26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr WHITLAM presented a petition from certain Aboriginal residents of Arnhem Land and Aboriginal electors of the Northern Territory, praying that this House give a direction that the area known as Gove be given the name of Nhulumbuy.
Petition received and read.
Mr FOX presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that this House take suitable action to place a total ban on the commercial slaughter of the kangaroo and set up a government controlled body to investigate the present position and control future restrictions with regard to the kangaroo.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. Is the Commonwealth Superannuation Board considering changing the method of calculating pensions, particularly in the case of officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who, for financial reasons, are unable to take up their full entitlement of superannuation units? As this is of considerable importance to many officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who are approaching retirement or contemplating early retirement, 1 ask whether the right honourable gentleman can tell the House when a decision on this matter will be announced.
– I shall have to ask the honourable member to put that question on the notice paper. I do not have in my head the information he seeks, but I will get it for him.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the imminent seizure of property of several egg producers in Tasmania following their prosecution for failure to pay levies to the Commonwealth egg marketing authority? Has he satisfied himself that these producers are able to meet the exorbitant demands made on them? Before this seizure of property is allowed to take place will the Minister thoroughly investigate the disparity between payments made to and benefits derived from the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia by Tasmanian egg producers? Will he take cognisance of assurances given at a CEMA committee meeting held in Sydney, at which this statement was made: ‘A special grant should be made to the Tasmanian Board to reimburse its producers’? Will the Minister confirm the statement made by his predecessor as Minister for Primary Industry, and reported at page 1414 of Hansard of 12th May 1965, that Tasmania will receive special consideration? Will the honourable gentleman seriously consider whether the gentlemen’s agreement has been honoured more in the breach than in the observance, and whether the true spirit of the legislation, as it affects Tasmanian producers, has not been ignored?
– I am not aware of the particular matters that the honourable member brings to my attention. The collection of the levy under the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Act is the responsibility of the State egg marketing authorities according to terms agreed upon by the State and Commonwealth governments. However, I am aware that in certain cases in which producers have experienced hardship because of the requirement to pay these levies, arrangements have been made for the State egg marketing authorities to spread the payments over a period of time. As to Tasmania receiving special treatment, the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities may recommend to me that special treatment be given, if it thinks that this is desirable. Such recommendations have been made on previous occasions and special treatment for Tasmanian producers has been approved. I believe that CEMA is preparing a case for submission to me very shortly. I may say also that 1 have just received a recommendation from CEMA for a substantial increase in export reimbursement payments to those engaged in the egg industry. I hope to approve of this soon so that the State egg marketing authorities will be able to make additional payments to cover increased costs incurred by producers who have to export their surplus production.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Why has it been necessary to impose rigid censorship restrictions on correspondents covering the Australian Task Force in Vietnam? Do these restrictions go far beyond any applying to correspondents under United States accreditation? Have these restrictions forced correspondents from Australian Associated Press and the Australian Broadcasting Commission to stop covering the work of the Task Force? Are these the only Australian agencies that have been covering the Vietnam war on a day to day basis? Will their withdrawal seriously impede the flow of news from the Task Force to Australia? Has the Minister received protests from the Australian Journalists Association about these restrictions? If so, will he reconsider these new restrictions so that normal Press coverage of the activities of Australian units in Vietnam may be resumed?
– To begin with, I think I should point out to the honourable gentleman that no new restrictions have been placed on conversations between servicemen in Vietnam and Press correspondents. It is quite true that in the past the existing regulations have tended to be honoured more in the breach than in the observance, and the time has come to give a reminder to servicemen, not only in Vietnam but also in other places, of the restrictions which normally have been imposed under Public Service Regulations and all the armed forces regulations, in the case of the Army since 1917 and in the case of the Navy and the Air Forces for a very substantial time. These are well known and I am perfectly certain that they do not dawn on the honourable gentleman for the first time. The present difficulties in Vietnam appear to arise out of the need envisaged by the Department of Defence to bring some uniformity and, indeed, some relief to the regulations, which had great disparity as between the three Services. Because this was a tri-Service arrangement the Department of Defence set out to write a directive which would be for the guidance of our servicemen in Vietnam in their contacts with the media of public expression. This was only a draft. It was sent forward to the commander in Vietnam. Unfortunately it went forward in a way which was a little more definite thanI would have hoped and expected. For all of that and for the misunderstanding which may have come from it I must accept the responsibility. At the same time the advice that went forward plainly indicated that these new arrangements would be easier than those which had existed in war and in peace for many years, that they were still only in draft, and that modifications were still being made to them.
– Are you going to withdraw them?
– I believe the whole situation can be adjusted with benefit both to the Services and to the media of public information; but, of course, one must expect a little opposition from here and there for quite obvious reasons.I would be anxious to reach an accommodation with the Press and radio and television services to facilitate their work.
– Ha, ha!
– Wait for it. I would be anxious to facilitate their work but not so as to inhibit the Service departments in the discharge of their responsibilities which, as I remind the honourable gentleman, governments of all persuasions, for good and sufficient reason, for so long have put down in the form of restrictions for the protection of morale and efficient administration. For these reasons the matters referred to apply beyond Vietnam and apply to other than purely military information. I certainly have had very little by way of constructive criticism of this matter, but I have had an approach from the Australian Journalists Association, from one of the wire services and from one unit of the Australian Press. I am anxious to reach an accommodation to facilitate their work and I have agreed to review these regulations, which I will do as soon as practicable.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry been drawn to articles appearing in the Press suggesting that the Australian book manufacturing industry would cease within 12 months unless the Federal Government gave protection against printing and book binding organisations in Asian countries which obtain their raw materials duty free and have wage rates one-sixth to oneeighth of those applying in Australia? Is the Minister aware that the Australian book manufacturing industry is highly efficient when compared with the overseas industry and that approximately 2,000 highly skilled employees arc engaged in this industry in which about $9m of Australian capital is invested? Will the Government take urgent action to give reasonable protection to enable this efficient and valuable local industry to remain in existence?
– The Australian book manufacturing industry, as the honourable member suggests, has been concerned at the volume of imports, particularly from Japan and Hong Kong, in recent months. The industry has set up a working party which is looking into the immediate effect of the introduction of books to Australia from those countries. At this stage no duty or tariff is placed on the importation of books. The very nature of knowledge that can be gained from books means that there are considerable advantages in being able to acquire books from overseas without placing any tariff on them. Be that as it may, at this stage there is an impost on paper and the general possibility of any further protection will be considered when the working party that has been set up by the industry has made a firm request to the Government.
– I address to the Minister for Defence a question which is supplementary to that asked by (he Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I ask: While the Minister is considering the draft regulations for military reporting in the light of the representations made to him by the Australian Journalists Association and others, will journalists be able to report events in Vietnam as they were reporting them before the draft was sent to Vietnam, or will they have to report those events in accordance with the draft that has been sent there? I also ask: Have cases of breach of security by Australian correspondents in Vietnam come to the Government’s notice? Have Australian correspondents in Vietnam endangered military security or the safety of operations or personnel of the Australian or allied forces in Vietnam? Have any Australian newspapers endangered military security in Vietnam by their reporting of operations in that country? If there have been breaches of security, or if correspondents or newspapers have endangered security, is the Minister prepared to specify the incidents when there have been these breaches?
– In relation to the first question posed by the honourable gentleman, 1 am very happy to say that a number of Press correspondents in Vietnam - responsible people all - have decided to accept the present regulations, under protest, until the matter has been reviewed.
– You mean the draft?
– Exactly. This applies to the question of having personal conversations cleared with a military officer. Bui I am not very worried about that. What was previously the case can go on for the time it will take to review these regulations.
– Are these military officers public relations officers?
– They may be public relations officers or military officers, as the case may be. However, I think that ought to satisfy the honourable gentleman. We will remove that restriction for the time being until the regulations have been reviewed.
In relation to the second matter, I thought I made it clear to the House and to the honourable gentleman that the matters concerned with here went far beyond questions of military security. As the United States authorities have been prepared to put down in their own ground rules for the guidance of Press correspondents, in this kind of war a good deal of information has been made available, one way or another, which in previous wars would have been held secure. The United States authorities have thought to put special warnings down to their people to be extremely careful. They have gone further and warned correspondents that any deliberate reporting of matters held to be in breach of security, about which there is a doubt, should first of all be cleared by senior Army officers of the United States or of the free world forces, and that any deliberate breach of security would be reason for cancellation of accreditation.
I pointed out a moment ago that the restrictions which applied to both the Public Service and to the armed Services have all to do with the morale of the Services and with the conduct of proper administration, so that these matters lie outside of the field of military information. I am not aware, offhand, of any cases where the Press has breached military security, but I shall look into the matter and advise the honourable gentleman.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, is complementary to my question of 1 7th September relating to carry over wheat and the Minister’s reply that ‘As the honourable member would be aware, the storage of wheat is the responsibility Of State organisations’. I now ask: Has the Minister noted that the Australian Wheat Board intends to reimburse his own State, New South Wales, the total cost of 40 million bushels of storage to receive the incoming harvest and that this is, in effect, to be a cash reimbursement with no period of amortisation whatsoever? Does the Minister agree that as this storage is required to receive current production, and has no relation to carry over wheat, it is completely unjust and inequitable to compel growers in other States, who pay for their own storage, to bear the cost, through the Australian Wheat Board, of these storages in New South Wales? Will the Minister, as Minister in charge of the Act supporting the Australian Wheat Board, take appropriate action to ensure that if growers in New South Wales increase production beyond the limits of their storage system, then they themselves will bear the whole cost of providing adequate storage? Finally, can the Minister inform the House when a decision will be made on the dispute between the Australian Wheat Board and the Government in respect of the Government’s liability under the terms of the wheat stabilisation plan, which is delaying the long overdue final payment to growers on No. 29 pool, season 1965-66?
– Payment for the storage of wheat in the various States of Australia is administered by the Australian Wheat Board, on which the various States are represented. Of course, if any serious anomalies creep into the matter, I am prepared to look at them. I will refer the matter raised by the honourable member to the Australian Wheat Board to see whether I can get him a suitable answer. In regard to the final payment for Pool No. 29 wheat, so far $348m has been paid to growers and there is a sum of about $8. 4m in credit. However, there is a dispute as to the amount which should be credited to the Wheat Stabilisation Fund for national insurance premiums as a result of compensation for devaluation. About $400,000 is involved. The Board has legal opinion to the effect that there is justification for its view. The advice my department has received from the Attorney-General’s Department is to the contrary. At the moment there is a difference of legal interpretation. I cannot give the honourable member any further information until this mutter is resolved. As soon as it is resolved J will be happy to let him know (he outcome.
– As 1 think the honourable member would know, the Tariff Board is an independent authority which is not subject to direction by a government, and rightly not subject to direction. It is an independent authority which makes reports and recommendations to a government. that government then being completely at liberty either to accept or to reject the reports so made. I would expect that the latest annual report of the Tariff Board would be tabled probably tomorrow, and I would be happy to make a statement upon it during the course of this week. In the meantime all I would say to the honourable member is that it is - and it will be - the Government which makes policy decisions as to what protection should be afforded to industries; but in doing so it will be afforded advice, as it has in the past, from an independent authority, which it need or need not take.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether he is aware that although certain army camps such as Holsworthy, Kapooka and Puckapunyal have facilities for worship, camps such as Singleton, in particular, which is used by Citizen Military Forces units and by a very large number of cadet corps units, have no facilities other than those which could be described as dilapidated marquees. Can he tell me what actuates Army thinking in regard to such facilities? Is he aware that there has been substantial criticism from church authorities about this state of affairs and that it has been said that the Department of the Army is acting arrogantly and cynically?
– The Army is particularly conscious of its responsibility for the moral welfare of itstroops. For this reason there are at present fourteen chapels situated in major Army establishments throughout Australia and Papua and New Guinea, and a further three are under construction. Where chapels are not provided at major Army establishments alternative facilities are made available, although I am certainly aware that from time to time these facilities have limitations. My understanding, in a broad sense of the position at Singleton is that two buildings are used for this purpose. One is for use by Roman Catholics and the other is made available for other denominations. At present the Army has no plans for building permanent chapels at Singleton. But certainly the information that the honourable gentleman has placed before me will be considered and I will let him have a detailed reply. I can also tell him that the present policy relevant to Army chapels is under consideration by an interdepartmental committee.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Has he seen reports that the Philippines Government has placed an embargo on the passage of Australian warships through what are called the Philippine seas? Is this action legal in view of the fact that Australia is not legally entitled to close the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria? If it is legal for the Philippines to close the seas which surround her several islands, will the Attorney-General take the necessary action to protect the waters and islands to the north of Australia from interlopers who appear in the area from time to time in ever increasing numbers?
– I will answer the question. There has been a difference of opinion between the Australian Government and the Philippines Government about territorial waters claimed by the Philippines. It has been a friendly difference of opinion and has existed since 1961. The recent argument about the passage of ships through the Sulu Sea was based on this difference of opinion about what the Philippines Government claims to be territorial waters. As I say, it is a friendly argument and discussions have been taking place about the passage of ships through that area.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. In view of the distance travelled by national servicemen from outlying areas to recruit training battalions, has consideration been given to the establishment of recruit training battalions for national servicemen in each State?
– At present there are two recruit training battalions,1 RTB, at Kapooka, in New South Wales, and 2 RTB, at Puckapunyal, in Victoria. The establishment of recruit training battalions on a State basis has been very carefully considered by the Army but has been found to be impracticable for a number of reasons. I instance here considerations of manpower, accommodation and economy. I am sure the House will appreciate that the size of the intake of national servicemen is carefully tailored to Australia’s defence needs and commitments. However, in the process, the Army staff of instructional and administrative personnel is stretched very thin. Any further demands upon this staff which would be consequential upon the establishment of recruit training battalions on a State basis would in fact interfere with the present high standard of training for these battalions. I sympathise with the reasons which have generated the honourable gentleman’s question. But because of the factors I have outlined, the Army is unable to accommodate the request.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. The Minister will recall that earlier this year he advised me that it would be impracticable to provide a television service to either Norseman or Esperance by means of translators having as their parent station the transmitter at either Mount Barker or Kalgoorlie. I now ask: Have any other means or methods by which Norseman and Esperance can be serviced been investigated or found, and if so, will he furnish us with details? I also ask: Would the Kalgoorlie transmitter be a suitable parent station if the proposed effective radial power of 4 kilowatts was increased to 100 kilowatts, which, I understand, is the power used for metropolitan stations?
– Mr Speaker. 1 have not any additional information to give the honourable member. He will appreciate that, as I have indicated on many occasions, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has under constant review the expansion of broadcasting and television services to areas where they are not available at the present time. From time to time it makes reports to me on these matters. I have not received a report in relation to this area since I last gave the honourable member any indication about the matter.
I would point out to the honourable member that Kalgoorlie, when a service is established, will be on relay from Perth following the installation of the microwave system from east to west. Whether in fact there could be any advantage to Norseman, I am not sure. The actual area over which the television picture could be seen would be within a distance of some 60 miles to 70 miles. Obviously this transmission would not reach Esperance. But the Norseman situation, because of the distance involved, is one about which I can offer no view. Again, it would be a question of costs having regard to the additional number of people who might be served in any particular situation.
– I. remind the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist. Activities that when introducing the Australian Tourist Commission Bill in April 1967, the Minister in charge of the Bill described the establishment of the Commission as: ‘the first major step towards greater level of efforts to promote tourism in Australia’. I now ask the Minister: What action has been taken by the Government since the passing of the legislation to promote tourist trade in a major way? What precisely has been achieved? If the Minister is unable to reply to the questions on behalf of the Minister in another place, I ask him to obtain a complete statement from the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities as a guide to honourable members and for the assistance of the tourist industry which is making inquiries regarding these points.
– As I understand the position, the Australian Tourist Commission is making a notable contribution towards the promotion of tourism in Australia. However, as to the detail of the question asked by the honourable member, 1 am not able to give him a reply as of this moment. So I will treat the question as being on the notice paper and give him a full reply in due course.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence a question which is supplementary to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition when he inquired whether there had been any incidents of Press reporting affecting our troops. I think it was during the May offensive or thereabouts that it was reported in the Press that two regiments of our troops had moved from Nuit Dat into the Bien Hoa area, plus attached units which in one case were given in detail. Is it not a fact that within 24 hours of that report appearing the camp at Nuit Dat was mortared for the first time in many months and that within 48 hours the capital of Phuoc Tuy, Baria, was attacked by local guerillas?
– In a case of this kind, I would not want to be precise as to the incidents mentioned by the honourable gentleman. I certainly will have a look at them. I do not know that I would be prepared to ascribe this to Press reporting of incidents because, if that were the cause, clearly it would be a case of the giving away of military secrets. However, it is one of those things which inadvertently could be of danger to the troops.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. On Sunday fortnight, the right honourable gentleman announced that the Government intended to amend the Australian Capital Territory Companies Ordinance in relation to life assurance companies to prevent a takeover of MLC Ltd by buyers who were cloaking their identity and who were believed to be foreign buyers. He said that the Ordinance would operate on transactions taking place after that day, 22nd September. I ask the Prime Minister: When will the amended Ordinance be gazetted? Is it proposed that the Ordinance will apply a general rule to all insurance companies including those substantially and traditionally controlled by British interests?
– This question, insofar as it contains legal matters, is one perhaps that would be better handled by the Attorney-General. However, if it will help the Leader of the Opposition I can inform him that the Attorney-General! and myself have been discussing the forming of an ordinance for the Australian Capital Territory and I hope that it will be tabled in as short a time as is possible. As I indicated previously this ordinance will apply to life companies who are registered in the Australian Capita) Territory. It could not apply outside, to the best of my legal knowledge.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that the United States of America is using its influence to widen the role of the Asian and Pacific Council to that of a mutual defence pact? Are these reports correct? If so, what is the Government’s attitude to any such variation to the role of ASPAC?
– The Government has seen the reports referred to by the honourable member. Whether they are correct we do not know. The view of this Government has been clearly expressed, and it was stated by the Prime Minister when he addressed the recent meeting of ASPAC Ministers in Canberra, that Australia does not think that ASPAC should be widened to become a security organisation.
– Mr Speaker, I direct a question without notice to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country Party is to be recommended for appointment as the next Governor-General? Is it also a fact that the Treasurer, the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Defence are to be appointed to major diplomatic posts abroad? If these are facts, are the proposed appointments due to the violent disagreement between the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister and with the Prime Minister by the Ministers concerned-
-Order! The purpose of question time is to obtain information based on fact.
– Based on what?
– Based on fact. 1 now ask the honourable member for Grayndler to proceed and ask his question.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Are the appointments due to the violent disagreement between the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister and with the Prime Minister by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for External Affairs, which can be resolved only by the removal or elevation of the critics in the Gorton Ministry?
– The answer to the first question asked by the honourable member is no. The answer to the second question asked by the honourable member is no. I might add a comment to this. The honourable member has no need whatever to be disturbed, as the niches on which he may have set his own eyes will be filled before he has a chance to get there.
-I refer my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport.I refer the Minister to the problems confronting the Silverton Tramway Co. as a result of the Government’s policy of standardisation of railways and to the offer made by the Minister to that company of an ex gratia payment of$11/4m, presumably as compensation.It is apparent that the company regards the offer as inadequate. I ask the Minister to indicate how this figure was arrived at. Will he consider a further offer calculated on the normal commercial principle of the average of the last 3 years profits multiplied by 10?
- Mr Speaker, during the last few years considerable negotiations have been undertaken with the company to which the honourable gentleman referred. It is true that the standard gauge rail link to be constructed between Cockburn and Broken Hill will bypass the route presently serviced by the Silverton Tramway Company. The company may continue its operations if it so desires, but with the completion of the standard gauge link it is obvious that most of the trade will be utilising the new facility with the result that the business of the company will be adversely affected. For that reason an offer was made to the company to offset some of its expected losses. There have been substantial private discussions with the company in an endeavour to resolve the basis upon which reasonable compensation could be provided. It is the intention of the three governments concerned that the amount offered to the company should adequately compensate it for the loss of business it will incur as a result of the construction of the standard gauge line. I can assure the honourable gentleman that the approach made by the Government is intended to take into full account the circumstances and present profitability of the line, the volume of trade that is carried on it, and the effect that the new standard gauge line will have on the company.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that Australia’s trade deficit for the first three months of this year was $50m greater than for the same period last year and that the deficit on invisibles also will be much greater. Does he agree that the recent wage increase will mean a greater demand for imports and services and that unless there is a much greater capital inflow, the possibility of which is discounted by informed opinion, serious credit restrictions will have to be imposed next year? Would the right honourable gentleman prefer to have an election before these severe credit restrictions or after?
– In relation to the proposition put by the honourable member, my recollection is that the deficit to which he referred was $47m different from the previous year. That may be a small point. The trade deficit was not$50m greater but $47m greater. Counted in that increase in deficit during the period which we are discussing was a sum of $30m because one of the Oberon class submarines which was on order arrived and also the Orion aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force arrived. These reduce the trading deficit very considerably from the figure that the honourable member gave.
-It does not reduce it at all.
– Yes, it does. These are non-recurrent, unusual deliveries during that period. Nevertheless, one would have been happier had the deficit been lower. But I have no doubt that during the period when our exports normally increase very considerably over exports during the September quarter this balance will show a hope of being redressed.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a statement by Mr St John, a barrister of Sydney who is not to be confused with the honourable member for Warringah, that uniformed policemen acting as prosecutors are frightening to witnesses and should be withdrawn and that members of the Bar should replace them? Has the Attorney-General observed anything more fearful or terrifying than a long, lean, gaunt barrister arrayed in a wig and gown? Would not Mr St John’s suggestion, if adopted, be beneficial to the legal profession and make the administration of justice more costly? No offence to you, Sir.
-I will decide that.
– This is a question which periodically gets an airing. There are many pros and cons as to whether a barrister, who is bound by certain rules, should prosecute rather than some police officer who is not subject to the same rules. I must say that from my observation of the practice in New South Wales, police prosecutors have in fact maintained standards very similar to those that might have been maintained by members of the Bar. As to effects on prisoners. I think ibis aspect has been highlighted far too much by the honourable member. Why he has this impression I do not know. From my observations in this chamber I would say t’hat the wig and gown do not have the terrifying effect which the honourable member credits to them.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that, because of Government decisions, at least 300.000 tons of sugar cane may be deliberately destroyed in the Mackay district? ls he aware that in many cases the sugar cane belongs to farmers with small peaks and to those ravaged by drought, who nave had their first good crop for three seasons and who desperately need this additional production? Does the Government endorse the action to destroy this food which has been grown as a direct result of Government policies of expansion and which can be sold, even if at low world prices, without reducing our quotas under a new International Sugar Agreement? Finally, will the Minister explain why Australia is the only country which is authorising the deliberate destruction of sugar food?
– The honourable member should be fully aware that the sugar industry has a long established principle of controlling the production of sugar cane. This is done by the Queensland Sugar Board. The Commonwealth plays no part in the control of the production of sugar in Australia, as I am sure the honourable member is aware. So it is not a matter of whether we condone what has been done; it is not within our province to have any say in the matter. The industry establishes a mill peak, and this is distributed amongst the growers, lt is well recognised in the industry that growers have a certain quota of production and that any production in excess of the quota may be refused at the mill and. as a consequence, wasted. In some parts of Queensland it has been the practice in recent years to produce in excess of the peak. As a result we are now experiencing marketing difficulties, and the Queensland Sugar Board has imposed a limit on the amount of cane which mills are prepared to crush.
– by leave - A series of loan agreements has b:en successfully negotiated in the United States. In total, these borrowings by the Commonwealth amount to SUS 18Om Three of the loans are from the ExportImport Bunk of the United States, and a fourth is a joint loan from the ExportImport Bank and United States commercial banks.
The Export-Import Bank has agreed to lend the Commonwealth $US50m - $A44.6m - in two tranches of $US25m each, to finance the importation of specified categories of capital equipment from the United States. Since the Export-Import Bank is an agency of the United States Government, the loans are not subject to the United States Interest Equalisation Tax. The first tranche of the new loan will carry an interest rate of 7% per annum and will be issued at par. It will mature finally in 1983.
The second loan is for an amount of $US75m - $A67m - to assist in financing the purchase of twenty-four FI I IC aircraft, spares, associated equipment and services.
This is additional to an earlier borrowing of $US80m arranged in 1966 for this purpose. The loan will carry an interest rate of 6% and will be issued at par. Repayment of amounts drawn will be spread over 7 years.
The third loan agreement is for an amount of $US53m - $A47.3m - to assist in financing the purchase by Qantas Airways Ltd of four Boeing 747 jumbo jet aircraft. One half of the loan will be provided by the Export-Import Bank and the Boeing company, and the other half by a syndicate of United States commercial banks. The proposed expenditure in the United States on the four aircraft and related equipment is $US132m of which Qantas will finance 20% from its own resources. The Commonwealth will be looking to borrow the remainder in two tranches of approximately $US53m each, and the present loan represents the first tranche. Interest on the Export-Import Bank/ Boeing portion will be at 6% and on the commercial bank portion will be 0.5% above the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company’s prime rate, with a minimum of 5.5%’ and a maximum of 7%. At present, this would mean a rate of 61%. The loan Will be repaid over a period of 7 years.
The fourth loan agreement covers a borrowing of $US2.5m - $A2.3m - to assist in financing the purchase by Trans-Australia Airlines of its fifth Boeing 727 aircraft. It will carry an interest rate of 6%, and will be repaid over 7 years. An agreement which the Treasurer signed on behalf of the Commonwealth Government with the Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich 2 weeks ago provided for a loan of approximately 10 million Swiss francs to complete the financing of this purchase. When account is taken of the recent 200 million Deutsche mark loan in Frankfurt, and the Swiss loan for Trans-Australia Airlines, loan agreements totalling approximately $A208m have recently been concluded.
Motion (by Mr Chaney) - by leave - agreed to:
That until the end of the present period of sittings, and in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-66, leave be granted to the Parliamentary. Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during sittings of the House.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Social Services Bill 1968. Repatriation Bill 1968.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1968.
Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1968. Broadcasting and Television Bill 1968.
Consideration resumed from 24 September (vide page 1426).
Department of Labour and National Service
Proposed expenditure, $10,561,000.
Kir E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) [3.24] - In addressing myself to the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service I shal’l deal particularly with the area of labour as distinct from that of national service. 1 want to direct attention to what I regard as a disturbing element in our conciliation and arbitration system as it affects, firstly, our national economy and, secondly, the wellbeing of the members of the Australian work force. I give the word ‘disturbing’ its full meaning. It is disturbing to witness the everincreasing number of married women who are being forced into employment because their family income and living standards are falling so rapidly. Secondly, it is disturbing because no known standard, in the real sense, is being applied in the assessment of a living wage in determining the minimum family wage. Thirdly, it is most disturbing to find that because of the elements that are featured in our present wage structure there is a loss of confidence at employer and trade union levels in the working of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Dealing with the third factor first, I wonder how many Australians fully appreciate the national impact of last week’s national wage case decision that a sum of $1.35 be added to general wage levels in Australia. This kind of decision was handed down for the first time. There was no indication as to whether it was a basic wage or a margins increase, because in the Commission’s previous decision the total wage became operative. So, in this instance, we have a stepping up by $1.35 of all total wage rates except those applicable to junior males and junior females. Following as it does upon the metal trade decision of December last year, amended in February and fully implemented in August, the employers are severely criticising the decision to increase the wage level by $1.35 and are taking the opportunity, of course, to set their own sails to the winds that are blowing by announcing immediately increases in costs and charges flowing from this small increase.
At the trade union level general dismay is being expressed. 1 use this term because the trade union movement has one function and one function only - to protect, in these wage cases, the living standards of the workers in industry, the family man and those who depend on the wage packet to live. The trade union movement is aware that $1.35 represents no more than about 25% of what was necessary to restore to the workers the equivalent of the family unit purchasing power prescribed in the consumer price index. I do not know how long the Government and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) will permit this situation to continue. 1 sympathise wim the Minister because the conciliation and arbitration system in Australia has now adopted a higgledy-piggledy approach to the national problem of wage fixation. It all comes as a result of the Government’s failure at any stage to stand up to the employers’ requirements in fixing wage levels. I ask honourable members to cast their minds back for a moment to the 1947 principles that were established by a Labor government. These principles were destroyed in 1956 when the employers argued against the 1947 legislation, which provided separately for the standard working week, the basic wage, family rates, some leave payments and margins in awards. The employers argued that that legislation was the cause of strikes in Australia and the Government accepted the argument. The employers got away with it at that stage. Then they were dissatisfied with the C series index figure, which was used in assessing what should be the minimum standard in Australia and, at the behest of the Government, the Government Statistician brought down a new figure - the consumer price index - which the Government applauded.
I like referring back to what the Commission said in 1961 about the consumer price index. I quote from the J 96 1 decision, in which the President of the Commission said:
We therefore are nol prepared to restore a system of automatic adjustments. We consider it desirable that the application of the Consumer Price Index should always be subject to control by the Commission and that the Commission should be able to decide whether a particular increase or decrease in the figures as disclosed in the Consumer Price Index should be applied to ihe basic wage.
That was the standard set in 1961. Later, on the same page and this is the point I want to emphasise this afternoon in making a submission to the Government regarding the present state of conciliation and arbitraton in Australia - the President said:
As will appear later in these reasons, we have come (o the conclusion that the basic wage which we now fix takes into account increases in productivity up to June 1960.
The disturbing position so far as the trade union movement is concerned is that in 1968 we find a decision being brought down that produces a result far removed from the minimum standard that was set by the Commission itself in 1961. 1 sympathised with the President of the Commission when he was speaking in Sydney recently, before the present decision had been handed down but after the submissions by the trade union movement and the employers had been finalised. At a function he said, amongst other things:
Full employment on its own has increased our internal demands for goods and services, as has our progressive intake of migrants as well as our unemployment and social benefits.
These pressures on the ordinary operation of the law of supply and demand have pushed up the prices of goods and services.
I do not know how much notice the Minister and the Government are taking of this matter, but the President of the Commission, after hearing the submissions in the case, put his finger on the real problem in Australia today - the pushing up of prices. Wages are not the problem. When the Commission in 1961 attempted to apply some kind of measuring stick to the future living standard of Australian workers it did so with a good deal of result. I know the Minister may say that the decision had some relationship to the 1961 recession. But after the onus of proof had been put on the employers to show why the minimum standard of living in Australia should not be related to what was assessed in the consumer price index, as fixed in 1959-60, there was no increase in prices for 3 years and, as a result, there was no need for an increase in wages for 3 years.
That was the last occasion on which there was, in any sense, a time wage adjustment or wage fixation in Australia, because in 1965, the year following the 3 years of steadiness in the Australian economy, the Commission, which was comprised of members who had just been appointed to the Commission and who, I have heard, knew nothing about the need for a proper standard of living for Australian workers, refused the union’s claim for an increase in the basic wage, although at that time the consumer price index showed that there should be a further 12s increase in the minimum standard wage for Australian workers. In 1965 the Commission decided - and this uprooted completely the principle regarding the living standard of Australian workers - that in future neither the basic wage nor margins should be altered to meet a movement in the consumer price index. It is no wonder that in 1968 we find the employers and the trade union movement alike condemning the wage fixing authority because, as a result of its 1965 decision, there is no minimum standard wage for workers in Australia today. Every day more married women are going into employment in order to help , meet family needs, lt is a disgrace for this Government to stand idly by and watch that kind of situation develop week by week and do nothing about it. I do not want the Government to cry on my shoulder about lack of responsibility amongst the younger generation of Australians. The Government is catering for this state of affairs in its wage structure. It is catering for the complete destruction of home life because we are moving into the situation in which the husband and wife have to work in order to provide a decent standard of living for their family.
It took from 1904 to 1965 - and 1965 was 16 years after this Government came to office - to destroy completely the concept in Australia that in all wage fixing a family was entitled to a minimum standard of living. Today, as a result, everything that was done in the period from 1961 to 1964 has been destroyed. The 1965 decision of the
Commission is only 3 years old. I formally warn the Minister that when the trade union movement says that it will get just wages in some other way, they are not idle words. Everybody in Australia at the present time is concerned about the industrial unrest. In 1956, when this Government destroyed the 1947 legislation, I said that it was doing something which would destroy conciliation and arbitration in Australia. 1 look back at what 1 said on 23rd May 1956 when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before this House. One of the points I made then is right on our doorstep now, because of the development in wage construction that has taken place between 1965 and 1968. When speaking on behalf of the Opposition in 1956 I said:
Our view is that there is sufficient penal protection in the existing legislation to meet all the conditions that arise in a free country and amongst free private enterprise organisations which, 1 think, want to engage free employees. I liken this proposed legislation almost to legislation passed in the days when the master drove his slaves with a lash, caring only for ihe profits to be made from their physical efforts. The only difference is that in this instance the lash will consist of sanctions, tines and even sentences of imprisonment inflicted upon the trade unions and the members thereof, without regard for the human right of an individual in a free country to sell his labour as he will.
I said in 1956 that a certain kind of situation would arise out of the legislation which the Government introduced in that year, and in 1968-69 that prediction will come true. The trade union movement will not stand aside and watch the living standards of families in this country destroyed by this Government or by anybody else. Are there not sufficient supporters on the Government side who are prepared to analyse what it means once you fail to relate the minimum wage standard to something - be it the consumer price index, the C series index or whatever it is? For goodness sake relate the minimum wage standard to something so that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has an opportunity to declare whether that minimum standard is sufficient for a man, his wife and his family. In 1968 we are pleading for a return of what was given to us in 1904, which was established primarily as an escalator means of assessing wages, which in 1953 was destroyed by this Government and which in 1965 was completely buried.
Is it any wonder that the employers are now pleading for a return to the previous position? 1 do not know whether a question which I asked in this House recently has come to the notice of the Minister, because at the time I asked it he was out of the country. I drew the Government’s attention to the fact that the employers’ submissions in the last national wage case stated that work value considerations and economic considerations were not mutually separable. That is the very thing we said in 1947. Thar was the very principle that was included in the 1947 legislation. Today the employers are pleading for a return of the principle, call it what you will. They are saying: ‘For goodness sake, separate the minimum standard wage from margins.’ That is what they are saying in simple terms, and that is what we said in 1947. I say to the Minister that if his Government wants a return to the kind of situation where workers and the trade union movement in Australia have to take that to which they are entitled from the profiteers in this country, the trade union movement will not be found wanting. I put it to the Minister: For heaven’s sake do something to restore what the workers have always enjoyed.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Failes) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Unlike the previous speaker, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison), I want to congratulate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) sincerely for the way he administers his portfolio. I know of his concern, and that of his departmental officers, about the matters they have to deal with. However, I think I must publicly express my concern about the recognition of the professional and technical skills of migrants. It is true that in the professional field authority is vested in the State governments and the various professional associations. However, the requirements of the various professions differ, as do the requirements in various States. Most of them require additional examinations at certain levels. Some require migrants to complete Australian degree courses. Because of these requirements, many skilled migrants, faced with the problem of survival, are compelled to accept employment in some unprofessional field although Australia may have a pressing shortage in their particular professional field. Other migrants find that even when their qualifications are acceptable, some degree of discrimination is apparent on the part of their Australian professional colleagues.
This sort of thing is true, unfortunately, in the technical tradesmen sphere. In this sphere the main authorities are the trade unions. They operate through a Federal committee and separate State committees on which trade union and employer organisations are represented. These committees were originally set up under the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act which was introduced in August 1946 to protect fully qualified tradesmen, whether on military service or not, against the pressures of nontradesmen who had been selected to carry out increased wartime demands in particular industries - pressures which would tend to arise upon return to normal peacetime conditions. However, several amendments to that Act were later introduced which completely changed the original charter. The Act originally was designed, principally, to restrict wartime workers of diluted skill from continuing in employment as tradesmen, but the amendments sought to facilitate the entry of persons who had not acquired their trade status through our normal apprenticeship methods. This has involved specific recognition of migrant tradesmen, the rehabilitation of exservicemen, the acceptance of seven years service in Australia as a tradesman for nonapprentices, and recognition of those who received their adult training in Australia’s armed services. The amended Act also provides authority for the Minister of Labour and National Service, acting on the recommendation of the central committee, to determine new classes of persons who may be granted tradesmen’s certificates.
Despite this machinery, which seemed to be adequate at the time, many difficulties have arisen, particularly with migrants and especially in the engineering, electrical and sheet metal trades. One of the chief weaknesses is the lack of trade testing authorities in overseas migration centres. The trade union representatives concerned with these matters can do no more than scrutinise the documents certifying the prospective migrants’ past training and experience and then advise them to apply to the State committee upon arrival in Australia. Again, when application is made to the State committee, the outcome depends upon the documents. Sometimes, when such documents are incomplete a trade test is authorised, but in my experience the ordering of a trade test is honoured far more in the breach than in the observance. I have experienced the utmost difficulty in several cases in which, despite my insistence, no trade test was given. Ultimately certificates were granted in those cases. One case involved an Italian engineer who had been employed in Australia for 20 years as a toolmaker and who had served 6 years as such with the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He could not get from the local authority a certificate as a fitter and turner. Another case involved an Italian who served a full apprenticeship in his own country as j toolmaker and who held a foreman’s job when he migrated here. He worked for 6 years as a fitter and turner with a Melbourne engineering firm and then 8 years with another firm as a first class welder. He applied for a certificate as a first class welder. Despite the fact that all documents were lodged, including a certificate from his trade union, he was refused recognition upon the pretext that most of his work was with downhand jigs. Ultimately, after I referred the matter to the Federal committee, his application was approved - 6 months after it was lodged. He was granted a certificate as a first class welder.
To give some idea of the operations of these committees - the Federal committee and the local committees - I want to refer to some figures for 1967. In that year, 1,478 migrant tradesmen were specially selected here in Australia and brought here. They were not refused trade certificates. But of 5,296 non-selected tradesmen migrants who applied for trade certificates in that year, only 2,755 were successful. This represents a rejection rate of nearly 48%. By any standards this is not very good, particularly when we remember that most migrants show a reluctance to apply for trade certificates and ordinarily, in the fight for survival, accept the status quo of a lesser job and continue in that employment. One wonders what the ultimate result in Australia will be unless a more enlightened approach is accepted.
What will happen in the case of refugees from Czechoslovakia, a country of high professional and technical skills? How many of these people are likely to have full documentation of their skills and experience in the circumstances now prevailing in that country? I refer honourable members to a news release issued by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) on 11th September in which he referred to specialists among Czechoslovak migrants. The release stated:
They would include engineers, scientists, doctors, a dentist, nurses, teachers and a range of other specialists.
My Department’s Vienna office tells me that among the skilled workers is a girl, Miss…….. , who is a fitter and turner’. Mr Snedden said.
He went on to say:
Many of the Czechoslovak people inquiring at the Vienna office are in holiday clothes and carry a strange assortment of luggage, including tents and cooking equipment.
These people would not bring their documents with them. It is to be hoped that they will be given a trade test when they apply to the local committees and that they will be given every opportunity to obtain recognition in Australia. The Melbourne Herald’ of 4th October stated that the Minister for Immigration had said that a drive would be made for special recognition of the professional qualifications of these people. The newspaper report stated:
In an urgent telegram to all State Ministers responsible for immigration, Mr Snedden said:
Among the Czechoslovak refugees now inquiring about resettlement in Australia are a number with qualifications for which recognition is governed by State laws.
Some of these appear to be outstanding men in their professions . . .’
He asked the State Ministers for help and co-operation. The Minister personally took up the case of one Czech refugee and got him a job with General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd. These newspaper reports indicate that the Minister for Immigration has seen the necessity for this action and has got off his tail and done something about it. But unfortunately this matter mainly rests in one corner at the moment; it rests mainly with the trade unions, and they are fighting against dilution of skills.
Another weakness in our present system is that we have not kept pace with training methods and educational practices in Europe. Many people qualify in Europe after an apprenticeship of 3 years but we still demand a 5-year term. Similar differences in the duration of courses occur in the tertiary field. Therefore it is to be hoped that the mission, comprising Government, employer and trade union members, which this month will leave to carry out investigations overseas for a period of 3 months, will bring some enlightenment to the present situation. It is not only recognition of migrant skills that is of concern; even when they are recognised some migrants are likely to suffer from discrimination. I submit two cases within my own knowledge - one in the professional category and the other in the trade category - in which discrimination has arisen. The first case is that of a Yugoslav who came to this country 13 years ago at the age of 27. Mc had spent 8 years in high school and had obtained a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Zagreb after 6 years attendance there. He is an associate member of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute. He passed 24 subjects at the University of Zagreb, including inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, applied organic chemistry, applied inorganic chemistry, applied electrochemistry, physical chemistry, chemical engineering thermodynamics, metallurgy, technical microbiology and a host of other subjects. It can be seen that he is a very highly qualified man.
Because when he came here he upset some senior officers in a government department who were possibly hidebound by outmoded orthodoxy in his particular field, they are not prepared to give him a reference when other prospective employers approach them. He was unemployed for about 6 months in 1964. He later became a senior lecturer in thermal dynamics and probably knows more about that field than anyone in Australia. But, again, he came into conflict with the outmoded methods of teaching this subject which had not changed for more than 20 years. Despite the fact that this man knows his job he was canned again. Every time he applies for a job, even at a relatively low classification, he is given no interview and he gets no job. He is a naturalised citizen of Australia but is now faced with the prospect of having to sell his home, because he cannot keep up the payments, and go back to his native country’ where he knows he can get a reasonable job.
The same sort of thing happened to a Maltese shoemaker who operated a small family business in Malta. One of his handcrafted products was fur lined snow boots. Some of these were purchased by a member of the Royal family. This led to an approach by British business interests which induced him to enlarge his factory and placed a big order with him. Over night the United Kingdom Government placed a ban on imported luxury items. His business collapsed and he was bankrupted, and he migrated here. He took a job in a Melbourne shoe factory and as a craftsman criticised some of the production methods. He was sacked, and the word went out and no factory in Melbourne would employ him. These are the sorts of things that happen. Other cases include that of a Spanish merino flock master working as a process worker in a steel factory. Another concerns a Ukrainian agronomist of international reputation who was unemployed for some time and then was forced to accept some menial jobs. Fortunately, over the past few years he has been employed with a British firm as an analytical chemist.
I want to say in conclusion that professional and technical skills are vital to the future development of Australia and it is our duty to see that full use is made of those migrant skills already here. Our systems should be geared to ensure that migrants of the future are given every opportunity to practise their profession or trade in this country. Whilst one recognises the need to avoid dilution of standards, there can be no excuse for squandering talents merely to satisfy outmoded attitudes, old fashioned criteria, local prejudice and conservatism that exist in this country at the moment at both professional and technical levels.
– Any honourable member taking part in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service certainly has plenty of scope as the functions of this Department cover, among other things, such vital and important areas as industrial relations, the Commonwealth Employment Service, Commonwealth Hostels Ltd and the National Service Act. I might say that I was intrigued by the remarks of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes). He spent the first two or three minutes of his speech praising the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) and the rest of it severely criticising the Minister. I am as one with him in regard to the second part of his speech.
– In the criticism of trade unions?
– Trade union representatives form only a minority of the members of the boards which the honourable member talked about. I am of the considered opinion that the Minister in charge of these responsibilities has proved conclusively that he is completely incompetent to cope with so important a portfolio. Worse still, his handling of some situations has been both arrogant and disrespectful. I suggest that it is fair comment to say that during his term of office industrial relations in this country have sunk to an all time low and he, as Minister, must accept much of the blame. His ruthless handling of the Commonwealth Hostels tariff dispute last year, which became the subject of much damaging newspaper comment overseas, must have had a marked effect on our immigration intake.
In the time available to me today I will confine my remarks to the National Service Act and its administration. I feel I can conclusively prove that the Minister’s discharge of this section of his ministerial responsibilities is similar to what one would expect from an incompetent, or a ruthless dictator who could not care less about justice, humanity and fair play. The matter I wish to bring to the notice of the Committee concerns a 20 years old Australian youth who in January of this year was required under the law to register for national service. At the time in question there was an industrial dispute in the Postal Department. To ensure that his registration was not late in arriving at its destination, the lad personally delivered it to the office of the Department of Labour and National Service in Adelaide, which is about 12 miles from his place of residence. On 3 1st January he received an acknowledgment from the Department and on 18th March he was advised that he had been selected for national service training. On 27th June he received advice that an appointment for medical examination had been made for 6 p.m. on Thursday, 11th July. At this stage I would point out that his employer had been notified about all of these advices. On Monday, 24th June, he was given a week’s notice due to slackness of work and as a result his service with his employer terminated on Monday, 1st July, when he received a reference that indicated that he was a good worker and was a youth of good character.
I took this matter up with the Department of Labour and National Service in Adelaide on 28th June 1968. During the period that the lad was under notice, however, the Department’s investigations revealed that because the company was in fact dismissing men at the time due to slackness of work, his dismissal was quite legal so far as the National Service Act was concerned. On 5th July I wrote to the Minister in the following terms:
My dear Minister,
I desire to bring to your notice a situation that has arisen in South Australia in connection with a few youths who have been selected for national service training and are awaiting advice as to the date of their commencement of military service. Although 1 personally have only dealt with one such case I am led to believe that some seven others are involved.
At the moment some industries in South Australia, particularly the meat and building trades, are dismissing staff in small numbers due to luck of work and us a result some youths who have been selected for national -service have been included among the dismissal*. Whilst 1 realise that these dismissals do nol contravene the legal provisions of the National Service Act 1 do feel that employers generally should be encouraged to give serious consideration to the moral and humane aspect of such a situation. At this stage I feel 1 should let you know that i have discussed this matter with a senior officer of the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures, who agrees with my views and as a consequence will, in their next bulletin, include an article advising their members that they have a a moral as well as a legal obligation when dealing with employees who have been selected for national service.
As you will realise, youths selected for National Service, who arc dismissed due to lack of work, not only lose their continuity of service for Long Service Leave and the Legal richi to return to their former employment with no loss of status, but worse still, during the two or three months period between dismissal and call-up they become permanently unemployable due to the fact thai no employer will engage such a person for the short period involved and thus accept the responsibility embodied in the Act regarding re-employment, etC
In view of the aforementioned I respectfully appeal to you Sir, to make a public statement to the effect that it has come to your notice that whilst most employers have accepted their moral as well as the Legal responsibilities under the provision of the National Service Act, a small number have only accepted the Legal obligation and that if this position continues the Government may be forced to give earnest consideration to amending the Act. Secondly Mr Minister, may I suggest that you confer with your colleague the Minister for the Army and request that the Department of the Army employ the youths already dismissed as civil employees until such time as they are due to enter the Service for their period of National Service Training.
Thanking von in anticipation of your cooperation and assistance in this most important matter which 1 trust will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible.
I might state at this stage (hat since writing that letter J have found that this type of situation is not confined to South Australia. Members on both sides of the House have told me that the same thing applies at various levels in all Australian States.
At the same time as I wrote to the Minister, I rang his Canberra office and spoke to his secretary who informed me that the Minister was extremely busy on Budget deliberations and as such was not readily available. 1 accepted that statement. However, the secretary rang me later and suggested that perhaps the Minister could ring me at my home on the coming Saturday. 1 was happy with this proposal and in consequence cancelled some appointments 1 had made in order that I would be available all duy. Needless to say, no phone call came. But what is much worse still is the fact that after almost 14 weeks I am still awaiting a reply to my written representations. I cannot imagine one person in Australia, other than the Minister for Labour and National Service, who would agree that any youth should be placed in such a situation where, after being forced out of civilian life and placed in the Army for 2 years, he becomes permanently unemployable for 3 months or 4 months prior to commencing Army service, loses whatever accrued long service leave credits be has built up and finally on discharge after his 2 years of national service has no job to which to return.
At this stage 1 wish to place on record that I am strongly opposed to the conscription of the youth of Australia to fight in undeclared wars in other parts of the world. However, Government policy being as it is, one must face the facts of life. My purpose in speaking today after having failed to impress the Minister is to appeal urgently to other members of the Government to use their influence within their parties to have the National Service Act amended so as to ensure so far as is humanly possible that no conscripted national serviceman in the future is caught in a situation similar to the one to which I have just referred. I cannot accept - and I am certain that most honourable members on both sides of the Committee do not accept - that in the original framing of the National Service Act it was ever intended that some, if only a few, national servicemen could be so harshly penalised through no fault of their own. I suggest to the Minister that any young man so treated, regardless of his character or personality, would not be human if he commenced his Army service without being bitter and resentful.
I propose that the re-employment section of the Act or regulations be amended retrospectively so as to give these yoting men continuity of service with their particular ex-employer until discharged from the Army; that re-employment be guaranteed as in the case of those who are not dismissed; and that in any future cases where retrenchment cannot possibly be avoided those involved be immediately employed by the Department of the Army in a civilian capacity until the commencement of their national service duties. Having waited in vain for 14 weeks for the Minister to take action on this most important matter, 1 now make an appeal to the fairer and belter principled members of the Liberal and Country Parties to force the Minister to amend the Act without delay.
I conclude on this note: The action of the Minister - or, should T say, lack of action - on this human problem shows him to bc irresponsible, disinterested and discourteous. One could be pardoned for expressing the opinion that due to this lack of interest and responsibility the Minister is aspiring to find a place in history by becoming recognised as the 1968 Australian counterpart of the notorious English press gang captains of years gone by. If his performance in this case is any criterion, there can be no doubt that he completely fits into the category of this vulturelike sadistic image.
– It is not my intention this afternoon to express much dissatisfaction with the Department of
Labour and National Service or with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury). But it is my intention to attempt to pose one or two problems which 1 know concern me and towards the solution of which J would hope the Minister is moving. The matter of employment - and especially the matter of full employment - is one field in which there has been a happy coincidence of what is required by long term requirements of fast economic growth for the country and also the long term requirements with respect to justice for people who want to have jobs available to them. The record in Australia is not one with which we ought to be unhappy in any way. The record is quite creditable. The record at this moment is quite creditable. Certainly when we compare the situation in Australia with that which obtains in a number of other countries - countries with free economies and countries without free economies; countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America as well as what appears to be the case in countries behind the Iron Curtain - our record is very creditable. We can be very well proud of it.
Unfortunately, there are difficulties. Difficulties have arisen in the past and one hopes that there is a movement towards the solution of these difficulties in the future. What I have to say is concerning the difficulties in obtaining reasonable equality of employment opportunities in the various parts of the Commonwealth. This problem is not easy to solve. It is greater in some States than in others. Unemployment is greater in some provincial! cities than in others. But it is towards the equalisation of opportunities that attention should be directed. To give an example of the way in which this problem can be submerged in the overall employment problem of the Commonwealth, I refer to the latest employment statistics. I quote from the news release of the Department of Labour and National Service reviewing the employment situation as at the end of August 1968. The report had this to say:
Mr Bury added that the total number of registrants at end-August was more than 6,000 less than 12 months earlier and represented 1.1% of the estimated work force as compared with 1.3% a year ago.
Nobody in this chamber could be unhappy with this information. But what is the distribution of those who are registered for work and who cannot obtain work and, more significantly, what is the distribution of the opportunities open to these people to obtain employment?
In order to illustrate the situation rather more graphically, 1 turn to Appendix 1 of this news release and I look at two series of tables. These tables relate to the number of job vacancies and work vacancies available and I wish to compare those with the table showing the numbers who are registered for employment in each State. August is the month in which a very healthy situation occurs. What do we find? We find that in New South Wales there are 1.3 people available for every job vacancy registered. In Victoria there are 1.5 people. In Queensland, for the best month of the year - a situation from which there will be the greatest deterioration over the rest of the year - there are three people seeking work for every job vacancy available, in Western Australia, there is an equality of numbers of people seeking work and job vacancies available. In Tasmania there are two people seeking work for every job vacancy available.
I want to direct my attention particularly to Queensland. I say at once that this is the best month of the year and it does not represent in any way normality. In order to put it in contrast with the situation as it occurs at less happy months I turn to the Minister’s statement. In the same series of tables reviewing the employment situation as at the end of February we find that Queensland has large and peculiar regional unemployment problems where seven people were seeking work for every job vacancy available. The average lies between three and seven. Daring the year there is an average of between four and five people seeking work for every job opportunity available. 1 say without hesitation that I am not happy with the situation. Who could be satisfied that enough attention is being directed to this problem? Those families who have a large number of children with some joining the labour force each year have reason to be filled with disquiet and a certain amount of concern. I know that children coming on to the labour market after leaving school do not have the situation open to them in the large provincial cities and areas adjacent to Brisbane that is available to the children in most of the other States.
These sombre figures can be verified in another way. The Department of Labour and National Service and the Bureau of Census and Statistics have been very helpful within recent years in publishing many new series of statistics which verify the problems and make them much more obvious than they have been in the past. I refer to a new series published on multiple job holdings in Australia in August 1967. The Bureau has perfected a sample which it first developed in 1966. Let us accept that throughout the country there are roughly similar proportionate numbers of people seeking to have multiple jobs, if they are available, that they have similar needs of multiple work and let us look by States at the numbers and the proportion of those who have multiple jobs. We find, for example, that in August 1967 only 11% of multiple job holdings throughout the country were in fact obtained in Queensland. That State has 15% of the population. The difference is great; the difference is critical. This illustrates in another way the degree of distress and the degree of concern which people have when work is not available to them.
Having illustrated the problem, what does one do about it? The difficulty is simply this: Regional problems of employment throughout the world have not been solved. Great attempts have been made to solve them, for example, in the United Kingdom. I refer to an article in ‘Lloyds Bank Review’ of January 1965. The researchers of this article were in many ways responsible for attempts by the United Kingdom Government to solve regional employment problems throughout Great Britain. The article reads:
For many years in Britain there have been large differences in prosperity between regions. In the North and West of the country, unemployment and net emigration have been higher, and income per head and die rate of growth of output lower, than in the Midlands and the South. The uneven distribution of unemployment, in particular, is a major political problem for the government. The extent and persistence of these differences constitute ‘the regional problem’.
By substituting States for the North, South and Midlands, that could be stated as being Australia. The article continues:
If the government wishes to reduce these interregional differences, especially the differences in unemployment, there ate two main policies that can be followed: either work can be brought to the workers or the workers can be encouraged to migrate to the areas of expanding employment.
If we put to one side the difficulties in migration of workers to areas of expanding employment, the Government of Great Britain has attempted to solve this problem by taking employment to the areas that are depressed. While that problem has been stated for the United Kingdom, there is a somewhat easier situation facing us in Australia because many of the regions in which there is this great unemployment problem are regions in which there is a tremendous private investment. I will refer to my own State to illustrate this problem. I refer to the areas of central Queensland and to some of the areas of the north.
In parts of central Queensland there is private investment in mines and in some great pastoral industries. We know them. We have recited them often enough before. The investment is well over $ 1,500m. The question can now be stated: Is it not incongruous that there ought to be high and persistent regions of unemployment existing beside high and increasing rates of private investment? The answer to this problem becomes rather simpler. It is due to the fact that the great employing parts of industry - the service industries, the industries concerned with management and the industries concerned with the white collar section of the work force - are themselves centralising. They are centralising to the great cities in Australia and they are not being allowed to develop in association with the areas in which the great investment is occurring.
I will give one or two examples. There have been reports recently of large contracts made and being made for the export of coal from parts of Queensland - from Moura, from an area just outside of Mackay and also from Blackwater. These are great export earners. There was a great deal of investment associated with the regions, but what have they meant in terms of regional development? The Kianga-Moura field at full production, with an export of over 4 million tons of coal a year, will provide employment for about 400 men. That is not a high employment figure. If one looks at the Utah Blackwater field one finds employment for something over 300 men. If one has a look at the prospects for employment in the Goonyella area, where there is a train line proposed to be built from the region to a port a little south of Mackay, one finds that employment will again be obtained for only some hundreds of men. There are many factories and many warehouses in Melbourne - I say this without any bias, and I congratulate Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide - without investment of this size, without economic investment even approaching this figure, which employ at least 300 men.
– They have plenty of protection.
– We will not go into the matter of tariffs which might be associated with this, as my friend will readily acknowledge. Here we have the problem of centralisation of services. The fact is that firms which have invested in those regions, and which have had to invest in them, making calculations with export parity prices, are not providing the regional development one would desire. So I ask the Minister to undertake three works. Firstly, I suggest the establishment of a regional research bureau to investigate the nature of employment and under-employment in different regions.I am not satisfied that the Department is sufficiently concerned about this at the moment. I also ask the Department to deal with the problem of centralisation of the service sector of industry. Unless you have people employed in the tertiary sector you just do not get high employment. I also ask the Department to publish details of the employment vacancies available in these regions. If these matters are attended to we can begin tosolve the problem. I acknowledge at once that most of these regional cities are represented by members of the Opposition, but I do not acknowledge for one moment that the members of the Opposition have even attempted to solve this problem or have shown any real concern about finding employment for those who desire it.
– I support the remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison) concerning the decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. While I support his remarks, I want to deal with the matter in a different way. In recent months we have witnessed Ministers of the Crown blatantly using their positions to influence the Commission in the interests of the employers. At the annual dinner of the Metal Trades Employers Association the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) used the occasion to dictate to the President of the Commission, who was a guest, what the attitude of the Commission should be in regard to applications by unions for increased wages. I refer in particular to the recent application. This is not an isolated incident. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) has been guilty of trying to influence the Commission.
-I will draw the Minister’s attention to it in a minute. The President of the Commission has stated:
Outside attempts to influence it wore foolish, stupid and futile. They served onlyto distract the Commission from the job at hand.
The ‘Australian Financial Review’ yesterday morning mentioned the matter. Referring to the Commission, the editorial slated:
First, it virtually told the Commonwealth Government it would remain independent of strictures and off-the-cuff homilies from Cabinet Ministers, and reach decisions based on evidence before it.
I hope Ministers will accept this soft rebuke which has been given by the President of the Commission. The Minister for Labour and National Service, in my view, has been guilty of making the most vicious attacks on the members of the Commission. I refer to his comments on the majority decision of the Commission in awarding increased margins to the metal trades unions in December last.In the past Ministers for Labour and National Service have been most insistent that decisions of the Commission should be accepted by all parties. The present Minister, in effect, was disregarding the attitude of previous Ministers when he made the attack to which I refer. He supported the employers in their claim that over-award payments should be absorbed in the margins. What he omitted to say was that rates fixed by the Commission are minimum rates and that the parties are free to negotiate over-award payments. The trade union movement would be foolish to accept the view of the Minister that the minimum rate should be the maximum rate.
Collective bargaining, as it is known in both the United States and the United Kingdom, is now being resorted to increasingly in Australia once an award has been made.
In many cases both sides accept the decision of the Commission as being a minimum payment and then proceed to bargain for some amount over and above what the award provides. This has been accepted by the Commission as being quite legitimate. The President of the Commission referred to this as the ‘collective bargaining area’. If this collective bargaining area did not exist it would sound the death knell of the arbitration system as we know it. Of course, it is well known that a big section of the trade union movement now believes that arbitration should be jettisoned and collective bargaining should be resorted to. lt believes - rightly so - that the present system operates more to the favour of the employers, lt points out that awards of the Commission tend to lag behind increases in the demand for labour and the bargaining power of the unions.
The recent decision of the Commission that increased the total wage by $1.35 has not helped. The Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has said that its executive would have to examine avenues in addition to proceedings before the Commission to obtain pay increases. I should point out that recent decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, apart from the one announced last Friday, have been contradictory and uncertain. There were great discrepancies, for instance, between the December decision and the decision of February last in the metal trades case. The February decision deferred a portion of the wage increase granted in December 1967. lt went further and staled that the metal trades decision was not to be taken as the set pattern for other industries. That means that a terrific backlog of industries will have to prove a work value case. The Commission’s metal trades decision has already been responsible for industrial unrest. In some cases, as is known, it has resulted in stoppages of work. In my view, the Commission recently has made three very serious mistakes that have caused some industrial unrest and could still cause more. Last December, after hearing the metal trades work value case, it granted an increase in the tradesman’s margin of $7.20. The Commission said that there was to be no flow on from the metal trades decision to other industries that had bcon related to the metal trades industry in the past. It also said that over-award payments were to be absorbed. In February it altered its December decision by deferring 30% of the margins increase that it had granted in the previous December.
The Minister for Labour and National Service set the pace for this change of ground by the Commission. He made a most vicious attack upon the Commission for its majority decision of December 1967 and supported the employers in their claim that over-award payments should be absorbed. The Minister’s attack on the Coramission did not finish at that point. He fired another barb on 29th February, when he said that it was not the job of the Coinmission to dream up economic theories or to seek to determine the Government’s economic policy. Mr Clarkson, President of the Metal Trades Employers Association, on 9th September this vear supported the Minister, and said:
The Arbitration Commission and the Tariff Board should stop using lite metal trades industry as a testing ground for economic experiments.
He was rebuked by the President for what he said. Mr Hawke, the trade union advocate in the recent hearing, drew attention to the action of the Minister and the employers in intimidating the Commission in regard to its decisions. The Commission has stepped into the economic field because this Government has failed miserably to live up to its responsibilities in regard to the economy. The Government has failed to lake action to control prices. It has allowed inflation to run riot. It has ignored the report of the Vernon committee on the economy, it has failed to act on the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, which were published in 1959 and which advocated a widening of the economic powers of the Commonwealth. The Government has sidestepped its responsibilities in regard to the economy. Consequently, the Arbitration Commission, rightly or wrongly, has been trying to fill the gap.
In another statement the Minister for Labour and National Service said that there had been a sustained rise in the real wages of the work force. The trade union movement of course strongly denies that up to 3 years ago average wages in real terms were rising year by year. The facts are that prices and profits have been uncontrolled while the workers’ wages have been lagging behind any increases in prices and profits. Prices and profits have been continually rising. Commercial interests and Government undertakings make firm decisions to increase prices without any restriction and without having to justify such increases in any way. Commercial interests, for instance, arrive at decisions in the privacy of the board room without any evidence being heard. There is no evidence of public interest, which the Minister often refers to when he is referring to workers’ wages. Management does not have to justify any increase it applies, lt does not have to listen to arguments or tender evidence before any public tribunal. Its decision to increase the price of what it has to sell is its own decision. Management decisions are based on the fundamental rule that if costs increase, prices, which in the most simple terms determine the employer’s income, must rise by at least as much as is required to cover the increased costs, lt does not matter how much profit is being made. But this right is denied the unions.
Until 1953 automatic adjustments to the basic wage protected the workers against increased costs. This protection was removed by the court at the request of the employers and with the support of this Government. While wage and salary earners have to prove their claims before the court, commercial interests take huge sums by way of profit and interest charges without having to justify their actions to anyone. In its 1964 judgment the Arbitration Commission emphasised that there was no control over incomes other than the incomes of those whose employment was covered by awards. The court drew attention to the fact that there was no overall authoritative control of prices whereas there was a tight control over wages. In his reasons for judgment Mr Justice Moore pointed out that the Commission’s earlier statement that increases in prices were determined by those who fixed prices is” a truth that cannot be sufficiently emphasised.
In 1961 the application of the unions was for the restoration of cost of living adjustments. Although the claim was not granted the Commission decided that the basic wage should be adjusted from time to time in accordance with changes in the
Consumer Price Index. The Commission provided for something in addition. The principles adopted by the Arbitration Commission in 1961 meant that if the economy produced more goods and services, the workers who produced them should get more in their pay packets. Both the 1961 and 1964 decisions provided that real wages should be increased from time to time to allow the worker to purchase the increased productivity that can be shown to have occurred. Those decisions also expressed the view that in order correctly to calculate the basic wage, the wage must first be adjusted for price changes since the last fixation and productivity gains should then be added. By a majority decision in 1965 the judges of the Arbitration Commission failed to stand up to their decisions of 1961 and 1964. This point has been very ably dealt with by the honourable member for Blaxland, and I do not want to repeat what he said. But I would draw attention to the fact that the Western Australian Government intends to give the Western Australian industrial Commission power to establish a State basic wage, to be reviewed annually. The enabling legislation was introduced into the Parliament of Western Australia only last week.
In the latest hearing before the Commission the advocate for the Australian Council of Trade Unions said:
The Arbitration Commission abolished the basic wage because it had been allowed to fall to an abysmally low level and did not want to live with it any longer.
He also said:
Realising that the basic wage no longer represented a decent living wage, the Commission in 1966 had substituted the minimum wage. This had led inevitably to the introduction of the total wage in 1967.
To restore to the basic wage the value that it had in 1966 would have necessitated an increase of $4.30. Such an amount was considered to be a big increase, and rather than grant such an increase the Commission decided to abolish the basic wage and to pave the way for the total wage decision of 1967. I have already said that the Western Australian Government has reexamined the basic wage situation in that State. The State wage was related to the Federal wage. The Government of Western
Australia has now decided to reintroduce a State basic wage, which will be reviewed annually.
In the hearing just concluded the ACTU sought the restoration of the basic wage with an increase of $11.40 a week. At the time of its abolition the basic wage was $32.80. The increase sought of $11.40 was designed to restore the purchasing power of the basic wage. The unions also sought the restoration of cost of living adjustments. As a second part of their claim and as an alternative claim the unions sought an increase of $7.70 in the total or minimum wage. Neither of the arguments was accepted. Instead the Commission in its wisdom decided to increase the total wage by S 1.35. This amount falls far short of what the unions sought and the Commission’s decision must inevitably lead to further discontent.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 rise to draw attention to some specific problems affecting workers in remote areas. I would firstly make the point that almost everybody, male or female, employed permanently in inland areas is a fairly strategic worker. Whether they are employed in the mining industry, the shearing industry, the cattle industry, on the railways or in the Postmaster-General’s Department, these people are doing a valuable job and they would be hard to replace. As the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) mentioned in recent times there have been pockets which could be described as depressed areas. These pockets are quite evident in some of the more remote parts of the continent, both inland and in the north. Various factors have contributed to this worrying state of affairs, particularly in the townships - 1 hesitate to describe the condition as a depression. Firstly there has been the great drought. In the opinion of people who have lived in these areas for 60 or 80 years we have never experienced a worse drought. As a result of the drought and its effect on certain primary industries - an effect of a transient nature I would hope - there have been misgivings about the future of many inland settlements.
It is essential for Australia that people should settle with their families in these inland areas. If they are to stay there they must be contented. They pay dearly to live in these areas. Many commodities are far dearer in the remote areas than they are in the cities. The wear and tear on vehicles is beyond the comprehension of city dwellers. In the outback a motor car has a very limited life. Tyres are worn out far sooner than they would be in the cities. The wage earner living in a remote area must pay far more than his city brother for the basic necessities for his family. To him a motor car is not a luxury; it is a necessity. He is faced with heavy expenditure for air conditioning and the provision of hot and cold water. I would like to see the introduction of a national scheme to subsidise the cost of air conditioning in remote areas. Every home in the inland should have air conditioning. Unless one has been in close contact with the daily life of the housewife in inland areas one cannot imagine the conditions under which she exists. There is the dust hazard and there is the heat hazard. These combine to make her life a pretty miserable one. An air conditioner eliminates both.
Now I get to a point I particularly want to make. Some time ago Mount Isa Mines Ltd introduced a scheme under which it pays return air fares to Brisbane once every 2 years for each employee, his wife and his children. I do not intend to confine my remarks to one company, because what is involved is a concession which I hope will be granted by every private undertaking and government instrumentality in these remote areas able to afford to do so. A man who lives in an inland district and who wants to take his family away for a holiday finds that the fares alone that he has to pay amount to very much more than a coastal dweller would pay for his entire holiday.
I may be accused of becoming parochial. Well, I intend to remain parochial when it means speaking for the people who live in these remote areas. We hear a lot of talk these days about one vote one value. It has become almost a hymn of despair, lt would appear from his Budget speech that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) no longer has very much faith in his Party’s ability to hold rural seats, and I do not think this brings much consolation to his own members in such seats, for some of whom I have a good deal of respect. Some Queensland Labor members are getting very little consolation from statements which have been made and from which it is quite clear that the Labor Party no longer has any concern for rural areas. We of the Country Party particularly, then, have to remain parochial and we intend to do just that.
I was telling the Committee of the very liberal concession granted to its employees by MountIsa Mines Ltd.I repeat that my remarks do not apply specifically to this company and that a fundamental principle is involved. Take for example the return air fares from MountIsa to Brisbane for a man, his wife and two children which amounts to $318. In other words the company grants its employee $318, but this is immediately reduced by a tax deduction of $115. Although there has been a splendid effort to give these people a concession, it has been neutralised to a very great extent by our taxation regulations.
I must give credit at this stage to the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). This matter involves the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Minister for National Development. Obviously the Minister for Labour and National Service, like all of us, wants to see maintained the prevailing climate of goodwill and industrial and social justice. Here we find a company making a profound contribution to social justice by granting this very liberal concession. The matter involves the Treasurer also because obviously he must come to the party. It involves also the Minister for National Development because the heart of the nation will be in danger of withering away and our rural economic vitality will be in danger of being sapped if the inland dies while the coastal areas flourish. We will be able to keep the inland alive only by continuing to find mineral deposits or by maintaining a buoyant international market for the products of the primary industries that are established in the inland areas.
The Minister for National Development, realising this, put a very strong and detailed case to the Treasurer in support of my submissions. He recommended that the Treasurer give very careful consideration to abolishing this tax deduction and making this grant for air fares completely tax free. I earnestly appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service to give this proposal his entire support. I can assure him that in doing so he will be striking a blow for industrial contentment and also - and this is even more important - for social justice for workers in remote areas.
– The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), like so many members on the Government side these days, is mending electoral fences. With the imminence of: an election we find a sudden change of heart on the part of gentlemen who normally are quite prepared to launch their diatribes against the trade union movement and those who represent it.
I want to pay my personal tribute to the honourable members for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison) and Stirling (Mr Webb) for the contributions they have made to this debate. Both of these gentlemen won their spurs as industrial leaders before they came to this Parliament, and they speak with great weight and great authority on behalf of the trade union movement, having represented that movement in its highest councils, on the Australian Council of Trade Unions and in the local State organisations. I have the honour to represent the electorate with possibly the largest number of trade union electors. Certainly it is the electorate in which is situated Australia’s major centre of heavy industry. Unfortunately, although the trade union population of the electorate is large the remuneration paid to workers under existing awards is not correspondingly large. As a matter of fact there is an appalling disparity between the wage paid to the average unskilled worker in the steel industry and that paid to his counterpart in other manufacturing industries. That is a very broad assertion but it is correct. It is one which I have made in this Parliament on many occasions.
Labour is the only commodity today which is under universal price control throughout Australia. In individual States there are varying degrees of price control over certain commodities sold for normal human consumption and over certain services. But labour is the only commodity which is and always has been under stringent price control throughout Australia. There was in the early post-war years, and perhaps in more recent times, a development towards the payment of over award wages in particular industries to men possessing special skills, and there were numbers of employers profiting by shortages of commodities resulting from wartime destruction and post-war reconstruction. Now we have returned to somewhere near normalcy - or perhaps I should say post-war normalcy, because today we find ourselves in the era of the two job family. It is literally impossible for the average unskilled worker receiving only the wage for a 40-hour working week to keep himself, his wife and his family in even the modest, frugal comfort envisaged by the original Harvester decision. Today a man must find employment for his wife or he cannot possibly carry on. A married couple may want a family but find it impossible to have one because both of them must work in order to meet the necessary commitments involved in maintaining the very modest standards of affluence which prevail in Australian society. To put it in a nutshell, the 40-hour week today is a joke. It is necessary for a worker to work overtime and to get overtime rates if and where he can; otherwise he cannot make ends meet. In addition he has to face another hazard which is a concealed one, although it is often referred to and has been dealt with at some length in the Budget debate. I refer to the inbuilt escalation of wages taxation under the present rates that are imposed by this Government through its legislation. Quite an amazing revelation was made by the ‘Australian Financial Review’ through a correspondent, who, some months ago, pointed out that the average wage earner - the man in receipt of the average income-with the average family was now paying about 1 1 % of his total wages as wages tax whereas, by contrast. 12 years ago he was contributing 6%.
This brings me to the point that was made by no less a person than Mr W. Pettingell, who is of some eminence in the field of industry, finance and commerce. He pointed out that as a result of the recent $1.35 increase in the Federal basic wage the gross rake-off to the Federal Government through taxation in its various forms will be$60m. Offset against that will be an increase of $1 4m to be paid to the Commonwealth Public Service. The net rake-off to the Federal Treasury will be a mere $46m. There is a crying need - and this needs to be repeated on every possible occasion - for a review of the present wages tax structure. The average worker in New South Wales, in addition to facing an immediate reduction in his increase by wages taxation, will also have to run the gauntlet of the State Budget which was introduced last week and which provides for increased fares and hospital charges and other State revenue charges.It is estimated that for these he will be paying 70c a week, which will leave him 65c net before he faces up to an increase in wages tax. Then, of course, the wolves will be pursuing him - those people who immediately seize on any increase in wages as an excuse for a further increase in prices. In hard facts, wages have been chasing prices ever since this Government came into office. They have never caught up with them, and they are further behind in the race today than they were in 1949. So much for the promise of the Government in that year to put value back into the £1. Good justice is speedy justice, but this never applies to wage fixation. Any increase in wages awarded by the Commission is based merely on former increases in living costs. This, in turn, is always seized upon by the retail interests and the manufacturing interests as further justification for additional price rises. It is a case of perpetual and never ending pursuit. It can be ended in only one way - that is by some measure of price fixation and fixation of living costs, which would be the function of a Federal Labor government.
Former speakers have dealt with the tragedy of the abolition of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. I repeat that good justice is speedy justice, but speedy wage justice is denied to the workers of Australia today, and they have less chance of getting it now than at any time before in their history. Due credit must be given to the Commission for its recent rebuff of this Government and to those of its Ministers who chose to bring pressure on the Commission. In a former dispensation, and under former Prime Ministers, there was at least the pretence of impartiality. It was not then customary for counsel on behalf of the Commonwealth even to appear before the Arbitration Commission. These matters were considered to be disputes capable of adjudication and adjustment as between employer and employee, but notoriously and systematically this Government has chosen to interfere with the functions of the Coin.mission Certainly it has, I suppose, a claim to do so in the national interest, but the national interest in its own particular political predilections can be very easily confused. It is a most regrettable chapter in the history of the administration of justice in any English speaking country to see the pressures which have been applied to the Arbitration Commission. More power to the Commission for having rejected them. By its recent judgment it laid down in no uncertain terms that it was not prepared to perform as a supplementary instrument of government monetary policy. It has, in fact, by its decision served notice on the Government that it will adhere to its traditional role to prevent and settle industrial disputes.
There are many other matters of grievance to the trade union movement. I refer in passing to the continued imposition of penal clauses. The right to withhold the sale of one’s labour is a fundamental human right. It is a right which must be exercised cautiously and judiciously but nevertheless there are occasions when it ought to be exercised. Australians can be led but they can never be driven and the whole purpose of the imposition of the penalties under the penal clauses of the relevant legislation is literally to smash the financial structure and the efficiency of the trade union movement. I represent one of the major ports of Australia. There are approximately 700 waterside workers on the roster at Port Kembla. I took up a certain matter with the Minister a fortnight ago and I have no doubt that he will use his good offices in this regard. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority saw fit 7 weeks ago to reduce the port quota by 150 men. Its action was based apparently on a quarter in which rather low tonnage came into Port Kembla. Since then cargo has been coming in and going out at a substantially increased rate which is quite comparable to the average of former years. There is great apprehension among the men at Port Kembla. Many have committed themselves to the purchase of homes.. They have families to rear and they do not want to be transferred to other ports. The work is there for them. Uniquely on this occasion the various stevedoring companies have supported the combined maritime unions in their application to the Minister to correct the situation and to restore the quota.
No industry has suffered from automation more than the stevedoring industry and consequently the men on the waterfront at Port Kembla are most apprehensive of what will follow. They know that they have the guarantee of permanent employment and a stated wage but they have already suffered greatly from automation. 1 cite in particular what has happened in the sugar ports and what the men believe will happen with the introduction of containerisation. There is the need, of course, generally - this applies to almost every industry in Australia where automation can be introduced - for the Government to consider the introduction of some form of redundancy legislation. In Britain a start has been made in this regard and the legislation there is well worth consideration and adoption, with suitable modification, in this country.
I want to conclude by referring to the question of female unemployment. I have raised it on many occasions, and it is directly associated with my district where there are still at least 5,000 and possibly even more women seeking employment which they cannot obtain. These women have qualifications, either by physique or by education, to fill almost any type of employment. They are seeking employment and they are being humiliated by its absence. In most cases their need of employment is directly associated with the low wage structure in the steel industry.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not intend to take up a great deal of the Committee’s time, but there are one or two remarks I should like to make regarding the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service. Last week the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, after hearing and considering a large amount of argument presented by the various interested parties, announced an increase of $1.35 per week in the wages of workers under Federal awards. At this point 1 do not intend to argue whether the amount awarded was sufficient, insufficient or oversufficient I point out that on many occasions several members on the Government side, when attacking unions of workers for action they have taken, have been quick to express the view that the decisions of the Arbitration Commission should always be abided by and that any differences or misgivings should be resubmitted to the commission for further consideration. It is in that direction that I wish to express a few thoughts today.
I remind honourable members, particularly honourable members opposite, that immediately the Commission announced its decision to grant a wage increase spokesmen for manufacturers, employers, the Chamber of Commerce and others said that not only was the increase unwarranted but also that prices would be increased to meet the increased cost of wages. Those people have expressed themselves as being dissatisfied with the Commission’s findings, and they will not abide by the Commission’s decision as many honourable members opposite have said that the parties in such cases should. They will not accept the decision and return to the Commission with further submissions. They will take action, which I think could properly be referred to as direct action, to overcome a situation which they do not like and to bring about a situation which will return them to a position equal to, or more likely even better than, their position was, apparently, at the time the Commission heard argument on the subject.
The declaration by the manufacturers and others, to my mind, is no different from a band of workers or a band of unions getting together, deploring a court’s decision and declaring stop work or strike action in an attempt to overcome what the court had decided and which did not find favour with the workers. It would be just as right in this case, for instance, if the workers called a strike and demanded that their demands he granted. Officers of unions and secretaries of councils have said that the amount granted was less than what was warranted, and no doubt this would be the view of workers generally; but apparently they are expected to accept these conditions, to continue with their employment as usual and to wait for an opportunity to put further submissions before the Commission. The employers and the manufacturers, on the other hand, have declared that they will take whatever action they consider necessary, by way of increases in prices, to return to them the amount which the Commission in its wisdom awarded to workers, plus something additional.
This, of course, is what happens on every occasion when the Commission decides to increase workers’ wages or to improve conditions or to make some other alteration to awards. The increase which has been given on this occasion and the increases which have been given on other occasions have been granted in order to meet increased costs of living up to a time before arguments were presented to the Commission and certainly before a decision was made, not increased cost of living subsequent to arguments being presented to the Commission. But on this occasion we hear nothing from Government supporters against these unwarranted actions of manufacturers and others, even though their actions will have a very serious effect upon thousands of people, including many people whom Government supporters claim to represent, particularly those people about whom members of the Australian Country Party profess to be deeply concerned. If the Commission had failed to grant any increase in wages and the employees had gone on strike to obtain wage justice we would have seen honourable members on the Government side leaping up and down in their places and demanding that the Minister take action not only to send the men back to work but also to impose heavy fines upon the particular union or unions for participating in a strike.
The workers have to wait several weeks, even months, before they are given the opportunity even to present a case to the Commission, and then generally they have to wait some weeks before a decision is made. But the other parties to the awards or determinations, such as those to whom I referred earlier, simply determine overnight what their income or returns or selling price will be, and they do this without reference to any outside unbiased body. When this sort of thing is permitted and, apparently, encouraged to continue, it simply gives additional weight to the claim that there is one law for the rich, one law for the poor, one law for the privileged and one law for the underprivileged. Each of the parties has something to sell. One has goods and the other has labour. Each is equally important to the other and also equally important to the nation generally.
I suggest that the Government should take action to impose some form of price control. It should step in and prevent people such as manufacturers and the controllers of big business from using this open road system of determining at what they are prepared to sell, because if the Government does not do this it will not be long before we find ourselves in a situation similar to that which presently exists in America. We are still only a developing country and we are very largely dependent upon exports, particularly in the primary industry field. If we fail to clamp down on ever increasing price rises we will very shortly have the situation where prices for our export goods will be well below the cost of production. Every price increase imposed by manufacturers and others, following this recent total wage increase, will add considerably to the cost of production in all fields, particularly the primary industry field, which cannot pass on these added costs.
Recently in Western Australia a number of meetings have been held in various areas at which farmers have condemned the Government not only for its action with regard to the wheat stabilisation plan but also, and perhaps more importantly, for its failure to take any action to keep down costs of production. They have called upon the Government to do something about production costs, and to do it quickly. Yet, despite the plea by these people, who are definitely feeling the squeeze of ever increasing costs, this Government is doing absolutely nothing about the matter. It is taking no action at all to prevent the manufacturers and others, who said after the recent total wage increase that they would increase prices, from increasing prices. Of course, the increased prices will not only return to these people the $1.35 increase in the total wage; they will return also the usual, or even unusual and certainly unnecessary, percentage of profit. As I said earlier, unless action is taken against these rising costs we will find ourselves in a similar position to that which is facing the United States. I have a journal which was handed to me by a painter when I was in New York. The members of his union were on strike for better pay. I want to read an extract from this journal because I suggest that we in Australia should give this matter some thought. The article states:
You don’t hear much about us, the men who paint your apartments and offices. Painters in New York have not been on strike since 1945. That’s twenty-three years without a strike. As you see, we are prudent and conscientious men, working hard to make a living for our families. If now we have finally gone on strike, you must realise that it was not done lightly but for compelling reasons. We can ill-afford to lose wages; but we must act to preserve our self-respect.
There has been so much false propaganda about fabulously high wages in the building trades that you will be startled by the actual, down to earth, facts.
The average painter is fortunate if he can earn $6,000 a year in gross pay before deductions. He is lucky if he can take home an average of $100 a week.
This might seem tobe a large amount of money. One honourable member on the other side of the House is smiling about it. The article continues:
There is nothing ‘fabulous’ about that kind of income. The US Labor Department reports that a family of four in New York City needs $10,000 a year to maintain a ‘moderate’ American standard of living.
Most of our work now pays $4.20 an hour. It is not steady. It is seasonal. There are many part weeks. There are many weeks with no work at all.
The writer of the article went on to ask whether the people had received an increase in pay in the last 3 years. Perhaps that is one question we ourselves should look at. Further on in the article the writer said:
We desperately need a decent pension system. The test of social responsibility in any industry is how its older workers are treated at the end of their service.
The US Labor Department reports that a retired couple needs a minimum of $4,323 a year, in the New York area, to maintain a moderate living standard.
As honourable members will have noted, this article draws attention to the money which the United States Labor Department believes is necessary to allow a family of four to live moderately. It accepts a sum of $10,000 a year or $192 a week. Just imagine what this would mean to primary industry in Australia. I refer not just to the sum of $10,000 a year but to costs and everything else. If such wages were paid, what would keep primary industry in production and how would we sell primary products and still show some margin of profit?
When manufacturers increase thencharges, people engaged in primary’ industry cannot say: ‘OK, you will pay so much for wheat, so much for wool, and so much for gold or iron ore.’ They cannot do this because the bulk of our primary products are exported. We will have to accept some form of subsidy at a rate which our taxpayers will not be able to meet. This will not happen tomorrow or next year even if prices are allowed to run riot or if there is no control; but what has happened in the past few years and what is happening now in America proves that unless action is taken quickly, we will inevitably reach a situation in which primary producers and many others will have to rely almost completely on government handouts or will have to go out of business. We may not in the immediate future or in the near future be faced with the costs and wages situation that confronts America at the present time, but we are now, to a lesser degree, feeling such effects. They will become worse as time passes. Even now an almost unbearable burden is being placed on a very large and important section of our community. If we have any thoughts for the future, if we have any concern for our children, our grandchildren and their children, then we must take action to ensure that prices do not continue to run riot.
It is idle to say that the first step must be to freeze wages. We all know that wages are chasing costs. We all know that the wage freeze in, I think, 1953 did not stop prices from rising. Prices of food and other necessary goods continue to rise. The responsibility rests on this Government to take action quickly to impose some system of price control in order to prevent industries, particularly our primary industries, from going to the board. Something must be done to enable them to carry on and to Stop having to rely on handouts from the Government.
– I wish to speak briefly about the unemployment situation in Australia’s sugar towns and those districts which depend for their economic livelihood directly on sugar production and to a lesser degree the beef industry. Admittedly, both the sugar and beef industries are seasonal. Because of the way technology is advancing we can expect the length of kill at our meatworks to be greater rather than to shorten. It has been shown in the major monoculture cattle areas that improved pastures and other advances are permitting cattle producers to turn off cattle over longer periods.
I am particularly concerned today about the unemployment situation in the sugar industry. Because of mechanisation and automation, and wilh the expansion of fixed capital invested in the mills, the tendency seems to be for the crushing period to be shortened. The Mackay district is the biggest and most important sugar growing area in Australia. Many people in that district are now faced with 7 months unemployment. This is causing very grave concern. Until this year, they have been faced with a period of unemployment lasting from 5 to 6 months. This year they are faced with the possibility of cane being ploughed in because of the inability of the marketing system to handle the crop. This could mean that most of the sugar mills will close before December. Then, because of the sugar peaks set for next year, they may not reopen until the end of June or July. This will mean that in that district able-bodied men and women will be out of work for 7 months. In some cases the period of unemployment will be longer. Honourable members might ask: ‘Why can’t they get jobs elsewhere?’ The fact is that there are no jobs in these sugar growing areas. Last year about 1,000 men and women were looking for work and were wanting to work in the Mackay district.
In the last 5 years the amount of unemployment benefit paid to people in the Mackay district totalled almost Sim. One could argue that, directly, such money goes down the drain. However, indirectly, it does stimulate these areas by at least giving people some spending power. The money is then channelled into the business sector. One wonders why the Government cannot work out some scheme to provide a basic wage equivalent in these areas so that these men could do some productive work. In our northern areas there is plenty of productive work that could be done in the off season and which would be of economic value. 1 refer to the construction of roads, bridges, railways, lighting facilities, water resources and power generation. All these things are basic amenities and are essential for economic development. Yet last year, as I said earlier, about 1,000 able bodied men and women in the Mackay district were doing nothing for 6 months. Certainly some of the single people leave the district and go to other areas in New South Wales and Victoria for fruit picking. But the majority of married people, particularly the younger ones with families, stay in the district and are on the dole for this period.
The magnitude of this problem is indicated by the fact that in the last 24 weeks 1 have had seventeen inquiries in my office in Mackay from people whom 1 would consider to be good citizens. These inquiries have come mostly from young people - eleven of them married with young families - seeking information about leaving the area and going to other parts of Australia such as mineral areas where they can obtain, for example, permanent employment or certainly more permanent employment than they receive in sugar towns. The State Government, of course, has no responsibility in this matter and is not very concerned about it. The Commonwealth’s responsibility seems to be restricted to the payment of unemployment benefit. It ceases with that. There does not seem to be any progressive move from either the State or the Federal Government to try to get better value for the money that is spent on unemployment benefit or to try to work out a scheme whereby the men who are unemployed could be employed with better advantage to the nation. One could put forward the argument: Why not provide skilled, semiskilled or technical training in these areas for these men. Most of them are unskilled in the sense that they are employed in the sugar mills or employed cutting cane. The same argument applies to meat workers. 1 do not think it is fair or right that nowadays we should expect young married people with children at school to have to leave an area, look for work elsewhere and return during the crushing season.
Of course, one can say: Why are further job opportunities in a particular area not provided by the establishment of other industries? This idea has been put forward many times and many attempts have been and are being made to create employment opportunities. But in the main these are at present only minor developments. The tourist industry, of course, is one that can be developed. But here again there will have to be a more positive attempt by the Government to channel money into this industry. The tourist industry has tremendous potential but it cannot really start to develop until it gets over the fundamental problem of obtaining development finance.
I would like to conclude my remarks by saying that I think I am right in saying that the Minister for Labour and National Service; who is - now at the table stated - if I am wrong he can tell me so - that some of the people in the north spend their time on fishing and kindred activities while they are unemployed. This is true and no-one doubts or denies it. These men would prefer to work but they just cannot get work. They fulfil the obligation imposed by the Department of Social Services and go round a few firms every couple of weeks to obtain statements to show that no jobs are available. But it seems to me that in areas where there is considerable scope for productive work some more positive arrangement should be worked out. This would bc belter than seeing the huge sums of money that are spent on unemployment benefit each season virtually go down the drain. The money which is handed out to people on the dole who are waiting for the crushing season is not sufficient to buy the basic necessities of life. The net result of this is serious. The best young people in the sugar areas are leaving, and who can blame them? A young person who does not have a trade that will assure him of permanent employment will not stay in an area and work for 5 or 6 months of the year knowing full well that he could be out of a job for 6 months of the year or longer.
The drift to other areas from the sugar districts is very noticeable. I have mentioned to the Committee that in the last 24 weeks seventeen people have come to see me with the object of leaving the Mackay district. I think this problem of seasonal employment is a perennial question that the Government has to face if it believes in decentralisation. After all, if the basis of decentralisation is availability of regular work almost throughout the year, more serious thought should be given firstly, to enabling a more productive contribution to be made by unemployed people. They should not simply be left to exist on the unemployment benefit. Secondly, the possibility of encouraging some alternative industries in these areas should be investigated.
– The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr £. James Harrison), who is not present in the chamber - this has been a long discussion - referred particularly in the initial stages of his speech, to the change that had been introduced by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission into the fixing of wages, to wit, the abandonment of the old basic wage concept and its replacement by the total wage system. This change, basically, means moving over to a system under which there is each year a national wage case in which the Commission goes into the economic affairs of the community generally and decides on the new total wage for the year. The Commission has also clearly indicated that it can operate flexibly in this field, increasing the minimum wage, for instance, at some time, perhaps increasing women’s wages relative to men’s wages at another, and so forth. It can decide separately and quite distinctly that other changes, particularly in relative wages, should be made through work value cases, thereby fixing the differential involved, lt is true that this is perhaps not understood as fully as it might be by many people. But 1 venture to suggest that this system willi, in the long run, prove considerably better in modern circumstances than that of the old basic wage.
The honourable member for Blaxland also referred, particularly and at some length, as also did the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), to the movement of more married women into the work force. Both honourable members suggested that the dominating cause of this, if not the only one, was the need for two people in every family to be at work in order to live at a satisfactory standard. I do not have time to go into this but I think that if these two honourable members look at modern trends they will see readily that the proportion of women, and especially married women, in the work force is still a long way behind that in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. As society advances and women’s relative position in life improves, irrespective of anything else, the proportion of women drawn into the work force rises continually and will go on rising. Despite the remarks made by Opposition members, it should be remembered also that the fact that two members of a family work in many cases allows young people to marry very much earlier than otherwise would be the case. This practice is bound to go on.
The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) dealt particularly with the recognition of qualifications of migrants. This, as he pointed out, is one matter concerning which the Government has taken considerable action. We have a mission leaving Australia tomorrow to visit Europe. They will in fact visit some thirteen countries including Great Britain, from which we draw our migrants. Their purpose is to study the latest methods of training and to see what can be useful in this field not only in recognising training qualifications but also perhaps in sparking ideas in other directions which will help training schemes within Australia. This is a tripartite mission led by one of my departmental officers and comprised of experts from the trade unions and employer sections. The mission will be absent from Australia for 3 months and, I am certain, will do a thorough job.
On the question of qualifications of migrants inevitably some are rejected when they apply because one simply cannot accept at face value the say-so of everybody who claims to be qualified in a particular trade. In my view the committees under the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act do a wonderful job. Their work has been greatly assisted by the co-operation of the trade union movement headed by Mr Monk. Mistakes may be made in isolated cases, but on the whole, I feel that these committees do a remarkable job. They have contributed to the absorption of migrants into this country.
It might be of interest to note one or two figures relating to the number of migrants who have been selected as tradesmen by our technical advisers overseas. Of 4,500 in this category who, in 3 years, have come to Australia only three had their qualifications rejected and in these cases the rejections were due to unusual circumstances. In 1967 a total of 6,774 migrants applied for recognition as tradesmen. Of this number, 4,233 or two-thirds were granted. In countries where we have technical advisers and migrants were selected as tradesmen beforehand, of 3,241 who applied, 1,747 or 48% were acknowledged. We do have cases which are extremely difficult because they do not line up with our trade criteria. They have had training of rather different kinds. There are apt to be difficulties of one sort or another. But I can assure the honourable member for Maribyrnong that this is a problem which in conjunction with employers and trade unions we shall endeavour to work at and to produce better results as we go on. A start will be made as soon as this mission returns and reports.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) did deal with a number of things but specifically the dismissal of employees who have been called up for national service. My Department is anxious to get reports of as many cases of this kind as it can. These cases become a starting point from which we interview employers, discuss the situation and very often get results. In many cases, however, we do find that the facts are not in accord with the reports we receive. The honourable member for Port Adelaide brought up the case of Mr A. L. Fieldhouse. He claimed that he made a phone call to my office and that I failed to return it. I am sorry to say that I have no personal recollection of this. But there is often very heavy traffic in my office. Certainly it was not my intention to neglect any call by the honourable member. He also mentioned a letter but I believe this letter did not come to my office. My staff was in touch with the Adelaide office of my Department and the matter was dealt with on the spot. There is no record of a letter direct to me.
– I got an acknowledgment of it.
– In that case, I will again look into the matter. The honourable member will appreciate that I have had very little time to check, but I did make inquiries about this matter when he brought it to my attention. As far as the case of Fieldhouse is concerned, he is alleged to have been given the sack because he had been called up. On investigation, I find that he was working in an abattoir. Drastic reductions in killings took place at the Gepps Cross meatworks and the Noarlunga meatworks run by the Australian Casing Company. The company was forced to retrench about 23 men. Included in the retrenchments were some men with up to 10 years service. Mr Fieldhouse had 1 years service only. The company refuted very strongly the allegation that the termination of Mr Fieldhouses employment was connected in any way with his liability to national service. This was confirmed by Mr Tonkin of the Meat Industry Union who said that Mr Fieldhouse was retrenched in accordance with union policy and that no other consideration whatsoever was involved. After the honourable member for Port Adelaide had brought this matter to the attention of my department, efforts were made to obtain alternative employment for him. Now, whether through my Department or otherwise, very shortly afterwards he became employed with the Cyclone company at Woodville. He said then that if he passed his medical examination he would be satisfied to remain in that job until he was called up. I do not want to get this one case out of perspective, but 1 thought 1 should at least answer the points raised.
The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) discussed at length regional unemployment in Australia and he had specifically in mind the position in Queensland. So indeed did the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). This does present difficulty in particular regions. But considering the activities of my Department, per se, as distinct from the Government as a whole, we see that its main function is bringing together people looking for jobs with those who seek their particular qualifications, lt is not within the compass of my Department - although we study these things very closely, naturally - or even within the compass of the Commonwealth Government to restructure a large sector of the economy. These situations pose difficult problems. Any solution that I could suggest or find I should be happy to promote.
The honourable member for Stirling referred to some comments the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) made at a dinner concerning the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I think that the Treasurer has dealt with this matter in this Parliament. But 1 must say something about my own part in this matter because two honourable members opposite have criticised me for castigating or bringing pressure to bear on the Commission. It is true that in one case I did that. That was on 11th December last year in response to the decision made concerning margins and work value in the metal trades industry case. I wish what I said then had not come to pass because that decision was to lead to an enormous number of disputes, bad blood and industrial restiveness. To some degree there is still a hangover remaining.
This was an exceptional case. It was decided by two members of the Commission. But I at no other time have criticised the Commission. On the other hand, I have expressed sympathy with it for the very difficult job that it has to do. I am talking now about the Commission as a whole as distinct from that particular decision which was virtually that of two particular members of the Commission. The honourable member for Stirling also mentioned that I said by way of criticism on 29th February that it was not the job of the Commission to think out and spin economic theories, or some words to that effect. I would have thought that this was confirming what the Commission has itself made clear on many occasions - that its primary function was that of settling disputes. But, of course, in settling disputes it must take close account of the effects its decisions will have on the economy at large or otherwise the industrial climate would eventually deteriorate sadly. Certainly no attack was meant; it was rather confirming what members of the Commission had already acknowledged and said many times.
The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) did refer to the disability of people in the country and in the north of Queensland. In particular he referred to his own electorate - not a custom unknown in this chamber.I think most of us would sympathise with what he had to say. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) did make a number of remarks, some of which dealt very much with what was covered in previous speeches. He referred to his own district and to one thing of which I think everyone might take note. Without acknowledging the correctness of his figures - a range no doubt selected by him or somebody else - I note that he said the proportion of wages absorbed by taxation had in a relatively short run of years increased from 6% to 11%. I think that what is true here of workers will be true of everyone, of the whole of the tax paying community, and that is pretty well all of us throughout the nation. He does remind us though that when honourable members lightly drop suggestions - in fact, not only suggestions but forceful propaganda - that we should spend more Government money in more directions, we should remember that the percentage that is coming out of the workers’ envelope and out of everybody else’s income would increase. One cannot have it both ways. In return for his taxes, however, the taxpayer has better schooling, better social services and other amenities throughout the community. This is a thought dropped by the honourable member for Cunningham which should be heeded more frequently by more people, particularly by those who love spending public money.
I do not recall any other particular remarks which call for an answer immediately, but certainly these comments will be taken into account in the coming year, particularly those of a constructive character.
One or two comments made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) I think could well be enlarged on. and I refer to his reference to some problems concerning regional employment in Queensland. It is in the nature of the Department and in its attitude towards job seeking and employment opportunities thatI have a difference with the Minister. The Minister said that the main departmental work associated with his Department is to marry jobs and those that are seeking employment. Whilst not disagreeing with that as being the main function of his Department, it is not by any means the only function of the Department in relation to employment. It is becauseI am convinced that the Department does not seek in any way to look at the problems of employment as they exist in certain well defined regions that I do have some concern about the attitude of the Minister and his Department. When one sees existing side by side areas which are of tremendous economic benefit to this country, not just at–
Motion (by Mr Erwin) agreed to:
That the question be now put:
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $53,132,000.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, there are a few points I would like to raise in the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I would like to draw attention first of all to the fact that during the debate on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and I pointed out that in 1967 postal charges had been increased by 25% on the small user, but that the large users - that is, big business interests - were given big discounts ranging from 5% to 25%. We claimed that the little user was being soaked to subsidise the postal charges for big business interests. We gave examples which showed that discounts to the Readers Digest Association Pty Ltd, MLC Ltd and others were out of all proportion to the amount of labour being saved and out of all proportion to the amount of new business which the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) claimed had been attracted to the Post Office as a result of these discounts.
I pointed out that when Readers Digest lodged 832,000 letters between 8th and 29th July the discount had been greater than the labour cost by about $9,252. In regard to the amount of new business which the Postmaster-General claimed - I think the figure was ten million articles - it amounted to only about 2.5 days work at the Sydney Mail Exchange. Other examples were given to show that all the statements that were made were not correct. For instance, in regard to postal rates for the householder service we were able to show that a firm posting 100,000 letters at half an ounce per letter before the 1967 amendment paid $2,800, that with the 1967 amendment it cost $2,400, and with the 1968 amendment the cost to the firm would be $2,000. That is a pretty big reduction. It is a reduction which the rest of the community was paying as a concession to big business interests.
It was clear from the evidence produced by honourable members on this side that the public and the small user had suffered a 25% increase in charges on first class mail matter, while the large user still paid less than the charges that existed prior to the 1967 legislation. We were referring, of course, to the second class matter, parcels and householder service where heavy discounts were allowed to large users. There has been a substantial increase in charges for registered periodicals and newspapers, but this only hits the small society, the club, union or country magazines, because those with postings over 100,000 get the large discount. Even those with postings of below 100,000 who get the small 5% discount are faced with the expense of presorting their papers and magazines.
The same applies to registered books. The postal charges have been substantially increased and only large users will get any significant reduction in total charges. It is worth noting that the increase in registered book charges has been particularly severe because of a change in the weight gradation as well as in the rate. These increases range from 50% to 250% according to the weight variation. An important point to note is that the discount rate to large users greatly exceeds the labour cost to the Department if it did its own sorting. The assertion by the Postmaster-General that the introduction of the discount scheme has attracted substantial new business is not correct and has been disproved by lodgments at the Sydney Mail Exchange. The Postmaster-General was at the table during the debate on the 1967 amending legislation and he did not deny the charges that the Opposition made. He did not have an answer to them apparently. So we can accept it as a fact that the small user will pay for the huge discounts that have been granted to the large user under the 1967 legislation and again under the 1968 legislation.
A steep rise in television and radio licences is proposed. They will be increased by $20, which is a pretty stiff amount for the lower paid family man to find. I suggest that the Postmaster-General should consider allowing licence holders to pay this amount in half-yearly instalments of $10. The cost would not bear so heavily on the lower paid worker and the family man if this were done. I want to refer now to the contract and day labour systems. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department has always functioned under a system which combines both these principles. In past years the Department has usually purchased equipment or materials from a manufacturer following the calling of tenders and has then installed the equipment with the use of departmental labour. I have been informed that during recent years the tendency has been either to call tenders on a supply and install basis or, in the case of telephone exchange equipment, just to award a particular company a contract to supply and install without calling for tenders. One case drawn to my attention was that of the Brisbane trunk switch exchange. A contract was awarded to L. M. Ericcson Pty Ltd to install the equipment. The equipment was to be supplied by the Department. A ludicrous situation arose when it was realised that the equipment also had to be purchased from L. M. Ericcson Pty Ltd. So that firm finished up by supplying and installing the equipment.
Apart from manufacturing a few minor components, the Department has never entered the communications manufacturing industry. The Department has always been prepared to allow private enterprise to develop and manufacture communication equipment which the Department, with the use of its own labour, has installed and maintained. In recent times, under pressure from some of the largest companies in the world, the Government has been more inclined to support the contract system. The 1968 publication ‘Facts on Telecommunications’, produced by the Australian Telecommunications Development Association, lists quite a number of these companies. I do not want to list them at this stage. It is interesting to note that Sir Charles Davidson, a former Postmaster-General, and Sir Giles Chippendall, a former Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, are on the board of directors of the Plessy group, the contractors for the Sydney Mail Exchange. The supply of equipment by these firms is not questioned, but the installation surely should be carried out by the Postmaster-General’s Department.
The Department should be the main competitor in the communications installation area, but h 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 world-wide competitive basis. That poses the question: Why are not tenders called for all projects, and why is the Department debarred from submitting tenders? I am informed that some companies restrict departmental operations by delays in the supply of equipment and materials. Many departmental projects are delayed by shortages of cable because it is diverted to private contract installations. Without doubt, public enterprise can compete against private enterprise to the material benefit of the companies, the Government and the general public. Classic examples are Trans-Australia Airlines, the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Scrum Laboratories. The Postmaster-General’s Department could do the same if it were allowed.
One area of the Department’s operations, the workshops section, 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 and Co. was awarded the tender on a 3-year contract. Subsequently, because of increases in cost, the tender price was increased by about $20 a cabinet. During the first year of the contract Charles Hope was taken over by Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd, which relinquished the contract after 1 year. The Brisbane workshops were subsequently awarded the second year of the Charles Hope contract and produced the cabinets at a figure less than that submitted by any private company. If the Department were given the opportunity to compete against the companies on an equal footing, it would be in the interests of the Department and the general public. Moreover the companies would be more inclined to confine their activities to manufacturing and to leave installation and maintenance to the Department.
Another matter that I want to spend a minute on is the new telephone directory, particularly that for Western Australia. There have been a lot of complaints about the new Western Australian directory because new telephone numbers appearing in it will not be available to the public until
November or January. An article entitled Complaints on new Telephone Numbers’ appeared in the ‘West Australian’ on 5th September. The ‘Sunday Times’ had a note in its own paper on 22nd September stating that the number given in the directory would not be available for operation until January. The police telephones have been affected in exactly the same way. This is bad, and people have a right to complain about it. Possibly the Minister has some explanation to offer. If he has, I cannot imagine what it is. I conclude my remarks on that note and ask the Minister to have a look at the matters I have raised.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– I wish to say a few words about programmes shown on national television. I know that it is extremely difficult for any television station to produce programmes that are agreeable to all viewers. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been subjected to a tremendous amount of criticism from members of Parliament who feel that at times the Com-, mission’s programmes lean one way or the other politically. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has always maintained that no attempt is made to exercise political control over the ABC in the matter of programmes. 1 think that most members of Parliament, irrespective of the side of politics from which they come, do not mind how programmes are weighted provided they are weighted evenly, and provided that a balanced view is presented to the public. But at times one wonders whether there is any balance in the views presented and whether the programmes are weighted rather heavily in one direction. This is an argument in which one could engage for a long time.
My main concern is for the centralisation of production of programmes for the ABC. Coming from a State a little isolated in Australia, 1 sometimes wonder whether the ABC is right in its attitude towards a central authority for the production of its programmes. I recently placed on the notice paper a question in which I asked what was the cost of sending a team to the iron ore development centres of the north-west to film a segment of the ‘Four Corners’ programme. I notice that in its annual report, which has been sent to all members of
Parliament, the ABC points with some pride to the fact that members of the ‘Four Corners’ team have travelled not only to every State of the Commonwealth but practically all over the world to produce programmes. In its report the Commission makes the rather strange statement:
Response to these stories from overseas indicated the need for more such reporting by Australians, not only in the South East Asian area but also in the United States and Europe. 1 was always under the impression that if Australia sent a team of Australians overseas to report, it was done for the benefit of Australian viewers and not particularly for the benefit of viewers in other parts of the world. I sometimes wonder whether expenditure incurred in these ways is justified and whether it is worth the expense to send somebody overseas to ask somebody else what he thinks about a certain matter. Recently my colleagues and I on the Public Works Committee were on our way to Darwin to investigate certain proposals that had been referred to the Committee by the Parliament. As members of Parliament - not as members of the Public Works Committee - we were looking at the iron ore projects at Mount Tom Price and Dampier. We were there at the same time as a ‘Four Corners’ team, which included photographers and other people. The team had a considerable amount of luggage with it and it had to move around by aircraft. The team produced part of a programme which was shown a couple of weeks later on the national network. The team’s efforts resulted in approximately a 3 minute presentation on the ‘Four Corners* programme. Any honourable member who is interested may turn to Hansard and ascertain the cost of obtaining that segment of the programme. The education section of the ABC proposes to send - it may have already done so - a similar team to the same area of the north-west to film the same kind of programme. This seems to me to be unnecessary because in Western Australia the ABC has on its staff some very capable cine photographers and commentators who could produce the required film.
If there were some central control over programmes, a team from Western Australia could have gone to the north-west, obtained the required film and sent it back to the central office at far less cost than the cost of duplicating the exercise. 1 do not think a great deal of organisation would be involved in setting up some central authority which would have the responsibility of ascertaining what documentary material was required. It could then send a team to the particular area, obtain the required film, and use it in the various productions which wanted it. As things now stand each progannme has its own requirements and sends its own team of photographers to various places. This leads to duplication and even triplication of effort and costs a lot of money. The result is the same sort of film presented on various programmes, but at greatly increased cost.
I recently asked the Postmaster-General how much it cost to send a special representative of the ‘Four Corners’ programme to America to report on the Republican Party convention. I was told that nobody had been sent from Australia. I accept that answer. 1 understand that somebody in America on a special grant had been used to comment on various matters.
There seems to be a tack of overall planning in the production of programmes. I know that many people enjoy those programmes, but unless some control is exercised over the cost of producing the programmes it will be the taxpayer who will suffer in the long run, because it is he who supplies the money to finance the activities of the ABC. I trust that the matters 1 have raised will be considered by the Postmaster-General.
I congratulate the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the standard of television programmes. Apart from the political aspect - we are not entirely unbiassed in our judgment of these programmes - programmes generally are doing a lot for Australian viewers. I wish the Australian Broadcasting Control Board every success in its endeavours to raise the standard of programmes for the Australian viewing public.
– This is the first year in which the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department have been presented in the new form, which is described rather baldly and blandly as the one line item. If one looks at page 67 of the Bill which we are now contemplating one might almost think that suddenly the Post Office has become an economic proposition and that instead of spending almost $400m, as we did last year, we propose to spend about $53m this year. But, as we know, the form of the estimates differs greatly this year from the form adopted in previous years. But I should think from the general nature of the debate, at least up to this point, that we are not any more circumscribed than usual in respect of what we may say about the Postmaster-General’s Department.
I would like to make a few comments, as did the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), on television. I believe, as does the honourable member, that the leader in this field must be the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As I have said before in this forum, I think that commercial television is an abomination. I cannot see why one’s entertainment should be presented in 5 or 10 minute snippets. As I understand the position, a television station may in the course of an hour transmit what are called commercials for a total period of as rauch as 12 minutes. I spoke a few days ago in this chamber about the costs of the two systems, the commercial system and the national system. It is evident enough that what is called the commercial system costs twice as much as does the non-commercial system. Whether the test to be applied is the number of people reached by one rather than the other is not a question that I want to argue this evening. The total cost of commercial broadcasting and commercial television is of the order of $100m a year whereas the budget for the Australian Broadcasting Commission is about half that amount. However, I do not want to go into the merits and demerits of one as against the other. I suppose in the long run it is a question of opinion. At some more enlightened future time, possibly 30 years hence - and I suppose the enlightenment will come basically from education - people will wonder how we ever tolerated the junk that is presented to us now as commercial television.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has had a few words to say about the standard of commercial television. Criticism has been offered of the distasteful form of some television advertisements, particularly for perfumeries and the basic garments that some members of the population apparently still have to wear. 1 suggest that a little more restraint might be exercised when preparing these advertisements. As I have said here before, I sometimes wonder about the sums that are paid to enterprises described as public relations firms. I do not deny that occasionally I watch commercial programmes but when advertisements come on I always find some relief by going and making a cup of tea or doing something equally interesting or fundamental.I sometimes think it would be wise for those who test the ratings of commercial programmes to make some of their tests when the advertisements are being shown. No doubt the programmes arc sometimes so bad that viewers find the advertisements more interesting.
I want to direct attention to the twentieth annual report, for the year ended 30th June 1968, of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. On page 24 it deals with educational television. Paragraph 77 repeats a statement which the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) made in the House of Representatives on llth May 1966. It was in there terms:
Education is a sovereign responsibility of the States and accordingly it is this Government’s view that a first and essential step on the Committee’s report–
This was the Weeden committee - must be consultation with the State governments as to their requirements and priorities and the extent to which they would be prepared to incur expenditures on educational television services.
It is at (east interesting to note the observation that education is a sovereign responsibility of the States, and to contrast that with the way in which the Commonwealth occasionally plucks out of the field of total education items such as school libraries - an item currently receiving our attention - universities and science blocks, and assumes some responsibility for them. I do not altogether agree with the way in which the Government has gone about this, but the point I make is that surely television is a fundamental educational medium.I do not think it is an educational medium only; I think it fulfils the three functions of providing information, education and entertainment, as does broadcasting. But when we read the report of the Broadcasting Control Board we realise how deficient is the medium of television at the present time in providing education. In commercial television and broadcasting, on which is spent twice as much money as the Australian Broadcasting Commission spends on its services, there is practically no educational content at all.
SometimesI think we should have more collective responsibility in this matter than we have at present. I commend to honourable members the 4 or5 pages in the Broadcasting Control Board’s report devoted to this subject. They provide some glimmerings of the educational opportunities that are available. For instance, we have, apparently, in the dead of night certain sessions which are designed to assist in the training of medical students. But I believe it is time the Government seriously considered the possibility of a separate channel for educational television. It is all very well to say that the State governments should be consulted, and to bring up the hoary old difficulty of matching grants. The States have not the finance to establish separate television channels, or broadcasting channels either, for that matter. The only government level at which it can be done is the Commonwealth level. Whether it can be done jointly by the commercial stations and the national network is a question I am not going to argue at this stage. I do seriously suggest, however, that we should be earnestly considering the establishment of a separate channel for educational programmes, particularly a television channel, because I think that television has the greater potential for the future. It is no use making a snap decision on a matter like this, as the Government generally does when an election comes along. This is the kind of decision the Government took in 1963, when Australia was supposedly trembling on the brink of disaster and the Government announced its intention to purchase an aeroplane, the F111, that is still not flying in this country in 1968. I suggest that if the same attitude is adopted towards educational television it will have disastrous results. The Government cannot suddenly say, with an election in a few weeks, months or even a year away, that it will go into the field of educational television. Before it goes into this field a tremendous amount of ground work will have to be done. People will have to be trained to produce programmes. There must be special training fields. A lot of people may have to be sent abroad, and arrangements may have to be made to borrow programmes and so on. It is of no good to leave it to chance meetings of State Ministers for Education, but this procedure has been dragging on now for almost 2 years. I refer honourable members to paragraph 79 of the report which states:
It was agreed at the conference that further consultation would be necessary between Commonwealth and State Ministers. On 24th July 1967–
That is more than a year ago– two States, namely Tasmania and Victoria, stated that they were ready to proceed with another conference. New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia indicated that their investigations had not then reached the stage when they were ready to proceed with a further conference. The Minister for Education in Queensland advised that owing to urgent educational priorities in other fields it was not proposed to embark at this stage upon any expansion in regard to the use of television in education.
All I suggest is that here again there is evidence of what are basically financial and administrative wranglings at a time when we are faced with a great national problem. Surely in 1968, looking forward, as I hope we sometimes do, to 1978 or even 1988, we ought to realise that we have to begin to plan now for the potential of this instrument of television.
I am told that recently at the Royal Melbourne Show in Victoria queues were lined up for an hour in advance to see the potential coloured television. I do not think that that is the great thing that should suddenly be thrust upon us, but nevertheless the potentialities of that facility will take several years to develop. In the field of educational television it is no longer of any good for the Commonwealth Government to pass the buck back to the States. This is a national matter. The Commonwealth Government is the only body with existing facilities available in broadcasting and television. It is the only level of government which has the financial responsibility and the necessary financial capacity. I hope that within the next 12 months, no matter which government is in office, there will be a more serious approach to educational television. As we have said before, television is still one of the most magnificent potential instruments for the advancement of a society culturally, economically and socially.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Failes) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking to the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department I commend the Department, its officers, operators and staff, particularly those in the Northern Territory. The people who live in outback parts do much of their business by telephone with trunk line calls, by radio communication and by telegrams from Darwin and Alice Springs. We are well aware of the good effort of the staff in these outback places. They are very courteous and helpful. However because of the distances involved the cost of the trunk line service is a burden on people who live a long way from the more populated areas. Surely as more services become equipped with subscriber trunk dialling the cost of trunk line services generally must be cheapened. I suggest to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) that, although it is convenient to have this dialling system, the cost of trunk line operations in outback areas could be reduced. As I said, most of the business there is done by telegram, over the radio network or by radio telephone. Surely there could be an overall charge for Australia such as there is for letters. If there can be an overall postage charge, it should be possible to have an overall trunk line charge. It costs no more to get a letter from Parliament House to Darwin than it does from Parliament House to Hughes.
I commend the Postmaster-General and his Department for introducing the radio telephone, which is a tremendous amenity to the outback. I remember when there was not even radio communication between some outback places in the Centre. Then came the pedal radio which was actually operated by pedals. This was unproved upon with the introduction of battery powered radio. Then came generating sets, and now we have the radio telephone. All one does with the radio telephone is to listen while the other person talks: One does not try to speak at the same time as the other person is speaking. This facility will revolutionise communications in the outback. I urge the Minister to push on with this service as fast as possible. I realise that installation costs are very high, but the tremendous advantage to people in outlying areas far outweighs the cost. In years gone by one often spent hours sitting by the pedal radio waiting for a message. I am not abusing the Flying Doctor Service, which is a magnificent outfit, but on some days when radio reception was bad, as it often is in the outback, one could spend half the morning waiting for an urgent telegram about whether to truck cattle, to collect mining gear, or to meet someone who was due to arrive or who had already departed. One could not turn his back on the radio because a message was due. So one had to wait and listen until finally the message came through. This is not the position with the radio telephone, although on one day recently there was a bit of skip and some of the frequencies were off. The radio telephone will revolutionise communications in the outback not only of the Northern Territory and Western Australia but of Queensland. No doubt my honourable friend from Kennedy (Mr Katter) will be pleased to see its introduction in his area.
Down through the years radio reception has presented a great problem in the Northern Territory. We used to listen only to short wave radio, but then the Australian Broadcasting Commission established stations at Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. These stations had a very low output and a very limited range. Unless people were in the immediate vicinity of the towns in which the stations were situated they were not able to receive any radio broadcast during the day. This is so even now. except under freak circumstances. Long before I came to this Parliament, at night in the winter time I used to listen on the radio to honourable members speaking here. At night in winter time we could hear broadcasting stations from the south but we still could not hear our local stations. I know there is a problem concerning overseas frequencies, but the Northern Territory and the north of Australia generally have grown. Surely we do not have to continue to endure lack of communications and lack of a facility like radio. I make a very strong plea that greater power be provided for local radio stations which can now be heard only in the vicinity of the towns in which they are situated.
We have one commercial station in the Northern Territory, which also has limited power. Possibly this is the reason why this afternoon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) presented a petition which suggested that the area known as Gove be given the name of Nhulumbuy. This question has been dealt with over the local radio station on two or three occasions. No doubt the range of the broadcast was so low that the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters did not hear what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) or I had to say about the matter. Recently I asked a question concerning the same matter.
Before I conclude I want to refer to television. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has heard me speak on this matter previously. He has answered questions I have asked about television and I have spoken about it even in my speech during the Address-in-Reply debate. The PostmasterGeneral has replied to questions regarding the situation in Darwin. If 1 remember rightly, be said that a decision was to be made at some time in the future. If the Government is going to be slow in producing this amenity for people in the outback I strongly urge the Postmaster-General to assist private enterprise to enter this field and provide this amenity for people who do not have as much amusement or as many pastimes available to them as people in the south have. 1 conclude on that note. I ask him to provide stronger and better radio and television facilities in order to ease the burden of loneliness of people in the outback.
– I agree with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) that very often the advertisements on television are more entertaining than are the actual programmes. I notice that the television stations are even improving on the technique, because the advertisements are usually surrounded by a flourish of trumpets, dancing girls and sometimes girls in bikinis. So it is difficult not to keep looking at the advertisements.
I have referred previously to the financial arrangements of the Post Office, but I shall refer to them again. I think they are all wrong. We must remember how this situation came about. A committee was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Alexander Fitzgerald to ascertain the total expenditure on capital works in the Post Office since federation- since 1901. In 1959 the Treasurer or the Government or somebody decided tha.t in future the Post Office would pay interest on its capital expenditure right from federation, and a figure of $680m was arrived at. That was the amount which it was estimated it had cost to develop the Post Office from 1901 to 1959. From that time the Post Office has had to earn sum.cent money to pay interest. Since this new financial system was introduced the Post Office has not been able to earn sufficient money to pay this interest charge because there has been a large increase in the amount of interest payable by the Post Office.
In 1958-59, before the new financial system was introduced, the Post Office’s interest charge amounted to $1,625,000. But in the first year after the introduction of the new financial system the interest charge for the Post Office was $30,694,000, and it has been increased ever since, lt increased by $5m in 1960-61; it increased to $40m in 1961-62; and it increased to $45m in 1962-63, and so on. The prospectus of the capital works programme for the Post Office this year points out that the interest charge has reached $83m. and that next year it will be $94m. The interest has accumulated in 9 years, and today it is no less than $57 1 m. That is the debit against the Post Office for interest charges. I do not know how the Post Office will ever pay it off.
I think that last year the earnings by the Post Office amounted to $567m. hut the interest charg-s had accumulated to $57 1 m. So it takes the complete earnings of the Post Office for I year to meet the interest charges for 9 years. 1 think that is wrong. Let me compare the Post Office with the Department of Civil Aviation. Why is the Post Office not treated in the same way as the Department of Civil Aviation which 1 think is as much a business undertaking as the Post Office is? In 1967-68 revenue for the Department of Civil Aviation totalled $14,244,000. In 1966-67 it totalled S 1 4,804,000. In 1 966-67 expenditure for the Department of Civil Aviation was S74m.
– What about 1969?
– That figure will stagger us when we get it. In 1967-68 expenditure for the Department of Civil Aviation was $81m. In 1966-67 expenditure was $60m more than revenue, and in 1967-68 expenditure was $67m more than revenue. In addition to this, the Government pays subsidies on all the air services in Australia. It does not matter which company is involved or where it operates, a subsidy is paid. The Government paid a total of $1,901,000 for subsidies to airline operators in 1967-68. The total revenue of the Department of Civil Aviation in that year was $14,244,000 and its total expenditure was $81,802,000. Honourable members can see that the Department of Civil Aviation is treated very differently to the Postmaster-General’s Department. I do not know where the process that has been a feature of Post Office operations will end. It has grown so quickly that eventually the Post Office must go bankrupt. 1 note from looking at the trading results of the Post Office for 1967-68 that its earnings from communications - that is from telegrams and telephonic and radio services - amounted to $364m and its expenses were $354m. That part of the Post Office made a profit of SI Om. But on the postal side the earnings in 1967-68 were $ 138m and expenses were $158m, a loss of $20m. If we add the loss to the amount of interest that the Post Office had to find the result is that instead of having a loss of $8m, as shown in its report, it is actually S8m plus the S94m which it had to find for interest charges. That kind of bookkeeping is wrong. 1 want now to compare the Post Office with the remainder of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Public Service has 138,594 permanent officers, 15.671 temporary officers and 57,387 who are exempt from becoming permanent, making a total of 211,652. Just over 73,000 could he classed as temporary employees. The fact thai they are temporary adds to the great discontentment that exists in the Service. In the Postmaster-General’s Department there arc 102,000 employees, lt has a permanent staff of 68.000, a temporary and exempted staff of 30,000 and a part time staff of 3,000. There are too many temporary employees in the Post Office. This Causes discon.ent. When a man takes a joh he likes to know that he has some security and some hope of continuity in thai employment. The fact that so many people .ire temporary employees leads to great discontentment in the Post Office.
Working conditions in the Post Office also cause discontentment. Post Office employees have been asking for better conditions for a long time. Personal relationships with the heads of the Department are not at a very high level. I believe it would improve the feeling in the Post Office generally if Saturday work was completely eliminated. The Post Office has a very big labour turnover simply because young men find that they have to work 6 days a week. They look for another job in which they receive equivalent wages but only work 5 days a week. It is understandable that there is this discontentment and that there is a pile-up of inefficient officers. The postmasters cannot help this. Naturally, if there is a continual change of staff, Post Office employees are not very well trained. I believe that if the Post Office operated a S-day week it could attract more people into the service.
Another cause of discontentment is the discrimination against female labour. Thousands of females are employed in the Post Office. They are paid less not because they are inefficient or cannot do the same job as a man but simply because they are women. This adds to discontentment. I saw an advertisement in the Commonwealth Gazette’ a day or so ago calling for data processing officers, male and female, for the Post Office. They would both do the same work and would both have to pass the same examinations. The male rate was $2,700 and the female rate was $2,298, a difference of $402. A girl would be working alongside a man, doing the same kind of work, but would receive $402 less each year. The Post Office should look into the matter and end this discriminiation. The Government should take action on these lines throughout the entire Public Service. It could do this by regulation.
Recently the Postmaster-General’s Department increased certain charges to raise an additional $6.2m in a full year. Notwithstanding this increased charge we find that less service is to be given by the Department. I am not talking about the post offices being open on Saturdays; I am referring to postmen. The Department is investigating a proposal to replace twice daily postal deliveries with one delivery a day. 1 know of organisations in my electorate, in a built up suburb, which have been fighting for two deliveries a day for years but have not succeeded. Now everybody is to be put on a once daily delivery basis. Yet we are to pay more for less service. I might point out that the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Postmasters Association issued a circular about the Post Office service. The circular stated:
The Australian Postmasters Association (NSW Branch) sincerely regrets any inconvenience and concern Post Office service failures have caused you.
Postmasters are acutely embarrassed by the current all time low standard of postal services and would like you to know that they are continuously striving to provide you with a reasonable level of postal efficiency.
Postmasters have, of course, invited the attention of Departmental Heads, the Commonwealth Public Service Board and your Federal Member to this state of inefficiency but to date, regrettably, corrective action has not been taken. “The basic cause of Post Office service failures is the Department’s inability to attract and retain recruits of reasonable quality and quantity to perform its essential community services . . .’
I have mentioned some of the causes of discontentment among employees in the Post Office. A 5-day working week is very important to them and would bring them into line with employees in practically every other service. Then there is the matter of equal pay for women. There must be discontentment when such things are apparent in such an important organisation as the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– The activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department are of great importance to Australians generally but they are of vital importance to people living in inland areas. Consequently they are of vital importance to very many people in my electorate of Maranoa. People living outside the metropolitan areas and away from the provincial cities are dependent to a very great extent for up to date news and market reports on radio and television services. While the services are satisfactory in many areas - I have no complaint about the services in my area - it is true that as one moves further into the inland of Australia the services become progressively worse. No doubt this is based on the fact that there are not so many people to be served in such areas. At the same time I think it must be remembered that people in the inland areas are serving a very important purpose in this community. I believe that they are deserving of greater consideration than they are receiving at present.
I believe the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and the Government can take some pride in the fact that about 95% of the Australian people are now within reach of television. This is something about which we can feel a deal of satisfaction. ButI would remind the Minister that the real test of serving Australia in this direction will be in his and the Government’s ability to reduce that 5% to the irreducible minimum in the shortest possible time. The provision of. television in the closely settled cities and great metropolitan areas is of economic value and brings in a return. The needs of outlying areas should be given particular consideration at this stage. Too often,I believe, people look at these matters and, indeed, most matters, from the angle of how they themselves will be affected. They are only too ready to forget that we must think as a nation.It is up to us to realise that the needs of all Australians should receive the keen interest of all Australians. Unless we have a broad national outlook we will not see the development of Australia as a nation at the rate at which and in the way in which it deserves to progress. I am well aware that the cost factor must come into consideration. There are areas where the provision of services is very expensive. WhileI concede that, I also want to draw attention to the fact that wherever it is possible to provide services their allocation should not be based purely on a straightout economic basis. Equality of opportunity should be given to the Australian community. The greatest possible dispersing of amenities through this country is the clear responsibility of the Australian Government. I hope that this matter will be given increasing consideration by the Government.
It is worthy of note that the consideration of costs and economics is something of a one-way traffic. This is notable whenever we want a service in areas which do not have sufficient population for the returns by way of licence fees and the like to justify the service. I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Would it not be reasonable to offset the great national advantage that comes from, for instance, the provision of natural gas from the Roma district against the provision of amenities such as television to that district? We are prepared to take all that comes from these areas. We are prepared to accept oil from Moonie and to say that as a matter of course it shouldbe allocated for the benefit of the community at large. But when it comes to extending benefits to country areas we base our decisions on the actual economics of the service and look to the revenue that is provided directly as a result of the feesthat are charged for the amenity. I know there are other examples. But this does not mean that the argument is not reasonably sound. I know this argument can he applied to other fields.I believe it is an argument that should he given some consideration.
Following that line of thought. I would like to say that it should never he forgotten that Australia owes her rapid development to her primary industries. This has been a primary producing country for many years. Though secondary industry is developing it is interesting to note that as recently as the financial year l966-67 rural industry provided not less than 66.6% of Australia’s export income. This, of course, is of vital importance to the welfare of the Australian people as a whole. I believe there are many angles from which the matter of amenities should be considered. I hope that the very narrow outlook that is taken on so many occasions in this field will give way to a broader national outlook that will be to the benefit of Australia as a nation and of every individual. I believe that the provision of amenities for people in country areas is not purely a matter of benefiting people who live in a particular district. I think we have to look at this situation from a national point of view if we are to promote the development of Australia in the way in which we should. When people in rural areas ask for improved services from the Postmaster-General’s Department they are simply asking for consideration which they are justly entitled to receive.
In regard to television, I notice that in stage 6 of the development of television, provision is made for a national television station at MountIsa, in Queensland, Renmark, in South Australia, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia, and Darwin, in the Northern Territory. It is expected that these stations will be in operation in the financial year 1969-70. This time is reasonably close and I would urge the Postmaster-General to give consideration now to stage 7 of development and to the inclusion of stations in southern inland Queensland in that stage. I believe that the people of the inland parts of that State are certainly entitled to consideration. The area has a high enough density of population. A case has been put to the Minister for the provision of television in the area, and I believe that case is well prepared and soundly based. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to including the recommended stations in the next stage of television development. I feel that it is reasonable for a decision to be made now on stations to be included in the next stage. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to making an early announcement about the matter. Whilst the five stations asked for in stage 6 might be more costly per station than the stations provided for in stage 4, 1 point out to the Minister that in stage 4 twenty national stations were provided. The rate of progress on a number of the twenty stations in stage 4 has been slowed down and this will offset the extra cost of providing the five stations in stage 6.
I want to draw attention to the fact that there is a great need for improved telephone services also in the inland. The installation of microwave facilities for television will also provide improved telephonic communications. 1 am very pleased to see - and 1 commend the Postmaster-General on this - that microwave facilities have been extended in country districts. A microwave service has now been introduced in the Dalby district in my electorate, because it was considered necessary for telephonic communications. I believe that we should not debit all the cost of microwave facilities against television services, ‘because such facilities will also improve our telephonic communications. I pay a tribute to the Postmaster-General and to officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department in my State, particularly in my area, for the courtesy and consideration that have been extended to me whenever J have gone to them with problems. But I would like to see better services provided in rural areas. I am deeply concerned at the number of subscribers still waiting for the provision of continuous services. Most of these services will have to be provided by automatic exchanges. People are not prepared to stay on these country exchanges today. This is a fact of life. To overcome this problem we will require more automatic telephone exchanges. In this day and age with subscriber trunk dialling and all the modem advantages and great advances that science is bringing, surely it is becoming increasingly unacceptable for subscribers to have services still operating on restricted hours, as well as the unsatisfactory services which apply in some cases. I stress the need for a greater allocation of funds For the purpose of providing more automatic exchange equipment.
Another point that I wish to make is with regard to what is called ELSA- the extended local service area system. This no doubt was a step in the right direction. But I want to point out in this respect what I believe is one of the greatest anomalies in the Postmaster-General’s Department. This is in providing a similar area or a similar distance over most parts of the Commonwealth, with slight alterations, in the application of this service. I thank the Postmaster-General’s Department for the consideration that has been extended where this system has been altered. The idea regarding these areas was that they should include sparsely settled places as well as densely populated centres and that they should bc extended much more considerably than they are at the present time. 1 have heard a lot in this Parliament recently about votes being of equal value. I would like to see the numbers of people in these areas granted more uniformity in regard to this service. I would bc prepared to go as far as our Electoral Act goes and allow say 20% above or below the minimum area for this service.
I believe that this is desirable and that if we could get to that stage it would be a step in the right direction and would give some relief to these people. They are not getting the same value, because they are in these outlying areas, as is being received by people who are in closely settled areas. I also contend that in each ELSA area one town should be designated as a town to which all calls regarding medical and professional services in that area will be charged at the local call rate. Here again, this is just equality of service that I am asking for. It is equality of service for people who do not get all the amenities and benefits that are provided in many ways in other areas of the Commonwealth. I do urge the Postmaster-General to give very serious consideration to extending these areas. T know that the cost will be greater but, at the same time, surely we do subscribe to the idea of providing equality in services as far as it is possible to do. I think that this is certainly within the bounds of possibility.
Before I conclude, I wish to draw attention to the fact that difficulty is being experienced in finding contractors to undertake mail runs in country areas at a price acceptable to the Department. Some of these services have had to be discontinued because of this fact. So, T do urge liberalisation of the limits imposed by the Department on this essential service to people living in rural areas. I have not the figures to show the numbers but I know from the experience in my own area that some of these services have been discontinued without great objection. I know of services which have been discontinued in my electorate and it follows therefore that the finance saved thereby could be applied to providing a greater amount of money for these mail services in outlying areas which are unable to continue or which may be threatened with discontinuance as the result of the small amount of money being allowed for the running of these services.
Finally let me say that I support what the honourable member for the Northern Territory said with regard to radio reception in outlying areas. It is not all that it might be. In the far west of Queensland, radio reception is poor. While this is a matter of frequencies and difficulties related to providing frequencies, I do feel that this is one major service that could be provided. Television is not available to these people. They do not have many other amenities. They use radio for their news services. I hope that the Postmaster-General will give serious consideration to providing these outlying areas with better radio frequencies.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In dealing with the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, first of all 1 wish to draw attention to the use of television in schools as an educational medium. At page 44 of the thirty sixth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the year ended 30th June 1968, Appendix 9 sets out the number of television equipped schools in Australia. I wish to quote from this Appendix because these figures go strongly to the argument which I hope to advance to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) shortly.
Looking at the number of television equipped schools in the year 1965 we find that the national total was 3,212. In the next 2 years it rose to 4,274. In other words, between 1965 and 1967 a rise of 42% took place in the national total of schools equipped with television receivers for the benefit of children taking television lessons. Looking along the table we see the percentages showing the number of television equipped schools in each of the States. Whereas the national percentage is 42% we find that the figures for the various States are: New South Wales, 36%; Victoria, 53%; Queensland, 38%; South Australia, 32% and Western Australia, 25%. In Tasmania 296 schools are so equipped, giving that State a figure of 98%. So, we in Tasmania right from the beginning of radio and television, as always, have been quick to take advantage of these media in the educational field. The percentage of schools which are equipped with television - 98% in Tasmania as against the next highest State, Victoria, with 53% and the State with the lowest number, Western Australia, with 25% - speaks for itself.
This great interest in and large use of the television medium in Tasmania has run us into some trouble. We find now that the Australian Broadcasting Commission transmitters are being used for school services from 9.15 a.m. to 3.20 p.m. on weekdays. The time allotted for programmes is used fully at present. If new programmes are to be introduced for schools they can be introduced only by restricting the present services. This is a serious matter which has been taken up at State Government level with the Prime Minister’s Department. This is of serious concern to teachers in Tasmania, ft is of concern in those areas of Tasmania which receive only commercial television services. I think that these people deserve a better deal.
We have, for example, in the mining fields on the west coast of Tasmania, such as the Savage River and Luina, people who have come from different parts of Australia where they have been used to television services. They have arrived in these new towns which have been carved out of the rain forests for the purpose of tin mining at Luina and for the mining of iron ore on the Savage River. These people found that they had no hope of getting television reception in these areas. But not to be outdone, the mining companies themselves realising the tremendous advantage of television with the backing of the people and the co-operation of the commercial television station in Launceston - TNT9 - undertook a magnificent co-operative effort. Together, the companies carved out roads to the top of Companion Hill and to another hill nearby and provided not only the roads to the top of the hill but also the buildings required and laid on the power. This is what they achieved. I well remember that on one Sunday more than seventy people representing all walks of life turned up to lay a cable on the mountainside to connect with the power supply in order to get the transmitter on the air. TNT9 co-operated by providing the transmitter. The cost to the mining company I think would be approximately $30,000. The estimated cost to the television station was $20,000. So, these people in this area were able to obtain a television service from a commercial television station at a cost of some $50,000 from, as I indicated, a magnificent co-operative effort of self-help. The school has a television set, but under the present arrangement we cannot get educational programmes through commercial stations. This causes concern because the ABC transmitters are being used fully. They are now operating at maximum capacity and we cannot bring in new programmes as new methods are introduced. Teachers want new plays and various other educational programmes telecast in cooperation with the ABC but unfortunately this cannot be done at present as the time is fully taken up.
I ask the Minister to let us know what has been done and what can be done to obtain the co-operation of commercial stations in this field, at least until the Government is prepared to implement the report of the Weeden Committee, as was suggested by my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). The Weeden Committee in paragraph 178 of its report stated:
We recommend as follows:
One frequency channel in the VHF band should be reserved for educational purposes in each capital city, and in each of the provincial or country service areas designated by the Australian .Broadcasting Control Board (paragraph 81).
When allocations are made in the UHF band a sufficient number of channels should be reserved in each service area to accommodate the needs of educational television, as far as they can then be foreseen (paragraph 83).
I ask the Minister whether he will use his influence with the commercial stations and obtain their co-operation to implement the following recommendation:
I cannot see any reason why the ABC and the Ministers for Education in each State should not get together with the people who control commercial stations in this country. If this Government is at all interested in education, as it purports to be with its grants for libraries and science blocks, surely television should be one of the activities to which money should be allocated for this purpose. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred to the 1968 annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. On 24th July 1967 the Postmaster-General wrote to State Ministers for Education requesting advice on the present position concerning the introduction of educational television. The Minister for Education in Queensland advised that because of certain education priorities in other fields - in other words he just did not have the money to do this - it was not proposed to make any further expansion at this time.
I think it is a pity that we do not have more educational television in this country for the benefit of our children. Television is a very powerful and telling medium. It is a pity that educational television in this country is ‘being held up through lack of finance. As I understand it from reading other parts of the report, the people who control the commercial stations would be interested in educational television if they were paid the cost of presentation, the cost of technicians and the cost of the time. The Postmaster-General might be able to throw some light on this and indicate what the cost would be. Surely to goodness in this country we can find some money for this purpose. Until such time as the Government sees fit to implement the recommendations of the Weeden Committee by making special channels available for educational television, surely the ABC, the Government and the State Ministers for Education could get together with the commercial interests so that at least the facilities of the commercial stations could be used at such times as they are not being used to their maximum output, especially in the mornings.
I would like to refer to the extension of television to King Island. I know that this subject has become a hardy annual. In a debate recently in this chamber on television, some honourable members said Tasmania has a small number of people, but they have television stations, while in the bigger areas around Newcastle the people have to rely on relays. I do not think this argument holds water. I believe that people in isolated areas should have television before those in the more settled areas where there is a greater diversification of interests for them. If we are going to encourage people to go into the outback and into island communities and so foster decentralisation and help this country to expand, we have to give them services, such as television. There are about 3,000 people on King Island and it is situated midway between Tasmania and Victoria. These people cannot get away from their residences as readily as the people in Newcastle can. People in Newcastle can catch a train and go right across Australia, or can hop in a motor car and travel by road anywhere interstate. They can also travel by ship if they want to do so. Unfortunately the people in this isolated area of King Island have to travel by air and they are required to pay first class air fares. If any islander requires specialist treatment which is not available from the general practitioner on the island he has to travel by air and the air fares are not even allowed as a taxation deduction.
This island has an average rainfall of 30 inches. It is the only place to my knowledge which, when there is a drought in the southern part of Australia - in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia - and even dry conditions in Tasmania still has a 30 inch rainfall. It is in a funnel shaped area, being midway between the southern part of Australia and Tasmania. The winds come through the funnel and are caught by the island. It is the only place of which I know where the grass will grow all year round, and for that reason it is a magnificent place for fattening stock. It is a great place for mineral development. One only has to look at the stock market to see how Consolidated Goldfields NL and Peko Mines NL are attempting to take over King Island Scheelite Ltd, the shares of which are running at about $14 each. There are also vast deposits of mineral bearing sands.
We need people and we want people to go to King Island. It is very difficult to get people to leave other parts of Australia where they have a television service and go to these areas once they know that they cannot pick up a signal there. We have tried. The local council put up a proposition that the people on King Island should pay higher licence fees but the PostmasterGeneral would not accept it. He said it would be a discriminatory tax and would mean collecting more from the people on King Island than from people anywhere else. The GTV station at Ballarat told us that it could put a signal on the island for about $60,000. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision. He would not receive a deputation from the Jaycees nor would the late Prime Minister. We have been waiting for some information since August 1967, when Mr Myles Wright told us at a meeting that the likelihood of signals from the Launceston station being received on King Island was being examined. This is over 12 months ago but we have not received any intimation of the result of the analysis of these observations. I appeal again to the Minister to reconsider his decision. Surely these people, more than anyone, are entitled to this service.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In rising to speak on the estimates of the PostmasterGeneral’s DepartmentI would like to draw the attention of the Committee to a statement by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) in the publication ‘Australian Telecommunications 1968’ to the effect that by 1970 his Department will have invested more than Si 50m in providing Australia with one of the most modern major trunk line system networks. By 1970 this network will have covered 12,500 miles. The co-axial cable and microwave radio systems which form the broadband trunk network are able to provide thousands of telephone channels which may be expanded relatively easily to meet future traffic needs. These lines carry not only telephone communications but telegraphic, telex, radio and television programmes as well. The Australian Post Office has planned for the future development of its modem trunk telecommunications network with the extension of subscriber trunk dialling, which will help the progress of Australia. The PostmasterGeneral went on to say that 54% of Australia’s total population, which is spread over an area of 3 million square miles, lives in the six capital cities. He rightly claimed that this poses enormous problems in country areas of low population density. Australia has about twenty-seven telephones per hundred people, compared with almost fifty in the United States of America. Australia is about seventh by world standards. All metropolitan exchanges in Australia were automatic by 1963. Sixty-one per cent of country telephone exchanges are now automatic. This, of course, includes many of the provincial cities and does not give quite a true picture of the portion in more sparsely populated areas.
Subscriber trunk dialling is one of the major programmes in hand, lt will not be long before we will be able to use subscriber dialling to almost anywhere in the world through most exchanges in Australia. The Postmaster-General has said that it will provide a rapid, more convenient and less expensive service. He said that more than a million people in Australia already have a subscriber trunk dialling service and that more than 20% of calls are dialled direct. lt is obvious to the casual observer that most of these new facilities are available to the capital cities in particular and not so much to the country areas. I agree with the statement of the Postmaster-General that subscriber trunk dialling must be less expensive and much more convenient. 1 believe the time has come when we must look very seriously at quite a revolutionary change. I refer to the adoption of a flat rate for all trunk calls. I have put up this proposition before and it has been suggested that it is impossible. 1 do not agree that it is impossible. I do not think any serious research has been done on ‘.he matter.
I draw the attention of honourable members to postal services. If a letter is posted to a house across the street it costs 5c. If it goes to Darwin, Hobart or Perth, it goes for 5c. That letter has to be collected, stamped and taken to a train or plane, generally by means of road transport. lt goes to the capital city or another distributing centre, lt is then carried interstate to another capital city, resorted, delivered to the country area, sorted again and delivered to the person to whom it has been posted. That letter is handled many times, yet ;t goes for only 5c. Even with the use of automatic equipment, a tremendous lot of handling is involved. Does it matter whether a telephone call goes 5 miles or 5,000 miles? Once a person has the necessary equipment available, he can pick up bis phone and dial; it does not matter how far the call goes. This service should be extended to Ihe whole of Australia. I do not think any other single service would be of greater advantage in the development of Australia. Country people already have a tremendous burden of costs, particularly people who are in country businesses. The cost of trunk services are exorbitant because of the varying rate according to distance.
– How much would you charge?
– That is a matter for investigation. I am asking for an investigation. If the Department arrives at 5c for a postal service, why can it not arrive at something in the vicinity of 5c for all telephone calls? This is a public service that is well worth investigating and one that would considerably help country people who, as 1 have said, suffer seriously from rising costs.
Let us think of a young country mother with a young family who is isolated in a country home. We all know of such instances. If the father - this applies more to the working man than to the land owner - has the only means of transport, the young mother is completely out of communication. In many cases she is not able to get a phone. The cost of telephone services in many of these cases can run into literally hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars where they have to put up a certain length of their own line. These are the real Australians. Any amount of pioneering is still going on in this country - and not very far from Canberra. I could take honourable members into my own electorate, within 40 miles of Canberra, where young Australians set up a new settlement on the Murrumbidgee River about 5 years ago. They still have not got a telephone service. We are told that it is too costly to put a cable there and that there is no supply of automatic telephones. So these people with young families are completely isolated. They have their roads in now, but they do not have any telephone services. This is an impossible and ridiculous situation. It is time more money was applied to country areas that desperately need this sort of service to make things a little more convenient.
In many country areas the telephone service is being run by a postmistress who has given tremendous service over many years. It is surprising how many are now growing too old or are dying in the service. All country members have this experience. Nobody is prepared to take on the job of running the service. In my electorate there are 6 and even 8 people on one party line because nobody is prepared to take on the exchange service and we are told that no rural automatic exchanges are to be put in to service these people. This has been going on for a number of years. In defence of the departmental officersI must say that they have bent over backwards to give us service and they have strained to the limit the material and equipment they have had. I know that at times they go to almost unbelievable lengths to extend telephone facilities to give people in difficult circumstances some sort of service. It is high time that those who have a desperate need for a service were given some priority over those to whom a telephone is merely a luxury. I again pay a tribute to country telephone managers and engineers for their co-operation and effort. I do not criticise the Postmaster-General, because I know that he is sympathetic, but sympathy is not enough. We must have money and equipment. We are told that there is not enough equipment. We are told that we do not have sufficient exchanges or technicians. I cannot accept the excuse that this shortage has existed for the last 10 years. There has been tremendous development in the provision of automatic exchanges in city areas and the larger towns, which already had a good manual service, while other people have a very poor service, sometimes restricted to 5 days a week and limited hours.
I seriously ask not only the Minister, because I know that he is generally sympathetic, but also the Government to examine my proposal of a flat rate for trunk calls. Nothing else could mean more to country people, whether they are in business, on the land or in employment.
Nothing could do more for the development of this nation. I appeal to the Minister to investigate my proposal. If a flat rate can be charged for the carriage of letters surely it would be an economic proposition to charge a flat rate for direct dialling. I do not suggest that my proposal could be put into effect tomorrow, but we could plan ahead, looking to the time when direct trunk dialling is available throughout the entire country.
– The Post Office is a vast organisation. It employs more people than does any private enterprise organisation, including the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and the Imperial Chemical Industries group. About 110,000 people work in the Post Office and its annual turnover is over $ 1,000m. In recent years the Post Office has achieved miracles in communications. It is now placing telephone cables underground. This is wonderful. The automatic telephone exchange is a miracle of human ingenuity. One could go on reciting the list of remarkable changes and improvements within the Post Office, but I want to refer to two or three matters that are not so commendable.
I refer, for instance, to the increased cost of postal services and to the restriction of those services. This is a crazy policy, completely out of character with the traditions of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The decision to increase postal rates for newspapers sent overseas was a definite backward step because it will mean that less information about Australia will be sent to countries overseas. Migrants and others are now sending overseas fewer newspapers than ever before. This policy will hinder development overseas of knowledge about Australia.
I appeal to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to examine the extended local service area system, known as ELSA. This system has been operating for several years and I would like to see it extended beyond the present boundaries which for 3 or 4 years have, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, been unchanging and unchangeable. These boundaries do not extend one inch beyond the established radius from the central exchange. I would like to see the system extended, because at present many towns in all States are just beyond the area. They are in no man’s land. It is time for an extension of the local call system.
Subscriber trunk dialling is a remarkable new phase in our communications system. We can now call Launceston from Canberra, Melbourne or Sydney without going through the exchange, lt saves time and is of great benefit to members of the public who use the telephone much.
I suggest that the Postal Department make a concession in the postal1 rates for Christmas cards posted during the month of December. Christmas cards present a wonderful way of communicating with people during the Christmas season. Australians send Christmas cards all over the country and to many other countries. The Christmas card business is one of the biggest during the festive season. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to act like Father Christmas and for 1 month of the year reduce the rate for Christmas cards from Se to 3c. I guarantee that at 3c instead of Se the Post Office would get just as much revenue from the mailing of Christmas cards as it gets now. The Postal Department does not make many concessions. Like Shylock, it wants its pound of flesh. I do not like that attitude in a public enterprise system.
I suggest to the Postmaster-General that upon our post offices and telephone exchanges we should indicate the date of erection of each building. I have never before had the opportunity to make this suggestion. As far as our history is concerned the Post Office is dwelling in the last century. lt has no feeling for history. In the last 22 years I have had the privilege of opening nine new post offices in the electorate of Wilmot in Tasmania, but not one of them has been dated. Anybody visiting those places in 20, SO or 60 years time will have no idea of the year in which the buildings were erected. In most cases they are beautiful and costly buildings, but not one bears the date of its erection. They do not display even a small plaque to say that they were opened on a certain date. 1 am not for a moment suggesting that the name of the person opening the new office or exchange should appear on the plaque: All 1 seek is a simple text stating that the building was opened on a certain date. This is what we do with our bridges in Tasmania. All of our bridges, and many of our public buildings, are dated, because we have some sense of history. I urge the PostmasterGeneral in future to indicate on new post office buildings the date of erection. I ask him also to place the date of erection on all buildings erected since 1950, so that posterity will be able to read a bit of history in the post offices of this country.
For more than 12 months I have been asking the Postmaster-General to provide a date stamp for use at Cradle Mountain, which is one of the most famous scenic mountain spots in Australia. It is visited each year by thousands of tourists from all over the world. The Post Office provides a date stamp for Ayers Rock, but there is no post office there - not even a telephone exchange. A date stamp is also provided for Mount Kosciusko. The postmark on letters posted at Mount Kosciusko shows that they are posted from Mount Kosciusko, the roof of Australia. The postmark reads: ‘The summit of Mount Kosciusko, New South Wales, Australia’. The box in which letters are posted at Mount Kosciusko is under snow during winter, lt is cleared twice a week between December and April. The provision of such a date stamp is a wonderful idea, as is the provision of a date stamp for Ayers Rock. There is also a date stamp for use at the arts centre or museum at Mildura. We are asking for similar provision at this tourist resort in Tasmania. It is a wonderful attraction for tourists if they know that some out of the way place they are thinking of visiting has its own postmark for cancelling stamps on letters. This date stamp would also become a wonderful revenue earner, although the Post Office evidently does not appreciate this. It would also be a great boon to philatelists if a date stamp for Cradle Mountain were introduced. This area has been known for about 50 or 60 years and is one of the most attractive in Australia, both in winter and in summer. lt is the northern gateway to the great Tasmanian National Park which extends from the highlands almost to the southern coast of the island.
The move for a Cradle Mountain date stamp is supported by all Tasmanians. It is supported by the Sheffield Municipal Council, in whose area the Cradle Mountain chalet is situated. Editorials have appeared in newspapers supporting the proposal and letters have been written to editors of newspapers expressing support for it. I, as member for the area, have been battling on behalf of Mr Saunders, the ranger at this remarkable tourist spot, and his wife, for the introduction of this date stamp. As a matter of fact Mrs Saunders has an old date stamp in the telephone office at Cradle Mountain although she is not allowed to use it. At some time in the past it must have been used.
The present procedure is for outgoing mail to be placed in the mail bag at the Cradle Mountain telephone office by Mr Saunders. The bag is locked in the proper manner and taken to Sheffield where the letters are postmarked in the ordinary way at the post office there. Mail addressed to Cradle Mountain is then put in the same bag and taken back. Here I want to correct something the Postmaster-General said in a letter to me dated 24th September. He was evidently badly misinformed about what goes on at Cradle Mountain.
– Well, what does go on?
– That is a military secret. This is what the Postmaster-General said in his letter:
I am informed that the acceptance and postmarking of mail at Cradle Mountain would require the establishment of a post office in place of the present telephone office and this would involve additional costs which could not be justified.
The establishment of a post office would not be necessary at all. There is already a telephone office, and I remind the Committee that neither Ayers Rock nor Mount Kosciusko has a telephone office, although both those places have their own postmark. The letter went on:
In addition, it would, of course, be necessary to provide a regular and reliable means of conveying the mail from Cradle Mountain and I am informed that there is no departmental mail service operating in the area.
I have already explained what happens. The mail bag is taken down by Mr Saunders himself. The incoming mail is collected at Sheffield and taken back in a properly sealed bag. The Postmaster-General continued:
The ranger’s private mail bag service between the Wilmot non-official post office and Cradle Mountain is conveyed by private messenger and does not operate on a regular timetable. Because the trips are irregular and often outside post office hours, the bug is left for collection at a local shop.
This is an amazing misstatement. I would like to correct the Minister, with the greatest respect. The mail goes both ways, on the average, once a week during winter and twice a week in summer, not from Cradle Mountain to Wilmot but from Cradle Mountain to Sheffield and back. It is 4 years since the mail was left at a local shop in Wilmot. For the last 4 years it has not been left in a private shop at either Wilmot or Sheffield. The Postmaster-General gives Mr and Mrs Saunders stamps to sell at the chalet at Cradle Mountain. Why, then, does he not let them have a date stamp? Between 1,500 and 2,000 letters and parcels pass through that place, either coming or going, every year. Bookings are made and information is sought by people from all over Australia and from many other parts of the world. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will take another look at this matter. The mail collections are properly made. It is all quite regular and there is nothing haphazard about it. Mr and Mrs Saunders are happy to provide this extra service for the people and for the Post Office.
In 1965 the Postmaster-General approved a request that 1 made in this Parliament for a special Parliament House postmark for all letters posted at the post office in this building. That proposal was approved immediately and since 1965, to the great advantage of philatelists all over the world, mail posted here has been stamped ‘Parliament House, Canberra’ instead of simply Canberra’ as was the case before that time. Previously the mail was taken from here to the General Post Office and stamped.
– How many letters go through the post office here?
– Several thousand a week, I should imagine. In conclusion I want to criticise the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the way it has treated Bob Sanders, the producer of the television programme ‘People’. The Commission has now decided that all those who are to appear on the programme must be vetted before they may be interviewed on this remarkably vigorous and vital session that Bob Sanders has conducted for so long. A similar decision has been made in respect of two other programmes that we know so wei “This Day Tonight’ and ‘Four Corners’. This restriction of freedom is a very serious matter in a so called free country.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to make a few pertinent comments in this debate on the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department. First I would like, in fairness, to pay a tribute to the officers of the Department, particularly the divisional engineers and the district postal managers and others, with whom I have had dealings in the electorate of Dawson which extends for some 800 miles from north to south. Not only have I found the divisional engineers and their linemen on the one hand, and the district postal managers and their staffs on the other, doing a very good job technically; I have also found them to be extremely diplomatic. They always seem to be able to provide a reason why a particular person cannot get a telephone service, or why some delay is occurring, and rarely do they blame the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) or the Department. 1 suppose they arc pretty good diplomats and pretty good public servants if they can do this.
One of the matters which have concerned me is the tendency to require persons making trunk line telephone calls to wait longer and longer before being connected. The operator will say: ‘Hold the line’, and sometimes a person has to wait 3 or 4 minutes or even longer. A line may drop out or there may be some other technical fault, but the caller is always left holding the line. When the average waiting time is multiplied by the thousands of trunk line calls that are made each day, one realises the great amount of time that is wasted. Something should be done to reduce this waiting time. Whether this is technically possible I do not know. But I do know that in earlier times the custom was for the operator to ring back when the connection was made. I suppose the new system is a means of transferring the cost. Whereas in earlier times the Post Office bore the cost of waiting, now the person making the call must bear the cost. This matter should be looked at closely because much time is involved and numbers of people are concerned. It is frustrating to have to sit and wait, even 3 or 4 minutes, before the operator chips in to say that she cannot raise the number, that the line has fallen out or even that the person called is waiting.
The honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) suggested a flat rate for trunk line calls. This is quite a good idea but I submit that it is not analogous to postage rates. With postage rates a variation between the minimum and the maximum in terms of a weighted average would probably be no more than from 2c or 3c up to 30c or 40c but with trunk line calls it could be a variation from 20c or 30c up to S3 or $4 for 3 minutes. I can imagine the great screams that would come from areas where a trunk line call to a town 10 to 15 miles distant would be increased from 10c or 15c up to$1. 50, which would be the average overall cost. Although I certainly agree with the honourable member for Hume, his analogy is not good. Although his plan would work for postages where there would be a variation of perhaps 20c or 30c between the minimum and maximum rates, with trunk line calls there could be a variation of $2 to $3.
I should like to bring to the PostmasterGeneral’s notice what I regard as being a most iniquitous system - the Government’s policy of charging primary producers and others for the cost of constructing telephone lines. Someone has to pay for the lines, but I fail to see why the present policy should be so rigorous. It seems to me that over the years the primary producers, or people living away from provincial cities or towns, progressively will pay for all the lines in many areas. There should be some system of rationalisation whereby a greater burden is placed on the general public to cater progressively for the provision of telephone lines in outlying areas. The whole burden, or a large proportion of it, should not fall on the user of a particular line. It is not equitable that it should. After all, if we have regard to cold economic facts, it is the outlying areas that are producing the export income which is so vital to the cities. Some rationalisation of the policy should be seriously considered.
In the pastI have referred to the stretch of road between Marlborough, which is just north of Rockhampton, and Sarina, a distance of almost 200 miles. This stretch of road is part of the main highway from Adelaide to Cairns, and it is the most isolated section. There are no telephone facilities on it for emergency purposes or otherwise. A serious problem has arisen at
Marlborough. That area is entitled to a continuous automatic exchange, but the relatively large population which uses the Marlborough exchange has to suffer a broken telephone service. The reason is that the operator is a sick man who cannot operate a continuous service. He is quite prepared for somebody else to take over the service, but according to the district postal manager at Rockhampton the Department has not been able to find anyone to take it on. Meanwhile the whole district suffers. Where an area is entitled to an automatic exchange, in cases like this some revision of priority should be considered. This is a lonely area and on this stretch of road there are frequent casualties. Last year, in a period of 12 months there was a series of sniper shootings and murders in the area and the communication system was one of the main things which hindered the tracking down of those responsible for the atrocities. There is something drastically wrong with a policy when an area which is entitled to a continuous service or an automatic service cannot get it. Is it any wonder that people get frustrated and annoyed with the PostmasterGeneral and his Department? The operator cannot or will not provide a continuous service.
One of the favourite excuses given by divisional engineers when they are asked why it is taking so long for telephones to be provided in certain areas is that there is a shortage of cable.I have no doubt that this is right. However when they are asked whether the reason is a shortage of funds, they will not answer or will say that they do not know. If the shortage of cable is one of the most important reasons for the non-supply of telephones in certain areas, there should be a review of priorities with a view to making more cable available. However, I suspect that there is a shortage of funds.I can instance my own case. I built a house 10 miles out of Mackay and had to wait for 5 months for a telephone, despite the fact that the nearest telephone connection was only a couple of hundred yards away. I did not complain to the divisional engineer because he told me that the cables in the area were unsatisfactory and that if I waited for 5 months they would give me a good telephone. It was worth waiting 5 months for a good telephone. There is nothing more frustrating than ringing up and being chopped off and then having to get people out of bed to fix the telephone. I waited 5 months and I have a good telephone. A new cable was put into the district and the whole district has a good telephone system. This is an instance where I personally was involved.
There is another feature of the Department’s operations that I do not think is right. I forget the technical term, but I refer to the duplex system whereby a person who may have had a telephone for many years is told suddenly by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department: ‘You have to share your line with somebody else’. This happens in the middle of a city, not out in the country. This man objects very strongly. He says: ‘I have had this telephone connection for a number of years. Why suddenly should I have to share my line with somebody else?’ I agree with him that it is a bit rough if, for example, a person across the street who has not bothered to get a telephone connected for a number of years suddenly decides to get one and, because there is not sufficient equipment, the Postal Department says: ‘We will hook you onto somebody else’s line’.
The last point I want to raise - and I do not know how many times I have raised it in this chamber - is the question of the issue of a postage stamp as a mark of respect for the sugar industry. In reply to every letter I have written and every question I have asked 1 have received a reasonably favourable reply from the Postmaster-General, that this stamp is somewhere round the corner - but the corner seems to be getting longer. The sugar industry is the only major primary industry in Australia for which a stamp has not been issued as a mark of respect. There are large numbers of stamps on the market today, all of them commendable, I suppose, depending on the view one takes, but it seems to me to be an anomalous situation that a stamp has not been issued as a mark of respect by the Australian nation, via the Post Office, for the sugar industry, which is one of Australia’s important industries. As the PostmasterGeneral is also a Queenslander I would ask him to give high priority to the issue of Such a stamp. I can assure him that his action would be greatly appreciated by the people in north Queensland because, after all, the sugar industry was one of the greatest contributors to the development of the north.
– The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) fairly recently - if the middle of last year can be termed as fairly recently - announced that after long, careful and detailed examination and investigation it had been decided to establish a television station in both Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. As the Committee is aware, I have been plugging for the establishment of these stations for several years and, quite naturally, I was very pleased to hear that this decision had been taken. I think it can be fairly said that most people, or at least a large number of people, in each district welcomed the news. It was certainly welcomed by those people who reside in the areas which the stations are expected to serve, that is, within the areas which are expected to receive satisfactory reception. But people outside of the expected area of good reception and those beyond the radius of any expected reception at all are, of course, quite naturally rather disturbed about what their fate is to be in relation to television. I refer particularly to people who live beyond the range that one translator could serve, using Geraldton or Kalgoorlie as the parent station.
Unfortunately, the power of the Kalgoorlie and Geraldton stations is to be very low compared with that of most, if not all, other stations in Australia, and this is a very sore point in those districts. In Kalgoorlie and Geraldton considerable progress and development will certainly take place in the future, and people in these areas are rather sore that they have only been given a station which is below the normal standard provided in Australia. I realise, as I think most people do, that there could and would be problems, both technical and economic, associated with the establishment of television stations once you went beyond the areas of large and concentrated populations. I understand that at the conclusion of the current phase of television 94% or 95% of Australia’s population will have television reception of some degree; most of it will be good and some of it will be not so good, depending on where the people reside in relation to their particular station. Of the 5% of people who, it is said, will not receive a service, a number are within a short distance, as measured by Australian standards, of established or proposed stations. For instance, taking the proposed station for Kalgoorlie, we have centres to the north, the south and the east. These centres contain not large populations but populations of some substantial proportion when you look at the country areas generally which will be outside the range of the Kalgoorlie station - but not so far outside it that translators could not be used to provide a service, at least as far as the layman is aware.
The Esperance area in particular is a rapidly developing district, lt was hoped that a service to that district could be provided either from Kalgoorlie or Mount Barker. However, the Minister informs me that it is just not practicable to use either Kalgoorlie or Mount Barker as a parent station for a translator service to Esperance or to Norseman, which is a fairly substantial mining centre situated about 100 miles from Kalgoorlie. Esperance, of course, is some little distance further. The Minister has not explained why Kalgoorlie could not or would not be suitable as a parent station. I can only conclude that it is because of the low effective radial power which is proposed - 4 kilowatts, lt was understood in the first place that when the microwave link was established between the east and the west it would be possible at fairly low cost to tap the link somewhere near Norseman in order to provide television both there and to the Esperance district. Perhaps this was never the intention, and if it was not there is a need for some explanation of why that particular method has been abandoned or has been found not to be feasible. It was also suggested that a method called the thin line could be used to extend television to Norseman, but this also has gone by the board or has been found not to be suitable. So at this stage it would seem that neither Norseman nor Esperance is any closer to television than it was before it was decided to establish a station at Kalgoorlie.
The Minister told me today, in answer to a question, that to date there has been no change regarding the possibility of extending television to those areas by means other than translators. According to his advice, translators are not practicable in that area or pocket between Kalgoorlie and the south coast - that is Esperance - and between Mount Barker and Esperance and including Esperance. It seems as though it will be very difficult to bring a television service into those areas. It is only a couple of years since it was stated that it was Government policy to ensure that such pockets were not created; that television stations should be situated so that they did not create pockets of the nature we will have in the Esperance area. It would be difficult, but surely not impossible, to provide television for those areas. It would appear that cost could be the main factor against the provision of a television service there. If this is so, I hope that the Postmaster-General will take a couple of minutes to concede that this is so and to give us some idea of what the costs are likely to be. If it is not cost but simply technical problems which prevent the establishment of a television service in these areas, I hope again that the Minister will see fit to explain to us what these problems are and how or whether they may be overcome.
A Liberal senator has said that translators will be used between Mount Barker and Esperance; that they will be used to provide a service for Esperance and that Mount Barker will be the parent station. He is reported as speaking from some sound, technical knowledge or information that he has received. I should like to know why he should be so definite about this matter when the Postmaster-General says that translators definitely cannot be used. I do not know whether there is any difference between a repeater station and a translator installation but there are a couple of reasons for finding it difficult to understand why translators or repeaters could not be used between Esperance and Mount Barker.
In the first place I understand that in taking television to Mount Barker and Albany about seven repeater stations were put in at a cost of about $112,000. lt was said that the system would subsequently be used to provide the main telephone system between Perth and Albany. If this is correct then it would appear that there is no problem other than finance preventing the extension of television by using translators or repeaters, provided that the station is of sufficient power to kick the signal along. It is thought by the people in the Esperance district that a similar system could be used between Esperance and Mount Barker, or perhaps Katanning, to bring television into the Esperance area and also to provide an improved telephone system for the people of the district and beyond. The area between Esperance and Albany and back towards Ravensthorpe is expanding rapidly and there is a growing demand for telephones and direct lines.
The other reason why it would seem that translators or repeaters between Esperance and Albany could do the job is that since Channel 2 at Mount Barker began transmitting quite a number of people in the Esperance district, both in the town and in the outer areas, are receiving programmes fairly regularly, by day and by night, at about 70% efficiency. This indicates to the non-technical person that it should be possible to install, at no great expense and with no great difficulty, some sort of booster or repeater station to strengthen the signal and to extend the coverage. While the PostmasterGeneral claims that it would be impracticable to use either Kalgoorlie or Mount Barker as parent stations, it seems rather strange that so many repeater stations can be used between Perth and Mount Barker without any major problems arising. The people in the areas concerned are very hostile because they see no likelihood of having television in the future. They are even more hostile because they cannot get any definite information or definite explanation as to why it would not be a practical proposition to use translators. This is particularly frustrating and upsetting after they have been told by a Liberal senator, to whom I referred earlier, that translators can and will be used.
The people of Esperance are genuinely disturbed about what can be done and what will be done, and about what the lack of television can mean to the future of Esperance. I ask the Postmaster-General to state in some detail why translators, or some other means, cannot be used to provide television. It may be a better idea - this may clear the air more quickly and may be more satisfactory to everybody concerned - if a senior officer of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board could be sent to Esperance and Norseman to discuss the situation with the people there, to explain the case to them and to answer any questions which may be raised. This has been done in other places. I do not see any reason for not doing it in the case of Esperance. I know that the situation in other areas has become more apparent to the people concerned when this has been done.
Today I asked the Postmaster-General whether the problem of extending television into the Norseman and Esperance districts could be solved by increasing the proposed power of the Kalgoorlie station to make it equivalent to that of a metropolitan station. The Minister did not answer that part of the question. I do not suggest for a moment that he deliberately did not answer; I think he overlooked this matter. Because I have received many inquiries from graziers and other people outside the area to be served by the proposed television station, I asked him to give some explanation as to how far a high power station would serve. As a matter of fact, I would like the PostmasterGeneral to tell me just what is meant by a high power station. There seems to be a considerable difference between what 1 and many others would describe as being a high power station and how the Broadcasting Control Board or perhaps the Minister himself would describe it.
On 18th May last year I asked the Postmaster-General whether the stations at Geraldton and Kalgoorlie would be high power stations. He replied affirmatively and said that both those stations, and also the stations at Renmark, Darwin and Mount Isa, would be high power stations. Yet we found afterwards that the power of the Kalgoorlie station was to be only 4 kilowatts and that of Geraldton was to be 10 kilowatts. This certainly is not my idea of what a high power station should be. If what the Postmaster-General said is correct I ask him to tell me the power of the stations in his home State - for instance, those at Townsville and Cairns. 1 understand that they have a power of 100 kilowatts. If the Minister considers 4 kilowatts to be high power then I do not know what 100 kilowatts would represent. I ask him to give some explanation of the situation because it is certainly confusing. This is another reason for sending an officer to the districts I have mentioned.
I would also like some explanation of what is to happen about the coaxial cable between Geraldton and Perth. In the first place we were told that places such as Mingenew, which is about 60 miles from
Geraldton, could use this cable. We were told that it could be tapped. We were told that a service could be provided to Mingenew and that the people at Morawa, about 30 miles distant, would have to wait for the installation at Mingenew to be completed and for experience to be gained to see what could be done for them. Not long ago the Postmaster-General told me that nothing definite could be done for Mingenew. He said they did not know what the situation would be. Here again is something which is completely up in the air, something confusing, and about which we received different advice from different quarters, ft is no wonder that people in those areas are continually asking me what is to happen. I ask the Postmaster-General to give us some explanation about these things.
– When I first became a member of the House of Representatives I was given some good advice by a member of Parliament who had had a lot of experience. He said to me: ‘When you speak in debates on the Estimates, pick out the most important point that you want to bring forward, deal with that and forget about the rest’. I have listened to speakers from both sides of the chamber tonight. So many different subjects have been dealt with that the mind of the Postmaster-General must be in a whirl. I have not always been able to follow that advice but I intend to do so tonight because I believe there is one subject that is very important to people living in the rural areas of Australia. It has been referred to on many occasions in this House by my colleague the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). I also have brought it up on many occasions. I do not know how many. 1 do not intend to go into details because I know that the Postmaster-General is well acquainted with them, as also are his departmental officers. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is also well acquainted with them.
I am being asked what subject 1 am referring to. If honourable members had listened to debates in this place they would know what 1 am referring to. My subject is the high cost which faces people in rural areas when converting from manual telephone services to automatic exchanges. This matter is tremendously important. When I come across a problem relating to telephones in my electorate I go first of all to the District Telephone Officer. After a while he usually tells me that he cannot do anything because it is a policy matter. Then I go to Melbourne and see Mr Smith, the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, and I get the same answer. My next step is to go to the Postmaster-General and sometimes I again get the same answer, lt will be recalled that I brought this subject to the notice of the Prime Minister and he said the same thing - that it was a matter of policy. Now I am saying that the policy ought to be changed.
It appears that we should not talk about changing the policy, lt appears that we must accept the policy; that we should not attempt to change it and that it must stand. The Prime Minister, the PostmasterGeneral, the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, the District Telephone Officer and all the other officers have always treated me with the greatest courtesy. I appreciate this and congratulate them on the way they are able to do their work. But what about policy? The last time I brought this in desperation to the notice of the Prime Minister - who was a constituent of mine for about 22 years and who knows what is happening in the electorate 1 represent - he said that he would discuss the subject with the Postmaster-General. He assured me that it would be discussed in Cabinet. This was back in the autumn sessional period. The Postmaster-General, with his usual courtesy, said that he was prepared to meet the members who were concerned about this subject. About 7 or 8 of us met with him and some of his chief officers. After we had discussed a few things I asked some questions. In the end we more or less agreed on a sort of armistice while the matter was investigated. I think it is time that the armistice was over. I said: ‘We will continue to fight this issue on the motion for the adjournment and in every debate possible because we believe that we are fighting for something that is justified’. We should receive consideration on this subject, and many honourable members on both sides of the Committee agree about this.
I believe that satisfactory telephonic communication is much better than all the television that we could get in Australia. Of course, we will not get that opinion from the city areas because people from the cities have both good telephonic communications and television. But this is not the case for people in what I call ‘the greater Australia’ - the parts outside our metropolitan areas. People who live in ‘the greater Australia’ are striving to get telephonic COm.munication They not only want telephonic communication to the cities but they also want it to get in touch with their local doctors and the people in adjacent towns with whom they do business. It has been said today that the people of Australia are always asking for better telephone facilities. I suppose they are. But in some cases the people I am speaking about have not been asking for better facilities. They have said that they have fairly good telephonic communication now. But the PostmasterGeneral’s Department comes along and says that they have to upgrade their services to an automatic facility. Because of that upgrading they will be charged hundreds of dollars and in some cases thousands of dollars. I am not finding fault with the Postmaster-General on this subject. However, I say to him that I think he should give us some indication tonight of what is being done. After all, every time we bring up this subject the Postmaster-General says that investigations will be made and that he will see what can be done, lt is about time we received an answer.
I have no need to go into fine details. The Minister knows them exactly and he knows what has been said. Members generally know what has been said and they all should be acquainted with the facts. I believe that this is perhaps the most vital element in the debate on the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department. A lot of people cannot afford to pay big money to have their telephone services converted from manual to automatic operation. One man told me that he could not afford to pay. He said he would like to be on an automatic service because of all the advantages it offered, but he went on to say that he could not afford it. He said to the Department: T have reasonable telephonic communication now. Can I not carry on with this service?’ The answer given was that the existing service could continue for a couple of years in some cases but the moment the automatic system was installed a subscriber would either have to pay for the conversion or would be off the exchange altogether and as a result would not have a telephone service. Surely people in decentralised areas should at least have the advantage a big reduction in charges. When the Postmaster-General completes his investigations he is sure to find out that no matter where an automatic telephone exchange is sited the Department should double or treble the distance for which the line will be provided free of charge. This is a vital subject. I would not rise to speak tonight if 1 thought it was not vital. The Postmaster-General is perhaps still investigating. If he is we will have to wait and see what happens. But surely in a great, rich country such as ours we should see that people in isolated areas receive proper telephone services which are vital, not only for business purposes but also to enable people to ring a doctor or a neighbour and get help in case of sickness or disaster. Such service is always available to people in city areas but is lacking in country districts.
– I would like to start off on a happy note by paying a tribute to the officers and staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department for their courtesy aria assistance at all times. This tribute applies to all, from the girls on the switches to the divisional managers. I And myself, strangely, in agreement with the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), who criticised the lack of assistance given to subscribers for the conversion of their services from manual to automatic operation. Whilst policy decrees that assistance in the installation of new lines to carry the superior service will be given only up to a certain distance, it seems to me that arbitrary decisions are made concerning the siting of automatic exchanges. An automatic exchange is often sited at a considerable distance from the existing manual exchange.
I would like to mention mail services quite briefly. Here again policy decrees what the position should be. I know that there are good reasons for drawing up rules and adhering to them. But when rules can be proved in certain circumstances not to be in the best interests of the public and can be rectified at very little, if any, cost those rules should be changed. I am talking about the extension of mail services. Good reasons may be advanced for the adoption of the present rules in regard to the extension of mail services. I have heard most of them.
But there will be no extension of a mail service where a householder is less than a mile from an existing service. If only one house had been built since the mail service was inaugurated, there might be good reason for the Department to say that it will not service this house and that the people should put up a box on a road where the mail service already is given. But in developing areas such as seaside resorts and other closely settled areas outside the cities there may be from 5 to 6 homes less than a mile from an existing mail service. The only alternative that is left is for the householders to put boxes at a point or points already served by the mail service. If a settlement is on a branch road leading away from the mail route, the residents cannot expect to get a mail service unless someone builds a house more than a mile from any point served by the existing service. The answer to requests for services has always been that this is the rule and there are good reasons for it. But 1 put it to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) that there are always good reasons why this policy should be reviewed under certain circumstances. When there are a number of people who would benefit from the waiving of this rule, a review is required or should be considered. I ask the Postmaster-General: How many homes less than a mile from a mail route must require a mail service before that service is extended? I have not yet found the answer to the question.
The other matter on which I wish to speak briefly is in relation to television. Quite a number of speakers have touched on the matter of television. I wish to pay a tribute to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for its programmes and the encouragement that it has given to the Australian content. I would like to see the ABC produce even more of these programmes. The ABC has done particularly good work in respect of programmes for children. But I am disturbed at some of the programmes that have been shown recently during the period which might be termed the children’s session. I refer to programmes such as ‘The Invaders’. This programme which has recently commenced on Queensland television is to be seen at 7.30 o’clock in the evening. I do not know whether any honourable members or even the PostmasterGeneral have seen this programme. I have seen only one episode of the series but I have read descriptions of other episodes. If something can be described as weird then I think that -‘weirder’ would be the most apt description of this programme. It tells the story of people from outer space who adopt human forms and at various stages become masses of jelly. If anyone can think of anything more horrifying to put on in the children’s session before children go to bed, well 1 do not know of it.
I think that some better choice might be made. 1 know that the Postmaster-General is loath to interfere in the workings of or in the programmes that are presented by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Nevertheless, I wish to voice my opinion in this regard. I know that it is shared by many other parents. It is disappointing that such a programme should be shown by the Australian Broadcasting Commission at this time because we look to the ABC to provide what we believe to be the best in entertainment. 1 pay a tribute to the members of the staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department who have co-operated with me in assisting to bring better services to others. I did wish to make those few points and I hope that the Postmaster-General will enlighten us on them.
– Rarely would there be an occasion when a matter concerning the Postmaster-General’s Department has been before us and 1 did not make some contribution to the debate. I wish to take up a few minutes of the time of the Committee this evening for several reasons. First, I desire to support my colleague, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), in his plea to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) for heifer conditions for people who are forced to upgrade their telephone service to an automatic system standard. I too would like to take the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to the various officers of the Department. Over the years, 1 have had nothing but admiration for them. They have been always very co-operative. But they certainly are limited by the policy that is laid down by this Government. I also make special reference to the point that under no circumstances do I direct my criticism at the PostmasterGeneral personally because I do believe that he just carries out the policy laid down by the Government. I have never criticised him and I have no intention of doing so at this time. Very often the criticisms of a department are directed at the Minister concerned whereas all that the Minister is doing is carrying out the policy of the government of the day. A typical example of this is brought out at this time concerning the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) who has been criticised right, left and centre for introducing the wheat stabilisation plan.
As I said, I do not direct my remarks at the Postmaster-General. My comments this evening are confined chiefly to supporting my colleague, the honourable member for Mallee, in a plea to the PostmasterGeneral to make sure that the Cabinet does consider some alteration to the existing scheme regarding the upgrading of telephone services to an automatic system standard. It is true, as be has said, that a number of subscribers are literally forced to upgrade their lines or go without service. In many instances, it is costing them hundreds of dollars. I have personal knowledge of five subscribers who were required to contribute in the vicinity of $2,000 each before they could get an improved service. Fortunately they can still be connected to a manual exchange, but the time will come when that manual exchange will be upgraded and they will be without service if they do not comply with the Department’s requirements.
For the Wre of me 1 cannot see why any subscriber should be required to contribute anything when he is compelled to convert. These people should not be required to bear the cost of erecting any portion of their lines. Admittedly if more money is spent on the upgrading of telephone lines something else will have to go by the board, but I believe that we have now reached the stage where even if we had to reduce the number of conversions in order to give better service to those whose services are being upgraded, it would be a step in the right direction.
I have made a close study of this matter and have ascertained that if the units being allocated to the present number whose services are being converted were doubled the extra cost would be only about S2m annually. In some of the areas where the lines are being upgraded, some subscribers and property owners have had telephone services for 10, 20, 30 and up to 40 years. They enjoyed service through the old party lines which were connected to manual exchanges. These people are now being told that they must upgrade their service and bear the cost.
The Government Whip informs me that I am permitted to speak for 2 minutes. I see that 1 have exhausted that time. But I do make a plea to the Postmaster-General to consider putting before Cabinet some suggestion for helping these people. As my colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) said earlier this evening, the Postmaster-General did meet a number of us some months ago, and he assured us then that he would look into the matter. I emphasise that this was some months ago. As yet we have heard nothing. At that time, he said to us in effect: ‘Call the dogs off’, and that is what we have done. But there is a limit to how long we can hold the dogs back and we have now reached that limit.
It has been suggested that we may be going to the people in a few weeks time. This is one issue on which 1 am prepared to go to the people for I believe that the people about whom I am concerned are entitled to enjoy a service similar to that enjoyed by our friends in the cities. In this instance, I submit they are entitled to free conversion of their telephone systems, and I am prepared to fight until they get it.
– 1 was a little surprised that it was not until after the debate had been in progress for 3i hours that there was any expression of appreciation of the work done by the officers of the Post Office, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission in the provision of communications services in this country. I was rather staggered that it was the last speaker on each side who expressed that appreciation, and they spoke particularly about the services given in their own areas. As Minister in charge of the Postal Department, 1 want to make it perfectly clear at the beginning of my remarks that I believe that every member of the staff of each of these organisations, from the head down to the most humble officer, has done a magnificent job in the interests of the Australian people. 1 believe few sections of the Public Service get more kicks than do many people in the Post Office: yet few people serve the community better than do the tremendous number of officers in that service. They number well over 100.000. There are 102,000 within the Post Office, and probably another 10,000 to 20,000 within other departments.
Having said that, 1 want to make it clear that 1 will not try to answer every point which was made tonight. The number of detailed items which were brought up was quite extraordinary. I note once again that many honourable members who spoke in the debate and who asked me to give an answer in relation to points which they made are not in the chamber at the time when the answer is given. I think one could express some regret when those who criticise publicly are not prepared to listen to a public explanation of the more important points that are brought forward. I repeat, as I have done over the last 4 years, that when I do not refer to matters that have been brought up officers of the various sections in my Department will peruse Hansard and I will have an answer prepared to the various points which have been made.
I take the points in the order in which they were raised by honourable members in this debate. The first member to speak was the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), representing the Opposition. I only want to deal with two points that he made. The first of those was: Why cannot radio and television licence fees be paid on a half-yearly basis? Perhaps honourable members do not know, and perhaps the honourable member himself does not know, that in fact a card is specially issued and to it people may affix stamps that they purchase. These stamps represent a saving week by week, or over whatever period they purchase the stamps, for the purpose of meeting on a bit by bit basis the actual cost of a television or a broadcasting licence. This also applies to other payments of a public nature made through the Post Office.
The second point mentioned by the honourable member referred to the large user getting a tremendous discount at the expense of the small user of the postal services. I might just mention that, when the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was recently before the House and again in this debate, the honourable member for Stirling made similar comments. The honourable member quoted figures which had been supplied to him by members of a trade union movement. I am not surprised that honourable members use these figures, but it is perhaps a pity that they do not endeavour to make some check of them. Those who are opposed to this Government - and many in trade unions are - lack knowledge in the beginning and as a result give poor advice. It was suggested that the sorting costs represent only 2i% of the total mail handling cost. In fact this is completely incorrect: the true figure is approximately 20% of the total mail handling cost. Then it is suggested that we should ignore the fact that during transmission letters are handled not once but many times. All these handlings are saved in the discount mail operation and on a nation-wide basis this represents a saving to the Post Office of about 1.2c per item.
In addition, 1 think the honourable member and those who advised him overlooked the fact that in the normal course many bulk items would have gone by air mail but now on the bulk basis they must go by surface mail. The saving to the Post Office in this area is 1.7c per article. If the amounts I have mentioned are taken into consideration it will be seen readily that there is a considerable saving in cost to the Post Office because the organisations concerned are doing the sorting job for us. The senders of registered newspapers and periodicals now have become responsible for doing more of the sorting than they did a short time ago. It is incorrect to suggest that in this situation the small user is being forced to pay for a benefit which the larger user is getting in the pre-sorting of mail.
The honourable member for Stirling was followed in the debate by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) who raised particularly the matter of Australian Broadcasting Commission teams not doing, shall we say, a dual job. In particular, one team went into the Hamersley area to do a ‘Four Corners’ programme and another team went into the same area to do an educational programme. It must be appreciated that we staff the various States for only the normal operation of presenting the news and other programmes. If we took from Perth, Sydney or Melbourne the normal staff of photographers and commentators to do a job in some distant place it is obvious that the standard of presentation of the local news night by night would be reduced considerably. But this is not to say that no attempt has been made at co-operation and coordination within these total activities. In point of fact there is co-operation and coordination in the development of certain programmes in the area represented by the honourable member for Perth. T challenge the broad statement he made.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) raised the issue of educational television and suggested that when I had commented on the Weeden report 1 had said that the States should meet some of the costs involved. 1 point out here and now that I had the conference with State Ministers for Education to which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports referred. Subsequently I made a statement to the House. I wrote to the six State Ministers recently. One has indicated that he would be happy to attend a conference, one has shown no keenness for another conference at this time and two others have referred to an interstate meeting of Directors-General and have said that they would prefer to await the results of that discussion before considering a conference with myself and the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the near future.
In the field of electronics constant developments are taking place. One of the problems with which we are faced in the area of educational television is that, having regard to the increasing population in Australia, so many of our schools today have four forms doing the same subject in the same year. The four of them are not doing mathematics at the same time or science at the one time. Let us take four as a maximum. Can we afford to televise the .same programme four times so that each of the four classes has the opportunity to see it? I understand that technical advances are such that within the not too distant future it may be possible to install receiving equipment which will tape a programme so that it can go into the school library and be available to be played back whenever the school desires it to be shown to a class. I mention this as a technical advance which I believe will be of great assistance to educational television.
I also want to make the point that in some States a remarkable lack of interest is shown in educational television. At the conference on educational television nearly 2 years ago, one of the State Ministers said that his State’s Budget included £6,500 to subsidise the purchase of television sets for schools, and that less than 50% of this had been spent in that year. This seems to me to be a pretty clear indication of the interest which teachers, perhaps, are showing in the use of educational television. While this does not apply in the small States of Tasmania and Victoria it does apply in the other States, particularly the larger ones.
– Does the Minister mean large geographically?
– Large geographically. In my own State of Queensland, apart from the Darling Downs there is television only on the coast. What happens to the children of the hinterland? They do not have the opportunity to benefit from educational television. If educational television is to be of tremendous advantage to children, why should children in these areas be denied it while those in more populated areas have the advantages of it? I mention these things not to suggest that I do not believe in educational television or that I am deliberately postponing its expansion because of these problems. I mention them merely to indicate that there are problems, that the problems ought to be fully examined and that we should know where we are going in co-operation with the States, which will be responsible for providing the teachers for educational television services. I could not get an assurance from the Minister in one State that he was prepared to make a teacher available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to assist in the development of educational television programmes. Honourable members may say that this is unfortunate. It is unfortunate, but until the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed we should not embark on a substantial expansion of educational television.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) referred to trunk charges. He said that there should be one charge for all calls in the same way that there is a basic postal charge. This was raised again by some other honourable members. 1 want to point out one or two of the problems that arise in relation to this matter. In Australia we have developed a trunk system but it will not take every telephone call that people throughout the country care to make. If we had the same system as exists in New Zealand, where subscribers pay a single charge that covers rental and all calls, regardless of the number made, I could say almost for certain that in our metropolitan areas 50% of the calls attempted would receive the engaged signal. Even if there was a real desire to do so, the Post Office does not have the trunk switch equipment, cables and channels to bring into operation the honourable member’s proposal. I have no hesitation in making a rough guess that an additional $50m or SI 00m per annum for 10 years would be required to achieve this result.
I point out that the amount provided to the Post Office annually for capital works in the last 5 years that I have been PostmasterGeneral has more than doubled. I think that, notwithstanding increased costs, this is very generous treatment. I am not sure how the Government would find the additional amount that would be required for the purpose that the honourable member for the Northern Territory suggests. There are, of course, other factors. Many people in country areas are paying a mere $16 a year rental whilst others are paying $24 a year. Compared to this, people in city areas pay $40 a year. But the honourable member did not suggest that if the service he suggests were provided the rental in country areas should be automatically increased to $40. 1 do not know whether he had that in mind. 1 also point out that the average call charge would not be 4c - the present local call charge, lt would probably be 10c or 15c.
I remind the Committee that at the present time the average revenue received from country subscribers - that is those outside metropolitan areas and Wollongong, Canberra and Port Kembla - is $51 per annum and that the average cost to the Post Office of providing and maintaining telephone services year in year out is $152. I put these figures to the Committee so that what is in fact available to country people at the present time and what is the contribution of country people to telecommunications can be fully appreciated, incidentally, the other day I saw an account for 6 months and the full charge was $8. Not one call had been made on that telephone in 6 months. A telephone system cannot be run economically on that basis. On an average of $51 per annum received from country subscribers - and I know that there are a lot lower than that and a lot higher - a telephone service cannot be provided economically. It is only because of the businesses within a community that a telecommunications system can be run economically. The experience of the Post Office is that 50% of the long distance trunk calls are made out of the city to the country. They are nor all made from the country to the city. Therefore, 50% of the cost of these long distance trunk calls is carried by the city subscriber.
The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) raised the aspect of reducing to an irreducible minimum in the shortest possible time the development or expansion of television into country areas. Recently it was stated that a television service would be provided to five additional areas, namely, Mount Isa, Darwin, Renmark, Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. This will extend the existing average to, I think, 95.6% or 95.7% of the Australian people. It is 4.3% of the Australian population with which we are concerned in this matter. Those 4.3% of Australians reside in 85% of Australia. So it will be an expensive business to provide television for them, and some people will never have television. The Parliament must accept the fact that until we can put television into the home from a satellite, many people living in distant areas will not have television. This is not to say that we are not making progress in our investigations into the expansion of television, having regard to the cost factor.
I think the honourable member for Maranoa suggested that the calculation should not be made on an economic basis. Whether we make the calculation on a purely economic basis is indicated, 1 think, by what we propose to do in relation to Cairns. This matter was mentioned recently in the House. The cost of establishing the high powered transmitter for Cairns is $ 1.77m. The additional licence fees that we will receive will amount to $140,000. If anybody can suggest that we can run the Cairns station with a revenue of that order, disregarding interest charges and depreciation, I will be very surprised. As I have indicated on more than one occasion, since we entered upon phase 3, the extension of television services by the Australian Broadcasting Commission has not been an economic operation. But the economic factor is not the pre-determining factor. Year by year the capital cost, having regard to licence fees, must be taken into consideration, because it is in the Budget - the thing we have been discussing for several weeks in this place. 1 do not know what system will be adopted in the future. I believe that in many areas we will have a package station operation. It will not be the type of operation that we have in metropolitan stations, but at least it will enable many homes to enjoy television. We may be able to institute a system in mining communities whereby some assistance is provided by the mining companies. All of these things are under constant investigation.
Perhaps I might now answer some of the queries raised by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). I must point out that reception is not a matter of the power which you give to a television transmitter. Unless it is an exceptional station, programmes cannot be received at distances greater than 60 to 70 miles from the station. So even if we provide a transmitter of maximum power for Geraldton or Kalgoorlie, we could not provide reception over distances in excess of 60 to 70 miles. In those areas you have a fairly confined community, unless you move out to Norseman, which is about 105 miles south of Kalgoorlie, or Esperance, which is 230 or 240 miles south of Kalgoorlie. I ask honourable members not to hold me to these distances. We could institute a translator service. This is a low powered station which receives from the parent station a signal which is re-transmitted on a different frequency. These have to be placed not more than 30 miles apart, I think, and they have a coverage of only 12 to 15 miles. It is possible to have translators in succession, but each uses a frequency. Generally it is an uneconomic operation to have more than two. I do not think there is any place in Australia where more than two translators are used to provide television to a parti cular area. To go the other way, from Mount Barker to Esperance, the distance is between 250 and 300 miles. It would be impossible to provide television from Mount Barker or from Kalgoorlie to Esperance. I have no doubt that in due time the Board will consider how the problem of translator installation might be overcome in the Norseman area. A different situation exists in the Geraldton area because the same small congregations of population with vast distance between one area of settlement and the next do not exist. I have indicated publicly - and I do so again now - that the Board will not make recommendations in regard to translator stations operating out of Geraldton until the Geraldton station is actually working, it is only then that tests can be made of telecasts within, the Geraldton area. The Board will then be in a position to offer advice as to where translators may be located. I say to the honourable member that power is not a serious problem. The ultimate of power still means a limit of 60 to 70 miles, except in very isolated instances where some peculiarity of atmosphere allows viewing over greater distance.
The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) raised the question of extension of television services to King Island. I inform him that the matter is still under investigation. I. am hopeful that a solution will be arrived at finally. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) again raised the question of trunk calls and made what 1 thought was a rather extraordinary statement. He said that it does not matter whether the distance is 5 miles or 1,000 miles, the telephone line is there. I think he overlooked the fact that there is a very big difference in capital cost between the line that was installed over 5 miles and the one that was installed over 1,000 miles. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) raised several matters. I remind him that when the Extended Local Service Areas system was introduced 45% of trunk calls automatically became local calls. The area of local calls was extended from 80 to 800 square miles. It is only within the last 2 years that the revenue from trunk calls has caught up with the revenue received prior to the introduction of ELSA in 1960.
Looking at the accounts of the telecommunications side of the Post Office, I do not hold out any hope of finding something to play with by making concessions available in this or any other area of business of the- Post Office. The honourable member was referring to Bob Sanders when his lime expired. I think the story is that Bob Sanders is under contract to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I would like to know the area in which supervision is not exercised over staff. It certainly is in the Post Office and 1 would be very disappointed if supervision were not exercised over the staff of the ABC or of any other organisation.
– He should be able to interview anybody he wishes.
– He can interview anybody he wants to interview, but some of this activity must be carried on in his spare time. We are interested in what goes over in the television programme, and what goes over in the television programme has to be under the control and authority of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There are very few people in this House, I believe, or in this community, who do not agree that there is a pretty broad coverage of view on this kind of ABC television programme week in and week out, year in and year out.
– What about putting the dates of construction on post office and telephone exchange buildings?
– I do not think we will worry very much about that. My experience is that people are pretty keen to get rid of old post offices in order to get new ones. This seems to be the general complaint that we receive. There is not much time for more than one comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr patterson). He said that the engineers tell him that in some cases the reason for delays in provision of services is a shortage of cable. I think confusion can arise here. There can be a shortage of the cable that goes from the manufacturers to the various post office installations. The advice given to me is that except in very isolated areas there is no shortage of this kind. The phrase shortage of cable’ could also be construed to mean a shortage of pairs, or a shortage of cable in the ground, to provide the service to a local resident. This is a term that could be confusing in the minds of a large number of people. But I think the honourable member will find that until there is some kind of build-up it is not likely that we will put a new 20-pair cable into a place where not more than 1 or 2 are likely to be used within a reasonable period of time. The other matters mentioned by the honourable member 1 will deal with in correspondence.
The only other matter, then, that I want to refer to is that of country lines installation. This was referred to by the honourable member for Dawson, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) and the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). All problems are very simple unless one has to try to solve them. I happen to be the bloke who is trying to solve this problem. I have spent many hours with officers of the Department. 1 have altered a particular document no fewer than four times already in an endeavour to arrive at what 1 believe to be a reasonable view, a reasonable coverage of what is involved in this total operation, and 1 hope it will not be too long before we have a decision in relation to it. At this moment 1 can say no more than that.
I thank honourable members for the way in which they have taken part in this debate. 1 am just reminded that there is one other matter J. should mention, lt is the extension of mail services, and was referred to by either the honourable member for Dawson or the honourable member for Wide Bay. Mail services may be extended or rearranged subject to the following conditions - and I merely read them without comment: At least one additional householder who resides more than 1 mile from the present terminal or route would benefit; such extension or rearrangement would not result in the average number of adults served as a whole falling below one per route mile; the cost involved will not substantially increase route mileage rates, and the total cost is reasonable.
– Why cannot the limit of 1. mile bc reduced if more than one are involved?
– We will not have a debate on that now.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. The latest information available on the numbers of medical practitioners and dentists in Australia is from the census undertaken al 30th June 1966. The ratios of medical practitioners and dentists per thousand population al that date were: Medical practitioners, NSW, 1.28; Vic, 1.18; Qld, 1.04; SA, 1.14; WA, 1.09; Tas.. 1.11; NT, 0.85; ACT, 1.41; Aust., 1.18. Dentists, NSW, 0.32; Vic, 0.26: Qld, 0.36; SA, 0.24; WA, 0.32; Tas., 0.22; NT, 0.21; ACT, 0.53; Aust., 0.30.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The reply to the honourable gentleman’s question is as follows:
In addition there are 99 beds for tuberculosis patients in the Northern Territory and 16 beds in the Australian Capital Territory.
Under the Tuberculosis Act 1948, the Commonwealth reimburses to the States the whole cost of approved capital expenditure incurred on the diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis. The Commonwealth also reimburses the net tuberculosis maintenance expenditure incurred by the States to the extent that it is in excess of such maintenance expenditure for the base year 1947-48.
In regard to maintenance expenditure, finance has been provided by the Commonwealth for those beds which existed prior to the passing of the Tuberculosis Act 1948 in addition to those new additional beds for which capital grants were made under the Act. In respect of maintenance expenditure, a total of 5,639 beds has been financed under the Act and of these beds 2,877 have been released for non-tuberculosis patients, and a further 412 beds have been closed down. As at 30th June 1968, there were 2,350 beds available for tuberculosis patients in the States in addition to the 99 beds in the Northern Territory and the 16 beds in the Australian Capital Territory.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
How many (a) invalid, (b) age and (c) widow pensioners are there in Australia at this date?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 19th August 1968 there were in Australia:
115,009 invalid pensioners.
683,748 age pensioners.
75,512 widow pensioners.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The following answers are now supplied:
The last date for which details of rates payable are available is 30th June 1968. At that date, the number of pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance was:
Pharmaceutical Benefits (Question No. 763)
DrEveringham asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Is Primobolan no longer available free to pensioners with osteoporosis confirmed by a radiologist’s report?
If it is no longer available, why not?
– The reply to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. Since August 1965 Primobolan has been available as a pharmaceutical benefit, with the authority of the Commonwealth Director of Health in the State concerned, for intermittent use in the treatment of corlicosieroid-induced osteoporosis. It is available to both pensioners and non-pensioners and is free to pensioners when prescribed as a pharmaceutical benefit.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What stage has been reached in the plans to establish a merchant marine college?
– The following answer is now supplied:
The establishment of an Australian nautical academy has been proposed on a number of occasions as a measure for the improvement of nautical training in Australia. Another proposal has been for the institution of a degree course in nautical science at an Australian university. My Department has been looking into various aspects of these proposals for some time and is currently making a survey of the training programmes in operation in some of the principal maritime countries. When the survey is completed my Department should be in a position to approach the Department of Education and Science witha view to establishing a scheme for nautical training in Australia. When a decision has been reached on this mailer an appropriate announcementw ill be made.
Companies Registered in Norfolk Island (Question . No. 789)
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
What are the names of the companies registered in Norfolk Island in each of the lust 3financial years?
– - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following are the names of the companies registered in Norfolk Island in each of thelast 3 financial years:
COMPANIES REGISTERED IN NORFOLK. ISLAND 1965-1966
(1st July 1965-30th June 1966)
Middlegate Developments Ltd
W. W. Sanders & Sons Ltd
Hunter (Builders) Ltd
Mosman (Contractors) Ltd
Motel (Builders) Ltd
Hibiscus (Motel) Ltd
Leeside (Norfolk Island) Ltd
G. A. Hammond & Co. Ltd
Coolloong Investments Ltd
Bounty Minerals Ltd
Hardy Investments Ltd
Pacific Estates Ltd 15.IPEF Norfolk Island
Norfolk Hydrographic Surveys Ltd
Norfolk Marine Surveys Ltd
Norfolk Seismic Surveys Ltd
Moorah Investments Norfolk Ltd
Talex Holdings Ltd
Killarney Holdings Ltd
Clare Holdings Ltd
Cork Holdings Ltd
Devon Holdings Ltd
Essex Holdings Ltd
Sussex Holdings Ltd
Kent Holdings Ltd
Hertford Holdings Ltd
Emily Bay Holdings Ltd
Emily Bay Ltd
Middlegate Holdings Ltd
Kingston Holdings Ltd
Security Holdings Ltd
Associated Guarantee Ltd
Acceptance Guarantee Ltd
Acceptance Holdings Ltd
South Pacific Hotel-Motel Ltd
South Pacific Rentals Ltd
K. A. Prentice (Oriental Queen) Ltd
Duty Free Stores (Norfolk Island) Ltd
Norfolk Island Paper Products Ltd
Arthur J. Ply Ltd
Coral Lodge Hotels Ltd
Walter Westshore Ltd
Transaction No. 1 Pty Ltd
Norfolk Island Paper Products Ltd
Nepean Holdings Ltd
Nepean Investments Ltd
Young’s Chambers Pty Ltd
Norfolk Island Realty Ltd
(1st July l966-30th June 1967)
(1st July 1967-30th June 1968)
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the right honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following advice in regard to the honourable member’s questions:
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that the confidentiality provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1949-1966 preclude him from supplying the information requested in sections (1), (2) and (3) °f Question 444. He has, however prepared the accompanying table showing, for the honourable member’s information, exports from Australia of passenger motor cars and commercial transport vehicles (trucks) for the years 1963-64 to 1967-68 inclusive.
Taxation (Question No. 487)
asked the Acting Treasurer:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Rates of tax, both direct and indirect, have been varied upwards and downwards on a number of occasions since 1950. Measures since 1950 which affected the rates at which the various taxes were charged or the exemptions applicable are set out on a year-by-year basis below.
Details of changes in rates of excise duty have been shown only for the major revenue items. Details of changes in rates of customs duties have not been dealt with as these duties are essentially of a protective rather than of a revenue nature. However, changes in the rates of excise duty have applied to the excise components of the appropriate customs duty.
In addition to measures which directly affected the rates of tax payable, there have been other measures, many of which have operated to reduce the amount of tax payable:
Notable amongst these have been increases in the scope and value of concessional deductions. Since 1950-51, some of the major changes have been as follows:
The scope of capital expenditure which may be deducted by primary producers has been increased since 1950. In addition, a special depreciation allowance of 20 per cent per annum was introduced in respect of plant installed by primary producers and structural improvements constructed on or after 1 July 1951. This provision was originally enacted for three years and was extended from time to time for specified periods. In 1967 it was extended without any timelimit.
A 20% investment allowance was introduced for specified new plant and equipment purchased by manufacturers in 1962 and was extended to primary producers in 1963.
Rates of depreciation applied where the diminishing value method is used were increased by half in 1957.
Incentives for Exporters
Export incentives were introduced in 1961. Rebates of pay-roll tax were allowed where the ‘ exports in the years 1960-61 to 1967-68 exceeded the average of exports inthe years 1958-59 and 1959-60. A new pay-roll tax rebate scheme was recently introduced for the five-year period commencing with 1968-69. Special income tax deductions have been allowed for expenditure on export market development since 1 July 1961.
The proportion of distributable income which a private company may retain free from undistributed profits tax has been increased on several occasions since 1950. Details of the retention allowances.. since 1950 are set out in Appendix A.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax - Individuals: The two separate levies, income tax and social services contribution, were amalgamated and a system of stepped rates was introduced. The stepped rates were lower than the sum of the separate levies at their previous rates.
Rates of Tax: As from 13th October 1950, the rates of sales tax on certain classes of goods were increased. The chief items affected were as follows:
New exemptions as follows were introduced: builders’ hardware including nails, bolts, screws, door handles, locks and similar fittings of a kind installed by builders as fixtures in houses; bath heaters and other hot water services of a kind installed as fixtures in houses; cane lifts and other equipment for loading and unloading sugar cane; certain foodstuffs; imported plants and seeds; wedding rings; wreaths; and structural steel sections weighing more than ten pounds per running foot.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax - Individuals: The rates of tax payable were increased by the introduction of a special levy equal to 10% of the tax and contribution otherwise payable.
Companies: The super tax on public companies of 5% of the excess of taxable income over $10,000 was discontinued. The further tax of 10% on undistributed income of public companies was also discontinued. A primary rate of 35% and a special levy of 10% were imposed on the taxable income of public companies. Primary rates of tax on private companies of 25% on the first $10,000 and 35% on the balance of taxable income were imposed.
Complete information on the rates adopted is set out in Appendix H.
Age Allowance: Persons of pensionable age. i.e., men over 65 years and women over 60 years were not required to pay tax unless the net income for a single person exceeded $468, or for a married couple, the aggregrate of their net incomes exceeded $936. ‘Shading in’ provisions limiting the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes from $468 to $496, and for aged married couples whose combined net income was between $936 and $1,116.
Primary Producers - Averaging: The averaging system was modified in any case where the taxable income derived by a primary producer exceeded $8,000. Primary producers were given the right to elect that the averaging system should not apply.
Increased rates of tax came into operation on 27th September 1.951. The changes were as follows:
New exemptions included goods purchased by non-profit private hospitals and educational films made in Australia.
Increased rates of duty applied from 27th September 1951. The increases on the major items were:
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax - Individuals: The special levy of 10% imposed for the financial year 1951-52 was discontinued.
Companies: The primary rate of tax payable by a public company on the first $10,000 of taxable income was reduced by10%.
Details of the rates imposed are set out in Appendix B.
Age Allowance: The exemption from tax for aged persons was increased from$468 to $508 for a single person and from $936 to $1,014 for a married couple. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $508 to$544 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,014 to $1,232.
As from 7th August 1952, the rates of tax were reduced for certain goods. The 25% and 662/3% rates were discontinued and the main changes were:
New exemptions included the complete exemption of goods for use by universities and schools conducted by non-profit organisations and printed matter for use by agricultural societies. Certain lighting plants for the generation and storage of electricity were removed from the scope of the tax.
The statutory deduction of $10,000 to whichall resident taxpayers were entitled was increased to $17,500 for the financial year 1951-52. Subsequently the tax was abolished as from 1st July 1952.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax - Individuals: A reduction in rales of individual income tax representing an average of 121/2% became effective us from 1st July 1953.
Companies: The rates of tax payable by public companies were reduced by 5% for that part of the taxable income under $10,000 and 10% for income in excess of $10,000. The new rates were: 30% on the first $10,000 of taxable income; 35% on the balance.
The rates of tax payable by private companies were reduced by 5% making the new rates 20% on the first $10,000 of taxable income and 30% on the balance.
Particulars of the rates adopted for all types’ of company are shown in Appendix B.
Further Tax on Property income: The further tax on properly income’ was abolished.
Age Allowance: The exemption from tax for aged persons was increased from $508 to $750 for a single person and from $1,014 to $1,500 for a . married couple. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $750 to $830 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,500 to $1,946.
The rates of 50%; 331/3% and 20% were abolished on and from 10th September 1953, and the goods formerly taxable at those rates became taxable at 162/3%, subject to minor exceptions. Sporting goods previously taxable at 20% became taxable at 121/2%.
New exemptions granted included matches, children’s colouring books, insecticides, fruit juice cordials consisting of not less than 25% of Australian fruit juices, aeroplanes for non-commercial use, water softening appliances, welding equipment used by primary producers and certain goods used as parts for garments.
The general exemption was increased from $2,080 per annum to $8,320 per annum.
Exemption from thetax was extended to wages paid by certain international authorities or organisations.
The statutory exemptions were increased from $4,000 to$1 0,000 where the estate passes to the widow, widower, children or grandchildren, and from $2,000 to $5,000 in other cases.
The entertainments tax was abolished on and from 1st October 1953.
The rate of duty on spirits was reduced by $2.10 per proof gallon from 1 0th September 1953.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rales of Tax - Individuals: The rates of individual income tax were reduced by an overall average of 9%.
Age Allowance: The rate oftax on the range of incomes affected by the age allowance ‘shadingin’ provisions was reduced from 50% to 45%.
The rate of tax on household furniture and equipment, including floor coverings, cutlery, crockery and domestic appliances was reduced from 121/2% to 10%. Toys, musical instruments, confectionery and ice cream were removed from the 162/3% rate and became taxable at121/2%.
New exemptions included hand tools, repair plant, equipment for the servicing of aircraft and motor vehicles and equipment used in the construction of buildings and other works. Paper bags, wrapping paper, twine and lashing of a kind used to wrap up and secure goods for marketing or delivery, and also bottles, cases and crates for use in marketing non-alcoholic beverages were also exempted. A complete exemption for aeroplanes was also granted.
The general exemption was raised from $8,320 per annum to $12,480 per annum.
From19th August 1954, the rate of duty on brandy was reduced by $3.00 per proof gallon. 1955
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Age Allowance: The exemption levels for aged persons were increased to $780 for single persons and $1,560 for married couples. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $780 to $868 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,560 to $2,060.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rales of Tax - Companies: The rates of tax payable by all companies (other than tax payable by private companies in respect of their undistributed income) were increased by 5%. Particulars of the rates declared are shown in Appendix B.
The rates of sales tax were increased on and from 15th March 1956.
The tax on motor cars was increased from 162/3% to 30% whilst commercial motor vehicles and motor cycles were taxed at 162/3% instead of 121/2%. All goods previously taxable at 162/3 (other than motor cars) became taxable at 25%.
Television receiving sets became taxable at 25%.
The following increases in rates of duty applied from 15th March 1956:
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax - Companies: The rates of tax on companies (other than tax payable by private companies in respect of their undistributed income) were reduced by 2.5%. The rates declared are set out in Appendix B.
Age Allowance: The exemption levels for the age allowance were increased to $820 for single persons and $1,638 for married couples. ‘Shadingin’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $820 to $920 and for married couples with combined net incomes of $1,638 to $2,212.
The rate of sales tax on household furniture and equipment was reduced from 10% to 81/3%. The rates on handbags, baskets, travelling bags and other travel goods was reduced from 25% to 121/2%.
New exemptions included: industrial gases and cylinders for marketing such gases; steel strapping of a kind used in binding containers; equipment for use on ships and for use in servicing and repairing ships and railway rolling stock; fire-fighting equipment; and carbonated beverages containing 5% or more of pure fruit juice.
The general exemption was increased from $12,480 to $20,800 per annum.
Provision was made for relief where there are quick successions’.
Duties were imposed for the first time on diesel fuel and aviation turbine fuel from 4th September 1957 at the rates of $0.10 and $0.054 per gallon, respectively.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax- Individuals: A rebate of 5% of tax otherwise payable by individuals was allowed.
Aged persons: Exemption limits for aged persons were increased to $858 for single persons and $1,716 for married couples. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $858 to $970 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,716 to $2,362.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax- Individuals: The 5% rebate of tax allowed for the financial year 1959-60 was discontinued.
Companies: The rates of company tax (except tax payable by private companies in respect of their undistributed incomes) were increased by 2.5%. Particulars of the rates adopted are set out in Appendix B.
Aged Persons: Exemption limits for aged persons were increased to $884 for single persons and $1,768 for married couples. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $884 to $1,004 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,768 to $2,472.
The rate of sales tax on silver-plated ware, pewter and cut-glass ware was reduced from 25% to 124%. The rate on electric shavers was increased from 121/2% to 25%. Thermionic valves were exempted from excise duty, and became liable for sales tax at 25%.
New exemptions granted included: motor cars used by disabled persons for use in personal transportation to and from gainful employment; tanks which form part of bulk milk tankers used in transporting bulk milk from farms; water de-salting apparatus; certain classes of goods from Christmas Island; and imports into Australia by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In November 1960, sales tax on motor vehicles was increased from 30% to 40% and the rate on motor cycles, motor scooters and similar vehicles was increased from 162/3% to 25%. The original rates were restored in February 1961.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Aged Persons: Exemption limits for aged persons were raised from $884 to $910 for a single person, and from $1,768 to $1,820 for a married couple. Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $910 to $1,040 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,820 to $2,586.
Superannuation Funds: The exemption previously enjoyed by superannuation etc. funds was made conditional upon such a fund investing specified proportions of its funds in public securities. Funds which did not maintain the specified ratios became liable to tax for the 1961-62 income year at the rates of 25% on the first $10,000 of investment income subject to tax and 35% of the balance of such investment income. These were the rates payable by a mutual life assurance company for the 1961-62 financial year and the relationship between the two rates has been continued up to the present.
The rate of tax on all household furniture and furnishings and appliances was reduced from 84% to 24%.
New exemptions granted included:
Goods for the use of privately operated railways; motor buses with seating for not less than twelve passengers used in the transport of persons for reward; and certain livestock road trains and carriers used exclusively in Zone A or Zone B (as defined for income tax purposes) primarily and principally for the transport of livestock.
The rate of duty on motor spirit was increased on 16th August 1961 by $0.002 per gallon, in conjunction with a reduction of $0.006 per gallon in the rate of customs duty on motor spirit. The two duties thus became identical.
Income Tax and Social. Services Contribution
Rates of Tax - Individuals: The 5% rebate was re-introduced for the financial year 1961-62, and continued for the financial year 1962-63.
The rate of tax on motor cars was reduced from 30% to 221% in February 1962. The rate on commercial vehicles, motor vehicle parts and accessories was reduced from 162/3% to 121/2%.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax - Individuals: The 5% rebate, which applied for the 1961-62 and 1962-63 financial years, was continued for the financial year 1963-64.
Minimum Taxable Income: The minimum amount of taxable income subject to tax in the hands of an individual or a non-profit company was increased from $209 to $417.
Age Allowance: The exemption from tax for aged single persons was increased from $910 to $962. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were extended to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $962 to $1,112.
The provisions for married couples were extended to apply to a taxpayer qualified by age whose spouse is not so qualified.
Sales tax on all taxable foodstuffs, including cakes, pastry, biscuits and ice cream, was removed on and from 14th August 1963.
The rate of sales tax on silver-plated ware used for household purposes was reduced from 121% to 21%. The rate on floor rugs or mats made of fur skins was reduced from 25% to 21/2%.
Wireless receiving sets for use in the conduct of public commercial telecommunications services by an authority constituted under any Commonwealth or State law became taxable at 124%. They were previously taxed at 25%.
The statutory exemption for estates which pass to the widow, widower, children or grandchilden was increased from $10,000 to $20,000 and in other cases from $5,000 to $10,000. The amount of the exemption is reduced by $2 for every $8 by which the value of the estate exceeds the amounts mentioned.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Rates of Tax - Individuals: The 5% rebate of tax allowed for the 1961-62, 1962-63 and 1963-64 financial years was discontinued.
Companies: The rates of company tax (except tax payable by private companies in respect of their undistributed incomes) were increased by 2.5 per cent. Particulars of the rates adopted are set out in Appendix B.
Partnerships and trusts: Special rates of income tax on income of certain superannuation funds, trust estates and members of partnerships were introduced for the 1965-66 and subsequent financial years. These rates were declared for the purposes of legislation to counter tax avoidance arrangements brought to the Government’s attention in the 1961 report of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. The rates which have remained unchanged since they were originally introduced are: for the 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 theincome of one individual - 50 per cent. for income from a share in a partnership over which a person lacks, or is deemed to lack, real and effective control and disposal - a rate of further tax sufficient to bring the aggregate rate on the income up to 50 per cent. for the taxable income of a superannuation fund that is not exempt from tax (not including investment income of a fund subject to tax through failure to maintain the prescribed proportion of its assets in public securities) - 50 per cent.
Aged persons: Exemption limits for aged persons were raised from $962 to $988 for a single person and from $1,820 to $1,872 for a married couple. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $988 to $1,148 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,872 to $2,700.
The rate of sales tax on motor vehicles previously taxed at 221/2% was increased to 25% from 12th August 1964.
The rates of duty on tobacco products were increased on 12th August 1964 by thefollowing amounts.
Rates of tax - Individuals: Additional tax equal to 21 per cent of the tax otherwise payable was imposed.
The following increases in rates of duty applied from18th August 1965:
Primary producers: The taxable income limit for averaging of income of primary producers was increased from $8,000 to $16,000 and primary producers who had previously withdrawn from averaging were given an option to re-enter up to 1969-70.
Aged persons: Exemption limits for aged persons were raised from $988 to $1,040 for a single person and from $1,872 to $1,950 for a married couple. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $1,040 to $1,221 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,950 to $2,882.
The rate of sales tax on household type electric fans and air-conditioners was reduced from 121/2% to 21/2% on and from 17th August 1966.
Aged persons: The exemption limits for aged persons for the 1966-67 income year were increased by amendment of the Income Tax Act 1966 from $1,040 to $1,070 for a single person and $1,950 to $1,980 for a married couple. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with incomes of $1,070 to $1,264 and for aged married couples with combined net incomes of $1,980 to $2,958.
Aged persons: Exemptions for aged persons for the 1967-68 income year were based on taxable income instead of net income as previously. Exemption limits were increased from $1,070 to $1,196 for a single person and from $1,980 to $2,106 for a married couple. ‘Shading-in’ provisions were made to reduce the tax payable by single aged persons with taxable incomes of $1,196 to $1,451 and for aged married couples with combined taxable incomes of $2,106 to $3,287.
Rates of tax: On and from 16th August 1967 the rate of sales tax was increased from 121/2% to 25% on the following:
Tape recorders and similar appliances used for the recording and/or reproduction of music.
Sound tape recordings produced for sale. 35mm still photographs and transparencies.
On and from 16th August 1967 the rate of sales tax was reduced from 121/2% to 21/2% on the following:
On and from 16th August 1967 sales tax exemptions were withdrawn on the following:
Goods which became taxable at 121/2% -
Lightweight car covers.
Imported advertising films.
Certain printers requisites when used in the production of taxable printed matter.
Goods which became taxable at 25% -
The provision relating to fur clothing was amended to ensure that all articles of fur clothing, including some which had previously been treated as exempt, were taxed at 25%.
New exemptions included the following:
On and from 12 th April 1967 - Motor vehicle seat belts.
On and from 16th August 1967 -
Refrigeration equipment for use by a poultry farmer or an egg marketing authority in the preservation of eggs.
Vegetable grading, sorting and cleansing machines.
Butter canning machines.
Gas welding and cutting apparatus for use in agricultural industry.
Fork lift trucks used on wharves in the handling of cargo.
Australian motion picture films other than advertising films or those of private or domestic interest, e.g. home movies.
Rates of tax - Companies: It is proposed that all rates of company tax (except that payable by private companies in respect of their undistributed income) be increased by 2.5 cents in the $. Particulars of the proposed rates are set out in Appendix B.
Aged persons: It is proposed to raise the exemption limits for aged persons from $1,196 to $1,248 for a single aged person and from $2,106 to $2,184 for a married couple. Appropriate adjustments are also proposed to the limits within which partial relief may apply.
On and from 14th August 1968 goods previously taxable at the rate of 121/2% became taxable at the rate of 15%.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he provide the following information for each of the past 10 years:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
According to data recently published by the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD, official aid extended to developing countries on a net transfer basis (i.e. grants plus loans less repayments of principal and interest) by the countries specified (with the exception of the U.S.S.R., for which similar information is again not available) for the years 1960 to 1967, inclusive, were as follows. Comparable figures for earlier years are not available.
Statement No. 8 attached to the 1968-69 Budget Speech compares the official aid performances of these countries in 1967 with that of Australia as percentages of National Income.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the right honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
How many pensioners are receiving the intermediate repatriation rate pension?
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information:
As at 31st July 1968 there were 994 pensioners in receipt of the intermediate rate of war pension.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1, 2 and 3. The Commonwealth Statistician advises that details of loan approvals for individuals and building and housing societies are only available in aggregate. These aggregates are not separately available for the individual banks. Any loans to State Housing Commissions would be included in the category ‘other loans’ in the savings bank statistics and no separate details are available.
In each of the past 8 years the Commonwealth Savings Bank, the State savings banks, the private savings banks and the trustee savings banks have together approved loans to building and housing societies and individuals as follows:
In respect of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, State savings banks, Tasmanian trustee savings banks and individual private savings banks, details of housing loans outstanding, depositors’ balances and ratios of outstanding housing loans to deposits at the end of June in each of the past nine years are shown in tables A. B. and C below. Information on loan aprovals for housing for 1958-59 and 1959-60, and the relevant figures at the end of June 1959, are not available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19681008_reps_26_hor60/>.