernise the Darings by providing them with Ikara, which, as honorable members are already aware, is a guided anti-submarine weapons system developed in our own research and production establishments. The estimated cost of modernising the two Darings is in excess of £13 million.
With a view to enhancing the Navy’s mobility, a fast fleet replenishment ship with some provision for the carrying of oil fuel is to be acquired. It is expected that the ship will come into commission in 1970. The question of local construction - which we would prefer - or purchase from overseas will be determined at a very early date. It has been decided to add two minesweepers to the present force of six vessels which were obtained in 1962. The additional minesweepers will be introduced into service in 1968.
Concurrently with the planning of the expansion of the Pacific Islands Regiment, investigations have been proceeding into the formation of a coastal security force in Papua-New Guinea. It has now been decided that five patrol craft of a type suitable for local manning and maintenance will be obtained. These will contribute substantially to the general surveillance of the shores and rivers of the Territory. Nine all purpose patrol craft to replace vessels in use by the R.A.N., which are now approaching the end of their useful life, will also be obtained. These vessels will be suited for patrol duties such as those being carried out at the present moment by our minesweepers in Borneo waters.
In addition to the above proposals, Cabinet has approved a wide range of naval projects designed to support objectives which have already been approved, including support facilities for the Charles F. Adams destroyers, a missile firing range, development of a submarine base and support facilities and provision for a submarine rescue vessel, replacement of harbour support craft and fleet boats, modernisation of Wessex helicopters, and rehabilitation of Manus Island oil fuel installations.
In recent defence programmes, the Government has approved the substantial re-armament of the fighter and strikereconnaissance elements of the R.A.A.F. with modern aircraft of advanced performance. The order which has been placed for 100 Mirage supersonic fighter aircraft will provide for the re-equipment of the four Sabre fighter squadrons. Deliveries of these aircraft from local production to the R.A.A.F. are continuing. The 24 FIIIA aircraft which have been ordered from the United States will add powerfully to the deterrent and strike capability of the R.A.A.F. The Government is confident that the FIIIA aircraft, which is expected to fly before the end of this year, will amply fulfil its promise as an outstanding military aircraft.
In this programme the Government has given particular attention to the transport, maritime and training requirements of the R.A.A.F. and to the continued development of our airfields. The existing squadron of 12 Hercules C130A aircraft with which the R.A.A.F. was equipped in 1958 has considerably improved the air strategic mobility of the Australian forces. The development of plans associated with our S.E.A.T.O. and other commitments has, however, shown clearly that our present air strategic movement facilities fall short of those required to meet likely military situations. A study by our professional military advisers on the strategic mobility requirements of the Australian services indicates that in addition to the aircraft which would be provided from civil resources, the services require an additional squadron of medium range transport aircraft. The aircraft selected to meet this requirement is the C130E, a greatly improved version of the C130A at present in service in the R.A.A.F. For operational and maintenance purposes these aircraft are compatible with the C130A. They provide an increased strategic lift capacity and they possess the short field characteristics which enable them to carry out intra-theatre operations as well as inter-theatre tasks. .Approval has been given to acquire 12 C130E aircraft. This will mean an increase in the order of battle of the transport element of the R.A.A.F. from two to three squadrons. The existing squadron of Hercules CI30A aircraft will, of course, continue in service, together with the squadron of Caribou aircraft which has recently been acquired. The detachment of Caribou aircraft in South Vietnam has already given notable service in operations against the Communist Vietcong.
The maritime element of the Royal Australian Air Force, working closely with the carrier “ Melbourne “ and with the escorts of the Royal Australian Navy, provides maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine protection for our forces. At present there are two maritime squadrons in the R.A.A.F. No. 10 Squadron is equipped with Neptune SP2H aircraft embodying modern surface and underwater submarine detection equipment. No. 11 Squadron stationed at Richmond is, however, equipped with an older version of the Neptune aircraft, the P2E, containing submarine detection and tracking equipment, which is now coming to the end of its useful operational life. It is accordingly necessary to re-equip this squadron so that it will be fully effective against modern submarines. It has been decided to re-arm the squadron in 1968 with Lockheed Orion aircraft which have outstanding performance in the location and destruction of enemy submarines. The Orion is the best maritime aircraft available in the world today. Ten of these aircraft will be obtained.
The current flying training aircraft in the R.A.A.F. are the Winjeel in the basic and the Vampire in the advanced stages. The introduction of high performance aircraft of the Mirage and FMA types will require new types of training aircraft and new techniques in training. In major air forces operating supersonic aircraft the use of a jet aircraft from the commencement of training has proved to be necessary to achieve the required standard quickly. The Government has accordingly approved the purchase of an all-through jet trainer of suitable performance to replace the Winjeel and the Vampire, thereby enabling the training organisation to advance in parallel with the re-equipment of operational squadrons. Seventy-five of the new aircraft will be obtained.
At present navigators and signallers of the R.A.A.F. are trained in Dakota aircraft modified in 1952 for this purpose. In a few more years these aircraft will be inadequate to train navigators and signallers, having regard to the latest training techniques, the type of training equipment required and the modern operational aircraft being obtained for the R.A.A.F. The Government has approved the acquisition of eight replacement trainer aircraft of a suitable type.
Experience gained by the members of the R.A.A.F. Mirage instructional team in France, coupled with the experience of other air forces operating supersonic aircraft, indicates that a dual Mirage aircraft is necessary to provide safe, efficient and fast conversion of both experienced and less experienced pilots. The Government has approved the acquisition of ten dual Mirage aircraft. These will be additional to the J 00 operational Mirage aircraft already on order. 1 have referred already to the additional equipment which we are providing to improve the essential strategic and tactical mobility of our forces. The continued development of airfields to permit the rapid deployment and effective operational use of our forces both strategically and tactically is a complementary measure to which the Government continues to attach the highest importance. In earlier years we have carried out an extensive programme of airfield works and development in such places as Darwin, Townsville, Amberley and Williamtown. The construction of a second airfield in the Northern Territory at Tindal, which was approved in the last programme, is proceeding satisfactorily and will be completed in 1966. Detailed investigations and technical planning for the new airfield at Boram near Wewak in New Guinea have now been completed and construction will proceed without delay. This airfield will be built to standards which will permit its use by all aircraft now in service or to be acquired by the R.A.A.F.
We have now approved the further development of airfields in New Guinea. The existing airfield at Nadzab will be rehabilitated and extended for ferrying purposes to standards permitting its use by Mirage and other aircraft. The airfield at Daru in the south west of Papua-New Guinea will be extended and developed and smaller airstrips between Daru and Boram will be brought to a higher standard. This will add to the flexibility of our forces and improve the effectiveness of the patrols now carried out by the Pacific Islands Regiment. On the mainland the existing airfield at Learmonth, near North West Cape, will be further developed by the provision of taxiways, hardstandings and other essential services. Improvements are also to be made to the airfield at Cocos to increase its capability.
The Government has previously announced the acquisition of two new control and reporting units, one of which will be installed at Williamtown and one at Amberley. Both these equipments will be mobile. Provision is made in the new programme for the modernisation of the control and reporting unit already installed at
Darwin. Adequate provision will be made for new capital construction and modernisation of existing facilities in our production and research establishment so that they may continue to meet the demands of our expanded forces.
A major expansion-of the nature which I have outlined must inevitably bring a substantial increase in expenditure. Briefly, we estimate that defence votes in the three years of the programme will be: 1965-66, £370,000,000; 1966-67, £421,700,000; and 1967-68, £429,100,000.
In our defence review of 22nd May 1963, we contemplated expenditure allotments as under -
Since May 1963 these allotments have been increased by Cabinet approvals of new projects, of which the main items are - Purchase of 24 FIIIA strike-reconnaissance aircraft; construction of two additional frigates to replace H.M.A.S. “Voyager”; increased costs for the fleet fitting of Ikara; expansion of the Pacific Islands Regiment in Papua and New Guinea; replacement of V.I.P. aircraft; purchase of seven additional Caribou aircraft; a housing programme; and defence aid for Malaysia. The total estimated cost of these approvals is £118 million.
In addition to these specific projects, additional costs have also been incurred with the introduction of new Service pay scales, improved conditions of service, basic wage increases and margins adjustments. The addition of the expenditure flowing from all these decisions has involved an increase in the planning allotments of the May 1963 review to the following -
The decisions which I have just announced will increase these adjusted figures still further to the following -
These are very great increases. We consider that they are warranted having regard to the situation which we now face. Although decisions which we have now made will mean an increased allocation over the three years commencing 1965-66 of some £212 million, we are certain that the people of Australia will also recognise the need for us to continue to maintain adequate defence forces capable of meeting our obligations to make a great Australian defence effort, and also those obligations which we have assumed with our allies. No one can doubt that the increase in defence expenditure arising from the decisions which I have announced, with their added demands for manpower and material resources, will have very significant economic and financial effects.
In the present financial year, the direct budgetary effects will be limited. There will be a spurt between now and the end of the financial year in accommodation and other works expenditure necessary to the commencement of the selective service scheme in July. And here and there, there will be a need to make small initial payments this financial year towards new equipment which is the subject of the new three year programme. However, in 1965-66 and later years, the impact will be large. In the first place, it will present a formidable budgetary problem. On top of that, the additions to expenditure at home will add to the call on the resources of the economy, which are already under some strain, and the additions to expenditure abroad will increase whatever drawings would otherwise be made on our external reserves.
There are thus involved obvious problems for the national economy. These must and will be faced and solved. All I need say at present is that, as a Government, we have acted under a sense of national duty. We believe that we will have wide public support in whatever tasks may lie ahead. I present the following paper -
Defence Review - Ministerial Statement, 10th November 1964 - and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 2469), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Speaker, the Opposition does not intend to oppose the measure before the House which makes certain amendments to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act. This is an act which has been in force now for some eight years and was passed in order to assist the sellers of goods in Australia to places overseas. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation was set up as a Government agency and in its eight years has established quite an estimable record of performances. According to the latest report which is available which is for the year ended June 1964, the corporation had in that period policies of a face value of about £64 million and it had 436 policies. To begin with, this indicates that the numbers availing themselves of this field of insurance are relatively scarce and in terms of Australia’s export trade the field is still not as significant as it ought to be.
I would draw the attention of honorable members to the circumstances of a similar body in Great Britain known as the Export Credits Guarantee Department, a similar Government undertaking. This Department has a longer history than ours and it is much more significant in the export trade of Great Britain than is the Export Payments Insurance Corporation in ours. Whereas the policies of the E.P.J.C. have a current value of some £63 million or £64 million the latest report that 1 have from the British body indicates that the face value of policies in Great Britain is in the region of £1,000 million, which represents something like one-quarter of the total export activity in Great Britain in a year. I would think, off hand, that £64 million would represent about one-sixteenth of the value of our annual export trade which now is somewhere in the region of £1,000 million a year. To reach the relative performance of the British model we have quite a long way to go yet. We have proportionately to quadruple the activities of the E.P.I.C. for it to be as significant in the terms of export trade to Australia as the other body is to Great Britain. Whether the type of trade has been directly comparable is perhaps open to argument. Nevertheless, I think that some lessons can be learned from the experience of Great Britain and be applied in Australia with some value. In fact, the main amendment that is being encompassed in this particular legislation - what the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) described as the most important of these amendments - would provide the E.P.I.C. with the power to issue guarantees of payment to banks and other lending institutions, which provide finance for certain types of export transactions.
Later in his speech the Minister stated that the British experience had provided the model which Australia has followed on this occasion. It seems that there are one or two other forms of activity in which the United Kingdom Department engages and in which we in Australia might engage with some profit. I direct the attention of honorable members to the following passage in a booklet about the Department, under the heading “ Financial Guarantees “ -
A special form of cover ottered on the specific principle is the Financial Guarantee facility, already mentioned briefly. Such a guarantee is only suitable for extremely large development projects, costing several million pounds, usually in the maturing nations of Africa, the East, and South America. Since this type of guarantee involves special legal arrangements providing for a United Kingdom bank to make a loan to an overseas buyer to enable his United Kingdom supplier to be paid cash, a very great deal of expert negotiation is necessary before these guarantees, which are in every respect tailor-made arc complete. Since their introduction in 1961, many applications have been received for Financial Guarantees, and up to end of 1963 10 guarantees had been issued under which E.C.G.D. is guaranteeing a maximum loan value plus interest totalling £81.6 million. In addition, a further 61 cases involving a total contract value of £362 million had been approved in principle and were in various stages of negotiation amongst supplier, lender and borrower.
Of course, both of those figures are sterling. lt seems that the British people are apprised of the obligations which the developed countries have towards the undeveloped countries. That document mentions particular areas such as Africa, the East and South America.
It is interesting to look at the pattern of Australia’s trade. The following table is contained in a document called “ Australia and the World Today “, which was issued by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation under the authority of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board, Sir Warren McDonald -
The significant point is the fall that has taken place, proportionately and to some extent also in aggregate, in our trade with what might be called our traditional markets, namely the United Kingdom and the countries of the European Economic Community. The other significant fact is the growth in our trade with North American countries - United States and Canada - and above all the growth in our trade with Japan.
But where our trade figures are unspectacular and disappointing is in other parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific Islands and New Zealand and South America. Those are all areas with which Australia ought to have better trade relations but in which one problem is still economic poverty and the other problem is that the populations are increasing more quickly than resources are being developed. In 1 964 we hear a lot about the “ decade of development “ and the obligations that the wealthier nations have to the poorer nations. When we get down to tin tacks in these matters we realise that the poorer countries can impove their positions relative to the rest of the world only if systematic programmes of capital development are undertaken. It is in this respect that Australia still seems to be falling down on the job.
What is being done in this amending legislation bridges, to some extent, some of the deficiencies that have existed in the past. But I suggest that, as the Government has chosen to copy the British model of what are called the guarantees of payment to banks, it might also have a look at the financial guarantees which are aimed at assisting some of the undeveloped areas of the world. Insofar as we work within the machinery of these export credit organisations, this assistance has to be given on the basis of trade as distinct from aid. Australia is a member of what is known as the Berne Union of export insurance organisations. Nevertheless, we ought to realise that we have significant social and economic obligations to areas in our part of the world which economically are far less fortunate than we are and whose position can be improved only by systematic programmes of development.
This morning or yesterday morning I read, as I suppose other honorable members did, about the appalling situation that exists in India at the moment. Apparently, people are starving in the inner parts of that country because wheat cannot be unloaded at the wharfs. Surely, in a country with the great abundance of labour power that India obviously has, all that is needed is simple stevedoring equipment; and surely that is a situation in which a country like Australia can assist. I have believed for a good number of years now that Australia has to begin to diversify its economic pattern and has to be realistic about its obligations in this part of the world. Within the last few minutes we have listened to a statement suggesting what Australia’s defence liabilities are likely to be in future. I believe that our defence liabilities will continue to increase unless we do something to remove this fundamental problem of inequalities between the haves and the have-nots. I hope that just as Australia seems to be becoming suddenly conscious of its defence problems it will also become more critically conscious of what its trade relations are with other parts of the world.
I think the document from which I have already quoted .points to this sort of problem. I refer to “Australia and the World Today”, published by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, in which, in the section headed “ Finance “, the author points to inadequacies in the Australian financial setup and the sorts of deficiencies to which I have referred. The report states -
While there are logical reasons from the insurer’s viewpoint for limitation of cover to something less than the full value of contracts, this can reduce the attractiveness of the insurance cover as a prime security assignment to banks. It is relevant, perhaps, that this problem is overcome in the United Kingdom by the provision of unconditional guarantees to financing institutions.
It seems that at last the Government has recognised what is stated in that extract, and the legislation now before the House does something to bridge the deficiency. For instance, the Bill will allow an exporter in Australia to engage in trying to sell his goods in certain areas, provided that the goods are specified as capital goods and the value of each individual contract is in excess of £100,000. The Bill specifies that it must be an individual contract and not a series of small contracts. Where there is a capital export of a value in excess of £100,000 the guarantee may extend over a period of several years. For most Australian industries the problem is that the exporter cannot always afford to wait three, four, or five years for progressive payments and sometimes somebody has to assist the seller in Australia financially until the buyer in the foreign country is able to make good his payments.
In Britain there is another organisation altogether. Apart from the export payments scheme there is an export guarantee scheme which finances transactions of this kind. Perhaps Australia also should broaden its concepts in these directions. It seems that now, with one part of the world competing with the other in respect of undeveloped areas, the tendency is that, in order to have contracts fulfilled, it is necessary to offer longer and longer terms of credit. In the past Australia has been deficient in this respect because its financial organisation has not allowed the provision of long term credit in considerable’ amounts for transactions of this kind. If, as some people envisage, we are to increase the volume of our exports within the next five to ten years by about another £300 million - I think the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is at the table, is well aware that that has to be the order of our performance in the years ahead - and if we are to continue to import consonant with our growth in population the volume of goods that we would like to have, there will have to be considerable increases in our total export trade.
So far, the main burden of our increase in exports has been met by the primary producers and, I suggest, has been met with considerable success. Nevertheless, there is probably still a large potential in other parts of the world for Australia to develop its exports of manufactured goods. It is primarily for that sort of activity that organisations such as the Corporation are envisaged. It is a pretty futile exercise to sell wheat on long term credit. For the most part, payments for wheat must be made within a calendar year or not much beyond that time. However, if the payment is for earthmoving equipment or to provide the necessary capital assistance to build dams or railways, or to engage in large scale capital developments required to improve standards in the poorer countries which are our immediate neighbours, we are in a much more significant position to fulfil those needs than our present channels of credit so far provide.
Whether the sorts of things that I have described ought to be done by expanding the Export Payments Insurance Corporation arrangement is probably a matter open to debate because that was designed for a certain purpose. When the legislation establishing E.P.l.C. was before the Parliament in 1956 honorable members on this side of the chamber offered the criticism that its provisions did not go far enough, that the Corporation’s initial capitalisation was not sufficient and that its overall maximum level of business as envisaged was not high enough. The measure now before the House represents the third or fourth set of amendments needed to increase the capital and increase the Corporation’s powers of borrowing. It is worthy of commendation that the volume of business has risen over that period of less than 10 years from about £10 million to the present £64 million. The Minister said that the proposed amendments have been modelled on the British experience, but if honorable members compare the Australian example with that of the corresponding body in Great Britain, which now takes under its wings about one quarter of Britain’s export trade, we are still a long way behind. Our total is of the order of one sixteenth.
On occasions like this it is timely to contemplate some of these problems, to realise (hat there may be deficiences in our financial machinery and to do something to try to bridge them. The Opposition supports the amendments proposed by the bill because they do something to fill a very necessary gap in the provision of credit for activities of the type to which I have referred. Nevertheless, there are still gaps, one of which 1 have already pointed to and which, in Britain, it has been sought to encompass within the field of export credit. I refer to the one described as the financial guarantee. I believe that Australia is well placed to assist countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and India in the provision of what, in economics, is sometimes called infrastructure. Someone in Australia was suggesting recently the formation of a cooperative company to produce fertilisers. It may well be that the export of fertilisers to India will, in the years ahead, be just as significant as the export of wheat is now. I believe that we must have sufficient vision to see far enough ahead in these matters.
Yesterday I received from the Department of External Affairs a document con taining a comprehensive statement on Australia’s economic aid to other parts of the world. Although the aid given this year is commendable when compared with aid given in previous years we are still a long way off what has been described as our objective of providing aid to the extent of 1 per cent. of our gross national product. There is sometimes a fair amount of loose thinking as to how this 1 per cent, is to be achieved. If we extended aid equivalent to 1 per cent, of our gross national product, this would mean that, in terms of goods and services, whether capital or consumer goods, Australia would have to export another £40 million or £50 million a year. It would be a good thing for the economies of both the country receiving aid and the country giving it if there could be better integration of the needs of the developing areas in terms of the capacity of the more developed economics.
When my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and I were in India recently, we both felt that if the right people in India talked to the right people in Australia we could achieve a lot of useful economic development that would be advantageous to both countries. By “ the right people “ I mean those who are in charge of strategic sections of industry in India and comparable groups in Australia. I hope that, in the future, this sort of development may occur. We in Australia certainly have a better Trade Commissioner Service now than we had a few years ago, but our trade commissioners are still not numerous enough and often they are not sufficiently trained, in some respects, to deal adequately with these great problems that have to be faced in the next 10 years.
I believe that peaceful co-operation represents a better pattern of world development than anything else and that trade and aid, with sensible industrial and financial integration, can do a lot to bridge the gap and solve problems of this kind. So we on this side of the House at least commend the Government for extending the scope of the export payments insurance scheme. We hope that, since the Government has looked at British experience, it will further examine the system of financial guarantees for what are really long term capital programmes. Under that system, which I described earlier, the recipient often is the government of the country concerned, whereas the provider here may still be a private enterprise of some kind. That is a development that is at least worthy of contemplation. I hope that the Government, having taken this step, will, in the months ahead, move in the direction that I have Indicated and not wait for years to take action.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not think that I should let this measure pass without seeking further information from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who is at the table. It must be admitted that this Bill is of substantial importance. The measure that originally constituted the Export Payments Insurance Corporation received ardent support and fulsome praise from the Opposition. Fortunately, this institution has been a great success. It is providing for the exporters of this country facilities which have not been in the past, and which are not likely to be in the future, provided by private enterprise insurance companies in Australia. Exporters have availed themselves of the facilities provided by the Corporation. At this stage, I ask the Minister: What profits, if any, have accrued to the Corporation, including both profits that have been transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and profits that, perhaps, have been absorbed into the capital structure of the Corporation? I consider that the country and the Parliament should have this information, and I believe that substantial profits have been made.
I have not had time to give the Bill extensive study. It will extend the insurance cover that may be given to exporters. The Opposition supports this proposal. But I point out that the guarantor is really the taxpayers of Australia, acting through the Corporation and the banking system. Any exporter may receive a substantial insurance cover through the Corporation. He may then present his insurance document to a bank and, if the bank is willing, of course, obtain a further substantial advance from the bank. We on this side of the chamber do not disagree with that. The point that I want to emphasise is this: Private enterprise, on the one hand, is only too ready to avail itself of these facilities, which are backed by the taxpayers of Australia through the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the security of this great Commonwealth. I do not blame private enterprise for taking advantage of the facilities available. The Commonwealth, on the other hand, is ready - and rightly so - to provide these facilities. This being the case, why cannot the Government adopt a broad approach and adapt its policies so as to empower the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to undertake export insurance of every kind that has been carried on by private companies since this kind of business was first transacted between this country and another, well over 100 years ago? Export insurance on a safe basis has been conducted throughout the years by the great profit making insurance institutions of this country.
Surely we in Australia have now reached a sufficiently advanced stage in economic thinking for the Government to be broad enough in its approach to allow the Corporation to engage in this kind of safe business, too. As the balance sheets of private enterprise insurance companies will show, they have taken no risk to speak of in extending insurance cover to safe exports. If it is good enough for private enterprise to have the advantage of this sort of business over a long period, especially since the Corporation has demonstrated that what used to be regarded as risky business can be undertaken with relative safety, surely it is now good enough for the Corporation to engage in the safe and mighty profitable business that is carried on by the private insurance companies that extend insurance cover to exports. If one examines the background of the private insurance companies that engage in this sort of business, it becomes perfectly obvious that the major shareholders and investors in these great insurance companies and corporations are resident in other parts of the world. Surely we have grown up enough, economically and politically, at this stage, to do something about that aspect of export insurance. I leave the matter there, and ask the Minister to give me any information he has on the subject. I shall thank him for it.
My colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), has the latest annual report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation in his hand. The Minister will confirm that this institution. which is owned by the people and financed by them through the people’s bank which was established by the Australian Labour Party many years ago, made a profit last financial year of £409,071.
– That figure represents the accumulated profits.
– That is correct. The Corporation, which was established only in 19S6, has made accumulated profits that now total £409.071. The volume of business being transacted is’ growing, and it will not be long before the profit will be £409,000 per annum, not over eight years. So why should we not strengthen the Corporation by increasing it powers? I tell the Minister for Primary Industry that, if the Labour Party takes office in this Parliament, such action will undoubtedly be taken.
I wish to mention just one other feature of the bill in passing. I notice that the Export Payments Insurance Corporation is to be given substantial powers under the terms of this measure to do certain things by regulation. This will be done through the Government of course. For instance, the Corporation will have the power to increase salaries.I have no objection, in the light of very recent history, to salaries being increased. The Bill gives the Corporation the power to increase the salaries of its employees from £2,500 per annum to £3,500 per annum, and it may do this by regulation. This is a fairly generous provision. The Parliament does not discuss such an increase as it discusses increases of members’ salaries. The Corporation says: “ Bill Smith is a good bloke. He is most careful and he is worth another £1,000.” The Government drafts a regulation, submits it to the Governor-General in Council and somebody on the staff of the Corporation receives an increase of £1 , 000 per annum. I suggest that matters such as this should be placed before the Parliament for its decision.
There is another feature of the Bill which puzzles me. It may be more appropriate for me to deal with it in Committee, but I will save time by dealing with it here. I hope the Minister will be able to explain some strange verbiage that appears in the Bill. Clause 6 amends the principal Act by omitting sub-section (4.) of section 11 and inserting in its stead the following sub-section -
Nothing in this section shall be construed -
as requiring the approval of the Minister to the Corporation entering into a particular contract of insurance or to the Corporation giving a particular guarantee; or
as empowering the Minister to determine that the Corporation shall or shall not enter into a particular contract of Insurance or give a particular guarantee, but the Corporation shall not enter into a particular contract of insurance or give a particular guarantee contrary to a policy approved or determined by the Minister under this section.
Such a policy may be of a broad character and may be open to one interpretation by the Minister and an entirely different interpretation by the Corporation. The provision says quite distinctly that the Corporation must not act “ contrary to a policy approved or determined by the Minister”. That is very wide. The Bill apparently removes the requirement at present in the principal Act and gives the Minister a very strong and definite power. Sub-section (4.) of section 11 of the principal Act, which is being amended, states -
Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring the approval of the Minister to the entering by the Corporation into a particular contract of insurance or as empowering the Minister to determine that the Corporation shall or shall not enter into a particular contract of insurance, but the Corporation shall not enter into a particular contract of insurance unless the contract is in accordance with policies approved or determined by the Minister under this section.
This may be merely the difference between Tweedledee and Tweedledum, but I would like to know why this alteration has been made. I give the overall principles of the Bill my blessing and I hope that the Government’s vision in the future will widen sufficiently to reveal to it the wisdom of giving the Corporation more scope to embark on the profitable business of export insurance generally.
– I regret that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who introduced the Bill, is not able to be here tonight. I am sure honorable members will understand the reasons for his absence. Three matters were raised by honorable members opposite. I appreciate the point of view taken by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who covered the provisions fo the Bill fairly well. He gave the Bill his blessing, but suggested that we look at the possibility of expanding the activities of the Corporation. Obviously, the Government always has this possibility in mind and I assure the honorable member that, as we have expanded the activities of the Corporation with the introduction of this Bill, so we will continue to expand its activities when circumstances permit us to do so. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred to the accrued profits of the Corporation. I understood that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports gave a figure, but it is not the figure that has been given to me. Accrued profits, as distinct from capital funds, amount to £376,000.
– That is not too bad, is it?
– It is not too bad. These are the accrued profits from premium and investment income. The honorable member is under a misapprehension in regard to the salaries provision. The salaries that could be fixed by the Corporation for its employees were previously limited to £2,500. The Corporation can now offer a salary of £3,500 to anyone it employs without referring to higher authority.
– That still means that anyone receiving a salary of £2,500 could be given an increase of £1,000, does it not?
– The honorable member has suggested that the purpose of this provision is merely to increase salaries by £1,000, but it really means that employees in receipt of salaries of £3,500 or less are dealt with by the Corporation without any reference to the Minister. Many commodity boards and other organisations must refer the question of higher salaries to the Minister, and this keeps the salaries in line with Public Service salaries. This is quite a good policy.
– It means that the Corporation and not the Parliament can increase the salaries.
– The Minister is always responsible to the Parliament, as the honorable member knows. He is differentiating, as he said, between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The honorable member referred to clause 6 of the Bill. As I understand the position, the powers given to the
Corporation in the present Act are not altered or extended by the Bill. In effect, the Minister cannot determine a policy beyond that permitted by the Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 2470), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure now before the House provides for arrangements with the States and State meat authorities with respect to meat inspection. It may seem to be a Bill of minor importance, but it is really of very substantial importance. Statistics are always tedious, perhaps, but I will give a few figures to show the magnitude of the subject with which we are dealing. For the year ended 30th June 1963, 41,700,000 cattle, sheep, lambs, pigs and livestock were slaughtered in Australia. We find that these slaughterings produced, in round figures, 1,500,000 tons of meat of which approximately 367,000 tons were exported to the world markets. In other words the cattle, sheep, pigs and other livestock slaughtered and exported in that year accounted for approximately 25 per cent, of the total slaughterings; the remaining 75 per cent, was for home consumption. That is the livestock or animal side of the story. It illustrates the magnitude of the subject matter of this Bill.
As a people we believe in hygiene and for many years have realised that disease can ultimately lead to death - disease arising from a lack of hygiene. For many years the State Governments have in their respective legislative enactments provided for authorities to employ trained personnel to inspect slaughtered livestock to ensure that it is wholesome, free of disease and fit for human consumption. This has been a mighty wise precaution indeed. In some States the Agriculture Departments supervise this type of work. In other States the teams of stock inspectors and veterinary officers come under the jurisdiction of the health authorities. This is the case with meat inspectors in Victoria.
With the advent of a very extensive export trade in meat - a trade which is growing every year - it became necessary for the Commonwealth Government through the department concerned, to ensure that all meat exported complied with satisfactory hygienic conditions and was certified by competent officers as free from disease. The competent officers were usually known as meat inspectors and they in turn were supervised by even more competent and highly skilled officers, namely, veterinary officers. With the increasing consumption of meat in Australia, which is the result of an increased population, the production of livestock has increased and quite obviously the number of inspectors employed by the two authorities - the State authorities and the Commonwealth authorities - must have increased from time to tune.
It would appear that if meatworks licensed under Commonwealth law to handle livestock for export were also handling meat for home consumption the State meat inspectors and veterinary officers would inspect the meat destined for home consumption and the Commonwealth meat inspectors and veterinary officers would inspect meat intended for export. Obviously there must have been a substantial amount of overlapping in such a meatworks. This was obviously an economic waste and in order to prevent overlapping and to economise, for many years now there has been between the Commonwealth and the States some working arrangement to eliminate as far as practicable any overlapping. In many instances State meat inspectors were authorised by the Commonwealth authorities to inspect meat intended for export. I have no doubt that, conversely, Commonwealth inspectors have been authorised to inspect meat intended for local consumption. This is the situation that has grown up, but it has been badly organised, has not been economic and has been wasteful in operation. I sympathise with the Minister who, during the years he has administered his portfolio, has probably seen this waste taking place and probably realises that the existing arrangements are not altogether satisfactory. This is one side of the question - indeed, it is the basic side - which has to be dealt with.
Officers of the Department of Primary Industry, under instructions from the Minister, have endeavoured to make arrangements with the respective State Governments whereby the Commonwealth and State organisations could be merged under satisfactory arrangements. Probably this has not been easy. The Australian Agricultural Council, which comprises the respective State Ministers for Agriculture presided over by our Minister for Primary Industry, has discussed this subject. Apparently the only progress to date has been that some arrangement has been arrived at by the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia. In order to give effect to that arrangement it is necessary to have legislation which will empower the Minister for Primary Industry to provide for the Commonwealth to absorb into the Commonwealth Public Service mcn who at present are servants - officers is a better description since nowadays there is no such thing as a servant - of the respective States. In the present instance we are dealing wilh South Australia. However, enormous difficulties are encountered in this operation.
In order to give honorable members an idea of the difficulties, let me say that about 690 meat inspectors are employed by the Commonwealth, and in Victoria - I cannot speak for other States - there are about 90 meat inspectors. I suppose that throughout the Commonwealth there arc about 1,000 Commonwealth and State meat inspectors involved. The type of arrangement provided for in the measure is apparently necessary because a State officer cannot be conscripted into a Commonwealth department. He cannot be forced to become an officer of the Commonwealth subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act. So it becomes necessary to enable a State officer to elect, if he so desires, to become a meat inspector of the Commonwealth. This is the position relating to permanent officers. By the same token, it becomes necessary to enable a temporary officer of the State to elect whether he will enter the Commonwealth Public Service and henceforth operate as a meat inspector under Commonwealth jurisdiction. The Bill provides for an officer to make an election on a prescribed form, and if the election is made within 21 days the officer is accepted into the Commonwealth Public Service. This all seems very simple, but it does not ensure that every meat inspector in South Australia will elect to come over to the Commonwealth Public Service. This has necessitated the inclusion in this Bill of a provision to enable those who elect to come into the Commonwealth Public Service to preserve their eligibility for accrued recreation leave up to 30 days and also their total credit of sick leave and furlough credits. This raises some problems. What happens to an officer who has more than 30 days accrued leave to his credit? The Bill provides that the superannuation rights of a State officer are to be merged into the provisions of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, without loss of benefits to the officer, but it will not be easy to give effect to that provision. I understand that in South Australia some meat inspectors are not covered by superannuation but by a private insurance scheme. Where do they stand?
There will be difficulties so far as the 700-odd Commonwealth meat inspectors are concerned. Take the case of, say, 20 meat inspectors from South Australia, enjoying certain leave rights and covered by a private insurance scheme, electing to come over to the Commonwealth. Under the circumstances of their employment in South Australia their travelling is confined to within the borders of that State, but when they come over to the Commonwealth they may be required to work part of the season at Gepps Cross in South Australia and part of the season in Townsville. These are men who, when they were working in South Australia, lived mostly in the vicinity of the meat works. Then we have the situation of a man in a small service of about 20 officers. He is fairly senior in rank. When he comes over to the Commonwealth he joins a service where there are 690 officers, about 100 of whom are temporary. Where do you fit him in? The same thing applies to temporary officers from South Australia or other States who may elect to join the Commonwealth service. Where do they fit in? If they fit in at all they are hedged in between the permanent Commonwealth meat inspector and the temporary employees. Does such a man head the list of temporaries and take precedence for the next appointment to a permanent position or does he go to the bottom of the seniority list for appointment as a permanent meat inspector in the Commonwealth service? Then there .is the problem of the men who work for a State abattoir - a semi-government institution - who, before they became meat inspectors, worked for perhaps seven years in some other capacity in the abattoir. Suppose they then qualify to be meat inspectors. They have a total service with the abattoir of nine years. When they join the Commonwealth service are they given credit for their nine years service with the State abattoir or are they given credit for only two years service as meat inspectors?
I hope that the Minister has the solution to the problems I have posed because the Opposition will not meekly allow the Bill to pass unless we have satisfactory assurances that justice will be done to these men. It is of no use the Minister saying that this legislation is essential because the American authorities require that the Commonwealth itself should be responsi’ble for inspections. All that the Americans require is that inspections be carried out under the supervision and administration of Commonwealth authorities. Although the Commonwealth has reached agreement with South Australia for a uniform meat inspection service to meet the requirements of the American authorities, meat will continue to be exported to America from other States where no arrangements of this kind have so far been made. The only thing required will be that a veterinary officer will supervise a team of State meat inspectors. This will meet the requirements of the Americans. So the American export market as a motivating proposition for this measure is rather remote, although it is not unimportant. I make that point in case the argument is used as an excuse for this legislation, because such an argument will not hold water. It is true that it is better to have a uniform inspection service, but the Opposition will not easily let this measure through unless we receive assurances that the rights of the State officers will be protected, just as the rights of the 700-odd Commonwealth employees will be protected if there is an influx from South Australia of 30 or 40 men and 90 to 100 mcn from Victoria. This is a complex situation.
The Minister may handle the problem by saying that it will be passed to the Public Service Board and that under the Public Service Act a man may appeal on his seniority listing. lt is surely a strange and anomalous position to find in the Commonwealth service that of 690-odd men, 100 are temporary employees. That is a bad situation in all conscience. Why does the Public Service Board discriminate against these men because they are meat inspectors and outdoor workers while at the same time permitting clerical workers and men in other classifications to enter the service at an early age as permanent employees? There does not appear to be any answer to that. When I was a Minister the argument was used that exports might decline and you might have a surplus of officers on your hands. The obvious answer to that claim is that in a semi-developed country like Australia it is more likely that meat exports will increase. This has happened in the last 15 years. When 1 was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture there were about 300 temporary meat inspectors in the Commonwealth service. I battled for about three months with the Public Service Board before it agreed to make 140 or 150 of those men permanent employees.
I say these things not bitterly but in order to awaken the conscience of officers of the Department of Primary Industry. I know that the Minister is not supposed to attempt to influence the Public Service Board, but he can whisper a little and make so many inquiries that eventually the Public Service Board will decide that he is becoming a bit of a nuisance. It might feel inclined to yield a little. After all, treacle is always more effective than vinegar and if the Minister adopted that policy and carried it out courteously he might be successful in having another 60 or 70 of these temporary meat inspectors accepted as permanent officers. This would help overcome the absorption problem and might do much to assist in obtaining agreement to the adoption of this type of scheme by Western Australia, Queensland, and the other States. Those are the problems that I think should be tackled.
After all, if a man is accepted as a permanent officer, he has some feeling of security and is more likely to establish a home- lt must not be forgotten that these men are engaged in work that requires a very high degree of integrity indeed. I have never yet heard of one meat inspector who has succumbed to corruption, and passed stock that should not have been passed. Because of that wonderful record I suggest that after having proved their trustworthiness, within 12 months or less they should be appointed as permanent officers.
Finally, we of the Opposition wish this measure success but we want more assurances from the Minister as to what will happen to these 1,000 men before we will support it without asking for a division. The matters which I have raised are important. I suggest that it is not necessary to introduce this scheme in order to appease the Americans because they can be appeased by a continuation of some of the existing practices. If this step is necessary in the interests of economy, then it is also necessary that justice be done to the State and Commonwealth personnel involved. I leave it at that. We may discuss the matter further when the Bill is being considered in Committee.
.- I am sure the House is indebted to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) for the historical and statistical background of the livestock slaughtering industry as related to both local and export markets. The Bill relates primarily to meat inspectors now working under the State authority in South Australia. These men are to be transferred to positions with the Department of Primary Industry as Commonwealth meat inspectors and are to have the right of entry to the Commonwealth Public Service as permanent officers. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has pointed out that while this Bill has application to South Australia it is so designed as to enable other States to take action similar to that which has been taken by the South Australian Government and the Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board in South Australia.
One of the weaknesses of the scheme seems to me to lie in the fact that it poses questions as to the extent to which the claimed advantages will actually accrue in view of the fact that the proposal applies to only one State. It seems to me desirable that if the scheme is to be fully effective it should have Australia-wide application. The admission by the Minister that the Australian Agricultural Council has failed to find a solution to the problem is a matter for concern. Surely this body, which specialises in agricultural matters, should be able to evolve a plan or formula which could have general application to all States. No doubt problems relating to State rights and other related matters have played a considerable part in the failure to evolve a plan which is acceptable to all States.
This Government must take some responsibility for the protracted discussions that have been going on for a number of years. Since 1961, I have been trying on behalf of the South Australian meat inspectors to get some clarification of what was intended in the proposed changeover and, in particular, to ensure that the rights and conditions of the inspectors who would be affected were safeguarded. I regret to say that the South Australian meat inspectors are not happy at this juncture, largely because they have been kept in ignorance as to what has been going on. Their attempts to get a clear picture of the proposed changeover have always been met with a promise to be consulted before finality was reached.
Last week, Senator Drury and I were asked to receive a deputation from the meat inspectors who are still not satisfied. That deputation submitted its case in writing and supplemented it verbally. Its members claimed that they had tried during the past four years to obtain a clear picture of what was involved. The usual reply to their inquiries was that the matter was still under consideration and that they would be fully informed when finality was reached. That is why those State meat inspectors are still apprehensive about their position today. I would strongly urge the Minister to authorise the issuing of an explanatory document setting out the conditions of employment of State inspectors, together with those of Commonwealth inspectors, because I firmly believe that such a document, by enabling the State employees to study the overall position, would be of material assistance to them in arriving at a decision as to their future.
The decision which they are required make is a most important one and it is our duty to make as much information possible available to them to assist them to arrive at a decision. Because of the widespread nature of their employment, meat inspectors are not as well organised as are the members of most trade unions. Conse quently, they have to rely largely on the efforts of individual members in presenting their case and in seeking clarification of the many points involved. The Minister would be doing these men a signal service if he issued an explanatory document for the benefit of all inspectors. Such action would also do much to allay the fears now held by many inspectors, both State and Commonwealth. It is well known that there is a fear complex in the minds of the two classes of employees. The State officers fear the consequences of being integrated with the Commonwealth inspectors, and the Commonwealth inspectors fear the intrustion of State inspectors into their realm. Therefore I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to taking what steps he can to break down that unhappy feeling and to dissolve the fear complex amongst these men. It is probably that in most cases this fear is unjustified but, when the men do not know what the exact position is, it is only natural for them to have some fears of the consequences. It is not good for the industry that there should be disputation among the inspectors who carry a great responsibility in assisting to maintain good health in the community.
I now wish to examine some of the objections and fears in the minds of inspectors employed at the Gepps Cross Metropolitan Abattoir in South Australia. In a letter written to me on behalf of the meat inspectors, this statement is made -
About two months ago we met a Committee from the Abattoir Board and asked them to give us in writing the text of this transfer as well as requesting a written reply re our service, superannuation, accumulated sick leave, accrued sick leave, etc. but no reply as yet.
In those circumstances, the apprehension felt by these people is understandable. They say that one of their objections is that they could be sent on temporary transfer at very short notice to any part of the Commonwealth to work. They say that they object to that part strongly because they have their homes established near their places of employment and many of them have other commitments in varying degrees. I discussed that very point with officers of the Department as far back as some time prior to September 1961. As a result of that discussion, I wrote to the representative of the meat inspectors in
South Australia on 1st September 1961. Amongst other things, I said -
The Commonwealth employees would have the right to volunteer for seasonal employment in other States and in the event of non-sufficient volunteers some employees may be required to go interstate for these seasonal duties involving export killings, &c.
If the Minister can give us an assurance that that practice will be followed I am sure it will immediately remove the objections of the South Australian meat inspectors who would be required to transfer, because the possibility of temporary movements interstate is the cause of one of their deep-rooted objections and a reason for much of their fear concerning this move. The departmental officers have told me verbally of the proposed procedure and I hope that the Minister can confirm that this is the intention. If he can do so I will be happy to convey his statement to the South Australian inspectors because it will represent a reply to one of their objections.
The South Australian inspectors then referred to sick leave. In the State service they enjoy three weeks sick leave per annum, which is allowed to accumulate, and 50 per cent, of the yearly sick leave allowance, or 60 hours a year, may be accrued and an inspector paid for it on retirement or resignation. These conditions do not apply in the Commonwealth service, and it appears from the Bill that the inspectors will be allowed their sick leave privileges only until the date of their transfer to the Commonwealth service. The Minister might have a look at this matter and see whether something can be done to assist these men in respect of sick leave provisions, rather than making them adhere rigidly to the existing Commonwealth requirements. I believe the Bill provides that sick leave may be accrued to the date of the changeover, but it is implicit that after that time the inspectors must accept the Commonwealth conditions with respect to sick leave.
Another matter I have been asked about is superannuation. I know that the Bill provides for transfer of contributors from the South Australian superannuation fund to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, but the South Australian inspectors point out that their superannuation scheme involves an insurance policy. Their representative said in his letter to me -
We feel that if we have to pay two superannuation schemes it would be far too costly, especially for the inspector over 45 years of age, it could cost them something like £5 or £6 per week, or we would have to let our present scheme lapse.
They fear that they might have to let their insurance scheme go and then be required to start off afresh in the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. The insurance policy that is provided under the South Australian scheme gains value with the passage of time, and the contributions towards the insurance policy could be rudely interrupted unless the Minister and the Department made adequate provisions for compensating the South Australian inspectors in this direction. I hope the Minister will consider this matter and ensure that the men will not suffer financial loss to any great extent in the proposed transfer. These men may be in an unusual position because they contribute towards an insurance policy rather than to the South Australian superannuation fund proper.
They have also raised the matter of long service leave. Their representative said -
Are we to be paid our service with the M.E.A.B. or is it to be transferred, and is the D.P.I, prepared to pay us this service at any time. Example, if an inspector should after one month’s service with the D.P.I, decide he was not happy in the service could he get his moneys due to him or would he be obliged to work for a period before he could collect his service payment?
He then mentions that the qualifying period is 10 years with the Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board and 15 years under the Department of Primary Industry, I hope the Minister will examine this point carefully and that he can assure these men that they will be fully protected.
They have raised other matters. There is, for instance, the question of promotion, and although we probably cannot expect any firm statement from the Minister, it would be appreciated by the men if the Minister could give some assurances with regard to promotion. Perhaps he can tell us how promotion will be affected by the transfer, both for the existing Commonwealth officers and for the State officers who will be transferring. The question of seniority has also been raised, and this is to a large extent wrapped up with the promotion aspect. The South
Australian inspectors entertain certain fears, and I suppose the present Commonwealth employees do too, in respect of seniority. If the Minister can give us some assurance in this connection it would be appreciated.
The men ako refer to overtime. At present they are paid double time for all overtime worked. When they join the Department of Primary Industry they will have to go back to time and a half for the first three hours, with double time thereafter. This is one of the “minuses” that the present State employees will have to endure after they transfer. Another question has been asked concerning permanent employment. I think this is provided for in the Bill, and I think that the Minister also indicated that permanency will be transferred intact when the men join the Federal organisation.
I want to raise one other matter concerning an individual inspector. In his case a most unfortunate set of circumstances has arisen. I refer to the Assistant Chief Inspector in South Australia. Normally the Assistant Chief Inspector is promoted to the position of Chief Inspector when the person holding that position retires. The Chief Inspector in South Australia should have retired 15 to 18 months ago, but because of the impending changeover the Abattoirs Board kept him in office beyond his normal retiring date, thus depriving the Assistant Chief Inspector of his promotion. Where will this man fit into the new scheme of things? He has lost his opportunity in South Australia of becoming the Chief Inspector. This was no fault of his own, and he was simply a victim of circumstances arising from the impending changeover. The delay in the finalisation of the changeover will mean a possible huge financial loss in the case of this officer. The difference between his present salary and that of the Chief Inspector would amount to £7,000 or £8,000 over the remainder of his working life, a period of about 14 years. I hope the Department will look at the position of this officer and see whether it can mete out some justice to him. At present he appears to have a forlorn future. No doubt the circumstances are unfortunate, but they have arisen and the problem must be resolved. I ask the Minister and the Department to see whether they can place this man in a position similar to the one which he should now be enjoying.
Those are my observations on behalf of the South’ Australian meat inspectors. They are not adopting a negative attitude in this matter, but simply want to have justice done. They have asked us to make representations through the proper channels. I appeal to the Minister to consider the points I have raised and see whether the men’s requirements can be fully met. If they can be fully met I am sure that the South Australian meat inspectors will be happy with the changeover as outlined in the Bill.
– in reply- I appreciate the tone of the debate, which has centred on a genuine inquiry into conditions. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton) has always shown interest in this matter and has discussed it with me on previous occasions. His concern for the meat inspectors is natural. The honorable member has indicated - and I repeat it - that all State inspectors transferred from either the Department of Agriculture or from the Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board will be transferred as permanent employees in the Public Service. Secondly, those people carry their seniority with them. Regarding the individual case mentioned, I cannot say that I can do anything particularly for that person. However, I do want to say this: I cannot see any State transferee being penalised because there is a significant rise in salary for every State inspector who transfers to the Commonwealth. The difference in salary is quits significant.
– But his seniority might not be as good.
– His seniority as a meat inspector is maintained.
– The transferee might have had certain seniority with the State service. How would you maintain that seniority in the more heavily staffed Commonwealth service without detriment to Commonwealth officers?
– All I can say ls that there is no surplus of inspectors. We are still short of inspectors and this shortage leaves room for the man entitled to promotion to be so promoted. There should be no danger of the man being penalised. I will try to answer the questions that have been put to me by honorable members. The total service of the inspector transferred is taken into consideration in regard to his furlough and long service leave. Commonwealth officers can accumulate only 30 days’ recreation leave under the Public Service Act and I take it that this will apply to State inspectors who transfer. Should there be any State inspectors with leave credits over 30 days surely that will be adjusted by the State before they transfer. That would be a fair expectation and I think that would be done. Inspectors who are in an insurance fund must, if they come to the Commonwealth, join the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. If those inspectors who are employees of the M.E.A.B. contribute to a private fund, that will not be taken over. I do not want to mislead honorable members on that point. Those inspectors will need to come into the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund as they transfer.
The number of Commonwealth inspectors at present employed has risen to 717. It was not very long ago that honorable members probably heard me say publicly that I had about 560 inspectors in my Department. The number has risen rapidly because of the need for a greater number of inspectors as meat has been exported in boned out form instead of carcass form. This requires more inspection and hence we have had to enlarge the number of the inspectors. Of course there has been a gradual increase, year by year, in the tonnage of meat made available for both export and home consumption. All the South Australian inspectors transferring to the Commonwealth will be permanent officers.
– Is there any room for temporary employees to transfer?
– We are taking them all over - those now being employed by the Department of Agriculture and the M.E.A.B. Out of the 717 inspectors in the Commonwealth now there are at present 300 temporary employees but the inspectors have a case before the Public Service Board at present seeking a greater percentage of employees. What the honorable member must remember is that a lot of these men have joined quite recently as there has been a rapid increase in the staff. My advice is that all South Australian inspectors in both the Department of Agriculture and the Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board will be taken over as permanent employees. South Australian inspectors work under a condition that they be paid for sick leave not taken up to a specified amount. No such scheme applies in the Commonwealth. Inspectors with the M.E.A.B. have an insurance policy instead of a superannuation scheme. I explained that point. We have no control over that situation. I think that is the only point mentioned by Opposition speakers in respect of which we cannot accommodate them. So far as transfers are concerned, if the State inspectors become Commonwealth inspectors they must, of course, accept transfers the same as any other Commonwealth inspector. I would say that a human approach is adopted to these things and it is necessarily an economic one. You do not pay for the transfer of an inspector when his services can be used at home. He is left at home. That is the obvious approach to these things. However, if an inspector accepts the increased salary and the conditions that go with Commonwealth service then he must expect to take transfers as any other Commonwealth inspector does.
I hope that this will prove a successful experiment because it is the first experiment. The Government will take particular notice of it. If any anomalies are revealed I will certainly look into the matter and try to correct them.
– How many inspectors will be coming over from South Australia?
– There are three inspectors coming from the Department of Agriculture and 25 from the M.E.A.B. - 28 in all. My Department is happy to get them. We are actually short of inspectors. Referring to Tasmania, we have not this same type of agreement with that State. The Commonwealth does all the inspection there. Tasmania has no inspectors of its own but pays the Commonwealth for any work that affects the domestic market, as, of course, the Commonwealth will be paid tor domestic inspection in this case. I appreciate the approach taken by honorable members when discussing this Bill. I have triedto answer the queries put to me and I assure honorable members that, to my mind, the State inspectors will benefit if they choose to transfer to the Commonwealth. It is their choice of course. If they choose to transfer they will receive a significant rise in salary, their rights and seniority will be protected and they will be taken over as permanent public servants.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Appointment to Commonwealth Public Service of State meat inspectors).
.- This clause provides -
Where a person elects, in pursuance of a notice given under thelast preceding section, to be appointed to the Public Service of the Commonwealth, the Board may (notwithstanding anything contained in the Public Service Act, except in paragraphs (a), (c) and (d) of section thirty-four of that Act) appoint him accordingly.
Does that mean that a South Australian meat inspector is certain to be appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service? If an inspector elects to transfer to the Commonwealth Service, the Minister for Primary Industry or the chief veterinary officer who is administering the legislation may determine that that inspector will be accepted. Once an inspector makes that election, is he sure to be accepted?
– I have given that assurance publicly.
– Thank you.
Clause agreed to. Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Accrued recreation and sick leave).
.- This may not be the appropriate clause under which to raise this matter, but it will do. The Minister, in the course of his speech in reply to the second reading debate, referred to South Australian officers transferring to the Commonwealth Service and preserving their seniority. His statement does not quite satisfy me that substantial damage could not be done to a Commonwealth meat inspector. The Minister said that if a very senior officer transfers from the South Australian Service to the Commonwealth Service his seniority will be preserved. What does that mean exactly? Will he be given seniority in the Commonwealth Service exactly relative to the seniority that he had in the South Australian Service? If he is given that seniority, how is injury to an officer in a corresponding position in the Commonwealth Service to be avoided? That is the question that I pose. I hope that the Minister can give a satisfactory answer to it. It could apply to officers right down the line.
– The number of inspectors to be transferred is not so great that very much damage could be done. I explained to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) before that the service as a meat inspector will be taken into consideration in determining his seniority. If State and Commonwealth inspectors have equal seniority, they may not all be wanted or it may be necessary to transfer one of the two inspectors and to retain the other in the position concerned. That is only natural. We could not have a surplus of senior men. All I can do is repeat that an inspector’s seniority as a meat inspector is preserved and, if a State inspector with a certain seniority chooses to transfer to the Commonwealth Service, he will enter the Commonwealth Service at an increased salary.
– Yes, but what about the Commonwealth officer who may be hurt?
– We have to protect our Commonwealth officers.
– But will that be done?
– I assure the honorable member that it will. What does he think we will do?
– I think that the Minister will do anything if it suits him, and he will get away with it. There is no doubt about that.
– That is all I can say.
.- Let us assume that a very senior officer in South
Australia - say, the No. 3 inspector in the South Australian Service - transfers to the Commonwealth Service. What happens when he gets into the Commonwealth Service? Does he go into the No. 3 position in that Service? If he does, he may do a substantial injury to somebody who is already in the Commonwealth Service. That is the point that I would like to have clarified.
.- I think that the Minister, in the remarks that he made a few moments ago, implied that if the No. 3 inspector in the South Australian Service transferred to the Commonwealth Service and clashed with the No. 3 inspector in the Commonwealth Service, and if one job was available in Melbourne and another job was available in Sydney, one inspector might be appointed to the job in Sydney and the other appointed to the job in Melbourne. Is that the implication in the remarks that the Minister made?
– The information supplied to me is a repetition of what I have already told honorable members. In terms of length of service as a meat inspector in the State Service, the inspector’s seniority is provided for and protected. The number of inspectors who have been employed in South Australia by the Commonwealth and the State will not necessarily be increased. They are required to give certain service now. I can see no reason why anybody will be penalised because, as I have said, we are actually short of inspectors.
– But if a man is the No. 4 meat inspector in South Australia, how does he become the No. 4 meat inspector in the Commonwealth Service without hurting the person who already is the No. 4 meat inspector in the Commonwealth Service?
– Do not ask me about the technicalities of the No. 3 or No. 4 positions. I again give an assurance that seniority as a meat inspector will be protected in the Commonwealth Service if men desire to transfer.
.- Clause 9 deals with accrued recreation and sick leave. I want to know from the Minister whether the South Australian Government has given an assurance that persons who elect to transfer to the Commonwealth Service and who have to their credit accrued recreation leave in excess of 30 days will receive their recreation leave prior to their transfer or will receive payment in lieu of that leave. That is one question that 1 would like to have answered. I rea’lise that this matter does not come within the Minister’s jurisdiction because obviously the officers will not come under his jurisdiction until they become members of the Commonwealth Public Service and he would not have control over anything that happened prior to that time. However, I would like to know whether the South Australian Government has given an assurance that officers who transfer will not lose their accrued recreation and sick leave.
It is quite apparent to me and to all other honorable members who have received representations on this matter - I know that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton) and other honorable members from South Australia have a close interest in and knowledge of this matter - that the South Australian inspectors, whom this legislation affects directly, and inspectors in other States, who could come under this legislation eventually if their respective State Governments agree, have a big decision to make. That decision is whether they will stay with the State Service or transfer to the Commonwealth Service. Quite frankly, that is a big decision for a man to make if he has been in the State Service for 10 or 20 years and if he is in his forties or even in his fifties. I ask the Minister to consider two alternatives. The first is that he make an officer available to the meat inspectors’ associations in the various States - in particular in South Australia at this time, and also in the other States as the requirement arises - to explain the conditions of the Commonwealth Service and the differences in conditions between the State and Commonwealth Services. As an alternative, or additionally, when each individual meat inspector is given the opportunity by letter, as I understand the Bill provides, to elect to become a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, will the Minister make available to him a statement comparing conditions in the State Public Service in which he now serves as a permanent or a temporary officer with conditions in the Commonwealth Public Service, which he will join as either a permanent or a temporary officer? I believe that it is most important that in the few weeks that the meat inspector has in which to decide he be given every opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of joining the Commonwealth Public Service. I ask that the matter be cleared up for the inspectors in the two ways that I have suggested.
It is most important that this information Initially be conveyed to the meat inspectors privately so that there will be no discord or trouble among them. If the transfer in South Australia proceeds smoothly it could have an effect on the transition in other States. Information could be provided to meat inspectors by making available to them a Commonwealth officer who could explain the conditions of service. Alternatively, he could provide that information to the meat inspectors’ associations. 1 believe that if a clear statement comparing conditions in the State and Commonwealth Public Services were made available to the individuals it would clear the way for them to make the very important decisions that they have to make.
– I did make the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton), but I believe that the Minister was conferring with one of his officers when 1 began my remarks on that point, and may have missed what 1 said. I do not think he replied to the point in answering the other matters that I raised.
– I thought I had answered the point earlier. The full details of all the arrangements of transfer have been made available to the Department of Agriculture in South Australia for the benefit of all meat inspectors. A representative of the Commonwealth Meat Inspectors Association stated in a letter dated 26th July 1962 that, as a result of a meeting of the Association, the Association had agreed to the arrangement. In his letter he referred to the meeting and said -
I have been empowered to accept the package deal on behalf of my association -
That is the Commonwealth Association - namely, M.E.A.B./State inspectors having their seniority assessed from the time they were appointed as meat inspectors only, and the members of my association to be given permanencies equivalent in number to the number of M.E.A.B./State inspectors being taken over by the Department of Primary Industry.
All the details have been given to the State Department of Agriculture, but in addition all the information will be contained in the Act. The rights of the inspectors will be protected. I can say no more than that.
If the inspectors choose to join the Commonwealth Public Service their recreation leave will be protected to the extent of 30 days, because that is the maximum amount of leave that Commonwealth inspectors may accrue. We expect that the officers will have been paid by the Metropolitan and Export Abattoirs Board or the State Department of Agriculture for any additional leave that they have accrued. It is only right that the leave should be paid for by those bodies. The Commonwealth will accept no responsibility for leave in excess of 30 days.
– Have the other States agreed to pay it?
– I do not know that.
.- I still want to make the point that many people are involved. They are individuals who have different circumstances applying to their service. Some may have been in the industry for only two or three years, but others may have been meat inspectors for 20 years. Their ages would differ and they would have a big problem in deciding whether or not they should transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service. I believe that it would help considerably if an officer of the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry were to visit South Australia and were available to inform the meat inspectors. An inspector would be able to say to that officer: “These are my circumstances. I have been a meat inspector for 20 years. I have paid so much in superannuation and have accumulated so much leave. What would I be paid by the Commonwealth, what are the rates for overtime, and what are the conditions of service if I do transfer? “ There is nothing like being able to obtain such information personally.
The Minister says that the information will be contained in the Act, but an act does not mean very much to people outside. To them it is merely an act of Parliament couched in legal terms. The inspectors should have available to them someone who will interpret the Act for them and tell them what is involved in their transfer. That is a most important aspect. A number of meat inspectors in South Australia will be concerned about the possibility of transferring, and a great many others throughout Australia will eventually have to face the same decision.
– Conferences have been going on for months, so they will all be acquainted with every detail.
– But the individuals may not be familiar with the details.
– The Individuals would know.
– I do not think that ls go, because many honorable members have been asked by individual inspectors for details of what is involved in the changeover. They say that they have been in the industry for so long and have enjoyed certain conditions of service. They want to &now how the transfer will affect them. If the Minister wants the inspectors to transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service it is most important that he should make an officer available to them to answer their queries so that they can find out what changes would be involved. We believe that that would be to their benefit.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported* without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Adermann) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29th October (vide page 2472), on motion by Mr. Hulme -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Is it the wish of the House to debate the subject matter of the three measures now as suggested by the PostmasterGeneral? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
110.50].- Mr. Deputy Speaker, four Bills relating to television and broadcasting are on the notice paper. The three which we are at present debating, and another which is to be debated later, will be examined in vain by the public for any provision to protect the independence of men who offend reactionaries by providing honest and objective commentary on, and interpretation of, matters of public importance. The people will look in vain for any measure to promote the screening of high quality Australian programmes. They will look in vain for any measure to regulate and restrict the volume and timing of commercial advertising on television, or for any measure to prevent the spread of television monopolies. Instead, the three Bills with which I am now dealing have only one object, namely, to revise and to increase the licence fees payable by commercial television and broadcasting stations. But even the increases in licence fees proposed in these measures bear no relation whatever to the immense increase in metropolitan television revenues and profits since the existing licence fees were fixed.
Some increase in the licence fees just had to be made, of course. They could not be allowed to remain at their present levels. Some revision of the licence fees is due - indeed, very much overdue. The existing position had become a public scandal. The millionaire proprietors of the metropolitan television stations, who also control metropolitan newspapers, had, of course, taken good care to ensure that the public were not awakened to this scandal. These measures are further evidence that the Government is determined not to offend its rich and powerful friends. By comparison with rates in other countries where commercial television operates, the licence fees proposed even now are ridiculously low and bear no relation whatever to the value of a licence to those to whom it has been given. The measure of what the Government proposes can be judged by the official figures. The revenues of the commercial television stations in Australia have risen sixteenfold since 1956-57. In eight years, the revenues have become sixteen times greater than they were.
– For the same number of stations?
– Certainly not for the same number of stations, but the honorable member will see that that is not relevant to the argument I am advancing. I repeat that the revenues of the commercial television stations have increased sixteenfold during the last eight years, while the licence fees have remained unchanged. The Government now proposes to increase fourfold the licence fees payable by all the commercial stations. The total licence fees payable, instead of being about £113,000, will now be about £400,000, out of total television revenues of about £18.9 million. I remind the House of the figures given by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme). The annual licence fee at present payable by a television station is £100, plus 1 per cent, of the gross earnings of the station in respect of the televising of advertisements. The Minister mentioned the spectacular increase in the revenues of commercial television stations. It certainly is spectacular. One would have thought that it would have attracted the Minister’s attention in such a way as to have caused him to adjust the licence fees to accord with this spectacular increase in commercial television revenues. In his second reading speech, he stated -
From £1.2 million in 1956-57 the gross revenue had risen to £18.8 million in 1962-63 with profits in that year of £3 million. The gross revenue of the 10 metropolitan stations for 1962-63 was £16.8 million with profits, before tax and licence fees, of about £3.5 million - a profit margin of the order of 20 per cent. Again the gross revenue of the four stations in Sydney and Melbourne rose to about £11.2 million in 1962-63 with profits, before tax and licence fees, of £2.3 million approximately, representing an overall profit margin of 20 per cent. The overall return on issued capital of these four stations,, before tax and licence fees, was of the order of 48 per cent, while, after tax and licence fees, it was of the order of 28 per cent.
I repeat that, before tax and licence fees, the overall return was 48 per cent., and even after tax and licence fees, it was still 28 per cent. As I have said, despite the spectacular increase in the earnings of commercial television stations, the licence fees have remained unchanged. The changes that the Government now proposes to make are calculated by the Minister himself to produce about an additional £280,000 a year for the Commonwealth, out of total television revenues of just on £19 million. The television stations, out of total revenues of almost £19 million, will be left, after the Postmaster-General has made this adjustment and the Parliament has approved it, with only £18,750,000, or thereabouts. This is the measure of the changes now proposed.
The Television Stations Licence Fees Bill provides for the application of licence fees at the following rates on gross earnings from advertising receipts: 1 per cent, up to £500,000; 2 per cent, from £500,001 to £1 million; 3 per cent, from £1,000,001 to £2 million; and 4 per cent, over £2 million. The Minister has told us that the four commercial television stations in Sydney and Melbourne earn in excess of £2 million a year. They will be the only stations that will be subject to the 4 per cent. rate. All the other metropolitan stations, with the exception of the one at Hobart, are now earning about £1 million a year. The Minister, in his second reading speech, stated that the present scale of licence fees is unrealistic, and he invited honorable members to agree with that view. He said -
I believe honorable members will agree that the present scale of licence fees is unrealistic and that changes are justified.
I suggest that the proposed rates also are completely unrealistic, since they bear no relation whatever to the increased revenues and profits of the television station owners. The Opposition invites the House to agree with this view. It also invites the House to say that the proceeds of television licence fees should be used and used exclusively to promote Australian television entertainment. Accordingly, I move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the House, while not refusing to give the Bill a second reading, expresses the opinion that (a) the rates of licence fees on gross earnings from advertising receipts in excess of £1,000,000 should be substantially increased and (b) provision should be made so that all the revenue from the licence fees is paid into a special fund and used solely to assist the production of Australian television programmes”.
The reasons for the amendment, I should think, would be clear to honorable members who are interested in this matter. The figures show the enormous earnings and the very high profit rate of metropolitan television stations, especially those in Sydney and Melbourne. Of course, other factors enter into the rate of earning and the rate of profits, but the primary and most important factor is the possession of a licence. Two statements that have been made by people on the very inside of television have never been contradicted. One is that a television licence in Sydney or Melbourne is a licence to print money and the other is that a television licence in either of these cities is immediately worth at least £1 million in cash to the man who gets it. This is true to a greater or lesser extent in other metropolitan centres.
A licence is an extremely valuable asset, and it is an asset that belongs to the community. Since it belongs to the community, it is obvious that the community should receive value for the licence from the person to whom it is granted. If anyone doubts this, let him see what such a licence would bring if it were put up for auction amongst all the approved applicants for the licence. That might be as good a way of granting a licence as the Alice in Wonderland method used now through the medium of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, when prospective licensees, in telling the Board about their intentions, make all sorts of statements that have no relation whatever to what they do if they are awarded the licence. Alternatively the House should have a look at what is done in the United Kingdom where even the Conservative Government imposed a licence fee of 40 per cent, of gross advertising revenue in the same circumstances in which the Australian Government now proposes to impose a licence fee of 4 per cent.
– The circumstances are totally different.
– Whatever the total difference is, the fact remains that the licence granted on the present terms is described by those inside the television in dustry as being equal to a licence to print money and as being worth at least £1 million in cash to the man who gets it. That £1 million belongs to the community and no licence, which is a community asset, should be granted without the person who gets it paying to the community what it is worth.
– That is a good old Socialist view.
– If that is Socialism, every fair minded Australian should be a Socialist. Why should any private entrepreneur obtain from the community something of great value without giving to the community something commensurate in return for it?
– The honorable member should have another look at this.
– I repeat what I said to the House, that the value of the licence under the present terms is £1 million in cash to the man who gets it on the day he gets it. Therefore, he has not given commensurate value for it and he should have to give commensurate value for it. The honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson) laughs, but he has no more to say.
A special factor which adds value to the commercial television licence and which constitutes a very powerful argument for the proposed increase in the licence fee and for a further increase still is the weakness of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Every time the Commission makes a blunder or exhibits weakness in programming, it adds very many viewers to the commercial stations and therefore increases the profitability of the commercial stations. The treatment of the “ Four Corners “ programme in recent months stands out as a very definite way of turning viewers from the national to the commercial stations. The confidence of viewers is jolted when the Commission, which, as the national broadcasting network, has a duty to provide independent and courageous programmes on public affairs, suddenly removes the men who made this programme so popular, does so in an atmosphere redolent of base motives and utterly fails in its obligation to justify the course it has taken.
The Opposition’s reason for proposing the further increase only on revenue above £1 million is that the country stations, all of which have revenue of less than £1 million, are all at present still losing money. I think that last year they lost a total of £450,000 or thereabouts. While their prospects are improving, they are not at present receiving great benefits from their possession of licences. When their revenues and profits increase, they will go into the higher category and will have to pay the higher licence fee. At present, we feel that they should be encouraged, while they are making losses, to plough back into the provision of services and programmes the maximum amount of money available to them. There is no reason, therefore, why the Government should seek a larger contribution from them. In fact, the independent television stations in country centres throughout Australia deserve every protection and assistance that this country can give them against the television monopolists who are so powerful in the capital cities and who are so eager and ready to stretch out their hands and grasp control of further television stations.
I am dealing almost entirely with television stations because although the position of broadcasting stations is similar, their increase in profit rate has not been nearly so great. I think that in 1956 the profits of all commercial broadcasting stations totalled £7,500,000 and today they are about £12 million. I think that only one or two commercial broadcasting stations will have to pay an increased licence fee under this legislation. The revenue of individual broadcasting stations does not reach into the higher brackets that the television stations have attained.
The second part of the Opposition’s amendment deserves the utmost support from the House; I am sure it has the utmost support of the Australian public. This is the proposal by the Opposition that provision should be made to pay all the revenue from the licence fees into a special fund and to use it solely to assist the production of Australian television programmes. Australian dramatists, authors, actors, dancers, musicians and artists of all kinds deserve and need ample opportunity to develop and exercise their own talents in their own country. At present many of them are being deprived of that opportunity. Names would spring to the mind of every honorable member of distinguished men and women in these fields who have been compelled to go abroad in order to receive a satisfactory return for the talents and abilities that they possess. I could name many of them. We need such people as much as they need us. They are part of the nation and no nation is complete without them. In fact, we are not a nation, unless we have sufficient of these people and unless they have, inside our territory, the full opportunity to develop their talents. They are certainly not attaining their proper place today in Australian television.
Similarly, every country needs its own film industry and practically every civilised country in the world has recognised the need to have a film industry of its own and has taken steps to assist and encourage such an industry. Australia is no exception in needing a film industry, but Australia is an exception in that it has no film industry today except a film industry which makes a few advertising programmes and a few documentaries. Its film industry has been crippled by imports, and the Government does nothing to remedy the position. The question is largely financial. Other factors enter into it, but we will not be able to have a satisfactory film industry in Australia without assistance to enable the industry to overcome the tremendous handicaps it suffers at present from the import of films which have already paid all of their costs in other countries and which can be sold to this country at a cheap price. We should look around to see what other countries are doing to promote their own cultural, artistic and dramatic expression, and we should do the same. At present there is a requirement by the Minister that television stations should provide 45 per cent, of Australian content in their programmes.
– -What docs the A.B.C. do? Tell us about it.
– I am sorry, but I am dealing with a bill relating to commercial television stations and I had better get on with my discussion of it. I could say a lot of things about the A.B.C. and I will be delighted to have an opportunity of saying them in the House later, because my comments will be strongly critical. On the matter of Australian programmes it is unfortunate that while the majority of the commercial television stations are complying with the letter of the Postmaster-General’s requirement, in this respect they aire certainly evading the spirit of it because in the 45 per cent, of Australian content which they claim they include such things as street interviews, which cost them nothing to obtain, weather reports, talks on gardening and various other items which enable them to comply with the letter of the PostmasterGeneral’s requirement without spending money or really assisting the development of Australian theatrical, musical and other talent. This is a great pity indeed, and I hope that the Minister will take renewed note of the comments of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. I quote a sentence or two from the Broadcasting Control Board’s report where, referring to the Australian programming by commercial stations, in paragraph 212 at page 69, the following appears -
The Board is not yet convinced that the basis of calculating the amount of Australian programmes is completely satisfactory. When the current definition of an Australian programme, for Statistical purposes, was adopted in 1957 . . . there Was good reason for accepting, as Australian, all programmes which involved the use of the station’s cameras either in the studios or at outside broadcasts, as well as programmes specially made in Australia for the station’s use. At that time the creation of programmes was a novel procedure, whatever form they might take. Now, after seven years of experience, stations have shown themselves to be capable of high quality production, although much of the transmission time that ls credited to Australian programmes does not really contain items of high quality. The Board’s method of calculation of Australian programmes excludes advertisements and “filler” items and such incidentals as locally “hosting” an imported programme, because these items do not constitute a (programme in themselves. Many Australian programmes, however, have no greater merit than the excluded items . . .
In very polite language the Board has there made a most stern indictment of the response which the television stations are making to the Minister’s requirements, because it says that many of the items which the commercial stations put over as Australian programmes have no greater merit than advertisements, filler items and such incidentals as locally hosting an imported programme. The report continues - . . the Board is now considering methods of completely recasting the basis on which calculation of Australian programmes would be made. Television in Australia has passed the stage at which it could expect the special consideration given to a new industry, and this should be reflected in tho quality of local programmes.
I hope that the Board will hasten its reconsideration of this matter and that the Minister will give his fullest co-operation in ensuring that full observance of the revised basis is given by commercial television stations. I quote ako a brief reference from the Senate Committee’s report. The Minister will be familiar with the report and will know that on almost every page are excellent recommendations and factual information. Dealing with the position of the Australian dramatist the Committee reported as follows -
The problem of the Australian dramatist has been already covered and the Committee’s recommendations are made against the following background: -
Far too little indigenous drama is being produced by Australian dramatists.
Far too little indigenous drama is being produced on the stage or upon television.
Too many of Australia’s best dramatists are not being employed in Australia.
The remuneration of scriptwriters is far too low.
Our dramatists cannot be expected to pro duce good quality work without adequate experience and encouragement.
The Committee mentioned a series of detailed considerations for overcoming these disadvantages. It dealt also with the position of the Australian film industry in considerable detail, but I want to read only one or two sentences from its report as follows -
The rise and fall of the Australian film industry ls a melancholy spectacle for contemplation by Australians. One often hears it said that “ Australia can never make films “, and that the business of film making is “ best left to those countries (meaning the United States of America) who oan do it better than we can”. The Committee rejects the sentiments so expressed, lt is not generally known that Australia produced the world’s first motion picture (“Soldiers of the Cross” in 1901), that from the beginning of the century until the immediate post World War I. years Australia was one of the leading producers in the world of full-length (“feature”) films, that no less than 198 full-length “feature” films were made in and exported by Australia during that period and that these films were made by Australian artists, directors and producers. With the advent of sound and the “ take-over “ of Australian cinemas by American interests, the industry virtually collapsed. It has remained in a state of near extinction ever since. In recent years, Australian studios have produced less than one “feature” film per year. They still produce some of the best documentary films” in the world; but if it were not for the directive issued by the Government in 1960 whereby the importation of advertising “commercials” was virtually prohibited, the film industry would now be extinct
It is dreadful that the step taken by the Australian Government to protect the Australian film industry has been the step which reserves to the industry the right to produce advertising commercials. Any government should be able to do better than that for an industry which is essential to the development of our spirit of nationhood and our culture. The Committee’s report continued -
This directive has virtually the effect of a quota. These facts are mentioned to emphasise the point that this country has already demonstrated that it can make world quality films and export them and the only reason why it did not continue to do so is that the industry was left unprotected and squeezed out of business by an overseas industry which was heavily protected in its own country.
This is a situation which is within the Government’s power to remedy. The remedying of the situation would be assisted by the acceptance of our amendment.
I want to direct the Minister’s attention to what I think may be a serious anomaly now created in the method of calculation and the basis of assessment of licence fees. As I understand the Minister’s second reading speech, there is a loophole in the present legislation which allows commercial stations arbitrarily to decide how much they will charge for advertising and how much they will charge for programmes. At present the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has no clear way of deciding the rights or wrongs of the matter. In order to close the loophole the Government now proposes a basis of assessment in which advertising receipts will be regarded as the whole of the station’s turnover and the collection of the licence fee will be a first charge on the whole of the station’s revenues. In his second reading speech the Minister said -
The adoption of the advertising receipts basis, to which I have referred, would mean that the licence fee would be levied on all revenue received from advertisers by a licensee with respect to the broadcasting or televising of advertisements, extending to cover both station time and payments for programmes.
This means, as the Minister said -
Does not that mean that if a television station is prepared to spend a large amount of money to obtain a high quality programme it will have to pay a higher licence fee?
– Only if it sells the programme.
– Exactly. If a sponsor is prepared to put on the television screen a high quality programme which has cost a great deal to make he will be penalised by having to pay a higher licence fee. In other words, instead of encouraging television stations to produce good programmes and encouraging sponsors to spend money on first class programmes, we will be doing the opposite. This is a serious anomaly to which the Minister might direct his attention.
Suppose you are trying to encourage production of Australian programmes. Suppose you have a station and a sponsor who is prepared to assist in the production of Australian programmes even though it will cost him twice as much as it would to import a first quality American programme which has already paid for itself time and again by its sales in America and which we in Australia can buy cheaply. The Government is virtually saying: “We would like you to do that and we encourage you to do that, but if you do it, we will penalise you financially “. The station which spends the least amount of money on programmes will be in two positions. First, it will be in a position where it pays the lowest licence fee. Secondly, it will be in a position to make the highest profit because it will have paid a smaller amount for the programmes that it sells to sponsors.
Popular taste does not automatically prefer Australian programmes. Many American and other imported programmes which do not cost the stations a high fee are nevertheless highly entertaining and very popular with the public. But if you tell the stations that if they buy a cheap American programme they will not only get a popular programme but will also attract a lower licence fee you will certainly discourage television stations and national advertisers from buying and producing Australian television programmes. Whatever else we are in disagreement about, I am certain that everybody, including the Minister, is desirous of doing everything to encourage advertisers and commercial television stations to use Australian programmes and to spend money to enable Australian directors, producers, actors, scriptwriters and dramatists to earn a living, to occupy themselves in this country and to produce programmes which breathe the spirit of Australia and give us some feeling of belonging to a nation which has its own culture, its own ideals and its own traditions. In this respect I think the Minister might very well have another look at the way in which he is trying to close the loopholes that exist in the present legislation.
– Does the honorable member want to re-open it?
– Yes, I do. I think this ls a very serious matter, but I may be mistaken in my interpretation of what this means. I rely only on my reading of the Act and my interpretation of the Minister’s speech but if it means what I think it means, it needs re-opening. I think it is very Important that it should be reopened and I put it to the Minister on that basis. I conclude by commending to the House the amendment that I have moved to the second reading.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 12 midnight.
Wednesday, 11th November 1964.
– Is the amendment seconded?
.- I second the amendment. Its intention is to ensure that something is done to increase the employment of Australian artists and expand (he Australian content of television programmes. This topic has been discussed in this House on a number of occasions. We of the Opposition take this opportunity to seek to amend the Bill to provide that a fund to assist in the production of Australian television programmes shall be established from moneys to be obtained by increasing the licence fees paid by commercial television stations.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has emphasised in a number of its reports that it is dissatisfied with the Australian content of programmes. As far back as 1958, the Board laid down in its 10th annual report the standard for determining what was an Australian programme.
Stated shortly, the Board said that such a programme was one for the production of which the cameras of the television stations were used. On page 37 of that report, the Board stated -
The proportion of Australian programmes is illustrated in the accompanying graph which covers the period from June 19S7 to June 1958.
It also stated that the amount of Australian material being used was still very substantial. Perusal of the graph disclosed that the Australian content of the programmes of Station ATN in Sydney was 68 per cent, in about June 1957. That percentage was maintained until about September 1957. By December of that year the Australian content had dropped suddenly to 50 per cent. It decreased gradually to June 1958. and then took a sudden drop to about 43 per cent, by September 1958. The Australian content of the programmes of the other Sydney station - TCN - was about 45 per cent, in June 1957. By September, it had increased to 52 per cent, but it dropped suddenly to 38 per cent, in March 1958. In September 1958 it was still at about the same level. The report also discloses that in a sample week taken in the winter of 1958, the proportion of items of Australian origin on the Sydney stations was 41.18 per cent, and on the Melbourne stations 42.43 per cent.
– That was six years ago.
– The honorable member is assisting me considerably with the point I am about to make. That was six, years ago, and the percentage is still the same. The point we are trying to establish is that in the initial stages the Australian content of programmes was much higher than it is now. By September 1958, the proportion of items of Australian origin had dropped back to about 42 per cent, both on the Sydney stations and the Melbourne stations, and it is still at about that level. It its 15th annual report the Board sets our a table showing the programmes of Australian origin on commercial stations for the year 1962-63. That table states the proportion of Australian content of the programmes of the two Sydney stations as 38 per cent, for ATN and 39 per cent, for TON. In 1958 the proportion was about 42 per cent, and at that stage it was supposedly compulsory for stations to televise Australian programmes at least one hour per week in peak viewing periods.
When we look at the sixteenth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ending 30th June 1964, we find again that the Board speaks about the need to increase the Australian content of programmes. In September 1963 the Minister told the stations that they were to increase their Australian content from 40 per cent to 45 per cent. and they were to televise two hours of Australian programmes in the peak period from 7.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. When we turn to the table on page 68 of the Board’s report we find that no fewer than five stations - ATN Sydney, TCN Sydney, GTV Melbourne, QTQ Brisbane and TVW Perth- failed to act on the instruction, or the request, of the Minister to televise two hours of Australian programmes in the peak viewing period. In its report the Board said -
Five stations failed to comply with the Minister’s requirement to televise at least two hours of distinctively Australian programmes in the peak viewing period between 7.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. This has been taken up with each of the stations concerned. It is a matter of some concern to the Board, especially in view of the discussions to which reference is made in the next two paragraphs.
But that is all the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and apparently the Minister, intends to do about the infringement of the instructions that have been issued to the television stations. Certainly a little bit further on in its report, on page 69, the Board again referred to the matter. The passage has already been quoted by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) so I will not quote it again. The Board suggested that it is now time that the stations had a look at the standards they use to judge the Australian television content of their programmes. But surely all of the commercial television stations have had ample opportunity, since they commenced in 1956, to increase the Australian content of their programmes. They have failed to do so for a large number of reasons. Amongst these is the fact that they would lose some of their profit if they were to spend it on the production of Australian programmes.
In the same report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board there is a table at page 103 headed “Television Programmes of Australian Origin - Analysis by Categories Metropolitan Stations (52 weeks) and Country Commercial Stations (13 weeks)”. The table shows the following position -
– What type of programmes would the honorable member recommend?
– I should think that the commercial television stations owe it to the Australian community to provide programmes in all these fields that will give our actors, writers and producers an opportunity to develop their talent.
– What does the Australian Broadcasting Commission do?
– Which figures does the honorable member want? If he cares to get a copy of this report he can see them for himself. Page 103 of the sixteenth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board gives a table showing the proportion of viewing time devoted to programmes of Australian origin. It shows that in the case of, for instance, serious drama, while the commercial stations devote no time at all to Australian programmes in this category, the A.B.C. stations devote 4 per cent. of viewing time to such programmes. For domestic and comedy drama the figure for commercial stations is . 4 per cent., while for A.B.C. stations it is 1.1 per cent. Then if we look at current affairs, for instance, we find that the A.B.C. stations give 2 per cent. of viewing time to Australian activities under this heading. They give 4.1 per cent, to religious matter and 4.7 per cent. to social and controversial matter. In all these categories the A.B.C. stations devote a good deal more time to Australian programmes than the commercial stations do.
This is a point that should be stressed. The A.B.C. is left to carry the burden of Australian presentation in all these categories because in respect of at least some categories of programmes the viewing public generally prefer the imported programmes from the United States or the United Kingdom.
– Now the honorable member is answering his own argument.
– At least the Australian Broadcasting Commission is prepared to encourage Australian artists, writers and producers, in order to help in developing some sort of a film and television industry in Australia. I cai, quite appreciate the outlook of members of the Country Party. They get up in this House and talk about Communism and about not recognising Red China, but when it comes to selling their wheat they are prepared to sell their principles down the river. When the defence estimates or defence bills are being debated the members of the Country Party say that Australia needs to be defended. They tell us about the dreadful menace of Communism at our very door. But when it comes to selling Australian primary products they will sell them to anybody on any terms and on any conditions. Their attitude is likewise reflected in their comments about the development of an Australian television industry and employment opportunities for artists, writers and producers. It does not surprise me at all to hear members of the Country Party interjecting and asking what the Australian Broadcasting Commission does, and suggesting that the programmes that are shown with Australian content are not up to the standard of United States or British programmes. The film and television industries in those countries have been in existence for a much longer time than those in Australia. You must craw] before you can walk. I think it is up to commercial stations, and it is up to every member in this House, to give encouragement to our Australian industry even though the programmes on occasions might be a little inferior to imported programmes.
There are other comments in the report of the Board dealing with commercial stations that I think should be stressed tonight. 1 refer, for instance, to the volume of advertising on commercial stations, which is supposed to be restricted within limits laid down by the Board. By various devices and subterfuges many of the commercial stations are flouting the standards that have been laid down. A station might put on three spot advertisements one after the other and then break in with a station identification followed by another couple of advertisements. It might give two spot advertisements and then show a long trailer of one of its forthcoming programmes, followed immediately by a couple of advertisements. I know that this is strictly within the standards laid down. Station identifications and trailers of coming programmes are not regarded as advertisements, but the stations adopt these devices simply to increase the volume of their advertising. On page 70 of the report from which I have been quoting there is a table headed “ Percentage of Time Occupied by Advertisements in an Average Week “. Figures are given for 1963 and 1964. A break-up is given for the various days of the week, and the table shows that the proportion of time taken up by advertisements on Sunday was 10.3 per cent, in 1963 and 9 per cent, in 1964. The figures for Friday are given, showing 8.9 per cent, in 1963 and 8.1 per cent, in 1964. The percentage of time occupied by advertisements in an average week in 1963 was 9.1 and in 1964 it was 8.9.
One might say that there is a decline in the amount of advertising that is appearing on television, but if one looks at a further table on page 72 of the report one finds that that is not the case. The table shows the weekly hours of transmission to the nearest quarter hour. I refer to only a few stations. The weekly hours of transmission for ATN Sydney for the quarter ended March 1964 were 92i hours, and 72 hours for the quarter ended June 1964. For TCN Sydney the weekly hours of transmission for the quarter ended March 1964 were 85i, and 73 for the quarter ended June 1964. For ADS Adelaide, in the quarter ended March 1964, the weekly hours of transmission were 76, and they were 60i for the quarter ended June 1964. For TVW Perth the weekly hours of transmission were 78i for the quarter ended March 1964 and 69 for the quarter ended June 1964. That comparison of the weekly hours of transmission in two quarterly periods shows that they are not nearly as good as they might be.
I feel that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should have a look at the bitter and continuous complaints that are made, not only by members in this House, but by people outside, about the interruptions to programmes by advertisements. I understand that later in this debate the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will move an amendment to obtain stricter policing of certain television advertisements. I wonder whether the fact is that the commercial television stations are now so powerful that they can almost tell the Government what to do. As an example, I refer to the request of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to be granted time on commercial television stations in order to give what he calls a “ report to the nation “. It would have been, undoubtedly, the opening speech in the forthcoming Senate election campaign. It is not yet known whether or not the commercial television stations intend to give the time. Apparently some are kicking over the traces. I wonder whether they are kicking over the traces and refusing to give the time - unless it is paid for - because they want to show the Government that if television licence fees are increased they will take retalitory action against it; or is it because if the Prime Minister is given time on the commercial television stations they will have to give some time to the Opposition in order that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) can give his report to the nation and make his criticisms of the Government policy?
I feel that the Postmaster-General, his predecessor and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board have all along been much too lenient with the commercial television stations. For far too long have television station licence fees remained at too low a level. I, at least, congratulate the Minister for raising the licence fees for commercial television stations. I still feel that this is not nearly sufficient. The Minister referred in his second reading speech to the turnover of capital and the gross profit on capital of the commercial television stations. As an accountant he would know that commercial television is a worthwhile investment. If a person can receive between 20 per cent, and 28 per cent, net profit on his turnover per year, that is an investment that the Minister would advise any of his clients to make.
There is no reason why the Government should allow this state of affairs to continue. There is certainly no reason why the commercial television stations should be allowed to use imported programmes and not give encouragement to the Australian artists, writers and producers. The amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro deserves the consideration of the Minister and of the House.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make one further comment. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is criticised fairly regularly for the fact that it presents controversial programmes, generally on “Four Corners “. Criticism is directed at the Commission by members of the Government if they happen to believe that a programme is slanted against them, by members of the Opposition if they believe it is slanted against them, by the people associated with the Australian Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament if they believe it is slanted against them, or by members of the Returned Servicemen’s League if they believe it is slanted against them. The Commission is inclined to listen to this criticism and to make staff movements and alterations in the programmes that are presented.
I do not think that the Commission should take much notice of such criticism. I believe that we in this country are big enough and adult enough to watch controversial programmes so long as they present fairly and justly both sides of the argument. But at least the Commission makes some attempt to present controversial programmes in order to exercise the minds of the viewers. Rarely do we find a controversial programme of any moment on any of the commercial television stations - and I restrict my reference to the commercial stations in Sydney. I rarely watch their programmes, let alone those of commercial stations in other States. It is time that commercial television stations also showed programmes that are of interest to the adult members of the community and to people who like to see matters of moment and controversy discussed. I congratulate the Australian Broadcasting Commission for at least attempting to do this.
I would like the Postmaster-General to ensure that not only is the Australian content of commercial television programmes increased but also that the stations present enjoyable programmes that are of interest and educational value to the adult members of the community. I commend to all honorable members the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Any honorable member who desires to see Australia develop in all its aspects must support the amendment.
– I will not detain honorable members for long. I am sorry I will not be able to support the amendment moved by the Opposition. The speakers for the Opposition have been, perhaps, a little out of touch with reality. They spoke of the great profits that had been made by commercial television stations, but they failed to mention that the stations, when they were formed, were pioneering and risk ventures. In point of fact, during the early stages it was hard to get capital. It is true that there was a period during which commercial television licences were very valuable but this period seems to have passed. Apparently this fact has escaped the attention of members of the Opposition. The increase in the number of stations has had the double effect of reducing the revenue available and increasing the cost of imported programmes. Because of this, the stations are considerably less profitable, I think, than they were. The Opposition is perhaps a little out of date in its approach to these matters. I would not support at the present time a fiercer imposition by way of tax than the Government now suggests.
With regard to the second point that the Opposition makes, again I feel that it is a little ill advised. The Opposition seeks the establishment of a large fund but it docs not say how the money is to be used. I would not like to see a large fund just kicking around without there being any set way in which it was to be used or applied. I do not think this is a well advised amendment although I think there is some kind of merit in the motives behind it. I - like nearly everybody else in this House, I think - would like to see a proper increase in the Australian content of television and broadcasting programmes. ] do believe that, not only in drama but particularly in drama, we should have a greater Australian content. I am all for this. I think I can say that I have had a consistent record in this regard. For example, I can remember the question of the Macquarie broadcasting network, which I raised in this House - about 10 or 12 years ago. I was sorry at that stage that the Opposition did not see fit to support the proposal put forward, but the Government did see fit to support it.
Let me ask why it is that we are not getting more Australian content into our programmes. I think that there are two reasons. First, the Australian programmes do not seem to command the same audiences as the imported programmes. This is something which I for one very much regret. I feel that the blame lies with us in Australia. It does not lie with anybody else except the viewers, who apparently prefer what I can only describe as the alien corn to the local productions, but this is a matter of the preference which the Australian public by its listening and viewing habits has expressed. I regret this state of affairs and I think honorable members on both sides of the House would join me in regretting it. The Australian programmes may not in themselves be sufficiently mature. Here is a matter in which I think we have to assist. I would join with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in regretting that in some respects, particularly in regard to our film industry, we have gone backward and not forward, but I do not think this can be cured by Government subsidy in the way that he suggested. I do not for one moment say that we should not try to cure it.
Let me just point out one other matter to the House. One of the reasons, I think, why Australian programmes are not getting the support that they should get is that in some respects they are not sufficiently Australian, and the respect in which they are not Australian is one which I regret very much. Honorable members know very well that foreign influences, and particularly the organised Communist Party, which is a foreign and anti-Australian influence, have been successful in taking some of the Australian content out of the programmes. The way in which this organisation- - this unAustralian, anti-Australian organisation - has succeeded in contaminating the stream of Australian drama and Australian activity in this regard is notorious. There has been an organised attempt by a foreign organisation to corrupt the Australian content of our drama. This is regrettable, and I hope that honorable members of the Opposition join me in regretting it.
However, Sir, I shall not take up the time of the House any further. I hope to move an amendment later in the proceedings which will have the effect of encouraging the stations to put on more Australian literary, dramatic and artistic works. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to the motion for the second reading of the Bill seems to me to be ill advised.
.I desire to address a few remarks to the debate on the Television Stations Licence Fees Bill. It is interesting to discover that at the witching hour of 12.30 a.m. the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has found some Communists on the television screens. At this hour of the night, apart from the reality of the situation, it is almost frightening. I never thought that the honorable member, no matter where he may find Communists, would have considered that they were responsible for most of the bad material on television.
I want to address a few broad comments to the measure that is under discussion and then to deal with one aspect of political advertising on television screens. First, let me say that I believe that the television stations can well afford to pay any costs involved in the additional charges that are being imposed. I dismiss completely any criticism of the increases that are being imposed, except that I say that they are not nearly enough compared with the profit and turnover figures that were given by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) in his second reading speech. I will not repeat those figures. The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) restated them. A good comparison of the activities of the television stations was made by the Minister in his speech. Undoubtedly television licences are almost a gilt edged investment for the people who have control of them under grant from the Government.
Anyone who thinks that a television licence is not a good proposition has only to look at the line-up of lawyers and highly skilled and highly paid advisers that applicants have at the hearing of applications for television licences. When applications were being heard in Melbourne recently, it was difficult to get on an aircraft to or from Melbourne because of the bookings by the legal fraternity and other people who were engaged in putting the cases for people who desired to serve the nation by being granted a television licence. I believe that there ought to be a full inquiry into this matter. I do not like the method of granting television licences or the results that have come out of that method.
If one thing is crystal clear in Australia today it is that practically every television station worth mentioning is biased against the Labour Party politically because of the method of granting licences. That applies from one end of this continent to the other. Because of the method by which television licences are granted, the control of this great medium of propaganda by supporters of the Government is such that only one side of politics is being put on the screens.
I suggest that there is not much excuse for any criticism of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I support that amendment for the reasons which are incorporated in it. I believe that a number of criticisms can be made In the field of television. I would like to see more Australian content in our television programmes. I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Mackellar to some extent on this aspect of the matter. I cannot work out some of the weird noises made by some of the modern teenage artists, whether they are Australians or Americans. I cannot see that much of the noise is music.
I am inclined to think that some of the best Australian artists are not getting an opportunity to appear on television. The records show that Australian artists go abroad and some of them, when they come back to Australia highly talented and display their arts on television, can be understood. I believe that an inquiry might well be made into why some inferior Australian artists seem to have priority on the very limited local programmes. These programmes ought to have the best Australian artists. But that is no excuse for the fact that there is not nearly enough Australian content in television programmes.
We cannot develop a film industry, our own form of culture or our own approach to entertainment unless an incentive is given to Australian productions. When this matter was raised recently, some of the leading men who have been granted television licences, such as Sir Frank Packer, complained about the cost of Australian productions and said that they would continue to import programmes. I believe that people of that mind should be brought to book and forced to devote a predominant part of their programmes to the encouragement of Australian artists. That is one reason why this amendment has been moved.
I believe that the advertising charges that are made by the television stations are extremely high and out of all proportion to the entertainment provided. The profits derived from television need to be investigated. Very few, if any, of the stations are on the breadline. That was mentioned by the PostmasterGeneral in his second reading speech. The profits that they are making show that they are overcharging in many respects and are not giving live artists, particularly Australian artists, the opportunities that they should be given.
The Minister has never satisfactorily answered in this Parliament questions that have been raised on the trafficking that takes place in television shares and on how people who have been refused a licence by the board have been able to buy into a station and practically to obtain control of a licence for which they were unable to obtain approval following the original inquiry.
Taking television quiz shows as an example, I make these broad comments: People being interviewed on a station are asked simple questions that comply with the policy of the newspaper which controls the station, whether it be Channel 9 or Channel 7 in Sydney, but any person who does not accept the station’s policy has to bear the full brunt of the interviewer’s questions and remarks, whoever he might be. In other words, the interviews are readied. Television interviews in Australia should follow the pattern adopted in many American programmes. It is an all in go. No warning is given. In Australia, questions should be fired by the interviewer without fear or favour. If that were done we would get an impartial presentation of a point of view. I have seen people interviewed on television being asked simple questions which suit the station’s policy, while other people receive completely different treatment. The Minister should look at all these aspects.
It is interesting to note that the Senate Select Committee criticised the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for its administration of television in Australia. In paragraph 27 on page 5 of its report the Select Committee stated -
Nevertheless, the Committee considers that the Board, particularly in recent years, during which time commercial television has become established upon a sound economic basis, could have discharged its obligations more adequately and effectively.
That applies generally to the matters that I have mentioned already and particularly to a matter which I shall touch on now. During the last Federal election campaign some of the most vile propaganda that has ever been shown on a television screen anywhere in the world was presented to the Australian people. Many Australian television stations televised this propaganda to the great detriment of the party to which I belong. An objection to these programmes was lodged with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board but at no stage did the Board even bother to reply. I believe that the Select Committee’s findings were justified. If I only had the time to read the remainder of the report, I believe it would be found that the findings were more extensive that I have indicated.
I will show honorable members how the Government, by granting television licences to its supporters all over the country, has prevented the point of view of 50 per cent, of the Australian people being presented fairly on television screens anywhere in Australia at any time during any election campaign. The public must face up to this fact: In this country under a Liberal Government, so called, only one point of view can be expressed on our television screens because of the cost involved and because of the influence of the interests behind the television stations. This influence has been built up by the Government over a period of years in an endeavour to see that only its point of view is expressed.
On 22nd April 1964 - a very recent date - the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked the Postmaster-General the following question -
How much (a) free and (b) paid time was occupied by each political party on each commercial television station at the last Federal elections?
This is the reply that the Minister gave -
There follows a very extensive list but I shall mention only a few of the figures to show the trend. In the Australian Capital Territory the Australian Labour Party received 60 minutes free time, the Country Party 15 minutes, the Democratic Labour Party 13 minutes and the Liberal Party 53 minutes. Of the total 141 minutes, the three parties that are opposed to the Labour Party - the three enemies of the Labour movement - received 81 minutes free time. In New South Wales Channel ATN Sydney gave the Labour Party 45 minutes and the other three parties 75 minutes. Channel TCN Sydney gave the Labour Party 60 minutes and the other three parties. 90 minutes. Channel CBN Orange gave the Labour Party 45 minutes and the other three parties 75 minutes. Channel WIN Wollongong gave the Labour Party 45 minutes and the other three parties 70 minutes. In Victoria, 45 minutes was the maximum time allotted to the Labour Party whereas the other three parties received a minimum of 70 minutes free time.
– They reckoned the Labour Party did not have anything to say.
– I will tell the Minister what we had to say. Listen to this: The maximum time allotted to the Australian Labour Party was 60 minutes - this occurred on only one Sydney channel, in Perth and in the Australian Capital Territory - whereas the time allotted to our opponents aggregated more than two and a half times that. This was at a time when the Labour Party had polled 370,000 more votes throughout Australia than the Government parties and when the Labour Party had only one seat less than the Government parties in this House. Yet when the parties which are the enemies of the Labour Party in this country went to the Australian people, the television stations allowed them, on an average, two and a half times as much free time as they allowed the Labour Party. That is the pattern followed by this Government. It has given television licences to people who will use the power that television can give them in order to prevent the point of view of the Labour Party from being presented to the Australian people fairly and impartially.
When we come to the second part of the answer, we find the paid time occupied by each political party. In the Australian Capital Territory the Labour Party could afford to pay for only 60 minutes whereas the total time occupied by all parties was 201 minutes. Everybody knows that the programmes presented by the other three parties were paid for from Liberal and Country Party funds. If honorable members look through the figures they will find that on one station - TCN Sydney - the Labour Party had only one hour of the 283 minutes paid time. The huge charges made by television stations make it impossible for parties such as the Australian Labour Party, without huge resources behind them, to me A the challenge of the interests represented by Government supporters. In Lismore, for Instance, the Labour Party had only 72 minutes out of a total of 204 minutes paid time. In Melbourne, on Station GTV, the Labour Party had only 75 minutes out of a total of 227 minutes. If honorable members look through the figures they will find that the time that could be paid for by the three parties which support the Government was almost two and a half to three times as great as the time that the Labour Party could afford, despite the fact that Labour received a majority of the votes.
I shall tell the House why the Labour Party cannot afford more television time. A one minute announcement on even a country station costs in the vicinity of £100. I know that because I have inquired recently. If honorable members consider the amount of television time paid for by the three enemies of the Labour movement they will see how this medium of propaganda is being used in Australia, from Cape York to Albany, against the interests of the Labour Party and against the interests of half of the Australian population. I do not want to cite all these figures - that would not be necessary - but I shall refer to the figures for Western Australia, where the Labour Party had 84 minutes out of a total of 240 minutes paid time, and for Launceston, where the Labour Party had 62 minutes out of a total of 149 minutes. The remaining time was shared by the Government Parties and by the Democratic Labour Party.
– Are the figures broken down into parties?
– What is the date of the “ Hansard “ report?
– The Minister should wake up. I gave this information earlier, but he must have been asleep. The information, which appears at pages 1376 and 1377 of “ Hansard “ of 22nd April 1964, was contained in an answer given by the PostmasterGeneral. I accept him as a reliable and reasonably competent Minister.
I have cited figures to show the amount of paid time occupied on television. That brings me to the next point that I wish to make. I do not see why the licensees of commercial television stations, who have the use of this great medium, should not make available to the Opposition party as much time as they give to the Government parties to enable them to put their point of view. Why should a great party like the Australian Labour Party be denied the right to put its point of view simply because finance is not available? Some method should be devised whereby there could be a reasonable presentation of the point of view of a party that receives about half the votes cast at Federal general elections. A party that receives never less than 45 or 50 per cent, of the votes should not have only one-third of the television time that is available to its enemies. These are matters which I believe call for a full and complete inquiry. In Great Britain I understand that the attitude is quite different in that the time is shared between the major parties. In Australia there is a biased presentation on television. It is practically impossible, because of the costs involved and because of factors associated with the directorships of the television companies, to get a reasonable presentation of the point of view of a big section of the Australian public. The hour is late-
Government supporters. - Hear, hear!
– I only wish to place on record a few of the things that should be done in respect of television, and particularly television broadcasts.
I know that supporters of the Government say, “ Hear, hear! “ and do not care much about what is happening, but one has only to attack on the television screen the Liberal Party or some of its interests and then one does not hear much from the Government side about political interference. Immediately such attacks are made things happen like the disappearance of certain persons from the “Four Comers” programme. We see the withdrawal of programmes from the stations concerned and intimidation by the Government against those associated with certain A.B.C. presentations. All these things indicate that television in Australia is not free from political control. This only serves to emphasise that improvements should be made. The PostmasterGeneral himself must know that a feeling is growing up among the people that the A.B.C. is not above political control. Unless this feeling is dispelled all sense of impartiality in this matter will have gone by the board.
– Will it be free under a Labour Government?
– Yes, it will be free under Labour. Everything is free under Labour, We stand for freedom. That is where we are different from the Liberals. They do not believe in freedom. They conscript. They have a funny idea of freedom and they apply it to radio and television. All we see on the television screens from the A.B.C. and elsewhere are features that this Government wants. You see it right down, the line, and it affects actors, producers and scriptwriters. They disappear from the scene, once it becomes known that the Government did not want something that was presented by them to the public.
I understand that the A.B.C. itself vets, or gets approval in respect of, who will appear on some programmes - party leaders) or people of that sort. I would like to know how people are chosen for programmes presented by the A.B.C. before they go on tha air. I do not know whether Brigadier Spry vets them or not, but in many cases - nobody knows how - what is shown presents a point of view that will suit the Government politically or otherwise. Television in Aus. tralia is far from free from interference. I hope to see some improvement in this treatment. I also hope that some of the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television will be put into effect so that we will see justice and impartiality in presentations on television and radio. I support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for EdenMonaro and hope that it will be carried in the interests of Australian artists and producers.
.I wish to refer to one or two points that have been mentioned by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). First, the honorable member made an accusation that there was some sort of Communist influence within the A.B.C. and in a certain programme or programmes presented by the Commission. It was typical of the honorable member that he did not name specifically the programmes which he considered were affected by this Communist influence. This is a serious accusation, but although several honorable members on the Opposition side asked the honorable member for Mackellar to name the programmes specifically, he did not do so.
I am led to understand that the programme about which he expressed concern is “The Yarns of Billy Borker”. I have seen this programme, which lasts for five or ten minutes, and it seems to me to be concerned only with typical Australian yarns. Certainly it is a harmless type of programme. It is true that the yarns might be stretched a little, but that can be said also of the imagination of the honorable member for Mackellar. Certainly so far as I can see these yarns would not taint the minds of Australians, and the honorable member’s argument seems to be quite ridiculous.
I raised the matter of “ Four Corners “ yesterday at question time. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) said in reply to my question that there had been no political influence in relation to “ Four Corners “. I would certainly hope that there would not be any political influence and I accept the Minister’s statement that no political influence has been exerted in this case. There is a saying in the law to the effect that Justice should not only be done but should be seen to be done. Having regard to the actions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the last week or so concerning “ Four Corners “ and those associated with it, the Australian people have been led to believe that some sort of influence is operating in respect of television programmes. According to the Minister in answering my question yesterday, the whole affair developed after a protest in Western Australia about an intended programme featuring a hanging. Suddenly, some members of the “Four Corners” staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were transferred to other duties.
It seems to me, and it would appear to many people in the Australian community -the Minister will be aware of this from letters that have been published in the Press - that there is afield some sort of political influence. It certainly seems like it, although the Minister says that no such influence has been exercised by him or directly by any member of the Government Parties. It appears to me that influence may have been exercised indirectly. There is no proof of any influence having been exercised, but the A.B.C. has become - not suddenly, because this has happened before - a little sensitive about the possibility of criticism when controversial matters are featured on the “ Four Corners “ programme.
I have viewed this programme a number of times, and I believe that such a programme should be continued on national television. Indeed, I hope that some of the commercial stations will copy the Commission in presenting programmes of this type. “Four Corners” has been objective on the occasions on which I have watched it. Whenever it has featured a subject of political controversy, both sides have been given an opportunity to argue their views before a great number of Australians. This is important. Quite apart from political issues, “ Four Corners “ digs into many of the controversial issues that confront the people of Australia. We ought to have this sort of objective programme so that people can find out what goes on by having matters presented to them in this way instead of being able to gain their knowledge of many issues only by reading newspaper reports and headlines which, unfortunately, as we have seen many times, are biased one way or the other. It is most important that there should be no political directive to, or political control over, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I hope that at some time the Commission, in both its radio and television activities, will be completely free, as is the British Broadcasting Corporation, to discharge its functions in every respect without interference. In the years to come, I should like to see in every capital city, perhaps controlled by the Commission, a national newspaper completely free of outside influence and able to present objective views and to report objectively all that goes on in this country and throughout the world.
The honorable member for Mackellar said that the views of the Opposition on television licence fees are out of date. In the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), we embody a proposal substantially to increase licence fees assessed on gross earnings from advertising receipts of television stations. The honorable member said that the sort of excessive profits that we have in mind are no longer made.
– Where is the honorable member now?
– He is in the House. My view is more elevated than that of the honorable member for Wilmot, and I can see the honorable member for Mackellar. The plain fact, Mr. Speaker, is that if the Opposition is out of date, the Minister is out of date. In his second reading speech, he said -
Despite the spectacular increase in the earnings of both television and broadcasting stations, the rales of licence fees have remained unchanged since 1956.
There we have it. There have been spectacular increases in earnings. The Minister later said -
These are stations which, supposedly, according to the honorable member for Mackellar, are a lot poorer these days than they used to be. The Minister then stated -
All of the other metropolitan stations except Hobart are earning either a little more or a little less than £1 million. . . .
There are two things in this respect that I wish to point out. First of all, it is claimed that because their profits have fallen away the operation of television stations is not such a good thing financially. This statement does not hold water, because we have only to turn to the financial page of any daily newspaper to find, on the stock market, the evidence of the inflated value of shares in television companies. This fact, of course, completely wipes out the argument put forward by the honorable member for Mackellar. Secondly, the plain fact is that the amendment is designed to apply only to television stations which earn in excess of £1 million per year. I suppose that, because there are varying amounts of money involved in their capital, the profits of television companies cannot be measured acurately in this respect. But the average earnings per annum of metropolitan television stations, perhaps with the exception of the Hobart television station, are in excess of 25 per cent, of their capital. These are their net earnings after allowing for depreciation, taxation and other charges.
I cannot accept the argument that television stations are doing poor business. The companies are earning substantial amounts of money. It is true, as the honorable member for Mackellar said, that they took the risk in the first place. Yet General MotorsHolden’s Pty. Ltd., took a risk in setting up in Australia and that company is now earning in excess of 400 per cent, of its capital per annum. Surely this is excessive. The honorable member for Mackellar did not have an argument when he said that the contention of the Opposition was out of date. We are completely up with the times.
There is one further point with which I wish to deal. I want to talk briefly about the position of country television stations and I want to mention specifically, because I know personally of some of its difficulties, BCV8, Bendigo, which is the commercial television station serving central and northern Victoria. This station is a local enterprise. It is owned substantially by local people and it has had difficulties with which to contend since it started. Some time next month, it will have been in existence for three years. It is true that BCV8 is now operating at a small profit, but it is equally true that it has a long way to go before it reaches the stage it will want to reach where it provides adequately for the needs of the population in the area it covers.
Up to date, its programmes and services have been excellent. They have been commensurate with its equipment, its capital and the opportunities it has had to provide its service. But for several years after commencing transmission it was short of small things such as tables and chairs that were needed for’ its purposes. If a local personality - for instance, the president of the local agricultural society- or some notable visitor to the town was to be interviewed, it was very difficult for BCV8 to obtain even a table and chairs for the occasion. This was because of lack of capital. It takes a great deal of money to set up a television station. What I am objecting to is the fact that while, undoubtedly, the new licence fee for this type of television station will be the lowest fee, and only up to 1 per cent, of the gross earnings of the station, I feel that because of the difficulties that country television stations face and because of the wide and sparsely populated areas which they cover, they should be given some sort of concession in this respect.
A country television station which makes in its third year of operation a profit of a few thousand pounds and which has prospects of making in each successive year further profits of a few thousand pounds, is not a station which I feel should contribute a great deal by way of licence fees. I say this because, first of all, the programmes which it provides, it provides to the best of its ability according to its capacity to buy programmes or to film them itself. Its capacity to buy programmes is limited if it must pay heavy licence fees. Further its capacity to provide programmes of local interest - this is most important in a country centre - is limited if its precious finance is taken in the payment of licence fees to the Commonwealth Government. I suggest to the PostmasterGeneral that stations such as BCV8 in Bendigo still have a long way to go before they will be able to buy the costly equipment that will enable them to provide a better service and better programmes for their district. If they are asked to shoulder an additional burden in the payment of increased licence fees, the time when they will be able to purchase this equipment will be even further away. The metropolitan stations, which have a much wider advertising potential and which are located in areas of dense population, are able to purchase very costly equipment. They have outside television vans which are used for the direct televising of football matches and other activities. Country stations cannot afford to buy these outside vans, which cost not tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The Commonwealth Government would give material help to television stations in country areas if it waived the licence fees for such stations until they found their feet. I do not say that when these stations are adequately equipped and are making substantial profits, even if this takes 10, 15 or 20 years, they should not pay the same fees as other stations pay. They should. But they should at least be given time to get on their feet and to obtain the equipment they need to provide a service to the community. After all, that is what we want television stations to do. The Parliament should ensure that television stations provide a service to the community. But until they can afford to buy the equipment and the overseas programmes - some good, some bad but all providing a service to the community - the Government should consider waiving these fees.
.- I am glad that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) has remained in the House throughout this debate. Whilst he is here, I want to stress the importance of using Australian talent in television programmes. One of the greatest luxuries I have is watching television one night a week. On this one night, I have a chance to see a number of programmes and I know that television stations concentrate mainly on American programmes. It is sometimes suggested that Australian talent is not good enough for television. That is an insult to our Australian youth, Australian management, Australian technicians and Australian artists. Occasionally, we see some of their work. I do not know whether the PostmasterGeneral has seen the series called “The Hungry Ones”, which was produced for television by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Leonard Teale acted the main part in the series, which was set in the early days of Australia’s history and was based on the story of Mary Bryant. I have not seen any film produced in any country for television that is the equal of this film. For perfection of production and talent there has been nothing to equal it. I have said to myself: “ Our young people can put on a show like this for television. Why are they not doing a lot more of it? “
Australia is full of wonderful, dramatic and exciting history. We could have a series of films on other facets of Australian life, if local actors were given a chance to produce them. The television stations are only playing with Australian talent. They are trying to build up the average number of hours that they are supposed to devote to Australian content by employing the methods that were mentioned earlier by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). They are televising cooking lessons, gardening lessons, baby sitting lessons and a host of other things to try to build up the hours or the minutes that they are obliged to devote to programmes of so-called Australian content. They will not give Australian talent a chance. The programme “ Bandstand “, which is produced by Brian Henderson, is an excellent variety programme. It is equal to anything that could bc obtained from any other country.
– Who produces that?
– Brian Henderson is the main person concerned. I think that he is the producer. There is no better programme in the world than “ Four Corners “. It deals with controversial issues. It is a pity that this Government does not let the producers of that programme alone - that it does not let them do what they want to do and give them the good and the bad, the light and the shade, of the stories they wish to present. This programme is produced in Australia by Australians.
– Does the honorable member think that the parliamentary proceedings should be televised?
– No. The “ Bobby Limb Show “ is another very good programme. The programme “ Whiplash “ was produced by Australians, with an actor from America taking the leading role.
– What did it cost?
– It cost about £60,000. Australian stations are ripping millions of pounds out of television today, but they are not giving Australian talent a chance. Australian artists are good enough for television; they are better than the American artists that we see. Why can we not become more Australian in our outlook? The Opposition’s amendment is designed to use all the money that is raised from licence fees for encouraging the production of Australian programmes for television.
Just recently a new company was formed to produce Australian biographies. Every Sunday night Channel 9 in Launceston televises the programme “ Biography “. That is an outstanding programme which deals with leading world figures. It is dramatic, interesting, informative and educational. I said a moment ago that a company had been formed to produce Australian biographies. Why should we not produce such programmes? We have just as great men and women in this country as are to be found in other parts of the world. The company I mentioned will have to spend a lot of money. The fund that we want to establish from licence fees could help to encourage that company to produce a series of 20 or even 40 biographies. This company deserves every success. I was thrilled to learn that somebody has had the courage to launch it.
Keith Smith, a most entertaining character who has produced some remarkable shows for television, is a dinkum Aussie. His interviewing of people in all walks of life on all subjects is an education in itself. He plays his part so well that no American could do better. While these cheap and old American programmes are being poured into our television system to build up the profits of the television companies, our own talent is wasting. The companies are not prepared to spend a little extra to get good Australian programmes. Members of this Parliament have talent.
– What would the honorable member say about the presentation of the life history of the Wentworths on television?
– That would be good and entertaining, particularly in view of tonight’s display. Not many of us have a chance to be interviewed on television; only a handful of members from this House have been interviewed. I am not keen on having the proceedings of the Parliament televised, except perhaps question time and some important debates. The talent outside of this House is very important. Many Australian people make a living from their talent. However, this Government is not really dinkum about encouraging or enforcing Australian programmes to be shown by our television stations. I do not think the Minister is dinkum; otherwise we would see many more programmes of the type I have mentioned being produced by Australians for Australians.
That is the appeal I make tonight. I do not know why the Government will not accept the amendment which the Opposition has moved in good faith and in a sincere attempt to help to build up a central fund from which financial assistance could be given to Australian productions, such as the Australian biography which will start in a few weeks time.
– in reply - The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has notified his intention to move an amendment in the Committee stage, dealing with the Australian content of television programmes. Therefore any remarks I have to make on that subject will be made mainly at that time. I want to say clearly that the Government rejects the amendment which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has proposed. It seems to me that members of the Opposition are trying to create the impression that they are the only people who are interested in the problems which affect actors, script writers and others associated with the building up of Australian programmes. The members of the Opposition do not understand the real problems associated with this matter. Perhaps it is sufficient for me to say that one of the larger television companies has on the shelf a great number of Australian programmes which no other station is prepared to purchase. Even though the programmes have been discounted well below the cost of production, they are not wanted by other stations, because the advertisers know that the viewers will not watch them. It is the right of every Australian to make his own determination of the programmes he will view. If he does not want to see an Australian programme, we cannot force an advertiser to pay for that programme.
– The advertisers create the standards for television.
– No. The whole point is that members of the Opposition do not understand the problems. When the amendment comes before the Committee, I will deal with this matter much more broadly than I intend to deal with it at this moment. I do not want to have to repeat myself. If we look at the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, we will see that it merely gives lip service to what he would regard as a principle. In my view it does not suggest anything concrete, nor does it acknowledge the problems which are associated with the inclusion of. Australian productions in programmes. It merely states that there should be a substantial increase in certain receipts. It is not definite enough to indicate how this should be brought about.
– The Minister knows perfectly well that the Standing Orders prevent the Opposition from stating a definite increase.
– I believe that the amendment is phrased so indefinitely because the Opposition does not understand the problem. The second part of the proposed amendment states that the licence fees should be paid into a special fund and used solely to assist the production of Australian television programmes. In what way does the Opposition intend to assist? I believe that those who move an amendment of this type should set out a programme which could be followed to improve Australian productions and the lot of persons participating in those productions. But that has not been done, and the onus has been placed on the Government to work out the details.
I am as interested in the development of Australian programmes as is anybody else. In effect, the Opposition, on top of moving its amendment, says: “We do not want to defeat the Bill. We will go along with it, but the Government ought to do something”. The Opposition is very indefinite on this point. It says: “ We do not want to solve the problem. We want you to find the answers.”
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) raised a matter to which I should refer. Unfortunately, a mistake was made in the printing of the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
For station TVW Perth the time of one hour 12 minutes was shown instead of two hours 12 minutes. That station did include in its programme the required Australian content.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro described as an anomaly the basis on which the licence fees are charged1. The Government has been charging the licence fees on advertising receipts, but has been advised that the present wording of the Act requires that the licence fee be calculated on the total receipts; that is, on the advertising receipts and programme receipts. The Government has been out of order in its method of calculation of licence fees. The Government has left it to the television stations to advise the Board of the apportionment of their receipts between advertising and programmes. The Board has had no other way of obtaining this information. Since the licence fees to date have been calculated only in relation to advertising receipts, some stations have loaded their programme receipts and the calculation of the licence fee has been made on the reduced advertising receipts. The net result has been that one station has been paying a licence fee on 60 per cent, of its total receipts, as the amount applicable to advertising, while another station has been paying a licence fee on 30 per cent, of its total receipts, as the amount applicable to advertising. Surely this must be regarded as an unfair basis upon which to collect the licence fees. I know of no way in which the problem can be resolved without changing the method of calculation. In the circumstances, the Government has decided that the licence fees should be calculated on the gross revenue, both from programmes and from advertising.
The position is not quite as bad as might at first appear, because sponsored programmes represent only about 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, of television programmes at present, and during such programmes only six minutes is provided in each hour for advertising purposes. On the other hand the spot advertising programme - the programme in which the advertiser pays for a spot advertisement - provides for 12 minutes of advertising per hour. Such programmes comprise 85 per cent, to 90 per cent, of television programmes. I think honorable members will agree that when we talk in terms of charging against advertising receipts compared with charging against programmes, and bringing all the revenue into account, the situation is not as bad as it might appear on the surface. The Bill certainly corrects an injustice that is being done to some stations compared with other stations.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro referred also to the situation in the United Kingdom. I think it is almost impossible to compare the Australian situation as far as commercial television stations are concerned with the system which operates in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, apart from the British Broadcasting Corporation there is an independent television authority. It is a statutory authority. It does not produce programmes; it merely erects transmitters and leases or hires them to what are known in the United Kingdom as programme contractors.
There are two bases on which the contractor pays rent to the independent television authority. The first is primarily according to the relative economic capacity of areas. It must be remembered that there is only one such television station in an area in the United Kingdom. There is only one comparable commercial station in the whole of London, and that station probably has more viewers that have all television stations in Australia at present. Rental is paid secondly on the basis of advertising receipts. The programme contractors in the old country earn a profit of 45 per cent, on their total revenue as against a margin in Australia of 20 per cent.
– It is 48 per cent.
– No, it is not. It is 20 per cent.
– Both figures are gross.
– They are not both gross. It would be entirely wrong for us to think that the same situation applies in Australia as applies in the United Kingdom. I commend the Bill to the House without the amendment because I believe that at this point of time the Bill represents a reasonable approach to the problem of providing finance sufficient to cover the operations of the authority of the Government which in fact controls broadcasting and television in Australia. I refer to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Allan Fraser’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 4. (1.) In thisAct- “ gross earnings “, in relation to a commercial television station in respect of a period, means the gross earnings of the licensee of the station during that period in respect of the televising from the station of advertisements or other matter, including the gross earinings of the licensee during that period in respect of the provision by him of, or otherwise in respect of, matter televised from the station, not being earnings from the production and recording on photographic film, or the recording on photographic film, of matter consisting wholly of an advertisement;
– I move -
At the end of the definition of “ gross earnings “ add the following proviso:- “ Provided that when the commercial television station satisfies the Minister that any earnings have been received by reason of the televising of musical, dramatic or artistic material wholly produced or originating in Australia, then only one-half of such earnings shall be included in its gross earnings.”.
I shall not weary the Committee with along explanation of this amendment. It seems to me that it is an amendment which will help Australian production. It will not go too far; it will not invalidate the revenue. Not a very great amount of money is at stake. It will establish a principle, and I hope that later on it will be followed by other measures to help increase the Australian content of programmes.
a commerical television station would simply have to satisfy the Minister that the material televised originated in Australia and was musical, dramatic or artistic material. A record could be a musical production on which a television station need only have paid the Australian Performing Right Association’s copyright fee. A dramatic production could be a piece of elocution costing only a few shillings, performed by a station announcer. Artistic material could be a lecture by a young lady on flower arrangement. This would be the kind of device similar, unfortunately, to those which are used by television stations now to boost their Australian content, without genuinely assisting Australian television production.
In an endeavour to make this amendment effective, I move -
That the amendment be amended by inserting after “ Australia “ the words “ as defined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in its categories of programmes.”
The amendment I propose will prevent the loose interpretation which might otherwise be possible by television stations, and will give the amendment moved by the honorable member for Mackellar a chance of being of genuine assistance to Australian television producers.
– I see nothing wrong with the words which the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) proposes to add. They merely carry out the intention of the amendment. I do not think they add very much, nor do they take very much away. I am quite happy about it either way.
– First of all I should like to know what the amendment really means, and I am not sure that even the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who proposed the amendment, could tell us what it means. When he uses the term “ musical material “ does he refer to works of Australian composers or works of non-Australian composers performed by Australians? Does the term embrace jingles associated with advertisements? Does it embrace incidental or background music? Does the term “dramatic material” relate to works of Australian writers of merely performances by Australian actors or both? What does “ artistic “ mean? I am sure that these things are not understood by members of the Committee. It is proposed that this practice should be adopted in relation to television. Why should it not also bc adopted in relation to radio broadcasting? There is an inconsistency here which is not explained by the honorable member who proposed the amendment. I think these are good reasons why the amendment should be rejected.
I said earlier that I would say a few words in relation to this problem of Australian production. I believe that the principal problem is the shortage of scriptwriters. I do not think we have many good scriptwriters in Australia nor do I believe that we have people in Australia who can teach others to be good scriptwriters. We have not many good actors in Australia. You do not find people who will practice, practice, practice to become good actors unless they have some worthwhile instruction. The amendment contains no suggestion to solve problems of this kind. We have not producers and we have not directors of high quality in Australia at present.
What contribution does this amendment make? It suggests half licence fees. Take a programme that costs £4,000: The adoption of this amendment would mean a rebate of 2 per cent. - that is in the area of the 4 per cent, licence fee. Two per cent, of £4,000 is £80. What contribution would this be towards encouraging a television station to spend a good deal of money on Australian programmes? It must be remembered that it costs more to produce a programme in Australia than it costs to import a programme from overseas. I am very sympathetic towards those grappling with the problems associated with Australian television production, but as yet I have not had time to look closely at the problems. However, I have a couple of bodies looking at the problems for me and during the next few months I hope to have a careful look at them myself. I say to the Committee that this proposal does not give a solution. It does not represent any real contribution towards the solution of the problems. Therefore I could not support it and the Government will not support it.
– The remarks of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Hulme) are those of a little Australian without faith in his own country or his fellow citizens. He decries the ability of Australians to produce quality television programmes. He decries the quality of the programmes already produced and declares that they are unsaleable. He has risen tonight and cried stinking fish and that is all he has done to help the Australian television industry.
– I still intend to press the amendment. I do not think the reasons given for the rejection by the Minister are sound. In the first place, I do not accept his figures. I do not think they are correct. When a programme is produced it would be shown, not only once, but on a number of stations. In any case, few programmes cost £4,000. I agree with the Minister that my amendment does not do everything necessary, but at least it does something. It should be an encouragement to the State to do something about putting more Australian programmes on the air. I agree with the Minister that other things have to be done, and I hope that when the time comes they will be done. But the fact that other things have to be done is no reason for not doing this concrete thing now. There is not really very much trouble about the definition because if one looks at the amendment one sees that it says “the commercial television station satisfies the Minister”. The matter is left in his hands in order to get a determination on a fair and equitable basis.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted in the proposed amendment (Mr. Allan Fraser’s motion) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. L. J. Failes.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment upon amendment negatived.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hulme) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2472), on motion by Mr. Hulme -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading tobe moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hulme) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 29th October (vide page 2473), on motion by Mr. Hulme -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hulme) read a third time.
Debate resumed on 29th October (vide page 2473), on motion by Mr. Hulme -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill contains a number of innocuous and, in fact, quite useful provisions, on which I will make no further comment than that the Opposition accepts them. In Committee I will move an amendment which I hope the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) will find himself able as readily to accept. My main purpose in rising is to point out that the Bill does not contain the fulfilment of a promise given to the House by the Minister on 5th May last, when he foreshadowed legislation to strengthen the Government’s control of the transfer of shares in commercial television stations. The House will recall that when the third television licence was granted in Brisbane the Broadcasting Conrtol Board rejected Mr. Ansett’s application and stated -
It would, however, seem to us that there are strong reasons in principle why licences for two capital city commercial television stations should not be granted by the Minister to what is, in effect, the same company, and for a discussion of this principle we adopt here, without repeating, the reasoning in our first Report on Brisbane and Adelaide Licences. …
Secondly, the Board gave the following as a reason for granting the licence to Universal Telecasters Queensland Ltd. -
No licensee of a commercial television station holds any interest in Universal Telecasters Qld. Ltd., which claimed in the course of the inquiry that it would establish a station that would be “ run by Queenslanders for Queensland “, and that this was the basis of the application.
Subsequently, Mr. Ansett acquired 49 per cent. of the shares in Universal Telecasters Queensland Ltd. The Postmaster-General withheld the licence. Subsequently, he showed that what Mr. Ansett did was not opposed to the letter of the legislation but certainly was opposed to the spirit of it-
– But you cannot win on that.
– No, you cannot. The Minister showed that what Mr. Ansett did was also completely opposed to the reasoning of the Broadcasting Control Board in recommending that the licence be granted to Universal Telecasters Queensland Ltd. What the Minister now says by way of interjection is true. What Mr. Ansett did was not opposed to the letter of the law; it was opposed to the spirit of the law. The Minister now says, “ But you cannot win on that “.
– Well, you cannot.
– No, you cannot win on that. But the Minister went further. He gave the House an assurance that he would study this matter with a view to bringing down legislation to ensure that that situation did not recur. He gave that assurance on 5th May last.
The legislation which is now before the House is the second Broadcasting and Television Bill to be brought before the House this year, and it contains no provision of that kind. The situation, which is against the spirit of the law and which nullifies the whole intention of the recommendations of the Broadcasting Control Board with respect to this licence, is still allowed to exist. When will the Postmaster-General do something about that situation? When he gave his assurance he said that he would consider an amendment of the Broadcasting and Television Act and that the proposed legislation should be ready soon. Why then has he not brought the legislation to the House? Will he now give the House a definite assurance of the date on which he will bring down this legislation? Will it be brought down before this sessional period ends?
– I answered that question today. The Deputy Leader asked me a question about that.
– The Minister says that he answered that question today. I would like him to answer it here and now, in the course of this debate, because this is the bill on which this matter should be dealt with.
I refer him and the House to a statement which was made in a journal of great reliability - the journal “ Inside Canberra “, which is produced by Mr. Don Whitington and his staff. The 5th September issue of that journal stated that an effort, made by the Postmaster-General in Cabinet and supported by the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), to place a restriction of 5 per cent, on the ownership of shares in other television stations by the owners of existing stations was defeated in Cabinet and that the Postmaster-General was instructed to allow the situation to remain as it is at present. If that is not so, I would like an assurance from the Postmaster-General that he is preparing such legislation and that it will be brought down. I hope that he will give us the date on which it will be brought down and an assurance that it will cure the situation which was allowed to exist in Brisbane in which Mr. Ansett, in defying the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and in defying the intentions and desires of the Government, acquired practical control of the third commercial television station in Brisbane by acquiring 49 per cent, of the shares in the company, although theoretically, in accordance with the articles of association of the company, he is prevented from exercising more than a 15 per cent, shareholding vote.
.- I want to make a few observations which have no connection with what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has had to say. My comments refer particularly to clause 5 of the Bill. Honorable members will recall that in his second reading speech the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) referred to clause 5 in these terms-
Clause 5 of the Bill seeks to introduce appropriate provisions to enable a refund of fees to be made by the Department where there is a moral or implied legal obligation to do so; for example, where a licence has been taken out unnecessarily or a person eligible for a reduced rate licence pays the full fee. In explanation of this clause, I would mention that there are occasions when a wife, not knowing that her husband has taken out a licence, also takes one out. Under the present provisions of the Act, there is no authority to make a refund.
It is interesting to learn that the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs or the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department have found that they have some moral or implied obligations to do certain things. Apparently the consciences of certain officials have been worrying them for a very long time in connection with refunds that should have been paid to certain licence holders.
I have in mind particular cases which I shall mention to the Minister in the hope that he will make clear what is to be done in the future. Let us consider the case of a person who, after paying the television licence fee, moves either to an area where there is no television reception or leaves the country. In the past that person has received no refund of any part of the licence fee irrespective of the length of time that he had held the licence. I believe that there is very definitely a moral obligation - in fact, an implied legal obligation - on the Department to refund at least a portion of the licence fee in such a case. If a person surrenders a telephone service for which he has paid the rental in advance, he receives a refund.
I want to make sure that this clause covers cases such as I have mentioned because certain of my constituents have paid their television licence fee, have left Australia or have moved to an area where there is no television reception and have not received a refund of any part of the fee. I can quite understand that if the licence had only a short time to run before it expired a refund might not be made, but when the remaining period is substantial the holder should be entitled to some compensation. I should like the Minister to tell us the exact position before he closes the second reading debate on this Bill.
– in reply - I refer to the matter raised by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). Regulations will be made under this legislation and, of course, those regulations could cover the aspect to which he has referred. However, 1 should like to consider this and other similar matters in detail before the regulations are promulgated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2a.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 2a. Section one hundred of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (6.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: - (6.) A licensee shall not broadcast or televise an advertisement relating to-
a substance or appliance for which a therapeutic use is claimed, or
a substance, appliance, method or tech nique for which cosmetic and/ or physiological advantages are claimed, unless the text of the proposed advertisement has been approved by the DirectorGeneral of Health, or, on appeal to the Minister under this section, by the Minister.’.”.
The adoption of this amendment by the Committee will give effect to a resolution of the fiftieth session of the National Health and Medical Research Council held in Canberra in May 1960 and re-affirmed by the Council in October 1960. The section which I propose to omit states -
A licensee shall not broadcast or televise an advertisement relating to a medicine unless the text of the proposed advertisement has been approved by the Director-General of Health or, on appeal to the Minister under this section, by the Minister.
The National Health and Medical Research Council pointed out that this section is ineffective in its present form and that the protection of the public required the amendment of the section in the way that it proposed and which I now put to the Committee. The Council passed that resolution in 1.960, so the Government has had four years in which to examine and give effect to its proposal. I point also to an. answer given by the then PostmasterGeneral, Mr. Davidson, on 13th September 1961 when he said in reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - 1 discussed some time ago with my colleague, the Minister for Health, the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council to which the honorable member has referred. My colleague informed me that whilst he was not, at that time, prepared to endorse the council recommendation that section 100 of the Broadcasting and Televison Act should be amended, he felt that there was considerable merit in its recommendation that an Australian national advertising code should be drawn up for the guidance of the advertisers of patent medicines and appliances. I am informed that considerable progress has been made in this direction, with the support of the industrial organisations concerned with such matters. Although such a code would have no legislative sanction, but would depend on the voluntary co-operation of all concerned, I understand that the Commonwealth health authorities regard it as likely to be of considerable value in establishing a uniform and acceptable approach to the advertising of medicines and associated products.
Since then another three years have passed and the situation is still unsatisfactory. The code is not being operated in a way which protects the public in the terms in which the National Health and Medical Research Council considers it should be protected. Once again I direct particular attention to the flagrant way in which on television in this country advertising continues to appear giving the message that to smoke cigarettes is healthful and beneficial, while all medical evidence today is conclusive that to smoke cigarettes is a health hazard. This most powerful medium of persuading young people is being used to mislead, and no code in this country is preventing this kind of pernicious advertising from being continued. Other countries have successfully solved the problem by the voluntary acceptance of a code or by a law prohibiting the continual use of this misleading type of advertising. I move this amendment and at the same time I urge the PostmasterGeneral to take other action, not only in this field but in the field of tobacco advertising, so that advertisers will be compelled to keep the statements in their advertisements in accord with medically ascertained facts.
– I would suggest to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) that there is no great urgency about this matter. It was brought to my notice only today and I would not like to give judgement on it now. Attempts have been made in the past, under section 100 of the principal Act, to deal with such matters. The word “ medicine “ is used, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has suggested that it should be replaced by the words - a substance or appliance for which a theraputic use is claimed
– The National Health and Medical Research Council has suggested it.
– I think we should look at the television programme standards. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is charged with the responsibility of maintaining standards in relation to television. At pages 25 and 26 of the publication containing these standards there is a virtual direction that a licensee shall not televise an advertisement relating to a medicine unless the text has been approved by the Director-General of Health or a medical officer in a State to whom the DirectorGeneral has delegated this power. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro may not be aware of this publication. I suggest that this matter would have to be examined closely before the Government would be prepared to accept the amendment.
The philosophy of the Government, is that it should work in co-operation with those who have responsibility at particular levels within the community. I am not prepared to accept an indication from one body as necessarily the guiding factor in reaching a decision. I think we should take into consideration the views of the people who are responsible for advertising and, in this case, for the television industry generally. Perhaps we might develop a code of ethics in relation to television advertising such as there is in the newspaper world. If such a code can be applied to newspapers, I see no reason why something similar should not be possible in the field of television. I do not think there is any need for me to go into more detail. For those reasons, and also to avoid a prospective administrative nightmare, I suggest that the Committee should reject the amendment. I will undertake to have a look at the proposition that has been put forward by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– The Postmaster-General has produced the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s television programme standards and has suggested that this is an effective instrument to deal with the matters covered by the Opposition’s amendment. I point out to the Minister that these standards were set down in July 1956. They have been in operation for eight years, but four years ago the National Health and Medical Research Council - the highest authority on these matters - decided that what was being done in this field was entirely unsatisfactory. I hope the Minister will look at this from that point of view.
– The Council may be as ignorant as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro appears to be of the existence of these standards.
– I was not ignorant of the existence of these standards although I certainly was not aware that they were eight years old. However, the fact is that they are eight years old and that four years after they were issued the National Health and Medical Research Council was insisting that advertising injurious to the public was being broadcast by television stations. This belies the Minister’s statement that the television standards already provide the protection that is sought by the Council and is contained in this amendment.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Hulme) - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
House adjourned at 2.17 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the Aboriginal population at the present time in (a) Australia, (b) each State and (c) each Federal electoral division?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What are the names and positions of the persons to whom the Commissioner for Employees’
Compensation has delegated all or any of his powers and functions under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
For the purposes of securing the greatest efficiency in - the administration of the Common wealth Employees’ Compensation Act it is the practice for the Commissioner to delegate his powers and functions to the person for the time being holding a particular office. These offices are listed in the second column of the following table and the Departments and Authorities concerned have advised that the officers listed in the first column were holding those offices on 9th November 1964.
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
I have been informed that the Archbishop Alexei who is Vice-President of the External Relations Department of the Russian Orthodox Church did visit the United States of America last year.
Archbishop Alexei applied for a visa as one of a group of six (Professor N. V. Matkovsky, Secretary of World Peace Council; V. M. Chkhikvadzc, Professor of Academy of Sciences; V. Y. Isaev, President of Leningrad Council of Workers’ Deputies; O. S. Kharkhardin, Journalist, as escort to Isaev; B. Y. Shnyakin, Interpreter, as escort to the Archbishop), so that the question of the issue of a visa was considered in the context of the purpose of the visit, namely, to attend, at the invitation of its organizers, the A.C.I.C.D. at . Sydney. The Government’s policy in relation to this Congress is to refuse applications for visas which originate from countries within the Communist blocs. The Archbishop’s application was accordingly refused.
If Archbishop Alexei applies for a visa to come to Australia for a different purpose, the question of his admission will be an entirely different matter.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
When was the present wage rate of 7s. 6d. per week prescribed by the Employment Ordinance of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea (a) proposed, (b) drafted, (c) passed by the Legislative Council and (d) fully implemented?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
On 30th August 1962, in reply to a question by the honorable member as to the number of Commonwealth New Guinea Timbers Ltd. employees who were employed on the minimum cash rates of 7s. 6d. per week and 8s. 9d. per week prescribed under the Native Employment Ordinance, my predecessor stated that nil and 203 employees respectively were employed on these rates. He also mentioned that, at that time, 189 indigenous employees of the company were on rates higher than the above, according to their skills.
On 29th September 1964, I informed the honorable member that the company currently employs 196 indigenous workers at £19 10s. per year (7s. 6d. per week) and 20 at £22 15s. per year (8s. 9d. per week). I also indicated that the remaining 164 indigenous workers are engaged on higher rates than these.
Section 87(1) of the Native Employment Ordinance 1958-1963 provides that the minimum cash wage payable to an employee shall be at the rate of-
in the case of an employee, who has had more than one year’s continuous service with an employer - 455s. per year (£22 15s.); and,
in the case of any other employee - 390s. per year (£13 10s.). (The minimum cash wages are, of course, additional to the provision of food, clothing, accommodation, medical attention, cooking and eating utensils, towels, soap and other articles at prescribed standards to an employee and his accompanying dependants.)
The two sets of figures above, given at different points of time, in no way imply a reduction in the rate of pay for any particular employee or any general reduction in the rates paid by the company. The differences are accounted for by staff turnover and termination of agreements at the end of the prescribed periods.
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The Standards Association of Australia has produced an Australian standards code for road signs, which includes a section on signs for various types of railway level crossings.
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
If not residing at home -
If residing at home - Payment in lieu of board and lodgings of £5 Ss. per week plus an allowance of £1 per day together with (c) and (d) conditions.
Homes for the Aged. (Question No. 672.)
son asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– No details of this nature are available.
Homes for the Aged. (Question No. 674.)
son asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows - 1 and 2. The official opening of aged persons homes is a matter which is decided and arranged by the organisations conducting the homes. On some occasions Ministers, senators or members of the House of Representatives have been invited to open homes while in other cases they have been invited to attend openings performed by some other person. Records of the number of instances where official openings have been performed or attended by members of the Commonwealth Parliament are not kept by my Department.
Homes for the Aged. (Question No. 711.)
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
A further obstacle to such a balance is that many employees refrain from claiming for the adjustment of instalment deductions in respect of some or all of their dependants. This practice is probably followed because these employees find it convenient to receive an annual refund of instalment deductions.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Contributions to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund vary according to whether the member commenced contributions to the Fund before or after the 1959 Act.
For those who commenced to contribute prior to the 1959 Act, contributions are in two parts. The first in respect of pre 1959 Act entitlements is a continuation of the rate being paid according to the scale set out in the 1948-1958 legislation and is based on the age at which each portion of the entitlement accrued. The secondpart of the contribution, which is provided for in current legislation, is obtained by establishing the amount of the member’s share of increased pension appropriate to his change of category (as defined) and the contribution which would be necessary to obtain this entitlement -
in the case of officers, over the period from the date of entitlement until his retiring age;
in the case of other ranks, over the period from the date of entitlement to the completion of twenty years service or later engagement as appropriate.
There is no upper limit to such members’ contributions in terms of a percentage of salary.
Post 1959 Act entrants, in general, pay a contribution of 5 per cent, per annum of salary. There are some exceptions to this general principle; e.g., entrants at higher than normal ages and officers with early retirement ages who have, as a result, a shorter period over which to contribute for their share of the pension. The maximum contribution payable is 12 per cent. of salary in the case of a member who is 37 years of age, or more, on entry to the Fund.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total amount of Government subsidies paid to (a) Trans-Australia Airlines and (b) the airline subsidiaries of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. in each of the past five years for which figures are available?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The amounts of subsidy paid during each of the past five financial years to Trans-Australia Airlines and to each of the companies in which Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. has a controlling interest are set out in the following table -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice–
During each year since 1949, what was (a) the rate of inflow of private overseas investment, (b) the rate of outgoings on investment income, (c) the rate of direct investment from overseas, (d) the rate of portfolio investment and (e) the value of total direct overseas holdings of shares, debentures, unsecured notes and other obligations?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Questions (a), (c) and (d). Details of the annual inflow of private overseas investment in companies in Australia, by type of investment, are shown in Table I attached.
Question (b). Investment income payable overseas by companies in Australia, by category of income, is shown in Table II.
Question (e). The value of “direct” overseas holdings of shares, debentures, unsecured notes and other obligations of Australian companies is shown in Table III.
Full details, and explanations as to the basis of these figures, are shown in the “Annual Bulletin of Overseas Investment 1962-63 “.
rns asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The amounts allowed as deductions for education expenses and medical expenses in those years were as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The liability incurred by the Commonwealth in the lustfive years amounted to £3,046.
Transfer of Funds.
t. - On 30th September, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) asked me a question without notice concerning the regulation and supervision of the transfer of funds from Australia. As promised at the time, I have now obtained a detailed reply for the honorable member.
All remittances abroad from Australia require approval under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations, which are administered by the Reserve Bank of Australia. The purpose of the. control is at present limited to the prevention of unauthorised capital transfers.
Under existing policy, therefore, there are no restrictions on remittances by Australian residents for current (i.e. noncapital) purposes, including payments for imports, or on the remittance of current net income (after taxation) accruing to firms or individuals resident overseas. The Australian trading banks have been authorised to deal with the great majority of current transactions as agents of the Reserve Bank, the main exception being that the Reserve Bank’s approval must be obtained to remittances for travel and sustenance purposes in excess of certain limits.
Applications by Australian residents (including companies) for the transfer of capital for investment overseas are considered on their merits. Exchange control approval may be given, for example, in cases where the investment would assist with the establishment or expansion of a market for Australian exports, would serve to protect an existing Australian investment overseas or would enable Australian residents to take up any rights they might have acquired to new issues in overseas companies. Other cases may be approved if special circumstances exist. However, the transfer of funds by Australian residents to engage in purely portfolio investment overseas would not normally qualify for exchange control approval.
In the case of applications by overseas residents (including companies) for the repatriation of capital investment in Australia, such applications are normally approved but no advance commitments for the repatriation of capital are given.
Persons applying to banks for foreign currency are required to state the purpose for which the foreign currency is required and to furnish the information requested in connection with the relevant transaction. The Reserve Bank or agent bank would not in all cases know in advance the ultimate destination of the funds as in certain instances, such as overseas travel, the relevant banking instruments may be issued on the basis of being negotiable throughout the world.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 November 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19641110_reps_25_hor44/>.