26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister, The right honourable gentleman has no doubt read or heard of the flooding in Queensland, particularly in north Queensland between Innisfail and Townsville. A lot of damage has been caused to farms and properties and because of the flooded rivers many people are stranded and have no means of getting supplies. I believe that requests have been made for assistance from the defence forces by way of helicopters or other craft. Would the right honourable gentleman be good enough to confer with the defence authorities and provide assistance if it is required?
– I was immediately concerned to learn about the flooding and abnormally heavy rain in north Queensland even in a period when heavy rain has come to be expected as part of the normal pattern in that area. I arranged for my Department to keep in close touch with the Premier’s Department in Queensland so that I could be kept fully informed of the developments there. I am informed by my Service colleagues that requests which have reached them have substantially been met. If there is any further direction in which we can assist in this way the honourable gentleman can be sure we shall be looking helpfully and sympathetically to do that. As to further action which may be necessary from governments, it is the practice in these matters for the State Government to make its own assessment of the position. If it thinks that special action by itself or action which could involve the Commonwealth becomes warranted then it will do what it believes appropriate and will also be in touch with the Commonwealth. But for the moment I shall continue to keep in close contact with developments there.
– I direct a question to the
Treasurer. Are there any phases of the Australian economy suffering from inertia or requiring a stimulus?
– I take it that the honourable gentleman is referring to comments which were made in this morning’s Press to the effect that because of the latest figures of registrants for employment and registered vacancies there is a tendency for inertia to show within the economy. I do not think that this is a proper basis on which an opinion can be formed because one finds frequently that at the time when there is quite substantial unemployment the gap between registrants and vacancies is quite small, while on other occasions, as for example in 1960 when we were experiencing boom conditions, there was a gap of 25,000 between the two figures. So I cannot for one moment take some Press comments too seriously. I think when one looks at the economy as a whole one must come to the conclusion that it is in a very satisfactory state and that the prospects for the future are good. Naturally if one picks out particular areas and concentrates on them one can find grounds for criticism, but I think that today anyone would be very hard pressed indeed to find justifiable grounds on which to level criticism at the economy.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Do foreign interests hold a majority share in, and exercise majority control over the affairs of, the motor vehicle and chemicals industries in this country which have recently been given substantially increased tariff protection? Has the effect of the increased tariff protection been, firstly, to raise the costs of primary producers in Australia and, secondly, to raise the possible profit levels of the foreign companies involved in the Australian motor vehicle and chemicals industries? Is the effect of the Minister’s policy, therefore, to raise the costs of primary producers while increasing the profits of big foreign enterprises operating in this country?
– I think I should ask leave to make a speech in answer to that question. However, I will do the best I can. Such increases in tariffs as have been approved recently in both the chemical and the motor vehicle industries have resulted from Tariff Board inquiries. There are very important motor vehicle components which have never before enjoyed tariff protection and which now benefit from such protection. It appears to me that inherent in everything that the honourable member has said is a preference on his part for jobs to be created in some foreign country rather than in Australia. Well, that is not my policy and it is not the policy of the Government. This is our view with respect to the motor vehicle industry and the chemical industry. I can tell the honourable member that I know of chemicals used by sheep and cattle people in Australia that are sold more cheaply here under a protective tariff than they are sold in New Zealand where entry is duty free.
– Is the Minister for Works yet in a position to tell the House who was the successful tenderer for the feasibility survey in Cockburn Sound? Is it the policy of the Government in matters of this kind, and generally in matters involving tendering, to give preference to Australian companies, all other things being equal?
– I am glad to be able to inform the honourable member that the selection for this feasibility study has been made and that we will be able to make public shortly the name of the successful applicant. Certain formalities have to be completed before a public announcement may be made. The honourable member will be interested to know that the successful applicant is Australian based with, of course, some overseas support. The honourable member will also be interested to know that I visited Cockburn Sound earlier this year and was particularly interested to find that a very close liaison exists between the Department of Works, the Department of the Navy and the Fremantle Port Authority. The honourable member for Perth is no doubt well aware of the tremendous expansion that has taken place in Western Australia and that this is leading to difficulties in Fremantle Harbour itself. It appears that the port facilities may have to spill over into Cockburn Sound, and I am glad to be able to tell the honourable member that if this happens there will be very close consultation between the Department of Works, the Department of the Navy and the Fremantle Port Authority.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer and preface it by saying that the right honourable gentleman’s predecessor informed the House a3 far back as November 1965 that his Department had almost completed a review of all the proposals for amendments to the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act. The Prime Minister, when Treasurer, further informed the House that he should be able to have all adequate material in good time for any necessary legislation in the autumn period of the following year. Now that it is the autumn sessional period of 1967 can the Treasurer inform the House when the necessary legislation will be introduced? Will new benefits be made retrospective?
– I regret to say that I have not been able to get a report to Cabinet on the matter to which the honourable member has referred. This has been a very difficult and complicated job and I have not been able to get a submission prepared for Cabinet on which to base legislation. However, I have kept asking when the legislation could be ready, and I have recently been assured that within the course of the next few days I will have a submission ready for Cabinet. I hope then to be able to introduce a Bill into the House, not in the next four weeks that the House is sitting but certainly in the autumn sessional period.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. The Minister will no doubt be aware that the Division of Radiophysics of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has stated that the present technique of cloud seeding has reached a stable and efficient level and that major changes are unlikely for some years to come. In view of this and the immeasurable benefits to our economy that rain making can effect, will consideration be given to a conference with State authorities with the object of intensifying and widening cloud seeding operations?
– I have had several general discussions on this matter with my colleague the Minister for Education and
Science, and he has informed me that in July 1966 information provided by the CSIRO on developments in cloud seeding techniques was sent by the Acting Prime Minister to the States. It was proposed then that the practical application and management of cloud seeding should be undertaken by the States with technical assistance from the CSIRO. In August 1966 twenty-one State officers attended a course of instruction at the Division of Radiophysics, and several other State officers have attended similar courses since. I can also inform the honourable member that in the past three months cloud seeding operations have taken place in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Operations in other States are currently under discussion. In view of the close liaison that already exists between the States, the CSIRO and the Commonwealth Government on this matter the Minister does not consider that any special conference is necessary at this time.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. What Ministers, if any, hold directorships or have a pecuniary interest in public or private companies contracting or likely to contract for the supply of goods or services to the Government? Does he approve of Ministers holding directorships in such companies? Will he also state whether he and the Government approve of the growing tendency for former Ministers and senior public servants, on retirement or resignation, to accept directorships in companies engaged in huge contracts with the Government? Without in any way reflecting on the integrity of those concerned I ask the Prime Minister: will he state whether he considers this practice to be desirable and does it not leave his Government open to the charge that such companies are likely to receive favoured treatment over others not so fortunately placed by way of directors?
– The honourable gentleman has asked a long question which I think could more appropriately be directed to the notice paper; but, having regard to its patent importance, I shall deal with it in a general way at this point of time. I say generally that I do not know of any government anywhere in the world that has a better record for probity in administration than has the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia. Our political opponents have included in their ranks people who, over the full period of office of the Menzies Government and, later, of this Government, have sought to find some chinks in the armour of good conduct which has been established, but they have not succeeded at any one point. What applies to the members of the Ministry applies, I believe, with no less force to the regular members of the Commonwealth Public Service. I would challenge anyone to point to a public service anywhere in the world that has established a finer record of honest administration and objective service than has the Commonwealth Public Service of this country.
The Constitution has laid down a specific prohibition against members of this Parliament having a pecuniary interest in contracts with the Crown. I do not purport to reproduce the language of the Constitution precisely, but that is the substance of it. In practice, in my experience very few directorships are held by Ministers of the Crown. Each Minister acts in accordance with his own sense of judgment and responsibility in such matters. I have yet to learn that possession of a directorship by a Minister has given rise to a conflict of duty or to a failure on his part to give objective advice. In my experience, when any question arises in Cabinet and a Minister has a shareholding in a company which could be involved, the practice is for the Minister to declare that to be the case and for the Prime Minister then to be invited to decide whether the shareholding is so substantial or of such a relevant nature that the Minister should withdraw from the discussion. In my years in ministerial office, such cases have been very rare indeed.
We have no constitutional or legal control over the course of conduct followed by senior members of the Public Service upon retirement, or over their acceptance of directorships. However, I believe the standards which they set for themselves and which they observed while they held senior positions would guide their sense of what was proper and seemly in their retirement. I myself have never been conscious of any indirect or improper pressures being exerted upon me by any retired member of the Commonwealth Public Service, and I would be very surprised if the experience of my colleagues were not exactly the same.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that from 1958-59 to 1965-66 the net increase in the indebtedness of all State authorities was $3,940,000 whilst in the same period the Commonwealth reduced its net indebtedness by $1,565,000? If these figures are correct, how long will it be before the Commonwealth’s indebtedness is reduced to nothing and the States are left to carry the whole of the burden? Is it true that the Commonwealth uses taxpayers’ money for many of its public works and that the States have to rely wholly on loan funds for this purpose?
– I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the figures mentioned by the honourable gentleman but I will find out whether they are accurate. Over the years there has been an increase in the indebtedness of the States.
– And of local government.
– The honourable member for Chisholm asked the question, not the Leader of the Opposition. There has been an increase in the indebtedness of the States and there has been a fall in the indebtedness of the Commonwealth Government. But I point out that the Commonwealth underwrites the loans for the whole works programmes of the State governments. It also has to find the money for its own works programme. Necessarily, therefore, we have to give up to the States the 20% of loan funds that we are entitled to under the Financial Agreement. We give that up to the States willingly. But if we cannot find the extra money required for Commonwealth works purposes out of loans we have to find it out of taxpayers’ money or out of Reserve Bank credits. I point out one other factor that the honourable gentleman should keep in mind. After all, it is the States that want the money and normally a lot of the money is borrowed for what can be regarded as commercial undertakings. Finally, if any funding operations are carried out by the States out of their own revenue to meet indebtedness of this kind then adequate provision is made for the taxation reimbursement formulas to meet it. For these reasons I must say that I see nothing of which we can be severely critical in the kind of action taken by the Commonwealth Government.
– Last Thursday, when presenting the report of the Tariff Board on man made fibres, the Minister for Air said that in a further inquiry the Board should give due regard to the terms of reference. Will the Minister explain what he meant by ‘due regard’?
– This matter relates to the tariff proposals listed on the notice paper for debate.
-Order! If that is so, the question is not in order.
– I suggest that the question should properly be asked during that debate.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. As the Prime Minister raised the questions of the price of gold and the world shortage of investment funds at the last Prime Ministers’ Conference in London, and as each of these subjects is important to Australia, can the Treasurer elaborate on our submissions, and can we expect any tangible results from them?
– At the recent meeting of the International Monetary Fund I did suggest, following the leadership of the Prime Minister, that the price of gold should be increased or that we should find alternative means of financing international trade. This was done on the basis that if the supply of gold remained static and trade continued to increase, in time the money base would have a restrictive effect upon trade. But I am afraid that with the exception of the French Government and one or two other governments, our pleas fell on deaf ears. Since my return I have had no evidence that would suggest that the United Kingdom or the United States governments have changed their attitude. Unless they do so there is little hope of having a change in the price of gold as a mechanism for increasing international liquidity. As to investment finance, I think the honourable member must know that neither the United States Government nor the United Kingdom Government has relaxed restrictions on the free movement of international capital. In recent weeks we have had some evidence that there might be a fall in interest rates on the Continent, and that Euro-dollar loans might be a little more easy to obtain than they were six to eight weeks ago. Nonetheless, I would not put too much faith in this movement. We can only do our best and test the market whenever it is practicable. If we find loans are available at a rate of interest that we are prepared to pay then we intend to take them up.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I refer to the Tariff Board’s recent report on manmade fibres and yam. Are the three principal claimant companies in this case - Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd, Allied Chemical (Australia) Pty Ltd and Courtaulds (Australia) Ltd - all substantially owned by foreign interests? Does the Government’s rejection of the Tariff Board’s moderate proposals, in which the Tariff Board majority refused to recommend high support values for these man-made fibres, mean that the Minister is dissatisfied about the degree of generosity being accorded to these foreign enterprises in tariff protection? Does the Minister believe that these foreign companies should be accorded even more protection than the Tariff Board was prepared to recommend? If so, how does he reconcile such a generous attitude to foreign companies with his well known views about the dangers of foreign investment in Australia?
– Companies established in Australia, whether owned by Australians or owned fully or partly by foreigners, are in the same position in respect of tariff protection. I would hate to think that there was anyone in this Parliament who would take the view that there should be discriminatory treatment against a company in Australia because it had foreign ownership or part foreign ownership. What must be recognised by the gentlemen who sit opposite and who speak for Labor is that all the people who are employed by these companies are Australians. It is their jobs which are being protected. This is something which the Australian Labor Party, seeking to get cheap political capital, forgets and in so doing follows a course inimical to the interests of Australian workers. The sooner the Labor Party learns that this is the basis of the position the better it will be for it.
The answer to the honourable member’s question is that the Tariff Board recommended that in respect of certain man-made fibres protection should be accorded in part by a tariff and in part by a bounty, and that the bounty so recommended should be at a diminishing rate. It is within the province of the Government - this has been done many times - to decide for revenue reasons not to accord protection by a bounty. Sometimes protection by bounty is accorded when it is a basic industry; sometimes it is not done by bounty. In this case the Government was not prepared to approve that part of the Tariff Board’s recommendation which required a bounty from Consolidated Revenue.
– It is not for me to answer why; I am stating the facts. It was not recommended. That meant that we were in possession of a Tariff Board report which dealt only with partial protection of the industry through a tariff. That would have been completely unsatisfactory. Consequently, the Government took the decision in the circumstances to refer the matter back to the Tariff Board and to ask the Board for a recommendation. If the Board wanted to adhere to its recommendation for a bounty that would have been fine, provided it was supplemented by an alternative recommendation which would enable proper protection of the industry entirely by tariff, if that were the desire of the government of the day. In the meantime certain products have been referred to the Special Advisory Authority so that the industry will not be without protection during that period.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of regular and unwarranted criticism in the United Nations, particularly by delegates from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in relation to Australia’s role in the Trust Territory of New Guinea, have our Australian delegates raised the question of the inherent human rights of the many millions of people who live in countries which have been overrun illegally and are still held in subjugation by the USSR against the basic principles of the United Nations Charter?
- Mr Speaker the honourable member has raised a question which presents great difficulty in international relations. A distinction is made in international relationships between matters which are considered to be within the jurisdiction of the metropolitan government of a nation and those which concern trust territories or dependent territories. To some of us it may seem that this distinction should not be made and that whether people are exploited in a dependent territory or whether they suffer injury, deprivation or loss of liberties within the boundaries of a metropolitan government basically there is still the same question of human rights. But we do have to recognise the fact that this distinction is accepted in international relations. Furthermore these questions of human rights having general application, customarily have been dealt with in the United Nations through the Commission on Human Rights. Australian delegates have played an active part in the work of that Commission. If I may be permitted to make one further observation, one does not make a great deal of progress in any sort of argument simply by saying to the critic: ‘You are worse than I am.’ Matters are not advanced very far in that way and we try to follow other diplomatic methods than to use that particular one.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry by saying that the Minister will be aware that one of the frequent clients of the Tariff Board and a beneficiary of the Government’s tariff policy is Bradford Cotton Mills Ltd. I ask: is Sir Robert Webster, the Chairman and Managing Director of this company, who appeared before the Board during the recent inquiry into man-made fibres, the same Sir Robert Webster who is a member of the committee responsible for raising funds for McEwen House, the Country Party headquarters in Canberra?
– The facts of the matter, as 1 know them, are that Sir Robert Webster, who is as good an Australian as 1 know, is Chairman of Bradford Cotton and a number of other very worthy Australian companies. My Party, the Australian Country Party, has decided to raise some funds lo build a secretariat here in Canberra and, so far as I know - and I have taken no part in this whatever - there has been fairly widespread support for this project from ail sections of the community. I have objected to only one thing concerning it: that is to the name of the building, and my objection is very well known.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is he aware that primary producers and other residents of north western Victoria are desirous of shipping their products for export and receiving essential goods through the decentralised port of Portland? As Minister for Trade and Industry and Deputy Prime Minister, will he confer with appropriate Ministers of the Government in an endeavour to give the people I represent the advantage of exporting and importing through the decentralised deep sea port of Portland and so overcome the long haul to, and congestion at, centralised ports?
– I support every explanation that the honourable member has given in his question. He is well known as a supporter of decentralisation and of the port of Portland. I think all knowing Australians wish to see the port of Portland developed, as it has developed, as a wool selling centre and a port for the export of barley, oats, and other grains, and dried fruits and other products. I think it is right that everything should be done to further the development of the port.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Interior who recently referred to the cost squeeze on primary producers as the hardening and closing of an artery that is the nation’s most vital lifeline.
He added: ‘Let it be squeezed too much and everything collapses’. How does the Minister reconcile this statement with the high protection policy of the Leader of his own Party as revealed particularly by recent tariff concessions to the chemical and motor vehicle industries?
– This is hardly a question relating to my Department. I do not think there is any need for confusion between my statement and the policies which have been enunciated from time to time by the Leader of my Party.
– My question to the Prime Minister is supplementary to that asked of him a few minutes ago by the honourable member for Grayndler, ls it a fact that in the United Kingdom a period of two years must elapse between the time at which a man ceases to be a Minister or a high public servant and the time at which he goes into private enterprise? Can he inform us of the situation which exists in the United States of America where I understand there is considerable movement between government and private enterprise? Will he make quite clear to the House and to the public the rules that apply to this situation in Australia?
– Each country evolves its own practices in relation to these matters. 1 repeat my general observation as to the high standard which has obtained in this country and which certainly is in no wit inferior to that of the United Kingdom or the United States of America. I will be glad to study the arrangements which apply in the United Kingdom. I know they do not apply in the case of Ministers who, of course, do not have the same security of tenure as do senior members of the public service. Nor am I aware that they enjoy the retiring allowance arrangements that apply in the case of senior members of the public service. I. am not familiar in any detail with the practice in the United States. We would need to have very persuasive reasons and reasons which were founded on a practice which had demonstrated itself to be an abuse of good conduct before we would place unnecessary limitations upon the liberties of senior members of our own Public Service who had retired, not by choice but by reason of the automatic application of an age limit to their service. These are not simple uncomplicated matters.
– What if they resign before reaching retiring age?
– Again, how far are we justified - I have not known any government from the other side of the House to regard itself as so justified - in placing limitations upon the personal freedom and liberty of choice of the individual? I would need a lot of persuasion that we should do this in an obligatory way rather than leave it to the feeling of responsibility, the judgment and the good sense of those who serve us so ably and devotedly.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by asking whether he recalls that when the Minister for Trade and Industry was asked a few minutes ago why the reference in respect of man-made fibres had been sent back to the Tariff Board, the Minister was not able to say why the Government had declined to provide for a bounty. Can the right honourable gentleman tell the House why the Government has referred the report back to the Board? Does this mean that the Government will not now provide in its budgeting for bounties in cases of this kind?
– This is a matter which falls directly within the administration of my colleague. He is quite competent to answer questions directed to him in relation to it. If he feels that any reply he gives to a question without notice calls for some supplementary information I have no doubt that he will arrange for that to be given.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Minister for the Navy, by saying that reports have appeared in local newspapers in the Penrith and Parramatta areas that the Navy intends to increase its use of the Newington armament depot for the storage of high explosives. As the depot is close to a rapidly growing residential area I ask the Minister whether the reports are correct and whether there is in fact any danger to residents.
– I can assure the honourable member that there are no plans at all for the Navy to increase the complex at Newington, or Silverwater as it is known. May I also say that no longer are explosives which are classified as having a high explosive risk stored there. The honourable member might be interested to know that it is a basic feature of weapon design in the Navy that a weapon cannot be detonated unless it is functioned by the device which is designed to fire it, such as a gun or launcher. The honourable member will also be comforted by the knowledge that the Public Works Committee of this Parliament inspected the area and the carriage of explosives from Kingswood to Newington last year. After consultation with the State authorities the Public Works Committee said in its report, which was submitted late last year, that it was completely satisfied with the situation.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. 1 preface it by pointing out that six months ago the Government suspended the assistance it had given over a period of about twenty months to the Aid to India Campaign in transporting powdered milk to India. It did this on the ground that it was undertaking a comprehensive review of its assistance to voluntary aid schemes. I ask the right honourable gentleman: is this an example of the policy expressed last Thursday by the Minister for Defence that a civilian agency or organisation which undertakes a thoroughly good work of this kind should go the second mile and itself arrange for the transport of the supplies that it has assembled? Since tons of powdered milk have now piled up in Australia at a time when millions of Indian children are suffering from starvation, will he intervene in this matter as promptly as he did last Thursday in regard to the transport to Vietnam of generators provided by another voluntary organisation?
– This matter is in the hands of my colleague the Minister for External Affairs.
– The question of relationships between the Government and various voluntary aid projects has been under close examination by my Department in consultation with the other departments concerned in order that we might work out some sort of regular pattern of administration. I would ask the Leader of the Opposition to. appreciate one or two points of difficulty on the broad question before I refer to the particular case he has mentioned. When a group of persons decide to open a fund for something and those persons prosecute the fund with the utmost goodwill, of course whether that is the form of aid that is most required or can be of best help to the receiving country is a matter entirely of their own decision.
In our governmental aid the forms of aid we give are as the result of consultation with the receiving country and a request by the government of that country. So 1 am sure the honourable gentleman will appreciate the point that we do have to make sure that before public funds are expended the form of aid is the result of a decision in which the receiving countries join rather than a decision that has been made ad hoc by a group full of good intentions but perhaps not always with close local knowledge of the circumstances it is trying to relieve.
Furthermore, I think it is a sound principle, as enunciated by my colleague the Minister for Defence, that if voluntary aid is commenced it is natural to expect that it shall be carried forward to its own conclusion. So, if people choose, as they have every reason to choose, to assist in one particular direction, they should complete the assistance themselves rather than look to public funds to complete the job for them. These are the sort of questions that we are examining so as to make sure that any Australian aid is given in the most effective form and that any public funds are spent in a way which will be in conformity with Australian policies regarding external assistance. We have at the same time done our utmost, in consultation with various voluntary aid societies, to assist the societies to carry on their own work. We realise that, if Government assistance is given for a particular purpose, this can be supplemented most usefully by private assistance. In consultation with various organisations, we have set up a Council for Overseas Aid, which is becoming the centralising authority for the clearing of the various private schemes.
Turning, in conclusion, to the particular case that the honourable gentleman has mentioned, we are of course in sympathy with the objective of this group of people. On previous occasions we have assisted them. On the last occasion, when we assisted them by helping to provide shipping for the transport of the milk that they had obtained, we told them that in future they could not count upon Government expenditure of public funds to provide shipping to the receiving country. Australia is providing very substantial aid in meeting the food shortages in India. This aid comes from governmental sources. We believe that this private fund should complete its own job to its own satisfaction from its own means.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, both Houses of Parliament have now approved the Bills containing the proposed laws to alter the Constitution. The Bills were the Constitution Alteration (Parliament) Bill and the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Bill. Under the provisions of the Constitution, a proposed law for an alteration of the Constitution must be submitted to the electors not less than two months, nor more than six months, after the proposals have been passed by both Houses. Before the proposals can be submitted to the electors it will be necessary to distribute copies of the arguments for and against. To this end, the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act provides that if, within four weeks of the passage of the proposed laws by both Houses, the arguments in favour of and against the proposed laws are forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer, he is to print them and post a copy to each elector. The Government is presently arranging for the Yes case to be prepared and submitted to the Chief Electoral Officer in the normal way on behalf of those who voted for the proposals, and no doubt those who voted against the nexus proposal will be preparing the case against its adoption. I am glad to say that no vote was cast against the proposals relating to Aboriginals.
In all the circumstances, the Government has decided that the referendum should be held on 27th May 1967. The Government will recommend to the Governor-General that the writ for the referendum be issued on 28th April so that, in accordance with the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act the Chief Electoral Officer may then proceed to distribute the pamphlet containing the Yes and No cases to electors in time for the referendum.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to table and debate the Loder Committee’s Report on transport costs in Northern Australia.
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)
- Mr Speaker, first I would point out that due to a hectic aircraft trip down from north Queensland last night I am almost deaf in both ears, so it will be a waste of time honourable members on the Government side interjecting; I will not be able to hear them. The deliberate suppression of the Loder Committee’s report on transport costs in northern Australia is a clear indictment of the Government’s complete apathy towards the severe and unwarranted level of transport costs in the north. Last week in this Parliament we witnessed the remarkable spectacle of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) implicitly admitting that he did not know why the Government was suppressing the important Loder report, despite the fact that the complete report, together with recommendations, had been before the Government for the last eighteen months. Had the report been unfavourable to northern development no doubt it would have been released at the earliest opportunity.
Sir Robert Menzies in answer to a question in this House promised that the report would be released to the Parliament by August 1965. On 26th October 1965, again in response to a question about the report, he stated:
I can assure the honourable member that as soon as I can get my clutches on to it and have a look at it I will do my best to see that it is made available for debate during the course of this sessional period.
These assurances were given by the former Prime Minister, a man whom I always thought the present Prime Minister and certainly the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) held in some respect, particularly as regards his political judgment on whether or not reports should be published. As the former Prime Minister gave these assurances to Parliament, why has the Committee’s report not been brought before the Parliament and the people, particularly those living in northern Australia?
The Loder Committee’s investigation was paid for with taxpayers’ money. It was given lop priority by the former Prime Minister and by the then Minister for National Development, the late Senator Sir William Spooner. Both of those men had years of hard, practical experience in the political field and obviously both realised the great practical difficulties associated with transport costs in the north. The Committee was established as a result of an election promise prior to the 1963 elections. The former Prime Minister referred to the problem of transport costs as one of the most important problems facing northern development. When the Committee was established early in 1964 the late Sir William Spooner said:
The biggest task and the one which will provide the greatest single impetus to northern development is to break through the bottleneck of costs in getting goods to and from the north and between areas of the north itself.
This is true. Not only is this appreciated by members of the Australian Labor Party, but I am sure that it is appreciated by members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party who reside in and represent electorates in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Later on we will have an opportunity to hear their views on why this Government has refused to allow publication of the report. Sir William Spooner also said that because the
Committee’s work was so important it should not be hastened in its deliberations, even if they took twelve months. And that was three years ago.
One can describe the present attitude of the Minister for National Development only as arrogant. One could similarly describe the altitude of the Prime Minister, who does not seem to know why the report has been suppressed. One must be fair as far as the Prime Minister is concerned; it must be impossible for him to carry in his head all of the relevant facts relating to issues, but in view of the importance attached to the Loder Committee by Sir Robert Menzies and the late Sir William Spooner one could be forgiven for believing that the Prime Minister knows that at all times it was the Government’s intention to present the report to the Parliament and the people as soon as practicable. The pathetic and lame excuse given towards the end of the last session by the Minister for National Development as to why the report could not be presented was, in my opinion, beyond comprehension. On 27th October last year the Minister said:
All that I have said leads me to the conclusion that there is no reason why the Government should table the report. 1 cannot see any advantage to be gained in tabling it.
Let me repeat that last sentence of the Minister:
I cannot see any advantage to be gained in tabling it.
The Minister tried to hide behind a number of words when he argued that the Committee was appointed to carry out its investigations and to report to the Government. In my opinion he was attempting to hoodwink this House and the people of Australia by implying that it was never the Government’s intention to present the report to the Parliament, lt is just as well that Sir Robert Menzies was not presiding over the Ministry when the Minister for National Development made his remarkable statement, which was quite contrary to the views espressed by our former Prime Minister and by the late Sir William Spooner.
The amazing thing about this matter is that the Prime Minister is not sure of the next move in this game of political chess. He was obviously rattled by a question asked the other day by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and followed by questions by members of the Opposition. It was obvious that the Prime Minister had not expected the honourable member for Kennedy to raise this important issue of the suppression of the Loder report. It was obvious also that he had not expected the Opposition so quickly to take advantage of the opportunity created by the raising of the subject. He seemed also to be unaware of the undertaking given by his Government to have the report tabled in the Parliament and to permit a debate on it. The Opposition waits with some interest to see whether the Prime Minister will endorse the view of the Minister for National Development that there is no value in tabling the report.
The Loder Committee was not some halfbaked, biased, departmental or semigovernment committee. It consisted of highly skilled, responsible, independent and qualified men. There were Sir Louis Loder, a former Director-General of Works, with a wealth of experience in transport matters in northern Australia; Mr George Fisher, Chairman of Mount lsa Mines Ltd, a man respected throughout the north for his views on development; Mr B. Callaghan, Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, a man of great capacity and high repute; Mr Peter Baillieu, a top business man and Northern Territory cattleman; Mr Gordon Blythe, an acknowledged expert on the cattle industry and transport problems in the Kimberleys region of Western Australia; and Captain J. P. Williams, Chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission. This was a well balanced and competent Committee, which went about its task diligently. It travelled throughout the north. It took from chambers of commerce, from development bureaus and from a wide range of industry experts evidence relating to the problems of transport throughout the north. The Minister for National Development knows full well some of the fantastic anomalies - those were the words he used during his trip to the north in 1964 - which occur in transport in the north. During his trip he was given ample evidence of the very difficult problems being faced by secondary industry, primary producers and the working men in those areas. Listen to the following words which were used by the
Minister for National Development in Cairns in 1964: ‘It is a tragedy that the north has suffered from the’e laughable freight anomalies for so long’.
The burning question is: why will not the Government table this report and let it be seen by the people, particularly the people of the north and the people of Australia who financed the Committee’s long investigation? The reasons why it has not been released are very difficult to understand. In my opinion the first reason is that the vast amount of evidence submitted by northern interests leaves no alternative other than for the Committee to criticise severely the Queensland Government’s absurd and ridiculous road and rail transport freight rate policies in areas outside of Brisbane. In fact, these policies are inhibiting basic primary and secondary industries in central, western and northern Queensland. They have been attacked consistently by primary producer organisations over the last twelve months, particularly after the last savage increase in September last year. The second reason is that the Treasury is sure to be against the report being released because the Committee’s recommendations would involve the Government in the provision of funds to carry out some of them in order to counter the obvious injustices that are now occurring to people living in these remote areas. The third reason is that it is obvious that the report is very favourable to northern development. This is something that the Government is reluctant to hear from a top level, independent committee, none of whose members would be very sympathetic, f would think, to the Labor Party.
Every dollar that has been spent in northern Australia has been given grudgingly. Every project has been the subject of intolerable delays, fine-tooth comb investigations and frustrations. Between 1949 and 1961 we saw not one dollar spent by the Government on northern development projects. After the 1961 election we saw a rash of development promises and some action on beef roads, brigalow lands, the Ord River diversion dam and the Broome and Derby jetties. But in 1963 the Government was returned to power with a big majority. Again northern development suffered. It was not until the Dawson byelection that suddenly the Government sprang into action again. We saw promises and action with respect to the road from Dingo to Mount Flora, which the Minister for National Development thought was in the Dawson electorate but which in fact was nol. The development of area III of the brigalow scheme was announced. I arn still waiting to see the legislation in that respect. It is twelve months since that announcement was made and we still have not seen the legislation although it was a matter of urgency before the Dawson by-election.
There is no question that the report of the Loder Committee must bring out certain serious anomalies in the north. As every honourable member who knows anything about transport in the north knows, the northern and central Queensland railway systems are subsidising the Brisbane system. In the last fifteen years the northern and central Queensland railway systems have made a profit of $52m; on the other hand, the Brisbane system has made a loss of $76m. In September last year, on top of the savage freight rates imposed by the Queensland Government we saw more savage increases. The rail freight increases were IWo from 1st January on sugar - and the sugar industry is a depressed industry; 15% on coal, coke, minerals, wheat, maize and hay; and 15% on livestock. There were increases of up to 874 % on livestock carried by road transport. Is it any wonder that road transport hauliers are operating from western Queensland to New South Wales, bypassing Brisbane? Freight rates on fruit, cotton and wool were increased by 7i%. These increases were imposed on railways which were making profits because the Queensland Government desperately needed revenue to finance other schemes such as a super highway from Brisbane to the Gold Coast.
We all know the problems with respect to manufacturing industries as a result of the Government’s policy. Queensland has special contract arrangements that enable producers in the south to supply the market in the north and to stifle competition. In this House we have heard of the anomalies in relation to sales tax on freight charges. For example, in Brisbane superphosphate costs S24 a ton-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This is the second gallop that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has had on this question. Just before the last election, in October, he started off at what I called a gallop but finished at a walk. He thought this was an election gimmick. But all that happened to the Labor Party was that it lost three of the major seats in the north - Herbert, Kennedy and the Northern Territory. Obviously, it was not a particularly good gallop. I do not think today’s gallop was any better.
The honourable member said that the Loder Committee’s report was paid for by the taxpayers. Is not every report that is made to the Government paid for by the taxpayers in some shape or form? That is so in respect of reports from departmental officers; but we do not make such reports available to the public. Good heavens, if we did, no departmental officer would ever think of speaking his mind fully because he would be worried about what would appear when the report was published. It is because we do not publish reports from departmental officers that they can give, without any bias, their sound views on what the Government should do. Many reports are not available, but that does not mean that this report will never be tabled. What it means is perfectly clear at the present time and has been made clear time and time again. The position is that we still have this report under consideration. Already we have adopted a quite considerable number of the recommendations in it. But while it is still being looked at by various departments it will not be made public. As I said, this does not necessarily mean that it will not ever be made public.
The honourable member for Dawson, after his opening remarks, seemed to spend most of his time on State matters. If he has a grouse against the transport policy of the State of Queensland it is up to him or a member of the State Parliament to get the State to alter that policy. We have no constitutional authority to tell the Queensland Government that it should alter its freight rates or something of that sort. I agree with the honourable member that this Committee was a well balanced and competent one. What we need to remember is that had it not been for the present Government this Committee would never have been set up. It was appointed because this Government has done a tremendous amount for northern development in the form of improving freight rates in the north and the Government wanted to find out whether it could do any more. It set up this Committee which reported to it at great length. The Government and departmental officers have spent a considerable amount of time in looking at the various recommendations.
No other government has ever done anything like what the present Government has done to improve transport costs in the north. Let us look at our record in the fields of road, rail, sea and air transport and harbours. We have done a tremendous amount. Already we have spent $57m on beef roads in the north.
– Does the Minister think the Government has done enough?
– Far from it. It is because we do not think we have done enough that we have arranged to make a far greater contribution over a period. We are now paying to the States Commonwealth aid roads grants to the extent of $150m per annum. What was the amount when we came to office? It was $18m. Today the total expenditure on roads in the north is about $42m per annum. That is made up of State expenditure, Commonwealth expenditure, Commonwealth aid roads grants and beef roads expenditure. This is a tremendous advantage to the north. Already one can see the advances that have been made in the turnoff of beef. One can see the improvement of properties and their ability to take cattle out at any time of the year instead ot just having to drove them for hundreds of miles and having them so poor when they arrive at the meatworks as to be not worth killing.
We have done a lot to improve the railways. We arranged for the Queensland Government to receive a sum of $38m for the Mount Isa to Townsville railway line. This line is now an up-to-date, first class line whereas a few years ago its condition was as though we were still back in the 1890s. We have improved the north Australia railway line and we are in the process of effecting a lot more improvements to it. We are spending a lot of money on diesel electric locomotives and on the various kinds of rolling stock that are pulled by them. The Adelaide to Marree railway line has been improved. I remind honourable members of the improvement in sea freights. Although other freight rates have risen, the cost of sea freight from Melbourne to Darwin is now 20s a ton less than it was ten years ago. Very largely this is because the Government, as a matter of policy, is running the Australian National Line at a loss, and is providing capital for it to obtain the latest and best equipment. The same thing applies to the Western Australian shipping service, which basically is financed by this Government through the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
We have spent an increasing amount on the subsidising of air services. We have effected tremendous improvement to aerodromes in the north, including small private aerodromes and larger aerodromes such as those at Darwin and Alice Springs. I remind the House of the improvement that has been effected to harbours in the north. The story now is quite different from what it was ten or fifteen years ago. From the north-west through to the north-east, first class harbours have been constructed. A small number of them have been built by private companies to facilitate the export of iron ore or other commodities. Railway lines have been built by these companies, too. All these will help to open up the country. But the Commonwealth has made its contribution. The port at Darwin has been improved tremendously. Improvements have been effected at Broome as a result of our making available a loan of $3±m. At that port a new jetty has been built to replace one which was in existence for a great period and which for half the time was out of the water. We have made an advance to provide facilities at Weipa. The jetties at Wyndham and Derby have been improved. One can see this pattern of improvement reflected in every harbour in the north.
We wanted to ascertain whether more could be done for the north. So we called for this report from the
Loder Committee. As the honourable member for Dawson has said, it was a balanced and competent Committee. It submitted a very long report which contained forty-nine recommendations, some of which were more in the nature of observations which did not need to be acted upon. Some of the recommendations dealt with State matters over which the Federal Government has no control. Matters such as rail freights that the States should charge did not call for any action on our part; they were entirely State matters which should be taken up with the States. Some recommendations related to matters of minor importance which did not call for a great Cabinet submission but which could be taken up directly between the departments concerned. Quite a lot of those minor recommendations have been acted upon.
But the report dealt with matters of major policy, too. It is interesting to note that, as the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has already said, many of these major policy matters have been the subject of governmental action which very closely parallels the action recommended by the Loder Committee. If I refer to a few of these matters honourable members will realise that we have not just been sleeping on this report but that we have looked at it with a view to seeing what action could be taken. The first of the major recommendations contained in the report was that the highest priority should be given to the construction of beef roads. The Government not only introduced the beef roads scheme in 1961 but has consistently pursued this policy. It has now decided that it will make a larger sum available for the construction of beef roads and that the money will be made available over a long term. In its second recommendation on beef roads, the Loder Committee stated that a long term allocation of money was preferable because if money is made available only from year to year it is not easy to get contractors into a certain area and to get them to set up camp there. As the Committee pointed out, a much better result can be achieved if advances for beef roads are made over a reasonably long period rather than on a stop and start basis. The Loder Committee recommended a five year period. We have done better than that; we have adopted a seven year programme. I have no doubt that the programme will be reviewed constantly and that there will be a general review at the end of seven years. By that time a very considerable improvement will have been wrought, particularly in the Queensland beef cattle areas but also in the Kimberley area and, to a very minor extent of course, South Australia.
I have referred to two of the recommendations of the Committee which have been the subject of governmental action. I could go through the list of recommendations and deal with many matters, some of which are of a minor, or relatively minor, nature. Others are of greater importance. One recommendation referred to very bad congestion on the Darwin wharf and in the wharf sheds. It was suggested that action should be taken to overcome this state of affairs. My colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes), ensured that action would be taken. I understand that this problem has been almost completely eliminated. The Committee suggested the adoption of uniform road permit conditions so that road hauliers could go from Western Australia, through the Territory and into Queensland without being confronted by the problems associated with different permits. This matter has been taken up by the Australian Transport Advisory Council, and action to give effect to this recommendation has been almost completed. The Committee suggested that restrocking after drought in the Northern Territory should be assisted by the payment of a 50% subsidy on freight. The Government has agreed to this. It was further suggested by the Committee that losses incurred in the Northern Territory should be carried forward over a longer period because of the difficulties associated with farming in the north, particularly beef cattle production. In such cases long droughts could mean that a person would not have the advantage of being able to carry forward his losses. We have accepted a fifteen year period not only in the Northern Territory but throughout the whole of Australia. A minor matter to which the Committee drew attention was the rate of sales tax on air conditioners and fans, which was higher than on various other electrical goods. The Government accepted the recommendation and in the last Budget took action to overcome this anomaly.
Another important recommendation dealt with freight on superphosphate. There is a tremendous opportunity for pasture improvement in the top end of the Northern Territory, but unfortunately at the present time the cost of superphosphate is high. Whilst people will plant Townsville lucerne in order to get enough superphosphate, they will experience difficulty because of the cost. Honourable members will recall that the Government has announced that it will subsidise the cost of superphosphate landed in Darwin so that it will be the same as that at Townsville. I have already said that the Government has increased air subsidies.
I have mentioned all these matters to indicate just how many recommendations the Government thought were worthy of acceptance. That does not mean that we intend to accept all the Committee’s recommendations or that we will publish them all while we are still examining them. Some of the matters are very difficult to resolve, because they impinge upon constitutional problems. For example, it is open to question whether we can impose a certain tax rate in some areas of Australia and adopt a different rate in other areas. It appears to many of the legal experts that we may not do this. But this is just one example oi the matters that require a considerable amount of work and investigation to see whether putting the related recommendations into effect would really be justified and to ascertain what sort of advantage their adoption would give to the Northern Territory. I finish by saying that no government has done anything like as much as this Government has done to reduce freight costs in the north. If it had not been for our appointing the Loder Committee there would have been no such Committee. But that does not mean that its report was made just for the public. It was made for the Government and the Government has already acted on a great many of the recommendations contained in it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I support the remarks made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in proposing this subject for discussion as a matter of urgency. It was noticeable that when members who supported the proposal were asked to stand the only ones who rose were Opposition members. Even the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), whose constituents are so vitally concerned in this matter, did not rise in support of the proposal. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has just said that the delay in the tabling of the report of the Loder Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia does not mean that the report will never be presented. If its presentation is delayed much longer there will not be much use in presenting it, because the information that it contains will be out of date. The Minister gave us a great recital about what the Government is doing in the north at the present time. But what we are concerned about in this debate is what the Government is doing about transport costs in the north, which have been described as the bottleneck in development in the north. We want to know what recommendations have been made in this report and not revealed to this Parliament. If ever a government stands condemned this Government does for its failure to present the report and have it debated in this Parliament.
In 1963 the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, promised that this Committee would be established and he fulfilled that promise. According to the Committee’s terms of reference it was appointed in April 1964. It completed its investigations, so we understand, and presented its report to the Minister for National Development in September 1965. I first raised this matter by way of question in April 1965 - twelve months after the Committee had commenced its deliberations. Sir Robert Menzies, in answer to me, said: . . I shall find out from the Chairman of the Committee, if I can, approximately - it can be only approximately - when we may expect to receive a report.
On 11th May 1965 Sir Robert Menzies gave me a written reply to that question. He stated:
As promised 1 took this matter up with the Chairman of the Committee and have been informed that the Committee believes its report will be presented by my colleague, the Minister for National Development, before the end of August.
I emphasise that the answer stated that ‘the Committee believes its report will be presented by . . . the Minister for National Development before the end of August’. It stated that the report would be presented not to him but by him. It was reasonable for Opposition members to assume then that it would be presented to the Parliament when it was received. I raised the matter again by way of question on 15th September 1965. Sir Robert Menzies then said: r certainly hope that we will have the report during the currency of this sessional period, because 1 am sure that it will turn out to be of great interest to all honourable members.
Of course the report would be of great interest to honourable members if they were allowed to see it. I think he intended it to be tabled at that time, for he mentioned that it would be of great interest to honourable members. I raised the matter again on 26th October 1965. Answering me, Sir Robert said:
I can assure the honourable member that as soon as I can get my clutches on to it and have a look at it I will do my best to see that it is made available for debate during the course of this sessional period.
The Minister for National Developmensaid a few minutes ago that the delay does not mean that the report will never be presented to the House. But he has not said that it will be presented. The facts are that the report has been in the hands of the Minister since September 1965, or for about eighteen months, and it is still not available for debate in this chamber. It has been raised in debate and by questions in this place time and time again but we cannot get any response from the Government. I had a question on the notice paper for many months before I got a reply - and then it had to be practically forced from the Minister. In answer to that question he said:
Consideration of the report by the Government is continuing and, in the meantime, it is not proposed to table the report.
It has taken the Government over eighteen months even to consider the report. Surely it is about time that it was presented if it is the intention of the Government to present it.
– What has the Government to hide?
– Yes, what has it to hide? The present Prime Minister (Mr Harold
Holt) wrote to the former member for the Northern Territory, Mr Nelson, about this matter on 26th April 1966. His letter was in these terms:
I have your letter of 1st February concerning the report of the Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia.
The report has been received by the Government and the Committee’s recommendations are at present being examined.
The report is a detailed one and this examination may not be completed for some time. However, as my predecessor said in Parliament on 26th October last, in reply to a question by the honourable member for Stirling, it is the Government’s intention to make the report available foi debate as soon as the examination is complete.
Yet we have no assurance that the report is to be made available for debate. The matter reached some sort of climax - or anti-climax - when the honourable member for Kennedy last week asked a question about this report. Honourable members on this side of the House also raised the matter. I was interested to hear the Prime Minister say then that several of the recommendations in the report have already been put into effect. We have just heard from the Minister for National Development something of what has been done. But we are concerned about all the recommendations. What about the other recommendations which are in that report and about which we on this side of the House should know something? Last week the Prime Minister, in answer to the honourable member for Kennedy, went on to say:
We have examined already the practicability of making the report public. My recollection is that it was found not practicable to make the report public.
What is all this shilly-shallying about? One minute the Prime Minister or the Minister states that the report will be presented in this House. Indeed, on one occasion we were told that it would be presented during the session that was then current. At the next moment the Prime Minister or the Minister declares that the report will not be presented here. Yet again, the Minister said a few minutes ago that the delay does not mean that the report will never be presented. Where are we going in this matter? Why does not the Prime Minister live up to his own promises and those of his predecessor? Why the secrecy? What right has the Government to keep this important report from the people and the
Parliament? Especially, what right has it to keep the people in the north in the dark? We could be pardoned for assuming that in the report there is something to hide - something that the Government does not want made public. We understand that it is most critical of this Government’s attitude towards transport costs in the north.
This report concerns nearly half the Australian mainland and is vital to Australia’s interests. We would like to know what were its recommendations on shipping, road construction, railways and subsidies for airlines. What did it have to say about the last increases in freights and fares on the two government owned shipping services? What effect did these increases in freights and fares have on the north? Air transport is most important to the north. Did the Committee recommend a subsidy to bring air freights and fares to a level more comparable with fares in the south? If so, we should be told. The importance of air services is apparent when it is considered that most of the north has no rail services and roads are not developed to the standard of roads in the south. Air fares in the north are in some instances 50% and in many instances more than 100% higher than fares for travel over comparable distances in the south. Freights also are much higher in the north. We would like to know what this Committee had to say about these matters.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) raised the question of sales tax in the north the other day in this chamber. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) admitted that those living in the north are adversely affected. But what about payroll tax? People in the north who have to pay it are adversely affected. Because wages in the north are higher to meet higher living costs, payroll tax per employee is higher than in the south. This bumps up transport costs as compared with the south. What did the Committee recommend on these matters? Surely we are entitled to know. Did the Committee recommend any reduction of sales tax for the people of the north? It has been reliably estimated that freight increases the landed cost of goods by about 15% and in some cases by 25% in the north. This is a serious burden on the north, and the Government should be tak ing steps to relieve the industries of the north of this burden. The length of life of the mines of the north would be increased by a lowering of transport costs. The retailers add their margins to the excessively high landed cost and consequently this increases the disparity between prices in the north and the south. We are entitled to know something about this. I ask the Government: Why has not this report been tabled? It is admitted that this was a well-balanced Committee. The qualifications of the members have been outlined by the honourable member for Dawson. They heard evidence and travelled right throughout the north. No doubt implementation of the recommendations would involve the Government in cost. Still, we should know what is contained in the report.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have heard some weak arguments put up in debates on matters of public importance, but these are probably the weakest that one would find. What strong reason has been given by either the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) or the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) for the tabling of this report? Let me analyse the reasons given by the honourable member for Dawson. He started by saying that the report might condemn the Queensland Government, because of that Government’s freight, charges. I would point out to the House that these freight charges were implemented since the Loder report was prepared.
– That is the increases.
– Yes, the increases. He referred to the complaints about resulting changes from motor transport in the west. This is misleading the House, in my opinion. Also, he said that this report was unfavourable to northern development. My colleague, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), has pointed to the tremendous advances made and to the tremendous efforts put into reducing freight costs in northern Australia. We have evidence of great achievements in the north. For one thing, I point out to honourable members that the recent Commonwealth census returns showed that the population increase of the Northern Territory over the past five years was 38%. Figures of this son speak for themselves. They show the success of our policy for northern development. Figures in relation to freight, the turn round of shipping and the handling of cargo in the port of Darwin show an increase of 50% over the past five years. There have been tremendous advances in those spheres. My colleague also referred to the expenditure on beef roads. In the Northern Territory these roads have been of tremendous advantage. We do not hear today the complaints that we heard a few years back about the very rough and dusty roads over which graziers had to send their cattle to Katherine and elsewhere, and about the tremendous mortality rate amongst the cattle as a result of the dust. This improvement is a result of the Government’s efforts. Over 1.000 miles of beef roads have been constructed in the Northern Territory. Nearly $2m has been expended on a road to tap the Mount Bundey iron ore deposits.
These are some of the funds that have been put into public works in the Northern Territory: $5m for a power house in Darwin; more than $3m on iron ore loading facilities at Darwin in the form of wharf extensions and a stacker-reclaimer; and $5m on the Darwin hospital. These are the things that develop a country. They show the pressure of population requiring amenities of this sort. Within a few years the per capita investment of development capital will be greater in the Northern Territory than in any State in the Commonwealth. The honourable member for Dawson said that we should not be spending money on the Gold Coast Highway. Why should we not be spending that money? This area is a great tourist attraction. This is a government that can develop all sections of Australia. That is our aim. It .’s because of the tremendous prosperity of this country after this Government has been in office for seventeen years that we can tackle problems of this sort. Why leave the Gold Coast out of this sort of thing? This is a most valuable highway to the whole of the community in Australia.
The honourable member for Stirling said that the Government stood condemned. I listened for his reasons for saying that but I could not hear any. We hear catch phrases about the Government standing condemned, but what else do we get from honourable members opposite? Nothing at all. The matters to which I have referred show the Government’s achievements. I believe that the northern community has acknowledged the advances that have been made. The people of the north have returned the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). Obviously, these honourable gentlemen were sent here by the people of the north to support the Government.
– Why did they not stand to indicate that they supported our urgency proposal?
– They were sent here to support the Government. They have no reason to support this sort of nonsensical display by the Opposition. I should say that by electing those honourable members the people of the north have shown that they acknowledge what has been done. Those honourable members, in their maiden speeches, have shown that they want a lot more to be done. I have a full belief that this Government will not disappoint the people of the north. We are getting somewhere.
As for the tabling of the report, my colleague has given a full explanation. He has shown that we have referred to it in many cases for suggestions. I think the Government is capable of judging when the report should be tabled. To suggest that the north has been handicapped because the Loder report has not been tabled is utter nonsense. I have mentioned the advances that have been made and the investment in the Northern Territory and the north generally. Let me revert again to the honourable member for Dawson. He referred to the profits made by the northern railway line for the Queensland Government. What more profitable railway operation can one have than a long line serving a bulk ore operation? This is the most profitable operation in which a railway can engage. The Queensland Government has other railway operations of this nature in the carriage of coal from Moura and Callide to Gladstone. These are private enterprises of the sort that bring confidence, investment and development. These are the things that we are pushing ahead with. I do not think that I need go any further. I have pointed out the advances that have been made. The people of the north have acknowledged this situation by returning Government supporters to represent three electorates which stretch practically right across northern Australia.
– I am rather sorry that the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) should have run out of excuses before his time expired. Like the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), 1 was amazed to find that when the proposition that the Loder report be discussed was put forward by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) did not rise in their places to support the proposition. The Minister for Territories has just told us that this was because they support what the Government is doing in relation to the north. If this is so. it seems rather peculiar that the honourable member for Kennedy should have risen in his place a week or so ago and ventilated this particular issue. What has happened becomes obvious to me. The Government or some Ministers have told him not to go any further with this particular subject.
In October last when we raised the question of the Government’s refusal to release the Loder report to the Parliament, we were accused by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) of using the issue for election purposes. I notice that he did not make this accusation again today and I hope that he is now satisfied that, unlike the Government, we ventilate these issues in the interests of the people concerned and of the Commonwealth generally. We are not worried about their election value. The possibility of the report being released to members became even more remote as a result of replies given by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) to questions last week. He said then that it was a confidential report to the Government and that, if his recollection served him right, it was not practicable to make the report public. Ministers and honourable members on the Government side have claimed on several occasions that the report has received considerable attention from the Government. But, judging by the replies given last week by the Prime Minister and by the Minister and the tenor of the debate last year, despite the statements that have been made today, very little attention, if any, has been given to the Loder report by the Government.
The Minister for National Development said last year that we raised the matter then as an election issue. I point out that the Loder Committee was first established by the Government purely as an election gimmick. The Government suffered a heavy loss of seats in northern areas in the 1961 election. With the idea of recapturing those seats, the Government, on the eve of the 1963 election, promised to set up a committee to inquire into transport costs in the north of Australia. The Government thought that if it made this promise people would believe that it was interested in the north. Of course, that was all the Government wanted. It was not interested in the north, but it wanted to create the impression that it was. The Minister for Territories supported this viewpoint during the debate last year when he said:
The important consideration is not the Loder report but the Government’s attitude to northern development.
This must surely mean that, as the Government is not in favour of any proper development of the north, it need not worry about the Loder report. Of course, that is exactly what has happened. The Minister for Territories went further. He said:
Whatever the Loder report may have to offer, the mere fact that the Government appointed the Loder Committee shows its concern for northern development.
He was merely echoing the Government’s idea when it set up the Committee. It was not interested in anything that the report might reveal; it was interested only in the effect that the setting up of the Committee may have on the electors. In 1963 the Government recaptured some of the seats it lost in 1961 and it then lost interest in the Loder Committee and its report.
The only conclusion we can reach is that the Loder report came down on the side of greater development in the north, that it favoured freight concessions and better methods of transport. Quite obviously, it suggested ways of developing the north that are not acceptable to the Government. Had the Loder report supported the attitude of the Government and been generally unfavourable towards the north, the Government would not have lost any time in ensuring that it was made available to the Press and to all those people who are against the development of the north. No doubt the first person who would have received the report would have been Dr Davidson. To give some idea of the lack of importance that the Government has attached to the Loder report, I want to quote the Prime Minister’s reply last week to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He said: lt is my recollection that when we looked al this report it was found not. to be in a form suitable for general publication, but 1 could be wrong in this. I cannot be dogmatic about it I shall look at the matter closely again to see what conclusion we came to.
So we find he could not be sure of what it was all about. He was rather vague as to the conclusion that had been reached. The Prime Minister, who was Treasurer at the time the report was furnished, should have been vitally interested in the cost of any recommendation in the report. If he had given any attention to the report or if he had given it the attention it deserved, whatever that may be, why would he now be vague about it? If he is so vague about the contents of the report, how can Ministers say in the House that certain recommendations of the Committee have been adopted?
During the debate last year, the Minister for National Development told the House that, on at least half a dozen recommendations made by the Loder Committee, the Government had taken action similar to that advocated by the Committee. But when pressed by the former member for the Northern Territory to say what those matters were, the Minister was not prepared fo lay it on the line. Is it any wonder that the Opposition pursues this issue? Last week the Prime Minister said that several of the recommendations in the report of the Committee had been given effect, but like the Minister last year he rushed for cover when he was asked to tell the House what they were. Here again it seems rather strange that the Prime Minister can tell one honourable member off the cuff that the Govern ment has adopted several recommendations of the Committee and five minutes later is unable to recollect just what the report is all about.
It becomes more and more obvious that the Government has no intention of making the report available to members of the Opposition or to the House generally if it can possibly avoid doing so. No doubt it has good reason for not doing so. It could easily be that the Committee is critical of the policies of the Commonwealth Government and of State Liberal governments on the development of the north. The Prime Minister has said that it is a confidential report to the Government. But the former Prime Minister did not see it in this way. He did not suggest at any time that it was confidential; in fact he is on record as saying that he would make it available to honourable members. He went further and said that he would make it available for debate. I find it rather hard to understand how a document that was not regarded as confidential by the former Prime Minister who set up the Committee can now become confidential. The position becomes all the more interesting when we go back and find that the present Prime Minister had told an honourable member in a letter that he intended to honour the undertaking given by his predecessor and would make the report available for debate as soon as an examination of it had been completed. I wonder what he found in the document to make him decide suddenly that it was of a very confidential nature. We can only conclude that some part of the report was not in line with the Government’s attitude.
One factor that disturbs me is that the report comes within the responsibility of the Minister for National Development. He has a pretty sorry record in relation to northern development generally. We had the same position with the report on beef roads. The Government would not release it either. What is in that report? Does the report on beef roads contain recommendations similar to those in the Loder report? The Minister for National Development told us today that the Government has taken heed of the Loder Committee’s recommendations on beef roads. I have an idea that the Committee which reported on beef roads was rather critical of the Government’s attitude on this subject. I believe that the Loder report contains recommendations relating to the cost of transport, freight costs and living costs.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Reference has been made to the fact that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) and I have not risen in this debate. I must confess that we are not entirely au fait with the procedures of the House. However, I must say that we do not want to learn how to do some of the things that we have seen done in this chamber. We do not want to obstruct continuously; we want to learn to become constructive. In asking a question about the Loder report, I made an honest and sincere attempt to be constructive. I did not want to throw a political football into this chamber and have it kicked around destructively. This is what has happened. Before one speaks on these matters, I think one should be qualified and should have had some experience. Quite apart from knowing the theory he should have had the actual experience and have been associated with the actual development of northern, western and inland Queensland. The three of us have had that experience to an infinite degree.
Mr Deputy Speaker, before 1 appeared before the Loder Committee the particular groups I represented carried out very intensive research. We were most concerned to learn what the findings of the Committee would be. Not only did I appear before this Committee, but last September I was given the privilege of conducting a forum at a symposium in Ingham on the subject of transport in northern Australia. Hence I believe that at least I am somewhat qualified to speak on this particular matter. One fact that has emerged, and which is quite apparent to me, is that there is an appreciation of what has been done. There may not be complete satisfaction - there is a tremendous amount yet to be done - but we have seen airport development and port development. Beef roads have been constructed. We have seen bitumen streaking out into the inland in a manner that we never saw prior to ten or twelve years ago.
I am particularly concerned at reflections that have been cast on the State Government. I am one of the State Government’s greatest critics because of recent increases in transport charges. I think an extreme penalty has been placed on the people who live in the inland. However, I am the chairman of a shire that received the second greatest main roads allocation in Queensland in 1965-66, so let us talk about State matters if we like. I live in a north western shire which extends to the border of Mount Isa, very much in northern Australia. We must be fair about these things; we should be constructive. Some very interesting facts emerged at the forum to which I have referred. One was that although development has been going on - and we appreciate what has been done - we do protest very vehemently against the penalty of costs not only in the north but very much more so in the inland parts of Australia. Honourable members have no idea how these penalties hit us. People living in those areas who go for a holiday with their families spend as much in fares in getting to the holiday resorts as people who live on the coast spend on their entire holiday.
Had I known that this matter was to be discussed - it came right out of the blue - I would have had facts and figures to present to the House. However, the point I make is that when I first brought the subject up I did so in the best of good faith. My purpose was to secure action. It was not for some petty political purpose at all. It was not done to get Press headlines - not for one moment. It was done for four reasons. The first is that we do want to know whether the Loder report is to be published. If it is not then let the Government say so and let us forget about it. It is no use keeping screaming for a hundred years. Do not let us keep kicking a dead horse. I learnt the futility of that pretty early. I should like to say on behalf of the people who live in the north that we sometimes have visitors up who claim to be great experts. They run through our areas like brumbies with their tails on fire.
– How do they run?
– Some I have backed do not run too well. These people go away and make grand statements about what we ourselves want. Reference has been made to the honourable member for Herbert (Mr
Bonnett), the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and myself. We live in these areas. We endure each and every day of the week the penalties about which I have been speaking. We do not want to be told our business. If we take part in the various developmental projects we know what we are talking about.
I introduced this subject in a question without notice and I introduced it in the best of good faith because I am naive enough at this stage of my political career to believe that not everything that is said is based upon or used as political propaganda. I would just hate to think that that was happening every time. The honourable member for the Northern Territory recently made an excellent maiden speech. He particularly stressed the need to secure a vote in the House for the member for the Northern Territory. What happened? Before a person could click his fingers a motion to that effect had been placed on the notice paper. Someone might say: Don’t get upset about it, it is just politics.’ It might be politics but it is not statesmanship and it is not fair play. Whether or not fair play exists in this chamber I do not know but I do hope that my principles in this regard will never change. I think there should be some give and take but the sort of petty political poaching that goes on here continuously degrades this chamber and I hope that I will never become a part of it.
My final words are these. Firstly, when I asked the question about the Loder report I did not intend to throw a political football into this arena. I still most vehemently request the release of the Loder report. If the report cannot be released then for goodness sake tell the hundreds of people in the north the reason why. Every organisation in northern Australia wants to know the reasons. Secondly, I stress that the average person in northern Australia is not concerned with the political side of this matter but he does want to see action on the transport matters involved. If I started this thing, my object in doing so was to secure the action in northern development that these people want. They do not want old phrases. I am sick of people jumping on the band wagon of northern development. This has been done continuously, but the people of northern Australia are not falling for it any more. This is perfectly obvious from the results of the recent election. They want action: they are not falling for empty phrases any more; they want constructive thinking. When a proposal is put forward let it be backed with facts and with logic. Come forward with reasonable projects. Everyone knows that many of the statements that have been made in this House recently have been made purely with the next election in view. This sort of thing is wearing thin. Newspaper headlines are building up huge images of the individuals concerned but let us remember that these people will be cut down in size from seven feet to about two inches. These things are not going to last. The people of Australia are not fools. Let us see a bit of statesmanship and less politics and I will be a much happier man in this chamber.
– I have been forced to my feet by the remarks of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) for the simple reason that I do not treat a serious matter like northern development as a political football or a propaganda stunt. The publication of the Loder Committee’s report was requested not only by members of this House but, as the honourable member for Kennedy has said, by various organisations. Like him I know of a number of men who are interested in this matter. They gave up a lot of their time to prepare evidence for this Committee. They spent hours and hours considering their evidence and they gave an honest opinion about rail freights in the north, and particularly air freights from Cairns to Thursday Island. They stressed also the high cost of living in that area. Because of this they want to see the Loder report published and some result for their efforts. As the honourable member for Kennedy said, if the Government is going to say, in effect: ‘No, we are not going to table the report’, then let it give us a concise answer. Let it tell us that it will not be tabling the report and give the reasons for not doing so. Then, as the honourable member for Kennedy said, the people themselves will know.
This subject is not a political football. As far as I am concerned it is political dynamite. There must be something in the report that prevents the Government from tabling it. The Government has not hesitated in the period I have been here to table reports, such as the Murray Committee’s report, the Gibbs report and others. Those committees were appointed on somewhat the same terms as this committee was appointed. Why is the Loder report so confidential at the present time? Is it because of something that is in that report? The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said that the Government has implemented a lot of recommendations contained in the report. If it has, why cannot the report be tabled so that we can see the rest of the recommendations? Why implement only some of them? The report should contain a lot of interesting information that I believe would be valuable for the development of the north. The report has been bandied around for some time, but like the honourable member for Kennedy I do not believe we can continue to kick it around all the time. We want some concrete evidence that some action will be taken by the Government to help develop the north. The Government would give it away.
I know that some people in the south do not care what happens to the north of Australia, but it is a very valuable asset to this country. It has a great potential of mineral and agricultural wealth. If we continue to treat the north in the way we are doing there are plenty of other countries which would welcome the opportunity to develop it.
-Order! The discussion is concluded.
– 1 move:
Customs Tariff Proposals (No. 5) (1967).
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 5, which I have just tabled, relates to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariffs 1966. The amendments will operate on and from tomorrow morning.
The amendments contained in these proposals stem from two sources. Firstly, they give effect to the Government’s decision in respect of the Tariff Board’s report on aircooled engines not exceeding ten brake horsepower and parts. Secondly, the changes implement the recommendations made by the Special Advisory Authority in a report on domestic tableware of porcelain, china or other pottery.
The Tariff Board report on air-cooled engines mainly concerns lawnmower engines but also covers most air-cooled petrol engines under ten brake horsepower. The Government considers this report to be unsatisfactory and it is not accepted. Equally divided reports, with divergent views and recommendations, are of little or no assistance to the Government in determining the action it should take in matters of this kind, in pursuit of the over-all objectives of Government policy. It hopes that it will not be faced with similar reports in the future.
It is undesirable that the matter be referred back to the Board and possibly another two years go by without the industry being aware of the level of tariff protection under which it is to conduct its operations. This leaves the Government no alternative but to make its own assessment of the level of protection which should be accorded to this industry and under which it should be expected to meet import competition and consolidate and develop. Such protection will be at rates of (General) 65% or, if higher, 13 dollars per engine; and (Preferential) 32±% or, if higher, 13 dollars per engine less 32i% . The question of protection for the industry will be reviewed in not less than three and not more than five years time.
The Government in reaching this decision has taken particular note of the undertaking given by the industry during the inquiry, that it will not take advantage of any increase in protection to raise prices, but that it seeks the protection to enable it to expand its market, consolidate its position, and would anticipate price reduction as this occurs.
I turn now to the report on certain domestic tableware by the Special Advisory Authority. The Special Advisory Authority considered that urgent action is necessary to protect the local industry against imports. He found that the local earthenware domestic tableware industry was directing its efforts to making low-priced lines. In this area imports of comparable goods have been increasing and have caused a significant drop in sales of the local products.
To provide urgent protection for the Australian manufacturers’ range of products. the Special Advisory Authority has recommended temporary duties based on the weight of the product subject to a reduction based on the value of the product. On dinner sets or services, utility sets or services, flat plates and Jeep plates the temporary duty is 15 cents per pound less 100% of the free on board price. On tea sets or services, coffee sets or services, cups and saucers the temporary duty is 30 cents per pound less 100% of the free on board price. The temporary protection is only a holding action pending the Government’s decision on receipt of the report by the Tariff Board on the matter. Full details of all the tariff alterations in Proposals No. 5 are contained in the Summaries of Tariff Alterations being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Reports on Items
Mr HOWSON (Fawkner - Minister for
Air) [4.35] - I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject:
Air-cooled engines not exceeding 10 B.H.P. and parts.
Pursuant to Statute I also present a Special Advisory Authority report on:
Ordered to be printed.
– I present the following paper:
Report of the Delegation from the Commonwealth of Australia Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to the Twelfth Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in Ottawa, Canada. and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
The report deals with the Conference, the meetings of the General Council, the general meeting of the Association and the visit to Canada in September-October 1966. The delegation consisted of Senator Bull, Senator Lacey, the former honourable member for Deakin, Mr Davis, the former honourable member for Hughes, Mr Johnson, the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr
Minogue) and myself. I was privileged to lead the delegation and to be the Branch representative on the General Council. Some seventy branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association were represented by more than 140 delegates who in turn represented a total membership of the Association which now comprises just under 7,000 members of the various legislatures of the Commonwealth.
This report has now been circulated to all senators and members, and shortly a full verbatim report of the Conference discussions will be issued by the General Council. Consequently in tabling this report I want to refer only to a short summary of the main points of the discussions which took place at the Conference. I think the most interesting point that I can make is that although there is on many occasions at these annual Conferences a wide divergence of opinion on particular matters, there is also a sense of common purpose directed towards the peace and wellbeing of the various countries of the world. On this occasion particularly a consensus emerged in many of the discussions that took place.
This is one of the few international meetings of members of Parliaments at which everybody speaks the English language, thus making it easy for all present to understand the views put forward by the various delegates. On this occasion it was most interesting to see the change that has taken place in the views of members of the Commonwealth since an earlier Conference I attended in 1964 in Jamaica. At that Conference there was a clear division of opinion, particularly concerning Rhodesia. Many delegates expressed the view that the Association members they represented might consider leaving the Commonwealth and leaving the Association over this very vexed question. To my mind it is most interesting to see the change that has occurred since then, and since the meeting of Prime Ministers in London a year ago at which fears were entertained that some members might leave the Commonwealth. Nearly every Commonwealth member now realises that it is more in the interests of members to remain in the Commonwealth than to put themselves outside it. I came away from Ottawa with the definite impression that all members present realised the tremendous importance of the future of the Commonwealth of Nations and particularly of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. This changed attitude has become extremely marked during the past two years and gives one a great feeling of hope that the Association will be of even greater value in the future than it has been in the past. The delegates who attended the conference now realise that it has a great deal of value and that the task they are performing as delegates to the conference is extremely worthwhile.
We had a long debate on international affairs and there was again reference to the problems of Rhodesia. Although there was unanimous condemnation of the minority rule in Rhodesia, the vast majority of delegates realised that the use of force as a solution was not a practical answer to the problem and that few nations of the Commonwealth would support it at the present time. On the other hand, there was tacit agreement that selective mandatory sanction should be invoked through the agency of the United Nations.
A discussion took place also on the situation in Vietnam and of particular interest to Australia was the discussion regarding our own actions in this regard. Although one could not expect all members of the Commonwealth of Nations to agree with Australia’s viewpoint on this matter, at least the debate had the advantage of giving us an opportunity to make our reasons for participation known to the conference and 1 believe there was an acceptance and an understanding of the reasons that led us to take the actions we have.
There was a new situation this time in that the conference split up into committees. Here again the work of the delegates was most important. In particular there was a useful debate on food resources and the population explosion. I think there is a general consensus throughout the Commonwealth that action taken in the interests of birth control in the rapidly expanding populations of some Commonwealth countries is a matter in which governments themselves should be interested and in which they should take an active role. In this regard, particularly interesting speeches were made by delegates from various Caribbean countries. There was also an extremely interesting debate on the subject of external aid and a recognition by other countries of the tremendous part the Australian nation is playing in this connection.
Finally, the conference took an interest in the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat. We realised that there were dangers that the Secretariat would take control to too great a degree of the Association. There was a feeling that it would be wise if the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat were careful to observe the terms of reference under which be was appointed and not to exceed them. A working party is to be set up to examine the future role of the Association. The first meeting of this working party will be held in Malta towards the end of May and I have been elected to be the independent chairman of that working party. During that meeting there will be a discussion on ways and means of increasing the number of inter-parliamentary visits by various delegations. As the House will know, this matter has been put forward by Australia on a few occasions in the past and we intend to put it forward again.
At this stage 1 should like to pay a tribute to the President of the Senate (Sir Alister McMullin) for his work with the Association over a great number of years. This was his final term as a clause 24 councillor. His term came to an end at the meeting of the General Council and all members present paid a tribute to the influence he has exerted on the Association over a large number of years.
I think the House would also want me to pay tribute to the work of the Secretary to the delegation, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mr Turner. The work he did on behalf of us all was extremely valuable and has been of inestimable benefit. I am sure members who were present would like to join with me in a tribute to him. The Canadian Branch of the Association did a magnificent job both on the tour and in the organisation of the conference and we thank the Branch for that work.
– I am delighted to congratulate the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) on the work he did on behalf of all of us at the conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which was attended by over 140 delegates. I support his reference to the good organising work of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Mr Turner, who was Secretary of the Australian delegation. Canada is something like a full brother to Australia in many ways. It has ten provinces. We have six States. From day to day we had to attend many mayoral and other functions and we had meetings with Canadian leaders who are the equivalent of our State Premiers. This went on for nine or ten days.
We travelled from Montreal to Vancouver and around many districts and the debates were very good. I listened attentively to them and if I overstepped the mark perhaps I should apologise to the Minister. They were talking about Vietnam and other places where the countries are split or have split in the past and I could not let pass the opportunity to speak about the north of Ireland. When I spoke of the north of Ireland I did not confuse it in any way with the south of Ireland. When Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences are held in England, the delegates whizz across to the north of Ireland and no doubt they have a good time there. To keep the north of Ireland going the United Kingdom Government gives £46m a year by way of a handout. It gives another £46m for the upkeep of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and associated expenses. I am nol against the north of Ireland receiving millions of pounds no matter where it gets it from but I am against the position of the ruling class in the north of Ireland. I had long discussions on this matter with Lord Lei trim, Lord Shepherd and two or three other lords who were there. They told me that this problem might be solved in a couple of years time. They said that they have had no redistribution of boundaries, for example, for the past twenty-five years. One of them told me that he was President Of the Senate. I asked whether they had a large Senate. He replied: ‘Yes, we have twelve members in our Senate and I am the President.’ I said: ‘How do you get on for revenue?’ He said: ‘We pay no taxes and we are not bothered with the cost of immigration. The money for that all comes from England.’ I said: ‘That is very nice, but what about the people for whom 1 should like to see something done? They get no money at all. They do not even get a vote.’
The system in the north of Ireland is that if a man has six houses, or six shops, for example, he is allowed six votes at election time. If a man has no shops or no houses, he gets no vote. No one will convince me that that is a democratic system, and as we start off from London and hold our conferences at various places throughout the Commonwealth, it would seem to me only natural that we should preach the gospel of everything being fair and above board, as we move round the world. It is a crying shame to see the way things are in the north of Ireland at the present time.
We hear many stories about countries being divided. I have with me a photograph of a house with a division line marked on it. This line indicates that one half of the house is in Northern Ireland and the other half is in Southern Ireland. I should like to state for the information of honourable members that Sir Edward Carson, who was certainly no lover of freedom when it came to matters concerning the south of Ireland, said this when speaking to the House of Commons on 29th March 1920:
I cannot understand why we should ask them to take a Parliament which they never demanded and which they do nol want.
Later in the same debate, he said: ‘I knowUlster does not want this Parliament’. The Ulster Tories did not want it in 1920 and they are of the same opinion today. Lord Glentoran, the Belfast Tory leader said this on 10th October 1946:
The peope of Ulster never wanted this Parliament.
Sir Hugh O’Neill, M.P., leader of the Six County Tories in the British Parliament, when speaking on 13th June 1947, said:
The present Parliament of Northern Ireland was forced on the people of Northern Ireland against their will in 1920.
One would think that things would improve in this day and age, but they are getting worse. In the north of Ireland work, including work in positions of management, is not given to certain people. This is a downright shame. In all, one hundred members of the House of Commons have waited on the leader of the Parliament in an endeavour to have something done. I know that other honourable members want to speak and I am sorry that I have been carried away to the point where I have been giving the House all this bad news. but I hope and trust that those lords, dukes and others who have been voicing these complaints do something to see that everything is fair and above board. All that those complaining ask for is that a fair cut of the money which is being spent in the north of Ireland is used in the proper way for the benefit of all. 1 mention, for example, that children there are in need of schools and that many of the people there are in need of employment.
I hope and trust, too, that some of those who go from country to country speaking about how we are bringing justice to the peoples of the Commonwealth and about how we are seeing to it that they enjoy certain rights will look into this question so far as it relates to Northern Ireland. There is one honourable member looking at me now. He will be attending the conference at London towards the end of the year. 1 shall let him have a copy of the publication from which I have been quoting. He will then have some appreciation of the position.
I come back to thanking the Minister who was so kind to us on our journey. We had a most enjoyable time. I should mention here, too, the question of social services in Canada. One has to actually see what is being done to appreciate the magnificent work these people are doing. The Government there provides a certain amount of money for social services, but the big firms build the hospitals, pay doctors fees and see to it that the ordinary people are given treatment equal to what would be given the richest people in the land. It is very pleasing indeed to see the way in which the aged are look after over there. I thank the Government for allowing me the privilege of attending the conference and I thank the leader who escorted us. I hope and trust that in the very near future something will be done to remedy the position I have been outlining. If we are to talk about freedom, then we should be practising it.
– Speaking as one who did not attend the conference I should like first to congratulate the leader and secretary of our delegation on the form of their report. I do so because I am certain all honourable members appreciate receiving the report in summary form, which makes it much more readable and enables members who did not attend the conference to get a clear idea of what was actually discussed. It is worth recalling that in their final communique the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, at their London conference in July 1964, paid tribute to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in these words:
The links between the countries of the Commonwealth are strengthened not only by co-operation between their Governments in initiatives of this kind, but even move by frequent personal contacts between individuals who share common professional interests.
The Prime Ministers recorded their support for the valuable work which the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association performs in bringing together members of the parliaments of all Commonwealth countries.
This emphasis on the value of personal contact between individual members is, in my opinion, proper.
It is important to remember that the conferences are attended not by representatives of executive governments but by representatives of parliaments. This afternoon the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue), who did attend the conference, gave a very interesting report of the problems of Northern Ireland. He gained this information from speaking to certain noble Lords at the conference. This was an excellent example of the value of personal contact. I wonder in passing whether the noble Lords received in their turn from the honourable member for West Sydney a greater appreciation of the problems surrounding the Sydney General Post Office.
I return now to my theme. One of the greatest parliamentarians this country has known is the predecessor of the present Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. When addressing the special Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference held in Canberra in 1950 he said:
It is of the genius of this Association that it has not sought to establish a Commonwealth Parliament but a community of parliamentarians.
It is pleasing to note that the influence of this community at a time when the Commonwealth itself is under stress is strengthening rather than weakening. When the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) was Chairman of the General Council in 1954, fifty parliaments of the Commonwealth were represented at the Nairobi conference. 1 note from the report just presented that sixty-five branches were represented at the Ottawa conference. The records show that over the years the Australian branch has played an important part in the affairs of the Association. I feel that we have been fortunate in having had Sir Alister McMullin on the General Council for so many years. His continuity of service has been of great advantage to us.
As has been pointed out, it was an Australian branch proposal that a management committee be appointed, and the leader of our delegation at Ottawa was appointed chairman of the working party set up in anticipation of the appointment of a management committee. This working party, which was given wide terms of reference regarding the future form, activities and administration of the Association, has a full agenda and I wish the chairman and his working party well for their discussions in Malta this May.
– I agree with the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) that the meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association are most important. I agree, too, with what was said by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who presented this report. However, the general public apparently does not agree that the Association is important. Outside the Parliament there is a conception that visits to parliamentary association meetings - whether to meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association or of the InterParliamentary Union - are more or less excuses for overseas jaunts by politicians at the expense of the taxpayers and that out of the deliberations nothing good comes for the general Australian community or, for that matter, for anybody at all. This undoubtedly is the conception of the general community, and it exists because the attitude of the Australian Press is that the only reason why any member of the Parliament goes to London, Canada, New Zealand or the United States of America is to get a cheap and enjoyable trip at the expense of the Australian taxpayers. I disagree with this. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is a most important body, and because it is so important it should receive more publicity than it does. More honourable members should take part in discussions in relation to the deliberations of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The fragmentation of the world into more and more and smaller and smaller political entities does not necessarily make for the peace of the world or for the welfare of the citizens of the various nations. The promotion of nationalism and independence may on occasions be justified and deserving of support, but not always. Sometimes those who promote nationalism want merely separation. Sometimes those who promote independence do not want independence in the form of self-reliance, but merely separation; and, separation having taken place, wish not to live upon the capacity and earnings of the small entity, which is a political organisation for the first time, but to seek immediately the assistance of those countries from which the new entity has separated itself. I believe that the greatest service to the world community today is rendered by those who bring the peoples of the world closer together rather than by those who separate them into more and smaller political entities. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is one organisation that tends to keep nations together rather than to separate them. It tries to see that the people of the various sections of the Commonwealth of Nations understand the views and problems of others in order that they may help in their solution. Because of that, it serves a good, worthy and noble object.
You, Mr Speaker, would probably agree that the best type of government for the world today would be world government - an extension of the United Nations - wherein the brotherhood of man would be the basis of service to the human race and no importance would be attached to considerations such as what nationality a person belonged to, what particular colour his skin was or to what particular concept of religion he gave adherence. Any organisation is desirable that promotes the brotherhood of man and that prevents the splitting of the political community of one nation or of a commonwealth of nations into more and more fragments which may, in time, because of differences, promote war and misunderstanding. I have been present at one meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I saw there men of all colours and of various nationalities getting together in an earnest endeavour to solve the problems that confronted nations. Those countries which were best endowed by circumstances and by capacity - favoured by nature because of climatic conditions or because of geological and geographical circumstances - sought to help others. I was present at discussions with representatives of India. At that time India was suffering from the effects of drought. The people of Australia, New Zealand and other nations more beneficially situated than India were able to talk to the Indian delegates, to listen to their statements inside the conference chamber and outside in the lobbies and to express sympathy for their problems. We were able to point out that we were ready, wherever possible, to assist in the alleviation of India’s distress. By such means we serve the interests not merely of the people of Australia but those of the people of the world, who seek, in organisations like the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, to keep the world from splitting into smaller entities with a consequent greater likelihood of disputes, wars and disasters.
– This debate on the report of the Australian delegation to the Twelfth Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Ottawa provides the House with a splendid opportunity to rethink the purposes and aims of the Association, to remind those who have had the privilege of travel of what the experience of the conference may have meant, and to announce clearly and positively to the Australian public the value of this Association to the members of the Commonwealth parliaments around the world and to ourselves in particular. It provides an occasion for a frank expression of our own observations as members of this House. It prompts us to think back on the spirit of this Commonwealth, stemming from the British Empire, which was its predecessor, and it can serve to remind us of the part that this Association can play in the interesting future that may be ahead of us. The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) rightly said that the Press does not deal kindly with these travels abroad by members. It is in this connection that I thought I should make a contribution, because I believe that the Press has been misguided and has been quite merciless in its comments about such travel from time to time. I am afraid that the Press has lowered the image of the parliamentarian in Australia far below the standard that is desirable and the standard that we believe is justifiable because of the sacrifices involved, one of which is travel in a continent as large as our own. When we, having been elected by our colleagues, travel overseas we are reported in the Press as going on ‘a junket around the world’. The implication is that we are off on a real spree. Discussion of a report such as the excellent one presented to us today by the Minster for Air (Mr Howson) provides us with an opportunity to remind the public th:it parliamentarians travelling overseas on Commonwealth Parliamentary Association activities cover a lot of ground, unaccompanied bv wives or relatives, for the purpose of educating ourselves as members of this House. I shall never forget that it was my privilege to spend ninety-three days making informative visits to twenty-three countries. I can assure all who are interested that it was by no means a holiday.
Overseas travel is in a different category from the kind of travel that is in the minds of so many people. We are seen to move to Canberra for the weekly sittings of the Parliament. It may not be known by some of our critics that on average we spend more than half the year here in Canberra, and so for that period *ve are absent from our homes and families. Be that as it may, I believe that the correct view on overseas travel is this: our responsibilities as members of this Parliament require that we have a knowledge of defence, external affairs, overseas trade and investment, and the many complex issues affecting the Commonwealth of Nations and the world as a whole. Overseas travel to the Federal member is like entering brilliant sunlight after leaving a darkened room. I would go so far as to say that it provides the senator or the member of the House of Representatives with a fourth dimension so that he can at least begin to grapple with some of the problems that other countries, particularly underdeveloped countries have to face.
The man who has the privilege of overseas travel can bring his own judgment to bear on what he has seen and make his own assessment of the views that he has heard expressed … -‘.ner delegates with whom he has fraternised at a conference or while on tour. I do not think it is wise that a member should have to wait for eight or nine years before this privilege comes his way. If we want members and senators to be soundly trained they should have a trip overseas within the first three years of their service in the Parliament. The aim of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is defined as follows:
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association exists tn serve Commonwealth Parliamentarians and, through them, the Commonwealth.
The CPA promotes contact and understanding among Members of Parliament who, irrespective of race or religion, nationality or culture, are united in the Commonwealth by community of interest, respect for the rule of law, the rights of the individual citizen, and the positive ideals of parliamentary democracy.
The CPA provides the sole machinery for regular consultation and exchange of information between Commonwealth M.P.s.
The ebb and flow of political events in the last few years has brought independence to numerous countries and some of them have chosen to be in the Commonwealth of Nations. Thus the CPA today has seventysix active main national or provincial branches. In addition, twelve others are classified as subsidiary branches, making a total of eighty-eight. Unfortunately six branches are in abeyance. They include five in Nigeria and one in Ghana. From my own experience of conferences of the Association and of tours, I believe that the intrinsic value is to be found not in the talks and debates that take place when we meet, important as these may be, but in the opportunities for fraternisation and the sharing of ideas and experiences as a member of Parliament meets his opposite number from so many of these interesting countries.
It was my privilege to serve for a term on the Executive of the Australian Branch of the Association. As a delegate to the Jamaica conference a few years ago it was my very rich privilege to visit en route seven Commonwealth countries and I feel that there may be some merit in mentioning a few of my observations. These experiences have developed in me a very deep respect for and appreciation of our Association and its constituent countries. Honourable members will see that I am a keen advocate of the Association and I trust that I will not long be denied the opportunity to travel again to one of its meetings. Just one trip in a period of twelve years will not satisfy the member who can see that his own ideas need to be refined and that there needs to be a sensible appreciation of the problems of other countries.
On the tour through Africa a few years ago I spent some time, as not many members of the Parliament have been able to do, in this difficult country of Rhodesia - then Southern Rhodesia. We went on to Kenya, spent some time in Tanzania and then proceeded to the Caribbean area. Before going to the conference in Jamaica, by deliberate choice a colleague and I went to British Guiana, now independent under its own name of Guyana.
– They are giving New Guinea its independence, too.
– It is all a most interesting story. We could see the tremendous advantage Rhodesia had gained from that basic democracy which stems from the United Kingdom and to which each of us subscribes. Let me put it on record that I, for one, deeply regret the expulsion of the Rhodesian Branch of the Association at the New Zealand conference in 1965.
– The honourable member regrets it?
– I do regret it because I believe that we might well have found some other formula. I want to put on record the splendid effort of our colleagues in Rhodesia and the courtesy shown by the Rhodesian Prime Minister to us on our tour. Some of the things about which so much is wrongly written have to be observed to be appreciated. I refer to the outstanding achievements in housing and education and in the integration of the African into Rhodesian life.
– Does the honourable member believe in equality of franchise?
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! The honourable member for Hunter will cease interjecting.
– When the honourable member interjects in a debate with this kind of observation it shows how biased he is and how he fails to realise that Rhodesia has probably achieved in the interests of the African far more than has been achieved in South Africa. At the university in Salisbury white and black students mix together and live together in residential colleges. That is something that we do not often read about in the Press of today. All I am saying to my friend the honourable member for Hunter is that it is wise not to be foolishly biased. It is preferable to bring a reasonable judgment to problems that face this ex-member of the Association about which we speak.
In passing may I mention that whilst we were in Kenya where we were entertained so generously by our branch there, the Parliamentary system was different from what it was some week or fortnight after we left. Shortly after our departure the two party system was discarded and was supplanted by the one party system which is so foreign to our own experience and understanding. In such circumstances it will be necessary for a visitor to Kenya todayto stay much longer than the previous casual visitor before he is ably genuinely to bring his own judgment as to the value of the step taken by that member of the Commonwealth. When I mentioned British Guiana and there was an interjection that indicated a keen interest in this country which is now independent but which certainly has its problems. The situation there is a conflict between dark colours - not a conflict between white and black asis evident in parts of Africa. The African element of the population and the Indian element have clashed in various stages of their negotiations over the development of the country. It is to be hoped that with independence, and retaining the parliamentary democracy which stems from the Westminster tradition this country will succeed as other countries have done.
At the conference in Jamaica we, like our friends who have just returned from Canada, as indicated by the report before the House, were overwhelmed with the friendship and hospitality offered by the members of that Parliament. The Jamaican conference, as we proceeded through the agenda, revealed the pressure of certain African Commonwealth countries - countries young in the experience of independence and unfortunately marked by ugly occurrences in their own areas at home - which grouped together against other members of the Commonwealth. This highlighted for us in a very definite way the need for tolerance and simple understanding. It is for those things that I plead as we from time to time have the opportunity of looking at a report as we do today. 1 believe, Mr Speaker, that we have to recognise the immense potential of the Commonwealth of Nations. I am not one who discounts it. I would not for a moment write down the value of it because I believe that the Commonwealth of Nations still has an outstanding contribution to make in world affairs. The Commonwealth of Nations will have an influence upon Asia and Europe if we can hold it together and handle our problems. We will handle them best through the understanding and friendship that we see at a conference such as this one held recently in Ottawa. I believe that Australia as a member of the Association has a very significant contribution to make in the future. The Minister who presented the report today, the leader to the conference in Ottawa, has indicated the confidence displayed by members of the Conference in the election of an Australian to take a lead and to chair a working committee. It is true that other leaders, such as the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), some years ago,played a very significant part as this Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was in its developing stage.
In these last few moments let me say that we have a Commonwealth of amazing diversity but the one thing which unites this multi-racial, multi-national and multiorientated group of peoples and nations is a basic belief in parliamentary democracy. The history of our Commonwealth, indeed, of the world, has shown that Parliament is not a way of life that can be mass produced from some constitutional idea or blueprint. As the late Lord Campion, a former Clerk of the House of Commons, once said: Parliament is a living and developing growth with its root in the qualities of the men who work it’. In other words it comes back to the member of Parliament, Mr Speaker. If the member of Parliament is worth his salt, if his horizon is wide, if his eyes are open to the opportunities for a significant contribution in the world as we see it today, his service and the service of the corporate body known as the Parliament will be all the better recognised.
It is one of the most amazing features about the Commonwealth that this diverse conglomeration of parliaments can find common ground in what is the reason and principle of parliament, and that is simply open and frank discussion of public affairs. So let us realise, I suggest, that no matter what form of government you may find there is a genuine belief - one which 1 understand and accept myself - held by people that there is a benefit to be derived in such open discussion even if at times it is only to argue the points and details of some course of action which has been agreed upon and taken. We will allow our parliamentary system to be more and more seriously menaced if we deny to members of parliament the opportunities of wide travel, and fraternisation such as have been mentioned today, which are provided through this Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. So I place on record with these observations the deep conviction I have that we should use every effort to preserve this Association of the parliamentarians of those members of the Commonwealth that are pleased today to give themselves freely to our ideals. I hope that many of my colleagues will have the opportunity to see for themselves the truth of what I have shared in these few observations.
– My contribution to this debate will also take the form of adding my tributes not only to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association itself but to the delegations that have left this country year by year to represent the Australian Parliament in various countries. I will not traverse the intimate ground covered by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) because he has been on one of these overseas visits and I have yet to obtain that honour and privilege. But I have discussed particularly the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and its activities with the former honourable member for Deakin for the years 1949-66, Mr Frank Davis. As honourable members well know, Mr Davis was an ardent supporter of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. He represented this Parliament at the Ottawa conference last year, at Kuala Lumpur in, I think, 1964, and in India many years prior to that. I believe that Mr Davis had an intimate knowledge of what this Association stood for and what it was attempting to achieve. He knew how members of Parliament went away green and came back enthused with the work done by other parliaments, and they felt the admiration that he had for this Parliament too.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association exists mainly to serve Commonwealth countries through their parliamentary representatives. It promotes contacts between members of parliaments that are members of Commonwealth countries and as a result the Commonwealth of Nations and their members of parliament achieve a far greater understanding than otherwise would be the case. As the honourable member for Swan has said, this happens irrespective of race, colour and creed. I well remember the report issued by the delegation to New Zealand in 1966 which was led by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Adermann). That conference took place just after Rhodesia was severed from the Commonwealth of Nations. Of course that subject was brought to the fore by the African countries, but the good sense of all the representatives of the Commonwealth of Nations prevailed in that instance and a satisfactory and reasonable solution was achieved as a result. I believe this happened because of the extensive nature and the representation of the various parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations. They do represent a cross section of people throughout the world and therefore arrive at reasonable conclusions following their debates. Therefore the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association must have a good balancing effect on the affairs of the world. Like other honourable members who have participated in this debate, I believe that the Association not only should be maintained but also should grow in stature.
I think it was the honourable member for Denison (Mr Gibson) who stated that the Prime Minister’s Conference in 1964 mentioned that there should be greater contact than has hitherto been the case between members of the parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is pointed out in the report associated with the communique issued by the Prime Ministers of 1964 that not more than 2% of the members of the parliaments of the Commonwealth of Nations visit another Commonwealth country each year. Of that 2% , two-thirds went to or from Great Britain itself. Those people who deer)’ visits of Australian members of Parliament to overseas countries are doing a disservice to Australia because the parliamentarians do return with wider horizons and better judgment so far as Australian affairs are concerned. The standard of Australian representatives has been so high that the status of the Australian member of Parliament has been lifted in the eyes of the nations they visit. Australia can obtain good representation from both sides of this chamber and from both sides of the Senate. Therefore, opportunities should be given for an increasing number of members to attend these conferences year by year.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has ninety-five member branches. People will say that there are not ninety-five Commonwealth countries but I point out that Australia has seven branches which represent the Commonwealth Parliament and the six State parliaments. Meetings of the Association afford State members of Parliament an opportunity to visit other Commonwealth countries and to discuss the delicate nature of foreign affairs. Knowledge of these matters is impossible for them to obtain in their own Slate parliaments. The Association should be extended in Australia itself. The back benchers of the Federal Parliament and the State parliaments should have an opportunity to meet on a formal basis. Ministers are able to do this through such agencies as the Australian Forestry Council and the Australian Water Resources Council. The legal fraternity, through the respective Ministers, . meets from time to time but there is no formal arrangement whereby back benchers of the Federal Parliament and State parliaments can meet and discuss problems of common interest.
It has probably been said that when the Association was formed in 1911 it was different from what it is now. Then it was known as the Empire Parliamentary Association but its aims and objectives have altered very little. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is the sole world body which enables members of the Commonwealth of Nations to discuss intimately those problems mentioned by the leader of our delegation, the Minister for Air (Mr Howson). These are brought into the open and discussed on a factual and sensible basis.
Therefore they do nothing but good for the people represented by delegation members.
Many honourable members will know that in 1959 Australia received in Canberra a delegation representing parliamentary institutions overseas. I am sure that when those overseas delegates returned home their thoughts about Australia were considerably different from what they were previously. Today I was very fortunate to meet all the lovely girls - including Miss Malaysia, Miss Hawaii and Miss Canada - who went to our wonderful Moomba procession yesterday. These young ladies were lovely. I can see that you are smiling, Mr Speaker. You would have enjoyed the opportunity I had to meet them. Some of these young ladies were unable to speak our language but they were a great advertisement for their countries. Those Australians who were fortunate enough to see them had an excellent opportunity to discuss various matters with them after the procession ended. The Australians concerned did a good job for Australia and the young ladies did an equally good job for their countries. I disagree with the judges who selected Miss Malaysia as Queen of the Pacific. She is a lovely girl but I think Miss Korea should have been selected.
This interchange of people can do nothing but good for Australia. Those who decry visits overseas by members of Parliament surely must believe that Australia should isolate itself from the problems of the world. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has made his intentions in this regard so very obvious. Because of the need for greater dissemination of views on foreign affairs he is travelling the world, particularly the world to our north, and obviously making sure that Australia will become known to those countries with which we must associate in the years to come. I always keep in mind that Britain was the focal point for the associations of Europe for some 200 years. This came about because the British people travelled extensively and were represented extensively in Europe and elsewhere. If we are to play our part in South East Asia as I think we should, and as I think the Prime Minister thinks we will, we must participate in the affairs of other countries and look to the good in them before we start to decry their actions. It is impossible for me who has not seen other parliaments in operation to assess what good there is in them but I feel sure that they are doing what they think is right for their own country just as we are doing in Australia. I conclude by saying that the delegation to Ottawa has again carried the torch of this Parliament overseas. I am sure that whatever delegation we select to travel to Uganda this year will do the same thing.
– I welcome this debate because it is not very often that the House directs its attention to an examination of a unique organisation - the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Frankly I believe that the great majority of us take the Association for granted. In 1963 a very distinguished Indian, Mr C. D. Deshmukh, ViceChancellor of the University of Delhi, delivered the Jan Smuts Memorial Lecture at Cambridge. This very distinguished gentleman took as his thesis: ‘India in the Commonwealth Context’ and in the main his thoughts were directed to the general Commonwealth field. Amongst other things he said:
Friendly communication will be shorn of its significance in the absence of a common political language.
Those words from his 1963 Smuts Memorial Lecture struck me with great force. I do not think it would do any harm to look frankly and honestly at the Commonwealth today, and in particular at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, to see whether it does have, in fact, a common political language. I must, with respect, disagree vigorously with some of my colleagues who believe that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association mirrors the existence of a common political language in their countries. I believe that the only common factor existing in the Commonwealth today is the Association as an association, and I suggest that it is the height of error to contend that the principal countries of the Commonwealth of Nations have in fact a common political language.
The first Jan Smuts Memorial Lecture was delivered in 1941 by former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies. He spoke of the then British Empire as being one of the four great powers in the world. I do not think that any person in his wildest dreams would today speak of the Commonwealth of Nations as representing a world power in that sense. Indeed, I believe that the twenty-five members who make up the Commonwealth of Nations today are, in a very real sense, in danger of being described as a sham. I believe this is so because there is an absence of a common political language.
Not all countries subscribe to the idea of a monarchical system. Not all countries, let it be known, subscribe to the idea that the Queen is the head of the Commonwealth. Surely the country has not forgotten that a visitor to Australia, Mr Tom Mboya, on returning home from Australia suggested that the head of the Commonwealth should rotate from Commonwealth country to Commonwealth country. So in that respect, the head of the Commonwealth of Nations does not represent a common political language. What is it that is common? Is it parliamentary government? I have very grave doubts about that. In fact, one could go so far as to say that the great majority of African countries who are today members of the Commonwealth of Nations have thrown overboard the system of parliamentary government, as I understand it.
IfI were asked whatI regard as the singular feature of parliamentary government, I would say that it is the right of an Opposition to exist, to speak and to put forward proposals. But in many African countries - and I do not believe that one should be timid about saying these things - the system of parliamentary government has been suffocated. Many years ago a very wise man, the Earl of Balfour, wrote an introduction to Bagehot’s ‘The English Constitution’. It was written a long time ago but I think it has great relevance today. One may at least recognise the great prescience of the Earl of Balfour: He wrote: if we would find the true basis of the longdrawn process which has gradually converted medieval monarchy into a modern democracy, the process by which so much has been changed and so little destroyed, we must study temperament and character rather than intellect and theory. This is a truth which those who recommend the wholesale adoption of British institutions in strange lands might remember with advantage. Such an experiment can hardly be without its dangers. Constitutions are easily copied, temperaments are not; and if it should happen that the borrowed constitution and the native temperament fail to correspond, the misfit may have serious results. It matters little what other gifts a people may possess if they are wanting in those which, from this point of view, are of most importance. If, for example, they have no capacity for grading their loyalties as well as for being moved by them; if they have no natural inclination to liberty and no natural respect for l.iw: if they lack good humour and tolerate foul play; if they know not how to compromise or when; if they have not that distrust of extreme conclusions which is sometimes misdescribed as want of logic; if corruption docs not repel them; and if their divisions tend to be either too numerous or too profound, the successful working of British institutions may be difficult or impossible. It may indeed be least possible where the arts of parliamentary persuasion and the dexterities of Party management are brought to their highest perfection.
– Who said that?
– It was written by the Earl of Balfour many years ago. I think my friend from Watson will agree with me that the Earl of Balfour wrote with a remarkable sense of looking at the future. I think the great error that has occurred in respect of the African continent - no doubt this will stir up a wave of dissension but let it - has been the insistence on sending over there a Westminster style parliament and saying to the people: ‘Here, run it.’ What has been the result? Chaos and confusion and, as I submitted to the House earlier, the suffocation in many countries of the system of parliamentary government.
The last matter I want to examine in the context of trying to find a common political language is whether there is a common acceptance of the rule of law by all Commonwealth countries. The report tabled by my friend the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) this afternoon alludes to the Rhodesian issue. I do not wish to debate it now because my views on the Rhodesian issue are well known. I want to examine how far Commonwealth countries have departed from the rule of law. The report states:
The communique on Rhodesia, issued on 14th September, during the Prime Ministers’ meeting, was nevertheless welcomed. There was general agreement that the matter should be referred to the UN and selective mandatory sanctions invoked against the illegal regime.
I can understand that point of view even though, for my part, I put the point of view that sanctions are redolent of the unenlightened view of Lord North and does not do very much credit to statesmanship today that makes claim to enlightenment. In respect of the Rhodesian issue I have never thought that in this day and age we would live to see Commonwealth countries, nurtured to have respect for rule of law, not allowing a case to be put by one of the parties to a dispute. This view applies, in my submission, not only to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and to Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conferences but, indeed, to the United Nations Security Council.
There is a very old rule, a very basic principle, as 1 apprehend it, of natural justice. As I understand English law, a party to a dispute has a right to the application of the rule of audi alteram partem: hear the other side. What has been done on this occasion? The other side was not heard at all. Those concerned sat in judgment upon them and no doubt the words in Seneca’s Medea’ would be apposite to them. I refer to this passage:
Whoever decides something not having heard the other party, albeit it pleases him he is deciding justly, it will be by no means just.
This is not some new fangled notion of law - of hearing the other side to a dispute. The Greeks had the principle inscribed in places where justice was dispensed. It was known to early writers in English law. Indeed, one can find an expression of it in the Scriptures. Those honourable members as well versed in biblical studies as my distinguished friend the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) will be familiar with the following passage in St. John chapter VII verse 51:
Doth our law judge any man before it hear him and know what he doeth?
It is mentioned by St. Augustine in ‘De Duabus Animabus’ and it is embodied in Germanic. Coke in his ‘Institutes’ refers to Rhadamantus, the cruel judge of hell, and states that he punished before he heard. He goes on to claim:
But far otherwise doth Almighty God proceed.
One can even find the principle in the work of anthropologist Professor Gluckman in his study ‘Judicial Process Among the Barotse of Northern Rhodesia’. Today that country is Zambia. Even the natives of that country believe in giving people an opportunity to have their case heard. So, one comes to the melancholy conclusion that there is precious little by way of a common political language left within the Commonwealth and Commonwealth countries.
The only thing that I can find on this point was drawn to my attention by the Clerk of this House, the very distinguished servant of this House. One cannot find agreement as far as the monarchy is concerned as an institution. One cannot find agreement as far as the parliamentary system of government is concerned. There has been this insistence by Whitehall - and I condemn equally Socialist and Conservative governments for their part in this - of transferring a system of parliamentary government to people whose whole outlook on life is built around the tribal system. It is not up to us to condemn that. This is their own system, their own attitude of mind, their own habit. These people have been used to speaking through one man.
Might I give a short illustration of this fact? One of the countries that sat on the Security Council during the debate on Rhodesia was Uganda. Uganda is a member of the Commonwealth. It is a federation. One of the States in that federation is Buganda. The people of Buganda do not elect their representatives to the federal parliament. The people do not elect their representatives by votes at all. The representatives are sent directly by the Buganda Parliament, which is known as the Lukiiko. This, to us, may seem strange. But it was a quite satisfactory way as far as the people of Buganda were concerned. Well, there came dissension between the Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr Milton Obote and the titular head of the Federal State of Buganda, Sir Edward Mutesa. Fighting broke out. Quite appalling figures were released of the number of people who were killed. One observer estimated that 15,000 people were killed. For my part, I do not care whether these were people of Tibet, people of Buganda or people of any other nation. It is monstrous to think that that number of people could be slaughtered, and thousands more detained, and that the world is not stirred by such a happening.
This is a Commonwealth country. This matter stirs me deeply as one who has endeavoured to take some interest in Commonwealth affairs, and who has felt in the past very strongly about Commonwealth oneness. But today there is no oneness. Honourable members are looking at and listening to a person who is completely deluded upon this point. The old pretence of hearing a Commonwealth voice on something or a Commonwealth attitude towards defence or towards trade is past. I have thrown that away. Apostasy has taken over. Today the only thing left that I can find is the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. If, through that Association, there can be a stimulation and, I go so far as to hope, a rekindling of the true and genuine parliamentary spirit, then the Association will have served all its members well and, beyond that, it will have served all mankind well.
- Mr Speaker, I just wish to say: long may the Commonwealth prosper. I have been quite interested to hear the speeches of various honourable members in this House saying just how much knowledge they have gained in their trips abroad. It is well known that the rights of everybody in this Parliament are equal. I suppose that in the near future, my name will be thrown into a hat. I hope that those people concerned will think of me when my name comes forward and try to find some means whereby a trip may be made available for me. The rights and privileges of an independent member concerning overseas trips are rather limited. So the purpose of my few remarks is to inform the House that I am giving notice that I will be applying, and I hope that the right thing will be done.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to express my thanks to tha honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) and the other honourable members who have spoken on this subject in this debate. As one who has had the opportunity to travel overseas I endorse their remarks. First, I realise the tremendous advantage that it is to see other countries and, secondly, I appreciate the atmosphere of friendly association in which these Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences take place. They provide a tremendous lot of help to every individual who attends, no matter who he may be, in understanding a great deal about his fellow men and the other countries of the world.
Australia is not like Great Britain, lt is not placed alongside the Continent. An
Australian has to travel at least 2,000 miles or more before he meets anyone who would be classed as a foreigner. It is much more difficult for Australians, and particularly Australian members of Parliament, to gain contact with other nations. It is only by way of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union that our members of Parliament, by and large, have this opportunity. I know of course that delegations travel from time to time to South East Asia from Australia. But this is not the same thing as meeting people from all different parts of the Commonwealth at a conference. I for one have said - and I do not deny it - that the British Empire is dead and the Commonwealth as we knew it in the old days is dying. I still believe that to be true. On the other hand, I am like the other honourable members who have spoken in this debate. I hope that the Commonwealth - anyhow a large portion of it - will keep together, because I feel it is of some value at least in the world today although it is being superseded, in my opinion, very largely by regional co-operation and development such as we are seeing in this part of the world, and in which this part of the world is giving a lead for the future, as I mentioned the other night in the foreign affairs debate.
But what I feel is the greatest danger in this regard is that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is drawing distinctions based on no principles whatsoever. That is why I think the honourable member for Moreton put the case so well with regard to the rule of law and the question as to what holds us together. For instance, Pakistan discarded the democratic principle. It found that it had to in the mid-1950s. Pakistan found, and said quite honestly, that it had to start with democracy in the villages. Many other countries have found this to be the case. I think it was the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who said in a speech in the parliamentary dining room: ‘It is no good putting the roof on the house before the foundations are in.’ Yet, when President Ayub Khan, for whom I have a great deal of respect, was in fact a military dictator for a certain period while Pakistan was laying its foundations, nobody suggested that Pakistan should be thrown out of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Pakistan has not yet put back full democratic principles. But Pakistan is still a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I am glad to see it. I wonder why Ghana and Nigeria withdrew. Were they thrown out because they had returned, as the honourable member for Moreton said, to the tribal system? When colonial discipline failed, tribal discipline was all that was left to those countries. Again, I do not see that this is any reason why Ghana or Nigeria should not be present, if they want to be present, at meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Many Prime Ministers who attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference are not Prime Ministers in the democratic sense. Some of them are even military dictators. But why should they be barred on that account? In their countries, as in many Asian countries, the people are accustomed to strong leadership. If the leadership is not strong, the people do not respect it.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting we had been discussing the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and I had been referring to the very excellent speech that was made by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) on the rule of law - something which did not seem to apply to most of the decisions that were made. I had also referred to the speech made by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver), who spoke very largely about the advantages of the close association which, as a result of being a member of delegations to conferences of the Association, one had with other delegates as individuals or as representatives of their nations.
The honourable member for Moreton referred to certain very unfortunate happenings in Uganda, about which we had heard very little but in which a large number of people were killed. For some reason or other, that was passed over in world headlines, but anything that happens in Rhodesia, for instance, is at once written up and is given forty-eight point headlines. Reference was made to the fact that Nigeria and Ghana were both absent from the last conference. I think we are all very sorry that they were absent, even though we may disagree with what is happening in those countries. They have military dictatorships at present, but that is something which I feel very diffident about criticising. If we were in their present stage of development, if we had to handle the problems that they have had to handle, I am not too sure that we would know what to do about them. Therefore, I do not want to criticise any of the nations which are trying to develop, trying to get on their own feet and trying io establish more permanent forms of government.
The honourable member for Swan related how, a week after he had left Kenya, the multi-party system was overthrown and a one party system was established. That is not what we feel is really a democratic institution, but at the same time, under existing conditions in Kenya, it may be the best form of government that can be devised. The same applies to Tanzania, which is another member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Tanzania has a one-party system of government. All in all, I think we have got to look at the different members of the so-called Commonwealth in the light of their present stages of development. Even if we disagree with what they are doing, we have got to look at their actions in a friendly way and try, by contact and perhaps by example, to make them act more in line with our ideas. However, as I said the other night, we cannot expect that either in Asia or in Africa will new nations decide that our Western form of democracy is the best form of government for them at present, or possibly in the future.
I am still very mystified because both South Africa and Rhodesia were expelled from the Commonwealth. When one looks back on history one sees, in effect, that Britain was the first country to support a policy of separate development in Africa, with the establishment of Swaziland, Basutoland and Bechuanaland, now Botswana, two of which countries are small enclaves in South Africa. One is heartened, I think, to see what has happened this week. Malawi has sent three of her Ministers to South Africa. In today’s Press it was reported:
South Africa’s first major venture into the delicate world of multi-racial diplomacy began yesterday when three Malawi Cabinet Ministers arrived for trade talks with government officials.
They were met at Johannesburg Airport by officials of the Foreign Affairs Department and a host of newspaper, radio and television men.
The Ministers will stay in a special suite at a Capetown hotel normally used only by whites.
In other words, South Africa has offered to assist, with advice, money and technical aid, any other African nations which desire her to help them with their development and with their trade. Does the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at its next conference propose to expel Malawi because it has established friendly contacts with South Africa? I .doubt this very much. On that basis, it would have to dismiss Britain herself. These things are indicative of the world of change in which we live. Here we have Malawi co-operating with South Africa and South Africa co-operating with Malawi.
In the case of Rhodesia, however, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference came to the conclusion that it was in agreement with the Prime Ministers’ Conference that the matter should be referred to the United Nations and that selective mandatory sanctions should be invoked against the illegal regime. I do not know why the delegates should have referred to the Rhodesian regime as an illegal regime. It is certainly not, under those terms, the only illegal regime in the Commonwealth. Why has the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association supported action by the United Nations which is held by many of the best legal brains in the world to be totally illegal? The only provision in the United Nations Charter under which such action could be taken is that in Chapter 7, referring to a breach of the peace. I do not think that by any stretch of the imagination anyone could say at present that Rhodesia has caused a breach of he peace.
Dr Goh Keng Swee is one of the members of the Singapore Cabinet. Singapore was represented at this Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference. I do not hesitate to say that Dr Goh Keng Swee is one of the leading brains and one of the foremost statesmen in Asia today. He came to the political seminar held recently at the Australian National University and stated in very clear and definite language that, at the present stage of Singapore’s development, with the Communist underground cold war going on, it was necessary to have a very effective secret police force. It was also very necessary, he said, to have power of arrest and detention without a charge in certain cases. I wonder what the leader of the International Commission of Jurists, who was also at that Seminar, replied. I do not criticise Dr Goh Keng Swee for saying that. In view of the conditions in Singapore at present, I think he was right.
The various problems that arise and that very often are discussed by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association show the difficulties that many of the smaller nations are experiencing now that they have achieved independence and are proceeding down the road to sounder forms of government, development and prosperity. I think we ought to look at them with a friendly eye and be very hesitant in our criticism, even when what they do does lead to tribal barbarism and bestiality on certain occasions. Very often they deserve sympathy and assistance more than criticism. Although I believe that regional arrangements for co-operation, development and security will provide a sounder basis than reliance on a world organisation which is so wide and so far flung that very often it seems to get nowhere, and although I believe that through regional co-operation and development we would reach more quickly the objectives which we are after, I agree with the honourable member for Swan when he says to travel is a good education. It is good to be able to meet representatives of other member countries of the Commonwealth on a friendly basis. I hope that this opportunity will long continue, but I doubt very much whether it will.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 March (vide page 406), on motion by Mr Bury:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Speaker, the Bill before the House deals with amendments to the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947-1966. The Government proposes an increase in the levy on waterside workers’ wages to finance the affairs of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The Bill provides for an increase of 14.66c per man hour. This will increase the total levy to 48c per man hour. The Opposition does not intend to oppose the amendment to the Act, but I believe that there are a number of suggestions which could be made to improve, not only the relationship between employers and waterfront labour, but also operating conditions on the waterfront. Such an improvement could result in a reduction in the levy, which has been in existence for some considerable time.
The levy, which is quite substantial, is collected by the Commonwealth Taxation Branch. The report of the Commissioner of Taxation for 1965-66 discloses that from the time of the imposition of the original levy on 22nd December 1947, when it was 4½d or 3¾c per man hour, it had increased to 3s 4d or 331/3c per man hour on 1st April 1962. As I have just said, the Government now proposes to increase it further by 14.66c. A considerable amount of revenue has been collected in the last ten years. For example, in 1955-56 a total of £1,946,694 was collected. In 1965-66, which is the last year for which complete information is available, a total of $9,53l,143 was collected. That sum represented a slight reduction on the amount collected in the previous two years. Honourable members can see quite clearly from these figures the quite substantial levy that is imposed on waterfront labour in order to finance the affairs of the waterfront. We on this side of the House realise this fact.
When I was obtaining a little bit of background to this matter yesterday, I found that the Right Honourable Robert Gordon Menzies and Mr Harrison of the then Opposition were very critical of the original legislation. They belonged to the same Party as that to which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who introduced this Bill, belongs. They forecast that all sorts of dire results would follow the establishment by the Chifley Labor Government of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and the introduction of the legislation necessary to finance the project. They forecast that the Authority would not last long but that it would soon fold up. However we find after seventeen years that the Liberal-Country Party Government has done nothing to dispense with the Authority. Indeed, I am pleased to be able to say that the Government has encouraged the Authority’s activities and that, as was forecast by the late Dr Evatt who introduced the original measure in 1947, waterside workers have been able to improve their conditions quite substantially. Whilst they have been able to do this, they have had to lose a considerable amount of money in wages because of strikes they have had to call to force the Government and the various wage fixing tribunals to ensure that they received their entitlements.
Waterside workers were one of the last group of workers to obtain long service leave entitlement. Then it was given to them by the Government of the day only as a basis for imposing additional penalties and hardships on them. When the Government realised that it was getting nowhere with that type of coercion it relented and introduced further legislation which put long service leave entitlement on a much more favourable basis. Waterside workers have not a great deal of concern about sick leave and annual leave provisions; but a number of other matters are causing them great concern at the moment. They include permanent hiring, redundancy, and the provision of an industrial pension.
Great changes are taking place in the shipping industry today. Hardly a day goes by when we do not read in the newspapers of some new development in containerisation. Developments are taking place in mechanisation. Only late last night when speaking to members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Newcastle, I was told of a new system of stowing wool bales which has resulted in fourteen men who belong to this particular branch of the Federation losing their jobs. The branch is concerned about what is taking place. It is concerned about the loss of employment for its members. The development of containerisation is affecting employment in the stevedoring industry which, as we all know, has been a turbulent industry. Men are being thrown onto the industrial scrap heap. A lot of people do not seem to realise what containerisation will mean to the men who are engaged on the waterfront. I have taken out a few figures which I believe are worth mentioning. They reveal that two cranes with a twenty ton lifting capacity and working for, say, four or five shifts would be able to load and discharge a 12,000 ton container ship. As against that, approximately 120 to 150 men would be required to work for approximately eleven days to load and discharge a ship of similar tonnage. Such figures emphasise the concern of waterside workers about redundancy, permanent hiring and the provision of a pension scheme. The men who are engaged on the waterfront want to know whether they will continue to be employed in this industry. If they are not, where will they go?
Let me quote a few practical examples of what has been taking place. I could refer to Devonport, Burnie and other ports in Tasmania, but I shall refer to Hobart, the largest port in that State, to give honourable members some idea of what is involved when a port is converted, not to complete containerisation, but to a limited degree of containerisation. This position occurred only after the introduction of the ‘Empress of Australia’ on 16th January 1965. In the January-March quarter of 1964 there were 715 men on the Hobart register. In the same quarter of 1965 the number had declined to 595. The number of men employed daily declined from 488 to 299. The number of men receiving attendance money rose from 144 to 197. The number of hours worked weekly declined from 30.1 to 20.7. Average wages decreased from £23 3s to £16 13s 2d. Honourable members will agree that that is an inadequate wage. It was built up slightly by the payment of attendance money, which increased from an average of £1 8s 2d per week in 1964 to £2 9s 9d in 1965.
In his second reading speech the Minister claimed that one of the major reasons for increasing the levy was that attendance money payments had increased. But the Minister did not give all the facts. The increase in attendance money payments was not brought about solely because there had been an increase in the base rate of waterside workers, which was justified because the basic wage had been increased. Naturally, attendance money should keep pace with increases in the basic wage and the general wage structure in the industry. But attendance money payments increased also because the introduction of new cargo handling methods on the waterfront led to labour being thrown on the market. The
Authority was not able to employ all the men that it had on its books.
We should look closely at the charges that are being imposed and ask ourselves whether they should be imposed in the form prescribed in the Bill or whether some system should be devised by which a special rate could be levied on some sections of the industry. At this stage I do not know the answers to this problem, but I feel that there should be a more detailed inquiry into the matter rather than continue in our old haphazard and lackadaisical way, saying that because wages have been increased, because an extra week’s annual leave has been granted, because additional long service leave has been awarded and because the qualifying period for entitlement for long service leave has been reduced from twenty to fifteen years, we can increase the levy and not worry about other ways of solving the problem. Many people in the community are greatly concerned about this matter. I noticed in today’s issue of the Australian Financial Review’ a letter by Mr W. P. Nicholas, Executive Officer of the Australian Woolgrowers’ and Graziers Council, in which he said:
It seems an inopportune time to increase a levy of this nature, when Australia’s primary industries are experiencing difficulty in holding costs of production which are of internal origin.
As a representative of an exporting organisation Mr Nicholas is entitled to say that. This is another reason why I think we should look more closely at this matter. I think it would have been wise of the Government to take a holding stand and not increase the levy at this stage, having regard to the major changes that will take place in the industry within a short time. The Woodward Inquiry, appointed by the Government to inquire into the stevedoring industry, will submit its report within the next few months. The Inquiry has already submitted three interim reports in which it has indicated that at this stage it believes that, among other things, there should be permanent hiring in all major ports and that a pensions scheme should be introduced on the waterfront, lt is obvious that there will be major changes in the stevedoring industry, perhaps within the next few months and certainly within the next three or four years when container cargoes are fully introduced.
There was an Interesting report in ‘Muster’ of 1st March this year. ‘Muster’ is the country man’s newspaper. The report reads:
The introduction of container shipping services to and from Australia would pot an end to the continuous and apparently interminable trend of upward freight rates, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr J. McEwen, said last week.
The Government should not have increased the stevedoring industry charge at this stage but should have awaited the report of the Woodward Inquiry on container cargoes. The showing of a deficit or a surplus in a year’s operations is nothing new for the Stevedoring Industry Authority. The Authority’s report for the year ended 30th June 1966 disclosed that in 1961-62 the Authority had a deficit of $2,136,470; in 1962-63 a surplus of $1,068,396; in 1963- 64 a surplus of $651,956; in 1964-65 a surplus of $395,840; and in 1965-66 a deficit of $673,916. So in other years the Government has not been panicked into making hasty decisions. Five years ago the Authority had a deficit of more than $2m. Apparently there were special circumstances in that year and everybody concerned was happy to wait and see how things turned out in future years. In the next three )’ears the Authority more than made good its earlier deficit. In my opinion the Authority should have been required to place substantial evidence before the Parliament to show that the increase in the charge was necessary. Already the industry is carrying an additional levy of 5c a man hour which has been introduced by the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour to provide the nucleus of a fund from which to pay pensions to waterside workers if and when the Woodward Inquiry recommends that pensions should be paid. So, in all, the stevedoring industry will have to carry an increased charge of 19.66c a man hour as from 8th March this year. This will bring the total charge to 53c a man hour.
At present the entire shipping industry is going through a period of revolutionary change which in turn is having an effect on the stevedoring industry. The more one reads of the shipping industry the more one is made aware of the inefficiency and shortcomings of the industry. I wonder whether there is any need to perpetuate the present system under which we have a series of stevedoring companies - half a dozen in this port, a dozen in that port and ten in another port - all working independently, or whether it would be better for the Commonwealth to approach the State governments and seek to establish a Commonwealth-State authority to take over completely stevedoring in each of the States, doing away with the present haphazard methods of operation. Honourable members cannot for a moment claim that the present system is satisfactory or efficient having regard to comments by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority on the inefficient operations of existing stevedoring concerns and shipping concerns - how they allow the gear of their ships to deteriorate; how oft times for safety reasons men cannot work; how oft times the men go on strike because the stevedoring company or the shipping company is not prepared to rectify inefficient equipment with which the men are asked to work. In its latest report the Authority states:
It is a matter of concern that on 108 occasions during the year a total of 13,530 man hours was lost when vessels attempted to work cargo with gear which was either defective or failed to conform to the Navigation (Loading and Unloading Safety Measures) Regulations. The Regulations have been widely circulated, and almost without exception shipping companies when informed of such instances have replied that their ships’ officers arc aware of requirements. Although the overall loss represented a decrease of 964 man hours compared with the previous year, me position is far from satisfactory.
The Authority itself says that the present situation is far from satisfactory. That is why I believe that we have to stop the present practice of allowing the State governments to give priority to works that they want and correct the present situation in which small private concerns, such as stevedoring companies, may not have the financial backing to carry out major improvements in the interests of the efficiency of the industry.
I honestly believe that it is basically a responsibility of the Federal Government to ensure that our exports and imports are able to flow through our ports in the most efficient and expeditious manner that it is possible to achieve. What is of no concern to one government may be of major concern to another. That is why I believe that the Federal Government should be planning - I know that as far as members of the Government parties are concerned that is a dirty word which should not be used in the Parliament - the future requirements of every major port in Australia. Instead of leaving it to the various overseas companies to say: ‘We propose to make Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney the major container ports for Australia. We will have feeder ports leading into them’, we should be saying to the shipping companies: ‘We consider that in the best interests of Australia and its importers and exporters this is where our container ports should be located; this is where our other types of ports should be located; and we want our bulk cargoes, such as wheat and wool, to go through these ports’. We should work in collaboration with the States. It is our responsibility to find the necessary money.
The Commonwealth certainly lends money to the States. Of course, it is the chief money raising authority. At question time this afternoon we heard the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) ask the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) a question on the present financial policy of the Government. The honourable member claimed that we are impoverishing the States by financing all Commonwealth works from interest free taxation revenue and are asking the States to carry out all their capital works with loan moneys on which they, pay interest. The position is that it is our responsibility to find the money. We want that responsibility and we accept it. So we should have some say in planning what is to take place not only in the shipping industry but also in other industries.
I believe that we should be playing a major role, in collaboration with the State governments, in setting up single port authorities to handle stevedoring and port development. Last Thursday I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) a question about certain port inadequacies. I quote the following from an article that appeared in the Newcastle ‘Sun’:
The Australian Wheat Board has criticised inadequate port facilities for hampering efforts to revitalise wheat trade with Europe.
The article went on to say that certain ports in Australia, particularly Sydney, Port Kembla and Newcastle, are totally inadequate for handling the bulk cargoes that they are required to handle in the transport of ore around the Australian coast and the transport of wheat overseas. In my own electorate of Newcastle it is almost the order of the day to see one or two coal ships, wheat ships or tankers lying out in Stockton Bight, just outside the entrance to the harbour, waiting for berths.
This is brought about by one thing; that is, that this Government has not been prepared to make sufficient money available to the State governments to enable them to carry out necessary port improvements. If we made money available they could carry out deepening programmes. It was not until 1961 that the Menzies Government was prepared to make money available to the New South Wales Government. It made a grant of £lm from Joint Coal Board funds. Then it made loan moneys available to the State Government for a deepening programme which was most important for the port of Newcastle. At this stage it is necessary to make money available to Newcastle not only for improved bulk wheat handling facilities but also for improved wheat storages. This concerns members of the Country Party. These facilities will enable them to transport their wheat to Newcastle and have it put in silos there so that it will be ready when the ships arrive. In Newcastle there should be increased and improved stevedoring facilities, increased wharfage and deeper leads in the port.
If these facilities are provided where they are needed we will get somewhere. We will be able to put ships through the various Australian ports at an ever increasing rate and bring in our imports and send out our exports much more quickly. That will have a very marked and material effect in reducing stevedoring and freight costs. The increase in stevedoring costs provided for in this legislation will have its immediate effect on freight costs. In fact, various financial experts have forecast already that this increase will result in a 10% increase in stevedoring charges which in turn will result in an increase of a little more than H% in freight charges. There may be some justification for the shipping companies increasing their charges under those circumstances.
I have said that money should be made available to the various States. This brings me back to my original point. I believe that the Federal Government should be moving into closer collaboration with the
State governments and playing a more active part in planning our requirements. The Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) are in a much better position to know what Australia’s shipping requirements will be for the next ten years than is a State Minister for Transport whose sole responsibility is to look after his State’s roads, railway system, bus system and whatever other transport systems his State has. The Commonwealth Ministers should be specialists in this field of transport. They should know what our requirements will be for the next ten years. The Commonwealth Government should work in close collaboration with the State governments in planning what will be needed.
At present one State government is doing something in this field. The New South Wales Government has called tenders for certain work to be carried out in Sydney Harbour. This involves the provision of container berths and facilities for handling containers at Balmain. I do not know who recommended this proposition to the New South Wales Government. The best informed people have advised against it. Sir Alexander Gibbs, an English consultant, has strongly recommended against the Balmain site. They have recommended that the facilities be located on the northern shore of Botany Bay. When I was flying to Canberra this morning I had a good look at the area. There is not a shadow of doubt that any amount of land is available on the northern shore of Botany Bay for the provision of a number of container berths and facilities for handling bulk cargoes. Already there is a spur line running from thi main railway line to Botany and the old powerhouse at Bunnerong. So all the necessary facilities are there. It is an ideal set-up. There is any amount of space for the provision of, say, a six lane highway.
I believe that we should bear in mind a statement that was made not very long ago by Mr J. L. Russell, the Chief Traffic Manager of the New South Wales Government Railways when he addressed a conference in Queensland. I could read the whole of his address because I have a copy of it in my files, but I will read only one passage from a report of it because in my opinion it concerns the subject matter of this debate. The passage reads:
Mr Russell said that the selected container wharf site at Balmain was in one of the worst traffic spots in Sydney.
Snarls occur continually’ he said ‘and if another 1,000 containers had to be shifted in and out of the area by road within a period of twenty-four hours the road conditions could become chaotic.
This gentleman certainly is a railway expert; but at the same time he has any amount of knowledge of traffic conditions in Balmain and the area adjacent to the New South Wales Government Railways yards there. That is his opinion. About eighteen months ago Sir Alan Westerman made a statement in which he drew the attention of the Government to the fact that the port of Sydney was hopelessly congested; that the system of supply roads to it was hopeless; and that time was wasted by traffic being held up. He said that the delays that were occurring were placing an unnecessary burden on the economy as a whole and on the stevedoring industry in particular, including the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority which is responsible for the payment of the wages of the men in the industry. This situation indicates that there is a great need for some planning authority.
I strongly urge the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Government to do something concrete to establish a planning authority. Get rid of what I might almost describe as these small tinpot stevedoring concerns at each port and have one single authority that will have the financial resources necessary to undertake the development of stevedoring and provide all the latest equipment that is now so essential instead of having ships gear handling the loading and discharging of cargo. We have only to look at some enterprises such as the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd to see the kinds of new methods that can be adopted. That Company has introduced new methods with the use of luffing cranes and the like which have enabled it to reduce the number of man-hours spent in loading cargo and which have increased considerably the volume of steel being shipped from its wharves at Newcastle. This has happened because the Company has the necessary financial resources to provide the best possible equipment for the handling of the cargoes in which it specialises. I believe that a similiar kind of arrangement on a substantial scale could be agreed to by the States and the Commonwealth. I am certain that such a scheme, if it could be introduced, would bring about a substantial reduction in stevedoring charges.
I do not want to speak at great length on this Bill, Mr Speaker. We on this side of the House believe that there are definite shortcomings in the present stevedoring arrangements. I believe that the Minister would have been well advised, in view of the substantial changes that are taking place in the industry today, to have waited a little longer before introducing this measure. A short delay would not have placed any additional burden on an industry which, the shipping companies allege, is subjected all the time to these cost increases which raise freight charges and place our exports in a much more difficult position because shippers must pay more to ship their goods to overseas markets. At the same time, our import costs are increased because we have to pay increased handling charges on the wharves when imports arrive here. For the reasons that I have mentioned the Opposition does not oppose the Bill, though we on this side of the chamber believe that it has shortcomings. These should be rectified at an early date by the Minister taking some of the measures that I have suggested.
- Mr Speaker, I have listened very carefully to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). Obviously, he has a great command of the subject, though I consider that he has departed widely from the actual issues before us this evening in the consideration of this measure. I support this Bill, which is designed to fix the rate of the stevedoring industry charge at 48c a man hour. Unfortunately there is no alternative to the increase of 14 2/3c, which is no more than is required to enable the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to meet its commitments. I think it should be stressed that this levy is virtually the only source from which the Authority derives income. The post-war forerunner of the present Authority was formed in 1946, and the initial levy was only 4£d. This was reduced in 1949 to 2£d. The rate has since been increased gradually, year after year. For the year ended 30th June last the Authority’s total expenditure exceeded its total income by almost one-quarter of a million dollars, with the levy at 3s 4d a man hour.
Obviously, the increase in the charge which we are discussing this evening was foreshadowed last year. If the Authority is to continue to be responsible for benefits such as sick leave, long service leave, annual leave, attendance money and cafeteria operations for those engaged in the stevedoring industry the Bill must proceed without delay.
The stevedoring industry is quite unlike most other forms of employment where the employer is directly responsible, not only for the employee’s weekly salary but also for continuing obligations to provide sick leave, long service leave and other benefits. Workers in the stevedoring industry can expect to work for different employers from day to day. On some days they do not work at all and on other days they work on different wharves and under “ different rosters. Because of the fluctuating and casual nature of the industry, work is not available all the time. Yet there must always be a work force available when work is to be done. I believe that men need strong inducements to stay in such an industry. Under these conditions no single employer has the same obligations to his employee as employers have in almost all other industries. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority was formed to undertake the various responsibilities that are normally discharged by the employer. Whenever there is trouble on the waterfront its effects are felt throughout the business and domestic life of the community. All industries are affected in one way or another, whether they be import, export, wholesale, retail, primary or secondary. It is not possible to build up a satisfactory, friendly employer-employee relationship unless there is continuity of contact. In the stevedoring industry the Authority has assumed the role of employer insofar as benefits are concerned.
All sections of the industry realise that labour must be available to handle cargo when required but gaps in deliveries and delays of various kinds do occur. At other times, unusually heavy demands on labour create pressures that cannot be met immediately by the existing labour force. Many influences affect this supply and demand. Last year, the waterfront strike in the United Kingdom meant idleness on the Australian waterfront some four or six weeks later. The recent Australia wide drought cut down our exports of primary products very seriously. Early this year we experienced in the South Australian port of Port Lincoln considerable and costly delays in the shipping of our grain exports, largely because we had insufficient labour to handle the great volume of peak deliveries. I believe, Sir, that it is generally realised that we cannot expect men to remain contented in an industry that does not offer them the opportunity to gain regular income and the promise of security. Employers in all Australian industries recognise a continuing responsibility to their employees. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority was brought into being to guarantee to waterside workers the benefits of employment conditions similar to those enjoyed by most sections of the work force in other Australian industries.
The Authority has three members who are engaged on a full time basis. The Chairman is Mr Norman Hood, C.B.E., who was, prior to his taking up this appointment, a conciliation commissioner under the terms of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Mr Dean Yelland represents the employers collectively in the widest sense of the term. He previously worked in the metal trades industry in my own State, South Australia, and is highly regarded there, as elsewhere. He was appointed by the Government after consultation with leaders of industry. The third member is Mr P. Hampson, who represents the union side of the industry in the same collective way as Mr Yelland represents the employers. Mr Hampson is a former Federal President of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia and a former Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Union. He was also a member of the State Executive of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party and has had experience as a Commissioner of the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales. I think we can say therefore that the Authority is very broadly based and in fact truly representative of the industry at the various levels. The Authority is not responsible for salaries paid to the waterside workers. Payment of salaries is now and has always been the direct responsibility of the employers on the waterfront, who conduct central pay offices and make payments directly to the waterside workers. The Authority receives its revenue with the co-operation of the Commonwealth Taxation Branch. Each month the employers of waterfront labour lodge with that Branch a return showing the number of man hours worked, together with a cheque covering the number of hours calculated at the current rate of levy. This rate was last fixed in April 1962, almost five years ago. Since then the hourly rate for waterside workers, on which payments by the Authority for holiday pay, sick leave and annual leave are based, has risen from SI. 1583 to $1.3625, which is an increase of more than 17%. Additionally, the major item of annual leave, which is almost 32% of the Authority’s expenditure, has been affected by the increased annual leave entitlement provided in 1963, and payments have risen from S 1,817,000 in 1961-62 to more than S3m in the year just finished, which is an increase of about 80%.
Another large item of expenditure, which represents approximately 17%, is attendance money. Expenditure on this item last year was $1,700,000 but in the current year expenditure is expected to rise to a record amount in excess of $3m. The main reasons are an increase in March of this year in the rate of payment from $2.83 to $3.10 a day and a continuing decline in the work available for the labour force. Man hours worked are expected also to decline from almost 29 million during last year to just over 26 million this year. This will also have a serious effect on the Authority’s revenue, since the levy is based on the man hours worked. Long service leave payments for the last three years have averaged $664,000. It is estimated that for 1966-67 the expenditure on this account will be $960,000. The increase, which will continue, is largely due to the liberalising of the benefits by the October 1966 amendments to the Stevedoring Industry Act.
The aim of the Government is a rate of levy which will enable the Authority to meet its day to day commitments for a period long enough to permit stability in its operations pending the outcome of the national conference and the Woodward inquiry mentioned by the previous speaker. The rate recommended is 48c, an increase of 14ic a man hour on the existing levy, and this should cover the requirements. I support the Bill, Sir, and I submit to you and to the House that the Bill is in the best interests not only of the waterside worker but also of the rest of the industry.
– The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), the last speaker, repeated precisely the Government’s mistaken thinking in its approach to the whole question of stevedoring and shipping. He has, of course - and I am being tolerant to him as a new member - yet to hear of the comments which were made by Mr Ramsay of the Department of Trade and Industry. I quote from the ‘Australian Financial Review* of 24th February 1966:
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. lt 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 efficient stevedoring of a ship is very much dependent upon the pattern of liner operation . . .
The time to think about stevedoring difficulties is at the drawing-board stage of shipbuilding.
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 … It is equally pertinent . . .
I continue to quote from the article - 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.
Sir, this is exactly the situation in relation to shipping in Australia. The Government is fragmented in its thinking. It has not considered transport as a whole as an entity, but unless and until it does that we will have a continuation of the troubles which beset this particular industry. Let us take the spectacle. We have the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) who deals with merely one sector of the industry - stevedoring - and nothing else. We have another Minister - nominally - for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) who deals merely with coastal shipping. Then there is a third Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who has intruded in the course of his empire-building into the domain of overseas shipping. Then to complete the picture, Sir - and I will have much more to say about this gentleman later - we have the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) who comes in in relation to the restrictive practices legislation, on which this Government has as yet done precisely nothing.
Now, Sir, the shipping industry is, of course, one of the oldest in history. It runs back to the days of the Phoenicians. Its history has been a rough one and a tough one. It is a turbulent industry where there has been no quarter given and none asked as between employer and employee; but we are in a much more enlightened age and we have come to the stage at which we have to reconcile the differences of the parties and, as the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said, get down to some planning - which is almost a dirty word “so far as this Government is concerned. The Australian waterfront is the most highly publicised industry activity in the nation, and the grossly over-coloured picture of the waterside worker as a strikehappy and irresponsible individual, run by a union which believes in battering ram tactics, is unfortunately accepted in far too many quarters. Charges - and they are valid - have been made that the industry has been bedevilled by too many reports, too many critics, too much bureaucracy by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, a hostile Federal Government and a bungling administration. I think that is a fair summation of the situation today.
The honourable member for Newcastle again was quite correct in advocating the establishment of full national control of the stevedoring industry. That is the only real solution of the problems of this industry. The industry has many problems. First, of course, is the question of casual employment. In theory, the number of men who are allocated to particular ports is related to the trade of those ports. But trade fluctuates, there is an uncertainty of arrivals, there is a conflict as between different stevedoring companies, there is a conflict for berths and there are delays. The sum and substance of it all, of course, are attributed to the wage costs of the waterside worker. The original stevedoring industry authority was appointed by a Labor Government to intervene between the conflicting parties on the waterfront. Neverthe less the waterside workers and their union still remain the whipping boys of the whole shipping industry whenever costs come up for discussion. The managerial revolution, of course, has passed this industry by.
We still have today an overseas shipping combine controlling fully the shipping trade between the United Kingdom and the Continent of Europe and the Australian nation. There we have the spectacle of too many ships calling at too many ports for too little cargo. Built into the present formula by which shipping freights are ascertained is a guarantee of 8% on the capital investment to the most inefficient, the most slovenly and the most haphazard of the companies engaged in the trade between Europe and the United Kingdom and Australia. These are some of the matters which bedevil the shipping industry at present and for which, of course, the waterside workers are blamed. There is ruthless competition, not in Australia but in other parts of the world, and a scale of shipping freights that is grossly below the scale that is imposed on the Australian public. There are delays in berthing and dangerous gear in the ships. Many times at Port Kembla I have seen coffin ships come in - ships under flags of convenience with the port of registry as Monrovia in Liberia, or alternatively Panama. It is nothing short of a major scandal to see these ships come in. They are Liberty ships, coffin ships, ships with rotten gear, ships with snatch blocks and pulley blocks that could not be worked, with derricks that the men could not trust, with steel ropes that would not meet the standards of the present Australian port regulations, and with winches that could not be worked. They are ships that have to be operated solely by the cranes on the wharf. At present we are really giving a bonus to inefficiency by our failure to establish a national overseas shipping line.
In many instances, bulk cargoes from Australian ports are being carried by tramp ships that were not designed for the cargoes they are carrying. Many of the pick up centres on the waterfront are still primitive. The transit sheds - that is, the storage sheds where goods are discharged or stored until the ships arrive - are primitive in the extreme. In the port of Sydney, for instance, we have 131 wharves and only 37 of them have a rail link. The wharves were designed for the days of sailing ships, when the cargoes were brought there in horse drawn drays. It is trite to say that Sydney has the best harbour and one of the worst ports in Australia. Chaos has been correctly stated to be the norm for stevedoring operations in Sydney. The honourable member for Newcastle made scathing reference to the container berths at Balmain and he has correctly stated one of the solutions. There is, of course, a further solution and that is to look much further afield. With the advent of containerisation we come to a revolution in shipping and cargo handling generally. It may be found economically viable and even necessary for the major ports handling container goods to be well removed from metropolitan centres, which have inadequate rail services, traffic congestion and all the other complications that arise when the attempt is made to take freight through a major city. Such places as Newcastle and Port Kembla could well be considered.
At present, Port Kembla has an adequate harbour frontage with depths at high water of as much as 42 feet. The average container ship that will be used in the trade between Australia and Europe is to be no more than 25,000 to 30,000 tons. This is well within the cargo handling capacity of both Port Kembla and Newcastle. The ships that could be handled at Port Kembla range up to 50,000 or 60,000 tons. When we think in terms of container ships, we must realise that there is an obvious limitation to the dead weight tonnage. But the major bulk carriers afloat today have a capacity that is not less than 80,000 or 100,000 tons. If the economies are scaled to those that the steel industry requires to enable it to capture and hold markets for Australia by the export of iron, we must plan for an adequate depth of water. This Government, of course, is both incapable and unwilling to attempt it. When we come to the question of containerisation, we find that some 125 or more ships of various types are now engaged in handling cargo between Australia and Europe and the United Kingdom. When the containerised ships come in, they will handle about 65% of the tonnage. This seems to be the generally accepted capacity. It is estimated that twenty-five ships will then be capable of handling all the trade. That in itself raises a golden opportunity, if the Government wants to take it, for the establishment of a national overseas shipping line. But what can we expect of a Government that is incapable even of co-ordinating the activities of the various Ministers?
Today, just to maintain the tradition of whingeing from the rural industries, a letter appeared in the ‘Financial Review’ from a Mr W. P. Nicholas, the Executive Officer of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council. He complained bitterly of the frustration and resentment in his industry at the introduction of this Bill. Not a word has been heard from this gentleman or from the few honourable members here who represent the Australian Country Party, notable now for their absence from the chamber, about rationalising the coming and going of ships. Not a word has been heard from them about the computer analysis that was made of shipping rationalisation by the Department of Trade and Industry, when savings of 12i% were proved. Not a word has been heard about this Government’s sloth or worse in relation to the implementation of the Trade Practices Act. I think it is now some fifteen months since the Act was passed, but not a word has come from the Government as to what is to be done. If anything is really to be done to protect the interests of Australian manufacturers and exporters generally, and notably the rural industries, it will be by the proclamation of the Trade Practices Act. There for the first time the Government must do violence to its generally accepted tenets as to the independence and sanctity of private enterprise by coming in as the third party to examine the freight arrangements made between the exporters and the shipping combines. I challenge the Government or its spokesmen here tonight to get up and state the reasons for the scandalous delay, which is a matter for criticism in the main financial journals.
I wanted to make some references to other matters on the waterfront as they relate to my own port of Port Kembla. I have the honour to represent one of the major ports of Australia. It has a tonnage inwards and outwards of some 8 million tons a year, while 750 waterside workers are employed there. But we have the ludicrous position of certain of the major ore carriers coming into Port Kembla, partly unloading and then having to go on to Newcastle to finish unloading. The men there have plenty to put up with. Westerly winds blow for five months of the year. Winds of major violence whip up iron ore from the dumps. I happen to live at a point in Wollongong where I have a very clear vista of the shipping operations. I have noted that, when the westerlies are blowing, iron ore dust can be seen for three miles out to sea. The men have to put up with this sort of thing. They have to put up also with sulphuric and sulphurous acid fumes from the fertilizer works. Even the chromium plating on the cars parked at the waterfront is attacked by the fumes. The men have to put up also with particularly rigid discipline. Let no one make the mistake of thinking that the stevedoring industry is not one of the most rigidly disciplined and controlled industries of Australia.
I do not want to delay the House unduly but I do want to make these observations in relation to the shipping industry. This Government is doing absolutely nothing to make a national approach to this problem. We have the spectacle today of thirty-five different waterfront authorities scattered around Australia without any co-ordination of their activities. Each of them goes its own sweet way without any idea of a national approach to the whole problem. This Government, as was indicated earlier today in a question asked by the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), has been offloading on to the State governments the financial responsibility for major public works. In the meantime it has been using its cash to carry out its own public works programme. This Government is a national government with national responsibilities; but it cannot, and will not, discharge them. I do not see a final solution to the problems of the transport industry in Australia being obtained until this Government is swept out of office - undoubtedly it will be - as the result of sheer, stark inefficiency and the resentment of the Australian people and the exporters of goods.
– This Bill, which is designed to amend the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act, is quite important to Australia. Unfortunately it will mean another increase in costs within the
Australian economy. Of course these are costs which we cannot avoid. On many occasions in the past we have had to do this sort of thing. What are we doing about this problem? When we think about a Bill to increase the levy on waterside workers’ wages, we think mainly of manpower. But the reason for this increase goes much deeper and is much wider than the actual employment of men. About 20,000 men are employed in the stevedoring industry in Australia. Big sums have been invested, some for the better and some for the worse, in the various ports of Australia. Reference has been made tonight to the port of Sydney and the situation there. As I have mentioned on previous occasions in this House, I have been far from happy about the situation which has developed in Sydney over many years.
The capital cost of the wharves is reflected in this Bill. The same is true of the types of ships that are used. Whether or not a particular ship is the most practical one for the handling of particular cargo also is reflected in the Bill. We must also consider whether a particular port is suitable for the type of cargo which it is handling. If it is not, that fact is reflected in the Bill. If there is congestion, as is the case in Sydney and other ports of Australia where trucks queue up literally for hours and where cargo is hemmed in and cannot be moved in or out, that also is reflected in the Bill. We find that on the Australian scene, particularly in relation to the Conference Line ships, about 33% of the actual freight costs on general cargo is reflected in what are known as handling costs. But I would point out to the House that not only the physical handling of cargo by manpower is involved in this problem. To a very large extent the design of the ship is involved. I agree to some extent with what the previous speaker said about this matter.
What are we doing about all this? I do not say for one moment that the men involved should not have the amenities with which they are provided. What I do say is that these continual cost rises in relation to Australia’s exports and imports are becoming an increasing and intolerable burden, especially for some of the primary industries which find it quite impossible to pass them on. What are we to do with these additional costs? They must be absorbed somewhere along the line, but you can absorb only a certain amount before you feel the real pinch and you start to be priced out of world markets. That is a situation in which we will find ourselves if we do not watch things very closely. This is particularly true of our primary industries. I noted in the last annual report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority that the tonnage of cargo handled in this field had declined by about 4.2%. This trend is reflected also in the wages earned by the waterside workers and in the actual number of man hours worked at the various ports. Increased costs are reflected right along the line. They are becoming an ever increasing burden. They will now mean an increase of 14.67c per man hour in the levy. That is quite a considerable amount. In Western Australia the Fremantle port authority has already increased charges by 5%. This has hit the industry in that State. We have sought to limit costs in many fields, but perhaps we have not acted quickly enough.
There has been complete revolution in the shifting of bulk cargo from one side of the world to the other. This has had beneficial results. If honourable members look at the situation carefully, they will find that freight costs on bulk cargoes have declined to a very large extent over the years because of the methods that have been adopted on shore. Of course, these facilities have been provided at tremendous expense. Perhaps we could single out the grain industry for special mention. A lot of money has been spent in some of the major ports in Australia with the result that handling and loading rates have been stepped up considerably.
New types of ships, which are known as self trimmer ships, have been introduced. The capacity of these ships is much greater than that of the old tramp steamers of 8,000 tons which we saw a few years ago. This change, too, was a very expensive operation. We have seen a general trend to increase efficiency and to cut down freight costs generally on cargoes from Australia to many other world ports. I think that we will continue to see a general improvement on these lines. We are on the right track. Only recently have we seen much of a change in the method of handling cargoes which hitherto have necessitated the employment of a vast number of men. Although we have seen some changes in some Australian ports which have resulted in better efficiency, those changes have not been of any great magnitude. It has been suggested this evening that shipping is not an industry in which we should employ any type of ship for a particular cargo and tie it up somewhere in Australia or elsewhere. The industry just does not work that way. Shipping arrangements in various ports throughout the world must be co-ordinated. We must determine whether we want the new types of ships which are designed for carrying containerised or palletised cargoes. We have had information in this House recently to the effect that by 1969 the first container ships will be arriving in this country. If we do not accept these new ideas and adapt our methods to them I am quite sure that we will not have a chance in life of competing on the world’s markets. The position is bad enought now; we must find some means of cutting down freight rates or at least of stopping these frequent increases. If one studies the position over the years one finds that freight rates for general cargoes have risen practically every year or every second year, and of course it will not be long before there will be another increase.
The fear is expressed that containerisation will put a lot of men out of work. Let me assure honourable members that it will make a lot more work possible. The position will be exactly the reverse of that which has been predicted. Obviously the change will not be seen overnight on the waterfront.
– Now wait a minute-
– Well, let us have a look at the position. I dealt earlier with the wheat industry, in respect of which we have had to cut our costs, not only in shipping but also in the industry itself. The Australian wheat farmer produces more than farmers in other countries, but he does not achieve these results by himself. It is only because he uses a different method of farming, with a good deal more mechanisation, that he is able to show these results. I believe the Australian farmer produces twice as much wheat as the American farmer, and to do this he indirectly employs a tremendous number of men. These men are employed overseas as well as in Australia, but the majority of them are employed in
Australia in the production of machinery. If one visits a wheat farm in Australia today he will see tractors, harvesters, combines engines galore, all sorts of machines. These days nearly all wheat is handled in bulk but it is necessary to employ a great number of men - men to make the necessary machinery, to build the wharves and ancillary structures, and even to build the modern ships that are required. Many men in various walks of life are necessary to keep a farm going. This is why I say that bulk handling of wheat has not taken jobs away from men; rather has it put men in jobs - although admittedly in different fields of activity such as in factories.
Now we come back to containerisation of general cargo. We are trying to find markets overseas for the products of many of our industries. We are looking for outlets for our manufactured products. We are trying to expand our markets for primary products, of which wool is one and meat is another. A third product is fruit, and in this connection apples provide a classic example. The apple crop is of tremendous importance to Tasmania and to my own State of Western Australia. If we do not do something about freight and handling charges, improve our methods and eliminate bruising, for instance, we will not be exporting apples at all. The matter is as simple as that. We are a long way from our markets and our transport and handling costs are very high. The same applies to every exporting industry in Australia. If we could cut down our shipping costs we could employ many thousands more men in factories and on farms in Australia producing goods to export to other countries - and if that proposition has not a sound business basis I do not know what would have.
It appears that some honourable members would prefer to retain the old system, with the old ships using the same old mess, in Sydney and other places, that has passed for years as port facilities. I mention Sydney particularly because it is our major export outlet. If we retain the old system we will not be in business as exporters, and if we are not in business as exporters we will certainly not be in business as importers, so we will have unemployment. The only way we can continue to import raw materials and machinery for our factories is to continue to export. A large proportion of our exports is provided by our primary industries. Although the adoption of the new shipping methods may mean that for a number of years fewer men will be employed on the waterfront, the fact is that more will be employed in other industries in Australia. If one looks at the available figures one finds that during the last few years the number of men employed on the waterfront has declined, for some of the reasons I have mentioned. The question of costs is worrying not only me but also great numbers of other people in Australia. We cannot continue to ask industries to absorb these increased costs and in many cases they are quite unable to pass them on. I have already mentioned one or two primary industries that are unable to pass on these increased costs. If costs continue to rise our position in Australia, particularly as we are so far removed from our major markets, will obviously become quite precarious and we will find ourselves in real trouble.
This Bill makes many provisions to which I would like to refer. It provides for some things that should have been provided years ago, but we can be thankful that at last something is going to be done about them. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and the port authorities themselves are taking a tremendous interest in amenities for members of the Waterside Workers Federation and others who work on the waterfront. It is only right that these amenities should be provided. I quite agree with this, but I must remind the House that a certain amount of money is involved. The port authorities themselves have spent a good deal of money in providing amenities and I believe that the Commonwealth Government, of which I am a supporter, should be taking a greater interest in the ports of Australia. At present the required finance comes mainly from the State governments. The Commonwealth has made special grants in certain areas of which we are all aware, but the finance required for the major ports of Australia generally comes from loan moneys approved by the Commonwealth - and it is rather dear money, if I may say so.
I think a certain responsibility rests with the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth is responsible for trade and it is responsible for defence. Trade, of course, is extremely important; we just do not live unless we trade. Although the Commonwealth is taking a tremendous interest in the development of containerisation the provision of finance is, in the main, left to the State Governments. But the position from the defence angle is quite different. In time of war the Commonwealth simply comes in and takes over whatever wharves it requires. I believe that the Commonwealth should be looking at the situation now to ensure that waterfront facilities will bc adequate if ever it becomes necessary to take over the ports in a wartime emergency.
I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should take over the port authorities. What I am suggesting is that the Commonwealth should investigate the situation, and if everything is not as would be required in an emergency then the port authorities should be given grants for the construction of wharves and other necessary facilities. The whole operation would be carried out by the port authorities. The control and operation in normal times would be left entirely to the port authorities, but the facilities would be immediately available to the Commonwealth in time of war. If we are unfortunate enough to be faced with such an emergency it will be too late then to say that we have not adequate facilities. It will be too late if we move into the port of Sydney, where there is always a tremendous amount of shipping, and find that we are boxed in. I feel that this is very important indeed. It is relevant to the Bill, because if port facilities are not as they should be in Australia, this tends to raise costs. That is what we are dealing with this evening. Australia is an island continent, far removed from its export markets, and shipping is the only practical way by which we can move our goods. An alternative method is air transport, but this can be used only for certain cargoes and for passengers. In effect, without shipping we are completely isolated. We must rely almost completely upon sea transport. Nevertheless, although this is a vast country, developing quickly, I think the importance of ships is often forgotten. I sometimes think that people regard a port as a place where a ship wanders in and looks for a place to tie up to, like a tired horse. This is not right. Stevedoring is a big industry. Millions of tons of cargo are handled each year throughout Australia.
There is not much else I would like to say. This is a very important subject - one that we cannot ignore. I do not think we are ignoring it. We are looking for a new concept. I hope that the Commonwealth will see that it is not only ships, mostly built elsewhere, that we have to look at. Our problem arises when the ships get here. We have to see that port facilities are available. To build a series of wharves would not be good economics. The more capital that is used, the higher these charges will be. We must see to it that the wharves that are built and the facilities that run with them are of the right type and that they are used to the maximum by as many of the shipping companies as possible. In my opinion, even to consider the building of a separate wharf for each company is quite ridiculous. Whether we pay or whether the overseas shipping company pays, the cost is charged to freights. These things are so important so far as we are concerned that every endeavour should be made to co-ordinate shipping, shore handling facilities and internal handling facilities in the major ports of Melbourne, Sydney and Fremantle, as well as shipping from those ports to various other ports around Australia. There is no indication that Tasmania will be served by the major ships. Therefore, we have to see that the people there are served.
I support the Bill and express the hope that everything will be done in the future to keep down costs in this field. I do not say for a moment that the men should not have their long service leave or their attendance money. Perhaps we will see in the near future some changes in the methods by which men are employed on the waterside. Every action which has been taken in the last year or so has been for the benefit of Australia. The last report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority shows that in the first quarter of the period covered by the report approximately half a million man hours were lost and that in the third quarter the man hours lost could not be measured in decimal points. We find a tremendous improvement there. This has gone a long way, I feel, towards solving the problems that have been facing the waterfront in Australia for many years. However, they will never be completely solved unless we look at all aspects of the matter. By all aspects’ I mean ship and shore. This covers both shipowners and stevedores. Here there is room for improvement. I agree that management plays a very big part in the efficiency of loading and unloading cargo. It plays a big part in every other industry in Australia. Good supervision of work on the waterfront is essential. Whereever you have a large number of men operating, as you do at any port in Australia, it is obvious that you must have good management and good supervision, especially where you are handling all types of cargo. I support the Bill.
– I am afraid that the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett), together with all the other members of the Australian Country Party, has the old Farmer Brown complex. He solemnly attacks every improvement in the working man’s conditions. At one point he said that automation would create employment. The figures will show how naive the honourable member is. This Bill is for an Act to amend the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947-1966, under which the Government proposes to fix the rate of the stevedoring industry charge at 48c per man hour. The money so collected is to be paid into Consolidated Revenue and then to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for payment of waterside workers’ attendance money, sick leave, statutory holidays, long service leave and annual leave. My friend from Canning supported the Bill grudgingly, especially in relation to the provision of the amenities I have mentioned.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) said in his second reading speech that since the stevedoring industry charge was last before the Parliament in 1962 there had been very sizeable increases in the amounts of money required to service the payments. He said also that the hourly rate of pay for waterside workers had increased by nearly 18%. This is terrific! There has been an increase of 18% in wages since 1962. The Minister went on to say that the annual leave provisions in the award has been amended to provide for a maximum of 120 hours annual leave instead of 88 hours. Annual leave of 120 hours, or three weeks, is general in every other industry in the Commonwealth but the Minister makes a great point of that increase. He said, further, that the long service leave provisions for waterside workers in all ports were liberalised by reducing the qualifying period from twenty to fifteen years, which meant an increase in payments of the order of S300.000. What a terrific payment to the men who are responsible for all the work on the waterfront! Finally, the Minister said that administration costs had increased despite the Authority’s efforts to keep them at a minimum. While the staff had increased by only thirteen since 1957, staff salaries and wages had increased by approximately $300,000 since 1962. Evidently there is no mechanisation in the office. This intrigues me, because various reports show that, due to intensive mechanisation of the industry, the large numbers of men formerly employed in moving cargo from the vessel to the stack or vice versa have, in the main, disappeared. As I have already mentioned, there has been an increase of thirteen in the office staff since 1957.
The next step in this revolution is related to converting as many cargoes as possible to bulk handling. As examples of this I instance sugar, chemicals, fertilisers, ores, coal, mineral sands, tallow, edible oils, commercial oils, wine and so on. Side by side with this development came the introduction of modern bulk loaders. These facilities were designed for handling cargoes which for many years had been shipped in bulk and were loaded or discharged with ships gear or by manual shovelling. Such cargoes included coal, ores, phosphate and sulphur.
Prior to 1956 the sugar industry in Queensland was served by ten ports at which sugar was loaded in bags. The bags were split and their contents poured into the hold. Using this method numbers of men were employed. By the end of 1965 - and I should like the honourable member for Canning to listen to this - bulk loading installations had been provided at Mackay, Townsville, Bundaberg, Lucinda Point, Mourilyan and Cairns. A vessel using the old methods would take in excess of ten days to load a cargo of sugar but by the use of bulk installations a similar cargo could be loaded in twenty hours and not a single waterside worker would be employed. Yet the honourable member for Canning believes that mechanisation creates employment. The example I have quoted gives him the lie direct.
Almost all these developments have created a difficulty by reducing employment greatly, particularly for waterside workers. The casual waterside workers have been replaced by a small permanently employed labour force. This has meant a conversion in the labour force of almost 100%. This, of course, means extraordinarily high profits for the employer and is the reason for the proposed increase in stevedoring industry charge to 48c a man hour. At the same time it serves as a cloak to cover up extortionate profits which have resulted from the mechanical revolution. The tramp ship of twenty years ago is giving way to modern bulk carriers and it has been proved that bulk cargoes can be carried more economically in large ships. So we see a progressive change from tankers of 10,000 tons to ships of 30,000 tons and then to 150,000 tons and later still to 205,000 tons. In fact the Japanese tanker ‘Nishi Maru’ of 130,000 tons dead weight carries oil at 30s a ton less than a 46,000 ton vessel and for 50s a ton less than a 20,000 ton vessel. Obviously, there must be a reduction in the number of ships required.
There is another interesting factor contributing to the gradual disappearance of the waterside worker in the form of mechanical gantry cranes such as the electro magnets to lift scrap or pig iron in the form of grab cargoes. I direct the attention of the honourable member for Canning to the fact that a crane of this type can be equipped with a memory device which eliminates the need for a driver. That is another example of the elimination of manpower. The Minister might have had pangs of conscience about this trend. Perhaps this is the basis for the proposed paltry increase of 14c a man hour which is supposed to provide for sick leave, statutory holidays, long service and annual leave.
As I have said, it is reported that waterside workers will disappear from the waterfront. Support for this view is provided by figures relating to steel loaded in Newcastle. In 1957-58, 513,906 tons of steel was loaded in 318,484 man hours worked.
In 1965-66 the quantity loaded was 679,134 tons in 243,770 man hours. The quantity of steel loaded increased by 165,228 tons but the number of man hours worked was reduced by 74,714. This is another reason why the waterside worker is slowly but surely becoming a memory. Does this not call for a much more equitable distribution of the profits of mechanisation for the benefit of the individual who is displaced by mechanical handling methods?
I was intrigued by the Minister’s statement in his second reading speech that from the accumulated funds derived from the proposed charges would be paid sick leave, statutory holidays, long service and annual leave. Does this mean that the Authority proposes that attendance money, sick leave, statutory holiday leave, long service and annual leave payments are to be increased for the benefit of waterside workers who have not yet been declared redundant? Redundant’ is a wonderful word. When I was working at the trade it meant that a man was sacked and that was the end of it. But today the master comes along and he does not use the word ‘sacked’ because that is repugnant to the ordinary man or woman. Now he says: ‘I am very sorry indeed but from today you are declared redundant’. I do not know whether that will be supposed to fill the empty stomachs of the man who is sacked, his wife and his family in days to come.
– It does not taste so good, either.
– No, it does not taste so good. There is not much butter on the bread when a man is declared redundant. But I should like the Minister to clear up this point.
Now I turn to another matter. We find that administrative costs of the Stevedoring Industry Authority have increased because of increased staff salaries and wages. I have no quarrel with the Minister on that score. Being a confirmed believer in the great trade union movement, naturally I favour increases in salaries and wages and improved conditions generally at all times. I believe all those connected with industry, especially those who work hardest, should get more money. On the other hand, in common with all other union members, I am deeply concerned about the inroads into the economic position of the ordinary working man that have been brought about by the mechanical revolution. We do not hear of any proposals by the Government to deal with this creeping paralysis of automation. We hear no mention of compensation payments to those who have been declared redundant because of mechanisation. I appeal to the Minister to give deep consideration to this problem. As time marches on, more and more people are being declared redundant. They join the great army of unemployed which is already reaching dangerous dimensions. The total is round the 100,000 mark and it is growing daily despite the protestations of the Minister and his colleagues.
Now a new threat to the waterside worker is appearing on the horizon in the form of containerisation. In 1965 a consortium of British shipping companies formed a company named Overseas Containers Ltd to investigate and institute a container ship service between continental and Australian ports. The companies involved, the P & O Group, Alfred Holt & Co., the British and Commonwealth Shipping Company and Furness Withy and Co., have combined financial resources of over £stg50m. All four companies trade to Australia, and two of them also trade to South Africa. The initial capital investment was to have been £50m. In January 1966, another consortium of British ship owners was formed for the same purpose. Big business is getting in on this containerisation. The new consortium was registered as Associated Container Transportation Ltd and comprised the Ben Line, the Blue Star Line, the Cunard Line, Ellermans and the Harrison Line.
In 1966, preliminary announcements were made by both consortiums as to the ordering of ships. The announcements by Overseas Containers Ltd in October suggested the ordering of six vessels, and those by Associated Container Transportation Ltd suggested the ordering of four vessels. They were going to trade to Australia, by the way. To date, the ACT company has not announced the firm ordering of vessels, but the OCL company is reported as having placed orders for six container ships, each of 22,000 dead weight tons with three German - not Australian - shipyards at Hamburg for delivery between September 1968 and March 1969 at a cost of £27m sterling. I suggest to the honourable member for Canning that if the Country Party brought pressure to bear on these companies to have their ships built in Australia that £2 7m would be better circulated in this country.
It is reported that the container ships of the Australia-United Kingdom run would only call at three key ports. All the farmers of Australia should take this point into consideration and realise the impact it is going to have. I repeat that it is reported that the container ships of the Australia-United Kingdom run would call at only three key ports - Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. The report also states that a feeder service will be developed by using the Australian National Line as the feeder service for the container ships of the big business proposition. The Australian Government line of steamers will be fitted out as container ships to call at all ports around the coast to gather the various containers for delivery at the key ports to be carried overseas by the container ships of the private consortiums. What does the Australian farmer think of that? How will he suffer as a result of the adoption of these methods? When this plan is developed the waterside worker will almost disappear from every port around the Australian coastline. Mechanisation! Again, one wonders whether there will be a further attempt by this Government to impose a heavier payment on the employers concerned in this master plan - a payment that will help to establish a fund which will compensate all those waterside workers who will be declared - that word again - redundant. The waterside workers who are left today must be living in constant fear of the establishment of a line of container ships as this will undoubtedly be the disappearance of their livelihood. It must necessarily have a depressing effect upon their homes and families. This is a question that must be faced up to by the Government, and again I appeal to the Minister to give deep consideration to a plan which will help alleviate the position. All I ask is that it just be alleviated.
The Minister should realise the huge profits which will be made through the adoption of the press button methods which will be used daily in every port in the Commonwealth. This outlook generates a very depressing feeling la the minds of those connected with waterfront labour and the trade union movement generally. All sorts of methods are being developed for faster cargo handling. All types of cargo handling equipment from gantry cranes to all the special derricks and the automatic devices used to load containers to ensure that men are not needed are being developed. Wilh all the equipment being developed and posing threats to employment opportunities for the waterside workers, the greatest threat must be the development of the two types of pure container ships - the vehicle deck ship and the cellular container ship. There is enough evidence to show that the pure container concept is gaining ground apace in every port in the world. Ports all over the world are in the throes of reorganisation and the building of container complexes. The future outlook for the waterside worker is very bleak indeed. When we hear the Minister mention attendance money for waterside workers and payment due for sick leave in his second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill we wonder how many waterside workers will enjoy these provisions. The whole industrial structure of today, that of the waterfront in particular, cries out aloud for immediate action by this Government to formulate a scheme, in conjuction with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, for the setting up of a fund by levies on organisations of employers who are reaping extraordinary benefits from the introduction of automatic processes throughout the industry. Such a fund should be used for the making of compensatory payments to all those individuals who will be declared redundant in the future.
– We have just heard the authentic voice of a Labor backwoodsman. I think if the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) were living in the era when the principle of the wheel was being developed, and if he had any position of power, he would have placed a ban on any further development of that principle.
– When was it developed?
– -Even before the honourable member was born, and that takes it back a long way. My honourable friend from Kingsford-Smith is very concerned about redundancy. It is a very proper concern. I can understand his being concerned about it because I recall that in a recent electoral battle he was very nearly declared redundant himself. It is perhaps a pity for the Labor Party in general that these backwoodsmen continue to hang on as the honourable member for KingsfordSmith is hanging on.
We have heard some extraordinary pleas from the honourable member tonight. I should like to give the House a brief resume of them because they portray the conservative, antediluvian train of thinking of some people in the Opposition. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith is opposed to the use of magnets for lifting steel because he thinks that will put people out of employment. He is altogether opposed to the bulk loading of sugar because of some similar specious fear. Every honourable member on both sides of the House, if he has an ounce of commonsense - and I think people in this House have commonsense - will recognise that great social problems are involved in automation. There are some things about which I am quite prepared to agree with the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, but I do not go along with him when he wants to abolish the principle of the wheel or some such equally good principle. The problems of automation present a great challenge to us, but that challenge will not be met and cannot be met if, like the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith and the conservatives of the Labor Party, we try to run away from them and put back the clock. That is the brief answer I would endeavour to give to those like the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith who are against modernisation, automation and all the real improvements in working conditions and in our way of life that such progress will bring.
The debate on this Bill, which is really a very simple and regrettably necessary, but nevertheless inevitable, Bill, has ranged over a wide area and, as might be expected on an occasion such as this, the members of the Opposition who have spoken have trotted out some of their old hobby-horses and given them a quick run around the course. So it comes about that we have heard the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who led for his side, criticising the Government for not being quicker into the act in the matter of developing a container port, or helping to develop a container port, on -the northern side of Botany Bay. I was most interested to hear the honourable member praise the recent decision of the New South Wales Liberal Party and Country Party Government to develop a container port on the northern side of Botany Bay. Perhaps, however, when he gave his modest meed of praise to this very proper decision the honourable member did not realise that a Labor Government in New South Wales for some time nourished the rather quaint belief that the container port should be developed on the other side of Botany Bay. It was a rather quaint belief, because that side is quite remote from any efficient railway. Its quaintness may be best illustrated by the circumstance that the former Labor Government of New South Wales had visions that a new Labor electorate would develop in that part of Sydney if a container port were developed on the southern shores of Botany Bay. That, indeed, was the sole justification for the New South Wales Labor Government, prior to its defeat at the polls, planning for a container port in that particular area of Botany Bay. A little common sense has now intruded into the whole question and we are to have a container port on the northern shores of Botany Bay, and the honourable member for Newcastle very rightly praised the New South Wales Liberal Party and Country Party Government for this wise decision.
We realise that this Bill stems - its necessity arises - from the fact that there has been, very properly and not before time perhaps, a wide range of increases in pay, perquisites and benefits to the people who are employed in the stevedoring industy as watersiders. I, for one, welcome the decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which have brought about these improvements in conditions. Since the latter part of 1965 there has been an era of comparative peace on the waterfront, but I think we would be deluding ourselves if we were to think that just because there is, relatively speaking, a period of industrial peace which has subsisted for some time, all is well on the waterfront. All is not well on the waterfront. When I say that all is not well on the waterfront I do not mean that the water siders are the only people to be criticised. The employers must bear their share of the blame for some of the things that are going on in the stevedoring industry. I think it is right and proper that one should say this, whatever side of the House one happens to be on. The malaise that still afflicts the stevedoring industry can be illustrated if one turns to the introduction to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority’s report for the financial year ended 30th June 1966. In one paragraph on page 7 of the report the Authority makes reference to the work done, or attempted to be done, by the survey teams appointed by the Authority to investigate working practices on the wharves. I read the paragraph from the report in extenso because I think it is illuminating:
From September, 1965, the Authority has had two survey teams operating, mainly in Sydney and Melbourne. The function of a survey team is to survey a selected hatch and gear of a vessel being loaded or discharged, to ascertain whether the work is being efficiently, expeditiously and safely performed. There has been opposition expressed by both the Waterside Workers’ Federation and the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour to these surveys. However, the Authority considers that as one of its principal functions is ‘to investigate means of improving, and to encourage employers to introduce methods and practices that will improve, the expedition, safely and efficiency with which stevedoring operations are performed’ it has a duty to persist with these surveys so that it can make a more positive contribution towards the efficient functioning of the industry.
With those sentiments of the Stevedoring Industry Authority I, for one, could not find myself in greater agreement. The sentiments are unexceptionable and it is a matter greatly to be deplored that not only the employees but also the employers are, in the judgment of the Authority, adopting tactics apparently of opposition, which presumably involves obstruction of and lack of co-operation in this necessary and proper work attempted to be done by the Stevedoring Industry Authority in the discharge of its statutory obligations.
In my judgment there is more cause for serious concern at opposition manifested by the employers in this matter than there is at opposition from the employees. The employers should know very much better than to engage in the sort of conduct which is criticised in this report. In my judgment it is an altogether deplorable state of affairs.
But in order to be fair one has to remark that both sides - employers and employees - have been in opposition to the survey teams and the work that the teams have been trying to carry out. These considerations lead me to make this next point. I do not think we should be too inclined to think, as I said earlier, that all is necessarily well with the industry because fewer man hours arc being lost. We, as members of Parliament representing the public, should be on our guard lest there may be in the industry now, and possibly in the future, a good deal too much collusion between employers and employees in matters which vitally affect costs in our export industries. It is very easy for the employers and the employees to do this, and I rather think they have been at it and will be at it again unless we do something as a Parliament. We must be very vigilant about it. They may have been at it and in the future they may be at it again in the sense that they may be regarding the public as the meat in the sandwich. They may be saying: Let us look at the industry as a sort of cost plus exercise. The cost may be passed on. The public could foot the bill.’ These are tendencies which, I think, have existed in the past and which will continue to exist in the future unless the Parliament and the Government exercise adequate and vigilant supervision.
We in this House have a very great responsibility to keep a jealous and watchful eye on all legislative proposals the effect of which may be, or would inevitably be, to increase costs in our export industries. The ports of this country are the arteries through which our commercial lifeblood flows. This is the measure of the importance of our. responsibility. When the work of the Woodward Inquiry is finished, the work of this Parliament will begin in a very real sense. If this Parliament is to be true to its responsibility we shall have to scrutinise with very great care the recommendations that may be expected to flow from the inquiry which has now been in progress for nearly eighteen months, because in one way or another those recommendations will inevitably mean increases in stevedoring costs. While they might be very good recommendations, they will need our careful attention and scrutiny. This Parliament must not fall into the error of regarding itself as a rubber stamp, as it were, for whatever may come out of the inquiry. The necessity for this Bill is manifest. It is also regretted. But I need not take up the time of the House with what may be a tedious justification for the increase that this Bill proposes, because no honourable member on the other side of the House has made any serious attempt to quarrel with the principle of the Bill. For these reasons I say that the Bill deserves the support of the House. Obviously it is getting that support. I would like to finish my remarks by referring to something which might be a little off the main track of what I have been endeavouring to say. One of the old hobbyhorses was given a run around the House tonight. I think the jockey was the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) - a good heavyweight jockey from the Opposition front bench. He said: ‘The problem of Australia’s shipping industry is simple. We need only twenty-five container ships. These can easily be built in Australia and then we will have our national shipping line.’ I am the first to recognise that a rather responsible argument in theory can be advanced in favour of having an overseas shipping line. I am not one of those who decry the argument and maintain that it is without merit. On balance I am against it. One of the reasons - it is not a basic reason; it is a pertinent and topical one - why I am against it is this: what would happen to Australia if our overseas export trade were to be dependent upon the whims of the Seamen’s Union, presided over by Mr Eliot V. Elliott, ably assisted by Mr Bernard Nolan? Mr Nolan is the gentleman who announced in a forthright fashion just recently, contrary to every precept of the policy of the Labor Party, of which he is a member, that he and his union would have no hand in particular work to be done by a certain Australian ship. This is one of the dangers we would face if we opted for a national shipping line. It should make us think rather deeply before we ever accede to the Opposition’s proposal for a national shipping line.
– in reply - As I pointed out in my second reading speech, it is unfortunate that we are called upon to increase these charges but I think honourable members on both sides ot the House accept that this is inevitable having regard to the present financial position of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and the purposes for which the money is provided. If these increases were not levied the Authority would soon be without funds. The Government is acutely conscious of the importance of freight rates to the economy - a point which was made by many honourable members, particularly by our Country Party colleague from Western Australia, the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett).
The Tait Committee which inquired into the stevedoring industry in 1954-57 pointed out that 50% of the general cargo voyage costs as between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane were attributable to stevedoring charges. As to overseas shipping between Australia and Great Britain, over 30% of the voyage costs were attributable to stevedoring charges. This is something to which the Government is acutely sensitive. lt is a serious load on the Australian economy, particularly on our exports by which we earn our living in the world. 1 was glad to pick up a remark made by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) to the effect that it was most important that imports and exports flow with efficiency through our ports. Of course efficiency’ interpreted correctly means the maximum throughput at the lowest possible cost.
The honourable member for Newscastle, and I suppose other honourable members, appreciate this need and I hope they will stand by the measures necessary to achieve this result. As the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes) pointed out very pertinently, the public interest in the matter of low freight costs is extremely high; this is something that cannot be left to the parties concerned. I can assure the honourable member that when the Government is considering what emerges from the current discussions these factors will be uppermost in its mind. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) made a very thoughtful and well prepared contribution. This is the first time I have heard him speak in the House and I look forward to further contributions of quality from him.
The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), in his opening remarks referred to the lack of co-ordination between shipping, port activities, shipbuilding, other forms of transport and so on. He said that present operations are fragmented. That is true. They are fragmented. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) has, within the Commonwealth’s constitutional responsibility, taken a considerable initiative in relation to container traffic and by so doing has made a major contribution to the Austraiian economy. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) and I work in close consultation with the Minister for Trade and Industry, but as the Constitution now stands we do not have the authority to plan ports. We cannot tell various bodies what they should or should not do.
The honourable member for Newcastle said that to Government supporters ‘planning’ is a dirty word. It is not a dirty word to me. The phrase ‘planning’ is basically a red herring drawn across a controversy. It depends what one is planning, why one is planning a certain project, how the project is to operate, and other factors. No one supports planning of the kind which plans rigidly for years ahead and assumes that there will be no technical change while the plans are being carried out. No one wants planning of the kind which seeks to push human beings around or ‘ignores the fact that human beings are very curious people with differing ideas and conflicting policies. Planning has to be sensible. Planning is done on a large scale by the Department of Trade and Industry, by my Department, by every other department and by the Government as a whole. The question is really one of what you are planning and how the plan will be put into operation rather than the word ‘planning’ itself. This is just to play with particular terms.
The honourable member for Canning again laid stress on ports and port efficiency. This is a matter of very great importance to us. The planning for containerisation, which everyone says is so simple, is no such thing. For instance, on at least one shipping line plying between Sweden and the United States it has been found that unitised cargoes are more economically handled by this means than by containerisation, even if a somewhat longer stay in port is involved. It is a complex business and it is changing. There is much money involved and the number of brains being applied to the problem today in different countries is considerable. They will come up with all kinds of new wrinkles. So this issue is not really susceptible to long term planning except with many provisos and allowances for future changes.
I am sorry to see that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin), having unloaded his cargo, has discharged himself. It is a pity that he does not have one of the memory devices to which he referred. If he had one he would not have needed to read the speech provided. However, I will say that his speech was completely audible throughout. Reference was made - and I think quite rightly, but perhaps only in passing and not in direct relevance to this particular legislation - to the expansion of the Australian National Line. I think we all would like to see expansion of the Australian shipping industry. We all have national ambitions but the Australian National Line can expand effectively only when it can run its cargoes through to overseas ports at a reasonable cost and on an economic basis.
One of the great clogs on the whole shipping system is the behaviour over the years of the Seamen’s Union of Australia. If for reasons not industrial but peculiarly political to themselves the merchant seamen of this country will not man particular ships bound for particular places and for those purely political reasons unconnected with industrial reasons are to down tools and walk off, the future chances of an Australian overseas shipping line are extremely dim. This is one factor which has to be changed over a period of time. The Seamen’s Union chooses leaders who make the expansion of the Australian National Line a matter of some considerable doubt. We all have to face up to this serious matter.
No one is opposed to the Bill. On the whole, I think most of the speeches in this debate have been moderate and sensible. We hope that the current discussions will lead to new kinds of arrangements in the future and therefore may be considered as something of a stop gap measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
When will a redistribution of Federal electoral divisions take place?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Prime Minister announced in Parliament on 23 February 1967, that there will be a redistribution of the States into electoral divisions during the life of the Twenty-sixth Parliament.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice:
What negotiations have been held or arrangements made with Western Australia concerning inundation and irrigation in the Northern Territory in consequence of the Ord River Scheme since his predecessor’s answer to me on 28 March 1963?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No negotiations have been held or arrangements made between the Northern Territory Administration and Western Australia concerning inundation and irrigation in the Northern Territory in consequence of the Ord River Scheme since Mr Hasluck’s answer to you on 28 March 1963. However some technical discussions have been held between officers of the Northern Territory Administration and the Western Australian Department of Agriculture concerning agronomic aspects of cotton growing in the Ord region.
Australian Servicemen in Vietnam (Question No. 86)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
2 and 3-
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many assisted migrants have been brought to Australia by:
air transport during the past twelve months?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the financial year 1965/66, 45,243 assisted migrants travelled to Australia by sea and 43,947 by air.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
For Chinese and Japanese there is an additional grade of allowance beyond Grade A for those officers who qualify at the British Foreign Office advanced examinations. This allowance amounts to $700 per annum.
The standards of fluency required for each grade are as follows:
Since the Department’s language scheme came into operation in 1961, officers of the Department have qualified at examinations prescribed by the Public Service Board for Asian languages as follows:
There is no present test for Grade A proficiency in Indonesian. Six officers have qualified at Grade B. That is, they have passed the examination set at the R.A.A.F. School of Languages at Point Cook at the completion of a year’s full-time study. After reaching Djakarta, graduates from Point Cook advance to a standard well beyond Grade B as defined above.
At the present time a Chinese speaker and a Japanese speaker are serving respectively in Hong Kong and Tokyo, while three graduates in Indonesian from Point Cook are serving in Djakarta. It should be noted, too, that some officers with a good knowledge of an Asian language have not taken the examination to qualify for an allowance. For this, and other reasons, the foregoing information does not present a complete picture of the extent to which staff of Australian missions in Asia speak the language of the country concerned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670314_reps_26_hor54/>.