17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon- Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Leigh CREEK Deposits.
– In addition to making £150,000 available to the Government of South Australia to assist in the development of the Leigh Greek coal-field, can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say in what other directions-, if any, tho Commonwealth Government has assisted in the development of that fieldi Can he say whether the Commonwealth Railways Department is using Leigh Creek coal in its locomotives and workshops arid, if so, to what degree ? If not, will the Government give favorable consideration to the use of Leigh Creek coal by the Commonwealth Railways Department?
– When the Leigh Creek coal-field was first opened the Commonwealth Government assisted the Government of South Australia in every way possible. At that time I. was Minister for the Interior, and was interested in the development of the field as a means of providing coal for use by the Commonwealth Railways Department. I remember that the department, in order to assist the development of the field, made drastic reductions of freight charges.- It was estimated that 800 tons of coal would be conveyed daily to Port Augusta by rail. That decision was made following a visit to Canberra by the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford. In addition, Commonwealth officers and technicians assisted in investigations to ascertain what alterations, if any, would be required to locomotives so that Leigh Creek coal, which is of different quality from Newcastle coal, could be used. Beyond that, I am unable to speak from my own knowledge, but I shall be pleased to bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister, for the Interior who, I am sure, will supply the information sought.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping been drawn to a London report that the contract entered into between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America for the supply of rubber from Malaya expired on the 30th June last? Following .the termination of that contract, and with a view to easing the rationing of motor tyres, will the Minister approach the United Kingdom Government with a view to increased quantities of Malayan’ rubber being diverted to Australia ? .
– I have’ not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but I point out that, even if additional rubber were made available to Australia, it would not greatly improve the position .with respect to tyres.
– Surely it would help?
– The impediment to the relaxation of controls in respect of tyres is a shortage of manpower,- which has resulted in the supply of tyres being inadequate to meet the demand.
– In the event of the Government approving the recommendation of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that a commission of inquiry be appointed to investigate wheatproducing costs, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture see that steps are taken to appoint to the commission a practical wheat-grower who will be a representative of organized growers? Will he also ensure that growers will have easy access to the commission by having that body visit all wheat-growing districts of the Commonwealth ? Further, will he impress on his Cabinet colleagues the necessity for making the terms of reference wide enough to cover all phases of the industry which have any bearing on costs?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has informed me that his recommendations to the Government will include one .providing for the. representation of growers on the commission, should it be appointed. The Minister also intends that the proposed commission shall make a full and complete investigation of all factors bearing on the cost of production. The desire of the honorable senator that farmers shall have easy access to the commission has merit, and I am sure that it will be favorably considered by my colleague.
– In view of the fact that the United States of America has approved a loan to Great Britain, is the Minister for Supply and Shipping in a position to state what effect such action will have on the preferential tariffs at present operating within the British Empire?
– I understand that an international trade conference, at which tariffs and other matters of ‘trade will be discussed, will be held shortly. I understand, also, that the agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States of America will not be binding upon Australia insofar as imperial preference is concerned. In the event of any proposal to alter the existing arrangement in respect of preferential tariffs, Australia and the other dominions will be consulted.
– Last night’s Melbourne Herald contained a report that a recent Gallup poll disclosed that considerably more than half of the Australian public answered “ No “ to the question, “ In your opinion, is the Federal Government doing enough for ex-servicemen ? “ Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen the report?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred.
RE-BROADCASTING of PROCEEDINGS
– I desire to ask you, Mr. President, a question relating to the re-broadcasting of the proceedings of this Parliament. I understand that question time in the Senate to-day and to-morrow will be re-broadcast over the national alternative network between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. on those days. I understand, also, that question time in the Senate and also in the House of Representatives will be re-broadcast over the short-wave system. I now ask whether you and the other Senate representatives on the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee will, at its next meeting, advocate that the whole of question time in both Houses shall be rebroadcast between the times mentioned?
– It is not strictly in order for the President to answer such questions, but I assure Senator Amour that- the questions asked in this chamber to-day will be re-broadcast this evening over the national alternative station, and also over the short-wave system. I shall have pleasure in placing his suggestion before the committee at its meeting on Tuesday evening next.
– Can the Leader of the Senate say whether the Government proposes to submit to the Senate a report on the Bretton “Woods monetary agreement before the end of the .present session? If not, in view of the split in the Cabinet over this question, will the Government, before the general elections, say whether it is in favour of, or opposed to, the agreement ?
– The Leader of the Opposition has asked a question to. which I am sure he does not expect an answer. The honorable senator knows that it is not the practice to disclose or discuss government policy in answer to a . question.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture realize that the failure of the Government to make a clear statement of its intentions regarding the continuance of the apple and pear acquisition scheme is having a very unsettling effect on the industry? Is the Minister ‘aware of the necessity for orchardists to know as soon as possible what steps are to be taken to dispose of the next crop of this fruit? Will the Government do simple justice to Tasmanian fruit-growers by continuing the acquisition scheme until the shipping position becomes normal?
– As I stated earlier in this period of the session, the future of the apple and pear acquisition scheme is bound up with the fate of the forthcoming referendum. The scheme has been operated for a number of years under war-time powers, and possibly its continuance may be prevented by some legal technicality. However, the Government is giving attention to this matter at present, and will make an announcement as soon as possible.
Inglewood - Elizabeth-street, MELBOURNE, Post Office.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether any arrangements have yet been made to commence the construction of a new post office at Inglewood, Western Australia? If not, ban the honorable gentleman indicate “when it is likely that this work will be ^undertaken?
– I can assure *he honorable senator that the work to which he has referred will be carried out as soon as possible. The construction programme of the Postmaster-General’s Department is hampered by the shortage of materials and man-power, but, consistent with the resources at our disposal, we shall proceed with urgent work.
– In the event of alterations being made to the Elizabethstreet, Melbourne, Post Office, including the removal of the infamous “ tin shed “, will additional facilities be provided for persons making trunk line calls ? If alterations are not to be carried out for some time owing to the shortage of materials, will the Postmaster-General endeavour to effect some temporary improvement io existing facilities as, at present, people suffer great inconvenience whilst waiting to make trunk line calls.
– Every provision for the convenience of the public lias been made in the plans of the new building. It is the policy of the department to have all its new buildings thoroughly up to date, and provided with the most modern equipment. I shall have inquiries made to ascertain whether temporary accommodation can be provided.
Occupation FoRcE in Japan: Leave; Amenities; Special Marking of Letters.
– Has the attention of the Minister, representing the Minister for the Army been drawn to a statement made recently by returning members of the Australian Occupation Force in Japan that leave facilities for British occupation troops at Kure compared very unfavorably with the treatment of American forces? Will the Minister have this matter investigated with a view to improving the leave facilities available to our troops?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Army.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the
Minister for the Army been drawn to a statement by Mr. C. R. McKerihan, former general secretary of the Australian Comforts Fund, who recently visited Japan, that there is an urgent need to improve “ the amenities of Australian occupation troops in that country? Does the Government intend to act on this information, and to ensure that our men shall be supplied with every reasonable amenity?
– I am not aware of any disabilities being reported to the Minister for the Army. T have a son in the occupation force, and in his letters he does not mention any thing of that nature. However, I shall draw the attention of the Minister for the Army to the honorable senator’s question.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take appropriate steps to ensure the post-marking of letters from members of the Australian Occupation Forces in Japan? If this suggestion be carried out, the result will be an historical record of the first time Australian troops had occupied a defeated enemy country; further, the fact would be known throughout many parts of the world by means of surcharged stamps.
– The position concerning the post-marking of articles posted in Japan for Australia is as follows : -
With the progressive withdrawal of service personnel from all centres other than Japan, it is felt that the departments concerned would have no objection to the inclusion of the word “ Japan “ in the date stamps used by Army and Royal Australian Air Force post offices in that area. There would be no objection so far as my department is concerned.
The matter of altering the date stamps accordingly will be represented to the departments.
Maternity Allowance - Unemployment and Sickness Benefits - Consolidation of Legislation
– “Will the Minister for Health consider an alteration of the method of payment of the special maternity allowance of £10 which at present is added to, the usual maternity bonus and paid in a lump sum some time after the birth of a child ? If payments, were made at the rate of £1 5s. a week for four weeks before and four weeks after confinement, mothers would be able to have help in the home at the time when it is most required.
– I shall have an examination made of the honorable senator’s suggestion. I can visualize administrative difficulties in making weekly payments of 25s. before and after confinement, and I imagine that those difficulties are the reason for not making the payment in that way.
– Will the Minister for Health state whether a deputation from the federal executive of the Limbless Soldiers Association waited upon him on the 5 th July, requesting an amendment of the section of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act which provides that a war pension shall be taken into consideration when assessing the monetary allowance granted under that legislation? Does the Minister realize that as this provision stands, an alien with twelve months’ residential qualification can receive a greater allowance than an ex-soldier in receipt of a pension as compensation for a disability incurred in either the war of 1914-18 or the last war?
– I did receive a” deputation in regard- to this matter, and the request referred to by the honorable . senator was made. An alien with twelve months’ residential qualification may qualify for unemployment or sickness benefit, but it does not necessarily follow that an alien would receive a higher rate of benefit than an ex-soldier in receipt of a war pension. For both unemployment benefit and sickness benefit the amount of a war pension is taken into account as income, and where the income is in excess of the exemption of £1 a week such excess is deducted from the benefit of £1 5s. a week. Thus the ex-soldier may receive a total of £2 5s. a week by way of benefit plus income - including war pension. If his war pension is £1 10s. a week, the rate of benefit is 15s. a week. The position in regard to income is the same in respect of other beneficiaries. The alien mentioned could thus receive benefit of £1 os. a week if he had no income or income not exceeding £1 a week. Any income in excess of £1 a week would be deducted from the amount of his benefit. More often than not, the alien would have no income and would therefore receive only the benefit of £1 5s. a week, whereas the exsoldier, even if eligible for less than the maximum benefit of £1 5s. a week, would receive by way of benefit plus income a total of £2 5s. a week. In the event of an ex-soldier claiming .a sickness benefit in respect of the same incapacity for which he is ‘receiving a war pension, the amount of the war pension would be deducted from the rate of sickness benefit otherwise payable. As sickness benefit is payable only in respect of temporary incapacity, this position would scarcely arise in the case of a limbless soldier.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the Government contemplates introducing a measure to consolidate existing social service legislation. If so,- will he advise us when we may expect that measure to be introduced? Will he also take into consideration, when preparing the measure, the numerous representations made to his department at the request of the Western Australian Pensioners League indicating certain anomalies in the existing legislation? Will he undertake to see that these anomalies are corrected in the consolidating measure?
– The Government contemplates introducing, upon its return following the termination of the life of the present Parliament, a measure to consolidate the whole of our social service legislation. The consolidation is under consideration at present and the drafting of the measure has practically been completed, subject to consideration of various representations which are still being made to me and the departments under my control. I undertake to give consideration to the representations of the Western Australian Pensioners League as suggested by the honorable senator. . I agree that many anomalies exist in our social service legislation, and we hope to rectify them. At present, the Government hesitates to embark upon that consolidation as it lacks a proper constitutional basis for a good deal of the contents of the legislation.We hope that that difficulty will be remedied with the return of the Government following the taking of the forthcoming referendum.
– Will the Minis ter representing the Minister for Information lay upon the table of the Library the scripts of the Australian broadcasts made from the radio station at Shepparton?
– I shall place the honorable senator’s request before the Minister for Information.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping noticed a series of advertisements in the press of this country authorized by an organization known as “ Ceigoa “, meaning, “ Consolidated Export and Import Group of Australia “ and making repeated attacks on the Commonwealth Government? Will the Minister ascertain whether this is one of those myriad mushroom organizations that every preelection period seems to bring to light, such as “ The Sane Democracy League “, “The Institute of Public Affairs”, and “The Australian Constitutional League “ ? Will the Minister investigate this organization and ascertain whether it is in fact a trade organization, or is financed by some political party?
– I have seen the advertisements to which the honorable senator has referred, and at his request I shall have inquiries made.
– In view of the report that a shortage of timber is at present causing the greatest delay in home construction and in the building industry generally, can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether the Government has given any consideration to the suitability of New Guinea and Borneo timbers?
– I am not in a position at present to supply the information sought by the honorable senator, but I shall have inquiries made and furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping if it is a fact that the interstate vessels Duntroon, Wanganella, Ormiston andManunda, are either in course of refitting or are about to be docked for refitting? If so, when may we expect the return of these ships to the coastal trade? Will the Minister give an assurance that when those vessels return to the coastal trade Western Australian ports will be included in their itinerary.
– I am not in a position to state when the ships mentioned by the honorable senator will return to the coastal trade, but I can assure him that when they do Western Australian ports will have equal consideration with ports in other States.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Raw Cotton - Questions of assisting production in Australia.
– In view of statements made in this chamber urging an increase of production of food for Britain, will the Leader of the Senate make a statement before the session concludes as to whether the Government has made any special plans to increase primary production during the next three years ?
– I do not propose to make any statement to the Senate with regard to plans that have been made by the Government for the supply of food to Britain. However, I assure honorable senators that the Government is doing everything in its power to send all food available to Britain.
– I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs has now available the answer to questions which I asked regarding the subsidy reimbursement on butter and cheese exported to the United Kingdom.
– The questions asked by the honorable senator and the answers thereto are as follows: -
What is the amount of subsidy reimbursement received from -the United Kingdom Government in respect of dairy produce exported? - Part reimbursement of £3,000,000 sterling has been received in respect of the period the 1st April, 1943, to the 30th June, 1945.
What is the amount of subsidy yet to be received in respect of the period to the 30th June, 1945?- The balance of subsidy payment to be received in respect of the period the 1st April, 1943, to the 30th June, 1945, is £334,237 19s. lOd. sterling.
What is the amount of subsidy yet to be received up to the 30th June, 1946? - This information is not yet available.
Is it correct that the United “Kingdom Government reimburses the Commonwealth Government for all subsidy paid on exports ? - The subsidy on. butter and cheese production is paid by the Commonwealth Government. It is reimbursed by lump sum payments in respect of exports to the order of the British Ministry of Food.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether it can .be assumed that the partial abolition of the means . test and the increase of the permissible earning income from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week, in respect of invalid and old-age pensioners, applies also to service pensioners?
– The Minister for Repatriation has replied to the honorable senator’s question in the affirmative. I am also informed that a bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act will be introduced by the Minister along the lines indicated by the honorable senator.
Motion (by Senator Clothier) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Large on account of ill health.
Appointment of Senator Collings as Australian Government Representative.
– by leave - I congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings), who was formerly Leader of the Senate, upon his selection by the Government as its representative at the forthcoming “International Labour Conference. Although I do not share his political views I believe that honorable senators generally appreciate his long service in the public life of this country. The fact that he has been a resident of Australia for a period approaching 80 years is a splendid advertisement for Australian sunshine and favorable living conditions, and I suggest that Australia could not send abroad a better representative to support its migration policy than the Minister. I suggest that in addition to the work he is- to undertake he will be qualified to explain to intending migrants the conditions in. this country, and that people overseas might well regard him as Australia’s political “Johnny Walker’”.
– by leave - I appreciate greatly the exceedingly kind remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). It is essential that he should mention that he does not share my political views. Sometimes, I am inclined to believe that he does, because on occasions one might be led to believe thathe is a leader speaking from the wrong side of the chamber. It would be idle for me to suggest that I am not pleased to be given the opportunity to represent the Government at the International Labour Conference which is to open at Montreal towards the end of September. I shall be very pleased to carry out my official duties and any others which may be allotted to me. However, I shall certainly not be silent upon the advantages which this great country offers to migrants. If there is one land of opportunity in the world we, certainly, are living in it. We are very privileged individuals indeed to be able to live in Australia and members of this Parliament, particularly of the Senate, are doubly privileged. I shall lose no opportunity to boost Australia whenever and wherever I can. I thank him for his kind remarks.
Standardization of Gauges
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
Regarding the proposed standardization of Australia’s Railways -
– The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answers : -
Western Australia would provide, but it is doubtful whether theconditions to Western Australia would be as favorable as the terms of the original scheme. The plan to which Mr. Marshall (the Minister for Transport, Western Australia) raised so many objections on behalf of his State, provided for approximately 70 per cent, of the total cost to be borne by the Commonwealth and as the remaining 30 per cent, was to be met by the five mainland States on a per capita basis, the greatest contribution would be made by the more populous States. In Western Australia the work to be carried out would have cost approximately £50,500,000, to which Western Australia would have contributed £7,000,000.
Deductions of Opticians’ Charges
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer give consideration tothe request that opticians expenses incurred by taxpayers be made an allowable deduction in their income tax returns?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
Optical expenses are already included in the amounts on which rebates of tax for income tax purposes may be claimed, vide section 160 (2) (d) (iii) and(da) of Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1946.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for External Affairshas supplied the following answers: -
Legations. - Washington (Charge d’Affairs: J. E. Oldham, Esq.); Nanking (Minister: D. B. Copland, Esq., C.M.G.) ; Moscow (Charge d’Affaires: N. St. C. Deschamps) ; The Hague (Minister: F. K. Officer, Esq., O.B.E., M.C.); Rio de Janeiro (Minister: L. R. Macgregor, Esq., C.B.E.) ; Paris (Minister: Lt.Col. W. R. Hodgson, O.B.E.); Santiago (in course of establishment; Minister: J. S. Duncan, Esq., C.B.E. ).
High Commissionerships: - Ottawa (High Commissioner: A. T. Stirling, Esq., O.B.E.) ;
Wellington (High Commissioner: A. K. Cutler. Esq., V.C.) ; Delhi (High Commissioner: Lt.-General Sir Iven Mackay, K.B.E., C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D.) ; Pretoria (in course of establishment; High Commissioner: Sir George Knowles, C.B.E.) ; Dublin (High Commissioner: W. J. Dignam Esq., K.C.).
Consulates. - New York (Consul-General: C. V. Kellway, Esq.); San Francisco (in course of establishment; Consul-General: Lt.-General E. K. Smart, D.S.O., M.C.); Manilla (Consul-General: H. A. Peterson. Esq.); Singapore (Commissioner for Malaya: Claude Massey, Esq.) ; Noumea (Consul: H. S. Barnett, Esq.); Dilli (Consul: Charles Eaton, Esq., O.B.E., A.F.C.).
Other Representation. - External Affairs Officer, London: J. D. L. Hood, Esq.; Permanent Delegation to the United Nations, a.t New York ( Counsel llor-inCharge: Paul Hasluck, Esq.); Australian Military Mission with the Allied Control Council” for Germany and Austria, at Berlin (Political Adviser: J. D. L. Hood, Esq.) ; Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Tokyo (Political Liaison Officer: B. C. Ballard, Esq.; Australia is represented in the person of the British Commonwealth Representative, Mr. W. McMahon Ball, on the Allied Council for Japan, Tokyo).
During this year there has also been Australian political representation in the Netherlands East Indies and in Siam.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cameron) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill ,be now read a second time.
The preamble to this bill indicates broadly its purpose, namely, to give effect to the recommendations of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference, held in London in July and August, 1945, and attended by representatives of the governments of the United Kingdom, the
Dominions, India and Southern Rhodesia. These governments are invariably referred to as the’ “ partner governments “ in practically all documents relating to Empire agreements on telecommunication matters, and I shall also use that term for the purpose of simplicity. The recommendations made by the London conference contemplate the transference to national ownership and control of the overseas telecommunication services of the British Commonwealth and Empire, together with the adoption of certain measures designed to promote their efficiency and to co-ordinate the activities associated with their operation and development. It is desirable to mention, at the outset, that the conclusions of theconference were reached only after thecommunication companies at present responsible for the conduct of the services were afforded an opportunity to state” their views on the reorganization of the Empire’s telecommunication systems. The conference recommendations have been approved by all the partner governments, and this fact in itself carries its own significance. The plan proposed was not merely a compromise, but was a constructive plan worked out in the public interest by a body of able men representative of all self-governing countries in the Empire.
Before I proceed to give to honorable senators a general outline of the plan under which the governments’ intend to acquire the external telecommunication assets from private interests and “ to operate and maintain the services as national undertakings, it is necessary to refer briefly to the circumstances which led to the evolution of this plan and to the justification for its adoption. To enable a full appreciation to be gained of the position which has arisen in this respect, it is also essential to recount the developments which have occurred since the Imperial Wireless and Cable Conference of 1928 was convened by the partner governments. Over the years since the earliest use of electrical communication the British Commonwealth and Empire had built up a world-wide system of telegraphy based originally on submarine cables. The introduction of the shortwave radio-telegraph service between Great Britain and Canada in 1926, and the opening of similar services between Great Britain and Australia, South Africa and India in 1927, presented a serious financial problem to the associated cable companies responsible for the opera-tion and maintenance of the extensive system of submarine cables linking the Empire countries and connecting with foreign countries. The beam wireless services in Great Britain were, at the time of their inception, conducted by the British Post Office, and the terminal stations in Canada, Australia, South Africa and India were conducted by local wireless companies licensed by the Dominion and Indian governments. The cost of erecting and maintaining the stations and equipment required for the conduct of these beam wireless services was very much less than that involved in laying and maintaining submarine cables over extensive ocean routes. The overhead expenses of operating the cable services were therefore much heavier than those of competing beam wireless services. The greater capital outlay necessary for the laying of submarine cables naturally meant proportionately heavier charges for interest, while the cost of maintaining and renewing them after they had been laid was by no means light. Consequently, it was found possible to apply lower charges to messages transmitted over the beam services to Australia, South Africa and India, than to cablegrams.
Before the inauguration of the beam services, the cable undertakings were working with a large margin of annual surplus. The lower rates charged at the outset for messages handled over the beam channels had, however, resulted in a substantial diversion of traffic revenues from the cable to the beam services. It was apparent, too, that the lower charges for messages handled by the beam services were still capable of being substantially, reduced and yet of yielding a handsome return on the capital invested in these services. It is an ordinary commercial principle that the charges made for services cannot be lower than the cost of providing them. The cable organizations were therefore faced with an apparently insoluble economic problem. In effect, the beam wireless undertakings were in a position to undercut cable rates and, if competition were unrestricted, to render the cable systems unremunerative. The situation was fraught with such grave consequences to the Imperial cable interests that the partner govern’ments, convinced that retention of the cable system was necessary for both strategic and commercial reasons, were impelled to convene a conference in London in 1928 to examine the problem and to make recommendations with a view to a common policy being adopted. Information was laid before the conference that, if competition between the beam wireless and the cable services were allowed to continue without remission, the cable companies might be pressed to go into liquidation at once and distribute their large reserves among their shareholders rather than remain in operation and dissipate their resources. In such an event, it seemed possible that Empire cable assets might be acquired by certain foreign interests which had, on more than one occasion, exhibited a keen desire to secure an increased share in the control and operation of world communications.
It was evident that such a state of affairs could not be viewed by the partner governments with equanimity. Many parts of the Empire, besides the foreign countries served by the British cable system, were not, and could not be for some considerable time, catered for by wireless services. Wireless services, moreover, were subject to fading and occasional prolonged interruptions, which would have resulted in serious delays to traffic if the cables were not available. Furthermore, the cables were “secret”, but in the mass of messages transmitted by radio there was always the risk of interception and also, in time of war, of jamming by a hostile power. The 1928 Imperial Conference accordingly considered various means by which the governments might deal with the situation, and ultimately it reached the conclusion that the best solution of the problem was to secure a fusion of Empire cable and wireless interests, so that unity of operation and direction might be attained over the whole field of British telecommunications. By this means, continuance of the cable system would be assured, economies could be effected, and the creation of a common purse and a common interest would leave the union free to devote its united energies to resisting encroachment on the part of foreign competitors.
Upon the recommendation of the conference, a fusion of cable and wireless interests was therefore effected in GreatBritain in 1929, the Eastern and Associated cable companies being merged with the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company. A new company, now known as Cable and Wireless Limited, was given a charter to operate ihe whole of the overseas cable and radio-telegraph services in Great Britain. It acquired the entire cable .system interconnecting the Empire, including the formerly governmentowned Pacific cable undertaking and the Imperial Atlantic - cables. A lease of the four beam wireless telegraph stations in Great Britain, then owned by the British Post Office and communicating with Canada, India, South Africa and Australia, was also granted to the now company. The radio-telephone services, however, remained with the British Post Office. As the amalgamation referred to virtually constituted a privately owned monopoly, the governments devised ways and means whereby the public interests would be safeguarded. As the undertaking was one which closely concerned the several parts of the Empire, it was deemed essential that the governments should have a voice in the direction of the policy of that undertaking. A body known as the Imperial Communications Advisory Committee, later called the Commonwealth Communications Council, was therefore established. This body comprised representatives of all of the Empire governments, and the new company was required to consult this body on all matters’ of policy, including any alteration of rates. Indeed, it. was stipulated that no increase of the rates prevailing at the date of the formation of the merger company could be made except with the assent of the Advisory Committee; nor could the company discontinue any service without the approval of the committee.
Although the capital shareholdings of the merger companies amounted in 1929 to -more than £53,000,000, it was stipulated that the capital of the company responsible for operation of the tele communication services should ‘not initially exceed £30,000,000. As a corollary to handing over to private enterprise the conduct of public services, and in order that there should be an effective method of ensuring that the users of the services should not be exploited for the benefit of the shareholders in the private undertaking, a standard net revenue of £1,805,000 was fixed, representing approximately six per cent, on the capital of £30,000,000, all net revenues in excess of that sum to go, as to 50 per cent., to the. company, and. as to 50 per cent., to the reduction of rates, or such other purposes as the Advisory Committee might approve. Two other provisions were that British control of all the companies must be guaranteed, and that the governments might assumecontrol of the cable and wireless systems in time of war or other emergency. In a brief summary, the objectives of the scheme were (i) To secure as far as was possible all the advantages to be derived from unification of direction and operation of the services; (ii) at the same time to preserve for the governments concerned control over the unified undertaking which had been created so as to safeguard “the interests of the public in general and cable and wireless users in particular; and (iri) to secure these desiderata at a minimum of cost to the governments concerned. But there was one obligation which the partner governments agreed to observe, so far as lay within their powers, and consistent with the exercise of their sovereign rights, and that was to refrain from sanctioning the opening of any additional radio-telegraph circuits, ‘ which might result in a diversion of traffic, and therefore of revenues, from the new merger company. This obligation, fully justified as it wa3 at the time it was accepted, had inherent in it, as subsequent events have proved, the seeds of future difficulties and misunderstandings.
It may be interesting at this stage to state what the position was in Australia in 1928, when the Imperial Conference made its recommendations. The cable undertakings were well established here and Australia was served with submarine cables to the north, the west and the east of the continent. Amalgamated
Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the local company, in which the Commonwealth Government had, and still has, more than a 50 per cent, shareholding, had been authorized to establish, maintain and operate radio-telegraph communications between Australia and other parts of the world, and the company possessed, and still has, a complete monopoly in this respect. With considerable enterprise the local company had played a notable part in the development of its wireless communication services, and was keen to establish more and more direct radiio telegraph services between Australia and other countries. But, in the light of the decisions made in 1928, the Australian Government, having regard to its obligation, in common with other responsible governments of the Empire, to refrain from authorizing additional radio telegraph services which might divert revenues from the British merger company and its associates, was obliged to refuse the licences which Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited sought. This situation, as honorable senators know, caused local difficulties in Australia.
The 1928 conference had suggested that increased benefits would be derived from the British merger plan if the Dominion and Indian Governments were to apply the principles of the scheme to their local cable and wireless undertakings. Steps were taken subsequently to form local cable and wireless merger companies in India and South Africa, but, in the case of Australia, government policy had in the meantime expressed itself in favour of nationalization of the overseas telecommunication services, in alinement with the domestic policy whereby similar internal services were being operated by the Postal Department. In Canada, also, a merger of overseas cable and wireless interests was not effected. Both in Australia and in Canada the position was met for the time being by joint purse agreements negotiated between the respective cable and radio companies, under which a pooling and sharing of traffic revenues was arranged on an agreed basis. A merger of cable and wireless interests in Australia was negotiated by Cable and Wireless Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in 1930. but the govern- ment of the day refused to sanction this merger agreement, in view of its policy for complete national ownership of the wireless services.
Since 1930, successive governments have given consideration to the means whereby a cable and wireless merger might be established at the Australian end, in conformity with a generally accepted policy that these services should be nationalized. It was expected that many advantages would accrue from SUe a unification of the cable and wireless services in Australia in that, apart from facilitating the movement of traffic” and its distribution over the alternative routes available, substantial economies would be possible in the conduct of the services,’ since the overhead charges involved in the maintenance of two separate organizations, cable and radio respectively, in the Commonwealth might be expected to be reduced considerably, if the whole of the overseas telecommunication services were conducted by the ohe authority. Notwithstanding the endeavours made to implement the Government’s policy, however, no finality was reached, and, in order to overcome the impasse that subsequently developed, an alternative scheme envisaging an amalgamation of the two overseas undertakings in Australia in a new telecommunications company was approved by the Menzies Government in 1941, and later was accepted also by the Curtin Government. This scheme provided for a tripartite partnership in which provision was made for predominant government control in the ownership and operation of the overseas telecommunication services. Heads of agreement were drawn up early in 1943 between the Government and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) ‘Limited. Efforts were later made to secure the participation of Cable and Wireless Limited in the scheme, but negotiations broke down.
I turn now to review the results which followed the merger of overseas cable and wireless services in Great Britain in 1929. Although this merger was recognized as a notable step in advancing the interests of Empire communications as a whole, it failed in some respects to achieve the results which the 1.928 conference had confidently expected. The first difficulties encountered were of a financial nature. Soon after the formation of Cable and Wireless Limited in 1929, a world-wide trade depression reduced the traffic receipts of the company to an extent which seriously prejudiced its financial standing, with the consequence that the company approached the Imperial Communications Advisory Committee with proposals involving substantial increases of overseas telegraph tariffs. In view of the severe burden which an increase of rates would have imposed on telegraph users in a time of financial stress, and the doubt as to whether higher rates would effect an improvement in the position, the Empire governments accepted the recommendation of the Advisory Committee that an independent inquiry should be held into the administration and conduct of the company’s affairs.
This committee of inquiry, .which was formed in England in 1931, concluded that there was need for modifications in the management of the company and in several other directions, including a writing down of its capital; that there should be a revision of the obligations imposed upon the company in respect of maintaining cables which were required for strategic purposes only; that justification existed for a reduction of the personnel of the company, as well as in salaries and wages; and that there should be a general overhaul of the company’s activities with the object of effecting economies. The annual profits earned by the company continued to be so relatively low that the dividends paid to its shareholders were reduced in two successive years to 5s. for each £100 of share capital, instead of £6 per cent, as contemplated under the British merger plan. In 1935 the company considered its position so serious that it approached the United Kingdom Government with a view to the arrangements entered into in 1929 being revised, mainly in order that the financial disabilities under which the company waa labouring might be eased.
It became clear that something had to be done if the company were to emerge from its financial difficulties; and on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, the United Kingdom Government ultimately agreed to cancel the annual rental of £250,000 which had been paid by the company in respect of its lease of the four beam stations in Great Britain and to grant it a freehold of these stations. In return for this and other concessions, the United Kingdom Government was allotted a £2,600,000 shareholding in the company. This arrangement involved a substantial sacrifice by the British ‘Government in terms of annual revenues derived by it, since the beam rental of £250,000 considerably exceeded the annual return which might be expected by that Government from its newly acquired shareholding in the company. ‘
The standard net profit of £1,865,000, fixed in 1929, was reduced to £1,200,000 - equivalent to 4 per cent, on the capital investment, instead of 6 per cent, as previously determined. This, in effect, had much the same result as would have been secured by a writing down of the company’s capital. These financial readjustments were applied in 1938, following a conference of representatives of the Empire governments and the company in 1937. Consequent upon these revised arrangements, and as a result of an appreciable improvement of the revenues of Cable and Wireless Limited during the intervening period, the company, in cooperation with the governments, introduced a far-reaching scheme for the reduction of telegraph rates between Empire points. This scheme was put into effect early in 1938. The reduction of rates referred to was estimated to represent an overall benefit of £500,000 sterling per annum to the telegraph users throughout the Empire. Apart from the immediate sacrifice of revenue entailed under the scheme to Cable and Wireless Limited, and to the communication companies in the Dominions and India, the internal telegraph administrations controlled by the governments also contributed by reducing their component charges on inter-Empire telegrams. It had been anticipated that the initial revenue loss occasioned to the Empire communication companies and telegraph administrations by reason of these rate reductions would subsequently be offset to a great degree by the receipts from increased traffic loads engendered by the cheaper tariffs. Before the effect of the new rate scheme could be fully gauged, however, the second world war intervened.
During World War II. the volume of governmental and other overseas telegraph traffic increased enormously and the revenues of Cable and Wireless Limited and the ‘ other communication companies in the Dominions and India soared to Unprecedented levels. Cable and Wireless Limited was able to pay the standard dividend of 4 per cent. . to its shareholders during each of the years 1939 to 1944, while still leaving substantial balances for diversion to reserve, funds to cover war taxation* and other contingencies, including .provision for meeting future rate reductions in accordance with the arrangements agreed with the governments in 1929. World War IL, however, brought many other telecommunication problems and difficulties in its train, for both the governments and the company. These problems were considered initially at a conference of Empire representatives held in Canberra in December, 1942, and later at a meeting c-f the Commonwealth Communications Council hel.d in London in April and May, 1944. The chief problem for consideration arose from the establishment during the war of direct radiotelegraph circuits between certain Empire countries, including Australia and the United States of America. An important point of policy in the scheme evolved by the 1928 conference was effected by this development. As I- have mentioned previously, the partner governments had agreed, in order to preserve a balance between, the cable and radio services, that they would resist the opening of new direct wireless services which would compete with the Empire cable system. The governments had adhered to this policy until 1941, notwithstanding continued pressure by interested foreign companies and governments for the opening of direct radio circuits between their countries and Empire points. Chief among those countries was the United States of America.- Before the war. the only points in the Empire with which -the United States of America had direct radio-telegraph communication were the United Kingdom, the
Bahamas and British Honduras. All telegraph traffic between other Empire points and the United States of America was transmitted over the Empire network. On the entry of the United States of America into the war, however, the Government of that country had made an irresistible case for the establishment,, as a war measure, of direct radio communication with a number of Empire points, particularly in those areas where United States of America forces were operating. Cable and Wireless Limited, when consulted by the Advisory Committee, objected strongly to the establishment of these direct radio-telegraph circuits, on- the ground that they were a departure from the policy agreed by the governments in 1928 and reaffirmed in 1937, and the company claimed that if these circuits were established it should, be compensated for any loss of revenues. It was impossible, in the circumstances of World War II., for the Empire governments to do other than accede to the request of the Government of the United States of America, and, accordingly, certain direct radio-telegraph circuits were established between Empire points and -the United States of America, including two between Sydney and San Francisco. The Advisory Committee, in the interests of the company, had urged the governments to accept the conditions that these circuits be maintained only for the duration of the war and six months thereafter, and that traffic over these channels be confined to that originating or terminating in the United States or in Empire countries- that is to say, that transit traffic for transmission beyond the United States of America or Empire country concerned should not be admitted oyer these circuits. Some governments accepted those conditions, but the Australian Go;vernment would not commit itself to terminate the circuits when the war was over. It had to be realized that the war had brought about a closer association than ever before between the United States and British Commonwealth countries. There was every reason to expect that this community of interest would continue after the war, and, indeed, that it should be fostered. There was every prospect, too, that the volume of telegraph traffic after the war would exceed that of the pre-war period and would require additional channels of communication, particularly with the United States of America. On these grounds it appeared unwise to prejudge the necessity or otherwise for the continuance of the circuits. The establishment of the additional radio-telegraph facilities with the United States of America had also involved considerable capital expenditure on the part of the communication authorities concerned, which might, therefore, reasonably expect to receive a fair return on their outlay. While on this subject, it should be mentioned also that, following the 1937 London conference, the Commonwealth Government had expressly stated that it could not bind itself or its successors in office to abrogate its right to authorize new wireless services at the Australian end if and when circumstances made it desirable to do so.
Honorable senators will remember that, during World War II. the Empire’s telecommunications were gravely- imperilled. Many of the cables, particularly those in the Mediterranean, had been cut; Japan had seized the entire Ear Eastern cable system; the routes of the cables linking Australia with India and Canada were dangerously close to areas in Japanese hands, and the circuitous system of transmitting practically all traffic through London over a seriously depleted cable network was impeding the transaction of important telegraph business. At the 1942 Canberra conference, which was called at the request of the United Kingdom Government, the question of these direct circuits, and also the claims of Cable and Wireless Limited for compensation, were earnestly discussed.. In the meantime, the United States Government had been seeking assurances that the conditions attached to the establishment of the circuits with the United States of America would be withdrawn. Australia, for its part, made it clear that these circuits with the United States of America would be maintained after the war if traffic needs justified their retention, and that claims by Cable and Wireless Limited for compensation for loss of revenues resulting from their establishment could not be admitted. The. Commonwealth Government, however, invited the company to join with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and the Government in forming a merger organization, to which I have referred previously, for the operation of all external telecommunication services in Australia. By this means Cable and Wireless Limited would have been able to share in the local revenues derived from the direct radio-telegraph circuits with the United States of America. As I stated before, however, the Commonwealth was unable to secure the participation of Cable and Wireless Limited in such an arrangement.
At -the meeting of the Commonwealth Communications Council held in London in 1944, a further attempt was made to solve the problem. It became evident at that conference that there was a growing conviction among the dominion governments that Cable and Wireless Limited, because of the company’s huge investment in submarine cables, had been more concerned in preserving that investment than in developing an integrated telecommunication system using both cables and radio; and that the company, in endeavouring, to maintain the circulation of traffic through London with the object of collecting maximum revenues, had been ignoring the advantages, from an efficiency point of view, which would be derived from direct radio circuits where the volume of traffic justified them. This policy, it was thought, had resulted in a retardation of the use of the radiotelegraph, to the detriment of the efficiency of the Empire telecommunication system as a whole, and had also left the Empire system vulnerable to infiltration by foreign telegraph enterprises, which were unhampered by any great capital investment, in deep-sea cables and, consequently, had been able to develop extensive radio networks. The situation had to be faced. The Commonwealth Communications Council regarded it as a challenge which could no longer be ignored, and which, in view of the attitude of the Dominions and India, could not be satisfactorily answered merely by imposing restrictions on .the use of direct radio-telegraph communication between Empire points and foreign countries. Apart from the vexed question of retaining these direct radio-telegraph circuits with the United States of America after the war, there were other factors which were likely to have an adverse effect upon the prospects of Cable and Wireless Limited in the post-war period and which the Commonwealth Communications Council felt impelled to consider. There were for example, the probability of a general r-ise of costs; the revision of currency arrangements relating to traffic settlements; the effect upon the overseas telegraph services of improved international airmail and telephone facilities; and the competiton for telecommunication business by foreign operators. The council discussed these matters with Cable and Wireless Limited and sought the company’s advice. Later, a notification reached the council, through the United Kingdom Treasury, that the company had come to the conclusion that the really satisfactory solution of all these problems was to form a single overseas telecommunications corporation for the whole Empire, the shareholders in the existing companies to exchange their holdings for stock in the new corporation, with interest at 3 per cent, guaranteed by the governments concerned. That was tantamount to an admission by Cable and Wireless Limited that, in the light of the situation brought about by the war and of the changed conditions which .would have to be faced after the war in the field of world telecommunications, the 1929 structure and organization were no longer adequate. Although Cable and Wireless Limited had proved itself to be a noteworthy British enterprise which had rendered meritorious ‘ service to the British Commonwealth and Empire over a long period, the depression and the war, and circumstances and conditions unforeseen and largely uncontrollable had brought about a situation which the company itself could not meet and which required prompt measures on the part of the governments concerned. It was apparent to all that the attainment of unification of direction and operation of overseas communications, cable and radio, throughout the Empire, as visualized by the 1928 conference, had not been realized. Although Cable and Wireless Limited hold a substantial proportion of the share capital of companies responsible for the operation of radio-telegraph services in the Dominions and India, these companies are conducted as separate entities.
For instance, in Australia, Cable and Wireless Limited conducts the cable services and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited the overseas radio communications. In Canada, a somewhat similar position obtains, whilst in NewZealand, the government operates the wireless services and Cable and Wireless Limited the cables.
After a full examination by the council of the_ problems presented to it, the conclusion was reached that the time had come to make a fundamental change in the present organization. The proposal made by Cable and Wireless Limited was that a single corporation be formed by Royal Charter, to operate throughout the British Commonwealth and Empire. As previously mentioned, ownership of this corporation would have remained with private shareholders, who would ha ve exchanged their existing stock for stock in the new corporation, the governments guaranteeing a fixed interest rate on the investment. It was suggested by the company, however, that the undertaking should be managed by a board of governors consisting of representatives of the United Kingdom, the Dominions, India and the Colonies, the number of each to bear some relation to the amount of guarantee and the responsibilities of the particular area. Governments were to control the corporation through terms laid down in the charter and by licences which were to be exclusive. Elaborating upon its proposal, the company explained to the Commonwealth Communications Council the premises on which the submission was based. It was pointed out that the present arrangement represented a patchwork of conflicting shades and shapes; that dominion governments were in an embarrassing position between their desire to manage their own affairs, without prejudice to Imperial interests, and their present obligations to, and dependence on, London as the centre of the Empire telecommunication services; that there might soon be in all Empire countries a conflict between the interests of company shareholders and of the public service; that the responsibility of maintaining a rationalized system of cable and wireless “services throughout the Empire could not be carried by one. particular” company; that the increasing and aggressive competition from telecommunication entities in foreign countries had to be realized and met; and that a system must be devised which, with public service the sole motive, would result in flexibility in the conduct of these services and a co-ordination of direction in policy in their planning and execution; that it should be such as to combine the advantages of public control without its disadvantages; that there should be public control over major policy but not public interference in management; and that it should have an area of operation which is right technically, economically and politically.
On practically the same premises upon which Gable and Wireless Limited hadbased its proposal, the Australian and New Zealand members of the Commonwealth Communications Council had prepared another proposal. The Australian-New Zealand plan was that Cable and Wireless Limited and the existing Dominion and Indian companies should be replaced by a group of autonomous but interlocked government-owned telecommunication entities, one in the United Kingdom and one each in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. This proposal involved the United Kingdom Government purchasing the shareholding of Cable and Wireless Limited outright, retaining 75 per cent, of it and setting aside 25 per cent, for division equally between the four Dominions and India. The Dominions and India were each to acquire by purchase the entire control of their respective local telecommunication companies, 75 per cent, to remain the property of the government concerned, and 25 per cent, to be property of the United Kingdom corporation. Under this arrangement each corporation would exercise complete sovereignty in its own territory, and in addition the United Kingdom corporation would be responsible for the upkeep of the submarine cables. The Commonwealth Communications Council was to be retained and developed as the essential co-ordinating authority on behalf of the partner governments. It will be noted that both the scheme submitted by Cable and Wireless Limited and the plan advanced by the Australian and New Zealand members of the council provided for government control ; yet, there were important differences-. Whereas the company’s proposal contemplated abolition of existing local entities and the elimination of local authority altogether in the Dominions and India, the Australian-New Zealand plan provided for complete local autonomy of each telecommunications entity in its own territory. Further, under the company’s proposal, ownership of the services would haverested with private shareholders, whereas the Australian-New Zealand plan provided for nationalization of the services. The council reachedthe conclusion that, although the company’s proposal offered a simplification of the existing set-up, under which certain economies could doubtless be effected and a single front presented to foreign competition, it did not provide an acceptable solution of the general problem. It had been made abundantly clear to the council by the representatives of the Dominions and India that preservation of sovereignty was a cardinal policy of their respective governments. The council accordingly decided to recommend to the partner governments the adoption of the plan put forward by the Australian and New Zealand members.
The Australian-New Zealand plan was discussed at the conference of Prime Ministers held in London in May, 1944, but no unanimous decision was then reached other than that the scheme would be examined in detail by the governments. Later, the plan was adopted in. principle, with certain reservations on detail, by all the governments except those of the United Kingdom and the Union of South Africa. While accepting the view of the council that there was a case for a fundamental change in the structure of British Commonwealth telecommunication services, the United Kingdom Government considered that the plan recommended by the council did not provide the degree of central co-ordination necessary to secure the consolidation and strengthening of the wireless and cable systems which was felt to be imperative. Early in 1945, the United Kingdom Government appointed a mission, led by Lord Reith, to visit and discuss with the dominion and Indian governments how this objective might be secured. Since complete agreement was not reached another conference was held in London in July and August, 1945. This conference, which I have already referred to as the Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference, made a series of recommendations, all of which have been accepted subsequently by the partner governments, subject to ratification by the respective parliaments. It is intended that an overall agreement, in the form set out in the first schedule to the bill now before the Senate, be entered into between the respective governments, in order that the Empire-wide plan for national ownership of the external telecommunication services may be implemented. The bill seeks the authority of the Parliament for the execution of this agreement so far as Australia is concerned. The overall agreement referred to provides, inter alia, that the United Kingdom Government shall purchase all the shares of Cable and “Wireless Limited, which that Government does not already own, and thus acquire ownership of the company’s telecommunications system. As soon thereafter as practicable, a national corporation will be established -in the United Kingdom to operate and maintain the overseas cable and radiotelegraph services in Great Britain. This corporation will also assume responsibility for” the maintenance of the extensive system of submarine cables connecting the United Kingdom with the several countries of the Empire and certain foreign countries. Contributions will be made on an agreed basis by the national undertakings of the other partner governments to the United Kingdom corporation for the use of these cables, and towards the costs incurred by the United Kingdom corporation in maintaining them. The United Kingdom Government, upon acquisition of the assets of Cable and “Wireless Limited, will arrange for transfer to the national bodies to be established in the Dominions and India, at a price in cash to be agreed, of such of these assets as may be situated in their respective territories and as are needed by them for overseas telecommunication purposes. Legislation for the acquisition of the privately held shares in Cable and Wireless Limited has already been introduced in the House of
Commons. Under the terms of the overall agreement, the remaining partner governments, similarly will acquire the ownership of overseas telecommunication services and assets which are at present conducted and owned by local companies in their territories. In the case of Australia, this will involve acquisition by the Commonwealth Government of the interests held by ^private shareholders in the overseas telecommunication services owned and operated by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited.
For the purpose of acquiring the services under notice, and of operating and maintaining” them as national undertakings, it is provided that each of the partner governments shall nominate a government department or other body, or establish a public corporation, having all the powers necessary to this end. In the bill now before the Senate provision is accordingly made for the establishment in Australia of a Government Commission, with corporate status, to acquire the ownership of and to operate and maintain the overseas telecommunication services at present conducted by Cable and Wireless Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in the territories of the Commonwealth. This commission - to bo named the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) - will be constituted on lines similar to the Australian National Airlines Commission. In the other Dominions and in India similar steps are being taken by the governments in order that full implementation of the plan recommended by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference may be achieved.
Following the establishment of national bodies in the United Kingdom, the Dominions and India, it is provided in the overall agreement that a board, to be known as the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, on which all the partner governments will have direct and equal representation, be set up in Great Britain as a corporate body to advise the governments on matters of telecommunication policy and to co-ordinate the activities, including research, of the several corporations- throughout the Empire. The constitution and functions of this board, which will replace the existing Commonwealth Communications Council, are detailed in the second schedule to the overall agreement. It is intended that the several governments will bear their due proportion of the expenses of the board.
In the third schedule to the overall agreement, a .form of tripartite agreement is drawn up for execution, in due course, by each partner government concerned, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board and ‘ the local national telecommunications body. This tripartite agreement defines the relationship which will exist between the several parties thereto and, in particular, the mutual responsibilities of the local national body and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board. It also provides that a central fund shall be established by the board, into which the national bodies will pay annually their net revenues. The board will open an account for each national body to which the net revenue so paid over will be credited to it. “ Net revenue “ for this purpose is to be arrived at after deduction of defined outpayments and working expenses, and will exclude consideration of revenue from certain specified services as, for example, ship to shore radio traffic and civil aviation and meteorological services. A debit will then subsequently be raised against this credit by the board in respect of (1) the expenses of the board ; and (2) in the case of the dominion and Indian corporations, their contributions on a defined basis towards any deficiency in the net revenues of the United Kingdom corporation resulting from the costs involved to the latter in the maintenance of the Empire’s submarine cable system.
The combined contributions to be made by the Dominions and India towards the costs incurred by the United Kingdom corporation in respect of the maintenance of the submarine cable system are not, however, to exceed in all the total cost of cable maintenance and provision for cable renewals. The basis on which it is intended contributions, shall be made towards any deficiency thus incurred by the United Kingdom corporation is referred to in the third schedule to the overall agreement, and that basis is considered reasonable and equitable from the
Australian viewpoint, bearing in mind the revenues derived in the Commonwealth from cable traffic and the extent to which the cables will be availed of for disposal of this traffic. Any contributions required from the dominion and Indian corporations in this respect will, moreover, be appreciably lower than they otherwise would be because of the decision of the British authorities to include in the net revenue of the United Kingdom national body substantial . receipts from telegraph and telephone services with Europe and radio-telephone services external to the British Isles and which are conducted by the British Post Office. After deduction of these costs from the contributions of the national corporations ro the central fund, the balance remaining clue to each national body will be repaid to it.
The plan adopted by the partner governments envisages a variation in the apportionment of revenues compared with that which has applied hitherto. At present, the division of receipts from interEmpire traffic, both in respect of outgoing and incoming telegrams, has been effected according to the services rendered by each party sharing in the handling of these messages. Under the proposed procedure, division of the receipts on this basis will be discarded in relation to traffic exchanged between Empire countries. Each national body will retain the full amount of the collections on traffic originating in its own territories but will receive no proportion of the collections on messages incoming from other Empire points. Settlement will, however, still require te be made by each national body with foreign administrations and companies in connexion with out-payments on telegrams exchanged with places beyond the Empire. The proposed new method of adjusting traffic receipts will greatly simplify the accounting arrange”ments which have previously applied. As a second schedule to the bill, there is appended a supplementary agreement which is being entered into between the partner governments in order that certain introductory and intermediate arrangements may be made by the governments pending transference of the overseas telecommunication services to national ownership and control. The preliminary arrangements referred to in this agreement are necessary in view of the inevitable delay which may be expected to occur before legislation ratifying the plan to which the governments have subscribed has been passed in the several parliaments of the Empire and before the plan is put into full force and effect. In this respect, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference emphasized that, in the immediate post-war years, the need for a strong and well-ordered Empire telecommunications system able to hold its own against foreign competition, and to provide a solid base on which to build for the future, would be great and urgent. If, on the other hand, things were left as they are there would, in the opinion of the conference, be deterioration in every direction and serious and irretrievable detriment. It is intended, therefore, that the. provisions of this, supplementary agreement be applied by the partner governments during the interim period so that every possible step shall be taken to facilitate re-organization of the Empire telecommunication services on the desired basis.
The plan adopted by the partner governments will remove many of the disabilities inherent in the present organization. It provides for a unification of government policy and financial interest. It will eliminate any conflict between Empire cable and wireless entities and will facilitate the integration of the two means of providing external telecommunication services, cable and radio. It provides for functional unity over the whole field of Empire telecommunications, whilst at the same time enhancing local autonomy. Above all, it will greatly strengthen the Empire telecommunication organizations in meeting competition. On the admission of the company principally concerned in the conduct of the services under review, the future could not be faced with any degree of confidence without the imposition by the governments of artificial restrictions designed to secure to that company an economic existence.. This company, on its own admission, is not in a satisfactory position to withstand, without adventitious aid, intensive competition from telegraph undertakings in other countries, which have been intent on endeavouring to secure a larger proportion of the world’s telecommunication business. The strongest competitors for this, business are the external telecommunication undertakings in theUnited States of America. During World War II. the United States of America,, as a war necessity, established an extensive system of radio communication interconnecting all theatres of war and bases ‘ of supply. The outcome is that the United States of America now has a comprehensive system of world communications by radio; and difficulties could arise from destructive competition between that system and the British Commonwealth system.
The Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference emphasized the great importance of securing an early settlement of a number of long-outstanding problems affecting relations between the British Empire and the United States of America in the telecommunications sphere, in order that causes of friction and misunderstanding which existed between the respective telegraph undertakings of the two nations might be removed and an understanding reached regarding rates and other matters affecting world telecommunications in which both nations are vitally interested. A conference was accordingly held between representatives of the governments of the United States of America and all Commonwealth countries at Bermuda in November, 1945, the results of which were highly satisfactory. Representatives of the companies were also in attendance. Mutual agreement was reached involving an appreciable reduction of the rates on telegrams exchanged between the United States of America and British Commonwealth territories. These reduced rates may later he applied between the United States of America and Empire territories on the one hand, and other countries on the other, if these other countries are prepared to cooperate.
The Bermuda conference was also notable for the generally satisfactory compromise reached between the United States of America and the British Commonwealth delegations regarding the question of the retention of the direct radio-telegraph circuits established between certain Empire points and the
United States of America during the war. Whilst full recognition was given by the conference to the need for maintaining the world-wide cable system, both for economic and strategic reasons, it was agreed that cognizance had also to be taken of the value of the radio networks in increasing the efficiency and adequacy of the telecommunications system as a whole: Consequently, discussions at Bermuda were concentrated upon devising means whereby a . carefully balanced network of world communications, employing both cable and radio, might be ensured without detriment to either system. The possible effect on the cable system of excessive competition from the employment of radio was fully appreciated by the conference, and ultimately a formula was adopted whereby the need for institution of new, or the retention of existing, radio circuits would be governed by certain specific traffic considerations. Application of this formula led to agreement by the ‘ Bermuda conference as to the particular radiotelegraph circuits between the United States of America and British Commonwealth points which should be retained and those which should be discontinued, whilst a similar basis was adopted in regard to future additional radio links between the United ‘States of America and Empire countries.
Regarding the admission of transit traffic over the radio circuits with the United States of America - that is, traffic for transmission to destinations beyond the radio terminals in British Commonwealth or United States of America areas - it was concluded that the unrestricted admission of .such traffic over these radio links would disrupt the balance of the communication systems, cable and radio, which the respective governments desired to maintain. It was accordingly decided that the traffic normally handled over these radio circuits should be limited to traffic originating in or destined for the countries operating the circuits, except in cases when, to avoid excessive delay, it was obviously necessary and desirable that transit traffic should be transmitted over these circuits. There is every reason to believe that the agreement reached at Bermuda will pave the way to a lasting understanding between the
United States of America and the British Commonwealth in the telecommunications sphere and that the -maintenance of a rationalized system of world communications, cable and radio, will be greatly assisted ‘as a result of the conclusions reached.
Reverting to’ the local position in Australia, it may be stated that, although the efficiency and enterprise of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in operating and developing the overseas radio-telegraph services in Australia is beyond question, there have always been fundamental disadvantages, from the Government’s viewpoint, in the relationship between the company and the Commonwealth, insofar as telecommunication services are concerned. This has been, recognized by successive governments since 1930. The present arrangement under which the internal communication services are owned and operated by the governments in most Empire countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, New Zealand and Australia, whereas the external services are owned and conducted by private entities, is disadvantageous. The domestic services are complementary to the international -services and should be integrated as far as possible. Diversity of interest in the ownership and control of the internal and external services is unsound in principle and uneconomic in practice. External telecommunications, as in the case of the internal services, are essential public utilities, and the view taken by the partner governments is that their operation should be vested in government authorities, rather than in companies whose first responsibility is to their shareholders. There are obvious reasons why the profit motive should be dissociated entirely from the conduct of these services and why, any excess revenues derived from them should be applied to the reduction of charges to the public or in improving telecommunication facilities, rather than for the benefit of a limited number of company shareholders.
Effective co-ordination and control of the overseas telecommunication services in Australia in the national interests is impracticable of realization so long as two separate companies own and operate the respective means of communication - Cable and “Wireless Limited the cable terminals and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited the radio services.. Transfer of the services to the Government will . enable their complete co-ordination under a single operating authority and will ultimately offer economic benefits to telegraph users by reason of the avoidance of the existing duplication of effort and of overhead costs resulting from the conduct of the respective services by separate undertakings. The disabilities under which the Australian Government has laboured in relation to the conduct of overseas telecommunications have long been manifested, and this fact has been recognized not only by the present Government but also by governments representing honorable senators opposite. Since 1930 successive Commonwealth governments- ‘have, at various times, approved of proposals designed to secure n greater measure of control over these services and to have them conducted as national’ undertakings, but not until the present has any measure been placed before the Parliament to give effect to them.
The position is now such that this issue cannot be allowed to remain undecided any longer, and the Commonwealth Government, in common with other partner governments in the Empire, has concluded that national ownership and operation of the services is the only satisfactory solution of the problem. In the bill before the .Senate, provision is accordingly made for the cancellation of the existing agreements between the Commonwealth and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and for the repeal of the Wireless Agreement Acts of 1924 and 1927. Acquisition by the Government of the overseas’ telecommunication assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, for which provision is included in the bill, will later involve reconstitution of the company to permit of it continuing its manufacturing and allied businesses, as distinct from that associated with- overseas telecommunications. It will be realized that the Commonwealth has participated, as a majority shareholder, in this section of the company’s business for some 24 years, and that, were the Government now to withdraw entirely its investment in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the company would probably be placed at a serious financial disadvantage, particularly during the period of . its reconstruction. The Government does not wish the company to be placed in such a position, and accordingly it is proposed that the Commonwealth should retain a majority shareholding in the reconstructed manufacturing company.
Part IV. of the bill provides for the assessment of compensation payable to Amalgamated ‘ Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the acquisition, by the Commonwealth, of the company’s overseas telecommunication assets. The bill provides that the amount so payable may be arrived at by agreement with the company, and negotiations towards this end are now proceeding between the Government and the company. Failing agreement, however, the amount may be determined by a compensation board constituted in accordance with clause 50 of the bill. If either party is dissatisfied with the assessment of the compensation board, application may be made to the High Court for a review of the board’s determination. Every avenue is therefore open to enable the acquisition of the company’s telecommunication assets to be effected on terms which are just and fair to the company and the Commonwealth alike.
A recommendation was made by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Conference that the interests of the staffs affected by the change in the organization of the Empire telecommunication services should be safeguarded. In regard to the Australian personnel of Cable and Wireless Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited at present employed on overseas telecommunication work, provision is accordingly made in clause 18 of the bill to give effect to this recommendation in the Commonwealth so far as it is practicable to do so. Employees of the two companies who have been exclusively or mainly engaged by them on telecommunication work in Australia and for whom suitable employment can be found by the commission to be established under the terms of the bill, will therefore become entitled to appointment to positions in the service of the commission, with preservation of their accrued pension, superannuation, furlough and other rights. If, however, notwithstanding this provision, it is not found possible by the commission to reengage all of the employees affected, the Government contemplates making such satisfactory arrangements as will not place these particular employees at a disadvantage. For this purpose, it is intended to set up a committee consisting of representatives of the Government, the companies and the employees to give consideration to matters relating to the safeguarding of the interests of all of the employees concerned and to make appropriate recommendations to this end. The employees of the companies who are transferred to the service of the commission will also carry over with them any conditions or rates of salary now applying to them under arbitration awards or agreements filed with the’ Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
The powers, functions and duties of the commission to be set up in the Commonwealth to acquire, operate and maintain the overseas telecommunication services are detailed in clause 20 of the bill. “They embrace all the overseas telecommunication functions hitherto performed in Australia by Cable and Wireless Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, including, in the latter case, the operation of the coastal and island radio stations which, as honorable senators know, handle wireless traffic with ships at sea and similar traffic exchanged within and between the territories of the Commonwealth. In conjunction with the national corporations to be set up in the United Kingdom, the Dominions and India, it is intended that the Australian commission also undertake intensive research and developmental work, with the object of improving the efficiency of the overseas telecommunication services. The results of this work throughout the Empire will be co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board in London and will be applied generally for the benefit of Empire telecommunications and the telegraph users. The Commonwealth Telecommunications Board will also undertake research on behalf of all partner governments. It is clear that there is an immense field for research which can profitably be exploited by all the authorities responsible for the conduct of the Empire’s overseas communication services. It is further contemplated that the commission shall, if so desired by another national body established by any of the other partner governments, undertake to act as an agent, on agreed terms, in maintaining and operating overseas telecommunication services in regional areas adjacent to Australia, where such an arrangement will prove economical from an Empire viewpoint.
Concerning any contracts which may be entered into by the commission in accordance with the powers to be conferred on it in terms of the bill, clause 24 provides that the commission shall not, without the consent of the responsible Minister, enter into any contract where supply, either directly or indirectly, of imported equipment or material of a value exceeding £5,000 is involved. This provision will ensure that due consideration is given to the use by the commission of equipment manufactured in Australia before steps are taken to import material of any appreciable value from abroad. The powers to he conferred on the commission will, further, not detract from those entrusted to the Minister administering the Wireless Telegraphy and the Post and Telegraph Acts and a stipulation to this effect is made in clause 28 of the bill.
In clause 60, it is also provided that the commission shall obtain all necessary licences, permissions or approvals required for its purposes from the Minister responsible for administering the Wireless Telegraphy Act. This provision is essential in order that the Minister may exercise his discretion- as to the terms and conditions under which licences will be issued to the commission to conduct radio services and so that he may remain the final authority for the co-ordination and control of wireless communication activities in the Commonwealth.
The conditions on which advances will be made to the commission for its purposes will be determined by the Treasurer.
Similarly, the form in which the commission will keep its accounts will he subject to the approval of the Treasurer and to inspection and audit by the AuditorGeneral. The annual report and financial accounts of the commission, accompanied by a certificate of the Auditor-General, will be submitted to the Parliament as a normal course. As a Commonwealth Government instrumentality, conducting overseas communication services of a like nature to those undertaken within Australia by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the commission will, under clause 36 of the bill, be relieved from payment of certain rates, taxes and charges. The commission will maintain a close liaison with the Postal Department in operating the overseas telecommunication services, and in this connexion certain land-line and other facilities previously made available to Cable and Wireless Limited, and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, respectively, for their purposes will be provided, in terms of clauses 62 and 63 of the bill, to meet the requirements of the commission. For its part, the commission will arrange free handling of meteorological telegrams exchanged with ships at sea and, when required, of similar messages exchanged between Commonwealth meteorological offices and stations. The commission will also handle free, on behalf of the Postal Department, other telegrams for transmission within the Commonwealth in cases of interruption to land-lines in return for which the Postal Department will arrange free transmission of messages relating to the commission’s administrative affairs.
This statement gives a general outline of the purport of the bill before the Senate, and the reasons why legislation on the lines sought by the Government is necessary. The Government believes that the passing of this legislation, together with that of similar legislation by the other partner governments, followed by full implementation of the plan for national “ownership and operation of the overseas telecommunication services of the” British Commonwealth, will prove of immeasurable benefit to Australia and the Empire, and to the public who use the services. The plan is an essay in
Empire-wide united and unified policy, without impairment of local sovereignty in the self-governing . countries of the British Commonwealth, yet integrated and co-ordinated in such a way as will give maximum strength to the organizations which will be responsible for the conduct of inter-Empire and international telecommunication, services, and enable them efficiently and economically, and in the public interest, to cater fully for the governmental, commercial, industrial and social needs of our people, with public service as the sole motive. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
[5.18]. - I congratulate the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) upon the speech which he has just delivered. I had an opportunity to read the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) on this bill in the House of Representatives recently, and I have since perused it more than once. It is interesting to note that in the Senate at present are three ex-Postmasters-General. I congratulate the present Postmaster-General on his good f ortune in having been placed in charge of this important measure in the Senate. The bill will be regarded as providing for one of the most important and practical steps taken to bring about Empire unity, and close co-operation between the British Commonwealth of Nations and that great democracy, the United States of America. I pay a personal tribute to the work of Mi”. D. McVey in connexion with this matter. I had the good fortune to be associated with him for a few months when I held the portfolio of Postmaster-General. I was in London with him, Mr. Witt, Mr. Bourne, and others, who carried out the negotiations at which the final agreement was reached between the countries constituting the British Empire. It was considered there that the success achieved was due to the efforts of the Australian officials whom I have named, and other officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, to such a degree that the proposal which finally formed the basis of the agreement was called the Anzac plan.
I much regret that Mr. Mcvey, whom
I regarded as an outstanding member of the Commonwealth Public Service, is no longer connected with it. It is strange to recall that, although Mr. McVey was opposed to the nationalization of Australia’s interstate airlines, he wa3 completely in favour of this measure, whilst the former honorable member for Henty, Mr. Coles, who fought against the nationalization of Australian interstate airlines, was finally appointed to take charge of that undertaking on behalf of the Government. I say this as a mild rebuke in respect of economic regulations which prevented the Government from giving a substantial increase of salary to Mr. McVey, who, I think, was receiving £2,500 a year. Although the regulations prevented him from being given an increase of salary, the Government found it possible to pay a salary, including expenses, amounting to a considerably larger sum than that to Mr. Coles.
– The honorable senator knows the reason for that, but does not disclose it.
– I regret that efforts were not made to increase Mr. McVey’s salary, in order to keep him in the Commonwealth Public Service. I have not been associated with any government department which, during the war period, has displayed a better approach to the public and to public matters than the Postmaster-General’s Department. That organization has developed a realization of the importance of service to the community which is superior to that of any other department. Some of the credit for that can be given to Senator Gibson, who was responsible for the appointment of Sir Harry Brown to the position of Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. It was said that the -senior officers of the Commonwealth Public Service considered Senator Gibson to be the best Postmaster-General, the Commonwealth has ever had. I do not know whether Senator Gibson will continue to hold that record after the present Postmaster-General has relinquished that portfolio, which he may be expected to do after the next general elections. I have said publicly, and I repeat, that the officers associated with the Postal Department and its ramifications are the hardest worked and the poorest paid of any in the Commonwealth Public Service. I hope that the value of the work of those who have rendered good service will be recognized. Honorable senators know that, generally speaking, I am opposed to the nationalization of industries. Usually, they can be conducted best by private enterprise, but in the present scheme of things certain activities, such as postal and telegraphic services, and the matters dealt with in this bill, play an important part in peace and war, and cannot be carried on satisfactorily in time of war if they are conducted by private enterprise.
An hour and a half was occupied by the Minister, in delivering his secondreading speech, and it is. impossible for a bill of this magnitude to be dealt with in detail at the second-reading stage. The story of the negotiations referred to by the Minister has been condensed, in order’ to place the whole of the facts before the Senate, and it is impossible to follow “ the ramifications of the proposal unless honorable senators have had an opportunity to read the details more than once. Whoever was responsible for their compilation is to be commended upon the effort. Of the many second-reading speeches which I have heard in. the Senate, that just delivered takes pride of “place for clarity and conciseness. I shall speak of the proposals only in general terms, and I shall suggest to the Government two major amendments, which could be discussed more satisfactorily in committee than now. It is gratifying to know that Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and India have been able, after many years, to decide to go into business together, in order to cope with the important task of providing overseas cable and wireless communications. ‘The fact that they have achieved unity leads us to believe that in this respect at least co-operation among the members -of the British Commonweatlh of Nations is assured in the future. Our Empire speaks and acts with great authority than would be possible if the various parts of it acted as separate and independent units. At Bermuda, after the scheme had been decided upon, the representatives of the Empire countries, “following negotiations with representatives of the United States of America, were able to clear- away many misunderstandings which had existed for many years, and agree to a reduction of rates. That was another important step in the direction of close co-operation with the United States .of America. There is no doubt that the maintenance, of efficient communications facilitated the successful prosecution of the war. Although in times of peace the modern development of beam wireless, with its greater speed and efficiency, can provide a satisfactory service at a fraction of the cost of maintaining communications by means of submarine cables, we must remember that in -times of war secret messages cannot be sent by wireless, and therefore, that defence considerations alone necessitate the retention and efficient working of submarine cables. In order that the competition of beam wireless should not place other methods of transmitting messages at too great a disadvantage, the countries associated with the agreement found it necessary to combine the two services and to use them for the advantage of all.
It is easy now to criticize some of the provisions of the agreements made in 1922, 1924 and 1927 between the Commonwealth Government and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Since those agreements were entered into, beam wireless has made great headway. I pay a tribute to those associated with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for the industry and skill displayed in developing that great and efficient organization. Wsen we call to mind the pioneering work undertaken by the old companies which have been absorbed by Cable and Wireless Limited, the present occasion seems an appropriate one to pay a tribute also to those who have been associated with them in the field of communications. It is fitting, too, that we should learn from experience. Looking back, it seems to me that one weakness of the arrangement with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was that, although the Commonwealth had 500,001 shares and the private company 500,000 shares in the company, the arrangement provided that three of the directors should be appointed by the Commonwealth and three by the private company, with a seventh director to he appointed .by those six. I suggest that whenever in the future the Commonwealth is forced into a partnership of this kind it would be well to ensure that the Government does not allow the control of the business to be taken out of its hands. I regret that some time ago there was litigation between the Commonwealth Government and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Such a state of affairs should not be allowed to occur again. We should learn from that experience, first, that the Government should keep out of business enterprises, and secondly, that when circumstances arise which force it to engage in such activities as Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has undertaken, the Government should ensure that, in addition to having a majority of shares in the concern, it also has actual control of operations.
I shall .make three suggestions to the Government at this stage, leaving the detailed discussion of them until the bill is in committee. Clause 18 deals with the welfare of employees. In this connexion I have received several communications from members of the staff of Cable and Wireless Limited, and other organizations. I emphasize that the trained men in the organizations are specialists, and that it is not right that they should be thrown on the labour market and forced to find other employment. I believe that the PostmasterGeneral is just as interested in these employees as I am, but in order to put the matter beyond doubt I suggest that the Parliament should provide that not one of them who is physically fit to carry out his work, and has a good record, shall be scrapped because of this agreement. The present Postmaster-General will not always hold that office, and an injustice might be done to these employees in the future unless their position is safeguarded now. It has been truly said” that when a man’s means of earning a livlihood is taken from him, his whole life is endangered.
Clause 29 enables the Treasurer to make advances not exceeding £3,000,000 to the commission. In the House of Representatives there was some discussion of this provision. In committee I shall ask the Minister to place beyond all doubt what is contemplated under this clause, first, as to the compensation to be paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited ; secondly the amount to be paid to Cable and Wireless Limited, or its agents; and thirdly, the amount to be paid to the new commission for sending and receiving communications to and from other parts of the world. I admit that these are complicated matters, but it is most desirable that we should avoid establishing a dangerous precedent by signing a blank cheque for £3,000,000. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that the position will bewell safeguarded in respect of the matters to which I have referred.
An interesting part of the arrangement, and one for which the parties concerned are to be commended, is the proposal that the Government and the shareholders of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited should try to come to an agreement as to the amount of compensation to be paid. Should agreement not be reached on that point, the matter is then to go to a board, and, if necessary, to the High Court. That seems to me to be a wise arrangement, because we have to consider not only what is fair compensation to the shareholders of the company, but also what is right in the interests of the taxpayers. I understand that the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Mcfarlane, and the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Fanning, and other trusted officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, are conducting the delicate negotiations connected with this agreement. I know these men, and have a high regard for their ability and integrity. I shall be surprised if Mr. McFarlane agrees to. pay ls. more than should be paid by way of compensation.
The Parliament should at least know the basis on which compensation will be calculated.
I understand that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited bas a controlling interest in certain commercial broadcasting stations and broadcasting licence.in Australia. ‘ In my opinion, it would have been better if the Government had withdrawn completely from the manufacturing and commercial activities of the company, and “ the broadcasting stations. I am aware that the Minister indicated that the Government did not wish to embarrass the company unduly, but if he had in mind only matters of finance, I point out that it would have been easy for the Government to make a loan to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, through the Commonwealth Bank, repayable in 10, 15 or 20 years, so that it should not suffer by reason of the action taken in the interests of the Empire. I shall have more to say on these three matters when the bill is in committee. I -hope that by the time that stage has been reached the Minister will be able to give to honorable senators some detailed information on these points. I remind him that they relate to the welfare of employees, the compensation payable to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited, and the severance of the’ Government from the commercial and manufacturing activities of the company, which may involve financial assistance to the company through ,the Commonwealth Bank. I want, if possible, to avoid in the futur.e any such conflict as arose in the past between the Government and its partners. I greatly regret that it has been found necessary to take the drastic action which we are asked i« approve, but in the interests of the defence of the Empire and of the maintenance of up-to-date communications, within the Empire and with othercountries, I believe that the contemplated step is necessary. I compliment those who have “been associated with the agreement, which, I believe marks a forward step in telecommunications, and will help to bring more closely together Empire countries and all English-speaking peoples.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and PostmastersGeneral. There were seventeen PostmastersGeneral before me, and all of them are either dead or have been defeated as candidates for election to Parliament. Since I left the departmentthere have been fourteen other PostmastersGeneral. Every one who has held that office has toyed with this question and has endeavoured to draw up some scheme for submission to the Parliament so that the communications section of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited could be divided from the commercial activities of the company. A search through the archives of the Post.masterGeneral’s Department or the Attorney-General’s Department will reveal many draft bills relating to this measure. In fact, in 1928, during my term as Postmaster-General, a bill was drafted to give effect to what is intended by this measure, with the exception that the purpose of that bill was to divorce the communications side from the commercial side, and leave the commercial activities entirely in the hands of private enterprise. I agree entirely that this separation should be effected, and that communications should be in the hands of the Postmaster-General’s De’partment, or at least of the Government. There are many factors that bring cable and wireless services within the ambit of the Postmaster-General’s Department. In the first instance, practically all messages pass through the. Postal Department. That fact alone means that the department is in close touch with telecommunications. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) touched upon an important point when he referred to the secrecy required in the transmission of messages in war-time. I understand that in neither the war of 1914-18 nor the last war were the cable systems interfered with. Gable messages are completely secret at all times, but no such claim can be made in respect of wireless messages. It is not generally known that during the last war the Postmaster-General’s Department laid a cable from Australia to New Guinea. The service provided by that cable was effective and secret, and I understand it is still in operation. The cable itself was made from scraps collected throughout the Commonwealth. Why was a cable necessary on this route ? The main reason, of course, was that complete secrecy was necessary in the transmission of messages. The capital cost of initiating a cable service is enormous compared with that of setting up facilities for transmitting and receiving wireless messages. The cost of a cable may run into many millions of pounds, whereas wireless equipment can be provided for a few hundred thousand pounds. The term “ beam “ aS applied .to wireless transmission is rather misleading. The transmission is directional, but it is not a “beam” in the ordinary sense. In 1924, before the inception of overseas wireless transmission services, I talked with Marconi who was very candid and very modest about the future of wireless for this purpose. I asked him if secrecy could be ensured and he said he did not claim secrecy. Signals, he said, would leave Australia in a narrow beam, but when they reached Great Britain the beam might be 10,000 miles wide, and could easily be’ tapped at any point along the route except in the immediate vicinity of Australia. That is still the position to-day. Another disadvantage of beam wireless is atmospheric interference which at some periods of the year may put the overseas wireless telegraphic system out of operation for several days at a time. When this happens, all the business normally handled by radio has to be given to the cable companies. Wireless transmission of course is considerably cheaper than cable rates. I understand that in 1928 we disposed of our interest in the Pacific Cable .Company for approximately £200,000.- That amount and much more will have to. be repaid to the Pacific Cable Company and the Eastern Extension Company for the right to transmit messages over their lines, or to purchase their assets within Australia to enable the cable system to operate under governmental control and in co-operation with the beam wireless system instead of in opposition to it. At present, there is cut-throat competition between the two organizations. The beam wireless companies offer- lower rates and handle a lot of business which is not of a secret nature. I confess that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has done remarkably good work; but the PostmasterGeneral’s Department too has done good work. Probably few people realize that in the workshops of the department £7,000,000 worth of material- much of it highly technical - was produced during the war. Technicians of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department can hold their own with technicians in any part of the world. The department has also carried out valuable research. In the early days Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited made extravagant claims in regard to patent rights. It claimed that it had the sole right to broadcast within Australia, and to manufacture and sell valves. In fact, for quite a long time it actually obtained royalties from retailers of .valves. It also licensed dealers to sell wireless sets throughout the Commonwealth; but when these claims were challenged, the company did not fight the case. When wireless broadcasting commenced in this country in 1923, we had to erect stations in Sydney and Melbourne. Tenders were called for this work, and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited claimed that it was the only organization that could do the job because it held certain patent rights. However, Standard Telephones and Cables Limited tendered for the erection of the stations, and undertook to indemnify the Government for any claim for royalties. The contract was let to that firm, and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited did not seek to substantiate its claims to patent rights. I think also that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited was instrumental in having a high duty placed upon imported wireless sets. I venture to say that the set in the members’ lounge in this building contains material valued at only £5 or £10, although it probably cost more than £100. The purchasers of wireless receiving sets made Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited what it is to-day.
The legislation now before the Senate differs from the proposals considered by former Postmasters-General in that it provides for the operation of the telecommunications . section by a go vernmental organization - the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia). Clause 29 confers upon the commission power to make an agreement with the private companies as to the compensation that should be paid for the acquisition of existing services. There is also to be an Empire authority known as the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, members of which will include one representative from each of the Dominions. The Leader of the Opposition referred to an amount of £3,000,000 specified in the bill. It is not proposed, I understand, that all that money shall be paid in compensation. Much of it will be used to purchase offices equipment, &c, necessary for the carrying on of an external communication system. Incidentally, I believe that “ external communications “ would have been a better term than “telecommunications “. It was- stated in the House of Representatives that the amount of compensation to be paid is. approximately £1,500,000. I do not know what will be the source of that money, nor can I vouch for the accuracy of the figure. It is noticeable, however, that the £1 shares of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited have reached their highest figure, namely, £3. Ils. 6d. I have no doubt that the Government’s proposal to take over the telecommunications side of the company’s activities has been responsible for that rise.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was about to deal with the subject of compensation and to point out the difficulties arising in that respect. It will be realized that the greater source of revenue of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is from the communications side. I do not know thefigures, but, probably, the communications revenue is greater than the company’s revenue from its commercial and manufacturing operations. However, if the figures cited in the House of Representatives be correct - and T have no reason to believe that they are right or wrong - an extraordinary position arises. If, for argument sake, the sum of £1,000,000 bc paid as compensation to Amalgamated
Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the company would then have a capital of £2,000,000. It could afford to give to its shareholders the whole of their share capital at £1 a share and still retain £1,000,000 of capital, which is equal to its present capital to carry on only half of its existing business. If the amount of compensation to be paid to the company be fixed at £1,500,000, the company could afford to pay to its shareholders a bonus of 30s. a share and still retain its present, capital. That would mean overcapitalization. There is no doubt that when compensation is paid, the- company will have to refund some of the money to its shareholders. The whole of the compensation will be paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I take it that the commission and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited will” attempt to arrive at the amount of compensation without reference to the Compensation Board df three members which is to be set up under clause 50 of the bill. If the parties cannot agree, the matter may be referred to the Compensation Board. One cannot foretell what will happen. The nominal value of shares of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is £1, but on the Stock Exchange to-day, as the result of the introduction of this measure, the value of the shares has risen to £3 Ils. 6d. a share. That is not the fair share value. The fair share value would be the value prior to information regarding the introduction of this measure becoming known, namely, about £2 3s. a share. Although the point is not made clear in the bill, it is likely that the Government will continue to carry on the commercial side of the company in conjunction with the company. That decision is to be left entirely to the shareholders. However, when we realize that the Government will hold one share more than half -of the total number of shares, the control is onesided and whatever the Government says will be final. Should the Government decide to retain this hybrid arrangement, its decision will be final, because as holders of a majority of the shares it will have control. I do not believe in hybrid arrangements of this kind. Commonwealth Oil Refineries is carried on in exactly the same manner. I do not think that anyone can truly say that
Commonwealth Oil Refineries has benefited petrol users in this country. As. a matter of fact, the price of petrol supplied by .that organization is the same as that charged by other petrol companies. I take it that when Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited relinquishes ownership of communications, but continues its commercial and manufacturing operations as at present, it will link up with other similar organizations, all of which will agree to charge the same prices, with the result that the general public will derive no benefit whatever from this arrangement. It will be realized that, in addition to its shares being quoted at £3 lis. 6d. a share, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited has a reserve’ fund of £625,000; and I believe that it has, in addition, a replacement fund of £500,000. Therefore, the company is in a very good position. We now have three Government directors on Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited who will remain there as at present. No provision is made for their removal. There are also three directors elected by the shareholders of the company. In 1922 those six directors appointed the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) as the seventh director, and he still retains that position. However, he was not, as manypeople think, the nominee of the Government. He was chosen by the other six directors. , Quite a lot can be said at the committee stages on several phases of the measure, but I have said sufficient to give the picture as I see it.
I was instrumental in calling together the first meeting of wireless interests in Australia in March, 1923. At that time the whole of the wireless interests came together and, led by one of the strongest men in the wireless world, Sir Ernest Fisk, they decided to adopt the sealed set for broadcasting in this country. Honorable senators know what happened subsequently. Few accepted the set. Only a few thousand licences were applied for. After that conference the parties waited upon me and told me what they had done. I replied that if the step taken proved to be a success they were entitled to all the credit, but should it prove to be a failure, the blood was on their own heads. They returned to me sis months later and told me that the whole arrangement had ended in a fiasco. They suggested that another meeting be called, and at that meeting the arrangement of wave-lengths was handed to the Postal Department which introduced the medium wave-length. That occurred in 1923 and was the beginning of broadcasting in this country. Great Britain had started broadcasting only in the previous year. Since that time over 1,000,000 listeners’ licences have been issued in Australia. I give to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited due credit for what it has done; andI freely admit that it has done a great deal in manufacturing very good sets which it sold at very high prices. I also admit that efficient broadcasting stations have been developed throughout the country, and I pay tribute to the work carried out by stations in the transmission of messages to ships at sea. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited did much pioneering and research work; but in the research field other companies have done excellent work also and are deserving of equal credit.
– I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) upon his second-reading speech. This measure is. one of the most important yet to come before the Parliament. I presume that the Government is taking this step mainly in the interests of the nation’s defence. In addition, one can easily imagine the benefits which the public will derive when the Government takes over control of telecommunications in this country. It is important that this action be taken. The proposal to continue in conjunction with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in the commercial sphere is also very important. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that it is essential that when the Government enters into business with private enterprise it should hold a controlling interest through a majority on the board of directors. Such an arrangement will ensure some kind of measuring rod with respect to costs. The Leader of the Opposition also said that the Government should keep out of commercial undertakings, but that if it does engage in them it should do so in a proper manner and should not continue along the lines followed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in the past. The seventh director is the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). I understand that the right honorable gentleman appointed himself as the seventh director of the company and was not so appointed by the other six directors as Senator Gibson has said.
– The other six directors appointed him.
– It would be interesting to know whether the other six directors could displace him. The proposal embodied in the bill is now placed before us after many governments, and, as Senator Gibson has said, many PostmastersGeneral have advocated a similar plan with the exception that previously it was not proposed that the Government should enter into an agreement to operate in conjunction with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in respect of commercial operations. I understand that the Pacific cable service was established in 1901. Many years ago the British Government, in conjunction with the governments of New Zealand, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, established cable communication with Britain. After the inception of federation, the Commonwealth took over the holdings of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The Commonwealth then held a one-third share in the venture, in respect of which money borrowed from the National Debt Commission in Great Britain totalled £2,000,000. In 1928, following the Imperial Conference of that year, it was decided to institute the Beam Wireless Service. Imperial Communications Limited was then formed to take over the control of all existing wireless concerns. Cable and Wireless Limited came into operation in 1929 and took over full control. The government of the day sold its shares for £500,000, but in respect of loans outstanding amounting to £1,250,000, the Commonwealth agreed to pay interest, and it is still paying interest in respect of that indebtedness. That was a very bad deal. Anti-Labour governments did not attempt to give effect to the wishes of successive Postmasters-General and so failed to save the nation a great deal of unnecessary expenditure. A change of government was required finally to secure action. The war may have accelerated the decision somewhat, as the Leader of the Opposition claimed, but I believe that changes of government in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand did more than anything else to bring about government control of external communications. A great deal has been said in this debate about the efficiency of the Postal Department. It is a very valuable institution, but the Labour party’s political opponents would have sold it to private enterprise if they had had the courage, to do so when they were in power.
– That is not possible.
– Anything is possible to those who have power in the Parliament. As an Australian, I am very proud of the Postal Department. This pride is based on knowledge which I have gained as Chairman of the Broadcasting Committee. One impressive fact is that the men who have held the office of Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs from time to time have displayed a consistent high standard of administrative efficiency and business ability. Men have been imported to fill vacancies and, because of the high degree of their ability, they have left the position to engage in private employment. The training methods of the Postal Department have’ ensured that its work has been of the highest order. It deals with the public in a courteous manner, and it instils in its officers a high standard of public service. It certainly “ delivers the goods “.
Both the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Gibson expressed concern about the expenditure of the £3,000,000 to be set aside under this bill for compensation and other purposes. They were doubtful about the amounts that would he expended respectively in compensating Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and in providing buildings and equipment for the proposed commission. The Government will be particularly careful in supervising this expenditure.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to Mr. McFarlane and Mr. Fanning, who are conducting negotiations with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited on behalf of the Government. He said he was sure that Mr. McFarlane would watch every shilling of governmental expenditure, but he omitted to refer to Mr. Fanning in the same way. The inference to be drawn from this is that Mr. Fanning cannot be relied upon in the same way. I am sure that this was not the intention of the honorable senator, and I hasten to remove any false impression that he may have created. We all know that Mr. Fanning will be just as astute and watchful of the interests of the Commonwealth in his dealings with the experts of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited as Mr. McFarlane will be. Both men will do what the Government expects them to do. The Postal Department is the most efficient government instrumentality in Australia. It provides its officers with training that takes them to the “ top of the tree “ in the business world. It has been said that the Commonwealth expends a tremendous ‘amount of money at various times in sending postal officials on missions overseas and that frequently, as the result of contacts made abroad, these men leave the department to take employment with private enterprise. I am not sure of the reasons, but it is extraordinary that a very able man like Mr. McVey should leave the Commonwealth service and that Mr. Smith, after travelling about on an official tour, should do likewise. Another Commonwealth public servant, Mr. Moore, accompanied the late Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) on a very important mission to the United States of America. Mr. Moore was conversant with all the details of the work done by the late Minister, and when Senator Keane died he continued the negotiations with the American Government. However, when he returned to Australia he left the Commonwealth Public Service. No other man knew as much about the work that had been done in America as did Mr. Moore.
– The facts were known to the Government.
– Yes, but they were also well known to Mr. Moore. He might be a very valuable person to some private company. “ I believe that it was once customary for a postal official who went abroad at the expense of the department to sign an agreement to remain in the - service of the department for a period of five years after his return. That practice should be re-introduced. The Government spends thousands of pounds to improve the knowledge of such men. Without Government assistance they would not be able to travel abroad and make contacts that other Australians are unable to make. Therefore, the Commonwealth should protect its interests and retain the services of such men for five years after their return to Australia. In taking control of wireless-telephone and beam wireless communications, the Government is making a very important forward step. The time is not far distant when the government of every country will have to take control of not only external communications but also internal communications.
– The Government controls internal communications now.
– It controls the telephone and telegraph services, but not wireless services. There are 103 commercial radio stations in Australia already, and great advances in wireless communication are likely to be made in the future. The Broadcasting Committee has unanimously recommended the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting, which, according to Sir Ernest Fisk, will make possible the establishment of 200,000 broadcasting units in the Commonwealth, should that number be needed.
– - With a range of only 30 miles each.
– I am very doubtful about the range of amplitude modulation broadcasting stations. I have read all sorts of advertising “ dope “ on the subject; I can find no other description for it. It is claimed that the present clear-signal range of an amplitude modulation station is 00 miles. I challenge anybody to prove that claim. I sincerely believe that recent American tests have proved that frequency modulation broadcasting has a greater clear-signal range than amplitude modulation broadcasting. I place no credence in statements that the effective clear-signal range of frequency modulation stations is only 30 miles. The adoption of the frequency modulation system would enable thousands of new stations to be established in Australia. Privately-controlled broadcasting stations can become a menace to the nation. Only this morning I read a newspaper report of a debate in the British House of Commons on the operations of Radio Luxembourg, a station that pops up into the news every now and then and arouses world-wide interest. The British Government now proposes to “buy time “.on Radio Luxembourg in order to stem the flood of anti-British commercial propaganda sweeping into England from the Continent through that station. This propaganda emanates from all sorts of manufacturing concerns wishing to capture the British market, and the British Government wishes to counteract it. The same sort of thing will happen in Australia as surely as night follows day unless we take preventive action now. New broadcasting stations will be established, if licences are granted, and they will, be tied up with the major broadcasting systems such as the Macquarie network. This medium of communication can be a great menace to the nation under any government. It could be highly dangerous to any government or democracy. Therefore the time is ripe for the Government to consider taking entire control of both internal and external communications.
– I was pleased to hear that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) had changed his mind. I have a vivid recollection, when fighting election campaigns on behalf of the Labour party, of hearing him declare that he stood four-square to private ownership. He said that the Government should not interfere with private business at all. This afternoon, . however, he admitted that if the Government entered into business, even in conjunction with private enterprise, it should retain a controlling interest in the undertaking. The Labour party has been trying for years to have effect given to that principle. Notwithstanding his keenness in supporting private enterprise in the past, I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition has at last altered his opinion regarding the matter. Before long he may even see eye to eye with the Labour party in advoca ting that all public utilities, and particularly those which render service to the people, should be owned and controlled by them through their ‘Parliaments.
I am not quite sure whether this measure provides for ‘ cancellation of the charter of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. If it will, the point raised by Senator Gibson and the Leader of the Opposition should be carefully considered. If a new arrangement or further legislation be required for the purpose of re-organizing what will be left of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limite*d,
– No re-organization is proposed.
– It is now proposed to take over part of the undertakings of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited, and these activities will be under the control of the PostmasterGeneral. The accounts are to be inspected by the Auditor-General, as they should be.
– That will apply only to the activities to be taken over.
– That is the position at present, but the PostmasterGeneral stated in his second-reading speech that the measure will later involve the reconstitution of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited to permit of its continuing its manufacturing and allied business, as distinct from the activities associated with overseas communications. If a charter be necessary with regard to the business activities of the company, provision should be made for governmental control and direction, and the whole of the accounts should be made available for inspection by the AuditorGeneral. The Government does not know where it is at present with Amalgamated
Wireless (Australasia) Limited, because the company is merely an. organization subsidized by the Government.
When undertakings of this kind, which are in the nature of public utilities, are taken over by the Government, no compensation should be paid. If a man has put £1,000 into a business which is acquired by the Government, that money should be returned to him. That is all the compensation to which he is entitled. He should receive nothing for goodwill, as that belongs to the people.
– Many of the shareholders bought their shares at an enhanced price.
– If a person has an equity in a business, he should be bought out at the cost price of his shares. Why should the Government pay compensation to those who buy shares now in an undertaking which they know is being taken over by the Government ?
– Because the Constitution provides that fair and just compensation must be paid.
– But no payment should be made for’ goodwill. I apprehend the danger of some people getting an enormous sum of money for nothing.
In taking over the activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited which are associated with telecommunications, it may not be possible to employ all of those who have been in the service of the company. I admit that some employees have had -special training, and efforts will no doubt be made to retain their services, but others who’ may not have had special training may not be required. I cannot see any reference in the bill about the protection of those employees who will be redundant. I hope that the Postmaster-General, when replying to debate, will state whether arrangements have been made to deal fairly with such employees. If any question be raised at to the rights of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in the matter, I should not bother about it. The Government should use’ the workshops of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and manufacture as much as possible of the equipment required for overseas and internal telecommunications:
Senator Gibson has exploded some of ‘ the claims of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited about its patent rights. Let the company continue to carry on certain of its operations, if it wishes to do so, but the Government should not pay a large sum by way of compensation. If equipment for -the purposes of the Postmaster-General’s Department can be manufactured departmentally, that could be done also for the proposed new undertaking.
There has been a tendency in Australia, particularly during the war, to give preference to manufacturers in the United States of America in the supply of various equipment. Australia has had to import a great deal from that country, but the time has arrived when, if we cannot manufacture locally all of the goods we need, we should get them from Great Britain rather than from the United States ‘ of America. Notwithstanding all the negotiations that have taken place overseas in connexion with the loan to Britain by the United States of America, let us pursue a policy of obtaining the things we need from GreatBritain rather than from the United States of America, using sterling exchange instead of dollar exchange. That can be’ done by a little effort on the part of government departments instead of waiting for materials to come from the United States of America. I hope that the matters to which I have referred will be given careful consideration by the Government. The Government is to be commended on having entered into this agreement, notwithstanding that it will cost a lot of money to buy out private enterprise.
.- -I regret that I did not have the advantage which my leader possessed in having a copy of the Minister’s speech before him foi- two or three weeks. As I listened to the Olympic marathon of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) this afternoon I could not help thinking that it contained a lot of material which needed careful digesting. However, it appears that the Minister wants the Senate to deal with this bill in a hurry.
– I have never said so.
– The agreement before as is one of the most complicated business arrangements ever placed before the Parliament. Senator O’Flaherty fa id that the shareholders in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited should not be paid more than the original cost of their shares. Obviously, the honorable senator had in mind the private shareholders of the company.. He seems to have forgotten that more than half of the shares belong to the Government.
– And, therefore, to the people.
– If the value of the shares is now £3 lis., the shares held by the Government - or the people’s shares, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) prefers to call them; - also are worth £3 Ils.’ each. Therefore, the 5,001 shares held by the Government are now worth about £1.750,000. For the purposes of the negotiations it does not seem to me to matter very much what the value of the shares may be, and so I think that it would be better for the Government to make a clean break with the company. I am informed that the profits of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited are fairly equally divided between its manufacturing activities and the communications side of its business. If a clean break were made I do not think that any harm would be done to anyone. The contention that the company would be financially embarrassed were the Government to withdraw from it entirely, does not seem to be well founded. On the contrary, any embarrassment would seem to be due to the company having so much money that it will not know what to do with it. Supporters of the Labour party frequently denounce private enterprise when it pays dividends above say, 2i or 3 per cent., yet they support a government which has accepted much bigger dividends from Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The bill provides for taking over the shares of private shareholders, not only in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited- but ako in Cable and Wireless Limited. The authorities in the United Kingdom have undertaken to buy the private shares in that company and to make a. distribution to the various parts of the Empire associated with this agreement. I suppose that that also will involve Australia in some expenditure. The negotiators on behalf of the Government are trying to make a bargain with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited, but those companies know that a limit of £3,000,000 has been a uthorized. Would any man negotiating for the purchase of a house valued at £1,500 tell the vendor that his limit was £3,000? A vendor of property in such circumstances would be in a very happy position. Yet that is what is occurring in connexion with ‘this proposal.
SenatorO’Flaherty. - The honorable senator should read the bill.
– I shall read a portion of it. Clause 29 provides -
For the purposes of enabling the Commission to meet such expenditure as is necessary for the purposes of this Act, the Treasurer may advance to the Commission -
out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund or out of the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of any Act, which Fund and which proceeds are hereby appropriated accordingly, such amounts, notexceeding in all the sum of Three million pounds; and
out of such sums as are from time to time appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose, such further amounts, as are, in the opinion of the Minister required by the Commission, and the Commission may accept those advances but shall not otherwise borrow moneys.
The effect of that provision is that the Government is prepared to go beyond £3,000,000 in certain circumstances.
– That is honest.
– Yes, but it is extravagant. I am amazed that any negotiator should be placed in the position of negotiating with vendors who know that he is authorized to pay £3,000,000 only about half that amount.
– It is a pity that a previous government did not act in the same way, when it disposed of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
– In that instance, the Commonwealth was selling something. I daresay that in the first instance the vessels were offered at a price far in excess of the amount eventually paid for them. The government which sold those for assets which he believes to be worth ships did not say to prospective purchasers, “ We want £5,000,000 for these ships, but if you don’t care to pay that amount for them, we are prepared to accept £2,000,000 “.
– That is what was done.
– In this instance, the Government is buying shares in a company, yet it tells the vendor that it is prepared to pay a sum greatly in excess of what it believes the shares are worth. It says, in effect, “ In order to make it quite clear, and so that there can be no mistake, we will put in an act of Parliament the amount we are prepared to pay for certain assets “. I am not satisfied withthe bill in that respect. Obviously, Senator O’Flaherty does not know what it contains. He has not yet digested the 32 foolscap pages read so eloquently by the Minister. If he had digested their contents he would be a marvel, and he is not a marvel. Some years ago, when I was a Minister in a previous government, I was a member of a committee which gave some consideration to the subject now before the Senate. I took the same stand then as I take now ; I said then that there should be a complete break between the Government and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. In my opinion, the Government should take over only the communications portion of the business of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and should leave the manufacturing and commercial activities of the company in the hands of the company.
– What about the Government taking over the lot?
– I do not believe that that should be done. In my view, the Government should not take over anything that is not of national importance. What great national purpose is to be served by the Government being a partner in a manufacturing concern which makes wireless sets, valves, &c, especially when hundreds of other manufacturers are making similar articles?
– There was a scarcity of such goods during the war.
– That may be, butmany manufacturers are now making similar goods. During the war there was a temporary scarcity of wireless valves, because Holland, which manufactured a large proportion of the valves sold throughout the world, had been overrun by the Germans, but to-day a large Dutch company is operating in Australia, and other companies also are making similar articles. No great national purpose will be served by the Commonwealth Government remaining a partner in a company which manufactures wireless valves. This is such an unimportant part of the economic life of Australia that I am amazed that the Government does not make a clean break between the two phases of the company’s activities. I believe that the Government is right in acquiring the telecommunications service; but it will be making a mistake if it remains associated with the manufacturing side of Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and thus engages in competition with other wireless manufacturing organizations, not only in this country, but all over the world. The schedule to the bill explains the agreement that has been entered into by the Dominions and the United Kingdom. The scheme embraces not only those countries that we look upon as integral parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but also Mandated Territories and other territories under the protection of the British Empire. Having made that agreement, I cannot understand why. the Government of this country has decided to retain its association with a business enterprise quite alien to normal governmental activities. I would have much less objection to the Government assuming control of certain other private enterprises. Furthermore, I am not convinced that the Government is being entirely honest. It has been argued that the shareholders of Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited will decide whether or not the Government is to remain in the company; but as the Government owns one more than half of the shares in the company, the Government, and not the private shareholder, will decide whether or not it is to remain in the company.
– Majority rule.
– I do not object to that; but I do object to the attempt to hoodwink the people of this country into believing that the private shareholders in Amalgamated “Wireless (Australasia) Limited will decide whether or not the Government shall remain in the company. Whilst negotiations are being carried on with efficient business organizations like Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and Cable and Wireless Limited, it is not very shrewd of the Government to indicate in this measure that it is prepared to pay £3,000,000 in compensation. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to have another glance through his 32-page marathon speech to see if, by some chance, something has been omitted. Australia, of course, will have to pay its share of the expense of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, and will have to meet the entire cost of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia). As the salaries to be paid go as high as £3,500 a year, that expense will not be negligible. I am informed that there is not much profit in the operation of the cable and wireless services, and that the main advantage of this measure will be the security it will give to our external communications in war-time; but will the services continue to be profitable under governmental control, or will they become another burden upon the taxpayers? It is up to the Government to show the people ofthis country that it can take over a profitable organization and keep it profitable. If that cannot be done then the nationalization claims of honorable senators opposite will be prejudiced seriously. Again I ask the Minister to re-examine his second-reading speech, perhaps in cooperation with good actuaries or auditors, in an endeavour to devise a way of assessing equitably the value of the two branches of the activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited so that a clean break may be made, the Government taking over the telecommunications section in its entirety, and leaving the private shareholders to carry on the manufacturing business.
– Like other honorable senators on this side of the chamber I am rather concerned at this proposal, and somewhat bewildered by it. I have tried to understand the second-reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) who, I believe, made an honest attempt to put his case to us fairly; but it is no reflection upon the mentality of honorable senators to say that this measure will require more than average concentration before’ we can even begin to understand it. Its main object, of course, is to place overseas telecommunications under governmental control. That is a sound move from the point of view of the defence of this country and the operation of such a service is a true function of government; but whether or not the Government is justified in remaining in the manufacturing business is another matter. It has been said that the shareholders in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited will decide whether or not the Government is to remain in that undertaking. Like Senator Leckie, I am of the opinion that the Government will be well advised to sever its connexion with the company. One of my main concerns in regard to this legislation is this : How can the proposed commission and the two companies concerned arrive at a fair evaluation of the assets that are’ to be acquired? Originally, the Government advanced £500,001 and, theoretically, the company was to subscribe £499,999, although I understand the actual figure provided by the company was approximately £480,000. According to a balance-sheet issued recently, the reserves of the company amounted to £625,878. Has the company any further assets so far undisclosed? If not, the total value of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited is £1,625.878. It has been said that for a half share in this company the Government proposes to pay £1,500,000. It would appear, therefore, that the Government is being generous. I do not know whether or not a charge is being made for what is known as goodwill; but it is pertinent to ask whether this goodwill, if any, is based upon the monopoly that the Government has given to the company. If the company shares are now worth £3 lis. 6d., it would be good business for the Government to sell its half interest which would be worth approximately £1,800,000. That would be sufficient to give to each of Australia’s 7,000,000 people a Christmas box of approximately 5s. In the year 1942, shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited were listed at £2 3s. 6d. To-day, it is said, they are worth £3 lis. 6d. This means a return of £2 15s. lid., per cent, on .the money invested, which is less than the interest paid on government loans. With the shares listed at £3 lis. 6d., it would appear that, if the Government agrees to purchase a half interest in the company at the amount of compensation suggested, it will be paying at the rate - of £6 a share. The only other point I desire to’ raise is that should the Government work in conjunction with the company in the manufacturing business, will not the company be in a position to obtain concessions unfairly in competition with other companies?
– The company will compete on equal terms with other companies.
– The people would be much happier if the Government remained out of the business operations. Otherwise, it will provide ground for the belief that the company will be in a position to obtain concessions unfairly over other companies. The public must be assured that the company would not receive any unfair consideration. As I said earlier, this is a colossal proposal. I join in the tribute paid by other honorable senators to the officers responsible’ for the preparation of the bill and the compilation of the facts placed before us in the Minister’s second-reading speech. I hope that at the committee stage the Minister will exhibit the same frankness in explaining the various points which, I have no doubt, will then be raised. If he does so, we may make the measure a little more acceptable than it is in its present form.
– The bones of the proposal embodied in the measure have been picked fairly clean in not only this chamber but also the House of Representatives. In view of the fact that most of the Postmasters-General who have handled similar negotiations in the past have been members of this chamber, I should like to have seen the measure introduced in the Senate. I know that the bill contains an appropriation clause which virtually makes it a money bill. However, for the reason I have just mentioned, the Government could have made provision in respect of appropriation in a separate measure with a view to enabling this bill to be introduced in this chamber. I pay tribute to the officials of the Postmaster-General’s Department, who, after long years of effort, have been responsible for obtaining unanimity with other dominions with respect to. control of Empire communications by the various governments. That achievement is a monument to their capacity, and also their patience.
I take strong exception to the proposal to set up a commission to control telecommunications in Australia. I cannot understand why the Government should set up such a body to handle this public service when officers of the Postma ster-General’s Department are capable of undertaking this work. Why the taxpayers should be put to the expense involved in the appointment of the proposed commission is beyond my comprehension. .Control of these communications should be handed over to the Postin a s ster-G eneral’s Departmen t.
Some astonishing statements have been made with’ respect to the dividends paid by, and the financial ramifications of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I make only one comment with regard to the investment of the people’s money in this hybrid organization. Figures supplied to me by the Treasury show that since the company was established in 1922 it has paid dividends to the Commonwealth amounting to £648,773 as at the 30th June, 1945. That is the dividend paid by the company on the money invested by the Commonwealth during the last 22 years; and it is not an unsatisfactory result. In the initial years, 1922-23, and portion of 1924, the operations of the company were not very profitable; but during the 22 years the return on the Commonwealth’s investment of £501,000 averages approximately 5J per cent. That is quite a good effort by the company. The return may have been higher in certain years, but the proof of the soundness of the investment is in the general average over the full period. I should like to see the communications branch of the service dissociated from the manufacturing operations, and the company allowed to carry on manufacturing in competition with other companies, because such competition will guarantee efficiency. I repeat that I can see no reason for the establishment of an expensive commission when officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department, who are rendering a public service equally important, are capable of controlling telecommunications in this country.
Senator CAMERON (Victoria- PostmasterGeneral) [9.26J. - in reply - I support the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) in the fine tribute he paid to Mr. McVey, Mr. Fanning and other officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department for the part they have played in assisting in” the preparation of the plan embodied in the measure. As Minister for Aircraft Production I was privileged to be associated with Mr. McVey for many years, and I have never worked with anybody who has been more capable, or conscientious in his duties. In respect of aircraft production problems he helped greatly to overcome difficulties which appeared to be almost insurmountable. Since I have been Postmaster-General I have had the privilege of meeting among’ employees of the department men and women who are inspired by the service motive rather than by the profit motive. Their highest ambition is to render the best service possible to the people.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the probable position of employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited when this plan is implemented. Ample provision is made in clause 18 to ensure that all employees of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited who are engaged exclusively on communications shall be transferred to the service of the commission. There is a proviso that the commission is obliged to take over only employees for whom it can find suitable employment. However, it is expected that the commission will have need of all skilled personnel now employed by those companies. Further, a committee will be appointed to provide an over-all safeguard to employees andon that committee the employees will be represented. .The committee will deal with all matters concerning the staffs affected by this plan. It will see if it is possible to provide employment for employees likely to be regarded as redundant. Not many employees are likely to come within that class, but should there be some the committee will make recommendations with respect to the provision of other employment for them. Everything done in that connexion will be based, as far as possible, on the principle of conference and agreement; We all recognize that these men have rendered very useful service, and : the Government has everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing its best to help them. The Leader of the Opposition said that it was a mistake for the Commonwealth to retain its interest in the manufacturing activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The Commonwealth has participated in those activities for more than 24 years, and there appears to be no good reason why at this stage the Government should terminate an arrangement which has operated satisfactorily for such a long period. Moreover, it would be unjust for the Commonwealth to withdraw its financial investment in those activities during the period of the company’s reconstruction. At that time the company will be faced with a considerable number of problems, and the withdrawal of the Government’s investments would place it in a particularly unfortunate position. The Government does not desire that to happen. In addition, the employees of the company are anxious that nothing should be done to cause any disruption which would result in unemployment. The Government appreciates the wisdom of moving slowly in these matters and of doing so only by consultation and agreement. I am sure that honorable senators would not expect the Government just to say, “ We will take over the telecommunications side of the company’s business without making provision for the disturbance that is likely to occur”. Many alterations and adjust- ments must be made, and such radical changes cannot be made overnight. Both the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Gibson in referring to the compensation that they understood would be paid to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, said that the figure was too high. Senator Gibson cited the present value of the company’s shares at £3 lis. 6d., and said that the price had increased considerably since the Government’s intention to nationalize the overseas telecommunication services had been announced. The fact is that a final agreement has not yet been made with the company. Negotiations, are proceeding,, and it is expected that an amount will be agreed upon. However, I point, out that, in addition to the purchase of the physical assets concerned, the loss of profits resulting from the termination of agreements made by the company must be taken into account. The company has always maintained that it has valuable rights in such agreements. We must not overlook the fact that, in acquiring the telecommunication assets and services of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth will acquire not only full ownership of the physical assets but also full revenue benefits arising from the conduct of the services. Therefore, adequate and reasonable compensation must be paid to the private shareholders for loss of rights and interests at present held by them in ‘those services. The increased value of the company’s shares has no bearing whatever on the amount of compensation to be paid to the company* In connexion with what Senator O’flaherty said in relation to employees, it is expected that the commission will be in a position to absorb a majority, if not all, of the persons employed in the telecommunication services of the two companies. However, if the commission finds that it cannot profitably employ certain members of the staffs, the ad hoc committee to which I have already referred will consider means whereby these employees may not be placed at any financial disadvantage. The committee will consist of representatives of the Government, the commission, the two companies, and the employees. It will also give consideration to various matters affecting the welfare of the transferred employees in order to ensure fair treatment for them. Senator O’Flaherty also referred to the policy of the commission in relation to the purchase of materials. In my introductory speech, I said that the policy of the commission would be to purchase materials in Australia if possible. If materials are not available locally, it will obtain them from Great Britain. That is the policy of the Postal Department at present. If equipment cannot be made in Australia, it purchases its requirements from Great Britain. Senator Leckie referred to the provision in clause 29 of the bill for the making of initial advances to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited up to an amount of £3,000,000. He said that this appeared to be an invitation to the two companies to increase their valuation of the assets to be transferred, because the amount specified was probably much greater than the true value of the assets. Clause 29 merely imposes a limit of £3,000,000 on initial advances. The actual words used are, “not exceeding in all the sum of £3,000,000 “. That amount must not be regarded as the amount of the advances which will actually be made to the commission. The total will probably be considerably less than that. The figure also provides for working capital to be advanced to the commission apart from the price to be paid to the companies for the acquisition of their telecommunication assets and the surrender of their rights and interests in the services. The amount of £3,000,000 also accords with the amount specified in the recently enacted airlines legislation for similar contingencies. Senator Mattner and Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the Government’s continued participation in the manufacturing activities of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. I repeat that, as the Government will be taking away the major part of the company’s business, it will be morally bound to preserve the interests of shareholders. It would be unfair of the Commonwealth to withdraw its financial investment during the period of the company’s reconstruction. The telecommunication services should be taken over only under conditions which will obviate financial loss to the people concerned. Although we may have our own views about what the shareholders are entitled to receive, the fact is that the company has accepted the Government’s plan in good faith. The Government desires to be reasonable and just.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
This Act is divided into Parts, as follows: -
Part II. - The Overseas Telecommunications Services.
Division 1. - Establishment and Constitution of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia).
Amendment (by Senator Cameron) agreed to -
That, after the words: “Division 1. - Establishment and Constitution of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia).”, the following words be inserted, “Division 1a. - The Service of the Commission.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Cameron) agreed to -
That, after the definition of “ Commissioner”, the following definition be inserted: - “‘Officer’ means officer’ of the Commission.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 17 agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Cameron) agreed to -
That, after clause 17, the following heading be inserted: - “Division 1a. - The Service of the Commission.”.
Clause 18- (3.) A person . . . shall not be appointed to a clerical office in that Service unless he has in open competition successfully passed the prescribed entrance examination:’ (8.) Officers appointed by the Commission shall, subject to this section, be subject to such terms and conditions of employment (including conditions with respect to punishment for breaches of discipline) as are determined by the Commission. (12.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, any other employee of the Company or any employee of Cable and Wireless Limited who, at the date of acquisition ‘ by the Commission of the telecommunication assets referred to respectively in sub-sections (1.) and (2.) of section twenty-three of this Act, is exclusively or mainly engaged in Australia in or in connexion with telecommunication services and has been so exclusively or mainly engaged for a period of three’ years, and for whom the Commission can find suitable employment shall he entitled to a position in the service of the Commission with such status and salary andunder such conditions as the Commission thinks just:
.- We are dealing with an extraordinary transaction, and it would be deplorable if the fate of the employees of the companies concerned were left solely to the commission. Both the Government and the Opposition are anxious that no injustice shall’ be done to any employee who has rendered long and faithful service to the companies concerned. As Senator O’Flaherty said earlier, we can come to an agreement on the points at issue. In order to save time, I shall read the summary of a special plea by a section of the employees who have requested honorable senators to put their case before “the committee. If the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) is unable to give an assurance that the employees’ interests will be safeguarded in all ‘respects, I hope that he will say so before further progress is made with the bill. The summary to which I have referred states -
The staff of Cable and Wireless are most apprehensive regarding their future employ-, ment under the terms outlined in the Communications Bill now before Parliament.
This branch, at a recent meeting, deputed me to seek clarification of the proposals and make known to you, on behalf of themselves and their colleagues, domiciled in Australia, but who are now serving at cable stations outside Australia, the limitations placed on their eligibility for service with, the Commission by virtue of section 18 - sub-section 11.
Some have returned to Australia and their places have been taken by other cablemen at intervals within the last three years. In every case an injustice would be perpetrated, as the requisite period under this clause cannot lie complied with. Others, possessing the necessary qualifications, may be sent at any time to relieve their colleagues and would thereby automatically be disqualified.
The cable staff are a body of highly specialized men who have given the best years of their lives in loyal service to their employers, and incidently to their country.
In World -War I., the Government of the day refused to accept these men as volunteers for the Australian Imperial Force, as the very nature of their occupation rendered them indispensable in maintaining communications overseas. In World War II… the cablemen, again denied military service, were, nevertheless, brought into direct conflict with the enemy. At Hongkong, Singapore, Batavia, Labuan - to mention but a . few cable stations where they maintained communications with the outside world to the last, finally falling into the hands of the Japanese. Under the bill in its present form these men would be denied employment and we feel constrained to ask for a full explanation of what compensation they would receive if not engaged by the Commission, so that they would not be placed at a disadvantage.’
With this in mind, we question the preference to be extended to certain former ex-Postmaster-General employees who transferred to the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited at its formation in 1922.
In 1928-29, when the Pacific Cable was transferred to private ownership, a condition of sale was that employment for five years be guaranteed to all former employees of the Pacific Cable Board. If such a guarantee cannot be extended to all cablemen in the present instance, will not provision be made that no new staff be engaged by the Commission until all former employees of Cable and Wireless have been absorbed..
From the foregoing we have no hesitation in believing that you cannot but see the vital necessity for a broader conception of the clauses relative to the engagement of Cable and Wireless Staff, by the Commission.
That is a fair statement by officers who have’ rendered special service. I have given a copy of it to the PostmasterGeneral, and he has informed me that the requests made will be met by the amendments which he proposes to move.
– All reasonable provision for the protection of the staff will be made. An examination of subclause. 12 will show that the claims of the employees are to be protected adequately. An amendment which I have circulated provides for the deletion of the following words in that sub-clause : “ and has been so exclusively or mainly engaged for a period- of three years “. . That will make all the employees referredto eligible for re-employment, whereas if they had not served “for three years they would not be eligible.
– I am pleased to have that assurance. I also wish to make doubly sure that in a matter referred to in a request by another group of employees, their interests will be protected. The following is an extract from a letter received from staff members : -
I and many others of the staff would like to see something concrete in regards safeguarding our rights and privileges in this new bill. The position is as follows: - During depression years, we, the staff as a whole, were cut practically 33J per cent., and later by an agreement between this company and -the British Government the company guaranteed a 4 per cent, investment on shares. Anything above this amount was divided into three parts, one-third to maintenance and one-third to reduction in rates and the other third to the staff; thus we were placed on a profitsharing basis.
– What organization . made that proposal?
– It was made by the employees of Cable and Wireless Limited. Some of these requests have been sent to honorable senators of all parties. I do not claim to be the only honorable senator to support their claim, as I know that other honorable senators are just as anxious as I am to safeguard the interests of these employees.
Senator CAMERON (Victoria- PostmasterGeneral) [10.11. - I speak subject ro correct-ion, but I understand that Cable and Wireless Limited, has always paid a bonus to its employees, although I do not know how it was able to do so when it was in financial difficulties. The Government proposes to treat these employees fairly, but at the moment it does not propose to commit itself to any profit-sharing system which may have existed when the companies were in control.
– The second request which I make relates to the time factor. I arn not clear about the- third request, which reads -
Is is right that ex-Pacific Cable Board employees, who were originally government employees and were transferred to the merger company, should have to undergo entrance examinations as outlined in this bill ?
I have supplied a copy of that request to the Minister.
– What is the honorable senator’s opinion of profit sharing?
– I favour the system, and have advocated it publicly. If honorable senators supporting the Government also believe in the system, now is their opportunity to act. However, as the Minister has stated that at Ins stage the Government does not propose to commit itself to any such system, and as it has the numbers, I shall not say more on the subject.
The bill contains a proviso that employees must undergo a further examination. I ask the Minister whether the request of the employees in connexion with that provision has been met.
– I think that the matter which the Leader of the Opposion (Senator McLeay) has in mind is set out clearly in clause IS, sub-clause 12 of which reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, any other employee of the company or any employee of Cable and Wireless Limited who, at the date of acquisition by the Commission of. the telecommunication assets referred to respectively in sub-sections (1.) and (2.) of section twenty-three of this act, is exclusively or mainly engaged in Australia in or in connexion with telecommunication services and has been so exclusively or ma inly engaged for a period of three years, and for whom the’ Commission can find suitable employment shall be entitled to a position in the service of the Commission with such status and salary and under such conditions as the Commission thinks just:
It is proposed to eliminate the words “ for a period of three years “. There is no mention of any examination in that provision but there is a proviso -
Provided that, in determining the conditions as to the employment of any such employee, the Commission shall take into consideration any pension, superannuation, retiring allowance or furlough .rights accruing to him in respect of his service with whichever company he was previously employed and shall, subject to the approval of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, make such allowance for those rights as, in the view of the Commission, is just.
I do not know what other language could be used to protect the employees in regard to status or position.
– I assume from what the Minister has said that employees of the commission will not come under the Commonwealth Public Service Board.
– I imagine that that would be so, unless an employee was appointed to a position in the Commonwealth Public Service. I shall now proceed to move my amendments. I move, first -
That in sub-clause (3.), the words “a clerical “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “an”..
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Cameron) agreed to -
That, in sub-clause (8.), the word “ section “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Division “.
That in sub-clause (8.), the words “(including conditions with respect to punishment for breaches of discipline) “ be left out.
That, in sub-clause (12.), the words “and has been so exclusively or mainly engaged for a period of three years “, be left out.
That, in sub-clause (12.), after the. word “ conditions “, first occurring, the following words be inserted: - “(subject to this Division)”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
New clause 18a.
Motion (by Senator Cameron) proposed -
That, after clause 18, the following new clause be inserted: - “18a. - (1.) The Commission may, from time to time, create any position in the Service of the Commission and may abolish any such position. “ (2.) The Commission may, from time to time, reclassify any position in the Service of the Commission by raising or lowering the salary, or the range of salary, applicable to the position. “ (3.) Whenever any position is reclassified the position shall be deemed to be vacant.”
– I desire some further information from the. Minister (Senator Cameron) regarding this important new clause because it conflicts with what the committee has just decided. Moreover, I object strongly in principle to allowing any employer to determine the rate of pay that shall apply to any position. The Commonwealth Public Service Act contains provisions for determining the rates of salary or wages which shall be paid to employees of the Commonwealth, but no such provision is contained in this bill. I regard the proposed new clause as most dangerous. It will lead to a great deal of conflict between the commission and its employees.
– There is a right of appeal in respect of promotions.
– That is so. An appeals board is to be appointed to deal with the grievance of an employee who is of the opinion that he should havebeen promoted to a higher position, but I see nothing in the bill to give to an employee the right to appeal against the decision of the Commission to alter the salary applicable to his position. I hope that the Minister will be able to give to the committee a satisfactory explanation of this proposed new clause.
– I support the view expressed by Senator Sheehan. I have had experience of employers who have taken to themselves the right to alter the classification of the positions held by their employees. For instance, a man may be classified as a clerk, first class, the rate for which may be £6 a week, but the employers have reclassified him as clerk, second class, thereby reducing his salary to £58s. a week. This provision gives to the commission the right to re-classify its employees. In the Commonwealth Public Service classifications are made by the Public Service Board. In a case where no specific classification has been made, an application may be made to the Public Service Arbitrator. If mandatory action is taken to alter a classification there is trouble immediately. This provision gives to the proposed commission the right to override awards and to make its own classifications. I am sure that that is not the intention of the Government.
.- I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) whether in this bill there is any provision that the commission shall be responsible to the Postmaster-General. Secondly, will the commission operate outside the scope of the Commonwealth Public Service Act?
– The answer to both Senator Armstrong’s questions is in the affirmative. In reply to Senator O’Flaherty and Senator Sheehan, I have to state that the commission will not have power to vary any award made by an arbitration court or any other wage-fixing tribunal. The provision to which exception is taken is included in the Commonwealth Bank Act, the Australian National Airlines Act, and the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Clause 29 of the Public Service Act states - (1.) The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the board, after the board has obtained a report from the permanent head -
Honorable senators will agree that the proposed overseas Telecommunications Commission should have control over its own affairs subject to the policy laid down by the Government. Senator Sheehan and Senator O’Flaherty have suggested that there is a danger that the commission may abuse its authority. That risk cannotbe eliminated from any organization.. Even in the arbitration courts there is always a risk of an adjudicator abusing his powers ; but in view of the fact that a similar provision is contained in other legislation, and no objection has been taken to it so far as I know, I see no reason why this provision should not be retained.
. - Recently, the Broadcasting Committee reviewed the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s regulations. These regulations were discussed in the presence of representatives of the Australian Broadcasting Commission itself, employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the Australian Journalists Association. Although quite a number of regulations were contested, no exception was taken to the provision corresponding to that now under discussion. As the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) has pointed out, a similar provision exists in the Commonwealth Pub lic Service Act, the Commonwealth Bank Act, and the Australian National Airlines Act. I understand that the War Service Homes Commission too is clothed with similar power, and that no complaint has been made. Dealing with the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s regulations the committee was concerned very much with the provision relating to the declaring vacant of positions. It was stated that the object of this provision was that promotions should not be made without due regard to the claims of all officers interested. If there was justification for the inclusion of this provision in the other legislation that has been mentioned, I see no reason whyit should be omitted from this measure.
– If this provision has been included in other legislation I regret very much that I have not been aware of it. In any case, its inclusion in other acts does not mean that it is right, and it is high time that officers of the departments concerned got busy and brought the anomaly to the notice of the respective Ministers. I have had considerable industrial experience, including the interpretation of awards, and I have seen wide powers such as this exercised unfairly by employers This clause is not consistent with the one to which we have just agreed, and, in view of the late hour, I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) to have it re-examined. I am rather perturbed also about the replies given to Senator Armstrong’s questions. The Postmaster-General stated that the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act would not apply to employees of the commission. That also is a matter that should be re-examined.
– I draw the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) to the unfair position in which honorable senators have been placed in regard to this measure. The bill was introduced into this’ chamber only to-day. It is a most important bill, and we find now that, in addition to several amendments to existing clauses, it is proposed to add fourteen new clauses, of which, I believe, even the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) himself was not aware until this afternoon. I suggest that progress be reported so that honorable senators, and the PostmasterGeneral himself, may examine these proposals more closely. Even Government supporters are dubious about certain aspects of this measure that may have far-reaching effects.
.- The fact that this provision appears in other legislation is no justification for its inclusion in this measure. Sub-clause 2 of the proposed new clause reads - (2.) The Commission may. from time to time, re-classify any position in the Service of the Commission by raising or lowering the salary, or the range of salary, applicable to the position.
And sub-clause 3 of the proposed new clause reads - (3.) Wherever any position is re-classified the position shall be deemed to be vacant.
Those provisions are contradictory. I hope that the Minister willreconsider the proposed new clause.
– I suggest that clause 18 provides sufficient safeguard in respect of the points raised by Senator Sheehan and Senator O’Flaherty. That clause deals with the salaries of appointees of the commission. Clause 11 provides that the salary of the general manager shall be subject to the approval of the GovernorGeneral. It is also provided that the rates and salaries of other officers shall be approved by the Minister. But in respect of lower paid officers the following provision is made - (9.) Nothing in the last preceding subsection shall affect the operation of -
Thus the commission would not have power to do anything which would conflict with an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The new clause, therefore, deals only with the salaries and positions of employees who are not covered by an award. I should like the Minister to say whether that is the position.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales; [10.34]. - It is necessary to make the proposed provision in order to cover the cases of employees who may be found guilty of committing some offence in respect of which the penalty may be a reduction of status. For instance, a manager might be reduced to the status of assistant manager. In that case the employee would be penalized, but the position he originally held would not be affected. However, any person so penalized has the right to appeal to an appeal board against the decision of the commission. Provision must be made for the application of penalties in certain circumstances. The proposal to establish a Promotions Appeal Board is a new provision and will provide complete protection for the employee. Circumstances might arise analogous to those which recently arose in respect of the position of the State manager for New South Wales of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission has a manager in each State, but as thehead-quarters of the commission were established in New South Wales it was decided to abolish the position of state manager in New South Wales in order to eliminate duplication. The commission proposed to be set up under this measure might find itself in a similar position, and the new clause will enable it to take action to eliminate waste.
– I compliment the Government upon the establishment of a Promotions Appeal Board which will ensure that justice shall be done to employees who are alleged to have committed certain offences. That is a very wise provision, but I point out to Senator Amour that it has nothing to do with the point which I raised. Senator Finlay also missed my point.
Under the proposed new clause, the commission will be empowered to abolish, or re-classify, any position. I point out. to Senator Finlay that it is because the Arbitration Court has power to do certain things that I object” to similar power being given to the commission. There should be only one authority in this matter, namely, the Classification Board. The commission will also be empowered to declare an officer redundant.
– Why should not the commission be- given that power.
– The Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation Act provides that when an officer is declared redundant and a suitable position cannot be found for him he has the right to retire and retain his superannuation rights.
– Similar provision is made under this legislation.
– I fail to find that provision made in this measure.
– Employees of the commission will retain all rights which they enjoyed as employees of the company from which they transferred.
– I do not know whether it is proposed to bring these employees under the Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation Act or to provide a separate superannuation scheme for them. New officers will be appointed from time to time according to the procedure provided in this bill. They will become employees of the commission. I submit that they will not automatically come within the Commonwealth Public Service. Thus there are quite a number of -matters which reveal conflict with recognized industrial practice. I believe that inadvertently these aspects have escaped the notice of the Minister. However, I intend to see that’ they are not overlooked. I hope that in the future more care will be taken in the drafting of measures to observe the recognized industrial practice in relation to employees of authorities of this kind. T regret that the proposed amendments and new clauses were not made available to honorable senators in time to enable them to study them carefully.
– Much of what has been said on this matter is not justified. Senator Sheehan has argued in absolute terms. He would argue that the commission has power to do all the things he has indicated regardless of any other provision in the measure. That is not correct. Whatever the commission does under new clause 18a would be subject to other provisions in the bill and other new clauses. For instance, another clause prevents the commission from interfering in any way with the rates of wages or conditions of employment laid down in an award of the Arbitration Court. Any officer who does not come under a court award would have the right to appeal to the Promotions Appeal Board against any action taken in respect of him individually.
– Where is provision made to do that?
– I propose to move an amendment in that direction. The proposed new clause conforms to established industrial practice. I shall not argue whether- such practice is right, or wrong. I simply say that this established practice has never been objected to by organizations of the employees concerned, and, that being so, we are justified in assuming that such organizations acquiesce in the provision being made. If they have any objection to the procedure now proposed they would have made their objection known. However, no objection has been taken to similar provisions in the Commonwealth Bank Act, the Commonwealth Public Service Act and the Australian National Airlines Act.
– I read the new clause with a great deal of trepidation, but I am not so conversant with industrial legislation as are Senator Sheehan and Senator O’Flaherty, and I commend them for drawing its faults to the attention of the committee. I have heard nothing from the Minister to change my view that the proposal is gravely objectionable. I resent his adoption of the view that, because nobody has objected to a practice that is unfair to employees, he has the right to perpetuate it. I do not believe that the Minister has considered this matter. I have always believed him to be sympathetic towards employees, and I am sure that he would not knowingly cause them to suffer a hardship. I am very disappointed in him. Bte appears to be more intolerant than some of the employers whom he has castigated on many occasions. I agree with Senator Sheehan that this matter should be very carefully considered, and I support Senator Herbert Hays’s proposal that consideration of the new clause should be postponed to enable us to secure further information about it before a division is taken.
– Senator Mattner says that he wants time to consider the new clause. We are considering it now; there should be no objection to that. I have no objection to the honorable senator considering it; I assumed that he was capable of understanding it and making up his mind in the time at our disposal. It would be quite unreasonable to adjourn the consideration of the new clause. Does the honorable senator object to the commission having the right to create or abolish a position in the service of the commission? Should the commission have some authority, or does the honorable gentleman want it to be subservient to the authority of some unspecified person? Sub-clause 2 of new clause 18a provides that the commission may reclassify any position by raising or lowering the salary, or the range of salary, applicable to the position. If, in the judgment of the commission, a change warranting the reclassification of a position occurs, it should have power to make such* a reclassification. Consider the work of skilled artisans engaged in the manufacture of guns or aircraft. When war broke out, it was found that their work could be done by semi-skilled workers operating up-to-date machinery. Therefore, a reclassification was made. Such reclassifications, to which the honorable senator apparently objects, are taking place every week. That is one reason why there is a continual state of industrial turmoil in which employers are taking advantage of these reclassifications. When a position is reclassified it is deemed to be a new position. What I have said is in conformity with established practice, to which no objection has been made until now. At any rate, I have never heard of any such objection by a recognized organization. The honorable senator is merely splitting straws.
– Unfortunately I was absent from the chamber for a few minutes and did not hear the outbreak of internecine strife in the Labour party. I was not prepared for the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) to rise and be offensive to an opposition senator without saying a word to the Government supporters who made the strongest objections to the new clause. That is not the way to carry on the business of the committee.
– The honorable senator was not in the chamber when the Minister replied to Senator Sheehan and Senator O’flaherty.
– The Government supporters opposed the Minister. When Senator- Mattner voiced similar opposition, the Minister rose and was offensive to him. Having thrown down a list of amendments in front of us, he should be willing to report progress to enable us to consider them overnight. He implied that Senator Mattner is not capable of understanding the new clause now before the committee, and that he, himself, is the only person who does understand it. After a casual examination of the provision, it appears to me that the objections to it by Senato Sheehan and Senator O’Flaherty have a great deal of force. The Minister would be wise to say, “ Let us examine the proposal overnight to see whether or not 1 have made a mistake “. To ask the committee to pass a series of important amendments in a few minutes is not a proper way of transacting legislative business. I am very pleased that some honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber are not swallowing holusbolus a lot of the proposals submitted by the Minister.
– The honorable senator has not yet mentioned the subject-matter of the new clause.
– The Minister would help to heal the breach if he agreed to report progress. If he is willing to do so, I shall sit down. The attitude he has adopted is. not characteristic of bini. He is exhibiting a dictatorial- manner that” would be more appropriate to the Union of Soviet SocialistRepublics or some other dictatorship. He, who claims to be a democrat, should have some respect for the rights even of minorities. Some of the Government’s supporters are equally as sceptical as Opposition senators about the provisions of this measure. By refusing a simple request at 11 o’clock at night to adjourn discussion until the next morning so that the proposals may be more closely examined, the Minister is likely to delay the passage of the bill instead of facilitating it.
– If Senator Mattner considers that I have been personally offensive to him I am prepared to apologize, but I have no recollection of using any words that could be construed as being offensive to him or as reflecting on him in any way. I merely directed his attention to what I consider to be unnecessary opposition to the new clause . and criticized an attempt to convince nic that he had insufficient time to consider it. I pointed out as dispassionately as I could, and as courteously as is my custom, that the committee had plenty of time to consider the matter. If Senator Leckie had asked for time to consider the schedule of amendments when it was first submitted I should have been the first to accede to his request. However, the honorable senator has not referred to the matter until now.
– He should have been in the chamber.
– Yes. That is what he is paid foi1. Honorable senators opposite did riot request an adjournment when the proposed amendments were submitted. I accepted their silence as indicating their acquiescence in my intention to deal with, them immediately. Now they charge me with trying to rush business through the committee.
– Did not Senator Herbert Hays ask for a postponement?
– I object to the Minister’s statement. I did ask for a postponement.
– When Senato Herbert Hays made his request, I told him that progress would be reported after this new clause had been dealt with.
– If that is to be the case, we shall be here until the early hours of the morning.
– The opposition to this proposed clause is not justified. In view of what I have -said I am not prepared to report progress at this moment.
– A great protest has been made against dealing with the new clause without allowing further time to consider it. The provision consists of only seven or eight lines of printed matter, and honorable senators opposite should not need more than a casual glance at il to enable them to interpret it. The Minister made a reasonable suggestion that the committee should deal with proposed new clause 18a’ and then report progress. The whole discussion has centred on the remainder of the proposed new clauses.
– I am pleased that Senator Sheehan and Senator O’Flaherty have drawn the attention of the committee to this proposal, which seems to conflict considerably with the Commonwealth Public Service Act. An attempt is being made to override certain legislation, and it is vitally important that the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) should say definitely whether the commission will have power to veto any award of the Arbitration Court or the Public Service Arbitrator.
– This measure is in conformity with the Commonwealth Public Service Act, and the commission will not have power to veto any award.
– The committee is indebted to Senator Sheehan for the thoughts which he has expressed. He has wide knowledge of industrial matters, and he is interested in the welfare of the employees. No satisfactory reply has been given to the points raised by him. It would be gracious on the part* of the Minister (Senator Cameron) to comply with the request of Senator Herbert Hays that, progress be reported, so that we may assure ourselves that no injustice will be done to any employee. In the main, the Opposition is in favour of the bill, but it would be a reflection on our own intelligence and sense of fairness if we did not take steps to avoid mistakes.
– The fears expressed by the Opposition are unjustified. All of the employees of the commission, with the exception of the manager and other officers in receipt of more than £1,500 a year, will have their rates of pay and conditions of employment determined by awards of the Public Service Arbitrator or the Arbitration Court, and the commission will have no power to interfere in the matter. The proposed new clause under consideration provides that the commission may from time to time reclassify any positions in the service of the commission by raising or lowering the salary applicable to the position, and whenever any position is reclassified it shall be deemed to be vacant. Although the commission may do those things, provision will be made later for the establishment of a Promotions Appeal Board to which employees may go if they consider that they have been unjustly treated. The Minister has foreshadowed his intention to move for the insertion of the following new clauses : - 18j. Unless the Commission, in any particular case, otherwise directs, the appointment ot every officer (not being an officer to whom subsection (11.) or (12.) of section eighteen of this Act applies) shall be on probation for a period not exceeding twelve months and the appointment may be terminated- by the Commission at any time during that period. 18k. - (1.) If an officer appears to the Commission to be inefficient or incompetent, or unfit to discharge or incapable of discharging the duties of his position the Commission may retire him from the Service of the Commission, or may transfer him to some other position in the Service of the Commission with salary appropriate to that other position. (2.) An officer shall not be retired from the Service of the Commission under this sec tion unless he has been given at least one month’s notice or is paid salary in lieu of notice. 18L. The Commission may dismiss an officer, or reduce his status or rate of pay, for incapacity or misconduct. 18m. - (1.) Where an officer is dismissed, retired, transferred or reduced in status or rate of pay under either of the last two preceding sections, the officer may appeal to the Disciplinary Appeal Board.
Certain machinery clauses are proposed to be inserted in the measure so that the commission shall not have the final voice as to whether the positions of employees shall be reclassified.
– The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) has agreed to report progress till to-morrow, if the committee is prepared to pass the new clause before it. Several honorable senators opposite have talked vaguely about a suspicion harboured by them as to what will happen to the rest of the proposed new clauses, but, as no honorable senator has raised any objection to the proposal under consideration, the committee should now make a decision regarding it.
– If the commission desired to get rid .of an employee, it would merely have to reclassify his position, which would then become vacant.
– Then he would have the right of appeal.
– It is true that the commission would have to give such an employee another job, but I can foresee injustice being done by superior officers. Innocent as this proposal may seem, it must be considered in relation to subsequent proposed new clauses. The committee has every right to an opportunity for further consideration of the matter.
– I am prepared to continue the discussion of the bill all night.
– Because I ask for further enlightenment on the matter, the Minister now threatens the committee with an all-night incarceration, but I object to that. The interests of employees are supposed to be the care of supporters of the Government, and if they do not wish to make sure that no injustice shall be done to employees of the commission, that. is their affair.
Senator NASH (Western Australia) [11.14J.- I have been trying to ascertain how the employees are to be protected under this measure. The new clause under discussion gives the commission the right to create any new position in its’ service and to abolish any such position. It is also to be given the right to reclassify any position by raising or lowering the salary, or the range of salary, applicable to the position. Whenever any position is reclassified, it is to be deemed to be vacant. If a position is reclassified, it automatically becomes vacant. Proposed new sub-clause 18L reads -
The commission may dismiss an officer, or reduce his status or rate of pay, for incapacity <ir misconduct.
According to that provision, there are only two grounds for dismissal - incapacity or misconduct. Proposed new clause 18m (1) reads -
Where an officer is dismissed, retired, transferred or reduced in status or rate of pay under either of the last two preceding -sections, the officer may appeal to the Disciplinary Appeal Board.
We expect the proposed commission to undertake responsible functions. Are we to say that it shall not have the power to create, abolish or reclassify a position ? A successful business undertaking must have some control of its employees. In order to protect employees against unfair treatment the bill gives to them certain fights. The proposal is easily understood; there is no ambiguity about its language.
– I do not undertake to satisfy Senator A. J. Fraser or any other honorable senator. All that I undertake to do is to submit the facts as I understand them,, and to support them by arguments. If the honorable senator is still not satisfied, that is his responsibility, not mine. I have conferred with senior officers of the Commonwealth Public Service who say that they do not know of any instance in which a Commonwealth public servant has lost his job as the result of a similar provision in the Commonwealth Public Service Act.
– In view of the statement of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), which he has made after consultation with officers with experience of the operations of the Commonwealth Public Ser vice Act, I am satisfied not to pursue the matter further. I raised the point in order to obtain information as to how similar legislation worked out in practice. From the statement of the Minister’ it would appear that the experience of Commonwealth public servants differs from my experience in another public service.
– The committee should be grateful to Senators Sheehan and O’Flaherty for raising this important question. Whatever may be said by the Minister, the fact remains that the new clause was not in the bill as originally drafted. If it is as important as the Minister would have us believe, it is strange that the need for it was not realized by him or the parliamentary draftsman when the bill was being prepared. It is all very well for Senator Sheehan, who first raised the point, to back down when he finds the Opposition supporting him. The wording of the proposed new clause 18a is clear; under it, the commission is to be given powers in addition to those originally intended.
– Does the honorable senator object to the commission having those additional powers?
– I agree with Senators Sheehan and O’Flaherty that there is the possibility of a great wrong being done to an employee of the commission.
– There is a right of appeal.
– -Senato Nash referred to proposed new sub-clause 18l but its provisions do not apply in this case. It is all very well for the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) to say that he will report progress if the clause is passed. I do not mind how soon progress is reported. On the other hand, if the Minister wishes to sit all’ night to discuss the bill, I am prepared to stay here. I want to protect employees who may incur the displeasure of the commission against being treated unfairly without having some redress.
– Obviously Senator Herbert Hays is deliberately exaggerating the possibilities of this provision. He knows that a wrong can be done under any act on the statute-book. A great deal depends on the administration of the legislation passed by the Parliament. If administrative officers deliberately set out to act unjustly, they can do so. The honorable senator assumes that the members of the commission will consist of men who will consciously and deliberately act unfairly towards the employees of the commission. If an employee of the commission considers that he has been treated unfairly, there is provision for him to appeal to an independant tribunal.
.- The fact that we have had so many amendments placed before us at this late hour is an indication .that those responsible for the drafting of this bill have not had sufficient time to give to it the consideration that it demands. It was stated earlier to-day that over a long period of years various Postmaster-General had considered bills similar to this. That would suggest that those responsible for the drafting of this measure had a good foundation on which to start. This measure has already passed through the House of Representatives. Is it not reasonable to ask why some of the amendments now before us were not made before the measure reached this chamber?
– I rise to order. I should like to know what the honorable senators remarks have to do with proposed new clause 18a.
– The honorable senator is in order
– Honorable senators opposite have suggested that proposed new clause 18a does not affect any other clause in the bill. I would like to believe that, but I am not concerned with the points that have been raised in relation to the men who will be affected by this provision. I am concerned particularly with the men mentioned in sub-clause 12, of clause IS which states -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, any other employee of the company
– Again I rise to order. Senator A. J. Fraser is dealing with a matter that is beyond the scope of the provision now under discussion.
The CHAIR-MAN (Senator Courtice). - Earlier to-night, in order to clarify an amendment, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) asked for permission to refer to other provisions, and that permission was granted. Other honorable senators too have referred to various provisions which they thought . had a bearing on the matter under discussion. Therefore, I see no reason why I should prevent Senator A. J. Fraser from enjoying the same privilege. I take it that he is referring to a provision that he considers has a bea ring- upon proposed new clause 18a.
– May I take it Mr. Chairman that Under your ruling an honorable senator may read any clause or amendment in its entirety.
– No. Only passing reference may be made to such provisions.
– My purpose will be served by drawing attention to the fact that sub-clause 12 of clause 18 refers to employees for whom the commission can find suitable employment. Bearing that fact in mind, the importance of the new clause now under discussion is obvious. I should like to obtain from the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) a clarification of the position. I had hoped that we would be able to discuss this matter without resorting to personalities, believing that on both sides of the chamber there is an honest desire to do the right thing. After all it is only because we feel some sense of responsibility that we appeal to the Post- master-General to hasten slowly, so that we may avoid perpetuating the errors that may have been made by highly qualified public servants in preparing’ this measure.
– I am pleased to learn that a member of the Opposition has such sympathy for the employees of the companies concerned. Certainly he is much more sympathetic than Senator Leckie, who apparently is content to see an injustice done without fighting it. If this new clause is wrong, let us debate it all night if necessary and put it right. This measure proposes to set up a new organization to takeover a function which in the , past has been carried out by private enterprise. Many times honorable senators opposite have said that government enterprises cannot succeed ; yet, when the Government seeks to provide for a certain degree of resilience in the commission’s administration, Opposition senators raise their voices in protest. At present, employees of the companies are classified in a certain way, and arereceiving certain payments. In the years to come the scope of the telecommunication service may alter considerably. Provision may have to be made for television, and the progress may be such that the present classifications will not suffice. New classifications may have to he added and old ones changed. It may be necessary to reduce the status of certain jobs. I do not think that any rigid restrictions should be imposed upon the commission. The commission must have the right to alter classifications and vary remunerations up or down. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Cable and Wireless Limited have been in operation for many years, and their employees have not had the benefit of an appeal board. The Government is prepared to retain existing classifications, and to provide extra protection by setting up a Promotions Appeal Board. I believe therefore we should agree to the inclusion of clause 18a.
.- I am satisfied that the rights of retained employees will be safeguarded when the commission assumes control of telecommunications. I am more concerned with the fate of the men whose services will not be retained. Will compensation be paid to them for the loss of their present em ployment? Will they have any redress? There should be some clarification of that matter.
Question put -
That the new clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . ‘ . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460718_senate_17_187/>.