26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I desire to inform the House that a delegation from the House of Representatives of the Diet of Japan, led by Mr Koshiro Ueki, is at present in the gallery of the House. On behalf of honourable members I extend a warm welcome to members of the delegation.
Honourable members ; Hear, hear!
Mr LYNCH presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the well-being of the aged, the infirm, the widowed, the deserted wives and dependent children, and the service pensioner be improved to parity with the national general living standard of the Australian people.
– 1 ask the Minister for Primary Industry: What progress has been made in the negotiations concerning insurance on the fruit on the ships trapped in the Suez Canal since 7th July, amounting to 379,000 cases of apples and pears, including 200,000 cases from Tasmania? At what point of time will the insurance companies regard this fruit as being lost? Will the insurance companies pay the insurance on the basis of the price the fruit would have brought in the United Kingdom at the time the ships were trapped, on the price at the time they regard the fruit as being lost or on some pre-arranged set figure? If the insurance companies finally decide for any reason at all against paying insurance will the Commonwealth Government compensate the growers concerned, growers in South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania?
- Mr Speaker, legal advice has been obtained from the interests concerned, both in Australia and overseas, regarding the position of insurers and other aspects. The Australian Apple and Pear Board and other interested bodies are acting in concert with the receivers of the fruit in the United Kingdom; and the Government has been kept informed of those developments. In this connection my colleague, the Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry, and I met a delegation from the Apple and Pear Board about a fortnight ago. I believe it would not be helpful at the present stage to make public the details of any action taken or contemplated, bearing in mind that neither the Commonwealth Government nor the Apple and Pear Board is a party principal in this matter. As to the last question that the honourable member asked, this involves, as the Minister for External Affairs told the honourable member on, I think, about 16th August last, certain points of law and policy which would have to receive the attention of the Government if it became necessary to consider the question.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that thousands of parcels have been held up at the Sydney General Post Office and that many of his Department’s regular customers are being sorely inconvenienced and penalised by being forced to duplicate manufactured goods? Will the PostmasterGeneral take action to have these parcels delivered before the work to regulations strike is resolved? If this cannot be done, would it not be proper to make a public announcement about the situation? Are the Department’s customers entitled to any compensation because they are obliged to duplicate manufactured goods?
– I know there is a substantial back-log of parcels at the Sydney Mail Exchange. The number of parcels held at the present moment is about 300,000 and it would take some 2 weeks of normal working time to dispose of them. Action is being taken at present to try to end the work to regulation operation which has persisted for several weeks, and I am hopeful that we will succeed in ending it. The postal regulations do not allow for payment of compensation other than in the case of registered letters, and then only if those letters and their contents are lost.
In the case of parcels there is no provision for the payment of compensation due to delay in any circumstances, and certainly not when the circumstances are beyond the control of the Department.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Does the Minister believe that the trend towards the wider use of females in the work force, which has become evident in the more industrialised countries, will develop and intensify in Australia in the future? Does he agree that if this trend does develop in Australia, many of the extra female employees in the future will have dependent children? Has his department any plans to ensure that neither working mothers nor their children will suffer adversely by the development in Australia of such a trend? Does he think the trend could be reversed by the provision of more adequate social service payments and a higher male wage?
– The answer to the first two questions asked by the honourable member is certainly yes. This is a world-wide trend amongst advanced countries. I do believe it will continue. In fact, such is the overall shortage of labour that my Department and I are busily engaged in hastening this trend because it does, of course, add considerably to our national income. As to particular problems such as child minding, these are dealt with in various ways. Industrial firms in many cases make arrangements to look after these matters themselves, and I am sure that this practice will continue and will be followed even more widely.
As regards increasing the male wage, under current conditions of full employment a general increase in the male wage could be largely and inevitably lost in the price rises and inflationary trends which would follow as a consequence. Humanity generally desires a higher standard of living, and when circumstances permit women to work, as they are able to do in increasing numbers with the advent of labour saving devices in the home, they now will seek and probably enjoy it. The numbers of women in the work force will undoubtedly increase. I think that the number of working women will continue to increase and I believe that this will be a good thing. Though we shall have to make a lot of rearrangements, our national income will certainly be higher. My Department and I, as in other matters, will certainly do whatever we can to deal with the problems which will arise and with which we shall be able to cope.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Treasurer. I refer to reports that forged $10 notes were still circulating in parts of New South Wales and Queensland up to 10 days ago. I ask the Minister whether there is any indication of the present situation and whether action taken by the Reserve Bank of Australia has succeeded in preventing any further circulation of forged notes.
– It would be very difficult to know whether action taken by the Reserve Bank has stopped the further issue of forged notes, as one finds out about them only as they come into circulation and are presented. A considerable number of forged notes has been released recently in Sydney and in States other than New South Wales. In order to prevent further releases and to impede the use of forged notes, the Reserve Bank has placed in the Press a number of advertisements bringing the forgeries to the attention of the public and indicating the features by which forged notes are most readily identified. The cooperation and general alertness of the public play a very important part in preventing the circulation of forged currency, which is viewed seriously by the authorities and which they are doing all they can to prevent.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in the absence of the Treasurer.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service is Acting Treasurer.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member that the Minister for Labour and National Service is acting for the Treasurer in his absence.
– The proposal that I am about to mention was considered by the present Prime Minister 3 years ago when he was Treasurer and was approved at that time. Therefore, I believe that he will be better fitted to answer the question in the absence of the Treasurer. I ask the Prime Minister: Can he say whether the drafting of amendments to the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act to provide continuity of service for the calculation of long service leave for officers required to resume service after retirement for invalidity has yet been completed? The right honourable gentleman may not recall what happened but, as I intimated earlier, these amendments were approved in October 1964 while he was Treasurer, and we are still waiting for the amending measure to be presented.
– I was very well informed on these matters at the time that the honourable gentleman has mentioned. I regret that my other duties have since bereft me of that recollection which would be of assistance to him. I shall make immediate inquiries and see what information I can give him.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I realise that it would be quite impossible for the right honourable gentleman to refute every erroneous allegation that appears in the Press but, in view of concern throughout my electorate about a Press report that has received wide circulation, I ask him to comment on it. The words attributed to him in a report of a recent Press conference were these-
-Order! The honourable member will be out of order if he asks for comment.
– The words attributed to the Prime Minister were:
Because of population changes, New South Wales will lose one seat - probably Gwydir. . . .
In case these words may have given any comfort to my political opponents, I also ask the right honourable gentleman whether he can endorse and support the truth of the old saying that threatened men live long.
– The honourable gentleman has referred to a report which emerged from a question asked of me at a recent Press conference. I was asked what stage had been reached in relation to redistribution proposals. I pointed out that it was the Government’s intention to bring down redistribution legislation in the life of this Parliament. I am sure that all honourable members will agree, however uncomfortable they may anticipate the process to be - it certainly must be uncomfortable to have some metropolitan electorates with fewer than 40,000 voters and others with more than 100,000 - that any redistribution requires some quite formidable adjustment. However uncomfortable the process may be, as good democrats we would recognise the need to redress a situation which is clearly intolerable.
I affirm that it is the Government’s intention to bring redistribution proposals before the House after the appropriate inquiry has been made by redistribution commissioners. I would anticipate their being appointed towards the end of the year or early next year - certainly in time for the processes to be gone through to enable the legislation to be dealt with by this Parliament well in advance of the next general election, if it falls at its normal time.
Referring specifically to the report mentioned by the honourable gentleman: I certainly did not make any reference to any particular electorate. I would need to be something of a clairvoyant to attempt to do so. I did make the point that it was an unfortunate consequence of the rejection by the electorate as a whole of the referendum proposals which, if accepted, would have enabled us to make some modest in-, crease in the size of the Parliament, that New South Wales, as a result of the Chief Electoral Officer’s periodical review, had been assessed to lose one seat and Victoria and South Australia were to gain a seat each. We all would regard it as an unhappy consequence of the referendum vote that a State which is growing in population and in economic importance should find itself with fewer parliamentary representatives than it had before. But that is the situation, and I cannot conceive of any remedy which would not appear to run in the teeth of the decision of the electorate. Ironically, New South Wales, which loses a seat, was the only State to give majority support to the proposals put forward by the leaders of the three major parties in this Parliament. I assure the honourable gentleman that I have not been pointing the bone at him. Indeed, nobody can tell where the bone will be pointed after the commissioners have made their recommendations.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. When does he intend to introduce legislation to give federal sanction to the exploitation of oil and natural gas found in Bass Strait on the Australian continental shelf? Is the Commonwealth Government satisfied with the constitutional validity of legislation enacted by the Government of Victoria to control the development of these resources outside the boundary of that State? Will the Minister say what he intends to do to protect our national interests in this rich field of important resource development?
– As 1 said yesterday in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for North Sydney, it is the Government’s intention to introduce legislation relating to offshore oil during the present sittings, although I pointed out that whilst practically everything has been tidied up in this area there is still a big job to be done by the Draftsman and the Government Printer because this is quite mammoth legislation. The Government hopes to bring down the legislation towards the end of October or early in November. When the joint legislation is passed by the six States and the Commonwealth the Victorian temporary permits that have been issued to the Esso-BHP group will be transferred to the joint arrangement on offshore oil arrived at between the States and the Commonwealth.
– I wish to ask you a question, Mr Speaker. I ask whether you will confer with the President of the Senate and endeavour to see whether it is possible to issue to honourable members and to honourable senators a lapel badge as is the practice in some parliaments of the world and. in particular, in the Japanese Diet, some members of which are honouring us by their presence today?
-I would inform the honourable member that members of this Parliament already are entitled to wear the badge of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association - that is, if they are financial members of the CPA. I will look into the matter raised by the honourable member and I will let him know the results of my inquiries.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. I direct his attention to his answer to my question No. 418, which appears on page 820 of Hansard, dealing with the transport of wounded servicemen. I ask: Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a statement by Mr Berry of the Young Men’s Christian Association, who recently visited South Vietnam, in which Mr Berry said that ‘the noisy slow ride in Hercules transport was hard on wounded men’, that patients had to sit up because of the space taken by mails being carried in these planes as well and that the soldiers needed to have wax put in their ears to keep down the noise? I ask the Minister whether he considers this treatment of these servicemen to be fair. What action is being taken to expedite the provision of some better form of transport for our wounded servicemen?
- Mr Speaker, I will reply to the honourable member’s question. I thought that it might so happen that he would ask this question today. Therefore, I am sure that he will be interested to know that my own Director-General of Medical Services was travelling on the flight to which reference has been made by Mr Berry. My Director-General gave me a few facts this morning which may be of interest to the House.
On this flight seven stretcher cases as well as other cases were carried. It was possible for all patients on the aircraft to lie down on the stretchers if they had desired to do so. On this flight, as on others, the patients appeared to be asleep before midnight; some actually had to be awakened before landing at Richmond.
As I informed the House recently, we now use the Hercules 130E model only. It is much quieter than the Hercules 130A which had to be used initially. It is possible for the Hercules 130E to fly direct from South East Asia to Australia. The medical cases are always carried in the rear portion of the aircraft which has the lowest noise level. The mail and the freight are. definitely restricted so that they will not interfere with the proper nursing care and treatment of the patients. On this particular flight, as my own Director-General was present, he carefully supervised the freight and mail and they were not in the way of the patients. Originally, the patients were offered earmuffs should they find that the noise of the aircraft disturbed their sleep.
– The Minister could have offered them the BACIII.
– I will come to that matter in just a moment if the honourable member for Wills will restrain himself. However, the majority of patient’s felt no need for the earmuffs and used to remove them immediately after take-off. Instead, they preferred woollen and wax earplugs which were provided also and which are commonly provided for passengers on civil aircraft if they desire to have them. We find that the patients in many cases enjoy using these particular wax plugs and, as such, they have been provided.
I should now like to say why we have tended to prefer the Hercules aircraft to other aircraft. Firstly the use of pure jets, such as the BACIII as mentioned by the honourable member for Wills, is not possible from Vung Tau airfield. Therefore patients would have to be loaded into an aircraft at Vung Tau, be transported to Saigon and then transferred to another aircraft. Secondly, the loading of a pure jet aircraft is a long and tedious business foi” patients, particularly for stretcher patients who cannot be loaded through front doors but have to be loaded through the freight compartment. This is extremely difficult and is uncomfortable for patients in the sort of weather often experienced at Vung Tau. Again, the patients would have to be unloaded at Richmond. I have referred to the question of pressurisation in jet aircraft. This is unsatisfactory for a number of severely wounded patients. For all these reasons I arn still of the opinion that the Hercules aircraft - when we take into consideration the whole routine of transporting wounded patients from hospital at Vung Tau to hospital in the Sydney area - is much more comfortable than the aircraft which have been suggested by people who have not had as much experience of this subject as the Royal Australian Air Force.
The C141 aircraft’ is being used by the United States Air Force for a similar purpose for the Americans. It is a similar aircraft to the Hercules. I asked my own Director-General of Medical Services and also the Chairman of the Defence Medical Services Committee in the Department of Defence to travel with the wounded. The Director-General has done so, as did Air Vice Marshal Trudinger a couple of months ago. I am still of the opinion that we are using the best possible means of transporting our wounded at this time. In the past ( have referred to investigations into the improvement of galley and lavatory accommodation in these aircraft and also into the provision of suitable bus ambulances for the transport of wounded to the aircraft. These investigations are still being undertaken and I hope within the next few weeks that we will be able to improve the situation.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question supplementary to that asked by my colleague, the honourable member for Mitchell. Is it a fact that urgently required parcels have to be extracted from the buildup of parcels and redirected by other transport at greatly increased expense, particularly to pensioners in my electorate and other country electorates? Is it not a fact that this would not be so much the experience in metropolitan areas, which are so well represented here, because a delivery is made to each customer? Is it a fact that the people being hit hardest by this strike are those least able to bear it?
– I think the honourable member will appreciate that with a buildup of some 300,000 parcels it would be almost an impossible task to go through a continuous sorting operation to locate parcels for any particular individual in the community. It may be possible to locate a parcel that has arrived during the previous day or two, but I could not give an undertaking that it would be possible to locate parcels on any large scale basis. It is fair to say that all members of the community are being treated in the same way except that the trouble having been created, where it has been possible to by-pass the Sydney Mail Exchange with parcels this has been done over the last week to 10 days. The parcels which are there have been there from 10 days to perhaps 3 weeks.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the statement made yesterday in this House by the honourable member for Lilley that in the last 12 to IS months the Commonwealth had undertaken development works in the electorate of Capricornia at a cost of $l37m. No details were provided.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable member did say that.
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is not the substance of this statement quite false and is it not the fact that less than $2m has been spent by the Commonwealth on recognised development work in the electorate of Capricornia in the last 18 years? Is it not a fact also that the two greatest development needs in Capricornia are water and power and that the Federal Government has never invested one cent in water and power in its 18 years in office?
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question or resume his seat.
– If the Prime Minister agrees with the honourable member, will he make available the details of the development works that have cost $l37m?
– I get the impression that the honourable gentleman is getting rather rattled about Labor’s prospects in Capricornia. Why would he go ob with this sort of propaganda at question time if that were not so? I have quite a deal of detail about the remarkable development that is going on in central Queensland and I shall be glad to supply some of that detail - indeed all of it - to the honourable gentleman after I have made effective use of it in Capricornia over the next day or so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. With Britain’s announcement of withdrawal of defence forces east of the Suez, is Australia in a position to begin negotiations to take over the Gurkha Brigade of 14,000 men which is now serving in Malaya? This is particularly important in view of the fact that the money earned by this Brigade is one of the essentials in the economy of Nepal.
– The Australian Government is not considering any proposal to recruit Gurkhas into the Australian Army, nor is there any indication that the Government of Nepal would want such recruiting to be undertaken. 1 am sure that the honourable gentleman will appreciate that the use of mercenaries is distinctly against the Australian tradition and that statutory provisions prevent the recruiting of aliens into the Australian armed services.
– A little while ago 1 answered a question asked by the honourable member for Ballaarat regarding the possible recruitment of Gurkhas. I think that the statement I made may be misinterpreted. I drew attention to statutory provisions preventing the recruitment of aliens. I should have said that we do in fact recruit aliens into the Services, but applicants for enlistment must be either British subjects or aliens with 12 months’ residence status in Australia. Eligible aliens must also produce evidence of intention to naturalise in order to be accepted.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer the Minister to his review of the employment situation to the end of August 1967. In it he claimed a substantial fall in the number of males registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service while unfilled job vacancies rose sharply. Do the seasonally adjusted figures contained in the Minister’s statement show that the number of males registered for employment in August increased by 678 while the number of job vacancies registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service fell by 543? In view of these figures how does the Minister justify his claim of substantial improvement in the employment situation?
– I am not making claims; I am just stating the factual position. I would have thought that any sensible person reading my statement would pick up the obvious fact that there was an improvement over the last month. This improvement is bigger than any we have had in this month for some years. I attach no particular significance to it. We must always remember that the total involved is only a small fraction of the Australian work force - in fact 1.3% at the end of August. I presume that the honourable member read the explanation that was issued a month or two ago and would know that the seasonally adjusted figures are a useful guide. At this time they showed a somewhat looser employment situation than had existed in some years. It was better than in others. I think the honourable member will be hard put to make capital out of this situation, one way or the other because the figures reflected no marked movement.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. I ask: Has the Commonwealth Government drawn up a tentative list of roads towards the construction of which it is prepared to assist financially over the next 7 years in order to boost the beef cattle industry? If so, does the list include the Windorah to Currawilla road and the Cunnamulla to Thargomindah road, both of which are vitally necessary to allow the great cattle fattening potential of the Channel country to be fully and efficiently utilised? If these roads are not included will the Minister give further consideration to having them placed on the list, as this is one of the few ways at present available to the Government to assist the development of these remote areas in a manner which will also be of great national advantage?
– Commonwealth and State officers have given very close consideration to a list of roads which may be included in a programme to be financed by the Commonwealth under the Government’s recent offer to make $50m available to the States for beef roads. The Commonwealth Government will be considering this matter very shortly. The moment a decision is made an announcement will also be made, and, of course, legislation will be brought to this House during this session.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is the Minister aware that there are a few ships trading in waters around the north of Queensland which are being loaded and unloaded by non-registered labour although registered wharf labour is available and is willing to work? Could the Minister look into this matter and make sure that nonregistered labour is not employed when registered labour is available?
– I was not aware of the situation referred to by the honourable member. Generally the control of waterside labour comes within the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. I will discuss this matter with my colleague and look into it.
– I direct my question to the Acting Treasurer and I refer to the new tax that the Victorian Government proposes to levy. Will this tax affect in any way Commonwealth taxation in that State? Can the Minister indicate whether this proposal will, to any degree at all, be a substitute for the present taxes levied by the Commonwealth? If there is any such substitution, will the Commonwealth make appropriate changes in the yield from State taxation? Finally, will this new proposal be used as a guide to assess the efforts made by the various States to raise revenue?
– 1 read the reference made to this new taxation Bill by the Premier of Victoria in his budget speech. I think the Bill was presented to the Victorian Parliament yesterday. I have not yet been able to obtain a copy of it and therefore I have no specific knowledge to enable me to comment on the situation. I am sure this proposition will be studied with considerable interest by other State Premiers and for that matter by everyone interested in the subject.
So far as any adjustment of Commonwealth taxation is concerned, the only allowance that I am aware of in the Income Tax Assessment Act is for a deduction of State land tax from any income tax obligations. Beyond that, I know of no other provision. I shall certainly study the Bill as soon as I obtain a copy of it.
- Mr Speaker, earlier today the honourable member for Blaxland asked me a question about the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act. I am now able to say that amendments are in the final stage of drafting and will shortly go before the legislation committee of Cabinet.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Within the last 12 months did the Minister receive from the Chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, either by letter or report, a recommendation that the Australian National Line should participate in the overseas liner freight trade, with particular reference to suggested operations in the Far East? If this is so, what decision has the Minister arrived at? Will he make the contents of any such recommendation available to the House? Finally, what is the attitude of his colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry?
– As I have told the House on numerous occasions, both the Government and the Australian National Line are constantly studying possibilities of engaging profitably in overseas trade. Recently the Government has had comments and recommendations from the Australian National Line which are at present receiving the consideration of the Cabinet.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and is supplementary to a question asked by the honourable member for Macquarie. It relates to offshore oil outside the 3-mile limit, that is, the offshore oil which is certainly the property of the Commonwealth. I ask the Minister: Will the agreement in respect of offshore oil outside the 3-mile limit provide that if any royalty is paid to any State government it shall be paid only to the government of the State where the pipe line carrying the oil or gas first crosses the 3-mile boundary or comes ashore? If this were not done royalty would be paid to a State in respect of Commonwealth property. I ask whether provision for this contingency is to be incorporated in the agreement. If not, can the agreement be amended even at this late stage to correct what would otherwise be an obvious error?
– The honourable member is more certain than the legal authorities as to the position with offshore oil. There is a great division of opinion as to who owns various sections of the coastal areas adjoining Australia. The Government was faced with a position of either having litigation or coming to an agreement with the States. This position was reached in the United States of America and litigation occurred. As a result of litigation, the US Federal Government was held to own offshore areas but it returned to the State governments the 3-mile limit. This has caused a considerable amount of trouble in the administration of offshore oil and gas legislation. For example, the State of Louisiana claimed that it came into the US Constitution originally with an offshore limit of 3 leagues, not 3 miles. Therefore, it is claiming that its limit is 10 miles. As a result, an amount of $800m is held in escrow and no-one can decide who owns it. The oil companies take out licences from both the federal and state authorities.
The Australian Government considered whether it should go in for litigation or whether it would be better in the interests of Australia to have a uniform agreement and legislation under which no litigation would occur. The Government decided that the latter was the advisable course because while the Commonwealth Government might hold, and very likely does hold, the right to certain areas, we should not forget that the States also have very considerable powers. For example, they have the right to acquire something which comes ashore within their area. It is no good saying that the Commonwealth owns some oil but when it comes ashore in, say, Victoria it can then be acquired by that State.
I was recently in Washington and had the opportunity of having a long and frank discussion with the Power Commission.It informed me that the way in which offshore oil areas had been handled in the United States had set the development of the gas industry back at least 3 to 5 years. We are the only Federation in the world which has arrived at an agreement between the States and the Federal Government for the sharing of royalties and the sharing of all the problems associated with offshore oil. I am firmly of the belief that this is in the great interests, not only of the Commonwealth and the States, but also of the people of Australia.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has his Department under consideration a proposed amendment to the Australian Capital Territory Police Ordinance requiring that an officer or member of the police force whose wife is engaged in any business, profession or employment must report this fact in writing to the Commissioner and must notify the Commissioner of any change in his wife’s employment? Is it proposed that failure to notify the Commissioner shall be punishable by a fine of $40? Does the proposed amendment require that any member of the police force who becomes aware or suspects that a fellow member has committed an offence against the Ordinance must report the fact or his suspicion in writing to the Commissioner? Does the Ordinance provide that an officer who fails to inform on a fellow officer shall be guilty of an offence? Does the proposed amendment provide further that no member of the police force, without express permission of the Commissioner, may own or have any direct or indirect interest in the training or racing of a racehorse or a racedog or any horse or dog intended to be used for racing? Was the wife of a member of the police force recently ordered to give up her employment in a Canberra hotel? Will the Minister consider that such provisions unduly and unnecessarily limit the rights of the individual? Will he state the reasons considered valid to prompt the consideration of such restrictions?
– It is true that we are making some amendments to the Australian
Capital Territory Police Ordinance but it is not possible for me to give now the detailed information requested by the honourable member. 1 will obtain this information and forward it to the honourable member.
Mr HASLUCK (Curtin- Minister for
External Affairs) - I present the following paper:
Vietnamese Elections - Report of Australian observers for the Presidential and Senate elections held in tbe Republic of Vietnam on 3 September 1967.
I ask for leave to make a brief statement in connection with this paper.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Australian observers visited Vietnam from 27th August to 16th September. Either as a group or individually they visited each of the four military corps areas and twelve of the country’s forty-four provinces, almost entirely on inspections of their own choice. They had discussions with six of the eleven Presidential candidates and with many candidates’ representatives as well as with province chiefs, officials and ordinary citizens. On polling day the team split up, with one member going to Hue in Central Vietnam, one to Phong Dinh province in the Mekong Delta, and a third to the Special Capital Zone of Saigon and the neighbouring provinces of Bien Hoa and Gia Dinh. The fourth observer made an unscheduled visit to An Giang province, independently of the inspections arranged by the Vietnamese Government. In all, on election day, Australian observers inspected 38 polling stations, 93 polling rooms and 9 counting places.
In the succeeding days the delegation followed the counting of votes in the Saigon national election centre, studied the complaints procedure, tested public opinion by a careful reading of the Press and by talking to ordinary citizens, and attended meetings of the transitional National Assembly when the voting results were discussed.
The report which I have tabled provides a balanced and careful assessment of the electoral processes, based on a comprehensive study of the relevant texts, thorough observance of actual voting procedures and detailed inquiry into charges of malpractice. Sections I to IV of the report make a survey of the constitutional, legal, political and social background to the elections, of the electoral campaign and of the conduct of the elections themselves as observed by the Australian delegation. In Section V a painstaking and objective examination is made of allegations of malpractice by unsuccessful candidates and others. The report discusses in some detail charges of wrongful influence, wrongful voting, use of double cards, switching of voting boxes, intimidation and obstruction at the polls. The Australian observers noted some minor irregularities during the voting but found little or no evidence for these charges of malpractice. They were not able to reach final conclusions on the formal complaint’s lodged by defeated candidates, for these are at present under study in camera by the Central Election Council.
The Australian observers recognise that time and distance inevitably set limits to the personal observations and discussions on which their findings are based. At the same time they note that their collective conclusions were not markedly different from those of other foreign government observers and of many correspondents. The main conclusions of the Australian observers are outlined in paragraph 82 of their report. In particular they concluded that the election laws had been drafted very carefully to fit Vietnamese conditions and to ensure, so far as laws can ensure, that the elections would be genuine. Secondly, they found that the election preparations and actual voting and counting procedures had been thoroughly prepared with a system of checks at every level. Thirdly, they found that, with some exceptions, these arrangements had been properly put into practice and that the safeguards had been effective. The report con’tinues
We did see some minor irregularities and deficiencies. But taking everything together we concluded that the elections were fair and free - indeed remarkably so - and that the irregularities and deficiencies were not enough in their extent or importance to affect the general outcome of the poll.
I should also like to draw the attention of honourable members to the final paragraph of the report, which reads:
Whatever the outcome of the transitional National Assembly’s deliberations upon the formal complaints, we feel we should not conclude our report without recording our admiration for the serious way in which the Vietnamese people approached these elections. We were much struck in this connection with their determination to make the elections a success, and their steadfastness and sense of responsibility both in registering themselves as voters and also in going to the polls - despite unfortunate memories of past elections under previous regimes, and in the face of Vietcong intimidations.
As the report indicates, the final results of the presidential and Senate elections will be announced only when the transitional National Assembly has completed its study of the formal complaints lodged by defeated candidates and has voted on the validity and official results of the elections. The Assembly is to meet no later than 2 October to take a final vote on these matters. The full electoral process will be completed when elections to the lower House of the future legislature are held on 22 October. At that point South Vietnam will for the first time enjoy fully representative institutions at every level of government from the hamlet and village councils, through the municipal and provincial councils, and up to. the presidential executive and bicameral legislature elected under the terms of a constitution which was itself drafted by a directly elected Assembly. The whole process of establishing this total framework of representative government will have taken little more than two years and will, I submit, represent a remarkable achievement for a nation at war.
The papers that 1 have tabled comprise the main report of the delegation and copies of two of the appendices. The other appendices, which were too voluminous to reproduce or which had the nature of exhibits rather than of evidence, will be available for inspection on the table of the Parliamentary Library. I have arranged for the two senior members of the delegation, Sir Allen Brown and Mr Stewart Jamieson, to meet the members of the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament in order to give them further information. I understand that the meeting will take place tomorrow morning.
In conclusion, I should like to take this opportunity to thank Sir Allen and his three colleagues for the thoroughness, care and impartiality which they have shown in the discharge of their mission - a mission involving long hours of work, frequent physical discomfort, and occasional danger. I commend the delegation’s report to honourable members. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That the House take note of the papers.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House: Reconstruction of Sutherland Wharf at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, New South Wales.
The proposal provides for the reconstruction of the existing timber wharf, which has been in a bad state of repair for a considerable time as, until recently, there has been no requirement for it as a naval berth. To meet the increasing demand for berthing and repair facilities, it is proposed to reconstruct the wharf in concrete construction and concurrently to provide new cranes and associated workshop, stores and service facilities. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal, which is estimated to cost $1.6m. On the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reference to Public Works Committee
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Development of airfield pavements and extensions to the terminal building at Adelaide Airport.
The proposal is to extend the main runway from 6,850 feet to 8,000 feet to provide for all-up weight operation of Boeing 727 and Douglas DC9 aircraft on direct flights from
Adelaide to Perth. The parallel taxiway will be extended in association with the runway.
It is also proposed to extend the existing terminal building at ground floor level and add a concourse which will include passenger boarding lounges and public areas. A public lounge area in which refreshments could be served is planned at first floor level. Extensions will also be made to the apron and additional flood lighting will be provided. The estimated cost of these works is $1,780,000. 1 table plans of the proposed works.
– I support the motion. Facilities at Adelaide Airport certainly need improving, although we have at present a relatively up to date airport. The facilities were capable of handling the traffic flow in 1960 but due to the increase in population and the greater number of passengers now being carried on interstate, intrastate and international operations, Adelaide Airport is certainly in need of additional facilities. Of particular interest to South Australians will be the proposal to extend the terminal building and to erect a public lounge. In South Australia, where we do not as yet enjoy 10 o’clock closing of hotels, this latter proposal will meet with the approval of many people.
My purpose in speaking this afternoon is to compliment the Government on its initiative in this matter. I am sure mat all honourable members are with me in hoping that the Public Works Committee considers the proposal expeditiously. As I have said, we in South Australia urgently need these improvements to the Adelaide Airport. If in the future we are to have a rigid airline system capable of catering for all the passengers that wm* seek to use it, the facilities at Adelaide Airport must be improved. I hope that it will not be too long before work is started on this proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1967-68 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 19 September (vide page 1087).
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Proposed expenditure, $31,700,000.
Department of Education and Science
Proposed expenditure, $49,197,000.
– Education in Australia is being pushed ever more into the slums. The provision of facilities for education and the amount spent on education, compared with national needs, are totally inadequate. One gets the distinctly uncomfortable feeling as one watches the manoeuvres of the appropriate Federal Minister that instead of trying to make improvements where deficiencies exist and instead of trying to make a major contribution to overcome shortcomings in education, the effort is aimed at clamping down on demand so that the amount of money provided for education may be kept to a minimum. I am reminded of this by a recent statement of the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) who is reported to have said that Australian universities would have to raise their entrance standards considerably to exclude the large numbers who wasted public money by failing first year. I would like to question that statement. Firstly, this is a rather broad shot to fire. It does not face up to the elements that cause failures at university level in the first year. I would be one of the first to concede that there are people entering university who are unsuited to study at that level, but I am entirely convinced that there are many reasons why between 30% and 50% fail in the first year and that insufficient ability is not necessarily the major reason.
The Minister is reported to have said:
We don’t want Ph.D.’s who won’t go and pull 8 machine to pieces because they are Ph.D.’s and think the world owes them a living.
Let me deal with that statement. What is the Minister aiming at? His attitude seems to stem from certain consequences that flow from the Martin Committee report. This is in line with the attitude displayed by the former Prime Minister who said that the education system in this country had to be re-geared to suit the corporations and industry. This is a highly undesirable approach to education. The main purpose of education should be to train people - to help them to think, to help them to acquire a questioning intellect, and most of all to help them to make a contribution towards improving the quality of life. If the Minister believes this and if the Government firmly embraces this view, I suggest that they should state clearly to the corporations of this country and to industry that if this is what the corporations and industry want they must start making special allocations of finance through some tax measure to support an improvement and a re-gearing of education in this country.
To get back to Senator Gorton’s remarks, as I have said, I have the distinctly uncomfortable feeling that behind the senator’s approaches is not so much concern that there are so many failures in the first year and a desire to improve the situation in order to reduce the failure rate as a wish to find the easiest way out. Let us cut back on demand; let us make it more difficult for people to enter university; let us use a broad eliminating process. This is the Minister’s attitude. The attitude seems to be that if people of ability are ruled out, that is unfortunate, but at least the Government will save money. This is not the right attitude to adopt.. In its report for the year 1966 the Australian National University states:
It is not clear that higher standards of admission would correct this situation-
That is, the high failure rate in first year: but certainly uneasiness with present matriculation procedures has increased markedly in all Australian universities in 1566 . . .
There may be deficiencies in the matriculation system, but simply making examinations tougher in order to exclude people will not get on top of the problem. This is implicit in the curtly worded statement by the Australian National University. We have the deficiencies of crowded lecture rooms. I was amazed to read a statement by Professor Sir Fred Schonell of the University of Queensland who this year, as reported in a Queensland newspaper, claimed that some classes had 300 and 400 students in attendance. This is one problem. Another problem is that of crowded tutorial rooms where it is impossible to develop a personal relationship between student and tutor. There is the problem of insufficient and inadequate equipment. Of course, there is another problem, which was referred to this year by Mr A. D. Crown, Lecturer in Semitic Studies at the University of Sydney, namely that of psychological adjustment in the first year at university. It is not always the student with the worst record in the past who has this difficulty in adjusting. Mr Crown points out, quite convincingly 1 feel, that quite often the bright student is the one more likely to experience difficulty in adjusting in the first year because, as a bright student, in his primary and secondary school years he has been accustomed to a closer personal relationship with his teacher, who has been interested in his progress.
When the student enters his first year at a university, this sort of relationship does not exist because of the crowded state of the university. So, he runs into the problem of psychological adjustment and his studies suffer as a result. These are some of the things that the Minister could have looked at. The need exists for an investigation into the failure rate to see what can be done to overcome the problem and what sort of contribution can be made to improve facilities so that the present failure rate can be dampened down. In fact, the whole record of this Government in the field of university education shows a reluctance to act as adequately as is required by national demand. In fact, one obtains the distinct impression that the Government would like to opt out of this field. This statement by the Minister is a further indication of this attitude. The Government cannot opt out because it is in. But now that it is in this field it is going to keep the brakes on as much as possible.
Let us look at the capital grants for the present triennium for all universities, including the Australian National University. These universities sought $192m for capital works. They were allocated $ 132.3m which is nearly $60m less than the amount they sought. Regarding my own State of Queensland we find that the commencement of the construction of the Nathan University - certainly, this university is urgently required in Queensland - has been deferred in this present triennium for consideration in the next triennium and there is no guarantee that the project will be proceeded with in the next triennium. While I am on the subject of the allocation of money, I wish to give some further illustrations. First, let me stress that this slashing of the amount of money that the universities feel they urgently need is an indication that the Government itself must accept responsibility for the first year failure rate. When the Government slashes these amounts in this way it is cutting back on the facilities provided. Obviously the standard of lectureship which is being provided is not as high as it should be and the quality of education which is received at this level is not as high as is desirable.
I want to speak at this point about Queensland regarding the allocation of recurrent grants and capital grants to State universities. Education in Australia, as I have said, is being pushed into the slums. But education in Queensland in all fields - and I include the university level in this - is being pushed into the slum area ahead of all other States. I point out at this stage that I am in no way casting any reflection on the ability or the dedication of staff personnel, but rather am I referring to the contribution made by the Government. When one looks through the figures for the recurrent grants for State universities for the period 1961 to 1965 inclusive on an amount per student basis one finds that Queensland received the worst allocation of any State in the Commonwealth. In 1965 the amount allocated per student was $1,048 as against the Australian average of $1,272. In 1961, the allocation per student in Queensland was $878 while the Australian average for recurrent grants per student in that year was $1,036. In the year 1961, the amount per student allocated to Tasmania was $1,446.
I turn now to capital grants for university building projects for the triennium 1961-63. In that triennium, Queensland received a grant of $728 per student while the Australian average was $1,354 per student. In the triennium 1964-66, the allocation per student in Australia averaged $1,176 while the grant per student in Queensland was only $766 per student. Queensland has a consistently worse record than any other Australian State. The academic staff at the University of Queensland has been concerned and is continuing to be concerned at the standard of facilities at that University, and at the way in which the reputation of the University in academic circles has suffered as a result. This is not good enough. Not only is it not good enough, but the Government is adding insult to injury by refusing to provide money for the establishment of the Nathan University at Mount Gravatt in Queensland. The Government has been parsimonious not only in regard to recurrent grants to State universities and capital grants for university building projects but also in relation to grants in the field of research grants.
This year, a crisis was thrown up to our universities. They had made projections on the amount of postgraduate research work that they would be able to carry out. A lot of these projections had to be scrapped because of the way in which the allocation of money for this field of study was made. The fact is that many of the States found it impossible to meet the matching grants required of them by the Commonwealth. The whole thing fell back on the universities. This means that in turn it will fall back on our community because students as well as other people in our community will suffer as a result of being deprived of the opportunity of university study or other higher education study. It has been estimated that because of this financial failure a bar to the entry to postgraduate research study will be placed on 350 to 400 top graduates this year. This is serious. It is a critical situation.
We find that quotas are imposed in nearly all universities. There is hardly a university that has not a quota for at least one faculty. The Australian National University has announced this year that it will apply quotas. The State governments are not capable of contributing to the financial support of their university institutions as fully as is required. However, the Federal Government is capable of doing so. The Federal Government knows jolly well of the increasing demands on it respecting its responsibility. Reluctantly, it has appointed a Minister for Education and Science. This action has taken a long time. We have heard many arguments why this should not be done by the Federal Government. But it has been done now. Further evidence of the acceptance by the Federal Government of the notion that h must move into this field is to be found in the way that the Federal Government decided in 1964 to provide finance for the establishment of science blocks. The Government provided $10m a year over a biennium for secondary school science blocks. This amount is totally insufficient when we realise that New South Wales alone estimated in 1964 that it needed $55m to meet its demands of that time. This requirement has probably increased since then. Incidentally, the cost of living has spiralled considerably since 1964. These inadequacies are glaring in our community, but little is being done about them. They are the responsibility of the Government and this state of affairs surely exposes to the public the tremendous guilt of the Government in this regard.
The report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia - commonly referred to as the Martin Committee report - estimated that by 1975 approximately 125,000 students will be seeking entry to Australian universities. One would have expected with this accelerating pick-up regarding the number of people seeking entry to Australian universities that the Federal Government would be moving forward now and would be increasing quite significantly the amount of money that it is providing for tertiary education. Instead of proceeding now to make a contribution for the future, the Federal Government is making it as difficult as possible for people to enter our universities. There were 9,251 applications for Commonwealth advanced education scholarships in 1967. but only 812 scholarships were granted. This is further evidence of the way in which the Government is making it difficult for people to enter university in their first year of tertiary education.
Why does this Government not accept its responsibility? Why does it not make a greater allocation of money for education? Australians spend $ 1,329m in a year on alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes and $300m on advertising. There is something wrong with our sense of priorities when we cut back on university expenditure. Finally, I am reminded of the words of Dr Johnson who was rather critical of Scotland when he said of its educational system:
That is the way education in this country is developing with the attitude of this Government.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Chairman, one of the things of which we ought to be reminded at this stage of the Estimates debate is the history of Commonwealth participation in the field of education. In the 9 years or 10 years in which this subject has become a consistent debating matter during the discussion on the Estimates, we have consistently and persistently heard from the Government side all sorts of reasons why the Commonwealth should not be in this field. The former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, used to make great play of the constitutional position and said that education was quite outside the field of the Commonwealth. However, the Commonwealth is now operating in a field is which I believe it is proper for it to operate. For various political reasons, the Commonwealth has finally picked up the check, one might say, and the result is that the Commonwealth has a sort of reluctant programme in the field of education. This is not going to be adequate. This is not going to be a good enough approach. I believe that the Commonwealth’s entry into the education field and its creation of a Department of Education and Science offers a great opportunity to the Government, to this Parliament and to the Commonwealth in general to take up some of the real difficulties that persist in Australian education and to which the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) referred. The Commonwealth should become, in a sense, the general staff of the Australian education scene. lt is extraordinarily difficult to find out what goes on in each area or to co-ordinate even one thing. It is hard to understand what is happening throughout Australia. The Committee of Economic Inquiry - the Vernon Committee - which was able to compile a remarkable series of statistics about almost everything under the sun pointed out the difficulty it had in obtaining adequate statistics about Australian education. I hope that the Department which we are discussing now in the Estimates will accept the responsibility of becoming a planning and initiating authority. We on this side of the chamber do not envisage - although we have had in our policy for a long time the creation of a Commonwealth
Ministry of Education - a great centralised bureaucratic structure in which everybody throughout Australia will do the same thing in the same order, say at 9.10 a.m. or 4.10 p.m. each day. That is not envisaged at all. Australian education needs some kind of initiative to be developed by those people who have the opportunity to concentrate on every area.
One of the features of Australian education is that it is underserviced. No administrator in the Australian education system is able to take time off to concentrate on what might be described as the ‘philosophy and general direction’ of his work. He is snowed under completely with administration and routine tasks. Every now and again a retiring Director of Education will pass some remarks about what he would have liked to have done. Why did he never get around to it? It was not because he lacked the wit or the will but because he lacked the resources to do it. It is a tremendous administrative task to handle an education system, particularly the large systems in Victoria and New South Wales. So the Commonwealth has to adopt a more con*structive role in this field. Another area in which the Commonwealth will have to take the initiative is in co-ordinating Australian education. Co-ordination does not mean coercion. It means bringing together those threads which can be usefully gathered throughout Australia and assisting in the developing of Australian national attitudes - in transferring from one part of Australia to another the advantages that may have accrued from special research or activities of that nature. I want to see the Commonwealth taking definite steps, but at present I do not believe that is the Government’s intention. My own view is that the present Minister (Senator Gorton) is more inclined to spend time explaining how good the situation is than in examining what ought to be done.
A dreadful complacency exists in governmental circles throughout Australia. The moment ones starts to discuss education, the people in governmental circles explain how good everything is. No doubt we will hear it this afternoon if honourable members opposite speak as we heard them speak yesterday. They claim that our education position is as good as in the Congo, Italy or elsewhere. It may even be as good as it is in some areas in the most advanced countries, but of course Australia ought not to be just as good, it should be better. In some ways we have extraordinary riches at our disposal. It is distressing to find that the Report of the Advisory Committee on Educational Television Services to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which was made in 1964 and placed before this Parliament in 1966, still lies dormant. It is another of the many reports lying in the pigeon holes of the Government. The report recommends that the Government should provide educational television. Nothing has been done about it. It recommends that a separate authority should be set up. Nothing has been done about that. It recommends that separate channels should be decided. Nothing has been done about that. This, of course, is one of the most depressing features of the Government’s attitude.
Then there is the question of priorities. The honourable member for Oxley referred to this matter. A few moments before this debate started, the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly) said that the Government was going to build a new airport building at Adelaide. The Government will spend $1.5m or something of that order. We have unlimited money for airports. I was at Rockhampton the other day. I landed at the airport and entered the terminal building which is far better than most schools I visited in the area.
– That is not saying much.
– I agree. Gardeners are employed in keeping the lawns cut around the airport. How many. State schools in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia or Tasmania have gardens? Some schools in Western Australia dc. have gardens. The Government has its priorities cockeyed. We are going to spend about $220m or $230m on the Fill aircraft. We are not sure yet whether it will be suitable for our purposes, what its function will be or what its final price will be. However, I can tell members that the price of twenty-four of these aircraft is equivalent to the cost of two universities catering for between 15,000 and 20,000 young Australians. This is part of the challenge of the system. Education has to assume a larger priority in the estimates throughout the Commonwealth whether at the State, local government or Federal level, wherever re sources are available. I should like to see this Government and the Department, in its ways and works as one might say, take up some of the real difficulties of Australian education. What are some of the features of Australian education? In the first place Australian education is unduly conservative. I suppose education, by very definition, is conservative. Education is attempting to pass on from one generation to another the culture and history of the past and is trying to continue the process. The supporters of education say, in effect: ‘We want to preserve from one generation to another the values, cultures and traditions of the past.’ This has become inbuilt in our education system. We have become hide bound. Let us examine the question of teaching in Australia. French is the common second language in most Australian Schools. Why do we teach French in our schools? We teach it because the English channel is 20 miles wide and England is where our grandparents come from. Why do we not teach Indonesian? If we set out to teach Indonesian we would require extra staff.
– French is the language of diplomacy.
– So says the Minister. I always thought he lived in the time of the Treaty of Vienna back in the past. Of course, nobody on the other side knows anything about being diplomatic, certainly not in dealing with members of the Opposition. Indonesian is a modern language and Indonesia happens to be our closest neighbour. Indonesia has 100 million people. Perhaps the Minister has not realised that Asia is where it is, but I suppose the time will come when even to the slow learners of the Government it will seep through. I reckon that it is essential that .we face up to one of the first challenges of Asia and learn something about Asia and its languages. I quote this as one simple area of conservatism. I would not abandon French entirely. In most other countries a wide variety of languages is taught. However, one does not need to study much to find a narrow choice in Australian schools.
There are several areas of conservatism. The modern child grows up in an era of electronics, mechanics, tape recorders, wireless and television. This results in the modern attitude. The modern children know more about these subjects than do most of their parents. This is the result of modern technology. Yet, in our schools, we teach the most ancient of crafts almost exclusively - woodworking. Similar comments can be applied to the teaching of history. How much Australian history is taught in Australian schools? How much do students know about this country? I have spoken at school speech nights and I have discovered that the students know about the Battle of Hastings and about Custer and his stand at Little Big Horn, but they know nothing about the Battle of Buna or of Chauvel and the Light Horse Divisions in the Middle East. This is one of the areas in which the Commonwealth, totally divorced from the administrative region of education, could take the initiative. Our present education system is completely wrapped up in carrying on from day to day. The Australian education system is exam dominated. 1 believe a serious error was made ‘ 3 or 4 years ago when the Commonwealth introduced another extraordinary examination in connection with Commonwealth scholarships. There are dozens of other ways in which scholarships could have been determined. Examinations are part of the conservative, restricting and inhibiting influence in education.
Australian education is over-centralised. In some ways the Commonwealth, operating as it does from Canberra and having to face the problems of geography and so on, often decentralises its activities more than most of the States do theirs. Most of the State education systems are almost completely centralised. It is the Commonwealth that can attempt a system of decentralised or local education. I have often thought that Canberra is an ideal situation for such a system. It has a population of 100,000, a number of high schools, technical schools, primary and secondary schools and other educational establishments. This is an ideal place to try to develop an Australian local education authority. We must find some way of integrating, co-ordinating and decentralising the various areas of education. The statistics show that much of Australian education is unprofessional because of the education standards of the teachers. I have some figures here but I do not have time to give them all. However, they show that 18% of teachers in Australia have university degrees. Many Australian children are being taught by people who have no professional qualifications.
Some areas in our education system need attention immediately. Inequalities are present in the system and they stem from the four factors of geography, sex, social conditions and race. Let us examine geography first. The figures show that in New South Wales a much higher proportion of young people go to universities than in Victoria or Queensland. I think the principal factor is that New South Wales had a Labor government for 25 years and Labor gives education a high priority. That is why so many young people in New South Wales go to universities.
– South Australia has had a Labor government for years, too, and Queensland had a Labor government for a long time.
– I am not making any excuses for anyone. The Commonwealth Government should be trying to provide equal opportunities for all the people of Australia. I make no apologies for Labor governments or Liberal governments that neglected their bounden duties in these matters. The greatest wastage at the top level of our education system is the wastage of women. Last year some 60,000 young men and some 20,000 young women attended Australian universities. This is a difference of 40,000. These 40,000 young women had exactly the same social and economic backgrounds as the young men. They were the sisters of the young men at the universities and they had the same parents. They had the same intellectual capacity. All of us who have taught in schools well remember that young girls often were at the top of the class. This is not a political question. No-one has solved it and I do not know that there is a political solution to it. But 40,000 young Australians were denied entry to universities not because of lack of intellectual capacity but simply because they were women. This is the most tragic area of wastage. A good deal of the wastage is caused by the fact that the Australian community is conservative in many ways.’ In other large social areas women do not have equality with men, and the social and economic disadvantages are apparent enough.
It is unfortunate that we do not have time to debate this topic more fully. It is unfortunate that the estimates debate is restricted. It is unfortunate that there are not more people to take part in the debate. I believe that the most important future function of the Parliament and the Government is to establish an advanced and progressive Australian education system based upon egalitarian principles. Only the Commonwealth can do this because only the Commonwealth has the resources to challenge and to eliminate the differences that exist, whether they be in teacher training, the establishment of kindergartens, the provision of libraries or other areas where the inadequacies are so apparent to anybody who cares. I represent an era in which some schools are simply slum schools. The children are not slum children, the teachers are not slum teachers and the parents are not slum parents, but the buildings are fit only for the bulldozers. At a time when the Government is spending so much money on airports, FI 1 1, BACIII and VIP aircraft, it might well turn its attention to the inadequacies in our education system.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to pay a tribute to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and its research workers and, although they are not included in the estimates now before the Committee, research workers generally. The CSIRO has built a reputation that is now recognised throughout the world and great credit must be given to those who work in the various fields of endeavour undertaken by the Organisation. I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with officers of the Organisation for a number of years in the Kimberleys, the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Queensland and I know that those men who work in the fields of agriculture and tropical livestock are dedicated. They must be dedicated, because their work in these areas demands that they be away from home for long periods, and they must really believe in the work they are doing.
All true scientists must believe in the work they are doing. All research scientists believe, quite rightly, that their field of endeavour is the most important. The scientists working in the Division of Tropical Pastures at Townsville are convinced that their research work into tropical pastures and tropical soils is the most important work being done by the CSIRO. I do not take issue with them. On the other hand, scientists engaged in research work dealing with water, whether they be engineers or hydrologists, consider that irrigation and water conservation are the most important areas of research, whether it be applied or fundamental. Scientists engaged in research into soil deficiencies believe that their work is the most important. We must pay a tribute to the work of the CSIRO and the Queensland Department of Primary Industry in areas such as the wallum country. This country for years was considered to be useless, but it will become one of the most valuable assets in Queensland because of its location, its reliable rainfall and its close proximity to export and local markets. If we had sought the initial advice of many of our economists, they would have condemned this work. They would have said that there was no chance of making the wallum country an economic proposition. But one thing we must always oppose is the intrusion of economics into fundamental science, even though the economists may sometimes be right in saying that some research work is a waste of money when assessed according to established economic principles and present day priorities.
This does not mean, however, that some evaluation should not be made of research priorities. It is important to do so. In a country where money is limited, it is essential that priorities for the allocation of research funds be determined on the basis of certain criteria. It is, of course, the responsibility of the administrators of the CSIRO to determine as best they can the most effective way to spend the money in the short and the long term. It is true that there is some overlapping of research work, particularly with research into pastures, soils and ticks, for example. This does not necessarily mean that overlapping is wrong. In fact, we can establish mathematically that it is good to have replication and overlapping, because the more research workers engaged on a problem the more chance there is of a solution. On the other hand, it is essential to recognise that the overlapping exists and it is necessary for the people who allocate the research funds to understand that there is overlapping.
One of the most important problems in the north at the present time is tick eradication. This problem is increasing. It seems that certain types of tick are developing which are resistant to the well known dips or whatever the graziers are using. We must not hesitate to spend as much money as we can to control the tick because it is affecting one of our most vital export industries - perhaps the industry with the greatest future - the beef industry. It has been estimated that something like $40m is lost each year because of the ravages of ticks. This sum is lost due to the death of calves at birth, and because of loss of weight, the damage done to hides, and the additional cost involved in mustering, dipping and so forth. It is important that we recognise the problems of the industries concerned and the work done by the research scientists.
There is one branch of the CSIRO on which I particularly would like to comment and that is the Land Research and Regional Survey Division. I sometimes wonder how much fundamental research this Division does. It would seem that much of its work relates to the applied field or is often in the trial and error field. Because of the nature of the work in northern Australia this cannot be avoided. I know personally most of the senior officers concerned and I have a great respect for them. But there is one criticism I would make about this Division and that is the place where it is located. After studying the work pf the Tropical Pastures Division, the research station at Katherine, the research station in the Kimberleys, and other research bodies in northern Australia, I am convinced that the location for research workers engaged in tropical research is in the north of Australia and not in Canberra. Locating this Division in Canberra when the majority of its work is done in northern Australia is not in the best interests of Australia. If the Committee wants proof of my contention, I believe that the Chief of the Tropical Pastures Division, Dr Davies, and other senior men in that Division will state categorically that the place where research scientists working on tropical pastures and crops should be located is in the north. They should be able to work in that environment and make a continuous study of the changing conditions.
Another matter I want to mention is the fishing industry. The sea life around Australia constitutes one of the most important foods that we are neglecting in Australia. There has been a limited amount of research work done by the CSIRO and the Division of Fisheries controlled by the Queensland Government. The amount of work done is practically zero when compared with what should be done and the tremendous value of our sea life which could be utilised to earn export income for northern Australia. This matter concerns me greatly, Mr Chairman, because there is a tendency developing today for the Japanese fishing interests to ‘invade’ our northern waters. This is becoming a matter of great concern to people living in the northern parts of Australia, whether in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, or in north Queensland.
On the Great Barrier Reef between St Lawrence, say, and Bowen, it is almost impossible for the sea rescue boats and other boats equipped with two-way radios to tune in to their shore bases as frequently as they wish because of the interference from the Japanese boats. I understand that these Japanese boats come south even as far as New South Wales. On the west coast they come as far south as Carnarvon. There are at least seven Japanese ships operating in the Gulf of Carpentaria and there must be hundreds of ships catching our prawns and fish in the waters of the Barrier Reef. As I have said before, these fishing boats are able to operate for long periods because they use mother ships. The mother ships are becoming more and more brazen and could almost be called pirate radio ships. The mother ships broadcast continuous radio programmes to the fishing boats which operate, I believe, within the 3-mile limit sometimes and certainly within the 12-mile limit. The mother ships broadcast music and other programmes, quite often in English. In fact, the operators and fishermen are up to date with the hit tunes in Australia. The only way that one can tell that they are Japanese boats is that the radio operator announces the tune in the Japanese language.
The operations of the Japanese vessels are becoming a problem and I think the matter should be aired more often in this Parliament. Although the Japanese ships have the right to fish outside the 3-mile limit, we should be considering what Australia is going to do about this. I would like to know whether the Royal Australian Navy knows how many Japanese ships are operating in the waters of northern Australia. I would be very surprised if the Navy did know. The local people certainly do not know. The only people who have a fair idea of how many Japanese ships are operating are the professional fishermen. It would seem, however, that it is fair play for these overseas ships to operate. The waters between Indonesia and Australia, from Cape York to New Guinea, and in fact right around the Australian coast, are being used by Japanese ships which are taking home what we might call our fish. Some people might say: ‘So what?’ But what are we doing about this? That is the point I am trying to make. It is quite obvious that we should do more research work and make more surveys, and follow this up with action. Do we have the right to say to the Japanese Government that the Japanese fishing fleets should not be operating in Australian waters because the fish belong to us when in fact we are not doing anything about it? I suggest that the CSIRO should expand the work done by its Division of Fisheries and Oceanography because it is work which is sorely needed in the north.
The conservation of our prawning grounds is becoming a problem. Because of the shape of the Gulf of Carpentaria, even if a 12-mile limit were imposed, it would still be possible for the Japanese or other foreign fishing ships to come into those waters. If a 12-mile limit stretching from east to west, were imposed, this would still not close the gap in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The same thing would happen if there were an inland sea in Australia. I understand that the Queensland Government will be passing legislation to conserve the prawning grounds in the north. This is sorely needed. The world demand for tiger prawns, banana prawns, king prawns, and other large varieties, is almost unlimited. Apparently the United States of America will take all the prawns over a certain length that we can catch. This is a source of export income which we could explore further. We have the prawns, tuna and mackerel. I believe that northern waters offer the best fishing spots one could wish to find. It amazes me that people in Canberra spend days catching 2 or 3 trout and think that they have a wonderful catch. In the north, if a fisherman cannot catch 200 lb or 300 lb of fish in half a day there is something wrong.
I suggest that the officers of the CSIRO should endeavour to impress upon the Government the need to follow up and expand fishing research. This is not just a matter of doing some research work, coming to certain conclusions from certain hypotheses, it is a question of getting some action taken. Getting action has been one of the greatest problems in research for some time. Fundamental work has been done in order to reach conclusions, based on certain criteria and parameters but the work has then lapsed because no administrative action has been taken. In the case of the fishing industry, no action has been taken by the Government to reap the advantage of the good work done by the scientists.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking on the estimates of the Department of Education and Science and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, I would like to pay a tribute and to compliment the CSIRO on the new format of its annual report. A couple of years ago I made the suggestion that greater detail should be given in explaining the broad lines of major research projects. I am pleased to note that the introductory section of each of the divisions that are reported upon include such an explanation. I would again make a plea that they go a little further so that we can obtain a closer understanding of the major research work and thinking in terms of research policy of the Organisation.
I would also like to pay a tribute to the CSIRO for the remarkable research that has been undertaken in the last 12 months as has been set out in the Organisation’s annual report. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who just sat down, raised the question of tropical pastures research and the need to increase this research. I would politely point out that the CSIRO is lifting its estimated expenditure in this area this year by approximately 10%. I agree that about a quarter of this amount, about $23,000, is expenditure which has been forced upon the Organisation by rises in salaries and wages. However, the remainder of the increase represents a genuine increase in the amount of work that is going on in tropical pastures. An amount of $1,050,000 is expected to be spent during this coming year. The honourable member for Dawson went on to speak about fishing and other matters. He mentioned that some of these matters came under the State governments. He stressed the need to protect fishing rights in the Gulf of Carpenteria and other areas. I believe that the Government is going to extend our territorial waters. The amount of research work going on in the fields of fishing and oceanography is increasing. As a country, I believe that we are aware of our responsibility in these fields. However, I consider that the honourable member was right in bringing this matter up at this stage.
I wish to refer to the estimates of the Department of Education and Science on which there has been considerable discussion. Last night the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) mentioned a few points. This afternoon the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), in rather an amazing speech, raised a number of matters. I propose to deal with these. I am sorry to see that the honourable member has left the chamber. Last night the honourable member for Yarra raised five points after quoting, I think, from an article written by Professor Nossal. The only point of great consequence was the flat statement that we should be spending 5% of our gross national product on education and research. In this regard I would point out that in the last 7 or 8 years the expenditure in relation to gross national product has increased by over 1%. The Australian Institute of Public Affairs has pointed out in a recent bulletin that in 1959 we were spending a total of $424m on education. They also pointed out that in 1965-66 we doubled this to $825m which represented an increase from 3.02% to 4.01% of the gross national product. I have pointed out on several other occasions in this place that it is ridiculous to try to compare the expenditure of gross national product of one country with that of another. This is a fair method of measuring how a movement has taken place between different areas of public expenditure such as educatino, defence and social services over a period in a given country. This is pointed out in the bulletin that I have just referred to. However, to compare, as is often done by members of the Opposition, one country with another in this way is ridiculous. This cannot be done because conditions vary in different countries.
This afternoon, the honourable member for Oxley used some such phrase as ‘education is the slum of Australian public life*. He said that education was an ignored area. I interjected and said that 1 felt he must be blind. I apologise to him for this. I should have said that he refuses to see. I believe that he suffers from the disease which afflicts horses in the Kimberleys. Horses in the Kimberleys eat the leaf of a certain plant and then start to walk in circles. Then they trot in circles. Then they gallop in circles until they fall over. I believe the honourable member has not eaten this particular leaf but that he has been looking at himself in a revolving mirror. The honourable member for Oxley has said that we, as a country, have not done enough in the field of education and that we were ignoring it. He said that we are going down bill. However, let us examine the facts generally, not only for his State of Queensland on which he ended his speech. I will not endeavour to answer what he said about Queensland because he was most effectively answered by his own colleague the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who pointed out that the Labor administration in Queensland had caused the present situation by providing too few funds. He said that this is a very difficult situation for Queensland to get. out of. The honourable member for Wills said this and I will take his word.
What has happened in tertiary education in Australia since 19S0? At that time we had eight universities and two university colleges. Today we have fourteen universities and three university colleges. Some of these institutions are in the course of construction. We have trebled the number of students attending universities from 30,600 in 1950 to 92,015 in 1965-66. This is a 300% increase. It is twice the rate of increase in the United States of America and thrice that of the United Kingdom. In 1950, about 3.3% of the population in the age group of 17 to 22 years was enrolled in universities. Last year this had risen to 7.8%. To take this one stage further, the number of students receiving tertiary education has risen from 6% in 1939 and 9% in 1955 to 14% in 1967: I refer here to all tertiary education and not just to universities. This is indicative of the growth that is taking place in this area. It is mischievous to say that this Government has not done something in this field. The honourable member for Oxley refuses to look at the facts. He has distorted the picture this afternoon. He should have told us what happened after we had the Murray Commission and after we set up the Australian Universities Commission which has been examining these matters. It has been preparing plans and. bringing them forward.
We have set up a completely new structure of tertiary education not only in the technical area but in the colleges of advanced education. These have been set up completely apart from the new universities that I have mentioned. Such a structure overcomes the problems that were mentioned by honourable members opposite when they were talking about first year failures for which they blamed the Government because of a wrong matriculation standard. The new institutions have been set up with the express purpose of giving an effective education to those who intellectually are not capable of fulfilling a full university career and passing at all stages of their course. These people can attend this lower level of education. Many people who attend these institutions, later develop and mature and can go on to universities. There have been some notable examples of this in the field of research particularly in the United Kingdom and other countries, where men have been unable to enter universities on leaving school and have gone to similar institutions. These men have then gone on to universities and have then progressed to head major research schemes.
This Government has also done a lot in the field of secondary education by providing scholarships. The honourable member for Wills criticised the fact that these scholarships were granted following examinations. I respect his knowledge in this field as a school teacher, but I wonder how scholarships could be fairly granted without an examination system. The honourable member for Oxley criticised the legislation for the provision of science blocks. He said it was inadequate. What the honourable member failed to mention - and I think he quite dishonestly failed to mention - is that it is proposed and expected that every secondary school in Australia will have a science block by 1970.
Last night the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) mentioned the provision of libraries in schools throughout Australia. This is an important field that the Government should be investigating. Earlier this year I mentioned the question of direct aid to independent school systems. I do not wish to develop that theme any further this afternoon as there will be time in the life of this Parliament to do that later. But I believe that it is an area that the Government could look at because of the problems involved. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) mentioned this assistance in a very fine speech last night.
I conclude by saying that neither the Government nor any member on this side of the House pretends that the situation in education, science and research is perfect in Australia, but the record of the Government is such that we can show we have achieved much and have laid a base. To use the phrase of the honourable member for Wills, we need a progressively egalitarian system of education. We have the basis for that in what we have done in terms of scholarships and assistance to people in universities and also in respect of technical education, advanced colleges of education and the secondary system. I commend the Government on this.
– I wish to join with previous speakers in complimenting the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation on the splendid job it has done for Australia; and it is a splendid job, because many people in Australia have greatly increased their savings and their wealth - and this applies to industrialists, graziers, farmers and the like - because of the CSIRO. A lot of money and a lot of research has gone into that Organisation’s efforts, and I say again that it is to be complimented.
In the time allotted to me I want to say something about the red kangaroo and, if time permits, something about education. These two things are grouped together in the estimates debate. Yesterday in this House the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) requested that an Australian crest be placed in this Chamber. That is a very good idea. The Australian crest consists of the kangaroo and the emu. But I am rather distressed after reading the annual report of the CSIRO, to learn that if things continue as they are at present no kangaroos will be left in Australia. On page 36 of this splendid publication is a photograph of a red kangaroo in the process of being eaten by a raven, as it is described - I suppose that is the respectable term, although we would call it a crow. On page 37 of the report is asked the question: Are kangaroos in danger?’ The report states that over the last 8 years in New South Wales and in central Australia the kangaroo population has been more than halved and that in some areas this animal has been virtually wiped out. We know that the drought has had a lot to do with this but the report states that shooters have had more to do with it than the drought has had. It points out that in 1965-66 kangaroo shooters slaughtered some 2 million kangaroos and received $2m for the meat sold overseas and $2m for the meat sold on the local market. The Division of Wildlife Research points out that shooters are having a significant effect on the kangaroo population.
I think the time has arrived when this Government and all State governments should get together and introduce any legislation necessary to stop the extermination of the kangaroo. I would like to see a Federal department established to deal with this matter. If there were a kangaroo plague or if kangaroos became troublesome to graziers the department would have the right to lessen the number of kangaroos - no person would be allowed to shoot them at random- and the department would be able to sell the pelts and the meat. 1 feel that unless something like that is done it will be too late, and this beloved animal that is so dear to many Australians will be wiped out. We al) know what happened to the koala bear. We were very lucky that the slaughter of the koala was stopped in time. We were also fortunate to save the platypus. It is well known that kangaroos and sheep can live together. There is a grazier in Victoria who makes provision for this. He keeps a certain number of sheep and a certain number of kangaroos, and they graze side by side.
This report also states that certain ducks native to Australia are also disappearing. I saw on ‘Four Corners’ the other night what is happening to the water buffalo in Queensland. Man has all of the latest appliances at his disposal and it is disgusting to see these creatures being chased until they practically collapse with fatigue. What chance have they got when they are chased around huge paddocks by persons in Land Rovers and vehicles of that type and then, when these animals are on the point of exhaustion, a man leans out and shoots the beast from only 2 or 3 feet away. This is disgraceful. What are we to do? Are we going to wait until these animals are nearly wiped out so that when there is a drought and the remainder die of natural causes we can say it was the drought that caused their extinction? I hope that this Government, through the appropriate Ministers, will get together with the States and see what can be done to prevent our native animals from being wiped out altogether.
Another matter that this Government should investigate is air pollution. I know that a lot of industries subscribe to the CSIRO, but I think that these industries have more responsibility than just to subscribe to this body and say: ‘We have chipped in. Now it is up to you to find the answer’. That is not the answer at all, because industries have responsibilities. This point was well shown when Sir Walter Scott, the Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, was speaking in Canberra last November. I have not a copy of his full speech, so I will not be able to quote verbatim what he said, but from memory he said:
How can we accept a position that private enterprise business, the exploiter of technology, has no responsibilities for seeking answers to problems that business itself creates . . . Surely private enterprise business must recognise its social responsibilities or else lose its freedom to public ownership.
I know what has happened in Victoria, where I live. Industrial wastes have been running into the Yarra River, the Werribee River and the Maribyrnong River, and flowing with the water of those rivers into Port Phillip Bay. All fish life in the Yarra has disappeared, and many of the varieties of fish that used to inhabit the Bay have also disappeared. Industrial wastes from factories in the Geelong area have had a similar effect. How can any government accept a position in which business enterprises, whether private or governmental, exploit all available technological aids in their manufacturing processes and then assume no responsibility for seeking answers to the problems of smog and air and water pollution which their own activities have caused and which result in the destruction of pastures, forests and animal life? Nobody should be allowed to establish an industry which causes such things to happen. lt is of no use to say that we believe in the CSIRO and that we hope it will provide the answers. Private enterprise has to face the hard fact that it must do a good deal of its own research. It must be prepared to undertake research into the problems of air and water pollution which are caused in the main by private enterprise itself. Australia’s wealth is based on private enterprise. We boast to other countries that we are a private enterprise nation. But it is private enterprise that causes so much destruction and so much discomfort to many people with the smoke and grit that pour from its factories. If the private interests decline to conduct research into these problems they must be prepared to accept government regulations, and this surely is something they would wish to avoid.
Unless something is clone about this matter very soon the difficulties will be greatly increased. 1 saw some figures recently which showed that in the United States of America some 250,000 tons of carbon monoxide is pumped into the air every day, mainly from factories and motor vehicles. As I have said, the blame lies in the main with private enterprise. President Johnson made a speech on this subject and said that private enterprise must accept a lot of responsibility. I understand that in the future it will be necessary to fit mufflers to motor cars in order to prevent the exhaust gases from escaping into the air. We must act quickly to solve these grave problems.
I would like to comment on the remarks made by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) about the fishing industry. The fishing industry in Australia owes a lot to the CSIRO. During the recent short recess I went up to Karumba to see for myself what was going on. The CSIRO has carried out a survey of the area and from what I saw it appears that the whole of the Gulf of Carpentaria is probably the richest prawn area in the world. I think it is even richer than the Gulf of Mexico. I spent more years than I care to remember trading through those waters and many times reported discoloured water by letter to the Admiralty, giving latitude and longitude, so that the information could be passed on to other vessels who would thus be able to avoid those places. When I went up in the spotting aircraft used by the CSIRO many such places were pointed out to me and it was apparent that the discoloured water was not caused by reefs. The locals refer to these phenomena as boils, and they are caused by prawns moving about in the water. Such areas are very extensive. We have the CSIRO to thank for the valuable research work that it has carried out.
I read in the newspapers only a couple of days ago of an American research ship which has been operating in the Great Australian Bight and which has found more fish there, in layers at various levels, than have been found in any other ocean area. It is a very sad fact that people have to come from other countries and tell us what we have in our own country and in our coastal waters. I know that we cannot do everything, but there is a certain amount of research that we must do. If we are not prepared to get on with the job and carry out this work, and to build our own fishing industry on the knowledge gained for us by the CSIRO and other such bodies, we do not deserve to hang on to what we have.
I know that there are many complicated questions involved. Questions were asked in this Parliament today about Victorian offshore oil deposits. This is a complex subject involving many technical legal points. The oil reserves are some 42 miles off the coast. We have yet to make up our minds whether that oil is in international waters or in Australian waters. However, the fact is that the oil was found by research workers. I happened to pilot the American ship from which this field in Bass Strait wis discovered. American scientists were able to set off explosive charges and then tell us where the oil was. This could easily have been done by scientists from the CSIRO or some similar body. I am glad that we have found the oil but I do believe we must stand on our own feet. We must conduct more research, but private enterprise must play its part and not say simply: ‘Let the Government do it’.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $341,164,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services
Proposed expenditure $48,754,000.
– The Budget debate and the debates on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and the Post and Telegraph Regulations Bill gave as opportunities to discuss matters of a general nature connected with the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I do not propose to rehash those matters. There are others, however, to which I would like to refer. I asked a question in this place last May concerning the loss of more than $108,800 of Commonwealth money in regaining possession of land for the Gnangara wireless project. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) said it was a matter for the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony), but the Minister for the Interior, from what I can gather, summarily passed the matter back. The fact is that the Government lost $108,800 in a few months on this project, The 320 acres of land involved formed part of a 724-acre site near Gnangara Lake in Western Australia. The whole of the land was owned by the Commonwealth for 13 years before it was sold in 1966 for $19,200. The loss I have referred ;o was incurred in regaining possession for the Overseas Telecommunications Commission.
The Commonwealth originally acquired the 320 acres in 1952 for $3,200 from one Michael Georgeff and a merchant named Korsunski. In January 1966, the Commonwealth sold the land to Dr Carl Georgeff for $19,200. In May 19S6, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission paid $128,000 for the 320 acres. It is understood that the Commission is in the process of purchasing the remainder of the 724 acres, which is held under three separate titles. The total cost of the Gnangara project has been estimated ut $2,250,000. The Commission plans to offset this capital cost by the sale of its assets at what is known as Wireless Hill at Ardross. This is a 99-acre site that the PostmasterGeneral intended having CUt up into 300 building blocks. The market price of this land is estimated to be in excess of $2. 5m. The Melville Town Council and the Western Australian Premier have asked that this beautiful piece of land be made available for the establishment of a park. I and other honourable members have received from the Melville Town Council and the Local Government Association in Western Australia correspondence asking that the whole of the 99 r cres be retained for parklands.
As far as I can gather, the Commonwealth originally paid $4,427 for most of this land in 1911 and in 1929 transferred it to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Pty Ltd for $16,580. In 1948 it was transferred to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission under the terms of the Overseas Telecommunications Act. The Commonwealth should return this land to the State at no more than cost so that it may bc used as public parkland. The PostmasterGeneral was insisting on its being subdivided into building blocks and sold, as I have mentioned, to meet the cost of the Gnangara project. In this, of course, he was ignoring the weight of public opinion in Western Australia and was breaching town planning principles. He has now had a change of heart. In a letter that I received from him yesterday, he stated:
I refer to the representations which you made in regard to the future of the Applecross property, owned by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission, and concerning which the Premier of Western Australia has also been in touch with the Prime Minister seeking the preservation of the land for public use as open space.
The disposal of the property has been considered by the Government in consultation with the Commission. It has been decided that the Commonwealth would be prepared to offer, at a concessional price, any area of the site which the Western Australian Government wishes to preserve for public recreation purposes.
The Prime Minister has advised the State Premier accordingly.
Honourable members will notice that the letter states that the Commonwealth would be prepared to offer ‘any area of the site’ to the State. The Premier and the Melville Town Council consider that the whole of the 99 acres should be made available. The West Australian’, in its issue of 14th September, reported the Premier’s views in these terms:
Premier Brand told Prime Minister Holt yesterday that the Melville Town Council wanted the whole of the 99-acre area.
The shire council wants the land for a public open space.
It is proposed that it be vested in the Melville Town Council for development as public recreation space. The Mayor of Melville said that the Council was prepared to accept nothing less than the whole of the Wireless Hill area. Other reports on the subject state that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) had offered to sell the State part of the Wireless Hill area. It is the view in Western Australia that this beautiful piece of land should be developed as a public park and not for the provision of home sites. If such a bad deal had not been made by the Postmaster-General’s Department in repurchasing the 320-acre site at Gnangara, it might have been easier to get the whole of the Wireless Hill site for the parklands that are required. 1 would like to ask the Minister to answer several questions. I believe that he should answer them. The first is: How did the price of the 320 acres of land at Gnangara come to jump by 566% in the .151 months between the time the Commonwealth sold it and the date when it repurchased it? That question ought to be answered. The second question that I pose is: Why was one of the original owners, Mr G. Korsunski, overlooked when the Commonwealth, early in 1966, sold the land to the son of his deceased partner? This question also ought to be answered.
Mr Korsunski was equal owner of the property with the late Michael Georgeff. The Commonwealth, after it acquired the land in 1952 and then found that it had no further use for it, contracted to sell it for S19.200 to Dr Carl Georgeff, the son of one of the original owners. The Commonwealth then bought the land back from him a few months later for $128,000. This seems to have been a bad piece of business and I believe that honourable members have not been told the full story relating to this deal. We are entitled to be informed on these matters. If the PostmasterGeneral says that the responsibility rests with the Minister for the Interior, that Minister should supply the answers to our questions. But the Postmaster-General seems to be involved. If he is responsible, he should give honourable members an explanation. He should at least say where the blame lies. It is certain that somebody is responsible, and whoever it is should be prepared to answer to this Parliament for this deal, which was a serious blunder.
There is another matter that I should like to discuss during the consideration of the proposed expenditure for the Postmaster-General’s Department. This is the use of contract and day labour. The Post office has always functioned under a system that combines both. In the past, the Department has usually purchased equipment or materials from a manufacturer after having called tenders for the supply of whatever is required, the equipment then being installed by departmental labour. In recent years, the tendency has been to let tenders on a supply and install basis and, for- telephone exchange equipment, just to award a particular company a contract to supply and install, tenders not being sought. L. M. Ericsson Pty Ltd was awarded a contract only for the installation of equipment for the Brisbane trunk switching exchange. The equipment was to be supplied by the Department, as I understand the position. But the situation is seen to be ludicrous when one realises that the equipment also had to be purchased from the Ericsson company. So the firm both supplied and installed it. The Department, apart from manufacturing a few minor components, has never entered into the manufacture of communications equipment. It has always been prepared to allow private enterprise to develop and manufacture communications equipment which is then installed and maintained by departmental labour. But in recent times, under pressure from the largest companies in the world, the Government has become more and more inclined to support the contract system.
I have here a small booklet entitled ‘1967 Facts on Telecommunications’, which has been produced by the Australian Telecommunications Development Association. On the last page, it lists some of the firms that are important in this field. They include Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Pty Ltd, L. M. Ericsson Pty Ltd, the Philips Industries group of companies, the Plessey Pacific group of companies, Siemens Industries Ltd and Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd. It is interesting to note that Sir Charles Davidson, the former Postmaster-General, and Sir Giles Chippindall, a former Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, are on the Board of Directors of the Plessey group. They were contractors for the Sydney Mail Exchange.
The supplying of equipment by these firms is not questioned, but the installation of this equipment should be carried out by the Postmaster-General’s Department. That Department should be the main competitor in the communications equipment installation area, but it is not even allowed to compete. Free competition does not exist even amongst the so-called competing companies. Certain companies have been given the franchise to install particular types of equipment without fear of competition from other manufacturers. It is a fact that tenders for certain developmental projects, such as the Brisbane-Cairns and Adelaide-Perth microwave links, were called on a worldwide competitive basis. This poses the question: Why are tenders not called for all projects and why is the PostmasterGeneral’s Department debarred from submitting tenders? I am advised that some companies restrict departmental operations by delaying the supply of equipment and materials. Many departmental projects are delayed due to shortage of cable which is diverted to private contract installations. Without doubt public enterprise can compete against private enterprise to the mutual benefit of the companies, the government and the general public. Classic examples of this are Trans-Australia Airlines, the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department could compete if it were allowed to do so, and it would be in the best interests of the public if it were allowed to compete.
One area of the Department’s operations - the postal workshops - has operated in competition with private enterprise for many years. The workshops are allowed to compete for certain contracts. During 1965 tenders were called for the manufacture of aluminium telephone cabinets for Queensland and New South Wales. The Brisbane workshops were among the tenderers. The firm of Charles Hope was awarded a 3 year contract. Subsequently, because of an increase in costs, the tender price was increased by about $20 per cabinet. During the first year of the contract the firm of Charles Hope was taken over by Australian Consolidated Industries, which relinquished the contract after 1 year. The Brisbane workshops were subsequently awarded the second year of the Hope contract and they produced the cabinets at a figure less than that submitted by any other company. If the Postmaster-General’s Department were given the opportunity to compete against companies on an equal footing it would be in the interests of the Department and the general public. In addition, companies would be more inclined to confine their activities to manufacturing and to leave installation and maintenance to the Department.
I had intended to raise other matters, but time will not permit of this. I urge the Postmaster-General to deal with the matters I have raised this afternoon.
Tie DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Stewart) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was most surprised that the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), with his reputation as one of the most damaging debaters in this place, did not speak again about the postal charges legislation about which he waxed most eloquent on a previous occasion. I had thought that he might explain why members of the Labor Party in another place followed the lead of their DLP friends and supported the DLP in opposing the legislation when first introduced and then dumped them and walked out of the Senate when the vote was taken on the Bills yesterday. By this action the Australian Labor Party in the Senate assured the passage of the Bills and once again showed that they are political opportunists and paper tigers. I feel that the electorate should be told that by walking out of the Senate when the vote was taken the ALP ensured the passage of the postal charges legislation when it could have defeated that legislation by voting against it. I can understand the honourable member for Stirling not wishing to discuss this disgraceful episode, as I know him to be a man of great courage and a tender heart. The episode in the other place was an act of political cowardice.
I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Stirling complain about lack of free enterprise in the calling of tenders. He knows that his party, the Australian Labor Party, is a Socialist party and is devoted to the principle of nationalisation, which would be the death knell of free enterprise.
I rise to speak as a member of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, but not on behalf of the Committee. The subject of the broadcasting of the proceedings of Parliament has been a topic of discussion for years amongst the people of Australia who are subjected to these broadcasts - an estimated audience of 10,000 people at any one time. And doubtless it has been the subject of many debates in this chamber before I was fortunate enough to become the member for Barton, so I hope honourable members will forgive me if I tend to weary them by presenting information that has been thoroughly canvassed in the past. Very few of the members of the vast audience in Australia who at various times listen to Parliament know the history of events leading up to the present regulations. I aim briefly to trace them so that those who criticise and those who defend may be better informed on the subject.
In 1945, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting was set up to consider and report to Parliament on two things - whether the broadcasting of parliamentary debates was desirable, and if so, to what extent and in what manner, such broadcasts should be undertaken. The Committee had a close look at the experience of New Zealand where parliamentary broadcasts had been going on for 9 years, and it consulted with experts in Australia who had a wide knowledge of the medium and its limitations. Despite the problems involved the Committee decided, inter alia, that ‘the weight of evidence in favour of broadcasting the proceedings of Parliament has convinced us that the innovation should be introduced in this country as soon as circumstances permit’.
An appropriate Bill was introduced in the Senate in June 1946, and, after amendment by the House of Representatives, it received Royal Assent on 5th July 1946. The Act directed the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast the proceedings of the Senate or House of Representatives from seven medium wave national stations located in the six capitals plus Newcastle, and from such other national stations, including short wave, as are prescribed. The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings was created and given extensive powers over the whole programme. I shall endeavour briefly to summarise some of the general procedures which were laid down by the Committee and which have been amended several times since.
Proceedings are broadcast each day the House sits, from the opening until the House rises, or 11.30 p.m., whichever is the earlier. In June 1951 it was decided by the Committee that unless otherwise ordered, the broadcast would be allocated as follows:
Tuesday and Thursday sittings - House of Representatives.
Wednesday and Friday sittings - Senate.
Notwithstanding these set days for each chamber, the Committee may, at the request of the leaders of the parties, change these arrangements if they consider that in item of great public interest warrants the change. Honourable members may remember that there was much criticism from the public when the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) relating to the ‘Voyager’ Royal Commission was not broadcast. The Committee was criticised. It was claimed that the Committee should have changed the broadcasting arrangements on that occasion. But the Committee did not have a request from the leader of any party to change the standing arrangement, so it could not act.
It had previously been decided that the ABC would broadcast at 7.15 pm on sitting days in the House which was not being broadcast that day, an edited version of Question Time with the proviso that when points of order, personal explanations or other extraneous matters were eliminated from the re-broadcast of questions and answers, this should be indicated by an appropriate announcement.
The announcements from the ABC control booth in the House are subject to stringent general principles, namely that announcements are to be confined to a straight description of proceedings and business before the House, political views or forecasts are not to be included, and the announcement of each senator or member receiving the call shall include the following particulars: name; parliamentary office or portfolio; political party; electorate or State. Comment on the presence or absence of senators and members, including Ministers, is not to be made, except that the announcers may refer during divisions to the way in which specific members vote, lt is to be understood that this reference may be made only in such cases as when a member is voting away from his usual party alignment, or to show on which side an Independent member is voting. There is a further qualification that the few minutes before a House meets, or resumes after suspension for a meal, are spent by the announcer giving the programme of business for the day. or an objective summary of the proceedings broadcast earlier in the day. An announcer, however, is forbidden to include his own views or forecasts, and may not comment on absences.
The question of privilege was naturally considered and the Act provides that:
No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for broadcasting or rebroadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.
This concurs with the privilege of freedom of speech as declared in the ninth article of the Bill of Rights of 1688 to be:
That the freedom of speech and debate in proceedings in Parliament is not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or place out of Parliament’.
When the Act was first introduced in 1946, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting expressed the opinion that ‘the result would be to raise the standard of debates, enhance the prestige of Parliament and contribute to a better informed judgment throughout the country on matters affecting the common good and public interest, nationally and internationally’. The only apparent effect on the formal proceedings of Parliament appears to be that senators have voluntarily restricted their speeches to a maximum of 30 minutes while their proceedings are being broadcast. It has resulted, however, in the arranging of the programmes of business so that important matters are debated on the days each House is on the air, and party leaders, generally speaking, make use of the peak listening periods from 8 pm to 10 pm to introduce the more important legislation and to make their policy statements. And, of course, many members from the Eastern States seek to speak between 5 pm and 6 pm when large numbers of motorists have their car radios tuned into Parliament.
The effect of broadcasting upon the speeches of the members has been quite interesting. Speeches tend to be better prepared, and beamed to the radio audience rather than the House, and members of the House of Representatives tend to take the full time allotted to them under Standing Orders. Honourable members will be pleased to know that I will not be doing that. The broadcasts have also given people generally a more balanced conception of the Houses of Parliament. Although some 600,000 tourists visit Canberra each year, not all of these can get into the totally inadequate public galleries of the House so that the majority of Australians form their opinions of their National Parliament on the broadcasts. It is my personal opinion that the broadcasts should be beamed throughout Australia on a third ABC network, as millions of people who do not wish to listen to Parliament are deprived of excellent programmes because the network to which they normally listen is used for the broadcasting of Parliament for much of the time.
If the net result of Parliamentary broadcasts has meant disillusionment for some Australians, this at least gives them a realistic view of the actual situation. But I think it also has convinced the majority of Australian people that their Parliament is a place where their dedicated representatives sincerely and thoughtfully endeavour to solve the problems of the nation and make their contribution towards the national good.
– I for one offer the hope that technical difficulties will long make it hard to televise the proceedings of Parliament. Whatever might be said about parliamentary broadcasts, I feel that the televising of the proceedings of Parliament would take away more than it would add.
– That is an understatement.
– I do not regard myself as a photogenic type. Perhaps 1 am speaking too personally. However, I do wish to speak about this important question of broadcasting and television as it affects the Australian community. Depite the views of my friend, the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur), regarding private enterprise in broadcasting and television, I am a firm admirer of the public presentation of these forms of information, education and news. I say again that I believe commercial television to be an abomination. It seems to be the accepted medium nontheless, and I am not even suggesting that a majority of people share my views.
However, I wish to refer to the nineteenth annual report for the year ended 30th June 1 967 of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board which was tabled only this afternoon. To put this matter in perspective, I should mention that we are discussing the estimates for Broadcasting and Television Services of nearly $49m of which a major part - nearly $38m - goes towards the operation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I know that some people argue rather glibly that this is what the Australian Broadcasting Commission costs the taxpayer. I want to set against that figure what commercial broadcasting plus commercial television cost somebody who is not quite as easily definable as ‘the’ taxpayer.
The total receipts from commercial broadcasting in the year 1965-66 were $26,471,792. The total revenue from commercial television operations for the year 1965-66 was $57,643,433. This means that the total amount paid by advertisers to commercial operators of broadcasting and television stations for the year 1965-66 comes to $84,115,225 which is considerably in excess of the operational expenditure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission - approximately $3 8m. I will not go into the delicate niceties of who pay for advertising but merely indicate that it does cost the public, as the users of the goods that are advertised on television and in commercial broadcasts, $84m for the privilege of seeing those goods advertised on commercial television stations or of hearing them advertised on commercial radio stations. But it is mainly concerning television that I wish to speak. I shall discuss what I feel are the great social deficiencies in the utilisation of television.
I believe that television is one of the most magnificent media ever made available to a society and its potentialities have not nearly been realised - at least, certainly not in Australia. The honourable member for Barton, the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), and I had the opportunity recently in a tour of the Pacific Islands to see in operation in American Samoa, for the benefit of 26,000 people, what I believe to be the most comprehensive use of television as an educational medium. Certainly it is the most comprehensive use that I have ever seen, and it showed the potentialities of the medium if it is properly utilised.
This service is being used at a cost of approximately $3m to $4m for the benefit of 26,000 people. It is true that there is limited reception of the telecasts in Western Samoa as well, but basically this service is being used for something like two-thirds of the curriculum time in schools and on approximately six or seven continuous circuits at the same time. I simply cite this as an example of what can be done with this medium if a community wants to use it. This is certainly not being done in Australia at the moment.
I draw the attention of the Committee to the figures set out on page 85 of the nineteenth report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in relation to the ‘Programmes Televised between 7.00 p.m and 9.30 p.m. - Commercial Television Stations’. We are told that approximately four out of every five viewers watch the programmes of commercial television stations. This table sets out a statistical breakdown of what is seen in the peak viewing hours. In the capital city stations what is described as drama occupies 75.9% of this peak viewing time. Now, drama, as we all know, means in the main films made in the United States of America as long ago, as I said once before in this House, as when I was courting. I have a son 20 years of age so that gives some idea of the antiquity of these films that are rather grandly described as ‘drama’. I do not suggest that these films are all that is shown, but they make up a fair proportion of what is called ‘drama’ and what four out of five viewers look at in peak viewing hours. In those hours light entertainment occupies 16.9% of the time; sport 1.3%; news 0.7%; family entertainment, in these choice hours when everybody is watching, 0.2%; information 0.4%; and current affairs 0.7%. Two other items, arts and education, are referred to in the footnote as occupying less than 0.05% of the peak viewing time and so cannot be recorded at all. Other material occupies 3.9% of the time. This is a sample, taken over a period of weeks, of peak viewing hours when four-fifths of the Australian community watch television.
It is easy enough for commercial operators to say: ‘This is what the people want.’ Let me repeat a story that I have told in this chamber before. It is virtually a parable of how commercial television operates. A cinema operator working in darkest Africa had only two films, ‘King Kong’ and ‘The Mark of Zorro’. He showed King Kong’ three nights of the week and The Mark of Zorro’ three nights of the week and as a great double feature on Sundays he showed both. He packed the house every night. This is somewhat the approach of commercial operators. Because they know that people are going to watch one of the various channels they say, ‘This is what the people want.’ It is what is being foisted upon the people by, principally, commercial operators.
I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to a series of articles that recently appeared in the ‘Listener’, which is the journal of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Beginning on 15th June 1967 was a series of articles by Mr Kenneth Adam, the BBC Director of Television. He went to the United States of America and found that in that great country of private enterprise whence, I would suggest, a fair pro portion of what is shown here as drama emanates, there is great concern in the community about the way in which television is operating. It was suggested that there should be created a new corporation - a public corporation - because of the low standards there. In one of his articles Kenneth Adam referred to the senator for Rhode Island, John O. Pastore who ‘speaks for television, not for a vending-machine bureaucracy designed to produce profits to respond to the stock market’. In other words Senator Pastore thought that television ought to have higher objectives than the making of profit for commercial operators.
This is a matter that ought also to be seriously contemplated by the Australian community at a time when we face shortages of education facilities, particularly in the provision of buildings and of adequate staff. The kind of thing that is being done in American Samoa ought to be beginning in Australia. I would suggest, too, that it could ideally be done in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. One of the problems there, of course, is the existence of 600 to 700 dialects and an attempt must be made soon to get a common language. But the sort of thing that my colleagues and I saw in American Samoa could be adapted, I should think, in parts of Papua and New Guinea.
In Australia we have not the problem of language, but we certainly have the problem of providing quality programmes for children in school. We should attend more seriously to this matter. This will involve expenditure at the public level to an even greater extent than at present. It is not realised, perhaps, that at the moment we are paying S85m for the privilege of seeing what is provided on television and hearing what is provided on broadcasting stations at the commercial level. It is easy enough to say that it costs the taxpayers nothing, but we are sufficiently realistic as economists to know that it does cost the public something in the long run. I ask the Minister seriously to investigate the question of expanding television for education services.
In reading the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board I was interested to see that another matter I had raised here this time last year was attended to. This was the presentation commercially of advertisements for foundation garments. In its report the following comment is recorded:
Late in 1966 the Board received a number of written complaints from viewers regarding advertisements for women’s foundation garments. Several advertisements in which undergarments were displayed by live models were examined by the Board and, as a result, the times of day at which two such advertisements could be televised were restricted, and alterations to others were requested to render them suitable for television. These actions by the Board resulted in expense and trouble to the advertisers concerned, and to their agencies, which could have been avoided if more care had been taken to comply with the principles of the Board’s standards when the advertisements were being produced.
I am pleased to acknowledge that the Board at least seems to be attending to some of the least savoury advertisements which occupy about 15% of the time when commercial television is presenting these antique dramas from America and dressing them up as modern playhouse presentations, comedy hours, or something of that kind. It may be that they leave a feeling of nostalgia sometimes, but a lot could be done to improve the position.
– I am afraid that the concluding remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) do not give me a very good starting point for the subject I want to discuss - colour television. I commend the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) on a statement he issued on 24th August 1967 dealing with colour television in Australia. This is a subject which has given me some concern and I have referred to it in the past at question time. The Minister’s statement makes it quite clear that the Government will make no hasty decision on the introduction of colour television. In his statement the Minister gave legitimate reasons why. Already three different scanning systems are in operation in the world today. There is one in the United States of America and Japan, another in Great Britain and parts of Europe, and yet another system is to be inaugurated in other countries. It is a great pity that already in the world three different scanning systems are operating or proposed. This gives great weight to the PostmasterGeneral’s decision that we should wait and watch to get the best information before we make a decision for Australia. He said that strenuous efforts made at international level to limit the number of systems to be used were not successful. This is unfortunate. He then said that the Aust tralian Broadcasting Control Board will continue its investigations into all systems. This is encouraging.
The Minister made a very important point in the last paragraph of his statement. He said that when the Government reaches a firm decision about the introduction of colour television into this country it will give 18 months clear notice to everybody. I commend this statement, lt ensures the ultimate adoption of the best system of colour television. It definitely assists the manufacturers and others in the trade, because they know that they will have a period of 18 months in which to make their arrangements. I believe personally that at this juncture there are more important projects on which to spend the funds of the Postmaster-General’s Department than colour television. I do not want to be accused of standing in the way of progress, but that is my view and I think a poll in my electorate would show that 1 have expressed the view of most people there.
In the country areas we are very con:scious of the decentralising factors in the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Department provides many job opportunities in country areas, from technicians and line staff through to engineers, clerks and administrators and then to the operators. This is of real importance to country centres. The decentralisation of administration is a factor that has been of tremendous assistance to many country towns. This leads me to the main topic on which I wanted to speak. I would like to make a suggestion that more autonomy should be given to officers in country areas such as the district telephone managers. They should have more discretion in applying the regulations. From what I have seen of them, they are men who have the ability to accept the increased responsibility and who are interested in their work. I know that the tremendous size of the Postmaster-General’s Department mitigates against this sort of regionalisation and of passing autonomy to a lower level. But, after all, large private organisations give this additional responsibility to regional officers and it should be possible to do more in this way in the Postmaster-General’s Department.
The present system leads to decisions becoming too arbitrary. The lines that need to be drawn in a vast organisation such as this become a little too hard. I will give several examples not by way of destructive criticism but as reasons for adopting my suggestion that autonomy should be passed to the lower echelon. One regulation states that an exchange must have 40 subscribers before continuous service will be provided. I know many country automatic exchanges have been provided in centres with fewer subscribers than this. But the figure is arbitrary. It may have some bearing in developing areas. But why pick 40? Why not 30 or 50? The number of people attached to an exchange does not have a great deal to do with the ultimate decision. In developed areas where the living areas are as small as they can be the subscribers are turned into second class citizens with second class telephone services. People connected to these exchanges require constant access to doctors, to ambulances and to the police, just as people in other parts of the Commonwealth do. People in country areas also need constant access to fire services, whether they be the town services or the bush fire brigade. We know, of course, that a continuous service will not necessarily be provided once the exchange has 40 subscribers. I know something of the difficulties of the Department in this matter, but I hope that the increase in telephone charges will lead to a better service being provided.
I do not like to deal with parochial matters, but my point is illustrated by referring to a local problem. In my area an exchange called Newbridge has 54 subscribers. It has had more than 50 subscribers for many years. I have made representations to the Postmaster-General, but the answer is still that the Department is unable to say when continuous service can be provided. I think the difficulty here is lack of finance. A second instance in which a firm line is drawn relates to the standard charge for the removal of equipment. If a subscriber has a telephone moved 1 foot further along- a wall for convenience or shifted into another room or even a bit further than that, no matter how long the removal takes or how much material is used an arbitrary charge is made. I put this forward as further sup port for my contention that local officers should be given more autonomy.
Recently I have heard of a problem with the subscriber trunk dialling system. This is a matter of growing pains in the Department. The new system is being roundly praised in the areas I represent. It is a valuable addition to the Department’s services, but it has some bad features. A merchant in my electorate has twenty extensions in his store. He has found that he now cannot control the number of trunk line calls that are made from the extensions. He has applied to have the subscriber trunk dialling service removed from some of the extensions so that he can exercise more control. The freedom to make trunk line calls is good business for the Postmaster-General’s Department but is not so good for the merchant. I am assured that technically the solution to the problem is fairly simple, but I am also told that the merchant must apply to the district telephone manager, who must write to the officers in the capital city who in turn must write to the central office. Surely to goodness a decision to help a subscriber in this way can be taken at a much lower level than the central office.
I come now to the problem of the proprietor of a motel with twenty extensions. He pays an annual rental of between $140 and $150 and his telephone calls cost between $600 and $700 a year. I give the figures to show that this motel is quite a good customer of the Department. The proprietor bought a home about a mile away from the motel. He wanted to have a direct telephone line from his home to the switchboard of the motel. A telephone was already installed in the home when he bought it. For the additional telephone he has been quoted $30 for a connection fee, although a telephone is already in the house, and rental of $57.. These figures have been confirmed. The rental of the telephone already in the home is $16. The only additional equipment that the Department must supply for the second telephone is one pair in the cables that extend from the motel to the post office about a block away.
The points I have raised are not minor. They have a terrific impact on the public and adversely affect public relations. These matters should not be governed by a rigid regulation. Business people cannot understand the rigid application of the regulations.
Departmental officers in the lower echelons should be authorised to investigate situations such as I have mentioned and to assess whether the subscriber’s request is reasonable and whether the problem can be readily solved. Instead, we get a hard line under the existing circumstances.
I have quoted these few cases - and I emphasise that I try not to be parochial - to back up my contention that people down to the rank of a district telephone manager should be given more responsibility and should have a wider ambit in which to work. The few selected cases I have mentioned are a cross-section of those which call for more room for the exercise of personal judgment by departmental officers who come in contact with the people and with members of Parliament. If they are given added responsibility, eventually higher salaries will have to be paid to them and this will be an additional cost for the Department. But if they are given greater responsibility and better pay this will result in a better service and better public relations. These are important considerations in a department of the size and with the turnover of the Postmaster-General’s Department which comes so close to the lives of all people. In turn, better service and better relations will generate greater revenue for the Department. I put that suggestion to the Postmaster-General.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department I want to say a few words about the question of a 5-day week roster for departmental employees which is causing so much concern today throughout Australia. I have asked the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) on several occasions in this House to introduce 5-day working week rosters for the Post Office. On every occasion the Postmaster-General, in his reply, has evaded the issue. He has always given a stereotype reply. ‘Why, oh why’, I ask, ‘does he talk about Saturday services?’ That question does not come into the argument at all. I have never asked him about Saturday services or about altering the days or hours of service. All that I have asked the Postmaster-General is: Will he introduce 5-day week rosters into the Post Office? It is pleasing to note that at long last, and after long arguments, in cases where lack of trading warrants, the Postmaster-General has proposed closing some post offices on Saturday mornings. Surely, then, a 5-day week roster system can be introduced without any undue effort.
Only recently the domestic staffs of hotels in New South Wales were granted 5-day week rosters. The bar staffs had already had that privilege. Hotels in New South Wales which operate over the counter services on 6 days a week - the PostmasterGeneral should note this - and operate house services 7 days a week, are now enjoying the benefit of a 5-day week roster. The overwhelming proportion of the Australian work force already enjoys a 5-day working week. The number has been swollen considerably by the inclusion of the domestic staffs employed at hotels. Yes, Mr Postmaster-General, the proportion of the Australian work force which is now enjoying a working week of 5 days is decidedly in excess of 85%. Why do you not increase that figure a little more?
– I am listening.
– I know that the Postmaster-General is listening but he is not doing much about the matter. All he does is listen. The staff shortage in the Post Office has reached a chronic state. As a member of this Parliament I am concerned about this position. Instead of the branch managers or postmasters commencing each working day with the real and normal problems of the business community which they serve, most of them have to make a frantic search for casual and, in some cases, untrained staff to fill vacancies in permanent and temporary positions. The staffing situation in post offices is so bad that many business houses in my electorate have complained to me. They are aware, of course, that the loyal post office employees are doing their very best. That is the reason why business people do not complain officially. Staffing of Post Office establishments is well below minimum needs. The available staff is rarely capable of providing an adequate staff establishment. Juniors will not accept conditions which involve 5i days or 6 days a week at work and the supply of young people for training to occupy higher positions is critical, to say the least. The component of casual, untrained and temporary staff continues to rise. I know that the Postmaster-General ls worried about this situation because after all his position in the Cabinet is starting to get a little uneasy.
There is no solution to the present staffing crisis outside the framework of a 5-day working week. I recommend the adoption of that framework by the PostmasterGeneral. Post office staffs have been promised a 5-day working week for 40 years. How out of date is the PostmasterGeneral? The last promise made was that a 5-day working week would be granted when the banks closed on Saturday mornings. What has happened about that promise? Australia’s largest employer, this Government, should be setting an example in relation to conditions of employment.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), who is a square peg in a round hole, claims that this Government is a good employer. He says this although the Government persists with the iniquitous 6-day working week. This is thoroughly outdated and outmoded. It went out with straw hats. I remember going on strike 23 years ago for a 5-day working week. At that time we were working 44 hours a week. I was working at Morts Dock. We lost half a day’s pay each week but we established our claim to a 5-day working week.
The Postmaster-General recently .vent on a trip abroad. He has reported that the bulk mail is permanently 3 months tn arrears in the great United States of America and that the average time taken for a letter to travel from New York to Washington is 4 days. Yet this Government religiously follows the American pattern of all the way with LBJ. I can only assume that the Postmaster-General intends to introduce the American postal standards to Australia. Whether or not he intends to do so, we will have these standards unless he does something positive about attracting quality staff into the Post Office service and this can only be achieved, I repeat, by the adoption of a 5-day working week.
To give honourable members an idea of the conditions of work, and the miserliness of the Postmaster-General’s Department towards its staff, I need only cite the position of branch managers, the postmasters. Let us consider a few of the conditions of service of postmasters. Firstly, postmasters pay more in rent for official quarters than any other public service manager in New South
Wales. Secondly, in many cases they pay more in rent than Commonwealth tenants, yet postmasters are supposed to receive concessional rents in return for supervisory and custodial duties performed outside normal rostered hours. Thirdly, postmasters receive the lowest amount paid as an allowance in lieu of quarters in New South Wales. For example, stationmasters in New South Wales receive double the amount paid as an allowance to postmasters. Fourthly, postmasters receive no fringe benefits whatever and they are tied to their managerial and custodial duties and responsibilities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no doubt about that. Postmasters incur obligatory social expenditure in endeavouring to hold up the dignity of their position and the prestige of the Department in the community but they receive no reimbursement in respect of expenses. They have no expense accounts to cover these matters. It would be nice if that applied to Ministers - if they had no expense accounts to rover their social obligations. This is the way that the Postmaster-General’; Department treats its own branch managers, its postmasters, the men on whose loyalty and dedication it relies. I will leave tn honourable member’s imagination the way in which this Department treats its staff further down the line. In an endeavour to justify the increase in postal charges, the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) and the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) quoted extracts from the report of the Royal Commission into the Post Office in 1908-10. This is recorded in Hansard of 6th September 1967.
– That is true, we did.
– I am very pleased to know that the honourable members have read the report of that Royal Commission because they will see that the Royal Commission recommended that postmasters pay no rent. They did not mention this. These unpaid custodians of departmental property are, when off duty, supervisors of departmental buildings and premises whilst also oversighting staff employed 24 hours a day and every day in the week. What » job. Postmasters, despite their custodian and supervisory duties, pay more rent than any other public service managers that I know of. They undoubtedly pay more than private commerce would require a branch manager to pay.
The Postmaster-General has stated that he wants to run the Post Office as a business. I suggest that he start by getting his branch managers on side, lt is hard to run a large business without branch managers. He should also adopt the Royal Commission’s recommendation regarding rent. I might add that this is the only Royal Commission that has investigated this subject. The Postmaster-General should also give his branch managers the fringe benefits available to other branch managers whom postmasters are required to fraternise with on the local level. The Minister for Labour and National Service - again, a square peg in a round hole - has expressed concern in this chamber about industrial activity amongst white collar workers. Tut, tut. Is it any wonder that there is movement in the camp of white collar workers, when branch managers are treated by this Government in the manner I have just stated?
– They would not follow you.
– My boy, you too will learn as you go along. You are only a little boy yet and you have to grow up. I go along with the feeling of the Post Office staff - because I have been a good trade unionist all my life - that the only thing the present Government has given to the Post Office and to its staff is a bad name. I was shocked, and I guarantee every mother and father was shocked, to learn recently that two boys aged IS and 16 years employed at the Maroubra Junction Post Office, which is in the great electorate of Kingsford-Smith, had fines of $4 imposed on them under regulation 55 of the Public Service Act. Does the Postmaster-General realise - if he does not the Cabinet should - that these very same boys in 4 or 5 years time will be directed by this Government if, God forbid, it is still in power, to go to a foreign land as conscripts to fight for democracy, liberty and freedom? They will remember the treatment that they have received from the Post Office in the trenches or jungles of a foreign land. This is a shocking introduction for young lads into the work force of the Commonwealth of Australia. ! bow my head in shame.
This Government has brought ill repute to the services and staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It has reduced the morale of its previously dedicated staff to a mere shambles and is well on the road to reducing the standards of the Australian Post Office to those of its American counterpart which the Postmaster-General has described as being 3 months in arrears with bulk mail and 4 days in arrears with letters from New York to Washington. If this stage is reached we will certainly be going all the way with LBJ. A person could nearly walk from Washington to New York in 4 days. If the Postmaster-General cannot see the folly of persistence with 6-day week rosters in the Australian Post Office then honourable members on the Government benches should bring him up to date with reality. This is 1967. Surely, honourable members on the Government benches, when faced with the inevitable, subscribe to the view that one should grant graciously that which cannot safely be refused. I would suggest that the Postmaster-General should take that to heart. Further, I would like to ask the Postmaster-General whether he has ever got down from his high horse in regard to the present 5-day roster dispute and suggested to the trade union leaders that they abandon the work to regulations order as a basis for settlement. I suggest that he should do that. The Postmaster-General and members of the Cabinet will learn that wild threats to trade unionists will not get them anywhere. I have learned this over the years. Threats of this kind just fall on deaf ears. This has been proved in many strikes down through the years.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The basic purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament to a supplemental agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to amend the Sugar Agreement 1962 which regulates the production and marketing of Australian sugar. The Supplemental Agreement includes provision for the increase - applied from 19th June 1967, by arrangement between the two Governments - of the maximum wholesale prices specified in the Agreement and for extension of the current Agreement by one year to 31st August 1968. It also includes the several other amendments which bad been made between the two Government’s previously, but which have not been submitted piecemeal to Parliament for approval because of their relatively minor nature.
The Bill is evidence of the Commonwealth’s concern for the welfare of the sugar industry and at the same time its concern to protect the Australian consumer of sugar. We have recognised the severity of the financial difficulties plaguing the sugar industry since 1965 - and in some sectors even earlier - as we have shown by providing repayable grants of approximately $20m in respect of the 1966 season and up to $15m in respect of the 1967 season, to mention the most spectacular forms of our support. On the other hand, we have maintained a regular and full supply of sugar for Australian consumers at prices which were unchanged from May 1960 until 19th June last, during which period - although not in recent years - the price obtainable on overseas markets had at times greatly exceeded that applying on the home -market. I hasten to add that the sugar industry did not at any time seek to divert sugar from the home market to more profitable outlets.
The Australian consumer was protected from a higher price until only 3 months ago, even though the earnings of the sugar industry have been extremely depressed for several years. Queensland producers who account for 95% of Australian production earned an average $86.58 per ton of No. 1 Pool raw sugar in the 1965 season - the lowest return for ten seasons - but in 1966 earned only an average $77.13 per ton, which was the lowest return since 1951. The 1966 returns were, of course, brought up to approximately $86 per ton by loan moneys arranged by the Commonwealth. In the 1967 season it will be only through the increase in the home market price and further financial assistance from the Commonwealth that the industry’s average return can again be kept up to $86 per ton.
The Government feels, as our actions have shown, that it is essential to preserve the sugar industry. This is Australia’s fifth largest rural industry and ranks very high among our earners of the foreign exchange, which is vital for the continued development of Australia. It is an efficient producer and is the second ranking exporter among the sugar industries of the world. Sugar provides the basis for settlement and development of a very large sector of our north eastern coastal region, and in many districts is the only industry which can maintain the local population. Altogether about 30,000 Australians are employed in the production of sugar, and many more depend indirectly on the industry for part of their livelihood.
After a thoroughgoing analysis of prospects by experts the industry undertook an expansion of production at the end of 1963 when export prices were at their highest for 40 years. Unfortunately many other sugar-producing countries did likewise and although world consumption of sugar has increased by almost 18% in the 3 years since 1963 there has been a surplus of sugar on world markets. Price quotations for raw sugar c.i.f. United Kingdom fell consequently from £105 sterling per ton in November 1963 to £21 sterling per ton in February 1965, which is far below the cost of production in any country. After fluctuating around that level until May 1966, prices declined steadily to £12 5s sterling per ton in January 1967, which was probably their lowest level ever in real terms. Although prices improved moderately after mid-January the average of this year’s quotations to date is less than £20 sterling per ton and the latest quotation - 14th September - is only £17 sterling per ton. This depression of prices on the world free market has coincided with our increasing dependence on that market. In the 1963 season approximately 36% of our production was sold on the world free market, the remainder being sold on the home market, in the United States of America and in the United Kingdom under reasonably remunerative arrangements. However, in 1966 we had to sell 50% of our sugar on the world free market at the depressed prices I have described.
The Commonwealth Government has made strenuous efforts over a period of several years to improve export marketing conditions for Australian sugar. In particular we have been striving for the negotiation of a new International Sugar Agreement, which is generally considered to be the best means of improving the world free market price and of bringing order and stability into the international sugar trade. I am happy to be able to say that the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has now convened a meeting of experts who will gather at Geneva from 23rd October to 1st November to examine the main features of a draft agreement prepared by a joint secretariat representing UNCTAD, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and the International Sugar Council. These experts will be drawn from 22 countries including Australia. Moreover, tentative arrangements have been made for a full conference of all countries interested to be convened on 17th April of next year for negotiations on a new agreement.
The Commonwealth Government has also worked hard in recent years - notably in the Kennedy Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade discussions - to achieve an arrangement with Japan which would provide for more satisfactory prices on our sales of sugar to that country, which in terms of quantity is our largest outlet for this commodity. Unfortunately, neither Australia nor any other country has been able to conclude such an arrangement. However, our relationship with Japan on sugar will continue under discussion.
We have also moved to protect our industry’s exports under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement - that is the British Commonwealth - to the United Kngdom and other preferential markets in the event of the United Kingdom succeeding in joining the European Economic Community. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), as Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry, went to London for this purpose in June, when be represented the Australian Government at a conference between the British Government and governments of the countries whose sugar industries are exporting members of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. The Minister stressed the importance for Australian sugar producers of continuation of this Agreement.
When the sugar industry earlier this year sought, with the support of the Queensland Government, permission to increase the price of sugar sold in Australia the Commonwealth had well in mind the interests of all parties concerned. As I have said above, it was well aware of the difficulties besetting the sugar industry but on the other hand it had very much in mind the interests of Australian consumers - the public, the many manufacturing industries which use sugar, and the suppliers to those industries. When applying for a price increase the sugar industry put forward full details of its position including in particular information on costs of production of raw and refined sugar. The decision to increase the price specified under the Sugar Agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland was taken only after a very close examination of the industry’s case and of all relevant matters, lt was considered that the increase in price was appropriate in all the circumstances. At the same time as they agreed upon the price increase, the two Governments agreed to extend the Sugar Agreement for 1 year until 31st August 1968. This course was appropriate to allow sufficient time for the comprehensive renegotiation of the terms of the agreement - as over many years this and preceding Agreements have covered terms approximating 5 years - and to provide ample time for Parliament to debate such a comprehensive new Agreement.
Up to now I have been speaking particularly about the increase in the home market price. The Supplemental Agreement also provides for variation in some respects of the arrangements by which the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee and the Export Sugar Committee administer rebates of part of the price of sugar contained in certain fruit products manufactured in Australia and in products exported. The former rebate facilitates the support of a minimum price system for Australian fresh fruit while the latter is designed to provide exporters with sugar at a price broadly equivalent to import parity. Clause 5 of the Supplemental Agreement provides for an increase as from 1st October 1962 in the funds made available to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. The relevant clause of the Sugar Agreement 1962 has been redrafted and extended accordingly. This increase was found to be necessary because of an unexpected steep increase in the production of products eligible for the rebate of SIO per ton paid by the Committee on the price of Australian refined cane sugar in certain fruit products manufactured in Australia. The additional funds provided for the Committee under this arrangement amounted to $204,249 in respect of its operations in the year ended 31st August 1966.
Clause 6 (a) of the Supplemental Agreement would allow the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee to pay the $10 rebate I have mentioned to manufacturers of approved fruit products in advance of their having completed payment to growers for all the fresh fruit which they have processed. The $10 rebate is intended to help fruit growers by providing an incentive for manufacturers to pay not less than the prices determined by the Committee as reasonable for the fresh fruit. The 1962 Agreement provided, as had preceding Agreements, that all Australian fresh fruit processed by a manufacturer must be paid for at not less than Committee prices, if any, before he is eligible for the $10 rebate. However, in recent seasons circumstances beyond the control of manufacturers - for instance, serious export marketing difficulties - have resulted in long delays >n payment to fruit growers by some fundamentally sound manufacturers, and so have led to the Committee having to withhold rebate moneys which could have notably helped full payment of growers. This situation is expected to occur again sometimes and the provision included in the Supplemental Agreement will help the Committee to overcome the problem where it considers advance payment of rebate is justifiable and prudent. The arrangement includes provision for repayment of moneys advanced to a manufacturer whose fruit purchases are not paid for in full within a set time.
Clause 6 (b) of the Supplemental Agreement refers to an arrangement brought into operation by the two Governments on 14th March 1963 in order to reinforce the incentive for manufacturers to pay for fresh fruit at least the prices declared by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. The $10 rebate payable under the Sugar Agreement, as I have mentioned, was the only rebate to which the 1962 Agreement attached a condition requiring payment for fresh fruit. In respect of products containing only a small proportion of sugar this rebate provides only a small incentive :o pay Committee prices for fruit. However, in recent years the additional rebate payable on sugar in the approved fruit products when exported has generally been much more than $10 per ton of sugar. For instance the rate for September is $111 per ton. Manufacturers tempted to pay less than Committee prices for fresh fruit despite loss of the $10 rebate per ton of sugar are restrained by the knowledge that they would lose the far greater rebate on exports.
I may point out at this juncture that the cost of the rebate system is taken into account when the two Governments negotiate a sugar agreement. The arrangements made in a sugar agreement must be considered as a whole and are then seen to constitute a system offering advantages, and involving responsibilities, for each party and so affording a position of net advantage for each party to which each signifies acceptance. In this way it may be clearly understood that the rebate system is not a burden unjustly placed on the sugar industry but instead is a responsibility undertaken by the sugar industry as part of an arrangement which is advantageous overall.
The provisions made in Clause 8 of the Supplemental Agreement were necessary to allow alteration, because of the June increase in the price of sugar, of the rates of rebate applicable to sugar in exported products under option arrangements. The option system provides that an exporter may choose to apply for as much as 12 months ahead the rate of rebate applicable to 1 particular month. An option holder is thus, as is highly desirable, in a position to offer goods for future delivery overseas on the basis of known cost for their sugar content.
This Bill follows a long series of Commonwealth statutes under which the Commonwealth has fostered the development of the sugar industry and at the same time has ensured full and stable supplies of sugar at reasonable prices for Australian consumers. I commend it to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will declare the general rates of tax for the current financial year 1967-68. The rates to be declared do not differ from those that applied for the preceding financial year. As announced in the Budget speech, however, there are to be two changes in the income tax allowance for men aged 65 years or more, and women of 60 years or more, who are residents of Australia. One of these changes will increase the exemption levels of the age allowance by $126. This will preserve the long-standing relationship between the age allowance and the amount represented by the sum of the full age pension and the maximum other income a pensioner may receive without affecting his pension entitlement.
Honourable members will recall that the age pension means test was increased last April by $156. Legislation enacted shortly afterwards increased the amount of the age allowance for 1966-67 by $30 on a simple pro-rata time basis. For 1967-68 the allowance is to be increased by the balance of $126. This will mean that the exemption levels for 1967-68 will be $1,196 for a single person and $2,106 for a married couple as against $1,070 and $1,980, respectively, last financial year. A measure of tax relief will continue to be provided on a range of incomes somewhat in excess of these points. The new limits for this purpose will be $1,451 for single persons and $3,287 for married couples. The other change in the age allowance will simplify the way in which it is calculated. For many years the allowance has been related to an aged person’s net income from all sources, as distinguished from his taxable income. While this is justifiable in principle, it has, without the slightest doubt, caused a great deal of misunderstanding of the allowance in the minds of aged people and complicated not only the preparation of their income tax returns but also the general administration of the taxation law.
The Commonwealth Committee on Taxation headed by Sir George Ligertwood recommended that the allowance be simplified by relating it to taxable income instead of net income and this is now being done. This change will not only simplify procedures; it will also enhance the value of the allowance in the numerous cases where aged persons receive income such as war pensions which are exempt from tax, or incur medical and other expenses which are deductible in calculating taxable income.
The technical provisions of the Bill are explained in greater detail in a memorandum to be circulated for the information of honourable members and I do not think I need go further into it at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Before moving the adjournment of the debate 1 draw the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) to the policy adopted by a former AttorneyGeneral of incorporating in Hansard the explanatory memorandum relating to the Bill. I would hope that one day this practice will be generally adopted, because in many respects a Bill is not understandable without recourse to the explanatory memorandum. The legislation which this Bill amends is technical in nature and unless the clauses of the Bill are fully explained and understood, something is lost. If the explanatory memorandum is incorporated in Hansard we will have an opportunity better to understand the Bill. I raised this matter when the Matrimonial Causes Bill was before the House and the then Attorney-General-
-Order! I think the honourable member has made his point.
– If it meets the wishes of the House I am prepared to move that the explanatory memorandum be incorporated in Hansard.
– A motion is not necessary. The Minister should seek the indulgence of the House to incorporate the memorandum in Hansard.
– With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the explanatory memorandum relating to the Income Tax Bill 1967, the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1967 and the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1967.
(Circulated by authority of the Treasurer, the Rt Hon. William McMahon)
The purpose of this memorandum is to explain the provisions of three income tax Bills.
The first Bill- the Income Tax Bill 1967- will declare the ordinary rates of income tax payable by individuals and companies for the current financial year 1967-68. Features of the Bill are:
The rates of tax applicable for the 1967-68 financial year (including the 21 per cent special levy payable by individuals) are to be the same as those that applied for the preceding year 1966-67.
The exemption level for persons qualified by age - 65 years for men and 60 years for women - will be increased from $1,980 to $2,106 for taxpayers assessed under the married couple provisions and from $1,070 to $1,196 for other aged taxpayers; also, the allowance will be based on the taxable income of an aged person instead of net income as in previous years.
More detailed explanations will be found at pages 4 and 5 of this memorandum.
The second Bill - the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1967 - will declare the special rates of tax payable by certain trustees, superannuation funds and partners for the 1967-68 financial year. These rates are unchanged from those that applied for the 1966-67 financial year.
The third Bill - the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1967 - is designed to give effect to proposals amending the basis upon which tax is assessed. Broadly stated, the main proposals covered by this Bill are:
A woolgrower whose assessable income of an income year includes the proceeds of two wool clips may, where the inclusion of the proceeds of the additional clip was due to an advanced shearing by reason of fire, drought or flood, elect to transfer the proceeds of the additional clip, less shearing and other direct expenses, to the assessable income of the next succeeding income year.
A primary producer who is forced to sell live stock in consequence of fire, drought or flood may elect that the profit be excluded from his assessable income of the year of sale and be applied in reducing the cost, for income tax purposes, of live stock acquired as replacements.
The special 20 per cent depreciation allowances on plant and structural improvements used for primary production purposes are to be continued without a time limit as to their operation.
The cost of erecting subdivisional fencing on land used for primary production is to be deductible in the year in which the expenditure is incurred.
The concessional deduction allowable for each dependant and for a housekeeper is to be increased by $26. The deduction for payments by a taxpayer to obtain life insurance and superannuation cover for himself and his family is to be increased by $400.
More detailed explanations will be found at pages 6 to 25 of this memorandum.
The purpose of these two Bills is to declare the rates of income tax payable for the current financial year 1967-68.
The Income Tax Bill 1967 declares the rates of tax payable by companies and the ordinary rates of tax payable by other taxpayers. It a’so continues for the 1967-68 financial year the additional levy of 21/2 per cent of the tax otherwise payable by individuals.
The Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1967 declares the special rates of tax payable in respect of certain partnership, trust and superannuation fund income.
Except for the changes proposed in the age allowance, the Bills have the same practical effects as the measures declaring the rates of tax for the 1966-67 financial year. The following notes are, therefore, restricted to” the provisions of the Income Tax Bill 1967 relating to the age allowance.
Clause 8 of the Income Tax Bill 1967 will increase the income exemption levels for application of the age allowance and modify the basis on which the allowance is applied.
This allowance is available to persons who have been residents of Australia throughout the year of income and who at the end of the year have, if men, attained the age of 65 years or, if women, the age of 60 years.
The age allowance has, in the past, exempted from tax aged persons meeting the residential qualifications and whose net income did not exceed the sum of the full age pension and the maximum amount of other permissible income for age pension purposes. In 1966-67 this allowance exempted from tax a person whose net income did not exceed $1,070. A married taxpayer contributing to the maintenance of his or her spouse who met the residential qualifications was exempt if the combined net income of the couple did not exceed $1,980.
In line with the liberalisation of the means test in April of this year the exemption limits are to be raised by $126. In addition, the allowance is to be based on the taxable income of an aged person instead of his net income.
The change to a taxable income basis will mean that income which is not taxable, such as repatriation and social services pensions, will not, in future, be taken into account in calculating the age allowance. Moreover, concessional allowances for medical expenses, rates on the taxpayer’s residence, maintenance of dependants, etc. will be deductible from the taxpayer’s income for the purposes of the calculation.
By virtue of these changes, an aged person will be exempt from lax if his taxable income for 1967-68 does not exceed $1,196. A married taxpayer contributing to the maintenance of his or her spouse will be exempt if the combined taxable income of the couple does not exceed $2,106.
A measure of tax relief is also provided by the age allowance where the taxable income is somewhat in excess of the exemption levels that have been mentioned. For 1967-68, this relief will apply to a taxpayer whose own taxable income is between $1,196 and $1,451 or, where the taxpayer is assessed under the married couple provisions, if the combined taxable income of the couple is between $2,106 and $3,287. (By clause 7 of the Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1967 aged taxpayers within these increased limits will not be called upon to pay further tax under section 94 of the Income Tax Assessment Act).
The form of relief in the marginal cases mentioned is that tax (other than the 21 per cent additional levy) is limited to nine-twentieths of the excess of the taxable income over the exemption point. These provisions are designed to cushion the transition from complete exemption to full taxability and, for this purpose, prescribe the maximum amount of tax that may be payable by a taxpayer whose income falls within the marginal area. In some cases normal assessment processes may result in a smaller amount of tax being imposed and, in that event, only the smaller amount is payable.
The principal features of this Bill have already been mentioned in this memorandum and the following notes relate to each clause of the Bill.
Clause t: Short Title and Citation - This clause formally provides for the short title and citation of the Amending Act and of the Principal Act as amended.
Clause 2: Commencement - Section 5 (1a.) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1966 provides that every Act shall come into operation on the twenty-eighth day after the day on which the Act receives the Royal Assent, unless the contrary intention appears in the Act. By this clause it is proposed that the Amending Act will come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
Clause 3: Double Wool Clips- This clause will extend - without limit as to time - the operation of section 26ba of the Principal Act which, for the income years 1964-65 and 1965-66, applied to woolgrowers whose assessable income included the proceeds or more than one wool clip in circumstances where drought had necessitated a shearing to be undertaken in advance of the usual time. The section permitted a woolgrower in this position to elect, in respect of 1964-65 or 1965-66, that the profit arising from the advanced shearing be excluded from the assessable income of the year of receipt and included instead in the assessable income of the ensuing year in which it normally would have been received. it is -proposed by clause 3 to remove from section 26ba the present limitation to the income years 1964-65 and 1965-66. The section will thus apply for 1966-67 and subsequent income years. The clause also extends the operation of the section - for 1966-67 and subsequent years - to cases where the advanced shearing is caused by fire or Hood. This is the only substantial change in the section which will otherwise apply for 1966-67 and future years on the same basis as it applied for 1965-66.
Sub-clause (1.) of clause 3 proposes to amend section 26ba of the Principal Act to extend its application as outlined above.
Paragraph (a) of sub-clause (l.J will omit subsection (1.) of section 26ba. This sub-section limits the application of the section to the income years 1964-65 and 1965-66. Its omission will enable the provisions of the section to apply to advanced shearings in 1966-67 and future income years.
Paragraph (b) effects a consequential drafting amendment to sub-section (2.) (a) of section 26ba. lt omits words that were appropriate only while the operation of the section was restricted to particular income years.
By paragraph (c) the word “ drought “ appearing twice in sub-section (2.) (c) will be replaced by the words “ fire, drought or flood “. This amendment will permit the application of the provisions of section 26ba where the advanced shearing is occasioned by any of these natural disasters occurring in an area in Australia in which a taxpayer is carrying on woolgrowing activities.
Paragraph (d) will omit the existing sub-section (8.) of section 26ba and replace it with a new subsection consistent with the proposed removal of the limitation of the section to two particular income years.
Sub-section (8.) provides for the time and manner in which elections under the section are to bc made. As now expressed, it applies only in relation to elections for the income years 1964-65 and 1965-66. As proposed to be re-expressed, the sub-section will be applicable in respect of any relevant income year. In broad terms, it will require, as the present sub-section does, that an election under the section be made on or before the date of lodgment of the return of income for the relevant year unless the Commissioner exercises a power to grant further time.
Sub-clause (2.), which will not amend the Principal Act, provides that the extended application of section 26ba to cover advanced shearings occasioned by fire or flood will first apply in respect of the profit on the sale of wool that would otherwise fall for assessment in the 1966-67 income year.
Sub-clause (3.) relates only to elections under the section in respect of the 1966-67 income, and will not amend the Principal Act. It provides that, notwithstanding the period of time prescribed in sub-section (8.) of section 26ba, an election relating to 1966-67 may be lodged at any time up to and including 31st December, 1967.
Clause 4: Disposal of Trading Stock - Clause 4 will effect a drafting amendment in sub-section (8.) of section 36 of the Principal Act that is consequential upon the introduction into that Act of a new section - section 36aaa - proposed by clause 5 of the Bill (see notes on that clause).
Section 36 of the Principal Act relates to disposals of trading stock, including live stock, otherwise than in the ordinary course df carrying on a business. Provision is made in the section to enable a primary producer who is forced to sell live stock in consequence of fire, drought or flood (and certain other circumstances) to elect that the profit on the forced sale be taxed over a period of five years instead of in the income year in which the sale took place.
Sub-section (8.) sets out the basis on which a profit on a sale of live stock is to be determined for the purposes of such an election. The amendment proposed by clause 4 to the sub-section will enable, that basis to be applied in arriving at the profit on a forced sale for the purposes of the new section 36aaa proposed to be introduced by clause 5. This new section will provide an alternative method of bringing the profit on a forced sale of live stock in consequence of fire, drought or flood to account for income tax purposes.
Clause 5: Alternative Election in Respect of Income Resulting from Forced Disposal of Live Stock - This clause proposes the introduction into the Principal Act of a new section - section 36aaa - which will provide an alternative basis on which a primary producer may account, for income tax purposes, for the profit on a forced sale of live stock due to fire, drought or flood.
At present section 36 of the Principal Act permits a primary producer to elect that the profit on a forced sale in these circumstances be taxed in equal instalments over a period of five years instead of wholly in the year in which the profit is realised. A primary producer may take advantage of this right of election only if he establishes that the proceeds of the forced sale wilt be used to replace the stock subject of the sale, either by purchase of. or breeding up. new stock.
This right will not be altered by the introduction of the new section proposed by clause 5. The new section will, however, confer an alternative right of a different nature. Subject to the same basic conditions as apply in relation to the existing right, it is, in broad terms, proposed by clause 5 that a primary producer may elect to have the profit on a forced sale excluded from his assessable income of the year in which it accrues and applied to reduce the cost for income tax purposes of stock acquired, during that year or any of the five succeeding years, to replace the stock disposed of.
In some cases it may occur that replacement stock is bred by the producer instead of being purchased. Where this is the case, the producer will be able to elect to exclude the profit from the year of sale and to bring it to account in appropriate instalments, over the period already mentioned, as the replacement stock is bred up.
If, at the end of the fifth year after the year in which the forced sale occurred, any balance of the profit on the disposal has not been applied to reduce the cost of new stock purchased, or has not otherwise been included in assessable income, it is proposed that the amount will be included in the assessable income of the producer of that year.
The proposed alternative basis is designed to have the broad effect of deferring payment of tax on the profit of a Forced sale until stock acquired in replacement of the stock sold is itself disposed of in the normal course of business. This new concept has required measures ancillary to its basic purposes to preserve equity amongst taxpayers, safeguards the revenue and to take account of events which, in practice, may occur over the period of years in which the taxation consequences of an election operate, e.g., where a producer who had made an election as a sole trader enters into a partnership, or where the interests in a partnership which has made an election arc varied.
More detailed explanations of the amendments proposed by the clause are set out in ensuing paragraphs. The amendments will apply in relation to disposals of live stock in the 1967-68 and subsequent income years.
Sub-clause (I.) of clause 5 will introduce into the Principal Act the proposed section 36aaa.
Sub-section (1.) of the proposed new section formally provides the right of the alternative election and states the circumstances in which that right is available.
Paragraph (a) of the sub-section will be satisfied where live stock included in the assets of a business of primary production carried on in Australia or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are disposed of in consequence of fire, drought or flood.
Paragraph (b) provides that the right of election shall be available if the proceeds of the sale of the live stock would, apart from the new provisions, be included in the primary producer’s assessable income of the income year in which the forced sale took place.
Paragraph (c) requires the Commissioner of Taxation to be satisfied that the proceeds of the forced sale will be used by the elector wholly or principally for the purposes of re-stocking.
Paragraph (d) will limit the right to make the alternative election to be provided under section 36aaa to cases where an election has not been made under section 36 of the Principal Act to have the profit on the forced sale taxed over a period of five years.
Where the requisite conditions are met an election may be made under sub-section (I.) that the assessable income of the year in which the disposal occurs be reduced by the profit on the disposal. The profit will then be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (2.) and other sub-sections of 36aaa explained later in this memorandum.
If the live stock disposed of arc assets nf a sole trader, the election is to be made by iiia individual or company as the case may be.
Where it is a partnership that disposes of the live stock, the election is to be made by the partnership as a whole. Members of a partnership will not be able to make individual elections. The reason for this is that it would not be generally practicable for the consequences of an election to operate in relation to one partner and not the others. A partnership will be debarred from making an election under sub-section (1.) if any member of it has made the alternative election under section 36 of the Principal Act to have his share of the profit on the forced sale taxed over a period of five years.
If the live stock are disposed of by a trustee of a trust estate, the trustee, and each beneficiary who is presently entitled to a share of the net income of the trust estate and who is not under a legal disability, may make an election under sub-section (1.) provided that neither the trustee, nor any such beneficiary, has made the alternative election under section 36 of the Principal Act to have a part of the profit taxed over five years.
Sub-section (2.) will provide the basis upon which an election under sub-section (1.) has effect.
Paragraph (a) will reduce the assessable income of the elector for the year in which the forced sale occurred by the amount of the profit on the disposal of the live stock.
Under paragraph (b) that profit will be applied to reduce, for income tax purposes, the cost of live stock purchased by the elector during the year of income in which the disposal occurred, and any of the five succeeding income years, to replace the stock sold. The amount by which the cost of any replacement animal is reduced will be an amount ascertained in accordance with sub-paragraph (i) unless sub-paragraph (ii) applies.
Before explaining the terms of sub-paragraphs (0 and (ii), it is mentioned that the general aim of the proposed provisions is to reduce the cost for taxation purposes of replacement animals, so that the taxable profit realised on sale of these animals in the normal course is increased by an amount equivalent to the amount of profit on the forced sale on which the person who has made an election has not been taxed. This means, in effect, that the profit on the forced sale is replaced for taxation purposes by a notionally increased profit on the sale of the replacement animals, so that payment of tax on what is really the profit on the forced sale may be deferred from the time at which the producer requires financial resources to build up replacements.
To this end, the reduction in the cost of replacement animals is related to the amount of profit from the forced sale. Sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) of paragraph (b), together with sub-section (3.) set out the way in which this relationship is to be achieved.
Sub-paragraph (i) of paragraph (b) requires the cost of each animal purchased as a replacement to be reduced by an amount determined on the basis prescribed in sub-section (3.) of section 36aaa - see notes on that sub-section later in this memorandum. In broad terms, the cost of each replacement animal will generally be reduced by the average profit on each animal disposed of or by the actual cost price of the replacement animal, whichever is the less. By average profit is meant the profit on the forced sale divided by the number of animals involved in the sale.
Sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (b) will limit the amount by which the cost of replacement animals may be reduced. The cost cannot be reduced by any amount in excess of the profit derived from the forced sale.
Under sub-paragraph (ii), this question will need to be considered in each of the years in which consequences of the election operate. The amount of profit available to reduce the cost price of replacement animals will also need to be determined in relation to that year. The latter amount is referred to as the reduced profit on the disposal and is to be calculated in the manner prescribed in sub-section (16.), which is explained later in this memorandum. In broad terms, the reduced profit at any time is the profit on the forced sale less the sum of any amounts of this profit previously applied, in consequence of the election, against the cost of replacement animals purchased and any amount of the profit that has been included in the assessable income of the primary producer.
In some circumstances, the amount of the profit on the forced sale to be taken into account in reducing the cost of replacement stock purchased could exceed the amount of the reduced profit remaining at the time of the purchase. Where this occurs, sub-paragraph (ii) requires that the amount by which the cost price of each animal purchased is to be reduced shall be calculated on the basis of the formula -
The purchase price of $30 per head will be reduced in accordance with sub-paragraph (ii) by $5- the total amount by which the cost of the
Mock purchased is reduced is, therefore, limited to the reduced profit at the time of the purchase, viz., $1,500.
Paragraph (c) of sub-section (2.) will include in the assesable income of the elector any amount that i$ specified in an election made under subsection (4.). Such an election may be made where livestock: subject of a forced sale is replaced by natural increase. Sub-section (4.) is explained at a later stage in this memorandum.
Paragraph (d) will provide for any reduced profit on the forced sale remaining at the end of the last of the five years succeeding the year of disposal to be included in the assessable income of that last year.
Sub-section (3.) of section 36aaa will provide the basis for determining the appropriate amount applicable to a replacement animal for the purpose of reducing the cost of the animal in accordance with paragraph (b) of sub-section (2.).
Under paragraph (a) of sub-section (3.), if the replacement animal is of the same species as the live. stock disposed of, e.g., where sheep are replaced with sheep, the amount applicable to that animal will be the lesser of the average profit per head of the live stock disposed of and the actual cost of the replacement animal.
Paragraph (b) will apply where the live stock disposed of (say, sheep) are replaced by live stock of a different species (say, cattle). In these circumstances, if paragraph (c) does not apply, the amount applicable to the replacement animal will also be the lesser of the average profit per head of the live stock disposed of and the actual cost of the replacement animal.
Paragraph (c) will apply in lieu of paragraph (b) where the live stock disposed of are replaced with live stock of a different species, and the purchase price of the latter substantially exceeds the cost at which the stock disposed of could be replaced with stock of the same species.
The amount applicable to the replacement animal in these circumstances will be of such amount as the Commissioner considers reasonable. However, the amount determined by the Commissioner in this respect is not to exceed the cost of the replacement animal and cannot be less than the average profit per head of the live stock disposed of.
Sub-section (4.) will apply where live stock disposed of have been replaced by natural increase and an election has been made under sub-section (1.) for the profit on the disposal to be applied in the reduction of the cost of replacement live stock. In these circumstances there may be specified in a separate election made under sub-section (4.) an amount of the profit on the disposal that is to be included in the assessable income of the year in which the replacement by natural increase occurs.
Sub-section (5.) of section 36aaa contains provisions that are necessary to safeguard the revenue in certain circumstances. They will be applicable where a taxpayer carrying on business as a sole trader in the ordinary way has elected under subsection (1.) to have the profit on a disposal of live stock applied to reduce the cost of stock purchased as replacements. Sub-sections (6.) and (9.) will apply in a like manner in respect of partnerships and trust estates.
The sub-section provides that, if the taxpayer leaves or is about to leave Australia, or dies, or ceases to carry on the business of primary production, or becomes bankrupt or (being a company) commences to be wound up, the part of the profit on disposal not applied at the end of the income year in which the event occurs may be included in the assessable income of the taxpayer for that year. That reduced profit may also be included in the taxpayer’s assessable income if a partnership in which he is a partner takes over his business of primary production.
The sub-section will permit the profit to continue to be applied in accordance with the taxpayer’s election over the remainder of the period covered by the election if the Commissioner considers the circumstances appropriate to permit such a continuance. In addition, sub-section (12.) will, subject to some conditions, permit a partnership of which the taxpayer is a member, and which has taken over the business he conducted at the time of his election, to elect that the taxpayer’s original election under sub-section (1.) continue to operate in relation to the partnership.
Sub-sections (6.), (7.) and (8.) of section 36aaa will apply in relation to a partnership that has elected under sub-section (1.) to have the profit on the disposal of live stock applied to reduce the purchase price of replacement stock.
Sub-section (6.) is complementary to sub-section (5.) and will apply on a similar basis where a partner leaves or is about to leave Australia, or becomes bankrupt or (being a company) commences to be wound up.
This sub-section also applies where any part of the profit on a disposal of live stock is unapplied at the end of an income year in which the partnership ceases to carry on the business of primary production or in which there is a variation in the constitution of the partnership.
If any of the circumstances specified occur in an income year the Commissioner may include the amount of the reduced profit at the end of the year in the assessable income of the partnership for that year. As in sub-section (5.), the profit may, however, continue to be applied in accordance with the election by the partnership over the remainder of the period covered by the election if the Commissioner considers the circumstances appropriate to permit the continuance.
Sub-section (7.) has effect where a partnership which has made an election under sub-section (1.) is dissolved in a relevant year of income. If any part of the profit on disposal of live stock has not, at the date of dissolution of the partnership, been applied to reduce the cost of stock purchased as replacements or included in the assessable income of the partnership in a previous income year, that part of the profit unapplied will be included in the assessable income of the partnership for the year in which it is dissolved. This provision is, however, subject to sub-section (8.) which is explained below.
Sub-section (8.) will, in certain circumstances, permit an election under sub-section (1.) by a partnership that is dissolved to be continued in respect of a partnership that has acquired the business of the dissolved partnership.
Paragraph (a) requires that the partnership acquiring the primary production business of the dissolved partnership commence to carry on that business immediately after the dissolution.
By paragraph (b) some or all of the partners in the dissolved partnership must be partners in the partnership which has acquired the primary production business of the dissolved partnership.
Paragraph (c) requires that the aggregate of the interests of partners of the dissolved partnership in the income of the partnership which acquired the primary production business of that dissolved partnership be not less than one-quarter of< that income.
If all of these conditions are met, the partnership acquiring the business of the dissolved partnership may elect that the election under subsection (1.) by the former partnership shall continue to have effect. This will mean that the amount of the profit on disposal not applied when the former partnership is dissolved will not be included in the assessable income of that partnership for the year in which the dissolution took place. It will also mean that the profit continues to be applied to reduce the cost of replacement stock purchased by the partnership which acquired the business. The partnership acquiring the business will, therefore, be treated on the same basis as the dissolved partnership insofar as the application of the profit on disposal of the live stock by the former partnership is concerned.
Sub-section (9.) is complementary to sub-sections (5.) and (6.) and applies on a similar basis where an election under sub-section (1.) has been made in relation to the disposal of live stock of a trust estate.
If the trustee or a beneficiary leaves or is about to leave Australia, or a beneficiary dies, or the trust estate becomes bankrupt or (if a beneficiary is a company) the company commences to be wound up, any part of the profit on disposal not applied at the end of the year in which the event occurs may be included in the assessable income of the trust estate for that year. That reduced profit may also be included in the assessable income of the trust estate if the trustee ceases to carry on the primary production business or a partnership in which the trustee is a partner takes over that business.
As with sub-sections (5.) and (6.), the election under sub-section (1.) may continue to be effective in relation to the trust estate if the Commissioner considers the circumstances appropriate to permit the continuance. In addition, a partnership in which the trustee is a member, and which has taken over the business which he conducted at the time of his election, may make an election under sub-section (12.), the practical effect of which is to continue, in relation to the partnership, the operation of the election made under sub-section (I.) in respect of the disposal of the live stock by the trustee.
Sub-section (10.) has effect where an election under sub-section (1.) has been made in respect of the disposal of live stock of a trust estate and the trust estate ceases to exist in a year of income. In these circumstances the part of the profit on disposal not applied to reduce the cost of replacement stock purchased or previously included in the income of the trust estate is to be included in its assessable income for that year. This provision is necessary because there would not, in a case where a trust estate comes to an end in a year of income, be any means of securing payment of tax on the amount of the profit on disposal not applied when the trust ceases to exist.
Sub-section (11.) is a drafting measure. Its purpose is to ensure that an amount in excess of the reduced profit on a disposal of live stock at the end of an income year is not included in the assessable income of the elector of that year.
Sub-sections (12.) and (13.) are designed to meet the situation where an election has been made by a sole trader or in respect of a trust estate and the business carried on at the time the election was made is later taken over by a partnership in which the elector becomes a member. Where certain conditions are met, the partnership may elect that the consequences of the original election carry over into the partnership.
Sub-section (12.) sets out the conditions to be met before the partnership may make an election under the sub-section.
Paragraph (a) states that an election under subsection (1.) must have been made by the sole trader or by the trustee and the beneficiaries of the trust estate, as the case may be.
Paragraph (b) requires that a partnership in which the sole trader or the trustee of the trust estate becomes a partner commence, not later than five years after the end of the year in which the live stock were disposed of, to carry on the primary production business previously carried on by the sole trader or the trust estate.
By paragraph (c) the sole trader or the trust estate that previously carried on the business is required to be entitled to at least one-quarter of the income of the partnership.
If the tests prescribed in sub-section (12.) are met the partnership may elect that sub-section (13.) shall apply as from the date the partnership commenced to carry on the business.
The effects of an election under sub-section (12.) are set out in paragraphs (a) to (f) inclusive of sub-section (13.).
Paragraph (a) of sub-section (13.) will, in its practical effect, continue the operation of the election previously made in respect of the live stock disposed of by the sole trader or the trust estate. Because the profit on the disposal will already have been excluded from the assessable income of the sole trader or the trust estate, it will not again be excluded from the income of the partnership.
Paragraph (b) will ensure that, other than for the purposes of ascertaining the reduced profit at any time in accordance with sub-section (16.), the profit on disposal in relation to the sole trader or the trust estate is also the profit on disposal to be taken into account in relation to the partnership. The practical effect of this provision is that the reduction of the cost of live stock purchased by the partnership will be determined on the same basis as would have applied if the sole trader or the trustee had continued to carry on the business.
Paragraph (c) will apply for the purpose of calculating, under sub-section (16.), the reduced profit of the partnership at any time in respect of the disposal. It provides that the amount of the reduced profit of the sole trader or the trust estate on the day preceding that on which the partnership commenced to carry on the business of the sole trader or the trust estate will be the profit on the disposal in relation to the partnership. This amount is to be applied by the partnership in reducing the cost of replacement stock purchased or by inclusion in the assessable income of the partnership where the replacement stock are bred by it. Any part of the amount not so applied as at the end of the fifth year after the year in which the live stock were disposed of will be included in the assessable income of the partnership for that year.
The effect of paragraph (d) will be to limit the operation of the election by the partnership to the same period as that to which the election by the sole trader or the trust estate would have applied if the business had not been taken over by the partnership.
Paragraph (e) will ensure that the election by the sole trader or the trust estate under sub-section (1.) remains effective for the period it covered before the partnership commenced to carry on the business of the sole trader or the trust estate.
As a corollary to paragraph (d), paragraph (f), will provide that, on the day on which the partnership commenced to cany on the business, the reduced profit in relation to the sole trader or the trust estate shall be nil.
Sub-section (14.) specifies the periods in which elections are to be made for the purposes of section 36aaa. Elections are to bc in writing and, where made by a partnership, are to be signed by or on behalf of each of the partners.
Paragraph (a) states that an election under sub-section (1.) to apply the profits on a forced sale of live stock in reducing the cost of replacement stock purchased is to be made on or before the date of lodgment of the return of income of the income year in which the live stock arc disposed of.
By paragraph (b), an election under sub-section (4.) for part of the disposal profit to be included in assessable income where live stock disposed of are replaced by natural increase is to be made on or before the date of lodgment of tho return of income of the income year in which the natural increase are bred.
Paragraph (c) will require an election under sub-section (8.) by a partnership that takes over the business of a dissolved partnership, to be made on or before the date of lodgment of the return of the continuing partnership of the year of income in which it commenced to carry on that business.
Under paragraph (d) an election under subsection (12.) by a partnership that takes over the business of a sole trader or a trust estate is to be made by the partnership on or before the date of lodgment of the return of the partnership of the year of income in which it commenced to carry on that business.
An extended time for lodgment of any of the elections covered by the sub-section may be granted by the Commissioner df Taxation.
By sub-section (IS.) any amount of reduced profit on disposal of live stock included in the assessable income of an elector will be treated as income derived from the carrying on of a business of primary production in Australia.
The effect of this provision is that, irrespective of whether he is carrying on a business of primary production during the income year in which that amount is included in his assessable income, an elector who has not permanently withdrawn from the averaging system may be entitled to have the averaging provisions applied in his assessment for that year.
Sub-section (16.) states the basis for calculating at any time the reduced profit in respect of a forced sale of live stock. This term, which is used in provisions relating to an election under subsection (1.), means broadly so much of the profit on the disposal as has not, on any particular day, been applied to reduce the cost of live stock purchased as replacements and has not been included in the assessable income of a previous year.
To ascertain the reduced profit on any duy the sum of the amounts specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) is to be deducted from the profit on the disposal of the live stock.
The amount specified in paragraph (a) is the total cost of replacement stock purchased less the total of the amounts that are deemed to be the cost price after setting off against the total cost the appropriate amount of the profit on the disposal. In effect, therefore, the amount specified in this paragraph is so much of the profit on disposal of live stock as has been applied to reduce the cost of stock purchased as replacements.
The amount specified in paragraph (b) is the sum of any amounts of the profit on disposal that have been included in the assessable income for income years prior to the year in relation to which the reduced profit is being calculated. In the generality of cases, these amounts would be included in the assessable income because of an election made under sub-section (4.) where live stock have been replaced by natural increase.
Sub-section (17.) is a drafting measure and will enable the profit on a disposal of a particular species of live stock to bc determined in accordance with the principles laid down in sub-section (8.)(b) of section 36 of the Principal Act for the calculation of the profit on the disposal of live stock generally.
In broad terms, the profit on a disposal of live stock is, under sub-section (8.) (b) of section 36 of the Principal Act, ascertained by deducting from the proceeds of the disposal the following amounts -
These principles will be applied in calculating the profit on a forced sale of a particular species of live stock.
Sub-section (18.) has effect where an election has been made under sub-section (1.) and stock of a different species from those disposed of in the forced sale are acquired. In these circumstances, the new stock is to be treated, for the purposes of the section, as replacing the stock disposed of only if the Commissioner is satisfied that this is the case.
Sub-section (19.) is also a drafting measure. Its purpose is to enable the reduced profit to be ascertained before the end of an income year if it is necessary for the Commissioner to make an assessment for a period which ends before the last day of the year of income, e.g., if a company which has made an election under sub-section (1.) proposes to go into liquidation before the end of the year and a part of the profit on disposal remains unapplied.
Sub-clause (2.) of clause 5 provides, in effect, that an election under sub-section (1.) of the proposed new section 36aaa can be made in respect of a forced sale of live stock during the 1967-68 income year of any subsequent income year.
Clause 6 : Depreciation - This clause will amend section 54 of the Principal Act.
Under section 54, a deduction is allowable for depreciation of plant owned by a taxpayer that either is used by him in the production of assessable income or has been installed ready for use for that purpose and is held in reserve.
The expression ‘plant’ is denned in the section and includes fences, dams and other structural improvements on land which is used for agricultural or pastoral pursuits. However, section 75 of the Principal Act also authorises a deduction for expenditure on certain types of improvements in the year in which it is incurred. Where expenditure on improvements is deductible under section 75, it is excluded from the scope of the depreciation allowances by sub-paragraph (ii) of section 54 (2.) (b). This ensures that where the cost of improvements is allowable under section 75 as a deduction in the year it was incurred, that cost will not also be deductible by way of depreciation allowances. _ The purpose of clause 6 is to ensure that deductions for depreciation are not allowable in respect of sub-divisional fences referred to in clause 8 of the Bill. Broadly stated, that clause will amend section 75 of the Principal Act to provide an outright deduction of the cost of these fences in the year the expenditure is incurred - see notes on clause 8.
This amendment will apply in assessments for the 1967-68 income year and subsequent years.
Clause 7 : Special Depreciation Allowance to Primary Producers - By this clause it is proposed to extend without time limit the special 20 per cent depreciation allowances available to primary producers under section 57aa of the Principal Act. The allowances are available in relation to -
In the case of structural improvements, section 57aa of the Principal Act at present authorises the 20% depreciation allowances where the improvements are completed before 1st July 1967, or are commenced at that date and completed before 1st July 1968. In relation to other depreciable assets that are covered by the section, the 20% rate applies if the asset is first used by the taxpayer or is installed ready for use before 1st July 1967.
Paragraph (a) of clause 7 will amend section 57aa by omitting paragraph (a) of sub-section (3.) and by re-enacting that paragraph in a form which does not specify a termination date for the application of special 20% depreciation allowances to structural improvements.
Paragraph (b) of clause 7 effects a drafting amendment to sub-section (3.) which is consequential upon the form of the amendments proposed to the sub-section.
Paragraph (c) of clause 7 will amend paragraph (b) of sub-section (3.) by omitting the termination date for the application of the special 20% depreciation allowances to plant other than structural improvements.
Clause 8 : Certain Expenditure on Land Used For Primary Production - The primary purpose of this clause is to insert a new paragraph - paragraph (gb). - in sub-section (1.) of section 75 of the Principal Act. The paragraph will authorise a deduction to primary producers of the cost of erecting internal sub-divisional fencing.
Under section 75 a deduction is allowable for certain classes of expenditure incurred by a taxpayer engaged in primary production on land in Australia or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The deduction is allowable in the income year in which the expenditure is incurred.
The new paragraph to be inserted by paragraph (a) of the clause provides for a deduction to be allowed for expenditure on the erection of fences to sub-divide the land for the purposes of carrying on primary production on the land. Expenditure on boundary fences, fences enclosing yards or fences along public roads, stock routes and rights of way is not deductible under this provision but will remain subject to depreciation allowances.
Paragraph (b) of the clause amends sub-section (2.) of section 75 of the Principal Act as a consequence of the insertion of new paragraph (gb) in sub-section (1.).
In broad terms sub-section (2.) of section 75 limits certain of the deductions allowable under sub-section (1.) of the section to the amount actually expended by the taxpayer when part of the total expenditure is met by a government, government authority or some other person. A similar limitation is to be applied to the deduction allowable for the cost of internal subdivisional fencing.
The amendment will apply to expenditure incurred on the erection of this type of fencing in the 1967-68 income year and subsequent years.
Clauses 9 and 10 : Deduction For Dependants - The amendments proposed by these clauses are designed to-
The amendments will apply in assessments based upon income of the 1967-68 and subsequent years.
Increase in Deductions
The following is a comparison of the present and proposed maximum deductions for each class of dependant and a housekeeper: -
Clause 11: Life Insurance’ Premiums, etc.Section 82h of the Principal Act authorises the allowance of a concessional deduction in respect of life insurance premiums, superannuation contributions and like payments made by a taxpayer for Hie benefit of himself or members of his family.
By this clause, it is proposed to increase the maximum deduction allowable in respect of such payments for any one year from $800 to $1,200.
The amendment win commence to apply in assessments based on income for the current year 1967-68.
Clause 12: Rebate in Case of Disposal of Assets in a Business of Primary Production - This clause will effect a drafting amendment to section 160 of the Principal Act which provides a special rebate of tax for taxpayers who dispose of the whole of the assets of a business of primary production and, in doing so, dispose of live stock at a profit. The amendment is consequential upon the amendments proposed by clause 5.
Section 160 applies subject to an election not having been made under the existing provisions of section 36 of the Principal Act. Clause 12 will make the application of section 160 subject to an election not having been made under section 36aaa to be inserted in the Principal Act by clause 5.
The amendment, which will apply for the 1967-68 income year and subsequent years, will not disturb the basis on which section 160 now operates where an election is made under section 36 of the Principal Act in respect of a forced sale of live stock.
Clause 13: Credits in Respect of Tax Paid Under the Income Tax Ordinances of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea - The clause will effect a drafting amendment to paragraph (b) of sub-section (2.) of section 160ae of the Principal Act which is also consequential upon the insertion of the new section 36aaa in the Principal Act as proposed by clause 5.
Sub-section (2.) of section 160ae of the Principal Act provides, in effect, that where income is withheld from the assessment of a year of income under a section which permits the spread of abnormal receipts of a business of primary production over a period of years, the amounts included in the assessments of the subsequent years shall be deemed, for the purposes of Division 18 of the Principal Act, to be derived from the same source as the abnormal receipts. Division 18 of the Principal Act contains provisions relating to the assessments of taxpayers who derive income from both Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
The effect of the amendment is that, if a sole trader, partnership or a trustee of, and beneficiaries in, a trust estate make an election under the proposed section 36aaa in respect of a forced sale of live stock and the stock are assets of a business of primary production carried on in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, any amounts included in the assessable income of the elector in pursuance of that section shall be deemed, for the purposes of Division 18 of the Principal Act, to be income derived from a source in the Territory.
The amendment made by this clause will, like section 36aaa, apply for the 1967-68 income year and subsequent years.
Clause 14: Application of Amendments - This clause specifies the commencing date for the application of proposed amendments affecting assessments. These dates have been referred to in the notes on the relevant clauses.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will declare the rates of income tax for the financial year 1967-68 on income of certain superannuation funds, trust estates and members of partnerships. These are special rates which have been declared in relation to the 1965-66 and 1966-67 financial years. No change is proposed for the current financial year. Honourable members will, no doubt, recall that the special rates are imposed for the purposes of legislation which, following the Government’s consideration of the report of the Ligertwood Committee on Taxation, was enacted in 1964 with a view, to placing a curb on tax avoidance practices to which the Committee drew attention.
A rate of 50% is declared by the Bill for income of a trust estate, other than a deceased estate, to which no beneficiary is presently entitled and which is not taxed as if it were the income of one individual. A rate of 50% is also declared for the taxable income of a superannuation fund that is not exempt from tax. This rate does not, however, apply to the investment income of a fund that is subject to tax only because of the fund’s failure to comply with the ‘30/20’ rule concerning investments in public securities. The rates on this income are proposed by the Income Tax Bill 1967 and also remain unchanged from those that applied last year.
As to income from a share in a partnership over which a person lacks, or is deemed to lack, real and effective control and disposal, the Bill will impose a rate of further tax sufficient to bring the aggregate rate on the income up to 50%. If a taxpayer’s average personal rate of tax is 50% or more, no further tax is imposed under this Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will give effect to proposals outlined in the Budget Speech. The proposal affecting most taxpayers is, of course, the increase of $26 in the amounts of the concessional deductions allowable for maintenance of dependants. The increase is to apply over the full range of dependants for whom concessional deductions are provided. The deductions for a spouse, a daughter-housekeeper, an invalid relative and a parent will each be increased from $286 to $312, for a student child under 21 years of age and one child under 16 years of age the increase will be from $182 to $208, and for each other child under 16 years from $130 to $156. The allowance for a housekeeper is also to be increased from $286 to $312.
Another concessional deduction for which an increase is proposed is the allowance for payments by a taxpayer to provide superannuation or insurance cover for himself and his family. The present limit of $800 on the maximum deduction allowable each year is to be increased to $1,200. These increases in the concessional deductions will apply in assessments for the 1967-68 income year and subsequent years. For salary and wage earners, the benefits from the increased dependants’ allowances will be reflected in reduced tax instalment deductions to become operative from 1st October next. The remaining amendments proposed by the Bill apply to primary producers.
In 1965 and again in 1966 the Government introduced temporary measures to assist woolgrowers who, because of the drought, advanced shearing dates during the 1964-65 and the 1965-66 income years. When this occurred the proceeds of two wool clips would have been brought to account for taxation purposes in the one year. Provision was, therefore, made for these woolgrowers to elect to transfer the net proceeds of the second clip to the succeeding income year, so that the proceeds were taxed in the year in which, in ordinary circumstances, they would have been received. It is proposed to continue the operation of these provisions for the 1966-67 income year and subsequent years, and to extend them also to advanced shearings brought about by fire or flood. Another amendment proposed by the Bill will apply to primary producers who, because of drought, fire or flood, are forced to sell livestock. The present law enables a primary producer forced to sell stock in these circumstances to elect to have the profits of the sale taxed over a period of five years, if he uses the proceeds of the sale principally for the purpose of restocking.
The Bill proposes an alternative method of bringing the profits of a forced sale to account for income tax purposes. In very general terms, a primary producer who uses the proceeds of the sale principally for re-stocking may, in respect of sales made in 1967-68 or a subsequent income year, elect to have the profit on the sale applied to reduce the cost for income tax purposes of stock purchased to replace the stock sold. The effect of an election will be to defer payment of tax on the proceeds of the forced sale until replacement stock purchased is sold in the normal course of carrying on business. In some cases stock may be replaced by breeding up a new flock or herd, instead of buying animals. When this is the case, a primary producer may specify an amount of the profit of the forced sale to be included in his assessable income of the year in which natural increase is bred. If, by the end of the fifth year after the year in which the forced sale occurred, any amount of the profits of the sale has not been applied in either of the ways I have mentioned the amount will be included in the primary producer’s assessable income of that year.
A further proposal relates to the cost of subdivisional fencing constructed on land used in primary production. At present, this fencing is generally subject to depreciation allowances ‘ at the special rate of 20% . It is proposed to permit the cost of this type of fencing to be wholly deducted in he year in which it is incurred. Boundary fences or fences around stockyards are not included in the scope of this proposal. These will remain subject to depreciation allowances. The amendment will apply to expenditure incurred on subdivisional fencing during the 1967-68 income year and subsequent years. The final proposal affecting primary producers is the continuation, without any limit as to time, of the special 20% depreciation allowances on plant and structural improvements used wholly and exclusively for primary production purposes. A memorandum explaining each clause of the Bill is being circulated for the information of honourable mem bers and I do not propose to go into further detail at this stage. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1967-68 In Committee
Consideration resumed (vide page 1130).
Proposed expenditure, $341,164,000.
Broadcasting and Television Services
Proposed expenditure, $48,754,000.
- Mr Chairman, it is very difficult to deal in 15 minutes with a subject as wide and as complex as television and broadcasting, but I wish to try to make two or three points in the time available to me. Australia is frequently complimented on its system of broadcasting and television. This is the dual system in which national stations work side by side with commercial stations. It has been said that this is the best system in the world. I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), his Department and all those people who are responsible for the operation of this dual system. But because we are inclined to lump costs together, I think that I ought to make it perfectly clear at this point that it is estimated - this is by way of my own figuring -that $57,300,560 is the figure which applies to our national stations and that figure includes also the cost of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It does not include the commercial stations which struggle along making their own way, paying their own operating costs or not paying those costs as the case may be, by the sale of ‘time’ in the case of radio or by the sale of ‘slots’ in the case of television.
The broadcasting and television stations sell their ‘time’ and their ‘slots’ to those splendid, pampered, irascible people called sponsors. By comparison with these sponsors among certain sections of the commercial television and broadcasting hierarchy, those splendid, long suffering people called the viewers or the listeners seem quite unimportant. In fact, of course, no commercial station can operate very long without sponsor and audience. I bear all of these things in mind when I make some of the following suggestions.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission is not called on to justify its existence in this way. I think that it is to the eternal credit of the ABC that it does justify its existence and that it does this very well. But when looking at this estimated expenditure of over $57m, we must ask ourselves how best we can receive value for this money which is not Parliament’s money, not the Government’s money, but money which belongs to the people.
We get news services, documentaries, plays and music. These are very important, but I think that the ABC has still yet another function. Indeed, I believe that al) broadcasting stations and all television stations have another function, and this is public relations. I remember some years ago receiving a very stern memo from the managing director of the broadcasting station for which I toiled. The memo asked me why I had not provided him with a list of the sponsors to whom I had sent Christmas cards. The explanation was very simple. I had not provided him with a list because I had not sent any sponsors any Christmas cards. What astonished me about the whole episode was that he demanded: Why not?’ So I had to explain very promptly, because this man was the managing director, that it was he himself who sent me out day after day, a sales’ executive, to tell the sponsors that they could not possibly exist unless they sent the messages about their products out over radio, and that that was precisely what I intended to do - to send my message out through my own medium, which was radio. In short I was going to broadcast Christmas greetings to the sponsors. In fact, I was very surprised that he had not thought of this for himself.
But this very simple little lesson in logic did not make him terribly happy immediately. However the time did come when eventually he did decide to stop everybody from sending out Christmas cards and decided instead that we should put on the air a super colossal Christmas show during which we did send out the station’s Christmas greetings. But before the programme actually went on the air the managing director had another frightful thought - supposing the sponsors were not listening to the broadcast. Anyway, to make a precis of the story, they obviously were, to such an extent that they returned the compliment in their own sponsored programme. They in turn congratulated the management for such good overall sessions. I mention this to show the difference between an advertisement and a public relations announcement. What would happen to the people who make Christmas cards under these circumstances I do not know, but that is another question.
I also make the point because it shows the potential of public relations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am not suggesting that the ABC should take to accepting advertisements; I could not think of anything worse. But I am suggesting that we do not use to the fullest extent this vital, powerful organisation as a subtle public relations weapon for this country. The moral of this little story will be seen if honourable members turn to the ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1968’ which accompanied the Budget. In it they will see an item described in a fascinating way as ‘Other Activities’, and under this heading they will see ‘Publications, advertising and public relations’ at an estimated cost of $2,172,400. What, I ask, are these vital and popular media of radio and television doing in spending over $2m in publications, advertising and public relations? Is not the ABC in a position to do a goodly portion of its own advertising subtly, not blatantly and not with vulgarity? I know that the ABC must have publications. I assume that these publications include the excellent brochures which the ABC brings out from time to time to explain certain series such as ‘University of the Air’, and I suppose the ABC still publishes ‘TV Times’. I never get time to read it, but I suppose it still publishes it. This publication, if it is still in existence, used to include, and probably still does, such things as articles on the private life of Ringo Starr and what Twiggy prefers in the way of lunch, as well as the programmes for the week. I truly believe that people are interested in the life of Ringo, and I truly believe that they are interested in what Twiggy eats or what she does not eat, but I believe that these things could be better covered in suitable and popular programmes on the ABC.
I am not suggesting that this expenditure be cut out altogether, because that would be nonsense. The excellent orchestral and vocal concerts arranged by the ABC must be advertised in the Press in the same way as all other entertainments are advertised, but I am suggesting - because I have a particular reason to try to save some money - that the expenditure at some time in the not too distant future could be pruned, and even if the saving is only half the estimated expenditure, that would be over $lm. So, the first of the three points I should like to make is that the ABC could extend its public relations for itself, using its own media and saving some of this estimated expenditure shown as ‘Publications, advertising and public relations’. It would need to be very skilfully and subtly done, but public relations, if done skilfully and subtly, is quite painless to the beholder. Blatant advertising is not, and that is not what I am talking about.
My second point concerns the Australian content of television and radio programmes, a subject in which every honourable member must be interested. Of course, there ought to be more Australian programmes. Whether they are written by Australians or are about Australia or Australians dues not matter very much at this minute. We already do produce some quite good Australian programmes, but we need more constructive Australian programmes and fewer violent imported programmes. We already have some good Australian programmes, and we also have some bad ones. One of the worst I regret to say, is ‘Homicide’, which ought to be so good. I do not know the cost of the production of ‘Homicide’, but whoever writes it obviously has been issued with instructions, as television writers always used to be, that the episodes must include a certain number of outdoor scenes. This, I contend, is quite out of date. I believe we have to look at these productions to see in what way they can be improved. By contrast, did honourable members ever feel the atmosphere created by a simple drift of mist in ‘Maigret’, or a short glimpse, on film, of a French canal in this pro gramme? The British are absolute past masters at shooting films indoors and making them look as though they have been shot out of doors, making it seem as though they have gone to all the trouble and expense of moving cameras, crews and talent - the lot - to some far flung location. I sio not know the cost of producing ‘Maigret’. I am simply saying that this is how television productions can be done. Whether the British Broadcasting Corporation does it on a shoe string budget or not I do not know, but it can be done and it could be done in Australia.
On the good side of television programmes in Australia, do honourable members remember the excellent series made by the ABC about our early Australian history - ‘Stormy Petrel’, ‘The Outcasts’ and The Patriots’? I believe the answer to the problem of providing a proper Australian content in our television programmes is to give work to our own writers. The answer lies with the writers. I do not subscribe to the theory that we have to import them. We have plenty of good writers here, and if I were given the money I would find them. Let us all find the money to stop the drift of all our most important arts, artists and talent away from Australia. Television and radio could be and should be providing the means of doing this. We need not look for writers who have to be trained from the beginning. We have literally dozens of good writers trained in the art of telling a story and building up atmosphere. Many of them simply need help to adapt the skill they already have to the limits of television.
Now we come to the $lm that 1 suggested earlier we might save. What is wrong with providing scholarships for Australian writers to give them the time not only to experiment but also to devote themselves to this work so that they could give up their bread and butter jobs and write shows that we could produce here and sell abroad? It is quite a simple matter for a trained writer to adapt himself. But our writers need to be trained so that the dialogue they write will call for a minimum number of cameras and will allow for the movement of the cameras. This is merely a matter of adaptation. This may sound very complicated to the layman, but it is no more difficult for writers already trained in
The last matter I would like to mention, if 1 may, Mr Chairman, comes rather closer to home. I refer to the broadcast of the proceedings of the Parliament. Do honourable members really feel that we get the best from the broadcasts of the proceedings of the Parliament? I would say that the most important broadcasts in Australia come from this Parliament. But if we were thrown out into the world to find a sponsor, I doubt very much whether anyone would spend the money needed to sponsor these broadcasts.
– The British Motor Corporation would.
– It might or might not. lt costs an average of $70 for half an hour on a Sydney metropolitan radio station. We can work out from this what it would cost to broadcast the proceedings of the Parliament. I doubt very much whether even BMC would sponsor us. I leave the Committee with that thought. I put my belief that there is room for a little improvement very humbly as a new member.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department, which are now before the Committee, include provision for broadcasting and television services. If the estimates related only to the services within the electorate of Kalgoorlie, the amount would be negligible. About nine-tenths of the State of Western Australia come within this electorate and it can be fairly said that the people there have never at any time, including the present, been able to enjoy a radio service that could properly be said to be satisfactory. Even now, only listeners in odd areas on the western fringe have any real choice of station or programme, and even that choice is very limited in comparison with the choice in the cities. At this late stage television can be received in only a very small part of that 900,000 square miles and even then it is by no
Naturally, some people living in the fringe areas and some living even beyond the fringe areas buy television receivals and set them up in the hope that they will get an occasional picture. Though they may receive a picture only occasionally and though the service is very poor, these people are obliged to obtain a viewer’s licence and to pay the full rate for it. This is quite unfair and unnecessary. I want to quote the relevant portions of the Broadcasting and Telvision Act. Section 4(1.), which deals with interpretation, provides in part: television receiver’ means an appliance capable of being used for the reception, by means of wireless telegraphy, of television programmes;
As I read the provision, it means that, if the television set is in good working order and is capable of being used, it is classed as a receiver. The receiver does not necessarily have to be used. If it is capable of being used, it is considered to be a television receiver. Section 126 (6.) provides:
Except as prescribed, a person shall not use, maintain or have in his possession a television receiver unless there is in force a television viewer’s licence which applies to that receiver.
Section 126 (8.) provides:
The occupier of any premises or place, or part of any premises or place, in which there is a television receiver, not being a receiver to which a television viewer’s licence in force under this Act applies, is guilty of an offence against this Act.
So, if a person has a television receiver, he must have it licensed, irrespective of whether he uses it or does not use it and irrespective of whether a service is available or is not available. If the appliance is capable of being used, it must be licensed, because the Act says a person shall not use, maintain or have in his possession a television receiver unless there is in force a licence which applies to that receiver. I have confirmed by inquiries that what I have just said is correct. Therefore, no matter where in Australia the television set is held, it must be licenced at a fee of $12 a year or $3 a year for certain pensioners.
The same conditions apply to broadcast listeners’ licences, except that the Commonwealth is broken up into two zones and the licence fee is higher in one zone than in the other. Section 127 of the Act provides: (1.) For the purposes of the grant of broadcast listeners’ licences and hirers’ licences and lodging house licences in respect of broadcast receivers, and the payment of fees for those licences, Australia and the Territories of the Commonwealth are divided into two zones, to be known as Zone 1 and Zone 2. (2.) Subject to this section, Zone 1 includes all places within a circle having a radius of two hundred and fifty miles from a broadcasting station specified by the Board.
Australia is not divided into two zones for television. Section 128 of the Act sets out that the fee payable for a broadcast listeners’ licence in Zone 1 shall be $5. 50 and in Zone 2 shall be $2.80. Although more than two zones should be provided for broadcast listeners’ licences or the radius should be less than 250 miles from centres such as Kalgoorlie and Geraldton, at least the difference in radio reception in the various areas is recognised. I suggest that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) should examine this matter and ensure that people in fringe areas and beyond are not obliged to pay the same fee for a television licence as is paid by people in areas where the television reception is much better. I also suggest that when he is looking at that matter he should not simply provide for two zones, as is done with broadcast listeners’ licences, but should make provision for a fee in the areas with first class television reception, a lower fee in the areas where reception is not so good and a token fee in the areas where reception is very poor or not available at all times. The fee of $12 a year is substantial when it is being paid for a service of little or no value. A person may not always use a television set in the place where he resided when he bought it. Frequently a person is transferred from a place where he had good television reception to a place where there may be a very poor service or no service at all. Such people are not inclined to sell their television sets. They store them or install them in the hope that they will get some picture. I ask the Postmaster-General to give that matter early and favourable consideration because I think it is important.
Mr Chairman, I was amazed at a reply I received from the Postmaster-General yesterday when I asked a question about the building of a post office at Exmouth in Western Australia. I asked the Postmaster-General :
Does he intend to expedite the building of a post office at that centre so as to alleviate the unsatisfactory and congested conditions which people suffer at the moment? If so, will he say when the post office building will be commenced and finished?
The Postmaster-General replied:
I do not know of any plan to erect a separate post office building in that area. My understanding of the position is that although present facilities are not completely adequate, having regard to the scarcity of funds for the Post Office, the present building at Exmouth will have to serve the people of the area for some time into the future.
He said he understood that the present facilities were ‘not completely adequate’. Apparently, according to the advice he has received, there is reasonable accommodation. If that is the advice he received then it is completely wrong. The facts are that the post office business at Exmouth - which every honourable member knows is on the North West Cape - was carried out in the first place in a caravan. Later the post office was moved to a house which I understand was supposed to be the postmaster’s residence. Whether this is right or wrong I am not sure but the post office was moved to that house and business is still being carried on there. One can well imagine the congestion and difficulties that the postmaster has in trying to conduct business under such conditions. During the three years that construction on the naval communication project has been under way in that area more than 16,000 workers passed through the town. At the present time there is a population of about 2,500. The business carried on at the post office is considerable because it serves not only the residents of the town but also all the tourists. All the postal business has to be conducted in the house to which I referred.
So far as appearance is concerned, the house may have looked all right in the first place but its condition has deteriorated well and truly. One can well realise how awkward and how impossible it is for the people working in that post office to give the service they should give and would like to give to the public. It must also be remembered that in practically every instance the other buildings at Exmouth are of a good standard. There are a new court house, police station and gaol, a new shire office, a new town hall, a new hotel, a new school and new banks, all of which are close to the house which is being used as a post office. I think, and I know that the majority, if not all, of the people at Exmouth think that the present post office is a blot on the township. It spoils what is otherwise a fairly good setup so far as buildings are concerned. Apparently the people of Exmouth, if we are to judge by what the Postmaster-General has said, have to suffer not only the inconvenience and disabilities associated with such a setup but also an eyesore to the township for some considerable time to come.
Last December I was advised that subject to priorities and the funds being adequate it was expected that the construction of a post office at Exmouth would begin in 1968-69. Naturally, considering the number of people Irving at that centre and the fact that the population would be increasing, and also because the Commonwealth is directly involved with that area because of an agreement with the Americans, we were more than hopeful that the erection of the building would proceed this year. Apparently this is not to be the case. At this moment there are no plans to erect a building there. The Commonwealth holds a block of land for this purpose and the building is urgently required. The people in that area are not getting the service to which they are entitled because, under the present conditions, it is impossible for the post office staff to give the requisite service. Yet we cannot see any prospect of getting a new post office. People in the area have told me that they require private mail boxes. Some have very good reasons for this, but the boxes cannot be provided. As I said earlier, apparently the people there will have to put up with these conditions - and the conditions will get worse as the population grows - for some considerable time to come. This is just not good enough. It seems that the increased charges being imposed for facilities and services provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department will not produce any benefit for the people at Exmouth.
I think every honourable member will admit that since I have been a member in this House I have continually pressed for the provision of better radio services in those parts of Australia where they are not now enjoyed and particularly in my own electorate. I have been successful to some extent. I have witnessed a certain amount of activity by the Postmaster-General’s Department during the past 3 or 4 years. Those improvements are well and truly appreciated. However, as a result of a reply I received from the Postmaster-General a couple of weeks ago, I was very surprised and disappointed - and so were the people concerned - to learn that the Government apparently has no proposals in hand to provide a better radio service to the people in the Wyndham area. Wyndham is up at the top of Western Australia, near the top of the Kimberley area. When I asked the question about radio facilities in that area I did not expect immediate action to be taken but I did expect, at least, some early proposal for the establishment of a station in the not too distant future. Apparently it is most unlikely that a decision will be made by the Government for quite some time.
The people in that area have never had a reasonable radio service. As a matter of fact, they have never had reasonable communications of any sort with the outside world. Whilst we hope to have telephone communications, which will be a considerable improvement, I suggest to the PostmasterGeneral - and I think he will agree with this - that the people in that area who have been battling for so long are entitled to have a good radio service. We know that the population of Wyndham area and the Kununurra area will increase considerably if money is provided for the construction of the main dam on the Ord River. The attitude of the Postmaster-General’s Department in relation to the radio service in that area is causing much more concern at the moment than may be apparent. The people there are becoming concerned that the Government has no intention of providing further finance for the Ord River scheme. I hope that the Postmaster-General will have some further explanation about this matter.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– At the outset I express my thanks to all members of the Postmaster-General’s Department for the unfailing courtesy and goodwill that they have extended to me. I come in contact with the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Victoria, and, in the Mallee electorate, which is one-fifth the size of Victoria, I have contact with the district telephone managers at Mildura, Bendigo and Ararat and with the postal manager at Mildura. I do not contact the district telephone manager at Ararat very often but when I do I get good service. I contact the Mildura district telephone manager most of all, and the Bendigo district telephone manager quite often, and every time I receive excellent service from them. I want to say that publicly in this place. I have found no fault with the service given to me by the general staff of the Department. I always get the best possible service from the postmaster and the girls who operate the telephone exchange where I live at Boort in Victoria. Therefore it is only right that I express my appreciation of the service that they give.
There are one or two other things that I want to refer to which concern the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– What about Patchewollock?
– As the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory is attempting to interject, perhaps I could refer firstly to the Australian Capital Territory. In doing so I will mention the new system named Postcode. When I look at the Postcode booklet I find that the Australian Capital Territory is included in the section covering New South Wales. Further over, I find that the Northern Territory and South Australia are given a section. On quite a number of occasions I have received letters addressed to me care of Parliament House, Canberra, New South Wales. This will make people think, as it says in the Postcode, that New South Wales includes the Australian Capital Territory. People will think that this is right. They will be led to believe that the Australian Capital Territory must be in New South Wales. In the section dealing with South Australia and the Northern Territory, these are shown as two distinct areas. In my very short remarks I would suggest at the very outset that this should be rectified. Perhaps the PostmasterGeneral will explain to me why New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are shown in this way. This section of the Postcode refers not only to Canberra but to other places in the Australian Capital Territory. For instance, it refers to such places as Hall which is a few miles out of Canberra. This is also included in the New South Wales section. As a Victorian I resent this for the simple reason that Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory is no more part of New South Wales than it is part of Victoria. Perhaps there is some technical point involved in the presentation of the Australian Capital Territory in the Postcode. Zoning might be the reason for this. However, I believe that this should not continue to appear in print in the way that it does.
I would now like to move very quickly to something else. Legislation has been passed through both Houses of Parliament which will result in sharp rises in charges to people using postal and telephone services in this country. If the Postmaster-General’s Department really wanted more money - it appears to me that it did want more money - to continue the services at their present efficiency as well as to improve the efficiency and to extend the services to decentralised areas such as the electorate I represent, then it could raise this money from only two sources. One source is the taxpayer who pays general taxation and the other is the people who use the services. I come down heavily in support of this money being raised from the people who use the services. This point of view might not please my constituents. However, I do not consider that the taxpayer should have to pay. If you take the proposal that the taxpayer should pay to its illogical conclusion you could say: ‘Let the taxpayer pay the lot and do not worry about charges at all’. Then many would never get anyone on the telephone because of the volume of calls. Everyone would be ringing somebody - perhaps an aunt in Queensland - and the whole system would be chaotic. Therefore, I believe that the person who uses the service should pay for it. People must realise that if it were paid for from taxation these taxes would have to be increased because the Government has not a surplus in its Budget.
In certain circumstances there are deductions from taxable income for the amount spent in using the telephone for business purposes. However, there is no taxation deduction in respect of the taxes that a persons pays. Therefore, I believe that it is more economic for Australians to pay for these services in the way that they have always paid for them. Whether the charges are too steep or not is quite apart from what I am saying. I want that to be very clearly understood. I believe that we can with confidence ask the Postmaster-General for more efficient services and for the extension of services. One of the great things from the point of view of country people will be the introduction of more rural automatic exchanges in country areas. I would like to know what is holding up the installation of these systems.
Two or three years ago I asked the Postmaster-General a question to find out whether the delay was due to lack of money or difficulty in securing the machines. The Postmaster-General’s Department should obtain these machines somewhere and install them. With the extra money available to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I should like the Postmaster-General to see whether he can obtain more of these machines and speed up the installation. The rural automatic exchange system makes the world of difference to people in country areas. We have the subscriber trunk dialling system as against the manual exchange system. Take the case of a person in a country area who has a manual phone and wishes to ring Melbourne for a small duplicate part of a machine. He would pick up his phone and ask the party on the other end whether they have a certain duplicate, say No. 5034. The party on the other end usually asks him to wait. While the party in Melbourne is checking time goes by. Finally, the person who is making the call is asked whether he wishes to extend. This is what he has feared will happen. Instead of the call costing him $1 it costs him $2. The moment he says that he wishes to extend the man on the other end usually comes on and says that he has the part and that he will put it on the train that night, lt usually takes this party 10 seconds to give this information. However, the person making the call still has to pay an extra $1 for an extra 10 seconds. Subscriber trunk dialling works on units. After a person has made his connection, in the same circumstances he would only pay a proportion of the unit for the extra 10 seconds. He may pay, perhaps, 25c for the extra time. Therefore, under the subscriber trunk dialling system he would only pay $1.25 as against $2 under the manual system. This is the great advantage of the subscriber trunk dialling system. With the introduction of more rural automatic exchange systems we will eventually be in a position where it will be more economic to use telephones. This will mean, also, that the Postmaster-General’s Department will get the same ratio of payment for time expended on each call.
I now want to discuss advertising on television and radio. Advertising can be very dangerous. The Honourable Dudley Walters of Murrabit, Victoria, told me that either last Friday or Monday that an advertisement came over the air on radio and television in Melbourne and Sydney which said that navel oranges were out and that valencias were in. The advertisement said that the season for navel oranges has ceased. The Honourable Dudley Walters is Chairman of the Victorian Central Citrus Association Pty Ltd which covers an area from Murrabit to Cobram, Victoria. This area produces 750,000 cases of oranges a year. They have 60% ot their navel oranges still to market. We can understand how this advertising on television and radio will affect their sales. Do television and radio stations accept advertising without knowing whether it is factual? In this particular case the advertising was not factual but the stations concerned still accepted it. The oranges in the Murrabit and Cobram areas are 3 to 6 weeks later than in other parts of the Mallee electorate and in South Australia. This advertising could cause a chaotic position in the marketing of 60% of 750,000 cases of oranges. At the present time the people in this area are packing the bulk of their navel oranges. I would like to know from the Postmaster-General whether there is anything in the broadcasting legislation that prevents advertising that is not correct. This can cause widespread and very serious loss to many primary producers in the Murray River Valley.
I want to refer to something that was said by the honourable member for Kingston (Miss Brownbill). She said that she did not like the television programme Homicide’. This is about the only programme that I watch and I think it is very good indeed. It is an Australian show and 1 like it very much. While on this subject I might mention that 1 watched a television programme the other night which was called “The Frost Report’. 1 was attracted to it by a strange coincidence. As honourable members know, I represent 78% of the dried fruit pack of Australia. People in my area are troubled with frosts. When I saw the title of this television programme I thought that it was about frosts. However, 1 was soon disillusioned. I soon found out that the programme was by a man named Frost who makes a report. 1 am surprised that the Australian Broadcasting Commission would put a programme on like this, lt went as far as to ridicule the Ten Commandments. Once this happens I think a programme should be put off the air. 1 was at a meeting last Friday, and people at that meeting brought up a proposition to put to the Postmaster-General that a certain programme should not be telecast. The name of that programme was Till Death Us Do Part”, lt was said that a person either liked this programme or did not like it. I have not seen the programme, but one man told me that if it was not for a tew swear words that were used it probably would not be considered worth watching. This is the opinion of many people in Australia. I spoke to the former Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Dr Darling, and he assured me that a survey is continually made of what the people require and the people get the programmes that they ask for. If people are asking for programmes where the Ten Commandments are ridiculed then this country is coming to a very sad state indeed. I do not believe that people are asking for such programmes.
I have no fault to find with the general working of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I only want more activity at the present time. I want the Postmaster-General to install RAX telephones in areas that are manual at the present time. I have asked the Postmaster-General to work out some scheme whereby when a rural automatic exchange is installed, the people in the area have the opportunity of paying an equal amount of the aggregate so that a person a long way away from the exchange will not have to pay up to $1,000 whereas others will have to pay practically nothing. The Postmaster-General says that this cannot be done. I would like him to have another look at this aspect. I want him to give the people a chance by not telling them where the RAX exchange will be installed until they have considered the matter and have agreed on equalising the amount of payment among those requiring the service. This would be a real move forward and would be appreciated by many people throughout Australia. Many associations and many people have made representations to me about this matter. I do not think that it is impossible. It may not suit the present regulations but those regulationscan be amended.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 too would like to thank - as the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) did - the members of the Post Office staff with whom I have come into contact so far, for their courtesy and extreme willingness to assist wherever possible. It is not always possible for them to assist, but they do anything they can. At this particular time I think honourable members should also say something about those people who deliver our mail and perform similar work. I think that these people do a very good job and that if we commend the heads of the Postmaster-General’s Department we should not forget the people who carry on this service day by day on what are not terribly good wages, as I think the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) would agree.
I would like to deal with the television programmes telecast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In general, I think, the ABC is very good and has a widespread range of programmes. It should be congratulated on the quality of its public affairs programmes. There are insufficient public affairs programmes on television. The only complaint that I receive regularly is that some of the programmes appearing on the ABC have been shown so often that people know them by heart. The number of repeat programmes is becoming somewhat fantastic. This is already happening on the commercial channels and it is prevalent in the ABC, too.
I wish to deal with telephone charges because I think they are extremely important to every large country centre and also to the smaller country centres in Victoria. The major centre in my electorate is Geelong, which is 45 miles from the Melbourne General Post Office. We have standard telephone dialling to Melbourne from Geelong and it costs 20c for the 3 minute unit. The distance from Frankston to Broadmeadows in Melbourne is the same, give or take a couple of miles, yet people can ring up between those places for 4c - it may be 5c now, I am not sure.They can speak for the best part of an hour if they so desire for this amount. If a business firm in Geelong makes a similar phone call to a business firm in, say, Footscray, which is about 35 miles away, it may be charged $3 or $4. The result is that the big companies, although they may establish industries outside the metropolitan area, are likely to establish their offices in the metropolitan area. In Geelong there are a number of companies that have done this.
Communications are much easier within the metropolitan areas. Even though standard telephone dialling makes a considerable difference in convenience, it also has a considerable cost factor involved. The honourable member for Mallee probably knows that anyone wishing to conduct a business in Mildura has to pay something like $1.25 for a call to Melbourne whereas industries in Melbourne are charged only 4c a call in the main. There should be a scaling down of the difference between the cost of metropolitan telephone calls and the cost of country telephone calls. The difference within States and interstate is too great. After all, there is no difference in the price charged for posting a letter from one suburb in Geelong to another suburb in Geelong from the charge for posting a letter from Geelong to Darwin.
– There is for parcels.
– I realise that different rates are charged for parcels. The point is that there is very little logical reason why there should be such large differences in the charges as between various areas. This aspect should be examined very carefully, and the Post Office should reduce the charges for standard telephone dialling so that the full advantage of the system can become available to country areas.
There seems to be some considerable delay in the installation of public phone boxes because of the unavailability of multicoin equipment. I understand that this equipment is obtainable from overseas and in Australia, but it is not available at the present time and therefore there are long delays - up to 1 year or more - in installing public telephones in areas where they are required. Laurence Park is an elderly citizens’ home in my electorate and although it has had a telephone box for almost a year there is no telephone in it because the equipment is not available. There are also a number of new housing commission areas in Geelong that are in the same category. It is necessary and desirable that a telephone box be handy for people working shift work and for aged persons. I ask the Postmaster-General to see whether something can be done to minimise this type of delay so that telephones can be more readily accessible to these people.
The tourist areas in Victoria where there are large populations for a couple of months during a year and small populations for long periods seem to me to be very poorly served because of the nature of the transport used for postal deliveries. In my electorate there is one area where the postal delivery is made about 12 noon each day and the outgoing mail for the day closes at 12.45 p.m. The result is that anyone who might otherwise wish to answer a letter that he receives that day might still be standing in the queue waiting to collect his mail at the time that the outgoing post closes. In such a case he would have to wait until the next day to get his letter away. The region of which I speak is one in which there are a number of towns in a very confined area, and in all probability it would be cheaper for the Post Office if it were to pick up and deliver with its own vans, of which there are quite a number in the Geelong district. 1 ask the PostmasterGeneral to consider this suggestion carefully.
I now turn to another matter. I understand that the Postcode booklets that have been issued to all householders throughout Australia are intended to educate people to use the Postcodes, which in all probability will not be fully operative throughout the country for a number of years. The quality of these booklets is so poor that only those that have never been used will be in a fit condition for use in 12 months time. Any person who writes a number of letters and has to refer to his Postcode booklet regularly will wear it out in a couple of months. It would be good economics, if these booklets are to be used regularly, to use paper of good standard and to provide a semi-hard cover so that over a considerable period they may retain some semblance of decency in their appearance. The alternative is for the Post Office continually to be issuing new booklets to all who use them regularly. I see that the honourable member for Mallee has one on his desk at the moment. I think that if he were to use it for a fortnight or so it would fall apart, so shocking is the quality of the paper used.
Finally, Mr Deputy Chairman, I want to mention briefly a matter that was raised twice at question time today - the work to regulation strike, as it is described, in the Post Office. I wonder whether the postal employees who are currently working to regulations, if they are to break the regulations in order to clear the mail, as apparently they are being asked to do, would be liable to a fine, as they were when they had a Saturday morning stop work meeting recently. My experience is that the regulations of government departments are expected to be both observed and broken. Those who lay them down know full well that they cannot always be observed if the operations of a department are to continue. Obviously, employees in departments adopt shortcuts because those shortcuts make their work easier and enable them to do it more efficiently. In the main, this is done to ensure the most effective method of working. The present situation of working to regulations has been described as a strike, but I fail to see how doing what one is told by one’s employer to do constitutes a strike. Nevertheless, that is the term that is loosely used.
When this sort of thing happens, there is a hue and cry in official quarters because departmental regulations are being observed. There is no doubt that this sort of thing happens in every government department. If any department reaches a stage at which the mere observance of its regulations prevents it from operating efficiently, especially when the organisation concerned is as important as the Post Office is, something ought to be done. However, it is wrong to ask employees to break regulations and thereby make themselves liable to a fine. The whole of the regulations structure of the organisation concerned should be examined by the responsible authorities to determine what regulations are obstructing efficiency because they have been made purely to ensure that a scapegoat can be found when something goes wrong. I can assure honourable members that this is the real reason for a great many of the regulations that are in vogue in government organisations. Departments are inert structures in which a culprit must be found when anything goes wrong, even though human error would normally be considered reasonable in similar circumstances in private industry. When anything goes wrong in a government department a great volume of correspondence is generated and at the end of it, if there has been a breach of a regulation, there has to be a culprit and he is made a scapegoat. There has to be a regulation that will establish that he has acted wrongly. In all departments there are myriads of regulations that are designed purely to ensure that someone somewhere can be blamed for anything that goes wrong.
– The honourable member is having a bad dream. That is all that is wrong with him.
– I am not having a bad dream, Sir. I have worked in a government department. The pile of regulations in that department was so high as to make it completely impossible for anyone to observe them all. This is the way with regulations in all departments. If departmental regulations, when observed, prevent efficient operations, obviously it is necessary for those regulations to be reviewed. Honourable members opposite are demanding that postal workers break regulations in order that the operations of the Post Office may continue, and as the regulations stand most likely it is necessary that this be done if mail is to be delivered promptly. But those who make this demand should also ask whether the regulations ought to be modified in order to make is possible for the operations of the Post Office to be conducted efficiently without the need for employees to break the regulations and make themselves liable to a fine. As an employee of a government department, I have been fined for technical breaches of regulations which were never commonly observed and which were never really intended to be observed. I can understand those who have never worked in a government department not understanding how departments operate. I suggest that honourable members opposite, and particularly Ministers responsible for the administration of departments, look at the way in which Commonwealth departments are in fact functioning.
This issue is important and should not be overlooked. I ask the Postmaster-General to consider making a complete review of the regulations of his Department so that unnecessary and obstructive ones may be done away with and only those that promote efficiency retained. This would prevent the delaying of mails and disruption of the work of this organisation, which is so important to the Australian people.
– Be honest.
– I did not say that the regulations were necessarily to blame. What I say is that if the regulations are observed completely mails will not be delivered promptly. Indeed I know that this is the situation. The railways, for instance, could not function effectively if railway employees observed all the regulations laid down. Neither can the Post Office nor any other government organisation function efficiently if all the regulations have to be strictly observed. It would be as well for honourable gentlemen opospite, some of whom have been interjecting, to look at the regulations of some government departments and see what a lot of tripe they really are.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) discussed the cur rent industrial unrest in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. It is not my intention to debate the specific points made by him concerning the observance of regulations by departmental employees. I have no doubt that the basic issue in the Department, as in many sections of industry throughout Australia at present, is what I classify as organised indiscipline. This situation at present manifests itself not only in the Postmaster-General’s Department but also in a number of important areas in the commercial and industrial life of this country. For my part, I say that it is high time these activities were stopped.
Recently, I had the privilege of inspecting Radio Australia’s headquarters in Melbourne. I want to take this opportunity to discuss briefly the work of Radio Australia, which is one of the most significant and continuing achievements of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, although its important contribution is unheralded and unknown to the great majority of Australians. It was launched on 20th December 1939 by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Robert Menzies as he then was, who broadcast to the world on two short wave transmitters and outlined the reasons why Australia had entered the Second World War. That the service provided by Radio Australia has been an outstanding success is now a matter of basic record. Today Radio Australia has more than 100 stations around the world broadcasting selections from its programmes, lt is teaching hundreds of thousands of Indonesians to speak English. Since its inception it has distributed some two million booklets designed to assist in the teaching of English and as a supplement to its broadcast programmes. It is on the air, through several transmitters, for more than 40 hours every day. It transmits forty-five news bulletins daily. It broadcasts in English, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese and French. In international polls held in 1956, 1959 and 1962 it has been voted the most popular short wave radio service in the world. This is certainly no mean evidence of major achievement. There is no doubt that Radio Australia enjoys immense popularity in Asia and other parts of the world, particularly with our troops in South Vietnam who receive special daily transmissions.
The service has as its primary function the projection of Australia’s image, including characteristics, achievements, aspirations and points of view, to other people around the world, with emphasis on the importance of our close and developing relations with the countries of South East Asia. It does this, I believe - I am sure all honourable members will agree with me - in an exemplary fashion.
During the past year Radio Australia received from listeners in all countries approximately 170,000 letters, an encouraging increase on the previous year’s total. This is objective evidence of the very favourable manner in which its programmes are received, particularly having regard to the fierce competition which it faces from the better financed programmes of the Voice of America, Radio Peking, Radio Moscow and the British Broadcasting Corporation’s overseas service. I pay a tribute to the Director of Radio Australia, Mr Peter Homfray and his staff of 150, including 50 Asians, for a job extremely well done.
However, whilst the service continues to expand, it can obviously do no more than work within the funds which have been made available to it. I hope that the period ahead will see a considerable uplift in the financial allocation to the service so as to enable extension of existing services and new transmissions in additional Asian languages, such as Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Burmese, Cambodian and Laotian. A considerable amount of money has been spent on communications equipment under the Colombo Plan. Frankly, I wonder whether some of this finance might not have been more wisely disbursed by a greater investment in the work of Radio Australia, which supplements and supports in so effective a manner our many-sided endeavours in the area of external affairs.
The recent establishment of the Australian Tourist Commission and the highlighting of the importance of tourism as Australia’s ninth most important earner of overseas exchange has laid emphasis on an area in which Radio Australia can play a very useful and meaningful part. The service is an ideal medium for promoting Australia’s image, growth and general potential. Certainly in engendering continuing interest in our country the service will encourage a greater number of overseas visitors to come to our shores.
From time to time there have been pressures from overseas governments and groups seeking to build short-wave broadcasting stations on Australian soil. It is vital that these pressures continue to be resisted because the granting of a licence in this area would seriously interfere with the work and achievements of Radio Australia. I am sure that all honourable members recognise that Radio Australia is today known far and wide as the only station whose programmes emanate from Australia. The uniqueness of this position must be protected, as a multiple number of stations would damage the objectivity, credibility and listener response of this very basic service.
– I wish to say something about the accounts of the Post Office and its so-called commercial system. Honorable members will remember that in 1958 the Government set up a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Alexander Fitzgerald to ascertain the capital cost of developing the Post Office since federation - since 1901. I assume that this was the time when the Government decided to use the Post Office as a taxing machine in order to raise money for consolidated revenue. The Fitzgerald Committee set about its investigations and finally arrived at a figure of $680m. The first figure suggested by the Committee was $760m, but in a minority report the figure of $600m was suggested. Apparently cabinet decided to split the difference and settled for a figure of $680m. It was upon this sum that the Government or the Treasury decided to impose interest charges.
I do not think it is fair that the Post Office should be treated in this way. But for this interest charge the Post Office would make a profit. Let me draw some comparisons between the manner in which the Post Office is treated and the manner in which other departments are treated to show that the Post Office is the only department treated in this way. For instance, in 1966-67 the receipts of the Department of Civil Aviation amounted to $14,804,455 compared with an expenditure of $48,654,000. The excess of expenditure over receipts in the Department of Civil Aviation last year was about $33,850,000. But this is not all that the Government does for airline operators. In addition the airlines last year received subsidies in respect of airmail services and non-paying services amounting to $1,318,000. The loss incurred in maintaining meteorological services and ground services and providing new aerodromes, new tarmacs and so on this year was $33,850,000 making a total loss on the operations of this Department of about $35,168,000. Also included in the receipts is $lm provided for Trans-Australia Airlines - this is the government run domestic airline service - and also $2m provided for Qantas Airways Ltd. These government enterprises pay their profits into the Department of Civil Aviation. So, the figure of $14m which I have mentioned includes the profits that have come from government services. Some of these amounts are counted as income for the Department of Civil Aviation.
I turn now to the earnings of the Post Office. It is estimated that the Post Office will earn $503 m in this financial year. This is paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. When the Treasury allocates moneys to the Post Office for the current programme of works, salaries and wages, building maintenance, etc., the Post Office is charged interest, according to my reckoning anyhow, on its own earnings because its receipts go into Consolidated Revenue. So, the Committee can see how the Post Office is overloaded with a burden that it should not be carrying. No wonder charges are going up when the Post Office has to find so much money to meet these interest charges. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), in the last annual report that he presented on the activities of his Department, showed a debit in the Post Office accounts of $21m. But the proposed increases in Post Office charges will net $36m. I take if that this will be the amount received as from 1st October.
– It is $64m in a full year.
– Yes. I thank the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. Now, regarding the figures upon which I wish to make a comparison, I mention that Sir Alexander Fitzgerald was the chairman of a committee that was set up to investigate Post Office finances some time in 1958. We thought that this committee would recommend the introduction of some new sort of accounting system for the Post Office. All that happened was that the Government decided to charge interest on the moneys advanced to the Post Office to enable it to carry out its various operations. In 1959-60, which was the first year after the committee presented its report, the Postmaster-General’s Department had to find $30,694,012 to pay the interest on the estimated advances since the beginning of federation. I will not give to the Committee the figures for each year since then up to the present time, but last year the figure was $64m which was double the figure in 1959. This year it is estimated that this charge will cost the Post Office $69m. Since this new system of bookkeeping, that the Postmaster-General defends, was introduced, the Post Office has had to find $377.5m in respect of interest charges.
I suppose that if we looked at the accumulated losses of the Department of Civil Aviation we would find that they ran into many hundred of millions of dollars also. I said that I would mention the subsidies paid to airlines operating in Australia. In addition to the $35m worth of services provided by the Government to commercial airlines and also to TAA, we find that the following subsidies were paid in 1965-66 to the airlines I shall name. Airlines of New South Wales Pty Ltd received a subsidy of $28,454. Trans-Australia Airlines received $231,699. A subsidy of $150,020 was paid to Ansett-ANA. MacRobertson Miller Airlines received a subsidy of $356,320. Connellan Airways received $386,008. That airline operates in the Northern Territory while MacRobertson Miller Airlines provides its services in Western Australia. Queensland Airlines was paid a subsidy of $29,599. Ansett Flying Boat Services received $111,900. So the Committee can see that the Government subsidises these airlines to the extent of over $lm. I do not know why the Post Office is singled out for adverse treatment when these other services are treated so favourably. But that is the position.
I wish to bring up another matter relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department. This concerns a service provided by two Sydney newspapers. Similar services may operate in other States. One is known as ‘Hot Line’ and is run by the ‘Sun’ in Sydney. The other is called ‘Action Line* and it is conducted by the ‘Daily Mirror’ in Sydney. I understand that the various branches of the Postmaster-General’s Department have been instructed to treat matters raised by these newspaper services at a ministerial level. I do not mind if the Postmaster-General’s Department does this - I do not mind it a bit - but I wish to quote a number of instances in which representations were made by a member of Parliament for the connection of telephone services. His representations were unsuccessful. These people; immediately went to the services provided by ‘Hot Line’ and ‘Action Line’ and brought the matters to their notice. These people immediately received their connections. So, we have preferential treatment to the newspapers. This sort of think places the member of Parliament in a very bad position. This is a matter that I think should be looked at. The Postmaster-General will know whether such instructions have been issued. I presume that other government services have been issued with the same instructions, to give these newspapers preferential treatment in the way that I have just described. I do not mind if these matters are treated at a ministerial level, but I do not think that they should be getting preference.
There is one other matter that I wish to raise concerning the Post Office. Postal workers want a 5-day working week, from Monday to Friday. Of course, we always find conservative attitudes coming up against this* sort of thing. In Hobart, Tasmania, everything closes down on Saturday, yet the place still runs well. When the banks closed on Saturdays, everybody thought that the world would come to an end. But everything has gone on smoothly. A number of services conducted by the Post Office might very well close down on a Saturday. I am an ex-Post Office man. I do not think that mail deliveries on a Saturday are essential. Businesses which used mail services most on a Saturday, especially in a metropolitan area, included the banks, which are now closed on Saturdays. The banks do not want to receive their letters on a Saturday. Insurance companies and commercial businesses of a similar kind close down on a Saturday. State government departments are closed in the metropolitan area of Sydney on a Saturday as are Commonwealth departments. I do not think that this kind of service is essential.
The demands of the postal workers could be met in many ways even if they do not have their full demands met. Certainly, telephone services must be maintained during a weekend^ We could not operate without these services. But I think that many other services could be closed down. A tremendous turnover in labour occurs in the Post Office simply because a number of people do not like to work on Saturday. They want the day off. As a result of this, we find that a man will start to do a job in the Post Office but when he finds that his roster brings him back to work on a Saturday he turns the job in. Therefore there is a big labour turnover in the Post Office. This is a bad loss. In addition there are too many temporary employees engaged in the Postmaster-General’s Department. A better service would be given if men knew that they were to be permanently employed. When I last looked at the figures, about 34,000 men employed in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department were temporary hands. This has been the situation for many years. There are many temporary employees engaged on line maintenance work.
Another important aspect of Post Office working is the need for equal pay for equal work. Recently there was trouble in the mail branch with the coding machines. I believe that if the Department provided equal pay for equal work there would not be such trouble. Why should women be paid less for doing the same work as the men alongside whom they work, sorting the mail or using these machines? It is not fair that women should be treated this way. I should like the Postmaster-General’s Department to be more liberal with its concessions to pensioners, particularly to blind pensioners for whom, often, the telephone is the only means of communication.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– My remarks will not occupy more than about 5 or 6 minutes, but I should like to deal briefly with three small items. I note a great beam on the face of my honourable friend from Dawson (Dr Patterson). He will appreciate each of the three matters I intend to mention. Firstly, I should like to pay tribute to the band of PostmasterGeneral’s Department workers who are working under the most trying circumstances. I refer to the linemen stationed in the isolated areas of the great northern part of Australia, and in other inland areas in the southern clime. These men, particularly those in my part of the world, have a very demanding job. It is amazing how they get their work done. A message may come through concerning a line being out of order. These men have to locate the fault, which could be anywhere within a distance of 100 miles, and repair it. When it is realised that there is often a ground temperature of 140 degrees it can be appreciated that it is not a pleasant task, but these men do a wonderful job, and strangely they seem to like the work. One gets to know the men, and some of them carry on for year after year. I pay a tribute to them.
I am sure that the next matter I raise will not come as a great shock to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the provision of television in our isolated areas. I do not want to generalise, because we have been over this matter about 100 times in various ways. However, I should like to mention a specific problem that has arisen. Strangely, it emanates from just about the best news we have had in this part of the world since I have been a member - from 6 to 8 months - and that is that television is to be provided for Mount Isa. I am sure that this announcement was the result of a very preliminary survey because the experts who visited the area gave us the news that the station eventually would be established at Mount Isa and then went on to drop what was quite a bombshell by telling us that the television programmes would not be received in my own town of Cloncurry. I was promptly voted the man most likely to be hanged in that town.
I do not know the technicalities involved, and perhaps they may be justified, but it is amazing that a town 75 miles from Mount lsa will not be able to receive television programmes. Charters Towers, which is 83 miles from Townsville, receives television programmes often with a much clearer signal than is received in Townsville itself. It came as staggering news that parts of Mount Isa would not receive the television signal. We are wondering what sort of station is to be provided at Mount Isa. Do not think for one moment that we are not terribly delighted with the news, but these are matters that 1 raise while the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) is present. I am sure he will look into them and I am sure that when the television station is eventually installed it will be more powerful. I had tried to secure the installation of a station which would cast a signal about 150 to 200 miles, but now we find the signal will not go 70 miles.
Finally, I should tike to refer to the much discussed extended local service areas scheme. I believe there should be two such schemes, one provided for closely settled areas where farms are only a hop, skip and jump apart - so close that a kangaroo could almost hop from one to another - and one for the more isolated areas. After all. when one gets away from the coast one finds that homesteads are anything from 50 to 100 miles apart and up to 100 miles from the nearest town. Hence the benefit of the 30 mile limit proposed under ELSA is really no benefit at all. We all hope that the Postmaster-General may finally conclude, to our great joy, that the charge should be related to the nearest main centre, whether that be 20, 30 or 120 miles away. Let us not talk of economics and of dollars and cents. We realise that the Postmaster-General’s Department can hardly be a paying proposition in relation to its facilities in isolated areas. If we started applying economics to these facilities we would close down all post offices in inland areas and all head for the coast to enjoy the wonderful amenities that exist there. Of course, the nation would soon fold up. I am sure that economics would not be rigidly applied in these circumstances.
Before 1 conclude let me reiterate the three matters 1 have mentioned. Firstly, I have paid a tribute to the lineman who do a magnificent job. Secondly, I have urged the provision of television in inland areas and have expressed the hope that the station which will be provided for Mount Isa will be not the least powerful station but the most powerful. Finally, I have appealed to the Postmaster-General - an appeal that I am sure all honourable members associated with rural areas will support - to consider relating charges in the more isolated areas to the charges in the nearest major centre.
– One aspect of the operation of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is the laudable desire to keep it on a reasonably business like basis while at the same time providing a service to all sections of the Commonwealth. This service cannot be limited by the actual return received from the less densely populated areas. A reasonable service must be given to every area, and we cannot relate the service, as the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) said, to pure economics. In his second reading speech on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1967 the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) said:
The Post Office is continually involved in making business judgments and decisions. It must react quickly to variations m demand for its services, and it is subject to the added discipline of planning its expenditure with an eye to the revenue and the net financial out-turn it will yield, as well as to the service rendered to the community.
I hope that the overriding factor is the service to the community. It is the first essential and, while I have said that I recognise the need to keep the Postmaster-General’s Department on a reasonably business like basis, it is very necessary that we should not let the service deteriorate simply because the economic return from a service is not good enough to justify the service that is required. The situation has to be looked at from an overall point of view. I realise that there is some difficulty attached to trying to provide services in rural areas, particularly the more outlying areas of the Commonwealth. This has been brought about to some extent by the changing conditions. In earlier times it was easier to provide smaller exchanges because private people were prepared to operate the service. They were tied down to it, and because of conditions that existed then, families were more ready to accept the responsibility for operating small exchanges. But times have changed and families in the outlying areas are now more reluctant to be tied down to an exchange. This tendency will increase, and I am concerned about the conditions that could exist if it accelerated as quickly as I think it will. The answer, of course, is the provision of more automatic exchange equipment. I realise the problems that are associated with this equipment, especially as they relate to finance. However, this matter should be considered in the light of the priorities that are set by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
Mention is made in the Budget papers of the need to increase the number of automatic trunk switching exchanges. These have conferred benefits on many of our towns and I commend the Department for its efforts. The report mentions the need to provide new telephone services and to continue to expand the number of automatic exchanges that are available. I believe that automatic exchanges should be given more consideration when the Department is fixing its priorities. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) referred to the need to provide more multi-coin telephones and the necessity for aged persons to have a telephone handy. I agree entirely with this. If it is possible to do so, more multi-coin telephones should be provided. However, I point out the difference between the situation he mentioned and the situation of people who live, say, 50 miles from medical aid and who are faced with the possibility of losing their telephone services. I take 50 miles as a round figure; it could be more. But many people live at least 50 miles away from medical aid. The needs of these people are more urgent than the needs of the people mentioned by the honourable member for Corio. I do not suggest that nothing should be done in other areas, but I do urge that more finance should be allocated for the services I have mentioned.
I realise that the provision of reasonable telephone services in rural areas must give the Postmaster-General and the Government considerable concern. But many people in these areas fear that in some respects they will be worse off than they have been in the past. This, with other adverse conditions that they are enduring, makes them wonder whether they should continue to live where they are, particularly when they compare their circumstances with those that are available in other parts of the Commonwealth. I say sincerely that we cannot afford to ignore the justifiable complaints of these people and it is on this ground that I urge
Although the Department in the main has been able to solve the problems fairly satisfactorily, many people are still in difficult positions. I have in my files letters from people who urge that they be allowed to cease manning these rural exchanges. The problem is there. My duty to these people is to explain their difficulties and to urge that, even if it means a slowing down in some other section of the Department’s activities, more consideration be given to their needs so that they will have some continuity of service. The people who live furthest from the towns where medical, professional and business assistance is available suffer the biggest disadvantage.
I want to mention now the extended local service areas system. This has provided a substantial benefit to people in outlying areas, but there is an anomaly in the service. 1 have urged before and will urge again that people in outlying areas should have access by telephone to the nearest town that can provide medical and professional services. I do not think that this is asking for too much, although it may mean a reduction in the revenue of the Department. The loss of revenue should not outweigh the demand for fair and reasonable treatment for these people. The local call in the extended local service areas
I want to deal now with commercial broadcasting stations and television stations. In some of the outlying areas in my electorate, the reception from radio stations is very poor. In one area, a commercial station operates satisfactorily during the day but does not give a satisfactory service at night. Advertising from this station is effective only during the day. I hope that something will be done to improve the service from it. It may be that the frequencies can be changed. The only service the people in the area have is during the day. I understand that it is possible to increase the power of the station, but the cost of doing so may be prohibitive. I hope that sympathetic consideration will be given to the needs of such broadcasting stations so that they will continue to operate. There has been some investigation made but the cause of the trouble has not been found. I hope that a further investigation will be made with the objective of improving the service.
The honourable member for Kennedy mentioned television. He lives in an area which borders mine. I know that whenever I go beyond the range of television viewing, the matter of the extension of television services is brought up by the people in that area. The Government can take pride in the fact that a large number of people now have the privilege of viewing television. I have listened with interest to comments made about the standard of television programmes. I only wish that the people in my area and people living in outback areas could have the privilege of deciding which programme they would watch and to voice some opinion as to the quality and value of the programme. They do not have this privilege but the service certainly is needed. Television is provided only in the more densely populated areas. The number of people required to live in an area at present before the Government will install television facilities should he reduced so that this amenity can be enjoyed over a wider area and by people so deserving of it and other amenities. I agree with the contention that the Australian content in our television programme should be increased. If this is done local talent will be encouraged and I do not think the standard of our programmes will be reduced to any great degree. I go along with that contention and I hope that it will be considered.
In conclusion I want to get back to the main theme of my speech tonight; that is, to make a plea on behalf of people in the outlying areas of Australia. I am not included in that group because I live in an area which has television, good radio reception, and a telephone service. Even if those facilities will add to the cost now paid by people in more closely settled areas, I say that we should provide them in the outback. People who live in closely settled areas should be grateful that there are people who are prepared to live under adverse conditions in outlying areas, and the least we can do is to provide them with any reasonable amenities which are available.
– Order! the honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to commence my speech by protesting about the failure of the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to ensure that the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was presented to this Parliament before the commencement of the debate on the estimates for Broadcasting and Television Services. The report was presented to the Parliament only a couple of hours before this debate commenced. It is a very important document to which honourable members want to refer during the discussion of these estimates because, after all, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is the watchdog over our television and radio services. The report for the year ended 30th June 1967 consists of 146 pages. It deals with all matters relating to commercial television and commercial radio. It refers to such things as advertising standards, the Australian content in programmes, the renewal of television licences, and the inter-connection of newspapers with radio stations and television stations.
It would have been an impossible task for any member of Parliament even to glance through the report in the few hours that were available before the debate commenced. The Postmaster-General will agree with me when I say that on previous occasions I have made attempts to analyse the contents of the Board’s annual report. I have asked him specific questions and have quoted excerpts from the report in an endeavour to help to improve our television and radio services. I must grant the PostmasterGeneral this concession: The estimates for his Department were not to be discussed until next week. They have been brought on a little earlier than had been contemplated. At the same time, when I looked at the Board’s report I saw that it was dated 13th September, which is only 7 days ago. I saw also that it was printed by the Commonwealth Government Printer. If the printer did not get the report until 13th September I think he deserves to be complimented on the remarkable job he did in having it printed and made available to the Postmaster-General for presentation today.
I would like to know what the officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board have been doing since 30th June. This report contains a lot of information which is included in the annual report time after time. The compilation of this report was only a matter of bringing things up to date. A lot of the information in it would be compiled throughout the year. I do not think it is necessary for any government department or instrumentality to take from 30th June to the middle of September to prepare and present to the Parliament its annual report. This report will be of no advantage to members of Parliament at this time next year because the information in it will then be 12 months old. It is of advantage to the Parliament today but we received it only a couple of hours before the debate on these estimates commenced.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission, on the other hand, presented its report to the Parliament the week before we rose. I notice it is dated 28th June. This brings me to the point mentioned in the last paragraph in the report addressed to the Postmaster-General,’ which states:
We note the Minister’s announcement of 28th May 1967, containing notification of the non reappointment of Dr J. R. Darling, C.M.G., o.b.e., Chairman (appointed 1st July 1961); Mr e. R.
Dawes, C.M.G., Vice-Chairman (appointed 6th December 1944) and Mr H. B. Halvorsen, M.B.E. (appointed 1st July 1956).
The three members of the previous Commission were, to use the words in the report, denied reappointment. I would like to put this in another way and say that they were dismissed. Yesterday I asked the PostmasterGeneral a question about the reasons behind the dismissal of Dr Darling, the Chairman of the Commission, Mr Dawes, the Vice-Chairman of the Commission, and Mr Halvorsen, a member of the Commission. All of them had been on the Board for varying lengths of time. Mr Dawes was appointed back in 1944 and Mr Halvorsen in 1950. The Postmaster-General said in his reply:
The three persons named by the honourable member were replaced because their period of appointment had expired.
He gave no reasons as to why they had not been reappointed. 1 will take up this matter again. I want the Postmaster-General to tell me, the House, and the people of Australia why the Chairman, the ViceChairman, and a member of the Commission were not reappointed on this occasion. Surely, if it was a matter of efficiency the Postmaster-General would have been aware of the inefficiency of these three men prior to this. They had been reappointed before. T understand that all of them were eligible and were willing to be reappointed, yet they were passed over by the PostmasterGeneral and the Government. Their dismissal could not have come about because of inefficiency. I think the Parliament is entitled to know why these men - particularly Mr Dawes who had been a member of the Commission since 1944 - were not reappointed on this occasion. During the term of office of Dr Darling as Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission there were improvements, vast improvements, in the radio and television programmes and most of the services provided by the Commission.
I cannot help but think, Mr Chairman, that there was a disagreement between these members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Postmaster-General, or perhaps some Cabinet members. If there has been any victimisation associated with the non-reappointment of these gentlemen I think we are entitled to know of it. If there has been no victimisation, if there were good reasons for their nonreappointment - and surely the Postmaster-General must have good reasons for not reappointing these three men - he should be big enough to tell the Parliament and the country why they were not reappointed. I cannot help but think that perhaps these men might have been a bit forthright in making some of the decisions that they took and in some of the recommendations they made or even in allowing the programmers in the Commission to make their programmes on television and radio a little more forthright in their approach. We are entitled to know if it was this attitude that offended the Postmaster-General. Criticism has been levelled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in its last two reports against the inadequacy of buildings. If this is the reason behind the non-reappointment of these gentlemen, then we are entitled to know it.
In the report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended 30th June 1966, the commissioners stated:
If the Commission is to fulfil its role adequately in the future, it is essential that it should have better buildings particularly in Sydney and Melbourne and to a lesser degree of urgency in some other capital cities. For many reasons television is an expensive medium but it cannot be deemed economical for so diffuse and technical an operation to be conducted from a number of second-rate buildings which are at present used. It does not seem reasonable to the Commission that these capital needs should be thought of as a charge against the current income derived from licence fees. Rather these constitute the capital investment without which a service to the community cannot be rendered and should be regarded as such in any financial assessment of income and expenditure.
In the Commission’s report for 1967 the commissioners stated:
However, in spite of some improvement, the ABC still operates in Sydney from seventeen separate and largely unsuitable buildings and in Melbourne from ten buildings. In other cities, the situation is similar. Effective supervision and control is not easy because this division of personnel between widely separated locations - a situation which inhibits the necessary consultation between officers and the effective co-ordination of our varied activities. The Commission has an urgent need for new buildings in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne and it is hoped that in spite of other claims, Parliament will find it possible to approve the capital costs involved.
I have had a look at the civil works programme of the Commission for this year. I cannot see that many alterations are likely to be made in the buildings provided for the Commission in the various capital cities. If the Commissioners have seen fit to complain in strong terms in the 1966 and 1967 reports of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, then 1 say it is up to the Postmaster-General and the Government to do something about it. The Commission is presenting programmes on many television stations and radio stations throughout Australia. It is entitled to have adequate facilities in order to provide these programmes.
Having been told of the difficulties under which the Commission works. I congratulate it on the technical perfection and the general performance and merit of the programmes that are presented. In particular, I would like to mention two public affairs programmes - the programmes ‘Four Corners’ and “This Day Tonight’. Sometimes we hear from people throughout Australia and from members of Parliament complaints of a one-sided presentation of a programme. I am most appreciative of the attitude that has been adopted by lhe men who conduct these programmes. They ask someone to come on to a programme to present their point of view. If that offer is rejected they go ahead with the programme and make an announcement that this party or that person was given the opportunity but was not prepared to go on to the programme to give a point of view. I will always remember the fact that the ‘Candidates’ programme was cancelled by the Australian Broadcasting Commission because the Government refused to face up to the people on that programme. Members of the Government refused to appear on the programme because they were not capable and were not game to face public scrutiny on the policy of their Government. This gave to the people of Australia a clear insight into the character and personality of many of the people contesting the general election. I think it is a programme that should be on at every election. I am not saying that every electorate should be selected but I believe that candidates from marginal seats should appear on this programme. These are the seats where tha interest of the community is likely to be. Candidates from these electorates should appear on television irrespective of whether or not the Government candidates want to go before the people. On this programme a clear announcement should be made that every party was offered an equal opportunity but that a certain party refused to take this opportunity.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission also deserves to be congratulated on the amount of Australian content in its programmes. The 1967 Report of the Commission shows that without adding loadings Australian content is 46.4%. This is not counting advertising. If we added the loading allowable after 3rd July this year the Australian content of the programmes of the Commission would go up to 68%. Certain loadings are now allowed under the new system that has been introduced by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I must admit that some Australian programmes that are presented by the Commission vary considerably in merit. However, at least the Commission is unlike its commercial counterparts in that it is pulling its weight in allowing Australian artists, writers and producers an opportunity to present their wares on television. I would like to have gone on further at this point but I see that my time has almost expired. I have not had an opportunity to analyse the figures that are shown in the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for this year. However, I do note from page 53 of the report that only two station*-TVW of Perth and TVT of Hobart - fully complied with the requirements of televising programmes of Australian origin. The Postmaster-General took the step of forwarding letters to other licensees of television stations pointing out that they should do better before the new requirements come into effect on 3rd July of this year. I doubt very much whether many commercial television stations over the 10 years that television has been in operation have ever come up to the employment requirements for Australian artists and writers. Since 1965, 50% has been the necessary quota.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It has become the accepted rule these days that the amenities of civilised life show constant and steady improvement. The exception to this rule, in Australia at least, is our broadcasting system. I do not say this to condemn the Australian Broadcasting Control Board or the operators of commercial and national broadcasting stations. The fact is that we are limited by international rules to a certain number of broadcasting channels in Australia. Since we have a need for more channels than are provided for us by these rules, we are compelled to adopt various stratagems to overcome this disability. Consequently, we have had to share channels, we have had to lower power at night for some stations and we have had to use directional aerials and so on. This sort of thing adds in some measure to the down-grading of services. The current issue of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report states: the number of frequency channels available in the medium frequency band is limited under International Radio Regulations, continue to be an obstacle to the further development of both national and commercial broadcasting services either by way of new stations or improved operating conditions for existing stations.
That is the situation in so many words. If the broadcasting system in Australia is lacking badly and is not keeping pace with the improvement noticeable in all other facilities and amenities we must ask the question: ‘Can anything be done?’ Here I draw the attention of the Committee to the contradiction between the Postmaster-General and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of previous years as to the value of the frequency modulation system. The annual report of the Board for the year ended 30th June .1967 quotes the PostmasterGeneral, and he is definitely adamant in his opposition to the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting in this country. The report quotes him as saying:
The Government has consistently taken the view that any deficiences in the Australian broadcasting services are not sufficient to warrant the introduction of a completely new service such as FM with its attendant problems and costs.
The quotation continues:
It is consistently submitted by some people that FM has arrived in many overseas countries and that Australia is lagging behind. This is not so.
He goes on:
There have been suggestions that your industry is in favour of the introduction of FM broadcasting. 1 have reason to believe that this is not so . . .
And so on. That is in complete opposition to the suggestion that FM could at any time offer an improved service in broadcast ing in Australia. This view is in sharp conflict with the view of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of former years. In 1957 the Board said that it believed a change was necessary because Australia’s then 163 radio stations - and there are now 181 radio stations - had overcrowded the existing system. The Board surveyed the advantages which could be expected to be derived from a frequency modulation broadcasting system in this country and it said:
The Broadcasting Control Board has repeatedly pointed out in its annual report that FM broadcasting appears the best long-range solution to the problem.
That is, of improving our broadcasting system. That statement continued:
The reports have said that FM broadcasting is better than tighter sharing of stations in the medium-frequency band.
Broadcasting in frequency modulation in the very high-frequency band would ensure a full and comprehensive service for listeners.
The system would permit these developments:
Additional national stations to provide service for substantial numbers of people who cannot yet receive any national station satisfactorily.
Extension of the national service to ensure reception of a second ABC programme by listeners in areas where only one ABC programme is available.
Provision of a third national programme in accordance with proposals repeatedly made by the ABC.
Additional commercial broadcasting stations, especially in country areas where no existing commercial stations can be consistently received at present.
Those views of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board were views which were consistently expressed by the Board over a period of years and I am not aware of anything that has occurred since those views were given which would cause a change in the attitude of the Board.
There was some opposition from some of the commercial radio stations to the proposal to introduce a frequency modulation system in Australia along the lines suggested by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. This was a very natural opposition, because the commercial radio stations did not see the necessity to upgrade their services and thereby incur a quite large expense in installing new equipment. But there were advocates for a frequency modulation system within the ranks of the commercial broadcasting stations. One of them was Mr S. R. I. Clark, who was the managing director of the Macquarie broadcasting network, who took a very sensible and practical view of the position, I believe. He is reported to have said:
FM should not be introduced for five, six or seven years because in that period the public would be absorbing the cost of television sets.
This view was expressed in 1957, which is 10 years ago. Surely by now the public has absorbed the cost of television sets. Mr Clark is reported to have said he favoured the issue of FM licences to existing amplitude modulation stations to enable dual AM-FM transmissions, particularly in the capital cities, as this would provide an incentive to the electronics industry to manufacture and promote the sale of FM receivers. He is also reported to have said that 15 years after the introduction of FM consideration could be given to closing down AM transmissions in capital cities, and this would release medium frequencies for country areas where FM might be inadequate for complete coverage.
I say that this is a very sensible programme and one which would over a period lead to a vast improvement in broadcasting services throughout the continent of Australia and would get us out of our present impasse, where we are blocked by the international regulations and held to a certain number of AM channels. We must break through into FM at some time or other if we are going to have a continually improving broadcasting service in Australia and if we are to give to some of those people who have never had a service of any consequence a proper service of news, information and amusement per medium of the broadcasting network.
I ask the Postmaster-General to reconsider his attitude to this question. I think that the situation is serious enough for him to call the matter up for review at this stage and to see whether the cost to the nation would be prohibitive. Frankly I do not believe that it would be. I believe the total cost to the exchequer of this country would be no more than perhaps $2.5m, which is a very small amount by comparison with the total cost of broadcasting and television services, and it is a very small amount indeed to pay for a service which would be giving people in the country areas an enjoyment and service which they have not had in the past and cannot hope to have unless this money is provided.
Since the introduction of the FM technique after the Second World War there have been steady improvements in other countries - particularly in Europe and the United States of America - so that it is now possible - and it is actually tn operation at the present time - to use ultra high frequencies for frequency modulation broadcasting. The range, which was formerly quite limited, has proved since the introduction of new equipment to be far more extensive than was originally anticipated. In view of the developments that have taken place and of the need for a change in our present broadcasting arrangements, I urge the Postmaster-General to look again at the subject of frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Earlier this evening the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), as Minister assisting the Treasurer, introduced an Income Tax Bill and in the course of his speech on the second reading informed the House that an explanatory memorandum would be circulated for the information of honourable members. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) suggested that for a better understanding of the Bill it would be of advantage if the explanatory memorandum were incorporated in Hansard. The Minister concurred and the House granted leave for this to be done. In accordance with the recognised practice that the incorporation of material in Hansard is always subject to the approval of the Chair, I subsequently examined the explanatory memorandum. I found that it is of considerable length, running into over twenty-four pages, and that it is in a form which does not appropriately form part of a speech. From time to time leave is given for unread material to be incorporated in Hansard but this is usually not of any great length and its incorporation presents no great problem. It is with considerable reluctance that I have agreed to the incorporation of the explanatory memorandum in today’s Hansard and I want to make it clear that it is not to be considered as in any way creating a precedent.
Hong Kong - Political Parties - Trade with Communist China - Collinsville Industrial Dispute
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Mr Speaker, on 6th September I mentioned the matter of a petition and told honourable members that I hoped shortly to have in my hands a photostat copy of it. I have that copy with me now and I propose to ask the House later for leave to lay it on the table.
I find that in point of fact there are now not one but two petitions in identical terms signed by a mixed bag of members of the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party of Australia. Let me deal now with the first petition, which is dated 4th August and which was circulated by a Mr P. Ma lone, Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Builders Labourers Federation. To this petition, there are thirteen signatories whom I can identify as members of the Communist Party and probably some more who are members of that Party.
I think it is worth while to tell the House the shocking fact that no fewer than five members of the Executive of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party have appended their signatures to this document. They are: T. J. Doyle, of the Transport Workers Union of Australia; D. W. Allen, of the leather trades union; R. Cameron, of the Miscellaneous Workers Union; B. Nolan, of the Seamen’s Union of Australia; and J. Healy, of the Austraiian Kailways Union. In addition to these members of the Victorian Executive, the petition was signed by a Mr P. Johnson of the Boilermakers Society of Australia, who is a member of what I think is known as the Trade Union Defence Council and who is perhaps the most powerful man in Victoria in relation to the selection by the State Executive of the members of the Labor Party who become members of this House. It is somewhat surprising to find him signing a proCommunist document with Communists.
Let me direct the attention of the House to a few interesting doublets: Mr Healy, of the ALP Executive, signed in conjunction with Mr J. J. Brown, the Communist, who is an official of his Union; and Mr B. M. Nolan, of the Seamen’s Union, signed similarly in conjunction with his Communist colleague, Wilson. Here is a unity ticket with a vengeance. This shows how the Communists and the ALP act together in the unions. Mr C. Bull, the Communist Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, signed with the State President of the Federation, Mr A. McCormick, of the ALP.
Let me now turn to the other petition, which was circulated in Sydney. It is dated 24th August and was circulated by a certain Mr Rickard, of the Milk and Ice Carters and Dairymen’s Employees Union of New South Wales, but I understand that its real inspirer was a Mr Morrow, who is closely associated with the Communist cause and who was for a long time an ALP senator in this Parliament. He took the petition to the Trades Hall, touted it about and finally fathered it on Mr Rickard. Among the signatories to this petition, I find, is only one member of the Executive of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party - a Mr W. Mahon. I telephoned him today to verify that the signature was his, and he said that he did not really know the import of what he was signing. This, I think, comes pretty hard from a member of the ALP State Executive. But it comes even harder when one realises that this man knew from the newspapers, since 6th September, I think, that the petitions were being used by the Communists. He made no public attempt, so far as I can ascertain, to dissociate himself from this appalling document. Let me say something about its terms. It reads as follows:
We, the undersigned representatives of various Australian trade unions, condemn the British authorities for deliberately turning a minor trade union dispute into a bloody incident and taking brutal police action against peaceful trade union pickets, against journalists, students and Hong Kong citizens.
We call on the British Government and the British authorities in Hong Kong to accept the just demands put forward by the workers and residents of Hong Kong:
I am afraid that the House must be told that the terms of this petition are not quite what they seem, because they are a verbatim copy of the terms that the Chinese Communists transmitted to the British authorities on 15th May. I have in my hand the actual text of the note that the Chinese Communist’s sent to the British authorities in what the London’ Times’ described as demands that were framed in the terms if not the form of an ultimatum’. This was something so insulting that the British rejected it and their representative in Peking walked out of a function because of it. I have the text of the petition with me and I propose to ask the House for permission to lay it on the table also. These terms in the petitions were taken verbatim from those laid down by the Chinese Communist’s. Here we have Labor men and Communists working together in Australia to further a plan set in motion against the British in Hong Kong by the Chinese Communists.
If I have time I will traverse something of the background of this matter. I will not have time to do so in detail but there is one thing 1 would say about it. The excuse was given that the riots and violence occurred because of an industrial dispute. It was not an industrial dispute. It was because of a dispute engineered by the Chinese Communist Government. It was because of a dispute which was part of a plan leading up to murder. Children were killed by bombs. It was part of a plan leading to armed attacks across the frontier of Hong Kong. It was part of a plan which erupted in the burning of the British Embassy in Peking. Here you have a concerted Communist plan and the ALP is right in the middle of it, including members of the ALP executive.
Perhaps it would be nice to look at the chronology of what was happening when these two petitions were signed. Perhaps honourable members would like to know what appeared in the Press at the time. On 24th July, shortly before the 4th August petition, this appeared in the Press:
Nine people, including a child and two teenagers, were injured when a bomb exploded near a tram terminus on Hong Kong Island. All the injured people were Chinese.
Communist Chinese newspapers here have shifted the emphasis of their leading articles from violent struggle to propogation of the thoughts of Mao Tse-tung. . . .
On 24th July this statement also appeared in the Press:
Youths from China’s side of the border thrice attacked a Hong Kong police post with stones and bottles.
On 29th July this appeared in the Press:
Several more bombs were found in the streets and dismantled today by police and Army explosives experts.
On 31st July this appeared:
Police, backed by British troops, searched the enamel workers, the silk workers and the tannery workers union premises and seized a large quantity of weapons, documents, loudspeakers and bottles believed to contain acid.
There were other reports in similar vein. I ask leave to table the petition to which I have referred, the text of the document issued by the Australian Builders Labourers Federation about a fortnight ago. and the text of the Chinese Communist note which was sent to Britain which I have quoted, and which is identical with the text of the petition, convicting the signatories to that petition.
– Order! Is leave granted? Mr Duthie - No.
– Order! Leave is not granted.
– We will have to consider what action to take at a later stage to ensure that the contents of these documents are known to everybody.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has placed before the House the substance of the contents of the petition which was subscribed to by five members of the Central Executive of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party. He has also pointed out that the prayers of the petition repeat verbatim the demands made by the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Chinese People’s Republic, Mr Lo Kuei-po, in the note which was delivered by the Communist Government of China to the British Government. So we have a strange state of affairs, as the honourable member for Mackellar has pointed out - five members of the Central Executive of the Victorian Branch of the ALP lending their names with known Communists to a document which adopts and repeats charges made by the Communist Government of China against the British Government.
In this House a fortnight ago - this is an important matter - the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns), significantly enough not long after it came to public notice that this petition had been sent to the Governor of Hong Kong, clearly by implication supported the substance of the petition. But if there is any doubt about that so far as the honourable member for Wills is concerned, let me say-
– It was a jolly good speech.
– The honourable member is always inclined to flatter himself. Nobody else does, because there is no ground for doing so. If there is any doubt so far as the honourable member for Wills is concerned, I inform the House that the honourable member made a broadcast in the Labor Hour last weekend. He was extensively reported in the ‘Australian’. In the course of his remarks, as reported in the Australian’ he said, referring to the unionists, including the members of the Central Executive of the Victorian Branch of the ALP:
The unionists were attacked as traitors but in fact they were performing a great service-
Mark those words, if I may ask you to, Sir: in bringing to public attention the form of government that is about as democratic as the Colony of New South Wales under Governor Bligh.
I notice that the honourable member does not interject to say that he was incorrectly reported.
– It is true.
– The honourable member affirms what he said. In saying what he did he was either less than- frank about the background of matters in Hong Kong which led to the rioting in May, June and July or he was less well informed than he should be, because if he had consulted the Hansard of the United Kingdom House of Commons he would have found that the whole subject of the rioting in Hong Kong and its cause were extensively debated there. A ministerial statement was made in the House of Commons by Mrs Judith Hart, Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs, a political ally - she might not altogether embrace that term, but in terms of being a socialist, a political ally - of my friend the honourable member for Wills. There is no doubt that according to Mrs Judith Hart, Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs, the cause of the riots as it was put to the House by the honourable member for Wills a fortnight ago was not the real cause. Mrs Hart said that events in Hong Kong started as an industrial dispute in a factory producing artificial flowers. This led to minor disturbances during picketing on 6th May. So far it was a minor industrial disturbance by workers who were protesting against labour conditions. Mrs Hart said, and this is what the honourable member for Wills did not care to tell the House:
But what began as a genuine labour dispute then changed its character on 11th May. ft was taken up and exploited by local Communists with the aid of hooligan elements, some of whom were paid. Organised demonstrations were mounted as a direct and deliberate challenge to the authority of the Hong Kong Governor.
The greatest restraint was exercised throughout by the police, despite extreme provocation. The Secretary of State and 1 have already paid public tribute to them in Hong Kong, and I do so again now. I would like them to know how much we admire their restraint in these very difficult circumstances.
There has been widespread and forthright public support in Hong Kong for the measures taken by the Government to deal with violence, intimidation and hooliganism and to preserve order. The Governor has received messages of support from over SOO representative organisations.
What I want to know is which version of these disturbances and the causes of them does the honourable member for Wills want to accept? The answer seems clear enough.
He seems prepared in the face of a statement by a responsible Minister in the Socialist Government of the United Kingdom to plump for the wildly propogandist Communist version emanating from Peking and taken up by his friends in the Victorian Executive of the Australian Labor Party.
Is this a responsible and a fair attitude for a member of the Opposition to take up? Does he denounce, does he renounce, what Mrs Judith Hart, the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations, has said about the basic cause of these disturbances? I would like the honourable member for Wills to take a little time to reconsider his position. It is not yet too late for him, I hope, to say to the House that he retracts his support for this Communist inspired petition, because let us be in no doubt about it - support it he did in his remarks on the radio at the weekend. So, what is the honourable member going to do?
May 1 go to somebody else in the Opposition, my honourable and learned friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) himself? We will all recall that when, in the days of 1965, he was seeking the support of right wing elements in the Australian Labor Party in his campaign to achieve the leadership of the Party, he was very bold and very brave and very outspoken in his views against unity tickets. For instance, the present Leader of the Opposition is reported in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 31st July 1965 as having said that he would resign if the Party’s federal conference took no action against collaboration between ALP and Communist unionists in Victoria. Here is a classic case in this petition of the most blatant and vicious collaboration and cooperation between members of the Australian Labor Party and Communists in an attack on the lawfully constituted Government of Hong Kong. Why does the Leader of the Opposition remain silent? Why has he remained silent? Is he going to break his silence and stigmatise the words of the honourable member for Wills and the colleagues of the left wing of the Labor Party as the nonsense they are? It is about time that the honourable member for Wills told us now where he stands. Does he renounce the Minister of State for Commonwealth Relations-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, it is amazing that, following the statements that have just been made by two of my colleagues, not one voice from the Opposition benches has been raised to refute what has been said. It is amazing until we see the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in action. He has been going around like a beaver begging members of the Opposition not to intervene in an event which is most indicative of some of the most important elements in the external affairs situation of this nation. There have been those who have challenged the view of this Government that China is behind a great deal of the subversion of South East Asia. But what has become evident tonight, as has been evidenced by the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes), is the fact that today in the Executive of the Australian Labor Party there are envoys of Communist China. There are emissaries of Communist China. There are the purveyors who repeat - verbatim, word and chapter - exactly the message that Communist China has sent as an ultimatum to the British Government.
I wish to quote from page 22140 of Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’. The Opposition did not permit this to be tabled. Let me read it into the record so that honourable members opposite can see for themselves whether they - and I speak of them as a Party and the representatives ot the Central Executive of their Party - have put their signatures to something compiled in Peking, because this is what the Chinese Government sent as an ultimatum to the British Government in Hong Kong. The quotation reads:
The Chinese Government demands in all seriousness that the British Government instruct the British authorities in Hong Kong as follows:
Immediately accept all the just demands put forward by workers and residents in Hong Kong;
Immediately stop all Fascist measures;
Immediately set free all the arrested persons including workers, journalists and cameramen;
Punish the culprits responsible for these sanguinary atrocities, offer apologies to the victims and compensate them for all their losses; and
Guarantee against the recurrence of similar incidents.
If that is not verbatim and in all effect what has been signed by members of the ALP Executive, then there is no meaning in language.
But, Mr Speaker, what were the real facts behind this case? This event, as has been made clear, began with a very simple little industrial struggle. Then thousands came out - the Maoists were training their children in the schools and elsewhere - with their little red plastic covered books and chanted slogans such as: ‘War is the highest form of struggle for resolving contradictions. War is the continuation of politics. War is the continuation of politics by other means’ and the rest. As this frenzy was worked up, the attack became serious on the law and order of Hong Kong. At no time were wages or working conditions in dispute. These people refused to take part in negotiations although the Labour Department of the Government and management in both cases were willing to conduct hearings to find whether there were any genuine grievances. The Maoists organised their shop assistants, school children, newspapermen and trade unionists to stage Mao-shouting and poster pasting all over Hong Kong. They organised riots in which young people were paid to throw stones and bottles at the police.
I wish to quote from an eye witness to these events. He is a personal friend of mine. He saw what was taking place. He goes on in this quotation to explain how these people did everything they could to provoke the police to use their firearms and to kill someone so that there could be martyrs as there had been in Macao. He states:
But the police exercised amazing restraint in the face of extreme provocation. The police, by the way, are almost all Chinese except for the nucleus of British. When they could not entice the police into using their guns, the Maoists began to use violence themselves - kicking and attacking the police physically. They faked photographs -
This is not new in the propaganda going around this country: of bloodstained victims of ‘police brutality’ which were sent around the world and especially into mainland China. Latterly, there were broken heads and a few people killed when the police began to use their batons and occasionally opened fire after repeated warnings to the mobs to disperse were disregarded. In those first few weeks seven people died, most of them being victims of the rioters, but the Communists reported to Peking that 200 had been killed. Much damage was done to public property and to private cars. Fires were started and when the fire brigade came along the firemen were stoned as they went about their job.
What was the public reaction to this? My friend says:
The reactions of the general public were of disgust and annoyance . . .
Most people were fearful as to whether this was the prelude to the Communists taking over Hong Kong. Let me quote what follows because this gives the lie to the Chinese Communist propaganda which the members of the ALP Executive have been supporting. My friend goes on to say:
The blatant Communist attacks on the peace and order of Hong Kong aroused, for the first time in its 120 years of being a British Colony, a strong spirit of loyalty to the community and a very vocal public opinion. The police, who so often in the past had been accused of all sorts of corruption, (in a society where- corruption is widespread) suddenly became heroes for their restraint and courage and loyalty to the community under savage and slanderous attacks. Spontaneously, a fund was started to show the public’s appreciation and over three million dollars was subscribed within a few weeks by all sorts of people. The fund is to be used for the higher education of the children of lower rank policemen to whatever level they are capable of reaching. Over 600 organisations, representing the majority of the Chinese here, also sent messages of support to the Government for the way it was handling the difficult situation. Peking broadcasts berated the local Chinese for being pro-British, but the fact is that they are not pro-British. They are pro peace and order. 1 believe that this does give us a fair and accurate statement of what has taken place in Hong Kong. I believe that any fair examination of the facts will show it to be true. But what needs to be explained when something in the way of a riot breaks out in Hong Kong or something in the way of a demonstration occurs in the United States of America or Australia is how people across the world associated with this group seem to know, exactly when and how the incident is to occur and what is the wording of the messages that they are to send, the support they are to give and the very format of the petitions that are to be peddled around among the susceptible and guileless people who come so readily to these causes whenever they are brandished in front of their eyes.
I maintain that there is a very good reason why the Australian Labor Party, if it does not want to be associated so clearly and definitely with this kind of subversion of peace, harmony and ordinary good government, should inquire very closely into how this particular petition came to be organised, who peddled it around and who were the people behind it, because 1 believe that only when it starts to weed out that kind of influence is it going to save itself from the embarrassing position it is in this night when its members have to sit quietly while this situation is exposed to the Australian people. They are being besought by their Leader not to stand up in case it is misinterpreted, or interpreted, as support for this cause that I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber most heartily denounce.
– I take this opportunity of heartily congratulating the Government for its increasing trade with the Communist bloc countries. I am in a very beneficent mood tonight so I take the opportunity of reading figures that were released last Monday. Australia’s most favourable trade balance was with Communist bloc countries last financial year, according to the report of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics issued last Monday. Exports amounted to $ 192.2m with imports only $41.6, a net gain to our credit balance of $15 1. 6m. Our trade with Red China is rapidly increasing by our sales of wheat, wool, steel, animal fats and other products to the benefit of the Australian economy. Red China is now our greatest purchaser of wheat. I congratulate the Government, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), the Cabinet and all backbench members who support the Government, for increasing our trade with Red China.
– At the outset I want to emphasise, very clearly, two points. The first is that I have never associated myself with Communist witch hunts. I do not see red every time an industrial dispute takes place. I have been involved not only in disputes but, as an executive member of three separate and prominent unions, I have learned that far too frequently the men concerned are unable to express their side of the story and are unjustly condemned because, having failed by every other device to press their claims, they have been obliged to take direct action. The second matter 1 want to emphasise is this: As I have stated often before, the worker has only one commodity to sell - his toil and his skill. He is entitled to a full and just wage for it, and should work under the best possible conditions, particularly if he works in an industry enjoying full prosperity as most do these days. However, a crisis point has been reached in my electorate - a crisis point in the industrial life of this nation. It is also a critical and crisis point for the vast majority of unionists and citizens of Collinsville and their families. I refer to the long drawn out, ugly, and possibly decisive, Collinsville powerhouse dispute.
As my time is limited I cannot go into the details of the events leading up to this situation, except to comment briefly that it was generally conceded that as the principle of site allowances apparently had been established, it was understandable that the men at Collinsville should press their case for similar concessions. Under our normal industrial processes this strike would have been resolved to the satisfaction of the men concerned, and the happy industrial peace which Collinsville was enjoying would quickly have been restored. But anyone who expected this to happen did not take into account Red Fred Thompson of the Northern Branch of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. He is an avowed and open Communist who slowly but, tragic to relate, most effectively has been introducing into the industrial relations of north Queensland an un-Australian, violent, Red Guard type of unionism - if we can call it such - which has resulted in five men recently being bashed into submission at Collinsville.
Why were these men subjected to this treatment? Why were so many others being terrorised? The Australian Workers Union had finally brought this dispute to negotiation and had scored a clear victory for its members. The normal processes had been observed. Law abiding unionists were going back to work. But this was not going to happen if Comrade Fred Thompson had anything to do with it. Let us pause here and note one significant fact. At all of the meetings held at Collinsville, one or other of the following gentlemen was present: Mr Fahey of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union, Mr Dawson of the
Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia, and Mr Alex McDonald, Secretary of the Brisbane Trades and Labour Council. These men are all avowed Communists. Did they stay at Collinsville and share the misery they fermented? Not at all. Back they went to their comforts in the capital city, no doubt to plan further disruption and chaos.
What of the Australian Workers Union? Admittedly it fought the industrial battle and won the day, but it seems this is where it ended. This powerhouse dispute could well be a nail in the coffin of the AWU. These men who were subjected to violent and continual strong arm treatment were loyally serving Edgar Williams and their union and in return they expected at least strong moral and physical support. Both were lacking. Members of the AWU could not be blamed if, in future, they were to ask themselves whether there was any point in winning an industrial victory if they were afterwards to be manhandled by these Fascist-like Red Guard Communists. And what of Edgar Williams, the Queensland Branch Secretary of the AWU - Mr Big in union affairs? He stated publicly only last Monday that it would be difficult for the AWU to support the Australian Labor Party in Capricornia or in any other imminent political campaign because of its attitudes towards the Collinsville powerhouse dispute. I would suggest strongly to Mr Williams that he get his own house in order before it is too late. One can appreciate his disgust in this matter, because on the very day when his five men were bludgeoned into the ground at Collinsville, Mr Whitlam was only a few hundred miles away at Gladstone, yet he completely ignored the whole situation.
I put it to the Leader of the Opposition: Is this a one-way traffic? Are the unions to be used purely for political purposes - for their votes and for the finance they provide at election time? They desperately needed his intervention at Collinsville. I ask the question: Why has Mr Whitlam remained silent in this matter? I say that the answer is obvious. He is a fair weather friend to the worker. This dispute is a messy affair. It is the sort of situation most politicians will avoid like a taipan, unless they have the guts required at crisis level. With genuine regret I ask the honourable member for Dawson, who continually presses for northern development, why he also has remained silent when a giant project such as this - one of the most vital contributions to the development of the north - has been brought deliberately to a standstill by the sowers of hate and misery. I say to him: Wake up. You cannot have it both ways.
I conclude by appealing to every honourable member, whatever be his politics, to unite and present a common front dedicated to the preservation of our own decent union principles and to declare to these traitors to our way of life that, as a National Parliament, we will not remain inactive. Now I come to the punch line, as the Press would term it, in the whole of my speech. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) to confer with the Queensland State Government to confirm what I have revealed here to-night and to report back to the House. If what I have said is correct. I pray God to unite the House to destroy these seeds of anarchy without mercy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answers to the honour* able member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670920_reps_26_hor56/>.