27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a matter of privilege that is based on a letter to the editor published in the Austraiian’ of today’s date. I produce a copy of the ‘Australian’, which is printed and published in New South Wales by Mirror Newspapers Ltd at 20-24 Holt Street, Surry Hills for the proprietors, Nationwide News Pty Ltd of 31-33 London Circuit, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. If I may, I will read the letter because it is brief. The letter is signed by P. Wintle of Mundingburra, Queensland. It reads:
While congratulating you on the fine series of articles on parliamentary lobbying by Kenneth Randall, I am wondering when Mr Randall will get around to the question of bribes. It is common knowledge that many parliamentarians look for some monetary reward for the favours they do. In fact you won’t get much done without it. It is called ‘the sling’. I am assured by a friend who earned his living as a lobbyist that it is essential to offer sufficient financial inducement to the right person if you want something done - $10,000 is considered ‘pin money’ in this field.
My friend laughed at the idea that lobbyists persuade’ members of Parliament by the force and persistency of their arguments.
Sir, I regard that as being a very serious allegation against all members of Parliament. I think it is about time that all members, no matter on what side of the Parliament they sit, took these sorts of letters and allegations in the newspapers seriously. I for one do not believe a word of this letter but I think it should be referred to the Committee of Privileges and that appropriate action should be taken to defend every single member of this Parliament against the charges made. Therefore, I move:
– Mr Speaker, this is certainly a serious matter which reflects on the integrity of all members of this Parlia- ment. 1 am sure that every honourable member will support the motion before the House. I support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable (he Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned pupils of Ingleburn North Primary School, their parents and citizens of the area respectfully sheweth:
The Red Kangaroo, largest marsupial in the world, has become extinct or rare in many parts of Australia where it was once numerous.
We therefore humbly pray that you will:
Immediately ban the export of products made from Kangaroos.
Do all you can to prohibit the commercial shooting of Kangaroos and consider making the Kangaroo a protected animal throughout Austraia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read-
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of 10 electors of the Commonwealth of Australia . respectfully showeth:
That the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2603 XXIV A (December 1969) declares that the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which Australia has ratified, prohibits the use in international armed conflict of any chemical agents of warfare - chemical substances whether gaseous, liquid or solid - employed for their direct toxic effects on man, animals or plants;
that the World Health Organisation Report (January 1970) confirms the above definition of chemical agents of warfare;
that the Australian Government does not accept this definition, but holds that the Geneva Protocol does not prevent the use in war of certain toxic chemical substances in the form of herbicides, defoliants and ‘riotcontrol’ agents.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Parliament take note of the consensus of international political, scientific and humanitarian opinion; and
that honourable members urge upon the Government the desirability of revising its interpretation of the Geneva Protocol, and declaring that it regards all chemical substances employed for their toxic effects on man, animals or plants as being included in the prohibitions laid down by that Protocol.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of residents of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That there is a likelihood that education in the Australian Capital Territory will in the foreseeable future be made independent of the New South Wales education system:
That the decentralisation of education systems throughout Australia is educationally and administratively desirable, and is now being studied by several State Government Departments:
That the Australian Capital Territory is a homo geneoces and coherent unit especially favourable for such studies.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that a Committee of Enquiry, on which are represented the Department of Education and Science, institutions of tertiary education, practising educators, and the Canberra community, be instituted to inquire into the form that an Australian Capital Territory Education Authority should take, the educational principles and philosophy that should underlie it, and its mode of operation and administration.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there is a crisis in Aboriginal Welfare in the South West Land Division of Western Australia resulting from a population explosion, poor housing and hygiene and unemployment and unemployability.
That there is a need to phase out Native Reserves in the South West Land Division of Western Australia over the next three years.
That town housing must be provided for all Aboriginal families where the bread winner has permanent employment or an age or invalid pension entitlement.
That such housing must be supported by the appointment of permanent ‘Home-maker’ assistance in the ratio of one home-maker to every eight houses or part thereof. that incentives of housing, ‘home-maker’ services and training facilities must be - created in centres of potential employment for those who are currently unemployed or unemployable.
That insufficient State or Federal assistance has been made available to meet these requirements.
That adequate finance to meet these requirements can only be provided by the Commonwealth government.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter.
And y.our petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Division of the A.C.T. respectfully showeth:
That the A.C.T. Pharmacy Ordinance 1931-1959 Section 46, Sub-section (1) states that ‘A person shall not publish any statement, whether by way of advertisement or otherwise, to promote the sale of any article as a medicine, instrument’ or appliance … for preventing conception’.
And that this infringes upon each individual’s right as a human being to all available information about contraceptive devices in order to help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the words ‘or for preventing conception’ be deleted from Sub-section (1) of Section 46 of the A.C.T. Pharmacy Ordinance.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Supply. What are the names of the countries on whose behalf secret records are held at Woomera? Are the records currently missing the property of one of those countries? If so, can he tell the House whether communications have been sent to or received from that country since the disappearances were reported? Has any other country been in touch with him about the safety of its property?
– I am not aware in total of the countries that would have in the hands of my Department the information to which the honourable gentleman has referred. I will examine that question to see whether it would be within Government policy to make the information sought available. Of course contacts made by other countries would not come directly to me or to my Department, but would be on a government to government basis and therefore would go to other Ministers of the Government. I am unaware of any concern having been expressed. I will give close consideration to the other questions that the honourable gentleman has put to me and take an early opportunity to see whether I can let him have the information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts who is now the focal point of a campaign by all, Australian governments to prevent pollution of the atmosphere and natural amenities, especially by industry and public authorities. He also has under his authority, as one of his manifold duties, the Government Printing Office and the incinerator attached to it. I ask: Is the Minister aware of the large quantity of offensive smoke that is emitted daily from this incinerator and which pollutes a considerable area of Canberra? Will he go into this matter and make it his early business to rid Canberra of this nuisance? Will he also consult his colleague, the Minister for the Interior, about the primitive arrangements for burning unpleasant rubbish in open dumps in the vicinity of the Causeway which is now permitted by his colleague’s Department? Furthermore will he consider the construction of one modern incinerator to dispose of the whole of Canberra’s garbage without nuisance to anyone in accordance with the best recent local practice of governments in the States?
– I must admit that it did cause me some embarrassment when I found that one of the departments for which I am responsible is one of the chief polluters of the atmosphere of Canberra. 1 understand that the incinerator is used for a total of only about 20 hours a week. It is unfortunate that these 20 hours seem to coincide with the times when the honourable member for Wentworth is looking out the window of his flat. Of those 20 hours only 5 hours are used on behalf of the Government Printing Office to burn rubbish. The remainder of the time is used by other government departments. So to an extent the Government Printing Office incinerator is acting as a receptacle for a lot of Canberra’s unwanted material.
It would be an expensive job to change this. The incinerator has been there for 8 years. It is fitted with a spark arrestor, but to fit arrestors for smoke would be unduly expensive. I think it would really be too expensive, for the time being, to burn all the rubbish from the Canberra tip also. This is typical of the sorts of problems that arise at the moment. In the old days, people were not as concerned about smoke as they are now. I am glad that the honourable member has drawn my attention to this matter because it is important. On Friday there will be a meeting of all Ministers concerned with environmental problems. I am sure this is one of the matters which will be raised then.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that officers of the Government Aircraft Factories have been told that Government Aircraft Factories are to be merged with Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd almost immediately? If this is a fact will the Government retain a majority interest in the merged enterprise? Is it also a fact that at the moment another major Australian company is negotiating for a takeover of Commonwealth Aircraft Factories?
– It is not true that the possible amalgamation of these 2 establishments is to be pressed on with at the speed implied in the question asked by the honourable member. For some time the possibility of rationalisation of the defence aircraft industry in the Fishermens Bend area has been under study as was indicated by my predecessor in another place in a statement which he made early last year. The aim of the amalgamation is to achieve greater effectiveness, stability and economy consistent with Government policy to maintain a small but viable defence aircraft industry. The factories of the 2 organisations mentioned by the honourable member are adjacent. To a large extent the facilities are complementary. The possibilities of amalgamation have been explored with Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd management but the complexity of the study and the importance of ensuring that the best interests of the industry are maintained have meant that results will be relatively slow. They have found to be more difficult than was hoped originally. Progress was reported not very long ago but the matter will certainly take several months yet. The rights and interests, of employees are an important aspect in this consideration and they will be carefully examined. As to the matter of another offer being made to Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation as suggested by the honourable member. I do not have any information which I can give him.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the proposed scheme of the New South Wales Minister for Lands, Mr Thomas
Lewis, to agree to allow Western Lands lessees to sell their holdings to public companies as this appears to be one of the few schemes which could alleviate the economic difficulties of the lessees? I ask the Minister whether it would be wise to adopt a similar scheme for wool growers? Would not this be better and more effective than the support price plan which could cost the Government between $100m to $200m a year?
– I am not aware specifically of the proposals currently being put by the New South Wales Minister for Lands. I do know that over the years the complexity of the New South Wales land laws has caused quite considerable difficulties in the purchase and sale of properties in that State. I know that as a result of those difficulties there has been some change in land laws in latter years, no doubt designed to try to vary the past difficulties which have arisen, in that field. In relation to the honourable member’s suggestion that wool growers should similarly be allowed to sell to public companies, I think he would be aware that over the years quite a number of companies have moved into wool growing. No doubt some of these public companies would be able to operate on a lower price return for wool than some individual wool growers. I do not think that size alone indicates the measure of efficiency or profitability of a wool growing property. In many circumstances, one would find that the smaller wool grower, operating his property to an economic peak of efficiency, is able to operate at a more profitable level provided the finance available to him and his level of indebtedness do not inhibit his operation.
It is true that the Government has underwritten the price returns to wool growers this season, but of course the Government is doing more than this. It is endeavouring to look at the whole field of wool growing and the opportunities for wool as a textile fibre in world markets. It is doing this in conjunction with members of the Australian Wool Commission, wool brokers, wool buyers and others generally to try to determine what the future of wool might be. It is of real concern to Australia as a whole, and not just to primary producers, that if possible a future should be determined for the wool industry so that it will not be dependent on government support alone to make it profitable.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. When can Australian exporters and commerce expect a credible policy on the exchange parity of the Australian dollar? What steps has he in mind to remedy the damage to world confidence already resulting from Australia’s protracted controls over capital flows? Will he ensure that future Australian export contracts are denominated in Australian currency, replacing the present denomination in United States dollars? Is he in a position to inform the House of any loss likely to be suffered by the present disparity between the Japanese yen and the United States dollar?
– In my view, and in the view of my advisers, the policy now being followed by the Australian Government on the changes in parities of international currencies is without doubt the most sensible and the wisest policy that could be followed by this Government. Our monetary policy is generally accepted by the International Monetary Fund and by other authorities as being appropriate to the present situation. I think that policy is in the best interests of Australia. As to the second question asked by the honourable gentleman, obviously he has not read the statement made by my colleague, the Treasurer, last night and published in today’s newspaper in which the Treasurer pointed out that we have had the movement of capital into Australia under severe restriction over recent weeks. He also pointed out that the time has come when we believe that that policy should be changed and movement of capital permitted. The Reserve Bank will keep the inward movement of funds under continuous supervision. If we believe that there is a movement of funds into Australia to exploit the Australian market and for other such purposes, we will immediately take action to try to stop it.
I remind the honourable gentleman that one of the problems, in fact the biggest economic problem, that we face is to prevent inflation getting any worse in this country. Far from stopping it getting worse, we should do everything to rein in inflationary pressures. I believe that the policies we are following are correct. One of the reasons why capital inflows of a speculative kind were prevented was to stop the liquidity problem growing too high and to stop unnecessary or undesired changes in the interest rate structure of this country.
If anyone can answer the last part of the honourable gentlemen’s question, believe you me he is in the strata of genius. If anyone can anticipate the results he will be the greatest profiteer in the history of any country. I wish I knew what they would be. I would be exploiting the situation for the benefit of the Australian people and certainly not permitting private people to capitalise on it.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Industry read the article in the business section of today’s Melbourne ‘Age’ headed ‘Don’t Lose your (Woven) Shirt’? Does the Minister accept the Tariff Board’s estimate that the cost to the Australian public of this specific and single piece of protection - that is the tariff protection of woven shirts - is presently $30m per annum and is soon to rise to $39m per annum? Is the Tariff Board’s opinion correct that the present levels of protection are hard to justify having regard to the industry’s efficiency and economic worth? Was this opinion arrived at after proper examination and consideration by the Board? If it was, will the Minister reconsider the decision to continue the present policy of total protection for another 18 months and make an immediate start on a rapid rate of progressive reduction until the degree of protection reaches a sensible and realistic level?
– The honourable gentleman has the advantage of me in having read this article; I have not. It is true that the Government has made a decision relating to the knitted and woven shirt industries, 2 quite substantial industries in the Australian industrial scene. They employ something in the vicinity of 22,000 people and many of these industries are in country towns. I believe that 21 country towns have these types of industries, so the industries are of significance to the overall economy and especially to the economy of rural areas. The Tariff Board did examine this case. Temporary protection had been given in 1967 or 1968; a full examination had to take place. The Board recommended that the rates of duty should be progressively reduced over a period of 2 years. However, the Government has the final responsibility for whatever the level of tariffs might be and it examined the matter. The Government felt that some notice should be given to the industry before the Tariff Board recommendations were implemented but that in the meantime endeavours should be made by my Department to try to negotiate voluntary restraints with other countries.
One of the problems of world trade today is coping with competition from the low wage countries. Indeed, every industrial and every highly developed country with a high standard of living has found this to be a major problem and all such countries are now approaching it by constraining their own industry and allowing a certain part of the demand of that country to be taken up by imports and for growth in demand to be allowed to these developing countries. However, to make a harsh and arbitrary decision while trying to relate economics and efficiencies to a country with a wage standard of maybe a quarter of our own is difficult and I think it is asking too much of any industry to judge its economics and efficiency on the basis of a comparison with industries in these countries. This is the problem that all the developed countries have had. I think the Government has approached this question in a very reasonable and sensible way by giving the industry notice while at the same time trying to constrain the rate at which imports are coming into the country.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether his attention has been drawn to the case of an American, Mr James O’Leary, his wife and 13 children, who entered Australia on a 2-day visitors’ visa and who are now living on their broken-down boat which is moored in a Queensland swamp. Is it a fact that this family was ordered out of Honolulu by the Hawaiian Government and has refused repatriation back to the United States? Furthermore, as Mr O’Leary and his family now appear to be illegal immigrants will the Minister state the full facts of the case and what action, if any, is being taken by his Department in relation to this remarkable one-man unassisted mass migration programme?
– My Department has investigated this question. At the present moment any further decision is held up because of 2 matters currently under consideration by the American authorities. The first is in relation to the willingness of die United States authorities to repatriate the family and the second is in relation to whether it is correct that the American authorities paid the fares of the family to come here. So far we have not received a reply from the American authorities. Until such time as we do, I will not bs able to make a final decision as to what we are going to do about the case.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware of a statement attributed to a Queensland Cabinet Minister concerning the flow of pornography through Post Office channels. If so, would the Postmaster-General care to comment and indicate what action is being taken by his Department particularly with regard to the use of Post Office boxes?
– I am aware that Dr Delamothe, the Minister for Justice in Queensland, has made some comment in relation to the use of the mails for the transfer of pornographic literature. Dr Delamothe indicated that the matter had been discussed at a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers - I presume, the Attorneys-General and Ministers for Justice - and that he would bring the matter up again at their next meeting. My file does not reveal any occasion on which Dr Delamothe has brought an individual matter to my notice nor indeed when he has brought to my notice the general situation. I am therefore a little surprised that he should be making public statements rather than a personal representation to me. Naturally, the matter will be looked at very carefully by me if representations are made by Dr Delamothe or by any of the Attorneys-General - Commonwealth or State - a number of whom have brought individual cases to my attention.
Within the last 3 years in Queensland and New South Wales 14 Post Office box tenancies have been cancelled because the Post Office discovered that those boxes were being used for the dissemination of this type of literature. This area is a very difficult one for the Post Office to operate in. The Government has laid down broadly that action should be initiated by the Post Office if there is blatant evidence on the envelopes or covers of the postal articles that they contain pornographic material. Most of this literature is pasted in plain envelopes. The Post Office has no authority to open envelopes. Therefore its situation is not easy. If it is a matter of registration of books - in some cases this type of material is in book form - it is usual for the Post Office, if it has any doubts, to consult the Minister for Customs and Excise because, as I think most people will realise, the Post Office is not to be seen as another censorship authority within Australia.
– Has the Minister for Immigration read a report in today’s Press of the refusal by his Department to grant citizenship to Greek born Nick Karajas of Victoria? Is he aware that this man has ‘ lived in Australia for many years and has served in the Australian armed forces against Australia’s enemies? Does he know that this man’s wife is a naturalised Australian and that his children are Australians by birth? As no reason for refusal to naturalise Nick Karajas has been given and as his only disadvantage is his inability to vote in all elections, will the Minister reconsider his decision to refuse this man Australian citizenship?
– The case of this person has been considered at least half a dozen times to my knowledge and probably by as many Ministers. They have all come to the same decision, which is ‘no’.
– Further to a: question I asked some days ago concerning an Australian Broadcasting Commission officer by the name of Cassidy, is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to inform the House whether this officer is still in the employ of the ABC?
– I understand that he is still in the employ of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I understand that Mr Cassidy is contemplating legal action against the publishers of the articles which referred to him. I therefore feel it undesirable to make any further comment to the House.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Territories been drawn to what was considered to be a strong attack last week by Mr Johnson, the Administrator of Papua New Guinea, on racial discrimination in European dominated clubs in Papua New Guinea? Mr Johnson said: There is no place for people with such attitudes which not only cause great personal offence but also gravely impair race relations’. Will the Minister inform Mr Johnson that he is not expressing the policy of this Government and draw his attention to the fact that, amongst others, the Minister for Education and Science, the Minister for Defence, the Minister for the Army, the present Prime Minister and the previous Prime Minister are all prominent members of the Melbourne Club which also practises racial discrimination?
– With regard to the incident in Papua New Guinea, I support the Administrator in his remarks.
– Having regard to the existing policy of the Government, now operated by the Department of the Interior, which provides executive type homes for rental and optional subsequent purchase by senior public servants and Ministers, and about which some concern has been expressed, does the Prime Minister feel that any need exists for a review of this policy or for a variation of approach to these matters?
– I preface my remarks by saying that I have carefully gone through the file relating to the purchase of homes in Canberra by Ministers. I have been assured that each of the purchases has been completely consistent with Government policy. It is done with the full knowledge of most people involved. Nothing whatsoever in any way has been held back or disguised.
– That is not the point.
– Wait a moment. You will get an answer. Be a little more patient, please. I repeat that it is completely consistent with Government policy. I have said that I think that there are several Ministers who should reside in Canberra to the maximum extent practicable. I do not want in any circumstances to place restrictions on their activities. This applies particularly in the case of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. I deplore any unfortunate comments that have been made by people about what has been the practice and what has been considered, at least until the present time, as an acceptable one.
My colleague, the Minister for the Interior, has discussed this matter with me on at least 3 occasions over the course of the last 14 days. I have agreed with him that it would be wise for my Department to prepare a submission for me so that that policy may be considered once again. However, I want to remind the House that in my own personal knowledge the present policy has been discussed in Cabinet on other occasions and certainly as far back as the last 10 .to 12 years. I can also state that my colleague, after discussion with me, has informed me that he has made other arrangements. Consequently, I believe, the suggestion that be was purchasing a property in Canberra can be regarded as a dead letter. Still I will have a submission brought on as soon as I can and I will make certain that the policy once again becomes obvious to all those people who want to create mischief where it is unnecessary.
– I address to the Prime Minister a question supplementary to that asked him by the right honourable member for Fisher. I ask the Prime Minister whether the policy document which he has sought on the subject of ministerial accommodation in Canberra will cover the suggestion that Ministers whose duties require them to live in Canberra with their families, as clearly a Minister for the Interior must, should be able to have accommodation in Canberra during the term of their office as Ministers. In other words, has the Prime Minister authorised the preparation of a document which would envisage the policy that Ministers who have to live in
Canberra should be in the same position as the Prime Minister, namely, that they should have official accommodation for as long as they bold a ministerial position?
– I have placed no restrictions whatsoever on the officials who will be submitting a report to me. Consequently, I believe that their investigations will be wide ranging and will canvass a number of possibilities. Nonetheless, no matter what they might present to me, I personally will ensure that the matter mentioned by the honourable gentleman is taken into consideration by Cabinet when the Cabinet submission is being considered.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: When a senior member of this Parliament tells employers not to confront employees and unions, does it signify that employers should be ready to meet excessive wage demands, which has been the pattern in recent years? Are some employers too ready to accede to union demands without recourse to the arbitration system and do they then approach the Tariff Board for additional protection against imports?
– The excessive increase in wage demands during recent years has undoubtedly been a primary cause of the cost inflation which Australia is facing at present. There is no doubt, as the honourable gentleman suggested, that employers, who are one of the principal parties to wage negotiations, have a heavy responsibility in this field particularly having regard to the increasing trend towards wage fixation outside the pure ambit of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
That wages do have a pivotal responsibility for cost inflation at this time can be clearly seen by assessing the trend in labour costs and private profits per unit of output. During 1968-69 the increases were approximately the same, being 4.6 per cent for labour and 4.8 per cent for private profits. However, these figures contrast markedly with those for 1970-71 when labour costs increased by 10 per cent per unit of output and private profits slumped, by 3.3 per cent. I believe these figures show full well the error of the Leader of the Opposition in painting the picture that he does and in seeking to apportion the cause of cost-push inflation to any area except that to which it legitimately belongs, that is, the primary area of excessive wage inflation.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Industry have the CommonwealthState Officials Committee on Decentralisation meet the Minister for Decentralisation in Western Australia to examine ways of encouraging the establishment of industry in country areas? As the Minister for Decentralisation in Western Australia has recently announced his wish to see industry established in the Albany region, will the Minister find in what ways the Commonwealth might assist with present and future proposals?
– I would like to be able to say that I can arrange such a meeting, but at the moment most of the discussions have gone On at officials level. There is a report before us at the moment for consideration. I will certainly try to find an opportunity myself to meet the Western Australian Minister for Decentralisation and exchange points of view on a question which I believe is of national importance. That is how to get more industry into country areas.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House of the name of a person in a top executive position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who assists communists to be appointed to important positions in the ABC?
– The answer is no.
– Last week, I asked the Prime Minister a question in regard to the policy of the Commonwealth in April 1970 of placing greater pressure on the States, particularly in regard to housing in the public and private sector. The Prime Minister did not reply in any way to my question. I now seek that reply. Would he agree that the economy is headed for difficulties or that a downturn in the economy is likely to occur? Would he agree that a reduction in interest rates for housing loans would give a stimulus to the housing industry, the States and the economy as a whole? Will he direct the Reserve Bank of Australia to reduce interest rates on housing loans to assist the housing industry and the economy and to help young people to construct homes?
– I think it would be generally recognised that an answer to the honourable member’s question would require a second reading speech. It is not a suitable type of question to be asked at question time, particularly as precision is so important. What I can repeat to the honourable gentleman and to the House is that the major economic problem we face in Australia is inflation. As the Minister for Labour and National Service has said, this is due primarily to wage inflation of the award kind and the wages drift. Interest rate policy, together with monetary policy, supplements the fiscal policy of the Government. It is one of the critically important means that we have to try to ensure that inflationary forces are checked and then turned back. Unless this happens we will have problems not only in relation to housing but also of a worse kind throughout the primary and export interests of this country.
Nonetheless housing itself is a very important sector of the economy. The honourable gentleman must know that until recently special interest rates were provided under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. This policy will be changed and, as I said, the amount of funds being provided under the new scheme, which was originally devised by my colleague the Minister for Housing, has already been put to the States. They are contemplating whether certain changes can be made. My colleague is considering their proposals and has made certain recommendations to me. I hope to be able to give him an answer in the not too distant future. But if the honourable gentleman wants to know whether-
– What about housing in the private sector?
– If the honourable member looks at the most recent return of the Commonwealth Statistician he will see that it appears as though an upturn in housing in the private sector has now taken place. I hope that this turns out to be true, but if I find that the upturn has not taken place in the way in which the figures seem to indicate, I will again take up the matter with my colleague the Treasurer and the honourable member can rest assured that I will be prepared to do something about it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Have quantities of wheat been stolen from Grain Elevators Board silos in New South Wales? If so, is this wheat being sold privately on the black market? Has concern been expressed in the industry? What steps are being taken to eliminate this practice?
– I am not aware of any pilfering of wheat from silos in New South Wales or in other States. I am aware that from time to time there have been problems in terms of rat and mice infestation and weevil damage, but in the normal course of the activities of the Grain Elevators Board of New South Wales and corresponding bodies in other States the necessary action has been taken to minimise this damage.
As to the private sales of wheat to which the honourable member has referred, the general statistics available to my Department and to the Australian Wheat Board have not demonstrated any significant increase in these sales over the past few seasons. It is, of course, extremely difficult to make accurate assessments of the volume of private sales or across the border trading. This is a matter with which all wheat organisations and the Australian Wheat Board are concerned and because of this the various producer organisations in the field have suggested that there might well be reason for the Government looking at the proposal to hold a referendum on changing section 92 of the Constitution as far as marketing our primary products is concerned. This is a matter of Government policy. The proposal has been before the Australian people and has been rejected. I do not believe at this stage that there is any evidence to support the view that there has been a very large increase in private sales of wheat:
– Mr Speaker, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) misrepresented me in an answer to a question by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn) and I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Balaclava based his question, and the Minister based his reply, on a report of a speech I made a week ago to the Hanimex Group’s Tenth Product Advisory Council. The words I used were:
Employers would be committing a great folly if they believed their interests would be served by a confrontation with employees. The only people who are really pushing this idea of a show-down are governments who are themselves the worst employers, with the worst industrial records. . . We are all - government, employers, employees-entering unfamiliar, frequently unknown waters. We will achieve nothing on the basis of confrontation and division.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1971 I present the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– Order! I thank honourable members for their co-operation after question time this afternoon. It was easy to hear the Minister for Repatriation.
Bill presented by Mr Peacock, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to declare the rates of income tax for the current financial year 1971-72: Apart from the changes foreshadowed in the Budget Speech the Bill is to the same practical effect as the comparable legislation for the 1970-71 year. One change of a purely drafting nature is that, in contrast with past practice, the Bill covers both the ordinary rates of tax and the special rates that apply for the purposes of legislation enacted in 1964 to counter legal tax avoidance. The general rates of tax payable by individuals for the current financial year will, under the Bill, be the same as those imposed for the 1970-71 financial year. It is, however, proposed to increase the additional levy payable by individuals from 2i per cent to 5 per cent of the tax calculated in accordance with the general rates. This change will be taken into account in tax instalment deductions to be made from salaries and wages on and after 1st October next as well as in provisional tax payable in respect of the current year of income.
The upper limits of the age allowance shading-in’ ranges are to be raised as a consequence of the increase in the levy on tax at general rates. Apart from this, no changes to the age allowance provisions are proposed. As in the past, the additional levy will not be added to tax calculated under ‘shading-in’ provisions of the age allowance. The age allowance provisions proposed for 1971-72 will give quite substantial taxation relief to aged persons. An aged person - that is, a resident of Australia aged 65 or more, if a. man, and 60 or more, if a woman - will pay no tax for the current year if his or her own taxable income does not exceed $1,326, and may pay reduced tax if the taxable income is more than $1,326 but not more than $2,286. The equivalent upper limit for 1970-71 was $2,273. A married aged person will pay no tax if the combined taxable income of husband and wife does not exceed $2,314 and there may be reductions in tax if the combined taxable income is more than $2,314 but not more than $4,155. The corresponding upper limit for 1970-71 was $4,102.
It is proposed to increase the rates of tax payable by companies for the 1971-72 financial year by 5c in the $1 on the first $10,000 of taxable income. Friendly society dispensaries will continue to be taxed at a flat rate of 37.5 per cent on the whole of their taxable income. For other companies, the existing differential between the rate on the first $10,000 of taxable income and that on the remainder of the taxable income is 5 per cent in some cases and 10 per cent in others. The proposed charge will eliminate the rate differential for some companies and reduce it to 5 per cent in others-
Apart from raising needed additional revenue, the increase in rates on the first $10,000 of taxable income is directed against the taxation encouragement there has been in the past for taxpayers to arrange their affairs so that, instead of income being derived by a sole company, it is derived by 2 or more companies each of which is taxed at a lower rate on the first $10,000 of its taxable income. Details of the proposed rates of company tax for the 1971-72 financial year- that is, the 1970-71 income year of companies - are set out in a table which, with the concurrence pf honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard.
It will be seen from the table that public companies will be taxed at the rate of 47.5 per cent on the whole of their taxable income, other than income taxed at special rates. For private companies the rate on the first §10,000 of taxable income will be 37.5 per cent and the rate on the balance will remain at 42.5 per cent. The rate of additional tax payable by private companies which have not distributed sufficient profits as dividends wm remain at 50 per cent.
In keeping with the increase in the rates of tax payable by mutual life assurance companies and ‘ other life assurance companies in respect of mutual income, and consistent with past practice, the rates of tax payable on the first $10,000 of the investment income of a superannuation fund that does not invest a sufficient proportion of its assets in public securities is being increased by 5c in the $1. This change will apply in respect of the 1971- 72 income year of funds affected.
Technical features of the bill are dealt with in an explanatory memorandum that is to be circulated to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Peacock, and read a first time.
– I move:
The principal amendments to the law proposed by this Bill will give effect to the personal income tax concessions announced in his Budget Speech by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). By one proposal the upper limit of the amount that may be allowed as a deduction to a taxpayer for expenditure incurred by trim in the education of a fulltime student will be increased from $300 to $400 a year. By a second proposal the age below which a full-time student may qualify as a dependant from whom a taxpayer is entitled to the ‘maintenance’ deduction will be raised from 21 to 25 years. The deduct:on for expenses paid in respect of the education of a full-time student will also be available where the stu dent is less than 25 years of age instead of 21 as at present. Under a third proposal a concessional deduction will be available for legal expenses and fees incurred by taxpayers in adopting children. It it proposed that a taxpayer who adopts a child will be allowed an income tax deduction for amounts expended in connection with the adoption by way of solicitors’ or barristers’ fees, fees paid to a court granting the adoption order and fees paid to a Government department or authority or to an approved adoption agency through which the adoption is arranged.
The Bill also proposes an amendment of the gift provisions of the income tax law to authorise the allowance of deductions for gifts of $2 and upwards to the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia. This Council has largely taken over the role of the Australian Productivity Council and the proposed change to the gift provisions recognises this. Gifts to the Australian Productivity Council will no longer be deductible. These amendments are all to apply to assessments based on income derived in 1971-72 and subsequent years.
Other amendments proposed by the Bill will give effect to certain income tax exemptions provided for in the agreement between the Australian and United States governments relating to the establishment of the Joint Defence Space Communications Station at Woomera. Honourable members will recall that the present law contains exemptions provided for in earlier agreements relating to other joint projects of the 2 countries in Australia. The amendments proposed will extend to the Joint Defence Space Communications Station the exemptions now authorised in respect of those projects. Broadly speaking, the relevant provisions exempt from our income tax income derived in Australia by certain United States employees, contractors, sub-contractors and their employees from work done on the projects, so long as the income is subject to United States tax.
Technical aspects of the Bill are given in a memorandum to be circulated to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 26th August (vide page 775), on motion by Nr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Holten) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8 September (vide page 917), on motion by Sir Alan Hulme:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill,I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1971, and the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) 1971 as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I would suggest, therefore, that you should permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate, Mr Speaker.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– On behalf of the Opposition I wish to indicate that the Opposition intends to oppose these Bills, which have in common the purpose of increasing the charges for certain postal and telephone services and, in the case of the broadcasting and television provisions, the cost of radio licences, television licences or what has been described as the combined broadcasting and television licence. The figures in the Budget Papers indicate that the increased television and radio licence fees are expected to yield the Government an addi tional$1 5m in revenue. It appears that the increase in postal and telegraph charges is expected to yield something like $50m this financial year and, I think, $90m in a full financial year.
On behalf of the Opposition I intend to move an amendment which indicates the views it has on, firstly, the need for a reexamination of the administrative structure of the Post Office and, secondly, the fact that if what is sometimes described as decentralisation, accelerated development or selective decentralisation is to be taken seriously the charging of special rates or not charging increased rates for the provision of telephone services to businesses in country areas could aid that process considerably.I shall read the Opposition’s proposed amendment now lest I run out of time to do so in the course of debating some of the other matters I want to raise. The amendment is to the motion for the second reading of the Post and Telegraph Bill 1971.I move:
I will elaborate on the details of the amendment later. Firstly, however,I should like to say something generally about its overall significance.
As everybody knows, the Post Office is a highly significant business undertaking. It was well described in the’Current Affairs Bulletin’ of 23rd March 1970. The article stated:
It is our biggest business and at the same time our biggest Government Department - an awkward combination at the best of times. It is our biggest provider of utility services, biggest single employer of labour, and one of the biggest consumers of public finance. By any standards the sheer number of communications between people made possible every day by its staff and equipment represents a contribution of tremendous importance to the modern developing community. Yet the APO does not win much praise for this better-known and more routine aspect of its work.
I have always had great admiration for the various services which the Post Office provides and I have always found its staff to be competent, courteous and wishing to perform the duties for which they are paid although sometimes, like everybody else, they are not satisfied with their conditions of payment.
Nevertheless, the Post Office is an undertaking which now has an annual turnover in excess of $800m. By far the major part of the total financial activity of the Post Office is in the telephone section, which is described as telecommunications. The postal services, although important, are not as significant in respect of total finances as is the telecommunications side of the business. This is evident from figures which are published in the 1970 edition of the ‘Financial and Statistical Bulletin’. I do not think the 1971 issue will be available until mid-October. The article indicates that, at the end of June 1970, the Post Office had fixed assets which totalled $2, 174m. So, by any standards,, it is a mammoth undertaking. In the same financial year, its earnings were $625m; I think that last year they increased to about $800m. The activities of the Post Office in both its accumulated capital position and its annual transactions are highly significant and I think this is indicated by the breakdown of the various accounts. This is shown firstly as a Consolidated Profit and Loss Statement and then, in separate statements for the postal . service and the telecommunications service. This breakdown in accounts bears out what I suggested, that is, of total turnover $161 m was on the postal side and $463m was on the telecommunications services. In the provision of capital, again by far the greatest amount required is for the expansion of the telecommunications service.
Another item which is of some significance and which is difficult to evaluate is the activities of the Post Office in relation to broadcasting. Budgeting must take into consideration the interrelationship between Post Office accounts. For instance, the Post Office performs some services for other Government departments and provides certain services for the broadcasting and television networks. There have been changes in the method of presentation of the finances pf the Post Office. I think this is the third year - certainly it is the second year - in which the accounts have been presented in what is called the one-line form and all that is shown of the total activities of the Post Office is what it might require from Consolidated Revenue rather than from its own resources. Some years ago, there was introduced into the accounting system the device of charging the Post Office for interest on capital employed in its undertakings. I do not want to go into the merits or demerits of this argument. I have raised this point in the House for 10 years or more and 1 must confess that I remain unshaken as to the logic or Ulogie of this method of accounting. I am not persuaded by those who suggest that it is good accountancy to load this kind of burden on to the Post Office- This year, the payment of interest on capital to the Treasury by the Post Office is estimated at $141,800,000 which by any standards is a significant amount to pay when compared with a total annual turnover in the region of $800m.
Another rather curious mixture of economic doctrines is found when costing the services of the postal side separately from telecommunications. The postal services show a loss, but this is because it provides certain services such as sending Press telegrams, newspapers and periodicals at a charge which is less than the service costs. This was done in other days with the explanation that it aided cultural or religious groups in the community, aided the dissemination of knowledge, and so on. Nevertheless, the fact that this is done places a burden on the finances of the postal side. According to the figures provided by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme), if the increases proposed in the Budget were not made, the postal services would sustain a loss of about $20m. The telecommunications service, even allowing for the fact that by far the greatest part of the interest payment is assigned to this section - in 1969-70, for instance, of a total interest charge of $106m, S90m was paid by the telecommunications section - still snowed a profit of $21m. Telecommunications services made a profit last year and, according to figures provided by the Minister in his second reading speech, with the increases proposed it will make a profit this year of about S50m.
It seems clear that whilst there may be some logic in increasing the charges on the postal services, there certainly is no logic whatsoever in increasing the charges on the telecommunications side, as that section already shows a profit by any kind of reckoning. The Opposition has suggested that as this section is paying its way perhaps the principle of subsidy might seriously be applied to try to aid decentralisation or what is called accelerated development in the report of the Decentralisation Advisory Committee. These are matters that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has raised quite strenuously for a number of years.
I wish to quote from the report of the Decentralisation Advisory Committee on the Selection of Places Outside the Metropolis of Melbourne for Accelerated Development published on 26th September 1967. It is now some 4 years old. I am sure that every Country Party member believes that there ought to be development outside the city areas and that there ought to be some translation of the surplus populations of the cities into the salubrious atmosphere of the country areas. One has to use the word ‘atmosphere’ very carefully these days when ons talks about cities. Certainly, the country areas are still superior. On page 40 under the heading Telephone and Teleprinter Charges’ the Committee states:
The fillip to decentralisation that would follow reduced telephone and teleprinter charges was stressed by almost every industrialist interviewed by the Committee.
Subscriber Trunk Dialling and teleprinter services have brought about considerable savings to decentralised industries and commercial undertakings, but notwithstanding this, the Committee believes that many who need to be in constant contact with their customers would hesitate to set up operations in decentralised areas because of the handicap suffered as compared with their Melbourne counterparts. It is sot only the cost of the outgoing calls, but the cost and inconvenience of metropolitan-based associates needing to effect trunk line calls that in many cases result in a loss of business.
The Committee recommended as a proposition that each place be recognised for charging purposes as an extension of the Melbourne metropolitan area whereby rentals would be equated and calls between these places and Melbourne charged as for local calls. This is what the Opposition is suggesting in part of its amendment. It suggests that rather than increase telephone charges at this stage, which are already profitable in aggregate, some consideration should be given to the heavy liability placed on industry which might like to shift from the city to the country but connect by reason of the fact that much of its telephone communications for supplies and other matters still have to be made from its decentralised situation to Melbourne. It was stated in both the Victorian and New South Wales reports on decentralisation that this was a considerable factor in deciding whether industry went to country areas. For instance, the report of the Development Corporation of New South Wales on Selective Decentralisation tabled almost 2 years later on 24th March 1969 states at page 62:
As for telephone costs, these concerned country industrialists even more than telephone inconvenience. Seventy-nine companies (91 per cent) considered that the additional costs accruing from their location were a disadvantage (predominantly major). Only seven companies indicated that they enjoyed a cost advantage from being located in the country.
Metropolitan companies also considered that the additional telephone costs would amount to a disadvantage if they, were located in the country (and continued to supply their present market). Thirty companies (96 per cent) considered that it would constitute a disadvantage. Only one company considered that it would make no difference.
In reply to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition in this House on Wednesday, 8th September 1971, the PostmasterGeneral stated inter alia:
At that time I pointed out some of the difficulties and I will not repeat them. Because of the representations received outside the House the Post Office has been studying this matter. I have not yet received a report.
The Opposition would have thought that by reason of having this matter under study the Government would have made the situation even more desperate because of the increases that are now contemplated.
That is part of the reason why the Opposition opposes the measures that are presently before the House. Another reason is that when one looks at broadcasting and television licences, for instance, in aggregate, with the proposed increases, the Government will net approximately $65m. I think that is approximately the contemplated yield this year. The increase is of the magnitude of $15m. The PostmasterGeneral may claim that the cost of providing this service has increased and that the revenue has stayed constant, but surely for the sake of approximately $15m he is being very vexatious in increasing the fees. I would hope that some day in the screening of various advertisements on television which pose the questions: ‘Have you paid your television licence fee?’ or Would you be embarrassed if the inspector called to see you?’, it will be taken into account that nearly everybody has a licence of one kind or another. In my view, it becomes a very moot point whether there is much logic in charging a separate fee for the service that is performed. The amount involved - approximately $65m - would be no great loss if the licence fees were not collected. Surely a case exists for not charging licence fees at all to certain sections of people in the community who are no longer gainfully employed. I think that a little more care should be taken with these kinds of matters. In fact, when one looks at the fact that broadcasting and television, besides entertaining, also serves educational, recreational and cultural purposes, I think it becomes even more silly to suggest that a value can be placed on them and that the licence fee should be so much. Of course, it is true that in this country we have 2 forms of broadcasting and television. We have the commercial system on the one hand and the national system on the other hand. The commercial undertakings like to claim that they provide their programmes free to the person who avails himself of them. That is not quite true. When one looks at the cost of those services and also at the sources of revenue of the stations one sees that the costs come out of the pockets of the public per medium of advertisements. To my mind, some of the advertisements are very distasteful and untrue and in many respects often undo the advantages that educational programmes are supposed to give to the community, particularly to its younger members. I believe most television advertising in Australia to be entirely anti-intellectual. As I have said in this House before, I have an inbuilt resistance to buying anything that I see advertised on television. I sometimes think that if we were to have some mechanism not for rating the programmes but for rating the advertisements, those clever gentlemen who devise the advertisements might be appalled by what the public really thinks of their talents. I make that point in passing.
I wish to deal with another part of the amendment I have moved on behalf of the Opposition. I refer to the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board. If I may again take as an example the Australian Broadcasting Commission, whilst it is inter-related to some extent on the technical side with the Postmaster-General’s Department, it nevertheless operates separately as a commission. I know that at one time one of my colleagues wanted the reverse to be the case. He wanted the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be brought directly under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I suggest that the reverse situation should apply to the Postmaster-General’s Department. Because of the skill of its undertaking and because emphasis seems to be placed on its role as a business rather than as a utility, perhaps the time has come when serious consideration should be given to altering its administrative structure. Within my own Party we have some difference of view as to whether or not there should be only one commission It has been suggested that perhaps there should be 2 commissions, that perhaps the telephone activities should be separated from the postal activities. Whilst to some degree these activities are related, they are distinctive.
As has been indicated, by far the biggest part of the activity of the Postal Department is in the telephone section. Everybody must admire the way in which our telephone services have improved in recent years. A lot of that improvement has taken place under the administration of the present Postmaster-General. I must confess to having found him to be a very agreeable person in the occupancy of his office. He does not always give one what one wants but if within the framework within which the Minister operates there is a possibility of acceding to a request he will go to no end of trouble to try to meet it. 1 understand that the Minister will not occupy his present position for very much longer. I am not talking politically; I understand that he does not want the position again. In the rather long period that he has been the Postmaster-General he has seen considerable changes, both technically and in the growth of Australia’s population.
One of Australia’s difficulties is its geography. This is a country of more than 3 million square miles with a relatively small population. Yet within a matter of seconds one can dial from one capital city to any other capital city. Virtually throughout every State there is a network of communication within which a connection can be made in a few seconds. Very rarely are there difficulties in obtaining a successful connection. The only problem is that there are many numbers to dial between the time one has the STD number and the time when one has finished dialing what might be a 9 number combination. From reading some of the documentsI understand that there are proposals to have a push button or typewriter key action rather than the present dialing system. All these improvements cost money.
The annual provision of $200m for capital expansion indicates the role which this service plays. It plays an important role also in television relays. I must confess that I was astonished some months ago when I found how profitable the Overseas Telecommunications Commission was. It is another activity allied with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This service puts Australia in contact with any part of the world within minutes. Again the Post Office plays an important part in the satellite programmes which we receive on television. All these things have been done reasonably satisfactorily under the existing arrangements. Maybe some people would argue that that is a reason for leaving the Department as it is. So many problems are involved in the technical field, in the provision of manpower and capital, and in the ecological area that we should ask ourselves whether the undertaking should still be conducted in the same old departmental way. I know that there are differences of opinion as to change among those who are employed in the post office. The clerical officers seem more satisfied with the present situation than do those who might be described as the manual operatives.
These matters should be examined. During the last debate on the Budget we suggested that the Government should take the opportunity to set up a select committee to look at these questions in depth and to take evidence from interested people in the community. That has not been done.
We have now taken this opportunity to move an amendment in similar terms. On behalf of the Opposition I indicate that we are opposed to all the measures before us principally because of what they have in common, that is, they increase the charges to the public, whether as individuals or as commercial businesses, for the services of the Post Office. To us this seems to run contrary to what is described as the overall strategy of the Budget, that is, the halting of inflation. Many of these charges can only aggravate inflation.
In the December quarter of the consumer price index there was a significant increase. This was the beginning of the acceleration of inflation which continued during 1970-71. When the statistics were examined it was found that the greatest single contributing factor in the increase in the December quarter was the charges which had been imposed in the 1970-71 Budget.
It seems to me that this Budget does likewise. It increases charges the impact of which will be felt not only by individuals whose purchasing power will be reduced unless they can increase their income but also by business undertakings which have the ability to pass on the increased charges. To say the least, this Budget will accelerate inflation. That is why all through this Budget debate we have suggested that if the Government is concerned about inflation, as it says, it is certainly adopting rather curious processes to halt that process. The measures it has adopted have increased the prices of essential goods and services in the community.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett) Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I do not think the reasons stated in the amendment are really a fair and proper ground for having the Post and Telegraph Bill withdrawn. It might be an expression of opinion from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who always looks at this type of Bill carefully. I suppose that in some ways one could agree with him but I certainly do not agree that his amendment is sufficient ground for having the Bill withdrawn. In fact, being one of the budgetary Bills it is necessary that it be passed in its present form. That does not mean that we are happy about all its provisions. I shall say a few words about a matter about which I have had some correspondence with the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme), that is, the cost of television and broadcasting licences to proprietors of hotels and motels. It is a fairly complicated question and I can see some of the difficulties that the Minister has raised about giving any concession in this area, but I would like to put on record some of the feelings that have been expressed to me by people who run these places and who have to find the money.
The tourist industry is regarded as one of the up and coming industries that will be of great benefit to a lot of areas not only in the city but also in the country. These days more and more motels are being built to cater for the people who move round from place to place and also the people who make a point of going to some place purely for holidays - the true tourists. But the people who use hotel and motel rooms very largely are those people moving around on a casual basis, perhaps travellers or business men of all sorts, who have to go to some area for some particular purpose. People visiting friends or relations in an area may not want or may not be able to stay with their friends or relations and may stay at a motel:
One of the amenities that it has become customary for motels to provide is television. Of course they provide radio facilities too. It has come to be recognised that everywhere we go these days we expect to find these facilities available. The motel proprietor, perhaps, starts off in a country town with half a dozen or a dozen rooms and he puts a television set in each one, and as the business flourishes he perhaps puts on another few rooms. I have in mind one town in my electorate where 40 rooms are being added to a motel at the present time. This involves the installation of 40 television sets, on which the Government collects sales tax of 27 i per cent, which is quite a useful contribution to revenue. The proprietor is required to pay for each set in use a combined television-radio licence fee - presumably there will be a radio set in each lodge as well - of $26.50. This is a very considerable outlay. It may be shrugged off by saying: ‘After all, this is only 50c a week. It is only 7c a night.
Why worry about it?’ But in any business it is all these costs which mount up and make it more difficult to make a profit. It is these charges that push costs up that little bit more all the time.
Unfortunately, although there is great activity in the motel business, according to some statistics I saw quite recently, the occupancy figures are alarming. One of the very good new motels in Sydney which is certainly far too expensive - I cannot afford to stay there myself - is operating on an average occupancy rate of 11 per cent. I do not see how the proprietors can make it pay. Other establishments are operating on an occupancy rate of 30 per cent or 40 per cent. The motel business is like the airline business. A certain occupancy is required to give a certain return on which charges can be based. I suppose that if an establishment has an occupancy rate of 60 per cent or 70 per cent it is doing pretty well. It’ is only during the peak times that motels have 100 per cent occupancy.
The whole question of whether they should be required to have a licence for each television set is related to the fact that the Broadcasting and Television Act provides that the keeper of a lodging house shall not cause, suffer or permit a receiver to be in any room or any part of the lodging bouse occupied or available for occupation by lodgers or tenants unless there is attached, to the receiver in a prescribed manner an appropriate current lodging house licence. The licence is supposed to be attached to the back or inside the back of the receiver. Since I found that out I have had a look at a few television sets in motels but 1 have never found one with a licence attached to it. I daresay that a licence is kept in the office. This law was evidently brought in to distinguish these licences from the ordinary licence which a person takes out for a television set in his own home under which he can have as many receivers as he likes. In fact, it is advocated that a person should have one television set for himself and one for the children so that he can look at the programmes he wants to see and does not have to look at what the children want to see. A person could have a television receiver in every room in the house but he would be required to pay for only one licence.
There is some reason why there should be only one address to which a licence is applicable, but then there is the problem of flats. Of course the problem here is that each flat, being occupied by one family or person, would be regarded the same as a house and so naturally the tenant of each flat al one address would be obliged to have a licence. Then we have the lodging house such as the Kurrajong Hotel in Canberra where we all live in little rooms ofl a passage way. It is quite possible that any one of us would like to have his own private television installed in his room in his name. This is the type of lodging house which I believe the Act was originally designed to cover. Under those circumstances the person who had that set installed, one would expect, would pay the licence for it. But with motel accommodation there is at one address a lot of rooms and the proprietor is bound to take out a licence for whatever television requirements there are. In a motel or hotel a licence may cover television sets in half a dozen bars or half a dozen public rooms. There may be one television in the dining room, one in the drawing room and one in the writing room. The proprietor may have one licence for as many sets as he wishes as long as they are available to the public. At the Kurrajong Hotel there is a separate television room in which all the tenants can sit and look at the television. If necessary, a hotel may have television sets in 4 rooms covered by one licence so that the public can have a choice of channels.
But a motel is regarded as something different from the original concept of a lodging house as defined in the Act and motel proprietors are required to take out a separate licence for each television set in each unit. This seems to me to be rather overdoing it. The people who. will watch television in a motel room are only casual itinerants. They are staying in the motel perhaps for one night only. How many of them actually turn on the television? It is very nice to be able to say: ‘Yes, we have television’. When an interesting fight or something like that is to be televised 1 daresay that travellers make a point of getting to their accommodation in time to see that fight and sit back in comfort in their rooms and watch it. But under normal circumstances it is very doubtful whether these sets are used very much and whether they have the continuity of use that is necessary to get any value out of a licence fee. There is also the fact, as I mentioned before, that many of the rooms would be unoccupied on some nights of the week, perhaps even on several nights.
The Postmaster-General has seen fit to make some distinction when it comes to the people who hire out television sets. They do not have to take out a licence for each set at the full amount of the yearly subscription. They are permitted to pay according to the number of sets they hire each month. So instead of paying the full amount they pay only for the period during which each set is used. This very important consideration which is given to them should be passed on to the people running hotels and motels. But it would be extremely difficult for any hotel or motel proprietor to work out the number of nights that a set was used in order to ascertain the monthly fee, as the television rental people do. This means that we really need a slightly different approach in their case. 1 have suggested to the PostmasterGeneral that it may be feasible to give a reduction of perhaps one-third or twothirds in the fee. I would not lay down any hard and fast rule but’ some consideration should be given to the fact that today these people represent a pretty big bulk order. In view of the number of rooms in hotels and motels, their licence fees these days are a magnificent contribution to the running costs of the Australian Broadcasting Commission though very little real value for their contribution is obtained. I do not get full value for my own television set and I do not want anyone to give me a deduction on that account, but where it is a commercial proposition and people are trying to run a business and trying to provide accommodation for people at reasonable prices and at a time when we are trying to encourage the tourist industry, I believe it is a worthwhile case for some adjustment to be made.
Another matter that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned in his speech was the payment of higher rates for telephone charges and trunk calls in the country. I pay full tribute to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the telephone section in particular, for providing a very effective and efficient operation. Subscriber trunk dialling has been an absolute Godsend to a lot of places because it cuts out all the trouble that we have with manual exchanges. Although manual exchanges are very good and one could often get through just as fast, it always seems difficult when one lifts the receiver to wait for the operator to answer because she was dialling someone else. Even when dialling the trunk call operator there is often a little delay, and one feels so much more satisfaction if one can merely pick up the receiver and dial the number required.
STD is very good, but it is not only country industries which are penalised because higher telephone charges cost them more to run their businesses. City businesses also have the same problem. They have to telephone the country. One quick example I will cite honourable members is the wholesale pharmaceutical houses which have a programme of telephoning chemists a couple of times a day to find out their orders. This is part of the service but it is pretty expensive when they telephone on a trunk call charge basis. It has been suggested for many years that if we are ever to take decentralisation seriously the Commonwealth Government has to assist the States to get people into the country. There was an interjection in the House a couple of days ago when an honourable member opposite said that Government members always say that decentralisation is a State responsibility. It is a State responsibility. At the present time the New South Wales Government is doing a very good job on it. The Victorian Government has now started an even more advanced programme by which the Victorian Government will knock at the door of every manufacturer to see what prospects there are of manufacturers going into the country. The Government knows that there will be a big advantage to manufacturers if they do.
One of the very few ways in which the Commonwealth Government can help in these programmes relates to the cost of telephone calls. I have known of at least half a dozen businesses, small manufacturers, which have opened in country towns within the electorate of McMillan and which have been driven to the city by 2 things, one being the high cost of their telephone calls and the other being that deliveries could not be made by just popping around the corner in a utility and giving very quick service. The latter problem they might have been able to get over by holding suitable stocks in a warehouse in Melbourne but the continual drain of the high telephone charges was far too much. I was delighted to note in an answer to a question the other day that the Department was studying this matter and that the Postmaster-General was expecting a report. 1 hope that when the report is made all honourable members will have access to it to see what it really means, and that we will have the opportunity of putting forward bases on which charges could be evened up so that the city could absorb some of the high costs of the country areas. One other matter in that respect is that in the city people can talk on the telephone indefinitely. They are not given any 3-minute limit as with trunk calls or the metering on STD calls. City people pick up a receiver and make a local call - I know one can do that in the country too - but if those people who talk for 20 minutes or half an hour on the telephone had to pay on a trunk call basis sufficient money would be coming in to make up the amount lost in reducing the cost of trunk calls to and from the country.
– One of the many disadvantages in our method of working in this Parliament is the amount of notice honourable members are given of Bills coming before them for the second reading debate. I want to place on record again that there was no prior warning given on Friday when honourable members were here that this Bill was coming on today. My own circumstances are that I arrived from my electorate of Adelaide at 2 p.m. today and went straightinto question time. It was not until the end of question time - 3.30 p.m., 1 hour ago - that 1 knew that this Bill was to come on. I say this to give plenty of warning to the honourable member who will follow me. the new Assistant Minister, the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson), who will assist the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme), that he may have to speak rather earlier than he expected. Frankly I wanted to make a substantial contribution to this debate but because we in this place ricochet from one problem to another, too little time has been allowed us to deal with this problem.
The Opposition has moved an amendment to the Bill as follows:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted because it does not provide for (a) the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board and (b) the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its Authorities’.
Not only has the Opposition moved that amendment at the second reading stage but also, if the amendment is not carried, it will oppose the second reading of the Bill for very clear and proper reasons, which are the same as the reasons for my Party’s opposition to all the Budget recommendations. This Bill is merely part of a very bad Budget and will add to the inflationary situation in our country, which situation the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has made paramount, he says, in the provisions of the Budget.
The first part of the amendment relates to the severance of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board. Since the last debate on this subject 2 very good articles have appeared in theAustralian Financial Review’ on the subject of the Australian Post Office. The first article began as follows:
Heavily, burdened by its responsibility for the operation of not only Australia’s postal service but also its ever expanding telecommunications network, the Australian Post Office has become fat with full-time staff now well in excess of 100,000.
This makes it Australia’s biggest single employer of labour (it comprises some 47 per cent of the whole Commonwealth Public Service).
It is also Australia’s biggest business, biggest Government department, biggest provider of utility services and one of the biggest consumers of public finance.
It also has some of this country’s biggest management problems.
These are reflected in its financial statement for the year ending June 1970-
Wecould add also for the year ending June 1971- which reveals that, despite a continuing improvement in the profitability of its telecommunications sector, the APO recorded only a marginal profit for the year.
That refers to the year 1970. Of course, the Post Office recorded a loss in 1971. In an enormous organisation like this, the management problems are large. I have had the opportunity to work as a chartered accountant in small firms. I have spent my days not only as a professional accountant but also in commerce and industry. 1 have also worked in large firms. In many organisations efficiency is not related to whether that organisation is in the public or the private sector. Often it is related to size. There is an optimum size for all organisations. The Post Office which, as I have quoted, is the largest organisation or business undertaking in Australia, is too big, particularly in regard to personnel, when its responsibilities are added to those of the rest of the Commonwealth Public Service.
The amendment is quite dogmatic when it states that the Opposition wants the Bill to be withdrawn and re-drafted to provide for the severance of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board. But the amendment does not close the door on the severance being into 2 separate corporations, with the postal services on the one hand and the telecommunications services on the other. Anybody who has studied the accounts of the Post Office knows that, for the most part, the telecommunications services are paying their own way and that the great claim for extra income is for the postal services. If we can break down the Post Office into these separate units we can have not only better management and a better spirit amongst those who work in the Post Office, but also a lot more clear thinking on what postal services should and should not be subsidised by the rest of the community.
If we were able to study the accounts of a separate corporation dealing with postal services as closely as we should, we would note that the reasons for the deficit relate not only to interest charges but also to the fact that the Post Office provides welfare services and other very necessary services for the community generally. I refer to the educational services in the community. There is no doubt that at the moment the rest of the users of the Post Office are subsiding the educational services of the Post Office, as far as I can see. Bulk mail containing educational material which is being disseminated throughout the community, and which should be disseminated throughout the community at a subsided rate, because it is a good educational feature, ought to be costed separately so that it can be argued quite clearly that this should be subsidised by the taxpayer and not by the other users of the Post Office.
Another benefit of the postal services, and that derives also from the telecommunications services, is decentralisation. If we had proper accounting in separate smaller units we would be able to see much more clearly just what the community is spending on decentralisation. I do not say that decentralisation is wrong. Indeed, it is a very firm plank in the platform of the Australian Labor Party. We ought to be working steadily in this direction. But the other users of the Post Office should not be subsidising this decentralisation; the taxpayers should be subsidising it. Another aspect of postal services which is subsidised by the users of the Post Office is the defence service. This should .be brought out clearly in the accounts of the Post Office. The taxpayers and not the . other users of the Post Office should be paying for this sort of thing.
The Opposition continually raises the subject, of breaking down the Post Office into separate units so that these issues can be brought out much more clearly than they are at the moment, When I referred to decentralisation I could well have mentioned the second aspect, of the amendment, namely, the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its authorities. This goes to prove the point that I made earlier about the importance with which the Opposition views the decentralisation aspects of the Post Office. We ought to provide more for decentralisation and see that it is costed separately so that it is not the other users of the Post Office who are subsidising it.
Let me refer also to the interest charges of the Post Office. If I had had time in this debate I would have quoted from the current affairs bulletin put out by the Adult Education Department of the University of Sydney in which it is argued clearly by economists - not on emotional grounds at all - that it is wrong that where so much of the capital of the Post Office has been provided out of taxation revenue in earlier years, that capital is still bearing interest charges. My argument, which I will not canvass in any great depth here, is that the Post Office cannot be immune from all interest charges. If we are to have proper accounting, a rate of interest must be charged on money that is borrowed for this organisation, but not where that money was accumulated out of past profits or revenue. There should be much more sophistication in the allocation to the Post Office of interest charges. I think I am right in saying that the interest charged to the Post Office in the financial year completed on 30th June 1971 was $141. 8m. Honourable members can imagine just what a burden this is in the operations of the Post Office when a deficit of between $2m and $3m is . talked about. Honourable members can imagine just what an impact that charge has had on Post Office accounts.
What is the result of all this, what I call bad accounting, bad management and Bad policy on the part of the Government which has not carried out any of those things that the Australian Labor Party has advocated for so long? It is a list of increased charges inflicted on the people of this country. Let me read some of them:
The. Government proposes to increase the 3 basic telephone rentals of $47, (31, and $23 by $8, $6 and 14 respectively.
Service connection fee to rise by SIO to $50.
Local telephone calls will increase from 4c. to 4.75c wilh a corresponding increase in trunk line charges.
Increased charges for the installation or renewal of miscellaneous items of telecommunication equipment:
Telex call charges will increase from 5c to 6c for each meter registration.
Those are the charges in relation to the telecommunications side only.
I turn to the increased charges in relation to the Post Office. These are:
The basic letter rate will be Increased from 6c to 7c for the first ounce.
Parcel rates on the average will bc increased by 10 per cent for domestic and 20 per cent for overseas services.
Overseas airmail letter rates will rise by Se per half ounce (2c in the case of New Zealand).
Aerogrammes will increase by 2c from 10c to 12c.
Increased charges are proposed for registered post and certified mail.
That is a list of the increased charges proposed in respect of Post Office services.
We are debating at this time not only Post Office charges but also broadcasting and television charges. Another list of increases applies to these services. We can be grateful for the fact that, as I understand it, at least the charges to- pensioners have not been increased. But that concession does not apply to telephone rentals in respect of which the charges to pensioners have been increased. Is it any wonder why We, in the Opposition - if our amendment is not accepted, which I suppose will be the case - will be opposing this Bill wholeheartedly?
I join with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in congratulating the Postmaster-General on his long service as Postmaster-General. This may be the last Budget debate in which he will participate. He may be here next year, but that depends on when the next election will be held. In case this is the last Budget debate at which he will be present, we wish the Postmaster-General a happy retirement. But I say that if there is one thing that I would like him to do before he retires it is to take notice of these arguments that we have been putting forward for the severance of the Post Office from the Public Service Board and, possibly, the hiving off of the telecommunications section from the postal service into its own separate unit:
We would like the Postmaster-General to bring forward a White Paper on this subject. We in the Opposition do not pretend that we can get hold of all the information that we would like so that we may make up our minds on this subject. We must be fairly tentative when we put forward these ideas. We are fortified by the fact that just this has been done in the United Kingdom. We are fortified by the fact that the largest Post Office union, the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, supports the hiving off of the Post Office from the Public Service Board. We would like some more information on the subject. Why cannot we adopt the practices which apply in the British House of Commons where papers are brought down on these subjects so that the matters can be studied at greater length and depth than they are here and so that both sides can come to the right conclusions.
Before resuming my seat, I wish to mention some of the management decisions that have been taken in the Post Office over the last year- I refer to the situation in my own electorate where a rationalisation of postal delivery services is taking place. If I may be allowed to, I mention the suburbs where this is occurring and is causing great consternation. In the local council area of St Peters in the electorate of Adelaide, an autonomous local government area, the local post office is no longer to be the centre for postal deliveries. This service is being transferred out of my electorate to Norwood post office in the electorate of Boothby. A great deal of consternation is being caused by this move.
Although I could take cheap political points on this action, I realise that if we are to have an end to these ever increasing rises in postal charges more efficiency must be found. But I must say this: Where these steps are taken, I would appreciate it very much if the background papers - the rationale for this rationalisation - is put before the public. The Post Office is a public service. I would like to see the case proved as to what the savings in costs are to be by postal delivery services being transferred from St Peters to Norwood and, indeed, in the same way from Walkerville and Nailsworth to Prospect. These are all suburbs within my own electorate of Adelaide. At this time when the postal delivery is by reason of costs getting worse and worse, when only one delivery a day is being made and when businessmen are receiving their mail too late in the day, these further methods by which postal deliveries will start from a distance rather than from post offices close to the points of delivery, are an extreme worry to people in my electorate and, indeed, to me as their representative. I am prepared to argue for this move if I can see the rationale. The Postmaster-General will know, just as the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia knows so well, that I have written and asked for the details of this rationale, but I am not being supplied with it.
I would like to raise many other matters. I have only a minute remaining. One that I have recently drawn to the attention of the Postmaster-General is the matter of licences for broadcasting and television receivers in nursing homes. I know that those nursing homes that are registered under the Commonwealth do receive the relevant concession. But there are other nursing homes, not registered under the Commonwealth, which are providing a service to people, taking pensioners whom others will not take in their old age. They do not get this concession. These homes are registered under the State. I draw to the attention of the Postmaster-General again, as he is in the House, this problem about which I have written to him. I hope that he will be able to give a favourable reply.
I would have liked to talk about the Australian Broadcasting Commission but no time is available to do this on this occasion. I end, as I began, by saying that I support this amendment for greater decentralisation and for greater efficiency in the Post Office by breaking the Post Office away from the Public Service and by, perhaps, breaking its various services into further units. If this amendment is not carried, the Opposition will oppose the Bill, which is extremely inflationary in nature.
– Like the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) I rise with a measure of confusion as a result of the unpredictability of this place. I had prepared a Budget address which includes much of what I am about to say. However, I will repeat these remarks in my Budget address because I think that the subjects with which I will deal are of immense importance. May I commence by saying that I do realise that, probably of all Ministers in Cabinet and in our Ministry generally, no-one has a more demanding job and receives more continuous representations than the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme). I suppose we must face up to the fact that he personally in many cases would like to see things happen that are just not happening.
I wish to speak for a moment first on the question of radio and television facilities in the rural areas of our great, sprawling nation. I refer to the remarks by the Postmaster-General in his second reading speech in which he indicated that the deterioration in regard to the financial situation within his Department was due to the mounting wage costs flowing from arbitration awards. Salaries for technicians have risen by 29 per cent since June 1968. Another factor was the development of the Darwin booster station for Radio Australia. The final point - and this is the one on which I wish to concentrate - is the cost of the extension of television and television translator services to the lesser populated country areas. We were delighted when the Postmaster-General anounced a few years ago that 38 translator stations were to be provided for the rural areas, of which 14 were to be placed in the electorate I represent, in which the city of Mt Isa is located. Months and years have gone by and honourable members will understand why many people in my electorate are becoming extremely agitated because the provision of these stations is not yet in sight. In case I appear to be parochial I point out that my comments are equally relevant to other similar areas throughout Australia. However, every man to his own responsibilities.
I am immensely grateful that 4 of these stations have been installed. In addition we have seen the establishment of a commercial station in Mt Isa; but central western Queensland and the central highlands are still awaiting the additional stations and there is no prospect of them in sight. Television was provided in the capital cities and provincial cities of Australia IS years ago. I do not mind if my remarks are taken as reflecting a parochial attitude or a limited outlook. I may be called the hick of the House but that means little to me. What I say I mean. What I am about to suggest has not happened anywhere in the world but I believe that it should be part of an intensive drive to establish decentralisation in this nation. If there were a full appreciation of the fact that country areas have little else in the way of amenities and a true appreciation of the importance of de-urbanisation - I use that term for the benefit of honourable members who do not want to hear about decentralisation - much more would be done for the people in country areas. In Sydney recently the servicing of the sewerage system broke down. One newspaper said that had the failure continued a plague could have resulted. All over the world the densely populated areas are creating immense problems. Could it not be reasonably expected in these circumstances that every effort would be made to keep people away from the crowded cities? It is a strange thing that when people become settled in country areas they have no desire to go back to the thickly populated urban areas.
I have always claimed that television should have been provided in country areas before it was provided in the city areas. I may be ridiculed for making that statement, but I accept the risk. The months and years have gone by, but television has not yet been provided in the central highlands and central western areas of Queensland. I strenuously urge Cabinet - by heavens, not the Postmaster-General because I have urged him monthly, year in and year out - seriously to study this matter. Quite legitimate reasons have been put forward for the delay; for example there is only so much money to be spent and technicians are not readily available. If we are to see any sort of reasonable time programme - and I would say a reasonable time for installation would be tomorrow - other sources must be looked to in order to raise special finance for the purpose. Advertisements should be placed overseas for technicians. That is done for school teachers and medical personnel. However, I will get back to that subject in a moment.
Turning now to other services, people in country areas are to pay a considerably increased radio licence fee, and the same television licence fee as is paid by people who live in cities served by 4 television channels. Two channels are available in many provincial cities and 4 are available in the capital cities. The country areas which have television are served by 1 channel and sometimes reception is quite dicey because of storm interference and distance. There has been much discussion and conjecture about the effective range of country television stations. I have made it my business to check very carefully and I have found that reception is excellent up to 30 miles from most country towns where television transmitters are operating. One property about 37 miles, from my home town of Cloncurry has quite adequate television reception; that is in billy, metallic country which is not particularly conducive to perfect television reception.
I plan to be quite parochial in discussing television charges. I think I can safely claim that there was never a time in the history of this country when people in rural areas were less able to meet increased costs. Honourable members who represent areas similar to that which I represent will concede that no areas in Australia has been so drastically affected economically as the far western area of Queensland. I will reinforce that point. The people there have had years of continuing drought. They grow wool and they cannot diversify. If that is not a formula for utter economic disaster I do not know what is. We have been stressing several points over a number of years but I do not know that we have made very much progress. Certain concessions have been granted and we do not deny that for a moment.
However, 1 believe that in one move the Government could gain the approbation of all the people affected in rural areas; that would be by approving of a local call charge to the nearest business centre. That is the whole crunch of the economic difficulties in regard to an effective service. 1 will illustrate what I mean by an effective service. People living in town can ring the baker to order bread and perhaps he will deliver it. We have said this time and again and it is no less true now. In a country area if you want to order a couple of loaves of bread by telephone it is probably necessary to have an extension. As from 1st October it will possibly cost 80c to order a couple of loaves of bread which are worth about 40c. That is a homely example of what happens on a far greater scale.
Country people will be very reluctant to use their telephones in future. The telephone service is expected to contribute to the development of this country. People are advised to go to the inland areas and live there in contentment, but the telephone service is getting beyond the reach of the average person in inland areas. I wish the Postmaster-General could persuade his advisers to agree to give local call charges to the nearest business centre a trial period of, say, 6 months. I very much doubt that there would be much drop in revenue. If local call charges are applied to the nearest business centre the wires will be burning up with calls and there will be greatly increased revenue.
I turn now to a much more , serious matter that is affecting people in the rural areas and particularly in Mt Isa. In many country areas in Queensland and elsewhere people are told that they can expect to have a telephone installed in 1, 2, 3 or more years, but not in the foreseeable future. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), Senator Lawrie and 1 had a long discussion with the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane. In a very clear and reasonable manner the difficulties were pointed out to us and I again refer to them now. They are lack of finance and a shortage of technicians to carry out installations. We are not arguing about that, but we say that a solution must be found. Surely one would not expect reasonable people to be told that they may receive a telephone in 1, 2, 3 or more years. 1 wish to refer to the settlers in the brigalow areas. The brigalow scheme is a great scheme designed to open up and develop land. It has become popular these days not to refer to development. This might be all right. We do not want to increase the acreage of wheat or of cane but there are other industries which could be developed, particularly the beef cattle industry. As I will mention in my speech on the Budget, by 1980 it is expected that there will be a shortage of 185,000 head of cattle for the Western European market, not to mention other countries. We cannot stifle development in the beef cattle industry. Perhaps I will be accused of stimulating development to a saturation point in this industry. What are we to do? Are we to close shop and say: ‘Australia ceases to be in business’? If that is done this nation will begin to decline in the most serious manner. We will produce the goods and go looking for markets.
Let me return to the settlers in these brigalow areas. Most of them are in my electorate or in the electorate of the honourable member for Maranoa! In these areas men and their families live in half a galvanised iron shed. I have said this in this House time and time again and I will continue to say that this is probably the type of pioneer about whom we once wrote poems. These men represent the hard, rugged, down to earth Australian characteristic which could well be lost over the next 25 years unless these problems are attended to. I repeat: They live with their families in one half of a galvanised iron shed. The rest of the galvanised iron shed is used to store their equipment, their implements, their seed and so on. They are happy people but have the feeling of insecurity that comes from not having communication with the neighbouring town. Some of them are 30, 60 to 100 miles from the nearest centre. They do not have a telephone and they have little hope of getting one in the future.
Let me turn to the flourishing city of Mount Isa. Again I am getting parochial but I think I am in a unique situation. This city provides employment for thousands of our Australians. Even in the shaky, insecure state of the mining share market today this city is outstanding. Everyone looks to the great monumental operation of Mount Isa Mines Ltd as being secure and providing a future for thousands of our Australian workers and providing a great avenue of wealth for this nation. Business people are moving into the city of Mount Isa to provide full services and commodities. The position out there has become quite chaotic. The PostmasterGeneral knows - I have referred it to him again and again - that business people and others are told that they may get a telephone in 1, 2, 3 or more years time but certainly not in the foreseeable future.
I am sure that Mr Peterson, a trader, will not mind my quoting what he said about this matter. He is a public spirited man. An article in ‘The North-West Star’ reads:
Mr Peterson said that his firm had lost a $10,000 deal through delays caused by not having a telephone.
Telephones will become 21st birthday presents in the future’, Mr Peterson quipped.
When your child is born you will put his name down so that he can be on the telephone when he turns 21.’
That might sound a little facetious, but here is a responsible citizen who is so disturbed about the situation that he has gathered together a group of people to form a special organisation to try to place their case more emphatically before the Minister. I discussed this matter fully with Dr Thomason, who came to my office in great distress. I will read from another newspaper article:
More than half Mount Isa’s general practitioners could be without telephones next year.
The story is that the general practitioners of Mount Isa are moving from their present premises into a new building. Their new medical centre is provided with more modern and much more streamlined medical facilities. In a great throbbing, accident prone city such as Mount Isa adequate and readily available medical facilities should be provided. The situation is that the medical practitioners will move into a new building but they have been told that they may not have a telephone for years to come, as there is no cable in the vicinity. This is completely unacceptable. It is intolerable. The newspaper article continues:
Dr A. T. Thomason, one of the partners and North West Queensland branch president of the Australian Medical Association, said yesterday that application for telephones cannot be made until the new building has been approved.
But he said that the centre has unofficially notified the Postmaster-General’s Department and approached the member for Kennedy, Mr R. C. kattar, to relieve this ridiculous situation’.
And it would be ridiculous to have more than half of the 7 general practitioners in the town not on the ‘phone,’ he said.
This is a most serious situation. I would just as soon get out of this job in a flash unless-
– Hear, hear!
– It is all very well for honourable members opposite; they are not involved. They live in their city areas and they have all the comforts they want. None of them would really know how to tackle a situation of this nature. They never have to face up to it, and they are not really interested. I do most earnestly appeal to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). I am trying to get some mates for our Postmaster-General who will stand full square with him and not say: ‘We do not have the finance and we do not have the technicians, so we cannot give you a phone for another 4 or 5 years.’ A solution has to be found promptly. I say again - I will say it in my speech on the Budget tomorrow, the next day or whenever it might be - that an approach should be made to raise a considerable, significant amount of money from, if you like, the World Bank. I believe that we should advertise for technicians from one end of the world to the other.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it in order for a member of the Australian Country Party and a member of the Government to attack his own Government which has been in office for 22 years?
– There is no substance in the point of order, as the honourable member well knows.
– I will finish by saying that the Government must find sources of revenue. I am not being facetious about this and I am not being unreasonable. We should make an approach to the World Bank for a special loan. The situation is that serious. Also just as we advertise overseas for medical personnel and for school teachers, we should advertise overseas for PMG technicians.
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is the largest enterprise in Australia, public or private. It has an annual turnover of $ l,O0(m and at present a staff of 109,962 which will rise to 112,000 by 30th June next year. Several of our big private enterprises in Australia could be put together and they would not equal the turnover of this enormous Department. We believe that it should operate in the form of a corporation detached altogether from the Public Service and autonomous in its operations. That is how it will operate when the Australian Labor Party comes to office at the end of next year. With the proposed increases in charges for postal services and telecommunications encompassed in the 2 Bills before us today postal services are now coming within the luxury class. For instance, just have a look at the increases on this occasion.
After 1st October before a person can even make his first telephone call it will cost him $50 for the instrument to be installed in his home or office. That is an increase of 20 per cent. The telephone rental is to be increased by 14 per cent and the cost of posting a letter by 14 per cent. These are the 3 main charges. Interestingly enough, over the last 2 years, these rates have gone up as follows: 40 per cent for postage services; 67 per cent for telecommunication services; 38 per cent for telephone rentals and 33 per cent for television and radio licences. How can the people stand increases at these levels? I feel that a lot of them will re-think their whole attitude towards postal and telecommunication services when they realise the full impact of this legislation before us today which the Opposition has to oppose.
The financial position of the Postmaster-General’s Department is very interesting. The details are recorded in the very well prepared document ‘Post Office Prospects and Capital Programme 1971-72’ under the heading ‘Trading Results’. Last year there was a loss of $25m on the postal side of operations and it is estimated that this year there will be a loss of $17m. On the telecommunications side, there was a profit last year of $23m and it is estimated that the profit this, year will be $53m. Taking these 2 services of the Post Office together there was a loss of $2m last year and it is estimated that this year there will be a profit of $3 6m. On these figures no one can say, even taking into account the small loss last year on these 2 services, that the Department is in such a sick condition that it has to lift its charges by such an outrageous percentage at this time. This is why we cannot possibly understand the thinking of the Government on the proposed increases.
The Postmaster-General’s Department has a tremendous range of activities to carry out. It is an enormous department to administer. There are some wonderful officers within it. Over all the years I have had something to do with the Post Office its servants generally speaking - and in less than a fortnight I will have spent 25 years in this Parliament - have been a wonderful bunch of fellows. There is a wonderful lot of womenfolk, in this Department too. As this Department gets bigger the more impersonal if is inclined to become just as the new international airport at Tullamarine is so impersonal compared to the Essendon Airport which we have known for many years. The bigger a company becomes the less interested it is inclined to become in people as people. The people become units, they become statistics and so on. I only hope that as this great Department grows with an expansion in population it will retain personal contact with its own staff. This is terribly important.
The advance from the Government Treasury in the next 12 months will amount to S255m but the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will have to pay back tb the Government $142m in interest rates on loans for capital development. I think this is the Achilles heel of the Post Office today. This was not the case when the Chifley Government was in office. It has been outrageous that successive Prime Ministers from Liberal Governments - not successive Postmaster-Generals because our friend, the present Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme), has held that position through many prime ministerships - have placed on the Post Office as a whole this outrageous impost of paying interest rates on money borrowed from the Commonwealth itself. It is a case of taxpayers being charged twice - paying taxes to the Government which lends the money to the Post Office at high interest rates and then paying higher postal charges. It is no wonder that charges will streak into orbit for the next decade because of the increased interest charges this Department will have to meet. I have only just found out from officers of this Department that the interest rate charged is the current long term bond rate at the time the loan is made to the Postmaster-General’s Department. The current interest rate is 7 per cent.
It is completely outrageous for a Government to charge one of its own departments 7 per cent interest on its money. As I have already said, it is the Achilles heel of this Department. If this Department had not been charged this excessive interest rate in years past, postal charges today would be within the reach of every person in the Commonwealth who wanted a telephone, who wanted to send a telegram, who wanted to make a long distance telephone call or who wanted to post a letter. But because of this interest rate which is being charged the Department these rates go up and up and less and less people will use the services of the Department in the future. I cannot stress over much the attitude of a government that will charge one of its own departments this excessive and outrageous interest rate of 7 per cent.
I would just like to mention some of the effects that will accrue as the result of these increased charges. I am not blaming officers within this Department who have had to instruct their Minister and who have put these suggestions to the Government and to the Cabinet because with the heavy loans which the Department will have to get from the Commonwealth its officers have to cover themselves and make sure that they keep within a reasonable profit level. I am criticising this Government, the Cabinet and the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) for allowing such a state of affairs to exist. The effects of these higher rates will, as I see them, be: Firstly, there will be fewer applications for the installation of telephones in the next 12 months.
One company in Victoria intended to decentralise and build a substantial factory in a town in north-western Victoria but when it worked out the expense that would accrue as a result of the new postal and telephonic charges it cancelled the project. It is a terrible situation when a company decides not to decentralise because of the excessive Postal Department charges that will accrue. What is this country coming to when people will not move their industries from our cities because of this one factor? This has never happened before in our history. This is a new element indeed in the race to the cities. Secondly, there will be cancellations of telephone services in private homes. People will have their telephones ripped out, not because they want to, but because they will be forced toThirdly, less use will be made of telephones which are retained. Fourthly, sick people will hesitate to get a telephone installed because of the great cost involved. It is the sick people who have to have a telephone. Federal members of Parliament have many invaild pensioners in their electorates and the doctors of some of these people insist that they keep in touch with them by telephone. I feel that in the future because of these excessive increased charges many sick people will be without telephonic communication with their doctor directly from their own home.
Fifthly, there will be a great reduction this year in the purchase of Christmas cards. We in Australia use very considerably the Christmas card system to communicate with our friends. Millions of cards are sent each year. This will not be so this Christmas. Already I know many people who have said to me that their friends will not be hearing from them this Christmas and I can well understand their reason because over 100 cards are sent from my home each year. These increased postal charges will reduce considerably the number of cards sent this Christmas. Sixthly, there will be less correspondence by letter and the total revenue will be accordingly reduced.
Seventhly, as my friend the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who has just finished his speech said, country people will be hit the hardest by these rising costs. They are already hit by rising costs, but they will now have the rising cost of communications superimposed on all the other rising costs of production. Consequently, their financial position will be worsened.
These are some of the effects that I see arising from the higher rates. Overall revenue could go backwards instead of forwards, in spite of the increase in the population. I believe that had there been a reduction in some of these charges the revenue would have bounced upwards quite considerably. One comes to a time when there is consumer resistance to increased prices. That is a time which is coming for the Postal Department. 1 suggest that, in view of these increased costs to the private telephone user, the Government should fix an annual cost levy and make any amount paid in excess of that levy tax deductible. This privilege is enjoyed by business firms in the form of trading expenses. I believe that the Government should now consider applying that principle to the private telephone user.
I want to criticise the mania for the closure of non-official post offices throughout Australia. In my electorate alone 35 non-official post offices have been closed in the last 3 years. This has left the country denuded, in many ways, of its old facilities. The letters are now being left at the letter boxes along the road. This method is not always satisfactory. The Department also has pulled out the public telephones at those post offices and has not replaced them. In many country districts in my State the public telephone was a great boon; but it is not there any more. The distances between country telephone booths are becoming longer instead of shorter. When the departmental officers are asked the reason for not retaining public telephones they say: ‘We do not think it would pay’. Fancy making that the criterion for having a telephone out in the country districts where there are tourist highways and the like and where there could be an accident and no telephone for people to use. By contrast, in the Kings Meadows suburb of Launceston, along Hobart Road there are 4 public telephone boxes in one mile.
In regard to the section of the Bills now before us which deals with television, although advertising is the life blood of television or what keeps it alive, 1 believe that much of the advertising of cigarettes, detergents and beer is not only glamourised but completely untrue. There should be some kind of standard for truthfulness on television. Whoever heard that beer was good for people? Why do not the television advertisers give us the other side of the story - not the glamour story that we see on television but the other side of the story at the back door of beer drinking? We never see that side of the story. I believe, as the experts tell us, that cigarettes and alcohol are just as dangerous narcotics as the real narcotics, which we do not have advertised on television at this stage and which 1 hope we never will. This is a very serious problem. At a service in the East Bentleigh Methodist Church yesterday one of my colleagues, Rev. Crookes Hull, made a very strong statement about drinking being as bad as drug taking. His statement was reported in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ this morning in these terms:
Alcohol was as harmful as any narcotic drug, the Rev. A. Crookes Hull said yesterday . . . Mr Hull said that by scientific definition alcohol was a drug and was no less harmful than any narcotic.
On the authority of Dr A. A. Bartholomew, psychiatric superintendent at Pentridge Gaol, alcohol is the biggest factor in crime,’ Mr Hull said.
In modern society alcohol has assumed frightening proportions’ . . .
Misleading advertisements associating luxurious living with drinking alcohol should be banned, Federal and State authorities had a duty to tell people the truth about alcohol. . . .
There are 300,000 problem drinkers - including alcoholics - in Australia and not enough is being done to counter this. if there were 300,000 known to be hooked on any other drug, there would be a public uproar’.
But there is no public uproar in relation to alcoholics. I agree with every word he said there.
Now let me say a few words about a way of cutting costs within the Postal
Department. I suggest that the Department have a look at plastic piping which is now being manufactured in Australia. It could be used as well as copper or asbestos piping for at least one-third of the cost of copper. Plastic piping is guaranteed for at least 40 years; and £-inch plastic piping is sold at approximately 9c a foot, but f-inch copper piping is sold at approximately 32c a foot- Plastic piping is now manufactured by the Gaydor company in Sydney, Perth and Launceston, where its factory was opened last Friday by the Tasmanian Minister for Industrial Development. I urge the Department to look at the use of plastic piping - a new manufactured article - in an effort to cut its costs.
Finally I wish to warn the Department about an electronic device which is now on the market. It can be set up in a car, the car can stop outside a meeting hall or a home and the device can be directed at a window. By this means a conversation inside that hall or home can be heard outside in the car. This opens up very grave consequences for the society in which we live. It could develop into an outrageous invasion of privacy. T believe that the Department should have a quick look at this new device because one thing that we value in our democracy is the privacy of our own homes and if spies can get at us by using this device we have no more privacy and a very important feature of our democratic life has been destroyed. I just sound this note of warning to the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) and ask him to see whether his officers can make sure that the use of this device is forbidden or controlled within this country.
– This is a cognate debate on the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2), the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. The amendment moved by the Opposition has some substance but cannot be sustained at this time. When members of the Opposition are interested in such a proposal and want it to be implemented, one immediately becomes suspicious of just what their intention is. In point of fact, I had given consideration to this proposal and thought that it might be a way by which we could improve the relationships between management and employee. It appears to me that, in view of the large staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department, with all its ramifications, it is difficult for the Public Service Regulations to apply in so many fields of activity. For instance, it appears to me that it is difficult for regulations to be framed under the Public Service Act to meet the situation of Joe Blow who delivers the mail around the suburbs of the capital cities. I am not saying that there are any undue differences between management and personnel. All 1 am trying to say is that it is the aim of the Government parties, and it should be the aim of all political parties, to bring about better understanding and mutual confidence between the two. I am looking forward to that day, but the time may not yet be opportune.
The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) referred to hotels and motels having to. pay television and radio licence fees. I think that there is some substance in what he said. 1 am sure that many guests, especially those who are on holidays, would prefer their rooms not to be provided with television sets. My observations of people with whom I have been on tour for 10 days at a time have shown that many of them have not switched on a television set for the whole period. People who are on holidays want to get away from their normal routine. These people are under a great strain for most of the year. I think it is nice to get away from the things with which one is constantly confronted. I suppose it all boils down to a matter of competition. If one motel or hotel has air conditioning and television it is necessary for the others to follow suit. However, I do not think that the tariff would be reduced if a television set were not provided. I think the cost of providing this service is amalgamated in the charge imposed for the provision of all services. The cost on a weekly or daily basis of providing a television set would not be considerable to owners of a hotel or motel.
I turn now to the increased licence fees that are to be imposed. I think an easycome easy-go attitude has grown up within the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is a human element that cannot be overcome. I understand that the revenue of the ABC is derived from the imposition of licence fees and that the expenditure of the ABC is such that to meet its outgoings it is necessary to increase the fees. I think that this problem should be tackled in another way and 1 think it could be tackled in another way if business acumen were applied. Any private organisation certainly would endeavour to prune its costs without interfering with the efficiency of its undertaking before resorting to increasing its charges. I think that the enormous cost of producing some television programmes, especially those produced away from Australia, is out of all proportion to viewing time. It has been reported to me that the total viewing time of one programme which was produced in Honolulu was one minute. One can imagine the cost of sending a team of people to Honolulu to produce that programme. 1 do not think that the costs involved in producing it make it a business proposition. For that reason, I do not think it should have .been proceeded with.
In his second reading speech the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) said: lt can be seen that the growth in gross licence receipts is not matching the trend in expenditure. A serious downturn was evident in 1970-71. The deterioration has been due to: Firstly, mounting wage costs Bowing from arbitration awards - technician salaries have risen by 29 per cent since June 1968; secondly, development of the Darwin booster station for Radio Australia; and thirdly, extension of television and television translator services to lesser populated country areas.
The last 2 are capital costs and should not be taken into consideration in regard to income and- outgoings. Mounting wage costs flowing from arbitration awards are inevitable. Only organisations which are making huge profits can meet this expenditure without having to pass on the extra cost. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is no different in this regard. But I think its programmes should be more selective and less costly and that the ABC should endeavour to cut its suit according to the cloth. Of course, far be it from me to deny to the people who live in Darwin and other outlying areas the benefits of the amenities that the ABC provides in 0:he, areas.
I thought 1 would have to get out my handkerchief when the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) was speaking about the increased telegraph rates. He did paint a very gloomy picture in regard to this matter. Most of the increased telegraph rates will be imposed on organisations which can afford to meet them. These increased expenses are probably due to the cost spiral that is taking place at present. The same comments as I have made in regard to the increased telegraph rates apply to the increased postal rates. The Post Office has been faced with an increase in not only the salaries and wages of its employees but also the charges applied by organisations that do work for the Post Office. These costs have gone up considerably and it has been necessary for the Post Office to increase its charges to meet them.
The honourable member for Wilmot made a strange prediction in regard to the posting of Christmas cards. I suppose the least cost of all the costs involved in sending a Christmas card to one’s friends is the one charged by the Post Office. If one were to consider the expense involved in terms of handling and so on one would find that the cost of the services rendered by the Post Office would be far in excess of the cost of the actual card. We shall have to consider these matters in detail and on their merits. Most people would be astounded at the amount of work done by the Post Office in handling Christmas cards. I agree with the remarks of the honourable member for Wilmot about electronic devices that can now be purchased. I think that not only their use but their manufacture should be prohibited, if possible. I understand that there are legal difficulties in doing this but I heartily agree with the honourable member for Wilmot that the manufacture and disposal of this type of apparatus should, if possible, be prohibited. The suggestion of the honourable member for McMillan had some merit. The amendment proposed by the Opposition has some substance but, at this juncture, I feel that this is not the time to make such an alteration. Therefore, I support the motion moved by the PostmasterGeneral and oppose the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition.
– Tonight we are examining the activities of the most important and largest enterprise in Australia. If we added together the value of the assets of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, Unilever Aust. Pty Ltd, G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd and British Tobacco (Aust) Ltd, the resulting figure would be about equal to the total assets of the Australian Post Office. It is because it is such an important enterprise and because it has an annual turnover of about $625m that the Opposition has put forward its amendment. The Opposition is seeking the sort of information on which it can make a detailed and proper assessment of how the largest enterprise in Australia should be organised and what philosophy and policy should go behind its operations. The Post Office is the largest employer in Australia; its 110,000 employees represent half of the existing Public Service. This is why the Opposition has indicated that, for the purpose of easier arrangement of personnel management and industrial relations, the Post Office should be taken away from the control of the Public Service Board.
Tonight I should like to spend a little time in discussing the finances of the Post Office. I must say that the more I look at it, the more I get the impression that the Government is playing a game of monoply. This year, the Government on the one hand will provide finance of $255m to the Post Office and, on the other hand, will take away $141m in interest payments. The curious feature of all this is that these loans go into the acquisition of assets which, in any event, are owned by the Australian people. But even worse than this is that the money which is used to buy these assets attracts an interest payment. These interest payments are then taken into the calculation of the running costs of the Post Office and are, as we have seen from the statement of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme), used as a justification for increasing the charges for service- In fact, what is happening is that the Australian taxpayer is paying a double-bunger tax. As I said, the advances to the Post Office come from the people in the form of taxes but in order to pay back the interest on the advances which come from the taxpayer in the first place, the Government slaps on higher charges for Post Office services. The Government is using the Post Office as a tax collector rather than as a service agency which is what honourable members on this side of the House believe it should be. However, in doing this, as my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) pointed out, it is adding to the inflationary spiral. This is the most effective way of increasing the inflation about which the Government claims to be concerned.
As has been mentioned, over the last 2 years postage charges have increased by 40 per cent, telephone connection charges by 67 per cent, telephone rentals by 38 per cent and television and radio licence fees by 33 per cent. Another feature of this curious relationship between interest on loans and the financial operations of the Post Office is that the fixed assets of the Post Office amount to $2,1 74m but its indebtedness to the Treasury is almost the same - $2,237m. It seems to me that we must stop this starched white shirt accountancy approach to the Post Office. It is a big institution; it is a people’s institution. Its basic function is to provide a service and only a detailed examination of the philosophy of the accounting for its operations and on the nature of those operations can overcome many of the problems which face the Post Office in the year 1971.
– Why do you not do that?
– The Opposition would rather prefer that the Government, which has access to all the information and which it does not provide to the Opposition, provided this information- Then we would undertake a debate in this House on the basis of equal information. - Mr Garland - But you are not justifying your case.
– The case is pretty simple because of the increases which will take place and which, to my mind, are unjustified. Let us take the telephone charges as an instance of an unjustified increase. Last year, the Post Office made a profit of $23m from telecommunications services. The Postmaster-General, in his original statement, said that unless there was an increase in tariffs the Post Office would lose Sim. So what happened? The charges will be jacked up so much that the profit this year will be $53m. How can that possibly be justified? As always, this Government is placing the burden on those who are least able to afford it. For older people, a telephone call could be the difference between life and death but the Government has increased the rental on pensioners’ telephones from $31.34 to $36.66. This is an increase of 16 per cent to the pensioners but, on the other hand, this munificent Government will provide only an 8 per cent increase in pensions.
This is cold-blooded sleight of hand. At a single stroke the Government has taken back a month’s worth of the pension increase proposed in this Budget.
A case can be made out on the present archaic accounting devices of the Post Office for an increase in postal charges. I was interested to note that the PostmasterGeneral in a speech on 17th April identified a major area of loss. He pointed out that this area was on the concessional bulk postage arrangement. I would like to repeat the statement that he made because I think he was getting at the point. The only difficulty is that I do not think he followed it to a logical conclusion. The Postmaster-General said:
These concession rates represent in effect a substantial subsidy to the publishing and printing industry and to many organisations ranging from religious, charitable and welfare organisations to social and recreational clubs.
This is the important part. The Minister continued:
It is debatable whether this subsidy is an appropriate charge on the Post Office’s finances.
As I said, the Postmaster-General has raised the problem but, at this stage, he does not seem to be prepared to face up to it. The Postmaster-General regards the Post Office as a business enterprise. The Government has taken this view and we of the Opposition go along with it to a certain extent. But surely if it is a business enterprise these forms of subsidy should not be under its control. If the Government - this could be either a Labor government or a Liberal government - decides that some form of subsidy should be made to these organisations, it should not be part and parcel of the accounting system of the Post Office.
Equally, there are a number of expenditures by the Post Office that do not seem to us on this side of the House to be a proper charge to the Post Office. A point in question is the new booster station at Darwin. In a Press statement of 3rd September 1971 the Postmaster-General pointed out that the booster station which is used by Radio Australia cost $8m. Irrespective of whether this development is funded from television licence fees or the operating costs of the Post Office, it seems absurd that the financing of what is essentially a foreign affairs function should be met from the licence fees of television viewers or from the charges on letter writers. There is a whole field in which the Post Office is operating in which, if you assume the criterion that it is a public and business enterprise, these charges should not be attributable to it. These are the reasons why I think it is necessary for this House to be given an opportunity of a detailed statement from the PostmasterGeneral and from his Department so that we can examine all these sorts of issues and amongst us all - because we are all concerned with this because it is the taxpayers’ money that is involved - come up with a more logical and more effective operating system for the Australian Post Office.
In his statement immediately following the Budget and subsequently the PostmasterGeneral had joined in what is almost the Greek chorus these days of trying to sheet home responsibility for inflation to increases in wages. Again, the Opposition would like to reiterate that under the present arbitration arrangements, wage increases follow price increases and do not precede them. The Postmaster-General talks about productivity. But again, we are not given any indication of what the productivity of the Post Office is. If the Government was so concerned about this concept of productivity surely it would within its own departments, and particularly in the biggest enterprise in Australia, introduce a productivity survey. Looking at the evidence that is available to us from a number of Post Office publications, we find that in 1969-70 the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs stated in his annual report that there had been a 6 per cent increase in business. But on checking over the staff figures we can work out that during that period staff increased by only 3.7 per cent. In the previous financial year the increase in business activity was given as 4.2 per cent. But the staff increase was only 1.7 per cent. Another way of looking at this question of productivity in the absence of any detailed information from the Post Office is in terms of physical output - the actual job being done by the number of people doing it. If we take the 10-year period from 1960 through to 1970, we find that the number of postal articles handled jumped from 1,953 million to 2,725 million, or an increase of 39.5 per cent. The number of telephone calls rose from 1,612 million to 2,860 million, an increase of 77.4 per cent. The number of connections of telephone services rose from 229,800 to 467,183, an increase of 107.2 per cent. What was the position with the number of people who were handling these very substantial increases in activity in the Post Office? The number of full-time staff employed in 1960 was 85,993. By 1970 it was 107,520. That gives an increase of 25 per cent. The number of postal articles handled increased by 39.5 per cent; telephone calls increased by 77.4 per cent; telephone connections increased by 107.2 per cent; and the number of people employed has increased by only 25 per cent.
Not all the increases, no matter how the Government might try to wangle the information available to it, can even be attributable ‘to wages. I would like to take the example of the mixmaster, the letter sorting device that was placed in the Redfern Mail Exchange. The Postmaster-General, in a letter to me dated 29th July 1971, very kindly gave some indication of how the introduction of the Redfern mail sorting device had in fact increased mail handling charges in Sydney. In 1965-66 the direct handling cost per $1 of postage revenue in Sydney was 26c. After the introduction of the mixmaster by 1969-70 it had risen to 30c. In Melbourne which does not have the great advantages of this notorious machine, the handling cost rose from 26c in 1965-66 - the same figure as in Sydney- to 27c in 1969-70. That is still 3c less than the operating costs of the cost of handling at Sydney. In Brisbane, which must have some very highly effective and most productive mail sorters, the handling cost per $1 of postage revenue in 1965-66 was 19c. Several years later in 1969-70 the cost is exactly the same.
– Who gave you that information?
– The PostmasterGeneral. This machine at Redfern cost S4m. The supplying company was Telephone and Electrical Industries - TEI - a company which boasted among its directors at the time of the installation a former Postmaster-General and a former DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs. TEI is a wholly owned subsidiary of the United Kingdom based company Plesseys. I am concerned about the very limited choice of suppliers available to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Plesseys appears to occupy a pre-eminent position in the contract arrangements that are now entered into by the Postmaster-General’s Department. I have placed on the notice paper a series of questions relating to the contracts that the Postmaster-General’s Department enters into. I will reserve judgment until that information is available. But I, along with my colleagues on this side of the House, share some concern about a company which is a major contractor to the Government and which has on its board of directors - one is a managing director - 2 men who were formerly very closely associated with the Postmaster-General’s Department, namely a former PostmasterGeneral and a Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs and who, through some quirk of fate, find themselves in a position to arrange contracts with the Department.
One point that the Government has not mentioned in its price increases is, of course, the television licences for stations. These, of course, have been left untouched since 1964 because, 1 think, Sir Frank Packer would probably raise more objections and is capable of raising more objection than the pensioners of St George are able to raise. These rates have remained the same since 1964. The television stations pay a basic once and for all licence fee - I may be corrected on this if I am wrong - of the great sum of $200. They then pay a percentage of gross earnings - about 1 per cent of gross earnings up to $lm. There is a slight increase over the Sim mark. But all that all of the commercial stations paid to the Government in 1970-71 for the opportunity of making quite substantial profits - this would apply particularly to the metropolitan television stations - was $1,647,000. I rather hazard the guess that the sum of about $1.6m will hardly cover - will hardly make a slight dent - in the cost of providing the transmission services and other technical services which the Postmaster-General’s Department makes available to the television industry. 1 hope that if the Government feels it necessary to raise fees it will have a jolly good look at the fees paid by television stations. Any organisation which has been able to retain its cost factor at the level it held in 1964 certainly merits very close consideration.
Throughout the Budget arrangements for the Post Office the Government, following its usual philosophy, has sought to place the charges on those least able to afford them. In fact, it has allowed those who are in a position to pay to get away scot free. I hope that the Government will accede to our request for a total examination of the operations of the Post Office. We all have an interest in this matter and, most certainly the Australian taxpayer has.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– While I am disappointed that the postal and telephone charges have had to be increased. 1 realise that the Postmaster-General’s Department has been faced with very greatly increased costs largely due to new wage awards. This was pointed out, of course, by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) in his second reading speech. I commend the Minister on the manner in which he put this angle when he said:
The community, and particularly the housewife, has come to realise that increased wages not associated with increased productivity give a very, fictitious feeling of increased prosperity.
This is something that has been said on a number of occasions but I think it is worth emphasising because it seems that a lot of people do not readily appreciate the soundness of this case. I suggest that the people who have the least to gain by some of these wage increases are the people to whom the increases are granted because once wage increases go beyond increased productivity it is almost impossible to prevent their being offset by the increased costs and charges that they generate. It is not a matter of requiring or even desiring that wages be reduced or maintained for that reason only. It is in the interests of the whole community that those wages be kept within the scope of increased productivity. The Minister went on to point out that certain members of the Opposition and leaders of the trade union movement, while understanding this situation, never express it because they feel that not expressing it brings political advantage to them. I believe this to be so and I would hope that as we face perhaps more difficult days to come we will get a more realistic approach to this matter by members of the Opposition, the trade union movement and the community in general.
One aspect of the telephone administration in relation to which I compliment the Minister and the Government is the introduction of a policy to provide free of cost in certain areas a telephone connection within a radius of IS miles from an exchange and to maintain that line free of cost to the subscriber. This is a recognition of the necessity to have a satisfactory telephonic communication when the provision of that standard of telephone communication is beyond the capacity of many people in those areas. To fulfil the very desirable aim of providing subscriber trunk dialling services to those areas it was necessary to upgrade the standard of telephone lines. This necessity was recognised by the Government. As I say, I pay full credit to the Minister and the Government for recognising this and for the introduction of that policy.
It is very unfortunate however that owing to the lack of finance - this was the fundamental cause - and owing to the lack of technicians and equipment there has been a very big delay in the provision of these benefits to many of our people. I did not catch the interjection just made by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) but I am quite confident that had the Opposition been in office this type of consideration would never have been shown to the rural people and this policy would never have been introduced. We will wait for another 20 years, and if the Opposition is in office then we will see how good it is. It is very easy for members of the Opposition to say what they propose to do. Mr Speaker, if you would like to take the trouble to add up the cost of all the benefits that they are going to provide it would be just fantastic. It would be impossible to provide all these things because they run on ad infinitum. Honourable members opposite are prepared to give anything and everything that anybody wants them to provide as long as they feel they will catch a vote. There is no responsibility in the Opposition. I did not intend to raise this sort of argument, but if honourable members opposite want to discuss the matter on these lines I am quite prepared to discuss it with them.
– You said that you did not hear the interjection.
– But I know what you are aiming at. People in my electorate and in many other rural areas have a common approach to many of the problems which confront them. Earlier my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), outlined some of the difficulties with which people in the rural areas are faced. We have formed a telephone committee. I wonder whether the Opposition has one, if it is so good that it has agreed to all these things. If the Opposition has such a committee I wonder what it has done because I have not heard of it. Let honourable members opposite come out with their ideas, and if they are practical I am sure that the Government and the Minister will be prepared to listen to them. It would be a refreshing exercise to hear them showing some consideration for rural industry.
As I have pointed out, there is a necessity for people in rural areas to have a high standard of telephonic communication that will enable them to participate in subscriber trunk dialling. In this field 1 think it is worth noting that the benefits that have been gained by the provision of automatic services and the upgrading of lines have meant a very great saving to the Government and to the people of Australia. In addition it has made it possible to cope with the expensive increase in telephonic communication. This would not have been possible without this programme of progress which has been and is being implemented by the Government. As I say, I regret that the Government has not made faster progress- I am very concerned - this was mentioned by the honourable member for Kennedy - about the delay which is occurring in the provision of telephone services to many people who are very dependent upon such services. People who run businesses in country areas have no alternative to telephonic communication. I feel this matter should be given even greater consideration by the Government. It should find some means by which this long delay in providing services to some areas can be lessened and so encourage people to feel that they will be able to get telephonic communication within a reasonable time.
I move on to licences for television receivers. I draw the attention of the Minister, as I have done before, to what I regard as an injustice in this field, that is, requiring a full licence fee even for a set which is located beyond the limits of the area which the Department considers can be effectively served by a television station. I have not been able to ascertain with accuracy the area which has been decided upon but I understand that a high power television station is regarded as capable of serving an area within a radius of perhaps only 60 miles. I believe that in some cases the Department does not think that a station has an effective range of even 60 miles. In some cases though, I do know that the service does go beyond that particularly if people have higher antennas and boosters. One may be able to get some reception from an area outside that but surely there has to be a limit. Surely there is no justice in charging for a service which is quite unsatisfactory. The objective should be to define the limits beyond which there is no charge.
I would like to point out that in my own area the Queensland South Western Local Authorities Development Association some years ago made what I regard as a very reasonable request to the PostmasterGeneral that television sets located 100 miles or more from a transmitting station be exempt from licence fees. 1 know the answer has been that it is very hard to define exactly where a set will pick up television reception and where it will not. This may be so but when we get to a distance of 100 miles I doubt whether any expert in the Department would be prepared to say that a person could reasonably expect to get reasonable reception over that distance. So I urge the PostmasterGeneral to give consideration to this position which has caused concern in my area and which I believe would not cost it so much to rectify. I believe the Department would be very reluctant to enforce a charge under these circumstances. The Department should consider a limit of at least 100 miles from a television station as being the area beyond which people should be exempt from licence fees. No-one beyond that distance can depend on getting any reception. They do not know whether they will get any at all but, in some instances, because of the lack of alternative entertainment they provide themselves with a set and hope to get some sort of reception sometimes. This does not cost anybody anything and I do not think a licence should be required in those areas.
Another matter with regard to television which T would like to mention at this stage is that there are to be - and I here commend the Government and the Minister - a number of low powered television stations in the outlying areas of Queensland. I am very pleased that some 10 of these stations will be in my electorate of Maranoa. However, we are concerned about the delay. We know there are problems in relation to it. These stations will overcome some of the difficulties of these people who have sets but who are not getting satisfactory reception. At least it will do that much although it would not cover by any means all the problems associated with television reception in these areas. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that some consideration should be given to establishing a reasonable radius around those stations within which a television licence is required. While I am dealing with television - and it is a pretty important subject in most of my area because it is one way people have of getting entertainment and keeping in touch with the topics of the day - let me say that these people value it very much more highly than people in the closely settled areas who are provided with such splendid television service by this Government
I want to refer now to an application made by Darling Downs Television Limited for a licence to provide a translator station at Roma. I have taken up this matter with the Postmaster-General. The application was made in December last year and so far no decision has been made on it. I urge the Postmaster-General to see that this company gets a reply to the application it has made. Whatever may be the technical problems in relation to a station of this kind I believe that the application should be given some consideration. Such a station would help to provide a service which would cover a lot of people who are paying this fee for which provision is made in the Bill. They would be able then to get a television service which would at least keep them on an even footing with the other people who are paying these television licence fees and who are getting such excellent service from the Department.
– Do you get ‘Gunsmoke’ up there?
– I do not think that contribution adds much to the debate. In the time I have left 1 would like to turn to telephones and the problems that are confronting people in many areas. An angle to this to which I want to draw attention is the disadvantage to those people who do not have a local call service to their business or professional centre. This adds very greatly to their costs compared with those people who have that advantage. Many people in outlying areas do enjoy this so it is a comparatively small number of people which is involved. To overcome this problem, I suggest again that the PostmasterGeneral give consideration to providing a local call service for all subscribers to an area which has medical and professional services available. I do this because there is an inequity here and I do not think that the cost, despite arguments to the contrary, would be nearly as heavy to provide this local call as is sometimes suggested. Perhaps there could be an enlargement of the local service areas. Although there is a reduction in the fees, the reduction by no means compensates those people for the lesser number of calls that they can make on local call charges. I believe this is another problem that needs consideration. What I am looking for is equity for people in most of the areas of the State.
I would also suggest that consideration be given to uniform telephone charges. Some figures have been taken out on this. They might be a little out of date now because there has been considerable variation in charges since these estimates were made. But at that time, a year or so ago, an estimate of cost, even if local calls remained as they then were - that is, at 4c - was that standard trunk line calls may be in the vicinity of 60c. If all calls were made on a standard rate the amount that was required at that time - and we know it has to be increased under present conditions - would have been about 12ic.
One of the advantages of the introduction of standard telephone charges would be to increase decentralisation- It would he of very great assistance and encouragement to the establishment of industry in our country towns. Of course, one of the arguments that is raised so often in the promotion of industry in country towns is the very heavy telephone costs with which industry is confronted because most of its business then has to be done on trunk line charges. When making these requests, our outlook should not bc confined to benefits to those areas being served but to national improvement and benefit which would be derived from distributing the population of this country and getting industry as far as possible out into our country towns. We will have to encourage this process. It is quite obvious it will not proceed unless we give encouragement in every way because there are many disadvantages in the establishment of industry in country areas. I suggest that the Postmaster-General give very serious consideration to the standard trunk line charges. I hope that in his reply he might have some comments to make on that matter.
I repeat that I realise the problem with which the Postmaster-General has been confronted. I know that news of the costs has been received with a good deal of concern by people in the hard hit primary industries but one has to recognise that if the Postmaster-General’s Department is run at a loss the money has to be found somewhere. If it is not made up from charges by that Department it has to be found from Consolidated Revenue. 1 hope that in the present circumstances very serious consideration will be given to the points I have made which will be of benefit in the first instance to our country towns and rural areas and in the second instance to the nation. One has only to consider the cost of providing services and setting people up in our overcrowded cities compared with such establishment in country towns to realise that there is an unseen benefit which can be obtained from this type of project. So I urge PostmasterGeneral to give the matter earnest consideration. I trust that from that consideration will come some of those benefits which members of my Party have so long endeavoured to obtain for the people living in the country towns and rural areas of the Commonwealth.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I was surprised by the remarks of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). In some respects they were vicious. In answer to an interjection he came out with a diatribe about something which I do not think he understood. Then he went on and spoke about special rates for people in country districts but he did not even acknowledge the fact that part of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports provides for that very thing. I will read that part of the amendment to him in case he has not read it. It says:
The application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its authorities.
That is the very thing that the honourable member for Maranoa was talking about and for which he criticised the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme), but he did not even acknowledge that the Opposition had moved that.
– He should vote for the amendment.
– He should vote for the amendment in view of the remarks he made. I strongly support the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports criticising the increased postal charges, telephone rentals and other charges amounting to $50m in 1971-72 and $90m in a full year. The PostmasterGeneral announced these increases in his second reading speech following the Budget Speech by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) who told us that the increases were to be made. The Postmaster-General told us that the basic letter rate will be increased from 6c to 7c for the first ounce, which is an increase of 17 per cent. That follows an increase in the last Budget of 20 per cent for the same type of postage. Surely that is an indication of how inflation is arising.
The Postmaster-General said also that on the average parcel rates will be increased by 10 per cent for domestic and 20 per cent for overseas services. He said that the overseas airmail letter rates will rise by 5c a half ounce and by 2c in the case of New Zealand. Aerogrammes will be increased by 2c. Increased charges are proposed for registered post and certified mail. Existing telephone rentals will be increased, as will other telephone charges. The Postmaster-General told us that the Government proposes to increase the 3 basic telephone rentals of $47, $31 and $23 by $8, $6 and $4 respectively. He told us that service connection fees will rise by $10 to $50 and that local telephone calls will increase from 4c to 4.75c with a corresponding increase in trunk line charges. That represents an increase of 19 per cent in the case of local telephone calls.
The charges for the installation or renewal of miscellaneous items of telecommunications equipment will be increased. Telex call charges will increase from 5c to 6c for each meter registration. With all these increases, an increase in the postal service to the public is not noticeable. In fact, in many ways we are getting a reduced service for an increased cost. Priority paid mail has certainly been an improvement, 1 admit, hut even that is at an increased rate. To some extent priority paid mail overcomes the 1968 decision to reduce letter deliveries in all centres outside the inner capital city areas. In case there is any doubt about how mail services are being affected let me quote an article in The Sunday Australian’ of yesterday which is headed: Three out of four letters fail the Post Office time test. The article continues:
Mail ends up late - or lost. Mail delivery is not up to the required standard, senior postal officials admitted in Sydney last week.
I will not read any more from the article because I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral has studied it. But there it is, and it clearly indicates that what we are saying is true. What is the answer? The PostmasterGeneral does not seem to have it. When one looks at the overall picture one finds that the Postmaster-General’s Department is not keeping pace with our growth of population and the rapid increase in business as a result of that growth. This is a difficult problem but one that must be faced up to. It is being faced up to in some other countries where new methods of administration are being tried. It is clear that all is not well with the Post Office.
During the last debate on this matter the Opposition suggested that a joint select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the desirability and the practicability of establishing a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office. The Postmaster-General’s only argument against that proposal during the last debate was that the Australian Labor Party was already bound by its policy to establish a corporation. In effect he said that if
Opposition members were appointed to such a committee they would be bound to arrive at a certain decision. Of course, that was not so. We still believe that a corporation should be established. However, it would have to be determined whether the corporation should cover both the telecommunications and the postal side of the Post Office, or whether it should embrace only telecommunications. This is a matter which could be determined only after a thorough examination by a joint select committee or some other body established to report on the desirability and practicability of the proposal.
Such a body should investigate what is happening in other comparable countries. Surely there is a lesson to be learned from what is happening in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I am not suggesting that they have achieved all that is to be desired. We must do something about the matter, and the way to start is by investigation. The countries I have mentioned have already taken steps to reorganise their post offices into public corporations. In my belief, the PostmasterGeneral has shown a narrow, conservative view in handling the problems of his Department. The only reform, if one could call it such, has been to establish a fund into which profits, if any - of course, there are not any - are to be paid instead of going into Consolidated Revenue. There is no power to borrow. The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs must continue to go cap in hand to the Treasurer for funds. The shackles remain. The Post Office continues to be hamstrung.
Some years ago the British Government established a post office trust fund similar to that established by the PostmasterGeneral and to which I have just referred. But the British Government went further and gave its post office the power to raise loans. The British experience did not solve the problem. Legislation was then passed to establish a public corporation. The Bill passed the House of Lords on 14th July 1969. The steps proposed to be taken here will be of little or no use in the reorganisation of the Post Office. Steps similar to those taken in the United Kingdom and in the process of being taken in the United States of America are necessary. In the weekly compilation of Presidential docu ments of 2nd June 1969 the President of the United States in his message to Congress said:
Two years ago, Lawrence F. O’Brien, then Postmaster-General, recognised that the Post Office was in ‘a race with catastrophe’, and made the bold proposal that the postal system be converted into a government owned corporation. As a result of Mr O’Brien’s recommendations, a Presidential Commission was established to make a searching study of our postal system. After considering all alternatives, the Commission likewise recommended a government corporation. Last January, President Johnson endorsed that recommendation in his State of the Union message.
President Nixon went on to say:
One of my first actions as President was to direct Postmaster-General Winton M. Blount to review that proposal and others. He made his own first hand study of the problems besetting the postal service, and after a careful analysis has reported to me that only a complete reorganisation of the postal system can avert the steady deterioration of this vital public service. I am convinced that such a reorganisation is essential. The arguments are overwhelming and the support is bipartisan. Postal reform is not a partisan political issue, it is an urgent national requirement.
That statement could be taken almost word for word as describing the present situation in the Australian Post Office. The vital difference is that our Postmaster-General is not doing anything about it at all. 1 draw attention again to the final words that I quoted from the President’s message. They were:
The arguments are overwhelming and the support is bipartisan. Postal reform is not a partisan political issue, it is an urgent national requirement.
This argument applies likewise to Australia.
On 12th August 1970, President Nixon signed into law an Act to reform the United States postal system. The Act sets up a corporation style federal agency - the United States Postal Service. Top level management decisions will be in the hands of an 11-man board of directors. Nine governors will be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Postmaster-General and his Deputy Postmaster-General will be the other 2 members of the 11-man board. Modernised buildings are planned as well as a greater degree of mechanisation for processing the mail together with better management techniques and improved transportation arrangements. It is expected that morale will be higher amongst postal workers as a result of better pay, greater opportunities for advancement and more satisfactory working conditions. The employees will remain government employees. They become members of the Postal Service - a career service. But they retain all rights that they now enjoy in the civil service, unless changes are made by the provisions of labour contracts negotiated between the unions and the board of governors.
Now, we had some local evidence of what was considered necessary by the former Director of Posts and Telegraphs in this Commonwealth, Mr F. P. O’Grady, who retired about 5 years ago. He believes that the Australian Post Office should be a public corporation. After his retirement, he was able to come out into the open and to make public statements that he could not make as the head of a department of the Government. After his retirement, he was in a position to criticise the existing organisation of the Post Office. He has done so. In regard to the Post Office becoming a public corporation - his remarks are reported in full in the ‘Australian’ of 30th October 1967 - Mr O’Grady had this to say:
I think that a public corporation would have a different approach to the public if it were given truly wide financial powers. It could arrange its business in a different way. At the present time a purely government department must adhere to the budgetary system of Parliament. In effect you must not anticipate parliamentary approval for years ahead.
Later he said:
This lack of knowledge of the future has always plagued the Engineer in the Post Office in Australia.
The Post Office has always been debarred from long term planning.
Then he went on:
A statutory corporation given proper financial powers would be able to make long term arrangements with banks or other suppliers of funds and could so arrange its affairs that it could commit itself to very high capital cost projects which wouldn’t come into use until 5 years ahead and would still have sufficient funds for bread and butter items.
He pointed out further how the public corporation might be empowered to raise money through the Commonwealth loan fund system. It could raise money as State electricity commissions do in some States, with approval to go to the market separately. It could borrow also from banks.
The reason for bad staff relations in the Australian Post Office is not hard to find. To a large extent it can be attributed to the existing set up. There is a staff in excess of 100,000 in the Post Office. Yet the administration has no power to deal directly with the wage claims of its employees. The unions first must place their claims before the Public Service Board, then to the Public Service Arbitrator and, in the last resort, to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. During this tortuous route, the Department of Labour and National Service has its say. Here we have delay pyramided on top of delay. No wonder there is grave discontent in every section of the Post Office. Mr O’Grady said:
I have found myself completely humiliated when Union deputations called on me. No matter what my views, 1 was required to keep a poker face and not let them think by nod or wink that I was sympathetic to their case.
What a set up for a head of a department such as the Post Office. Mr O’Grady had to wait until his retirement before he could say this. He went on: lt would seem that, if the Post Office is to be made into a truly business undertaking, the number of outside bodies having a say in such important matters ought to be reduced to a minimum.
He stated further:
I believe the Post Office should have only 2 bodies concerned - the Post Office managers themselves and the Full Court. There should be no other intermediary because this at best results in prolonged delays and at worst causes unnecessary, friction between employees and management.
Is that not exactly what we get at the present time and have been getting for a long time now? Mr O’Grady also said that, if the Post Office is to be put on the basis of being a true business undertaking in reality and not just in name, ‘divorcement’ from the Commonwealth Public Service Board would be quite essential. That is provided for in the amendment that has been moved. All but one of the unions associated with the Post Office, in discussions, has supported the view that the Postmaster-General’s Department should be divorced from the Public Service Board and should be made a separate department controlled by a public corporation. The union that objects is concerned with its lines of promotion in the Public Service, which is important to that union; but that should not be an insurmountable obstacle to any reform. The other unions consider that if the proposed reform took place there would be better services to the community and industrial relations would improve.
I have drawn attention already to the document relating to the reorganisation of the Post Office in Great Britain. This document was presented to the House of Commons in March 1967. Part of it states:
The Government concluded that the process begun in 1932 should be carried to its logical conclusion. A public corporation should be created to run these great businesses with a structure and method designed directly to meet their needs, drawing on the best modern practice.
Paragraph 6 of the same document states:
The Post Office is a major Department of State. Practically the whole of it is involved in the constitutional change. This is an undertaking without precedent. Moreover, Post Office services are an integral part of the nation’s life. In addition to communications, the Post Office provides part of the machinery of the Social Security System and many other kinds of business are transacted at Post Office counters. The Government’s objective is to create an authority which will - be responsible for developing the most efficient services possible, at the lowest charges consistent with sound financial policies. - carry on in a worthy manner the Post Office tradition of service to the public. -develop relations with its staff in a forward looking and progressive way.
These passages emphasised efficient service at the lowest charges and good staff relationship.
On page 12 of the document, paragraph 52 refers to the authority developing relations with its staff in a forward looking and progressive way. It states:
Without detriment to the responsibilities of managers to manage, the Government will expect the Corporation to promote the most constructive relationships between the management and the staff.
The Post Office Corporation in the United Kingdom commenced operations on 1st October 1969. The responsibility for the day to day running of the Corporation lies with a board of 8 members, whose chairman is appointed for a 5-year period. The Minister for Posts and Telecommunications, formerly the Postmaster-General, retains overall responsibility. As a public corporation, the Post Office has new powers to borrow from sources other than the Exchequer, but the bulk of its finances still comes from this source.
The amendment that we have moved provides for the severance of the Postmas ter-General’s Department from Public Service Board control. The PostmasterGeneral might consider going further than that. He might now adopt our earlier proposal that a joint select committee or some other body outside the Parliament be given the authority to inquire into the desirability and practicability of establishing a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office or possibly only the telecommunication side of the Post Office. Whatever is finally decided, severance from Public Service Board control is a reform that is needed urgently.
– The Opposition has moved that the Bill relating to post and telegraph charges be withdrawn and redrafted. However, no case has really been made by the Opposition to justify such a move. The provision of the most efficient service possible at the lowest possible cost to the public is the constant objective of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This year the cost of postal telecommunication services will be about $1,1 40m, an enormous undertaking when compared with any other enterprise in this country. In budgeting for this expenditure the total commitment in terms of service and expansion has to be taken into account. Although honourable members opposite have claimed that there has been a disproportionate level of employment on a comparative basis in the total operation of the Post Office, the fact remains that the number of people employed by the Post Office has increased by only 2 per cent each year for some time now, whilst plant and equipment have expanded by about 7 per cent each year.
Members of the Opposition have said very little about employment aspects and certainly they have not admitted in any way the tremendous cost pressures applied as a result of wage decisions. We have heard a great deal about the Opposition’s objective of a corporation to run the Post Office but there has been no admission of experience overseas where costs have not been contained and industrial problems appear to have been accentuated.
The Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) in his second reading speech gave a comprehensive account of the services and costs involved. We also have the benefit of the White Paper which gives this year, and has done each year since it was introduced a few years ago, a very good account of the position of the Post Office and its prospects. It states quite categorically that the first objective is to report in commercial terms on the financial results of the Post Office, as well as indicating the cash implications for the Commonwealth Budget. I believe that this in itself is a very proper approach and certainly should be taken into account when considering the kinds of proposition that the Opposition has put forward in this debate.
Other information given in the White Paper provides details of the service departments, growth of business, capital investment, achievements and plans for the future. When one takes into account the services provided, the scope of the Postal Department and the commitments involved the operation of the Post Office is to the credit of the leadership of the present Postmaster-General and the staff who serve under him. Capital expenditure this year will amount to about $424m, an increase of $40m over the last financial year. The significance of that increase is that to maintain and expand the services there has to be an infusion of capital. There has to be capital expenditure.
The telecommunications section is an increasingly heavy user of capital. It is well known that the cost of any postal service is chiefly in labour. This year about $400m is required to expand telecommunications services, which includes an increase of §20m, a similar increase to that allocated for postal services. The Government expects the Post Office to finance more of its own growth through revenue raising. The postal service is expected as far as practicable to match expenses with earnings. I believe that this is a sound business approach. If charges were not increased as proposed in this measure the postal services would lose about $35m in this financial year and the telecommunications services would lose about Sim. It would not be possible to finance needs in the investment field to meet the community demand, the ever increasing demand for services referred to by previous speakers in this debate, particularly those representing rural areas. I am sure that in the metropolitan sector, although it has not been referred to by honourable members oppo site, there is a great and continuing demand for the provision of new services.
A real burden on the Post Office in this financial year is the additional cost of about $77m for wages as a result of wage decisions. There have been other increases in costs of materials and supplies for the various services amounting to about $1Om I and other members on the Government side of the chamber are certainly unconvinced that merely to create a corporation to run the Post Office would solve those problems. The Opposition has yet to put forward facts and details to support its contention. The White Paper sets out some other very important considerations. There is a necessity for expansion which creates difficulties in terms of technical facilities, the costs involved in providing them, and so on. That is no secret.
It is manifest that there is a tremendous responsibility to be accepted. Yet members of the Opposition - the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) in particular - say that it is quite wrong to charge the Post Office interest. The fact remains that all other government business undertakings pay interest or a dividend at a specified rate. The Post Office is required by the Government to pay interest on its borrowings at the long term bond rate. The solution to the problem could be found only by shifting the burden from the resources that flow from income and placing it directly on the field of taxation collections. The balance sheet must account for what occurs in whichever field the burden of interest is placed. I believe that if the Opposition were seriously to move for a change along those lines it would be the first to complain when the public purse was called upon to meet the very heavy charge that would result.
The Post Office in its wider spectrum is expected to provide some public services but despite that aspect there is still a need for it to be regarded as a business undertaking. There is no other effective way of dealing with the provision of services of the kind provided by the Post Office. I wish now to refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) about the problem of the costs of telephone calls by country residents. Two possible avenues of consideration were mentioned. In addition there is the proposal of the Opposition, lt has been indicated by the Postmaster-General that the Post Office is studying the costs of country users of telephone services but a report has not yet been received by him. 1 believe that it is fair to make some observations on this subject. The Opposition’s proposal is that some specific areas of benefit should be provided in selected areas in order to assist decentralisation. No indication has been given of how this would be contained and to what extent such a concession may be extended. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) referred to special telephone charging to aid decentralisation. He went on to say that it would be most beneficial and would solve many problems. However, he failed to set out some of the arithmetic that is involved, lt is obvious that if there was a consolidated scale of charges the standard charge, of the present proposals for rates, would come out at about 80c for a trunk call of 3 minutes.
The first problem that we see in this situation is that the users, say, 30 miles from a main centre would in fact be paying a very great deal more than they are paying now. It could well be that the cost to these people would increase fourfold. I am sure that the average user in the business in the country would not be able to face up to that kind of adjustment for the purpose of equalising the situation by aiding those in the other section who find it a burden to meet the charges relating to the 200 to 400 mile bracket. This is a matter which will require a great deal more research and a great deal more consideration. Certainly there is no simple answer. I believe that it is a matter that must be given serious consideration, and I believe that it is justified that there should be the study which is currently being undertaken in relation to this matter.
However, we must be realists. If we are to provide a service at a lower cost for certain calls the effect on traffic and the requirement of facilities to carry that kind of traffic become an immediate consideration. It could well be that the cost that would be faced in capital outlay to provide the equipment to carry that kind of traffic would be astronomical to the extent that it would be quite impractical to have a call ratio at these lower levels that are being suggested. It is a matter of trying to find an answer to a very difficult question. I am sure that the resources of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will spare no effort in looking into this very important matter.
Reference has also been made to the problem of providing telephones quickly in country areas where applicants are waiting for the service. The honourable member for Kennedy in particular referred to this matter. I remind the House of the very forward step that was taken last year when the Government decided that telephone lines could be provided for up to 15 miles at no cost to the potential subscriber except the normal connection fee. Since that time no fewer than 670 new services have been provided at a cost of $l.lm. In addition 1,546 existing services have had their lines upgraded at a cost of $1.4m. So the total outlay in this new field in the first year was $2.5m. I am sure that in the more distant parts of Australia many people are already getting the advantage of this new policy introduced only last year. Of course, it is well recognised that a great deal more has yet to be done to meet the demands that exist. It can be done only if the financial resources are there to cope with this need. It is perhaps quite basic to say that the proposition before us is distasteful in many respects - no-one likes to increase charges - ‘but there is no other answer if the funds have to be produced in order not only to maintain but also to extend services and to see that a proper business operation is in fact the consequence of the administration of this service.
In the field of the administration of the Department generally, we have heard a very long dissertation by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) and I think earlier by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) on the subject of the wisdom of establishing a corporation - I think the honourable member for Adelaide suggested 2 corporations - to take over the existing operation. But as I mentioned earlier, there was no acknowledgement of the difficulties that have confronted corporations established both in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. I want to emphasise particularly the fact that in the case of the
British Post Office service, despite the establishment of a corporation, the loss in the last financial year was no less than $53m. I think we can all recall that earlier this year one of the most serious industrial disputes experienced in any postal service occurred in the British Post Office. The mails did not move for weeks, to the inconvenience of every section of the community and, in fact, to the inconvenience of many people in this country. If that is an example of what can be achieved through the establishment of a corporation, I certainly hope that we have none of it in this country. If we look at the situation in the United States we find that the loss there was no less than $ 1,300m - a tremendous loss. So the idea of a corporation, so extensively referred to by the honourable member for Stirling earlier in this debate, seems to have produced a very negative result for the United States of America.
Other aspects have been raised in this debate. Reference was made to the increase in charges for broadcasting and television licences. The facts of the matter are that there has been no rise in this field since 1968 although costs have continued to increase. Costs have increased to the extent that total expenditure is now $82m, which is an increase from $60m. The gross receipts from licences has risen from only $46m to S51m. I believe that it is right and proper that the public purse cannot be expected to go on meeting the difference. Here again there is the requirement that if we are to provide the services that are available they have to be paid for. Some problems have been raised. I think particularly by the- honourable member for Maranoa. He made a very good point when he mentioned that in some localities there is the difficulty for television users of satisfactory standards of viewing. On the other hand, it must be recalled that in the very areas to which he, and I think the honourable member for Kennedy, referred there has been a tremendous investment to bring this modern media to those distant parts of Australia. The outlay is very considerable indeed. But I am sure that we have sympathy with those honourable members who have constituents who find a problem so far as the standard of transmission is concerned. Perhaps this is another matter that could be looked at.
I believe that the proposition before the House is the only approach that any responsible government could make at this time. I believe that it accords with the budgeting that has been introduced in this Budget session. I believe that it is a proper approach and one that deserves the support of this House and of all who are concerned to see that we continue in this country to provide the best possible communications service through the medium of the postal service and, of course, by means of radio and television.
– I rise to support the amendment so ably moved by my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I shall read the terms of the amendment to the House because it is very obvious from the speeches delivered by honourable members on the other side of the chamber that it has not been properly read nor has it been understood by them. The amendment reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted because it does not provide for (a) the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board and (b) the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its Authorities.
I listened very carefully to the last 2 speakers in this debate who curiously enough are members of the Australian Country Party. I have never ceased to be astounded at the manner in which members of the Country Party section of the Liberal-Country Party coalition change their hats. They can change their hats more quickly than anybody I know.
During the course of this debate we have heard these honourable members say that the increased charges imposed by this Bill should be borne by the people who use the services of the Australian Post Office and how wrong it is for the community to subsidise postal charges. The honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) asked: ‘Where is the difference going to come from? Will it come from the public purse?’ One may say to members of the Country Party: ‘Where will the $100m come from to subsidise the wool growers?’ This money will come out of the pockets of every member of the community. One may ask: ‘Where is the money to come from to subsidise the wheat farmers when they not are doing so well?’ Once again where the Country Party is concerned the public purse will be plundered. Such money is found and it is paid.
Let me come to the situation of the Australian Post Office. The Post Office is the largest undertaking engaged in by the Commonwealth. The honourable member for Cowper must be very good at arithmetic; he quoted large figures ad infinitum. But when the subtractions and additions are all finished we find that last year the Post Office had a deficit of $2m on all the services it provides. It finished with this deficit after it had handled an enormous sum of money. Honourable members on the other side of this House have said that because the Post Office lost $2m last year the Government must now increase certain charges because the Post Office must pay its way. Those same honourable members say that those people who use the service must pay for it. There is a fallacy in that argument. As I understand the philosophy behind the Post Office, it is an institution which provides a service to the community. It is a rather unique service. The Post Office deals exclusively in the field of communications.
Not only is this service enjoyed by those who directly use it. Every member of the community derives a benefit from the existence of the Post Office. If we hold to that premise I can see nothing wrong with the community meeting the difference between charges as they have been and the operating costs as they will be. Again by simple addition and subtraction supporters of the Government, in attempting to justify the Government’s decision to increase these charges, have fallen into the trap of assuming that certain things will happen. It has been said that the Post Office is a milking cow for the Government. Members of the Country Party ought to know that at certain times of the year a cow does not lactate. Perhaps the most profitable time of the year for the Post Office would be the Christmas season when we all perform the pagan ritual of sending one another cards. I am not sure why we do this but we do it. This practice must provide quite a substantial source of revenue to the Postmaster-General’s Department. However, if the information given to me by ray friends is correct this source of revenue will not be available to the Post Office this year.
– That is what they call a false ‘prophet’.
– Yes. the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) and his Department have been placed in a very bad position by this Government. They have become tax gatherers for the Government and as such they collect a tax that is inequitable and iniquitous because it is not in any way based upon the capacity of people to pay. There is no certainty that a pensioner sends fewer letters or makes fewer telephone calls than anyone else in the community. The imposition of increased postal charges, telecommunication charges, radio and licence fees is in itself inflationary. I was almost convinced by the arguments of supporters of the Government that they were concerned about inflation and intended to do something about it. ApparentlyI gained a wrong impression and those fine words uttered by honourable members on the other side about holding down cost-push, push-pull, upside down and inside out inflation, have been to no avail because, as I said, these increases are an indirect taxation. They are quite inequitable in operation. As the increase is the same for all persons regardless of their income, it is obvious that the lower a person’s income is the more seriously he will be affected by such increases.
I shall point out the percentage increases in charges over the past 2 years. The ordinary letter rate has risen by 40 per cent, the telephone connection fee has risen by 67 per cent, the rental for a telephone has increased by 38 per cent, the cost of a telephone call has risen by 19 per cent, the cost of a television licence has risen by 36 per cent, the cost of a radio licence has risen by 23 per cent and of a combined television and radio licence by 33 per cent. These dramatic increases are forcing the whole area of communications into the luxury bracket. Surely one of the basic aspects of our life is the right to communicate. As we do not live next door to one another we must use some means of communication and the means available to us are becoming more expensive every year.
It would be recognised by any reasonable person that there are problems in the delivery of mail throughout Australia. Australia is a very large country of about 3 million square miles and it is sparsely populated. The population lives mainly in centres. It would be reasonable to say that it may very well be profitable to deliver mail in closely packed suburban areas but that it would be unprofitable to deliver mail in sparsely populated areas. However, the Post Office has a charter to deliver mail in all areas. Because it endeavours to even out its cost of operation, we find the phenomenon - perhaps it is not a phenomenon; it might be by design - in the closely packed city areas, especially Sydney and Melbourne, of private organisations engaging in the lucrative activity of delivering mail and carrying messages around inner suburban areas. These private delivery services in Melbourne total 22. We get down to the old story of a service being provided to the community and we will find, if this trend continues, the Government pro tern until 1972 will opt out of its responsibility to provide the service. We will have private mail services operating in the lucrative areas and the taxpayers of Australia will be left to pick up the tab for the highly unprofitable areas. Those unprofitable areas will be the country areas. So, as well as receiving a subsidy for their wheat and their wool, members of the Country Party will then carry on a private war to obtain a public subsidy in order to have their letters delivered.
The issues involved in this matter were clouded by the Postmaster-General. He endeavoured to make a comparison - I believe that he did so in all honesty, and his comparison was quoted extensively by the honourable member for Cowper - between postal charges in Australia and postal charges overseas. As I see it, the Postmaster-General’s second reading speech contains very little information on which to make such a comparison. He simply cites some figures. It is like trying to compare a horse with a cow, which is not possible. It is possible to compare only like things. I would consider it highly irrational and improbable to draw a comparison between postal charges in Australia and postal charges in any other place in the world unless all the conditions were similar. There is no indication in the Minister’s speech - nor did the honourable member for Cowper assist very much in giving any indication - of whether the services in the other countries with which he compared Australia are comparable with ours.
Members of the Government parties seem to be mesmerised by huge sums of money. Once sums of money get above hundreds of millions of dollars and into thousands of millions of dollars, their minds boggle. They trot out these figures as some sort of substantiation for the argument they are putting. The matter of interest - this rather iniquitous and very peculiar system of bookkeeping that has been thrust upon the Post Office - has been well aired. Honourable members on the Government side have tried to justify it by saying that every enterprise must pay interest or a dividend. That is all right if money is being borrowed and interest is being paid on the money that is being provided as capital. But in this situation the money belongs to the taxpayers of Australia anyhow and is being used to provide more capital services for use by them. So the taxpayers, having generously made available by means of the taxes they pay to the Government the wherewithal to construct the capital services required, are then called upon to pay out of their own pockets again interest on the money they have borrowed from themselves to provide themselves with a service. I do not know how this system can be described other than as some sort of double taxation. One could not justify it by calling it ‘double entry bookkeeping’. One would probably call it ‘double dealing bookkeeping’.
If members of the Government parties like to be mesmerised by huge sums of money, let them know that in the 10-year period from 1960 to 1970 the Post Office paid $650m in this interest charge, and it has been calculated that, if this system continues, by the year 1980 the Post Office will pay $266m in interest charge in that year. This money is returned to Consolidated Revenue. The honourable member for Cowper said that if this charge were not met in this way it would have to be met in some other way. I return to my earlier argument: I agree entirely with that, but I do not see why the people who use the services and facilities of the Post Office should have paid $650m in 10 years. I believe that that $650m should have been spread over the community and paid on the basis of those who had the capacity to pay paying it.
Running through the PostmasterGeneral’s speech, as through every other speech that has been heard from the other side of the House since the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) went to China and deflated the Communist dragon bogy, is the fact that the Government seems to have been searching for some stick with which to beat the Opposition. It is pretty obvious that it is the trade union movement that the Government intends to use, because the Postmaster-General talks about lack of productivity, wage rises and all these things which have now become legion and about which we have come to expect to hear from the Government.
If we care to examine the figures and to do the arithmetic that members of the Government parties think we ought to do, we find that in 1961 - it is not easy to find any statistics on productivity for the years since 1961, so we have to do some calculations - the number of postal articles handled was 2,048 million. In 1970, nine years later it was 2,725 million, representing an increase of 33 per cent. In 1961 the number of telephone calls made was 1,700 million and in 1970 it was 2,860 million, representing an increase of 68 per cent. Over the same period the number of full time staff rose from 86,559 to 107,520,. representing an increase of only 24 per cent. During 1958-59 a business increase of nearly 9 per cent was met with a staff increase of H per cent. The average increase in productivity over the period of 10 years prior to 1960 was about 3.5 per cent. In 1960-61 there was a further increase of 4.8 per cent in Post Office business, which was met with a staff increase of only 0.7 per cent. 1 am sorry that 1 do not have the time to deal further with that aspect of the matter. If I did, I would prove the duplicity of this Government and its members in endeavouring to put the blame for its own shortcomings and faults on the working people of this country, who, on all statistical examinations, are doing their job and doing it well and certainly are not overpaid for the work they are doing. The Government should stand up and accept the responsibility for its own shortcomings and cease blaming the workers.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the amendment. I believe that in doing so I should make it clear to the House that the endeavours by the Government to prove that the Post Office should be run as a paying business concern are somewhat futile and that the efforts of members of the Australian Country Party in this field are tragic when one thinks of the levels of services that are provided at considerably less than cost to the people they represent. I was surprised to find members of the Country Party advocating that people in country areas should meet the cost of the services provided to them by the Post Office; but that is the logic behind what they have been saying. I think that the members of the Country Party who have advocated this policy should go back to their electorates and tell their electors what they have suggested. The reaction of the electors would be interesting.
– The honourable member should go home and do his homework.
– I should suggest to the right honourable member for Fisher that it would be better for his electors if he were to do his own homework. The Post Office provides a communications service which is vital to the nation. The Post Office is the largest business in the nation. It performs a function essential to our trade, commerce and social life. I believe that if the logic of the Government’s arguments were to be carried through to its norma! conclusion the Post Office would be doing what the railways have been doing for many years, that is, cutting down on nonprofitable operations. Imagine the scream we would hear from the public if telephone exchanges that were non-profitable were closed down instead of upgraded! Yet that is the only basis of a proposal that the Post Office should make a profit and be run as a business operation. No member of this Parliament or of the community would suggest that private business organisations should be expected to maintain as a public service large areas of non-profit making industry. A private business organisation in such a position would immediately close down its non-profitable areas and keep the profitable sections of its operations going. But the Post Office is expected to carry on providing many services which cannot reasonably be expected to be profitable.
How could the country mail runs, for example, be expected to be profitable or business-like operations? They are services to the community. The stupidity - I think stupidity’ is the correct word - of any such suggestion can be seen by the fact that the mail charges in the capital cities have become so high and deliveries so slow that courier services are springing up everywhere and taking away from the Post Office the cream of the mail business. Apparently the people who provide these services can make a profit out of their operations. The result is the Post Office is increasingly losing its more lucrative business to private operators. It should be remembered that this business would normally assist to compensate the Post Office for its losses on its less profitable operations.
I believe it is also wrong to suggest that the interest charged on Post Office accounts is an honest charge. Most of the moneys which have been provided over the years to the Post Office have come from revenue and at no interest cost yet the Post Office is charged interest on this money, thus adding to the difficulty of the Post Office in providing its services. The increased charges are inflationary in the extreme. They are higher than the general increases in costs in the community.
– Because of a rise in wages.
– One of the things which I have noticed about honourable members opposite is that the only thing that ever worries them is a rise in prices. According to their monetary theory charges can be increased by 30 per cent without adding to costs, but an increase of 6 per cent in wages must result in a 50 per cent increase in costs. I would like to hear a supporter of the Government stand up and say that he honestly does not believe that people in Australia should be paid a living wage. Yet that is the argument the Government puts forward in this House day in and day out. Anybody who stands up in this House and says that a postman delivering mail in the streets of any city is being paid a decent living wage is either a fool, does not know what he is talking about or has no thought for the standard of living prevailing throughout the community.
– You are saying it.
– I am saying it because that is the sort of thing the Government is putting forward. I challenge the honourable member to stand up and deny what I have said. I do not think the honourable member has any interest whatsoever in the people in his electorate who work for a living. If he had he would be saying that the people in the low income group should be paid at least a decent wage. I doubt whether even the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) would suggest that the wages applicable in the lower grades of the Post Office are anything like the wages he would prefer to see paid if the Post Office were in a financial position to pay them.
– They are not so good in Parliament, either.
– That is right. At least they have had a rise since we last had one. I wish to draw attention to the effects of increased postal and telephone charges on country areas. Although members of the Country Party are apparently not concerned about the effect of these increases on country areas, I am. I want to draw attention to the effect that these increases will have on industries in country areas that are struggling to maintain an existence because of increased costs in general. The increase in telephone charges would appear at a glance to be relatively minor, but to a business operating outside of the metropolitan area the impost will be staggering. For instance, a firm operating in Dandenong in Melbourne can communicate with almost all of its service suppliers in the metropolitan area on the basis of a unit fee call of 4c, as it is at present, or 4.7c, as it will be if this legislation is passed. A person can talk on the telephone for as long as he wishes at the rate I have mentioned, but a country or non-metropolitan industry making the same use of the telephone will be charged many times more.
Country or non-metropolitan industries also suffer various other disadvantages, such as a slowness in communication and a slowness in deliveries. The added hardship of increased telephone charges can be the deciding factor in whether struggling businesses can establish themselves in non-metropolitan areas in preference to metropolitan areas. The increased charges will impose a very heavy burden on these industries. I believe it is a burden which could have been avoided if a different system of charging had been initiated at the time of the introduction of subscriber trunk dialling. It is, unfortunately, probably too late to change now without incurring great expenditure. However, I think it is fair to say that some sort of adjustment should be made in the telephone charges levied on decentralised industries. These industries have to pay a very stiff penalty for being established outside of a metropolitan area.
Let us examine the situation in my own electorate of Corio. A dealer in Dandenong can make an unlimited telephone call to one of the oil installations or firms in the Newport/ Williamstown area for 4c at the moment, but a firm making a similar call from Geelong to this area, which is almost exactly the same distance - 32 miles - will be charged something like 20c for every 3 minutes. That is unfair discrimination which has a limiting effect on the establishment of new industries in country areas. I do not believe that the rate of establishment of industries in non-metropolitan areas is great enough for the good of the nation. I think that this is a matter which the national Parliament and the Executive, through the Cabinet, should seriously look at. The increased charges which will be imposed as a result of the implementation of this legislation will add to the burden of industries in non-metropolitan areas.
Another area which is not of such great significance but which is a constant cause of annoyance, especially to migrants, is the fact that there is no second class mail rate for air mail to continential countries, including the United Kingdom. It is difficult to explain to an English migrant that although a letter or a greeting card can be sent from England to Australia for 8c or 9c, it costs the first-class letter rate to send a similar card in return. This seems to be wrong and I think it is something that could be rectified without great cost to the Post Office. It would satisfy a lot of people who wish to use the mail services, expecailly for greeting cards and that type of mail. Similarly, I believe that the proposed increase in postal charges, as was the case with the earlier increase, will have the effect of reducing the number of Christmas cards that are posted. I think that it would be in the best interests of the Post Office to reintroduce second class mail. I realise that, in effect, there is a second class mail system in that there is no guaranteed delivery on any mail other than priority paid mail on which extra postage has been paid. Second class mail, especially for greeting cards, would enable people who are being priced out of the market to communicate. It would provide a service which I am sure would be effectively utilised and would not add greatly to the costs of the Post Office.
I have recently had a number of representations from the Beliarine Shire Council, which is a local government body in my electorate. The Council is concerned at the lack of an official post office in the shire and that it does not have available to it the normal service of bulk postage which is provided by the Post Office. The Council, in response to representations, has received replies from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department which have indicated that insufficient business exists to warrant such a service. I do not know which came first, the chicken or the egg, but if the postal services are not provided in the area it is doubtful whether business can be generated. If bulk mail facilities, for example, are not available, it is obvious that local businesses will not use the non-official post office which exists. I raise this matter because it has been the subject of a Council resolution recently, and the Council is very concerned about the lack of facilities.
– Where in Bellarine is it?
– It is in Drysdale. I mention, too, the conditions under which some members of the Post Office staff are required to work because unsatisfactory premises are being utilised as post offices. I speak especially of the Norlane Post Office which was built, I think, in 1952 or 1953. It is a temporary prefabricated type of building. It has remained in use while the population of the surrounding area has more than doubled. There has been a considerable increase in the number of staff working in that post office and it has become completely unsuitable for the amount of business conducted in the area.
At one stage, a new post office was imminent but, because of changes in priorities and in the financial situation, I understand that this proposal has receded into the background. The staff is extremely concerned about this post office because it is not a suitable building for the volume of business which is now being conducted in this area.
Another matter which concerns me is the concessions which are available to pensioners for telephone rentals. Whilst the level of concession as a percentage of the normal charge has been retained, the actual cost of rentals is to be increased. This is a severe burden on people who, in many cases, need a telephone in order to communicate with others. I do not think it would be of great cost to the Government to maintain the level of rentals at or about the level which exist today. I note that the radio and television licence fees have not been increased for pensioners. To have given the benefit of cheaper telephone rentals to them would have been a humane attitude and would have enabled some people to maintain a telephone who now will have to have it cut off because of the proposed increase. The Government is rather sharp with people who do not have the income to meet the cost of the service.
I support the amendment. I believe that it is irresponsible to suggest that, dollar for dollar, the Post Office should operate as a business undertaking. Like the State transport systems and many other services which are provided, the Post Office is necessary for the maintenance of communications and of our way of life. If it is required to make a profit on all of its operations, I suggest that the services which are now provided could not possibly be maintained in the future at the prices which would be necessary for the services to be provided, especially in the remoter country areas. If the Post Office was to be a profitable business undertaking, it could operate only from the capital and major cities, something that no-one in this country would stand for, but it is the logical conclusion to the type of policies which are being put forward by the Government. Every person in Australia is entitled to adequate telephone and postal services. Where they cannot be provided without cost to the nation, then the nation must bear the cost. To place that as a tax against business operations and individuals using the services is. I think, bad economics. It adds to the cost in the community and to the inflationary spiral about which Government, supporters appear to be so worried. It is no more than a hidden way of raising taxes. I support the amendment and hope that it will be carried.
– In speaking tonight I wish first to pass some words of praise to the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) for the job he has done for Australia since being elected to this Parliament in 1949. He has been Postmaster-General since the federal election in 1963 and over those 8 years has directed his Department through a period of massive growth. It is interesting to compare the number of Post Office staff, which is about 110,000, with the number of people who reside in my electorate on the south side of Brisbane. My electorate has only slightly more constituents than people the Post Office employs. It is amazing when one considers that all of those people - men, women and children - who live in my constituency could be employed in some manner by the Australian Post Office. I do not believe that any department which has a staff of 1 10,000 people or a projected staff of 115,000 people can be totally efficient administratively. I suggest this, bearing in mind that there are thousands upon thousands of dedicated men and women employed in the Australian Post Office.
Another comparison can be made in this direction. The combined numbers of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force do not equal the number of people who work within the Post Office. It does not matter how courteous, careful or praiseworthy the staff may be or how much they try to be efficient, the time has surely come for us to take a closer look at the present structure of this huge organisation to see whether we are getting value for our money. At the beginning of the financial year 1970-71 the overall Post Office trading profit was estimated at $3 Om. By the end of this financial year this had changed to a trading loss of $2m, with a loss on postal operations of S25m and a profit on telecommunications operations of $23m. The deterioration in the financial position is due principally to new wage awards. During 1970-71 some 50 new awards affecting Post Office staff were granted and the direct costs of these will add $77m to Post Office expenditure during the year 1971-72 compared with a 5-year average increase of $40m.
I would trust that not one honourable member of the Opposition would try to make cheap political capital and suggest that this was an indication that I, the honourable member for Griffith, was against the cause of the worker. But this is a statement of fact: $77m has been added to the total costs. Whenever something such as this happens, particularly in the case of a public instrumentality, the people of Australia must pay. Basically, the abnormal increases in labour and other costs, the serious deterioration in financial prospects, the level of demand for services and the excessive pressures this places on available resources have led to the increases. I would like to mention to the House and to remind the people of Australia of the actual increases in charges proposed. Adjustments to the telecommunications operations will bring about an increase in the 3 basic telephone rentals from $47, increased by $8; $31, increased by $6; and $23, increased by $4. The service connection fee will rise by another $10. Local telephone calls will increase from 4c to 4.75c.
There will be increased charges for the installation or renewals of miscellaneous items of telecommunications equipment. Telex call charges will be increased from 5c to 6c for each meter registration. For the average person and his involvement in the postage of letters, the basic letter rate will be increased from 6c to 7c for the first ounce. Parcel rates will be increased by 10 per cent for domestic services and 20 per cent for overseas services. Overseas airmail letter rates will rise by 5c a half ounce and 2c in the case of New Zealand. Aerogrammes will increase by 2c. Increased charges are proposed for registered post, etc. I know that the PostmasterGeneral is retiring at the next election. This will probably be the last real shot in the arm for the Post Office revenue. No doubt, he is pleased not to have again to be part of such increases, although he no doubt feels satisfied, as his departmental officers do, that there is no other way out.
But when one looks back over the last 20 years one sees that in 1949 the cost to post an ordinary letter was 2.1c. The cost to operate from 1st October is 7c. This will be a rise of 333 per cent. Since 1956 the average wage has increased by 100 per cent. Yet the cost of posting a letter has risen from 3.3c in that year to the proposed cost in a couple of weeks of 7c. This is an increase of much more than 100 per cent. These increased charges have occurred despite the technological improvements of the modern day. I would suggest, with respect, that this makes the situation a lot worse. In recent times we have also seen delivery services of mail cut by 50 per cent. The old twice a day delivery is now down to once a day. The postal boxes in which people post their letters in the various suburbs are not being cleared as regularly as they were. This, too, makes the situation even worse. I cannot remember back too far into the old days, but I can go back sufficiently far to remember when one used to be able to send at a cheaper rate an envelope with the flap tucked in. This service has also disappeared. The other concessions that the Post Office has chosen to apply in the past are fast disappearing. I just wonder where it will all eventually end.
We have seen the introduction of subscriber trunk dialling and the cut down in switchboard operators that are necessary. I think I saw figures the other week which indicate that 50 per cent of trunk line calls were now made using the STD method. Here is another saving for the Post Office. There is no need for an increased staff to handle the increased number of trunk line calls in the modern day. With the combination of all these factors, we should hope to see at some stage some stabilisation of postal charges rather than a continuation of increases. A Press statement was recently released by the Postmaster-General showing comparable rates of postage in Australia and overseas countries. It was interesting to note that the United States postage rate is 7.1c and that the Canadian postage rate from the beginning of next year will be 6.6c. But the facts of life are that the average person in North America receives twice as many dollars in his pay packet as the average person in Australia does. So if we are to relate this to the actual burden and costs imposed on persons in Australia, we have to halve the figures that have been suggested because of the opportunity to earn much more money in the United States of America and Canada than in Australia. In 5 short years we have reached a stage where a 4c postage stamp has become a rare collector’s item. This is enough to make us stop and think where we are going and where the situation is going to end. lt is not my intention to support the amendment moved by the Opposition, i consider the first section of the amendment is only duplicating and more or less continuing the present problems. I consider the second part of the amendment which relates to the application of special telephone charges in country areas is purely political and is designed to enhance the position of the Opposition party with those people who live in the country areas. I dismiss the amendment as shallow and unworthy. But I say with great sincerity that over the years I have made many complaints and written to the PostmasterGeneral seeking explanations as to why certain things have occurred. For 5 years 1 have held my peace. But I do not believe that I can continue any longer and not acknowledge the feeling which is emanating from the electorate and from the people.
I am not suggesting that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is a huge, inefficient machine. But I am suggesting that perhaps it is time that there was some independent inquiry, just as one has been set up to inquire into the Repatriation Department, quietly to look at the methods it uses. It does not matter how good an organisation is. It does not matter how good the men at the top may be. There is always room for improvement. I feel that with the rapid escalation of postal rates over the years the time has come when the Government and the people of Australia must take a good look at what is happening. I am only echoing here the sentiments of the people. Naturally. I hope that I will be in this chamber for many years to come. But I hope that I see a cessation of this rate of increase and that I will not be called upon again in the future to pass remarks of condemnation of this Department. I make it clear once again that I am not directing my remarks at individuals. But I am not going to the other extreme that we have seen tonight with some hypocricy being demonstrated by some honourable members. I will not say that they were honour able members from the other side of the House, but one could feel that I am implying that. Some honourable members have risen in their places and said that everyone who works for the Post Office is good. I suggest that any organisation which has 110,000 people working for it must have some dead wood. The way to prune that dead wood and to make the Department even more efficient is a challenge which lies in the future for the Government and for the Department. As 1 said earlier, I for one am no longer prepared to come into this House and blindly support increases in postal and telecommunications charges year in year out.
-The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is broken hearted because he has to pay more for postage stamps than he used to pay. He agrees in principle with what we from this side of the House say but, of course, the last thing he will do is vote for our amendment. According to the type of logic from which his politics are derived he has very sound reasons for doing so. At least it is heartening that he has acknowledged the problems. Of course the problems are created by the financial eccentricities of the honourable members opposite. As I sit here I see over on my left - purely physically - the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes). I recall that about 6, 7 or 8 years ago during one of these racecourse rushes to increase postal charges the Minister’s contribution to the debate was simply to stand and with broken heart say: ‘Those whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad’. My colleague from Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) described the intitial arrangement whereby the Post Office is charged interest as the triumph of Treasury doctrine over common sense. Frankly I cannot understand that situation. This afternoon I heard the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) with the normal apologia for whatever the Government happens to do. I have heard honourable members say that interest is part of the inevitability of mankind. We have the air we breathe, the water we drink, life and interest. It seems to be the inevitable infliction of humanity. How can the interest charges possibly be justified? This year an interest charge of $140m is being loaded on to the Post Office. 1 do not believe that there is any explanation which I have heard in the 6 or 7 years since the interest charge was introduced which can possibly justify it. Of course honourable members opposite will say: ‘Well, money is being taken from somewhere in the community and now interest has to be paid’. I believe that the attitude which is adopted toward public accounts - the procedures which we operate between individuals in these matters - is quite invalid. I suppose that in theory we are saying: ‘Make posterity pay’. In this instance we are trying to make posterity pay by charging interest. I shall put the matter as a simple equation: How can we borrow from tomorrow; how can we pay back yesterday? That is just a piece of archaic nonsense. I believe it is inflicting the Post Office with costs which make it impossible for the Post Office to operate in the social atmosphere which is necessary. As people say - it is a handy analogy - we are speaking of an institution which is twice the size of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd.
My colleague from St George (Mr Morrison) pointed out that if we take the matter of productivity the Post Office does quite well in relation to its previous efforts. One sees this continual oddity in the financial arrangements of the Post Office. Some of these arrangements I cannot understand. I cannot understand the interest charges. There is another matter which I cannot understand unless my arithmetic is completely haywire. I turn to the statistics and I see that we carried 13 million lb of airmail last year at a total cost of $4.9m. My arithmetic will probably be proved wrong. Of course I am not always right. Unlike the Government I do not claim to be infallible. If we carried 13 million lb of airmail for $4.9m that means that we paid 35c a lb to the airlines for the carriage of airmail. If we paid that amount we paid the same rate on every letter as if we shifted it from Melbourne to Cairns. The air cargo rate is 34c a lb from Melbourne to Cairns, and from Melbourne to Perth. Is it not logical that the great bulk of the airmail is likely to be carried between Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide? It seems to me that the airline system is being subsidised by the persons who pay for stamps. I do not think that situation can be justified. If there is any explanation of that situation I should like to hear it. The Post master-General (Sir Alan Hulme) does not stand absolutely condemned until I have heard that case refuted arithmetically or otherwise.
I think this example is systematic of the way in which we approach the Post Office. Many things are done which are not the real function of the Post Office. It is a distribution point in the community for income tax forms, social service forms and all sorts of things. Are we doing enough to balance the finance of the Post Office when it is being used as a piece of social enterprise rather than as a piece of commercial enterprise? The important function of the Post Office is communication between people. I believe it is a fundamental part of democratic society that we can communicate with one another quickly, efficiently and economically. I believe that the recent postal charges are imposing upon the community burdens which make it impossible for the Post Office to carry out this function. I believe that the interest burden makes it impossible for people to organise the Post Office effectively. A colleague of mine pointed out that innumerable services are growing up whereby people deliver letters more cheaply than the Post Office can. I suggest that there should be a new area of postal enterprise whereby if one takes a letter for local posting to the local post office it costs 2c, 3c or something of that nature. I represent a couple of suburban areas of Melbourne. In many instances I have to post 200 or 300 letters to the one area, perhaps the suburb of Brunswick or the suburb of Coburg. If I drop those letters in to the local letter box it seems to me that it is worth the Post Office considering a special rate for local postings delivered to the local post office. I am speaking here not so much of the household delivery service which the Post Office conducts but of the service whereby people can have things delivered specially.
My arithmetic indicates that it does not cost a great deal for the individual postman to deliver the article as a delivery operation. I think this would be part of the social service to the community. I believe that there should be an examination of the control of the postal system. The PostmasterGeneral has held that position for a number of years. He sits at the peak of a pyramid which is a tremendous enterprise. I am not sure that this is the way Parliament should control the Post Office. My
Party holds the view that there should be a board of control or something of that nature. It is my wish that it should be a parliamentary board rather than a single Minister. One of the deficiencies of the Australian society is that there is not enough political involvement in these matters. I am not speaking here of partisan politics in that sense. If we are going to conduct an operation of this size it needs more people representative of the general shareholding body. The community shareholding body is represented by this Parliament. As has been pointed out statistically BHP is about half the size of this institution. BHP has a board of directors numbering about a dozen. I believe that one of the weaknesses of our parliamentary system has developed through leaving so much of this control to a single Minister. There are matters which are beyond his control. This is no reflection upon the individual capacity of the Minister. In some way we have to get. around to the view that more political involvement is necessary and more parliamentary involvement is necessary.
I rose tonight to speak briefly about the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the legislation which will be passed here tonight to give it more finance to meet its expenses. 1 do not think we are doing justice to the ABC by tagging it at the end of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I do not believe we are doing justice to the ABC by having it as a sideline for the Postmaster-General. The ABC is a very important functionary >n the community. It has a number of things to do. One of the most important things is to preserve its independence. This is a very difficult thing to manage. It is a credit to all concerned - to the people who manage the ABC and to Parliament - that in general the ABC in both radio and television seems to preserve a fair amount of impartiality or independence. I think that one can measure impartiality in an institution such as the ABC by the fact thai both sides think it is biased at times. That is about the best that can be said for it. 1 have a great respect for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, particularly in its commentaries on day to day news. In the Australian community, because we have managed to hand over most of the communications in the rest of the radio and television system to people who also control the newspapers, it is vital that the ABC be expanded, developed and strengthened in every way possible. 1 can think of no reason why there should not be 2 such bodies. I can think of no reason why some of the State governments did not apply for television licences. I can think of no reason why the councils in some of the capital cities did not apply for television licences. I cannot understand why the local corporation in the towns of Townsville, Rockhampton, Ballarat and Bendigo did not do it. If only we could see a little more enterprise and dynamism in these matters from public authorities.
The ABC has an important role to play as part of the cultural machinery of the nation. It is a line of entertainment for a large number of people in the community. It has information services to develop and it is part of the contribution to national unity. In o:her words, the community listens and hears national news disseminated with an instancy and immediacy that cannot be achieved by any other method. I believe it also has to supply local diversity and strength to the local communities because nobody else will. The inevitable trend inside communications is towards centralisation. This evening there seems to be a noticeable lack of attendance in the Press gallery. I did not know that the Press knew I was to speak. As I see it, one or two pressmen sit in the gallery and take notes and later the news services run it all off. There is a lack of diversity even in the reporting of this Parliament. As the whole system becomes centralised and the major networks get together there is a breakaway from the local communities. I believe this is a serious disability.
I want to ask some questions that the Postmaster-General may be able to answer. We are now to raise the cost of television and radio licence fees because the Postmaster-General says that the cost of running the whole show has gone up. Personally I find the accounts rather vague. I find that the total receipts are $53m. I find that there is another $20m from other sources. The Postmaster-General says that the total is about $82m. I want to know whether everybody who is using the services of the broadcasting system is paying his fair share. The statistics show me that there are about 3± million homes in Australia. Statistics also show that about 24 million licences are taken out. It is a pretty fair guess that nearly every home in Australia has a wireless or television receiver or both. Is this a good way of collecting the money? My own inclination is to suggest that perhaps there should be space at the bottom of our income return form where a person can indicate whether he has a television licence and the amount can be added in the sum and acquitted to the Post Office. The Commissioner of Taxation might have something to say about that proposition. I believe that the whole trend should be towards simplicity. Most of us are honest when we are forced to put our signature down. My own inclination is that we should make sure that everybody who uses the service contributes in accordance with his use of it. The service is 2 things: It is a service to individuals but it is also a general national service in a sense in that it is supplying culture, entertainment and information throughout the community. Radio Australia, as the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) pointed out, should not be a just charge upon the communications system. Therefore I am not too happy about the continual raising of the licence fees. Are we sufficiently charging the companies who have the television licences? I am not confident that we are. When we conferred licences upon most of them, as somebody pointed out at the time, we conferred upon them almost a licence to print money.
There are some other aspects of the ABC that I would like to see examined. It is a very large organisation which employs 5,700 people and has a budget of $53m rising to $70m or $80m. Do we give it enough resources? Are its budgeting arrangements adequate? Should it have a long term budgeting system?
– I think so.
– The honourable member for Grayndler, who is one of the most experienced and most informed members in this House, agrees with that proposition. In this Parliament we have never faced up to this about most matters. There is the odd organisation, perhaps an airline operator, which can set out and take on long term budgeting. Does the ABC own all the buildings it is occupying? A chance survey of the Melbourne situation shows that it does not. The ABC has a fairly archaic building on a corner in William Street. Down the road a bit it rents a large area of private property. It would seem to me that it is time a major building was put up in Melbourne somewhere as a headquarters for the ABC. There is the television complex down at Ripponlea but the area in William Street should be redeveloped, but the ABC will not be able to do that unless we are prepared to put the capital aside for it. I believe it is just as important to have good physical arrangements, working arrangements for the people, studios and all the other things as it is to have an airport at Tullamarine upon which we can lavish unlimited sums of money.
I think that somehow we should strengthen the Commission. I am minded to say something about this with no criticism of the people who are on the Commission, only 2 of whom I know personally and only one of whom I know adequately by repute to be able to say that his scholarly background entitles him to a position on the Commission. Just recently - this is no reflection on the person involved - there was the announcement of the appointment of a new commissioner. I listened with interest. Although the name was familiar to me, the gentleman concerned was not. He is a member of the Country Party. It is possible for people in the Country Party to have intellectual and cultural interests of advantage to the nation, although there is not much demonstration of it here. I am just being an objective and impartial observer tonight. He is the shire president of a country town in Victoria. Generally speaking the State government in Victoria is pretty weak and local government is of no great renown. I made a rapid examination of those on the Commission. Most of the people on it have business interests of some sort. I have no doubt that they are estimable, capable and competent people, but I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission needs people of real public stature on its Board. T sit on the National Library Council. We have only to look at the names to see that the Government has picked out very powerful people of proven capacity and status in the community. The Parliament did the same. I think this is a subject we should examine.
The Commission would be advantaged, as would the Australian National University Council and the National Library Council, if it had membership of this Parliament directly represented on it. This would take some of the sting out of the argument about which side the ABC is on when the current affairs debates come on. I believe this is one of the ways in which we should proceed to extend parliamentary involvement in these operations, because in my own experience the parliamentary member has a contribution to make. He has an attitude about things and lines of communication in the community which most other people lack. These are some of the issues I think Parliament should be considering at this stage.
The ABC has a tremendous task before it. I believe we are keeping it continuously strangled by the inadequacy of its channels. We are taking up one channel with the broadcast of Parliament. A small percentage of the community listens consistently to Parliament, but the fact that we come on and go off the air at odd times and meet irregularly completely disorganises the programming of the ABC. I believe there should be at least a third channel and possibly 2 more channels throughout the community. There is just not enough freedom of choice in radio programmes of the type that the ABC presents. I believe it is important that we should have sufficient choice.
I have on the notice paper Question No. 3910 which I hope the Postmaster-General will get around to answering. The ABC apparently leases from one of the television stations lines which belonged originally to the Post Office. I wonder how much we are being exploited in that regard. Is the ABC narrowing itself too much by centralising much of its programming out of Sydney? Could there be more decentralisation? Would this offer more chance for the development of local talent and local and diversified programmes? I believe it would. Finally, there is the vexed question of Australian programmes. The ABC is the best performer in this field but its record is still pretty meagure when one looks at it.
Fifty two per cent is a reasonable amount in some ways. When will we get around to producing some of the programmes about Australia which are the logical extension of the very simple and, I always find, pleasant programmes such as ‘Blue Hills’, to which I rarely listen, or ‘Bellbird’, the television programme which I see on occasions?
– ‘Henry VIII’ is good.
– He would be the king of Australia if he were on deck now; but that was not an Australian programme. These are very important matters. What I want to see is a strengthening of the Commission.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is not my desire tonight to go into fine detail regarding the Post and Telegraph Bill nor is it my desire to condemn the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I want to take a general view of the situation. First of all, I want to know why the charges have been increased or why the Government considers they should be increased. So I turn to the second reading speech of the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) in which he makes this explanation:
The problems which confront the Post Office in 1971-72 and have caused the Government to increase certain postal and telecommunication charges could be summarised as: Abnormal increases in labour and other costs; serious deterioration in financial prospects; the level of demand for services and the excessive pressures this places on available resources.
That is what the Postmaster-General said in his second reading speech. Of course, I believe this is correct. If the whole of Australia could be looked at as one big metropolitan area, that is if it were getting all the services and amenities that the metropolitan areas enjoy, there would be no argument from either side. Everybody would be happy. Wages have gone up for people in the metropolitan areas. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) - I have only to look at one or two notes to see what he did say: I am not reading my speech as is the general practice in this House - spoke of the unit fee call. He said: You can go right out to Dandenong and far afield round the suburbs and you have only the initial call fee, the lowest possible telephone cai) fee available in Australia, to pay’. He was absolutely correct because that is what is happening. If the whole of Australia was just one big metropolitan area everybody would be perfectly happy, because the wage increases would have been distributed and the calls would cost very little in comparison with what they now cost in country areas.
Underlying all the speeches made by honourable members opposite has been - I will not say hatred, because I do not think it is personal - an envious view of the Country Party members and of the case they have presented for the areas they represent, lt must be always remembered that no Country Party member represents a city constituency. Every Country Party member in Australia, whether in a State parliament or the Federal Parliament, represents a part of Australia, which I call the better part of Australia, outside our metropolitan areas. The Country Party is constantly endeavouring to stop the drift to the city and is seeking to build up conditions that will be conducive to holding people in country areas. This is not a parochial view; it is a national view. Surely to goodness honourable members opposite can see what is happening with people continually drifting to the city. The process snowballs. A census is held and it is found that there are more people in the metropolitan areas. Then the next thing is a redistribution of seats and we have more and smaller city seats and larger country seats, such as the Mallee electorate which in the last redistribution, although it was by far the largest electorate in Victoria by many thousands of square miles, was given 2 more subdivisions.
– How many sheep do you represent?
– 1 rise to order. I do not see the strict relevance to this debate of the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee. He should point out that he has only three-quarters of the number of constituents that any other honourable member has. and that is about all he could handle.
– There is no substance to the point of order.
– There are 2 things to reply to. One honourable member asked: How many sheep are there?
-The honourable member for Mallee will address his remarks to the Chair.
– One honourable member who interjected asked how many sheep there are in my electorate. What has that got to do with it?
– J rise to order. I. have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Mallee. I asked him how many sheep he represented.
– There is no ground for the point of order. 1 ask the honourable member for Bowman to cease interjecting.
– He is just a smart young fellow who has come into the Parliament recently and who is now trying to make what he thinks is a comic crack at me. I do represent a lot of people who run sheep and un’.il recently they have been considered to be among those upon whom Australia largely has depended so much. I want to get on with the job and rebut one or two things that have been said. I will have to look at my notes. I took the comments down as honourable members uttered them so 1 would be absolutely accurate. One honourable member said that there should not be any interest charged on money provided for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Just after that another honourable member on the Opposition side said that a corporation should be set up.
– I rise to order. The honourable member for Mallee consistently states that he never reads his speeches, ls it in order for him to depart from his usual practice?
– There is no substance to the point of order.
– I know it Ls the envy of most members of the Opposition that I do not read my speeches. I know they have theirs written for them, because one can see the similarity in them. I am not reading my speech, as everybody in this House knows. I am repeating, so I will have it absolutely right, what members of the Opposition said. 1 wrote it down so that I could quote them. One honourable member said there should be no interest charged on money provided for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and another said just after that that a corporation should be set up and money could be borrowed from the banks and other lending authorities. Does that mean that the banks and other lending authorities would not charge any interest? Of course it does not. lt just shows the muddled thinking of the Opposition on this subject. It has been pointed out by the Postmaster-General and also by his new assistant that corporations have been set up to run the Post Office in the United Kingdom and other places and there have been sensational losses. But how can one compare the United Kingdom with Australia? The United Kingdom is a small, compact part of the world with millions and millions of people, but Australia is a great wide nation with far flung places where people want telecommunications. One cannot compare the 2 and make sense of the comparison. One can compare things as the Opposition has been doing but it just makes nonsense. Therefore, you have to watch these matters very closely. Following on from what has been said, a certain member - I will not name him because I do not want to be personal-
– You are looking at me.
– No, I am not looking at you. All that honourable member could talk about was forward looking and progressive thinking. There was nothing said about what will happen in the future other than Labor’s great hope that it will get back on the treasury bench. The fallacy of that statement has been demonstrated by the fact that for 22 years the people have ensured that Labor stayed in opposition.
– I raise a point of order. Is it not true that the Country Party has polled less than 8 per cent of general election votes? Yet the honourable member is talking about majorities.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I have become used to this sort of interjection and point of order, because when I speak I give honourable members the truth of the situation. The moment I do that I know that somebody will get up and take a point of order, say that he has been misrepresented or start interjecting. This is what is happening tonight. But the saner members of the Opposition - there are some - take the view that what I am saying is correct. I am not going to condemn the Postmaster-General’s Department but I have one or two very definite suggestions to put to it. I have already made an appointment with the Postmaster-General tomorrow to deal with these matters. So that honourable members will be given a preview of what I shall deal with, I want to point out that the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett)-
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. A few moments ago the honourable member pointed to a person assisting the Postmaster-General who was not there. Now he is pointing to another person who is not there. Is it in order for him to call on invisible members from time to time?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. There are far too many interjections and too many points of order without substance are being taken. I ask the House to come to order. The honourable member for Mallee has the right to be heard.
– I am sorry that the honourable member for Grayndler is so devoid of knowledge of what is taking place in this House that he does not understand that when the PostmasterGeneral has appointed to his service an honourable member to assist him, that honourable member has to move out of this chamber now and again to give that assistance. When a lot of frivolity breaks out and honourable members interject in this House I wait until they calm down again and then I go on with my speech. I am sorry if I hit honourable members opposite in a very sore spot now and again. I cannot help it. I want to put a proposition to the Postmaster-General. I was helped partly by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) when he spoke about the amount of money that is paid in metropolitan areas for telephone calls and when he said that one can go out to Dandenong or other places way out in the suburbs and ring the City of Melbourne as a local call. 1 think it is a fair proposition - Country Party members back me right up to the hilt on this - that that those people who live in rural areas should have to pay only the same amount for a telephone call as the people in the metropolitan areas pay, when the rural people want to make a call to the town where they do their shopping or where they visit the doctor. Some members of the Opposition may know, and some may not, that such a town is generally known as the market town’ for the area.
In the Melbourne area, one can make a local call to what might be regarded as the market town of Dandenong, or to a sheep market, a stock market or to any other market. In Bendigo one can do the same sort of thing. I am looking at the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) who seems to be a bit perplexed al the moment. But I say that one can do the same thing in Bendigo, Ballarat or Geelong. The honourable member for Corio does not seem to be altogether happy about it. Let me give a specific instance so that this does not seem to be airy-fairy. I represent two or three cities, one of which is Mildura. There is a place called Millewa just near Mildura. It costs the people who live in a certain area which comes into another zone, an extra 20c to telephone Mildura. 1 think that is wrong. They should be able to telephone their nearest market town for the same price as the people in Melbourne pay to phone their market facilities. Thank goodness I am supported by one member of the Opposition who, uniquely, represents a rural area.
– Who is it?
– I am asked who it is. 1 have not mentioned any names tonight. As I said earlier. I do not want to be personal when 1 am condemning honourable members opposite for things they have said. Therefore, when I am praising them I will do the same thing. Honourable members opposite should be consistent. Some honourable members said that this is not a partisan political matter. It is a matter of service to the people. Then an honourable member on the Opposition side - 1 will not mention his name - said that there should be an investigation from outside. I have heard people say that pensions should be taken out of the political sphere and that some outside body should say what should be paid to pensioners. I have also been told tonight that an outside body should say what the Postmaster-General should charge. I want to know who will find the money, ls it not a matter of whether a country is progressive or not that enables it to pay money? Is it not a fact that this country is suffering today because there are low prices for primary products and high costs?
The trouble with primary industry is that there are high costs and low prices. Any man who can put forward tonight or at any other time something that will solve these two is not only the greatest man in Australia today but the greatest man in this century, because he will have the method for combating inflation and rising prices for primary products. The primary producer, not through the fault of the Country Party, the Liberal Party or the Labor Party and not through his own fault, is in a position where he has to meet high cost inflation. If honourable members want me to go into that I can point to where a lot of the trouble comes from. The Labor Party is always talking about high profits. It never tells how the high profits come about. This matter is of vital concern to the subject we are discussing tonight. The Labor Party talks about high profits but never talks about high tariffs simply because if an industry has high tariffs and that industry then makes large profits the trade unions come in and ask for higher wages. The higher wages are made possible. The whole point is that this situation does not encompass the primary producer, and that is why we have in this corner of the chamber a fighting force for the people on the land, the people who represent a better Australia.
I have made a note of many things that 1 would like to rebut if I had the time to do so. As I said earlier, there is a feeling against primary industry and the Country Party. One honourable member - I could give his name but I do not want to embarrass him, so honourable members can read it in Hansard - said that as far as wheat is concerned the public purse is plundered and the money is paid.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker.. The honourable member has only about 2 minutes left and I think he should at least touch on the Bill.
– I have touched on the Bill right from the start. I said that I would not go into fine details. The honourable member who interjected will probably get up and cite a lot of statistics which no-one can prove and which will not mean a thing. As far as primary industry and the country are concerned I think that the cost of telephonic communication is very high. I think that the cost of most everything in Australia is very high. This country cannot long endure half protected and half unprotected. Abraham Lincoln said when he was fighting for the slaves and describing America: ‘This country cannot long endure half slave and half free’. Therefore, as the primary producer is unprotected, this is hitting him harder than anything else does. I use my remaining moments in this speech to appeal to the Postmaster-General to see that, in the future, primary producers living in areas that are sparsely populated have the privilege of paying one price for one call, be it to his doctor, his storekeeper, his market adviser or to what is known as his market town. This is the only fair thing. It grants to him the same privilege that is given to city interests. The one man on the Opposition benches who represents rural areas is saying: ‘Hear, hear!’ to these remarks. Good luck to him. I believe that my suggestion is in the best interests not only of primary producers and primary industry but also of the whole of Australia.
– May I say, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I hope to conclude my remarks, without petty interruptions, before my allotted time expires. I wish to make brief comments on the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). I think that members of the Opposition agree with his submissions in regard to having a set telephone charge for market areas in the rural sections of the nation. He made reference also to the Country Party group in the Parliament as being the fighting force for people in Australian rural areas.
– That is true enough.
– The honourable member for Mallee agrees with me that that is true. If the honourable member for Mallee and those in his section of the Parliament - that is, the Country Party - had taken a more sensible and tolerant view of the recognition of the Peoples’ Republic of China many years ago, the Australian wheat industry would not be in the plight that it is in today. I believe that public opinion is forcing the Country Party to change its attitude on this matter.
I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) in relation to the Broadcasting and Television Bill. I wish to make reference to some matters that I think have not been traversed in this debate. I am one of the last speakers in the debate and it is not easy to choose points that have not been touched on already by members of my own Party, in particular, who have dominated this debate. To my knowledge, in the electorate of Hunter the Postal Department is introducing new changes in connection with the opening up of more non-official post offices and the closing down of other nonofficial post offices. I had a courteous interview with the District Postal Inspector, Mr Frost, from Maitland for which I was most appreciative. I believe that the matter that I raised has been cleared up to this point. It is in relation to an important section of my electorate in which there is to be a switch over from a permanent post office at Abermain to a non-official post office. I believe that, in view of the facts given to me by Mr Frost, we would have great difficulty in justifying our opposition to such a move. I was informed by the District Postal Inspector - I am not being critical of him in making these remarks - of the anticipated closure of the Stanford Merthyr post office which serves approximately 450 people in my electorate. This post office has operated in the coal mining area of Stanford Merthyr since I was a small boy. The residents of this area will need to travel 2 miles to 3 miles to use postal note facilities of the type that they are able to use now and have been able to use for many years at Stanford Merthyr. I do hope that the Postmaster-General, who is accepted as a courteous man by members of the Opposition, will look at the contemplated closure of the Stanford Merthyr Post Office. It is run by English people who have been there for 17 years. They are highly respected in the area and have played an important part in building up good citizenship in the whole of the district in which they live. Last year, the postal note quote for this post office was raised from $10 to $41. Let me spell that out. As many honourable members would know, a post office is limited to a certain allocation in respect of postal notes. These people are limited to an allocation of $10. Last year this allocation was increased to $41. This demonstrates the increased business in this post office field alone. If the closure proceeds, the public telephone on the private premises of the Stanford Merthyr Post Office will be withdrawn or relocated. A petition - this matter has not been inflamed by irresponsible people - has been taken up to seek to retain the Stanford Merthyr Post Office. I do hope that the Postmaster-General will have a look at this matter and will try to obviate the need for the closure of this post office at which a good service for so many years has been maintained by these good Post Office people. I hope that this facility will continue in this area. 1 wish to point to some remarks by the Minister on the Post and Telegraph Bill 1971. These remarks might be considered as deceiving or as the skilled use of sematics or words, for which politicians are noted. The Postmaster-General stated:
The one-third reduction in rentals which is given to blind persons and certain classes of pensioners will be maintained.
A person not examing those words carefully would think that no extra cost will be involved with the installation of telephones or in respect of telephone rentals for blind people and certain classes of pensioners. But we well know that rentals have been increased. This will add an additional financial burden to blind people and certain classes of pensioners when they have a telephone installed. My only wish is that the Postmaster-General had clarified this matter more clearly in his remarks and had stated that although they receive the benefit of the one-third reduction in charges, the extra burden of increased installation fees would be imposed on blind persons and certain classes of pensioners.
– How much?
– Too much, in my opinion. I would like to see these people on miserly incomes granted television licences free of charge. When I recall the financial fiasco into which the Australian Government has committed its country on the Fill, I believe that the Government could well justify the provision of free television licences to blind persons and certain classes of pensioners in this country which is supposed to be so affluent.
– Does the honourable member know how much that proposal would cost?
– If the honourable member wants me to eat up my full time, he should keep interjecting. The PostmasterGeneral from time to time in this House has expressed his views with regard to the vandalism that takes place in public telephone boxes. This vandalism is something which, I think, every member of this House abhors. I understand from people who have given some attention to this menace that all of the damage is not done by vandals in the real sense of the word vandals’. It is caused by people who lose their tempers because of faulty telephone mechanism and after having lost 2 or 3 coins in trying to make an urgent telephone call. Much of this damage is not caused by people who would ordinarily be regarded by the community as vandals. If the mechanism of our public telephones was improved I believe that so called vandalism in public telephone boxes would drop considerably.
Since electronic devices have been connected to assess telephone accounts I, and I guess many other members of this Parliament, have had complaints from constituents about the unreasonable increases in telephone accounts. In one case brought to my notice I was able to convince a reasponsible officer of the Postal Department that a mistake had been made. I was very impressed with the sincerity of 2 of my constituents who complained to me about their telephone account - a man and wife with no children. I carefully questioned them as to whether their children could be using the telephone without their knowledge, but they replied that they had no children. I asked them whether they lent the key of their home to neighbours who might be deceiving them by using their telephone, but I found that that could not be so. Each weekend they were away from home.
Without telling the subscribers - and rightly so - the Postmaster-General’s department had a count taken of the number of calls made. The postal officer concerned was decent enough to tell me that the result of the count was consistent with what the subscribers had told me and the postal officials when interrogated. The postal officials came to see the correctness of the subscriber’s claim and that their suspicions that someone else had been using the telephone were unfounded. After this extensive research was carried out, to the credit of the postal officials they saw fit considerably to reduce the telephone account. I think that case proves that the mechanism that records the number of telephone calls is not always accurate.
– Like poker machines.
– That is so. There is room for improvement in the mechanism. Only last Saturday I was approached by 2 very highly respected heads of a pensioner organisation in Kurri Kurri, in the electorate of Hunter. They asked me to raise in the House the increased charges for installing telephones for pensioners. I hope that these increased charges will not be imposed, but I am doubtful that the Government will alter its attitude now, as a vote is to be taken on this measure very shortly. I hope that the rental charges of telephones for pensioners will not be increased for many years.
I also hope that television will be used to a greater extent for road safety instruction in an attempt to combat the shocking increase in the toll of the road. I believe that television could play a tremendous part in educating drivers. I would even go so far as suggesting that some free television time allotted to religious organisations should be devoted to road safety programmes. I believe that if a gallup poll were conducted on this matter the majority of Australians would subscribe to the reduction of television and radio time for religious organisations and an increase in the allocation of time for road safety education programmes. Greater use should be made of television for school education programmes. In preference to importing cheap overseas television films more employment should be offered to local artists. I wish the Postmaster-General would make a statement to the House on the dismissal by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of Michael Willesee, who was the very popular compere of Four Corners’ and one of its most important personnel. Had he been employed by private enterprise he may have been reprimanded for breaching his contract or a fine may even have been imposed. I do not believe that private enterprise would have dismissed a man of his talents who has been so well received by the audience of ‘Four Corners’.
I believe that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be used more to advertise government matters. I have in mind, for instance, recruiting campaigns for the Army, Navy and Air Force. The ABC should show the advertisements now shown on commercial television stations. While many members of this Parliament have been seeking decentralisation of industry, greater incentives are necessary. In the Hunter electorate we were fortunate in gaining the well known Australian firms of Bond’s Industries Ltd and Casben Productions Ltd. They came to the coal fields region about 12 years ago when sweeping changes were taking place in the coal mining industry. I remind members of the Country Party that no subsidies were paid at that time when the men had to find jobs in other industries after spending a life time in coal mining. To encourage such moves by industry incentives such as telephone concessions, particularly for trunk line calls, should be offered for the first 2 or 3 years of country operations. In that way the businesses would be assisted to show a profit and decentralisation would be hastened. That completes the submissions I wish to make in the limited time available to me.
– Due to the lateness of the hour and the fact that we have had a fairly wide ranging debate on this Bill I will restrict my comments and take only about 5 minutes to refer to one or two matters in which I am particularly interested. The PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) in his second reading speech listed 3 reasons why it is necessary to increase charges made by the Post Office. He included the development of the Darwin booster station for Radio Australia. That is an excellent project and I have no argument with it. He also included the extension of television translator services to the lesser populated country areas and that is the aspect with which I wish to deal, because it is one that interests me greatly.
I do not want to do an injustice to any honourable member who has spoken in this debate, but I think it was the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who referred to translator television services. There appears to be a misconception about the problems of clarity and quality of programmes emanating from translator services. They are related not so much to distance as to the terrain over which the signal is transmitted. For example, high powered television transmission at Hobart is unable to produce a satisfactory picture in some areas only 5 or 6 miles away, due to the nature of the terrain. On the other hand it quite often happens that transmission from Melbourne television stations is received with great clarity and detail in northern Tasmania. That underlines the point I wish to make, that it is not a question of distance but of terrain.
I want to deal more specifically tonight with a problem in my electorate, in a rural area in the southern part of Tasmania. 1 am referring to the area which includes Dover, Cygnet and Geeveston. I wish to thank the Postmaster-General for his courtesy in dealing with representations T have made to him over the past few months. I concede that it is a difficult area of rugged terrain, but commercial and national television services have been operating in southern Tasmania for over 10 years and the people in that particular part of my electorate feel, I think with some justification, that they should be considered for an adequate television service, particularly by commercial stations. They are not receiving this service at the moment.
We have made representations, to which I have already alluded, to the PostmasterGeneral. Of course, the problem here is the lack of technicians available to the Broadcasting Control Board to carry out the necessary field work. I merely want to underline again the importance of providing people in rural and isolated areas with the same facilities as are provided in the metropolitan areas and the capital cities. This is a facility to which they are entitled. It is a facility for which they have to pay. Under this Bill they will have to pay extra money, and they are entitled to the same quality of picture and the same quality of entertainment as are provided to the people in the capital cities. So 1 urge the Postmaster-General to consider this position in relation to that part of my electorate in which these people have been denied an adequate television service for well over 10 years.
I conclude with a brief comment on the financial structure as it is within the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, with reference to the finances of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The inhibitions and strictures imposed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission to project in any detail and with any imagination its programme requirements into the future are the result of the present financial structure or the budgetary techniques. No great commercial enterprise - indeed, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is no exception - can possibly make a projection of programme requirements and programme commitments, both in quality and in quantity, with the present financial stricture of having to work within the framework of budgetary announcements every year. [ suggest to the Postmaster-General, and indeed to the Government as a whole, that it might be well worth considering that as we have this vast enterprise of the Australian Broadcasting Commission which is required by legislation to provide not only entertainment but also a very broad range of requirements for contemporary consumption it would be well worth while to consider coming to some alternative arrangement of financial allocation to enable the Commission to carry out its functions. At the moment it is restricted and inhibited because it can make no long term projection in relation to planning, policy matters and programming. In conclusion I pay a tribute to the officers and the various members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for carrying out with great integrity and with great skill the very difficult task that they perform in spite of the immense opposition both inside and outside this chamber.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Crean’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr J. Corbett)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr J. Corbett)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Sir Alan Hulme) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Orders of the Day Nos 2 and 4, Government Business, being called on.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 917), on motion by Sir Alan Hulme:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– On behalf of the Opposition I reaffirm our opposition to this measure but I conserve valuable man minutes by not calling for a division.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Sir Alan Hulme) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 7 September (vice page 833), on motion by Sir Alan Holme:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bil (on motion by Sir Alan Hulme read a third time.
– I have received advice from the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) that he has appointed Mr Lloyd to be a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits in place of Mr Robinson.
– I present the eleventh report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
International Labour Conventions (Question No. 3700)
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
Convention No. 135 - Workers’ Representatives, 1971
Convention No. 136 - Benzene. 1971
Recommendation No. 143 - Workers’ Representatives, 1971
Recommendation No. 144 - Benzene. 1971.
Convention No. 47- Forty-Hour Week, 1935 (ratified on 22nd October 1970)
Convention . No.112 - Minimum Age (Fishermen), 1959 (ratified on15th June 1971).
Defence Establishments: Pre-school Age Children (Question No. 3846)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The statistics and other information sought are not maintained by the Service Departments.
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The arrangements under which the Royal Australian Air Force occupied the Air Base at Butterworth provided for:
The cost figures are:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Will he bring up to date the information in a former -Minister’s answer on 17th February, 1971 (Hansard, page 213) concerning ships and aircraft ordered for the Services.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table sets out details of all ships and aircraft currently on order for the Services, together with estimated delivery dates and country of origin. .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710913_reps_27_hor73/>.