26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Postmaster-General determined to dispose of Wireless Hill, Ardross, against the wishes of the Western Australian Government, and of the Melville Town Council which desires to preserve it as a public parkland? Does he not agree that to sell this land privately would be an abuse of Commonwealth power and against the spirit of town planning? Would it not be a good principle for this land, now held by the Commonwealth, to revert to the State now that it is no longer required for the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, particularly as it stands unjustifiably in the way of town planning? Was this principle not adopted when Point Peron was returned to the State in 1964 at no more than the Commonwealth Government paid for it? What justification is there for destroying a civic asset by selling this land at a profit because its value has increased due to local government development?
– A few days ago I answered a question about this matter asked by the honourable member for Perth. I indicated that the land was owned by a statutory authority, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. No submission has been made to me by that authority in regard to the matter. When a submission is made, it will receive full consideration by the Government and by me as the responsible Minister.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development. I refer to a statement reported to have been made by him indicating support for the principle of using natural gas to assist the decentralisation of industry. Is the Minister aware that the proposed pipeline to carry natural gas from the Moomba-Gidgealpa field to Adelaide will bypass the industrial cities at the head of Spencer Gulf? Will he say whether the Commonwealth would consider granting financial assistance to South Australia for the construction of a branch pipeline to serve this area and so assist the development of these industrial cities.
– The routing of a pipeline in any State is a matter entirely within the constitutional responsibility of that State. The South Australian Government had the benefit of a report by a world-wide authority, the Bechtel Corporation of the United States of America, on the routing of the pipeline between the MoombaGidgealpa field and Adelaide. No doubt that authority, when it made its report, took into account likely additional markets that could be obtained by any variation of the route to be selected. The Commonwealth looked very sympathetically at the request of the South Australian Government and was able to assist it in the financing of this pipeline. I stress that the actual route to be adopted in the distribution of gas within a State is a matter entirely for the Government of that State.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Are the reports dealing with the development of Mascot Airport correct? If changes have been made in the original plan can the Minister inform the House of the nature of the changes and whether they will involve additional expenditure? If an increase in expenditure is involved, will it be large enough to warrant the project being referred to the Standing Committee on Public Works? Is it expected that the changes will result in the completion date being extended? Is the New South Wales Government behind schedule in its obligation to develop the expressway that is a part of the overall plan? Is the development of Tullamarine Airport on schedule?
– I am afraid I have not read all the reports that have been published on this matter, so I cannot say whether they are all correct. It is true, of course, that a considerable amount of attention has been given to this problem both by the Department of my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, and my own Department. The position now is that the tender for the supply of the piles has been let. Tenders for the erection of the frame of the building are under consideration. We hope to be able to let them towards the end of this week. I do not know whether it will be possible to conform exactly to that timetable, but that is our present intention. I am afraid that I was not able to catch all the points in the rather long question. 1 would say, however, that although we may be a little behind at this stage we hope to be able to catch up with the programme during the next stage of the development of Mascot.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. When the Commonwealth Public Service Act was amended last year to remove the marriage bar, the Minister intimated that this reform would also be introduced in Commonwealth instrumentalities generally. Can he say what progress has been made in this matter, particularly in the Commonwealth Banking Corporation?
– To my knowledge, action has been taken in a number of instrumentalities. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission have already amended their terms and conditions of employment. I heard yesterday from the Acting Minister for Health that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission and the Canberra Community Hospital have modified their arrangements to make this change. In a number of instrumentalities there is a general clause in their terms and conditions of employment adopting public service conditions. This means that the removal of the marriage bar was automatic. An Act of Parliament is needed to alter the employment conditions of a number of other instrumentalities, including the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. Honourable members will have noticed last week when the Broadcasting and Television Bill was introduced that it made provision for the removal of the bar against the employment of married women. I know that the previous Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation was most anxious to make the change in the terms and conditions of employment of his organisation.
However I am not sure how far this has gone. The Reserve Bank has been free from the start to apply its own staff conditions and it has employed married women right from the beginning of its operations. However if the honourable member will put an appropriate question on the notice paper, either the Prime Minister or I will supply a complete up to date answer to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Is it correct, as reported in last week’s Melbourne Press, that the headquarters of an efficient carstripping gang has been located at an Army apprentices . school in Victoria? If the reports are correct, will the Minister explain particularly having in mind the recent theft of machine guns from an Army camp, how at a time when we have troops actively engaged in war and in consequence when Army security and discipline should be at the highest possible level, serious happenings such as these continue to occur?
– On the information available to me the reports that appeared in the Press last week were substantially correct. These incidents took place at the Army Apprentices School at Balcombe. The reports are all the more disturbing because the age of the apprentices involved would be between fifteen and nineteen years. Up to the present time the police have been conducting their own inquiries and the Army has been co-operating fully. I understand that once charges have been framed - as honourable members will appreciate this is the police side of the investigation and it has not yet been finalised - they will be heard in a special court at Frankston. Meanwhile, now that the police investigation is completed an Army inquiry has been begun to try to discover how such a situation was able to develop at Balcombe. I regard this very seriously indeed. The membership of that inquiry will involve two people from Army headquarters - one from the Directorate of Legal Services and one from the Directorate of Military Training - and other persons from Southern Command. The purpose of this particular inquiry is, as honourable members will understand, slightly different from the aim of the police inquiry. The police inquiry and investigations were designed to show what offences have been committed and who should or should not be charged. Their inquiry was directed to the particular incidents. The Army inquiry will be directed to ascertaining how such a situation was able to develop without those at the school or in charge of the school becoming aware of the situation. If any remedial action is shown to be necessary as a result of the inquiries it will be taken without delay.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Can he tell me whether a request for financial assistance has been received from the Queensland State Government seeking help for local government authorities in northern Queensland affected by recent heavy flooding in their reconstruction and rehabilitation programmes for damaged roads and bridges? If so, will the Treasurer say what stage consideration of this request has reached?
– The Queensland Government submitted a request to the Prime Minister for assistance covering many of its activities. Amongst the requests was one for help in the physical reconstruction of roads, bridges and other similar public utilities which had bien damaged in the recent floods. We have already written to the Queensland Government agreeing to some of the proposals put by it; we have said that in the case of replacement of Government assets we shall contribute on an equal basis with t’v: Queensland Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. The Minister will be aware that recent judgments given by Fair Rents Boards in New South Wales, under the direction of the Liberal Government, have substantially increased the rents paid by age pensioners, especially those living in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. Married pensioners’ rents have been increased from S9.I0 to $13 a week. As this leaves these unfortunate people with only SI 0.50 a week on which to exist and adds another section of thi community to the ever-growing lists of persons living in poverty, will the Minister submit to Cabinet immediately a recommendation to pay these unfortunate couples supplementary assistance to relieve their financial burden?
– I am aware that the system of fair rents which existed under the New South Wales Labor Government when it was in office was one of the most inequitable systems operating throughout Australia. However, as to the specific reference which the honourable gentleman made to applications by individuals for supplementary assistance to help them to meet increased rentals, he will already be aware that a system of supplementary assistance is available for persons with a certain range of entitlements. It is true that this assistance is available to a married couple only when the wife receives a wife’s allowance. I shall consider the honourable gentleman’s question in the general context of other requests which will be made to the Government and taken into account during the Budget analysis.
– 1 direct my question to the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. With the Kennedy Round of negotiations having reached certain conclusions regarding the price of wheat, is the Minister in a position to indicate to the House what effect this will have on the wheat industry in Australia and on our economy as a whole? If not, will he make a statement on this all important subject at a very early date?
– I understand that the Prime Minister intends to make some statement about the Kennedy Round at a later hour this day. Consequently I think I should leave the content of the honourable gentleman’s question until then for a full analysis. However, I shall be happy at a later date to furnish details of the reasons for the application by Australia for an increase in the basic price of wheat beyond that presently existing under the International Wheat Agreement.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of discriminatory practices operated by employers in the employment of persons suffering from epilepsy and by assurance companies in the issue of life policies to epileptics? Also, is he aware of discrimination against such people who apply for permanent positions in the Public Service and for admission to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, in spite of common knowledge that the affliction can be controlled effectively by drugs? Will he give a statement of Government policy concerning its leadership in the employment of persons so handicapped?
– Some time ago when I was Minister for Labour and National Service I had a considerable part to play with my Department in attempting to place in employment people who, through one cause or another, suffered some disability. Much success was then achieved and has since been achieved through the work of that Department and the co-operation of employers, both Government and private. I cannot give the honourable member immediately an answer to the particular matters on which he now addresses questions. I shall have the details of the questions examined and give him as complete a reply as I can as quickly as possible.
– In addressing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health I refer to the economic survey being conducted by an independent research organisation, Associated Industrial Consultants, on national health service pharmacy earnings, the costs of which survey, I understand, are being shared equally by the Government and the Federated Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia. I ask the Minister: When was this survey commissioned and when will it be completed? Have delays occurred in completing the survey and, if so, what has been the reason for such delays? Is the Minister aware of criticism by the Pharmaceutical Guild that the findings of the survey should have been available some time ago and that the Government has been accused of embarking on deliberate delaying tactics?
– Although the contract was finalised on 21st September 196S there has not been any real delay in the submission of the report by the consultants. There has been constant contact between the Department of Health and the consultants.
I understand that the consultants have indicated that a number of chemists have not so far returned the questionnaire forms which were submitted to them for completion. Of course, until this is done, obviously the report cannot be finalised. I am not aware of any official criticism being directed by the Guild against the Government in this field. I think we must understand that the Guild and the Commonwealth are partners in this survey. In fact, they have equal representation on the joint committee on pharmaceutical benefits pricing arrangements, of which there is an independent chairman. So the Guild has equal access to the policy covering the survey and is in contact with the consultants during the period of the survey just the same as is the Department of Health. I will take the matter up further with the Department to see whether there is any way in which it can be expedited at this stage.
– Will the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities obtain from the Minister for the Interior a copy of the film From the Tropics to the Snow’ for use in advertising campaigns in overseas countries to attract more tourists to Australia?
– I do not think that will be necessary because I have seen this particular film, and I judge from the honourable member’s remarks that he would agree with my appraisal of it that it is a first class well produced film, and the Australian National Travel Association, as I understand it, already has a copy of it. I have noted that one of the first activities of the Commission, when appointed, will be to acquire films of this quality for the very purpose the honourable gentleman suggests.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General. Yesterday I telephoned the Parliamentary Library from Sydney and asked whether the Library would prepare for me a photo copy of certain pages that I specified - about half a dozen - in the minutes of evidence relating to the ‘Voyager’ Royal Commission. I was informed later that this could not be done without the permission of the
Attorney-General. Am I to understand that any impediment, as this was, is to be pui in the way of an honourable member of this House wishing to inform his mind on this matter in the most convenient way?
– The rule regarding papers of which the Crown has copyright has been a long standing rule, and I am sure the honourable member for Bradfield is aware of it, or at least ought to have been aware of it. The practice that is frequently followed is for an application to be made to me for consent to obtain photo copies of such material, and this is readily given, particularly where an honourable member is concerned. I may further add that if an application for my consent was made by the honourable member for Bradfield or by anybody on his behalf, there would have been no difficulty at all. No approach was made. Finally, I may perhaps give the assurance that these are matters which will bc dealt with to some degree in the new copyright Bill which it is hoped to present at an early time to this Parliament.
– My question, addressed to the Postmaster-General, is supplementary to an earlier question about Wireless Hill at Ardross in Western Australia. The Postmaster-General left an area of doubt in my mind in his reply. Can the Overseas Telecommunications Commission dispose of the land without referring the matter to him? Will he get in touch with the authority and advise the House what the plans are? I am particularly interested in the first part of the question about whether the land can be disposed of without the matter being referred to the Postmaster-General for approval.
– I indicated that I had answered a question by the honourable member for Perth a few days ago. I indicated then that any sale of land beyond $40,000 would require the Minister’s consent. I thought that when I replied a few moments ago to the honourable member for Stirling I gave sufficient indication that this was broadly a matter of policy and that this was not the time to deal with policy matters. I will still carry out the promise that I made to the honourable member for Stirling.
– I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation a question relating to announcements in Che Press today about feeder or commuter air services. On what basis will licences be granted for these services? Will conditions be applied that will ensure reasonable continuity of operations?
– The conditions will be clearly set out and will be available for applicants to study. Fairly involved technical definitions are included. As there are only about twenty minutes of question time left J would not like to go into the details at this stage. 1 am not one to take up the time of the House unduly. However, I will prepare for circulation : document setting out the specifications anil detailed requirements for the type of aircraft and associated matters, including airport facilities. The method of processing applications is a simple one. Already we have received a number of applications in advance and we expect that we shall receive quite a few more in the near future. They will be processed by my Department first. In respect of those in the State of New South Wales, it will be necessary also to obtain a licence from the Department of Government Transport. An application for such a licence will be a corollary to the one made to the Commonwealth. All applications will be handled as expeditiously as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether amendments made in 1965 to the British Merchant Shipping Act repealed the sections of that Act which related to the computing of the tonnage of all ships registered in the United Kingdom and Australia. Did United Kingdom Statutory Instrument No. 172 of 1967, relating to merchant shipping tonnage registration for 1967, come into force on 1st March 1967? Does this now mean that no legislation or regulations cover the computing of the tonnage of ships registered in Australia, and that all ships at present under construction in Australian shipyards will have no legal tonnage? Does the absence of such legislation place Australian shipping at a distinct disavantage by comparison with foreign-owned shipping? In the event of a serious shipping accident will considerable confusion follow, particularly in regard to insurance claims and entitlement? In view of the numerous references to tonnage in the Bill to amend the Navigation Act which is at present on the notice paper, when does the Government intend to introduce an amendment to the Navigation Act or to promulgate a regulation to correct this serious omission?
– As the honourable gentleman has raised a number of important matters, I will treat his question as being on the notice paper and will give him a considered reply.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, relates to the treaty concluded between the Republic of Indonesia and the United Nations regarding the future of West Irian and the provision in the Treaty whereby that future shall be determined by an act of ascertainment. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether the form of the act of ascertainment has yet been settled. Is there any evidence that the Government of Indonesia is seeking to resile from its obligation under the Treaty?
– The Government of Indonesia has said on more than one occasion that it will honour its obligations under the treaty. The most recent statement to that effect was made by the Indonesian Foreign Minister within the last five or six weeks. We have to accept, and we do accept, those statements at their face value and place our confidence in the good faith of the Indonesian Government by accepting that it will carry out its obligations under the treaty. So far as I am aware, the exact procedures that will be followed in making this act of ascertainment have not been declared plainly by the Indonesian Government.
SEAMEN’S COMPENSATION Mr WHITLAM - I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. The honourable gentleman will remember that when amendments to the Seamen’s Com pensation Act were being debated in November 1964 I drew his attention to the exclusion of masters, mates, engineers and radio officers from the definition of ‘seaman’ in the Act and the consequence that their dependants cannot receive compensation under the Act and may not be able to sue for it under awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission since they are not parties to such awards. I ask him whether he has been informed that in a suit brought by the widow of an engineer who died from burns on the tanker ‘R. W. Miller’ the insurer has contested the jurisdiction of the court on the ground that I had suggested. In any case, has he taken or initiated any action to fill this gap in the compensation laws which this Parliament could pass under its powers in the field of interstate trade and commerce?
– I was not aware of the precise case which the Leader of the Opposition has mentioned. 1 will inquire into it. So far as my recollection goes, the masters, mates and engineers were excluded originally at their request from the provisions of the Seamen’s Compensation Act. We are now in the process of ascertaining whether they wish to be included amongst those covered by the Act.
– Can the Minister for the Interior tell the House the procedure adopted for the disposal of land . declared surplus to Commonwealth requirements and whether this procedure varies according to whether the land was originally Crown land or land acquired from private owners?
– There is quite a procedure involved in disposing of Commonwealth land. It generally commences with a department having surplus land making it available to my Department. We then seek advice from all other Commonwealth departments as to whether there is a use for it. If there is no such use we generally seek out the previous owner of the land. Whether the land was acquired from him by agreement or by compulsion we ask him whether he would like to re-purchase it. If he does not require it it is offered to State governments or to local authorities. If local government authorities want the land for recreational purposes - for limited purposes - we usually conduct negotiations and let them have it at concessional prices lower than those placed on the land by Commonwealth valuers. If State and local government authorities have no use for the land it is made available to the public by auction or tender.
l>r J. F. CAIRNS - I direct a question to the Prime Minister or the Minister for External Affairs. Has either of these right honourable gentlemen noted the warnings issued and appeals for caution made by U Thant, the Pope and other world leaders and the fears expressed that there is a danger of the conflict in Vietnam developing into a world war? If so. does he consider the danger sufficiently great to make a similar statement on behalf of the Australian Government? If not. why will he not take this course of action?
– As I think every member of the House is aware the risks of escalation in the conflict in Vietnam have been constantly in the thoughts of the Australian Government and the United States Government and the other allies involved in the conflict. The conduct of the war has been managed in such a way as to lessen as far as possible the risk of any such escalation. We have, of course, noticed the recent statements by the Secretary-General of the United States and by His Holiness the Pope. Our only comment on those statements is that they have perhaps missed the central point of the attempts to terminate the war, and that is the persistent unwillingness of Hanoi to enter into discussions of any kind. The readiness to discuss which has been shown on what I hope 1 can call our side has, unfortunately, not been matched by a similar readiness for discussion on the other side.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. In view of the announcement made last weekend regarding an Australian industry development corporation, may we assume that two corporations now will be established primarily for developmental purposes? Will the scope and effectiveness of the bankers development refinance cor poration be limited or restricted if two new borrowing and lending authorities are established?
– I heard the question addressed to my colleague, the Treasurer. 1 shall answer it, but 1 am afraid 1 was indulging in an aside to my colleagues behind me. As 1 understand the honourable gentleman, he has asked what stage Cabinet consideration has reached in relation to the two proposals that have been canvassed for financial assistance in the direction of Australian development of resources.
– Two corporations were mentioned, one a refinance corporation and the other an Australian industry development corporation.
– Some time ago the Treasurer made detailed announcements regarding the corporation comprising the trading banks. As to the other matter, 1 would like to make it cleat that although this has received a good deal of Cabinet consideration and although Cabinet has shown an interest in the proposal and has asked the Minister for Trade and Industry and his Department to pursue various aspects which seem to us to contain difficulties, no decision as to the matter of principle or as to the final outcome of our considerations has yet been taken by the Cabinet. The matter is still receiving the active consideration of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Treasury and other interested departments. Cabinet consideration has not yet reached the stage where we can say publicly that we have taken a decision either in principle or on the scheme as a whole.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. Has the Australian Government or, to the Minister’s knowledge, any government, made representations to Indonesia concerning what appear to be pogroms directed against members of the Chinese business community in Indonesia and their dependants? If not, how does the Australian Government regard these events? What effect are they having on expatriate Chinese communities in Singapore. Malaysia, the Philippines and South East Asia generally?
– It is a fact that in the resentment following the unsuccessful attempt at a Communist takeover in Indonesia and the defeat of the attempted coup, there was a good deal of bloodshed and demonstrations were directed against the Communists and the Chinese nationals in Indonesia. Unfortunately a great number of deaths occurred. Following those incidents one has seen continuing signs of resentment against persons of Chinese racial origin in Indonesia. As a Government we regret that there should be demonstrations of this kind. I have discussed this matter with the Indonesian Foreign Minister and other representatives of Indonesia. My information is that although a great deal of suspicion regarding Chinese linked with Peking still remains, in recent times there have not been violent demonstrations or violent deeds against Chinese people in Indonesia. I am unaware of any marked effect that the events in Indonesia have had in Malaysia or in Singapore. This resentment primarily is against Peking and Communism and, allied with that, is a resentment against persons of the Chinese race. This is an element in present situations in many other parts of the Far East.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and refers to the special depreciation allowance for plant and machinery under section 57aa of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. The Treasurer will recall that I asked a question on this last month and he replied ‘at that time that he would be in a position to give me a firm answer in the near future. I now ask whether he is in a position to give an indication to the House as to the future of this concession.
– I remember the honourable gentleman asking me the question. Up to this moment I am not able to give him a reply. I will speak to officers of my Department immediately the House rises and see whether I can give him an answer at question time tomorrow.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories.
Did the Public Service Arbitrator for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea last week announce salary increases for indigenous public servants? If so, have the proposed increases been received with dismay and disappointment by many sections of the community in Papua and New Guinea? Has it even been suggested that the small increases in salary for indigenous public servants will cause a further deterioration in race relations in the Territory? Does the Government intend to run this risk or will action be taken to amend the judgment of the Arbitrator?
– There have been some extravagant comments about the decision of the Arbitrator in Papua and New Guinea. I would like to point out to the honourable member that as far back as 1962 a decision was made to form a framework for the localisation of the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea. Eventually this was put into force in 1 964 with a standard of wages and salaries related to the economy of Papua and New Guinea and separate from those operating in Australia. The honourable member must appreciate that we have given the people of Papua and New Guinea the opportunity to opt for self-determination whenever they consider that they are ready to do this. If they were to embark on selfdetermination and maintain a public service with a salary scale related to that of Australians, they would be in a very difficult budgetary situation. This has been the basis of our policy. We received an application from the Public Service Association of Papua and New Guinea for arbitration on this matter. Arbitration is the appropriate channel to iron out these difficulties.
The Association’s case began in October 1965 and was concluded about twelve months later. Thi Administration’s case began in April last year. In the interim the Administration proposed a general rise of salaries for the Public Service. Tha new salaries were put into operation in July last year and there was quite a substantial rise. Nevertheless, the case proceeded. The Administration’s case ceased in November last. During the hearing the Public Service Association put up 114 witnesses; so it had a full ventilation of its problems and its arguments for an increase. The Arbitrator decided upon an increase of probably about 10% overall. Honourable members must agree that it was a substantial increase. In countries which accept the Westminster form of government the umpire’s decision is always followed. In our elections the decision of the people is accepted.
– The umpire is always on the Government’s side. The Government appointed the umpire.
– I suggest that the honourable member should listen to this answer. In arbitration matters we have an arbitrator. I believe this to be the right approach. This is what has been done in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– by leave - I can tell the House that I have just been informed this morning by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) from Geneva that the DirectorGeneral of GATT has announced that agreement has been reached on the elements of a successful Kennedy Round. This is the outcome, as at present seen, of negotiations over some four years. Even on the limited information as yet available, it can be said to represent a major success in reducing barriers to world trade. As honourable members will know, this important series of negotiations was initiated by the late President John F. Kennedy with the objective of achieving a significant liberalisation of world trade covering all classes of products, both industrial and agricultural. It is in relation to agricultural products, of course, that Australia has been most concerned to achieve better trading conditions.
After the difficult negotiations of the past few weeks in Geneva, it is gratifying that the major traders of the world have been able so to reconcile their conflicting interests as to reach agreement on arrangements which offer benefits not only as between themselves but also to the less developed countries of the world, and, indeed, for world trade generally. I understand that the net effect of the Kennedy Round could be a reduction in tariffs in the industrialised countries of the order of 30 per cent covering trade to the value of some SUS40 billion. It is not yet possible to provide honourable members with full details of the overall settlement reached in Geneva. In fact, discussions on some items of importance to Australia are continuing. I can, however, say that with respect to one of our major export commodities - wheat - we have achieved more satisfactory arrangements than at various stages of negotiations seemed attainable. Agreement has been reached which will ensure that world wheat marketing will continue on an orderly basis and within the framework of internationally agreed rules of trading.
A new minimum price, some 20 cents per bushel above the minimum in the present International Wheat Agreement has been established. This in itself is a worthwhile gain. It establishes a new floor for world wheat prices. Of course at present we are selling our wheat above this level in world markets and we hope that we shall continue to do so. But it is reassuring to know that if a situation of world surpluses were to emerge, we have the protection of a higher and firmer floor price than we have had up to the present. Furthermore, the price arrangements are such as to retain Australia’s competitive position in world markets.
Another important element of the agreement on wheat is the acceptance by the developed countries including the European Economic Community, the United Kingdom and Japan, that they should share equitably with the wheat exporting countries the burden of providing food aid. This is a principle which Australia has been pressing ever since the commencement of the Kennedy Round negotiations. The new arrangement will mean that the food producing countries of the world will no longer be looked to alone in providing this food aid.
At this stage, I am not in a position to inform honourable members of the details of the negotiations on meat. Detailed discussions are in fact still proceeding in Geneva but our delegation is confident that valuable gains will be achieve in our meat trading arrangements. Moreover, in the totality of the Kennedy Round there will be other benefits which will assist a number of other Australian industries. Details of these benefits will be made available when the negotiations have been concluded.
It is the nature of international negotiations in which conflicting interests must be reconciled and a balance of advantage struck, that governments cannot achieve all their negotiating objectives. Nevertheless, what has been achieved in the Kennedy Round represents a real move forward in the whole area of international trade, and one from which Australia can expect to derive important trading benefits.
I am able to say from my own personal contact with these negotiations and with my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister, that Australia is again indebted to him for his customary competent leadership and negotiating capacity in these matters, ably assisted by Sir Alan Westerman and other members of the Australian delegation. I am sure their - efforts are appreciated by all members of the House.
– by leaveThe statement just made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) that the negotiations in the Kennedy Round have been very successful is one that this House welcomes. The results, should they in the end meet our requirements, are, I think, surprising. For a considerable time it looked as though there were great difficulties in the way of success in the Kennedy Round negotiations. I say now, as T said before, that Australia was well represented in these negotiations, both by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and by the Secretary of his Department. I extend to them my own congratulations, and I think those of my Party, for the part they have played in the negotiations.
The statement made by the Prime Minister can necessarily tell us very little at this stage. The statement raises many questions to which we will need answers. Just one that occurs to mc is that some agreement has been reached for a reduction of tariffs in the industrialised countries by. I think. 30%. If this is so. it may have very marked consequences for Australia. All I would say at this point is that it is a matter of very great importance, and it is important that all honourable members receive details of what has been decided and agreed to in Geneva as soon as possible. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he can make arrangements with the Minister for Trade and Industry as soon as possible to circulate to honour- able members during the recess any further information that can be made available about what has been agreed to in Geneva and what the consequences of this agreement might be.
Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins- Prime Minister) - by leave - May I just add this: 1 would not like the honourable gentleman either to have the impression himself or to leave the impression with honourable members that Australia has as part of these arrangements had to make substantial tariff concessions that would be in any way damaging to Australian industry. The impression that I have received from my colleague, with whom I have been in telephone conversation more than once over the week-end, has been that this is not the case. As has been pointed out, we have yet to receive all the necessary detail but I should not wish to give the impression that Australian industry faces serious difficulties as a result of these negotiations.
– Will the Prime Minister arrange for us to be notified?
– I have put the House in possession of all the information that I have.
– In the recess, when the Minister returns?
– I am sure the Minister for Trade and Industry himself will want to state the position fully cither from overseas as soon as he can, or when he returns. 1 expect him to be back shortly.
– by leave - I wish to remind honourable members that 1967 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which originally was known as the Imperial War Graves Commission. In a few days’ time, Australia will be represented by our High Commissioner in London at a special fiftieth anniversary meeting of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission presided over by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. In more than 23,700 burial places throughout the world are the graves of nearly one and three quarter million men and women of the former Imperial Forces who died in the two World Wars. Of these, more than 100,000 were Australians.
All who have visited any of the war cemeteries must have been moved by their beauty and by the care with which they are tended. The efforts of many are involved, and to them I extend our thanks - to the architects, engineers, builders and horticulturalists who have created these places and to the researchers who so far as is humanly practicable, have made sure that each man and woman who died in the cause of freedom in either of the two World Wars has been honoured by name. I am sure it is a matter of pride to us all that our honoured dead are cared for in this way. The Commission itself is a ‘Commonwealth’ body formed by the member countries of the Commonwealth to honour their dead of the two World Wars. Each war cemetery, each memorial, each individual grave is a tribute paid jointly by a united Commonwealth of Nations. We take pride in the fact that Australia is an active partner in this organisation.
In this year of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Commission, we place on record our very sincere appreciation of the work that has been carried out, and still continues. I have no doubt that this statement carries the support of all members of the House. I propose to send to the President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission a message in the following terms:
On behalf of the Parliament and people of Australia I would like to express to the Commonwealth War Craves Commission our sincere appreciation for the manner in which it is carrying out the task of commemorating and honouring the dead of the two World Wars and. to assure you of our continuing support and confidence in the future. On this fiftieth anniversary, the Commission can look back with a true sense of pride at its achievements over the years.
– by leave - On the evening of lOth February 1964 a naval exercise was in progress off the south coast of New South Wales. It was part of a general [work up programme, in which two ships of the Royal Australian Navy were taking part - the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne’ commanded by Captain R. J. Robertson and the Daring class destroyer HMAS ‘Voyager’ commanded by Captain D. H. Stevens.
Captain Robertson was in Tactical Command of the operations in which they were engaged. Aircraft were participating in touch-and-go exercises at night, in which the aircraft concerned touched down on the flight deck of the carrier and flew off without being arrested. The role of Voyager’ was to act as plane guard at what is known as plane guard station No. 1 on the port side of ‘Melbourne’ and at a bearing of 200 degrees relative to Melbourne’s’ course. Her task was to rescue the personnel of any aircraft which might accidentally enter the sea. Just before the collision, the night was clear but moonless. Visibility was approximately 20 miles. Winds were light and variable. Melbourne’ was darkened for night flying. She was showing dimmed bow lights at flight deck level, masthead obstruction lights and a number of lights in connection with flying operations. ‘Voyager’ had masthead obstruction lights and navigation lights. As ‘Melbourne’ ‘searched for the wind’ the two ships had executed a number of turns together before the turn in which ended in the collision. In these operations they were travelling at from 20 to 22 knots.
It must be stressed that naval manoeuvres at night in close company are inherently dangerous. This is the price of training for war in peace time. The fact that so few accidents do occur is a tribute to the skill and efficiency of naval personnel. Unfortunately, at 2056 hours Eastern Standard Time a collision occurred between ‘Melbourne’ and ‘Voyager’, resulting in the sinking of ‘Voyager’. As a result, 82 members of ‘Voyager’s’ crew lost their lives. Due in large measure to prompt and efficient rescue operations there were 232 survivors. Fortunately, no loss of life was sustained by Melbourne’.
The disaster raised questions of national consequence - questions of grave concern to every Australian. Eighty-two Australian lives had been lost, causing grief and suffering to hundreds of Australian families; a destroyer had been sunk and an aircraft carrier had been damaged. It was essential that a full and searching public inquiry should be held. The interests of the Royal Australian Navy. which has proud traditions of efficiency and safety, required it. The public interest demanded it. In the circumstances neither the Parliament nor the community would have considered a naval inquiry fully adequate. Accordingly, the Federal Government established a Royal Commission with Mr Justice Spicer presiding and with Mr J. W. Smyth, Q.C., and Mr Ian Sheppard as counsel to assist the Commissioner. Experienced senior counsel assisted by junior counsel appeared for the interested parties - the Department of the Navy, the dependants of the late Captain Stevens, commander of ‘Voyager’; the widow of Lieutenant Price, Officer of the Watch of the ‘Voyager’; and Captain Robertson, Commander of ‘Melbourne’, who had chosen to appear on his own behalf in the early stages of the inquiry.
Mr Justice Spicer was not only a judge of high standing; he was also widely experienced in courts of inquiry into both maritime and air accidents. Mr Smyth, Q.C., was a leading member of the New South Wales bar, with extensive experience in royal commissions. He was highly respected by the Bench and bar for his independence of mind and his integrity. The Royal Commission, which was appointed on 14th February 1964, was required by its terms of reference to inquire into and report upon the following matters:
The Commission sat for fifty-five days, heard the sworn testimony of 156 witnesses and received in evidence some 207 exhibits. Included in these exhibits were eight volumes of statements taken from officers and ratings from both vessels and fourteen volumes of questionnaires answered by officers and men of ‘Melbourne’. In the case of ‘Voyager’, there is a statement from every survivor. Strenuous efforts were made to seek out any person who might be able to throw any light on the disaster. The material was available to all parties associated with the Commission. The hearings were in public, except that security requirements dictated that some evidence should be taken in camera and the material in some exhibits should not be published.
The report of the Commissioner wa* delivered on 1.3th August 1964. So far as they relate to the collision, the findings of the Commissioner may be summarised as follows:
In his last reference to the difficulty of deciding who was responsible the Commissioner was, of course, not referring to the question of naval responsibility, which always rests upon the captain. He was referring to a determination of what act or omission was responsible for the actual occurrence. Since that report was delivered criticisms have been made of the conduct of the proceedings, the findings of the Commission and of the failure of counsel assisting the Commission to bring what is alleged to be material evidence before the Commission. I have examined with some care the proceedings before the Commission against the background of these criticisms and it is my intention today to answer these criticisms and in so doing to deal with the proposal put forward by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) that a select committee should be appointed to inquire again into the disaster.
Before dealing with the criticisms that have been made of the Commission may I remind honourable members that the Commission was a public inquiry and, I believe, the most searching public inquiry ever conducted into the operations of one of the Services in this country. It was a public inquiry because the Government then believed, and I now firmly believe, that the public would not accept anything less than a full public inquiry into a disaster of the magnitude of the ‘Voyager’‘Melbourne’ collision. The Commissioner selected was a highly respected judge of great ability and experience and there appeared before him experienced counsel of proven ability. The report was fully debated in this Parliament. I stress these matters because they lead me to the view that unless it can be shown that the findings of the Commissioner were not justified by the evidence presented to him or that reliable evidence is now available which was not brought before the Commission and which would materially affect the conclusions by the Commissioner, it would be quite wrong to re-open the inquiry.
It is, I believe, at the heart of this matter that the Commissioner found that responsibility for the collision lay with ‘Voyager’ in that she turned beyond 020 degrees and that the disaster could not have occurred had a constant and efficient watch been maintained on ‘Voyager’. On the evidence tendered to the Commission, these conclusions were clearly correct and, so far as I am aware, their correctness has not been the subject of subsequent criticism. The findings of the Commissioner regarding Captain Robertson, the Officer of Che Watch and the Navigation Officer of ‘Melbourne’ were also clearly justified by the evidence before the Commissioner. I should point out that the Commissioner’s finding regarding Captain Robertson was strongly supported by the evidence of Rear-Admiral Becher, his immediate superior, as to what he would have done in the circumstances. Up to the present time these findings remain undisturbed by the discovery of any fresh evidence.
After any major disaster followed by an inquiry, it is likely that various pieces of information will be brought to the attention of the authorities over a period of years. In fact no new evidence whatever bearing on these findings of Che Commission has been brought forward. The claim for a new inquiry now made rests not on the suggestion that fresh evidence has been discovered but on the suggestion that there was relevant evidence available at the time of the Commission which was not considered by the Commissioner and which would materially affect the correctness of the Commissioner’s findings. That suggestion, which has been put forward by the honourable member for La Trobe, arises out of a statement which has been made to the honourable member by a former officer of Voyager’ who served in that ship under the command of Captain Stevens in 1963 and resigned from the active list of the Navy some weeks before the events of 10th February 1964. The additional claim is made that the principal features of the statement were corroboratedby another naval officer to Mr Smyth,Q.C., senior counsel assisting the Commission.
The honourable member for La Trobe has made available to the Government a copy of that statement. I have a copy which is marked ‘Confidential’. I have examined it closely in order to ascertain its relevance to the terms of reference of the Commission and with a view to assessing its significance in relation to the findings of the Commission. I do not propose to table the statement or to refer to its contents in detail. In no sense am I prepared to vouch for the truth of the allegations contained in it. Indeed, from information in my possession, the correctness of the author’s account of a number of incidents referred to in the statement is denied by the very man who, according to the author, is in a position to corroborate it. However, in order to deal with the question it is necessary for me to refer in a general way to the contents of the statement, and this I do with considerable reluctance, for reasons which will be obvious.
Before doing so I should mention that this statement was not before’ counsel for the Commission at the time. Certainly they interviewed the author of the statement on the basis of two much shorter statements - one a record of an oral statement taken by a police officer and one a handwritten statement by the author. I have copies of these two short statements and it is my intention to table them at the conclusion of my statement. In the course of the interview with the author counsel questioned him and were told some but not all of the matters which now appear in the much longer statement presented to the Government by the honourable member for La Trobe. The matters which counsel were told were broadly of a -similar character to those now appearing in the longer statement. In addition counsel -interviewed the witness who, it was claimed would corroborate the allegations made to counsel. In fact he did not corroborate them.
Turning now to the recent longer statement made available to the Government by the honourable member for La Trobe, may I say that it recounts various incidents which it is alleged took place whilst Captain Stevens was in command of ‘Voyager’ in the year 1963. The statements reflects adversely on Captain Stevens in two respects. First, it deals with Captain Stevens’ drinking habits and alleges that he frequently drank to excess during the period of time that he was in command of ‘Voyager’. Secondly, it alleges, although it is somewhat equivocal in this respect, that Captain Stevens’ handling of ‘Voyager’ left something to be desired, that his record in this respect was not unblemished and that for the most part he left the handling of the vessel to his Navigation Officer.
The allegations in the statement concerning Captain Stevens’ drinking habits do not, of course, relate to the night of the collision. They relate to occasions in a previous year. As honourable members will recall, evidence was tendered to the Commission on the issue whether Captain Stevens was affected by intoxicating liquor on the night of the collision. Evidence was given by Steward Hyland that he served Captain Stevens with a triple brandy after dinner, one and a half hours before the collision. And evidence was given by Professor Blackburn, an eminent physician, who is Professor of Medicine at Sydney University, based on an analysis of a blood sample taken from the body of Captain Stevens, which was recovered. The Professor’s evidence was that Captain Stevens was neither under the influence of intoxicating liquor nor were his reactions slowed or otherwise affected at the time of the collision. He concluded that it was not possible to suggest that Captain Stevens had significant effects from alcohol at that time. In arriving at his conclusion Professor Blackburn relied on the percentage of alcohol in the blood disclosed by the analysis. This was .025%. It is generally accepted that a level of alcohol in the blood below .05% establishes that the subject is not affected by intoxicating liquor. To this evidence, which was treated by the Royal Commission and all parties before the Royal Commission as conclusive upon the subject, may be added the evidence of those survivors from ‘Voyager’ who were able to speak of activities on the bridge before the collision. They were unanimous in saying that everything appeared to be normal that evening. The evidence before the Commission, therefore, positively established that Captain Stevens was not affected or slowed in his reactions by alcohol at the time of the accident.
It has nevertheless been suggested that the author of the statement informed Counsel assisting the Commission of his allegations concerning Captain Stevens’ drinking habits and that Counsel should have called him to give that evidence. It is true that Counsel were informed by the author of the statement of some of the details which he now gives of Captain Stevens’ drinking habits, but Counsel concluded, and in my view their conclusion was entirely correct, that evidence that Captain Stevens was intoxicated on past occasions was not relevant. It was, of course, relevant to establish whether Captain Stevens was intoxicated or not at the time of the accident, but it is a very sound principle, that evidence that a man was intoxicated on one or more previous occasions is not evidence that he was intoxicated on some other occasion. And as I have already remarked the fact that Captain Stevens was not intoxicated at the critical time was positively established by scientific evidence. It is worth noting that other parties before the Commission were aware of the allegations about Captain Stevens’ drinking habits. None of them saw fit to call that evidence. In justice to the relatives of Captain Stevens and to the author of the statement I should say that the author does not suggest in his statement that he ever observed Captain Stevens drink to excess at sea. The incidents of which he speaks were occasions when he alleges that Captain Stevens drank- excessivley when he was not at sea. Indeed, he asserts that Captain Stevens did not to his knowledge ever take alcohol whilst at sea.
There is one further point I wish to make about these allegations concerning Captain Stevens’ drinking habits, and to my mind it is a decisive point. Honourable members will -recall that the Commissioner found that the responsibility for the collision lay with ‘Voyager’. Even if, contrary to the views that I have expressed, evidence was available to establish that Captain Stevens was intoxicated on the night in question, that evidence would not affect the finding of the Commissioner that responsibility for the collision lay with ‘Voyager’. Nor could it affect the finding of the Commissioner that Captain Robertson should have given a warning when he realised that a collision was imminent or the findings that Commander Kelly and SubLieutenant Bate did not keep an efficient watch, this evidence therefore could not assist the living and if we engage on a new inquiry based on these allegations, we engage in a pursuit of the dead.
This brings me to a consideration of the second aspect of the statement produced to the Government by the honourable member for La Trobe. It is the allegation that Captain Stevens was inconsistent in his ship handling. It is suggested that Captain Stevens left the handling of the ship to his Navigation Officer for the most part, but that when Captain Stevens was handling the ship personally she had narrowly missed two collisions and on another occasion had collided with HMAS ‘Vampire* when coming alongside. It is always difficult to assess the admissibility of evidence of this type at a general inquiry. Inevitably it carries the consequence, if it is admitted, that a separate inquiry has to be held into each of the incidents to establish the truth or falsity of the particular allegations. All witnesses to each of the incidents have to be called and it becomes difficult to set practical limits to the general inquiry. These were amongst the reasons which led counsel assisting the Commission not to lead evidence of this type against any officer involved in the collision. In any event it is clear that, if the evidence had been called and the allegations had been proved, this could not have affected the finding that the ‘Voyager’ was at fault. Nor could it have affected the findings adverse to the three officers on the bridge of ‘Melbourne’.
As I have indicated earlier, it may be added that counsel assisting the Commission interviewed the Navigation Officer who was on ‘Voyager’ at the times of these alleged incidents. They were informed by him that he was unable to confirm the allegations and that in important respects he regarded them as being inaccurate. The Navigation Officer has subsequently confirmed that this is what he told counsel and has asserted the correctness of what he told counsel. Indeed, statements have been obtained from other persons who would be in a position to corroborate the allegations, if they are true. Yet in each instance they have denied the correctness of the allegations.
The matters to which I have referred are sufficient, I suggest to dispose of the contention that the findings of the Commission were incorrect and that there is available evidence the effect of which would be to alter those findings. May I now turn to another criticism that has been made of the conduct of the proceedings before the Commission? It has been said that, before giving evidence before the Commission, Professor Blackburn discussed the matter with the Commissioner in his private chambers and that this suggestion is confirmed by a reading of the transcript of evidence. This is indeed a serious allegation but I am glad to say that there is no substance in it. The suggestion arises out of an interpretation of the transcript taken when Professor Blackburn was giving his evidence. In evidence he read a report that he had made to Mr Smyth. During the course of his reading he interpolated by way of comment to the Commissioner the remark:
This is a report to Mr Smyth, your Honour.
The next sentence of Professor Blackburn’s evidence commences:
I was informed in your office that Stevens was used to taking this quantity of alcohol . . .
It has been suggested that the reference to ‘your office’ is a reference to the Judge’s chambers. In fact Professor Blackburn was continuing to read from the report that he had made to Mr Smyth and the reference to ‘your office’ is then clearly understood to be a reference to Mr Smyth’s chambers. The correctness of this explanation is plain to demonstration when the written report of Professor Blackburn is compared with the transcript of his evidence.
In the result I have come to the conclusion that the claims now made and the criticisms offered of the proceedings of the Commission would not in my view warrant the holding of a further inquiry. This conclusion rests not upon any technical view of the matter but on a substantial assessment of the correctness of the Commission’s findings, the regularity of its proceedings and a consideration of that evidence. Mr Acting Speaker, the purpose of my statement has been to record the salient facts and to outline the Government’s approach to this matter. The Government has been prompt to provide this opportunity for debate which should enable honourable members to form their own judgment on the matter. May I be permitted to remind honourable members that only the public interest will justify the introduction in this House of matter which is hurtful to individuals and that the families of those who died deserve our continued consideration. The reputations of the dead as well as of the living are in our hands. May I offer the suggestion that we must be on our guard against reopening matters which are merely likely to provoke sensationalism or which will in no way advance the interests of the nation?
Mr Acting Speaker, I present the following papers:
Loss of H MAS Voyager -
Ministerial Statement, 16 May 1967 -
Copy of record of interview by Police Sergeant Turner with Peter Thomas Cabban, of 45 Robert Street, Willoughby;
Copy of statement by Peter Thomas Cabban– and move:
That the House take note of the Ministerial Statement.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) finishing his speech.
– I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) for the motion which he proposed, and 1 thank the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) for the courtesy that he has extended to me in this matter. Also, I thank the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) for providing me with a copy of his speech at approximately 2 p.m. What I have to say is the truth, so far as I can bring it forward from my notes over a period of three years. The Attorney-General may say that in his opinion he thinks this and that, but I remind him that he was not here at the time of the ‘Voyager’ debate. Therefore, when he refers to the debate in the House, he does not recall the atmosphere in which it occurred. I assure the House that when I listened, as I am sure everybody else did this afternoon, to the prayers being read by Mr Acting Speaker, including the one that we should act for the true welfare of the people of Australia, indeed they struck home to me, as I am sure they did to members of the Ministry and all members of the House.
This afternoon the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) asked the Attorney-.General about difficulties he had in obtaining copies of transcripts. I assure the honourable member that early in 1965 when 1 went to the Library and I was in the midst of obtaining a copy of a transcript one of the senior librarians came to me and said that on Cabinet instruction members were not to take copies. 1 rang the Attorney-General, who was then Mr Snedden, about the matter, but it took me two or three days before I could get a copy of the transcript. Approximately a fortnight or three weeks ago, when I was hoping to get a copy of certain pages of the transcript, I had to ring the present Attorney-General about my requirement. Perhaps it is right that, when any member of the Parliament endeavours to look al anything to do with a trial or the transcript of a trial, he should have to take this action. I had to let those concerned know what pages I wanted. In other words, the query arose: ‘What are your moves? We want to have a look at them?’ I hope that I am not being unfair in drawing that inference, but I do support what the honourable member for Bradfield has said because this is indeed what happened to me over this period.
As to what the Attorney-General said about having statements or having seen statements from officers, let me say that over a period of three years I have not seen statements. I have seen the present Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp) and I saw the former Prime Minister and the former Minister for the Navy, and no statements were ever produced. Let me say also that when I and other members saw the present Minister for the Navy only about three weeks ago we could not be shown, or we were not shown, any statements by members of the Navy. I claim - because I have to protect my back; I do not worry about my headthat any Minister who quotes any statement should give the date on which these statements were made,, should say how the statement was obtained and should say whether it was made on oath. I intend to say something about this later on, but first let me proceed with my speech before I analyse what the Attorney-General has said.
Today it is obvious that this debate is what the Prime Minister said it would not be: It is a debate on whether a select committee of this House should be appointed to hear and sift impartially evidence given on oath. Whether the proceedings should be in camera or not I do not know. I would not be on the committee. Former Ministers for the Navy would not be on it. Members of this House related to admirals would not be on it. It should have no objective other than to find out the truth about the accident and determine whether an inquiry was made into the whole conduct of the Navy, as the former Prime Minister had said - and I will quote statements about the things the former Prime Minister said should be done. The Prime Minister has not yet made clear whether there will be a vote on this issue. Is he simply going to make a decision on what he hears? After all, he has heard it all before. I want to know, and I have not yet been able to find out, what the purpose of this debate is - unless it is to cruel what I have sought, which is the appointment of a select committee.
Today I stand in this House confronting my own Government. I follow in the debate the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, an eminent Queen’s Counsel, who is backed by his Department and by the Naval Board. I am conscious of the fact that what I am about to say must have relevance otherwise 1 can justly be accused of being careless and negligent, not only by my own Government but also by those people who have been affected by th tragedy of the ‘Voyager’ disaster. I should explain to the House that I have endeavoured over three years to keep this matter from coming into public debate. I have sought to have the Australian Government under both Sir Robert Menzies and the present Prime Minister review certain evidence which was given to the assistant to the Royal Commissioner at the ‘Voyager’ inquiry early in 1964, before the inquiry commenced, and which at no time was produced. While it is claimed that this matter has been investigated and the evidence rejected I am far from convinced that this is the case. I feel that whatever legal arguments have been put forward by the present Attorney-General or other AttorneysGeneral the fact remains that the information that was not given to the Royal Commissioner was, in my opinion, relevant to the accident.
I am still loyal to the Liberal Party. 1 support it and 1 support the Government. Tha
Prime Minister said last week that members of this House and of his party had the right to bring before the House matters which they felt should be raised, and I am exercising that right today. On a question of principle I had to make a decision as to the action I should take. Having had my submissions rejected by the Government, and having put them before my party, I feel it is now my duty to bring the matter to the final arbitrator, which must be this Parliament, the members of which sit here representing the people of Australia and not particular political parties. This should not be a party issue. This is an issue of justice. It is an issue which is above and beyond party politics.
Let me also say that I am on trial today. My action is not taken recklessly. I have endeavoured to seek guidance where I can. Whether my action is right or wrong I believe that ultimately a member of Parliament has a responsibility above and beyond his responsibility to government or party - that is, his responsibility to the people. I believe the basic principle of any democracy must be that justice is above politics and that justice must be above influence. The judicial system of this country must not be influenced by any person or any organisation, and any man or any matter that is being investigated must be treated fairly according to the law without fear or favour being shown to anyone. The little man in this country has rights which are in no way different from those of any other person or any government. This is, indeed, his most important protection.
The newspapers during the last months have carried headlines referring to new evidence which was not available to the Royal Commission. 1 make it clear now that what I have to offer is not new evidence. This was evidence that was given to the assistant to the Royal Commissioner. It is not the particular statement itself, as I will explain later, but a statement of an ex-officer of what he said, and adding further statements to enlarge on what he had said. It has never been claimed that it is a complete replica of the deposition he made. It was given to the former Prime Minister in 1965 and it was given to the present Prime Minister in 1966, and the charges contained therein have not, as far as I am concerned, yet been satisfactorily answered.
Suggestions have been made by some in this House, and possibly by some outside it, that I am acting only on behalf of Captain Robertson. I stated during the debate on the censure motion that Captain Robertson is my wife’s cousin, and I am proud of it. True, if I had not been related to him I would not, perhaps, have taken the close interest in this case that I have taken, and this whole matter would or could have been completely forgotten. But because I was brought into contact, and have been over many years, with naval officers, I have been able to talk to them and they have said many things to me; but it was not until certain information was given to me that I began to look at the case very closely and to check on details concerning it. Because it was not possible for me to raise the question in public of the failure to tender evidence, and the subject matter of that evidence - nor did I desire to do so - the only way I could keep the case from being completely closed was by continually referring to the injustice done to Captain Robertson.
I made it clear to the Prime Ministers and to everyone to whom I have spoken about the matter that the issues in this case, in order of importance, are are follows: Whether the things that the former Prime Minister said should be done were done; whether the Naval Board and the Government acted to suppress evidence that could be considered relevant, and, if this evidence was relevant, whether the Government or the Naval Board allowed an officer to be promoted to the rank of captain while knowing his condition or his weakness; and whether it allowed him to remain in command of a ship the result of which could have been - I am not saying it was - a collision involving the loss not only of the ship but also of eighty-two lives. Thirdly, and this is the least important point, if the suggestions inherent in those two questions are proved to be fact, it must follow that Captain Robertson, Commander Kelly and Lieutenant Bate were unjustly treated because in my view it is not sufficient to argue that although a large percentage of a trial was incorrectly carried out the results in respect of one or more persons would have been the same anyway. This in my book is a mockery of justice. The judicial system of this country must be 100% right or it is 100% wrong. You do not take the bits that suit you and throw out the bits that do not. Let me say, because some people may blame Captain Robertson for what I am doing, that he has not approved of my bringing forward this evidence which I intend to put before the House. Let me quote from a letter which I have received from Captain Robertson dated 1964. He wrote:
Herewith the Blackburn part of the transcript which I hope is all you want. 1 shall probably ring this evening but in case 1 don’t I think I ought to let you know my views about using Cabban and so on. There can be no percentage in doing anything publicly, this would not get them to change their mind about me, and only do the Navy as a whole more harm. On the other hand, anything you can do to bring pressure in private is fine and may well achieve something. Cabban rang me at home to ask me about this last night, and after I told him roughly what I had just said, he agreed to give everything to the Prime Minister or the full Cabinet or anyone else you think would like to hear it.
And who wanted to hear it? As far as I could ascertain nobody wanted to hear it. 1 will quote now from a letter from Captain Robertson dated 28th May 1965. I urge members of the Government and those who talk about the morale of the Navy to listen. The letter reads: a few further thoughts for you to consider before you decide about what to do. I don’t think there is any real hope of my being reinstated, these things just don’t happen. 1 don’t suppose, for example, that the Prime Minister allows any feeling of sympathy for me to influence his decisions, which must be primarily based on political grounds. If I were to be reinstated, there are several senior officers who would find it difficult to continue to serve, or if they did we would obviously have to accept private vendettas, which are not good for the Navy as a whole; and even if you take the view ‘to hell with them’ it would be a brave government that backed one officer (even were he Superman) against the administrations in general.
The letter continues:
So far as I am concerned you can do as you like, but I think it is worth considering the view that to make a public fuss about something that you know you cannot achieve is perhaps a pointless and fruitless exercise.
The Attorney-General said that no counsel had raised the matter of the evidence given by Blackburn. Cabban’s evidence was offered to Captain Robertson by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban well after it had been offered to the assistant to the Commissioner and well after it had been offered to Mr Frederick Osborne, who was solicitor for the Stevens interest. It was not until Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, as stated in his own words, realised that the deck appeared to be rigged that he went to Captain Robertson and told what he had told Smyth. Let the House listen to Captain Robertson’s reply:
It is not my place as a naval officer, nor do I propose to raise this evidence against a brother captain.
This was against the advice of his counsel, who could see what was taking place in the Royal Commission. Captain Robertson further said:
There is an assistant to the Commissioner, who is selected by the Government, and it is his duty to bring this forward if relevant.
I will refer again to that aspect later. In fairness to Captain Robertson these things should be said. It is not pressure from Captain Robertson that has made me proceed with this case. I have explained to Captain Robertson that his responsibilities and mine are entirely different, lt must bc appreciated that, notwithstanding that I think he has been victimised, as have the other two officers, Captain Robertson still considers the Navy first. However, my responsibility as a member of Parliament is to see that justice is done, to see that facts are not concealed and to see that anything relevant to the safety of any of the ships of the Royal Australian Navy and the little men who sail in them - the crew who come from homes and have mothers and wives just like anybody else - should not be placed in jeopardy because facts were considered better to be concealed than revealed.
It has been said by some in this House that I am affecting the morale of the Royal Australian Navy. It may be that 1 am, but I ask them and the Navy whether they consider that the morale of the Navy or any of the Services is kept at a high state when mcn know that should they be involved in any accident or in circumstances under which they may be put on trial or may be the subject of a royal commission, they cannot expect the full facts of the case to be brought out and indeed may find that their senior officers, far from supporting them, desert them. I have always felt that senior officers - I have some knowledge of them - are appointed to their rank not only to wear gold braid on their uniforms, not only to go to public functions, not only to be given the respect due to their rank, and not only to be in a position of power, but there is also the primary obligation that they accept their responsibilities and that they support their men. What makes morale is loyalty, honesty, firmness, fairness and moral courage. It has been said in this House, indeed by the Attorney-General, that I should have some consideration for those who have lost loved ones. It is not my purpose to place blame on any man. The prime consideration is whether the Navy endeavoured to stop certain facts from being brought out - facts that should have been brought out relating to the Royal Australian Navy. Let that be understood. I appreciate what a mother feels when she loses a loved one. I saw this when my mother received a telegram informing her that my elder brother, then aged twenty, had been killed at Tobruk. I accepted the telegram and took it to her. It read:
The Minister for the Army regrets that he has to advise that your son . . . was killed at Tobruk on 17th May.
On that occasion I thought: what a grateful government; this must have cost it about ls 2d.
Throughout history one finds that some men in important places have hidden their responsibilities behind the tears of widows and others whose dear ones have been lost. Let me read one of about 100 letters that I have received so that I may answer the accusation that in raising this matter I will hurt those who lost loved ones. I sent a telegram to the writer of this letter, and just before the House met today I received a telegram from her stating: ‘No objection you quoting me. Isobel Anderson.’ From somewhere in New South Wales the lady wrote:
Dear Mr Jess,
I heard over TV last night and have read today’s Telegraph’ article on the Voyager disaster.
If as a result of your allegations the case ls reopened it is going to hurt many of us but I as the mother of the radio operator on Voyager at the moment of collision oan never forget, and if it does good to anyone it will not be in vain.
I would like to see Captain Robertson reinstated, promoted, and a public apology made for all he had to suffer; no-one in their sane senses could blame him.
I have had many of the boys in my home both from Voyager and Melbourne and I never heard any qf them blame Captain Robertson.
The padre from Garden Island told me himself that as a result of Capt. Robertson’s resignation Melbourne was an unhappy ship.
Many of us knew that there were things that never came out, but out of loyalty we didn’t say anything about it. My boy (R/O Robin Adrian Denham)-
I presume his surname was Anderson - and his little widow who was also a R/O at Harman when they married, loved the Navy, also my eldest boy who was R/O on H.M.A.S. Australia, Tobruk and others. The second lad is in his sixteenth year in the R.A.A.F. so you can believe the services have always been very dear to our hearts.
The letter continues:
However a few days after the disaster we had several of the survivors to see us and they said & I quote - They took statements from us and when they brought them back for us to sign they were not what we meant to say at all. We were told that our wording was incorrect A they had corrected it when they typed them out. Unquote.
I have not been able to confirm this. I have not the power, the authority or the ability to check this. I am merely stating what is in this letter. It goes on:
The very fact that Voyager had just had a refit and yet put to sea without enough spanners to open the hatches was all wrong.
I will show this letter to any honourable member who wishes to see it. I do not think there is much point in going through the remainder of what she said, but the letter is available to any honourable member who wishes to see lt. Therefore, let me say that there are people concerned who had relations on HMAS ‘Voyager’. Since this matter came out into the open my telephone has run hot. I have received letters which I have not been able fo check. I have received statements which I cannot check but which have encouraged me to go on with what I am doing today. Let us come to what the Attorney-General said in this House this afternoon. I thought his review of the incident was very good indeed. But he said:
It was essentia] that a full and searching public inquiry should be held. 1 regret that I must say to the AttorneyGeneral that I have yet to find that that requirement has been fulfilled. He went on and referred to the ‘proud traditions of efficiency and safety of the Navy and said that these required such an inquiry. 1 agree with that part of his speech. He also said: ‘The public interest demanded it.’ I agree with that but I still doubt whether the public got a full and searching public inquiry. The Attorney-General continued:
Under the circumstances neither the Parliament nor the community would have considered a naval inquiry fully adequate.
That statement could be convenient; it could be true. But if a naval inquiry had been conducted it would have been conducted by men who knew what they were talking about, not by a sole judge with an assistant. I do not know what knowledge that assistant had of naval action. Even though the Attorney-General said that he was a brilliant man, I have always thought that the gentleman rather specialised in criminal law. I question his appointment. Who made the decision and why? Perhaps he was the only person available - I do not know. The Attorney-General continued:
Why was there only one Royal Commissioner? Why was there not a naval expert sitting beside him? Why was there not somebody else sitting on the other side of him? In most naval inquiries this is the usual thing. A few weeks ago Mr Justice Spicer presided over the inquiry into the W. D. Atlas’ incident. The membership of the court of inquiry comprised Mr Justice Spicer; Mr So and So, engineer; Mr So and So, naval architect; and Mr So and So - and I forget what his qualifications were. In the ‘Voyager’ inquiry there was only one Commissioner. As I said at the time of the Royal Commission, I thought it was a damn silly mistake to have a former member of the Menzies Government sitting on a matter involving political issues.
Let me go further. The AttorneyGenera! said that Mr J. W. Smyth, QC, assisted the Commissioner and what a grand chap he was. He may have been. The Attorney-General then said:
Experienced senior counsel assisted by junior counsel appeared for the interested parties.
At the end of that paragraph he said that Captain Robertson had ‘chosen to appear on his own behalf in the early stages of the inquiry’. Is the Attorney-General trying to persuade this House and the people of this country that Captain Robertson came to the Government and to the AttorneyGeneral and said: ‘I do not want any counsel’; or did he, as a naval officer, go to the Royal Commission honestly believing it would be a fair commission? Did Captain Robertson not suddenly find himself surrounded by Queens’s Counsel representing every interested party except himself? Indeed, did not the judge say to him: ‘You have the same rights, Captain Robertson, to question and to cross-examine’. What a magnanimous gesture to a serving officer of Her Majesty’s Navy. It was not until the senior counsel for the Navy came to him and explained to him that he could not look after his good name and that he was being subject to an attack, that he sought to get counsel.
What happened? Let the AttorneyGeneral explain this. Captain Robertson went to see Rear-Admiral Becher and said: ‘I have been advised by the Royal Australian Navy that I should get counsel; that my probity is under attack.’ As I understand it, the Admiral said: ‘It has nothing to do with me. You will have to send a signal to the Prime Minister.’ How extraordinary? This is naval history. The Admiral said: ‘It has nothing to do with me; send a telegram to the Prime Minister.’ In other circumstances a naval captain could be censured and could be subject to charge if he did send a telegram to the Prime Minister. Captain Robertson rang the Secretary to the Naval Board and he was advised that this had to be done. He then sat down and wrote that telegram. A reply came back. I wish I could express that reply in basic English, but the answer was no.
Let us look at this circumstance. 1 was first advised of this in this House when I met the former Minister for the Navy as I was leaving the party room and he was leaving the Prime Minister’s room. I gave the former Minister for the Navy the credit that he was cross and annoyed. He said to me: ‘I have just been told that the Prime Minister had said that under no circumstances is Captain Robertson to be given senior counsel.’ I went to see the former Attorney-General. I could not tell him from whom I had got the information. I said to him: ‘I have heard that Captain Robertson is not to be given senior counsel but that every other interest in this case has senior Queen’s Counsel.’ The then Attorney-General said to me that this was his opinion and he had given it off his own bat. I tried to tell him that on the ground of public relations, on the ground of principle, on the ground of justice, a serving captain must be given the same representation. Then I was told that in the opinion of the Attorney-General, Captain Robertson’s interest could adequately be looked after by junior counsel. Most honourable members of this House know what happened then and most should be aware of the date that the Commonwealth finally, under pressure, agreed to give Captain Robertson senior counsel. To stand in this place and say that Captain Robertson chose not to be represented; that the Government - in the magnanimous manner in which it treats people on certain occasions- gave him every opportunity, is ridiculous. Let the Minister for the Navy say, as was said in another place, that this was done only to leave the road open for Captain Robertson. I assure him that not one officer in our Navy considers this to be so. They considered it to be a most extraordinary state of affairs.
Let us go further with what the AttorneyGeneral stated today. He said:
Experienced senior counsel assisted by junior counsel appeared for the interested parties.
Later he said that Mr Justice Spicer was not only a judge of high standing, he was also widely experienced in courts of inquiry into both maritime and air accidents.’ Perhaps he was, but at the same time I think it would have been better to have had others sitting with him. Then the Attorney-General said:
Strenuous efforts were made to seek out any person who might be able to throw any light on the disaster.
I hope to prove that this was not done. Further on the Attorney-General said:
The disaster could not have occurred if a constant and efficient watch had been maintained in Voyager’. . . .
Are they interested in why it was not maintained? Could there be some reasons why a constant and efficient watch was not maintained? Did they look into this aspect? I do not think so. Later in his speech he referred to the Commissioner’s statement in respect of Robertson, Kelly and Bate and about ringing bells and blowing whistles. The Commissioner made quite a point of this. And if honourable members look through the report of debates in the House they will find that Ministers made a great point of it. Let honourable members go through those reports and try to find a really kind word said about Robertson by any Minister in this Government. Honourable members will find a certain innuendo. The Commissioner’s criticism was couched in very moderate terms - and quite properly so. On the other hand, one then finds statements to this effect: ‘In my opinion these were serious charges.’ Let honourable members read the speech made by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in the House. Let them assess it and, if they can. remember it. The Attorney-General has said that the Commissioner’s finding regarding Captain Robertson was supported by the evidence of Rear-Admiral Becher. I am darned if I know. All that I have been able to check upon is what Admiral Becher said on the carrier. We have only Captain Robertson’s word for this. Robertson said: T wonder if there was anything that I could have done’. Here is a captain who had been up all night. He claimed that Admiral Becher said to him: ‘There is nothing that you could have done’. Perhaps this is unimportant. I do not know.
However, in the transcript of evidence much more appeared on this point. Counsel for the Navy was, I presume, advised by the Naval Board. Counsel for the Navy in a court case is not an Admiral or a technical person; his advice must come from the department and be paid for by the Commonwealth. At this hearing counsel for the Navy contended that what Mr Smyth had put forward about bells, alarms, signals, rattles, or whatever else it was, would bring the Royal Australian Navy into contempt and would make it the laughing stock of the navies of the world. He argued that the things that had been said not only about Robertson but also about Kelly and Bate were unjust and unfair and were not a reasonable criticism to bring against these officers. Now we find that the Navy has done a switch, and it is a case of ‘We would have shot him, anyway.’ The Government may say that he must have been a log as counsel for the Navy. If he was a log and if Smyth is perfect. I do not know what sort of commission this w:.j. 1 have not too much time and I want to get to the crux of the matter. The Attorney-General has made many statements. He has said that this was ‘the most searching public inquiry ever conducted into the operations of one of the Services in this country.’ He went on: 1 stress these matters because they lead me to the view that unless it can be shown that the findings of the Commissioner were not justified by the evidence presented to htm … it would be quite wrong to reopen the inquiry.
He is now assessing any debate that may come forward on my motion. He also had this to say:
The findings of the Commissioner regarding Captain Robertson, the Officer of the Watch and the Navigation Officer of ‘Melbourne’ were also clearly justified by the evidence before the Commissioner.
This does not seem to agree with what counsel for the Navy said. He went on:
Up to the present time these findings remain undisturbed by the discovery of any fresh evidence.
It is my contention that everything has been done to ensure that they are not disturbed. The Attorney-General continued:
After any major disaster followed by an inquiry, it is likely that various pieces of information will be brought to the attention of the authorities over a period of years.
But this information was given to counsel assisting the Commission before the inquiry. lt was given to the former Prime Minister in 1965. Indeed, I went to the then Prime Minister in 1964 when the former Minister for the Navy announced the resignation of Captain Robertson. I had been seeking an interview with him for some time but I was not getting anywhere near it. When the Minister announced Captain Robertson’s resignation I went into King’s Hall and I freely made a few remarks. The next morning, after the press reported the matter, I was in the Prime Minister’s office within twenty minutes. I told the former Prime Minister that a senior officer who had served in Voyager’ until three weeks before the disaster and who had served for twelve months with the Captain at that time, had evidence that he thought should be considered. I have notes of all meetings that I have had with any Minister or Prime Minister on this subject. The Prime Minister said: ‘Oh, yes. After all, the inquiry is over. What is the point in opening it? ‘Voyager’ was found guilty. We have to think of the interests of so-and-so.’ Perhaps I was innocent, but I said to the Prime Minister: ‘Sir, I understand it concerns a weakness that one responsible man may have had. It may have some effect’. The Prime Minister replied: ‘Oh yes, I believe that he used to drink, but that was a long time ago. I believe he did have one brandy.’ I said: ‘A triple brandy.’
In 1965 I gave the Prime Minister a copy of that statement. As I have said, since then I have heard and seen nothing that has convinced me that the Government has done anything but take the word of the Naval Board and be blinded by the glare of brass - until the last few weeks when suddenly some letters were brought forward. Let me speak of them. I think every member of this House with whom I have discussed this matter would appreciate that I would not go to a serving officer and expect him to put his head on a block by answering this sort of proposition: ‘This was said in 1964. Do you now support it?’ These officers could well be close to promotion to the rank of Admiral and I should be asking them either to support the Naval Board or to stay where they are in the seniority list. This is so with any Service. What I am saying is that these officers, and any other person with information, should be cross-examined on oath. No officer can be blamed for what he says on oath. If, otherwise, he makes a statement that offends his superiors I regret to say that he can expect to remain in his present rank for some considerable time. It is not fair to ask in 1967 a man who is loyal to the Navy and who may feel that the morale of the Service may be affected, about an affair that occurred in 1964. T do not accept such letters as evidence at this time. I do not agree with some of the things that have been said, for they have only been produced at the end of April and in May, 1967 - not in 1966, 1965 or 1964. I want a much closer inquiry indeed.
Let me come now to what the AttorneyGeneral has said in respect of the Blackburn evidence. I shall not go through his words for I am sure all honourable members recall them. He implied, I think, that the evidence about alcohol had been thrown out. There was an investigation. But let me say this. I have been to the Parliamentary Library and I can tell honourable members that the transcript of the evidence runs into 4,380 pages. It stands 2 feet 2 inches high. When one looks for the investigation on the alcohol aspect one finds it covers approximately three pages. It is the sweetest investigation that I have ever seen. I only hope that if at some stage I am charged with drunken driving I have opposing counsel as considerate as were these counsel. The Attorney-General said that none of the other counsel cross-examined. Did we expect the Navy to raise this against one of its officers? I think we would be stupid if we did. Did we expect Stevens counsel to raise it against his client? Did we expect Robertson’s counsel to raise it? He said: ‘This I will not do’. It was open to only one man to raise this matter and to cross-examine on it or to examine it in a way that would be considered to have covered the whole matter.
The Attorney goes on to say that it proves they were not under the influence of alcohol on that night. I had not denied this. But they have not proved much else either, nor have they taken much trouble to prove it. He said that British justice demands that, if a man is proven not to be in a condition on a certain night, we cannot refer to what has happened in the past. This is also right. But I ask the Attorney-General: is it not a fact that three bodies were recovered from the ocean, that post mortems were conducted on the three bodies and that analyses showed three out of the three - 100% - had consumed alcohol. Maybe this proves nothing. But the attitude to this was sweetness itself. I will read the Judge’s remarks where he is ushering in Professor Blackburn and ushering him out. I find it quite incredible, but we can find what the situation is.
The Attorney referred to the level of alcohol in the blood. It is worth reading. When a Queen’s Counsel and the Attorney of the Commonwealth says such things, I am shattered. He said: a level of alcohol in the blood below .OS establishes that the subject is not affected by intoxicating liquor.
I do not know whether he is quoting the position in New South Wales; that is quite a State. But I know that in Victoria a level of .05 is the level at which a person will face a charge of drunken driving or driving under the influence of alcohol. If the Attorney-General with his brilliance puts it one way, I am entitled to put it another. But the Commission did not seem to be prepared to be interested. If three out of three are found to have had alcohol, is it not reasonable to make an assumption. The Executive Officer is the Senior Officer under the Captain. He had served for twelve months up to a period of three weeks beforehand. Let us remember that the whole complement of the ship had changed; everybody on it was new. The people on the ship would not know very much about the Captain’s habits. Anything he may say about the Captain’s habits, the habits of the ship, the habits of the officers or the habits of drink on that ship would have been worth close investigation, not only to establish responsibility but also to see that a proper investigation is made. In the words of a former Prime Minister, if anything is wrong in the Royal Australian Navy it should be closely investigated.
Let me come back to what the Attorney has said. He said further, or he said this to me in another place, that if somebody was not there on the night he could not form any judgment or his evidence is not relevant. What happened with the inquiry into the Winton crash? Nobody survived and nobody was there to see it. So let the Attorney get up and refute every statement that is made at the Winton inquiry. 1 came to Canberra in an aeroplane this morning. Two pilots were on the flight deck. Let us suppose that there is an accident and no one survives, but there is a smell of drink, a bottle of whisky, or some labels of Johnnie Walker or anything else there. Is the evidence of a co-pilot who had flown with the pilot three weeks beforehand and who knew that it was the pilot’s habit to have alcohol in the cabin not relevant? I would like the Attorney-General to answer that question at some stage. I have tried to raise matters such as this that have been told to me and have been put in front of me.
Let me now come to other matters. The day that counsel was appointed to Captain Robertson can be looked at later. Let me now take the evidence of Professor Blackburn and see what he said. The AttorneyGeneral has given us a few sections from it. At page 2864 this passage appears:
That was the answer given by Professor Blackburn. 1 think in the main I will allow my distinguished friend, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John), to analyse what is said in the transcript later. He has only twenty minutes in which to do it, but I think honourable members should look at it closely. They should see how many times in the evidence we have ‘there is no evidence’, ‘was possible’, ‘presumably’, could well have altered’ and ‘possibly under the influence of alcohol’. I would like to conclude on this point by asking the Attorney-General a question. He states that in the transcript it says that the evidence of Stevens’ drinking habits was not given in the Judge’s chambers. Why was it given in Smyth’s chambers? Why was it not given in the full and open court? Professor Blackburn said that he was given evidence of Stevens’ drinking habits. I ask: What was the evidence and by whom was it given? Surely the court is entitled to know and the Parliament is entitled to know who gave this evidence and what it was. But, no, it was never said.
Let me give an extract relating to the drinking of this unfortunate officer. I do this with regret. I have taken some extracts from the report and [ am prepared to show anybody in the Parliament the full statement of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. But let me just say in advance that it was implied in another place that this was a vindictive officer who was an alcoholic himself. This officer is in the House now and I would like anybody who wishes to make that assertion to see him and to say it to his face. My complaint is that to this day only a small number of members of this House have taken the trouble to go and see Commander Cabban. The Prime Ministers have not; the Government has not; the former and the present Minister for the Navy have not: the two former Attorneys-General have not. Why did they not see this man? He was willing to come forward. They could have cross-examined him and grilled him. They could have seen and corrected and checked him.
Let me take the suggestion that he is vindictive. This is clearly said. He made a long statement, and I have not the time to read it all. But as at this minute the Commander stands by what he said. He said he was questioned by Smyth after he had been cross-examined by the Commonwealth police, as were other officers who were considered to have evidence. Smyth questioned him almost exclusively on the drinking habits of Duncan Stevens. This man admitted in his statement that he stated to Smyth that Captain Stevens did not drink at sea and he wanted Smyth to understand this clearly. When Smyth said: ‘Why do you raise this point?’, he said: ‘I have been told by other sources that this may be a matter you are going to raise in the Royal Commission’. Mr Smyth said that he quite understood. LieutenantCommander Cabban then arranged through his own solicitor to see Mr Osborne, solicitor for the Stevens’ interest.
– The honourable member said it; not I. Let me say this. LieutenantCommander Cabban went through his own solicitor and at his own expense because he felt that in fairness to the Stevens family he must let their solicitor know what he had said. If this is vindictive, I do not know what the word means. If he had been vindictive he could have walked out of Mr Smyth’s room and waited for the royal commission. He could have said: ‘That will square you away’. As I said, he did not go to Robertson until later, but to say that he is vindictive is atrocious.
Let me nail the second one because these things need to be said. I was shown by a Minister three papers. I was told to read the bottom page first. It is attached to the
Attorney-General’s statement. It ls the one - I shall not quote it in full - in which Lieutenant-Commander Cabban was asked by Sergeant Turner of the Commonwealth Police about the method usually adopted by Captain Stevens in turning two ships together - whatever the term may be. It is set out, A, B, C, D and E as if in a textbook. It is given by a man who in my opinion knew what he was talking about. The second letter was a report on Sergeant Turner, which again is attached here. Sergeant Turner said that he asked LieutenantCommander Cabban certain things and he concluded with a final paragraph:
Other than taking the brief written statement referred to from Mr Cabban 1 did not attempt to record this conversation as I considered him io be indisposed for such purpose at the time.
The Minister said: T do not know what that means’. I said: ‘Perhaps it would be interesting to find out.’ At a further interview, 1 am told that Sergeant Turner of the Commonwealth Police in 1967 says that this man - using the same words that were quoted to me - was blind drunk. I said to the Minister: ‘How could a blind drunk man make a technical statement like the one on page 1 of the three you showed me? If he were blind drunk, why is there no mention whatsoever in the police sergeant’s report of his interview? Further, if he were blind drunk he should have gone back on another day,’ I had never heard it claimed by anybody - the Prime Ministers, the former Minister for the Navy, or the AttorneyGeneral - at any stage that this man too, was now seemingly to be classed as an alcoholic. This man is now in civilian employment. He was picked by the Royal Australian Navy to do a management or an efficiency course in England. I have not seen his confidential reports. I understand that he was a flying man and was unhappy when made a deck man. I understand that; I always thought I should have been a general but in fact I was not. I find it extraordinary that any one should say this is something that could be used against a man who has shown nothing but courage and honour and a desire to see that justice is done, who has endeavoured to keep the matter from the public Press and has attempted to see those in power in this country to get something done. Let me read what I have here in relation to the habits of the late Captain Stevens^
He was subject to violent outbursts at the officer of the watch if he was either slow to react or if he made a mistake. Towards the end of the cruise the Officers of the Watch were able to cope with this but they were a little disconcerted earlier on.
The crew on the bridge on this night indeed were fairly new.
This extended to even abuse of the Officers of the Watch over the armament broadcast from the operations room.
He goes on in fairness:
In defence of Captain Stevens he didn’t consider that this should be taken seriously by officers after the event; he expected them to learn and then to forget the tone in which he spoke. This took quite a bit of learning.
His temperament could range from buoyant good humour to depression when sober. He showed Hashes of very fine leadership ability and I had the impression most of the time that the ship’s company thought he was a very good Captain. I may have been naive in this, for subsequently after the loss of the ship there was none of this respect reflected in the survivors to whom I spoke, to my great surprise.
Captain Stevens was a good athlete, particularly for his age: opening the bowling for the ship’s company - the ship was the cricket champion of the Fleet (he was also a reasonable bat and a good field) and he was a good squash player, again for his age.
I will now deal with th,.- factors concerning Captain Stevens* drinking habits during the time that [ served with him.
The first real flash I hud of understanding Captain Stevens’ drinking ability or habits was in our farewell party in Sydney where it was necessary for his wife to tell him publicly that it was time to leave.
Well, I suppose that has happened to us all. 1 do not make that a major issue. The statement continues:
When the ship proceeded to sea the Captain told me that he was ill. not having been to sca for some time, so I had command of the ship for the first twenty-four hours - ‘Vampire’, who was the senior ship present being informed by signal at the Captain’s instruction.
Those signals. I understand, arc supposed to be recorded. Has anyone checked them? Has anyone a statement of them? 1 do not know. Let me continue reading:
During the period in the Far East the situation became more than trying, it was quite desperate, as he drank for very long periods in harbour until he became violently ill and then would spend days in bed being treated by the doctor and his steward until he was fit to again start drinking.
Captain Stevens drank brandy almost exclusively but he was at times known to drink beer or whisky.
I became very anxious about the way things were developing and uncertain where to turn for advice. The Captain of the flag ship was Captain R. I. Peak who had been my Captain when I was Executive Officer of H.M.A.S. Sydney’. Captain Peek received me when I called on him with my Captain’s permission in Hong Kong and, most strange for him, he required me to remain standing. He was pleasant, formal, he asked me very briefly how the ship was and then I left, f had lost any opportunity I might have had to seek his advice simply because 1 felt instinctively that he knew and didn’t want me to put myself in an impossible position.
In case honourable members do not understand what this means let me say that it came up in the ‘Caine Mutiny’ which is only a novel but has relationship to naval law and procedure. For an officer to lay a charge against another officer and to accuse him df being incapable - as was done in the ‘Caine Mutiny’ - is a most serious act indeed. Let me read on: lt was an extremely trying period and this stage was climaxed by the Captain’s birthday on which he was invited to a mess dinner as the guest of the mess. This was the first time on which he was invited in this manner and he arrived, although I had been warned ten minutes before that he had been drinking, completely under the influence but able to walk, lt was obviously necessary for us to proceed with the dinner as quickly as posssible if he was to last it, but unfortunately before anything else could be done he got on his hands and knees and crawled across to the mess table. Before soup had been finished I had to stand, make a very brief speech and take him from the mess, with the present that the mess had bought him, to his cabin. The officers and the stewards were outstandingly loyal on this occasion and a word of this incident never reached the Fleet to my knowledge.
Let this be understood. Officers are loyal to each other. There is no doubt of that in Lieutenant-Commander Cabban’s statement. He says that he tried to get the crew and officers to see that nothing of this got out to the fleet. But when there is a court case and people’s future lives and livelihoods can be concerned, he comes out and has the courage to say this. He goes on:
This, pattern continued, but it reached a climax during the- visit to Tokyo.
He goes on here to talk about the party at the naval attache’s home in Tokyo. He talked about the problem of getting Captain Stevens to official dinners, of having to take him to steam baths to sober him up, and then the document continues:
And on the Sunday, which was the fourth Jay in Tokyo, he sent for me at 0630 to inform me that he would be unable to attend the church service that morning and I was to inform Captain Willis to this effect. The Captain when 1 saw him had his bead on a pillow-
And he was extremely ill. The statement continues:
I asked if I should get the doctor …. and he said No. I saw the doctor and the doctor said he wouldn’t treat him - that he had warned the Captain that this would happen and that it was his opinion that should the Captain rupture his ulcer at sea the Captain would die. 1 have no desire to read any more of this statement which goes on to mention times, officers and places. If it is considered by anyone that these are the ravings of a lunatic, 1 suggest that Commander Cabban be put in the box so that these things can be proved. Bring the seamen who were there, bring the sick bay attendants, but do not bring the serving officers of the Navy who may wish or have no alternative but to not remember or to answer ‘I cannot recall’ or ‘It is not my recollection’. .Statements of this kind will not convince me.
I asked the Minister for the Navy foi the confidential reports on Captain Stevens. If we refer to the judge’s findings we find in the report that he referred to Captain Robertson quite fairly, but said that his conduct was satisfactory. If we refer to what was said about Kelly and Bate we find that Kelly was satisfactory and that nothing was said about Bate. But when he got to Captain Stevens, 1 do not think anyone could be blamed for considering that he was the epitome of what the Royal Australian Navy is based on. The Commissioner referred to an incident involving Captain Robertson and, although I am not sure of the words, said something to the effect of ‘with the exception of one blunder or reprimand’. But he did not refer to anything in respect of Captain Stevens. He did not mention to us that Captain Stevens had lost six months seniority and had been passed over twice. I want to know why and I want to know what the confidential reports say. He did not mention - I have had confirmation of this only today from the Minister for the Navy - that Captain Stevens was concerned with or involved in a court martial in respect of a ship which, 1 understand, ran aground while coming down from Manus Island. I am nol sure of the details as I have not had much time to look at them.
The Minister has made a statement and another honourable member will be dealing with this matter. The Minister has quoted to mc what was said in a confidential report about this officer in relation to that incident. When I asked him whether I could see the confidential reports he told me that I could not see them. I remind honourable members that we had already seen some part of the files and, frankly, I believe that I saw very little. When he told me that I could not see the confidential reports I asked why. He said: ‘Because the Naval Board says you can’t’. I said: ‘Well, I am not asking the Naval Board; I am asking you’. He said: ‘No; the Naval Board says this can’t be so because it will intimidate officers’. He added: ‘In fact, the Naval Board refused to allow the confidential reports to be shown to the Royal Commission’. I just do not know what the situation is.
Let us consider the flimsies and let me explain what a confidential report is. A flimsy, which is given to an officer, is supposed to be a precis of what is said about the officer. But a confidential report gives also his habits, his bearing, his efficiency, his drinking habits, his social habits and his marital state. It is a report on the officer in every way. As was said by the former Minister for the Navy in the House when the debate took place, this is the thing on which captains are promoted. But I am not allowed to see it, nor was the Royal Commissioner permitted to see it. Yet the Minister for the Navy can quote a section of it when it suits him in respect of a matter I have raised in relation to Captain Stevens. In another place, having said that I could not see it, he produced a document and said: This is the confidential report of the Admiral when the ship was in South East Asia’. If he can show one report, why can he not show the other?
Merely to typify the sort of thing that has been put to me, at an interview I raised with the Minister the question of a triple brandy. Suddenly, out of the blue, flashed the information: ‘Ah, that is only equal to a single brandy in the Navy.’ I said: ‘This is extra- ordinary; you could not have been to the parties that 1 have been at.’ However, when we went to see the Minister later he said: What do you want to know?’ 1 said: ‘The first thing I want to know is about a triple brandy being equal to a single brandy’. Right. The buzzer blows. ‘Is that you?’ This is to the Admiral. ‘Yes.’ Check, check, check. Phone down. The Minister replies: This is quite correct. I am informed by the First Naval Member that a triple brandy is equal to one brandy.’ asked one question: From when?’ He replied: ‘Oh.’ Buzz, buzz, buzz - chat, chat, chat - and next minute I get the answer: ‘From the end of the last war.’ I have checked with every naval officer 1 know and everyone I can find. I gave them no notice of what I wanted to ask them and they said that a brandy is a nobbler, and there is a half. I ask the Minister whether he can produce for me a one-third measure for brandy or for anything else. T have never heard of it.
I then asked where 1 could check on this. When orders are sent to the fleet or to Naval personnel it would be usual for them to appear in routine orders as happens in the Army. When I asked this I was told that I could not ask that; he would think I did not believe him. Frankly, gentlemen, I am not here purely to be put off. For three years I have done my best. If honourable members do not feel, after they have read this report, which I shall make available to them, that there could have been things which should have been brought forward, and they want to know why they were not brought forward, instead of the paper being noted there should be a vote as to whether each individual member feels that there is a right to have a select committee. I feel that there is no point in making charges and counter charges with he said’ and ‘I said’, or ‘he says this now but he did not say it then.’ Let it be investigated. Out of fairness to everybody I feel that this is the only action that can be carried out.
Let me pay one final tribute. I have asked no man in this House to stand with me. I selected certain men to whom I showed the evidence in confidence. I have asked no man to stand in this House at this time and be counted with me. I have said it is for each man’s conscience. If he feels that there was nothing or that these matters should not be checked, let him say so here, today. But I feel that I should make special reference to the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) who did not have any conversation with me on this matter until after the Party meeting when he heard the Minister for the Navy and heard the Attorney-General. He then came to me. I do not want to put words into his mouth, but I may just as well continue to tell the truth. He said: ‘I am concerned and I would like to ask you questions.’ He questioned me from 2.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. and I have never been through such a cross examination. He then went and saw the people concerned and checked whether they were psychopathic, drunk or could be broken down when giving evidence. He is now convinced of their statements and he is prepared to put his head, with mine, on the chopping block. Let it be remembered that his speech will be his maiden speech. Let every member in this House ask himself whether he has anything but admiration for the honourable member for Warringah. I cannot provide the honourable member with government posts. I cannot provide him with a quick road to the ministry. I cannot give him anything. Indeed, because of what he is going to do today, he deserves the gratitude not only of this House but also of the people of Australia. Because of a question of principle he is prepared to get up and say what he believes.
There are many things I have not said. I assure the House that I have been genuine. I never desired this matter to come before the House. I have done everything possible to keep it out of the House, but during the last three years I have never been given any assurance that anybody has done anything to investigate the truth, and in this case the truth must be found out and it must be told. Otherwise the people of Australia will repudiate this Parliament forever.
– The allegations that we have just heard from the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) are very serious. In fact, this House has rarely heard more serious allegations about a man. Furthermore they have been made about a man who is now dead - indeed, about a man who died in the service of his country. By these remarks I do not wish to imply that the honourable member for La Trobe does not have the perfect eight to rs isa this matter if he is persuaded that tha allegations are true or substantially true. I ask honourable members to examine with open minds the information the honourable gentleman has produced. He hair produced extracts from a document which he states he will make available to anyone who wishes to see it in its entirety. As I understand it, the document is unsworn and almost completely uncorroborated. Nevertheless the document does denigrate the behaviour - indeed, the character - of the late Captain Stevens and it reflects seriously on the late Captain Stevens’ professional competence. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) has already stated that these allegations in essence, although not in detail, were given to counsel at the time of the Royal Commission.
After checking with other officers concerned, the two counsel assisting the Commission - Messrs Smyth, Q.C. and Sheppard - decided not to call this evidence as they believed it to be unreliable and unsupported and, furthermore, irrelevant to the terms of the inquiry. Notwithstanding this, the honourable member for La Trobe believes otherwise. He thinks it was or could be reliable and relevant to the inquiry. He must believe that these allegations have a fragment of truth about them of that they are substantially true otherwise he would not have seen fit to repeat them hare, because he knows the seriousness of repeating this sort of allegation, as does anybody else. I suggest - and I put this to the House - that it is fair comment to say when it is analysed that although he raised a great number of matters his case rests or falls on the validity of the allegations made by a former officer of the Royal Australian Navy. This is the nub of the problem and of the matter now before the House. His case rests or falls on the validity or otherwise of the allegations of an officer he named, former Lieutenant-Commander Cabban.
It is my duty as Minister for the Navy to answer these allegations and to allow this Parliament, the members of this House, and through the Press and radio the people of Australia, to make their own judgment on this matter which has raised a deal of public controversy. Therefore I propose to make my speech with a minimum of comment from myself but to relate facts and statements directly bearing on the allegations made. I will not reply - I could reply, but I do not intend to - to all oi the challenges, allegations and criticisms made by the honourable member for La Trobe. As I recall, he spoke for about one hour and ten minutes or more and to refute them properly would take considerably longer than that because one cannot brush them off. I will choose to look at those that are more serious in character.
Briefly, without canvassing the arguments about Captain Robertson, I will refer to the facts, as I see them, regarding Captain Robertson, because the honourable member for La Trobe in his hour-plus speech devoted a relatively small proportion of it to Captain Robertson. Let me remind the House of the facts about Captain Robertson. After the collision, no member of this House would quarrel with the action of relieving Captain Robertson of his command of H.M.A.S. ‘Melbourne’. Obviously there was going to be an inquiry. In fact the Prime Minister announced the Royal Commission. Quite obviously the captain of that ship would be required for long periods at the Commission; therefore, it was essential that he had to be removed from his command at that stage. The second point is that after the ship was repaired and went out to sca. on trials, Captain Robertson was still engaged in the activities of the Royal Commission, so another captain was appointed and went to sea with the ship. During that time the ‘Melbourne’, the flag ship of the Royal Australian Navy, was worked up to a most efficient fighting ship. I would challenge any man in this House or any man outside this House who has had any sort of naval experience to suggest that at a time when we had a totally or almost totally worked up ship, the flag ship of the Royal Australian Navy, it was thinkable to change captains. It was unthinkable and it was not regarded at that time as being a proposition.
Captain Robertson did not resign - and this I think is very clear from the letter he wrote to the Naval Board - because of the Royal Commission. He resigned because of his posting, not back to his ship but to a shore establishment. I think this is important. The reason for Captain Robertson’s resignation, as I understand he states it, was not because of anything at the Commission but because of his posting to H.M.A.S. Watson’. I have already suggested it was unthinkable at that time to post him to the Melbourne’. From this point on one could argue whether Captain Robertson, after thirty-four years in the Navy, should or should not receive a pension. One could argue about the equity of it, but the facts of the matter are that when Captain Robertson resigned he was not eligible, under the existing legislation that this Parliament had passed, for benefits under the defence forces retirement benefits legislation, and this Government could not give him any benefits under it.
At the beginning of his speech the honourable member for La Trobe asked: ‘What is the purpose of this debate?’ I should have thought it would be palpably clear. The statements made by the honourable member and the publicity surrounding this particular case have in fact been reported freely in the Press, on television and on radio. As honourable members know, this Parliament will rise at the end of this week. Therefore, the Government has taken advantage of at least two opportunities to have this matter aired, in the public good, before the Parliament adjourns. Wc would have thought it unthinkable for this matter to remain in the area of public query, public doubt, without an official statement from the Government.
I return now to a statement by former Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, which was referred to by the honourable member for La Trobe. As the statement that the honourable member read, or extracts from it, represent only portion of it. may I quote from other parts? I now feel at liberty to do so because the honourable member for La Trobe has stated that he will make it available, to anyone who wants it. One of the quotations from the statement by LieutenantCommander Cabban is as follows:
When I was leaving Mr Smyth’s office, which was after an interview lusting almost an hour, he said, ‘We will be seeing a lot of you at the inquiry’.
In a statement to the Secretary of the Department of the Navy in August 1965 Mr Smyth QC and Mr Sheppard, his junior during the Royal Commission, claimed that Mr Smyth never said this or anything like it to Mr Cabban. This is another quotation from the Cabban statement:
The main facts outlined above were substantiated by Lieutenant Commander Griffiths, RAN, Navigating Officer of ‘Voyager’ during the period in which I served with her when interviewed with Mr Smyth QC.
May I inform the House of the procedure I followed in deciding to obtain from officers now serving in the Navy who were mentioned in the statement replies to the allegation made in Mr Cabban’s statement? The honourable member for La Trobe and other honourable members had expressed what I believed to be genuine doubts on the lines of what the honourable member stated this afternoon. I informed the honourable member for La Trobe of the facts as we knew them - that Mr Smyth and Mr Sheppard had seen Mr Cabban and had formed the judgment that he was unreliable and his evidence was unsubstantiated and irrelevant.
At this point some of the members 1 interviewed were expressing doubts about the statements of Mr Smyth and Mr Sheppard. In other words, they were querying the accuracy of their statements. As they were questioning the only source of information which I as Minister for the Navy had at this point to prove the reliability or otherwise of the Cabban statement and the allegations, 1 believed that it was perfectly fair to try to return to the source - in other words, to go back to the officers named and ask them whether or not .they were prepared to substantiate or deny the allegations contained in the statement. Statements have been obtained; they have been witnessed but not sworn. Lieutenant-Commander S. Griffith, RAN, Navigation Officer of the ‘Voyager’ at the time, has said:
I do not consider this to be a true statement.
This is the officer whom Cabban suggests would substantiate everything he said. LieutenantCommander Griffith said also:
Many of the comments of LieutenantCommander P. Cabban are not familiar to me, and therefore 1 was not in a position to substantiate them to Mr Smyth QC. While endeavouring to assist Mr Smyth in his task at the time I believe my remarks were confined to the matter in hand. I stated strongly to Mr Smyth that Captain Stevens did not drink alcohol when at sea.
The honourable member for La Trobe referred to the statement about the situation in the Far East. The next quotation from Mr Cabban’s statement is probably the most devastating refutation that I can now produce to the House. I have many others but time will not permit me to bring them to attention. Mr Cabban said:
During the period in the Far East the situation became more than trying. It was quite desperate as he-
That is, Captain Stevens - drank for very long periods in harbour until he became violently ill, and then would spend days in bed being treated by the doctor and hi.> steward until he was fit again to start drinking.
This is a very serious allegation to make about the late Captain Stevens. 1 shall now quote from a statement made by Captain G. J. Willis, RAN, who was at that time, and for a period of a year, what we call the running mate of Captain Stevens. Captain Willis was the captain of ‘Vampire’, the running mate in the Far East of HMAS Voyager’. People with naval experience will know that captains are lonely men. Custom or tradition has it that when in port, captains mix with other captains at social engagements, more often than they do with other people. Here we had two Australians, who were captains of two Australian destroyers in the Far East, going on leave in Far Eastern ports. Thus they would see a tremendous amount of one another. The circumstances of their destiny would pull them together in their social engagements when in port. In the light of Cabban’s accusation Captain Willis, who was with Captain Stevens for a year, had this to say:
Captain Stevens was to my knowledge most moderate in his consumption of alcohol. He had a past history of ulcer trouble and was prone to stomach upsets, which are in any case not unusual in the Far East because of changes in food, water, etc. ‘Voyager’ was usual y berthed on ‘Vampire’ in harbour, and Captain Stevens was frequently in my company paying and returning calls at social engagements. If the alleged stale of affairs had existed 1 should have been aware of it. Had it existed as suggested it would have been Cabban’s duty to report it to me. The report in Tokyo was made at Stevens’ direction.
This statement by Captain G. J. Willis who is now in London, was signed in the presence of a witness but not sworn. I have many other refutations of Cabban’s allegations available, but time does not permit me to read them. I am willing to table these statements. I will do so at the conclusion of my speech. They might help honourable members. The honourable member for La
Trobe did not read one of these statements in particular. I do not know why he did not do so, for he knows that other allegations covered by it was refuted categorically in another place. This is another serious accusation by Cabban:
Captain Stevens on the first occasion that he took ‘Voyager’ alongside collided with ‘Vampire’ and subsequently rarely, if ever, handled the ship personally again in my time on board entering or leaving harbour, leaving it to Lieutenant Griffiths on almost every occasion.
This is a categoric statement that two destroyers, each of 2,500 tons, collided. I do not say this facetiously, but one would reasonably expect that the captain of the other ship would know whether 2,500 tons of steel had collided with his ship. This is what Captain Willis, captain of the ‘Vampire’ has to say on this score:
I have no recollection of the alleged collision If any damage had been done the collision would have been reported in the usual way. It is the normal duty of a specialist Navigating Officer to handle the ship entering and leaving harbour, the captain taking over to bring the ship alongside, and this was the routine in ‘Voyager’. On occasion Captain Stevens permitted other officers to bring the ship alongside under his supervision as part of their normal training. I observed this several time; as ‘Voyager’ often berthed alongside Vampire’.
Lieutenant-Commander Griffith stated in writing:
Voyager1 did not. collide with ‘Vampire’ in the understood sense of the word. On the first occasion of Captain Stevens’ berthing the ship Voyager’ came alongside ‘Vampire’ rather heavily. This was mainly due to the difficult conditions of tide and wind at the time. Minor superficial damage not uncommon in any ship only was caused. Captain Stevens was very keen to train his officers in ship handling and did so on many occasions including replenishment at sea evolutions. It was therefore normal that 1 as navigating officer should receive more than an average number of chances to handle the ship.
I have several other statements which I would like authority to table at the conclusion of my speech. But if some people believe - as one might infer from the interjections - that serving officers in the Navy at the present time might wish to protect the memory of a dead colleague and that therefore their statements should be viewed with some qualifications, let me ask: what other possible source of information is there when by fortuituous circumstance the officers named in the statement of Cabban, whom presumably Cabban expects to substantiate his statements, are still serving? However, I suggest that even people who make these suggestions would agree that Admirals of the British Navy who were commanding officers of the late Captain Stevens during his service in the United Kingdom and with the Far East Fleet are in a different category. They would not only have no reason to give an unearned commendation to any officer of an allied Navy who served under them, but in fact would have a vested interest in reporting on such officers in the coldest and most objective terms. I had proposed, Mr Acting Speaker, to quote statements made about the late Captain Stevens by British admirals who were his superior officers, (extension of time granted)
I thank the House. On 18th September 1961 a report was made by Captain H. C. Martell This was while the late Captain Stevens was at the Admiralty in London. The report is countersigned by ViceAdmiral L. Durlacher, Fifth Sea Lord, and it reads:
The more I see of this officer the more I am impressed by him and the more I like him. He is bluff and cheerful but by no means a ‘blowhard’. ‘He gets on well with everyone, and earns their respect for his professional knowledge and vigour. His common sense is refreshing. Withal he is always prepared to seek and accept advice and has learned rapidly how best to set about progressing a project in the Admiralty machinery.
I believe he will do well in a higher rank.
Then we move on to 14th January 1963, which is within thirteen months, almost to the day, of the collision. Captain Stevens was still at the Admiralty. This report is signed by Captain Janvrin of the Royal Navy and countersigned by Rear-Admiral L. R. Ross. It reads:
A vigorous and forceful officer who deserves the goodwill which exists between him and all his contacts. He has dealt very effectively with the multiplicity of business for which he has been responsible. Coming directly from the Staff College I believe that he has faced the challenging task with determination and efficiency.
As late as 15 th August 1963, only five months before the collision, when he was in fact Captain of ‘Voyager’ in the Far East Fleet, a report was made by ViceAdmiral J. P. Scatchard and countersigned by Vice-Admiral D. P. Dreyer, Commander of the Far East Fleet. This man was the Commander of all the ships in the Far East Fleet at that time for operational purposes, including Australian ships that happened to be in that Fleet. The report reads:
A popular and pleasant officer, who has a ready smile and is fine company. He has worked hard and well with the Far East Fleet to good effect. Very enthusiastic and rarely disheartened. There is sound material here but at present I cannot rate Stevens’ chance of reaching Flag Rank higher than good.
These are all statements by British admirals who had, as I say, every reason to report in the coldest and most objective terms. I have received today a letter from a Mr J. Plunkett-Cole, retired Captain of the Royal Australian Navy - not a serving officer. This letter was completely unsolicited. I will read an extract from it but I will table the complete letter at the conclusion of my speech. This extract reads:
I knew Duncan Stevens for many years and we were shipmates for two commissions. He was my Navigator when I commanded ‘Vendetta’ during the War and was Training Commander when I was Commodore Superintendent of Training at ‘Cerberus’. He was a very good and efficient officer. This ‘Drunken Duncan’ was just a facile phrase hit upon by some wit who now no doubt regrets having thought of it and has no more significance than many other nicknames.
I now quote, if I may, another serving officer of the Royal Australian Navy, this time a most distinguished member of the medical profession, the present Medical Director-General of the Royal Australian Navy, Surgeon Rear-Admiral Robert Coplans. Again I shall read an extract but will table the complete statement after my speech. The extract reads:
I have carefully perused medical documents going back many years. There is no reference anywhere to alcohol except in one comment by the Medical Specialist who reported on 5th November, 1959, inter alia ‘is avoiding condiments, fried food, and alcohol’.
The rest of that statement is along the same lines and discussed the ulcer condition that Captain Stevens was suffering from at the time. If one half of the Cabban statement concerning the drinking habits of the late Captain Stevens were true-
– One tenth of it.
– All right, if one tenth of it were true, then these things must have been common knowledge in the Navy, and would one not have expected even Captain Robertson himself to .make the statements that he did make during the hearings of the Royal Commission. I quote from page 2610 of the transcript, at which we find
Mr Jenkyn, who was Counsel for the Navy, questioning Captain Robertson:
Did you know Captain Stevens personally?- Yes.
Do you know his record as an officer? - Yes.
Do you know of him as a competent commander of a destroyer?- Yes.
And so this vessel which was manoeuvring with you you knew was at least skippered or commanded by a competent captain?- Yes, but let me just qualify that. I knew his reputation as a very successful naval officer. From my own personal knowledge I had not served in a ship with him and so I cannot honestly say that I knew him as a good commander but I knew his reputation was certainly that, and I have no reason to doubt it at all.
That was stated by Captain Robertson. One would have assumed that the officer who was Captain Stevens’ flag officer would have known him. This seems to me quite inconsistent with various parts of the Cabban statement.
Well, Sir, there we have it. The House is being asked to accept a proposition of great significance and of fundamental implications - that a Royal Commission which sat for four months did not call evidence which it should have called and which, if called, might have resulted in different conclusions. On the one hand we have this unsupported, uncorroborated unsworn statement containg serious allegations and naming specific incidents. On the other hand we have before us direct refutations of these allegations by the people concerned and named in the statement. We have the submissions of Messrs Smyth and Sheppard. If one casts one’s mind back to the days of the Royal Commission, those two gentlemen very properly left no stone unturned, nor did they spare any feelings of the Navy or any individual, to get at the truth. Is there any reason to suppose that they did not choose to call this one man for reasons other than they have stated? There is the evidence of the British Admirals. There is the evidence of Captain Willis, Captain Stevens’ running mate in the Far East fleet I have a statement from the Chief of the Naval Staff who said:
In his whole career there was no mention in his confidential reports of alcohol. If my word cannot be taken for this I am prepared to sign a statutory declaration to that effect.
We have the medical report, which I have read. We have the unsolicited testimonial from the gentleman to whom I referred. I ask honourable members to judge where the weight of evidence is and to come to a fair and logical conclusion on this matter.
– I rise, with sad feelings, to take part once again in this debate. I thought when the debate took place some time ago that the whole business of the ‘Melbourne’ and the Voyager’ would have been over. I can appreciate the feeling of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) that an injustice has been done. He has every right to raise the matter again. But where are we getting with the charges we have just heard? I speak this afternoon without full warning. I understood that after a statement had been made on this matter, the debate would be adjourned and resumed tomorrow. That is what I understood when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) across the table last week. But I understand now that the debate will proceed, and later be adjourned. I had expected to speak tomorrow, but I find myself speaking today.
– The original undertaking given by the Prime Minister was that the debate would proceed tomorrow.
– That is my understanding.
– If the honourable member for Batman feels that he is at a disadvantage in having to speak now, I assure him that I will move for the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent him from speaking when the debate is resumed, if he would prefer that course. I apologise to him if he is not aware of what was intended; I thought he knew. Apparently there has been a breakdown in communications. If the honourable gentleman would prefer to speak tomorrow I will move for the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent him from doing so.
– Order! If the honourable member for Batman desires to speak tomorrow, with the concurrence of the Leader of the House the honourable member could ask for leave to continue his remarks.
– Will the debate proceed tomorrow? If it will, I would prefer to speak tomorrow. If the debate will conclude tonight, I will speak now, because I have heard some very serious allegations made in this House.
– Last week in an exchange with the Prime Minister the Leader of the Opposition indicated that after the statement had been made by the AttorneyGeneral and after the honourable member for La Trobe and the Minister for the Navy had spoken, he would like the debate adjourned so that the Opposition might consider its position. However, I was informed this morning that the Opposition was in a position to proceed, and so the debate has proceeded in that way. Then I was informed by the acting Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Hindmarsh, that this is not so; that he would like the debate adjourned. We then altered the order of speakers so that the honourable member for Hindmarsh would speak last and seek the adjournment of the debate. I understood that the honourable member for Batman was aware of all this. However, learning that he did not know of the arrangements, I make the offer that he be given the opportunity to resume speaking when the debate is resumed, which I expect will be tomorrow. I think that is the best way to deal with the matter.
– Order! If other honourable members wish to speak the honourable member for Batman may ask for leave to speak again, in which case he will be called when the debate is resumed.
– I request that that course be followed as long as I am assured that the debate will take place tomorrow. Do I have that assurance? Will the debate take place tomorrow?
– The assurance that the debate will go on is given. The honourable member for Hindmarsh will move that the debate be adjourned; the Opposition will consider its position; the debate will be listed for tommorrow.
– In view of the seriousness of the allegations that have been made I would prefer to speak tomorrow. I seek leave to speak again later in the debate.
– I call the honourable member for Warringah and remind the House that this will be the honourable member’s maiden speech.
Mr St JOHN (Warringah) [5.47]- Mr Acting Speaker, I rise to make my maiden speech conscious of my loyalty to the party of which I am proud to be a member and of my duty to the electors of Warringah who have done me the honour to elect me to represent them in this House, but conscious above all of my sovereign obligation to speak the truth as I see it in the interests of the people of this, my country.
This is not a party matter, nor was I, as some people may have thought after reading a certain Press report, warned by any member of the Government that I should be putting my head on the block and jeopardising my political career if I rose to speak in support of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). No sir. On the contrary I had received the assurance that we all had received - that every member of this party was free to speak his mind in this House. That is exactly the right I propose to exercise.
I take as my starting point what was said by the Royal Commissioner at page 10 of his report. He said, referring to the primary cause of the collision:
I have now reached a stage at which it. is possible to state my conclusions as to the primary cause of the collision. It can be said, I think, that the collision was caused by reason of Voyager making a turn beyond 020°. It is not possible to form any firm conclusion as to why Voyager did this. II was not due to any fault on the part of any person on Melbourne. Nor is it possible to identify the individual or individuals on Voyager who was or were responsible. It is not easy to understand how the collision could have occurred if an effective look out were being maintained on Voyager, and appropriate evasive action had been taken as soon as any possibility of danger was observed.
Later in the report the Commissioner stated that it was difficult to understand how the accident could have happened if a proper lookout had been kept on ‘Voyager’. At page 17 of his report the Commissioner referred to Captain Robertson of ‘Melbourne’ as having been faced with an almost incredible situation. I take this as my starting point. This ship - one may well infer this ship’s captain - behaved in what has been described as an almost incredible fashion. Naturally one looks to see what the cause may have been. It is like someone driving a motor car through red traffic lights and having an accident. I am not concerned tonight with my constituent - indeed, I am proud to say now, my friend - Captain
Robertson. I believe he is a fine man. I believe he was a great loss to the Australian Navy.
But I am not concerned with any possible injustice to Captain Robertson. To me this is a side issue. I am concerned with much more important matters - the safety of the Navy and the men of the Navy, and the safety of this country. I believe that these matters are concerned in what we are debating today. I have been told by a friend, who had a distinguished record in the Royal Australian Air Force, and who as a prominent officer of a civil airline has had a great deal of experience in investigating the causes of airline accidents, that the explanation for an accident is usually simple, if it can be found. Of all the stories that I read to my children from time to time - in the little time that a member of Parliament can spare - perhaps I enjoy most the story, The Emperor Who Wore No Clothes. Honourable members who are familiar with this story will remember that it took a little child to tell the courtiers what really should have been obvious to everybody - that the clothes did not exist.
That story has a moral; that the simplest thing is sometimes hardest to see. Amongst the mass of technicality, the crowd of learned counsel at the bar table, the 3,500- odd pages of transcript, and the fifty-five days of hearing, the simple truth may have been obscured or lost. I do not say it was lost or obscured deliberately. I cannot say, and 1 will not say, how it happened, but in some way or other the simple obvious truth may have been lost. The truth may be so simple that a child could see it. Nonetheless, somehow, amongst the mass of verbiage and in the welter of human emotions and cross currents, the truth may be lost. I fear that this may have happened in relation to the ‘Voyager’ inquiry. I shall not, and I cannot, in the circumstances, mince my words: I suggest that the simple cause of this disaster may well have been something which is not novel at sea or on the land, but fortunately almost unknown in the air, thanks to regulations of which I shall speak in due course- over-indulgence in alcoholic liquor. I do not speak as a wowser. I speak as one who does enjoy a drink. But drink and night manoeuvres at sea do not mix very well. I fully agree with the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) that night manoeuvres at sea are inherently dangerous. They do not mix very well with the consumption of alcohol.
A salient fact with which we begin is that of the only bodies recovered from the sea - three dead bodies - all contained their due proportion of alcohol. We know that under the law of Victoria and the law of some other States, 50 milligrammes per cent of alcohol is sufficient in itself to constitute a criminal offence if the person concerned is at the wheel of a motor vehicle. Very well; 50 milligrammes were found in the blood of Able Seaman Parker, a fact which, although referred to in a document tendered before the inquiry, was never read out in open court and was never understood by the Press or the public. In the body of the Navigating Officer, the officer who, I am told on expert advice, even above the captain, above all people, is expected to be most responsible and most observant, 15 milligrammes of alcohol were found. In the body of the Captain there were 25 milligrammes of alcohol. It is very well for learned professors to tell us that we are not really concerned about 25 milligrammes of alcohol being found, although in the evidence of the professor himself it is said that recent studies indicated that levels as low as that are sufficient to affect the judgment.
Sir, this matter of alcohol is something which should not be. I will give an example. If a civil aircraft accident occurred in which eighty-two people lost their lives, and we found in the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot blood containing any percentage of alcohol, we would not be dickering or havering about the percentage or number of milligrammes of alcohol; we would be saying that this must not be. Indeed, the Royal Australian Air Force and the civil airlines have laid down in no uncertain terms that alcohol shall not be consumed even up to twelve hours before the pilot takes to the air. This is a salutary rule insisted upon by the RAAF and the civil airlines. It is a rule which might well be imitated by the Royal Australian Navy. The ancient tradition of the Royal Navy and the old tradition of the Royal Australian Navy was that officers did not drink at sea. It was a tradition which was respected, although in recent years it seems to have fallen into desuetude. More is the pity.
This man of whom we have heard so much this afternoon, Lieutenant-Commander Cabban, who is, I believe, at this moment in the public gallery with his wife, is a man I have come to know and respect. He is one of those rare individuals who insist on saying what they believe to be right. He insists on following rules which he believes should be followed. Whether or not they are popular, whether or not they are comfortable, he insists upon them. When he became second in command of the Voyager’ he said that no officer should drink while at sea. A couple of officers protested. They were paraded before Captain Stevens and Captain Stevens said that he did not see any harm in their having a beer or two if they were off duty. So it was that they did. Nonetheless, the wishes of the second in command were largely respected. The ‘Voyager’, I believe, as a result, was a reasonably safe ship during the period that Cabban was on her. But, Sir, things change. Some weeks before this disaster Cabban left the ship. When we see the whole matter in perspective we may begin to wonder whether the moment that Cabban left the ship was not the moment of doom for the Voyager’ because we understand that a new regime was instituted from that moment. The salutary orders which had been insisted upon by Cabban were, we are told, suspended. A new complement of officers was added to the ship. The man who, as I shall show, took the burden of responsibility from Captain Stevens when he was unable and unfit to continue because of his consumption of alcoholic liquor, left the ship and a new complement of officers took over. Captain Stevens was faced with an entirely new situation in which he had to put to sea without the helping hand of LieutenantCommander Cabban.
Lieutenant-Commander Cabban is a man who has the highest reputation in the Navy. I have seen and heard from his so-called flimsies nothing but praise. He is loyal, industrious, able, intelligent, efficient; a man of high moral character. All these things have been said of Cabban. He left the Navy at his own request. He has established himself in civil life as a management consultant and is in the highest standing. I spoke the other day to a managing director of a construction company which has employed him. On all sides I hear nothing but praise for this man. The Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp) may speak as he will of Cabban’s reputation. I spent seven hours in the company of this man. I got to know him fairly well. I have cross examined him; I have examined him. I have seen him alone and in company. I have been through this whole sorry story with him over and over again. 1 believe this man is telling the truth. I would not care if the Minister for the Navy, with all due respect to him, brought along a stack of statements from serving officers saying that they could not remember or could not corroborate. 1 know, all honourable members know, that in many of the professions there may be the odd man who is prepared to tell us the plain unvarnished truth, and there are a great number of people who are prepared to go along with the establishment. Indeed, they may even see it as a virtue to go along with the establishment. They say: ‘Let us not denigrate the deceased. Let us not rake up the old troubles. Do not let us reopen old wounds.’ This is their plea. On this plea perhaps, we let men go down to their death. So is it not a fitting thing that we should look back now and see whether, perhaps, this Royal Commission did not overlook a thing or two? I do not blame the Royal Commissioner. I do not blame Mr Smyth. But let us look back and see whether something was overlooked; whether something was dealt with, perhaps, in a perfunctory fashion when it should have merited the most meticulous examination in order to establish the true cause of this disaster.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I daresay that a speech bisected by a dinner adjournment would not bc quite the same as a speech which has not been so bisected. To take up the thread of my discourse again, may I say that I made a careful study of this matter as best I could. I was fortunate, perhaps, in that I have as constituents both Captain Robertson and Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. I attempted to make the best use that I could of the opportunity that presented itself to me. 1 have perused the relevant documents and what I have to say represents the result of careful thought and consideration of the matter. I believe that important evidence - and I speak particularly about the consump tion of liquor aboard the ‘Voyager’, especially by the Captain - was available but was not called. The Attorney-General says that it is not new evidence. So much the worse, because this evidence was available and counsel assisting the Commissioner had a session of no less than one hour with the witness whose evidence we are now told he referred to as being unreliable, uncorroborated and irrelevant. I doubt it.
I doubt whether that kind of judgment can properly be made. When evidence as serious as that is presented to counsel, can he properly judge this man and this evidence - in one hour in which he never challenged the witness? He never brought him back and said: ‘You are uncorroborated. Can you give me the name of someone who will support you?’ He never said: ‘So-and-so contradicts you’. He never attempted to test him in any way. Yet now, forsooth. we are told that his evidence is unreliable, uncorroborated and irrelevant. Irrelevant indeed! Is it irrelevant that the captain of a destroyer in port is perpetually drunk, comes back every morning at 8 o’clock under the influence of liquor, sleeps all day and then starts drinking again? This went on day after day after day. When they came back from the Far Eastern cruise - before it had finished - from August to January, when the ship went in for its refit, he was perpetually drunk - if not asleep or sick, attempting to recuperate. Is this irrelevant? Is not this one of the facts and circumstances leading up to the Voyager’ disaster? Or have I lost the meaning of the word ‘irrelevant’? Are we playing a battle of semantics? What is the meaning of the word ‘irrelevant’?
– What is the meaning of the word ‘evidence’?
– I did not expect to be interrupted by the Prime Minister. We all have been invited to debate what comes to us second hand. The Prime Minister’s interruption demonstrates better than anything else that this kind of matter can be sifted only by a proper judicial inquiry, by a select committee or otherwise. How ridiculous it is that I should have to cite at second hand what Cabban says, and that the Minister for the Navy should have to recite at second hand what is said in what he calls a refutation. This is no way in which to deal with disputed questions of fact. These matters should be dealt with by proper judicial inquiry. Let the men concerned go on oath. Let them be tested, by all means. I cannot vouch (or the credibility of Cabban. I believe in it; but I cannot vouch for it, because I believe in the time-honoured methods of judicial inquiry. Let these things be deposed to. Let these men be cross-examined. But let us have no more of these judgments emanating from learned counsel after one hour’s discussion in chambers, determining that a witness is unreliable, uncorroborated and irrelevant. I debate the evidence, which I believe to be true. I could be wrong, but I debate the evidence as it stands and I entirely reject any suggestion that it is irrelevant or that the Australian public did not deserve to know what the facts were. The public deserve to know that the only three bodies recovered contained .blood samples which showed evidence of alcohol.
I have looked at the Press to see how it reported the proceedings on that day when the autopsy reports and blood samples were produced in evidence. The Press knew nothing of this. Those reports and blood samples were tendered, but the reports were not read. The Press reported on that day the evidence of Admiral Gatacre in which he spoke of the admirable conduct of the captain of the ‘Voyager’. According to him, the Captain was the paragon of all virtues. It gives me no pleasure to denigrate the memory of a dead man; but let us face the truth, which is quite different from what it was pictured. The slightest peccadillo by Captain Robertson - a man with a most distinguished record, having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order, having been mentioned in despatches three times, and having received other distinctions - is mentioned. The fact that he incurred the censure of the Naval Board over some little incident with the ‘Vendetta’, for which he was not court martialled, was brought forward in evidence. He was damned with faint praise. Captain Stevens is pictured as the model of all the qualities of which the Navy could be proud. The fact is that this man had been court-martialled and convicted of hazarding his ship. It may be that there was a lot of sympathy for him in the Navy and that a lot of things could be said in extenuation, but would it not be right to mention it? Was it withheld from Mr Smyth? If so, by whom was it withheld and for what purpose?
We get a side-long reference to Captain Stevens’ drinking habits. I take up again the Prime Minister’s interjection. What about Professor Blackburn’s evidence that, having regard to Captain Stevens’ drinking habits, 25 milligrammes of liquor did not matter all that much? If it was desired to place reliance upon Captain Stevens’ drinking habits, to show that 25 milligrammes did not affect him, then those drinking habits should have been established by evidence and not referred to at second hand by Professor Blackburn. The whole of the evidence of that gentleman is based on evidence that is not evidence at all. It is based on autopsy reports and blood samples which were not proven in evidence at all. (Extension of time granted.) I am told that even in a coroner’s court, where the rules of evidence are not very strict, it is usual to prove that a sample was taken from the dead body of an identified person and that it was delivered to the analyst and that the analyst analysed it. None of these points was established. AH the information available comes out third hand from Professor Blackburn who refers to certain reports that were not proven in evidence. The only evidence on this perhaps all-important matter of the consumption of alcohol is disposed of in ten pages of evidence from the steward who was asked about the brandy and who, by some curious oversight, stated that it was a triple brandy. Professor Blackburn is not expert in these matters, but obviously he made some study of the subject so that he could give evidence. This was the first time he had ever given evidence in a judicial inquiry. He is called to brush all the suggestions aside.
If honourable members look at the transcript they will see some curious things. I do not attempt to attack the Commissioner or counsel; but I am concerned with the cause of this disaster. It was curious that the steward was not asked about the Captain’s condition when the steward delivered the triple brandy to him. It is curious that these autospy reports and blood samples were tendered but not read. The Press never woke up to the fact that the only three bodies that were recovered all contained a percentage of alcohol. It is curious that His Honour should have butted in to say, after the other samples were tendered: Very well. As I understand it - and I think this should be made clear early in the piece - there is no suggestion that the captain . . .’ Mr Smyth takes him up by saying: ‘No. Neither the captain nor the navigator was in any way affected by liquor . . .’. Then comes the evidence of Professor Blackburn who was uncertain as to his qualifications, and his opinion that 25 milligrammes of alcohol was insufficient to affect Captain Stevens.
Yet I find in his evidence that the Third International Conference on Alcohol in Road Traffic Accidents at Harvard in 1963 reached the conclusion that relatively low concentrations of alcohol did affect a person’s performance with an automobile. It is accepted that relatively low levels - that is, under 50 milligrammes - can result in some change in a person’s reaction. For instance, it is said that 20 to 40 milligrammes of alcohol by mouth - apparently he took 36 to 45; that is three tots of brandy - will double the errors in close work for two hours. Those who are used to drinking alcohol perform better than those who are not. This accident occurred H hours after taking a triple brandy. Let us say in defence of the Captain that he was a heavy drinker and this should not have affected him so much. But it is one of the facts that should be established. It is one of the facts leading up to the accident and it might be of significant importance.
Then we find, when we come to Lieutenant Cook, the Navigating Officer, the officer who above all was responsible for the safety of his ship, His Honour said: Do we need to go into detail on this one?’ Why ever not? Why should we not go into detail as to the amount of alcohol in the blood of the Navigating Officer? True, it was only 15 milligrammes. Perhaps the learned professors can tell us that this does not matter. But I Wonder whether the public will be satisfied with this kind of explanation. Then we come to the third man. His Honour was told: ‘He was not on the bridge, Your Honour.’ He was not on the bridge and so we do not hear anything at all about Able Seaman Parker. But he had 50 milligrammes in his blood. He had gone beyond the Plimsoll line and he could have been convicted on that mere fact. Yet he was not on the bridge and therefore nothing was said about him. I have yet to hear that there are any passengers on board a destroyer. Every man on a destroyer has a vital function to perform or he would not be there. I think the public of Australia was entitled to know that one of the seamen had a level of alcohol of 50 milligrammes in his blood, and that this would have been enough to affect his judgment. What was he in charge of? Was it the lifeboats? I do not know, but at least he had a given function to perform and I think the Australian public and the Commissioner were entitled to know about it.
There is so much I could say and yet time passes. I have five minutes left and perhaps I had better make whatever points I can in the time that remains. This evidence may have indicated the cause - if not the cause, a possible cause. If not that, it may have indicated at any rate a contributing factor. At the very least it is part of the facts and circumstances leading up to this disaster and these, after all, were what the Royal Commissioner had to report upon. Here we have an almost incredible accident and here we have the possible answer. Should it not have been investigated with meticulous care? As it was, it occupied ten pages out of a total of more than 3.500 pages, and not one line or one word in the Commissioner’s report was devoted to it. It was not even considered. The witness who could have provided the ali important clues was seen for one hour and then dismissed; then he is denigrated in this House. In the result, the Government and the public either failed to learn the cause or the possible cause of the disaster or at the very least they failed to learn the lesson that could have been learned, can still be learned and must be learned from this disaster in which eighty-two men lost their lives. But we are told that it is irrelevant
This man was a chronic drunkard. As the Attorney-General put it in a masterpiece of understatement: ‘Captain Stevens frequently drank to excess’. He had a triple brandy an hour and a half before the accident. Indeed he must have been thirsty to call for a triple brandy just before he took part in what the Attorney-General called an intrinsically dangerous operation - night manoeuvres. The alcohol in the bloodstream, despite the almost incredible conduct of ‘Voyager’, is said to be irrelevant. The fact that the three bodies of Captain, Navigating Officer and seaman contained alcohol was irrelevant. No, Sir, it is not good enough. I cannot say who is telling the truth. Neither the AttorneyGeneral nor the Minister for the Navy can say who is telling the truth. Only the people who actually see and hear the witnesses can say it. But I have taken the trouble and the time to try to understand and to try to assess the credibility of these people, not by documents but by personal contact. Therefore, I oan claim on this one side, at any rate, to speak with some little authority.
I have a long list of people who I believe can corroborate this evidence. Whether they will depends on their courage and on the circumstances in which they are interviewed, lt depends on the milieu in which they give their evidence. I am not convinced by what the Minister for the Navy has read to me from written statements. But I think I have learned enough to read between the lines of some of the statements that were read to us, and I see there quite a degree of corroboration, not refutation, of what is said by LieutenantCommander Cabban. The Minister for the Navy says that he assumes the honourable member for La Trobe sees a fragment of truth in this, otherwise he would not have brought it out. A fragment of truth indeed. Let a select committee or a proper judicial inquriy decide whether there is a fragment of truth in what Lieutenant-Commander Cabban has to say in his long and detailed statement. It indicates, amongst other things, that this Captain had to give up command of his vessel to him on three separate occasions after leaving port for periods ranging from one to seven days. These statements can be verified. Are they a figment of his imagination? Does he suffer from delusions?
– Who verifies them?
– Let a proper tribunal determine it - not the Minister for the Navy, not the Prime Minister, not the Attorney-General, but a Select Committee or a proper judicial committee. It should not be determined by counsel assisting the Commission after an interview of one hour with the witness. Let someone determine it after seeing and hearing the witnesses.
I know my time is running out, but I must say one thing. Some senior officers, if these things occur, should perhaps have known and did know that some action should have been taken, and I am going to say that this motion before the House should be amended. I move:
If 1 have a minute remaining to mc, let me say that I come from a family - I take some small pride in saying it - who occupy a famous place in the pages of British history. I am proud of that man Oliver St John - I have a brother and a son of the same name - who appeared for John Hampden in the Ship Money case, one of the most famous cases in British constitutional history, asserting the authority of the Parliament against the prerogative claimed by Charles I.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
Mi TURNER (Bradfield) [8.19)- 1 second the amendment. It gives me great pleasure to do so. Indeed, there is little for me to add as a seconder to what the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) has said. There are only two things I think 1 can do tonight. The first is to take pride in the fact that I stand with the honourable members for La Trobe (Mr Jess) and Warringah. Here arc two men straight as gun barrels, if I may say so. Their reputations in this place are known. They come forward and speak the truth as they see it, even if it may not be in their personal interest to do so. I am proud to stand with them and to be counted with them on this matter. I should like at the outset to say a word about the motion at present before the House, and the amendment that has been moved. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) invited the honourable member for La Trobe to take what remedy was available to a private member in this House to air a matter in respect of which he had gained no hearing in another place. The honourable member took the only course that was open to him; he gave notice of a private member’s motion. According to the Standing Orders of the House the first date upon which he could set this down was in October next. The Government chose that it should not come on in October next. That was nothing to do with the wishes of the honourable member for La Trobe; he had no option. What the Government could have done was to arrange that the motion should be heard now rather than in October but the Government did not choose to do that. It said that the honourable member for La Trobe could make on the floor of the House a statement which under the forms of the House would be noted, whatever that means.
The honourable member for La Trobe chose not to do this. So today the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) has made a ministerial statement and we are invited to note that statement. The honourable member for Warringah has moved an amendment that instead of merely noting the statement, whatever that may be, the House be invited to make a decision as to whether it thinks that this matter should be the subject of inquiry by a select committee of this House. This is quite clear and straight forward; it is this Parliament that is now on trial. Are there enough men in this Parliament who are prepared to say that one cannot determine this issue on the say-so of the Attorney-General, the Minister for the Navy (Mr Chipp), or for that matter the honourable member for Warringah? Statements have been made as to what LieutenantCommander Cabban has said, or what Captain Peek, Captain Willis or someone else has said. Is there in this House any man or woman who can be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that LieutenantCommander Cabban is speaking the truth, or that Captain Willis. Captain Peek or someone else is speaking the truth? Of course not. The only way to determine a matter of this kind where conflict of evidence arises is by the time-honoured method followed in the courts. That is to say, witnesses are summoned. We shall not get naval witnesses unless they are summoned; this is natural enough. Witnesses must be summoned, put on oath and crossexamined. That is the only way to ascertain the truth when a conflict of evidence arises. Every member of the House knows this to be so.
The honourable member for Warringah is giving the House and honourable members the opportunity to vote that such a select committee should be appointed. I say that the House is on trial if it votes against this proposal. I say that it will vote against its conscience. No man can be certain that any one of these people is right unless each of them is brought before a select committee or some other tribunal, put on oath, examined and cross-examined.
We have heard considerable questioning about what good purpose would be served by further ventilation of this matter. I want to say a word about it. We have been told by Ministers that the finding could not be any different from what it was. After all, Voyager’ was found to be responsible so how much more responsible could she be and what good purpose would be served by opening up old wounds and raking over old sorrows? What good purpose is to be served? One would shrink in other circumstances from raising matters concerning the dead. I answer this question of what good purpose can be served by asking the question: Was evidence wrongly suppressed? I do not know; the honourable member for Warringah has suggested that in his judgment, from what he knows - and he confesses that he does not know everything - evidence which he as senior counsel regards as relevant, no matter what the AttorneyGeneral says, was suppressed. If it was suppressed - and we do not know until we have a select committee on this matter - then there was a miscarriage of justice. This goes to the fount of justice. Was the fount of justice sullied? Is there anything more important to every citizen of this country, to every member of this House, to every man and officer in the Navy than that justice is properly and impartially administered and not corrupted? I do not say that it has been corrupted; I do not know. This is a matter of enormous importance to everyone and of course of especial importance to officers and men of the Navy.
We have been told that bringing this matter into the open will destroy morale in the Navy. How would we feel if we were in the Navy and knew that important evidence in a case such as this had been suppressed and we knew that one day we might be involved in similar circumstances? How would we feel if to clear our name it was important that evidence should be given and we had no assurance that it would be given if it did not suit some persons higher up that it should be revealed? This is the first reason why this matter has to be opened up. What is the purpose? The first purpose is that justice must be properly done. If there is doubt, that doubt must be removed.
We pass on from the question of the purity of justice, which affects every man. I come to the next question. If the statement of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban is correct, and it has been stated at some length by my friend the honourable member for La Trobe, and some pertinent comments have been made by my friend the honourable member for Warringah - then we have a situation where a man who is an alcoholic may be in command of an Australian ship and in charge of Australian lives. I do not mince words; this is what emerges from the statement that the honourable member for La Trobe has read.
This is most important. For what purpose should we re-open this matter? If an alcoholic can be in charge of an Australian ship and Australian lives - eighty-two have already been lost - then the same thing could happen tomorrow, next week or next month. Is this important to us? How is it relevant to the terms of the inquiry? I do not know, but I am sure it is relevant to this House and to the Australian public that no doubt whatever should remain. How can it be, if this is true, that the system of inspection and reporting in the Australian Navy is as good as it should be; or is it that the system of inspection and reporting is quite all right, but those in senior positions, perhaps because this is a small Service and they are all gentlemen together, feel that it is not for them to take action that ought to be taken, either to refuse to promote, or to remove from his appointment, a man who is an alcoholic. This is th: second grave issue for this Parliament and upon which it will be judged. We must know.
The final matter raised by the honourable member for La Trobe is of course the situation of Captain Robertson himself. As has already been mentioned, and as appears from the report of the Royal Commission on that night of tragedy, the incredible happened. A ship the duty of which was to follow the course of the aircraft carrier, which undoubtedly had the right of way, ran straight across the bows of the carrier. The incredible happened. What was the great fault of Captain Robertson? He was not quick enough. He should have blown the whistle. He should have grabbed the telephone. It is like the man involved in a motor car accident who sees that a collision is inevitable and unavoidable but says ‘Ah, yes, but when it comes into court I will be able to say I put my hand up’ although this action would serve no purpose whatever. The Royal Commission admitted this. Having come to the conclusion that nothing he could have done at that moment would have made any difference to the collision, it said nevertheless that he should have blown his hooter or grabbed the telephone.
This was the great sin of Captain Robertson and so it was he who was punished. But it is said that he was not punished; it was his own fault. Having received no friendly word from anybody, having been sent to a shore establishment, which later was held by a temporary Captain and not even by a senior substantive Captain, he chose to resign. So it was all his own fault. I do not want to labour this point because the two other matters are of immense and paramount importance. I refer to the administration of justice, pure and unsullied, and the assurance that this kind of thing, the command of an Australian ship by a man who was intoxicated, can never happen again. These are the two important things, but I mention the third one, Captain Robertson, because of the sympathy that I feel for him. We have the conflict of evidence. I do not want to go into detail about what that conflict is.
The Minister for the Navy has mentioned the refutation by various captains. It was pretty tepid refutation. There was not a collision, we were told; there was just a heavy impact, that is ali. And so he continued through the refutations. They were, if I may repeat the word, pretty tepid. But in any event are we to assume that because the refutation was made by a Captain in the Navy - a senior Captain - that this is more credible than the evidence of Lieutenant-Commander Cabban. I am not attempting to throw any aspersions on any of the evidence that was given, except to say that if anyone is trying to rubbish and to denigrate Lieutenant-Commander
Cabban, the attempt is unworthy and contemptible. An attempt has been made to do this. The Minister laughs.
– It is all right for the honourable member to do that?
– I do not know what the Minister means by that. I do not think I have been rubbishing anybody. I have been speaking about great principles which affect us in this House. Whom am I rubbishing?
– A dead man for a start.
– Well, I have rubbished a dead man, for a start. This is regrettable - it is most regrettable - but I am concerned about eighty-two people who are dead and others who may be dead hereafter. I am not going to remain silent and not speak about facts, however painful they may be, if the cost of not speaking about those facts is that this thing could happen again. Let that be quite clear. When speaking about rubbishing, I should say also that these honourable men in the Navy are members of a service in which they still serve. Like the honourable member for Warringah, I also have spoken with LieutenantCommander Cabban for about three hours and I formed the same impression as he did, that this is a man of honesty and integrity who has no reason not to speak the truth. It may be that a man still in the Navy has reason to do so. I say no more about it.
It certainly is true that a man who stands as Lieutenant-Commander Cabban does has no reason to speak other than the truth. The fact that he is a Lieutenant-Commander and that somebody else is a Captain lends no greater credibility to the Captain or to the person of higher rank - none whatever. The Lieutenant-Commander is out of the Navy. He is very gainfully employed as a management expert. He is not somebody who was thrown out of the Navy because he was incompetent. He is a highly competent man. I was with him for three hours and I formed the impression that here was no screwball. He was nothing but an honest and sensible man prepared to speak the truth. I pay my tribute to him. This is years after the event. I have no doubt that he would much rather have spoken out at the time. He has no wish to be on bad terms with his former comrades in the Navy. It needs a great deal of moral courage to do what he has done. I pay my tribute to him. The same is true of the honourable member for La Trobe and the honourable member for Warringah. 1 am proud to stand with them. 1 have no doubt whatever that the case is proved up to the hilt for a select committee for the investigation of the disputed facts in the only way they can be investigated. I stand for this and I say that so far as the Australian public is concerned this Parliament is on trial.
– The central question now in dispute is a statement made by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban and whether or not the statement made by him some time ago should have been admitted to the Royal Commission. lt is upon that statement that my learned friend, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John), has moved an amendment, lt is upon that statement that my honourable friend from La Trobe (Mr Jess) spoke this afternoon with force and clarity. Before 1 turn to LieutenantCommander Cabban’s statement I should like to make one or two introductory remarks. The first is with respect to the speech made by my honourable friend from Warringah. I congratulate him upon it, even though I excuse myself well in advance from agreeing with it and pass the observation that I think my friend has been spending too much time in the equity courts because he reverses the onus of proof. The second preliminary comment that I want to make is to the widow and relatives of one man in particular - Captain Stevens. I hope that they will find the sense of charity to understand the debate that is taking place in this Parliament.
– That is a disgraceful statement to make about another honourable member of this House.
– The honourable member will wring no apology from me for this. I say to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that this is a great parliamentary occasion, but I hope that Parliament will not lose its instinct for fair play when it realises that this is dealing with a man who cannot speak for himself. I say to the honourable member that if this is his sense of justice, then by all means embrace it. He will wring no apology from me for my remarks. The third comment I wish to make is with respect to the speech of the honourable member for La Trobe. I had long been under the impression that my friend’s grievance with respect to Lieutenant-Commander Cabban’s statement was that it represented an injustice to Captain Robertson. Having said that 1 say also to the honourable member for La Trobe that 1 will not give any ex parte account of private conversations. Rightly or wrongly, that was the impression 1 had in my mind with regard to LieutenantCommander Cabban’s statement. If I am wrong I can apologise to him.
Dealing now with the relevance of his statement, in my view no injustice - certainly not in terms of the Commission’s report - has been done to Captain Robertson. One may be able to believe, or indeed to sustain an argument regarding, other matters - the question of money, the circumstances in which he retired - but that is not the central issue to which the House is now directing its attention. Having said that by way of a preliminary remark 1 come to the central issue. My friend from La Trobe, who was supported with vigour by the honourable and learned gentleman from Warringah, said in effect: ‘Here are the charges made by LieutenantCommander Cabban - disprove them.’ I respond with the next man to these injunctions for justice, unsullied, to be done, as my friend from Bradfield (Mr Turner) said, but I will not have this perversion of the onus of proof with respect to a statement made by Cabban. It is not upon Stevens’ interests, upon the Navy or upon anybody else to disprove the statement. The onus is upon LieutenantCommander Cabban to prove it. We have had two illustrations of proof, one coming from the honourable member for Warringah who said: T spoke to him for seven hours and I formed the conclusion that he was a witness of truth’. If I may say this to the honourable gentleman, he would not be the first lawyer to have spoken to a witness for seven hours and then found out that he was not telling the truth.
But let me put the honourable member for La Trobe at ease, and the honourable member for Warringah, and let me say this to them: I will assume, for the purpose of my argument, that the statement made by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban is correct. Is there any ambiguity about that? I am assuming it is correct. If it were correct, what is the relevance so far as the
Commission was concerned? 1 want to raise simple points with respect to it. If what Lieutenant-Commander Cabban now says was true as regards the antecedents of Captain Stevens I should have thought there was the plainest of responsibility falling upon a senior officer to have reported that. Why - and 1 ask all honourable members this - was that action not taken? In terms of the collision itself, and in terms of the inquiry, what has a man’s past got to do with it? The honourable member for La Trobe says two things: Firstly, that the statement made by Lieutenant-Commander Cabban should have been introduced or should have been led by the counsel assisting the Commission and. also, and 1 take this by implication, that the evidence given by Professor Blackburn should also have been listened to. My honourable friend from Warringah takes the view that the evidence of Professor Blackburn was not of much account, an argument to which I will address myself later.
The crucial test in determining whether or not a person is drunk is not what a person sees of him and not what a person hears of him, but what is in his blood - the alcohol content of his blood. I know of no authority - and I invite my honourable friend from Warringah to refer me to one - that affirms as a principle when any man is on trial for driving under the influence any test other than the decisive test of the quantity of alcohol in the blood. It is not determined by breath, by staggerings or by the fact that a person may walk in a quaint fashion; the quantity of alcohol in the blood is the test that has been accepted. I ask the honourable member for La Trobe to consider the two circumstances. Here is blood taken from the heart of a dead man - and I will come to pass comment about that in a moment - and on the other hand there is the statement prepared by a person whose relationship to Captain Stevens no person knows. On the balance of justice which statement do we accept - a statement which is inflammatory or highly prejudicial, or do we take what my honourable friend from Warringah maligns, a commentary by Professor Blackburn?
The honourable member for Warringah said that he did not accept the credentials of Professor Blackburn. What sort of credentials does the honourable gentleman want? I should have thought that in terms of presenting a commentary on a blood analysis Professor Blackburn would have had few peers in Australia, certainly if one is going to take into account his academic record. Quite beyond any consideration of his academic record there is the question of the regard in which he is held by other members of his profession. Let me come to the commentary given by Professor Blackburn. I put it to the House - and I hope that the honourable member for La Trobe is not going to let it go unnoticed - that Professor Blackburn’s evidence was given on 21st May 1964 and that Captain Robertson was given legal representation on 1st April of the same year. I would agree with my friend that the Government of the day could well have given him legal representation from the outset, but that is another matter. However, if Captain Robertson or any of the other interests represented at the Commission wanted to challenge Professor Blackburn’s evidence they were fully entitled to do so. What is the significance of that evidence? In Captain Stevens’ bloodstream was found .025% of alcohol. This is a negligible quantity of alcohol to find in the bloodstream. It is the quantity that can be got from having a couple of glasses of beer. I know of no authority that would support the view that that quantity of alcohol could in any way affect or impair the judgment of any man.
If my honourable friend from Warringah is so keen to assess the relevance of evidence let me mention two points. The blood was taken from the heart. It is a wellestablished clinical fact that after a person dies alcohol diffuses into the heart and so, in all probability - certainly on the balance of probability - a higher content of alcohol would be shown in the blood in the heart than in blood taken from any other part of the body. The second significant thing to notice about the commentary given by Professor Blackburn is that he said: T do not know if the instruments used to take the blood had been sterilised in alcohol’. Honourable members may ask: What is the relevance of that? No forensic specialist in this field would think for one moment of approving of any instrument being used that had been put into any volatile fluid - alcohol, ether, or, indeed, methylated spirits. So assume - and I think that one is entitled to make this assumption - that the instruments used had not been sterilised by way of heat, and that is the only way in which all probability of introducing some minuscule amount of alcohol into the instruments and subsequently into the report could have been obviated; and assume, on the other hand, that the instruments had been sterilised in alcohol of some description, in methylated spirits or ether-
– The honourable member is a Perry Mason.
– My honourable friend may find this amusing, but if he took note of some of the things being said he would quell his exuberance somewhat. The House has before it, and I hope people outside will bear it in mind, the distinct possibility of a completely erroneous test having been conducted to the prejudice of Captain Stevens - a test not in any way in his favour but to his prejudice. I put it to my friend from Warringah and to the honourable member for La Trobe that here is the scientific basis upon which the alcohol intake of a person can be determined. Which do they prefer as a matter of evidence - that form of evidence, or do they prefer to accept, and to support to the exclusion of all other considerations, the evidence given in a statement by a man whose relationship to the late Captain Stevens not one of us knows? It is possible, once having determined the alcoholic content in the blood, to work back by a variety of systems and to say how much alcohol a person had consumed.
– Over what time?
– This is done every day of the week. My friend from Maribyrnong introduces the question of the time factor. Professor Blackburn freely acknowledged the time factor. If any gain is to be made by those who have drawn up the indictment, so to speak, I think it well compensated by having regard to the other considerations to which I have referred. I say to my friend from Warringah: ‘Assuming the statement is correct, has not my friend ever heard of the doctrine of similar facts?’ Possibly it does not emerge in an equity court, but it certainly does in a criminal court. How would my friend like being put on trial for criminal negligence if he had an antecedent of alcoholism? Some person might charge: On one hundred occasions I have seen this person so hopelessly drunk that he could not control himself. What relevance would that have to the charge at issue at the time? So I say to the House that it is easy to make the charge, but it is an entirely different thing to dispute it.
What if my friend had been involved in a collision in a motor car? Would he relish the idea of that sort of evidence being led by the Crown Prosecutor? Would he relish the idea of a jury’s being allowed to make up its mind according to such highly prejudicial evidence? I submit that the only evidence that has to be considered in this matter is this: On the night in question was this man under the influence of alcohol? Further, I submit to the House that on the most scientific of bases he was not under the influence at all. Again let us assume that LieutenantCommander Cabban’s statement is correct. What would be the position if between the last time LieutenantCommander Cabban had seen Captain Stevens, had spoken to him and had lived with him on board ship, the man had abandoned these ways? Is the onus now upon Stevens’ interests to turn round and prove that? I should imagine that the onus is upon the man who makes the charge to disprove it. I well understand the sense of conviction that has welled in the mind of the honourable member for Latrobe. I understand the parliamentary response of the honourable member for Bradfield and I acknowledge the parliamentary contribution of the honourable member for Warringah; but let not this House ignore its responsibility and be the first legislative body to trample upon the rule of law.
It is very easy to say that this evidence should have been accepted and other evidence rejected, but let not one of us fail to acknowledge the fact that the person who has been under singular attack in this debate has been the Royal Commissioner himself. Those who sat in this Parliament with him, be it on the Government side or the Opposition side, will acknowledge the utter integrity of the man and the sheer probity of his conduct. So I invite those who hold strong opinions - they are entitled to hold strong opinions on this matter - not to ignore the basic fact that here is another man who is under attack. I say to the House that, upon the clearest of demonstrations, upon the acceptance of the scientific evidence given by Professor Blackburn, there is no justification for accepting the amendment.
– This debate is as horrible and as nauseating to me as was the conduct of the Royal Commission. If we members take our minds back to the time when the Commission was sitting, we all will remember our dislike and horror of the conduct of the Commission. My purpose in speaking tonight is to achieve a better regard for a man who acted most honourably in all phases of this matter. I refer to Captain Robertson, who could have capitalised on the evidence that was made available through LieutenantCommander Cabban but who, because of Navy tradition, was not willing to take advantage of it. Indeed, in crossexamination he expressed a high opinion of Duncan Stevens. Right through this horrible procedure this man stands out as the one bright spot. Although the machinery of the House may not permit me to do so at this stage, I should like to move the following amendment to the amendment:
That Captain Robertson should be offered reinstatement with seniority restored as from the date of his resignation, and that if this is not acceptable to Captain Robertson the Government should make an ex gratia payment of the full amount of any entitlement denied to him by his premature retirement.
We must admire Captain Robertson’s attitude. When he was demoted to a shore job he thought, in the highest traditions of the Navy, about the effect of such an appointment on Navy personnel. Although it was a self-inflicted sacrifice, he undertook it. Why did he do so? The answer is that he wanted to give the men of this Service a better understanding of loyalty so that they might serve loyally in the best traditions of the great Navy of which we all should be proud. I well recall that at the time he offered his resignation he said, in effect, that he did it so that the men of the Navy would not be disappointed and that they would endeavour to carry on in the best traditions of that Service. It is from this standpoint that we must view the actions of this man. In my opinion, he acted most honourably and correctly.
It might be said that if Parliament agrees to the amendment it will result in personal vendettas. Let there be personal vendettas; I am sure that men with courage similar to that of Captain Robertson will see them through.I am convinced that if any man has suffered in this matter, it has been Captain Robertson. What will a select committee achieve? It will go over all this horrible mess that has been before us since 1964, especially for four or five months at that stage. To the credit of the honourable member for Latrobe (Mr Jess), he has kept the matter alive since then. Although his wife is a cousin of Captain Robertson, I well recall that he began criticising the conduct of the Commission before he knew of this relationship. I should like some honourable member to second the amendment, if it is within the machinery of the House for him to do so, so that we may restore to this man what he should have received. Thereby we would be helping a man who acted honourably throughout the Commission and who has acted in a most honourable way since.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– In view of the gravity of the allegations made and the necessity for the Opposition to consider the amendment, I move:
That the debate be adjourned.
– Order! I asked whether the amendment was seconded.
– I thought no-one else sought the call, and that you called me.
– Order! The amendment to the amendment is not seconded. The question therefore remains before the House in its original form, subject to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Warringah.
Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Without amendment -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Superannuation Bill 1967.
National Library Bill 1967.
Trade Practices Bill 1967.
Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1966-67.
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1966-67.
Assent to the following Bills recorded:
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill 1967.
Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Bill 1967.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Excise Tariff Bill 1967. Income Tax Assessment Bill 1967.
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1967.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1967.
Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill 1967.
Bill returned from the Senate with requests.
Bill presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This bill validates, only until 1st May 1967, the collection of duties of Customs under Customs Tariff Proposals No. 1 moved on 22nd February, No. 5 moved on 14th March, No. 6 moved on 16th March, No. 7 moved on 4th April, No. 8 moved on 13 th April and No. 9 moved on 20th April 1967.
Each of these Proposals has pursuant to section 226 of the Customs Act 1901-1966 a validity, without challenge in a court of law, for six months. This means that, unless the Parliament acts, the duties collected under Proposals No. 1 could be required by court action to be repaid after 22nd August 1967. Duties collected under Proposals No. 9 on the other hand cannot be challenged until after 20th October 1967.
The position is further complicated by the fact that when certain Proposals, specifically numbers 1, 5, 6 and 7, were introduced the Customs Tariff Bill 1967 had not been passed by the Parliament. Honourable members will recall that that Bill, now an Act, introduced support duties through the insertion of a new Fourth Schedule to the Customs Tariff. Hence when the Customs Tariff 1967 was proclaimed to operate on 2nd May 1967, Proposals No. 7 was incompatible with the principal Act while Proposals No. 6 was in part incorporated in the Customs Tariff 1967 but the balance necessitated an amendment of the principal Act. In consequence it was desirable that the validity of these Proposals be terminated at 1st May 1967 and their substance re-introduced in a form acceptable to the current Act.
It then followed that rather than validate selected Proposals until some future date, being a date by which an enabling Bill might reasonably be expected to be passed by the Parliament, and indeed in the case of Proposals No. 6 to two different dates, it was preferable to validate all the Proposals to 1st May 1967, re-introduce the Proposals to operate from 2nd May and introduce the enabling Bill at a convenient date to enact the proposals before their terminal date six months later.
I commend this validation Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the validation until 31st December 1967 of excise duties collected on certain canned fruits in pursuance of Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1 which was introduced into this House on 16th March last. The Government has decided to seek validation of the new rates and will introduce legislation to give full effect to the change in the new session when members will be afforded an opportunity to debate the amendment.
I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give the Commonwealth power to control the manufacture of narcotic drugs from locally produced raw materials and to direct certain other operations involving drugs in accordance with obligations which Australia will assume on becoming a party to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961. The text of the Convention is reproduced as a Schedule to the Bill.
The Single Convention is a codification of nine earlier international treaties on narcotic drug control. The United Nations Organisation at the First Session of the General Assembly initiated the work of bringing these agreements together and, after nine years work by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in consultation with the World Health Oragnisation and other interested bodies, a draft agreement was produced and, in 1961, representatives of seventy-four countries, including Australia, met in New York to finalise it.
On being ratified by forty countries the Convention came into force on 13th December 1964. Fifty-seven countries and thirtythree territories have now ratified the Convention and international control is being administered by the United Nations Central Narcotics Board in Geneva. The Convention covers all aspects of narcotics control both national and international, and forms the basis of a world wide campaign against drug addiction and illicit trafficking.
In order that Australia may accede to the Convention, it is necessary for Commonwealth, State and Territory laws on narcotics control to be brought into line with the Convention’s requirements. All the State governments indicated their acceptance of the provisions of the Convention and all necessary amendments to State legislation have been made.
The Commonwealth at present controls manufacture under the provisions of the Customs Act, because the raw materials being used are imported. However, plans are well advanced for manufacture of morphine and its derivatives from raw material of local origin; for example, poppy capsule material grown in Tasmania. Such manufacture cannot be controlled under the Customs Act. The main objective of the Bill is to control all aspects of manufacture of narcotic drugs under a system based on the licensing of manufacturers and their premises as provided for in the Single Convention.
Control of manufacture in Australia is based at present on administration by the Commonwealth of the estimates system, provided for in the earlier narcotic drug conventions and continued in the Single Convention which replaces them. Under this system, estimates of consumption of narcotic drugs for medical and scientific needs are required to be submitted annually to the United Nations. The total quantity of each drug entering the domestic market, either by importation or by local manufacture, is then kept within these estimates by the allocation of quotas. To ensure that Australia’s obligations under the Single Convention will be fulfilled the Commonwealth must continue to administer the estimates system which is an integral part of national and international control. It is considered essential, therefore, that the Commonwealth extend its legislation to cover all aspects of manufacture of narcotic drugs.
The Bill also provides that, where a vessel or aircraft arrives in Australia with narcotics on board consigned in transit to another country, the captain of the vessel or aircraft must produce, on request, an export authorisation issued by the government of the country of export. This is a requirement of the Single Convention and is designed to ensure that trafficking in narcotics is not carried on under the guise of legitimate commerce.
A further objective of this Bill is to require manufacturers of, and wholesale dealers in, narcotic drugs or preparations to keep such records and furnish such returns as are necessary in order to enable the Commonwealth to carry out its obligations under the Single Convention. In practice the records which wholesale dealers are required to keep under State legislation would be accepted for the purpose of this legislation. Clause 7 provides that the legislation will not apply to the exclusion of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth unless such a law is inconsistent with an express provision of this legislation. It is necessary for the Commonwealth to obtain special statistical returns from importers, manufacturers and whole salers, in order to compile returns for submission to the international controlling authorities. The statistics required are essential to the Commonwealth’s operation of the estimates system referred to earlier.
The penal provisions of Article 36 of the Single Convention were considered last year by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General. The Committee recommended that provision should be made for serious offences involving narcotic drugs to be indictable and that persons guilty of such offences be liable:
Traffic in narcotics and addiction to these drugs, as honourable members will know, are social problems of increasing magnitude. They are subjects of world-wide concern and it is necessary in the community interest to discourage illicit dealings in narcotics by imposing severe penalties on persons convicted of participation in this pernicious trade.
The penal clauses of this Bill provide for such penalties in relation to illicit manufacture and illicit diversion of legally manufactured narcotics. The Government is currently taking action to increase penalties under the Customs Act for other narcotics offences and will continue to study the narcotics problem with a view to taking any further steps necessary to protect the Australian public in this sphere. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill which honourable members are now asked to consider is to amend the Customs Act to increase substantially a wide range of penalties for offences against that Act. As I mentioned previously in introducing into this House the Narcotic Drugs Bill, obligations which Australia will assume on ratification of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 require that adequate penalties are provided for serious offences involving narcotic drugs. The Standing Committee of Commonwealth end State Attorneys-General has considered tha question as to what constitutes adequate punishment in this context and has accepted that serious offences involving narcotic drugs be indictable and that persons guilty of such offences be liable to a fine not exceeding $4,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years, or to both. The Committee also accepted that provision be made for summary proceedings in circumstances where proceedings on indictment are not considered to be warranted. In such circumstances it was agreed that the maximum penalty should be a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both a fine and imprisonment.
The sections of the Customs Act concerned with offences relating to unlawful importation, exportation, possession or conveyance of narcotic drugs are sections 50 (4), 231, 233, 233a and 233b. Honourable members will see from clause 9 of the Bill that offences against these sections, which relate to narcotic drugs, are brought together by means of a new section 235 which provides, in respect of such offences, the increased penalties I have already mentioned.
By definition under clause 3 of the Bill, narcotic drug’ means a narcotic drug as defined in the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 or a narcotic preparation as so defined and includes hallucinogenic substances, for example LSD, and mixtures containing hallucinogenic substances. Sub-section (4) of section 50 of the Customs Act establishes certain offences connected with the abuse of a condition or requirement of a licence granted to an approved importer of narcotic drugs for legitimate medical or scientific purposes.
Honourable members will recall that the Narcotic Drugs Bill which I Introduced earlier this evening makes provision for heavy penalties for abuses connected with manufacture of narcotic drugs from locally produced raw materials. It is necessary for the same level of penalties to be applied in respect of abuses occuring in connection with similar operations involving imported narcotics. I turn now to the other sections I mentioned which relate particularly to offences associated with illicit importation of narcotic drugs.
The Department of Customs and Excise is charged with the responsibility of protecting the community against dangerous and undesirable imports such as narcotic drugs. The Department is very conscious of its responsibility in this regard and is constantly improving its efficiency to combat the efforts of the drug smuggler and associated operatives in this pernicious trade. The financial returns which these unscrupulous dealers in human misery stand to gain from their illicit activities are very high and it is certain that financial inducements will increase as the effect of the international campaign against narcotic drugs and drug addiction gradually reduces supplies and distribution avenues. It is essential therefore that salutary penalties, particularly penalties of imprisonment, be provided which will act as positive deterrents to any who might otherwise be tempted by the prospect of rich rewards to engage in the illicit trade in narcotic drugs.
Persons illegally importing, or attempting, illegally to import narcotic drugs, or having in their possession illegally imported narcotic drugs, or having possession of illicit narcotic drugs on board any ship or aircraft are prosecuted wherever possible under section 233b of the Customs Act. This section has for the past fifty-seven years carried a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years without provision for an alternative pecuniary penalty. The same maximum penalty is at present also provided in section 231 for the offence of two or more persons assembled for the purpose of illegally importing narcotic drugs or for the purpose of preventing seizure of, or rescuing after seizure, narcotic drugs.
In this Bill, offences against either of these sections, which involve narcotic drugs, become indictable and subject to the heavier penalties which I mentioned earlier as being agreed to by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General and which are set out in clause 9 of the Bill. For some years, considerable difficulty has been experienced in successfully prosecuting for unlawful possession of narcotic drugs under paragraph (c) of sub-section 1 of section 233b because of an interpretation placed on the wording of this paragraph by the High Court of Australia. The paragraph at present reads: 233b (.1) ‘Any person who -
While this is obviously a severe provision, I believe that the intention of it is quite clear. The amendment incorporated in the Bill merely clarifies that intention.
Because of the severity of this provision and having regard to the proposed substantial increase in penalties for offences against this section, the Bill incorporates an amendment which withdraws the GovernorGeneral’s power to proclaim the prohibited imports to which the section shall apply. Action has also been taken in respect of section 231 to withdraw a similar power of the Governor-General to proclaim the prohibited imports to which that section shall apply. In short, section 231, insofar as it relates to prohibited imports, and section 233b will apply only to offences involving narcotic drugs. Offences involving prohibited imports other than narcotic drugs will be dealt with under other sections of the Act; for example, section 233 where the maximum penalty is a fine of $1,000.
Section 233a provides, among other things, that the master of a ship or the pilot of an aircraft must not knowingly suffer his craft to be used for smuggling or for the purpose of importing prohibited imports. The Bill provides that offences against this section which involve narcotic drugs become indictable and subject to the heavier penalties I have mentioned. In connection with Section 233a I should mention that in addition to increasing penalties for narcotics offences, clause 7 of the Bill provides also that the penalty for offences against this section involving goods other than narcotic drugs be increased from $200 to $1,000. This action is taken in the context of the need to increase certain other penalties under the Customs Act which have remained unchanged for very many years.
The Bill provides also for increases in penalties for a number of other offences against sections of the Customs Act which have remained unchanged for many years. Most of these penalties have stood since 1901. A disturbing annual increase in the number of offences prosecuted under the Customs Act clearly indicates that many of the penalties at present incorporated are inadequate. The Bill provides, therefore, for significant increases in pecuniary penalties attaching to sections which have been the basis of frequent prosecutions in recent years. These sections include, for example, section 234 which deals with evasion of duty, false declarations, untrue statements, etc. There were over 750 prosecutions under this section in 1966.
The Bill also increases to a lesser degree penalties attaching to a number of other sections of the Customs Act. Prosecutions under these sections have not been numerous but they are, nevertheless, sections of considerable importance in relation to Customs controls. These sections include, for example, section 210 which deals with resisting, obstructing or preventing, the arrest of any person by an officer of Customs or police, and section 40 relating to failure to deal with goods in accordance with the Customs entry. Penalties for offences against these sections are increased to levels which are more closely related to current money values and which will have an increased deterrent effect. For ease of reference I would draw honourable members’ attention to the Schedule to the Bill. The Schedule sets out the increases in penalties for offences not involving narcotic drugs. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beaton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20th April (vide page 1495), on motion by Mr Freeth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Is it the wish of the House to debate the subject matter of the two measures together? There being no objection, this course will be followed.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, four Bills on education have been debated in the House this session. In 1965, and in previous years, they would have been introduced by the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Robert Menzies. The present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has spoken on none of those four Bills. He has made no statement on education in general this session. He has made no speech on education since he became Prime Minister. In this House four Bills have been dealt with by junior Ministers outside the Cabinet, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth) and the Minister for Health (Mr Swartz). On each occasion they have given the House the smallest possible information in the briefest possible time. The only time when the Government has attempted to give a general outline of the proposals and policies it proposed to adopt under the new Ministry of Education and Science was after I had raised the general question at length in a debate on the first bill introduced by the Minister. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) had made a speech of twenty lines, less than half a column, in introducing the Bill. I stung him into making a speech extending over eight columns in reply in order to gloss over the deficiencies and lack of planning that I had exposed in the debate.
For any understanding of the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill - the first of the two measures that are being debated together tonight - it is necessary to recall the circumstances and events leading up to it. The framework for a new approach to tertiary education was set out in the Martin report. This comittee was appointed in August 1961 and, after long delay, its report was finally tabled on 24th March 1965. The report urged that the tertiary level of education in Australia should be further diversified and developed, and it made recommendations about how this might best be done. As an interim measure, the Commonwealth Government offered to assist the States in the calendar years 1965 and 1966, and Parliament passed the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1965, enabling a capital programme of $9.6m to be entered upon immediately. The Act gave the Minister power to extend its application after December 1966 for approved projects.
To assist in planning a programme, the Government appointed the Wark Committee in August 1965. The committee’s report was completed on 30th June 1966. On 15th September, the Committee submitted a Supplementary Report, in which it stated:
Certain developments in New South Wales and Western Australia have occurred which make it necessary to vary our original recommendations in respect of those states.’
The amended report was tabled on 21st October. Arising out of this, the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1966, which was assented to on 20th October 1966, appropriated funds for the three years commencing in January last.
Another Bill was introduced earlier this year. The States Grants (Advanced Education) Act (No. 2) 1967, which was introduced on 5th April last, made provision for a redistribution of the money between three colleges in Queensland. This money had been appropriated initially under the 1965 Act, but the estimates proved to be well out.
The present Bill now repeals the 1966 Act for the reasons set out in the second reading speech. These are, according to the Minister:
Honourable members can find, in this story of delay after delay and amendment after amendment, little evidence of any well thought out plan. It speaks of the Government’s confusion in this field - about both the goals that it seeks and the means to achieve them. There were certainly inordinate delays when Sir Robert Menzies was responsible for educational matters. He had a nineteenth century elitist approach to education, but he would certainly not have allowed the confusion and mistakes that have characterised advanced education over the last year. When the Martin report was tabled my Party expressed certain reservations. For instance, in April 1965 we drew attention to the ‘imprecision of the Committee’s and the Government’s concept of non-university tertiary institutions’. Subsequent events have only confirmed that view.
Although legitimate criticisms can be made of the Martin report, it did for the first time lay down certain directions for Australian tertiary education, and its recommendations represent the elements of a serious plan of development. The report envisaged that though university growth was to be restricted, the development of a whole range of other types of tertiary institutions was to be encouraged which would more than counter-balance the restriction of universities proper. Overall, a serious plan for the development of tertiary institutions was put forward, and the development of all these institutions was to be planned and coordinated by a national planning body - an Australian tertiary education commission. Most importantly, the Martin report recognised teacher training institutions as a key element in the development of tertiary education. They were to become independent bodies with higher standards, and were to be capable of further growth into much broader institutions and of integration with other types of institutions. I shall deal more appropriately with the question of teacher training later in the debate when I come to the second Bill.
The Martin report properly recognised that the existing technical colleges were not merely poverty stricken in terms of buildings, staff and equipment, they were also inadequate as institutions which would provide for future technological education and the other tertiary needs which the Committee believed they should meet. They therefore had to be transformed into quite different institutions. In this field, the report envisaged many changes. Firstly, it was envisaged that there should be a separation of diploma and post-diploma education from trade and other certified courses. Secondly, it was envisaged that there should bc a significant increase in the variety of the courses available within particular institutions. Thirdly, it was proposed that there should be a significant broadening of existing courses. In particular, the report urged:
The introduction of liberal studies in appropriately designed courses within the diploma curriculum . . . which will adel to the breadth of the student’s education, developing in particular his critical, imaginative and creative abilities.
This call for increased attention to the humanities is a central theme in the Martin report. It states:
Breadth in education is likely to be achieved only if liberal courses support and enlarge the scope of technical ones.’
This emphasis is of two kinds: Firstly, courses for technologists must be broadened to include humanities. Secondly, diploma courses must be provided: in a variety of non-technical subjects; in particular, courses appropriate for young men and women taking up administrative positions in commerce, industry and government should be provided. The Committee believes that the provision of such courses in technical colleges will meet the requirements of many who, at present, have no alternative to entering a university.
Moreover, other improvements in technological and technical courses were held to be essential to transform ‘training’ into ‘education’. Courses in various sciences should also be added. Any reading of the Martin report shows clearly that the committee’s opinion was that the traditional technical colleges in Victoria must be transformed into something new - that is ‘tertiary colleges’.
The report recommended that new institutions and new types of institutions should be established. These should include a variety of types, but in general should be built on the basis of existing tertiary institutions - in particular, teachers’ colleges and technical colleges. The establishment of university institutions with limited objectives and, as an experiment, a three-year college during the period of development of new universities was also proposed. The report emphasised that all efforts should be made to raise the status of the new-type colleges. The Committee intended that these institutions should have ‘comparable status in the eyes of the community’. However, in its more detailed recommendations, the report recognised the obvious fact that these other institutions would admit students who could not succeed at the university. It admitted that, unfortunately, the technical colleges, for example, had a lower status in the eyes of the public and it recommended that efforts be made to strengthen and raise’ their status. Therefore it was recommending that increasing proportions of tertiary students should be diverted into institutions which the community at present regarded as of lower status than universities. Although it advocated that these institutions be improved and their status raised, it assumed that they could not become universities. It did, however, advocate that they should become degree granting institutions - a loophole which was promptly closed by the Government.
It is, of course, far too early to say how these new institutions will develop and, the commitment having been made, every effort must be made to ensure their success. One possibility is that there could be irresistible pressure for them to be upgraded to equivalent status with the universities. A study of recent development, both in Australia and overseas, suggests that this process is an inevitable one. It is therefore a reasonable prediction that Australian technical colleges will ultimately become in some sense or other universities or parts of universities - for example, the University of New South Wales.
The policy announced by the Government following the Martin report gave the appearance that it accepted some of the major principles of the report, at least in the role of technical education. However, these decisions effectively removed the heart of the Martin plan for tertiary education, and crippled any chance that it could form the basis for a real national solution to the problem. First, by excluding teacher training institutions, the Government not only refused the opportunity to liberalise and develop teacher training itself; it effectively removed the opportunity to develop new tertiary institutions on the basis of the teachers colleges, or by the integration of teachers colleges with other institutions. Independent teachers colleges were and are the obvious basis for developing new-type tertiary colleges offering a wide variety of courses in the liberal arts field. These possibilities were vetoed by the former Prime Minister, and therefore are not even mentioned in the Wark report.
Secondly, by refusing the Martin recommendation for a national tertiary education commission, the Government ensured that national planning for tertiary education as a whole would not be attempted. Administratively, all that remained was the Martin Committee’s division of tertiary education into universities, technological/ technical, and teacher training. Thirdly, by refusing to accept the recommendation that the aided colleges could develop to degree-granting status, the Government removed a key element in the Martin plan to improve their status.
We have a further example of the disparity between appearance and reality in the case of the Wark Committee. The Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education or, as it is more commonly known, the Wark Committee, appears to be a high-powered body set up to advise the Government on policy formation in this area, and to ensure that Federal finance is channelled in the right directions. However, the real role assigned to it by the Government is to act as an administrative convenience for disbursing aid to those individual projects already planned or operating in the various States. Except for its Chairman, the Committee is composed of busy men with heavy executive responsibilities. It has very limited full-time assistance. This method of planning Australia’s national development in a key area on a part-time basis is obviously inadequate.
It has been widely assumed that the Wark Committee would advise the Government at least on ways of implementing those recommendations of the Martin Committee which the Government accepted. A reading of the report shows, however, that the Committee envisages its role as almost entirely administrative and liaison. There is little reference to the major policy recommendations in the Martin report. The Martin report’s emphasis on the transformation of existing institutions which were educationally inadequate has virtually disappeared. So have the proposals for the establishment of new-type institutions. All that remains is a set of decisions for distributing Commonwealth finance for building and capital equipment. Moreover, these decisions are simply based on the recommendations made by the various States. The report says:
In our recommendations for the first triennium we have broadly accepted the pattern of development which the States themselves have devised and presented.
In fact, there is no sign that any influence or pressure by the Commonwealth Government has been directed to encourage, let alone direct, the States to spend this finance in the directions urged by the Martin report.
It is wrong that large amounts of money are provided by the Commonwealth without any serious effort being made to ensure that this expenditure will develop the system in the right direction. The Wark report itself refers to the ‘lack of co-ordination’ between the ‘various authorities concerned with tertiary education within particular States,’ and admits to a ‘failure satisfactorily to coordinate proposals within a State’. The report pointed out that there was ‘a lack of information on many matters, which would preclude adequate planning both by the States and the Commonwealth’. Accordingly it sought, and received, a grant of $250,000 towards a ‘co-ordinated programme of study and research into the problems of advanced education’. How is this grant being spent? Is a serious attempt being made to provide information which would form a basis for proper national planning?
Of course, no matter how adequate the information obtained, no serious planning can take place until:
appropriate bodies are created, both at the Federal and at the State level; and
One of the major themes of the Wark report consisted of a number of recommendations aimed at allowing ‘a far greater degree of flexibility during this first triennium’. This was primarily because much of the planning was of a preliminary nature’ so that the States had had inadequate time to make ‘firm estimates’. It was therefore recommended that supplementary submissions should be allowed and that transfers of capital funds within a State, and between States, should be allowed.
While there was nothing in itself wrong about such recommendations, these made quite clear that the original financial recommendations for the distribution of the Commonwealth grants represented little more than a hastily collected set of unexamined individual claims from a variety of institutions and authorities, based, as the Committee said, on ‘programmes which in many cases had already been initiated’. Now, ten months later, is there any more information before Parliament which would assure it that the various claims have been properly investigated, that they represent developments in the directions held to be desirable, that they are in accord wilh the principles put forward by the Martin report, or even by the Wark committee itself?
There is a vast difference between a flexible plan and no plan at all. In his second reading speech on the present Bill, the Minister refers to the Commonwealth’s agreement to a number of alterations in the financial provisions sought by the States. ‘Tasmania’, he said, ‘made a mistake’, ‘New South Wales’ has made ‘a re-appraisal of its likely needs for the triennium’, and so on. Accordingly, the Minister, ‘has taken these decisions in consultation with the States.’ This flexibility - and the co-operation with the States - is no doubt to be commended. But who, if anyone, is making the real decisions about the types of development to be encouraged? And exactly who, or what, are the State authorities making the submissions? Do they agree that the directions advocated by the Martin Committee were the right ones? Did all the programmes which they ‘had already . . . initiated’ follow those directions?
Education is a vital key to Australia’s national development. The major aim should be to make the maximum use of our limited human resources. Tertiary education can be properly developed only by serious national planning, backed by a competent professional fact finding body. Planning must deal with tertiary education as a whole, it must be based on knowledge of the important differences between the various State educational systems, and it must take account of the implications of its decisions on other parts of the education system.
Federal grants should be used to develop tertiary education in certain desired directions, to develop those areas in particular systems which are under-developed, to build on the strengths of each system and repair its weaknesses. It is absurd that large amount’s of money should be provided by the Commonwealth without any serious effort being made to ensure that this expenditure will develop the system in the right directions. The aim would be to produce ultimately a modernised national structure adequate for national needs. Far from encouraging uniformity, Federal action might aim at increasing variety, at lessening the rigidity, and removing the limitations, of each State system. This task can only be carried out in conjunction with proper planning authorities in each State.
The generation which is now subject to the vagaries of the Government’s incompetent, ill-informed and inconsistent decisions are not mere statistics in a table; they are individuals. They have reached, or will reach, the top levels of the secondary schools only by hard work. In many cases, they will have succeeded only through serious sacrifices by their parents and despite severe handicaps which our educational system - with its signal lack of equality of opportunity - has placed in their path. How many of these students will be allowed proper opportunities to make adequate use of their talents and qualifications? In how many cases will the opportunities which they and their parents have struggled for and achieved be arbitrarily removed by the Government’s illogical decisions and failure to face the need for proper planning?
The Government endeavours to give the impression that it has a well thought out plan for tertiary education involving greatly increased expenditures in this field. It hopes that we will believe that the structure which it has established - the Martin Committee leading on to the Wark Committee as a continuing advisory body - is the basis for a long-term programme. In fact, the structure is made of straw. The Government has effectively removed the heart of the Martin plan for tertiary education. The Wark Committee is merely an administrative convenience rubberstamping the proposals put to it by the States. There is no guarantee that Commonwealth finance is being channelled in the right directions. This Bill, which repeals an Act assented to only six months ago, only confirms the Government’s complete confusion as to its goals and its methods in this important area.
I now come to the Bill which deals with teacher training. It is clear that the Martin Committee regarded its proposals on teacher training as basic to its plans for tertiary education. In rejecting these proposals on teacher training, the Government in fact rejected the h:art of the Committee’s report. In its report, the committee said:
The preparation of teachers is one of the most significant phases of tertiary education in Australia . . . much of the effectiveness of education in this country, and any real prospect for educational advance, rests basically upon the quality of this preparation.
The Martin Committee emphasised the need for an increased supply of teachers and the necessity to improve teacher training. Projections quoted in the Martin report indicate that the needs of Australian schools within the State sectors will make it necessary to provide 10,000 new places in Australian teachers colleges by the year 1973. To meet in addition the needs of schools in the private sector, it will be necessary to increase the figure of 10,000 by approximately one-third.
The Martin Committee recommended that the planning required to define, allocate and time the application of resources required in the provision of these additional teachers colleges places should be assigned to State boards of teacher education. In this respect, the Committee defined, at page 195, the responsibility of such boards as:
To advise the government or governments concerned, through the Australian Universities Commission or its successor, as to the allocation of funds, both capital and recurrent, for the maintenance of institutions preparing teachers for work in the schools.
Foreseeing an inevitable delay in the setting up of the boards of teacher education, the Committee recommended immediate capital grants to the States on a £1 for £1 basis of up to £2.5ra in the year 1965-66. The Committee decided against grants for recurrent expenditure in that year, citing as its reasons the shortness of the time available for assessing of needs and the desirability of avoiding prejudice to the work of the boards once established. Had the Committee anticipated the length of the delay which was to take place, It might have taken a rather different attitude to this question, while at the same time making provision for further capital grants certainly no smaller than that proposed as the initial instalment.
The Committee recommended also that teachers colleges operated by State governments should be opened to students preparing to teach in schools outside the State systems, and that a number of Commonwealth scholarships equal to 10% of the places available in teachers colleges should be made available to enable unbonded students to undertake courses. The Martin proposals were sent to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research (Senator Gorton) on 27th August 1964 and thereafter, as far as those dealing with teacher training were concerned, stayed shelved until the federal election campaign of November 1966, when the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) announced:
We will provide $8m a year over the next three financial years for the construction and equipment of new colleges for teacher training throughout Australia. This money will require no matching grants from the States. It will be used by us to build colleges on sites selected by the States, on condition that the State does not reduce its expenditure on teacher training, and on condition that at least 10% of the places at new colleges are reserved for teachers not bonded to State education departments.
The level of expenditure on capital works proposed in this Bill is well below that required to enable the States to keep abreast of their needs as denned by the Martin projections. Though the Commonwealth contribution of S8m a year will be greater than the S5m proposed for 1965-66 by the Martin Committee, in the absence of a requirement for matching State contributions, the actual level of investment may well be below the $10m envisaged by the Committee in its proposal for the interim period prior to the establishment of the boards of teacher education. Moreover, the figure proposed by the Committee was simply its estimate of the order of expenditure required ‘to make good the more obvious deficiencies in those particular institutions which are likely to become foundation members’ of the boards of teacher education. The Committee looked to the boards to carry out the detailed research needed to establish proper annual levels of investment required to meet sub-goals implicit in the projections, and, given the Government’s failure to ensure the establishment of the boards, it is unlikely that any other body has undertaken such inquiries.
Even if it could be established that the proposed expenditure bore some relation to the level of investment required to create teachers college places on the scale envisaged by the Martin Committee, this would be rendered irrelevant by the fact that substantial sums are to be spent on the replacement of existing places in premises ill-suited for the training of teachers. Thus to keep abreast of the Martin Committee’s recommendations, the Government’s expenditure would need to be not simply abreast of the relevant level of investment but substantially in excess of it.
In New South Wales, for example, the $7. 5m grant over the three years will do little to meet the shortage of teachers. The college to be built at Chatswood will accommodate 850 trainee teachers but will replace the Balmain Teachers College, which has been an old condemned school building for twenty years. The net gain will be 500 extra places. The second, to be built at Newcastle, will replace the collection of Army huts which have housed the Newcastle Teachers College since it was established. It will provide 270 additional places. The third college, with residential facilities for 540 students, is to be built at Goulburn. The total gain in places for teachers in training will be about 1,300. By the time the colleges are built, school enrolments will have increased substantially. With an increased enrolment in New South Wales of about 30,000 a year, by the time the new colleges are built and the teachers trained for two, three or four years, the number of new school enrolments will absorb the number of new teachers, without reducing the overlarge classes or allowing for that most important education reform, the basic threeyear professional course for every teacher.
Though the Government’s proposals do not require matching grants from the States, they will inevitably involve the States in substantially greater outgoings on teacher training for recurrent items. Salaries for lecturers, living allowances for students and a variety of other unavoidable expenses associated with the continuing operation of each new institution will have to be met from education appropriations already intolerably overloaded. The lapse of time since the Martin Committee reported imposes a backlog of at least SI Om in capital provision for meeting the Committee’s projections. There is no indication in the Government’s proposals of an awareness of this fact, or of provision for making up the lost ground. The Martin Committee was concerned not simply with the capacity of the teachers colleges to turn out teachers in numbers adequate for the needs of Australian schools as set out in its projections, but also with the quality of the training given teachers by the colleges.
Noting that the aims of training courses were ‘to continue the student’s general education in breadth and in depth, to assist in the development of the student’s personal maturity, and to provide training in the theory and practice of teaching’, the Committee went on to observe that, under existing conditions:
Two years after leaving secondary school these young people will find themselves responsible, and sometimes solely responsible, for the education of a group of children to whom they must appear as mature and well-balanced adults. They must also be able to take their place as teachers in the community.
The Committee questioned whether success in these terms could be achieved given the limitations of current admission policies, staffing procedures and a two-year course.
Answering this question in the negative, the Committee recommended that:
The Committee recognised that ‘there are dangers latent in the close relationship between State departments of education and teachers’ colleges preparing teachers for government schools’. It pointed out that there would be difficulties in grafting open advertisement for staff on to senioritybased promotion systems within State departments and that the elan, variety and eagerness to experiment so desirable within institutions responsible for moulding educators might not necessarily be fostered under the direct control of a departmental bureaucracy. The Committee therefore went on to recommend that ‘there should be established in each State a Board of Teacher Education as a statutory body responsible for the supervision of standards of teacher preparation, for the granting of certificates and professional degrees, for advising governments on developments in the field of teacher education, for reviewing the courses and staffing of teachers’ colleges, for making recommendations to Ministers of Education on the granting of autonomy to such teachers’ colleges in their States as reach an appropriate standard and for admitting additional teachers’ colleges to their membership. It was envisaged that teachers colleges which came within the ambit of the Boards of Teacher Education should be developed to the point at which they could be granted autonomy’. The Committee stated also:
Because the teacher’s certificate granted by the Board will be evidence of adequate teacher preparation for schools of all types, teachers’ colleges in all States should be developed so as to provide for the preparation of all eligible students, irrespective of the type of schools in which they may later teach.
The Committee considers that a wider source of student enrolment would benefit the college and the students intending to be teachers.
The sole Liberal response to the sections of the Martin report dealing with teacher education has been the Prime Minister’s proposal for capital grants for college construction and equipment. This response at once punctured the myth of State responsibility for the detail of teacher training by insisting on a partial implementation of the Martin proposal for ‘open door’ admissions, that is, 10% of places in new institutions reserved for unbonded students, yet shirked the responsibility for insisting on the implementation of the proposals for improvement in the quality of training which I have summarised.
The Government’s failure to insist on the implementation of the Martin Committee’s proposals for improvement in the quality of teacher training ensures that whether or not effective State planning bodies for teacher training, that is, Boards of Teacher Education, are established is wholly dependent upon the degrees of enlightenment of the various State governments. The results achieved by expenditure under this Bill on teacher education are entirely dependent upon the decisions of particular State governments, and will therefore vary widely from State to State. The unique opportunity revealed in the Committee’s finding that:
The possibility of effecting the change (to three year teacher training courses) without great disruption to the output of new teachers exists until 1972 and such an opportunity may not occur again for a very long time.
It reveals that this opportunity may be capitalised upon in some States and passed up in others, to the continuing dislocation of standards between the various States and the lasting disadvantage of Australian education as a whole. The teacher training institutions were recognised as a key element in the development of tertiary education. They were to become independent bodies with higher standards and capable of further growth into much broader institutions and of integration with other types of institutions.
By excluding teacher training institutions, the Government not only refused the opportunity to liberalise and develop new tertiary institutions on the basis of the teachers colleges, or by the integration of the teachers’ colleges with other institutions. Independent teachers colleges were and are the obvious basis for developing new- type tertiary colleges offering a wide variety of courses in the liberal arts field. These possibilities were vetoed by Sir Robert Menzies and therefore are not even mentioned in the Wark Report or in this Bill.
This and the associated Bill illustrate the absurdity of the Commonwealth dealing piecemeal with education. The whole educational system must be regarded as a single entity. Assistance for one sector is only likely to cause imbalances and disruption in others. To ignore teacher training while providing assistance for universities will be to the detriment of teacher training. To ignore the problems in primary and secondary schools while providing assistance for some of the new tertiary institutions will probably mean that some of the best teachers in the secondary system transfer to the new tertiary field. If the Commonwealth assists teacher training, it can only make the training of teachers effective if they have proper classrooms and facilities. There will never be the required improvements in educational standards in Australia while the Commonwealth adopts a piecemeal approach. Education is a complete entity, and the Commonwealth must treat is as such.
It is clear that the present Government has no long-term consistent plan for education. What should be our overall aim? It should be to ensure that tertiary education is free, genuinely free, and available to all who seek to use it and who have the ability to benefit by it. Between the First and Second World Wars, Australia accepted the principle that education up to the age of fourteen or fifteen should be available and free to all. It is now essential that this principle should be accepted for tertiary education. The trend is altogether the other way. In the last ten years, universiy fees have doubled or multiplied more than twofold. Far from making tertiary facilities available to any qualified person, free, we have doubled the fees, we have introduced quotas and we have trimmed the recommendations by expert bodies appointed by the Government. Where university education was free, as in Western Australia, the fees have almost doubled as a condition of any Commonwealth assistance. We cannot blame the Government-appointed committees for their inadequacies when they lack guidance from the Government about its general approach and when their work is continually frustrated by the rejection or shelving of the detailed recommendations they make. Australia will not be able to make the proper use of such resources as are now available to it unless the Government is prepared to plan and co-ordinate over the whole range of education at all levels. Certainly without a plan we will be unable to develop or expand these resources.
– This Bill repeals the Act passed last year, the State Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1966. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) dealt with the wider aspects of education which have a bearing on this measure. It is my aim to deal with the details of the Bill and to outline what the Opposition feels to be its shortcomings. In the Bill an injustice is rectified. Under previous legislation Victoria was, in effect, penalised for the fact that it had a relatively well developed system of technical education. Victoria was penalised because of the defects in the formula previously adopted for the payment of grants for current expenditure. Similarly, an adjustment is made in favour of Western Australia, eliminating a penalty on Western Australia because of a similarly defective operation of the formula. The Opposition welcomes these adjustments.
It is possibly premature to attempt to criticise the formulae now applied for disbursing grants and also the amount of the grants. The formulae must be given an adequate chance to prove whether or not they are satisfactory. It is not really possible to do this or to assess clearly the operation of the scheme to date. The legislation is possibly better assessed in the light of the prevailing demand and the likely future demand in the community for higher levels of education. It is expected that there will be sharp increases in the numbers of pupils remaining for the later levels of secondary education and in the percentages remaining at school. The percentage of all Australian children aged fifteen years remaining at school increased from about 43% in 1954 to 67% in 1964. The forecast is that the proportion of children aged fifteen years staying at school by 1970 will be 82%. Taking a year later in age, sixteen years, 19% remained at school in 1954 and 40% in 1964. The estimate made some time aso that by 1970 this will have increased to 45% is almost certainly too conservative. The percentage of children aged seventeen years at school rose from 9% in 1954 to 21% in 1963, and the forecast is that this will reach 27% in 1970. The demand for secondary education has therefore snowballed, and the snowball is still rolling. The consequence of all this is an increasing pressure for more and more tertiary educational institutions. Tertiary students arc accommodated in universities, tertiary technical colleges, teachers colleges and colleges of advanced education.
The university sector of education is now strained to the utmost. Students between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two attending universities rose, as a percentage of their age group, from 4.3% in 1955 to 7.5% in 1965. Enrolments rose by 30% between 1960 and 1963 and, notwithstanding increasing restrictions on enrolments, by 32% between 1963 and 1966. The resources of existing universities have been frayed and strained and it is obvious that quota restrictions on entrance to universities will become increasingly stringent. The Martin Committee recommended a policy of restricting the numbers of new university places available while developing the advanced colleges of education to compensate for this limitation. The Government accepted this recommendation. In other words, these colleges were envisaged as educational institutions to compensate for the serious restriction of university development. ;
Questions now arise. Will the colleges of advanced education meet the needs of qualified students for whom the universities have no room? Are the colleges of advanced education really compensating qualified students for failure on the part of this Parliament further to develop the universities? We have no evidence that the Government has considered these questions. The Wark report - the Report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education - does not itself present very clear evidence that the questions have been asked. On this evidence, or lack of evidence, one would be justified in saying that the Government has not yet adopted clear goals for the colleges of advanced education. There is no planned development of the scheme. There is confusion about what the advanced colleges should try to achieve. There is no clear vision as to how they fit into the pattern of tertiary education. There is too much of a tendency for self congratulation that the colleges exist, and not enough sense of the need to know clearly what they are intended to provide. The Martin Committee had no estimate of the percentage of youth of given age groups who should, in the national interest, undertake some form of tertiary education. It simply estimated the percentage of youth expected to proceed to tertiary education, which is a different matter.
The Wark Committee also assessed school leavers likely to enter technical institutions. Its calculation yielded a smaller percentage than the estimate of the Martin Committee. The Wark Committee explained this disparity. It made its assessment on a different basis of tertiary courses. No effort has been made to discover whether the estimates put to the Wark Committee are adequate to meet the needs specified by the Martin Committee. The Wark Committee saw itself in an administrative role. It has not recommended ways of implementing Martin Committee recommendations. The result is that the system of planning for the advanced colleges as a component of tertiary education is manifestly inadequate. The Wark Committee recommended expenditure on colleges of advanced education in the 1967 triennium. It is impossible to assess whether the recommended expenditure will meet the demand. Some things appears to be clear, however. The Martin Committee estimated that by 1969, 60,000 to 70,000 students will be enrolled in the final year of secondary schooling. Significantly the second last year of secondary schooling had, on the report’s estimate, 90,000 anticipated enrolments for 1969, Most of these students will emerge from secondary school qualified for some form of secondary education.
At this stage it appears there will be an annual new enrolment in the universities of about 25,000, and about 70% of them will be full time. Martin Committee estimates are that about 19,000 will be enrolled in all years of teacher training in 1970. By implication the rest of the students leaving school who want some form of tertiary education will go either to tertiary technical education or to the advanced colleges. The Wark Committee estimate is that in 1969 there will be 46,000 in advanced colleges. This represents something more than a doubling of enrolment on the 1965 figures of 22,000. Of this 46,000 only 17,500 will be full time. This is an increase of 9,000 full timers. These figures are totals for all years of all courses - an increased full time intake annually of 2,000 to 3,000 probably. If, therefore, 25,000 new enrollers go to university, and teachers colleges absorb another 19,000, there could be at least 20,000 wanting places in the advanced colleges, less perhaps some going into tertiary technical courses. The situation could therefore be quite grave if only 2,000 to 3,000 vacancies will exist for full-time students in the advanced colleges.
The figures I have used are only projection, based on the projections of the Martin report and several competent research workers. They indicate, however, that if all the Wark projects are carried out they are far from an adequate contribution to the provision of tertiary education for those qualified students who will be leaving the schools in 1969-70. The House needs to be warned that the advanced colleges scheme should not be thought of as likely to make a highly significant contribution to meet heavy demands for places, not for developing the talents of young people in the interests of Australia’s national growth. The compensating development of other tertiary institutions recommended by the Martin Committee has not been planned and will not occur. These are the principal deficiencies the Opposition finds in this Bill, supplanting as it does previous advanced colleges legislation. The conception of advanced colleges is insufficiently developed. No planned programme exists for their adequate development as educational instruments. The advanced colleges system was originally conceived as an interim measure. It remains today and is left by this legislation as a piecemeal approach to filling a gap in tertiary education in the years ahead.
Do we believe that a much higher rate of participation by qualified secondary school leavers in tertiary education is required in the national interest - higher than is envisaged by this Bill? The Opposition does so believe. A national policy on tertiary education is necessary. We need clarity concerning the proportion of our resources that it is right to divert to tertiary education. We need clarity on the steps that are necessary to increase entry into tertiary education. If we are also quite clear as lo why we want the students there, we need to look at the question of greater financial assistance to larger numbers of students.
Often it is believed that the greatest demand for tertiary education is in scientific and engineering fields. Certainly they are expensive fields in the sense that they need equipment, and they are rewarding fields in that their achievements are apparently vital, and in some senses measurable. However the greatest demand - it is an unfulfilled demand-*-is still in the fields of arts, law, economics, commerce and similar fields.
In engineering it is probable that there is an insufficiency of applicants. At any rate, this certainly appears to be true of Victoria. For instance, it has been estimated that on present trends Victoria will have 12,000 students qualified to apply for first year university admission. Of this number only 6,800 will find university places. The estimated number of 12,000 will include an estimated number of 7,000 in arts or commerce type courses, and only 3,000 in science type courses. It is a fair assumption that the 5,200 for whom there will be no room will include a majority who are seeking arts type courses and have no specific vocation in mind but want a higher general education. There is no clear evidence that these people will be catered for by the advanced colleges in their present form. The chances are that thousands will simply be rejected by the tertiary system in that they can find no place in it. Herein lies the case for courses of the type of broad education outlined by the Martin Committee.
Can we stop guessing at a worthwhile alternative to traditional university study and either provide enough university studies or create something new and systematically thought out in tertiary education? Can we end the obsolescence of so many technical colleges that are inadequate to meet the desiderata outlined by the Martin Committee Our tertiary education problems cannot be solved by merely building and equipping lower status limited institutions, and grant’s should not be used for this purpose. What is needed is a co-ordinated Commonwealth policy covering universities, teachers colleges, institutes of advanced technology, advanced education colleges and vocational courses and colleges. We need a tertiary education policy committee. It is essential that this committee should have research staff of high calibre with adequate finance for research. It should include State representatives. There is a very real need to end some aspects of the sharp division between universities, institutes of technology and teachers colleges; and there is the unsolved problem of the status and standing of advanced colleges.
It is wrong that a restriction, arbitrarily imposed by the Menzies Government, should prevent or delay the development of the colleges info degree-granting institutions. In South Australia the Institute of Technology has developed valuable links with the University of Adelaide, shares its campus, and has developed degree courses in its technological courses. These links are being severed and the Institute is being downgraded to diploma courses. This move is a retograde one and is unjustified. There is a clear need, illustrated in this instance, to reconsider tertiary education policy. University expansion is being restricted. Advanced colleges are ill thought out and tertiary education facilities are not keeping pace with the explosion of demand and, I believe, with the national interests. Let us so elevate the status of the advanced colleges that they can fill gaps in tertiary education as recommended by the Martin Committee. We need a new sign of Government appreciation of the urgency of tertiary education. As great a regard is needed for transforming the nature of existing institutions as is now given to using the administrative structure to distribute Commonwealth finance for building and capital equipment in the advanced college system. In part it is all an illustration of one aspect of need in a big field. There is need for a national inquiry and a national policy for education at all levels - pre-school primary, secondary, technical, vocational and tertiary.
– I do not intend to detain the House for long for I only want to address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Freeth). I hope that he will be able to supply an answer to a problem that has rather puzzled me. When I looked at the second reading speech on this States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill I looked at the increases that are superimposed on the recommendations which appear at page 18 of the Wark report. I noticed that Victoria was to obtain just on ten times the rise that is to be given to New South Wales. This fact puzzles me somewhat. Perhaps there is a good explanation for it, but the Minister might tell me what it is. Again I was puzzled by the two Schedules to the Bill, the first of them being a long, complicated one. Unhappily the amounts in it are not totalled and it is almost impossible for honourable members to follow it. However, if honourable members go to the trouble of looking at the First Schedule to the Bill they will see that by way of Commonwealth grant for recurrent expenses Victoria is to get four times as much as New South Wales. If one states it in terms of population, Victoria is to receive between five and six times as much as New South Wales. Prima facie this situation is most difficult to understand. No doubt the Minister has an explanation for it. I find it difficult to discover that explanation.
The first thing I looked at were the capital grants. Like recurrent grants, they are shown in the Second Schedule. I found on looking at capital grants that Victoria was to receive a little more per capita than New South Wales. I thought to myself: Well, perhaps the difference is being made up in the Bill before us’. But I found that both States are getting about the same. Then I thought: ‘Perhaps the difference is in the university grants’. But when I looked at them for the current year I found, according to the official papers, that New South Wales will get $4.99 per capita compared with $5.14 in Victoria. So the disparity is not made up in the capital grants; it is not made up in the teachers colleges; it is not made up in the universities, and it is apparently a colossal disparity which, I have no doubt, is made up somewhere. Perhaps the Minister in his reply will tell me exactly where this difference is made up, because I have been unable to find it in the papers. It would, of course, he quite unreasonable to expect that it was not made up somewhere. I am looking forward to what the Minister has to say.
– The point that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has made is one of those which form more or less a continuing theme from this side of the House; that is, that the Commonwealth in fact, rather than accept complete responsibility in the field of education, piles its largess upon what are, perhaps, areas of State inequalities resulting from differences of State development. This, I suppose, is the principal grudge from this side of the House so far as the Commonwealth’s attitude to education is concerned. There is no doubt that we must really be gratified that the campaign of the last ten or twelve years has produced the result that in this Parliament we are debating for the fourth or fifth time major educational legislation although only five or six years ago people such as the honourable member for Mackellar - I cannot recall whether or not he was a participant in those debates - continually challenged us on constitutional aspects and pointed out what they considered the unreality of our approach. They claimed that the totality of education lay within the bosoms of the State governments; it was nothing to do with us. We were simply responding to the pressure groups of teachers organisations throughout Australia. Yet here we have arrived at the point at which an examination of the documents before us shows that the Commonwealth is playing a dominant role, not so much in the totality of its education vote but by taking the initiative in the financial area. 1 support my two colleagues from this side of the House in saying that it is time we had a completely Commonwealth attitude towards this subject; that we examined and perhaps even established a parliamentary committee to see which way we ought to go in this field, because this is not such an easy matter. The Australian tradition in education has something to commend it. Since the beginning of free compulsory education the pressure has been for some kind of equality of access, particularly in primary education and latterly also in secondary education. I do not think we have yet reached the stage at which we agree, or we agree in such a way that it produces a satisfactory result, that there should be equality of access to tertiary education. lt was Australia’s pride, I suppose, that we were able to establish, in the furthest parts of the country, schools having teachers with much the same kind of qualifications and much the same kind of buildings, whether five hundred miles from a capital city or in the heart of its suburbs. This produced the Australian system of centralised education in all the States. It is remarkable, I suppose, considering the lack of co-ordination and co-operation between the various bodies, that so many of the State education systems have had parallel development. However, the system has produced many disabilities in Australian education.
Australian education tends to be functional. Its objective is to turn people out and put them to work. Its objective is likely to be centralised in many ways and conservative in the extreme. I have raised in this House previously simple questions like that of the teaching of languages, or the perpetuation of, say, woodwork as the major manual craft in schools when most of the young people in them are more concerned with the mechanical needs of a mechanical environment. Then we have at the top of the system domination by the universities so that the whole of the system is still centralised to a large extent upon the demands of university education, and university education has become the status symbol, one might say, in the education field.
Then there is the perpetuation of inequalities which, as I see it, flows from some of the Commonwealth’s activities. I do not say that the Commonwealth acts with malice aforethought in this connection. I disagree with some of the fundamental principles upon which the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) bases his attitudes. I would think it is fair to say that the Minister has a kind of elite-ist approach to education. At least this is how I read his statements about access to universities and so on. We on this side of the House would like to see the doors open wider. We are not convinced that the universities offer the kind of access that is necessary in a basically egalitarian, democratic and developing society such as ours. What we are facing here is what appears to us to be a piecemeal approach by the Commonwealth Government to the question of education. There is no doubt, from an examination of the figures, that the Commonwealth has become a decisive factor in education in recent years. In 1960-61 Commonwealth expenditure on education was $45m. I think in one of the Bills we have before us the grant for teacher education alone is given as $24m. Commonwealth financial support for education amounted to $45m in 1960-61, $55m in 1961-62, $59m in 1962-63 and so on until 1966-67 when the estimate given in the chart I have before me is $150m, a very substantial sum indeed. Yet this is in the face of what I consider the traditional attitude of the Government parties that education is not really the concern of the Commonwealth.
It is gratifying, therefore, that we have a Ministry of Education and Science. It h gratifying that so much of Australia’s resources is being turned to education at the Commonwealth level. It is gratfying that the things we said ten years ago are being accepted today. May it not be that the things we are saying here tonight ought to be heeded immediately instead of our waiting six or seven years for their acceptance? On this side of the House we have an attitude to matters such as these. We have very little concern with State rights. I personally do not think the States have any rights. Only people have rights. Only parliaments have duties, and our duty, I believe, is to see that in the general body of the Australian community equality of educational opportunities is available to all, and I cannot see that the steps that are being taken in this field give any such assurance. I will examine the matter in more detail shortly and place before the House some of the areas in which I believe inequalities still exist and will continue to exist, no matter how we look at the scene.
I would like honourable members to consider, then, the importance of the constitutional development that we have before us. As I was saying, it was, I think, some ten years ago that the first major debate for many years on this issue took place in this House. Subsequently, during debates such as those on the Estimates, we on this side challenged the former Prime Minister, who was technically, theoretically, and, I suppose, in practice, the head of the Commonwealth’s education activities. But we were continually exposed to ridicule because we were operating in an unconstitutional area. But now we have reached the stage at which the Commonwealth itself is very specific. I am not saying, of course, that the Commonwealth wandered around the Bendigo Technical College and said: ‘You can have S50.000 for the site. We have a committee which has examined it all.’ But if we look at the second schedule on page 10 we will find enumerated not only States but even institutions - and not only institutions but. even particular projects. For instance there is an item for the Dookie Agricultural College of $100,000 for the erection of dining hall and kitchen, $3,000 for erection of workshop and $3,000 for conversion of classroom. So these entries go on page after page, giving an interesting record of the tertiary educational institutions of Australia.
I make this point because honourable members opposite are drifting into this activity so reluctantly. I am not sure that this is any longer the case with the Minister. I suppose he is proud of his new dominion and I suppose he will carry it forward with whatever ardour and dynamics Liberal Cabinet Ministers are able to bring to any such projects as this. But we have here an important constitutional development. No longer can we say that this is a State matter. We have reached the stage where equipment, buildings, libraries and so on have become matters to be covered by the bounty of this Government. I think it is time that we, instead of just scattering largesse as a result of pressures from State areas - although this is desirable when it comes to critical points in the educational system -established principles and policies of our own. I would like to see this Parliament turning its attention to some of the problems of Australian education, particularly those where inequalities are paramount and are amply manifested on examination of the figures.
Let us examine the position of teacher education. It is a truism that teachers are the key to the education system. There is no argument that there is a great shortage of teachers at all levels and that in many cases there is inadequate training for teachers. But how far are we going tonight towards a consideration of a solution to this problem? According to the latest statistics which 1 was able to obtain quickly tonight, in New South Wales in 1965 there was a total of 7,936 departmental teachers in training, comprising 2,923 men and 5.013 women. The population of New South Wales is about four million. In Victoria there were 3,170 men and 4,788 women in training - a total of 7,958. So in Victoria, with a population only three-quarters of that of New South Wales, there were twenty-two more teachers in training than there were in New South Wales. It may be that New South Wales has been able to keep up with teacher training in the past so that there is not such a shortage now in schools, but I do not think this is the case. There are not many areas of government in which Victoria does better than its neighbour, but probably in getting teachers into training in recent years - I say nothing about quality - Victoria has done better than New South Wales.
In 1965 Queensland had 2,439 teachers in training. South Australia, with a population about half that of Queensland, had 3,020 teachers in training - a significantly larger number than had Queensland. This is basic inequality which will be perpetuated unless we do more than scatter largesse into the education system. This is one of the challenges that faces us as a Parliament. Most inequalities that have grown up flow from the political philosophies of the governments of the time, but not exclusively so in all cases; some flow from the difficulties some States face geographically. The difficulties which Queensland faces are multitudinous compared to those faced by a compact State such as Victoria. The difficulties facing Western Australia are many times greater than those facing New South Wales. Our policy should be to attempt to iron out these inequalities. So far there is little evidence that this is the approach.
We arc gratified that this sum of money is being provided for teacher education and that the financial aspect of teacher education is being accepted as a responsibility of this Parliament, but I would think that as an Australian Parliament concerned with Australians wherever they live, whether it be on Cape York or Cape Leeuwin, in Coburg or 2,000 miles away in the electorate of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), our responsibilities to them would be identical. While we are not egalitarian in the sense that we want everybody made in the same mould, we are egalitarian to the point of believing that all Australians, no matter where born or where living, should have equal access to education and an equal amount of the nation’s resources spent on them for education. I put this proposition before the House in the hope that in the near future at the Commonwealth departmental level this matter will be taken up. It is a matter that concerns all of us. The amount we are spending on education and in the training of teachers is shown in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The figures are $2.22 per capita in New South Wales, $3.73 in Victoria, $3.28 in South Australia and $1.37 in Queensland. I do not know whether Queenslanders are easier to train than people in other States, and therefore require only half as much to be spent on them. 1 do not know whether the people of Queensland have such native talents that they do not need education, but the figures look to be disastrous for Queenslanders.
This is one of the challenges before this Parliament. It may be that on a complete examination of the Bill this discrepancy is being ironed out, but I do not think so. I think that we are accumulating inequalities in Australian education. As an Australian Parliament our first concern should be equality at this level. That is why we place before the Parliament a continuing demand that we do something about education in a national way, with a national policy and a national inquiry. The shortage of teachers will not be solved simply by pouring out money. It is not as easy as that, and everybody knows it. Despite the Victorian effort in teacher training - I would think a great deal of the credit for this goes to the initiative of Major-General Sir Alan Ramsay when he was Director of Education in Victoria, and the impetus he gave to the teacher system - there is no doubt that in Victoria there is a tragic shortage of teachers. I have here a book produced by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party. It is a book which all honourable members opposite could acquire and peruse with great advantage. It sets out something of the philosophy and aims of the Victorian
Branch of the Australian Labor Party in relation to education.
– Did the honourable member write it?
– I participated in its production. This edition was the work of a number of people, including one who has now, as a just tribute to his talents, been elevated to the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament. I refer to Mr Clyde Holding, MLA. This book has been produced not with the aid of the great staffs available to Commonwealth departments, but by a body of people concerned with the matter. None of us would say that we have arrived at final conclusions. We all are searching for solutions to the problem. The figures embodied in this book show that only 34% of secondary school teachers in Victoria possess university degrees. The percentage is declining. The figures show that in the fields of mathematics and science there is a great lack of graduates. That is the position in Victoria and I think I can demonstrate that Victoria has probably the best record, so far as the ratio of teachers in training to population is concerned. But what will be the position in years to come in a State such as Queensland? It should be the responsibility of this Parliament to see that these inequalities are ironed out. I hope that honourable members will consider this matter in a deeper way than it has been considered up to date.
I suppose that trainee teachers - I had better be careful; there are many of them in my electorate - are, from the point of view of the resources placed at their disposal, the aristocrats of the Australian teaching body. This would apply certainly in Victoria, where they receive upon commencing training $14 or $15 a week. In their second and third years the allowance increases to $21 and $22 a week. One of the significant features of the allowance is that it is free of means test. It does not matter whether the trainee’s father is a millionaire. An important aspect of educational philosophy is that the moment a young person becomes a student at a university, a teachers college or any other tertiary institution he should no longer be a charge upon his parents. He should not be the subject of charity from the govern- ment If his parents are poor or the subject of charity from his parents if they are rich. Each trainee should be treated as a substantial person in his own right. He should be trained in that way and allowances should be available equally to all trainees. No doubt honourable members opposite will scoff at this- Utopian idea but I make the point that this is how the teacher education system in Australia works. Now, honourable members opposite will say: ‘Yes, but they are all to be teachers in the education system; they are all bonded.’
I think that bonding is something belonging to the Middle Ages and I hope that it will be dispensed with. Under the present system we demand that a proportion of students who will ultimately teach in nongovernment schools should be admitted to teachers colleges. I would like to see teachers colleges removed from the auspices of the education departments and a policy of institutes of teacher training adopted. The conservative nature of education should not be perpetuated by the teachers training colleges being the creatures of the education systems. 1 believe this is probably one of the ways in which we can break some of the strangleholds of tradition.
Honourable members on the other side of the House ought to be paying a lot more attention to this matter. I thank the honourable member for Mackellar, on behalf of this Parliament, because he at least noticed that this debate on education was taking place. His speech was brief but so long as he keeps off politics he usually does pretty well in these matters. In fact, it is significant that in a major debate in which we are discussing a major constitutional effort by the Government, involving a very large expenditure of public money in a very significant area of social policy, there are few honourable members on the other side of the House with the heart or will, or whatever it takes, to take part in the debate.
– The Opposition is not opposing these measures. What is the point of replying to the honourable member?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport believes that we should not discuss anything in this Parliament unless we oppose it. This Parliament is a forum for discussion. It is a place where we give advice.
– Our object at this stage of the session is to get legislation through.
– The Minister wants to get legislation through at this stage of the session. What is the hurry? Does the Minister want to dive for cover - away from the threat of an inquiry into the ‘Voyager’ disaster and things of that nature? I am not surprised. This Parliament is the national forum. I could delve into the past and find instances in which the Minister has been singularly critical about the expressions from honourable members on this side of the House to the effect that the Commonwealth ought to take a substantial interest in education. I pay the Minister the compliment that he is at least listening. I take comfort from his interjections because they indicate that he at least is listening to the debate. He is better than those other honourable members who are outside the chamber.
There are substantial inequalities still existing in large areas of education in Australia. They are mostly manifest at the tertiary level. I presume one could find them in other areas of education if one dug deeply enough but they are particularly apparent at the university level. Earlier I mentioned that on this side of the House we believe in the solid principle that there should be equality of opportunity and equality of expenditure of resources. This is fundamental to Labour philosophy.
Let us examine for a moment some of the inequalities in university education. I have statistics before me for 1966. In New South Wales there were 35,196 students in the universities and in Victorian universities there were 19,497. Earlier I made the point that Victoria had done better in the field of teacher education than almost any other State. But what is the position in the field of university education? Victoria has three-quarters of the population of New South Wales. Victoria should have some 27,000 students in its universities. But it has not got that number. The figure is only 19,497, which is 8.000 below what it should be. That is a wastage which, I believe, comes from the conservative social philosophy which has directed Victoria for so long. There has been an elite-ist approach to university education which has been more apparent in Victoria and in New South Wales. That is one tragic area of loss. There has been an invisible wastage of social policy. We ought to be concerned about this area of education.
This wastage has nothing to do with political philosophy but something to do with Australia’s social attitude. This attitude is apparent in the numbers of young women in universities. In 1966 there were 65,248 males in the student body of our universities and 24,896 females - a difference of about 40,000. So there were about 40,000 young Australian women who came from the same background and had the same economic status, the same cultural and intellectual capacity as the young men but did not go to university. No person who has attended a speech night can tell me that the girls do not perform as well as the boys at every level. In large areas of education they perform better than boys. One can turn to the statistics for matriculation and other examination results for any State and find that this is the case. But 40,000 young women who had the ability to go to university did not go. What kept them from attending? Was it economics? No. Was it because of an intellectual disability? No. It happened simply because they were young women.
This is such an important matter that I will raise it in this house as often as I can. I do not believe that this is a question of political philosophy. The Minister for Shipping and Transport will be gratified to know that I do not think it is his fault or the fault of the Liberal Party. I think it is the fault of all of us and should be the concern of ali of us. There are other areas of inequality in the university field. There are inequalities in the whole field of education. One relates to geography. What are we to do about the students from Mildura, Bourke, Innamincka and Carnarvon? Is it not time to include in these measures we are bringing to this Parliament a scheme to provide satisfactory accommodation at the universities so that students could come from country areas? The Opposition places these things before the House because we believe it is time that the national parliament turned ils attention in a more concrete way to these questions. The problems in education will not be resolved no matter how diligent are the various numerous com mittees that are being appointed. Finally it will be parliamentary, governmental and political party direction that will find the answers.
Technical education is one of the fields dealt with by one of these Bills. Victoria - and this answers one of the questions asked by the honourable member for McKellar - has developed more of these tertiary institutions, such as the various technical colleges, schools of mines, and institutes such as the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. I am not a real expert in this field. To that extent, perhaps, in Victoria there has been siphoning off of funds for this area of technical education which might otherwise have been used for universities. The figures I read do not lead me to believe that this makes up the leeway I mentioned earlier. Technical education in Australia is a matter which should concern all of us. I will close by reading some comments from a recently published book entitled ‘Technical Education for Development’, edited by C. Sanders. This extract is from an article written by Stephen Murray-Smith, now Dr Murray-Smith, of the Melbourne University. I think he made this study on technical education for his PhD. He said:
But we are still hampered in Australia by the incubus of our history. Technical and technological education remains provincial, ill-articulated, illdefined. Much progress has certainly been made in defining the nature of trade and technician studies, but confusion persists over the role of the diploma in Australian technical education, and the relationship it bears or should bear to the university degree. In trade training a reluctance to replace outmoded means of industrial education is bolstered by an inflexible system of wage fixation and a fundamental conservatism which pervades all pressure groups. Old-fashioned relicts, such as the tradition in Victoria at least, of a technical’ stream of post-primary school studies, indicates how we are still burdened with the social and educational preconceptions of earlier epochs.
The advantage we have here in this Parliament is that we are not beset with the difficulties of day to day administration of education. It is not the concern of a Minister to see that everybody gets into school at 9 o’clock and gets out at 4 o’clock. It is not his concern to see that certain educational administration, which takes up a great deal of time, is carried out. This Parliament, the Government and the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science are, or ought to be, the general staff of the education system. We should be encouraging co-operation, developing initiative and supplying the sinews of war, such ,»s finance and special research facilities. We on this side of the House are not opposing these Bills but we still feel that there is a great deal of advice due to the Government in the field of education.
Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) [10.59J - While speaking about these Bills I want to make a plea for a more purposeful approach by the Commonwealth to the broad question of education. Over the years the Commonwealth Government, step by step, falteringly, pushed by State representations, cajoled by significant support at election time, and helped by a general urge from the community, has gone forward into the field of education. This is a most desirable end. For what the Commonwealth has done I say thank you. What it has done, however, is not good enough. Much more must be done in Australia in the broad field of education. At the present time there is need for a co-ordinated national policy. With all our transport systems, aeroplanes crisscrossing the nation and public servants being transferred from one State to another, all the people of Australia, from Cape York to Hobart town and from Perth to Brisbane, are living as citizens of this country and are facing the problems of the world as Australians. A national approach to the problems of education is necessary.
Through Commonwealth action some progressive steps have been made in the past. The establishment of scholarships is a most desirable development, as is the Commonwealth attitude in finding money for universities and for the development of tertiary colleges. All these actions are necessary and commendable, but they fall short of the great needs of education in this country. Every child born in this country deserves the best education that the nation can give it. Each child’s education should not be restricted by school, geography or the political thoughts of the government of any State of the Commonwealth. It is for the nation to give leadership. The Federal Government, by its allocation of finance, can give that leadership to the States and set the pace in education.
What sort of education is required in this country? I believe that what is needed is a system that will enable our few people who occupy 3,000,000 square miles of land to be so educated that they will have the capacity to meet the challenges of the development of this country and in this task to take their place on equal terms with the best educated people in the world. Quite recently I was obliged to do some research into mineral resources and those engaged in the Bureau of Mineral Resources, f found that 49% of the geologists, 30% of the petro-engineers and 27% of the geophysicists employed in this country on oil search are Australians. These men are engaged in the work of developing this country and, though this is a creditable performance in the light of what has occurred, it is far from being good enough. The nation ought to be turning out from our universities, colleges for advanced education and other educational institutions the type of people who are required to grapple with the physical problems involved in changing the face of this country and in building the great industries that are necessary for the survival of our people and that will enable them to enjoy the great potential wealth of this country.
This is but one facet of what is required. Over the years the Opposition has advocated an inquiry into primary, secondary and technical education. It has’ pressed the matter, because my colleagues and I believe that until such time as there is a full consideration of these matters, little can be achieved in the broad fields that must be followed in the development of this country.
It is impossible to go ahead with the type of education that is needed unless better teacher colleges are established. Financial provisions in this field are made in the legislation before the Parliament. Quite frequently Australians become smug and self satisfied in matters of education. Capable and excelling in most fields, they believe that, by all the rules, they must lead in the field of education. However, in many concepts of education and in achievements in some fields Australia lags behind other countries. I have before me a document issued by the New South Wales Branch of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand and which was prepared by Miss Sheila Rowley. She has outlined public expenditure on non-bonded student grants. Her statement reads, in part:
No statistics are published for the total expenditure on undergraduate scholarships from all sources, but the amount spent on Commonwealth
Scholarships is known. It represents about S per cent of the total public expenditure on universities and students in Australia. In Great Britain the comparable figure is 12 per cent. (Table 1). The British figure is based on data in the Robbins Report, taking as the total for student grants the amount going to university students only (not to all those in higher education). The Australian figure of £5 1.7m is the sum obtained by adding £2.7m spent on Commonwealth Scholarships to £49m, the total expenditure on universities in 1962. Despite the dangers of international monetary comparisons it appears certain that Great Britain is spending proportionately far more than Australia on student grants.
An interesting table is published with this statement. It reveals that public expenditure on non-bonded student grants in Great Britain is £25. 5m sterling as against £A2.7m. Total public expenditure on university students in Great Britain is £206m sterling as against £5 1.7m in Australia. In the United Kingdom student grants represent 12% of total public expenditure. The comparable figure in Australia is 5%. These figures are illuminating and speak for themselves. They clearly indicate that despite our proud boast, much more is being done in the United Kingdom where much more money is being spent. Here is a challenge to the Australian Government and the* Australian people. It is good to know that the Commonwealth Government has accepted its responsibility to train teachers who will be used in our general education structure. As I have said, no child should be penalised through considerations of geography, school or anything else. The nation owes it to every student to give him or her the best possible education and, in turn, the young people growing up here and accepting their responsibilities, owe it to the nation to give of their best and to serve in the interests of their country.
When I discuss these matters my mind instantly turns to a section of people in New South Wales who seem to be suffering a disability because of the inability of the Government of that State to measure up to its responsibilities in tertiary education. On 24th March 1965 the former Prime Minister, in submitting the Martin report to the Parliament, outlined the proposals contained in it. He gave tables of the grants that would be made available for colleges of higher education throughout Australia. It is interesting to note that provision was made for Queensland, Victoria and the other States. This was accepted by the
States without hesitation. Only quite recently, legislation was before the Queensland Parliament which increased the votes for tertiary colleges in that State. But in New South Wales no action has been taken by the non-Labour Askin-Cutler Government to implement the proposals made in the Martin Committee’s report tabled in the Parliament on 24th March 1965. Despite repeated representations, this matter has been allowed to drag on. There has been delay upon delay.
Looking through the statements, I find that the former Prime Minister informed the Parliament that no action was being taken because the New South Wales Government had made no firm proposals for tertiary education in that State. He went on to say that, if the New South Wales Government made up its mind to go ahead with this programme, money would be found for that State. As I pointed out, provision was made for two country colleges of advanced education in Queensland, one in the Darling Downs at Toowoomba and one in Capricornia at Rockhampton. The Commonwealth grant for the Darling Downs college was raised from $75,000 to $93,282 and the grant for Rockhampton was raised from $50,000 to $119,000. What has happened in Queensland should be followed in New South Wales. The people of the country districts of New South Wales should not be penalised by the procrastination of the State Government. I refer to the speech made by the former Prime Minister when he presented the Bill to the Parliament on 19th November 1965. He said:
In this Bill we provide for a number of buildings which the Tertiary Education Inquiry Committee recommended could be started right away.
The Martin Committee recommended that colleges of advanced education should be established in New South Wales at Bathurst and at Wagga. But the New South Wales Government has done nothing about this at all except, in recent times, to appoint its own committee of inquiry to investigate the findings of the Martin Committee. If this is a way of putting the matter off, it is not good enough.
I know that the State Government has appointed a very distinguished gentleman to lead its committee of inquiry and be has given much thought to this. The members of the Committee are well known and respected people and most of them are known for their outstanding contributions to education. But whilst this is so, 1 believe that the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility to say to the State governments that, if they do not intend to avail themselves of the money that the Commonwealth has made available, the Commonwealth in turn will try to establish machinery to ensure that people in country districts for whom funds have been provided will not be penalised and that they will be given an opportunity to obtain a higher education. People in country districts require advanced education in soil technology, animal husbandry, silviculture and matters of chemistry needed in the development of country industries. All these matters are important and necessary; but nothing has been done up to the present.
The responsibility rests clearly and fairly on the Government of New South Wales to declare its intentions on this important matter. The Martin Committee had this ro say:
The Committee has given careful consideration to the submissions advocating the establishment of university institutions outside the metropolitan areas. While the Committee is convinced that there is no case for the immediate establishment of universities in extra-metropolitan areas, it believes that some tertiary institutions should he developed in the country and that they might become constituent members of the various Institutes of Colleges. The Committee has recommended the development of tertiary colleges at Bathurst, Wagga. Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Ballarat. Geelong and Bendigo. The Committee envisages that diploma courses will be the main concern of the constitutent members of the Institutes of Colleges.
These were noble words. They were very wise words. They were necessary objectives in the matter of education. The Committee also said:
New Tertiary Institutions.
The Committee sees advantages in developing tertiary colleges in two country centres - ‘Bathurst and Wagga. Each of these towns meets most of the criteria mentioned earlier in this chapter (para. 6.26).
Nearly 100,00 people live within a radius of 40 miles from Bathurst, which is geographically we’.l placed and has excellent services and communications. A tertiary college would be able to draw students not only from the central west and the western districts, but also from the region of the Blue Mountains and the adjacent areas of the coastal plain.
The report goes on further to deal with the proposed college at Wagga. It was interesting to note recently that a statement relating to the proposed university for Wagga declared that the obvious thing to do was to adopt the proposal for a college of advanced education at that centre.
In closing my remarks tonight, I appeal to the Government of New South Wales to make its intentions clear and to declare its attitude to the people in our country districts without procrastinating further. Its own special State committee could bring forward an interim report immediately and say what it intends to do, leaving the details to be finalised later. At least the State owes that to the Commonwealth, to the nation and above all to the young men and women living in country districts who are waiting for an opportunity to attend a college of advanced education in country centres.
– in reply - 1 will not detain the House for very long, but I would like to advert briefly to one or two matters. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). in a way that I thought not worthy of him or indeed of any Leader of the Opposition, made some derogatory comment about the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) not having spoken in a debate on education in this chamber, whilst the previous Prime Minister had done so on many occasions. It must have escaped his notice that the policy on education, so far as this subject is within the province of the Commonwealth, was previously administered in the Prime Minister’s Department. He was assisted by Senator Gorton. When legislation came into this chamber, the Prime Minister. Sir Robert Menzies, naturally had the carriage of it. The Government has gone even further; it has set up a separate Department of Education and Science with Senator Gorton as Minister. His representative in this House looks after legislation here. It was a remark unworthy of the Leader of the Opposition and calculated. I suggest, merely to make some rather cheap political point that did not really exist.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) raised one point that I should like to answer. He dealt with the apparent discrepancy in favour of Victoria in relation to technical education. We must recognise that the Bill is restricted to this particular area of technological education, if we like to call it that, at this point of time - that is, for the current triennium. If other areas of education are disregarded, it can be seen that the State of New South Wales has recently had the experience of having a university of technology transformed into a full traditional style university. In relation to Victoria that State is left with very little in the field of diploma studies and diploma education. At this point of time and in this particular area of education it may be said that New South Wales is not ready for the sums of money which have gone to Victoria for the current triennium. Victoria has had a long and uninterrupted history of studies in this technological area. I make the point that New South Wales was given every penny of capital expenditure that it asked for, and within an agreed total, recurrent expenditure was met according to that State’s wishes, re-arranged from the original Commonwealth proposals. I hope that will explain to the honourable member for Mackellar the apparent discrepancy in this particular area for this triennium.
It is difficult indeed to come to grips with what has been said in this debate. Honourable members opposite have the luxury of looking at education in two ways. First of all they can take it as abstract and in isolation from all the other problems and demands that the community makes. Listening to the speeches of honourable members opposite one would surely gain the impression that the argument was that whatever the demands that exist in the field of education they must be met in full or that other areas making large demands on community resources do not matter or do not exist. We as a government must be conscious all the time of all demands upon the resources of the community, which must be rationed to meet all its requirements. This is necessary whatever the level of affluence or prosperity in the community.
The second point from which honourable members opposite argue seems to be that we have no States. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) in the closing stages of his speech referred to the responsibility of the New South Wales Government but I fear it was rather to gain a political point against that Government than to make any exception to the general tenor of the arguments of the Opposition. In fact, at one time I was disposed to agree with him to some extent when he referred to the ideal of coming closer together in educational policies throughout Australia. He claimed that we are one nation; Australians are Australians and it would be better to come closer together in educational policy - not to be identical, with only the one educational policy, and complete uniformity - and have some sensible approach to State standards nf education to meet the normal requirements for the whole of Australia. There is no difference of opinion in that kind of approach to the problem.
From the remainder of the Opposition’s arguments one would think that States did not exist and had no responsibility to decide education policy. One would have thought that all responsibility fell upon the shoulders of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth was to bear the whole burden of the bill for education. This is not true; it is not factual. I suggest that if any referendum proposal put to the Australian people would be well and truly rejected it would be one that the Commonwealth should take over the whole field of responsibility for making laws with respect to education. If we are to argue from some point of reality - and at various times during the debate honourable members referred to the Martin report - let me give some figures. The Martin report recommended $5m for an interim grant for teachers colleges. We estimated about $8m for the triennium, making a total of Si 3m but upon a dollar for dollar basis - $6.5m from the Commonwealth and $6.5m from the States. The State Ministers who comprise the Australian Education Council, which prepared a document setting out the needs for teachers colleges, asked for $20m over four years. We are now proposing in this legislation a sum of $24m for this triennium, unmatched. Is that an ungenerous approach to the needs expressed by the State Ministers? It might be said that the Martin Committee overall envisaged a capital programme for all tertiary education for the triennium of $132m of which the
Commonwealth was expected to find half or $66m. By this Bill the Commonwealth is supporting a $204m programme which includes the Australian National University and involves a Commonwealth commitment of $122m. I make those points and cite those figures in order to get the debate back to reality.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Motion (by Mr Freeth) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I was not entirely happy with the Minister’s explanation about the way in which New South Wales was receiving so much less per capita than Victoria. If the Minister’s explanation had been correct then the balance would show up on the university grants. The Minister was trying to explain that because of matching university grants New South Wales was not getting college grants.
– I did not say that.
– I took that as the implication in what he was saying because he was talking about an institution having ceased to be a college and becoming a university. If we look at the figures for the university grants for the current year we see that New South Wales is receiving $4.99 per head and Victoria is receiving $5.14, so not only is it getting a great deal more in regard to advanced colleges but also there is no counterbalance in relation to universities because in that regard the two States receive very much the same per head. Victoria receives fractionally more than New South Wales, but only fractionally. The grant is about the same. It seems to me that the disparity in the one regard is not being balanced by a coresponding disparity on the other side in regard to universities. If the balance were being held fairly we would find the grants to universities being increased.
– If I may reply briefly to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), I think he has misunderstood my explanation. I pointed out not that the requirement for funds had been transferred by the fact that the university of technology had become a traditional, normal university, but that the transition had left a gap in the field of technological education. It does not necessarily follow, and in fact it did not follow, that there was a requirement on the university funds that had to be met. This is opening up a very wide field and I think that if I could get a written explanation for the honourable member covering all the details it would probably satisfy him.
– I thank the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 3 May (vide page 1 694), on motion by Mr Freeth.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for the third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Freeth) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 4 May (vide page 1762), on motion by Mr Hulme:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I should like to make some protest at the late hour at which the debate on such an important Bill as this is being commenced.
– It happens every session.
– As my colleague the honourable member for Lang says, it happens every session. We coast along for weeks and weeks with the Government having no programme and then, mysteriously, always at the end we get this flood of legislation, most of which could have been introduced months before, apparently without any difficulty. The House is expected to deal with legislation like shelling peas. I suggest that this is a most unsatisfactory way of doing business. It is a way which brings the institution of Parliament into contempt and reduces the role of opposition virtually to nothing.
The title of the Bill before us is very wide. It is: ‘A Bill for an Act to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1966’. If we had debated the measure somewhat earlier in the day, that title would have afforded the House an opportunity to debate at some length the very significant social fields that are occupied by broadcasting and television. As everybody is aware, both broadcasting and television in Australia take two forms. They employ commercial channels of transmission, and also a national system of channels, which are administered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As an indication of the importance of broadcasting and television in the aggregate I draw the attention of the House to the financial details that are contained in the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board wherein it is indicated, at pages 1 1 and 35, that for the year ended June 1965 commercial broadcasting stations had a total revenue of about S24]-m and that commercial television had revenue which aggregated about S49.60U000. In round terms, $25m worth of revenue was derived by commercial broadcasting stations and S50m worth of revenue was derived by commercial television stations. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, on both its television and broadcasting activities, incurred an aggregate expenditure of approximately S35m. So in aggregate $75m of revenue was derived from commercial operations. That gives some idea of the cost to the community of what is called advertising on commercial stations. It will be seen that the commercial field earns at least twice as much as the national field spends.
I hope later in the course of my remarks to make some reference to commercial advertising because it falls within the scope of the Broadcasting and Television Act. Firstly, I should like to say a little about the amendments in the Bill although, as I pointed out, the title of the Bill is quite wide enough to have enabled a full debate on all aspects of broadcasting and television, both commercial and national. Very few opportunities are given in this House to discuss what is really one of our most important social instruments. This indicates the haphazard approach of the Government, which hopes to get this Bill and the amendments the Opposition will be moving disposed of a few minutes after midnight. If that is the Government’s attitude, I leave it to the public to draw its own conclusions.
The Bill does three things, as I see it. lt alters the constitution of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. At the moment the Commission consists of seven people each of whom is appointed for a term of three years. It is proposed to increase the number of commissioners to nine. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), in his second reading speech, said: ft has been recommended from time to time that the size of the Commission should be increased, in particular I refer to the reports of the Royal Commission on Television and a committee of the Senate.
Apparently each of those bodies suggested that the number of commissioners should be increased. I understand from some of my colleagues who were members of the Senate committee that it recommended ten as a suitable number of commissioners. At least this Bill provides for a Commission of nine members.
Of itself a committee of nine members does not necessarily function any better than does a committee of seven members. The only reason for having a Commission of nine members, presumably, is that the Government is able to draw on a more diverse field of talent than if the number of commissioners were restricted to seven. The Bill gives no indication of any qualifications being required of any member of the Commission. In the ultimate all of these appointments are political. At this stage I do not want to cavil at that. I cannot see that when there are boards or commissions to which appointments have to be made by the government of the day one can quibble about the appointments being political. The only point that ever seems to be raised is that apparently it is much worse to appoint political people who have Labor points of view than to appoint political people who have non-Labor points of view. We heard raised this afternoon the question of a royal commissioner being a former member of a particular political party represented in this House. Whether he loses his political views or carries them into his jurisdiction as a royal commissioner I do not know. All I am suggesting is that when people make appointments of this kind they must face the suggestion that those appointments are political. I do not want to go any further into that matter.
One point that intrigues me is that, whereas under the present Act all seven people appointed to the Commission are appointed for a term of three years, under the legislation now before us two of the commissioners are to be appointed for periods of less than three years. Clause 4 states that one of the commissioners may be appointed for a period that ends on 31st December 1968. In other words, he will serve for about eighteen months, not three years. It also states that another commissioner may be appointed for a period that ends on 31st December 1969. He will have a term of two and a half years. The other seven commissioners will have three-year terms. I should like the Minister to indicate later the reason for that. It may be merely to. provide some staggering of appointments. On the other hand, if one had an inquiring mind one might suggest that it is to get the Government out of certain difficulties that it is facing in regard to re-appointments.
– The honourable member means a suspicious mind.
– Yes. One can always have a suspicious mind in a political atmosphere, just as one can have suspicions when socalled non-political appointments sometimes are not as non-political as they appear. On the other hand, not all political appointments are necessarily as political as a suspicious mind might deduce.
However, it cannot be denied that in recent times there have been certain speculations in the Press about the re-appointment of certain people to the Commission. AH I want to know from the Minister later is whether this device is purely to introduce staggering so that the nine do not all go out of office at the same time. I can understand that kind of thing. It is good that there should be some continuity on a commission or a board so that when people are appointed for three years, the appointments will terminate at different dates. Their reappointment will therefore come up on different dates. This may well be the reason for this provision, but it certainly was not so indicated in the Minister’s speech. At least I allow myself the speculation that it might have been done for another reason.
The second body of provisions of this Bill deal with certain staff appointments. At the moment the Commission is not free to appoint people at a salary of more than $5,000 per annum, which is not a very high rate of salary. The amendment will give power to appoint staff up to a rate of $7,500 per annum, which seems reasonable enough in the circumstances. Another amendment relating to staff allows the commission to employ married women or to continue to employ women after marriage. Again this is consonant with the general changes that have been made in public employment generally at the Commonwealth level. As we said the other day, it is no longer thought that because a woman marries her career should terminate. I am pleased to find that a similar principle is being incorporated in the Broadcasting and Television Act.
The third body of provisions deals with the granting of television and radio licences at reduced rates to people who qualify for certain social service benefits. These amendments have been made necessary by the alterations made recently to the means test and to cover people In sheltered workshops. Again we offer no objection to these amendments. However, the Minister said:
The Government believes that, subject only to the provisions of the Act, the Commission should be free and independent to make its own programme judgments within the limits of the resources that it has available.
Presumably the assumption is that the Commission is free and independent to make its own programme judgments. I want to draw the attention of the House to certain provisions that have been in the Act for a long time. They are not there merely because of the present Minister. Section 64 of the Act, which places an obligation on the Commission, is as follows:
Subject to this Act, the Commission shall broadcast or televise free of charge from all the national broadcasting stations or national television stations, or from such of them as the Minister specifies, any mutter the broadcasting or televising of which is directed by the Minister in writing as being in the national interest.
So section 64 at least places a limit on the freedom and independence of the Commission. Section 77 of the Act provides:
Subject to this Act, the Minister, may, from time to time, by telegram or in writing, prohibit the Commission from broadcasting or televising any matter, or matter of any class or character, specified in the notice, or may require the Commission to refrain from broadcasting or televising any such matter.
Section 64 may compel the Commission, against its wish, if need be, to broadcast or televise certain material; section 77 is the negative, for it may stop the Commission from broadcasting some other material. Similar provisions are carried over to the Broadcasting Control Board in respect of non-national channels and commercial operators. Those restrictions are contained in section 99 (3.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act, which reads:
The Minister may, from time to time, by notice given by telegram or in writing, prohibit a licensee from broadcasting or televising any matter, or matter of any class or character specified in the notice, or may require the licensee to refrain from broadcasting or televising any such matter.
There is a provision that restricts the commercial operators in the same way as the Commission is restricted by section 77. Finally in section 104 it provides:
The Minister may, by notice in writing, require a licensee to broadcast or televise from his station, without charge, such items of national interest as the Minister specifies, but the Minister shall not require the broadcasting or televising of matter for a period in excess of thirty minutes in any period of twenty-four consecutive hours.
So there is fairly wide power so long as the Minister does not insist on more than half an hour every day. We feel, on our side of the House, that there should be amendments to the Act to provide that, if these powers are invoked, he should notify Parliament. At the moment the Minister apparently can invoke these powers as often as he likes and does not have to notify anybody. I shall discuss this in detail in the Committee stage. We are suggesting that, if the Minister does exercise in respect of the ABC the powers under section 64 and section 77, he should have to notify the Parliament within seven days of his doing so. Similarly, when the same kind of authority or restriction is exercised in respect of commercial operators, he should have to notify the Parliament within seven days. At least we shall then know that certain restrictions have been placed upon what might be called the freedom and independence of the stations to exercise their own judgment entirely so far as the programmes are concerned.
We raise these matters merely to indicate that it is easy to say that decisions are free and independent when in fac there are at least certain legislative restrictions. I point out also that the Commission itself went on record in its annual report for 1962-63 to hint that certain restrictions had been put upon its broadcasting or televising certain material in the year under review. At the time MiDavidson was the Postmaster-General. At the beginning of the report it is noted:
During the past year there have been incidents which have been presented by a section of the Press in such a way as to suggest continued interference by the Government. While the Commission does not accept the view that such incidents do, in fact, constitute a sustained attempt by the Government to interfere with the Commission, the increased publicity given to them does seem to indicate a need for the clarification of the Commission’s position.
At least there has been no legislative clarification of the Commission’s position since those remarks were made. The Commission went on to say:
Within these statutory limits it is, we believe, the deliberate intention of Parliament to give the Commission independence in carrying out ils responsibilities. The facts about this independence seem to us to be not so generally and clearly recognised as is desirable. When Members of Parliament wish to criticise the Commission or seek information of it, they do so by asking questions of the Postmaster-General. It is an easy step from here to come to regard the PostmasterGeneral as responsible for all the activities of the Commission and to expect him to exercise some power and control over the Commission In the process of satisfying a complaint. Parliament has never conferred such power on the Minister, nor do we suggest that the Minister has sought it; it is his responsibility to pass a complaint or question to the Commission and to request that he be furnished with an answer. The reply is not his but the Commission’s.
That seems to me to be a clear enough statement, and it would seem that that is what the present Minister is suggesting is his idea of the freedom and independence of the Commission. All I suggest is - and I think he would concede this because he has suggested as much in his speech - that, subject only to the provisions of the Act, there are certain restrictions placed upon the freedom and independence of the Commission and also of the commercial operators. I have endeavoured to outline those restrictions. I think there will always be a vexatious situation when we have what is really a government undertaking and the suggestion is that, somehow, the undertaking is entirely free in what it does from any government direction. There have to be tolerance and understanding on both sides. Had I more time, or were it an earlier hour, I might have gone into this a little more thoroughly.
There is one other matter on which we wish to move an amendment in Committee. We wish to amend section 116 of the Act which deals with political broadcasts on commercial channels. Under this section a commercial station is supposed to give reasonable opportunity to all political parties to broadcast or telecast. In the days before television when broadcasting was the only medium the cost of broadcasts was not as great as it is now. But everyone knows that the cost of sessions on commercial television stations can rise to some dollars per second and therefore some hundreds of dollars per minute. A half hour session could mean the expenditure of some thousands of dollars. It is easy enough to say that if a political party is able to pay it can have all the time it wants, but this gives most opportunities to those with the most money. The only defence made of this situation is that if the second party or subsequent parties can pay as much as the first one paid, it or they can have reasonable facilities for putting their cases.
I have already indicated that the revenue derived by the commercial radio stations in the year ended 30th June 1965 was S25m and that earned by the commercial television stations $50m. Surely it is not asking too much to request a certain amount of free time for all political parties represented in either House of this Parliament. I am not taking up any brief against a political party or, necessarily, for any political party. All I am suggesting is that in view of the importance of this medium, which I shall endeavour to demonstrate in a moment, with particular reference to its significance in terms of the proportion of time that people spend watching television, it is not asking for too much to suggest that when a Federal election comes along every three years and in each State a State election at somewhat the same intervals, in what are generally about three-week campaigns free time should be given on commercial channels, both broadcasting and television, for the presentation of the cases of the major political panties in Australia.
It is along those lines that we propose to test the feeling of honourable members at the Committee stage. It may well be said that this means that the commercial stations have to forgo some valuable revenue that could be earned in popular viewing time. At least they will have reasonable notice of an election campaign. They will always know some months ahead when an election is likely to be held and they will know that they will be required to reserve time for this purpose. It may be argued that the time so used should be treated like the free time given to religious broadcasts, which are usually put on late at night when people want only to say their prayers and go to bed. I suggest that a lot of criticism can be levied at commercial television stations in this respect. When a television or broadcasting licence is granted, it is subject to certain conditions being met. It confers a valuable asset under oligopolistic conditions on groups of limited size. Without the public facilities that the Postmaster-General’s Department makes available no commercial television or radio station could broadcast. Surely, then, some conditions should be imposed on the way in which the total time is used. As we see our proposal, there would be no infringement on the liberty of anyone. No great financial burden would be imposed in terms of the valuable asset that the public has given to these stations by asking them to provide free time in the way proposed.
It is not my fault that this measure has come on at this hour of the night, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that on behalf of my Party I am entitled to take just as much time now as I would have taken had this measure come on at a quarter past three tomorrow afternoon, as it should have done if there were any decency about the way in which the business of this House is conducted. But such decency is lacking and therefore I have to inflict myself on honourable members for at least another fifteen minutes.
Finally, I want to direct attention to advertising. The Postmaster-General has jurisdiction not only over the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He has certain jurisdiction and certain traditional power over the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which, in its eighteenth annual report - the most recent available - at page 59, made a lengthy statement on advertising. Any honourable member who reads the Broadcasting and Television Act will see that the Board, independently of the Minister, has statutory power, conferred on it by this Parliament. That power ought to be exercised. The Board is empowered to set limits on the kind of product advertised and even to lay down standards for advertising if it wishes. Ordinary trading is governed by legislation. For instance, one cannot go into an hotel on Sunday because the law does not permit hotels to trade on Sundays. In Victoria at least you cannot have bread delivered to your house after a certain hour on Fridays. One cannot buy freshly made bread on Saturdays, T.n Victoria most shops have imposed upon them certain closing hours. But apparently there is no limit on seven days of the week as to the broadcasting or televising of advertisements. My recollection is that when commercial broadcasting was first introduced many years ago there was a kind of gentleman’s agreement that there would be no broadcasting of advertisements on Sundays. That policy soon fell into disuse. It was never applied to commercial television. I cannot see any reason why television stations should be allowed to transmit on Sundays if a community decides that Sunday should be a day off and that six days a week are sufficient. This is the kind of thing that can happen. In its report for 1965-66 the Australian Broadcasting Control Board said:
Perhaps the most significant change has been a decrease in the proportion of sponsored programmes.
At one time half-hour or one-hour programmes were sponsored by one advertiser. That situation still holds, but to a lesser extent than formerly. There has been a decrease in the proportion of sponsored programmes. The report continues:
Most programmes are now vehicles for spot advertisements and, under the existing rules, may contain 12 minutes of such advertisements in the hour, which is twice the amount permitted for sponsored programmes.
Presumably the stations are now deliberately encouraging spot advertisements because they can devote twice as much time to them. This means that the public is deprived of a certain amount of entertainment. Whereas in a sponsored programme you could have six minutes of advertising and fifty-four minutes of entertainment in each hour, under the spot advertisement arrangement you can have twelve minutes of advertisements and only forty-eight minutes of entertainment in each hour. These are quite serious matters upon which the House should have had an opportunity to express its views.
In paragraph 244 of its eighteenth annual report, The Australian Broadcasting Control Board refers to a voluntary code governing the advertising of cigarettes on television. The code came into effect on 1st January 1966. The report lists nine limitations on the advertising of cigarettes. I have read those limitations carefully, and I have watched a number of cigarette advertisements on television. I doubt very much, with all respect, whether the nine conditions referred to by the Board are being observed, notwithstanding the voluntary agreement entered into. It seems that nobody worries very much about whether the voluntary agreement is honoured in the breach more than it is in the observance.
These things are of tremendous social significance. Most of us have had sent to us in recent times the sixth annual report of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. This report was delivered by Mr Arthur Cowan at the sixth annual meeting on 1st December 1966 at Menzies Hotel, Melbourne. This is what it states:
Of the 1.658,000 television homes in the measured survey areas of the five mainland capital cities it was estimated that during a week the set in 1,614,000 homes- 97.3% of the total- was tuned at some time or other to a commercial station for an average thirty hours eleven minutes.
In other words, apparently the average time that commercial television is watched per week is thirty hours eleven minutes or, if honourable members prefer, something over four hours per day. That seems an incredible amount of time when one looks at it.
In the days when people went to picture shows only the worst addicts ever went seven days a week. Now, one is watching mostly the same sorts of programmes. I happened to be home two or three Saturdays ago and I had the choice of seeing something made in 1953, something made in 1945 or something made in 1937. These programmes were jazzed up as being somebody’s ‘Playhouse’ or ‘Comedy Half Hour’ of something of the kind. There is very little critical ‘reviewing’ of the programmes put over on the majority of television stations. I am not confining the faults only to the commercial stations but apparently at least 85% of the viewers watch commercial television and only 14%, according to these surveys, watch the national channel. So, the majority of sins are in the hands of the commercial stations.
At one time when the licences of commercial stations were first granted, their programmes were supposed to have a certain Australian content. I have not time to go into what this report says on this point. But the report points out that the intention behind this obligation in fact is being thwarted and that Australian content is achieved by counting a news session, or a broadcast of a football match or a race meeting. These are counted as Australian content programmes when everybody knows that what was thought of when transmitting licences were granted was that Australian content would encourage local drama, local film making, and so on. These sorts of things are being neglected.
The aggregate expenditure in the television and broadcasting industry is over $100m per annum. It is growing quite rapidly. Another $ 15m or $20m will probably be added this year. When we consider the magnitude of that expenditure, surely it would be no hardship to impose some kind of levy on total expenditure. The money raised from that levy could go to the setting up of national theatre groups and to the establishment of film studios where genuine attempts could be made to produce entirely Australian productions, using Australian artists, Australian singers, Australian technicians and taking advantage of the magnificent scenery about which we heard so much when the Australian Tourist Commission Bill was before the House recently. All of these things could be done if the Government really wanted them to be done. I suggest that the Government is being recreant to that promise that was implicit when television licences were granted.
They were granted subject to programmes having something like 50% Australian content. 1 ask honourable members to read the statistics contained in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I do not have time to detail them now. I invite honourable members to look at the kind of devices being used so that television stations can claim that a certain programme is of Australian content. They do anything in order to evade the proper obligations that are supposed to be put on them under the Act.
These are matters of some social significance. I would have liked to take up the matter of educational television. Television, properly used - and I am not suggesting that it is improperly used - could be the most magnificent medium of education that man has ever had at his disposal. The world is short of educators, and facilities such as television could be used much more than they are. There was a report presented to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which is known generally as the Weeden Report. It is available to honourable members. Its correct title is the Report of the Advisory Committee on Educational Television Services and it was presented by command on 11th May 1966. The reference is No. 295 (Group H). That report has never been properly considered by this Parliament. Again, that is a serious indictment. The responsibility is placed on this Parliament, on the Government, on the PostmasterGeneral, on the Australian Broadcasting Commission and on the Broadcasting Control Board, to see that adequate and substantial utilisation is made of television and broadcasting.
I hope that when this House reassembles for the Budget session we will not go through the farce of simply debating old matters that happen to be on the notice paper and which no honourable member wanted to debate before. The House will have no business for the first few days. The Budget will be introduced and the debate adjourned for a week. I hope that the Government will give us an opportunity to have a serious debate on this important matter of educational television. The community deserves this consideration. Parliament should be given an opportunity to express some opinions about this report which a lot of important people produced at the expense of their valuable time. So far it has received no consideration at all.
Wednesday, .17 May 1967
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)I call the Postmaster-General.
– Will the Postmaster-General close the debate?
– I understood we were going to put this Bill through this evening. That was the undertaking given to me.
Motion (by Mr Stewart) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– It is apparent from the two to one vote against the motion for the adjournment of the debate that the members on the Government side want this debate to continue. Obviously they want to hear the criticisms that the Opposition has to make against the activities, in this instance, of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because the Bill that honourable members are discussing deals predominantly with an amendment with respect to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), leading for the Opposition, outlined a couple of amendments that the Labor
Party will move in Committee, and he mentioned the sixth annual report which was presented to the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations by Mr Arthur Cowan, the General Manager of that organisation. He mentioned also the conference that was held at the Menzies Hotel. Melbourne, on 1st December last.
Mr Cowan, in this annual report, takes ,rear pleasure in indicating just how much of the television market and listening time the commercial stations gain in terms of viewing public and generally in other directions. On page 7 of the report he lists a current survey showing the percentage of television sets in use. The proportion of sets tuned to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s stations in the various capital cities is: Sydney 11.3%, Melbourne 13.4%, Brisbane 14.8%, Adelaide 11.7% and Perth 16% while the proportion tuned to commercial stations is Sydney 29.6%, Melbourne 28.8%, Brisbane 2S.4%, Adelaide 29.4% and Perth 42%. The Australian Broadcasting Commission controls television stations and radio stations which are financed out of the proceeds of the sale of television and radio licences, and as such its stations should be looked upon as the main ones in the Commonwealth and as business enterprises. If the national stations can attract only that small percentage of the viewing public surely it is up to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and for that matter, the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), who controls the Australian Broadcasting Commission, to see to it that the television programmes offered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission command a greater proportion of the viewing audience than they do at present.
The Opposition desired to put forward a few constructive suggestions along these lines, but we are prevented from doing so. As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said earlier this is not the first occasion upon which amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act have been brought down late in the session and upon which the Opposition has been expected to discuss such amendments in the early hours of the morning. On two or three previous occasions exactly the same thing has happened as is happening tonight. The indications are that the Government does not want the Broadcasting and Television Act discussed in the light of day or discussed fully because such a large percentage of the Australian community is dissatisfied firstly with the operation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and, secondly, with the operation of television services in Australia.
Numerous complaints are made to me and other honourable members about the amount of time that is given to advertising, about the poor quality programmes presented by commercial television stations and the load that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is expected to carry in presenting shall I say higher class programmes dealing with the ballet, culture, art and so on. Educational programmes are usually left to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. They are not a popular draw with the public. They are not strong audience attracting programmes.
The Postmaster-General and his cohorts behind him do not want these things brought into the light of day. They want to have the privilege that they have enjoyed for a number of years of granting concessions to commercial television stations in return for certain privileges at election time. These are some of the things that we would have liked to mention. We would have liked a full scale discussion on whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission is as independent as the Postmaster-General would have us believe or as the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and various other honourable members on the Government side have said that it is.
We can point to instance after instance of interference with the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission is now being increased in size from seven members to nine members. Will these nine members do anything more than the seven members did to see to it that the programmes presented by the Australian Broadcasting Commission over its television stations are improved and attract a higher proportion of the viewing audience? I hope to deal with radio programmes later. When the General Manager of the Federation of Commercial Television Stations can boast of the commercial stations enjoying such a high percentage of the viewing audience and of having so many television sets in homes tuned to commercial stations for so many hours during the week it is time the Australian Broadcasting Commission did something about improving its programmes and increasing the size of its viewing audience. If it cannot do this, the Government should see that the commercial television stations take over some of the programmes that attract smaller audiences than their present programmes do. This is a combined operation between the commercial television stations and the national stations. There is no reason at all why the national stations should have to carry the burden of educational programmes when many of the commercial stations do not show these programmes at all. These are some of the matters about which I wanted to speak tonight. I understood, my Whip understood and the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is acting in these matters for the Opposition, understood that this debate was to be adjourned after our first speaker had concluded–
– That is not so. The understanding was that we would put the Bill through.
– Providing he carried over after midnight. The Leader of the House interjects. He has enough on his hands trying to get out of the ‘Voyager’ difficulties without getting into holts with me. He will fare no better with me than he did with the honourable members for Warringah (Mr St John) and La Trobe (Mr Jess) earlier today. Certain guarantees were given last week and again this week to our Whip and to the honourable member for Hindmarsh. They have not been kept. I heard the debate that was conducted here earlier today and I am not at all surprised that there are breaches of agreement on the Government side.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 8- by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause 8a.
– I move:
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill: “ 8a. After section 78 of the Prinicipal Act the following section is inserted: 78a. Where the Minister has given a direction under section sixty-four of this Act or has prohibited the broadcasting or televising of any matter or made any requirement under section seventyseven of this Act he shall, within seven sitting days of giving such direction or notifying such prohibition or requirement, report the same in writing to both Houses of the Parliament and shall give the reasons for such direction, prohibition or requirement, as the case may be.’.”.
In the second reading debateI explained the purpose of this amendment, which has been circulated. It proposes that when the power that the Minister has under sections 64 and 77 is exercised, he should report to Parliament within a period of seven days.
-The Government does not oppose the amendment but I should like to point out that section 64 provides that in the national interest a direction may be given by the Minister. Section 77 provides that the Minister may in writing or by telegram prohibit the Commission from broadcasting or televising any matter. The Opposition is seeking to ensure that Parliament shall be notified of any such instruction. But, section 78, which contains a requirement that the Commission shall make a report to Parliament - a financial report in the first place but also a general report - provides in sub-section (3):
The Commission shall include in the report particulars of -
each transmission arranged at the written direction of the Minister in pursuance of section sixty-four of this Act;
each case in which the Minister has exercised the powers conferred on him by the last preceding section; and
any case in which the Minister has, otherwise than in pursuance of the provisions of this Act, issued directions concerning the broadcasting or televising by the Commission of any matter or prohibited the broadcasting or televising by the Commission of any matter.
What the Opposition is seeking to achieve is already provided for in the Act, except that the Opposition is seeking to achieve it a little earlier - in fact, prior to the report. But the situation is that in my time - three and a half years - as Postmaster-General no direction has been given to the Commission. Therefore, why should I object to a requirement that there be an earlier written report to the Parliament in relation to this matter?
– I direct the attention of the Committee to the wording of section 77, which reads:
Subject to this Act, the Minister may, from time to time, by telegram or in writing, prohibit the Commission from broadcasting or televising any matter . . .
The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and other Ministers have said that they have not directed the Commission either not to show or to show certain programmes. The wording of the provision is ‘by telegram or in writing’. I think that there have been instances in which, perhaps, there has been no telegram or there has been nothing written but certainly telephone calls have been made to people high in authority in the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Postmaster-General gave an assurance just a few moments ago that he has never by telegram or in writing directed the Commission, but has he or any other Minister ever, by using some other coercive method got the Australian Broadcasting Commission to change its programme, to dismiss some of its employees, or to take some of its employees off a particular programme and put them on to other programmes? I have very grave suspicions that this has happened and I shall always have those suspicions while the Minister will not allow the Parliament to discuss these Bills fully at a reasonable time of day.
Proposed new clause 8a agreed to.
Proposed new clause 8b.
– I move;
That the following new clause be inserted inthe Bill: 8b. After section 105 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: “105a. Where the Minister has prohibited the broadcasting or televising of any matter or has made any requirement under sub-section (3.)of section ninety-nine or section one hundred and four of this Act, he shall within seven sitting days report the same in writing to both Houses of the Parliament and shall give the reasons for such prohibition or requirement, as the case may be.”.’
I hope that as the proposed new clause seeks to do in respect of commercial operators what is sought to be done in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Commission by the previous amendment which the Minister has accepted, he might accept this amendment also.
– Directions are not given to commercial broadcasting or television stations. I have been contemplating this amendment, trying to imagine the way in which I would give a written direction or any direction to a commercial broadcasting or television station which in fact would remain in camera or a matter of secrecy. 1 should think that if I did that sort of thing there would be headlines about it in the newspapers next morning or afternoon. I should think that this was the best protection that the Parliament could have sought in this regard, but lest there be some suspicion by the Opposition that I may have a wrong motive in rejecting the amendment I accept it.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 8c.
– I move:
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill: “8c. Section 116 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (3.) the words If, during an election period, a licensee broadcasts or televises election matter, he shall afford reasonable opportunities’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘During an election period, a licensee shall afford free of charge reasonable opportunities ‘; and
by omitting sub-section (5.).”.
This deals with a matter that I raised in the second reading debate. It is our view that commercial broadcasting and television operators should give free of charge during an election period a reasonable time to all political parties represented in either House of this Parliament. I do not want to expand on the argument as I have done so already.
– The Government is not prepared to accept this amendment. It is, I believe, a vicious amendment and it is desirable, perhaps, that we look back a little in regard to it. I would say, firstly, that commercial television and broadcasting stations are required or expected to make a profit. When an application for a licence is made to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, one of the criteria which is accepted by the Board is the prospective ability of the television or broadcasting station to be able to make a profit. I believe that this is a reasonable proposition because a station is dependent upon a large number of people within the community subscribing capital with which it can operate. I believe also that it should not be for the Board or for the Government to encourage people to form a company and to operate this type of station in the belief that losing money is perhaps some sort of advantage.
Therefore I consider, on the first criterion, that there is no justification for saying to the people whom we ask to make a profit and whom we expect to make a profit as a commercial operation that they should be giving to parliamentarians free time for election purposes. Why parliamentarians? Why are we particularly entitled? Why are we chosen from everybody else in the community to have free time on a radio or television station for election purposes? Perhaps at the moment some city stations could afford this, but I suggest that many stations, particularly country stations, already give a remarkable amount of free time to members of Parliament week by week. I believe that the ex-member for Eden-Monaro, Mr Allan Fraser, made a broadcast or telecast every Sunday night from Canberra. I would be surprised if, week in and week out, he actually paid for that time. I know that other honourable members are in exactly the same situation. To say that we should force a station to do this at election time would, I believe, be quite wrong. I do not believe that we should introduce compulsion into this section of the Act.
If honourable members read very carefully what is intended they will see that the words proposed to be struck out are:
If, during an election period, a licensee broadcasts or televises election matter, he shall afford reasonable opportunities.
It is proposed that the following words be subtsituted for the words ommitted:
During an election period, a licensee shall afford free of charge reasonable opportunities.
I want to know who is to determine what are reasonable opportunities. Am I to determine what are reasonable opportunities? There is nothing in the Act or in the amendment to suggest who is to determine what are reasonable opportunities. Are we to leave it to the Broadcasting Control Board to determine what are reasonable opportunities? Would a reasonable opportunity be half an hour on television or one hour of broadcasting? Who will make this determination? Is this a reasonable amendment to put before the Committee, worded in this way, with nobody designated to make the judgment in regard to it? It is something which could be said to be left to the broadcasting station or to the television station. Is this the basis upon which we build an Act of Parliament which will be something of substance that can guide us or the community generally? I say that, on this ground alone, the amendment should be rejected. I believe that it is not possible of definition in a way which perhaps is in the mind of the mover.
The third point that I want to make is not unimportant either. Surely the amendment gives an indication of Labor’s philosophy. From time to time the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and Mr Calwell, the former Leader of the Opposition, have said that the Labor Party believes that the Government should control all television and all broadcasting in the Australian community; that is to say, nationalisation or socialisation of broadcasting and television, linked with the nationalisation of insurance companies, the control of airlines and of quite a number of other enterprises. I think it is a good idea to remind the people who are responsible for running these organisations once again that this is the intention of the Labor Party. It is a move to get a foot inside the door. The Labor Party says in effect: ‘We want something free. When we get that we will open the door a little wider until we get wholly inside.’ I suggest that the Government would not be prepared, on the three grounds which I have stated, to accept the amendment put forward by the Opposition.
Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) f.1.1 a.m.] - I am rather astonished at the explanation of the Minister. He asks who will decide what are reasonable opportunities. I point out that the words ‘reasonable opportunities’ are already in the Act. Who decides it now? Sub-section 3 of section 116 states:
If, during an election period, a licensee broadcasts or televises election matter, he shall afford reasonable opportunities for the broadcasting . . .
We propose to add only that it would be given free of charge. A decision on what are reasonable opportunities still has to be made. The difference between the Government and the Opposition on this matter is that we regard it as unreasonable to expect that most political parties can afford the kinds of charges that would have to be met. Therefore the existing provision is not only meaningless to a great number of political groups because it is economically impossible for them to pay the charges, but it also gives an unreasonable advantage to the political groups - I will not name them at this stage - which can afford to pay the charges. We suggest that in common sense and equity at least all political parties should be given some free time; not that all time given should be free, but that some time should be free.
As I conceded during the debate on the second reading of this Bill, there will be debate as to what are reasonable opportunities. I cited the fact that already the commercial groups are charged with giving free time - supposedly at reasonable hours - to religious organisations. Those decisions have to be made. Why is it any more difficult to make a decision about free political time? Such decisions will need to be made only during an election campaign and elections are held federally every three years while State elections on the average are also held every three years. The period in question is only about two or three weeks, in the course of a campaign. Nobody is suggesting that the whole of the time should be given over to political organisations. We suggest that some time should be given. It would have to be determined by agreement between political parties, and presumably the operators. Surely that is not impossible to obtain. 1 cannot understand the Minister’s crying poor mouth about the commercial television operators. In ten years their income from advertising has risen from nil to $50m annually. Can it properly be said that they cannot afford to give free time, or would be bankrupted, or somehow would be unfairly dealt with if they gave what probably would not amount to more than an hour in aggregate to each political party over a period of three or four weeks, on an average of once every eighteen months?
I suggest that the defence raised by the Postmaster-General is unreasonable. I point out to him that already it is incumbent upon a licensee to decide what are reasonable opportunities, on the basis of being paid for the time. Why is it any more difficult for a commercial television operator to decide what are reasonable opportunities when a legislative authority is cast on him to provide the time free? I suggest that the explanation is hollow.
-The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) suggests to me that the present provision in the Act that a licensee shall alford reasonable opportunities - not on a free of charge basis, as intended by sub-section 5 of section 116 - is to be interpreted in exactly the same way as the proposed provision that reasonable opportunities are to be provided on a basis of no charge. To me that is completely stupid. I think that when the honourable member refers to reasonable opportunities he is not relating the amount of time to what could be paid for, whereas the station, in fact, relates the amount of time to what it can reasonably make available on the basis of the charge it gets. I do not think this encourages any argument. If a person wants to spend $1,000 the station will try to make time available, although not necessarily at the time the person wants it. It is a different story if time is made available free of charge, because a party does not have to pay for the time, the time asked for could be three, five or even ten hours. I believe that this would be the situation in Sydney or Melbourne where a substantial number of candidates would want to get on the band wagon for free time but would not be prepared to pay for that time. I reject the suggestion that the interpretation of ‘reasonable opportunities’ in the amendment is capable of similar interpretation to the existing provision in the Act. We reject the amendment.
– It never ceases to amuse me how the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) can get up and pontificate about the private enterprise system and democracy and, at the same time, deny to the Opposition in this place any opportunity to get its voice across to the public at election time. He knows that the same people who control television stations control radio stations and newspapers. He further knows that each one of those mass media is more inclined to give free time, and advantageous time, to the Government parties than to the Opposition party. If democracy is to survive in Australia the rights of the Opposition, whether it happens to be Liberal or Labour, should be preserved. The commercial television stations have not done a great deal in the ten and a half years since they have had their licences given to them. As the Minister himself said only a few minutes ago, they were given a capital asset that gives them a magnificent return. They have put very little back into the community by way of educational programmes and by way of putting across the various arguments at election time so that the people might bc in a better position to cast an informed vote.
– I thought it was a very informed vote at the last election.
– That is exactly what I started off by saying - the PostmasterGeneral’s idea of democracy and freedom is that every person is entitled to have a point of view as long as it agrees with his but nobody is intelligent unless he expresses the same point of view as the PostmasterGeneral expresses.
– That is not the point the honourable member is making. We both had equal time.
– That is the point I started off by making. The PostmasterGeneral says that the public cast an intelligent vote. They may have done so; but perhaps they did not. I say that they did not and the Postmaster-General says that they did. At the same time the parties opposed to the Australian Labor Party - the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party - were all arrayed on television and had a lot of time given them by the stations. The vote of the Labor Party in any election is only about 10% lower than that of the Government parties. Yet we face the combined opposition of people such as the Minister, people from the Country Party and people from the Democratic Labor Party. When we ask for a little free time we ask for it in the interests of Australia and to enable us to get our point of view across to the people. If the Liberal Party were in Opposition it would still have the same opportunity.
This provision deserves to go into the Act for the simple reason that, unless it does, very few commercial stations are likely to give any free time at all. I sound the warning that the time will come when the television stations, the radio stations and the newspapers which so energetically and enthusiastically support the Government parties at the moment will turn against them. Then the Minister and his followers will want a provision such as this in the Act. I believe that it should be there, not only for our benefit at this stage, but perhaps for the Minister’s benefit and for that of the Liberal Party and the Country Party in later years. For the sake of making the commercial television stations give something in return for the profits that they have received over a period of 10i years and for the sake of my idea of freedom and democracy I suggest that this provision should be in the Act.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments: report - by leave - adopted.
– -Is leave granted?
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders bc suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
– 1 oppose the motion. I do so for the purpose of informing the Parliament of a breach of trust that has occurred between the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) and me over the sittings of the House. I say bluntly to the Leader of the House that unless the Government follows a different procedure in relation to the handling of the business of the House the rest of this week will be taken up with the forms of the House being used to gum up its proceedings rather than allow the proper consideration of the Bills that are now before the Parliament. That promise will not be broken.
This side of the House is not prepared to be treated in the cavalier way in which it has been treated today. I had a firm understanding with the Minister which he has broken that no speaker would be called after midnight. That was a firm undertaking by the Minister. I explained to him that this was necessary if we were to give any consideration to a proposal to have the Bills passed this week. It is the Government’s fault, not ours, that the Bills are behind schedule. We are entitled to a proper opportunity to debate them. I also believe that the Government backbenchers are entitled to proper consideration. If the Minister is not prepared to give his backbenchers a proper opportunity to take part in the debate, then I, representing the Opposition, am not prepared to deny that opportunity to those whom I represent.
I warn the Minister - this is no idle warning - that, unless the Parliament is prepared to settle down to arrangements that will not be broken, unless the Opposition, when it makes an agreement with the Government, can expect that that agreement will be carried out, this Parliament just will not work. It is not right that we should be made to stay here until 5 o’clock in the morning. As I said to the Minister this morning, when this matter was debated, I would far sooner see the Parliament sit next week and even the week after, if need be, and sit for reasonable and sensible hours than have to rush Bills through without proper consideration or have to stay here until 5 o’clock in the morning. I conclude on that point by saying to the Minister that the promise will not be broken. If we are to be expected to sit up here late at night and if we are to be double-crossed in relation to agreements made on sittings of the House, the Government can expect nothing but opposition from this side. Moreover I assure him that those who sit behind me are men skilled in the arts of applying the forms of the House, and we will not hesitate to use them. We will move that speakers be no longer heard as often as we deem it necessary to do so. We will call attention to the state of the House as often as we deem necessary and we will move for the adjournment of debate as often as it is possible for us to do so. We will do anything else that it is possible for us to do to prevent business being carried on as it has been tonight. I say no more than that. This is no idle threat. The Government will rue the day it attempts to defy the promise that 1 now make to it.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is obviously seeking to establish for himself the reputation of being a defender of the Opposition. Let me put on the line what happened. This morning the honourable gentleman asked me for an undertaking that we would not sit beyond midnight. I replied: ‘I can give you no such undertaking; it depends on the progress of the House. I will not give that undertaking because when I give one, it is honoured.’ Therefore, I would not give the undertaking. I said to the honourable member: I will tell you this; I do not want to sit beyond midnight. Nobody in this House wants to do so and so far as I am able to do it we will not sit beyond midnight.’ If the honourable member chose to take that as an undertaking all I can say is that he misuses words very badly. The next point I want to make to him is that at about 11 p.m. an undertaking in the clearest terms was communicated to me that after the education bills were finished we would go on with the Broadcasting and Television Bill, which is now before the House, and there would be only one speaker from the Opposition, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean).
– Did I give that undertaking?
– No. It was relayed to me by my Whip.
– But nobody has that right.
– I have yet to come to that. The undertaking was that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports would be the only speaker for the Opposition and we would get the Bill by midnight. Contrary to that, the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) rose after the honourable member for Melbourne Ports had spoken for a full forty-five minutes.
– What if he did? He is entitled to speak.
– Of course he is entitled to speak. My point is that it was contrary to what had been stated. When I give an undertaking on behalf of this side of the House it will be honoured; but I have found consistently that there has been difficulty about undertakings on the other side of the House. There is nothing more I want than to be able to make arrangements with the honourable member for Hndmarsh and to honour them. I give him my assurance here and now that when I make an undertaking with him I certainly will honour it. The honourable member for Hindmarsh is making the suggestion that honourable members on this side of the House would be denied the opportunity to speak and that he will not have members of his party denied the opportunity to speak.
If my recollection is correct, this is the tenth week of sitting of this Parliament, and no gag was moved until last week. The Government Whip, the Opposition Whip and the Country Party Whip know that members have put down their names on the list of speakers, and quite clearly no one was denied an opportunity. So we went along. I have given the Acting Deputy Leader of the Opposition a programme that was necesary to be fulfilled.
– On the basis of, take it or leave it.
– No, not at all. I gave the honourable member a programme, and he indicated to me that, if we worked together, we could pursue the procedure according to the programme. But what he wanted me to do was to say that this House would not sit on any night beyond midnight. I am unable to give that undertaking. I make no apology for it. I cannot give such an undertaking. I was unable to give it this morning, and I will be unable to give it on any other day. But I do say that it is my sincere hope that we shall be able to rise by midnight.
– Sit next week.
– The honourable member talks about sitting next week as though that is a threat, whereas he knows very well that this morning I raised with him the reality that we might have to sit next week.
– And I said that I would agree with it.
– That is right. But do not put it as though I am resisting it. I said to the honourable member this morning that it was very likely that we would have to sit next week.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I ask that interjections cease. If the House comes to order the debate will proceed to the advantage of both sides.
– So far as sitting next week is concerned, I am bound to say that I must inform the House that this is a real possibility. We cannot make a decision at this point of time because it is a question of how much business of the House is fulfilled over the next few days.
– That is all right. Sit next week.
– So far as sitting next week is concerned, I must say that I am hopeful that it will not be necessary to do so because it is the week before the referendum. However, quite apart from that, honourable members for some long period of time have made all sorts of arrangements. For instance, the Public Accounts Committee has arranged to call witnesses in Brisbane and there are other people who have long standing appointments. Therefore, it would not be my wish to come back next week. But this is the Parliament of the Commonwealth and the business of the Parliament of the Commonwealth must be put through. Therefore, if the business of this Parliament requires us to sit next week, then sit next week I am afraid we must.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr Snedden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority .. ..29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Wills is now debating the question on which the vote was taken. He may not do so when speaking to a point of order.
Motion (by Mr Hulme) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Acting Speaker, I wish to speak on the motion for the third reading of this Bill. In doing so, I wish to refer to the Standing Orders and the way in which the business of this House has been handled. The Standing Orders are quite precise.
– Order! The honourable member is not entitled to discuss the Standing Orders when speaking to the motion for the third reading of the Bill.
– I just make it clear that I will support absolutely the–
– Order! The honourable member took a point of order earlier in relation to the provisions of the Standing Orders and he is now completely ignoring them. He- may not debate the matter that he is seeking to debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 1.32 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
When will the proposed amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act be presented to Parliament?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A most exhaustive and detailed review of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is now nearing completion and it is anticipated that the necessary amending legislation will be introduced during the Budget session of Parliament.
War Material and Equipment (Question No. 94)
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Goods exported from Ireland to Australia are granted entry into Australia under the same preferential conditions as goods exported from the United Kingdom to Australia.’ The origin shown on the Customs entry in this case would be Ireland.
At the current level of imports Ireland’s share, however, amounted to 0.03% of total Australian imports. Australian exports to Ireland of $A4,147,000 in 1965-66 represented 0.15% of total Australian exports. On the basis of these figures a country could not, in the statistical sense, be regarded as an important trading partner of Australia. However, Australia-Ireland trade is expanding and the respective markets are therefore of importance to each country.
Education of Papuans and New Guineans in Australia (Question No. 171)
asked the Minister for
Territories, upon notice:
How many indigenous Papuans and New Guineans are receiving (a) secondary, (b) technical and (c) tertiary education in Australia?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under sponsorship by the Administration,
In addition, 3 are sponsored for tertiary education under the Walter Strong Trust Fund, and an unknown number is sponsored for secondary and tertiary education by missions and private firms.
asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Papuan and New Guinean University Students (Question No. 175)
asked the Minister for
Territories, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In addition, students are enrolled at the following tertiary institutions in the Territory: Institute of Higher Technical Education, Papuan Medical College, Vudal Agricultural College, the Forestry School and the secondary teachers’ training college.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The honourable member’s questions relate to an analysis, given to this House by the Minister for Trade and
Industry on 16th March 1967, of the 361 Tariff Board reports which have been tabled since July 1958.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, 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:
The information sought in Part 1 (A) of the question in respect of items (i) and (ii) is given in Table 1 of the attachments to this paper, whilst the information in reply to Part I (B) items (i) and (ii) is presented as Table 3.
The answers to Part 2, items (a), (b) and (c) of the question have been prepared as Table 2 in respect of Sydney Airport and Table 4 for Essendon Airport.
It will be noted that in addition to fully licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, both companies employ several unlicensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers. These men are skilled in the performance of certain aspects of aircraft maintenance and work under the supervision of the licence holders, who supervise and take final responsibility for the work performed by the unlicensed engineer.
The ratio of licensed to unlicensed maintenance engineers on these shifts varies from 2 to 1 up to 3 to 1, as shown by the figures provided.
The periods chosen as samples were from the week prior to the date on which notice of the question was given. There is no significance in the difference of one day in the periods chosen for Ansett-A.N.A. and T.A.A.
The question specifically asks for the numbers of men employed on night shift, and these are the figures quoted in reply. It must be noted, however, that maintenance crews of both companies are composed of three 8-hour shifts, namely day, afternoon and night shifts. Afternoon shifts commence at 1430 and 1500 hours, and the night shifts start at 2200 and 2230 hours respectively foi T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. Both crews are available for an overlapping period of about half an hour, and where circumstances warrant, the afternoon shift works overtime and thus supplements the rostered night shift
Where an aircraft completes the day’s flying schedule before 2200 hours, the maintenance may be commenced by the afternoon shift and completed by the night shift. Therefore the maintenance work load as shown in Tables 1 and 3 may not be carried completely by the night shift.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice: [. What total profit was made during the years 1956 to 1966 by the (a) Reserve Bank of Australia, (b) Commonwealth Trading Bank, (c) Commonwealth Development Bank and (d) Commonwealth Savings Bank?
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
asked the Treasurer upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
At current rates of tax applicable to income derived by companies during the year ended 30th June 1966, the amounts of Australian tax payable, by each class of company set out in (a), (b) and (c) of the question, on taxable incomes of $100,000 are:
At current rates of tax, the amounts of Australian taxation payable on dividends by shareholders in the classes of companies set out in (a), (b), and (c) of the first question are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 May 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670516_reps_26_hor55/>.