25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I regret to inform the House that Mr. William James Scully, who would have been well known to several members of this Parliament, died at Tamworth last Saturday. He will be recalled as a Minister who served governments of Australia with ability and devotion. He was a staunch supporter of the Australian Labour Party and during his 12 years in this House he proved himself a very capable administrator. Bill Scully, as we all knew him, had a most friendly disposition. His mariner radiated the earnest conscientiousness which was part of his character. His ability, particularly in relation to problems of rural industries, won him high regard among members of all parties. He was a most popular man, warm hearted .and kindly, and I should think that any of his parliamentary colleagues who have survived him would recall him as a personal friend.
He began his political career in the New South Wales State Parliament, in which he served as a member of the Legislative Assembly from 1923 until 1932. He entered the Federal Parliament in 1937 as the member for Gwydir and he held this seat until 1949. From 1942 until 1946 he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He was a member of the Production Executive of Cabinet, and from 1946 to 1949 he was Vice-President of the Executive Council.
It will be seen from that outline of his parliamentary and ministerial career that he held office during the most difficult period of the war, and it was in those years that he had the task of organising commerce and agriculture in Australia under the complex conditions prevailing at that time. With his sincerity and ability he set a high standard of conduct in this House. He will be long remembered by those of us who were presonally in contact with him at that time and who enjoyed his friendship. His public life may well serve as a model for members of this Parliament who have come to this place since his departure from it.
I now move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable William James Scully, a member of this House for the Division of Gwydir from 1937 until 1949 and a former Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– The Opposition supports the remarks of the Prime Minister and appreciates his eloquent tribute to the memory of William James Scully. The Prime Minister referred to the late Mr. Scully by the name by which we all knew him - Bill Scully. Everybody who was in the Parliament in those days - there are not many of us here now - respected Bill Scully’s integrity and admired him for his simple, humble, forthright manner. Ben Chifley spoke of him with great affection. Among other things, Bill Scully at one time in his life was a horse dealer and Ben Chifley said of him that he was the most honest horse dealer he had ever met. Anybody who knew Bill Scully realised how goodness exuded from him. He was kindly, tolerant and generous in all the things he said and did.
Everything that the Prime Minister has said about Bill Scully is completely true. He did a job for Australia in those difficult years of war. History alone will tell all that was done in that period from 1939 to 1945. Not only had we to provide munitions and food, but we also had to clothe and equip an expeditionary force. This was not easy to do with a continually dwindling rural population, but Bill Scully devoted himself with great assiduity to the task of increasing production. I would not like to appropriate to one man the credit for all of the things that were done from 1941 to 1945 in the field of agriculture. However, I remember meeting General MacArthur in New York three months before he died, and he said that he would never forget the great effort Australia made in supplying food for the American forces under his command. I remember his saying that Australia not only gave him all that he wanted but also provided Admiral Nimitz, who died recently, with more supplies than he got from the United States. That was a great tribute to Australia’s war effort. In his way, Bill Scully helped in the successful promotion of the war effort. Australia owes him a debt of gratitude. I join with the Prime Minister in offering sympathy to Bill Scully’s widow and family. He was in Canberra only a year or two ago, meeting a number of old friends. He had hoped to come back here where I think he did his best work and where he always felt at home.
– I associate members of the Australian Country Party with the motion proposed by the Prime Minister and supported by the Leader of the Opposition. Those of us who sat in the Parliament with Mr. Scully, known to everybody as Bill Scully, enjoyed nothing but the most friendly relations with this friendly, earnest, decent man. He was a man nobody could dislike. His devotion to the Australian Labour Party, to his Government and to the problem of wartime supplies was clear for all to see and it brought respect to him. Those were difficult times for anyone who carried responsibilities. He lived a full life. He lived to a good age. He was engaged, not only in State and Federal Parliaments, but also in municipal affairs, sporting affairs and community affairs. He was a good community man and, I am sure, a very good Australian. It has been my fortune to work with one of his sons who is a senior, experienced and highly competent officer of the Department of Trade and Industry and who has been, from time to time, an adviser to me in Australia and overseas. So I carry a quite vivid memory of Bill Scully in my mind. I extend sympathy from my Party to his widow and to his family.
– I desire to be associated with the motion moved by the Prime Minister and supported by the Leader of the Opposition and by the Leader of my Party. Bill Scully was a leading citizen of Tamworth in New South Wales. Not only did he make a notable contribution to the welfare of the people of Australia, but as my Leader said, he was also a member of the New South Wales State Parliament and a member of the Tamworth Municipal Council for some six years after he was defeated and retired from this House.
In Tamworth he was well known, well respected and well loved. He was very much a man of the people and I should like to join in extending my personal sympathy to his wife and to his family.
– I join in supporting the motion moved by the Prime Minister regarding the late Honorable William Scully. It was my privilege during the war to be associated with the Honorable William Scully when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He had a profound knowledge of primary production in this country. Few men who have entered this Parliament have had as extensive a knowledge. He applied himself to the welfare of the primary producers of Australia during the war, but primarily to the welfare of the nation and making a contribution to the winning of the war. Bill Scully was a big man physically. He was a big man morally, and he was a big man spiritually. His memory will last long in the hearts of those who knew him. He was as straight as the timber from the district he represented. I join in this tribute to William Scully’s memory.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– On Friday another stalwart of the Australian Labour Party, a man who had given very long service in the Parliament of his State, later in the House of Representatives and subsequently, as I recall it, again in his own State Parliament - totalling in all some 30 years of parliamentary service - died. This was John Francis Gaha. As a member of the Australian Labour Party he served in this House from 1943 to 1949. Before entering the Federal Parliament he served in the Legislative Council of Tasmania from 1933 to 1943. During that time he was an honorary Minister, Minister for Health and Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council. He entered this chamber as the member for Denison in 1943 and, following his retirement in 1949, returned to the Tasmanian State Parliament where he resumed an active and distinguished career as a member of the House of Assembly.
He served his State as Chief Secretary and as Minister for Police and Minister for Transport. Despite ill health in recent years he continued his participation in politics in Tasmania.
He was a doctor of medicine by profession, but he devoted most of his life to his public service. However, he still found time to practise medicine and to keep himself up to date with the latest developments in his profession. His name became a byword around Hobart for the generosity with which he made his professional services available to people in the electorate he represented. His friendliness to all made him something of a legend in his own State. We remember him vividly from his service in this Parliament. He had a personality which was quite distinctive and highly individualist. Somehow, he managed to discipline his individualism within the requirements of the rules of the Party of which he was a member, but one always had the impression that a lively minded individual was there - one who tended to bubble over in cheerful good nature and in warm friendliness to all his fellow members of the Parliament, regardless of party. Through this long period of his life, he rendered a service which should receive the gratitude of his State and of this Parliament. His personality made his service the more richly appreciated, because it was so cheerfully and generously given. We do well to recognise .in this place a man who gave a life of service -to his fellow men and at the same time warmed their daily lives by his presence among them.
He made a significant contribution to the work of this House during his six years in the Federal Parliament, particularly in relation to the problem of health, of which he had developed such a specialist knowledge. Our sympathy goes to his wife in her sad loss. I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the Honorable John Francis Gaha, a member of this House for the Division of Denison from 1943 to 1949, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow in her bereavement.
– Anybody who had the privilege and honour of knowing Frank Gaha, as we called him, knew a very remarkable man. He was one of the most extraordinary men I have ever had the honour to meet. I know his life story. He was a first generation Australian, born of Lebanese parents who learned to speak English after they came here. His was a remarkable family because in the one generation it produced two doctors, and in the next generation another doctor.
But life was not easy for Frank Gaha or his family. Up to the age of 25 years, he was mustering and branding cattle on his father’s property at Narrabri in New South Wales. At the age of 25, he went to college to matriculate. After that, he went abroad to study and graduate, as the Prime Minister has said, in the faculty of medicine. He came back to Australia and, because of ill health, went to Tasmania. He built up a big and quite lucrative practice in Tasmania, because he was deservedly recognised as a very good surgeon.
He was not only devoted to medicine. He studied the classics and had the extraordinary facility of being able to recite long passages of Shakespeare, as he often did for us in the party room. I renumber travelling with him in Tasmania once when he recited Virgil almost by the yard. He could remember events in history with a degree of accuracy that might have made him a professor of history. But, with all that, he was quite a humble man. He loved the people and he served the people. He entered the Legislative Council of Tasmania with a narrow majority of about 4 or 5 votes back in 1933. There, I believe, he did his best work. As Minister for Health in the Ogilvie Government later he helped to bring to Tasmania a new outlook on the matter of hospital management and control. He did very great work in the field of health for the people of Tasmania.
When he came here, he not only informed the House on occasions, he even entertained it. I can remember one speech that he made picturing himself sitting in his loungeroom with his feet on the mantelpiece, as he put it, saying what he wanted to say. Dame Enid Lyons followed him in the debate. She agreed with him, but she said that she could not emulate him by putting her feet on the mantelpiece. Those of us who were here then remember all his little peculiarities and all those delightful - we might say - idiosyncracies that he had. But he was always a good friend and he was always a cheerful companion.
He went back to State public life when he retired from this House in 1949. He became a good Minister and he did good work there. But his best days were over. I think his best service was given in the Tasmanian Legislative Council from 1933 till 1943. We will always remember Frank Gaha with great affection. We of the Opposition offer, with the Prime Minister who was speaking for the Government, our deepest sympathy to a loving and devoted wife who helped him at all times and encouraged him in the last few years during which he had been going down the hill and in the period of his last illness.
– I wish to associate the Australian Country Party with the motion of sympathy to the wife on the occasion of the death of Dr. Gaha. Those of us who sat in this House with Dr. Gaha will always carry in their minds, as I do. a vivid impression of a very active intellect, a friendly man, an amusing man, an uninhibited man, but a highly intelligent man who could devote his talents, which w.ire considerable, to the problems of the party that he supported. I know that he served long and with distinction in the Tasmanian Parliament as Minister for Health and, concurrently, was a surgeon and doctor of real note conducting his own practice particularly in and around the Hobart Hospital. For this work he gained a wide reputation. To think of Doc Gaha as I think of him is to recall some incident of which I have vivid memories still. I refer to the pictures that he painted when he made his maiden speech in this House. Those pictures remain in my mind today. My Party and I express regret at the passing of this good Australian.
– Mr. Speaker, I should like to add a personal note to the tributes already paid by Party leaders to one of my predecessors in the electorate of Denison. I first knew Dr. Gaha in London. I knew him towards the end of his life in Tasmania. I should like to place on record the affection with which the people of Hobart held Stymie Gaha as he was known to them. I feel Mrs. Gaha should know this. As a young man, I knew Dr. Gaha as a Labour man of the old school, and 1 respected him as such. In my movements around my electorate I have found everyone speaking highly of Stymie Gaha. I wish Mrs. Gaha to know this fact.
– I, too, would like to add just a few words of tribute to the memory of Frank Gaha, with whose family I grew up. Frank Gaha was born in the same district as I was, although he was some years older than I. His younger brother was a close personal friend of mine and I have known the whole family during the course of my life. I knew his mother and father very well. I was interested to hear the comments of the Leader of the Opposition, which are perfectly true. I think Frank Gaha could hardly read or write at the age of 14 or 15 years. He started right on the bottom rung of the ladder. This man had extraordinary ability. He went overseas, graduated in medicine from, I think, Dublin and then came back to Australia. Those who knew Dr. Gaha would appreciate his versatility. He had an extraordinary capacity, an extraordinary brain and extraordinary energy. I have never known a man with such energy. He was most kind, as the Leader of the Opposition said; but above all, those who knew him intimately would know that he was extraordinarily generous towards the underdog. He always had a great love for the one who had nothing.
Another characteristic of Dr. Gaha was that although he married late in life and had no immediate family of his own, he never forgot his brothers and sisters, most of whom are still alive. He had a great family affection for his own people. 1 regret his passing and I think that those who are left can feel proud of what he contributed to Australia and of the work that he did both as a surgeon and as a person in public life during his career. I should like to express my sympathy to his widow, to his brothers and to his sister, Mrs. Biggs.
- Dr. Frank Gaha was in the Parliament when I came here in 1946. He went out, I think, in 1949, so I had three years here with him. I should like to say that the day that Tasmania received Dr. Frank Gaha as one of its people was a truly historic day for us. New South Wales gave him to
Tasmania, and we are very grateful to New South Wales for having given him to our State. We are greatly pleased that Frank Gaha decided to live in Tasmania. The record of his parliamentary life outlined by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition is quite memorable and unique, lt is not the lot of many men to experience 30 years in three parliamentary fields. He started in the Legislative Council in Tasmania, then came to the Federal Parliament here for six years, and then went to the House of Assembly, the lower House of the Parliament of Tasmania. That is where he was when he retired from parliamentary life in 1961.
Frank Gaha will always be remembered by those of us who knew him and are still here - and there are not many of us - as a fast talker and a hard hitting speaker. Many of his speeches, which were made from a spot in front of the broadcasting box, were hard hitting speeches. He was a wonderful doctor and a won.derful surgeon, and knew health matters backwards. He was a great help to this side of the House during health debates in the Parliament. He was a lovable man with a buoyant, bright and humorous character. In fact, he had a tremendous capacity for humour, as other speakers have said.
He will leave behind him in Tasmania I suppose thousands of people who were personally helped by his kindness, generosity and unselfishness as a medical man. Many people were never charged for work that Frank Gaha did for them in health matters. As the honorable member for Bennelong has just said, he was certainly a great friend to the underdog. He was a true Labour man in that sense. I say to his wife that Tasmania has lost a wonderful friend, and we thank New South Wales for sending him over to us so many years ago.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has he perused the editorial in the “ Advocate “, the official organ of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, in which the proposals of the Government to send conscripts overseas are condemned as unjust, immoral and a violation of human rights for which the Government has no mandate? Has he also read statements alleged to have been made by the Catholic Bishop of Bendigo which seem to disclose some difference of opinion as to whether conscription is unjust, immoral and a violation of human rights? Because similar diverse views are dividing all sections-
– Order! I think the honorable member is making his question too long. I ask him to direct his question.
– Because our people are being divided into bitter warring factions, will the Government-
– Will the Government submit its conscription policy to a referendum in order to obtain a guide from the people on the policy to be pursued?
– I have not yet had an opportunity to read the editorial to which the honorable gentleman refers or the material subsequently issued by others mentioned by the honorable gentleman. However, I did have the satisfaction this morning of reading the editorial in the Melbourne “ Age “ and I would strongly recommend that all Labour men, who have failed so far to get any clear idea of the issues involved in South Vietnam and the necessity for the use of Australian national servicemen in the operations there, make this prescribed reading. I think it would also be useful if the editor of the “ Advocate “ and the other people mentioned by the honorable gentleman were to give the editorial their attention.
– I wish to direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has there been any difficulty in providing unloading facilities for Australian food aid for India? If there has, are there any more effective ways or means that the Government can introduce for handling this aid more expeditiously to ensure that it is delivered to the sources throughout India where it is needed most?
– I have not had any information given to me directly on this matter in recent times, but I shall make some inquiries of the Department of External Affairs and see what information I can supply to the honorable gentleman.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the former Prime Minister stated that Australia is at war in Vietnam? If he is, does he still maintain that Australia is not at war? If so, how can he compare his decision to conscript national service trainees for service abroad when Australia is not at war with the decision made in the 1939-45 conflict when Australia was at war and threatened with Japanese invasion shortly after the Liberal Government of which he was a member was voted out of office by its own supporters?
– The honorable gentleman asks a propaganda question, but I do not intend to give a propaganda reply. I am puzzled as to why the honorable gentleman should take » this deliberate course of trying to confuse the public mind on the issues that we are facing. The honorable gentleman’s general attitude on these matters is well known. He does not support the policy which his Party is advocating in this place. If he were to stand and be counted in respect of what he really believes on the issue in Vietnam he would be standing in support of this Government. I know the views that the honorable gentleman expressed in this place at an earlier time and that others of like mind were expelled from the Australian .Labour Party. I know of the difficult time that he has had in maintaining his position since then among the currents that are swirling around inside the Labour Party. I hope that the honorable member will face up to the issues quite honestly and declare his own mind in frank and open fashion.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Did the dredge now in Botany Bay obtain the sands for the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport runway extension? Is the dredge to be further used to supply the sand filling which will enable construction of the new terminal at Kingsford-Smith to proceed? Is the dredge now inactive and is it probable that it may return to Holland before filling for the urgently needed terminal can be obtained? Further, what stage has the proposed construction of the terminal reached, and is the completion date expected to be as scheduled?
– It is a fact that there is still in Botany Bay a dredge that had been used on a contract for the filling of the new extension to the north-south runway. The honorable member has referred to the contract which is to be let for the filling for the new terminal complex at Sydney airport. This matter has not yet been decided. Tenders were called recently for this work and have been received, but the contract has not yet been let. This is a matter that more properly comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Works in another place. However, I have been closely in touch with the situation.
The position at the moment is that the contract cannot be let until arrangements are made with the Maritime Services Board for the exact site from which the sand is to be pumped to fill this terminal complex area. I understand that surveys have been made recently, and we expect a decision to be made in this matter in the very near future. As soon as this is done arrangements will be made by the Minister for Works in relation to the actual contract. So I do not think there is any unnecessary delay. I can give an assurance that the programming should be in accordance with the original estimate. As this matter was mentioned in the Sydney Press this morning, I must reiterate that there should not be any disadvantage for Sydney by reason of this situation compared with the airport situation in Victoria.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. By way of preface I point out that Thursday Island seamen working on Commonwealth lighthouse ships in Torres Strait are paid at the following rates - the bosun £8 a week and the crewmen £7 a week, which are much below the award rates. The ships’ officers and mechanic engineers are paid award rates plus overtime. In addition, there is deducted from the small pay of crew members 2s. 6d. for each meal while they are at sea, whereas the officers and mechanics do not pay this amount. Why? Will the Minister look into the conditions operating on these ships? I also point out that the wages of the Thursday Island crew are paid at the office of the Department of Native Affairs. If the seamen are late, as they often are on Fridays, they cannot get their pay because the paying office of the Department of Native Affairs closes at approximately 4 p.m. Will the Minister see whether these men can be paid by the Customs officers who now pay the waterside workers and other Commonwealth employees on Thursday Island? Incidentally, the name of the lighthouse ship to which 1 refer is “ A. H. Swingle “, not “ Swindle “.
– I am indebted to the honorable gentleman for the information he has given me in the guise of a question. I shall look into the matter that he has raised and give him a detailed answer later.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. Will he consider making a statement relating to the Citizen Military Forces of the Commonwealth? Will he clearly define their role in time of need, the Government’s latest target strength and the effective strength at present? Will he include in the statement information on whether there are any restrictions on enlistment that are based on occupational grounds and, if not, on how effective strength can be arrived at when it is certain that should major hostilities break out the whole of the country’s manpower, male and female, will need to be marshalled?
– The role of the Citizen Military Forces cannot be looked at entirely in isolation. As honorable members know, the Australian Regular Army has the prime job of undertaking the cold war tasks that may be required of it and limited war tasks in a more serious situation. But our official military advice is that permanent forces large enough to meet all contingencies would be extraordinarily expensive and would cripple the general development programmes of the Government in many spheres. Therefore, the Citizen Military Forces are maintained. These comprise an extremely important part of our one Army. The role of the C.M.F. is a dual one. First, it has to provide additional forces in a situation of defence emergency in any combat or conflict in which the C.M.F. may be required to serve.
Secondly, in a more serious situation mat could lead to mobilisation under conditions of general war the citizen forces would be the prime vehicle for a general expansion of the Army. The role of the C.M.F. has been made meaningful by changes in the Defence Act which were introduced by the Government not so long ago and under the terms of which all members of the Citizen Military Forces would be required to serve overseas if the security of Australia were to demand that. 1 turn now to the precise questions that the honorable member asked. At present there are no occupational restrictions, on enlistment in the Citizen Military Forces. The ultimate target so far announced by the Government is 35,000 men. The number is now running not far short of 30,000 and enlistments in the first seven months of the current financial year have been going quite well. In that period, the total numbers increased by about 1,400. If there were a situation of genera] war in which mobilisation might become necessary, the manpower needs of the C.M.F. would be looked at in accordance with the overall manpower requirements in the particular situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Is he aware that the amount of the assistance paid by State Governments to deserted wives for the first six months after desertion varies from State to State? In many States, the payment is substantially lower than the special benefit of £4 2s. 6d. a week paid by the Commonwealth Government in Victoria for the first six months. Will the Government favorably consider paying this special benefit in every State without favouring one to the detriment of the others?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “. The answer to the second part is that the responsibility is a State one. I come now to the third part. I think that the honorable member will be aware that for many years the Commonwealth has regarded its primary responsibility as that of looking after those people in the community who are more or less permanently in the situation of a deserted wife. When a wife is deserted initially, there is usually some uncertainty about whether there is any possibility of the husband becoming reconciled and the family unit being returned to its normal state. The Commonwealth does not provide assistance until six months after desertion because at that stage the situation that has been arrived at is usually one that can be regarded as being permanent. In some States in which particular assistance is not given by the State authorities, the Commonwealth, it is true, provides assistance, but this does not remove these cases from a sphere that is primarily a State responsibility.
– I wish to direct a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity of Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Yesterday, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated that “Australia had given no non-military assistance to Vietnam until October 1964, six months after America requested that Australia provide aid “. In order to dispel the ignorance, cynicism and carelessness of such statements by Opposition members, will the right honorable gentleman state briefly in broad outline some of the major projects and the annual expenditure involved in non-military assistance given by Australia since 1958?
– When this statement was brought to my attention I made it my business to become acquainted with some of the facts surrounding the matter. The statement was obviously incorrect as to the facts. The honorable gentleman either had been quite careless in the preparation of his material and in making the charge which he did make or had chosen to overlook what were readily verifiable facts about the continuing assistance that Australia has been giving to this country for a considerable number of years. We first began giving non-military aid to Vietnam in 1954 under the Colombo Plan and we have continued to give it since 1956 through the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, Vietnam being a protocol State under the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty. The total value of non-military aid provided to Vietnam, to 30th June 1964, under the Colombo Plan and the S.E.A.T.O. aid programme, was $A7,255,000. The total under the Colombo Plan was more than $A5 million. This covered the cost of railway carriages, earthmoving equipment, sulphate of ammonia, buses and hand tools, the training of 175 Vietnamese students in Australia and the provision of 36 experts for work on development projects. Under the S.E.A.T.O. aid programme the total value of non-military aid to Vietnam, to June 1964, was more than $A2 million, which covered the cost of telecommunications equipment, tents, barbed wire and fence posts and other items.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do you rule that this question has been asked without notice?
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order. This is a reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Chisholm.
– But asked by arrangement.
– The statement referred to by the honorable member for Chisholm was so clearly a mis-statement of fact that it is not surprising to me that the honorable member for Chisholm and, indeed, many other honorable members on this side of the House who are familiar with the facts, would want the facts established. I would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition, who has found it necessary to correct his Deputy in other directions, would wish to see a correct statement given of the facts of this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In order to avoid any misunderstanding in the community as to the procedure for calling up national service trainees, will the Minister explain the exact procedure followed from the time when young men of 20 are registered for call up?
– Following registration, and usually about a month afterwards, a ballot is held which is designed to produce the number of persons required for call-up purposes. The first step is to work out the number of birth dates that need to be drawn in order to produce finally the required number of men, after allowing for the number of those exempt, deferred, medically unfit and so on. This can now be determined with reasonable accuracy. A marble is provided for each day in the six months period that is covered by the ballot. The marbles are withdrawn at random until the required number has been reached. Then the persons whose birthdays coincide with the dates of the marbles drawn are notified that they remain liable for consideration for national service, while the others are notified that their call up has been indefinitely deferred. There are a number of exempt categories, such as those with physical and mental troubles and disturbances, ministers of religion, theological students and full time members of certain holy orders. The cards of those balloted in are examined and some are granted deferment. Apprentices and students, for instance, are allowed deferment until their courses have been completed or while they continue to make satisfactory progress. Some are granted deferment on grounds of exceptional hardship if they can substantiate such claims before a court of summary jurisdiction. Then there are one or two other very minor categories of exemptions and deferments.
– Why not make a statement on it later?
– Subsequently those who are still left in, or those whose deferments following previous ballots have come to an end, are called up for medical examination. If they are found to be fit they are notified accordingly and in due course they are told to report to the Army. But in order that the matter may be stated exactly I think it would be preferable if I issued a written statement.
– Why did the Minister not say so in the first place?
– If the honorable member is interested I will supply him or any other interested member with a detailed statement so that it can be made clear, as it should be made to the whole of the Australian people, that this is an entirely fair process designed to meet Australia’s international obligations.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Labour and National Service. How many birth dates were balloted in for each half yearly period for which ballots have been held?
– So far there have been three ballots and, if I remember correctly, the numbers of days were 96, 67 and 48. I may explain that as time progresses an increasing number of those required are taken, naturally, from those whose deferments following earlier ballots have come to an end. So for quite a while the number of dates balloted is likely to continue to decline. Eventually a stabilised position will be reached in which those being deferred and those whose deferments are ending will balance. After that there should be only slight variations from one ballot to the next.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry been informed of a statement made yesterday by the President of the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association to the effect that the future of orderly marketing of wheat was being threatened? Can he tell the House and the wheatgrowers where these threats are coming from? Is there any connection between them and the recent wool reserve prices referendum? Finally, does the Minister share this organisation’s concern?
– I noticed a statement in one of the Melbourne newspapers along the lines referred to by the honorable member. I think it was reported to have been made by Mr. Meehan. I would be somewhat surprised if there were any disruption caused by persons interested in the wheat industry seeking to upset the stabilisation scheme. The honorable member asked me whether I thought the suggested threat might be associated with the wool reserve prices referendum. I should think that the contrary would probably be the case because I see many sheep owners today growing wheat because of the stability of the wheat industry. They are seeking to take advantage of the generous stabilisation proposals that have been introduced by this Parliament and which the Government strongly supports. Of course, I would be concerned if I thought there was any real move to upset the stability of the market but I do not think anything will be done that will affect the market to any extent.
– No doubt the Minister for Defence is aware that several Australian suppliers are facing losses totalling several million dollars in respect of work carried out on or in connection with the construction of the United States naval communication station at North West Cape. Are the losses due largely to the default of the American partner in the joint United StatesAustralian enterprise which successfully tendered for the first stage of the project? If so, what steps is the Government taking to secure prompt payment for the many companies and individuals who have been waiting for more than a year to have their accounts paid and who, in relying on the Australian Government’s co-operation in the undertaking and its insistance that the maximum practical use be made of Australian resources, extended credit and provided services?
– I am generally aware that many firms in Western Australia which set out to supply goods and services to the original contractors for the North West Cape project have not yet had their accounts paid. I am aware also that the amounts outstanding total a considerable figure. The contract for this work was let by the United States Government. Thereafter, the operation became purely a commercial one. The people who sought to deal with the corporation should have protected their accounts by looking into the credit rating of the organisation. Not only did the first contractor leave some debts lying about, if I may use that term, from which the Western Australian suppliers should have learned some lessons, but unfortunately the same people committed the same error with the second contract and now have an additional series of unpaid accounts there. I stress again that these are matters of ordinary business prudence. At this stage, although the Government is necessarily concerned that Australian suppliers should not have had their accounts fully paid, it is very doubtful whether the Government can do anything to see that they are paid. The ordinary recourse to law is available to these suppliers.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Recently members of the Opposition have criticised the export from Australia of strategic war materials such as rutile. Will the Prime Minister say how much rutile has been exported to mainland China? Is rutile being exported now? Are other strategic materials being exported to mainland China?
– This matter is another example of an inaccurate statement emanating from the Opposition. There has not been any export of rutile to China since 1964. Since that time the export of rutile has been prohibited on the ground that it is a strategic material. Shipments have accordingly been terminated.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Were quantities of rutile supplied to mainland China and used in the manufacture of aircraft? Was the export of rutile to China stopped only because the Opposition objected? Honorable members opposite may laugh, but these are the fact’s. I invite the Prime Minister to turn up his files on this matter. As the Prime Minister has not answered the question asked by the honorable member for Ballaarat about the export of strategic materials–
– To Hong Kong?
– No. To mainland China. I ask: Is it not a fact that this Government is doing everything in its; power to promote the export of wheat and wool to mainland China? Are not these products classified among strategic materials?
– The honorable gentleman is well aware that wheat and wool may be obtained by Communist China on the markets of the world. By no stretch of definition can these products be classified as strategic materials in the same sense as the other items that have been referred to. Everything is a strategic material in the definition of honorable gentlemen opposite. If is well known that wool and wheat could be secured from other countries, but Australia has weighed the balance of national advantage in this matter and has concluded that it is to Australia’s advantage to make these sales. Do honorable gentlemen opposite resist that conclusion?
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a newspaper report this morning from a German source claiming that the Russian Communist Party has sent a note to all Communist Parties in the world accusing China of being an aggressive warmongering power aiming at making world war? Is the full text of the note available? Does the Government believe that it is a bona fide note or is it to be described more as an effort by the Soviet Communist Party to make its own misdeeds seem whiter by contrast with the very red deeds of the Chinese Communist Party?
– I shall see whether there is authentic information regarding such a document and supply the honorable gentleman and others who may be interested with as much information about it as I can.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question. 1 refer the Minister to a letter 1 wrote some time ago pointing to the financial disadvantage which married pensioner couples living in homes for the aged suffer compared with single pensioners living in these institutions. I pointed out that married pensioner couples pay the same weekly board but do not receive the supplementary allowance that is paid to the single pensioner. Has the Minister considered this matter further?
– The Commonwealth Government regards the matter of charges for accommodation in homes for the aged as the responsibility of the organisation running the home. The object of the Aged Persons Homes Act, brought down by this Government, was to encourage voluntary organisations to establish homes for the aged in the community. Towards this end, the Government makes a payment of £2 for every £1 raised by the organisation. As a result of this incentive, voluntary organisations have raised a tremendous amount of money for homes for the aged. The supplementary assistance provided by the Government is designed primarily to offset the disadvantage suffered by single people paying rent compared with married people. Married pensioners have the advantage of sharing most expenses, including, but not exclu sively, those of running a house. The charges made for homes for the aged are beyond the control of the Department of Social Services or of the Government. Consequently I and my Department are not in a position to ask officials of these homes to distinguish between single and married pensioners. There is nothing that we can do to offset any disadvantage that might arise.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. The right honorable gentleman will recall that when the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market was first mooted, the Department of Trade, in conjunction with other organisations, embarked on a drive for new markets in many areas. Will the right honorable gentleman say how successful the drive has been in general and, in particular, will he give me information about increased sales of dairy products in the last three years to Asian countries as a consequence of this effort?
– It is quite true that the Department of Trade and Industry, and indeed the Government, wishing to provide a more secure base for the export of Australian primary products and other products have sought constantly to diversify our export points, particularly having in mind the possibility that if the United Kingdom, our main buyer, should join the Common Market under terms which minimized our trading opportunities there, we would badly need other markets. This process has gone ahead. I would not be in a position to attempt to recount details as I stand here, but I will secure some table showing these. I think it would be appropriate if I answered the honorable member’s question fully by endeavouring to have these details incorporated in “ Hansard “. I can say that a quite substantial measure of success has occurred. I am watching carefully what might develop in the near future in the light of the apparent new attitude of General de Gaulle to the admission of Britain to the Common Market; of the reported announcement of policy by Mr. Heath, the Leader of the Opposition in Britain, that he, as Prime Minister, would lose no time in taking Britain into the Common Market; and of the fact that Mr. Wilson, while not being so explicit, provided there were certain safeguards for the trade of Britain’s present trading partners would also be prepared to contemplate Britain’s joining the Common Market.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Has the Government’s active consideration of the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, announced by him a fortnight ago, and most welcome, proceeded with the energy and the speed then indicated? If it will be some time before we can expect the decision on the result of this reconsideration, can he at an early date give us a progress report?
– I expect today to receive from Sir William Hudson, the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority, some final details for which I asked. The moment I receive these the Government will be in a position to undertake consideration of this matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. First, is all quiet on the waterfront? Secondly, has any improvement been made with handling equipment? Thirdly, has the turn round of ships been improved?
– To say that all is quiet would not be giving to the word “ all “ its proper significance, but there has been a vast improvement in respect of the number of work hours lost. If my recollection is correct the figure for February - and this was published recently in the Press - was about 1,750 hours. This was a little more than the figure for January but certainly much less than the figure for February last year and for the February figures in most previous years. Regarding handling equipment, I am not quite sure whether the honorable member means ship gear. If he does, I think my colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport would be able to reassure him that his officers are continually striving to see that proper steps are takes in this regard and are persevering with that policy. Harbour facilities are being improved, although no doubt not nearly so fast as many of us would like. However, there is a steady improvement. The picture is certainly very much better than it was. Discussions are being held, under the chairmanship of Mr. Woodward, between the Waterside Workers Federation and employers, and we hope for progress as time proceeds.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Is it a fact that little if any consideration is being given to those young men from drought stricken farms who are seeking deferment of their national service training on the ground of hardship? Has the Minister declined to intervene in these cases despite evidence of concern expressed by representatives of country electorates?
– The national service legislation passed by this Parliament provides that those affected may apply to a court of summary jurisdiction for deferment of their call up for national service training on the grounds of exceptional hardship. It is a court process as laid down by an Act of this Parliament, and it would not be for me or anyone else to intervene.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the Australian National Heart Foundation ever conducted research into the use of natural science as a method of treatment for heart disease? What is the attitude of the Minister and his Department to this type of treatment?
– I assume that the honorable member refers to the methods of treatment advocated by Mr. H. C. Ashton of Coogee and which he calls natural science. This is not a recognised method of treating heart disease. I am informed that the National Heart Foundation has not considered investigating it. The Foundation has had some correspondence with Mr. Ashton but has not got very far, because he has failed to reveal the nature of the treatment he advocates. The honorable member has asked what is the attitude of my Department. From the information available to it my Department believes that this treatment has no proper scientific foundation and, therefore, does not merit further investigation.
– =1 ask the Minister for Air a question. In view of the fact that the delivery date of the controversial Fill aircraft recedes ever further with the passing of each month, has his attention been drawn to a statement at page 3 in the authoritative international publication the “ New York Times “ weekly international edition of 23rd January 1966, that the Fill bomber is regarded by the United States Air Force as a poor substitute for the BS2 or BS8? Will he compare the abilities of the B52 and B58 with those of the F1M and indicate why his Government preferred the Fill, particularly in view of the inferior rating reportedly accorded it by the United States Air Force and its apparent indeterminate delivery date?
– I have said many times in this House that the first of these aircraft will be delivered in July 1968. Nothing I have received officially has made me change my opinion, and I still say categorically that the delivery date will be the date on which we have contracted to get it. Therefore the whole of the remainder of the question does not really arise.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Is the Minister aware that some wool growers- and it appears that this is an increasing number - are expressing dissatisfaction with the operation of the wool promotion scheme? Does he know that they are desirous of securing more detailed information about the spending of the money contributed to the fund than that contained in the Australian Wool Board’s annual report and balance sheet? Will the Minister make investigations with a view to supplying this information in more detail?
– Under the Wool Industry Act 1962-64 the Wool Board presents its balance sheet in a form prescribed by the Treasurer and approved by him. Attached to that is a report of its activities, and I presume it is to the report that the honorable member refers as not containing sufficient detail. I think it is a very substantial and well compiled report. Obviously, if reports of that type could contain all details that are required they would be most welcome. I point out that the Wool Board is required to present a report of its promotional activities to the Australian Wool Industry Conference. That report has been presented. In addition, as recently as last October the Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat presented a full report of the activities of that Secretariat. If there is not sufficient information in that report, it is the responsibility of the Conference to seek whatever additional information is required. I am sure that any request for information would be readily met. If further information is required, it might be useful for some of the wool growers to interview the Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat when next he is in Australia.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. Is there any limitation on the amount of money that can be taken out of the country?
– Is the honorable member thinking of leaving the country?
– If I took what money I have out of the country, there would be nothing to worry about. What precautions are takes to prevent large sums of money from being taken out of Australia? I refer not only to recent reports that quantities of the new decimal currency are being taken out of the country but also to a case which I referred to the AttorneyGeneral recently concerning a couple who left for England, taking with them an estimated £20,000, being payment for telephone microphone attachments for tha delivery of which they purported to have the approval of the Postmaster-General and which were never delivered.
– I am unable to give a precise answer as to the limitations on taking money out of the country. There may be some Treasury control regulations of which I have no direct knowledge. I could not offer an opinion about them. I think the point which the honorable gentleman is really raising is whether persons can take out of the country money which does not really belong to them, because they have come by it dishonestly. The answer to that, of course, is that there is no way in which a government can prevent them from doing that, because it cannot decide in advance whether they properly possess the money. Any action that is taken must be taken by the individuals who claim that the money has been wrongly obtained from them. There are civil processes available, and they work very quickly if they are called into action.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in view of misrepresentations contained in a question asked by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and in a reply given to it by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). In the last question which he answered yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister stated that more than 30 governments are giving assistance in one form or another to the Government of South Vietnam. The countries concerned and the nature of their assistance were stated in an answer furnished by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) to a question which I had put on the notice paper. The answer appears in “ Hansard “ of 27th October 1964 at page 2383. In my speech last night I quoted the assistance which Australia had given on the same instigation in the same circumstances.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) - by leave - agreed to -
That the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and that in his place the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) be appointed a member of that Committee.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The need for the Government to counter the effects of the current and future droughts by providing the States with additional funds for the immediate construction of practical water storages in proven areas and by making available to the States free of cost the investigation staff of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– I rise to order. I seek to clarify what appears at the moment to be an anomaly, and I do so in an effort to protect the rights of members of this House. I refer to the motion placed on the notice paper by my colleague, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) on 16th March. The discussion of that motion is set down for tomorrow. It appears to me that it would be possible and practicable under the present system to bring forward for discussion as a matter of public importance a matter suggested for discussion in a motion of which notice had been given by another honorable member, thus denying that other honorable member the right to initiate the discussion. I point out that when an honorable member gives notice of a motion, he must indicate the lines which the discussion is to take. I raise my point of order because I want to try to clarify the position for honorable members. I suggest that the urgency proposal of the honorable member for Dawson is not in order, as there is a danger that the discussion on it would override discussion of the subject matter referred to in the motion of which the honorable member for Gwydir has given notice.
– Order! I point out to honorable members that Standing Order 107 provides that the Speaker shall put a matter of public importance before the House for discussion only after and if he has determined that it is in order. When this matter was submitted to me this morning by the honorable member for Dawson I examined it in the light of the anticipation rule.
The motion appearing in the name of the honorable member for Gwydir has as its principal purpose the setting up by the Commonwealth and the States of a planning and construction authority to regulate the flow of all major river systems. The matter submitted by the honorable member for Dawson relates primarily to current and future droughts and proposes that their effects be countered by the provision of funds to enable the States to construct immediately water storages in proven areas, and that the investigation staff of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority be made available to the States free of charge.
I was of the opinion that the two proposals are basically different and that the matter submitted by the honorable member for Dawson does not breach the anticipation rule, either with reference to the motion or the orders of the day in connection with the drought relief measures which appears on the notice paper. I am still of that opinion. Therefore, in my view, the matter raised by the honorable member for Dawson is in order.
.- It is very easy for any member to criticise a policy or an action of the Government, particularly if he is in opposition, but I sincerely believe that the negative and blundering actions of this Government in its failure to counter the devastating and tragic effects of the droughts which are tearing the economy of this country apart, and which, because of our expansion policy, will become more serious in the future, are deserving of the highest level of condemnation that can be given any responsible government.
I make this statement because drought affects not only the primary producers and the people who work directly for primary producers but also townspeople and people in metropolitan areas. The greatest domestic problem facing Australia today is the tragedy of drought and the apparent inability of this Government to counter it by effective planning. In support of that argument, I quote the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) during the course of a speech in this House several weeks ago, when he declared that Australia had been relatively free of drought over a reasonably long period of years. As I mentioned before, apparently the Prime Minister only moves around in Victoria. But I can. understand the statement by the Prime Minister because he has been dominated for so long by the attitudes of the Treasury economists. I was rather disturbed to read the policy speech made by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) which he delivered for the Country Party in the Dawson by-election. The Deputy Prime Minister did not even mention the subject of drought or the subject of water conservation although the Dawson electorate has been torn apart by the ravages of drought.
– The honorable member does not know his area very well.
– I do know it very well. The honorable member did not even remember the name of the town in which he was speaking. I was most disturbed to read also that the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) on 14th March gave a learned lecture in Brisbane on the development of Queensland in which he did not even mention the word water. He spoke about the tourist industry but even then did not mention water. The Treasurer made this statement -
Nothing could damage the cause of development more than to invest resources in projects and schemes which take years before they yield any reasonable return and which, in the meantime, yield little or no income to those involved.
In other words, it is all right to exploit our minerals and to overstock our pastures in order to secure a quick return but any action to conserve water - a project of a long term nature - does not arouse the interest of this Government.
The Australian Labour Party has raised this matter because it believes it is urgent. It will continue to hammer the need for conservation of water as long as it can. Members of the Country Party are interjecting. I hope that they will continue to interject and that I will be given the opporttunity to answer them. Then, when “ Hansard “ is published, the people in their electorates will be able to read their interjections. However, I hope that those members of the Country Party will take some of their colleagues with them and go into some areas of northern New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and other areas and have a look at what is happening there today because of the drought.
– I have been there, you know.
– Yes, the honorable member has been there, occasionally. But let honorable members opposite see the conditions there or preferably let them stay there for a week or two, and live with the cattle and sheep which are looking for a drink of water. Last year, I was in an area in which I helped a cattle man to pull 56 head of breeders out of a bog. Then we shot the lot because there was no feed although there was plenty of water. If a scheme for the conservation of water had been available along with a practical demonstration of the availability of credit, he could have had fodder conservation.
– Where was this? Name the area?
– This happened in Dawson. We also see the absurd paradox of millions of acre feet of water flowing down to the coast of Queensland into the sea. This water flows through areas which have been stricken by drought for the last two years. These are areas which have been investigated by State authorities. Because of a lack of funds, Queensland cannot go ahead with efforts to conserve water. I refer, for example, to such areas as Kolan and the Mingo Crossing in the Burnett area where a devastating drought has been suffered in the last two years. The losses that have occurred in the sugar cane and cattle industries in these areas alone exceed the cost of the construction of major water storages. Similarly, floods have occurred in the Monto, Eidsvold and Pioneer areas. If this water had been conserved, the drought problem would have been greatly alleviated. Water in the Fitzroy and Burdekin system is dangerously low. The low levels of underground water in the Pioneer areas are causing major problems.
All of these things add up to one answer. We should be able to provide the funds for water conservation in these areas where we have proven and established industries. Practical investigations have been carried out by State authorities. Surely this Government can see its way clear to provide the necessary finance. This money is needed urgently so that these areas can make moves straightaway to construct water storages. The products which will come from these areas have a sound future. Fundamentally, they are based on the cattle industry and indirectly include fodder, grain sorghum and maize, all of which have a sound future.
The question has been asked many times: How are these schemes to be financed? There is no doubt that we can finance them. Those who know and who can understand Treasury documents will see that in the matter of a short span of years we would be getting back into the Treasury something like $50 million annually. So, repayments in connection with the Snowy Mountains scheme, instead of going into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, should be earmarked immediately for use for the future conservation of water. Similarly, if this Government took a more positive approach to the reallocation of resources, giving emphasis to those projects which have the highest priority, then certainly we would see more money being provided for water conservation.
We come now to the question of how this work should be done. Obviously it is beyond the resources of the States to do it. Certainly, the State Governments have good engineers who can play their part. But on our doorstep we have the greatest authority on water conservation in Australia slowly dying because of the attitude of this Government to it. I refer, of course, to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Our water problems could be minimised if the Government allowed this Authority to put its staff into these areas immediately to investigate water conservation and let the Authority start work in conjunction with the States in solving these major problems. This should be done particularly in the areas where drought has been such a menace in recent years and then concentrated on the newer areas where we know water conservation would prove to be one of the greatest assets that that country could have.
It is no good saying that the States do not want the assistance of the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Nicklin, has publicly asked in newspapers on several occasions for the use of the Authority in his State. There are many developmental bodies throughout northern Australia which are asking almost every week for the use of the Snowy Mountains Authority. If this Authority could be used in Queensland in conjunction with the officers of that State, it would make one of the greatest contributions to the development of this country in terms of the marriage of land and water -resources that could be achieved.
The attitude of the Government to the development of our water resources is most difficult to believe. Cannot the Government realise that because of its negative, short term and complacent attitudes to the subject of water conservation, this country has become so dangerously unprepared to face a national drought and water shortage crisis that we could find ourselves in the greatest economic emergency of all times? This matter is above politics. It is a national responsibility and in the eyes of future generations this Government will forever stand condemned unless it acts quickly to preserve the most precious, natural resource that this country has, and that is water.
– What does the honorable member call proven areas?
– The honorable member for Calare would not know.
– I am asking the honorable member for Dawson. He is the expert.
– Order! The honorable member for Dawson has the floor.
– I believe that this water problem should be treated as an emergency. For years we have seen these projects of northern development, and I have no doubt we will see them in other areas, even in northern New South Wales, being subject to the same delaying tactics as-
– What would the honorable member do as an emergency measure? This is a motion of urgency. Let him tell us what his emergency proposals are.
– They will be given the same treatment as development projects in areas which in the last two years have suffered the tragedies of drought.
– Be specific.
– In the Burnett area alone $30 million has been lost in the last two years.
– I rise to a point of order. I direct your attention, Sir, to the continued interjections coming from members of the Country Party. I submit that they are out of order and I ask that appropriate action be taken.
– Order! The honorable member for Dawson will be allowed to make his speech in silence. There are too many interjections altogether.
– Speaking to the point of order raised by the honorable member for Yarra, I should like -to say that we are trying to get the honorable member for Dawson to stick to the facts.
– If there is one thing I do, it is stick to the facts. If the honorable member who has interjected knew more about the facts he would be one of the first people to be backing us up to the hilt on water conservation instead of publicly getting up here and decrying it. Obviously he is in an electorate which is safe, but it may not be safe when the electors read what he has said.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask for that remark to be withdrawn. I find it personally offensive.
– Order! The honorable member for Dawson will withdraw the remark. The honorable member for Gippsland finds it offensive.
– What was the remark, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
– The reference about the honorable member for Gippsland. The honorable member will withdraw the reference which the honorable member for Gippsland considers to be offensive.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I might intervene: The .honorable member for Gippsland objects to the honorable member for Dawson saying that he is safe in his electorate but that he might not be safe when the electors read what has been said. It is that remark to which he objects. What is offensive about that?
– Order! The Chair has ruled that there was a reflection on the honorable member for Gippsland. I ask the honorable member to withdraw.
– I do not know what the words were which offended the honorable member. I think at least that I should know what the words were.
– Order! The honorable member for Dawson, on resuming his speech, made some minor reflection on the honorable member for Gippsland, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I rise to a point of order. Would it not be correct for the honorable member for Gippsland to state exactly what the reference was to which he is objecting before you give a ruling that the honorable member for Dawson should withdraw?
– The Chair has given a ruling. I ask the honorable member to withdraw the remark which was personally offensive to the honorable member for Gippsland, and to resume his speech.
– Surely I cannot be asked to withdraw something when I do not know what words were offensive to the honorable member?
– Order! Obviously the honorable member for Dawson has forgotten what he said. I ask him to withdraw and to resume his speech.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Dawson should say that he will withdraw something which he does not remember.
– I withdraw whatever I am supposed to have said which has offended the honorable member. [Extension of time granted.]
All I wish to say in conclusion is that I believe that the Government should look at this matter in all seriousness. I think that to a degree it has looked seriously at many of these problems but I feel it is getting too bogged down with the advice it has been given about problems on water conservation which are not fully understood in terms of long term planning. If the Government could only make an analysis of what have been the losses in droughts in recent years - particularly the major droughts of 1944 to 1946, 1951-1952, 1965 and the present drought - I think it would realise that in many areas there is a very strong case for the immediate construction of major water storage facilities, particularly in those areas which have proven to be vulnerable to drought. I refer particularly to areas such as northern New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. If we could only get a positive approach to water conservation and development, coupled with a realistic approach to fodder conservation, a plan of action could be evolved which would be one of the greatest counters to drought that this country has ever seen.
– I was glad to hear the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) say that this matter is above politics. I only wish that he had treated it as such. To initiate this discussion at a time like this is to my way of thinking nothing less than a cheap, low political stunt. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan), a week ago introduced a motion on which any honorable member will be able to speak tomorrow. But the Opposition has tried to draw political kudos out of the sufferings and misery of people affected by drought, by initiating a debate today when it could easily have discussed this matter tomorrow on the motion that has been moved by the honorable member for Gwydir. The honorable member for Gwydir represents a very large area which is suffering severely as the result of the drought, and not an electorate which is green and lush at the present time because it is situated near the coast.
Let me get back to the matter before the House. I have great sympathy for people suffering from drought, because before I got caught up in this - might I say racket - I was a farmer and I have been through droughts myself. I can recall coming back from the war at the end of 1944 and spending three months chopping ensilage out of a pit each day to feed cattle. When the ensilage ran out we bought pumpkins, and I must say that the cattle did better on the pumpkins than they did on the ensilage. It seems to me, from my experience of droughts, that the proposal by the honorable member for Dawson about the need for the Government to counter the effects of current and future droughts by water conservation, is not the complete answer. Undoubtedly water conservation has some effect, but my view in relation to countering the effects of drought on a property is, first, that things have to be done on the property itself. It is no good having water hundreds of miles away in a dam. People living at Bourke in the north west of New South Wales would not get any advantage from a dam on the coast because it would be too far away for them to get water from it. What is needed is water conservation on the farms themselves, and the present New South Wales Government is implementing a scheme that will make long term loans available to farmers to undertake this work.
– A similar scheme is operating in Queensland.
– 1 was not certain of the position in Queensland, but I am glad to hear the honorable member’s remark. Long term loans are needed to enable people to undertake fodder conservation. I am the first to realise that in some areas of Australia fodder conservation is not a practicable proposition, but many people who are now suffering from drought have seen good seasons go by when they could have conserved fodder had they had the energy and the finance to do so. We have recently announced that we will make long term loans available for this sort of work. As well as availability of finance and availability of fodder, we need availability of transport and roads. The Government has done all that it can, particularly in the northern beef areas, to ensure that roads are available so that in time of drought owners will be able to get their stock away and not be left to see stock become so poor on the property that they cannot walk to market. I think we have done quite a remarkable job in the provision of roads.
I think that all honorable members realise that, under the Constitution, water conservation is primarily the job of the States. However, this has not prevented us from giving considerable financial assistance to the States to enable them to increase the conservation of water. It is a fact that just before the war the total storage capacity of all large dams in Australia was 6.8 million acre feet. Today, the total storage of large dams in Australia is 25.5 million acre feet, and when the dams now under construction are completed it will be 36 million acre feet or five times the quantity that was conserved just before the war. I know it is very easy to say that that is not enough. We have become accustomed to hearing that parrot cry here. But I am sure that all honorable members realise that there are many conflicting and competing demands for finance from the National Parliament. Finance is required for roads, housing, defence, education and pensions, just to mention a few matters. All these must take their proper place. I would certainly like to see more spent on the conservation of water than is being spent today, but it is a question of how we can get the money. It is all very well for the honorable member for Dawson to say that this is quite easy, that in a few years we will be getting back a lot of money from the Snowy Mountains scheme. He mentioned $50 million, the figure is actually $30 million. But he does not seem to realise that the Snowy Mountains scheme will cost us then, as it does now, over £21 million or $42 million. There will still be a net drain on the Commonwealth Treasury by the Snowy Mountains scheme for quite a long time to come.
I mentioned that we have helped the States in many ways. The River Murray Commission is one way in which we have helped them. We bear a quarter share of the cost of storage on the River Murray. Not only have we done that, but with the last dam that is being built on the River Murray, the Chowilla Dam, we loaned money to New South Wales because it said it was unable to find its share. We made available an amount of $9 million to ensure that work on this enormous dam of five million acre feet proceeded. We also acted in this way to enable New South Wales to proceed with the construction of the Blowering Dam. We arranged for a loan of $21 million so that the Blowering Dam could proceed on time and be able to store much needed water for the Murrumbidgee River.
– What about Queensland?
– My colleague from Queensland will speak on the Queensland aspect. Let me concentrate on other aspects in New South Wales and further south. All the money for the Snowy Mountains scheme has been found by us. Up to the present, about £280 million has been found for this scheme, which is already diverting water into the Murrumbidgee River and which is just starting to divert water into the Murray River. This will turn an additional 2 million acre feet a year inland and enable increased irrigation to be undertaken in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys. We set up the Water Resources Council to assist the States to assess their resources. Roughly £500,000 will be made available this year to the States to enable them to assess their resources. Recently we made available to Western Australia another $10 million for its comprehensive water scheme, which will take water out on to farms. The Ord diversion dam was built almost completely with funds from the Commonwealth Government. I think of a total of just over £8 million, £6,250,000 was provided by the Commonwealth Government.
If water storage is not increasing at an adequate rate, where does the fault lie? I say that in New South Wales the Labour Government that held office for 24 years must take a very large share of the blame for the fact that today we are not as well off as we might be. It is incredible to know that in 24 years of office of a Labour Government a sovereign State such as New South Wales was able to commence and complete only one major dam. If we include the Menindee Lakes, the figure would be two, but one of the structures on the Menindee Lakes broke anyway. This is the incredible record of a Government that put water at such a low priority that it spent money on everything else. It spent money on the Opera House. In Chalmers Street in Sydney, it cost £300,000 to dig a hole and then it cost another £600,000 to fill it up again. This is the Government that we are told was unable to find funds for water conservation. Let me give a few other examples of the way it spent money. Uncompleted tunnelling works in the city of Sydney, which are supposed to be part of the Eastern Suburbs Railway, cost £2.2 million. I think the only use made of them is for growing mushrooms. Another $ 1 million was wasted on the purchase of Garrat steam engines that were never used because the contract was cancelled at a cost of £1 million. The New South Wales Government wasted £1 million in unsuccessfully trying to establish a State tile works.
This is the Government that started and brought to fruition one major dam in 24 years of office. How incredible! Being a true Labour Government, it worked on the principle of day labour, of stop and start. One wonders whether very often the starting occurred just before an election to ensure that the votes the Government obtained in certain areas were increased. But it had available to it financial assistance through loans and other means that could easily have been put into the construction of dams. Because of this incredible lack, northern New South Wales is now suffering. I do not want to say anything further on this aspect, because New South Wales now has a Government which is water minded and which gives a very high priority to the completion of work related to water conservation. I am sure we will see a major change in this State very soon.
The honorable member for Dawson spoke of the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. He said that it should carry out investigation work in the north, especially in Queensland. Of course, the Snowy Mountains Authority docs carry out a considerable number of investigations on a very broad scale. The honorable member said that the Authority is slowly dying. All I can say is that, if it is slowly dying, I have never seen a more active deathbed. I think it probably is spending more money now than it has at any other time in its entire history. Only today I received a couple of notes from the Authority. One said that Mount Isa Mines Ltd. had asked it to undertake some work. The other said that it has been approached to undertake some work on the Nam Gum hydro power station in Laos.
– And at Bougainville.
– Yes, at Bougainville roads are being planned and made. In Papua and New Guinea work has been undertaken by the Authority. I look forward to this work going on for a very long time because I see a continuing future for the Authority. I am sure that the Government is doing everything that it can to ensure that the skills of this great organisation are kept for the use of the nation. However, we face the problem of constitutional authority which I have already mentioned, but I am sure that with goodwill and understanding between State and Federal Governments we will be able to work this out to the benefit of Australia as a whole. I conclude by saying that it may be true - probably is - that all of us in this place would like to see more money spent on water conservation in Australia. I certainly would. However, we must realise that the Government faces enormous expenditures in so many different fields. Each one puts up a major case to show why it should have more money, and each one must be looked at in the light of the amount of money available to the Government.
.- The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) deserves the thanks of this chamber and he will receive the thanks of those afflicted by recurring droughts throughout Australia. We are fortunate indeed to have the honorable member for Dawson with us here. He is a man of great quality and outstanding integrity. Because of his dissatisfaction with the Government he was prepared to give up a sinecure to come into this Parliament to speak for the people and to reveal to them facts relating to the development of Australia which had been hidden prior to his arrival here. I place on record today my appreciation to him and I thank him for what he has done and what he has said. It is important that he should speak in the Parliament as often as he cares to do because of all the problems facing this nation, the shortage of water is of paramount importance. Upon the solution of the problem depend the survival of the people and the development of Australia.
The Opposition feels that action to conserve water is required now - not sometime in the future. Money is required. The skilled field officers from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, including those engaged in investigation and survey, rather than being allowed to leave this country, ought now to be employed in getting on with the job of providing the water necessary for this nation. 1 was utterly shocked and dismayed, sickened and saddened, with the performance of a group of members of the Australian Country Party who constantly heckled and interjected when the honorable member for Dawson was speaking and whose laughter showed their cynicism and their lack of respect for this question. I can only say “ Thank you “ to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) who moved for the grant ing of an extension of time for the honorable member for Dawson so that he could develop his theme and say the things that he wanted to say with respect to this matter. But it is a pathetic truth that the Government is smug, self-satisfied and content with the tragic developments in Australia and the desolation. Those of us whose eyes go beyond the lush verdant lawns and the flower gardens and lake of Canberra, and those who know Australia, are moved with pity for people who are suffering because of government neglect. Merely to play politics here today is not good enough.
I propose to reply to the Minister for National Development who spoke of what has been done, what ought to be done and what will be done. 1 say to him that his responsibility starts with Commonwealth Territories and then extends to the nation generally. Replying to a question which I had placed on the notice paper, the Minister told me that there is not one major water storage scheme north of the 26th parallel. Yet that includes the whole of the Northern Territory, which is the sole responsibility of the Minister for National Development, his predecessor and the non-Labour Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Minister tried to make capital out of what was happening in New South Wales. There is no State in Australia that has a belter record in respect of water conservation than New South Wales, which has Glenbawn, Keepit, Burrendong, Burrinjuck, Hume and Wyangala storages and the Menindee Lakes. Chowilla is being built. All these schemes arc known and all have been engaged in by and developed under Labour governments. Yet the Minister asked whether work was going on in New South Wales. Honorable members know that funds are required to do such jobs and that all we have had in recent times have been apologies from those on the opposite side for their failure to do anything.
A terrible drought afflicts Australia at the present time. Along the Macquarie River the water is no longer available for the gardens and there is a fight for the trickle needed to sustain life along that vast river system. The people of Cobar, who have a great industry, want water. This situation should move people with hearts of stone and it should move a government and a parliament into action, but such is not the case.
When the terrible drought is discussed we encounter the sort of banter that we have experienced in this House today from honorable members opposite - particularly those in the Country Party corner. In the Press we have seen these headlines -
Stock water scarcer at Singleton. Drought “ forces shearers from industry “. Water control body may disband. Bourke faces a hard road back. Drought toll to spread - Cutler.
Mr. Cutler, the Deputy Premier of New South Wales and a member of the Country Party, has spoken of the terrible toll from the drought. All these Press clippings bring their story. If we were to try to keep a complete file we would have so many clippings that there would be no room to store them. Unfortunately, when the rains come, the Government forgets these things. This is a matter on which, as the honorable member for Dawson has said, honorable members should join together and work as one for the good of this country and for its protection. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “, in a thoughtful editorial on Tuesday, 8th March 1966, said -
The Commonwealth is aware that the State, which this year provided a record $23! million for water conservation, has not the funds “in either the short term or long term” to cope, because the Minister for Conservation, Mr. J. Beale, has said so. This fund shortage affects great and small projects (Mr. Beale is known to favour a scheme, costing some $200,000, which would provide a network of small weirs on the river system). New South Wales is now carrying out a survey of water resources in 30 major river valley systems with almost no prospect of being able to act on the findings for years to come.
Clearly, the Commonwealth must intervene with a long-term programme. . . .
The article states that the Commonwealth Government has no long range vision. That thoughtful editorial ought to be heeded by honorable members opposite. The failure of State and Commonwealth governments to agree on a common approach to these matters over the years is one of the most disheartening facts that we are facing at the present time. Reports and inspections are not good enough. Action is required now and money must be provided if something is to be done. We have seen puny and pitiful efforts made by the States. The problems of the Darling River that the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) knows so well and has brought to our attention certainly deserve immediate action. This is not something for the future. On numerous occasions, members of the Australian Labour Party have directed attention to this. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) on 12th October of last year, when proposing for discussion a matter of public importance, dealt with this specific matter. On that occasion we heard from the Government side of the chamber only words such as we have heard this afternoon: “ Let it go for some time in the future. We shall blame somebody in the past. We say that we cannot do anything just now. We must look at the matter.” I say that what is needed is action to be taken now. Without our waiting for further discussion, funds must be provided and officers of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority who can help in undertaking the task ought to be sent immediately where the job needs to be done. That is all that the honorable member for Dawson wants.
This well prepared document “Some Notes on Drought in Australia “ which was compiled by officers of the Bureau of Meteorology contains a section headed “What is Drought?”. The definition of drought given is “ severe water shortage “. Where there is a plentiful supply of water, there is no drought. In the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and other great projects undertaken in New South Wales, there is ample evidence of the truth of that. There is at present a crisis caused by drought and we all know it. The member for Dubbo in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly raised the matter in the State Parliament recently and asked the Premier, Mr. Askin, whether he was aware that the Water Research Foundation of Australia had a backlog of more than 100 vital research projects estimated to cost $1 million. I say to the Commonwealth Government: Please do something about the situation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I join with the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) more in sorrow than in anger in telling the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) that a higher standard of political ethics and of performance than he has displayed was expected of him. I regard the proposal of this subject for discussion today as a matter of public importance as being nothing more than a mean little political manoeuvre. I had hoped that the honorable member would be above this sort of thing. He ought to realise that the problems of drought are not solved in this way. They can be solved only by our taking a national view of the situation, not a mean political view such as the honorable gentleman has taken in this instance. I claim to know something about the subject of drought, Sir, for I live in the dry north of the driest State of the driest continent in the world. I was brought up on drought. I may not have any academic qualifications but I believe that that does not prevent me from speaking with some knowledge of what I have been through.
Let us consider the terms of the proposal for discussion. It begins with a reference to what is described as the need for the Government to counter the effects of the current drought. That is just about the silliest statement that I have become aware of for some time. What is the point of building dams during a drought to counter the effects of that drought? It took 20 years to construct the Keepit Dam by day labour and four years were spent messing about with the Eucumbene Dam before it was put under contract. Does the honorable member for Dawson seriously think that the problems of the current drought can be tackled by setting to work to build dams at this stage? Yet that is what he envisages. If he does not mean that, what does he mean?
The proposal then refers to future droughts. I should like to give an analogy here. As I have said, I live in a dry area. A considerable creek runs through my property, however. Shiny eyed people travel up from Adelaide, see that creek and say: “You must build a dam, Mr. Kelly. That is the thing to do. That would solve your problems.” I know that I could build a dam and I know that I could fill it about one year in four. I know also that the evaporation rate in the district is about six feet per annum. If I wanted to store water for drought years, I would have to reckon on an 18 foot loss of water, and only what was left after that, if anything, would be effective water. Considerations of this sort make me stop and think about whether I should build a dam. Maybe, if the Government built it for me, that would be all right. But that does not accord with my political philosophy. I have always understood that I should solve my own problems by tackling them myself as best I can. For that reason, I say that on my property the best thing to do is to store fodder and to make other provision rather than to store water. This may appear to be a sordid attitude, because it may seem that, in the running of my property, I am interested only in making money and not in making speeches. We must realise that if we are to decide the proper thing to do to counteract droughts we must weigh all the considerations in the way in which I have to weigh the considerations involved in running my property.
The proposal goes on to suggest that this Government should provide the States with additional funds. Are we not doing just that? Is not our subvention to the States increasing? Indeed, it is increasing in a way that, some of us are beginning to think, may even be weakening the fibre of the Federal system of government. We supply the States with money only to find that some of them undertake projects such as the construction of an opera house. Have not the States a responsibility to determine a proper order of priorities for the spending of their funds? If a State chooses to spend the available money on an opera house, that is its business. It is certainly not ours. We give the States the money and surely it is their proper responsibility to determine what they shall do with it. I know that in my own State, South Australia, at least in the past - I cannot speak for the future - a proper proportion of the funds provided for the State by the Commonwealth has been spent on water conservation in the most effective and efficient manner.
The next matter referred to in the proposal before us is the construction of practical water storages. What does the honorable member for Dawson mean by the phrase “ practical water storages “? Any hole in the ground will store water. Surely the honorable member meant economic water storages. He is an authority on economics but evidently he shied away from the implications of economic water storage, so the expression “ practical water storage “ literally means nothing. I repeat that any hole in the ground will store water. So we can only believe that the honorable member really intended economic water storages. I understand that he has a doctor’s degree in economics. He must realise that one way to look at the economics of a dam is to consider it from the standpoint . of whether the construction costs are sufficiently small for farmers to be able to afford to pay for their water enough to cover the amortisation costs of the dam. If this is what the honorable member means, let him tell me where there is in Australia a dam the construction costs of which can be termed economic- in that sense. However, I should think that the political philosophy of the party that he has now joined would probably lead him to say that he has in mind a dam that is economic if it is paid for by the taxpayers. That is what he may mean. I ask him whether he does. If he has in mind dams paid for by the taxpayers so that the farmers need not meet the amortisation costs by means of the charges that they pay for their water, he should say so.
As a dry country farmer, I should like to say something about that. I have had to tackle my own problems on my own property in my own .way. I have had to clear my own scrub and the like. I have never thought it a proper function of a government to do for me the things that I should do for myself. But I leave that aside for the moment. Let us suppose that the honorable member for Dawson imagines that it is the proper function of a government to construct dams at the expense of the taxpayers and not impose full charges for the water supplied by those dams, leaving the taxpayers to pay interest on the capital, amortisation charges and the like. What would that mean? Would it not mean more taxation? If it would not mean that, it could mean only that we would have to go without something else that we need. These are the facts of life. If this is what the honorable member has in mind, why does he not say so?
The proposal before us went on to suggest that , the investigation staff of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority be made available to the States free of cost. What nonsense this is. Does not the honorable member realise that the fundamental problem in Australian irrigation is soil conditions? How many irrigation schemes have we seen begun without proper investigation of soils and the economics of the proposals? What background and qualifications have the members of the investigation staff of the Authority that would fit them to determine those matters properly? The fundamental questions we have to ask are the grass roots questions: What type of soils have we? What kinds of crops can we grow in those soils? The Snowy Mountains Authority is, I admit, an excellent conception and organisation from an engineering point of view. In that connection I pay it every tribute. But when we get down to an examination of -the growth of crops I believe the officers of the Snowy Mountains Authority would be the first ones to admit that somebody else is better fitted to handle the job. It is of no use suggesting airily that the problem should be handed over to the Snowy Mountains Authority, as if that organisation could readily solve it. The honorable member for Dawson should know better than anybody else that the fundamental requirement is far more than one of engineering and dam construction. There is a fundamental problem of economics and land usage.
It seems to me that the honorable member for Dawson has departed from the high standards of ethics that he previously held and has indulged in political manoeuvring in a way which I find intensely disappointing. I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Dawson in saying that I believe that in his previous position he was able to think things out very clearly. I hope that in his future work in this place he will not throw aside that attribute and start advocating all kinds of hot air schemes which have no chance of solving our problems. Those problems can be tackled properly only if all of us here, on both sides of the House, examine them with clear eyes.
.- I regret that the two speakers we have so far heard on the Government side have chosen to degrade this debate. In the first place, the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) said that the proposal for the discussion of this subject as a matter of urgent public importance was a cheap, low stunt. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) called it-
– A mean manoeuvre.
– A mean political manoeuvre.
– That is right.
– So it would appear that if <a man comes into this Parliament, actuated by the highest motives according to his political lights, and having the benefit of valuable experience, and endeavours to keep faith with his constituents he becomes guilty of a low political manoeuvre and a cheap stunt.
All honorable members who have spoken on this issue in the Parliament have refrained until now from levelling abuse. Why have the Minister and the honorable member for Wakefield departed from that course of conduct? Is Kt that they realise that the Government is vulnerable in connection with this matter? Do they believe that they must divert attention from this important issue of water storages and supply by indulging in an attack on the New South Wales Labour Government for something it may or may not have done? Is it not a fact that the New South Wales Labour Government constructed during the last 10 years more water storages than were constructed in any other State?
– Yes, it is a fact, and I challenge contradiction of that statement. Is it not also a fact that the party which the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson) supported at the last State election promised during the election campaign to alleviate the trials and tribulations of the dairy farmers of New South Wales by granting them a threepenny bounty on their butterfat, but has never paid that bounty? And how long is it since the last State election in New South Wales? I suggest, therefore, that honorable members opposite had better keep off that kind of issue.
The questions of water conservation and drought relief are of major concern in Australia at present. There is not one political party in any State that has not at some time or other advocated the provision of water storages, but by the same token there is not one State Government that has not from time to time found its financial capacity to construct water storages severely limited. These limitations have been imposed on them not because of particular political affiliations; they have been imposed directly by the Commonwealth Government, particularly the Liberal-Country Party Government over the last seven years, because of the inadequacy of the reimbursement to the States of income tax receipts and because of the power wielded in the Australian Loan Council by the Commonwealth. Are these not facts? Of course they are.
I am not one of those who say that the Commonwealth Government has done nothing. It has, of course, done something. Its major effort, of course, was to take up where the Labour Government left off in 1949 and to continue with one of the world’s major water storage and power producing operations, the Snowy Mountains scheme. But there should long since have been an assurance given to the Snowy Mountains Authority, and to the various State Governments which have been pleading for the assistance of that Authority for a considerable time, that the organisation will continue - not in a restricted manner, but to be used in whatever part of Australia its great skills are required. This is essential. It must be part of a planned economy. This is agreed by the honorable member for Dawson, by his constituents who backed him, by the people of Australia and by the Press of Australia. Anyone who has read the newspapers during the last few weeks will appreciate that people are for from satisfied about the attitude of this Government. My colleague the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), has already quoted a number of newspaper headlines about drought relief and the problems of water.
The drought from which this country is suffering, with its consequent enormous economic losses, has been in progress from at least July of last year, and still the State Governments, still the Press of Australia and still the Opposition Party in this House are dissatisfied because no effective steps have been taken to assist the people who are suffering most. It is true that we have heard stories about cheap loans, about long term loans and the like, but what the people in drought stricken areas require is immediate cash relief. I have told this Parliament before about the 1946 drought and the problems of wheat farmers at that time, about the tribulations of drought stricken dairy farmers on the south coast, about the disastrous bush fires that occurred in Victoria and about the prompt actions that were taken at those times by the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments. There was no talk of long term loans or of altering the income tax laws to grant a concession to a man who shore his sheep twice. That is the kind of solution we hear suggested now by Government supporters, who also speak about amending the legislation covering the Development Bank which this Government introduced in 1960 as the panacea for all the economic ills of the farmers.
What the Labour Governments did in earlier times was to make cash payments available promptly, without any necessity to undergo a means test and without any requirement for paying the money back. The aim was to put cash immediately in the hands of the people who had to deal with dreadful economic circumstances. The amount made available to wheat farmers alone in one year was £1,500,000, on condition that a like amount was made available by the State Governments. Having regard to the difference in purchasing power of money today, I should say that that amount would be the equivalent of £2,500,000 at the present time. Having in mind the magnitude of the present drought and the deterioration in the value of money, I should say that it would be a sensible and helpful gesture for this Government to announce that it would make available an amount of not less than £20 million. The Governments should make this announcement in all the journals to which members of the Country Party subscribe and which have during the last few months been complaining in their editorials about the inadequacy of the Government’s proposals. As I say, the Government should announce to the people who are suffering the terrible consequences of this drought and who are in immediate need that an amount of not less than £20 million will be made available for their relief. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) gave us a lecture in economics. He pointed to what he has done and to the cost of dams. In a sense, dams are uneconomic but they are of enormous value to the Commonwealth. Imagine the effect of £20 million distributed amongst the hard pressed people in the drought stricken areas. I do not refer to people with freehold titles, plenty of money and adequate security for loans, but to people who are up against it. Put money into the townships and the banks. Put it into the pockets of the housewives.
– The subject under discussion is water.
– Members of the Country Party are like a flock of cockatoos. As a matter of fact, cockatoos in that corner of the chamber would be more effective than its present occupants and would do more for the primary producers. We should put money into the pockets of the primary producers.
– The honorable member has left the honorable member for Dawson high and dry.
– The honorable member should go back to the people whom he would not pay even 3d. per lb. for their butterfat. The Government should put money into the grocer’s till, into the baker’s till, into the garage and into the engineering workshop. It should provide money to have the drought stricken land cultivated and sown. Then it would get a stimulus in employment and a return, eventually, in income tax. It would have done something worth while. Action of this kind would do more to get these unfortunate people quickly en their feet than so-called low interest long term loans. I leave it at that. I hope that the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) and the honorable member for Wakefield will refrain in the future from defending the Government’s inaction by resorting to cheap political stunts. I hope that they will accept our suggestions in good faith. After all, tha Labour Party has a magnificent record. The suggestions that we make are made in the sincere belief that their implementation will assist the people of this Commonwealth.
– The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) has initiated the debate at a time when the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) has on the notice paper a motion dealing with the regulation of the flow of certain rivers in Australia. I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate because the subject of water conservation is an important one to Government supporters. The honorable member for Dawson may be able to give his party better advice on the subject of water conservation than it has ever had. It needs good advice because its record in water conservation is very poor.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) indicted the former Labour Government of New South Wales when he complained about that State’s poor record in water conservation. It is only 9 or 10 months since the Labour Government went out of office in New South Wales. The New South Wales Labour Government’s record during 24 years in office is appalling. Construction of the Keepit Dam took 20 years. The Dam was estimated initially to cost $3 million but the final cost was $28 million. The history of the Glenbawn Dam was similar in many respects to that of the Keepit Dam. The Warragamba Dam, which is a water reservoir, took years to construct. The original estimate of cost was $8 million but the eventual cost was $58 million. These are examples of the New South Wales Labour Government’s record. Let me turn to the situation in Queensland. During 39 years under a Labour Government only 120,000 acres came under irrigation. Since the present Country Party-Liberal Party Government took over in 1957, the area under irrigation has more than doubled to 280.000 acres.
– Who started this?
– I will tell the honorable member. Since the present Queensland Government came to power it has started investigations on 43 projects. Of course, we are particularly concerned about water conservation in productive areas. We welcome the suggestion by the honorable member for Dawson that water should be provided in already settled areas. On other occasions his party has advocated the provision of water for new areas. This would necessitate the building of schools and hospitals in these areas and the expenditure on ancillary projects would be far greater than on the construction of a dam. Many people in
Queensland are strong in their advocacy of water conservation in settled areas. This is the policy of the present Queensland Government. I point to such projects as the Leslie Dam, the Borumba Dam and the Coolmunda Dam near Inglewood. I think a dam has just been constructed on the Burnett River north of Bundaberg. These are important measures to safeguard already highly productive areas.
Of course, Queensland experienced a setback as far as the border rivers scheme was concerned. Queensland had an agreement with New South Wales for the construction of a dam at Mingoola. The site was found to have very difficult constructional features and it became necessary to amend the legislation under which the Border Rivers Commission operated to permit the construction of dams off the Dumaresq River. Unfortunately, the New South Wales Labour Government never seemed able to come to the party. Its investigation on its side of the border was poor. Queensland has made a splendid investigation. It has documented all the advantages to the Queensland side of the border that would flow from the building of the dam, but the New South Wales Government has not done anything like the same amount of work as regards its side. I have been in communication with Mr. Beale, New South Wales Minister for Conservation. He has informed me that his Government is at present undertaking detailed investigations of the economics of the scheme. T point out to honorable members that many tobacco growers along the Dumaresq River are deeply concerned about the quality of the water that they are getting. I am sure that this is a matter that will generate interest in both States now that each has a government sympathetic to water conservation. In a recent Press statement entitled “North Under-protected”, Mr. Beale, referring to the north of New South Wales, said -
Experience in the present drought, however, has shown that the north of the State is under-protected from drought compared with the south, and has emphasised the need to construct additional water conservation works in the north as soon as possible.
Investigations .made by the Commission already have shown that river regulation in the Severn.Macintyre River Valley should receive the highest priority, and that a storage on the Severn is the most attractive proposition, as this tributary provides more than two-thirds of the Valley’s water resources.
I understand that 35 new projects are being investigated in New South Wales. These will cost millions of dollars.
Queensland is the most active State in the construction of dams and in other water supply projects. A tremendous fillip has been given to this work since the present Government came to power. I remind honorable members, as the Minister for National Development did, that the ‘Commonwealth has always taken a keen interest in water conservation. The Minister pointed out that, to date, $560 million has been spent on the Snowy Mountains scheme. This represents an enormous contribution to water conservation. The Commonwealth is now advancing to the States $1 million a year for investigation into water resources. This indicates the tremendous interest of the Commonwealth Government in establishing water conservation. I have no doubt that the Commonwealth will again look closely at the prospects of extending such facilities. As the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) pointed out, many of us have to live with drought. In the last few years there has been brought home to us how important it is to have water schemes in existing highly productive areas to secure that production, because by removing insecurity we can generate considerably more revenue to support schemes elsewhere.
I do not think I need add to what has already been said about the Snowy Mountains Authority by my colleague, the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn). He pointed out how active this Authority is and he referred to the areas in which it operates. I understand that the present scheme is due for completion in 1975, so the Authority has many years ahead of it. Of course, the people in the Authority will not be lost to Australia. Their talents will be used, because there is so much scope for their use in Australia. I finish on this note: I am glad that the honorable member for Dawson has joined the Labour Party, because he will educate members of that Party in the importance of water conservation.
-This debate is now concluded.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Bury, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will recall that on 16th March last the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) announced that the Government had advised State Governments that it was piepared to support an increase of $15 million in the Loan Council borrowing programmes for this financial year on condition that the share of each State in the additional amount was used wholly for housing purposes. The States have accepted this offer. The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the raising of further loan moneys totalling $15 million, which will be advanced, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, to the States this financial year for expenditure on housing. These advances are repayable over 53 years and bear interest at 1 per cent, per annum below the long term bond rate.
The amount of $15 million is, of course, additional to the $102 million already allocated for housing under that Agreement in 1965-66. The distribution of this additional amount among the States is - New South Wales, $4,771,000; Victoria, $3,826,000; Queensland, $1,897,000; South Australia, $2,057,000; Western Australia, Si, 401, 000; Tasmania, $1,048,000- a total of $15 million.
As the Treasurer mentioned in his recent statement, the provision of these additional funds in the next few months will serve to stimulate home building activity. In addition to the benefit accruing to those seeking accommodation through State housing authorities, the additional allocation will be of assistance to private home builders. Under the Housing Agreement, not less than 30 per cent. - $4.5 million - will be allocated to home builders accounts from which advances are made by the States to building societies and other approved institutions. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitiam) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 9th March (vide page 71), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition wholeheartedly supports this Bill, the sole substantial provision of which is to remove any statutory limit on the amount which the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission may borrow on overdraft. The Shipping Act of 1949 placed no limit on the amount which could be borrowed by the instrumentality proposed by that Act. In 1956 the principal Act, which is being amended by this Bill, imposed a limit of £1 million on the Commission’s borrowing. I pointed out at the time the unnecessary limitation that this involved. In 1962 the limit was raised to £5 million.
In 1964, when another bill was presented, it was already apparent that the limit of £5 million was an undue restriction. In the Committee stages of the Bill of that year my colleague the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) moved to double the amount. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) stated that there was no reason to have a limit of more than £5 million. At that time he could not envisage any circumstances in which more than £5 million would have to be borrowed.
– At that time.
– Yes. I will quote the Minister’s precise words. After I had spoken in support of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Newcastle the Minister said -
If a situation arose - I cannot foresee it arising - in which the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission suddenly needed to borrow more than £5 million, it would be quite possible for it to arrange to have an advance of capital from the Treasury. This action could subsequently be put right legislatively.
I interjected: “ Does the Minister mean by a validating act? “ and the Minister replied -
Yes, to repay the capital to the Treasury. We cannot foresee a situation such as that suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition arising, but such a situation would not really affect the operations of the Commission. We could get around such a situation.
Accordingly, the Minister rejected the amendment. Now all limitations are being removed and the situation of 1949 is being restored. We are happy indeed. The Minister’s Bill will give great encouragement to all primary producers and potential industrial exporters. It is now planned that the Commission should be permitted or encouraged to carry out the right, which it has always had under the principal Act, to trade overseas.
There is still a basic difference in the attitude of the Minister’s party - the Liberal Party - and my party on this subject. The Minister’s Party, in its official Federal platform, limits federal interest to coastal shipping. It advocates this policy -
Recognising that coastal shipping makes a contribution to transport, particularly with reference to heavy and long haulage, the taking of measures to assist coastal shipping to maintain and develop services of standards comparable to other forms of transport.
My Party takes a much broader view of the Commonwealth Parliament’s obligations and the Commonwealth Government’s obligations with respect to shipping. We state that the Commonwealth should progressively construct, charter and operate sufficient ships to carry an equitable share of Australia’s exports and imports. We detail our policy in these terms -
Modern shipping services to be maintained by Australian built, owned and manned ships, and for this purpose the continuance of a Commonwealth owned shipping service.
The Commonwealth to constuct and maintain adequatedry docking facilities.
The Commonwealth to establish a Merchant Marine College.
A referendum to give the Commonwealth Parliament the power to make laws with respect to navigation and shipping.
The Country Party’s platform is not readily available, but my recollection is that it makes no reference to overseas shipping, or even to coastal shipping.
The inhibition on overseas shipping hitherto has been political or administrative or financial, not statutory. The Act permits overseas shipping to be carried on by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. The proposed amendment gives the Commission, statutorily, unfettered power to borrow money to establish and maintain overseas shipping services, whether by purchase, by charter or by construction. In its last report the Commission stated its intentions in this respect - somewhat guardedly, as it must. I shall quote two passages. The first is -
The Commission has therefore called tenders for three large vehicle-deck vessels and in so doing will extend the “ container “ principle of transport over a far wider field.
I emphasise the words “ far wider field “ -
For this and other plans in hand or in view, additional finance, preferably by ways of borrowings, will be necessary.
Again, the Commission reports -
Throughout the twelve months, the demand for tonnage in the Australian ore and bulk cargo trades has been such that no overseas voyaging could be undertaken. Officers of the Australian National Line, however, continue to watch the freight market with a view to taking advantage of any favourable development.
It is clear from this cautious report that the Commission was already urging that container ships should be obtained for transport over a far wider field - that is, beyond the coastal trade - that borrowings were necessary for this purpose and that, while there was no spare tonnage for overseas voyaging at the moment, the Australian National Line was watching the freight market with a view to taking advantage of any favourable developments in overseas voyaging. In recent months, the “ Australian Financial Review “ in particular has published surmises, clearly emanating from the Commission, that the Australian National Line was preparing to introduce palletised and refrigerated ships for the overseas trade. In today’s issue of the “ Australian Financial Review “ there is a report that the Australian National Line is seeking to enter the Australia-United Kingdom container trade. This report also mentions the shipments, which the Minister announced yesterday, of steel billets from Port Kembla to Hong Kong.
In earlier debates on bills to amend the principal Act and when debating the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport, I have quoted from reports by the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. to emphasise the very great restrictions and handicaps which even the biggest and most efficient Australian manufacturers face in securing overseas markets close at hand, solely because there is no Australian based or Australian centred overseas shipping line. Because manufacturers are not the subject of many relevant reports to this Parliament, we cannot quote from Government docu ments; we have to rely on company reports. With respect to primary industries, we are well served with prompt reports which fully set out the position in which we are placed by want of an overseas shipping service. I wish to quote from three such reports for the last financial year. They are the annual reports of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board, the Australian Canned Fruits Board and the Australian Meat Board. The report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board states -
It is a matter of considerable concern to the Board, and no doubt other Marketing Authorities and Exporting Interests in Australia, that rates of freight to markets other than the United Kingdom and Continent have been very considerably increased over the recent years without even the courtesy by the Shipowners to permit the Marketing Industries concerned to submit any form of representation or reply before the effective date of the increases.
The report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board states -
Advices of impending increases in marine freight rates applicable to the sea carriage of canned fruits to important markets, e.g. the United Kingdom, western Europe, Canada and Far Eastern countries have been received with con,siderable concern by shippers of this commodity and the Board.
The report of the Australian Meat Board compares freight rates to the United Kingdom for canned meat. From Australia, as from 1st October last, they are 239s. 4d. per ton, measurement 40 cubic feet; from New Zealand, as from 1st October, 190s. for the same quantity; and from Argentina, as from 1st March last year, 212s. 6d. for the same quantity. It is clear that our primary industries are very seriously disadvantaged in supplying their customers, compared with competing primary industries in other countries in this hemisphere.
In his second reading speech the Minister stated, rather too cautiously I would have thought, that the increased borrowing powers are necessary, particularly if the Commission is to maintain a competitive position in relation to private shipowners, including overseas interests, which may wish to enter into Australian coastal trading. Surely he might have added that the increased borrowing powers are no less necessary in order that we may maintain a competitive position in relation to private shipowners who are overseas interests and who are monopolising our Australian overseas trade. Admittedly, the Australian National Line must be in a better position to compete with private shipowners from overseas who enter into our coastal trade, but it must also be put into a better competitive position to face private overseas shipping interests which service the whole of our export and import markets at the moment. The Minister may be uncomfortable on these matters because he would know the proceedings of the interdepartmental committee which, for some time now, has been considering the establishment of an overseas shipping line, or, should one say, the striking away of the administrative, political and financial fetters which have been imposed upon the Commission, which has always had the statutory right to establish and maintain an overseas shipping line! When the recommendations of the inter-departmental committee are made public - better still, if its recommendations for an overseas shipping line are debated-
– Order! May I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the restrictive nature of this Bill, which seeks to amend section 30 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act 1956-1964 and also to amend that Act in relation to decimal currency. While certain of the points that he has made may be linked with the subject matter of the borrowing, I suggest that he has made his point at this stage. I do not want the discussion on this Bill to develop into a fullscale debate on overseas shipping lines and other matters’ that are not completely relevant to the subject matter of the legislation.
– We have heard it all before.
– The Minister has admitted its validity now.
– The Minister objects to us praising him for a right decision. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have been very careful up to this stage to link my remarks with the Bill by reference to the Minister’s own second reading speech.
– I made no reference to overseas shipping in my speech. Can the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quote it to me?
– I did quote it. But I will quote it again for the Minister.
– Order! May I point out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at this moment that I have been listening most carefully to what he has been saying. I will concede that he has been linking very well some of the subject matter of his speech to what the Minister has said. My main objection is that some of the links between his speech and the Minister’s speech have been stretched a little.
– Might I help the Minister by quoting again this passage from his speech -
– I said nothing about overseas trading.
– No, but these are private overseas shipowners and the Minister refers to competition with them.
– Entering the Australian coastal trade.
– The only extension I might wish to see is that this should apply to Australia competing with the same interests overseas also. I quoted, too, the announcement by the Minister himself concerning the Australian National Line extending to Hong Kong. I have quoted furthermore from the arguments put up, very guardedly, by the Commission in its last annual report in respect of container ships and overseas trade. I have been very careful -
– The Commission does not mention overseas trade in its report. The honorable member has distorted that.
– The Commission spoke of extending the “ container “ principle over a far wider field and also of taking advantage of any favorable development in overseas voyaging.
– The Commission talks about coastal trade and services around the Australian coast.
– The Commission was not merely referring to that.
– I can assure the honorable member that that is what the Commission is referring to.
– The report states that the Commission -
– Around the Australian coast.
– That does not appear here.
– Read it again, and quote the whole paragraph.
– I have quoted the earlier statement with regard to transport over a far wider field. The report goes on -
No overseas voyaging could be undertaken. Officers of the Australian National Line however, continue to watch the freight market with a view to taking advantage of any favourable development.
I have been very careful to link all this up. I imagine that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will allow me to refer to the interdepartmental committee which is considering this matter. There has been a notable change in the attitude of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who is also the Leader of the Country Party. Only five years ago he was saying it was quite clear that we could not compete in the international field. But in answer to a question a week ago, the Minister for Trade and Industry said -
But it is obviously a great advantage for Australia to earn exchange by participating in the very big freight component in the export of this bulk cargo. Indeed, the value of the freight would be equal to a very, very substantial proportion of the value of the material being exported.
The Minister himself said things along the same lines this month. The Prime Minister, when he was Treasurer, stated only four months ago -
However, I am still living and hoping that there will be a day . . . when we shall see an Australian shipping line carrying Australian goods to various parts of the world.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken the statement by the Leader of the Country Party out of its context.
– I was quoting precisely what the Leader of the Country Party, the Minister for Trade and Industry, said concerning overseas shipping.
Forty years ago, as Cecil Edwards discloses in his recent book on Lord Bruce, the Conservative Government of that day, in return for contributions by Lord Inchcape to party funds, sold the first Australian Shipping Line. Now, a Conservative Government is not only about to take administrative action, through an intergovernmental committee, to permit the Australian National Line to carry out its statutory function of establishing and maintaining overseas services but also is making it financially possible, by this Bill, for such services to be established and maintained.
This is a very beneficial Bill indeed. Australian exports of primary products and manufactured goods will be greatly promoted by the provisions of this Bill. Despite his interjections, I compliment the Minister for Shipping and Transport on the provisions of this Bill. I wish him well in implementing the advice tendered to him by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and the advice tendered to the Government by the inter-governmental committee concerning the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to support the Bill without any equivocation, as it gives the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission greater borrowing powers and greater flexibility within its capita] structure. Lt is important to note that the approval of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) and the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) will be necessary before borrowings can be effected. This control obviously is essential in the interests of the Australian taxpayer. Running a shipping line such as a government shipping line is indeed a very exacting business. Despite the success of our national shipping line, I emphasise that money cannot be poured willy nilly into a government enterprise when the conduct of that enterprise - in this case, the Australian
National Line - calls for extremely careful planning and efficient administration.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) spent most of his time in referring to the Bill in relation to some association that it could or would have with the establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line. This subject is a hardy perennial brought forward each year about this time by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) or his lieutenants, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) who, I understand, will follow me in the debate. I believe they will seek to take as much liberty as they can to support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this matter. I am worried about the proposed deletion of sub-section 6 of section 30 of the principal Act, to lift the ceiling on the amount that can be borrowed. If we were to have a Socialistic governmentwhich, of course, would be the case if, God forbid, members of the Opposition ever got control of the treasury bench - a weak Minister for Shipping and Transport and a weak Treasurer could engage in extortionate borrowings and pour money into an overseas shipping line enterprise which could be financially on a very dangerous foundation. So I hope that at some time, in order to prevent irresponsible borrowing, safeguards will be imposed which will restrict the amount of taxpayers’ money which can be used to further Socialistic ends.
The establishment of an overseas shipping line must be considered with complete responsibility. This responsibility has been appreciated by the administrative officers of the Australian National Line who, whilst they have in the past been able to place certain of their ships on charter commitments, at the same time have not gone further than has been reasonably practicable. To my knowledge no representative of any overseas shipping line has ever raised an objection to the proposition put forward by honorable members on the Opposition side that Australian ships should engage in overseas trade. But I ask: Have members of the Opposition carefully and conscientiously examined what would actually be entailed in the establishment of an over seas shipping line with our Australian National Line fleet? It is all very well for them loosely, and flamboyantly, in some respects, to put forward their demand. But have they ever taken the opportunity to speak to overseas shipping experts to find out what is really involved? Do they know of the complexities and the pitfalls of international shipping? I doubt very much that they do. For instance have they thought of the trades in which Australian ships should engage? How many ships would they build, charter or buy? What types of ships would they seek to put to use in the trades in which they engage? Would they be refrigerated vessels, containerisation ships - ships which, I understand, may be used in overseas trade - general cargo vessels, passenger vessels or bulk carriers?
This is the sort of thinking that has to be engaged in before such a line as they propose can be established. I assume, and I feel certain, that they have never given these things the slightest consideration. Perhaps they have wiped these considerations aside, saying that they are mere details. They are not mere details. The consideration of these facets of an overseas shipping line goes to the very core of the subject. Would honorable members who make this proposal acquire - either by building, chartering or purchasing - only a few vessels and seek to pick the eyes out of the overseas trade? Obviously If they attempted to do that they would be quickly swept from any future trading by the competition which they would meet. Could Australian ships, with the high manning costs that apply, meet competition from countries whose ships are manned by crews on low wage standards? These and many others are the questions which members on the opposite benches must face in putting their proposition into effect, if they ever get the opportunity to do so. This, Sir, is not a matter that can be brushed over lightly by a team of amateurs.
I wish to refer to other implications in the Bill in relation to the Australian shipping economy. I direct attention to the fact that shipping is a most precarious industry, subject as it is to so many influences, some of which can be controlled and some of which are completely beyond control. I refer to the vagaries of the weather which affect the movement and the stevedoring of ships. 1 refer also to strikes and the militant attitude adopted by so many unions associated with the shipping industry, and to the forms of competition which have to be met. In Australia competition comes from road, rail and now even from the air, not forgetting the competition which comes from other shipping companies. There is. too, of course, always the urgent necessity for ships to sail on time. The company must ensure that a ship is run economically to the best possible advantage. T recall that in 1964 my good friend opposite, the honorable member for Wilmot, when talking about vessels of the Australian National Line, emphasised this point. He said: “ Regular shipping services are urgently required “. He made a lot of that point and I thoroughly agreed with him. He was referring on that occasion to the necessity to ensure that ships sailed on time so that they could meet the requirements of the Tasmanian timber industry. Strangely enough, although on that occasion he emphasised that ships must sail on time, I have not once, since I have been in this place, seen him rise to his feet in a spirit of anguish and concern and complain that militant waterside workers and militant seamen were, even if not preventing ships from sailing, keeping them from maintaining their timetable schedules. So it would appear that his concern applied only to the vessels of the Australian National Line. Of course, I agree with him that the vessels of the Australian National Line must sail on time. I may be doing him an injustice. Maybe he now sees the light.
Unless all these factors are taken into account, the various trades expectly examined and analysed and the right class of ship appropriate to the trade either built or purchased, shipping interests will soon find themselves on the financial rocks. But I am pleased to say that the Australian National Line, like privately owned companies, is conducted in a most commendable manner and in a way that is a credit to Australia. Its administration, headed by Captain Williams, comprises men who are highly qualified and experienced in shipping. It is good to see that the administration of the Line is completely unfettered by any control exercised by the Government, and for this I pay a tribute to the Minister for Shipping and Transport who is at the table, and to the other members of the Government. They have not sought to fetter this government enterprise and in consequence it is a success. Perhaps this would not be the position under a socialistic government. Under such a government I can visualise the Australian National Line, successful as it is now, being turned into a shipping enterprise that would not be so successful, but would be a considerable drain on the coffers of the nation.
The Bill provides capital for the construction of ships of most modern design to be added to the Australian fleet. Provision is made for a second 47,500 dead weight tons bulk carrier and for two roll-on roll-off ships. These ships are of a revolutionary design and I understand that one will be used on the Melbourne-Brisbane route and the other for trade on the Melbourne-Brisbane-north Queensland route. The success of these vessels has been established. Further evidence of their success and versatility is found in the fact that the area in which they trade is to be extended. I note also that consideration is being given to the construction of another Bass Strait passenger vessel and a new specialised vessel for the Darwin trade. The vessels under construction, the roll-on vessels, the vessels used for containerisation and the specialised bulk carriers in service with the government line and with private lines have completely revolutionised Australian shipping. The changes have been achieved in a comparatively short time. To anyone with a knowledge of shipping on the Australian coast, they are breathtaking. In this short time we have seen conventional all purpose vessels replaced by specialised vessels catering for individual trades and cargoes.
I would like to put on record briefly the changes that have taken place, because they are important. Ships now travel faster than they did formerly. Modern cargo handling equipment now provides for speedier cargo handling. A particularly important innovation is the door to door service provided to the shipper and consignee. The simplification of shipping documents is another important change. Special wharves and terminals with ancillary handling equipment make for the easier and more efficient handling of cargoes. Vessels now are running more strictly to time tables. By no means the least important of these modern trends is the high class accommodation and shipboard facilities provided for crew members. This is all to the good. As a result of the modernising of Australian shipping, shipowners now provide a high class service to shippers and consignees and the industry has been able to recapture a considerable part of the cargoes that it lost to other forms of transport. The modernising of coastal shipping is indeed commendable. As we all know, Australia is an island nation, lt has a highway that never requires repairs right around it. This highway has always been there. It is, of course, the sea, and maximum use must be made of it. It is very pleasing to note that the use being made of it is increasing.
Another gratifying change in the old order of Australian shipping is the consent agreement entered into in November 1964 under which the Department of Shipping and Transport was given the right to allocate crew members to ships instead of that allocation being performed by the Seamen’s Union of Australia. Certain fringe benefits went with this agreement. This is perhaps one of the most significant agreements ever reached in Australia’s maritime history.
– Order! I remind the honorable member for Warringah of the comments I made to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not very long ago.
– Thank you, Sir. I shall not in any way contravene your ruling on this matter. I would now like to refer to wharf facilities. I am very conscious that this is referred to in the Bill, since it will be necessary for terminals to meet the requirements of the roll-on roll-off ships that are to ply on the Australian coast to such ports as Newcastle and Brisbane and to ports in the northern parts of Queensland. These terminals will be constructed and will be ready when the new ships go into service. It may well be that in its consideration of port facilities the Australian National Line will find it essential to extend the present terminals in the port of Sydney. Recently the New South Wales Maritime Services Board announced that it intends to spend $92 million in Sydney and’ $74 million in Newcastle on the construction or reconstruction of 22 old, out-moded, horse and buggy type wharves. For years these wharves have been a disgrace to the port of Sydney, which is Australia’s largest and most important port. The Board is strongly supported by the New South Wales Government. It is keen to introduce a new scheme of wharf construction and wharf facilities. This is most commendable. However, it is possible that the Australian National Line will find itself caught up in what I regard as a specific and vital problem.
I draw attention here to the fact that the reconstruction of the wharves is to take place in the areas of Darling Harbour, Pyrmont and Glebe Island. The significance of what I am saying now is that these wharf areas all attract to them heavy traffic for the purpose of the loading and unloading of cargoes. This traffic to and from the wharves has to go through the very heart of the city of Sydney and will continue, day by day and year by year, to increase the tremendous problem of traffic congestion. It may well be that the Australian National Line, in constructing terminal facilities, will see fit to go into the Darling Harbour, Pyrmont or Glebe Island areas. This also would contribute to the traffic congestion. Consequently, I am appalled and alarmed when I think that many millions of dollars are to be spent on wharf reconstruction in the areas to which I have referred. The reconstruction, in effect, will really reemphasise and further accentuate the traffic problems which already exist. It could well mean that, with the increasing traffic problems brought about by the siting of the new wharves, Sydney will gradually choke itself to death with traffic. I submit my view as a recommendation or suggestion which could well be taken note of by the Australian National Line.
I suggest that instead of pouring so many millions of dollars into the reconstruction of wharves in the Darling Harbour, Pyrmont and Glebe Island areas, consideration should be given to a plan which has been promulgated for the construction of a port on the northern shores of Botany Bay which would be ancillary to the port of Sydney. I have been a keen student of the thinking in relation to the establishment of an ancillary port in this area. I believe that it would be practicable to construct a protected wharf area two miles in length which would have behind it a port area of 2,000 acres.
The port could be adequately serviced by rail and road. This is the sort of thing that 1 suggest officers of the Australian National Line must take into account when they think of the future - not later this year, but perhaps in 10 years’ time or even later. I find that there is practicability in the plan for the establishment of a port on the northern shores of Botany Bay. The site is almost in the heart of an existing large industrial area. However, it would not in any way be affected by road congestion such as occurs in the Sydney port areas to which I have referred. The ancillary port would provide a reduction of the concentration of shipping in the Darling Harbour, Pyrmont and Glebe Island areas.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting, I was discussing a plan for the establishment of an ancillary port on the northern shores of Botany Bay. I now express the hope that the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales, Premier Askin and the State Government will examine the project to ascertain the feasibility of establishing an auxiliary port. I thank you, Sir, for your indulgence in allowing me to mention this matter. In conclusion, I say that I give my full support to the Bill, which is designed to amend the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act in a way that will provide for the needs of the Commission for greater borrowing powers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jones) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Hulme 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 Post and Telegraph Act to make certain changes in the conditions of issue of money orders and to introduce an improved service similar to the postal note to be known as the postal order. The Bill also takes the opportunity formally to amend existing money references to their decimal equivalents and brings Part I of the Principal Act into line with the format of recent legislation. I shall deal first of all with the proposed new postal order. The present postal note, under the conditions now operating, suffers from several shortcomings. Probably the major one is that the public has lost a good deal of confidence in the postal note since the practice of recording postal notes which had been paid was discontinued in 1953 because of the very high costs involved. The reconciliation process had entailed considerable administrative effort. Its discontinuance meant, however, that the Post Office could no longer determine whether or not a postal note had been paid. Since then, it has not been possible to issue duplicates for notes which claimants have indicated were lost or destroyed.
Since 1954-55, the number of postal notes issued has fallen from 22 million to 15 million a year. While this decline may be attributed to a number of factors, it is expected that greater public confidence will be achieved by the introduction of a postal order which will restore the standard of service formerly provided. The proposed postal order will be printed in a new format capable of electronic sorting so that ready access to records of payment will be possible. The order will have a counterfoil similar to bank cheques as part of the increased security available to the purchaser. In future there will be no good reason why a postal order should be paid only at a General Post Office after six months from the date of issue. The Bill proposes, therefore, that the restrictions of section 76 be removed, thus allowing payment to be made at any post office where such payments would normally be made. T. am confident that the introduction of the postal order will remove many of the objections at present levelled at the postal note and that the public will gain a service which is better than the one it replaces and is more convenient and attractive.
In the case of the money order, it is not proposed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that any change be made in form or operation. It is believed that flexibility should be introduced into the determination of the upper limit of value of both money orders and postal orders. It has therefore been decided that these upper limits be provided by regulation rather than by the Act itself. These limits will be fixed by regulation at $4 in the case of the postal order and $80 in the case of the money order. In each case this will be an increase of 100 per cent, over the present provision. The new section 74 makes allowance for the fact that arrangements with other Governments and the authorities of Territories of the Commonwealth for the transmission and payment of money orders and postal notes are not in fact made by the Governor-General as stated in the current Act. The administrative arrangements are made in a less formal manner and the amendments to this section would bring the provisions of the principal Act, insofar as money orders and postal orders are concerned, into line with actual practice. The remainder of the Bill deals with purely procedural matters. Clause 4 amends the first part of the Act to bring its form into line with that of more recent legislation. It is current practice for every act to contain a section set tins out the parts into which the act is divided and the subject matter contained in those parts. There are two schedules appended to the Bill. The first merely makes consequential changes by the replacement as appropriate of the reference to “ postal note “ with the words “ postal order “ while the second takes the opportunity formally to convert all money references in the Post and Telegraph Act to decimal equivalents. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 512).
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Bill will amend section 30 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act, which now permits the Minister for Shipping and Transport to authorise, with the approval of the Treasurer, borrowing by the Commission without limit. I hope that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) will accept the challenge that he has issued to himself and to the Commission to extend the activities of the Australian National Line. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) expressed concern at the idea that a Socialist government would accept this challenge and extend the activities of the Line into overseas trade. I can assure him that I, as a supporter of a Socialist government, will most assuredly accept that challenge and that I will bring pressure to bear in an endeavour to have the activities of the Line extended into overseas trade for reasons that I shall outline to the House this evening.
The Line is a Socialist undertaking. I may say that the Minister is proud of his Socialist shipping line. The honorable member for Warringah, though he is a Government supporter, likewise is proud of this organisation, for I have heard him in this chamber on numerous occasions congratulate the Line on the excellent work that it does. Clearly, this free enterprise Government sees some worth in this Socialist undertaking. We on this side of the House believe that there is a need to extend the activities of the Australian National Line, not only on the Australian coast but also into the overseas trade. I become concerned when I read Press reports such as one that appeared in “ The Australian “ on 10th March this year. It was headed: “ U.S. shipowner wins $18m. deal” and was in the following terms -
An American shipping owner, Mr. Daniel K. Ludwig, has won a multi-million-dollar contract to ship bauxite from Weipa in the new alumina refinery at Gladstone in Queensland as part of plans to make a spectacular entry into the Australian coastal trade. Mr. Ludwig, reputed to be worth more than $450 million, is the man behind Universe Tankships Incorporated and National Bulk Carriers, the American firm which made a takeover bid for R. W. Miller’s tanker fleet last year.
This Mr. Ludwig has already gained a footing in Australian industry by buying out certain Australian coalmining interests. He is primarily concerned with shipping and will no doubt start to transport his Australian coal in ships owned by his own company.
Of what value to Australia are investors of this kind? We in Australia know how to build ships and we know how to transport bulk cargoes. This $18 million contract will represent merely an additional charge against our overseas balances because the gentleman concerned will make a substantial profit out of the contract itself and also out of the purchase of Australian coal mines and the transport of coal from those mines to overseas ports. The letting of the contract to this investor will simply result in an increase of our freight costs, which now stand at $340 million annually and which are a charge against our overseas balances. These are the kinds of considerations that cause me concern. 1 am pleased that the Minister has issued his challange by removing the ceiling on the amount that can be borrowed. With the £5 million maximum that applied previously the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission found itself somewhat circumscribed. Now, however, there is no maximum amount laid down and the sky is the limit. I believe that the first thing the Minister should do is to institute an inquiry into shipping and shipbuilding in this country. He should try to find out what shipping is required and what cargoes we should transport so that the appropriate types of vessels for those cargoes can be built. He should try to find out what cargoes could be transported not only interstate but also overseas, so that we may know where best to move in this field.
There is any amount of opportunity available. We have already negotiated iron ore contracts with Japanese interests covering the next 25 years, under which 197 million long tons of iron ore and 162 million tons of pellets will be transported to Japan. None of that iron ore and none of those pellets will be transported in Australian ships. All of it will be taken in ships owned and controlled by overseas interests. In the main they will probably be Japanese. It may be argued that the Japanese are the purchasers of this material and as such are entitled to transport it in their own ships. If that argument is validly applicable to the transport of iron ore, surely it can also be applied in the case of Australian purchases of crude oil from overseas. The latest figures available disclose that we purchased 4,545 million gallons of crude oil from overseas. The transport of that oil from the point of purchase to the Australian refineries would keep 35 tankers fully employed. I hope it will not be necessary for us to continue importing this quantity of oil for much longer and that we will find sufficient oil deposits in Australia to meet our internal requirements. However, I believe I should point out these facts.
As I have said, the Minister, having now removed the ceiling on the amount of money that can be borrowed from the Commission, should go further and move into the field of overseas transport. It is not much use lifting the maximum amount that can be borrowed if we are not prepared to formulate a plan. I believe the first thing to be done is to decide whether we will extend the activities of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, and then to decide what cargoes we will transport. There are many kinds of cargoes that we could look at, and I shall just mention a couple of them. Wheat is a bulk cargo on which we could save a considerable amount of money in freight charges which at present deplete our overseas balances. We send overseas annually $297 million worth. Meat is another cargo the transport of which from this country has been greatly exploited by the various shipping lines. I would like to deal more fully with that matter later. There is also our wool cargo. I believe that all these products should be transported in Australian ships. I call on the Minister to institute, as a first move, an inquiry to establish what ships will be required and where the necessary money will be obtained. We should at least make an endeavour to stop a serious drain on our overseas balances.
I do not think there is any doubt that the Australian shipbuilding industry is capable of meeting any requirements placed on it by the Commission. Let me refer the House to a statement by Sir Colin Syme, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. In his supplementary report on 18th February he said -
It is pleasing to note that new techniques now in use and the excellent work of our shipbuilding organisation and management have brought about substantial increases in efficiency, with a consequent shortening of construction times.
This shows that the Chairman of the Board of Directors of that large Australian company is satisfied that the company’s yard is competitive in the construction of vessels, as regards both costs and the time factor. From my own knowledge, the other yards, such as those of Evans Deakin and Co. Pty. Ltd. and Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co. Pty. Ltd. and the State Dockyard at Newcastle, are also efficient and can meet any requirements imposed on them by the Minister if he decides to extend the activities of the Commission to include overseas trade.
I do not think there is any doubt that there is a need for this to be done. It must be obvious to honorable members that this country has been taken for a ride on the question of freights. We had an example of this only last year. In the middle of the year the United States-Australian Conference Lines decided arbitrarily - there was no discussion with the Minister or the Government - that freights would be increased by 10 per cent, from 1st October and, for good measure, that there would be a further increase of 17 per cent, from 1st January. Thanks to the intervention of the Israeli-owned Maritime Fruit Carriers shipping line, these increases were not imposed on the dates announced. The Israeli company said it was prepared to transport beef from Australia to North America at the same freight rates as those that had previously applied. As soon as that company came into the field the Conference Lines had another look at the matter and deferred the 10 per cent, increase until 1st December. Finally they deferred the increase until 1st January and decided that the 1 7 per cent, increase would not apply until 1st March. The Israeli shipping line then declared that it was still prepared to transport beef from Australia to North America at the old rates until 1st January 1968.
– Order! I think the honorable member is getting a bit wide of the subject before the House.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I believe that when an honorable member seeks information which is not supplied by a Minister, the Minister should have good grounds for withholding the information. Section 30 of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act clearly refers to the financing and administration of a line. If I request some figures on this matter, they should be forthcoming. However, as I have said, I accept your ruling and will confine my remarks to the Bill.
If we had an overseas shipping line competing with the existing Conference Lines I am sure that freight rates would not increase in the way they have increased in recent years. New Zealand announced recently that freight rates on New Zealand wool snipped to the United Kingdom would be increased by £500,000 a year. The New Zealand wool authority was of the opinion that the increase had been brought about by the Dutch and the Conference Lines settling the differences that had existed between them since 1961-62. Once those differences had been settled the Conference Lines brought the Dutch lines into the Conference and they all participated in the sharing of freights. This has been happening to us. I have here a report that freights on manufactured exports will rise by 8 per cent. The ironic part of all this is that the only articles on which the shipping lines want to increase freights are those articles with which Australia can compete successfully with overseas manufacturers. Small Australian industries have been successful in manufacturing many articles with which they can compete successfully with overseas manufacturers. The freight increases will apply to 67 types of manufactures ranging from cricket balls, clothes hoists, photographic materials and pumps to windmill parts. We have been able to do more than hold our own with overseas manufacturers of these articles but the increased freight rates will force the Australian manufacturers out of overseas markets.
So there is a need for the Minister to do something of a concrete nature to expand the activities of the Australian National Line by using the additional finance that will now become available to him and to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to build ships with which to operate an overseas line. In his second reading speech the Minister said -
The Commission now has on order one 47,500 dead weight tons bulk carrier which is expected to be commissioned within the next few months and it is committed to the construction of a second 47,500 dead weight tons bulk carrier. It has ordered two roll-on roll-ofT cargo vessels for the MelbourneBrisbane and the Melbourne-Brisbane-North Queensland trades and has announced it has under consideration a proposal to construct a second Bass Strait passenger vessel.
One thing that concerns me is the fact that the port of Newcastle, which is the second largest export port in the Commonwealth, is not to be serviced by these roll-on roll-off ships. Honorable members will notice that they are to operate on the MelbourneBrisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane-North Queensland runs. I should like to place a few facts before the Minister. A survey made foi 1961 by the New South Wales
Department of Motor Transport disclosed that 34,000 heavy lorries travelled from Sydney to Newcastle each year carrying 306,000 tons of cargo. These figures are the latest available; the surveys are not made every day. From Newcastle to Sydney 32,000 heavy lorries travel each year, carrying 288,000 tons of merchandise. So, on those figures alone there is justification for the Minister examining this subject and deciding whether it is practicable to include Newcastle as a port of call for the roll-on roll-off ships. Many years ago, before the development of the north coast railway and heavy road transports, small ships operated between the river towns along the coast of New South Wales. They traded from Sydney and Newcastle to Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Tweed Heads and elsewhere on the north coast. I believe that roll-on roll-off vessels of a suitable tonnage could be used to begin an intrastate service. I know that the Minister will claim that the Commonwealth has no control over intrastate services, but if the vessels extended their service from Sydney to, say, Brisbane, it would become an interstate service. The ships that are being constructed could use the port of Newcastle. The trucks that now carry 600,000 tons of cargo between Sydney and Newcastle each year could use the roll-on roll-off ships. In fact, some months ago the Director of the Newcastle State Dockyard submitted to the New South Wales Government a proposal that it build small roll-on roll-off ships on which to carry the trucks that now ply between Sydney and Newcastle instead of allowing them to use the highway. The Minister for Shipping and Transport should give some consideration to the matters I have raised.
I think there are many purposes other than the construction of ships for which the money now being made available to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission could be used. The construction of suitable wharves is as important a matter as the construction of ships. I hope that at some later stage the Minister will bring down an amendment to the legislation permitting the Commonwealth to move into the stevedoring field. I would like to see the Commonwealth take a greater interest in the construction of suitable wharfs, not only for roll-on roll-off ships, but for the handling of all types of cargo. This is an industry that must be dealt with at the Federal level. We must get rid of the State bigotry and bias that have so long existed, as a result of which States have not been prepared to do certain things because other States may gain advantages. We see these things go on in trade between the States. I would like to see the Minister institute an inquiry, not only into the operations of the shipping lines and the construction of the necessary ships, but also into the question of whether the wharfage that is provided is suitable for the types of ships that should be built and must be built in the years to come. Some of the cargo handling sheds that have been built in the past have been uneconomic. I have seen some of them on the wharfs at Newcastle. Some are high buildings incapable of storing all the cargo that should be stored in them. Suitable machinery is not available to lift pallets and containers high enough into the sheds. This is the result of uneconomic planning. The industry needs replanning. There should be new thinking, not only by the States, but by the Commonwealth also. I hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to these matters.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) was concerned about the location of new wharfs in Sydney. He said that reconstruction of wharves in Sydney is taking place in an already heavily congested part of Sydney. As a result, the excessive cost that will be added to freights by way of stevedoring charges will make them beyond the reach of overseas buyers. I hope that the Minister will heed the advice of the honorable member for Warringah. I hope that he will give sympathetic consideration to my request for an inquiry into the three aspects of shipping to which I have referred so that something may be done about them. Regarding the operations of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission in respect of overseas trade I think we can pay due heed to what Sir Alan Westerman, the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, said on 2nd November last year. He said that the current freight rates charged to Australian shippers on cargoes to the United Kingdom and Continental ports could be reduced by 121 per cent, if the Conference lines would eliminate uneconomic competition within the Conference. These are not my words, but the words of the Secretary of the Department, uttered no doubt with the concurrence and approval of the Minister for Trade and Industry who, incidentally, has done a great service to this country by preparing and publishing an excellent booklet setting out the ownership of Australian companies and indicating how overseas interests-
– Order! I suggest to the honorable member for Newcastle that this has no relevance to the Bill now under discussion.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should like to give the Government a plug, particularly a Minister who has done this country a service. In conclusion I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport to indicate, if he can, what has happened about the original statement by R. W. Miller Holdings Ltd. that it would build tankers in Australia if a permit were granted to it.
-Order! I suggest to the honorable member for Newcastle that this is completely out of order and has nothing to do with the Bill that we are discussing.
– What I want to get round to is that if R. W. Miller is not going to build tankers-
– Order! I suggest to the honorable member that this is not the subject matter under discussion. What he is trying to debate is not relevant to the Bill. I suggest that he take note of what 1 have said.
– What I am trying to say to the Minister is that if Miller is not going to build the tankers-
– Order! The honorable member for Newcastle will resume his seat.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member for Newcastle will resume his seat. I remind him that he has been given a fair amount of latitude in the speech he has made on the Bill, but it is not in order for him to continue to speak in defiance of the ruling of the Chair regarding the subject matter under discussion.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you had allowed me to conclude my remarks you would have seen that I was going to ask the Minister-
– Order! The honorable member for Newcastle cannot conclude remarks that I have ruled out of order in relation to the subject matter under discussion. I call on the honorable member for Canning.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, my time has not yet expired; I still have-
– Order! The honorable member for Newcastle continued speaking on a subject matter that was irrelevant to the Bill.
– All right, I will just conclude.
– Order ! I warned the honorable member for Newcastle that it was irrelevant on three different occasions. The honorable member for Newcastle continued to speak and I suggested that the honorable member resume his seat.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, with all due respect to you, you would not allow me to complete my remarks that were relevant to the Bill.
– Order! The honorable member for Newcastle is now debating a ruling that I have given from the Chair.
– If I may say so-
– Order! I call the honorable member for Canning.
.- The purpose of the Bill is to increase the borrowing powers of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. In his second reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) said -
The Commission is faced with substantial capital expenditure over the next few years for the construction of new vessels which it has on order or intends to build and for the erection of associated shore facilities.
I think that around those few words is the requirement of the Bill. I shall endeavour to confine my remarks to this. As far as I know this is the first time in Australian history that we have had a reasonable amount of money available for shipping purposes in Australia. In view of the many miles of coastline around Australia I believe that Australian shipping has been starved, to some extent, of finance in the past. I refer not only to coastal shipping itself but to port facilities. Before we start barging overseas, as some honorable members have suggested we might do, we should look at the situation in Australia. A tremendous change is taking place in the shipping world. It has not come easily or quickly to Australia, but what has occurred in shipping between the States indicates what can be done with modern ships - by the building of containerised ships, roll on roll off ships and modern cargo ships.
In dealing with shipping one should not look merely at ships but also at associated facilities. I refer to port facilities, shore facilities, access roads and inland transport to feed the ships. These factors must be considered in our discussion of shipping within Australian coastal waters. If we are to develop this country - and we have a duty to develop it - we must recognise that shipping will play an important part because of the vast distances around Australia’s coastline and because of our limited railway lines and other lines of communication connecting the north with the south. Shipping must obviously play a big part in developing the north of Australia. We must be realistic about costs, because obviously at present living costs are extremely high in the north and it will be by the provision of efficient shipping that these costs will be broken down. It is to ensure that our northern areas are served similarly to the remainder of the Australian coast that this Bill has been introduced. If we are to develop this country successfully we must improve our northern transport.
The change that has taken place in shipping is of significance. We must throw away our former concept and build an entirely new type of ship, as has happened elsewhere. The new concept will require much capital. I noticed in the Press a day or two ago some reference to the development of Sydney Harbour. This had some relevance to what I have said about the need to do something practical about shore facilities. At present Sydney is strangling itself. I do not know whether commercial interests are wrapped up in the proposals I saw reported in the Press, but the proposals did not impress me one iota. The report indicated that we would be spending a lot of money. Mistakes have been made time and again throughout the world, but this Bill does mention associated shore facilities. Money is required for associated shore facilities. Regardless of who spends the money - whether it is the New South Wales port authority, another State port authority, the Commonwealth Government itself or a shipping company from another country - unless we do the right thing now we will be saddled with the tremendous problem of congestion at the port, and this could affect us for many years to come. In this modern age, when literally millions of tons of cargo have to be handled, we must get out of the congested areas and start afresh. This is what 1 felt Sydney ought to be doing. I do not like to criticise the authorities in that State, who should be experts in this field, but I feel that the concept of constructing extra wharves within the heart of Sydney is one that needs some further investigation.
The co-ordinated action between ship and shore which I speak of as far as our coastal shipping is concerned is possibly just as important as, if not more important than, spending lots of money on modern ships. The concept today is to take goods from one warehouse to another - in other words, from door to door. If you are spilling out thousands of tons of cargo from a ship - the concept underlying this Bill tonight is the building of new ships - and you have no place to put the cargo, or no proper access to and from the wharf so that the cargo can be taken away, then immediately costs begin to rise very rapidly indeed. There is a tremendous amount of capital investment in these days in motor trucks which are used to carry cargo away from the wharves. If you go to some of our ports today, you can see hundreds of thousands of pounds in the form of motor trucks lying idle as the trucks queue up to take cargo into or away from the wharves. If a ship is to be operated efficiently, there must be room to move on the wharves. This is something that we must certainly take note of.
– What about more ports?
– The honorable member for Gwydir suggests more ports. As I have said, the modern concept is to move out of the congested areas. Sydney grew up a little like Topsy. People came there in the early days and pitched their tents, as it were, tying the ships up at the same time. Sydney Harbour is a beautiful harbour, as we all realise, but there was no planning done. The commercial centre was built around the harbour. We might as well have built a wall around it. A port simply must have air to breathe - there must be proper access and there must be adequate room. Engineers throughout the world have said that 1.2 to 13 acres are required for each berth, with all necessary facilities, and I suggest that this is a reasonable estimate. Sydney could not possibly provide anything like that.
This country is growing and developing rapidly, so these are the kind of things that we must take into consideration. The Bill is designed to give the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission some elbow room - to give it, so to speak, an itinerary on which it can plan. There have been suggestions that we should do all sorts of things. One previous speaker in this debate mentioned something that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) had said in relation to shipping on 16th March. It was reported that he said he favoured Australian participation in the carriage of bulk cargoes. He said this trade should be controlled to some extent by Australians, and he mentioned a proportion of 50-50. That is the sort of thing we can be looking at, but in the meantime let us not lose sight of the position that we find ourselves in today.
Let us organise ourselves. We are in an excellent position to do this now. There are some countries that do not have the opportunities for improving in this respect that we have. Sydney is perhaps an exception in Australia. In some countries ports have been developed to such a stage already that it would be very expensive to change them. I do not think that we have reached that position in Australia today. The Commonwealth is releasing a greater amount of money for the purpose of ship building and associated works, but I hope it will take a greater interest in the establishment of proper facilities in Australian ports.
Something has been done in relation to ports in the north. Large sums of money have been made available in Western Aus tralia by the Commonwealth for the purpose of constructing various port facilities. This is so also of ports in the eastern States. But I am speaking of something much bigger than this - the modernisation of our major ports. We must look to the future. If we spend our money in the wrong way at this stage and do not look enough to the future, this thing will catch up on us and we will find ourselves in a position of tremendous congestion, which will be very expensive from the nation’s point of view.
Our defence, in this island continent, depends to a great extent on suitable shipping facilities. I am not speaking now of the ships themselves but of shore facilities, because it is useless to have ships coming here from other parts of the world unless we have places to put them when they get here and adequate machinery to deal with their cargoes. One thing I have noticed in the eastern States is the lack of port equipment. Just how they get along. I do not quite know. They use ship’s gear a lot, and this is an antiquated idea. The new concept with our .coastal shipping is containerisation, with the ships carrying their cranes with them, but there are new concepts which envisage the use of large machines. It is perfectly obvious that if you are going to use large machinery in the form of cranes with a 30 ton lift, the wharves on which you are going to put the machines must be properly constructed so as to take them. If the wharves we build cannot take this type of machinery we shall be wasting our time and money. The foundation for a crane costs almost as much as the crane itself in these days.
I support the Bill. I hope that the Commonwealth will take a greater interest in shipping and related facilities. I believe that if we are going to develop this country, particularly the north, we must look to shipping. We must look, not perhaps to the Commission, but to the Government itself to bring in the needs of the people of the north at reasonable rates. When I was in Kununurra a little time ago, I was informed that the cost of building a house there was about twice what it was in Sydney. That is hardly cricket in my book. I think that we as Australians must do something about this and endeavour to help the people of the north. The amount of cargo that would have to be carried to build a town such as Kununurra is quite small, but as the north grows and develops greater amounts of cargo will be required and therefore freight cost possibly could come down. In the initial stages, at this point of time, let us look at these things and endeavour to provide reasonable conditions for the people living in the north.
.- The Australian National Line has become an indispensable facet of Australia’s transportation system. In its 1 1 years of operation, the Australian National Line has built up a tremendous reputation in Australia and overseas for efficiency, growth, progress, usefulness and management. It is now a mature adult in the world of shipping. The Australian National Line has pioneered new forms of shipping transport, such as the roll-on-roll-off ships. It has stimulated shipbuilding in Australian shipyards. It has gathered together an outstanding staff in the fields of administration, management and construction.
The Australian National Line had an interesting birth. It was bom out of the Liberal Government’s failure to sell the 40 Government owned ships after the Labour Government was defeated in December 1949. To the eternal disgrace of the Menzies Government in the early 1950’s these Government ships were hawked around the world as the Government sought buyers for them.
– That is not true.
– It is true.
– The Government did not sell them.
– The Minister was not the Minister for Shipping and Transport at the time.
– The Government insisted that the ships stay on the Australian coast. That was a condition, of sale.
– That is rather different from hawking them around the world for sale as the honorable member said.
– But the Government tried to sell them. That is the issue.
– Yes, the Government tried to sell the ships. The Government did not care who bought them even though they were to operate on the Australian coast. These ships could have been dispersed among overseas shipping companies because not a single company could afford to buy 40 ships even at the price the Government was asking for them. The Labour Party fought this move up hill and down dale for four years in this Parliament. Mr. Speaker, what a tragedy for our coastal shipping trade was averted when the Government failed to obtain the price that it wanted for these ships. This sellout, if it had taken place, would have set our coastal shipping trade back 10 to 15 years, in my opinion. These good ships would have been dispersed amongst half a dozen shipping companies which would have competed with each other. The Australian National Line has justified fully our confidence in its capacity to operate a huge coastal fleet and to meet competition along the way.
The Australian National Line through the years has been suffering under a grave handicap. This handicap can be likened to the ball and chain of the convict days. In the National Line’s charter which was amended in 1964, the Government allowed the Commission to borrow only $10 million a year towards the capital expansion of its operations. This leaden restriction is to be removed under the provisions of the Bill now before the House. The ball and chain are to be taken from the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. The Commission is to be given freedom to operate up to any level it wishes consistent with good financial practice. The borrowing straitjacket imposed on the Commission for so long was introduced when the original Act was framed most deliberately, in my humble opinion, by this Government in order to prevent the A.N.L. from growing up too fast and from coming to competitive maturity too soon. By competitive maturity I mean the capacity of the A.N.L. to compete with other shipping interests. This restriction on borrowing was imposed on the A.N.L. to keep it within a certain limit. In order to expand the Line needs capital. With its borrowings restricted to only $10 million a year, the expansion of this shipping line was certainly limited when we consider how costly ships are.
In my opinion, this borrowing restriction on the Commission has kept its development back, limited its expansion, and prevented vital shipping business from coming to our starved shipbuilding industry. The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission now wishes to expand its operations and its construction programme into various fields. The Commission has ordered, as my colleagues have said, a 47,500 dead weight tons bulk carrier which will concentrate on the transport of bulk ore. This carrier will soon be in service. The Commission has ordered also another 47,500 dead weight tons bulk carrier. It has ordered two roil-on roll-off cargo vessels for the Melbourne-Brisbane and the MelbourneBrisbaneNorth Queensland service. The Commission has announced” - I am very pleased with this decision - that it has under consideration a proposal to construct a second Bass Strait passenger vessel. We in Tasmania certainly hope that the Commission will decide definitely to build another “ Princess of Tasmania “. This new ship should be bigger and include some definite improvements in relation to facilities that were not included in the “ Princess of Tasmania “. Tasmania has been pressing for this second Bass Strait passenger vessel for some time because bookings on the “ Princess of Tasmania “ have to be made nearly 12 months ahead if passengers wish to take their cars over to the State. This fact has discouraged a number of people in their planning.
We feel there is enough freight and there are enough passengers also to warrant a second Bass Strait ferry. Now we are told that this matter has reached the consideration stage. We hope that, with the passing of this Bill, the Commission will be encouraged to go right ahead, decide the matter, and then plan and build this second Bass Strait passenger vessel. If the Commission decides to go ahead with this vessel, there will be a lot of happy people in Tasmania and on the mainland. Many people want to come to my State for a holiday. I could not recommend Tasmania for a holiday too highly. The Queensland area is very nice, but the climate is hot and Surfers Paradise is very expensive. People who have been there come back poorer men and women. The tourist will find a much better climate in Tasmania and it is not so expensive. People who want to visit Tasmania should come in February, March or April as these are the best months. If they want to see a green island they should come in October and November.
The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission has announced that it is to build a new specialised vessel for the Darwin trade. So, with this programme that I have outlined, no wonder this Bill is before us to remove the limitation on borrowing that has held back the Commission all these years. The Minister for Shipping and Transport in his second reading speech said -
The accepted commercial practice in thesematters is to achieve an appropriate balance between equity capital, overdraft and some form of loan finance. The Commission is required to pay a reasonable return on its capital and is expected to play a competitive role in its operations. In these circumstances it should have the same freedom to vary the ratio between loan borrowings and equity capital as its competitors, and the purpose of this Bill is to place it in this position.
After 11 years, the Commission is to be free from the limitation of borrowing that applied to it. But it has taken 11 years for the Government to remove this shackle or restriction from the Commission. The Minister says quite frankly that this move will give the Commission a better chance with its competitors. Honorable members can imagine what sort of a chance the Commission has had up to date with its competitors, bearing in mind the borrowing restrictions that have been placed upon it.
The Minister said further -
The approval of the Minister and the Treasurer will be necessary before any borrowings are made and this will provide a means of limiting or controlling the borrowings of the Commission in the light of its approved requirements for ships and terminal facilities if this proves to be necessary.
Therefore, the Government’s shadow will still fall across the bows of the ships of the Commission because the Commission will not be able to borrow finance without permission and authority from the Government. 1 hope that the Government will be fair and reasonable when the Commission brings its borrowing programme before it; otherwise the purpose of this legislation will be lost. Indeed, the Commission will rely on the leniency, goodwill and decency of the Government to give it a fair go in its competition now that the restriction on its borrowing programme has been removed.
According to the Summary of the Australian Fleet, Table No. 1, supplied by the Minister, there were 113 ships as at 31st December 1965 operating around the Australian coast in our interstate fleet. Of these ships, 90 are Australian owned. More are Australian owned than I thought. However, 23 out of 113 are not Australian owned. Unfortunately the tendency for overseas shipping companies to butt into our Australian coastal trade is increasing rather than diminishing, lt is not a good sign, and I think it should be resisted by this Government. The Australian National Line is quite capable with the other shipping companies on the Australian coast of handling all our trade and, if it cannot, it must build the ships in order to do so. We do not want interference from overseas shipping companies on the Australian coast. 1 want to refer to a point or two raised in the 1965 report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. It is an attractive annual report with coloured photographs, splendid graphs and, in all, is a model of a report to be submitted to any Parliament in any country. I am intrigued by the item headed “ Chairman’s Review “ on page 4 which says -
The Commission has therefore called tenders for three large vehicle deck vessels and in so doing will extend the “ container “ principle of transport over a far wider field.
Then we have this sentence -
For this and other plans in hand or in view, additional finance, preferably by way of borrowings, will be necessary.
That is a very significant statement and is in keeping with what we have been trying to say in this debate, namely that the Commission needs freedom to implement this kind of programme. The only way it can implement it is to extend its borrowings. The Bill before us tonight should be a great blessing to the Line and will help the Commission to carry out the programme which I have just outlined.
It is interesting to note that at 30th June last year the Commission had a total of 39 ships. It had 19 bulk carriers with a total dead weight tonnage of 189,960, and an average age of 7 years 4 months. It had 1 grain carrier of 2,014 tons dead weight of the age of 7 years 10 months; 16 general cargo vessels totalling 54,059 tons of an average age of 14 years and 3 vehicle deck vessels of 5,468 tons of an average age of 3 years 5 months, making a total of 39 ships of a total dead weight tonnage of 251,501. That is a wonderful record of capital equipment in ships. The personnel of the Line numbered 2,076. What the Line is doing for the economy of Australia is something to be wondered at. This Bill will give the Line what might be regarded as a blood transfusion. The building of ships in our shipyards will mean a distribution of wealth, finance, money, purchasing power, or whatever you like to call it, throughout Australia. We are proud of the Australian National Line, and I am sure that anybody who comes into contact with the work it is doing is also proud of it.
The Commission has now been given the green light to go into overseas trading should it want to do so. I understand that its charter gives it the power to do so. The Minister gave me that information in answer to a question I asked this year in the House. This development is long overdue. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) - the Leader of the Country Party, the Deputy Prime Minister - made a statement in Tasmania last year, the most significant that he has made for a long time, at a Country Party conference, I think, in which he said that he expected to put a bold plan to the Federal Cabinet soon to give Australia an overseas shipping line. The newspaper in which his statement was reported commented -
It is understood his plan is for a conference of private Australian companies to operate a fleet of bulk cargo carriers overseas.
That is his scheme. He wants to ask these shipping companies - Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., Howard Smith Ltd., Bulk Ships Pty. Ltd., Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd. and R. W. Miller Holdings Ltd. - to get together and help finance or build ships for an overseas service. This is something different from the Australian National Line doing it. I only hope that either plan will be put into effect, or perhaps a combination of both, because we have to get into the overseas field. We are the only trading nation that does not own a fleet of overseas ships. The Australian National Line, with its charter and the know how to do this, and with the shipbuilding yards in Australia, could build the necessary vessels, or with finance made available to it, hire or charter them. It could start off with a few ships and gradually build up to 15 or 20 within the next 15 or 20 years. That is what I hope will happen.
I desire to make a few points on this aspect. Our major primary industries rely on overseas markets. Our major secondary industries rely on overseas sources for raw materials and heavy capital equipment. We are so much further than most competitive countries from the main importing markets and our life blood is shipping, in this continent tucked away down here in the South Pacific. In 1961-62 only 0.6 per cent., or one ton in every 150 tons of goods entering Australia, and only 1.5 per cent, of goods shipped from Australia, were carried in Australian registered vessels. On the best statistics available it has been reliably estimated that the total freight charged by overseas shipowners to carry our exports and imports in 1962-63 was £430 million.
– The honorable member is getting a bit overseas in relation to the Bill.
– I have not said as much about overseas shipping as some of the Minister’s colleagues did.
– Order! Perhaps I should point out to the honorable member that he should try to be fair.
– I am only making a passing reference.
– I realise that, and that is why T have been tolerant.
– You should have been here. Sir, during an earlier part of the debate.
– Order! I have every confidence in my colleagues.
– Before I am completely torpedoed on this, I want to say that in the last three years - this is my final sentence on it - more than 100 overseas ships - British, Scandinavian, Japanese, Liberian, Panamanian and two from India - have been chartered to carry phosphate from the Australian trust territory in Nauru to Australia. We have no ships of our own to do this. It is a scandalous state of affairs, and the sooner a Labour Government takes over in Canberra and hurries up the establishment of an overseas shipping line the better it will be for our economy as a whole.
I am not finished yet, Mr. Speaker, you will be sorry to know. I have received the interesting information that the Australian National Line has a ship being prepared to carry 9,000 tons of billet steel to Hong Kong. I think the Minister or one of his colleagues mentioned this today. The ship will sail from Port Kembla next month. He said that this is being done only because the ship can get backloading from Yampi Sound around to Adelaide on the way home. Otherwise it would have to come home in ballast. That is a scandalous state of affairs. Are the ships we charter to take goods to overseas countries prevented from bringing back cargo? Is there some kind of pact between the private shipping companies trading between Australia and overseas and the Government or the Australian National Line that the A.N.L. must not carry cargo back if it takes cargo out.
– It can get any cargo that is available.
– It is strange that the ship would have to come back in ballast if it could not get this cargo from Yampi Sound.
– Order! I thought the honorable member was going to come back to the Bill.
– I will not mention that matter any more. I desire to make some comments on the “ Princess of Tasmania “. I am on my home ground now. I might mention that this is an historic occasion for Tasmania. On last Saturday night, the 19th March, the “Princess of Tasmania” completed her 2,000th crossing of Bass Strait in six and a half years. In this time she steamed 464,000 miles, equivalent to 1 8,560 times around the world at the equator. She has carried just over 500,000 passengers between Victoria and Tasmania in that time. She has completed three round trips a week in foul weather and in fair weather. It is interesting to note that she did not miss one scheduled crossing of the Strait in all those years. This is a wonderful performance for a ship. She has completed a constant programme in all weathers without missing one scheduled trip. She carries 333 passengers in a full load and more than 100 vehicles, including many vehicles we call prime movers. These huge trucks are now on our Tasmanian roads to such an extent that the Tasmanian Government must spend thousands of pounds in widening and strengthening our highways so that they can take the heavy vehicles. We do not mind this trade, but it does seem a pity that the owners of the vehicles do not pay us any registration fee towards the cost of maintaining our roads. However, as you know, Mr. Speaker, section 92 of the Constitution permits free trade between the States and we cannot impose any charge on these people coming from the mainland. The “ Princess of Tasmania “ has revolutionised the tourist trade between the mainland and our island and has also changed the pattern of transportation. I pay a sincere tribute tonight to the Captain and crew and all the men and women who have travelled with this vessel throughout the years and so have maintained the service between the mainland and Tasmania and to all who built her.
– The honorable member should refer to Psalm 106.
– That would be a good note on which to finish. I am sure that a decision to build another Bass Strait ferry would not be erroneous. An additional vessel would be a tremendous help to our island and to the mainland and would help to build up a fleet of passenger ships that would be second to none anywhere in the world. The new vessel would provide modern accommodation and incorporate new techniques. We feel that with the additional vessel Tasmania would be very well served. We hope that we will have a Christmas present and will be told that plans for the new ship have been completed and the keel has been laid. I would not mind even if the Minister laid the keel.
– The Bill, by its title, amends section 30 of the principal Act. Section 30 gives the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission certain borrowing powers, with Treasury approval, subject to the certification of the Minister of the necessity to borrow such moneys for the Commission to meet its obligations and discharge its functions under the Act. The functions of the Commission are defined in section 15 and specifically provide for the Commission to establish and maintain shipping services for the carriage of passengers, goods and mail, inter alia, between a place in the Commonwealth and a place in another territory. I propose to confine my remarks as specifically as I can to the Bill as it stands and matters reasonably relevant to it. However, in passing, I shall deal with the position of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), because no public activity is of more importance to the Australian economy than that of transport.
At a symposium some years ago figures were given to show that about 35 per cent, of the gross national product is absorbed in transport costs in various forms - land, sea and air. That being so, it rather astonishes me to see the tremendous and chaotic division that exists in the approach of this Government to the discharge of the transport functions. In particular, we see that the Minister for Shipping and Transport - I make no reflection on him personally - is not even a member of the inner Cabinet. His powers are particularly limited. By name, he is the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In fact, control of overseas shipping policy, with typical Parkinsonian dexterity, has been appropriated by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen). Another field that might appropriately come under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Shipping and Transport is control of the stevedoring industry which, if it is anything at all, is part of the shipping. We can take it still further. The Government is not prepared to give even the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Swartz) the status of a full portfolio within the inner Cabinet.
There is muddle, duplication and inefficiency in every phase of the approach of the Commonwealth Government to shipping. The remarks of Mr. Ramsay of the Department of Trade and Industry at a recent symposium are particularly relevant. The “ Financial Review “ of 24th February last reported Mr. Ramsay as saying -
The whole trouble in the past is that shipping has been considered as a series of more or less disconnected operations - shipbuilding, shipowning, liner operation, stevedoring and so forth.
It is useless to build a ship and then worry about operating it efficiently, just as it is a waste of time to plan a liner service and then ask the stevedores to see about efficient stevedoring. . . The time to think about stevedoring difficulties is at the drawing-board stage of shipbuilding.
I direct particular attention to the following words -
Only when we begin to think of shipping as a single integrated operation from exporter to importer shall we make any progress and only then shall we be able to see an end to the everrising spiral of costs.
Mr. Ramsay is reported as saying also
It is equally pertinent to remark that the successful handling of transport problems at Government level is also tied up in the integration of the multiplicity of authorities which presently handle them piecemeal.
We need a Minister for Shipping and Transport who in fact is a Minister with full powers. Until we get a truly national approach to the problem, with full control over every phase of shipping activity vested in the one Minister, we will never be able effectively to solve our problems.
The background to the present legislation is laid by the Minister in his second reading speech. He said that the need to increase the capital structure of the Commission arose because it was faced with substantial capital expenditure in the construction of new vessels. He referred particularly to the fact that the Commission was concerned that it was disadvantageous^ placed in tendering for long term contracts, especially for the carriage of bulk cargoes, because of the restrictions of the existing Act. The report of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is strikingly significant in providing the background to this legislation. I shall quote from the annual report for 1965. Over the reproduction of the signature of the Chairman, the following statement appears -
Throughout the twelve months, the demand for tonnage in the Australian ore and bulk cargo trades has been such that no overseas voyaging could be undertaken. Officers of the Australian National Line, however, continue to watch the freight market with a view to taking advantage of any favorable development.
There has been a lot of agitation over quite a few years for the establishment of a national overseas shipping line. In fact, that power already exists in the terms of section 15 of the Act and the agitation for the establishment of an overseas line is not strictly correct. This should be directed rather to the extension or amplification of the activity of the Commission under its existing statutory power.. It is obvious to me and, I think, to anyone who has had shipping experience that the first method of entry will be by the establishment of bulk carriers. The bulk carrying trade is of major importance today. I was closely associated with the legislation for the establishment of an inner harbour at Port Kembla. We thought we were working miracles when we established at the entrance a channel 42 feet deep at low tide. That was ten years ago.
Today, bulk carriers of 50,000 tons are commonplace. Bulk carriers of 80,000 tons are commonplace and, in relation to the petroleum trade, one Japanese vessel is of 150,000 tons dead weight and another one, the “ Idematsu Maru “, is on the stocks in Japan and is soon to be commissioned with a dead weight tonnage of 205,000 and with a draught, incidentally, of 56 feet. No major port in Australia could accommodate it at the present time. It is true that most of these tankers stand off shore, couple up to a pipeline and discharge their cargo by pump, but the point that I want to make is that today these super tankers, whose existence is, in the main, due to the closure of the Suez Canal during its takeover by Egypt and the need to get economies of scale by the building of super vessels, are capable of making remarkable - even fantastic - economies in transport. There is no earthly reason why we should not take advantage of bulk carriers for the transport of our iron ore outwards and, for such time as we continue to import it, petroleum inwards. The bulk carrier is the vessel of the future. To take a typical case, I mention that the Japanese super tanker, the “ Tokyo Maru “ of 150,000 tons dead weight, has a crew of 29. It is as fully automated as any vessel can be. There is no earthly reason why we should not be entering into that field in relation to overseas shipping.
The matter goes further. It is not just a matter of building one or two bulk carriers of that size. I am informed, credibly, that there are proposals for tankers of even 300,000 tons capacity to be built. We live in a new age and it is time the Government took a new approach to this problem. It is not good enough for us to live in the past. At the present time there is no port in Australia which is capable of handling the conventional heavy cargo freighters which are being built for economies of scale. Let us consider only the steel industry. If we are going to have ore carriers of 100,000 tons capacity heaving to off the north western coast of Western Australia we will need to have sufficient capacity in our harbours at Newcastle and Port Kembla to deal with them. The whole approach at the present time with the division of authority and responsibility between the States and the Commonwealth Government can lead only to an intensification of existing chaos or, in the words of the poet, of confusion worse confounded.
Yesterday there was an announcement by the Maritime Services Board in Sydney of the proposal for New South Wales port reconstructions for a ten year period. This is highly relevant to the activities of the Australian National Line. The harbour of Sydney is one of the best in the world; the port and the port facilities are among the worst, lt is a revelation to look at that port, to examine it and, particularly, to remember the scathing words in the report of Mr. Commissioner Basten in 1952 in which he seriously queried the advisability of continuing to redevelop the port of Sydney and asked whether in point of fact it would be better to consider the establishment of an alternative port where there were not the disadvantages, and particular disadvantages, of an absence of rail links.
I should like to cite to the House that only 37 of the 120 shipping berths in Sydney have rail connections. Worse than that, we are back in the days of the First Fleet when Sydney Cove - Circular Quay - was naturally the main centre for shipping to tie up and to discharge its cargo. Today, on that peninsula between Darling Harbour and Woolloomooloo, we have all the traffic problems of the second largest white city in the British Commonwealth. Yet the Maritime Services Board proposes to redevelop certain of those wharves. In certain cases it hopes to provide as much as six acres of space for the motor trucks which will come there, but it can provide no solution to the traffic problems of the inner city or of Sydney itself, problems which have already attacked and substantially reduced its retail shopping trade and problems which will intensify.
– I point out to the honorable member that the subject of wharves and the question of trading facilities in the suburbs are a little outside the measure under debate. The purpose of the Bill is to grant authority to raise money for the shipping line - not for wharves.
– I respect your ruling, Sir, and I bow to it. Reverting to the general activities of the Australian National Line, and particularly to the position with regard to shipping freight rates, because that is really the key to the whole situation, I point out that the Australian National Line has played a major part in stabilising freight rates around the Australian coast. The methods of its operation are well known and the methods of consultation on coastal freight rates also are well known. J give all credit to the Australian National Line and I should like to give my own personal congratulations to the Chairman and the various members of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and all associated with it. It is an enterprise of which Australia can be justly proud. But 1 want to remind the House of the report of the Committee of Inquiry, known as the Tait Committee, of 1957, in which the comment was made that the Committee found it difficult to avoid the conclusion that the ultimate determining factor in the setting of freight rates in the Australia-United KingdomContinental trade had been what the traffic would bear, having regard to all the circumstances and to such alternatives as were available. Worse than that, in the conclusions at page 131 of the report, it was mentioned that instead of the Australian Overseas Transport Association being the nonstatutory organisation by which overseas shipping freights were determined and where there was a nice balance of power between the interests represented on it, the Committee came to the conclusion that the shipowners were in point of fact the dominant party. More than that, the shipowners were prepared to disclose alterations in their operating costs, but would give no disclosure whatever as to their profits. In other words, unless and until the activities of the Australian National Line are expended through the overseas shipping trade we will continue to be at the mercy of these people.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), in a fine flush of enthusiasm last September, referred to the need for an overseas shipping line. He was addressing an economic forum in Melbourne which had been organised by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. He said that an overseas shipping line was long overdue and that he hoped to live long enough to see an Australian shipping line carrying Australian goods around the world. I hope he lives long enough because, at the rate of progress set by the present Government, he will need to have a longevity equal to that of Methuselah. A national snipping line is an absolute necessity for this country. Our overseas trading balances have been running down for about 19 successive months. Quite apart from the economics of the situation, which justify the operations of the Australian National Line, a substantial contribution to our overseas trading reserves would be made by the expansion of the activities of the Line. I do not want to delay the House further, Sir. I thank you for your tolerance. 1 believe that my comments on port facilities were strictly relevant to the subject before us.
.- Mr. Speaker, I support the Bill and also in general the remarks made by previous speakers on both sides of the House. I congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) on taking action to make it possible lor the capital available to the Australian National Line to be increased so that it can progress further. I was deeply interested in the remarks of the various speakers who have taken part in this debate and I am sure that they believed in what they said. Having said in general terms that I support the remarks of previous speakers, I go on now to say that I do not believe in some of the things that they said. I have to be careful what I say about this, but 1 know that the matters to which I refer were only trivial and that what was said was uttered in good faith. I should just like to point out that it is not always convenient to load general cargo in a bulk cargo vessel. It costs a lot to put general cargo in a bulk carrier and to take it out at the end of the voyage. I shall not extend further the argument on that point.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, referring to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, said -
Whilst the Commission now has access to basically the same methods of financing as are available to private ship owners, its borrowing powers are limited and, if it is to carry through its proposed capital- works programme, it must have access to additional funds.
That access to additional funds is now to be provided. I come next to the most important part of the Minister’s speech. He went on -
This is necessary, particularly if the Commission is to maintain a competitive position in relation to private ship owners, including overseas interests which may wish to enter into Australian coastal trading.
It would appear that overseas shipping interests wish to enter the Australian coastal trade. I came across a little publication entitled ‘” Incentive “ in which I read this reference to a contract for coastal trade -
The Australian National Line may eventually get something out of this contract (Millers were not asked to tender) as Ludwig may charter the 47,000 ton bulk carrier being built for the A.N.L. The reason such a charter may be necessary is that there will be not enough other work on the coast. . . .
The House knows, Mr. Speaker, that one 47,000 ton vessel is being built at Whyalla. I understand that another will follow. I do not know whether the Australian National Line will operate its own vessel itself or whether the ship will be chartered and used by the Ludwig interests. I am sure that if the Minister clarifies that point a lot of people will be much happier. I know that there are difficulties involved in the carriage of bauxite from Weipa to Gladstone. That will be intrastate trade and therefore will be a matter for the Queensland Government.
I dare say that the executive officers of the Australian National Line have made a thorough survey to determine how many ships will be needed to carry bulk cargoes round the Australian coast. It is important that the exact number be determined. It would appear at present that we have too many tankers on the coast, though I may be wrong abou *his. One tanker has either been laid up or has been despatched with a cargo of wheat. I do not press that issue because I want to keep within the scope of the Bill. It has been said that roll-on-roll-off ships should go into as many ports as possible, but it is not good business to send a ship to many ports if that can be avoided. A clear pattern is emerging in respect of container cargoes on the Australian coast. I believe that it is only a matter of time before two companies will be operating with containerised vessels on the Australian coast. One will be the Australian National Line, carrying cargo from Melbourne to
Queensland, and the other will be Associated Steamships Pty. Ltd., carrying container cargoes from Melbourne to Fremantle. The efforts of the National Line in going ahead with containerised vessels will have a big effect on Australia’s economy. With the use of these specialised ships, vessels arriving in Australia from overseas will discharge the whole of their cargo at one port and there will be no need for them to steam all round Australia. The cargo will be picked ip at that port and delivered by containerised vessels operating in the coastal trade. Such a system will do away with a lot of wharf labour. This is a point that was mentioned in the House some time ago. This will inevitably happen. It is progress, and nothing much can be done about it.
The Minister said that the Commission has ordered two roll-on-roll-off cargo vessels for the Melbourne-Brisbane and the Melbourne-Brisbane-north Queensland trade and has announced that it is considering a proposal to construct a second Bass Strait passenger vessel. I am very pleased to hear that. Here, I make a plea that the Minister ensure that the roll-on-roll-off vessels will be capable of sufficient speed to meet the requirements of, say, the next 25 years. I believe it is generally accepted at present that the useful life of a ship is 25 years. Therefore, when one is ordering vessels one must look 25 years ahead and try to imagine what the position will be in 25 years’ time. I believe that roll-on-roll-off ferries like those described by the Minister, if used in the trade to North Queensland, will play a big part in relieving congestion on our main roads. The more vehicles one can put on such vessels the fewer transports we shall have travelling on the main highways. I earnestly suggest that much thought be given to this matter. I believe that ships providing such services should sail at, say, midnight so that loading can take place between 7 p.m. and shortly before midnight during the hours when the roads leading to the docks are not congested. The speed of the ships should be regulated so that they arrive at the next port - say, Brisbane - in 24 hours to enable unloading to be completed between midnight and the time when traffic conditions become congested next morning. If planning like that were carried out something would be achieved. I know that thoughts such as these must be in the minds of the principal officers of the
Australian National Line. I have had the pleasure of knowing the chairman of the Australian National Line, Captain J. P. Williams, for many years, and I think the Government and the country are very fortunate to have the services of a man of his knowledge. I believe he has the widest knowledge of any seaman - and I know he likes to be called a seaman - in Australia. He has given us the benefit of his advice, and given it freely and to the best of his ability.
I just want to say something about how the Australian National Line started, because there seems to be a certain amount of misunderstanding about this. The Australian National Line as we know it today was started during the war when there was a shortage of ships. The first ship to be built was the “ River Clarence “. lt was finished in, I think, 1942 and went straight to the Middle East with cargo, lt was followed by the “ River Burdekin “, which I happened to see building at the yard of Evans Deakin & Co. Pty. Ltd. in Brisbane. At the time I was standing by during the building of a naval vessel in the same yard. It was purely by chance that 1 happened to meet the Hon. Jack Beasley, who was Minister for Shipping at that time. He came to Brisbane on many occasions to see how the vessel was coming along, and 1 had many talks with him.
That is how the Line started, lt commenced with the building of River class ships and then it progressed to the building of D class and E class vessels. After a time the Australian National Line became quite diversified. It is true, as somebody here has said, that the Line was at one time up for sale, but the people who wanted to buy it were not prepared to pay a proper price. The Government of the day realised this and so the Line was not sold - and I am very glad that it was not sold. I do not know what can be done to make the Line work more effectively. That is a question for the Government if it chooses to carry on with the policy it is following at present, but to my mind the fact is that the Line is somewhat handicapped.
The Australian National Line builds the ships and mans them, and then they are placed in the hands of an agency which runs them and an agency which finds cargo. That method has several good features, of course. The agents for the vessels find the cargoes and obtain commission for doing so. and I may say that it is harder than most people think for a Commonwealth Government line to break into the shipping trade. When a National Line vessel enters an Australian port its officers have to contend with State Government officials, lt does not matter whether the particular government is Labour or Liberal; the first requirement is to satisfy the State Government officials. Then arrangements must be made for wharf space, and naturally a State Government will say: “ This is for us and you can have what is left.” Sometimes the area that is left over is not suitable. 1 know the trouble the Australian National Line had in finding a suitable site for its ferry terminal in Sydney. It so happened that Morts Dock became available, but if it had not become available the Australian National Line would have faced a most difficult task in finding a suitable position at the right price to build a ferry terminal. All the wharves were owned or leased by various shipping companies, and one just cannot walk in and say: “ I am going to take this over.” However, Morts Dock came on the market and the Australian National Line was fortunate enough to obtain that position for its terminal. I was pleased to see that the Australian National Line has bought about 2i acres of land in Brisbane on which it will start to build another terminal. 1 hope it will not bc long before we have containerised ships running to Queensland.
The Minister did not mention in his speech anything about the carriage of cattle between Australian ports. I think consideration should be given to the building of a ship, to be controlled by the Australian National Line, for the carriage of cattle. At present cattle are carried around the Australian coast in foreign-owned vessels. If we could have our own specialised cattle ships it would, I am sure, be of great advantage to my friends in the Country Party.
I have often asked that something be done in Australia, through the Australian National Line, about the building of our own Antarctic vessels. The House well knows that every year we have to bring a vessel to Australia all the way from Denmark and then send it to the Antarctic so that our personnel there may receive stores and be looked after generally. If we are going to continue in the Antarctic it is imperative that we have suitable ships of our own provided by the Australian National Line.
Last night I noticed reports in the Press that the first shipload of Australian iron ore for Japan had left Geraldton in a Japanese vessel, the “ Margaret Maru “. To me it seems rather disappointing that the first little bit of Australia to be sent overseas has had to go in a Japanese ship. We are told that we are to get some 47,000 tonners, which are being built now for the Australian National Line. Whether they will be used in the iron ore trade or not I do not know, but there is one matter I should like to mention in connection with these new vessels. When people talk of their harbour being the best in the world and their ports being the best in the world I am very glad to hear such patriotic utterances, but 1 must say that there are very few harbours in the world that can accommodate big ships. There are very few natural harbours with the required capacity. Large ships seldom come to Australia via the Barrier Reef because it is very difficult to navigate vessels of large draught through the Reef. I remember going up there during the war on a ship drawing 32 feet - that is not very much - and it caused a lot of concern going through the Barrier Reef with that draught. I know that the reef has now been buoyed and that the shoals have been marked, but the fact remains that it is not open water that one can navigate at will. Ships of 80,000 tons now come to South Australia but they have to be anchored off. They come to South Australia with a draught of 46 feet but if they want to get into Melbourne they have to be lightened until their draught is 36 feet. They must keep their draught at not much more than that figure if they want to go into Sydney.
Harbours can be deepened, of. course, but at times it goes beyond a simple matter of digging out mud, and sometimes rock has to be blasted out. Deepening a harbour is quite an expensive job. This has nothing to do with the Australian National Line, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I thought I should mention it because when we are building 47,000 ton vessels with deep draught these matters must be appreciated. Take dry docking for instance. Have we adequate dry docking facilities for vessels of more than 47,000 tons? We have only the Captain Cook Dock in Sydney and the Cairncross Dock. Apart from those two docks, we do not have dry docking facilities to take vessels of this size. The provision of such national projects should be a joint effort by the Australian National Line and the Navy. There should be closer liaison between the Navy and the Australian National Line so that in the building of ships careful consideration is given to possible future defence needs. I wish the Bill well. I hope that the Australian National Line prospers and that it will always have at the helm men of the character of those who are now there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
– I have received a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of an amendment to the Bankruptcy Bill 1965.
Consideration resumed from 17th August 1965 (vide page 31).
Clauses 1 to 11 - by leave - taken together.
– I seek leave to move four amendments together. They refer to clauses 5 and 7, the relevant portions of which read -
Clause 5. (1.) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears- “ debtor’s petition “ means a petition presented by a debtor against himself and includes a petition presented against a partnership in pursuance of section 57 of this Act; “policy for pure endowment” means a policy under which an amount is payable at a specified date if the person to whom the policy relates survives to that date, but a lesser amount not exceeding the sum of the premiums that have been paid is payable if that person dies before that date;
Clause 7. (1.) This Act extends to debtors being married women, infants, persons who are not Australian citizens and persons who have privilege of Parliament. (2.) A sequestration order shall not be made against, or a debtor’s petition presented by -
– There being no objection, leave is granted for the Attorney-General to move four amendments.
– I move-
The provisions of clauses 5 and 7 will not occasion difficulty to the Committee. The first amendment is to clause 5. It is a drafting amendment to substitute “ 56 “ instead of “57” in the definition of “debtor’s petition “.
The second amendment isto the definition of” policy for pure endowment “ and is intended to give effect to representations by the Life Offices Association that, as the definition originally stood, payments under such policies would no: be protected from becoming available for distribution amongst the’ creditors of a bankrupt. The Association said that as well as refunding premiums paid, if the person assured died before the policy matured, it was customary to pay interest on the premiums. The amendment takes account of this practice.
Coming to the third amendment, clause 7 (3.) provides for the Act, in its application to limited partnerships, to be modified by the rules. Other clauses in the Bill also provide for the Act, or particular sections thereof, to be modified by the rules in the application of the Act or the sections to particular circumstances. The formula used in such clauses in the Committee’s draft Bill was found to be inadequate, and changes were made when the Bill now before the Committee was prepared. At that time, clause 7 (3.) was not amended; the amendment now proposed will bring this provision into line with other analogous provisions.
The purpose of the fourth amendment, which would add a new sub-clause to clause 7, is, like that of the previous amendment, to bring the clause into line with other clauses in the Bill providing for the modification of the Act, or particular sections thereof, to special circumstances.
Amendments agreed to.
Clauses, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12. (2.) Tor the purposes of discharging his functions under this Act, the Inspector-General may -
.- I move -
In sub-clause (2.), paragraph (a), after “receiver” insert “or by a trustee”.
This is a very minor amendment which the Attorney-General has indicated the Government will accept. As it now stands, the clause places the Inspector-General in the position where he can investigate books and vouchers of a trustee but cannot require their production. The amendment gives to the Inspector-General what seems to me to be very proper power for him to have and, if need be, to use.
– The Government accepts the amendment. If I may say so, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has circulated five amendments and there is another amendment which I will move which flowed from a suggestion made by the honorable member. I must express my gratitude to him. In doing so, I pay to the honorable member a tribute that is thoroughly deserved for the time and effort that he has put into an examination of this very complex, technical bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 18- by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 19. (1.) Where a person becomes a bankrupt, it is the duty of the official receiver -
to investigate -
.- 1 move -
In sub-clause (1.), paragraph (d), after “ creditors “ insert “ and to attend that meeting or arrange for an officer to attend on his behalf”.
This, too, is a very minor amendment. Its purpose is to put the Official Receiver in the position of attending the first meeting of creditors. The Official Receiver is in the position of supervising the realisation and administration of a debtor’s affairs. The amendment takes account of that in a complete sense and puts the Official Receiver in the position of taking immediate charge. He is in attendance at the first meeting of creditors. Again the Attorney-General has indicated that the Government will accept the amendment.
– The Government accepts the amendment in the same spirit as it accepted the earlier amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 71 - by leave - taken together.
– The amendments I propose to move in this group of clauses concern clauses 39, 40, 56 and 58, the relevant portions of which read” -
Clause 39. (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, an appeal does not lie to the High Court from a judgment, order (not being a sequestration order) or sentence of the Court given, made or pronounced under this Act except by leave of the Court or of the High Court. (2.) Notice of an appeal or application for leave to appeal shall be filed in the office of the Registrar for the District in which the judgment, order or sentence was given, made or pronounced within seven days after notice of the appeal or application for leave to appeal has been filed in the High Court or other Court.
Clause 40. (1.) A debtor commits an act of bankruptcy in each of the following cases: -
Clause 56. (I.) A debtor’s petition against a partnership may be presented to the Registrar by a majority of those members of the partnership who are resident in Australia at the time of the presentation of the petition. (2.) Where a debtor’s petition is presented against a partnership by partners not comprising all the members of the partnership, the Registrar shall not accept the petition or the statement of affairs accompanying it but shall refer them to the Court. (3.) Upon such a reference, the Court may order that the petition and the statement of affairs be accepted by the Registrar or may dismiss the petition. (4.) If the Court orders that the petition and statement of affairs be accepted by the Registrar, paragraphs (a) and (b) of sub-section (3.) of the last preceding section apply as if the petition had been presented by all the partners. (5.) Where a debtor’s petition presented against a partnership is accepted by the Registrar in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, each partner resident in Australia, not being a partner by whom the petition was presented, shall, within fourteen days after the date on which the petition is accepted by the Registrar, make out and file in the office of the Registrar a statement of his affairs in accordance with the prescribed form and verified by affidavit. (6.) If a person required by the last preceding sub-section to make out and file a statement of his affairs fails to file that statement in accordance with that sub-section he is guilty of contempt of court.
Clause 58. (2). Where a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth requires the transmission of property to be registered and enables The Official Trustee in Bankruptcy or the trustee to be registered as the owner of any such property that is part of the property of the bankrupt, that property, notwithstanding that it vests in equity in The Official Receiver in Bankruptcy or the trustee, as the case may be, by virtue of this section, does not so vest at law until the requirements of that law have been complied with.
I seek leave to move the four amendments together.
There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move-
In clause 40, sub-clause (1.), omit paragraph (e), insert the following paragraph: - “ (e) if, at a meeting of any of his creditors -
Omit clause 56, insert the following clause: - “56.-(1) Subject to this section, the provisions of the last preceding section apply in relation to a petition against a partnership. “ (2.) A debtor’s petition againsta partnership-
a statement of the partnership affairs, verified by affidavit. “ (3.) Where a debtor’s petition is presented against a partnership by partners not comprising all the members of the partnership, the Registrar shall not accept the petition or the statements of affairs accompanying it but shall refer them to the Court. “ (4.) Upon such a reference, the Court may order that the petition and the statements of affairs be accepted by the Registrar or may dismiss the petition. “ (5.) In the application of the last preceding section in relation to a debtor’s petition against a partnership -
Regarding the amendment to clause 39, as the Bill stands, an appeal as of right from a court exercising bankruptcy jurisdiction to the High Court may only be made against a sequestration order.In all other cases, appeal is by leave only. Under the existing Act, an appeal as of right lies to the High Court in all cases from an order of a court exercising bankruptcy jurisdiction. The amendment would provide for an appeal as of right to the High Court from a court exercising bankruptcy jurisdiction where the appeal is against: (a) a sequestration order, or (b) a conviction, but on a question of law only.
The amendment to clause 40 has resulted from a proposal put forward by the honorable member for Moreton and to which I referred earlier. It is a modification of his proposal. He suggested that a debtor should commit an act of bankruptcy if he gave an undertaking to any of his creditors to sign an authority to bring his affairs under Part X of the Bill, that is, to place his affairs in the hands of a trustee with a view to effecting some arrangement with his creditors outside bankruptcy. On examining the matter, and having regard to the views of the members of the Bankruptcy Law Review Committee whose advice I sought on the matter, it appeared to me that paragraph (e) of sub-clause (1.) of clause 40 should be amended to provide that it would be an act of bankruptcy if a debtor, at a meeting of any of his creditors, consents to sign an authority under clause 188 and fails to do so within seven days. Such an amendment would bring paragraph (e) into line with paragraph (f). Paragraph (e) relates to what a debtor consents to do at a meeting of his creditors; paragraph (f) to what a debtor is requested by a meeting of his creditors to do.
The amendment relating to clause 56 substitutes a new clause 56, providing for the presentation of a debtor’s petition against a partnership. It has been found that the clause as it stands in the Bill is defective; it does not make adequate provision for the lodgment of a statement of the partnership affairs as well as a statement of the separate affairs of each partner who joined in the petition. The amendment proposed would cure this defect.
The purpose of the amendment to clause 58 is to correct a drafting error in the Bill, which refers to ‘The Official Trustee in Bankruptcy ‘ instead of to ‘ The Official Receiver in Bankruptcy’.
.-I just wanted to say a word about clause 39. As it was in the Bill originally introduced it did considerably cut down the right of appeal which formerly existed from the Bankruptcy Court to the High Court so that now one could appeal as of right only from sequestration orders. If one wished to appeal on any other matter one would have to obtain leave from the High Court. In the normal run of cases, of course, if one were appealing say from a State court one would have to show that there was an amount of £1,500 involved and then an appeal would lie to the High Court as a matter of right, and it would be where one had an amount involved of perhaps less than this that one would have to get special leave by showing some special character about the case - that is, that it was a test case or a case involving a principle of public importance. For some reason - and 1 know that the committee which reported on bankruptcy expressed the view that is now embodied in the legislation - the right of appeal from the Judge in Bankruptcy, who sits as a single judge, is restricted, and one has to get special leave, whatever the amount involved, in all cases except, as formerly in the Bill as originally introduced, those involving sequestration orders. Now, under the amendment introduced this evening by the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), there is a right of appeal on a question of law from a conviction for an offence.
The amendment now introduced does improve the Bill, if I may say so with respect, along the direction I advocated at the time of the second reading. 1 thought I should record my view that it still does not go far enough. In other words, if one is looking at a case for an appeal from a single judge one is requiring, in matters of great complexity such as those involving the doctrine of relation back or those involving avoidance of preferences, the person to get special leave from the High Court before he can get the question of law determined. I feel that this is a proper case where the limit of amount should apply only as it does in the general run of legal appeals.
– I should say that I have had an opportunity for considerable discussion with my honorable and learned friend from Parramatta (Mr. Bowen) on this matter. We are disagreed. He may be right, but I have the authority on my side in this case, and I feel that the Government is unable to go further than it has done. However, I must pay this regard to the honorable member - that the distance the Government has gone is directly as a result of his representation.
Amendments agreed to.
Clauses, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 72. (1.) A member of the committee of inspection shall not, while acting as such a member, except by leave of the Court, either directly or indirectly, become purchaser of any part of the property of the bankrupt. (2.) A purchase made in contravention of the last preceding sub-section may be set aside by the Court on the application of a creditor.
.- by leave - I move -
The first amendment is to prevent an accountant, where he is the representative of a company on a committee of inspection, from dealing with any of the property involved, but there would be absolutely nothing to prevent his company from purchasing the property. That is the sense of the amendment. It gives the power entirely to the court and a company could not, using the accountant as a conduit pipe, get access to property which upon ordinary equitable principles it would not be entitled to.
– The Government readily accepts the two amendments proposed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I think that the first improves the Bill considerably. The second is, of course, a necessary amendment.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 73 to 115- by leave - taken together.
– I propose to move two amendments which relate to clauses 82 and 109, the relevant portions of which read -
Clause 82. (1.) Subject to this Division, all debts and liabilities, present or future, certain or contingent, to which a bankrupt was subject at the date of the bankruptcy, or to which he may become subject before his discharge by reason of an obligation incurred before the date of the bankruptcy, are provable in his bankruptcy. (2.) Demands in the nature of unliquidated damages arising otherwise than by reason of a contract, promise or breach of trust are not provable in bankruptcy.
Clause 109. (1.) Subject to this Act and sections 221 P and 221YU of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1964, the trustee shall, before applying the proceeds of the property of the bankrupt in making any other payments, apply those proceeds in the following order: -
such preferences, priorities or advantages in favour of any creditor or group of creditors as regards any other creditor or group of creditors; and
I seek leave to move the two amendments together.
There being no objection, leave is granted.
.- I move-
In clause 109, omit sub-clauses (1.) to (4.) inclusive, insert the following sub-clauses: - “(I.) Subject to this Act and to sections 22 lp and 221 yu of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1965, the trustee shall, before applying the proceeds of the property of the bankrupt in making any other payments, apply those proceeds in the following order: -
such costs, charges and expenses incurred in the interests of creditors before the date of the bankruptcy, as a general meeting of creditors, by special resolution, resolves. “ (2.) Paragraph (g) of the last preceding subsection does not apply to the extent to which the bankrupt is indemnified under a contract of insurance against the liability referred to in that paragraph. “ (3.) A special resolution shall not be deemed to have been duly passed for the purposes of paragraph (k) of sub-section (1.) of this section unless the notice convening the meeting at which it was passed contained a copy of the proposed resolution. “ (4.) A payment shall not be made under paragraph (k) of sub-section (1.) of this section until twenty-eight days after -
The purpose of the amendment to clause 82 is to make it clear that fines and penalties imposed by a court in respect of offences are not debts provable in bankruptcy. Under the existing law, it is not clear whether the Crown may prove in bankruptcy in respect of a fine or a penalty imposed by a court. It is understood that in practice the Crown does not so prove.
As to the amendment to clause 109, apart from formal amendments - and there are a number of formal amendments in this particular amendment - it would make two changes. In the first place, it would establish a separate priority, the eighth priority, for all amounts due to an employee of the bankrupt in respect of long service leave, annual leave and sick leave without limitation as to amount. As the Bill stands, amounts due in respect of leave are lumped in with amounts due in respect of wages or salary, with a limitation of $600 to any one employee, in the sixth priority. This change would bring the Bill into line withthe uniform companies legislation in respect of the priority given to payments due in respect of leave.
Secondly, the amendment would make clear that amounts due in respect of reimbursement of expenses such as accommodation incurred by an employee in the performance of his duties are included in the sixth priority. I did not ever entertain any doubts that such amounts were included, but representations were made by, as I recall, the Commercial Travellers Association and I thought it was best to make explicit what I believed was implicit in any event.
.- I thank the Attorney-General for his comments on the two amendments - that is, the separate and unlimited amount being allowed with respect to long service leave, recreation leave and sick leave, and secondly, the explicit reference to the circumstances in which commercial travellers find themselves. These are matters on which I am happy to acknowledge that the Attorney-General very willingly accepted representations and adopted arguments submitted. I thank him for it.
Amendments agreed to.
Clauses, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 116. (1.) Subject to this Act-
policies for annuities, being policies -
– I move -
Omit paragraph (c), insert the following paragraph: - “ (c) ordinary tools of trade, plant and equipment, professional instruments and reference books of the bankrupt not exceeding in the aggregate Five hundred dollars in value, and such other tools of trade, plant and equipment, professional instruments and reference books of the bankrupt, if any, as the creditors by resolution determine or as the Court, on the application of the bankrupt, determines; “.
The purpose of the amendment is quite plain. The Committee which made recommendations with relation to amendments of this Act recommended an amendment to provide that a bankrupt, by agreement with his creditors or on application to a court, may secure the exemption of certain tools of trade. I felt that some minimum protection was needed. I understand that the AttorneyGeneral is prepared to agree to my suggestion that tools of trade and plant and equipment not exceeding an aggregate of $500 in value will be expressly exempt from goods to be valued in satisfaction of a debt, and further, that recourse may be had to a court should it not be possible to arrive at an agreement.
– I offer to the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) my appreciation of his drawing attention to this matter during the second reading debate. As the Bill stood formerly, agreement by the creditors was required and, failing agreement, recourse to the courts. The honorable member for Cunningham said: “ Let us put in a minimum amount. If there is argument as to whether it should be greater, then recourse may be had tq the courts.” I thought that was a good idea, and the Government agrees to accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– by leave - I move -
The first amendment is intended to remove a defect in paragraph (d) of clause 116, in that, as the paragraph now stands, insurance moneys that would not form part of the property divisible amongst the creditors if received after the date of the bankruptcy would not be so exempt if they are received on the day on which the debtor becomes a bankrupt. The second amendment has the same purpose in relation to moneys received as the proceeds of a policy of pure endowment.
The purpose of the third amendment is to substitute a new paragraph (f). The existing paragraph is defective in that it would not exempt from the property divisible amongst the creditors a policy for an annuity which had been kept in force for the requisite period even though premiums had not been paid in respect of the whole of that period. The new paragraph would cure that defect.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 117 to 189 - by leave - taken together.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, in this group of clauses, I will move seven amendments. They refer to clauses 122, 123, 124, 153 and 185. The relevant portions of these clauses read -
Clause 122. (7.) In this section, “ tax “ includes provisional tax and contribution under Division 3 of Part VI. of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1964.
Clause 123. (1.) Subject to sections 118 to 122 (inclusive) of this Act, nothing in this Act invalidates, in any case where a debtor becomes a bankrupt -
Clause 124. (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a payment of money or delivery of property (including a security or a negotiable instrument) to, or in accordance with the order or direction of, a person who becomes a bankrupt or a person claiming by assignment from him is a good discharge to the person paying the money or delivering the property, if the payment or delivery is made -
Clause 153. (2.) The discharge of a bankrupt from a bankruptcy does not -
release the bankrupt from -
Clause 185. (1.) Where it appears to the Court that a bankrupt’s liabilities do not exceed Onethousand pounds, the Court may order that the estate of the bankrupt be administered under this Part.
I seek leave to move the following seven amendments together.
There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move-
In clause 123, omit sub-clause (4.), insert the following sub-clauses: - “ (4.) Nothing in this Act invalidates, in any case where a debtor, being -
In clause 124, omit sub-clause (1.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a payment of money or delivery of property (including a security or a negotiable instrument) to, or in accordance with the order or direction of, a person who becomes, or has become, a bankrupt or a person claiming by assignment from him is a good discharge to the person paying the money or delivering the property -
In clause 124, omit sub-clause (3.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (3.) For the purposes of this section, a payment or delivery of property shall not be deemed not to have been made in good faith and in the ordinary course of business by reason only that, at the time of the payment or delivery, the person by whom it was made -
Mr. Temporary Chairman, my first amendment seeks to omit sub-clause (7.) in clause 122 and insert a new sub-clause (7.). The purpose of this amendment is to substitute a new definition of “ tax “ consequent upon the changes effected by the Income Tax Assessment Act 1965. This Act eliminated all reference to social services contribution as a separate component of income tax. Because it is possible that amounts in respect of provisional tax and contribution due under the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act as it stood prior to the 1965 Act may still be paid after this Bill becomes law, it is necessary to retain, in the definition of tax, the reference to provisional tax and contribution.
My next amendment seeks to insert a new sub-clause (3a.) after sub-clause (3.) in clause 123. This amendment is intended to make it clear that money paid by the bankrupt during the “ relation back “ period in payment of a fine or penalty imposed by a Court does not have to be refunded to the trustee.
This next amendment is to clause 123. It will omit sub-clause (4.) and insert two new sub-clauses, (4.) and (4a.). These amendments are consequential upon the enactment of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1965. New sub-clause (4a.) is intended to prevent certain payments to the Commissioner of Taxation, if made during the “ relation back “ period, from having to be refunded to the trustee. The payments in question are payments of additional tax and penalty tax, and payments under section 218 of the Income Tax Assessment Act or like provisions in other taxing statutes.
My next amendment is to clause 124. The purpose of the amendment is to protect a banker who pays out on a customer’s cheque from liability to refund the amount of the payment to the trustee merely because the banker knew or had reason to suspect that the customer was insolvent at the time the payment was made. This amendment results from representations which were put forward by the Bankers Association.
By my next amendment I seek to omit sub-clause (3.) of clause 124 and substitute a new sub-clause (3.). The effect of this amendment is to extend the protection given to bankers and others by clause 124 to cover a payment or delivery of property made after the date of the bankruptcy where that payment or delivery is made in good faith, in the ordinary course of business and without negligence. The test of “ without negligence “ would be an additional test applying only to transactions which took place after the date of the bankruptcy. The result would be to restore to banks the protection in this respect which is now given by section 97 of the existing Bankruptcy Act. Without this protection, country branches of banks would face considerable practical difficulties due to the lapse of time that must necessarily occur between the making of a sequestration order and the time when notice of ‘the making of the order is received in a country town. The amendment would not limit this addtiional protection to banks, as at present, but extend it to all persons who carry on the classes of transactions to which clause 124 applies. Essentially, this amendment was made following representations from the Bankers Association. But I must say that the amendment is not all that that Association would have wished. Attention having been drawn to the point by these representations, the clause is amended to include all persons and is not limited in application to bankers only.
I seek by my next amendment to amend clause 153 by omitting sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (a) of sub-clause (2.). This amendment is consequential upon the amendment to clause 82. Following that amendment, it is not necessary to provide specifically that discharge of a bankrupt does not release him from the obligation to pay fines and penalties.
My final amendment in this group is to clause 185. I seek to omit “ One thousand pounds “ in sub-clause (1 ,) and insert in its place “ Four thousand dollars “. It is obvious that $4,000 is not the decimal equivalent of £1,000. In fact, it is double the amount. The purpose of this amendment is to increase from $2,000 to $4,000 the limit of the amount of the liabilities of a bankrupt below which the Court may make an order for summary administration of the estate. Under the existing law, an order for summary administration of an estate may be made if the assets of the bankrupt do not exceed $600. The Committee recommended that the proper test to apply in determining whether a bankruptcy should be administered as a small bankruptcy should not be the value of the assets, but the amount of the liabilities, of the estate. It suggested that the amount should be $2,000. Subsequent investigations have shown that -the application of this test would substantially reduce the number of small bankruptcies, and this would result in an increase in the amount of work in the Official Receivers’ offices. I asked the members of the Committee to reconsider this matter, and they have now proposed that the figure of $2,000 should be increased to $4,000. The amendment gives effect to this proposal, which should have the effect of leaving the proportion of estates which may be administered summarily about the same as at present.
Amendments agreed to.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to Part X. - Arrangements with Creditors without Sequestration. I have been in close contact with the Attorney-General and his staff about this Part. Clauses 187, 188 and 189 cover the subject that I want to raise tonight. This refers to the setting up of trustees to handle estates of people who are falling into debt and for these trustees to handle in detail the affairs of a debtor. Clause 188 provides that only a registered trustee can handle this kind of case. I am thinking of all people who through various reasons find that they are going into bankruptcy. We have a scheme in Tasmania whereby this problem can be handled without a great deal of administrative cost and without forcing people into bankruptcy. In other words, this is a scheme by which a man can pay his debts to the satisfaction of his creditors and not be declared bankrupt. Such a man goes to work and pays so much to his creditors each week.
The Attorney-General was good enough to receive a deputation on this matter from Compton’s Collection Service (L’ton) Pty. Ltd. in Launceston. We are doing something unique in Tasmania as far as I can understand this matter of credit arrangements. The numerous clauses of this Bill are being disposed of so quickly that we have had little chance to discuss this matter until this moment. I seek the patience of the Committee and the Minister while I develop my point. When a person in Tasmania is in trouble and his creditors are pressing him, he can make arrangements with this collection service to pay so much a week to it. The collection service then distributes the money to the various creditors. Sometimes it might take a year, sometimes two years, sometimes only six months, to pay off a debt. There is no provision in Part X of the Bill for a firm such as I have mentioned to act as a trustee. The collection service at the moment has 250 such arrangements in hand in Launceston. I was going to say that 70 per cent, of these arrangements are successfully finalised by this method. Having had a good look at the Bill, and knowing what is being done in my State on this issue, I say to the Attorney-General that he is not going to improve the position by setting up trustees. Who will the trustees be? They will be mostly chartered accountants who will be too busy to handle these sorts of cases anyway. What is going to be the result of this new procedure? More bankruptcies, and more work for our State bankruptcy courts which are busy enough as it is. If they are to get dozens and dozens of cases like this piled on to them as well, goodness knows how long some people will have to wait before their cases are settled.
I want the Attorney-General to tell me and my colleague the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) who is interested in this problem too, how the Tasmanian situation can be worked into the scheme. Are the collection services to be abandoned? Are they to be asked to give up this particular service to the people? I could cite case after case where people have been helped and finally all debts have been paid. As I have said 70 per cent, of these matters are finalised. One Launceston agency has 265 creditors on its books at the moment in what we call gentleman’s agreements between creditors and debtors. When the person in trouble cannot pay, for the reasons I have mentioned - unemployment, sickness, gambling, extravagance or hire purchase agreements that send so many people into premature debt - this collection service gets all the creditors together and if they all agree to take so much per week from the debtor, that is done. The debtor pays so much to the firm each week and the firm distributes, say 5s. to this creditor, 10s. to another and 4s. to another and the debt is finally paid.
I did not have an opportunity during the second reading debate to mention this matter and that is why I have to go into more detail now than I would otherwise have done or that perhaps you, Mr. Deputy Chairman, would like me to do. The purpose of this scheme is to enable the debtors to pay their debts fully over a period of time. Under the provision that is to be brought in by this Bill, with trustees being set up, I do not see that there will be any improvement at all. In my own State of Tasmania the position will be definitely worsened. The new arrangement will be cumbersome and will prove expensive to the debtor. At present he pays only a small commission to the collection service for each transaction. This provision will bog everybody down in a whole lot of legal jargon and legal rigamarole, and I cannot see how it is going to assist us at all. I believe that the new scheme will be top heavy. The present collection service takes a personal interest in each case. That is another thing that makes it so important. The service in Launceston has a personal interest in the Launceston area; another service has a personal interest in the north coast area, and another a personal interest in the Hobart area.
I could mention the case of a person which normally would have gone through the bankruptcy courts. He was a storekeeper who had total liabilities amounting to £4,500. The collection service went into the matter carefully, arranged a meeting of the principal creditors and it was agreed that the man should pay £12 10s. a week, which he is doing regularly. He is now able to continue his business which has a turnover of £375 a week and pay back gradually all the money he owes.
The Attorney-General promised us that he would have a look at this matter to see if the present scheme could be continued in Tasmania. I should like an assurance from him that it will be continued or, in other words, that this Bill will not destroy the arrangement that is operating so effectively in Tasmania. In my State the bankruptcy rate is the lowest in the Commonwealth because of this very arrangement that I have just outlined to the House. I believe that to alter the present system would be a grave injustice to hundreds of little people who would be forced probably into bankruptcy under this proposed cumbersome scheme if the present arrangement were destroyed. The Attorney-General told me that he thought he could work out an alternative scheme by which collection services in Tasmania could continue, and I should like him to assure us that it can do so.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) tonight in this debate is one to which I have given a great deal of consideration. It was raised by him with me and also, to the best of my recollection, raised directly by a person who was concerned with the matter in Launceston. I gave very close consideration to the matter, and in particular I paid special attention to the recommendations of the Committee in this respect. There seemed to be two problems. One problem was whether the existing arrangements outside of bankruptcy which were conducted by debt collection agencies in Launceston could continue notwithstanding the provisions of the new Bill, and the other one was in respect of what should be the provisions in relation to a general standard for all those people who are insolvent.
Let me say first and foremost that the present arrangements which occur in Launceston will not be prohibited by the new Act. What it does mean is that those arrangements can continue just as they are now, but they will not fall within the umbrella of the Bankruptcy Act. The fact that they will not fall within the umbrella of the Bankruptcy Act will bring about two consequences. One is that it could act to the detriment of the debtor and the other is that it could act to the detriment of the creditors. I think for the convenience of the House I should put the facts in “ Hansard “. The specialist Committee which has experience in bankruptcy administration recommended this scheme contained in Part X of the Bill. The scheme is intended to ensure that a debtor does not act without receiving independent and expert advice; that before he can come to an arrangement with his creditors he must first have consulted a solicitor or a registered trustee; that the interests of all creditors are protected by having a solicitor or a registered trustee call the meeting of creditors, by ensuring that the creditors are given full information as to the debtor’s affairs and by requiring the appointment of a trustee to administer the composition; and that the deed or composition is competently administered by having the person administering it responsible to the Court.
I recognise that there may be cases in which matters would run smoothly without the appointment of a registered trustee. In most cases proper supervision of the composition is necessary. The Bill provides a general rule for all persons to whom Part X procedures may be applied. One of the purposes of appointing a trustee is to safeguard the interests of creditors; otherwise, if a majority of the creditors resolved not to appoint a trustee there would be a possibility that the interests of an individual creditor or a minority of the creditors might not be properly looked after.
I repeat that the new scheme does not prohibit the arrangements which now exist; but on the other hand, if there is a subsequent act of bankruptcy, it could result in the arrangements which have been made constituting preferences under the Act.
Clauses, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 190. (2.) Where a registered trustee consents to exercise the powers conferred on him by such an authority, he is, by force of this section, empowered -
.- I move -
Omit sub-clause (3.), insert the following subclause: - “ (3.) The power of the trustee to deal with the debtor’s property conferred by the last preceding sub-section does not authorize the trustee to sell the property or any part of it (not being perishable property) except in the ordinary course of business.”.
Sub-clause (3.) leaves unbridled the power of the trustee or the solicitor administering the estate. The amendment places a fetter upon the trustee or solicitor and simply says that the trustee or solicitor cannot go on a frolic of his own. It requires that, if he disposes of the property, he must dispose of it in the ordinary course of business. The phrase “ in the ordinary course of business “ has a technical meaning, and I need not delay the Committee by explaining it. I am glad that the Government has agreed to accept the amendment.
– The Government accepts the amendment and does so in the spirit that I mentioned in relation to the earlier amendment of the honorable member.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 191 to 315 and the Schedules - by leave - taken together.
– I propose to move 10 amendments to these clauses and schedules, the relevant portions of which read -
Clause 205. (1.) Subject to this section, where notice in writing of the signing by a debtor of an authority under section 188 of this Act, of the calling of a meeting of creditors of a debtor in pursuance of this Di vision or of the passing of a special resolution under the last preceding sec tion requiring a debtor to execute a deed of assignment or a deed of arrangement or present a debtor’s petition or accepting a composition is given to a sheriff, the sheriff-
Clause 218. (1.) The trustee of a deed of assignment or a deed of arrangement entered into in pursuance of this Part shall-
forthwith after the execution of the deed by the debtor and the trustee -
within twenty-one days after the execution of the deed by the debtor and the trustee - filea copy of the deed and a copy of the statement of the debtor’s affairs referred to in section 195 of this Act in the office of the Registrar.
Clause 254. (4.) Upon receipt by the Treasurer of an office copy of an order under the last preceding subsect on, the Treasurer shall pay to the person in whose favour the order was made the amount specified in the order out of moneys lawfully available for the purpose. (1.) A bankrupt -
Penalty: Imprisonment for three years. (5.) A person who, after the presentation of a petition on which, or by virtue of the presentation of which, he becomes a bankrupt -
Clause 268. (2.) A debtor who has executed a deed of assignment or a deed of arrangement under Part x.-
shall not refuse or fail to comply with -
Penalty: Imprisonment for three years. (7.) A debtor who has signed an authority under section 188 of this Act, and has, within twelve months before the date on which he signed that authority and after the commencement of this Act -
Clause 278. (1.) A person who was a bankrupt at the commencement of this Act, whether he became a bankrupt under the repealed Act or a law of a State or Territory, continues to be a bankrupt until he is discharged, or his bankruptcy is annulled, under this Act and, subject to this Part, the provisions of this Act apply, so far as they are capable of application and subject to such modifications and adaptations (if any) as are prescribed by the rules, to and in relation to such a bankrupt as if he had become a bankrupt under this Act. (2.) The provisions of section 66 of the Bankruptcy Act 1924-1960 continue to apply in relation to a person against whose estate a sequestration order was made under the repealed Act but who had not filed the statement of affairs referred to in that section before the commencement of this Act, whether or not the time allowed under that section for filing the statement of affairs had expired before the commencement of this Act.
Clause 295. (1.) Upon the commencement of this Act, the moneys standing to the credit of The Bankruptcy Estates Account established under section 208 ot the repealed Act shall be paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and that Account shall be closed. (2.) A person who claims to be entitled to any moneys paid into The Bankruptcy Estates Account in pursuance of section 208 of the repealed Act, being rooneys paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, may apply to the Court for an order under this section declaring him to be so entitled and, if the Court is satisfied that the applicant is entitled to those moneys or any part of those moneys, it may make an order accordingly. (3.) Upon receipt by the Treasurer of an office copy of an order under this section, the Treasurer shall pay to the person in whose favour the order was made the amount specified in the order out of moneys lawfully available for the purpose.
Bankruptcy Act 1924
Bankruptcy Act 1927
Bankruptcy Act 1928
Bankruptcy Act 1929
Bankruptcy Act 1930
Bankruptcy Act 1932
Bankruptcy Act 1933
Bankruptcy Act 1945
Bankruptcy Act 1946
Bankruptcy Act 1954
Bankruptcy Act 1958
Bankruptcy Act 1959
I seek leave to move the 10 amendments together.
There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move-
ID. Add at the end of the First Schedule - “ Bankruptcy (Decimal Currency) Act 1965 “.
As to the first amendment, if a sheriff holding property under a writ of execution sells the property notwithstanding that be has received notice of the presentation of a petition in bankruptcy against the execution debtor, a purchaser in good faith may nevertheless receive a good title. The purpose of the amendment is to make the same provision in the case where a sheriff sells goods seized under a writ of execution notwithstanding that he has received notice that the execution debtor has signed an authority for the calling of a meeting of his creditors under Part X of the Bill (Arrangement with Creditors without Sequestration), or of the passing of a special resolution at such a meeting requiring the debtor to execute a deed of assignment or of arrangement or accepting a composition.
The purpose of the second amendment is to enable provision to be made in the rules for the making of a deed of assignment or a deed of arrangement to be advertised in a daily or a local newspaper. The purpose of the third and fourth amendments is to enable payment to a person in whose favour the court makes an order that he is entitled to money that has been paid into Consolidated Revenue as an unclaimed dividend to be made by my Department instead of by the Treasury. This amendment has been sought by the Treasury, because it would be administratively more convenient for the Attorney-General’s Department, which holds all the bankruptcy records, to make the payment.
As clause 265 stands in the Bill, it is a defence to a charge that the bankrupt has failed to comply with certain directions of his trustee if he proves that he did not intend thereby to defraud any of his creditors. The absence of an intention to defraud creditors is also a good defence to a charge of incurring debts without any reasonable expectation of being able to pay them. The defence is not appropriate to these charges, and the purpose of the fifth amendment is to eliminate this ground of defence.
The effect of the sixth amendment is like that to clause 265. Clause 265 applies to bankrupts and clause 268 applies to debtors who have entered into a deed of assignment or of arrangement, or who have made a composition with their creditors. The purpose of the seventh amendment is the same es the addition of new sub-clause (4.) in clause 7. The purpose of the eighth and ninth amendments is to allow payments out of consolidated Revenue to a person entitled to moneys paid into Consolidated Revenue from the Bankruptcy Estates Account to be made by my Department. These amendments follow on the amendments to clause 254. The purpose of the tenth amendment is to include in the Acts to be repealed the Bankruptcy (Decimal Currency) Act 1965.
Amendments agreed to.
Clauses and Schedules, as amended, agreed to.
– I ask the Committee for leave to move together the series of further amendments to the clauses of the Bill that are consequential on the introduction of decimal currency and that have been circulated in my name.
There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move-
There is little need for me to explain these amendments. Upon looking at them, I am sure that all honorable members will very readily appreciate the reason why they need to be made.
Amendments agreed to.
Clauses, as further amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
– The question is: “That I report the Bill with amendments “.
.- If I may, I will take five seconds to express my appreciation of the work of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Snedden) and the work of the Committee. I also thank Mr. Lindsay Curtis of the Attorney-General’s Department for his great help to me. He is a very able officer and beyond that he is a remarkably courteous one.
.- IfI may, on behalf of the people mentioned, I thank the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) for his remarks. I would also like to draw attention to the fact that one of the members of the Bankruptcy Committee who worked so assiduously on this task for so long, and so well, if I may say so, was our Parliamentary Draftsman, Mr. Ewens. I am very glad to be able to inform the Committee that on this occasion he was able to escape from the chains of draftsmanship and be what might be called a policy former.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Snedden) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Snedden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On 17th March, last Thursday, the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) rose in his place to make a personal explanation on the grounds that I had misrepresented what he had said at a meeting at the Mosman Town Hall earlier this month. The honorable member said that I had made the following statement -
He was asked whether he was against guerrilla warfare. He said -
What is wrong with guerrilla warfare?
He went on to say -
Neither on the occasion to which the honorable member was referring nor on any other was I asked whether I was against guerrilla warfare, and neither on that occasion nor on any other did I make any statement like the one attributed to me by him. I have never said “What is wrong with guerrilla warfare? “.
I have here a transcript of what was said at the meeting.
– Where did the honorable member get the transcript?
– From friends of mine who were there. I said that on the last occasion and I said that I was quoting from a verbatim report that I had received. I shall now quote the exact words, not just from memory, and honorable members can judge for themselves whether I was right or wrong.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. As this seems to cast some reflection upon another honorable member, could the honorable member for Chisholm name the sources from which he obtained the information?
-(Hon. Sir John McLeay).- There is no substance in the point of order.
– I will provide the evidence and honorable members can judge for themselves whether it is correct.
– Where is the honorable member for Yarra?
– I hope that I was right in my use of the forms of the House in asking the Whip to inform the honorable member for Yarra of my intention to make this speech tonight. He said at this stage in his speech -
That is, the Vietcong - are fighting, as I said at the introduction to this point, mainly for national reasons.
There were more interjections of “ guerrillas “. The honorable member for Yarra said -
They are fighting also.
There were more interjections of “ guerrillas”. The honorable member for Yarra said, in reply -
Well, what is wrong with it?
In other words, he was asking what was wrong with the guerrillas, which is almost exactly what I said on the previous occasion. 1 am sorry; I did not really do him justice. He continued - ls there something particularly sinful about a guerrilla?
There were voices of “ Yes, there is “, and then there was quite a large disturbance. To be fair to the honorable member for Yarra, 1 slate that he went on after the disturbance had quietened down and said -
I have said already, and I don’t want to be misquoted about this, 1 have said already that I deplore force and violence used by anybody.
Now, apparently, the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) doubts that bit of evidence. But I have further conclusive evidence and perhaps the honorable member will be able to listen to the voice of the honorable member for Yarra on a tape made-
– Order! The honorable member will be out of order in offering some enjoyment to the honorable member for Wills.
– Mr. Speaker, could we suspend the Standing Orders to enable this to be done?
– If the honorable member for Wills or any other honorable member would like me to play this taped record which was taken at the meeting, I will be very pleased to do so in King’s Hall in the presence of the Press or in your room, Mr. Speaker, in the presence of the Press after the adjournment. However, I think I have given to the House sufficient evidence that I did not misrepresent the honorable member for Yarra in recounting what he said at that meeting at the Mosman Town Hall. Furthermore, the importance of this lies not so much in that particular part of the speech but in the reply that he gave at question time when he was asked: “Would you defend East New Guinea with Australian forces? “ I should like to repeat his answer in case some honorable members may have missed it. The reply was that there were three things he would do to protect East New Guinea if it were attacked. First, he said: “I would meet the threat with Australian forces.” He said, secondly: “ I would refer the matter immediately to the United Nations and ask them to bring about a ceasefire.” Thirdly, he said: “ If that did not succeed and the Americans were prepared to assist, I would be prepared to take assistance from them to bring about a cessation of hostilities and to bring about a return to peace. In other words, the honorable member for Yarra, with all his protestations the other night and his excellent speech based on human principles and idealism, would call in American draftees, which are the equivalent of national servicemen in Australia, except that they are called up at an earlier age. He would do so in order to defend New Guinea if it were attacked. There is very little difference between an attack on New Guinea and what is happening in South Vietnam today. I leave the matter at that, Mr. Speaker.
.- That was a rather comical speech for one with a record such as the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) has. I am not concerned with whether the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) said this or that. But I am concerned with the aberration of the honorable member for Chisholm and his colleagues on the other side of the chamber who will employ spivs, spies and pimps to cast aspersions on honorable members. I want to get round to this question of guerrilla warfare. The honorable member for Chisholm seems to think that there is something wrong with guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla warfare has been the ancient and traditional way in which people have fought tor their freedom. This was the way that the Irish fought for theirs. This was the way that the men of the Second A.I.F. in Timor fought for theirs.
The comical thing about this, if it were not for the serious way in which it traduces the whole of our society, is the way in which some members take statements such as this and try to build them into some kind of sedition or treason. This is the question that is before the House: The honorable member for Chisholm is implying that the honorable member for Yarra would call in the Americans in East New Guinea but not in Vietnam. All I can say to honorable members opposite is that I notice that a large number of them are of military age and I see them sitting here in safety and security. I see the Liberal Party endorsing men of military age to call up the young people of Australia to fight their battles. Mr. Speaker, allow me to express my feelings: I have nothing but contempt for their position, for their attitudes and for their morality.
– I think the House should take note of the fact that the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) is not in his place. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) showed him every courtesy. He informed the Whip who, I am told, in turn informed the honorable member for Yarra that this matter would be raised. But the honorable member for Yarra is not in his place. This is not the first time he has behaved like this. I can remember about 18 months ago when, again, his veracity was called into question. On that occasion I sent him a message through an officer of the House that I was proposing to raise a matter and that I hoped he would be here. He was not here. I think this was the time when he earned, properly, the soubriquet of the “ Yarra crayfish “. He runs away. He does not face up. It is rather an extraordinary thing-
– Not when one knows his real nature.
– Perhaps not. This is one of those occasions on which the honorable member for Yarra is frightened of a confrontation. It is not a small matter that when an honorable member’s veracity is called into question and, when he is given notice of this, he is not in his place to say what should be said in his own defence, if indeed there is anything to say. In this case those of us who did not know the honorable member for Yarra might have been inclined to think that he was merely mistaken, but unfortunately there was a previous occasion on which, according to my view of it, the honorable member for Yarra prevaricated in this House. Honorable members will remember that I put this on record and circulated the facts - I have a copy of them here again - to all members of the House at that time. These facts are on record that the honorable member for Yarra is perhaps a little careless in dealing with the truth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the average rate of interest payable on (a) American moneys invested in Australia, (b) United Kingdom moneys invested in Australia, and (c) other moneys invested in Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Overseas funds are invested in Australia in a variety of assets such as direct investments in companies, portfolio investments in companies, government securities, loans, trade credits and real estate, lt is not possible to catalogue a meaningful “ average rate of interest “ payable on such disparate forms of investment.
However, the bulk of the overseas capital invested in Australia is invested in companies. The Supplement to the Treasury Information Bulletin on “ Private Overseas Investment in Australia “ (issued May 196S) contained estimates of “ earning rates” (after tax) on overseas investment in companies in Australia; for this purpose, the “ earning rate “ in a year was defined as being the percentage ratio between estimated income payable by companies to overseas investors in that year and the estimated cumulated total of overseas investment in companies at the beginning of that year. The limitations of such estimates are explained in the Supplement. The following table is a revision of the series on page 19 of the Supplement and incorporates data for 1964-63, the last year for which the information necessary for these estimates is available -
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. Yes. Hasting Shipping Pty. Ltd., a recently formed Australian subsidiary of National Bulk Carriers Inc., of the Ludwig Group, has been awarded a 20-year contract for the carriage of bauxite from Weipa to Gladstone.
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When will the proposed amendment of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act be presented to Parliament?
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is as follows -
I am not yet in a position to inform the honorable member of a definite time when a bill to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act will be brought down. The work is proceeding as expeditiously as possible consistent with the number of proposals for amendment that were made and the claims of other issues upon the Department. I hope to make submissions on this matter to the Government at an early date.
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Commonwealth medical benefit is not payable in respect of treatment rendered by a hospital matron.
The Commonwealth Medical Benefits Scheme was introduced primarily to assist persons who are insured with registered medical benefit organisations to meet the cost of medical services rendered by registered medical practitioners.
The payment of fund benefit is governed by the rules of the fund with which the patient is insured. Some funds do provide a fund benefit for outpatient treatment at a public hospital. The questions of payment of a fund benefit for such services and the conditions under which such benefit is payable are matters for the individual funds to determine in the light of their rules.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 March 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660323_reps_25_hor50/>.